Knowing God as Creator, Redeemer, and Holy

Steve —  January 15, 2021 — Leave a comment

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

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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.

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