“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Ps. 145:3).
We have been comparing and contrasting this month how God has related to His people in the old and new covenants as a part of our year-long study revolving around new covenant fulfillments of the old covenant. To better understand our covenant Lord, we will now spend the next week looking more closely at who He is by using Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series The Attributes of God.
A study of the Creator’s attributes is more controversial in our day than many of us might first imagine. This is due in large measure to the prevalent skepticism regarding whether God is actually knowable. Secular universities employ professors of religion and philosophy who teach dogmatically that it is impossible to know anything true about God. Every religion is merely an attempt to come to grips with the reality of the transcendent, so none of them can have a monopoly on the character of the Creator and what He demands from the world. We are all groping in the darkness, walking blindly up the many different mountain paths that lead finally to the same place. Popularly speaking, “humble” people admit there are many ways to “ultimate reality,” and only the arrogant are sure about who God is and the way to redemption. This gives orthodox Christians a “public relations disadvantage” in postmodern culture. We are “prideful and intolerant” for claiming certainty about what is supposed to be unknowable — that Christ Jesus alone is the way of salvation (John 14:6).
These popular attitudes merely reveal the world’s false understanding of the incomprehensibility of God. To say that God is incomprehensible is not to say He is unknowable. Scripture is clear that God is transcendent — He is infinite, and our finite minds cannot fully grasp the depths of His being. Yet because we are made in His image (Gen. 1:26–27), we can know Him truly, if not fully. For instance, we can meaningfully and truly know that our Father is good; nevertheless, it will take an eternity for us to comprehend the depth and breadth of His goodness (Ps. 145:3).
God’s Word continually holds out to us the possibility of really and truly knowing our Creator (Hos. 6:3; Matt. 11:27; John 12:45). And as we grow in our knowledge of Him, we become ever more aware that our understanding is incomplete, requiring us to bow in worship before the Lord’s majesty (Rom. 11:33–36).
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
The study of God’s attributes should by no means make us arrogant. In learning about His character, we make real progress only as we see more and more how great He is and how small we are in comparison. If we are not marveling at His grace, fearing His holiness, reflecting His love, seeing our brokenness, and allowing the reality of His justice to move us to share His gospel with others, then we are not truly understanding who He is.