A little while ago I went through the attributes of God in some detail and came across a great lecture given by Sinclair Ferguson. His discussion is on the singularity of God (Other wise known as the “Simplicity” of God). God is not made of parts, instead He is unified in all of His attributes. His love is unified with His Justice, and His eternality, and all of them are infinite in their grandeur and dimension. This was a particularly amazing section that I hope you enjoy.
The Lord Our God, The Lord is One: The Simplicity of God:
By Sinclair Ferguson
Why then do we ask is it, that when we encounter God in His word He emphasizes His holiness now; His love now; His goodness now; His patience now; His righteousness now; His faithfulness now; His loving-kindness now? For this very simple reason: that it is not possible for a human being to bear upon his or her soul, the full blast of the revelation of God as He is, in the intense strength of all of those attributes that at the end of the day turn out simply to be this attribute. That this is how God is.
You remember that later on at the end of the book of Exodus (or towards the end of the book of Exodus) Moses has been emboldened from this early point where he is backtracking from what God might be sending him to do [Exodus 3] and he is bold enough to say to God, “Oh God,” he says, “You are so great and mighty. I pray,” He says, “that you will show me your glory.”
Do you remember how as he asks that the Lord will show him His glory the Lord says to Moses, “Moses, I will make My goodness pass before you. I will proclaim before you My name, the LORD. And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious. I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy, but,” He said, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” The Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me where you shall stand on the rock and while My glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you over with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.” What’s He saying? He is saying, “Moses, I can show Myself to you in My mercy and in My faithfulness, and in my Covenant love. But My glory you dare not see. You dare not bear upon your human soul, both because it is creaturely, and because it is twisted by sin. You cannot bear upon your being the full bright, laser light of the single revelation of the actual glory of God. Because this is what the glory of God ultimately is.
The theologians sometimes it is a manifestation of all God’s attributes, but its more than that! It’s a manifestation of God. That bright light that we can only begin to bear upon our souls that goes through the prism of some created reality, and breaks down, as it were, for us in different colors; by which we can begin to get a handle on the glory of the incomprehensible God. “God,” says the apostle to Timothy, “God dwells in unapproachable, unbearable light.”
And don’t you remember how in the very next chapter, in the book of Exodus, as Moses met with God on the mountain. And he came to meet with the people down the mountain. He didn’t know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God, and the people of Israel saw Moses: “Behold, the skin of his face shone and they were afraid to come near to him.” So, whenever he went in to meet with God. Whenever he went in, as it were, to see the glory of God, now refracted through a safe prism. He would wear the veil on his face because the people could not bear to look upon the glory of God as it appeared to them, first of all broken down through the prism of accommodated revelation, and then reflected on the face of a fallen and sinful man. Even, as it were, at that distance, the singularity of God was overpowering to them.
So it is, that even when our Lord Jesus Christ comes and the apostle John, who was with Him on the mount of transfiguration, is able to say as he does in John 1:18, “The only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has exegeted God to us. We beheld His glory.” What he means is not that he gazed upon the bright, perfect light of the perfection of the glory of God (that we can only begin to describe in several different attributes). What he means is: God accommodated Himself to the ultimate manner to which we could begin to grasp who He really is. Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see. Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see.
You remember that moment to which John may be alluding there (John chapter one), as Simon Peter does later in the New Testament. You remember that occasion when they went up the mount of transfiguration and Jesus was transfigured, and His whole being seemed to glow with light from within. Do you remember what their response was? It is very interesting that Matthew and Mark record one response, and Luke records another response, that mysteriously harmonize. Matthew and Mark tell us they were absolutely terrified. My dear friends, the idea that it would be wonderful to see the glory of God is, in many ways, not the testimony of the scriptures. To see the glory of God is so awesome, even when it is veiled so profoundly in the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew and Mark tell us they were terrified. Luke tells us that they fell into a deep sleep. And some of you will know from personal experience, that those two things, far from being contradictory, precisely describe the exhaustion of terror that is so overcoming that we lose all of our strength.
Isn’t this something? At the end of the day I wonder if you thought this. At the end of the day, at last we are going to turn to something really simple, the simplicity of God. And then we discover it’s the simplicity of God, and we really are too complicated. Psychosomatic unities we may be. Wonderfully woven together. But the sight of the infinite glory of the singularity of God’s being overwhelms every single individual in scripture who ever encounters it. Because it is, as it were, all the attributes of God (as we speak), as they truly are. More and more concentrated as they reach their center in the very existence of God’s being. And there we have, if one might put it this way, the infinitely glorious Godly antithesis of a black hole. Light so intense, says the apostle Paul, attributes so unified and actually one, that in God there is infinite concentration of goodness that is almost unbearable. Infinite brought together goodness, and wisdom, and power, and might, and justice in God. In all the sheer density of an infinite being.
Message 12 at A Portrait of God: 2004 National Conference
Minutes 12:42 –32:28
Can Be found at Ligonier Ministries: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/orlando_2004_national_conference/the-lord-is-one/