21st Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
2 Timothy 2:8-13 Sermon
October 21, 2007
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
136 “Come Thou Almighty King”
484 “God Moves In A Mysterious Way”
487 “This Is My Father’s World”
152 “Glorious Things Of Thee Are Spoken”
SOME THINGS ABOUT GOD YOU SHOULD KNOW
TEXT (vs. 10-13): “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
I’m going to start off this morning with a riddle. It’s an old one, and you might have heard it before, but here goes: What is stronger than God, worse than the devil, the rich don’t have it, the poor don’t want it, dead people eat it, and if you eat it, you die. What is it?
The answer is: nothing. Nothing is stronger than God; nothing is worse than the devil, and so forth. I thought of this riddle as I was studying for my sermon today, because today we’re going to be talking about God.
Of course that should be of no real surprise to you. We’re in church, and that’s what we do here. Church is the place that is full of “God talk.” In fact, I think you’d probably feel rather cheated if you came here today and you didn’t hear something about God.
Today however, I thought that I would approach it a bit differently. We spend a lot of time listening to God’s Word, which are the words he speaks to us in the Bible. We see the relevance of what God says as it applies to our individual lives. We spend lots of time cultivating a personal relationship with him, and not just going through the pious motions of some religion. We know that God is important to us, so it behooves us to get to know him a bit better.
First of all, we can say that God is love; in fact he is the very definition of love. Everything God does is an expression of his grace; and the definition of grace is “undeserved love.” God loves us, not because of anything we have done or because we have somehow earned it; but rather he loves us unconditionally, simply because we are who we are. This is a fact, and I’ll be talking more about this throughout the sermon this morning.
For starters, let’s look at the three attributes of God, or the three things he does. If you ask any of my catechism students I’ve had over the years, they should all be able to tell you what those three attributes of God are. God is omnipotent, God is omnipresent, and God is omniscient. I like to call them the “three omnis.”
“Omnipotent” means “all powerful.” There is nothing that God can’t do, or as my riddle at the beginning stated, nothing is stronger than God. People have often asked the question, “If God is all powerful, can he create a stone so heavy that he can’t lift it?” The answer to that question is that God can create a stone of any weight, and lift a stone of any weight.
God can indeed do anything—well, almost anything. The last verse of our text for today tells us the only thing he can’t do, which is to disown himself. God cannot deny his own existence. He is the great “I am,” as the Bible states; therefore we know he exists without a doubt. The fact that God cannot deny his own existence is a great comfort to us, because it underscores the truth of what he has told us. Verse 13 of our text states, “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
Whatever we do or wherever we go, however faithless we might be at times, we know for sure that God will always remain faithful. He has promised us in the Bible to never leave us nor forsake us.
Secondly, God is omnipresent, or present everywhere all the time. It’s hard for us to imagine this, but it’s true. We often ask the questions about how God can allow certain things to happen, or how various individuals seem to be able to get away with all sorts of things without God intervening. Where was God when grandma was dying of an incurable disease? Where was God when my loved one died in that accident?
God was indeed there, because he has told us of his continual and abiding presence. He was there and acted in ways we cannot fully comprehend or even know about. He is very much alive and active in our world today.
With God’s presence, we know that he surrounds everything in this world. We don’t say that God is inside of, or a part of everything though. We don’t pick up a rock or a stick or a clod of dirt thinking that we are holding a piece of God. Nor do we look at an animal or other creature thinking that they are a part of God. Rather we know that according to his omnipresence, he fills the world and surrounds everything. Certainly it is a comfort knowing that God is always there.
Finally, there is God’s omniscience. God is all knowing. He is cognisant of all our thoughts, words, and deeds. He knows when we are joyful or sad. He knows what’s going on in our lives. But even better, he understands too. He’s there to help us, forgive us, and get our lives on track.
That’s almost scary to think about sometimes, because we have those things of which we are ashamed. We know God heard those words we said when we hit our thumb with a hammer, or what we thought when that other driver acted like an idiot and almost caused an accident.
But it shouldn’t be scary, because we know that it is a loving God that is dealing with us, and we also know that all our many sins are forgiven through our faith in Christ Jesus. So God knows, he understands, he loves, and he forgives.
So there you have it, a brief explanation of God’s attributes, or the three “omnis”—omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. And I hope you will appreciate these three attributes as you ponder just how wonderful and loving our God really is.
It’s not a real difficult task for me as a pastor to talk about God when I am here amongst you all. But when I compare the hours I am here or otherwise with you, they are only a small fraction of the 168 hours in a week’s time. I spend a lot of time out in the world amongst other people.
