“The proper study of mankind is man. The proper study of a Christian is the Godhead” [words from one of C.H. Spurgeon’s sermons].
As I have discussed in previous posts, J.I. Packer is taking us on a journey in his book Knowing God. It will be a journey, but not in the sense of actually taking a trip. Our trip could be called a walk, a step-by-step process that will result in us getting to know God better. Knowing God better means that we should “enlarge our acquaintance” with God. To make matters more complex, not only is He the subject of our study but He is also the Helper in our study. At times God will lead us on this journey as He manifests Himself in our Holy Spirit. It will be a meditative journey, a mental “trip” if you will.
As we begin to contemplate our “trip”, where will we find our starting point?
Packer points to the Westminster Catechism which answers the question “What is God?” As he encourages us to think more than read, think about the following definition: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.”
Packer expounds on some aspects of this definition when he writes about the themes which set God apart from human beings. God is a “deity” but what does that mean? God exists on His own [He had no creator]; He has an infinite nature [never-ending]. God is eternal and unchangeable. God created us but we have none of these qualities. Despite what some egocentric people feel, they are not the center of the universe, God is.
God has special “powers.” Packer lists His almightiness, His omniscience, and His omnipresence. “Almighty God” is not a phrase that we should just toss off. It means that God is the originator and ruler of the universe. Omniscience means that He knows all, with omnipresence meaning that He is present everywhere.
God has what Packer refers to as “perfections.” God is Holy, which means sacred, consecrated, hallowed, sanctified, venerated. He has love and mercy for man. God is truthful. God is faithful. God is good, patient and just. Not only does God have these qualities, but He has them to a perfect degree.
So we have what some like Charles Hodge* call the “best definition” of God ever penned by man. We have three themes that stem from that definition: God’s deity, God’s powers and God’s perfections. Now Packer says we are in a position to travel around the great mountain after looking at it from afar. We know the mountain [God] dominates the landscape, but Packer intends us to climb that mountain.
We will climb it with five basic truths.
1.God has spoken to man and He did that in His Word. God gave us His Word to allow us to study it and grow wise. He gave us His Word in order to save us.
2.God is Lord and King over the whole world. His rule is for His own glory. He displays His perfections in order that men “and angels” may worship Him. We know this to be true. God wants us to adore Him.
3.God is our Savior, active on earth in the form of Jesus Christ, who was sent to rescue believers from the guilt and power of sin. In this process, God wants to “adopt” us as His children; He wants to bless us as His children.
4.The Godhead is three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Saving mankind requires all three “persons” to work together. Packer writes about the triune God this way: the Father has proposed redemption to us. Jesus Christ came to earth to secure redemption for us. The Holy Spirit applies redemption in our lives by helping us act out redemption as we live on earth.
5.Godliness is a quality He expects us to develop. To develop it, we should trust Him and we should obey Him. We should develop faith in Him. We should learn to worship and praise Him. He wants us to talk to Him through the medium of prayer. He wants us to submit to Him and serve Him in our time here on this earth.
Indeed J.I. Packer wants to take us on a journey. At this point, I can safely say that the trip will be mentally challenging. He wants us to know the qualities of God before we leave on our trip. He wants us to have a roadmap of five truths before we start.
Why go on this trip?
Let’s go back to the second line of this post…
The proper study of a Christian is the Godhead.
*Presbyterian theologian and principal of Princeton Theological Seminary between 1851 and 1878.