God’s Covenant, Part 5 – The Eternality of God

C-God has no part nor passion

God does not change because He has no body like ours. The Westminter Confession Chapter 2 Of God, and of the Holy Trinity in clause one states that among many other perfections that He has “There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions.” The Scripture text given in support of the phrase “without body, parts, or passions” is taken from Pauls discourse to the Lyconians who began to offer him and the apostles worship after the performance of a miracle (Acts 14:11). Paul, seeking to dissociate himself from such thought or action on their part said “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you” (Acts 14:15a). The King James Version states it thus: “Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you.” Whether we use the word nature or passion in English, the truth is the same, Gods nature is unlike ours in that He has no feelings or desires like ours.

Why is it so important to understand this truth about God’s nature? It is because of the temptation that all sinners have to think of God and His ways as though He were like us. The false worship of the Lyconians is proof enough of that. These men did not hesitate to ascribe Deity to mortal men when confronted by the power of God in their midst. But what does this have to do with Gods Covenant? There are many among those who are religious, those who are called the people of God who nevertheless, view God in His covenant as they do themselves, given to change in reaction to external causes. “But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, Or take My covenant in your mouth, Seeing you hate instruction And cast My words behind you?” (Ps. 50:16,17). “These things you have done, and I kept silent; You thought that I was altogether like you; But I will rebuke you, And set them in order before your eyes.” (Ps. 50:21). Those who think like these men do not receive instruction from Gods word, but rather construct their own ideas of His covenant based on their conception of what He is like. These men judge God to be like themselves. Many suppose that Gods ways are conditioned by circumstances that effect Him in the same manner that they would affect us.

But God is not subject to any passion or desire such as ours; Nor does God act, or react to situations as we do because of our nature, in spite of Scriptural language that seems to the contrary. A case in point is the great flood in Noah’s day where we read “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Gen. 6:5-7). We might be tempted to think that God was grieved in His heart in the same manner as we might be. But Scripture interpreting Scripture tells us “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” ( Heb. 11:7). God told Noah beforehand that it was His intention to bring the flood upon mankind in condemnation of it, indicating that it was no afterthought. The judicial condemnation of man began long before this event, being the consequence of his fall (Gen. 2:16,17; 3:6,7; Rom. 5:12). Even the curse upon man at his fall was no afterthought either, for Scripture says that creation was subject to the will of God before it was made and aside from any other consideration than Gods express will (Rom. 8:20).

God, having no body with no part or passion is unique in His Being, thoroughly independent of creation and providence. Indeed God is the author of creation and providence determining what it is and ought to be in a totally disaffected way by our standard and conception of what that means (Is. 45:5-7). For us to think that God ordains evil for evil like we do, is a false conception of God. To think that God is capricious in any way that He chooses to deal with man is false logic too. To think that God is limited by circumstances external to Himself is false and unbelieving. This is what man is like, not God, and those Scriptures that seem to suggest this on the surface in one place, also completely disavow it in another, forcing us to interpret Scripture according to Scripture. “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19).

Because God has no part or passion, no body like ours He is therefore simple and uncomplicated in His Being. Providential acts which flow from the divine will such as those mentioned in Genesis six and executed in chapter seven appear complicated to us. In reality however, because of the simplicity of God’s nature His will involves a unity of purpose in these things. The unity of Gods Being demands that it be so. Scripture reveals God to be a Trinity of persons yet one God. There is no multiplicity of purpose in God, for even the Triunity of the Godhead as expressed in Scripture does not involve any separate component or purpose in the will or act of God (I John 5:7, Deut. 6:4). When God uses the term “Us,” regardless of whether it means the persons the Trinity or the variegated nature of His attributes, it is still an expression of singleness of purpose and act (Gen. 1:26,27; 3:22).

Those passages in Scripture that use terms related to human emotions to describe God use what is called anthropopathism as a literary method to convey concepts that are otherwise impossible for us to understand. In fact, it was necessary for God to assume human nature in His Son Jesus Christ in order for certain and various qualities of His nature to find expression. The love of God is expressed in a divine act not in a feeling that God was overcome by (John 3:16). But even more to the point, the love of God is expressed in a person, one bearing our humanity. The human acts of Jesus are of God and done in a manner that would be impossible for God to perform in any other way than in Him. Indeed, the human emotions of Jesus are of God, but they are quite unique to Him as the Son of Man. Yet, in making this statement we immediately acknowledge that unlike us Jesus was a man born without sin (Rom 8:3,4). The human acts of Jesus were done both in response to situations and done according to the perfect will of God. “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ” Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come — In the volume of the book it is written of Me — To do Your will, O God.’ “ (Heb. 10:5-7). Therefore, Jesus in His humanity always responded and acted in the perfect will of God to every situation in which He was cast.

The circumstances of Jesus’ life were predestinated according to the covenant will of God. In every instance of that the human emotions of Jesus are seen as expressed in perfect harmony with this will. The time when Jesus entered a synagogue and encountered the man with a crippled hand He healed him while testing the opinion of the Pharisees on the legal aspect of work on the Sabbath. Jesus’ anger and grief toward them were both real and right in response to their unconcern for the man (Mark 3:1-6). When He was denied a proper reception by those close to Him, Jesus’ astonishment did not contradict His foreknowledge of the event (Mark 6:1-6). Another time it was the Pharisees that tested Him, and this led to Jesus’ sighing as an expression of His disaproval rather than some sort of self interested emotional response (Mark 8:11,12). When children were brought to see Jesus His disciples thought Him too important to be troubled(Mark 10:13-16). “But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased” (verse 14). Jesus’ displeasure at them was because of His good pleasure toward Gods kingdom and those entering in (verses 14,15).

Isaiah prophesied of Gods covenant Messiah that He would be born of a virgin, born a son, and His name would be Emmanuel (Is. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). Emmanuel is Hebrew for “God with us.” God the invisible Spirit having no body, part or passion came in human form, subjecting Himself to the conditions of this life without any effect upon the Divine nature. The incarnation suggests to us that our nature, although the spiritual aspect of it is made in Gods Image, is in body a prefigurement of the perfect man Jesus. The Son of God came into this world and took on our nature in a hypostatical union with His divine nature. Obviously, Jesus’ human nature was subject to change while His divine nature wasn’t. This is why Jesus told His disciples that no one, not even He knew the day or hour of His second coming, only the Father who predetermined it (Mark 13:32).

In conclusion, in this first section of study on Gods Covenant we have focused primarily on the eternal God because it is the proper starting place in consideration of it. The eternal God is not subject to the conditions of time and space as man is. We have looked at God first in His nature for that is where all else springs from in terms of what He brings to pass. Failure to do this is where others go wrong in their ideas. There are a couple of currently held views of Gods Covenant that construct a scenario of things pertaining to it that although rooted in Bible texts, at the same constructs them so as to violate the Doctrine of God. How does this happen? It happens by judging Gods word according to human ideas imposed upon the relevant texts of Scripture. When we start with God according to Scripture, we are forced to accept Him and what He does according to what He reveals. Human systems of thought that are forced on Scripture always conclude that man is the object of God’s covenant kingdom, and therefore, He is inclined to act irrationally in the pursuit to do this. God never acts this way for His Son Jesus Christ is the Logos, the logic of God. Man who is made in His image is made to reflect the logic of God which can only be ascertained in His word. Ideas about Gods Covenant, His kingdom, and His redemption that violate logically deduced Theology from the Bible falsely represent Him. Fantastic prophetic schemes that relate to earthly events taken from wrongly interpreted proof texts have led to tremendous errors of interpretation.

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