When people find out that I’m a pastor, I’ll sometimes draw some questions regarding God. And along with this, people will frequently share some of their own thoughts about God, which usually are pieced together with snippets of truth coupled with their own misguided thoughts and conclusions. Today, I’ll give you a couple of those questions I’ve been asked, and they have to do with God and the existence of hell.
One person told me that since God is omnipresent, that must mean that he is present in hell also. So is he present there like he is everywhere else?
The answer is basically “no.” When we speak of God’s omnipresence, we do so in terms of this earth and also heaven. Hell is a place where God has chosen to remove his presence and his protecting hand. He has allowed Satan to have dominion there instead.
Certainly God, according to his omniscience, knows what goes on there. We are warned that it is anything but pleasant, and we would never want to go there. God has given us this reality in graphic detail. If he didn’t know what was going on there, he couldn’t do that. But according to his omnipotence, he can withdraw himself as he chooses. That’s what he has done when it comes to hell.
The second question that I frequently get is one that has been asked throughout the ages. People will ask, “How can a God who is so perfectly loving send someone to hell?” And of course they have formulated an answer in their own mind. Either hell does not exist, or God is some sort of a sadistic monster. To some people, hell is nothing more than some sort of scare tactic invented by old lady Sunday School teachers to frighten little children into behaving themselves.
Our text for today gives us a good answer. It says, “If we disown him, he will also disown us…” Think about that for a moment. If we don’t want anything to do with God during our lifetime, and if we spend our lives pushing him away, should it surprise us at all if he chooses to allow us to reap the reward of faithlessness?
Think of it this way. I’m sure you’ve all seen courtroom scenes where a young man is convicted of some major felony, while the man’s mother is sitting in the courtroom crying her eyes out. The young man is going to prison for doing something he chose to do. He is guilty of a crime and has to endure the punishment. But even though he is guilty, yet the mother still loves him; she doesn’t want him to go to jail. And she will feel the hurt deep in her soul every time she goes and visits him. Maybe she will still be alive when he is released, or at least paroled.
Felons disappoint and hurt parents all the time. I have yet to see any parents who, upon the birth of a child, will tell themselves, “I want my child to grow up to be a felon and spend his life in prison.” Parents want their children to be upstanding and successful people, not life-long jail birds. No parent would have that desire for their children.
But those children make huge mistakes sometimes. They choose the wrong path, knowing full well what the consequences might be. They rob banks, or break into houses and steal things, or sell illegal narcotics, or commit murder. And now they have to pay the price. But through it all, they have parents that still love them.
It’s much the same way with God. He doesn’t want anybody to go to hell, but people still choose the path that leads there. He grieves over them, and he remains faithful right up to the end. He is always there, ready to forgive and restore. God certainly is a loving and forgiving God; but like the mother with a broken heart, there’s nothing left for the person who rejects that love and heads for destruction.
I’ve taken things in kind of a reverse order today, because I’m going to end things with the beginning of our text. Here Paul writes to Timothy some words of hope which demonstrate how deep God’s love is for his people. We read, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.”
God is also perfect; therefore our loving God is also a just God. Sin had to be paid for, and that payment came through the blood of Jesus, his own Son. Instead of us being punished for our sins, Jesus endured that punishment on our behalf. God’s perfect justice has been satisfied.
As believers in Christ our Saviour, we are now among the elect that Paul speaks about in our text for today. Paul believed that this Gospel of Jesus was of such importance, that he endured suffering and hardship so that it might be preached to all people. He knew that the eternal glory for the believers in Christ was something to be prized. Even though being a Christian isn’t easy at times, yet it is all worth it in the end. For those who don’t reject the love of God given in Christ Jesus, the reward of heaven will be glorious.
John records the following words in John 3, 16-17: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”
Those three attributes of God—his omnipotence, his omnipresence, and his omniscience are things that we as believers need to know about God. Those are the things that he does because he is God. God is sovereign, and rules over all things.
There are some in Christendom that believe God’s sovereignty is the most important thing about him. They believe that God does things and rules over things simply because he can, and that’s it.
But we believe there’s much more to it than that. God acts, not because of his power, but because of his grace which is his undeserved love toward us. God uses his power according to his love. God doesn’t act arbitrarily because he has the power to do so, but because of the Gospel by which we are saved.
God’s power can be seen in the work of the Holy Spirit which works the miracle of faith in our hearts, so we may accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour, that by believing in him we might have life in his Name. As our text for today says, “If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.”