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Text Box:  I Am That I Am
 

 

 

 

 


  

 The Independence of God

 

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?  And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.   And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.    Exodus 3:13-15

 

First:  The doctrine itself.

 

In order to demonstrate this important doctrine of God’s independence, I want to call several important Scripture passages to your attention.

 

Revelation 4:8-11   and the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, LORD God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. 4:9 And when those beasts give glory and honor and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,  4:10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

 

Please note that God is worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because He is the creator of all things, which exist for His pleasure.  All things are dependent upon Him as Creator; He does not depend upon them.

 

Psalm 50.  The mighty God, even the LORD, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. 50:2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. 50:3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. 50:4 He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people.  50:5 Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice. 50:6 And the heavens shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge himself. Selah.  50:7 Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God. 50:8 I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me. 50:9 I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy folds. 50:10 For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.  50:11 I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. 50:12 If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.  50:13 Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? 50:14 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: 50:15 And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.

 

God’s complaint to Israel is that, although they were doing all the things that He commanded them as far as their sacrifices were concerned, yet they performed the sacrifices as if they were doing God a favor by worshipping Him.  They thought that in some way they were giving Him something that He would be poorer without.

 

Nothing could be farther from the truth.  We do not enrich God by our service: we add nothing to Him.  Services of worship are for our benefit, not His.   True worship consists of being thankful, calling upon God in time of trouble, and keeping our obligations and duties.

 

Psalm 94:3-11   LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph? 94:4 How long shall they utter and speak hard things? and all the workers of iniquity boast themselves? 94:5 They break in pieces thy people, O LORD, and afflict thine heritage.  94:6 They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless.  94:7 Yet they say, The LORD shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. 94:8 Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? 94:9 He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?  94:10 He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? he that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know? 94:11 The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.

 

How foolish we are.  The God who made the eye is the author of seeing, its Creator and Definer.  Will He not see?  The same thing can be said of hearing.  When we see judgments abroad in the earth, are we to pretend that God does not know the difference between right and wrong?  Is He blinder than we are?

 

Our seeing and hearing and discernment depends upon God as the source of these things.  He does not depend upon us.

 

Romans 11:33, 34   O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 11:34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor?

 

God’s knowledge and wisdom are unsearchable and independent.  He did not go to school anywhere to become educated.  He doesn’t take advice, nor does He need to.  God knows our minds, but we do not know His, except that which He reveals.

Ephesians 1:3-11 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.  1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 1:8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

 

God has a purpose and plan for the world that does not depend upon anything but His own will.  To the end that all things might be gathered together in Christ, He works all things after the counsel of His own will.

 

Psalm 115:1-3: Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake. 115:2 Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God? 115:3 But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.  

 

Note:

A)     God does as He pleases: this is an expression of independence:  A claim to do as you please is a claim to deity.   Only God does as He pleases.  Why?  Because He is in Heaven.  This is the major difference between God and us: He is in Heaven.

B)     Where is God?  He is in the heavens:  This is not geography; nor a view of cosmography:  “Heavens” means exactly what I have been saying.  He is not like anything on this earth, or anything that you have seen and known.  He is independent of anything on the earth, and nothing on the earth can affect Him in any way. Jesus said we are to begin our prayers with this understanding, “Our Father who art in Heaven.”  In praying to God we are withdrawing our hope and confidence from anything on this earth and putting our faith only in Him.

C)     Two things are involved, which support and demonstrate His independence: He could not be independent if He were not these:

1)     He cannot be experienced; this is His transcendence.  He is above all.

2)     He cannot be isolated from anything.  This is His immanence.  He is everywhere present in every point of space and every point of time.  

3)     Both His transcendence and His immanence will be explored in their proper place.  His transcendence means that you can’t get to Him—He cannot be moved by anything on the earth.  His immanence means you can’t get away from Him.  In Him you live and move and have your being.   To the sinner, God is the most painful reality: You can’t change Him and His will by anything you do; and you cannot get away from Him.  To the believer, God is the most blessed reality: for the same reasons.

 

Part Two:  Objections:

 

We will be dealing with only two objections; we hope to lay many objections in the dust by the authority of Scripture.

 

Objection One. What about those many places in the Bible where it appears as if God is influenced by the prayers of men and the actions of men? Doesn’t God punish the wicked for their deeds; and doesn’t He reward the righteous?

 

Actually, these places illustrate, rather than contradict what we said.  The wicked cannot escape, because they cannot influence the judge.  The righteous cannot fail, because the judge is not influenced by the deed:  “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”   The salvation of the elect comes from the purpose and plan of God, not because of man’s actions on the earth.  The Christian man acts because he is saved; he is not saved because of his actions.  As we saw in our study of I Peter, our salvation begins in heaven, proceeds through the earth, and culminates in heaven again.

 

As we continue through the attributes of God, these ideas will become more and more clear to you, if they are not already.  God speaks in a way that we can understand.   This is a device that Scriptures uses to speak to our humanity.  The actions of God from our point of view appear as the actions of a man.  Hence, He acts as an angry man: He acts as a repentant man would act, etc.  This device is known as anthropomorphism.    [An thro po MOR phism]

 

Objection Two.  What about prayer?  Well, What about prayer?  Doesn’t prayer change God’s mind?   No, No, No, No.  If God changed it would be because He had received more facts, more wisdom, or more power and opportunity.  It would imply ignorance or weakness in His former plan.

