No One Like Him - Part 1

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  April 18, 2004
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I think it was the French agnostic Voltaire who said that God made man in His own image and man returned the favor. In a sense, many have set out to do that literally. And throughout the Scripture this becomes a major concern of God. I want us to begin tonight, as we look at the nature of God, to see what God says about these who would somehow pull away from His glory. Turn to the book of Isaiah. Isaiah is one of my favorite Old Testament books because it sets forth, in stark contrast to the false worship of pagan gods, the reality of the one true God, the fact that there is no one like Him. God sets Himself forth as the only Savior, the only true God, in contrast to the idols of the nations.

Let me just kind of take you through a handful of chapters in the middle of the book, beginning in chapter 40, and I want you to see what a concern this is to God. As he begins, as Isaiah begins the second half of his book he lays out the greatness and grandeur of God, and the fact that God will accomplish His will and purpose in a variety of ways. He'll do it through His suffering servant. He'll do it through resolving the entire situation of the earth in the period of the millennium. He'll do it in a variety of ways but He will demonstrate His purposes in the world.

Notice how he makes this point, and I'm not going to look at each verse but I just want to give you a flow. Start with Isaiah 40:6,

A voice says, "Call out."
Then he answered, "What shall I call out?"
He said, All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the Lord blows on it;
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands for ever.

And then as he develops this whole issue of God standing alone as the great king of the earth, notice where he comes in verse 18. He lays out God's greatness in creation in verses 12 to 17, but then in verse 18 he summarizes it this way,

To whom then will you liken God?
For what likeness will you compare with Him?
As for the idol, a craftsman casts it,
A goldsmith plates it was gold,
And a silversmith fashions chains of silver.
He who is too impoverished for such an offering
Selects a tree [instead of silver and gold, a tree] that doesn't rot;
And he seeks for himself a skillful craftsman
To prepare an idol that will not totter.

That's the contrast. Who are you going to compare God with? Are you going to compare Him with some idol made out of gold or silver, or for those who are poor, are you going to compare Him with some tree that doesn't rot?

Verse 25, "'To whom then will you liken Me,'" God says, "'that I would be his equal?' says the Holy One." Turn to chapter 44. This same point, God makes beginning in verse 6,

"Thus says Yahweh, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:

'I am the first and I am the last,
And there is no God besides Me.
Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it;
Yes, let him recount it to Me in order,
From the time that I established the ancient nation.
Let them declare to them the things that are coming
And the events that are going to take place.
[In other words, let them predict what's coming.]
Do not tremble and do not be afraid;
Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it?
That you are my witnesses.
Is there any God besides Me?
Or is there any other Rock?
I know of none.'"

Chapter 45 verse 5, God continues to hammer this same point, 45:5,

"I am Yahweh, and there is no other;
Besides Me there is no God.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me;
[Speaking to Cyrus,]
That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
That there is no one besides Me.
I am Yahweh, and there is no other,
The One forming light and creating darkness,
Causing well-being and creating calamity;
I am the Lord who does all these.

God, you'll notice in this verse, a very interesting theological verse, God takes credit for "well-being and calamity." Everything that happens in our world is ultimately under the control of a sovereign God, to accomplish His purposes. And He says none of that happens outside of My control, there is no one else.

Notice verse 20 of the same chapter,

"Gather yourselves and come
Draw near together, you fugitives of the nations;
That have no knowledge,
Who carry about their wooden idol
And pray to a god who cannot save.
Declare and set forth your case;
Indeed, let them consult together.
Who has announced this from of old?
Who has long since declared it?
Is it not I, the Lord?
And there is no other God besides Me,
A righteous God and a Savior;
There is none except Me."

And so the practical application of this comes in verse 22, "'Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth.'" I'm not just for Israel, everybody and every nation, "'Turn to me and be saved.'"

"For I am God, and there is no other.
I have sworn by Myself,
The word has gone out from My mouth in righteousness
And will not turn back,
That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.
They will say of Me, 'Only in Yahweh are righteousness and strength.'
Men will come to Him,
And all who were angry at Him will be put to shame.
In Yahweh all the offspring of Israel
Will be justified and will glory."

One last look in this little section in the midst of Isaiah, notice chapter 46 verse 5, this theme continues,

"To whom will you liken Me
And make Me equal and compare Me,
That we would be alike?
Those who lavish gold from the purse
And weigh silver on the scale
And hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god;
They bow down, indeed they worship it;
They lift it upon their shoulder and carry it;
They set it in its place and it stands there."

