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‘Great is the Lord’

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Date November 12, 2010

There is a God and it is possible for us to know him. But he may be known only because he has revealed himself. He has done so in creation. As we look at the world around us and the heavens above us, we should conclude that it was impossible for any part of the universe to be brought into existence except by supernatural power – indeed by divine power. Yet this is a fact that contemporary man generally refuses to believe, preferring to accept the myth of evolution. Suffering as he does from a fallen nature, man has no desire to learn about God. And we ought to see the work of Satan behind all this, as he blinds the human understanding.

But the most we may learn about God from his creation is extremely limited; it cannot possibly provide us with any knowledge about salvation from our sinful condition. Yet, in mercy, God has given a much more comprehensive revelation of himself in the Scriptures, which do indeed provide sufficient knowledge about salvation from sin and a lost eternity. These Scriptures, from beginning to end, were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and are therefore totally trustworthy; they are without error of any kind, even in what seem to be the most trivial of details. Here again we may note man’s blindness – even to the pure light of God’s Word – and the efforts of Satan to blind the eyes of sinners to its truths. He is particularly desperate to blind ‘the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them’ (2 Cor. 4:4).

God has ordained his Word as a means of giving true knowledge of himself to mankind, but only through the work of the Holy Spirit can this knowledge be profitable to the souls of those who hear and read it. And it is the preaching of the Word that God has particularly ordained as a means of doing spiritual good to the souls of sinners. Many have already entered into eternal life as a result of coming thus to know ‘the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [he has] sent’ (John 17:3).

Yet God is infinite and, accordingly, the knowledge that we can have of him is limited. So Zophar asked Job: ‘Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?’ (Job 11:7). Everything about God is infinitely greater than we can possibly know or understand. Yet it is accurate knowledge of God that the Scriptures provide. He has revealed himself in a way that suits our limited human understandings, but unless the Holy Spirit puts new life in our souls, we will never make a believing response to this knowledge.

It was Paul’s desire for the Ephesians ‘to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge’ (3:19); he wished sinners not only to know about Christ’s love to a lost world but also to experience it for themselves. While, for any mere human being, that knowledge is limited, the love of Christ is – as Paul realised – far greater and more wonderful than anyone can comprehend. Yet it helps us to understand something of the love that passes knowledge if we think of the height of glory from which the Saviour came, and the sufferings which he endured in this world, even to the cursed death of the cross. So Paul could say, ‘Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich’ (2 Cor. 8:9). The believing Corinthians had a real knowledge of the love and kindness of Christ, although they could not fathom its depths or measure its height.

And they could understand further the love of Christ when they looked at its fruits: particularly the forgiveness of their sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit and his sanctifying work, the supply of all their needs in this life, and a place at last in heaven above. Every instance of Christ’s gracious provision should increase the believer’s sense of how great was the eternal love from which the provision flowed, although that sense comes so far short of the infinite fullness of divine love to unworthy sinners. Yet while the saints in glory know much more now than it was possible for them to absorb in time, everything about God remains infinitely greater than they can know or understand.

God’s justice likewise is infinite; we may know of it because it has been revealed to us, but its perfection is beyond our understanding. God always deals justly with his creatures, but his justice will become specially obvious on the day of judgement, and in eternity that justice will be apparent, as he pours down his wrath upon the ungodly and, for Christ’s sake, blesses his children. But God gave a unique display of his justice when he laid the guilt of all these children on his Son, as their substitute. And infinite mercy met with infinite justice in a way which comes within the sphere of our knowledge, through revelation, but rises far beyond our comprehension.

The infinite wisdom of God is demonstrated in creation; science may have discovered much during recent centuries in all kinds of areas, each of them displaying the capacity of the Most High to design what is not only extremely practical but even beautiful – although man in his blindness so often refuses to recognise the Designer. Yet how much more does the plan of salvation display the infinite nature of God’s wisdom! He has taught us that sin deserves his wrath and curse for ever, but no creature could have worked out how, consistently with justice, anyone could have escaped his eternal wrath and curse. It is divine wisdom that devised the way whereby God could be just when he made provision for the salvation of sinners.

Infinite wisdom is also displayed in God’s providence. Not only does he know everything that is happening, he knows everything that will happen and that might have happened, and out of all that myriad of possibilities he has chosen, in his wisdom, what will be most for his glory. No wonder Psalm 147 says, ‘His understanding is infinite’! God has wisely ordered his providence to fulfill his special purpose to gather in all his elect from their ungodly ways and lead them on safely to a better world. There they will all see – though they will never fully search out the wisdom behind God’s wise dealings with them – that ‘he led them forth by the right way‘ (Psa. 107:7).

The final attribute we will note is the power of God. It too is infinite; it too is beyond the capacity of the human mind to understand completely. We may see it in the creation but, as we can only in a limited way understand the vastness and the complexities of the universe, we can only feebly understand the power that was necessary to bring it all into being, and likewise maintain it in existence. But we should recognise that God’s infinite power is displayed in a still more wonderful way in the Holy Spirit’s work of regenerating spiritually-dead sinners and in continuing his subduing and sanctifying work until they are made perfect, and therefore fit for heaven.

Satan’s power is great, as is the power of those who do his wicked work; we only need to glance at the media to get a sense of the prevalence of wickedness, of false religion and of sheer unbelief today. But the power of Satan and of the ungodly, who submit to his temptations, is finite; it is limited. However great it may be, it is as nothing when opposed to God’s unlimited power. So we need never despair in any situation, provided we are dependent on God. And we need never despair for his Church, for he will carry out all his purposes and – by his unlimited wisdom, grace and power – bring all the vast multitude of his chosen ones safely to heaven at last.

God, we have seen, has revealed himself in creation, but much more fully in the Bible. Since he is infinitely great and glorious, in all his attributes, it is our manifest duty, as his creatures, to receive his revelation and submit to him with all our heart – and so to trust in Christ, who is at the centre of the whole revelation in Scripture. It is equally our duty to praise and worship him, even in this life, which will be a preparation for endless praise and worship in heaven above. ‘Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised’ (Psa. 48:1).


Kenneth D. Macleod is pastor of the Free Presbyterian Church in Leverburgh on the Isle of Harris. He is the editor of The Free Presbyterian Magazine, from the October 2010 issue of which the above editorial has been taken with permission.

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