Faithfulness, Wise, mercy, immanence, transcendence, trinity,
Compiled by Nick Power
Adapted from ‘Dictionary of everyday theology and culture’ ISBN-13: 978-1-60006-192-9. Published by Navpress 2010 – a really useful book!
What is faithfulness? The Oxford English Dictionary says that it means the quality of ‘remaining loyal and steadfast’.
How does this apply to God?
- The Bible tells us that God is faithful, reliable, trustworthy and loyal (Psalms 33:5; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:24).
- It also tells us that He will remain faithful forever (Psalms 119:90; 146:6).
- Unlike our human relationships we can always rely on God to keep His promises (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 11:11).
Faithfulness in the Old Testament
God’s faithfulness is a common theme throughout the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 33:5; Lamentations 3:22). God’s faithfulness is portrayed as a shield against fear (Psalm 91:4-5) and as a shining light that guides our pathway (Psalm 43:3). In the Old Testament God’s faithfulness is associated with the promises He made to His people – “I will walk among you and be your God, you will be my people” (Leviticus 26:12). The Hebrew word hesed, which means ‘loving kindness / covenant love’ is often used with ‘faithfulness’ (Genesis 32:10; Psalms 40:10-11; 57:3; 85:10; 98:3; 138:2). Moses connects God’s covenant with His faithfulness: “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love for a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep his commands” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
Faithfulness in the New Testament
Through Jesus’ life on earth, death and resurrection He became our faithful high priest (Hebrews 2:17). The Old Testament contains numerous promises about the coming Messiah’s faithfulness (Isaiah 11:5; 16:5; 42:3). As the only mediator between us and God (1 Timothy 2:5-6), Jesus faithfully prays to the Father on our behalf (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). The book of Revelation speaks of Christ as the “faithful witness” (1:5; 3:14), whose very name is “faithful” (19:11). The apostle Paul wrote, of Christ “If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, since He cannot deny himself” (2Tim 2:13).
What does all this mean for us today?
- Our experiences of untrustworthy people can lead us to forget that God is not like this and we need to remind ourselves that God always remains faithful and that we can rely on Him to keep His promises.
- To Help focus our minds on God’s faithfulness we can do several things:
- Meditate on passages such as Psalm 89 or 138 that remind us of God’s faithfulness
- As you go through life keep a record of the occasions when perhaps God seemed absent or distant and record how prayers have been answered in relation to those times. This enables us receive encouragement about His past faithfulness to us and helps us trust Him as we face the future. In turn we will be able to encourage others.
- We should recognise that God is a faithful Father who sometimes chooses to train us in righteousness through discipline and suffering (Hebrews 12:4-11). Jesus endured trials including death on the cross (Hebrews 12:1-2). In the same way we can be assured of receiving God’s promises by persevering through difficult times (Hebrews 10:23,36)
- We should remember that even while suffering we should remain committed to our faithful creator in all we do (1 Peter 4:19) and remember that God is faithful: He will not put us beyond what we are able to bear (1 Corinthians 10).
What is wisdom? The Oxford English Dictionary says it is the “quality of having experience, knowledge and good judgement”. This is a secular definition. God’s wisdom is perfect and is not gained through experience or the acquisition of knowledge as He is eternal and all knowing (omniscient). Wisdom has always been with God (Proverbs 8:23).
What is God’s wisdom? God’s wisdom means that God always chooses the best possible goals and the best possible means to those goals.
What does the Bible say about God’s wisdom?
God’s wisdom is always with God and was there at the creation. (Proverbs 8:24-31; Psalm 104:24)
He is the only wise God. (Romans 16:27)
He is wise in heart. (Job 9:4)
With Him are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding. (Job 12:13)
Why is God’s wisdom relevant for us?
God's wisdom is seen in His plan for saving us and the world:
- Jesus is called the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24,30)
- God's redemptive plan makes the wisdom of the world foolish (1 Corinthians 1:18-20)
- Paul's praise of God's redemptive plan includes "O the depth of the riches and wisdom…of God" (Romans 11:33)
How is God's wisdom shown in our individual lives?
Receiving His wisdom, helps us live fruitful, healthy lives and guards us from making foolish decisions. [Proverbs 2]
His wisdom is shown through the lives of those who love Him and those that are called according to His purpose. Romans 8: 28 says that all things work together for the good of those who love him. This is true even when we do not think so. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul recognizes that when things are not going perfectly (or even well) by our earthly standards, God is still working for our good. Sometimes bad things are necessary to bring us into greater conformity with the image of Christ. That is God's wisdom.
Wisdom is something God has given to all His children, if only in part.
