I spoke again for Jzone Mandaluyong last Friday. They were having a series on the attributes of God, and His infinitude was the assigned topic to me. So far, it’s the most difficult topic I preached on. Preaching on it felt like trying to put the whole Pacific Ocean into a soda can, or teaching calculus to an ant. But by God’s grace, it was over and some gave good feedback. Anyway…
This topic is really challenging to me. When it was offered to me, I was like, “What’s that?” Nevertheless, I took the opportunity so that I’ll learn more about God. This also meant that I’m going to prepare by faith.
So what exactly do we mean by the infinitude? I checked the online dictionary for the word infinitude. It is the state of being infinite. Well, that should be a no-brainer.
Defining the Infinitude of God
So let’s be a little more specific. Let’s now define the infinitude of God. God’s infinitude means that He “is not subject to any of the limitations of humanity, or of creation in general.”1
In simpler words, God has no limits or boundaries.
So in what sense is He infinite? He is infinite in the sense that He is immeasurable in relation to (1) space and (2) time, and in terms of (3) His attributes. Let’s discuss them one by one.
1. God is immeasurable in relation to space. Space cannot contain Him. When Solomon was preparing to build a temple for the name of the Lord, he sent word to Hiram, the king of Tyre, and said:
5The house that I am to build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. 6But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him? (2 Chronicles 2:5-6, emphasis added)
Solomon acknowledged that God cannot be contained by “heaven, even highest heaven.” And this humbled him (“Who am I to build a house for him”).
We know how wide and vast the outer space is, right? And yet, we learn that God cannot even be contained by it. That’s how immeasurable He is (in relation to space).
2. God is immeasurable in relation to time. Just as God cannot be contained by space, He cannot be contained by time as well, for He is eternal. He is without beginning and without end.
When Moses inquired of God about what he will say to the Israelites when he will be asked of God’s name, God replied: “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). His name suggests that He has always existed and was never created.
Moses tells us in his psalm:
2Before the mountains were brought forth, / or ever you had formed the earth and the world, / from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:2)
This line in Moses’ psalm tells us that before everything else was created, God already existed. And he has always existed. He is eternal.
And Jesus, the second person in the Trinity, is also eternal. Speaking to the Jews, Jesus said:
58…“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58, emphasis added)
The verse tells us that Jesus did not only exist before Abraham was born. It also tells us that He is the great I AM. He is the eternal I AM.
3. God is immeasurable in terms of His attributes. I will just discuss just a few attributes due to brevity of time. There are four I have in mind: (1) Wisdom/Knowledge, (2) Sovereignty, (3) Holiness, and (4) Love/Goodness.
God is infinitely wise and knowledgeable:
33Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)
He is infinitely sovereign (and in His infinite sovereignty, He has ensured our salvation):
28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)
He is infinitely holy:
3…“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; / the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3)
He is infinitely loving and good:
1Praise the LORD! / Oh give thanks to the LORD, / for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 106:1)
So what can we say about God’s infinitude? God’s infinitude displays the incredible, incomprehensible, and indescribable greatness of Himself. And this should bring us into a greater worship of Him!
If He is Not Infinite
Think with me for a moment. Let’s imagine that God is not infinite. Let’s say that He is just 99% wise and knowledgeable. And 99% sovereign. And 99% holy. And 99% loving and good.
If this is the case, then He is 1% unwise and unknowledgeable. And 1% not sovereign. And 1% unholy. And 1% unloving and evil.
I think we will encounter a problem. Even if God is 99% wise and knowledgeable, what will assure us that He always knows what He is doing, since He is 1% unwise and unknowledgeable as well?
And even if He is 99% sovereign, what will assure us that He, in His sovereignty, has ensured our salvation and that He is always in control when tough times come, since He is 1% not sovereign as well?
And even if He is 99% holy, what will assure us that He has cleansed us from our sins, since He is 1% unholy as well?
And even if He is 99% loving and good, what will assure us that He has in mind only what is good for us, since He is 1% unloving and evil?
How can we trust God with our lives if He doesn’t know what He’s doing? And how can we put our faith in Him for our salvation if He can’t ensure it and He can’t cleanse us from our sins? And how can we surrender to Him if He isn’t concerned for our welfare?
You see. We can’t afford to have a God who is finite or short of infinity. But we must be thankful, because our God is infinite!
The Infinite God is for Us
One more. Even though God is infinite, or infinitely great, or infinitely different from us, He is also personal. He isn’t far away from us; He is with us in the person of Jesus (Matthew 1:23). He is mindful of us (Psalm 8:4). He wants to show us wonderful things in His word (Psalm 119:18). He wants us to pray to Him, addressing Him as Father (Matthew 9:9-13). He is inviting us to a sweet fellowship with Him (Revelation 3:20). He is infinite. But he is also personal. This is grace!
Let me encourage you with Romans 8:31:
31…If God is for us, who can be against us?
Yes! The infinite (and personal) God is for us! So who can be against us? This is so comforting!
Once again: God’s infinitude displays the incredible, incomprehensible, and indescribable greatness of Himself. And this should bring us into a greater worship of Him.
1Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 167.
When I was in the office for my internship (an academic requirement), I borrowed a correction tape from one of my co-workers. Careless, I used it until the tape got jammed inside. So thinking it can be fixed, I opened the contraption and tried to solve the problem, winding and rewinding the tape inside. But as long as I’m trying to fix it, the problem gets worse than before.
Fearing that my co-worker will catch me fixing her broken correction device, I resolved to go somewhere else. So I ended up in the comfort room, in one of the cubicles. And there I was, fixing with all my might what I have broken. I thought of confessing to my co-worker and face the consequences, but I quickly shrugged off that idea. I said to myself, “I can still fix this!”
At one point, I was nearing to a solution. But when I was about to, the problem again rose and became worse than before. The contraption was almost in a hopeless state. And by now, I’ve been working on it for lots of minutes (I didn’t notice the time anymore, but I’m sure it was long).
Finally, I gave up. I decided to tell my co-employee and face the consequences. So I mustered all the strength and courage I have and confessed to her. After frightening me with the possible consequences, she let go of it. There was relief at last.
Immediately, I thought of salvation. What if salvation is works-based, like me trying to fix what I can’t really fix at all? And end up not fixing anything at all?
Humanity has been deceived, believing that people can fix what really can’t be fixed. We are sinners (Romans 3:23) and in need of “fixing.” We can’t “fix” our sin problem on our own, for “our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6). Or “filthy rags” (NIV1984). And Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us:
8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
We can’t be saved by our own works, because obviously, it can’t fix what really can’t be fixed on our own. By now, I realize the horror brought by works-based salvation, when one tries to fix what really can’t be fixed.
When I decided to own up to my sin of breaking the correction tape and confess to my co-worker and ask for her forgiveness, it brought me relief. Likewise, when people acknowledge their sins before God and ask for His forgiveness, rather than “fixing” their sin problem on their own, it gives them everlasting peace. That’s why I embrace and love salvation by grace through faith.
I regret that I broke my co-worker’s correction tape. But I’m thankful that I learned a lesson about salvation. It makes me rejoice over the truth that salvation is by grace through faith, and not by works.
I really love to sing songs to the Lord, even dancing when it is fast beat, or lifting hands when it is slow. It does prepare my heart for worship. Some even elicit strong emotions.
Songs that bring out these emotions are almost always sung in personal and corporate worship. Typically, these are the songs with the “Jesus, My Lover” theme. In response to the love of Christ, songs with “Jesus, I Love You” theme are also sung.
So what do I think of “Jesus, My Lover” and “Jesus, I Love You” songs?
There’s really nothing wrong with these songs. But if we limit ourselves to these, there would be a problem. And the problem? It is this: We might have an incomplete view of who God is.
It is true that Jesus is our lover and in response, we are to love Him back. But we must not forget that He is also holy and just. Our response should be in awe, and reverence, and honor, and praise. We must give the glory due Him.
John 4:24 says:
24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Emphasis added)
If we are to worship God in truth, then we must worship Him for who He is. We must worship Him not only for being loving, or being our lover, but also for being holy and just, worthy of honor and glory. We must worship not with an incomplete view, but with a complete one.
So let us not limit ourselves to “Jesus, My Lover” songs, or to “Jesus, I Love You” songs. Let us also sing “Holy is the Lord” songs, or “God, Glorify Thy Name” songs. (By the way, I’m not saying that the songs of the former type have no place in personal and corporate worship. Rather, I want to strike a balance between the two types).
Here are some songs of the latter type that I enjoy singing:
I’m reminded of the building of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). And something got my interest. Verses 1-4 says:
1Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Emphasis added)
There was only one language. And with one language, men planned to build a city and a tower, and to make a name for themselves. Else, they’ll be scattered.
We know how the story ended. God confused their language (v.7) and the construction of the city came to a halt (v.8). Ironically, the people were dispersed over the face of all the earth (vv.8-9).
So with one language, men tried to make a name for themselves. Then something hit me. Isn’t God praised in many languages? Let’s go to Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit came at the day of Pentecost.
1When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (vv.1-4, emphasis added)
The believers began speaking in different languages. The Jews were amazed for they “hear them telling in [their] own tongues the mighty works of God” (v.11).
What could this mean? Here it is: Men, with one language, tried to make a name for themselves. They tried to exalt themselves above God. But God confused their language. He will not allow them to make a name for themselves. Instead, God is praised in many languages, as we have seen in the Pentecost event, and has been making a name for Himself. Amazing!
Last week, I blogged on C.S. Lewis’ discussion on begetting (See it here). In this final installment of the series, I’ll be blogging on God and time.
Lewis says that the topic “maybe helpful to some readers, but which may seem to others merely an unnecessary complication.” Well, I personally find the topic already complicated. That’s why Lewis even advises readers to skip the chapter if they wish to. But Lewis, as far as I’m concerned, helps in shedding light.
In a previous discussion, Lewis touches on the subject of prayer and deals with a specific difficulty. Here’s the problem: How can God attend to several hundred million human beings who are all addressing Him at the same moment. Most can imagine God “attending to any number of applicants if only they came one by one and He had an endless time to do it in.” But the problem lies in the words at the same moment—as if God has “to fit too many things into one moment of time.”
Lewis begins to shed light:
We tend to assume that the whole universe and God Himself are always moving on from past to future just as we do. But many learned men do not agree with that. It was the Theologians who first started the idea that some things are not in Time at all: later the Philosophers took it over: and now some of the scientists are doing the same.1 (Emphasis added)
There are things that are not in time at all. Lewis adds:
Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life does not consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty tonight, He need not listen to them all in that one little snippet which we call ten-thirty. Ten-thirty—and every other moment from the beginning of the worlds—is always the Present for Him. If you like to put it that way, He has all eternity in which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames.2
If you find this difficult to grasp, don’t despair. I find it hard, too; Lewis affirms the difficulty as well. But he gives an illustration, which he claims imperfect, yet I find sufficient:
Suppose I am writing a novel. I write “Mary laid down her work; next moment came a know at the door!” For Mary who has to live in the imaginary time of my story there is no interval between putting down the work and hearing the knock. But I, who am Mary’s maker, do not live in that imaginary time at all. Between writing the first half of that sentence and the second, I might sit down for three hours and think steadily about Mary. I could think about Mary as if she were the only character in the book and for as long as I pleased, and the hours I spend in doing so would not appear in Mary’s time (the time inside the story) at all.3
So what does the illustration trying to communicate? The answer is this:
God is not hurried along in the Time-stream of this universe any more than an author is hurried along in the imaginary time of his own novel. He has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created. When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man in the world.4
Wow! God has “infinite attention to spare for each one of us.” If that’s the case, then I would want to pray more, since He has infinite attention to listen to my prayers.
On the weakness of his illustration, Lewis writes:
In it the author gets out of one Time-series (that of the novel) only by going into another Time-series (the real one). But God, I believe, does not live in a Time-series at all. His life is not dribbled out moment by moment like ours: with Him it is, so to speak, still 1920 and already 1960. For His life is Himself.5
If you picture Time as a straight line along which we have to travel, then you must picture God as the whole page on which the line is drawn. We come to the parts of the line one by one: we have leave A behind before we get to B, and cannot reach C until we leave B behind. God, from above or outside or all round, contains the whole line, and sees it all.6
While Lewis tackles other difficulties on the topic, I would have to stop here. I think this is enough for now. After all, Lewis writes:
If [the idea or the topic] does not help you, leave it alone…You can be a perfectly good Christian without accepting it, or indeed without thinking of the matter at all.7
1C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: Walker and Company, 1987), 257-258.
2C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 258.
3C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 258-259.
4C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 259.
5C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 259-260.
6C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 260.
7C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 263-264.
Last Friday, I was not able to post another installment of the series, since I had to serve for a college retreat. Two Fridays ago, I blogged about C.S. Lewis and looking forward to heaven (See it here). Today, I’ll be blogging about the meaning of begetting.
We are familiar of this word (or the word begotten) because of John 3:16 (NASB):
16For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (Emphasis added)
I really did not know the meaning of the word begotten until I read Mere Christianity. Lewis writes that what gives us greatest shock is that by attaching ourselves to Christ, we can become Sons of God. But one might ask “Aren’t we Sons of God already? Surely the fatherhood of God is one of the main Christian ideas?” Lewis answers:
Well, in a certain sense, no doubt we are sons of God already. I mean, God has brought us into existence and loves us and looks after us, and in that way is like a father. But when the Bible talks of our “becoming” Sons of God, obviously it must mean something different.1
Lewis later clarifies that “we are not thinking of the Virgin Birth.” Instead, “we are thinking about something that happened before Nature was created at all, before time began. “Before all worlds” Christ is begotten, not created.” Finally, he discusses the word (or words):
We don’t use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still know what they mean. To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make.2
At first, it seems they’re just the same. But here’s the difference:
When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set—or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue. If he is a clever enough carver he may make a statue which is very like a man indeed. But, of course, it is not a real man; it only looks like one. It cannot breathe or think. It is not alive.2
So that’s the difference! When one begets, he can only begets something of the same kind as himself. When one creates, he makes something of a different kind. So Lewis adds:
What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is. They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God.3
Now I know what the word begotten means. And now I know why other translations of John 3:16 where the word begotten is omitted, is considered weak.
1C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: Walker and Company, 1987), 241.
2C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 242.
3C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 242-243.
Last Friday, I blogged about C.S. Lewis on “The Great Sin”, which is pride (See it here). This is the third (and supposedly final) installment of the series. I decided to extend the series since there are many people reading it. For today, I’ll be blogging about the theological virtue of hope. In other words, the looking forward to the eternal world.
Lewis starts by saying that this “looking forward” is not a form of escapism. Rather, it is one of the things that Christians are meant to do. It does not mean that Christians have to leave the present world as it is. Helpfully, Lewis writes:
If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.1 (Emphasis added)
This is incredible! The people who had set their minds on Heaven left their mark on Earth. It may sound ironic, but that’s the way it is. If that is the case, then I must begin to practice setting my mind on Heaven.
Lewis claims that we have a difficulty in wanting “Heaven”. A reason he gave is that we do not recognize the real want for it.
Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longing which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones.2 (Emphasis added)
We have desires “that cannot be had in this world.” We try to fill it with things we thought would satisfy, “but they never quite keep their promise.” The best ones even fall short.
So how do we deal with this fact? Lewis gives three ways in which two are wrong. He calls the right one the Christian way. I’ll excerpt about the “right” way:
Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world…Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.3 (Emphasis added)
Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). In heaven, in the presence of God there is fullness of joy, and in his right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). If that is the case, then “I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.”
More on C.S. Lewis next week. Keep in touch.
1C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: Walker and Company, 1987), 206-207.
2C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 207-208.
3C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 210-211.