Week 1 - Introduction & Doctrine of the Knowledge of God
“Every time we mention God we become theologians, and the only question is whether we are going to be good ones or bad ones.”
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7 ESV)
“Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be considered true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”
What is Theology?
The focus of our time will be on what is know as “Systematic Theology”
Why should we study theology?
Because to know God is the essence of eternal life (John 17:3)
Because God has made himself known (Hebrews 1:1, Deuteronomy 29:29)
Because by beholding we become (II Corinthians 3:18, 1 John 3:2)
Because by knowing God rightly we worship him rightly (John 4:23, Proverbs 19:2)
Because we are commanded to get knowledge and to think on excellent things (Proverbs 23:12, Philippians 4:8)
Because we should want to give an answer and be ready to teach others (1 Peter 3:15, 2 Timothy 2:2)
Because there is nothing greater that we could do than this (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
How should we study theology?
Questions or Comments?
Knowability of God
Can God be known?
How can God be known?
Transcendence (out of reach) & Immanence (close enough to touch)
Incomprehensibility (beyond knowing) & Knowability (can be known)
1 Timothy 6:15-16
God must decide to make himself known.
“Hence the first step in true knowledge is taken, when we reverently embrace the testimony which God has been pleased to give of himself.” - John Calvin
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
(Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV)
Unless God reveals himself our study of him is vain
Any revelation given is gracious condescension (Isaiah 65:1)
Any revelation from God is given so that we would know and adore him
If God has revealed himself then we should eagerly pursue knowing him through it, for that is the purpose for which God has given it.
Our knowledge of God is still finite knowledge, true yet accommodated to our creaturely, finite state
The study of God assumes that God has made himself known.
How has he made himself known?
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1 ESV)
General in content and in crowd
What does creation reveal?
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20 ESV)
Types of General Revelation:
I. Natural Revelation
Pre-Fall - Natural Revelation
“There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.”
Post-Fall - Suppression of Natural Revelation
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:18-25 ESV)
II. Law of God
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them (Romans 2:14-15 ESV)
Galatians 4 “elementary principles”
Everyone knows that there is a right and a wrong.
III. Sensus Divinitatis (A Sense of God)
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV)
In our fallen state, left with General Revelation alone, we would only have enough information to be accountable and condemned.
- Special in content and in crowd
In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.(Luke 10:21 ESV)
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. (Romans 3:1-2 ESV)
Redemptive in nature
“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name,I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ (Isaiah 65:1 NIV)
Scripture (Word Proclaimed)
Incarnation (Word Displayed)
I. Incarnation (Word Displayed)
- God communicates himself to us most clearly in the words and works of the Son incarnate.
- Christ manifests the character and purposes of God
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.” John 1:1-5,14,18
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? John 14:6-9
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Hebrews 1:1-3 ESV
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit… And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:18-4:6
- How do we behold Christ? By faith in the….
II. Scriptures (Word Proclaimed)
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, (John 5:39 ESV)
All of Scripture is Christ-centered precisely because it is redemptive in purpose.
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27 ESV)
God speaks to his agents by means of:
Spoken (Audible language)
Inspired (Holy Spirit)
Displayed (acts and deeds)
All three recorded in human language
- Perfect revelation and the limitation of words
“For who even of slight intelligence does not understand that, as nurses commonly do with infants, God is wont in measure to ‘lisp’ in speaking to us? Thus such forms of speaking do not so much express clearly what God is like as accomodate the knowledge of him to our slight capacity. To do this he must descend far beneath his loftiness” - John Calvin
The Canon of Scripture
What is it?
66 Books, 40+ Authors, 1600 years
What should be called “God’s Word”?
Don’t put words in God’s mouth! - Deuteronomy 4:2
Inspiration of Scripture
What is Inspiration?
Theo Pneustos - God-breathed
II Timothy 3:14
II Peter 1:21
Inspiration, Spirit-superintendence not dictation in most cases
Technical Term: Verbal Plenary Inspiration
(More on this when we get to attributes of Scripture) Questions?
Canon Content & Formation
Law, History, Poetry & Songs, Wisdom, Prophecy
The Old Testament we have was the Bible of Jesus and the early church
Necessity of succession of authoritative prophets
The coming of the Spirit - John 16:3
II Peter 3:2 - Commandment of the Lord through Apostles
II Peter 3:15-16 - Peter, an apostle, categorizes Paul’s writings as Scripture
1 Timothy 5:17-18 - Paul quotes Jesus as Scripture (Luke 10:7)
Apostolic authorship or close, known companion
Divine qualities congruent with the rest of God’s revelation
Formation of the Canon:
Recognition not creation!
Muratorian fragment or canon: mid 2nd Century - Gospels, Acts, Paul’s Epistles
Disputed books included and excluded: i.e. Gospel of Peter, Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, etc
Care taken because false documents were common, especially by the 3rd Century
Faith and Reason
Warning: “God told me….”
