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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Title:God is Eternal (Attributes of God Series)
Text:BC 1 Article 1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

The Attributes of God: God is Eternal

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the introduction to his book on the Attributes of God, Arthur Pink wrote: An unknown God can neither be trusted, served, or worshipped. Let’s just pause a moment to ponder that statement: An unknown God can neither be trusted, served, or worshipped.


In saying that, the author was certainly not suggesting that God is unknown because He has chosen to be unknown – to hide His identity from us. No. God has revealed Himself to us in His Word – for the very purpose that we fallen sinners might know Him, and trust Him, and love Him and have eternal life.


The only reasons that God would remain unknown to us is if we (#1) in our sinful rebellion suppressed the knowledge of God in unrighteousness; or if we (#2) in our lukewarm complacency, simply drifted away from God; we got bored; we got distracted; and we just forgot about God and Who He is.  


In his book, God in the Wasteland, David Wells made the observation that it is this latter problem that has afflicted the evangelical church of today. The idea of God, the knowledge of God, the awe and worship and glory of God rests too inconsequentially upon the heart and soul of the believer.


And in the end, we are the ones who suffer. If we don’t know God as we should, if he is unknown to us, our faith, our life, and our worship (and in the end, our soul) will suffer the consequences.


Therefore, part of the reason for this sermon series on the attributes of God is to snap us out of it; to wake us up from our spiritual slumber; to fan into flame those dying embers of the knowledge of God so that we can have the truth of God burning within us once more. So that we can know God as He is; love Him for who He is – so that in the end, our trust might be deepened, our service strengthened, and our worship of God enriched.         


To begin this series, we are going to consider the Eternity of God. There is no particular order or hierarchy within the attributes where one attribute outshines another, so the order in which we consider these is of little importance. However, to me it made sense to begin here because it takes us right to the beginning, right to Genesis 1:1.  Our theme for this sermon is “We Believers Confess that God is Eternal.” We’re going to consider these Attribute of God in three points: 

  1. The Eternal God Who Stands above Time
  2. The Eternal God Who Was Before the Beginning
  3. The Eternal God Who Stepped into Time    


1) The Eternal God Who Stands Above Time

I want to start by giving a definition of the word eternity. To be eternal is to be timeless. It is to be without beginning and without end. I’m borrowing definitions from theologians here, but they all pretty much repeat the same thing: “For God, there is no time. There is no distinction between past, present and future. All things are equally and always present to Him.” (Shedd).   


When we read through Genesis 1, it’s interesting to note that each day of creation is marked off by a time signature (end of vs 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31) there was evening and there was morning, the first day, second day and so forth. That’s the way the Hebrews measured time.


Then on the 4th day (vs. 14ff), God put in place the sun and the moon and stars – with the very specific reason – not only to serve as greater and lesser lights to rule the day and night, but to mark the passing of the time – of seasons, of days, and years. 


So, we see that when the eternal and timeless God created the world, and when God’s Holy Spirit inspired man to write the Bible, God was well aware that the creature he had formed and made in his own image would be a creature born into time, governed by time, limited by time, subject to time, and subject to the succession of moments and days and hours.


The same is true for everything God created. Even the mountains, the earth itself – every particle of matter. Everything God created has a beginning and is subject to time. But we must understand that God, our awesome and amazing God, stands in contrast to that. God is eternal. God stands above time; apart from time; God had no beginning. And God is not limited or subject to time.  


Perhaps we can think of it this way. For us there is a past, a present and a future. Boys and girls, the past is what happened yesterday, or last week, or last year, or even 5 minutes ago. Then there’s the future – that which will happen later today, tomorrow, next week, or next year, Lord willing.


And then there is the present. We live in the present. That is what we experience every moment. But our problem, of course, is that our present seems to pass by all too quickly and becomes part of our past – and what happens to us? What do we call it when we keep accumulating past days?


We call that aging. Our past days are growing in number compared to the days we have left. For us creatures who are bound by time, and who are also living under the curse of sin, getting older also means we are getting weaker and frail and closer to the day of our death.


But for God, He is the ageless and eternal one. In Daniel 7: 9, Daniel tells of this amazing vision he has of God. He writes: “As I looked, 'thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool…’” God is referred to as the Ancient of Days – but that reference does not mean that God is old. Instead, it means that God has no age. He is timeless and eternal. He always was, and always will be.