You see God ridiculing the idols of the nations. Here's a guy who carries a god around because it can't move and he sets it somewhere, and then he somehow fixes it so it won't fall, and then he falls down and worships it.

"Though they may cry to it, [verse 7 says,] it cannot answer;
It cannot deliver him from his distress.
Remember this, and be assured;
Recall it to mind, you transgressors.
Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,"

By the way, here is an attack on Open Theism, which some of you have probably read about, that says that God doesn't know for sure what's going to happen and He certainly hasn't orchestrated it. God says, listen, part of the nature of Me as God is "I declare the end from the beginning, 'Saying, "My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure."'"

You get the point that God is concerned that everyone understand that there is no one like Him? Why is it so important for God to contrast idolatry with Himself, to His own people? Remember, this primarily, the focus of Isaiah, is primarily to Israel, although its message as we saw goes out to the nations. Why is that important? Well, it's important for two reasons I think. One, to keep His own people from embracing idolatry. This was a temptation until after the Babylonian captivity. Isn't it interesting that God in His wisdom brought the Babylonian captivity. And up until that time the people of God were forever chasing the gods of the nations around them. But after that they remain loyal and faithful to Yahweh.

Notice Jeremiah, you see this temptation in Jeremiah and I won't take a lot of time here but Jeremiah is attacking this very same thing. And God says this to the people in Jeremiah 2:9, He says, "'Therefore I will yet contend with you,' declares the Lord, 'And with your sons' sons I will contend.'" Verse 10 of Jeremiah 2, "'For cross to the coastlands of Kittim and see, and send to Kedar and observe closely and see if there has been such a thing is this!'" He says, listen, investigate all you want and see if something like this has ever happened before. What? Verse 11,

"Has a nation changed gods
When they were not gods?
But My people have changed their glory
For that which does not profit.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
And shudder, and be very desolate," declares the Lord.

God is saying, angels, heaven's creation, be shocked. Verse 13, "'For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,'" evil number one, "'to hew out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water,'" evil number two. There's a picture of worshiping any other god. It's leaving a true fountain of living waters to hew out a well and it's not a well that holds water, but instead it allows the water to escape and it satisfies no one's thirst. What a tremendous picture of idolatry.

So God does this, God recounts these things to His people to keep them from embracing idols as they were prone to. But I think there's another reason and this is where it becomes appropriate to us. I think God also didn't want His people to think wrongly about Him. He wanted to keep His people's own perceptions of Him from being influenced by the idols of the nations. That's important because thinking wrongly about God, listen to this, if you think wrongly about God then you and I are as much idolaters as the man who falls down before a statue because we are worshipping a false god.

Turn to Exodus 20. I want you to see how important, in one other context, this is to God, and in a different way. Exodus 20, of course, is the 10 Commandments. Many of you memorized these from your youth. But notice in Exodus 20, commandment number one is in verse 3, "'You shall have no other gods before Me.'" God is saying what He was saying throughout Isaiah and that is, there are no other gods at all, "'You shall not have any other gods,'" literally, "'standing before Me,'" or in my face. Verse 4, commandment number two,

"You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the father on the children, on the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me"

Now, at first glance you might be tempted to think that this command, this second commandment, is a commandment not to worship false gods. But that doesn't make any sense. God just said that in commandment number one, so commandment number two is not primarily a prohibition against worshipping other gods. Commandment number two is a prohibition against worshipping the true God in a wrong way, worshipping the true God in a way that He has not revealed, making an image of the true God. Charles Hodge puts it this way, "Idolatry consists not only in the worship of false gods but also in the worship of the true God by images." That's this second commandment.

Now why is that? Why is that important? Why is it that you and I worship God the way we do? When we come together and we worship, we don't include other elements that maybe other churches include? Why is it that we stick with the elements we do, with singing, prayer, the reading of God's Word, giving, and the teaching of God's Word? Essentially every time we come together there are those five elements in our worship. Why those five and why not others? It's because that's what God has revealed in His Word are the appropriate expressions of our worship. That's why we don't include other things.

And it comes back to the second commandment. The second commandment is in essence a prohibition against doing anything in the worship of God that God has not prescribed for us to do. Because we are flawed, frail, feeble-minded people and if we added to what God has prescribed then we might end up worshipping in a way that is utterly distasteful and dishonoring to God. That's what this commandment is about. Because you see, when we worship God, the true God, in ways that He didn't ordain, our thinking about God becomes distorted.