Attributes of Scripture
Authority of Scripture
Scripture is self-authorizing - God is the highest authority, therefore his words of the highest authority, therefore they are necessarily self-authenticating
Jesus and the Apostles viewed the OT Scriptures as being of divine origin:
Jesus (Mark 12:36) quoting from Psalm 110
Peter (Acts 2:17) quoting from Joel 2:23-32
Hebrews (Heb. 3:7) “The Holy Spirit says…) from Psalm 95
“It is written…”
If Scripture is of divine origin to disbelieve or disobey it is to disbeliever and disobey God
As issue foundational to the fall of humanity into sin
Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19 ESV)
“Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” (2 Kings 22:13 ESV)
“…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2 ESV)
“‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (Revelation 3:8 ESV)
The witness of the Holy Spirit
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV)
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13-14 ESV)
Not a subjective sense, but the fountain of faith.
“We embrace the Spirit with no danger of delusion when we recognize him in his image, that is in his word.” - John Calvin
The Majesty of Scripture
We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to a high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.
Westminster Confession of Faith
- “You believe in the sun….” C.S. Lewis
Authority of Scripture in Church history
Catholicism, Vatican I, & Ex Cathedra
"Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience would be neither right nor safe. God help me. Here I stand, I can do no other."
Enlightenment, Modernity, and Contemporary attacks on the authority of Scripture
II. Inerrancy of Scripture
Definition: The Bible in its original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is false
This is an issue of authority
The doctrine of inerrancy is predicated on the theological truth of the absolute truthfulness of God.
“…in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” (Titus 1:2 ESV)
“…so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:18 ESV)
If only parts of the Bible are true, then only parts are authoritative, and then who decides which parts are which?
“This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30 ESV)
“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:7-9 ESV)
Problems with inerrancy:
Disagreement between names, number, and chronology
The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:7-8 ESV)
- Accept it for what it claims to be or…..
III. The Clarity of Scripture
The purpose of the Bible is to reveal
“The unfolding of you words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130)
Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees “Have you not read?”
Interpretive implication: plain reading of the text in light of other Scripture
Not to be mistaken with simplicity
Why is it hard to understand?
There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:16 ESV)
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! (Luke 24:25 ESV)
Let this drive us to the word with confidence and eagerness
IV. Necessity of Scripture
Just as it is God speaking which sustains the universe it is his word which sustains us
“It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4 ESV)
Our only certain guide to truth
Needed to know who God is, who we are, and what God has done about it.
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:13-17 ESV)
“It is no empty word for you, but your very life.” Deuteronomy 32:47
V. The Sufficiency of Scripture
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15 ESV)
Implications on Evangelism
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
Implications on the Christian Life
VI. The Efficacy of Scripture
The word of God does all it sets out to do.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)
Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?(Jeremiah 23:28-29 ESV)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)
“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose, calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isaiah 46:8-11 ESV)
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV)
The people of God are created, saved, changed, sustained, and raised by the word of God.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. (John 5:25 ESV)
As Christians this fuels faithful ministry and confidence in an unstable world
The power of the foolishness of preaching
The next stage of redemptive history will bring new and unprecedented revelation. It will be a final state of ever expanding growth in knowledge of God
Every indication in Scripture is that what we have now in Scripture is sufficient for this age and will only be superseded by the age to come.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13 ESV)
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV)
Qualitative not quantitative
Always the creature, therefore, always analogical
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2 ESV)
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.(Revelation 1:5-7 ESV)
Faith will become sight
God is Spirit - we will forever know him through Jesus Christ
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14 ESV)
“And when the souls of the saints leave their bodies, to go to be with Christ, they behold the marvelous glory of that great work of his, the work of redemption, and of the glorious way of salvation by him; which the angels desire to look into. They have a most clear view of the unfathomable depths of the manifold wisdom and knowledge of God; and the most bright displays of the infinite purity and holiness of God, that do appear in that way and work: and see in another manner, than the saints do here, what is the breadth and length and depth and height of the grace and love of Christ, appearing in his redemption. And as they see the unspeakable riches and glory of the attribute of God's grace, so they most clearly behold and understand Christ's eternal and unmeasurable dying love to them in particular. And in short they see everything in Christ that tends to kindle and enflame love, and everything that tends to gratify love, and everything that tends to satisfy them: and that in the most clear and glorious manner, without any darkness or delusion, without any impediment or interruption. Now the saints, while in the body, see something of Christ's glory and love; as we, in the dawning of the morning, see something of the reflected light of the sun mingled with darkness: but when separated from the body, they see their glorious and loving Redeemer, as we see the sun when risen, and showing his whole disk above the horizon, by his direct beams, in a clear hemisphere, and with perfect day.”
Jonathan Edwards (Works 25, pg. 230)
Memory Verse: Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV)