Volume. XVIII, No. 52
Sunday, 27 June 2004

From the pastors heart: God our God (part 1)

There was a time when the Moabites and the Ammonites came against Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (2 Chronicles 20). While Jehoshaphat was fighting against the enemies, there was an ominous report that there was another invasion from a mighty king of Syria. He was surrounded by enemies and afraid. Thus, the nation of Judah gathered together and asked the help of the Lord. The king stood in the midst of his people and prayed to God. The gracious God answered to his prayers through His prophet. As a result, the emboldened king spoke to the people in 20:20b, “Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.” The Scripture tells us to believe in God. One of the most famous verses in the Bible in this aspect is John 14:1, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” Sometimes, the Scripture condemns people for not believing in God. To believe in God, it is necessary for us to know Him. However, our question is whether it is possible for us to know of God. When we define God, we define Him as an incomprehensible being or unknowable person. To define God according to His attributes in terms of infinity and eternity, we do receive little help. We, finites, have limits to comprehend anything beyond us. Zophar, a friend of Job, said in Job 11:7, “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” These questions expect negative answers. If we can not find Him out, how can we know Him? The greatness of God refuses to define who God is. Isaiah 40:18 says, “To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?” There is nothing with which we can compare God. In other words, there is no perfect model in this world that can show us perfect God. The early church fathers often said that God is incomprehensible. Cyprian (c. 250) said, “He [God] cannot be seen-He is too bright for vision. He cannot be comprehended, for He is too pure for our discernment. He cannot be estimated, for He is too great for our perception. And, therefore, we are only worthily estimating Him when we say that He is inconceivable.” In this regard, we ought to be careful to talk about God lightly as if we know of Him in perfection. It bothers me to hear a man talking about God without much thought. He defines God in his own terms, and places Him anywhere in his conveniences. There are some things about God that cannot be fully explained or described in words. Thus, man is called to adore Him. After all, His ways are different from our ways. Of course, it does not keep us from knowing God.

At the same time, the Scripture says that we must know God. John 17:3, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” In this high priestly prayer, Jesus explains of eternal life in terms of knowing God and Jesus Christ. 1 John 5:20 says of eternal life with the same terms, “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.” However, some people have taken this idea of comprehensibility of God too far. For example, Eunomius in the fourth century said that there is nothing that is not perfectly known about God; He should be perfectly known by the human intellect. Because of this view, his view and followers were condemned at the First Council of Constantinople. Basically, the issue here is of the nature of God. Is He transcendent above all things and not communicating with anything including people? Or, is He immanent by associating Him with His creature, and as a result He is not transcendent at all? The answers to these questions will determine our theology and ways of worship. I’d like to see how these questions and answers have affected on our thoughts of God. For example, let us think about a big controversy over icons in church history. A group of people thought that having images and icons in churches was a good way to adore God. To them, the transcendence of God is not a hindrance of having images. Rather, they thought that the invisible God might have His representations. Here is a statement from Ecumenical Council in 787 about icons:
. . We decide in all correctness and after a thorough examination that, just as the holy and vivifying cross, similarly the holy and precious icons painted with colors, made with little stones or with any other matter serving this purpose, should be placed in the holy churches of God, on vases and on sacred vestments, on walls and boards, in houses and on roads, whether these are icons of our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ, or of our spotless Sovereign Lady, the holy Mother of God, or of the holy angels and of holy and venerable men. For each time that we see their representation in an image, each time, while gazing upon them, we are made to remember the prototype, we grow to love them more, and we are even more induced to worship them by kissing them and by witnessing our veneration. Not the true adoration which, according to our faith, is proper only to the divine nature, but in the same way as we venerate the precious and vivifying cross, the holy Gospel and other sacred objects which we honor with incense and candles according to the pious custom of our forefathers. For the honor rendered to the image goest to the prototype. And the person who venerates an icon venerates the person represented on it. . . .

The Church of Rome has relics and icons as a part of her worship. It seems that she brings God down to her level with good excuses. The Eastern Orthodox Churches (Greek and Russian Orthodox churches) do the same thing with a thought that it is the only way to worship God, who is incomprehensible. It is no wonder that the Eastern Orthodox Churches are known to convert people through aesthetic splendor than well-worded doctrinal teaching of the Bible. The reason behind their practice is simple: You cannot know your God. If there is a difference between the Church of Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Church, though we think them as the same kind, there is a huge difference in their understanding of God. The Church of Rome does emphasize on prepositional truth (doctrinal statement, while the Eastern Orthodox Church tends to stress on God’s mysteries more. Despite all these different views, before I go any where, I ought to bring you to a view projected in Iconoclastic Council of 754 against the use of icons.
. . . Supported by the Holy Scriptures and the Father, we declare unanimously in the name of the Holy Trinity that there shall be rejected and removed and cursed out of the Christian Church every likeness which is made out of any material whatever by the evil art of painters. Whoever in the future dares to make such a thing or venerate it, or set it up in a church or in a private house, or possess it in secret, shall, if bishop, priest, or deacon, be deposed, if monk or layman, anathematized and become liable to be tried by the secular laws as a adversary of God and an enemy of the doctrines handed down by the Father. . . .

I will add some more thoughts on the nature of God later. God bless!

Lovingly, Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



Shorter Catechism Question No. 55: What is forbidden in the third commandment? The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of any thing whereby God maketh himself known.

Please continue to pray for Sis. Myung Ki, Rev. Peter Clements, Bro. Surish Dharmalingam, Sis Susan Varadi, Sis. Aranka Rejtoe, Sis. Irene Turner and Life Bible School (Kompong-som). “Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens” Psalm 123:1.

Thank God for granting journey mercies to Sis. Lehia Paawue (USA) and Sisters Ayli and Ayji Chong (Adelaide), Bro Raphael Ng (Adelaide), Bro. Daniel Volvricht, Bro. John Wong and Mr. Chris Forrester (Adelaide).

Please pray for journey mercies for Sis. Myung Ki, Sis. Wendy Wong and Chee Chong (Adelaide), Sis. Lauren Ko (Hong Kong), Sis. Gillian Ong (Singapore), Shane Teo, Bros Jason Tan, Leonard Teo, Eugene Tan and Sisters Min Yen Chia, Sarah Carpenter, Purdee Yeo (Melbourne).

Congratulations to Sis Rebekah Neumann on being baptised, Rev. George and Sis. Nan van Buuren and Bro. Jason Tan on becoming members of Hope B-P Church today. May God bless and use them.

Nominations for Session (2004-2007) will close today. Nomination forms are available on the literature table. Please complete and submit your forms to any session member by the end of today.

Praise and Thank God for all those who came for Working Bee yesterday.

Cambodia Mission trip 10-31 Jan 2005, please see Ps Ki or Dn Michael D Lee if you are interested in going ASAP.

Rosters for next quarter are available on the literature table. Please collect your copy.

RPG’s: Next quarters RPGs are now available on the literature table. A $1 donation is appreciated.

Looking Ahead: YAF Retreat from 9-11 July 2004. Venue: Boomer Beach.

Looking Ahead: Annual Congregational Meeting (ACM) and Session Members election at 7 pm in the Stone Mansion on Saturday, 17 July 2004. All members are expected to attend. All Committee/fellowship leaders are required to submit their reports to Dn. Edwin D’Mello before 11 July 2004.



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