Revelation 1 speaks to this same truth. In John’s salutation to the churches, he says: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come,” Then a few verses later, we read: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” And then in the last chapter of Revelation (22:13), it is Jesus who reveals that this is Who He is – the eternal God: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”


Here already in trying to define the word “eternity” we begin to sense the tension – I would even call it a slight frustration. That’s because a definition is designed to help us to better understand a concept; it should shed light; it should make it more accessible. However, here we are confronted with the profound truth that in trying to define eternity, we are trying to define something that (and really Someone who) lies beyond about ability to comprehend.


Yes, we may know God in as much as He is revealed to us in His Word, the Bible, but we must never forget that God as a Being is incomprehensible. He is infinitely literally beyond our ability to fully know (God’s incomprehensibility is the next attribute that we will consider).   


So, this serves as a good reminder to us, and to me as a minister, that we must tread very carefully as we try to preach on and understand even a single attribute of God. For we must never forget who God is. God is our sovereign, almighty, all-knowing Creator.


And while we are called to know God, and while we want to understand Him from His Word, we are mere creatures. We do not put God under the microscope and try to “solve” God as if He were some sort of puzzle or riddle.


Our purpose, our goal, our motivation is for us to know God more and more so that we might be able to love him more and more, and praise Him and glorify Him as He deserves, and so that we might know His Son Jesus Christ whom He sent into this world, so that we might have eternal life.           


2) The Eternal God Who Was Before the Beginning

The second point we are going to consider is the Eternal God who was before the beginning. Here we look at Genesis 1:1 which states: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The first question we must ask of this text is this: “The beginning of what?”


It refers to the beginning of all things as we know them to be: the beginning of time; the beginning of the world, the beginning of this galaxy, the beginning of the universe. And, in particular, it refers especially to the theme and thrust of the book of Genesis: the beginning of mankind – as Genesis records the generations of Adam to the sons of Jacob and the covenant of grace.   


But another question that is asked about Genesis 1:1 is this: It says “In the beginning God created…” but where did God come from? How is it that God could be “there” when there was nothing there (no world, no angels, no people, no sun, moon and stars)?


The Bible never attempts to explain that. The Bible makes no effort to argue for or to explain further the existence of God. It simply starts with this most basic, elemental truth of life. It is the truth that every human being is called to acknowledge, namely, God exists. God is. And how do we know for sure that God exists? Because the Bible said so. Genesis 1:1 said so.        


In his short and excellent book on the Attributes of God (my favorite kind of book), Authur Pink dedicates a few pages to this question. He entitled it “The Solitariness of God.” Here’s a small sample of what he said: there was a time, if ‘time’ it could be called, when God, in the unity of his nature (one God in three divine persons), dwelled all alone. There was no heaven, where his glory is now particularly manifested. There was no earth to engage his attention. There were no angels to sing his praises; no universe to be upheld by the word of his power. There was nothing, no one, but God; at that, not for a day, a year, or an age, but “from everlasting”; during a past eternity, God was alone: self-contained, self-sufficient, self satisfied; in need of nothing.


This explanation also helps us understand what we mean by the aseity of God, or the Independence of God. God is the only Being in existence that is not reliant or dependent upon something or someone else for his existence. God needs nothing. God needs no one for Him to be God.


Pink goes on to say: God was under no constraint, no obligation, no necessity to create. That he chose to do so was purely a sovereign act on his part, caused by nothing outside himself, determined by nothing but his own mere good pleasure; for he works all things after the counsel of his own will Ephesians 1: 11; and done for no greater reason than to bring glory to His name!  


In fact, God doesn’t even need our worship – for our worship doesn’t add anything to His being. God is pleased to receive it, but God would not be anything less if this world was never created, and if we never existed. God would still be Who and What he always is and was.


Now when we think of being alone, we think of being isolated, cut off from everyone.  For you and me – to be alone leads to loneliness. And, if we’re alone for a substantial length of time, it may even lead to madness. But then we’re creatures. We’re not God.


So we must make that distinction with God. For God to be alone was not the same as being lonely. God was never lonely. God dwells from all eternity as the blessed trinity – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As we confess in the Athanasian Ceed: The Father is eternal. The Son is eternal. The Holy Spirit is Eternal. And yet there are not three eternal beings; there is but one eternal being.