Let me show you a perfect example of this. You're still in Exodus, flip over to Exodus 32. Verse 1, we're now at Mount Sinai again and Moses is up on the mountain. He's up there for one of those 40 day periods. And the people are upset. The people are antsy, where's Moses?

The people assembled about Aaron [verse 1] and said, "Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we don't know what happened to him." Aaron said, [okay, here's what we're going to do] "Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me." And all the people did that. [Verse 4.] He took them from their hand, and he fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt."

Now, what's going on here? Are the children of Israel resorting to the worship of the gods they knew in Egypt? That's the first temptation, to think that's what's going on, but that's not what's going on. Notice how it continues, verse 5, "Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before this molten calf he had made; and Aaron made a proclamation to the people and he said, 'Tomorrow shall be a feast to Yahweh.'" You see that word Lord in all caps? That's God's personal name. That's, "'Tomorrow will be a feast to He is.'"

You see, when we begin to substitute with our own thinking, alternate ways of worshipping the true god, we get into trouble. Watch what happens. They set out to worship the true God. But verse 6 says, "So the next day they rose up early and they offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offering;" so good so far, "and then the people sat down to eat," and then it developed into a drunken brawl, "and then they rose up in all kinds of debauchery." This is why God is concerned that we worship Him in the way He's prescribed, because when we don't, when we set up our own mechanisms for worship, it ultimately degenerates and we develop wrong perceptions about God, and it leads to exactly the kinds of things that happened here in Exodus 32.

So, it's crucial that as we look at our worship of God that we make sure our thinking is not distorted about God, so that we don't practice a kind of, if you will, mental idolatry. Listen to what Tozer says; he says, "Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry, for idolatry is, at the bottom, a liable on His character. The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is, in itself a monstrous sin, and substitutes for the true God one made after its likeness." But then he says this, "Let us beware, lest in our pride we accept the erroneous notion that idolatry consists only in kneeling before visible objects of adoration and that civilized people are therefore free from it."

You know, we tend to think that, don't we? In our culture, nobody worships idols in our culture, or at least not many. I mean, you go into a few Thai restaurants here and there and you see, you know, some Buddha or something. But largely in our culture that doesn't happen. I'll never forget, my first Sunday at Grace Church we were driving down the freeway and we got to the exit ramp there, and those of you who've been there have seen it, there's this massive red tiled building with these gold horns off of it and it looked at first glance, and I leaned to my wife and I said, "Honey, look there's a great Chinese restaurant to eat at after the service." Well, as it turns out, it's the largest Buddhist temple in the Western Hemisphere. They do have good food over there by the way, if you don't mind eating food sacrificed to idols. But Tozer says, listen, that's not the only kind of idolatry, and then he finishes with this sentence, "The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him." All of us are prone to that form of idolatry, "thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him."

So with that in mind, we're talking about what God is like, His nature. We're not yet to His attributes, we're talking about what God is like in His nature. First of all, we need to, however, discuss what He's not. Now, these aren't, what I'm going to share with you next, these are not an exhaustive list of false ideas about God, but they're the most prominent ones in our world. First, there are what I would call anti-theism or atheism. Anti meaning against God, you recognize the Greek word theos for God. Against God, or a theism, which means without God, there is no god. Interesting book title, if you've ever seen it, we have it in our bookstore, John Blanchard's book, Does God Believe in Atheists? And the answer is, no, He doesn't. As we've studied from Romans, His general revelation is written on the heart of every man, there is no true atheist.

But there are two kinds of people who deny the existence of God. First of all, there are what we could call practical atheists. These are the ones addressed in Psalm 10:4 and Psalm 14:1. These are the ones who say in their heart, "The fool who says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" This guy is not some, he's not theoretically arguing for the fact that God doesn't exist. Instead, he's just living his life and dismissing the concept of God entirely. You and I rub shoulders constantly with practical atheists, with people who live as if God doesn't exist, godless people who just dismiss the concept of God from their thinking.

But then there are what we would call theoretical atheists. Theoretical atheists are those who base their denial on rational argument. These are not the people who just sort of overlook God, who just dismiss God from their lives, these are the people who write articles and books and argue that there is no God. And of the theoretical atheists, there are three kinds. First of all, there is what we could call the dogmatic atheist. This person flatly denies the existence of God. You've read some articles by some minds in our culture arguing that God, in fact, does not, cannot exist. Then there's the skeptical atheist. He doesn't believe it is possible for us to determine whether or not there is a God. This is essentially the agnostic, who says, well, I just don't think we can know. And then finally there's the critical atheist. This person argues that he has not yet seen valid proof for the existence of God; but if he ever saw it, he would embrace it.

