In the Applied Theology Project, former seminary professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their more than 90 years of combined teaching and ministry experience to help you apply theology to real life and ministry.

Knowing God By His Personal Name YHWH (LORD)

The Applied Theology Series provides you accessible, affordable seminary-level courses designed to help you learn how to apply theology to your life and ministry in practical ways – with the goal of helping you better know, love, serve, and honor God as LORD in all of life.

In this Essentials Course, we’re explaining and applying the definition of theology as “a study of God in Scripture to know God as LORD in all areas of life.” In this third lesson, our focus is on helping you learn what the Bible teaches about “Knowing God as YHWH (LORD).”

In this lesson, you’ll be equipped to:

  • Explain why Moses asked God to give him his name
  • Describe God’s three names he revealed to Moses
  • Define the meaning of God’s personal name YHWH
  • Recognize the Bible’s use of God’s name as LORD
  • Illustrate God’s new personal name given by Jesus
  • Explain the Scripture’s confession “Jesus is LORD”

CHOOSE YOUR LEARNING PATHWAY:
Read the Transcript Below
Listen to the Audio
Watch the Video
Take the Course


Knowing God as LORD

By Steve Childers and John Frame 

1. God’s Personal Name is YHWH (LORD)

When God appears to Moses in the burning bush, he reveals more about himself than being the Redeemer and Holy God of Israel. God continues his self- revelation by also telling Moses his names, including his personal name.

God told Moses earlier that his plan to deliver Israel was going to be through him. Moses responded by asking God what seems to be an odd question: In Exodus 3:13 we read, “Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”

Why would Moses ask God for his name? In the ancient Near East, the names people called their gods always had meaning. A god’s name revealed what their god was like. They needed to know their god’s name in order to understand him, pray to him, worship him, and serve him. By asking for God’s name, Moses is asking God who he is and what he is like. God answers Moses, saying:

“…I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ (Exod 3:14- 15).”

This can be a very confusing answer. One reason is because God refers to himself in the third person voice, as he often does throughout Scripture. Another reason is because God is using various forms of the Hebrew verb “to be” for his names. This answer can also be confusing because God reveals three of his names in three difficult Hebrew forms:

The first name of God is in a long Hebrew form in the first part of Exod 3:14 ( “eh- yeh a-ser eh-yeh,”) translated “I AM WHO I AM.”1 The second name of God is a shorter Hebrew form taken from the first (“eh-yeh,”) translated “I AM” at the end of Exod 3:14. And the last name God gives himself is in a very short Hebrew form in verse 15, (YHWH,) often pronounced “Yahweh,” and translated here as “LORD” in all capital letters.

Throughout Scripture, one of the most significant ways God chooses to reveal what he is like is by revealing his many names. Theologians suggest many distinctions between a host of God’s names. But almost all agree that God’s name YHWH, or LORD, is the greatest revelation of God’s name in the Old Testament. This mysterious, personal name of God is meant to point us to God’s very being by using various forms of the Hebrew verb “to be.”

Insights into the meaning of YHWH are not found primarily by studying the etymology of the Hebrew term, but more by understanding the historic contexts in which God reveals his personal name. Although Israel’s forefathers knew the name YHWH for God, they could not understand it’s full meaning because Israel had not yet been in captivity to Egypt in need of YHWH’s deliverance as a display of his faithfulness to keep his covenant promises.

Bavinck writes: “From this point on the name YHWH is the description and guarantee of the fact that God is and remains the God of his people, unchanging in his grace and faithfulness.” From this time on God gives a whole new meaning to his ancient name as describing the God who keeps his covenant promises and delivers his people from their captivity (Hos 12:9, 13:4).

God concludes his answer to Moses’ question regarding his name saying, “This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations (Exod 3:15). So we should not be surprised to learn that the English name for God, LORD, another Hebrew name, Adon, and the Greek name, Kurios, occur more than 7000 times in the Bible referring to God. Throughout all of history recorded in Scripture, we learn that God acts in the lives of his people so they will know that he is LORD (Exod 6:7).”

2. YHWH (LORD) is Personal

Prior to God’s revelation to Moses of the fullness of his name as YHWH, God was known by more simple, general Hebrew names, like El, Elohim, and El Shaddai. These names emphasized God’s power and might, and that he is high and lifted up. But as YHWH God reveals himself as a personal, faithful, covenant-keeping God of grace who promises to deliver his people by his great power. Bavinck writes, “YHWH is the highest revelation of God in the Old Testament. YHWH is God’s real, personal name.”

In the New Testament we learn that God retains many of these names and translates his personal name YHWH as Lord (kurios). But there is a new personal name for God added by Jesus Christ. It is the name “Father,” that indicates God’s astonishing familial relationship with his people. According to Bavinck, “Father” is thus the supreme revelation of God, and since the Father is made known to us by Jesus through the Spirit, the full, abundant revelation of God’s name is now Trinitarian: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

By giving himself a personal name, God is reveals to us that he is a person and not an impersonal force or higher power. The world God created consists of personal and impersonal beings. Humans are personal beings with names. Impersonal beings include things like matter, space, time, motion, energy, the law of gravity, thunderstorms, oranges, and bicycles.

