God is… simple (without parts)

In this fourth part of the Get to know God series, we’re going to be looking at God’s simplicity, or the fact that God is “without parts”. Now, simplicity is probably the most misleading word in the theological dictionary! It’s a very particular definition of simplicity which has very little to the way that we use the word in common speech. It is important, however, because I think it has a direct bearing on issues in our society today.

But let’s go into what simplicity is. Let’s start out by thinking about a jigsaw.

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God is… Everlasting

In the second part of our “Get to know God” series, we’re going to think about how God is everlasting or eternal. The Bible teaches that God has always existed, and will always exist. He doesn’t have a beginning or an end. He is not bound by time in the way that we human beings are. Let’s think about what the Bible has to say about God’s eternity, and then think about how it makes a difference in our lives.

What does the Bible say about God’s eternity?

God never had a beginning

Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Psalm 90:2

One of the most important things to grasp about God is that he never had a beginning. He has always existed. I know that’s hard to get your head around! We human beings are so used to thinking of things in terms of beginning and ending, that it’s very difficult – if not impossible – to really understand how God could be different. But – that is what the Bible teaches.

This is fundamental to who God is. The universe needs to have a “first cause”. In Stephen Hawking’s famous book A Brief History of Time, he tells this story:

Turtles all the way down
‘Turtles all the way down’

A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the centre of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”

If you think about it for a moment, there has to come something at the bottom of the pile. It’s the same thing with creation. If you ask, ‘who created God?’ then you have to ask ‘Who created the person who created God?’ and so on.

Someone or something had to come first.

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Get to know God – new series!

Do you want to get to know God better? In that case, good news! I have decided to start a new series here on Understand the Bible. It’s been something I’ve had on my mind for a while, but I finally feel the time is right. I’ve been re-reading Jim Packer’s classic book Knowing God lately, and it’s struck me again how good it is to focus on God for a while. At the end of the day, that’s what the Christian life is all about – getting to know God. This is how Jesus described eternal life:

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

John 17:3

That’s the point of life – to know God. If we’re going to be spending eternity with him – we’re going to get to know him pretty well! And the best news is, we can start right away.

Why should we get to know God?

This is how the great preacher C.H. Spurgeon once started a sermon on this subject (Jim Packer quotes this in Knowing God):

The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls Father.

… Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.

Spurgeon could certainly turn a phrase! When we lift our eyes from our circumstances to God, it’s hugely comforting. We need to look less at ourselves and our situations and more at our Creator. Knowing God is not simply an intellectual exercise – although it’s good for our minds as it helps us to think – but it’s an immense comfort. When we see how big God is, we realise that he’s bigger than any of our problems!

How do we get to know God?

We primarily get to know God through studying his word, the Bible. God has revealed himself to us in his word, and we get to know him by reading it. However, in my experience, a bit of guidance can be very helpful in this regard: the truths about God are everywhere in the Bible. But there is no one place where God just comes out and says it all concisely. We need to dig a little and bring up lots of different places through the Bible.

This is where we need a roadmap, a guide, to help us navigate through the Bible clearly. For this series, I’m going to be using the Anglican 39 Articles. The very first article is, “Of Faith in the Holy Trinity”, which says:

THERE is but one living and true God, ever- lasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

OK, I know that’s quite dense! But as a framework, it’s great. It will help guide us as we start to look at who God is. We’re going to break it down and take it bit by bit.

Get to know God – roadmap

This is how I’m planning to break it down. God is…

  1. One – living and true
  2. Everlasting
  3. Everywhere – without a body, spiritual
  4. Without parts – sometimes called God’s “simplicity” (don’t worry, I’ll explain)
  5. Impassible (without passions) – God is unable to suffer
  6. Infinitely powerful (omnipotent)
  7. Infinitely wise
  8. Infinitely good
  9. The maker and preserver of all things
  10. Three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Trinity)

In each part of the series we’ll look at the Bible and what it says, then we’ll think about what it means for us. In other words, this series will be practical. My aim is not just to help you to think about God, but to encourage your own faith.

Join in – let’s get to know God together!

I will be publishing these here on the blog over the coming weeks. Once they’re all done, I hope to turn this into a video course which can go into the Teaching Programme.

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