The second kind of god that is not God is pantheism. This takes several different forms. Hindus are pantheists and they're also polytheists, as we will see in a moment. There are also transcendentalists, whom have become more and more popular in our culture, are pantheists. What is pantheism? Well, it's a very complex system of thought, but let me simplify it this way, at its core it teaches that god is all and all is god. Reality is this sort of shapeless fusion of all manner and spirit, and every personal being, the fact that we are here, we are sort of absorbed in this one soul that is all of nature and creation. There is this predominant "oversoul" that is everything. So god is all and all is god.

Another form of what God is not is polytheism. You recognize the word poly, meaning many, theos again meaning God, plurality of gods. This takes a lot of different forms. We see a lot of it in the Old Testament. We see it in a lot of the ancient nature religions, were polytheists. Hinduism, they're polytheists, those who believe in Hinduism. In fact, when I went to India a number of years ago, I was there ministering at a couple of pastors' conferences and traveling to a number of cities, I remember being exposed to the huge number of gods. If you've ever been India there are cattle roaming the streets and my first question, I thought I knew the answer to this because I had read some about it, but I my first question was, so what's that about? And the answer was, well, they believe that those are gods. And so, far be it from them to restrict them or to keep them from going where they want to go.

Polytheists, various forms, Zen Buddhism, they're polytheists. Mormonism, polytheists. You know, Mormons believe that essentially all of us can become little gods and eventually we can become a greater god, much as Yahweh or Jehovah has, we just stick with it long enough. You know, practice makes perfect. This is often tied, polytheism is often closely tied to the worship of nature. It's kind of the counterpart of pantheism.

And then finally, other monotheistic faiths. Primarily Islam is the only other one. Judaism, of course, and Christianity are wed, as we know. But the other monotheistic faiths, they're worshipping a god who is not god.

So what are these other gods? You say, well, they're not real. Well, there's a sense in which that's true, they're not, but I want you to turn to 1 Corinthians 10 because, very interesting statement by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10. He's dealing with food sacrificed to idols and then he warns them about fleeing, verse 14, fleeing from idolatry. He says, don't mix up with idolatry. Verse 16,

Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.

Verse 19, "What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No." Listen, those idols, those aren't gods. So what are they? Is it just nothing? No, that's not what Paul says. Verse 20,

No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

You see, these Corinthians were tempted to become almost polytheists, to worship the true God in the person of Jesus Christ and then to go down the street, back to their old lifestyle because of their connections, their family, their acquaintances, maybe their business connections, and to go down the street and partake of the pagan sacrifices. And Paul says, you can't do that because you're marrying the worship of the true God with the worship of those which aren't gods. But it's not that they don't exist at all, I mean they don't, the gods don't exist, but those gods are animated if you will, impersonated by demons. The pagan religions that I have up here on the screen, these pagan religions, these worship of things that are not the true God, find their ultimate expression in the satanic influence of demons. By the way, this isn't just Paul, you can find the same point made back by Moses in Deuteronomy 32:7, and we won't turn there. This is what God is not.

So with that background, let's talk about what He is, what is God? When we talk about His nature, there are several key words that describe the nature of God. The first is God is a being, a being. We say that to make sure that we distinguish between God and His creation, what we just talked about with pantheism, saying that god is all and all is god. In other words, pantheism basically teaches that god is identical with every point in space. And pantheneism, which is a variation of pantheism, which teaches that the concrete universe is god's body, but that god is more than just that created universe, he's also immaterial.

The Bible says God's being is not identical to the created universe. In his excellent book called No One Like Him by Feinberg, he writes this, "Omnipresence demands that God be somehow present at every point in space but He isn't present as each point in space." Do you see the difference? The fact that God is everywhere means He is at every point in space, but He is not every point in space. That's the difference between the true God and pantheism. He is a being. Scripture teaches that nothing created is like God. We saw that in a number of ways, and I won't take time to do it again. No one like Him, that's why God forbids the making of idols of Him. There is nothing in the entire created universe that matches God. So He is a being separate from His creation.

But that raises the question, exactly what kind of being is He? And that brings us to our second keyword, He is living, He is alive. Look at Jeremiah 10, Jeremiah 10:10. He begins this paragraph, Jeremiah does, in verse 6, "There is none like You, O Lord." Here it is, this same chord,

You are great, and great is Your name in might.
Who would not fear You, O King of the nations?
Indeed it is Your due!

You see, God isn't just the King of Israel, He's the King of the nations.

