The Unity and Simplicity of God

 

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Deuteronomy 6:4, 5: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

 

It is impossible to think of anything without thinking something about it.  The only way we can think about anything is to attribute something to it.  What we attribute may be either true or false, so we must be careful to conform our ideas to reality, or we will just be living in a dream world.

 

For instance, you may attribute the production of butter and cheese to turkeys, and you may be very pleased with your own ideas.   Most of us will think you are crazy because you are living in a dream world.  Fantasy does not change reality.  In spite of Disney, mice do not talk or wear dresses.  Bears are not cuddly and ducks are not sarcastic.  Dreams do not change the reality of turkeys, and dreams do not change the reality of God.  There are many people who retreat to dream worlds in order to escape unpleasant reality.  Some live in a chemical haze; some have adopted complicated religious schemes; some have convinced themselves that God is a being altogether such an one as themselves and are very comfortable living with their fantasy.

 

But a lie is still a lie, no matter how much I believe it.  You will not get butter and cheese from turkeys, and you cannot make stones into bread by the power of your mind, no matter how much you believe.  And you cannot come to eternal life by vain imaginations concerning God, or even by vain imaginations concerning Jesus Christ.  That is why the apostles warned us of false christs and false gospels.   The Holy Spirit knows the lying creativity of our minds and warns us about it.  You are not saved because you believe some wonderful imagination about Jesus Christ, but because you believe the record that God has given of His Son.

 

“Hear, O Israel.”   Moses was reminding Israel of what had happened when God gave the law on Mt. Sinai after Israel had been delivered from Egypt.  God has revealed Himself to Israel as the one true and living God.  The words come with urgency and of the greatest importance.  God is One Lord.  In this revelation to Moses, two important things are set forth: Something about God and the corresponding duty of man.

 

There are two things that are unexplainable if you do not accept the inspiration and authority of the Bible.   One is the existence and witness of Israel.  There is no greater historical puzzle than the existence of Israel and their religious identity.  If you ignore the record of the Bible, or discount it, the existence of Israel is an immense puzzle.  How could a nation exist for so long with such a message so contrary to all the cultures around them, especially with such a message that so many Jews themselves did not believe?  Against the religions of all the nations around them, Israel testified to the Unity of God, and His Oneness.  If you do not believe the Bible message that something very special happened to Israel at Mt. Sinai, then you have a historical problem of the first magnitude.  How did they maintain their uniqueness and identity?  How did they preserve a book and a record that is so contrary to the natural instincts of mankind?  Did Israel and very clever prophets make it all up?  If so, how could they have maintained the lie?

 

The other unexplainable thing is the existence of Christianity.  If Jesus did not rise from the dead, how do you explain the existence of Christianity?  How could a persecuted people who worshipped One who had been crucified triumph over the great Roman Empire?  Did the disciples make it all up?  How could they have maintained the lie?  To believe in these things is to believe in the Mother of all Conspiracies.  I feel sorry for you if you have such a view of history, and you will become a prey to all sorts of conspiracy theories and empty imaginations.

 

“The Lord our God is One Lord.”   God is One.  He is also infinite and eternal.  This means two things at least.   There are not many Gods.  There is only One God.  Count up all the gods.  There is only one.  You count them on your fingers and not use all of them.  There is One God.   This God, therefore, cannot be divided.  That is the other thing.  Because God is infinite, without limits, He cannot be divided, for that would introduce limits to God.  God is not part justice and part mercy.  He does not have to jump-start another part of His brain when He would move from mercy to justice.   His wisdom does not reside in one part of His brain and His power in another.  There is not a powerful God and a wise God and a merciful God and a holy God, but the Living God is powerfully wise and wisely powerful, mercifully holy, and of holy mercy, of wise mercy and merciful wisdom.  So we can summarize that the true God is numerically one and of infinite simplicity, without parts.  He cannot be divided.

 

This means that His power never operates without His justice and His mercy and His wisdom.  He never lays aside holiness to exercise mercy, or justice to exercise patience.  These things may seem contrary to us, but there can be no conflict or disjunction to disturb the divine peace.  This is a major doctrine of the Scripture and must always be confessed by us.

 

But you say, “What about the Trinity?”  Is not God one in three?  There is no doubt that God is Three in One, or One in Three.  But there is complete unity in the Godhead, for Jesus said that He knows all that the Father knows, and that He does all that the Father does, and that The Father does nothing without the Son, and that the Son has life in Himself just as the Father does. (John 5)  We certainly confess that there is mystery in the Godhead, and we would expect that God would be greater than us, and that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, for the Bible reveals this.  

 

But we must never destroy the unity of God by our constructions of the Holy Trinity.  From the time of the ancient fathers of the church, we have used the word “essence” to describe the unity of God, and the word “person” to describe the distinctions in the Godhead, Father Son and Holy Ghost, in such a way that neither the unity and simplicity of God is destroyed, nor are the distinctions in the Godhead eliminated.

 

We will explore this more fully when we come to the doctrine of the Trinity.  Suffice it to say that the Son possesses the identical power of the Father, for there are not two eternal, almighty powers, for this would mean there are two Gods.  Neither does the Holy Spirit have anything of His own, for He proceeds from the Father and the Son.   We must maintain from the record of Scripture that God is One in marvelous and incomprehensible simplicity; and that in this eternal and infinite simplicity there are three Persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

 

The simplicity of God is also a negative attribute.  It says more of what God is not, than what He is.  Just as immutability says that God cannot change; just as God’s infinity denies limits to God; so simplicity denies composition to God.  God is not composed of this or that, but He is an eternal and most pure Spirit.  He has nothing of the Created World in Him.  He must never be confused with anything that He created.