- If you lack wisdom, ask God for it. (James 1:5)
- Reading and obeying God's Word brings wisdom. (Psalms 19:7)
- Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom. (Psalms 111:10; Proverbs 9:10)
- Wisdom from God results in humility (Proverbs 11:2; James 3:13-18)
In all of this it is important to remember that we can never fully share God's wisdom. Romans 11:33 tells us that because of the great depth and riches and knowledge and wisdom of God, His judgements are ‘unsearchable’ and ‘unfathomable’. Therefore, we must put our trust in him, even when we do not fully understand why God allows things to happen (1 Peter 4:19) and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).
What is mercy? The Oxford English Dictionary says that it means ‘Compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm’.
How does this apply to God?
The mercy of God is seen especially in His forgiveness of human sin. In His mercy, God protects sinners from what they deserve.
How do we know this? The Bible tells us:-
- In Exodus 34:6-7 The Lord says of himself that He is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin”.
- Deuteronomy 4:31 tells us that He is a merciful God.
- In the sermon on the plain Jesus said “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”. (Lk 6:36)Isn’t mercy really the same as grace?
- Mercy and grace are often confused. While the terms have similar meanings, grace and mercy are not the same. To summarize the difference: mercy is God not punishing us as our sins deserve, and grace is God blessing us despite the fact that we do not deserve it. Mercy is deliverance from judgment. Grace is extending kindness to the unworthy.
What do we know about God’s mercy?
- God's mercy is free. It does not depend on anything we do. If it did the definition of mercy would fail – it protects us against what we deserve. Titus 3:5 says that “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy”.
- God's mercy is an overflowing mercy. It is infinite. Psalms 86:5 speaks of Him as being plenteous in mercy. Ephesians 2:4 says that He is rich in mercy, and Psalm 51 speaks of the many of mercies of God.
- God's mercy is eternal. In the King James Version of the Bible the phrase “for his mercy endureth for ever” occurs 26 times.
What does all this mean for us today?
As followers of Christ we know from personal experience that no person, however ‘good’ they are, has a right to God’s mercy. None of us deserve mercy – it’s freely given to us by God. Paul said “Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
We are assured of God’s mercy and grace. Hebrews 4:16 says that we should “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help”. God delights to grant mercy to those who ask. When we find ourselves in need this verse tells us to cry out to God for mercy and find grace.
Our merciful God exhorts us to be merciful, witnessing to and reflecting His character. Through the prophet Micah God announced “He has shown all you people what is good. And what does God require of you? To act justly and to love mercy.” (Micah 6:8) As recipients of God’s saving mercy, he summons us to be its conduits, letting go of vengeful thoughts and instead exercising loving-kindness. In the Gospels, Jesus exhibited mercy by reaching out to relieve human want, grief and pain. We are called to imitate Jesus in his character and actions, including the virtue of mercy. When we reach out in these ways – as we bless the needy with mercy – we find that we ourselves are at least equally blessed.
What does immanence mean?
Immanent means that something is near or that a person is present.
How does this apply to God?
- Immanence is a quality that belongs to God. In Jeremiah 23:23 it says that God is both near and far. Even though He is over and beyond the world he is actively present (immanent) in the world to accomplish His purposes with His people. The immanence of God is seen in His presence and activity within nature, with humans, and in history.
- The apostle Paul said “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth… He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else… He is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:24-25; 27-28)
What’s the difference between immanence and imminence?
God’s immanence refers to His presence within His creation and is totally different from His
imminence, which refers to the timing of Jesus’ return to earth.
What does all this mean for us today?
- As Christians we know and are strengthened by the fact that “the Lord is God in heaven above and on earth below. There is no other” (Deuteronomy 4:39). Our amazing creator God is not distant and remote. He is near to us, faithfully providing everything we need.
- Immanence expresses an aspect of the Creator-creature relationship. Immanence refers to God’s choice to be intimately involved in the world that He created. Though God could have chosen to remain apart from creation, in His great love and care, He chose to interact with creation and with us rather than stand completely apart from it.
- Even though God controls the whole universe, physical events and things beyond our control He has still chosen to accomplish His many purposes through us. Ephesians 2:10 states that “We are His workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good work that God prepared beforehand so we may do them”.
- God's immanence is a beautiful picture of God's relationship with this world, in which He does indeed care about even the smallest concerns. “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God” (Luke 12:6).
- The immanence of God is also supported in the story of the Bible as a whole. The very existence of God’s Word in written form testifies to God’s interest and action in His world. Israel’s survival throughout biblical history and Jesus’ Incarnation bear powerful witness that God is present and involved. He is literally “sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3).
- He is Immanuel, “God with us”; He is immanent. God’s Transcendence.What does transcendence mean?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines transcendence as “Existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level”. In relation to God it means over and beyond, above and independent. God’s transcendence means He is far above all things. This is not, of course, referring to height or distance. He is far above us in the quality of His holiness, authority, sovereignty, wisdom, etc.
