The concept of God that prevails in our modern [or postmodern] popular religion bears little resemblance to the God of the Bible. As A. W. Pink famously once observed, "The conception of Deity which prevails most widely today, even among those who profess to give heed to the Scriptures, is a miserable caricature, a blasphemous travesty of the Truth. The God of the twentieth century is a helpless, effeminate being who commands the respect of no really thoughtful man. The God of the popular mind is a creation of a maudlin sentimentality. The God of the present-day pulpit is an object of pity rather than of awe-inspiring reverence."
Pink's words were written over seventy years ago, and the situation is far worse today. Some theologians who dare to call themselves evangelicals now speak of the "openness of God" and deny His omnipotence and omniscience. These theologians have significantly redefined their understanding of divine sovereignty, and what is left is actually no sovereignty at all. As one proponent of "open theism" states his case: "God sets goals for creation and redemption and realizes them ad hoc in history. If Plan A fails, God is ready with Plan B." This is a direct denial of God's sovereignty. The God revealed in the Bible needs no 'Plan B.' God's omnipotent sovereignty sets his power in full view, but power is only one vital aspect of God's revealed nature. We also know His character.
In a word, God is holy. The Prophet Isaiah heard the seraphim cry, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory." [Isaiah 6:3] God does not and cannot sin. He is absolute righteousness, and He is the standard for righteousness and holiness. There is not the slightest imperfection in God, for He is pure and perfect.
Since the Hebrew language has no comparatives or superlatives, words are sometimes repeated for emphasis. From Isaiah's vision we learn that God is not merely holy, or even holy, holy; He is holy, holy, holy--infinite holiness. All that belongs to God is holy. His presence marks holy ground. His temple is a Holy Place, and the altar was in the Holy of Holies. The church of Jesus Christ is a holy nation, and we preach God's Holy Word, the Holy Scriptures. Everything that God is and does is holy.
Holiness is the quintessential attribute of God's moral character, and it defines all other attributes. God's power is the power of holiness, His omniscience is a holy knowledge. God's love is a holy love, even as His wrath is a holy wrath. The doctrine of the wrath of God has been banished from far too many pulpits, but God's holiness cannot be understood apart from His determination to punish sin. There are few doctrines as thoroughly grounded in Scripture as the doctrine of God's wrath. Jesus Himself taught that God would judge all persons, and that He must punish sin. Paul reminds us that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven" [Romans 1:18] and John the Baptist warned that we should "flee from the wrath to come." [Matthew 3:7] Yet God has made a provision for us through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, who for sinners bore God’s wrath against sin. A holy God demands and deserves a holy people, and thus we are called to be holy as well.
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to know the Lord Most High, the one true God. There is coming a day when every creature will come to know God, when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:10-11] In the meantime, it is our task and glory to bear witness to the true and living God. As our Lord prayed in His final hours on earth: "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." [John 17:3]
While others may profess and proclaim a dehydrated deity, let us bear witness to the God who revealed Himself in the Bible--the God who is our Creator, our Redeemer, our Deliverer, and our King. Christians must affirm and teach His greatness and power, His sovereignty and majesty, His sufficiency and omniscience, His omnipresence and His eternity, His glory and His grace.
Our task is to bear witness to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. No matter what the world may say, the true church must tell of His greatness, His holiness, and His sovereignty.
A. W. Tozer rightly observed that "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." What comes to your mind? The God of the Bible shows mercy to sinners through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. His greatest demonstration of His own glory is seen in the redemption of sinners. To truly know Him is to know His saving power. Those who truly know the living God will find salvation by His grace, through Jesus Christ.
For thus says the LORD, "Let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD."
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more articles and resources by Dr. Mohler, and for information on The Albert Mohler Program, a daily national radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network, go to www.albertmohler.com. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to www.sbts.edu. Send feedback to [email protected].