 

John 4:24.  This is the reason that Jesus said to the woman at the well of Samaria: “God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”  God cannot be truly worshipped by material means.  He cannot be enriched by offerings of material things.  He will not be pleased to accept them if our hearts are far from Him.

 

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”  An undivided God demands an undivided worship.  A God who has nothing of the world in Him must be worshipped with man’s highest spiritual powers, or we corrupt His worship and bring judgment upon us. 

 

This worship therefore must be of both body and soul.  God is not made up of material things, but we are, and God is our creator, so we owe him both the fruit of our souls and the fruit of our bodies.  What Christ is denying in John 4:24 is the idea that worship can consist of ceremonies and rites when the soul is far from God.  He is not saying that God can be truly worshipped in our hearts when we withhold our bodies from him and live in the pleasures of this world.

 

Present your bodies as living sacrifices: Rom. 12:1, 2.   Because God is one, our worship must be one, both of body and soul. This is our spiritual worship.  Two errors are rejected, that God can be pleased with physical ceremonies alone, or that God can be pleased if we seek some spiritual worship that withholds the body from Him.  Because He is One, He requires of us a united worship of both body and soul.  We are to be sanctified in body, soul, and spirit to be pleasing to Him (I Thess. 5:23).

 

All of the Ten Commandments Are to Be Thus Interpreted.   Jesus did this, and shows us the way in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.  Not only is murder forbidden (a sin of the body), but also hatred and unjust anger and evil speech are forbidden as expression of soul murder.   Not only is adultery forbidden (a sin of the body), but also the unclean thought, a sin of the soul.  Not only is perjury in court forbidden (a sin of the body), but saying yes to anyone when you do not mean yes, or saying no to anyone when you do not mean no, is forbidden, or any means by which you would deceive you neighbor.    We are to worship God with our whole being, not just a part of it.

 

Note the following important passages:

 

Matthew 6:16ff. 6:16. Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.   But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 6:18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.  6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 6:20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

 

6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 6:22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 6:23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.  Ye cannot serve God and mammon.   6:25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?  6:26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?  6:27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?  6:28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:  6:29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 6:30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?  6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?   6:32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

 

Our problems are never the things: it is always our divided heart that is the problem.  We are not troubled by limited resources; but we put limits upon God by our unbelief and our love of the world.  It is not that He cannot supply all our needs abundantly, but that He will not, because to do so would encourage our idolatry and our love of the world.

 

Matthew 12:30  “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”    This is a great affirmation that Jesus is God, for no person is to command this undivided loyalty.  God only is to have our undivided worship and loyalty.   One day the disciples came to Jesus and said, “We saw someone casting out devils and he doesn’t follow us, and we rebuked him.”   Jesus rebuked them by saying, “He that is not against us is on our part.”  This doesn’t contradict the passage in Matt. 12, because of the change in the pronoun.   A man cannot be against Jesus and be a good person.  To be neutral or divided about Jesus Christ is to do damage to the cause of Christ in the earth; but a man can be faithful to Jesus Christ and not be one of our group.  Jesus was training the twelve and performing His public ministry and establishing the church, but His work of mercy and ministry to Israel was not confined to the twelve.  As God He was doing a great many things other than what the Twelve could comprehend.

 

Preachers have great egos, and it is a difficult lesson sometimes for them to learn that God’s work is not confined to their ministry.  God’s work is only through and in terms of Jesus Christ, but that does not mean that His work is confined to a particular church or denomination.  He must have our undivided loyalty, worship, and praise; no man can demand that of us, and it is idolatry for us to give it to them.  Only Christ can require it of us.

 

But remember the force of this text: you cannot be neutral about Jesus Christ and His claims. If you are, you are an enemy of Christ and are scattering, not gathering.

 

Luke 16: 1ff 16:1 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. 16:2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. 16:3 Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my Lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.16:4 I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 16:5 So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my Lord?  16:6 And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.  16:7 Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.  16:8 And the Lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. 16:9 And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.  16:10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 16:11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 16:12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? 16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 16:14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. 16:15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

 

How are we to serve God?  By serving one another.  This is a parable by contrast.  If a man who only has a short time is clever enough to plan for the future, how much more should we?  If this unjust steward was clever enough to look ahead to the time where he would need friends, how much more should we make friends of our Father who is in heaven, for the time will come when His friendship will be the only thing that will keep us from something far worse than poverty.

 

Luke 9:61. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. 9:62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

 

Remember.  God accepts no undivided loyalty.

 

1.     This should cause us to abandon all trust in ourselves, and abandon all hope that we can devise some scheme that will make us acceptable to God.

 

2.     The Psalmist recognize this great need:    Psalm 86:11 Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.  I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.   We must have our hearts united, for we can never do this ourselves

 

3.     The Promise is in Jesus Christ.    Ephesians 4:1ff.   I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.   There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;  One Lord, one faith, one baptism,  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.   But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.   Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.  (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?   He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)  And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:  Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:  That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;  But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:  From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.