And in all their kingdoms,
There is none like You.
But they are altogether stupid and foolish

And he goes on to talk about their making idols. Verse 10, but contrast that to Yahweh, "He is the true God; He is the living God," as opposed to those lifeless idols. God is living. The New Testament, Paul makes this same point in 1 Thessalonians 1:9. He says that "we ourselves report, or they report, about us what kind of reception we had with you," you Thessalonians, "how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and the true God." Now you're serving a God who is alive, a God, a being who is living.

You see this in so many places throughout the Scripture and I'm not going to take time to look at all of them. Let me turn to one more though, back to Isaiah. I skipped this passage on purpose when we were going through Isaiah because I wanted to show it to you. This is one of the most profound comparisons of the living and true God to idols in all the Bible, Isaiah 44:9. He's just said, "I don't know of any other Rock, there is none." And in verse 9 he begins to set forth a case against idolatry. And he says, it's ridiculous, it makes no sense. Verse 12, "The man shapes iron into a cutting tool and he does his work over the coals," and he sort of describes the whole process.

He gets hungry and his strength fails; he drinks no water and becomes weary. Another shapes wood

And he goes into all the different ways you can make these idols, he plants a tree and the rain makes it grow, and then eventually he cuts it down. And part of it he makes, verse 15, into a fire to bake bread and he makes part of it into a god and worships it. Verse 16, here's where he gets to the crux, "Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, 'Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.'" Not a bright guy, particularly. "But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he prays to it and says, 'Deliver me, for you are my god.'" It's ridiculous.

Verse 18, here is God's analysis,

They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend. No one recalls, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, [self] "I have burned half of it in the fire and also baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the rest into abomination, I fall down before a block of wood!" [Verse 20] He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot deliver himself, or say, "Is there not a lie I in my right hand?"

He doesn't even see, he doesn't get it. You and I, those of you who have traveled, you've been in places where you've seen idols and you've seen this exact thing play out. The contrast Isaiah is making here is between a dead piece of wood or metal and the living true God. Our God is alive.

There's another word that describes what He is and that is, He's infinite. It means unlimited. It means that God in His person has no limitations on Him except for two things, the laws of logic, which He Himself created, and His other attributes. God is only restricted by His own character and the laws of rational thought that are a reflection of His own character. Without those He has no limitations. When we say that God is infinite in His attributes, this is important. You know, we use that word a lot, God's attributes are infinite. We don't mean that He has an infinite amount of that quality. You know, when we think of infinite we think of this sort of stack, He's got this stack of love, and His stack is a whole lot higher than mine. In fact, I can't even see the top it's so much. We think in terms of quantity.

For example, when we say that His love is infinite, we do not mean that God possesses an infinite quantity of love. But we're saying that God's quality of love, the quality of His love, is unlimited. It's without borders. It's without boundaries. It is love to perfection. Take another example, omniscience. When we talk about God knowing everything, that doesn't mean that God just has a bigger mind than we do and so He can store every last detail in the universe. Instead, we mean that His mind functions so well that He is capable of knowing everything that ever is, was, shall be, or could have been, or could be, and He knows it without learning it. He knows it, what the theologians call, immediately, without any mediator, without thinking about it, without trying to dredge it up from the back of His mind, He knows it like that, everything. That's because the quality of His knowledge is infinite.

Let me put it another way. The word infinite essentially means not finite. Often when we talk about God we have to use negative terms because we can't put our arms and state positively what God is, and so we have to talk about God in negative terms. That's what this word infinite is, it's a negative term, that is, not finite, that's what we're saying. The word finite, which describes us, comes from the Latin word for end. Nothing about God has an end, has a terminus. You can try like a diver, I love the illustration that one theologian uses, you can try like a diver to jump in the sea and to keep going down and down and down to plumb the depths of God's love, but you will never plumb the depths of it, never reach the bottom. It's like the spiritual that I've heard sung, "My God is so high you can't get over Him. He's so wide you can't get around Him. He's so deep you can't get under Him. You can just come in by and through the Lamb." He's unlimited, infinite in His person. Everything about God, every quality that is God, is perfection, it's unlimited, it has no borders, no boundaries, no end, no bottom, no top.

Next we learn that He's Spirit, He is Spirit. Someone once said that there are two kinds of people in the world, those who divide people into categories and those who don't. Well, in the universe there are two kinds of substances or things that exist. There's material or matter and there is immaterial or non-matter. Do you understand that? Everything in the universe is either material, i.e. matter, or immaterial, that is, non-matter, non-matter. The biblical evidence is that God, in the essence of His being, is immaterial. We're talking now about God as a spirit. He is immaterial. In His essential being God has none of the properties that belong to matter.

