Monday, 11 November 2013

Thoughts on God's Presence (1)

In previous messages, we have considered God’s wisdom and God’s power. Now I want to think about God’s presence. The technical term for it is ‘omnipresence’, which means ‘present everywhere’. It is not possible for us to understand fully what it means for God to be omnipresent. We are creatures, who can only be in one place at any given time. Nevertheless, we should try to understand something of what God’s omnipresence means.

To begin with, we should note what this attribute does not mean. First, it does not mean that one part of God is in one place and other parts in other places. All of God is everywhere. Second, God is not part of his creation. Although he is present everywhere, he is distinct or separate from his creation.

Having made these qualifications, it can be said that there is nowhere where God is not. Wherever he is, he is always present with full knowledge (he not only knows all things, but he always knows what to do) and with full power (he always has the ability to do what he wishes in every situation).

But someone may ask, if God is present everywhere, what does in mean when the Bible refers to God as going to a place or being far away from another place? The answer is that the biblical writers use metaphorical language to describe a particular action of God. This tells us that although God is present everywhere, he is not present in each place in the same manner or way. The most important question to ask is, In what way is God present? Here are some ways revealed in the Bible.

(1) The Lord was present in Eden before Adam and Eve fell and they enjoyed fellowship with one another.

(2) Throughout history, in every age, God has made his presence known to individual believers, as can be seen in the common biblical phrase that someone ‘walked with God’.

(3) God is also present in his providence, upholding all things in existence, including the wicked. He is present with them at all times, observing all their doings and aware of all their thoughts, words and actions.

(4) In Israel, God dwelled in a special manner in the Holy of holies within the tabernacle and the temple.

(5) Today he indwells his church in a corporate sense, which is what Paul means in Ephesians 4:6: ‘One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.’

(6) This is true of the church as a whole and of the church in a local sense. Jesus promised his church that he would be present where two or three are met in his name. When we gather together on Sundays and during the week, we are there before God to worship him. Therefore, we should ‘come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms’ (Ps. 95:2) .

(7) The redeemed are with God in heaven, beholding his glory, enjoying his company.

(8) After the resurrection, the redeemed will know God’s presence in blessing as they and the angels experience glory in the new heavens and earth. God will be with them (Rev. 21:3). The presence of God with them, in all its power and knowledge, will be marked by love, peace and joy for ever.

(9) Even those in hell will experience the presence of God. He will be present there, according to his power and knowledge, in anger and judgment (Rev. 14:10).

So we can see that the reality of God’s presence reveals itself in different ways. We will look at other aspects of his presence in subsequent blogs.

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