 

The fact that we ask the question shows how much we need to know about the nature of God, and about the nature of prayer.  It shows why we are so stupid about it, and why Satan’s kingdom seems to have its way and our spiritual warfare is so shallow and weak.  

 

Prayer is not persuading God; prayer is a conversation that I am having with God that changes me.  Answers to prayer are for the purpose of changing me, and what appears as non-answers to prayer serve the same purpose.  Prayers do not inform God of anything, for He knows what we need before we ask.

 

But doesn’t God hear?  Yes, of course.  He sees all and is aware of all, but He knows it from eternity, and hears His own voice in my prayers if they are of faith.  True prayer is in the Holy Spirit and of the Holy Spirit and does not originate in me, but originates in God.

 

Part Three: 

What are the Implications?

 

I.         Implications for Preaching.

 

To the Preacher.  If God is independent, then my ideas and your ideas are irrelevant in the matters of religion and faith and morals.  What do you know about God, or what do I know about God?   I have no right to impose my theology, my morality, my ideas upon you.  This is the foundation of your liberty.  The preacher should be trying to connect with your conscience; to have you understand that what is preached is the word of God.  If that connection doesn’t take place, you will not value me, or my preaching

 

To the People.  On the other hand, if what I say is the word of God, then you are bound to believe and to obey, because your ideas do not matter either.  It is God’s word that matters.  Its content and meaning are independent of our opinions and our desires.  It does not mean what you and I want it to mean; it means what it means.

 

II.     Implications for Doctrine.  The doctrine is given by God:  the faith is once delivered to the saints.  God did not have a focus group when He gave the Ten Commandments, and He didn’t consult the learned doctors of Jerusalem and Athens when He gave the Gospel.

A.     Right and Wrong. The Ten Commandments, with Christ’s interpretation, were delivered to the people.  They were not the result of polls and elections.  Because there is but one God, and therefore but one moral law for all men.  Men either live by God’s perfect righteousness or we die in our own unrighteousness.  We cannot add nor subtract from God’s perfect law and are forbidden to deceive ourselves by attempting to do it.

 

B.      Worship.  Once again, true worship is from God.  We do not add to Him by our worship:  we are ordered to do it as He has commanded.  He is not pleased by will-worship—the voluntary stuff we make up in order to make ourselves feel good.

 

C.     Prayer.  You ask, well why should we pray then?  Doesn’t prayer change the mind of God?   No; we are called into a conversation with God that has as its purpose the changing of us.  God is our Heavenly Father.  We have desires and dreams and doubts and fears.  We are to lay them out before the Lord in prayer.  This encourages us to pray for everything—to open our hearts before the Lord—to lay our hearts bare before Him, because He cares for us.  Do not worry:  He will not give a serpent if you ask for a fish; He will not give a stone if you ask for bread.  

 

You say, “We should be careful what we pray for.”  Why, because God is malicious and mischievous and will play games with us?  No, No, No.  Be reckless in prayer, but remember that both the answers and the non-answers serve the same purpose: to change you into the image of Jesus Christ, to make you like God, not to make God like you.

 

D.    Salvation.

Is salvation man reaching up to God?  No.  We have no ladders tall enough to reach to the Divine independence.  We have no arguments to change the Divine mind.  We have no righteousness to impress the Divine integrity.  We have no will to change the Divine certainty.  Our goodness cannot reach to God, the Psalmist tells us.   Ps. 16:2.

 

1.      Salvation is God reaching down to man.  Though God is not moved by us, we are certainly moved by God.  Man could not reach up to God to lay hold on salvation, but God entered into our flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ—the doctrine of God’s independence makes the doctrine of the incarnation absolutely essential.   Jesus came to save those whom the Father had given Him:  Those he came for, those he sought as lost sheep, those he prayed for, and those He died for.  This is the marvel of the grace and mercy of God.  When we were without strength, Christ died for us.

 

2.      Shall you persuade God to save you?  Can you climb up to heaven and pluck the treasures of God from His hand and put them in your pocket?  Is eternal life yours by right to claim?  Do you have the right to have your sins forgiven, and can you wrest forgiveness from eternal omnipotence?

 

No, no, no, no!  Salvation is of faith, that it may be of grace, the apostle tells us.  Why?  So that it might be sure to all the seed:  Romans 4.  The only way salvation is certain to all the elect, is that it is given by God and not earned by man.   We are not saved because of the strength of our conviction, but because of the strength of His promise.  Hallelujah!   I know that I have eternal life because, as the Heidelberg Catechism says: 

 

Q58:  What comfort do you receive from the article "life everlasting"?

 

A58:  That, inasmuch as I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, I shall after this life possess complete blessedness, such as eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, therein to praise God forever.

 

3.       God gives eternal life to me, and by faith in His promises, I have its beginnings in my own heart, in joy in the promises of God.

 

4.       Nothing can reach up to heaven from this earth and change the mind of God.  That’s why Paul could write:   For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Rom. 8:38, 39.    No created thing can reach to the Divinity.  He is independent and all things are naked and open before him with whom we have to do.

 

Beloved, get into the Divine conversation.  Listen to His voice, and lift your voice to Him.  It is so simple and so rich and full.

 

How do we converse with the great I AM?   We respond to Him the way He speaks to us.  He has spoken in his works, and we respond with ours, for our labor is an act of worship and very often tells more than our words.   But we do respond in words, because He has spoken to us through the apostles and prophets, and especially through His Son.  Our heart’s devotion also is an act of prayer, responding to the Spirit who works in our hearts.

 

May God bless you.