Let's look at some verses. Turn to John, John 4:24. You remember the interchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. And she, remember Christ brings up the issue of her husbands and the fact that the man she's currently living with is not her husband, and as people often do, she chooses that moment to sort of redirect the conversation. Okay, well, that's a bit uncomfortable, let's talk about something else. Verse 20, "'Our Fathers worshipped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.'" This is always, when you're witnessing to someone, this is always the way it goes, when you start getting close to their sin they have a remote theoretical theological question to raise. So, what about that? Answer that! Verse 21, "Jesus said to her, 'Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.'" I won't get into the dispute that happened between the Jews and the Samaritans, you have enough background I think to appreciate it. Verse 22,

"You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers."

And then Christ makes this profound statement in verse 24, "'God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.'" "'God is spirit.'" The Greek word pneuma. In fact, the Greek puts pneuma first for emphasis. Literally translated it says this, verse 24, "'spirit is the God,'" "'spirit is the God.'" Jesus claimed to explain God and here He makes an unequivocal statement about the being of God. God's essence is of the nature of spirit.

Now what did Jesus mean? What exactly does that mean, He's spirit? Well, fortunately Jesus defines it for us. Turn to Luke. Turn to Luke 24:39. Go back to verse 36. This is after His resurrection now, Jesus is in a glorified body. And verse 36 says, "While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst." So here's one of His post resurrection appearances. And "they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit." Alright, they think they're seeing a ghost in popular terminology. "And He said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?'" Verse 39, "'See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see,'" now watch what He says next, "'for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see me have.'" There Christ defines what He means when He says in John 4 that God is a spirit; spirits don't have flesh and bones.

The same point is made back in Isaiah. Turn to Isaiah 31, Isaiah 31:3. Let's go back to verse 1 again. Here you have the prophet Isaiah warning the people of Israel not to go to Egypt, as they always did, for help when they got in trouble. Verse 1,

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help
And rely on horses,
And trust in chariots because they are many
And horsemen because they're strong,
But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!
Yet He also is wise and will bring disaster
And does not retract His words,
But will rise against the house of evildoers
And against the help of the workers of iniquity.
[Now notice verse 3.]
Now the Egyptians are men and not God,
[He's going to set up a series of contrasts.]
The Egyptians are men and not God,
Their horses are flesh and not spirit;

Now what's going on here? God verses men, flesh verses spirit. He's saying, God is not man and flesh is not spirit. Men and horses are flesh, God is spirit. So Isaiah and Jesus are saying this, God doesn't have flesh and bones; He can't be touched. God is a spirit. And that means God is not material. He's immaterial. But that also means He's invisible. First Timothy 1. I quoted this this morning. First Timothy 1:17. As Paul breaks into a doxology of praise he says this, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever."

And there are a number of other texts that point up this reality. Let's look at just a couple of them. John 1:18. John 1:18, Christ makes this pronouncement about the nature of God. He says, or rather I should say John does, the Apostle John, "No one has seen God at any time." God is invisible. "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him."

Now, if you're like me, you have an inquisitive mind and questions come up when you read a verse like that. Now think about this, they're seeing Jesus Christ and yet John is saying "No one" and he later, already actually, in this chapter, he said, "Jesus is God" and then he says, but no one has ever seen God. It seems odd to say that God can't be seen and yet they saw Jesus who is God. What does John mean? He means no one can see God in His essential nature. Why? Well, two reasons. One, no one could see Him and live. Remember Exodus 33? God says that to Moses, no one can see Me in all My glory and survive it. His glory and majesty would be too great for anyone to really see and survive; they would be incinerated by the blazing glory of His Majesty.

But also there's another reason. This is profound, because there is nothing visual to see. God is spirit. You see the same point made in Colossians 1. Speaking of Christ, "He is the image," the icon, "of the invisible God." The exact representation of the invisible God. One more text and we will move from this point, but notice Romans 1. Romans 1:20, we've looked at this verse a number of different ways, it's just so filled with truth. "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, even His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen." Notice the phrase "His eternal power and divine nature" are an appositive; they stand in a position of apposition to His invisible attributes. For those of you who have forgotten your English, that means that the second phrase is simply another way to identify, to define what's in the first phrase. So His invisible attributes are these, "His eternal power and His divine nature." That means His divine nature is an invisible attribute. In other words, God's divine nature is invisible.