How does this apply to God?
- Transcendence is a quality that belongs to God. In Jeremiah 23:23 it says that God is both near and far. He is over and beyond the being of the world.
- God, a living and active personal spirit (John 4:24) is independent of and unlimited by matter, energy, space and time.
- God is also unique and uniquely holy. He is above all that is evil and dedicated to uprightness. Isaiah 40:25 says ‘“To whom can you compare me? Who is my equal?” Says the Holy One’.Does the transcendence of God mean we can never know Him or think like Him?
- What does all this mean for us today?
- No is the short answer! It may seem like that for God says “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 58:8-9, However, although God’s mind is beyond sin-blinded minds, and believers can never fully comprehend all that the transcendent God knows (see 1 Corinthians 3:10), God has revealed Himself to us and by His Holy Spirit enables us to grow in knowing Him and understanding His revealed truth.
- The good news is that to meet with God does not mean that we have to try to ascend beyond time, space and thought. The transcendent Lord of all has actively come to us! He has made his existence and moral principles known to all persons in creation (Romans 1:19-20), as well as the dictates of conscience (Romans 2:14-15). God has exhibited his grace and truth in the life and words of Jesus (John 1:1,14,18). The truths revealed to the prophets and apostles have been preserved for us in scriptures (2 Peter 1:16-21). The Bible shows us the way to eternal fellowship with the transcendent God and equips us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
- Even though God transcends above all, He still wants to enjoy daily fellowship with us (1 John 1:4). And we must “Love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and all our mind” (Matthew 22:37).
- The words in Isaiah 57:15 encourage us that even though God is the high and exalted one, who rules for ever and whose name is holy, He is also with the discouraged and humiliated in order to cheer up the humiliated and to encourage the discouraged.
- As Transcendent Lord He is able to oversee all that goes on in this world and, more especially, in the lives of His children – ready to respond to our prayers and help us navigate through our lives on this earth.
What is the Trinity?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the Trinity as “the state of being three”, or more specifically in relation to Christianity as “The three persons of the Christian Godhead; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”.
What does the Bible say about the Trinity?
The word ‘Trinity’ is not found in the Bible, but the concept that the word represents is affirmed in many places.
How did we end up calling it “the Trinity”?
The word “Trinity” first appeared in the writings of the leading theologian and apologist, Tertullian (ca. 155-220). The Council of Nicea (AD 325) put forth the doctrine of the Trinity, which paved the way for further development of this doctrine by the church through the centuries.
What evidence is there in the Bible for the concept of “Trinity”?
- In Genesis 1:26 God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”. His use of ‘us’ and ‘our’ implies that more than one person was involved in creation. The only other person God could be referring to are angels, but we are made in the image of God, not in the image of angels.
- When Jesus was baptised in Matthew 3:16-17 a voice from heaven said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”. At this moment all three members of the Trinity were performing three distinct activities: God the Father was speaking, God the Son was being baptised and God the Holy Spirit was resting on the Son.
- In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commands his disciples to ‘make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. In saying this Jesus is confirming that all three members of the Trinity are distinct in their personhood.
- Jude 20-21 also affirms that there are three distinct persons in the Trinity: ‘Pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Could this mean that there are, in fact, three gods?
NO is the short answer! There is much evidence in the Bible to support that there is only one God. Deuteronomy 6:4 says “The Lord is one”. God frequently echoes this statement when he speaks, making it clear there is no other God but him. Isaiah 45:5 is one example of this: ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God.’
Paul affirms this in Romans 3:30 when he writes ‘God is one’, and again in 1 Timothy 2:5 - ‘There is one God’. In James 2:19 we discover that even demons believe there is one God (and they tremble with fear!).
Why are there three different persons in God?
- All three members within the Trinity have different roles. For example, in creation we know that God spoke the earth into existence (Genesis 1:9-10), but John 1:3 tells us that God the Son carried out those words: ‘All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing that was made’. Genesis 1:2 tells us that while God was creating ‘The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters,’ sustaining and manifesting God’s presence in creation.
- Different roles within the Trinity can be seen in our salvation. God the Father ‘so loved the world that he gave his only Son, whom he sent ‘into the world…in order that the world might be saved through him’ (John 3:16-17). Jesus said ‘I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the one who sent me’ (John 6:38). And that will was that Jesus should die for our sins so that we didn’t have to (Hebrews 10:10). When Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven he and the Father sent the Holy Spirit (John 14:16; 16:7) to bring completion to the work the Father and Son had started.