God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwells for all eternity in perfect self-sufficiency; in sweet and perfect union and communion, having all He needs in Himself. To repeat that final phrase of the quote from Pink: God was alone: self-contained, self-sufficient, self satisfied; in need of nothing.


And we might ask, what God was doing before the beginning? We are given a small glimpse of that in Ephesians 1. Our God was planning and ordaining all things that were to come to pass. The decree to create, to permit the fall, for the Father to send the Son, for the Son to be submissive and go as the Father would send, for the Spirit to come and anoint and empower the Son, and for Christ to suffer as the Lamb of God and to die on the cross all to save unworthy sinners – all this belongs to the secret counsel and will of God before the beginning.


How else can we understand Ephesians 1:3-6: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship c through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”


In 1 Peter 1, Peter testifies to the eternal nature of Jesus and to the eternal plan of salvation as he writes about the fact that the saints were redeemed by “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”


Also, Revelation 13: 8 speaks of Jesus as the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. We learn from this that our God is the eternal God who was before the beginning. He was alone, but not lonely. God dwelled in unapproachable light and glory, enjoying perfect union and communion as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And it was from eternity past that God put into motion a plan to create, to redeem, and to ultimately bring His children, His people home to be with him in glory forever and ever.   


And in all of that, there is nothing more glorious, nothing more humbling and encouraging than to know that this same eternal God – while He did this for His own glory – He also did this for us! That we might be with Him. That means that God knew us, He set His love upon us, He chose us in Christ before the beginning – before the world was ever made.


I know that sometimes in this world, in our life, we may feel like God has simply overlooked us. We might feel that God doesn’t see us, he doesn’t know us, He has completely forgotten us. Maybe you see all the people around you are being blessed; they are getting the opportunities; they are enjoying good health, getting married, having kids, getting on with life, and we just seem to be treading water -- or worse – maybe we’re struggling along and can’t seem to catch a break.  


Whenever you feel that way, meditate on this truth. Your God is the eternal God; He transcends heaven and earth and everything he has made. He needs nothing for his existence – not even you or me. And yet this same God made you. He knew you even before you were born!


You belong to Him. And because of that, God will never forget you. If you are a believer, if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, then the Father can no more forget you or forsake you than He could His own dear Son! And whatever trials and afflictions and disappointments we may encounter in this life, will soon be over – never again to be remembered. And we will all be with God in heaven, where we will be satisfied in Him, and desire nothing else beside Him.      


 3. The Eternal God Who Stepped into Time   

This leads us to our third point: The Eternal God Who Stepped into Time. That refers of course to God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. In the person of God’s Son, the Eternal God who stands above time, the God who created time, the God who does not age – and in whom there is no past, present or future – that same eternal God humbled himself; He stepped into time and made himself subject to time, and aging (as he grew from a baby into a man), and he made himself subject to pain, weakness, hunger thirst, and even death – as He was destined to die upon the cross to save us from our sins.     


It was this same Jesus who had to argue with the people (church leaders) of His day who tried to marginalize him. But in John 8:58, Jesus made this bold statement about his identity. Jesus told them: Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!


Jesus clearly laid claim to being the eternal Son of God. And why did the Eternal Son of God, the God who stands above time, step into time and come into this world? This too Jesus explained very clearly and beautifully in John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  


The Eternal Father sent the Eternal Son into the world, to save us from our sins, to save us from eternal damnation in hell. That’s the judgment we and all mankind deserve because we sinned against God, because we rebelled against God. In His perfect justice, God would have been right to leave us in our sin and to destroy us all.   


But in His grace, because of His great love, and for His own pleasure and glory, God chose to save, to take unto Himself, all those who by faith would believe in His Son Jesus Christ. Do you see the beauty, the glory, and the majesty of God’s plan here?


The eternal God grants us the gift of eternal life. Eternal life means living with God forevermore. Think of that -- eternity with God awaits us. That’s our future! There is no more precious gift or treasure than that! But eternal damnation in hell awaits those who reject Jesus Christ, who will not repent of their sins. And there is no more terrifying punishment and judgment than that.


At the outset of the sermon, I mentioned the quote: An unknown God can neither be trusted, served, or worshipped. Thanks be to God, in His written Word, God has made himself known to us. But it is only in the Living Word, in Jesus Christ the Son, that God and His eternal Kingdom is accessible to us! It is only in Christ that we can truly know God, trust Him, serve him and worship Him. And so, if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you shall be saved. Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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