God’s Eternal Power and Divine Nature

After describing our understanding of Scripture, Friendship’s statement of faith goes on to profess what we believe about God. Article II begins, “There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe.” These statements flesh out what Paul teaches in Rom 1:19-20. Those verses describe God’s “eternal power and divine nature” as “invisible attributes” that “can be known about God.” Following the order of Article II, this blog post will consider God’s eternal power and divine nature in reverse order.

God’s Divine Nature

The Baptist Faith and Message begins its discussion of God by affirming God’s divine nature. “There is one and only one living and true God.” Both the Old and New Testaments affirm this sort of monotheism. In Genesis, Adam’s descendants begin “calling on the name of the Lord” in the third generation from Eden (Gen 4:26). Abraham and Melchizedek both serve “God Most High” (Gen 14:18-23). The plagues on Egypt were meant to show how God is the one true God as opposed to the idols of Egypt (Exod 12:12). Moses especially emphasizes the oneness of God in Deuteronomy 4:32-39. The God of Israel is the Creator God (v. 32). The God of Israel alone appeared in fire to people and spoke audibly to them (vv. 33, 36). The God of Israel alone redeemed a nation of slaves from a mighty empire (vv. 34-35, vv. 37-39). Such are the truths behind the great monotheistic confession at the heart of Deuteronomy and of Old Testament faith: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut 6:4). Jeremiah later explicitly says that man-made gods are not gods (Jer 16:20).

The New Testament upholds the monotheism of the Old Testament, though this monotheism is transformed by the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. (A future blog post will focus on the Trinity in detail.) Paul and Barnabas affirm the reality of a single Creator God when they preach at Lystra, “We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them” (Acts 14:15). Paul later writes to Christians in Corinth, “Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.’ For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Cor 8:4-6). This monotheism is transformed by the reality that Jesus Christ is Lord (and thus divine), but it is still monotheism. There is one God, not many. There is no God but one. And Paul reminds the Galatian Christians, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods” (Gal 4:8). The God of the Bible alone is God; he alone possesses the divine nature.

The Baptist Faith and Message goes on to describe God’s divine nature in terms of his intelligence, spirithood, and personhood. Since Friendship’s statement of faith considers God’s perfect knowledge in greater detail later in Article II, this blog post will focus on God’s spirithood and personhood as aspects of his divine nature. Jesus clearly teaches, “God is spirit” (John 4:24). God exists beyond the world of space and time. He created the physical universe (Gen 1:1). He exists before and beyond it. He is a spirit, unbound by the limitations of space like we creatures are.

The personhood of God is also a vital aspect of his divine nature. God’s personhood speaks to his self-sufficiency. God does not need humanity for relationship. He has eternally existed as the one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus’ prayer the night before his crucifixion makes this point especially clear: “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence iwth the glory that I had with you before the world existed. … Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:5, 24). The three Persons of the Trinity had perfect relationship from eternity past; God had perfect communion within himself before creating a single creature.

God’s Eternal Power

Nevertheless, it is God’s work in relation to the created universe that demonstrates to us his eternal power. As the Baptist Faith and Message summarizes, God exercises his eternal power as Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe.

The Bible repeatedly extols God’s power as Creator of the universe. Such is how the Bible opens (Gen 1-2). God created all things by the word of his power. He spoke, and everything came into being out of nothing (Heb 11:3). The Psalmist reflects, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host” (Ps 33:6). John refers to Jesus as the Word, who “was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3).

The Bible begins with God’s good creation in Genesis 1-2, but it quickly addresses the intrusion of death into creation through Adam’s sin in Genesis 3. From Genesis 3:15 onward, God proves himself to be not only the Creator of creation but also the Redeemer of creation. The scope of God’s curse in Genesis 3:17-19 is global, so the redemption that he accomplishes will be global, as well. Paul explains, “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:19-21). John envisions a new heavens and new earth in which God’s dwelling place is once more with man, where there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain, because the former things have passed away and Jesus has made all things new (Rev 21:1-5). God will redeem not only his people but also all creation in the end.

Until then, God preserves the universe. God “gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). He causes the sun to rise every morning, and he sends rain both to the just and to the unjust (Matt 5:45). He constantly keeps his promise: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Gen 8:22). In God the Son in particular “all things hold together” (Col 1:17), and “he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3). God preserves every atom in the entire universe and sustains every natural process until the time comes for him to make all things new.

Finally, God shows his eternal power as the Ruler of the universe. Psalm 47 especially makes this point. God is the “great king over all the earth” (v. 2). He is not only King of Israel, but he is also “the King of all the earth” (vv. 6-7). “God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne” (v. 8). Daniel later makes the same point. God is the eternal king who does his will in all the earth (Dan 4:34-35). And God would reveal his kingship especially through a coming king (Dan 2:44-45). The Lord Jesus is this long-awaited King, and he established God’s eternal kingdom by his life, death, and resurrection. He has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18). He has been highly exalted and given the name above every name (Phil 2:9-11).

As Article II goes on to explain, the proper response to this eternally powerful God is to love, revere, and obey him. The next blog post in this series will consider that response in context of God’s infinite perfections, the next part of Article II.