Now, when you think about God as a spirit there are several things that may be going through your mind. Let me answer those questions, several potential misunderstandings. You say, well, wait a minute, what about all those physical manifestations in the Old and New Testament? I mean, what about the burning bush? What about the angel of the Lord? And there are many of them that we can look at. What about, in Christ's ministry, the dove descending? What about all of those? Well, God can and does choose to make His presence known through physical phenomena so that we as human beings can see Him. But He is still by nature a spirit and those manifestations are not permanent manifestations of His being.

You say, well, wait a minute, what about Christ? Now Christ is a different story, we will talk about that next Sunday morning, because Christ took on full humanity. That means, and this is shocking, Christ will be fully human forever. He will be just like us forever, except without sin. That's a shocking thing. We will talk about this more when we get to the person of Christ, but the two natures of Christ, or what theologians say, were unmixed and unchanged. That means that Christ's human nature had a visible representation, a body, and will have for all eternity, but His divine nature, by definition because God is a spirit, His divine nature is and will always remain invisible. So that when we see Christ, and we will see Him, what we will see is His humanity. We will see His body, His glorified body, just like you and I have. But we will not see, as it were, His divine nature because God is by definition a spirit.

You say, well, okay, but what about those references to God having all these bodily parts? I mean, God's hand and God's eye and God's face. Well, I won't spend any time here because we talked about this last week. Basically, those are anthropomorphic expressions. That is, God described in human terms to help us better understand God. When it talks about God's eye seeing something, it's talking about God's knowledge, that God knows it like that, He sees it, He comprehends it. It talks about God's hand acting. It's talking about God acting with His will to make something happen. Those are figures of speech to help us understand the nature of God. But God doesn't have those parts.

You say, well, okay, what about those passages, and there are a number of them, that talk about our eventually seeing God? For example, Job 19. Job says, "I know in my flesh [what?] I'll see God." Or Matthew 5:8, Christ says, "'the pure in heart will, [what?] see God.'" First John 3:2, "we shall see Christ just as He is." Hebrews 12:14, "without holiness no one will see the Lord." What's the implication of that? With holiness you will. Revelation 22:4, "we will see the face of the Lamb." What do those mean? Listen carefully, all of those references must mean one of two things, either, and we don't know the answer to this, alright, it will be one of these two things, or I should say, it will definitely be one of these things and it may be two of these things. It is true that we will see the second person of the Trinity who is the God-man; He has a human body that can be seen and will be seen throughout eternity. So at the very least it means that.

It is also possible, secondly, that God will, just as he did in the Old Testament, choose to reveal Himself in some physical manifestation for our benefit that isn't the permanent expression of His nature. Does that makes sense? For example, the glory cloud in the Old Testament. You remember, that was a representation of who God was. Was that God? I mean was that like God's physical appearance? No. God is a spirit. He doesn't have physical appearance. So that was to help men comprehend that He was there among these people. Was He there without that physical manifestation? Well of course He was, but that was to help them. And for our benefit God may do something like that in eternity, somehow reveal Himself in a physical manifestation that we can appreciate and comprehend. What they don't mean, these verses, is that God has some permanent material form except for the human body of Jesus Christ.

Now, what about the implications of this, that God is a spirit? There are several. First, it means God is invisible. We've already talked about that. Secondly, it means because He's spirit He is incorruptible. God doesn't deteriorate. He doesn't decay. What an amazingly comforting reality. Immaterial doesn't decay. You know what's decaying, Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 5? Our what is decaying? Our outer man, our tent. As you get older your soul isn't decaying. Your soul is who you are and it will always be who you are.

I love a little quote from my elderly mother. She's almost 90 years old and a couple of years ago I was talking to her about, you know, how she felt and, you know, with aging and all that she was experiencing. She had 10 children, all individually, that's enough to make you ladies sort of go into heart attack mode. She was 46 when I was born. And then she had a number of other physical problems. She had her part of her thyroid removed, didn't take her medicine. She has terrible osteoporosis and is bent over, you know, her chin is basically in her lap. And she's sitting there and she's reading her Bible, and just a dear saintly godly woman, and I asked her, I said, "So what is it like, this aging thing?" And she said, "You know, it's a funny thing." She said, "My body is just getting old all around me, but I feel exactly the same as I did when I was 18." Me, the real me, that's because our souls don't decay and deteriorate; they're immaterial, there's nothing to decay.

And that's true of God. Because He is spirit, because He's immaterial, He is incorruptible. And He's also immortal. That's the logical conclusion of that reality. He is immortal. Immaterial things don't die, just as your immaterial soul will never die.