Many today believe that humans are ultimately just impersonal matter that has come into being through a mysterious and random convergence of mass and energy over billions of years, for no apparent reason and for no purpose. But the bible teaches that all matter, space, time, motion, and energy are designed by God to bring glory to his name by revealing his rule as a holy, personal God over the universe he created and sustains to accomplish his purposes.

3. YHWH (LORD) is One

God’s name as LORD also reveals the oneness of His being. Unlike the nature of pagan idols portrayed as multiple beings, the LORD’S personal nature consists of one being. Theologians refer to the oneness of God’s personal being as one substance or one essence.

The affirmation of the LORD’s oneness is at the heart of the ancient confession of God’s people, Jewish and Christian, throughout every generation since the time of Moses:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deut 6:4-5).

4. Jesus is LORD!

This fundamental confession of God’s Lordship is a succinct summary of the main message of the whole Bible. The confession of God’s people in the Old Testament was that “God is LORD!” And the good news is that this same fundamental confession of God’s people continues in the New Testament as “Jesus is LORD!”


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You may give securities either by transfer of the certificate of ownership or through account transfer arranged by your broker. In each case, you avoid the tax on any potential gain and receive a deduction for the full fair market value of securities. To give a gift of stock, email us at staff@pathwaylearning.org, call us at 407-682-6942, or write us at P.O. Box 2062, Winter Park, FL 32790.

In the Applied Theology Project, former seminary professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their more than 90 years of combined teaching and ministry experience to help you apply theology to real life and ministry.

Knowing God as Creator, Redeemer, and Holy

The Applied Theology Series provides you accessible, affordable seminary-level courses designed to help you learn how to apply theology to your life and ministry in practical ways – with the goal of helping you better know, love, serve, and honor God as Lord in all of life.

In this Essentials Course, we’re explaining and applying the definition of theology as “a study of God in Scripture to know God as Lord in all areas of life.” In this second lesson, our focus is on helping you learn how to see God as “Holy Creator and Gracious Redeemer of all things.

In this lesson, you’ll be equipped to:

  • Describe how creation encourages our trust in God
  • Explain how stories shape our understanding of God
  • Illustrate how God first revealed himself to Moses
  • Recognize how God reveals himself as our Redeemer
  • Summarize what the Bible means by God being holy
  • Explain how our holy God comes near to us in Jesus

CHOOSE YOUR LEARNING PATHWAY:
Read the Transcript Below
Listen to the Audio
Watch the Video
Take the Course


Knowing God as Creator, Redeemer, and Holy

By Steve Childers and John Frame 

1. Knowing God as Creator

A good place to begin our study of God is in the first book of the bible, Genesis.

In the first verse of Genesis we read the famous words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Genesis begins with creation as a magnificent act of God that reveals God to us as the creator of everything that exists.

Genesis was written by Moses after the exodus of God’s people from slavery in Egypt. This was a long time after God’s mighty act of creation. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Moses wrote Genesis for the benefit of the people of Israel during their hard pilgrimage in the wilderness between Egypt and entering the Promised Land.

These people did not need a definition of theology. They already knew God, as did their ancient forefathers for many generations. The Genesis creation story encouraged their trust in God by reminding them that the God who delivered them from their slavery in Egypt is the same God who created the heavens and the earth.

When God spoke to Moses, he revealed himself as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exod 3:6).” These were their ancient patriarchs to whom God revealed himself in magnificent acts. How did God’s people in Moses’ generation come to know God’s mighty acts in previous generations before receiving the book of Genesis from Moses?

They learned primarily through the stories passed on to them from their forefathers that were faithfully preserved for them by God’s Holy Spirit to each succeeding generation. The Apostle Peter writes, “… men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:21).” These stories greatly shaped their understanding of who God is based on what he had done in and through the lives of their ancestors.

2. Knowing God as Redeemer

But God revealed himself through Moses as not only the mighty Creator but also the mighty Redeemer.

By the time of Moses, Israel had been held in slavery in Egypt for four hundred years. Even though Israel cried out for God to deliver them from their cruel bondage, he didn’t. For four hundred years God was silent. Why did God not answer their heartfelt cries for help? Many of them must have doubted whether all the old stories they believed about God were true.

But God began answering their prayers by first appearing to Moses. We have a written record of this act of God in Exodus 3. It’s the famous account of how God appears to Moses in a burning bush that never burns up. We read, “He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned (Exod 3:2b-3).’”

After Moses discovers this strange phenomenon, he stops to take a closer look. When he does, God reveals himself to Moses as the deliverer, the redeemer of his people, saying:

“I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey (Exod 3:7-8a).”

