Knowing God, chapter 1: The study of God

The book opens with an excerpt from a sermon preached by Charles Spurgeon on the study of God. Spurgeon asserts, “No subject of contemplation will tend to humble the mind, than thoughts of God… But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it… And whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory.”

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Is the study of the nature and character of God unpractical and irrelevant for life? It is cruel to ourselves to try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it.

Five foundational principle of the knowledge about God that Christians have are:

  1. God has spoken to man, and the Bible is His word, given to us to make us wise unto salvation.
  2. God is Lord and King over His world; He rules all things for his own glory, displaying His perfections in all that He does, on order that men and angels may worship and adore Him
  3. God is Saviour, active in sovereign love through the Lord Jesus Christ to rescue believers from the guilt and power of sin, to adopt them as His sons, and to bless them accordingly
  4. God is Triune; there are within the Godhead three persons, the Father the Son and the Holy Ghost; and the work of salvation is one in which all three act together, the Father purposing redemption, the Son securing it, and the Spirit applying it.
  5. Godliness means responding to God’s revelation in trust and obedience, faith and worship, prayer and praise, submission and service. Life must be seen and lived in the light of God’s Word.

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The themes this book will look at are:

  • the Godhead of God: those qualities that set God apart from man and creation e.g. self-existence, infinity, eternity, unchangeableness etc.
  • the powers of God: His almightiness, omniscience, omnipresence
  • the perfections of God: the aspects of His moral character which are manifested in His words and deeds—holiness, love, mercy, truthfulness, faithfulness, goodness, patience, justice.
  • what pleases Him, what offends Him, what awakens His wrath, what affords Him satisfaction and joy.

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In the study of God, we need to ask ourselves what our ultimate aim and object is in occupying our minds with these things. What do we intend to do with our knowledge about God once we’ve acquired it?

If we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it will make us proud and conceited: knowledge puffs up (1 Cor 8:1-2). Instead, we should be like the psalmist who penned Psalm 119—his desire was to know and enjoy God Himself. He wanted to understand God’s truth in order that his heart might respond to it and his life conformed to it.

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How do we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God? We need to turn each truth we learn about God into a matter of meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.

‘Meditation’ in this sense is

…the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself the various things that one know about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God.

Its fruit  in us is humility, encouragement, reassurance and comfort.