Invisible God ~ 20151004 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
10/04 Invisible God Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151004_invisible-god.mp3
We are seeking God, seeking to know God, digging in to his word to see what he says about himself. We want to worship him as he is, not as we imagine him to be. We want to offer him true worship.
We have learned that God is incomprehensible – a being beyond our ability to fully understand, yet we can know true things about him, the things he has revealed to us. Indeed, he intends to be known and worshiped as he really is. We have learned that God is, that he exists, independent of anything outside of himself. He is the uncaused cause of everything that is. He is unchanging and unchangeable. He is a God who is beyond all time and space but fills all time and space with his immediate presence. He is eternal, inescapable, uncontainable.
Sadducees and Materialism
We live in a materialistic society. Most people live as if what we see is all there is. We store up for ourselves treasure where moth and rust can destroy, where thieves can break in and steal. But the Bible opens our eyes to a greater reality, an unseen reality. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies. Jesus teaches us to store up treasure in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy, where thieves cannot break in and steal. Christians have hope beyond the grave. In Philippians 1, Paul, in prison, is wondering what will happen to him. Will he remain in the flesh, or will he depart and be with Christ? Paul is confident that when his body dies, he will be in the presence of God. In 2 Corinthians 5 he talks about the earthly body as a tent that will be destroyed, and that we will put on a heavenly dwelling. There is part of us that lives on even when our material bodies wear out and decay. In Acts 23, when Paul was on trial before the Jewish council, he nearly started a riot between the Pharisees and Sadducees when he cried out that he was on trial because of the hope and the resurrection of the dead, because, we are told,
It appears the Sadducees were materialists. Don't tell me all this nonsense about things I can't see or touch or smell. No resurrection. No angel. No spirit. Paul would say 'no hope!'
Spirit and Matter
Jesus clearly believed in spirits and the resurrection. Jesus said:
In Mark 5, Jesus commanded an unclean spirit to come out of a man. When Jesus asked his name, the response was 'My name is Legion, for we are many'. A Roman legion was 3,000 – 6,000 men. When Jesus gave his permission, the unclean spirits came out of the man and entered into about 2,000 pigs who rushed into the sea and were drowned. A spirit is not made up of matter, and therefore takes up no space. We aren't told exactly how many demons tormented this man, but somehow there were many who were able to inhabit the same space.
When the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples in Luke 24, they were terrified.
The disciples thought they saw a spirit. Jesus invites them to touch him to prove that he is not an apparition, but is indeed a material being. He even eats something in front of them, and he says 'a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have'. Jesus tells us that spirits are not material. Jesus demonstrates that his resurrected body is a real physical material body and not a ghostly apparition.
In the Old Testament, in 2 Kings 6, when the Syrian king's military plans were repeatedly foiled, he assumed he had a spy who was leaking information to the king of Israel
Elisha and Gehazi are surrounded by Syrian horses and chariots and a great army. Elisha tells his servant not to be afraid because the Syrian army is greatly outnumbered. The unseen angelic legions were on their side. They were unseen, unheard, unfelt, but they were real. God opened his eyes so that he could see his invisible armies.
Note, by the way, that while we learned last time that God is unlimited by space or time, angels, although they are spirit, are spatially limited. In Daniel 9 and 10, we see Gabriel being sent and coming in swift flight, even being delayed by demonic forces. God is a spirit who is everywhere present, angels are spirits who can only be in one place at a time.
God is Spirit
In Isaiah 31, God is rebuking those who run to Egypt and rely on horses and chariots but do not look to the Holy One of Israel. He draws this contrast:
God is not a man. Both man and horses are flesh. God is spirit. God is immaterial. God is invisible. This is the clear teaching of the Bible.
God's divine nature is invisible, yet is clearly evident in the things he has made.
God is invisible. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. All created things, all created beings, whether physical or spiritual were created by Jesus.
God is King of eternity, immortal, invisible.
God dwells in unapproachable light. No one has ever seen God. No one can see God.
God is invisible.
God has not been seen. No one has ever seen God.
No One Has Ever Seen God?
But wait a minute! Doesn't the Bible talk about people who saw God? The LORD God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. The LORD appeared to Abram by the oaks of Mamre. Three strangers came to visit Abraham's tent. The men departed, but Abraham still stood before the presence of the LORD (Gen.18). The LORD appeared to Moses in a bush that was on fire but not consumed. He made his presence known to Israel in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He appeared to 70 elders of Israel on Mount Sinai, who ate and drank in his presence. They describe what they saw as
They saw the God of Israel. But all that they describe is the pavement under his feet.
When Moses requested to see the glory of God, God replied:
God says 'you cannot see my face. Man shall not see me and live.' In the next chapter God makes his presence known to Moses.
It seems what Moses saw was cloud. The way God revealed himself was verbal. He described his character.
When Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, what he describes is that the train of his robe filled the temple. And he describes the seraphim above him, and he says that the house was filled with smoke.
The closest we get to an actual physical description of God is in Daniel 7, where he describes Ancient of Days taking his seat with clothing white as snow and hair like pure wool.
How do we fit these statements that Old Testament people saw God with the clear New Testament teaching that God is invisible and 'no one has ever seen God'?
God cannot be seen in his essence, because he is spirit, he is immaterial; being immaterial there is nothing physical to see. However God, being Creator of all things visible and invisible, is fully able to manifest himself and make his presence known in different ways to different people.
Spirit and Idolatry
In Deuteronomy 4, Moses reminds the generation who would enter the promised land
Moses uses this as the ground for an admonition against idolatry.
Since you saw no form but heard only a voice, make no form, no image. Because God is spirit, immaterial, no created thing can adequately represent him. Every form will grossly misrepresent him. There is only one image God approves of.
Jesus the Image of God
John's gospel opens:
The Word exists before the beginning. The Word IS. The Word was with God, a distinct personality, but the Word was God, fully divine. He is personal, and he is the Creator of all that is. Verse 14 tells us
The Word became flesh. The Word, who always existed as God, the only Son from the Father, became something that he was not. He became flesh. He dwelt among us. He became man. Verse 18 says:
God's essential essence has never been seen. God has made his presence known in different visible manifestations, but no one has ever seen God. God the Son has made him known. The only image of God that God approves of is Jesus.
Colossians calls Jesus “the image of the invisible God'. Hebrews calls him “the exact imprint of his nature”. Not that we should make pictures of Jesus. We don't know what Jesus looked like. It is not about what he looked like. The apostles who knew what he looked like left us no physical descriptions. What they handed down to us are his teachings, his interactions with people, his character, his identity.
Jesus had a conversation with a woman at a well in Samaria. He revealed that he knew some uncomfortable details about her personal life, so she asked him a question about the proper place of worship.
In answer to her question about the proper place of worship, Jesus' answer is no, it is not about place, not about here or there. It is about worship in spirit and truth, because God is spirit. The nature of God has implications on how we are to worship him. He is not material, so the externals of worship are of little importance. Because God is spirit worship of him must be spiritual. God is most interested in our heart, in what nobody can see. Spiritual worship is worship that is brought about by the Spirit. We must come to the Father through the finished work of the Son, having been transformed and made new by the Spirit. He is pleased when we stand in awe of him as he really is, not as we imagine him to be. He must be worshiped in truth. We must embrace the truth of what he says about himself. Our spirits must engage him. The Spirit gives us a new taste for the goodness of God. He must be enjoyed, delighted in, savored. He is our greatest pleasure, our greatest treasure.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org