THE TRANSCENDENCY OF GOD

The Cat’s Eye Nebula lies three thousand light-years from Earth. One of the most famous planetary nebulae, NGC 6543 is over half a light-year across and represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star

We have already discussed the “essence” or “substance” of God. God may be a Spirit, but that doesn’t mean He has no substance. Just because we can’t see Him doesn’t mean He has no essence. God has substance, He is a Person, and He has a personality, just as all living beings do. But God’s essence is not the same as ours. Even though He interacts with us and the rest of His creation, He dwells in another place; a realm different than ours yet existing alongside ours. From time to time in the history of the world, God has “crossed over” and inserted Himself in the history of the material universe, occasionally intervening in the affairs of man. God has condescended to relate to man in ways that man can understand and relate to.

In addition to essence, God possess certain attributes. God’s attributes are objective, arising out of His essence. That is, God is who He is, not what man perceives Him to be. God has attributes whether man sees them or not; whether man understands them or not.

There are two broad types of attributes that any living person may possess: “non-moral” and “moral” or God’s transcendent attributes and God’s immanent attributes. God’s non-moral or transcendent attributes would include things that are part of His nature; things like His omniscience, omnipotence, and so on. God’s moral attributes or His immanent attributes would include things like His righteousness and love.

We will begin with God’s transcendent, non-moral attributes.

1. God is omniscient

God’s omniscience means that God knows Himself and He knows all other things. Literally, God knows “all things.” Technically, it means that God knows all things, actual and possible; past, present, and future, and He knows all these from all eternity. God knows all things immediately and perfectly, simultaneously and exhaustively.

God is the source of all wisdom, Job 28:20—24

Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell? It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing, concealed even from the birds in the sky. Destruction and Death say, “Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.” God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.

Job 28 is a watershed chapter, for in it some profound things are revealed to us about the storehouse of God’s wisdom. Job, even with his limited, finite mind, understood the true nature of wisdom. Because God is the creator of all things, God knows all things. Even though nature itself seems so profound and beyond understanding, God created it, therefore He understands it. Science reveals but a fraction of nature’s complexities to man. God knows all there is to know about the world man lives in.

God not only has a complete and perfect grasp of nature and the material world, He holds it all together!

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:3a)

God’s exhaustive knowledge of man, Psalm 139:1—6

Jeremiah correctly observed something very profound about man:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Know thyself” is a Greek saying of unknown origin, but it’s an impossible task! Man cannot fully “know himself” because, as Jeremiah said, man’s heart—his inner self—cannot be trusted to be truthful. Charnock wrote:

God knows Himself, wherein He excels all creatures. No man doth exactly know himself, much less doth he understand the full nature of a spirit; much less still the nature and perfection of God.

For centuries science and medicine have sought to unlock the mysteries of the human mind and the working of our emotions. But the inner man remains a mystery.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139:1—6)

David, the poet of the soul, tried to understand himself; his thoughts and motives, but in the end concluded that only God could fully understand his inner man. God, David concluded, sees all and knows all, therefore only God can fully know the inner man.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (verses 23, 24)

The mystery of God’s mind, Romans 11:33

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

If a man could live a thousand years, devoting himself to the study and understanding of the workings of God’s mind, his pursuit would be in vain. How can any mortal comprehend a God whose knowledge is so perfect and so complete that—

even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:30)

The apostle Paul in Romans 8—11 considered God’s redemptive plan for mankind and he ended up simply marveling at God’s mind. Paul had been given the slightest glimpse into the inner workings of God’s mind and His thoughts and concluded that “his paths are beyond tracing out.” Even if God would tell us everything we wanted Him to, this is simply no way we could grasp what His words!

No doubt God wants man to learn all he can about Him, but in the end, our finite minds cannot grasp God’s infinite mind. However, what remains a mystery to us, is not a mystery to God. God knows Himself and He knows us perfectly.

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

2. God is omnipotent

God is omnipotent, meaning “all powerful.” But this particular attribute of God means even more than that. It means that God is free and able to do whatever He wills. This may sound frightening, but it shouldn’t. Since God’s will is limited by His nature, then He will only do that which is in complete harmony with that nature.

There are some things God cannot do:

  • He cannot look at sin;
  • He cannot deny Himself – …if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (2 Timothy 2:13);
  • He cannot lie – ...it is impossible for God to lie… (Hebrews 6:18);
  • He cannot sin – ...God cannot be tempted by evil… (James 1:13)

Furthermore, God cannot do absurd things or anything that would go against His nature. God would not make a square circle or a rock too heavy to lift because God is not ridiculous nor would He do ridiculous things.

God’s power demonstrated in creation, Genesis 1:1, 2

The creation of the material universe and the immaterial universe are the purest manifestations of God’s absolute power. God created all things without using anything else; He literally brought things into existence where nothing existed before. There were no secondary causes in creation.

God’s power demonstrated in the life of Israel, Jeremiah 32:21, 27

When God works providentially in the life of believers, that is a manifestation of God’s ordinate power. From time to time in the life of the material universe, God has inserted Himself and intervened in the affairs of His people, causing things align themselves in such a way as to advance the His will and benefit His people.

You brought your people Israel out of Egypt with signs and wonders, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror. “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:21, 27)

God’s power explained by Paul, Ephesians 3:20

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…

Paul had been praying that his friends in Ephesus would experience the fullness of God’s presence in their lives. He wraps up his prayer with this profound thought: God’s power is at work in believers as they seek to do His will. In other words, as believers seek to serve the Lord, they become extensions of His power on earth!

Paul was a man intimately familiar with God’s power. It radically changed his life. It miraculously sustained and preserved his life. It supernaturally directed his every step. No wonder the apostle was able to say this:

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

3. God is omnipresent

God is everywhere, all the time, at the same time. In relation to man, God is literally all over His creation. This part of God’s transcendency should be obvious. If God is so big, He must be everywhere.

Perhaps the greatest Scriptural witness of this aspect of God’s transcendency is what David wrote in Psalm 139:7 – 12…

Where can I go from your Spirit?Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there;if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn,if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me,your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you;the night will shine like the day,for darkness is as light to you.

With us and beyond us, 2 Chronicles 6:18

But will God really dwell on earth with men? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”

King Solomon finally completed the Lord’s temple when he realized this profound truth. God cannot be contained in a room or a building. All around ancient Israel were nations that each their gods. Each nation, and even each people group with these nations, had gods that dwelled with them. These were local gods. But the God of Israel was no local God! He could not be contained to a temple or region. He is the God who is above and over all creation. Yet at the same time, that immense God chooses to dwell within His people. Faber notes:

For God is never so far off, as even to be near. He is within. Our spirit is in the home He holds most dear. To think of Him as by our side is almost as untrue as to remove His shrine beyond those skies of starry blue. So all the while I thought myself homeless, forlorn, and weary, missing my joy, I walked the earth myself God’s sanctuary.

The hapless prophet Jonah discovered the omnipresence of God the hard way. It took his being swallowed by a gigantic fish to acknowledge the fact that God is everywhere, even with him in the belly of a fish!

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. (Jonah 1:3)

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. (Jonah 2:1)

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. (Jonah 2:10)

Believers should take great comfort and hope from this aspect of God’s transcendency. It means that no matter where a believer may find himself, in pleasure or in pain, God is there. When a loved one on the other side of the country is suffering, He is there, too. When tragedy strikes a believer on the other side of the world, God is also there.

But that which comforts the believer should terrify the unbeliever. There is nowhere they can hide from His view or eventually His judgment.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13)

 

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