- In both creation and salvation, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all had distinct roles. It was the Father that directed and sent both the Son and the Spirit. It was the Son, along with the Father, that sent the Spirit. The Son was obedient to the Father and the Spirit was obedient to the Father and to the Son. While the Son and the Spirit have and continue to carry out their roles in equal deity with the Father, they also do so in obedience to the Father.What does all this mean for us today?
- The concept of the Trinity is at the heart of our Christian faith and living. It is essential that we believe in the one true God who subsists as three divine persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If we entertain false ideas about this our Christian faith and living collapses on a foundation of sand. It is important to explain the concept to those who will listen.
- Additionally we should relate to the three persons of the Trinity personally, lovingly and intimately. We should return to the Father his unmerited love and favour; we ought to entrust ourselves to Jesus who died in our place; and we should invite the Sprit to infuse his life and power into our bodies. We should pray not just to the Father, but also to his Son (Acts 22:16) and to the comforting Spirit (Jude 20). Through prayer and listening we will be able to build our relationship with each of the three persons.
- The unity and diversity within the Trinity are a great basis for everyday life. The great theologian, Augustine, when reflecting on God as love (1 John 4:16), observed that love requires a lover, someone to be loved and love that flows between them. He concluded that the Father is the lover, the Son is the beloved and the Spirit the personal love that flows between them. This is a great model for marriage.
- Another example of unity and diversity is seen within the church, which has many members, all with different skills but ‘one body’ with one purpose (1 Corinthians 12:12). It is also seen in the ethnic makeup of the worldwide church: members ‘from every nation, from all peoples and languages’ (Revelation 7:9). This diversity shows the wisdom of God in allowing both unity and diversity to exist within this world and we should embrace it in the same way as we should embrace the persons within the Trinity.
- The Trinitarian God is also concerned with mission and out of love we should be a missional people. We should always be ready to give and answer to the hope that we possess (1 Peter 3:15). The Father, Son and Holy Spirit will give us the tools to do this – we just have to ask!
We are grateful to Nick Power for compiling this booklet for us to use alongside our preaching series on ‘The Attributes of God’.
Who is this mighty God we love and serve? What is He like? What are His attributes?
Many church-goers have concocted their own idea of God; a god that is there - just for them - who rotates around their world, a god who is there to do their bidding. This is, of course, tantamount to idolatory. The true God, however, will not conform to any man’s ideas. As A E Tozer comments:
“The human mind, being created, has an understandable uneasiness about the Uncreated. We do not find it comfortable to allow for the presence of One who is wholly outside of the circle of our familiar knowledge. We tend to be disquieted with the thought of One who does not account to us for His being, who is responsible to no one, who is self-existent, self-dependent and self-sufficient.”
The danger we have, even as His people, is to settle for a small, unsatisfactory understanding of who He really is. It is so easy to skim the surface of His attributes and in doing so miss the depths and wonder of His character..
We know from human relationships that we can only a person to the degree to which they allow us to know them. This is true also of knowing God. We can only know Him to the extent He has revealed Himself. And here is the great news he has revealed Himself to us!
An attribute of God is something which God has declared to be true of Himself
He has, of course, given to all men a general revelation of Himself in Creation [Psalm 19, Roman 1], Human conscience, in our impulse to Worship something other or higher than ourselves
More specifically He has given us a treasure chest full of His attributes in the pages of Scripture, the Old and New Testaments, for us to discover. This is specific revelation
The greatest revelation of God is found in Jesus Christ, His actions, life, passion and teachings. We do well to read the gospels and enjoy meeting this wonderful God who cares for us.
An attribute of God, therefore, is something we can know about God. It is knowing what kind of God, God is! And although He is almighty God and passes our understanding, with His help, we can understand with our minds truths of who He is. We can consider Him and explore His attributes.
And like a weary traveller passing through our human journey we can wonder at the mountain peaks of His majesty and drink from the streams of His grace and mercy; we can be stirred by the awesomeness of His power and fall on our knees in adoration at His beauty.
Enjoy the exploration – His attributes are so vast; the journey into the depths of His character is one we will enjoy throughout eternity
The material in this booklet was
Adapted from ‘Dictionary of everyday theology and culture’ ISBN-13: 978-1-60006-192-9. Published by Navpress 2010’
With reference also from
‘Christian Beliefs’ by Wayne Grudem. ISBN: 978-84474-486-2. Published by Inter-Varsity Press 2005’ – a very reader friendly introduction to key points of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. (it’s much cheaper than his full works as well!)
So How can I know this awesome God who the Bible says loves me and desires friendship with me?
Well God has wonderfully revealed Himself in the pages of Scripture In the O.T. and the New.
The greatest revelation of God is found, of course, In Jesus Christ His actions, life, passion and teachings. Read well the gospels and enjoy meeting this God
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