What's the application of the fact that God is spirit? Let's finish here tonight. What lessons can we learn? Well, first of all, we can learn that God cannot be perceived. We cannot perceive God by the senses. God is everywhere. When one of my daughters was younger we were teaching her the catechism and we were teaching her about the reality that God is omnipresent. And this just fascinated her little four or five year old mind. And she was sitting there contemplating this one day in the back of the van and Sheila reported to me that she's sitting in the back of the van, they're going somewhere, and her question to her mother was, "So mom, is God here in the van?" And Sheila responded, "Well, yes, honey, God is here in the van." "Well, is He in my seat?" "Yes, honey, God is even in your seat." God is everywhere but God can't be perceived with the senses.

In her little mind as she was developing, I loved one expression of this, as she was learning this about God being everywhere. Early on I gave her some coins on Sunday morning to put in the offering plate and I said, "Now honey, you make sure that you give these to God." Well, I turned around a few minutes later, and I was still getting ready, and she was over on the other side of the room and she had these coins and her little arm was extended into the air and these coins were there; and I said, "Honey, what are you doing?" And she looked at me with this terribly exasperated expression, and she said, "Daddy, I'm trying to give my money to God but He won't take it." I said, "Well honey, I'm sure they will at the church." God is everywhere but He cannot be perceived by the physical senses. This is why it's so ridiculous for a Russian cosmonaut to go a couple of miles into space and declare there is no God here.

What does Paul say in Acts 17:28? At some point we will look into this incredibly profound statement of the Apostle Paul, "in God we live," that is, he's the source of all life, "we move," that is, God is the ground and source of all action, "and we exist," literally, we are, God is the source of all being. He can't be perceived with the senses but God is animating everything. He is the source of the life that you and I have, and the life of everything that we see as we walk out of this building. He is the one who allows anything in the universe to move, to take action. I couldn't raise my arm without the power of God. And He's also the one in whom we exist or are; He's the source of all being.

It also means that we shouldn't make any form to represent God. Notice Deuteronomy 4. Here Moses makes the application of the second commandment. Deuteronomy 4:15, he says,

"So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the sky, or the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water below the earth."

He says, listen, don't go there because God didn't show up to you in a form. Verse 19, "'And beware not to lift up your eyes to the heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars and allow yourself to be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under heaven.'" He says, listen, God doesn't have a form so don't make a form in which to worship Him.

And finally, and this is where it comes down to most of us, go back to John 4 and see Christ's application of this remarkable truth that God is spirit. Notice what He says to this woman. He says, "'God is spirit,'" verse 24, and here's the application, "'those who worship Him,'" that's us folks, "'must,'" it's absolutely required that since God is a spirit we "'worship in spirit and in truth,'" that describes the proper manner of our worship of God as a spirit.

He uses two words, two expressions to say what our worship should be because God is a spirit. He says, first of all, we should worship God in spirit. This isn't a reference to the Holy Spirit. It doesn't mean that we worship God somehow through the Holy Spirit, although that's true, but that isn't what this means. This is referring to man's spirit. Christ is saying, because God is spirit our worship must not merely be a manner of externals, but of the heart, of our whole being expressing itself in worship to God. It can't just be your body. In other words, you can't just show up here on Sunday morning and God is pleased with that and God accepts that, because you have both a material part, your body, and you have an immaterial part. Because God is immaterial, He wants your worship, not just with your body and your material part, but He wants it with your immaterial part; He wants your soul and your heart to be involved in the worship of Him.

And then he says, "'in truth.'" Since God is a spirit we must worship Him in truth. That means that our worship of God must be consistent with the revealed Word of God, both the components of our worship, that is, as I mentioned before, what we do in worship. That's why we don't have spirit dancing here at Countryside and only will over my dead body. But it also goes to our conception of the character of God. When we come to worship God we need to be informed by what He's revealed about Himself. We worship Him with all of our immaterial part as well as our body. I believe your body should be involved in worship, but that's not all God wants, showing up isn't enough. Your heart is to be involved and you're to worship Him in truth. You're to worship Him as He's revealed Himself in the Scripture. What a great God we serve. You understand now why I began with Isaiah, "There is no one like Him." Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for the reality of who You are. Thank You for these truths that we've looked at tonight. Lord don't let us leave here having simply had an intellectual exercise. Lord, help us to be moved, to be changed, help us to become true worshippers who worship You with our whole being material and immaterial, because You are a spirit. And help us to worship You in truth according to what You have revealed about Yourself. Lord, we love You, we adore You, and we want our lives to show that by our obedience. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.