3. Knowing God as Holy

God revealed himself to Moses as being not only the mighty Creator and Redeemer, but also as being Holy.

When Moses approaches the burning bush, God first says to him, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground (Exod 3:5).” God reveals himself to Moses as being so holy that even the ground near him is holy. How does Moses respond? He is utterly overwhelmed. “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God (Exod 3:6b).”

Later, the Scriptures teach that the Prophet Isaiah would have a similar experience as he comes near God’s holy presence (Is 6:1-5). When the disciples of Jesus saw his miracles they would sometimes shrink back from him with a renewed sense of how sinful they were in his holy presence. After Peter saw a miracle of Jesus, he fell down at his feet, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord (Luke 5:8).”

Because God is perfectly righteous and just, there is a great barrier between him as supremely holy and imperfect sinners like us. He is the one whose presence we dare not approach without great respect and awe. The Hebrew word for holy (qodesh) means separateness, set-apartness, and sacredness.

Many people misunderstand God’s holiness to mean that God is so separate from his creation that we cannot really know him or be near to him. This is why some believe that human language can’t even describe God accurately. We’ll study later how this misunderstanding of God separateness from his creation often leads to forms of Deism.

Despite the limitations of our abilities as creatures to fully comprehend God as our Creator, the bible teaches we can know definite things about God. And despite the limitations of human language, God uses it to reveal to us who he is and what he does in history. When Scripture reveals God to us as “high,” “exalted,” and “lifted up,” it is not presenting God to us as being far away from us so that we cannot know him or be near to him. It is revealing to us that God is King and Lord.

In a similar way we need to avoid the opposite danger of believing that God is so near to his creation that he becomes immersed in it and unable to be distinguished from it. We’ll study this more later as the historic error of Pantheism–the opposite danger of Deism. [1]

The Scriptures reveal God to us as always distinct from the world. He is the Holy, Creator and Redeemer King–and the world is his creation. But the good news is that our holy God came to be with us as his creatures, to be near us, especially in the person and work of Jesus Christ through his Holy Spirit.


1 The concern is about a view of God’s transcendence that leads to forms of Deism and God’s immanence that leads to forms of Pantheism. He shares a similar concern regarding God’s incommunicable and communicable attributes, as we’ll see later.


We help underserved church leaders develop churches that transform lives and communities

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I’d like to introduce you to some of my friends and the ministry partners we serve, but I can’t use their photos because they’re serving in the underground church in China, facing persecution.

So this is a photo of one of our recent monthly secure video conference meetings with church leaders and seminary students in several Chinese cities who are taking a Pathway Learning course in church planting. The man in the photo is Moses, my translator, an ordained minister in Orlando, and part-time director of Pathway Learning’s curriculum development. 

The church in communist China is facing some of the most severe persecution in decades. In 2016, Pathway Learning began providing the essential training needed to equip Chinese leaders to develop strong, healthy churches that transform lives and communities in the face of great suffering.

I can show you this picture below taken in Chengdu China in December 2018 with pastor Wang Yi, one of the top national leaders of the underground church. He was taken into custody a few days after this photo was taken and is still in prison today for his faith. This is his third Christmas in prison.

Steve Childers with pastor Wang Yi in December 2018 just days before he was imprisoned. This is his third Christmas in prison for his faith.

But the good news is that the churches in the underground movement in China are continuing to flourish – even in the face of persecution and the Covid pandemic.

I haven’t been able to return to China since the last wave of persecution. But in God’s providence, because our online learning platform was already developed, Pathway Learning is continuing to equip these leaders and many more.

In 2020 we began a new partnership with one of the most influential seminaries serving the Chinese underground church with more than 600 students, mostly from mainland China.

This month we’ll complete our first pilot course in church planting, with more than 30 Chinese leaders using our innovative online platform that is designed for interactive learning in group cohorts. Last week the seminary president sent me this encouraging message:

Our use of Pathway Learning has been a great success. These leaders must normally study online alone … but now through their Pathway Learning courses they experience the joy of learning together, being equipped, growing, and serving in the same class as though in a physical seminary.

When you give to Pathway Learning, you help equip underserved church leaders with the training and tools they need to plant and develop churches among the persecuted church in China and around the world.

Give today, and bring lasting hope to those facing persecution for their faith.

For the King!

steve

Steven L. Childers
President and CEO, Pathway Learning

WAYS TO GIVE

Online
Give using your credit card through our secure online form

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Call us at 407-682-6942

Check by Regular Mail
Pathway Learning, P.O. Box 2062
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Your employer may also be able to double your gift. Please ask them.

Give a Gift of Stock
You may give securities either by transfer of the certificate of ownership or through account transfer arranged by your broker. In each case, you avoid the tax on any potential gain and receive a deduction for the full fair market value of securities. To give a gift of stock, email us at staff@pathwaylearning.org, call us at 407-682-6942, or write us at P.O. Box 2062, Winter Park, FL 32790.


We help underserved church leaders develop churches that transform lives and communities