Chapter 10: "The God of ..." in the New Testament
by Walter A. Boyd, N. Ireland
When studying the names and titles of God it is important to keep in mind that in Bible times names functioned in a different way to today. Names and titles not only identified people, distinguished them from one another, and linked them to their family background; they also revealed something of the essential nature and character of the person who bore them. This is especially true when it comes to the names and titles of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures.
The titles "God of ..." in the New Testament introduce us to the attributes and qualities of our God, and are revealed so that we can experience the God of our salvation, Ps.68.20, in all the freshness, fullness and glory of His character. Their study yields a wealth of information that should lead us into a richer and fuller understanding of His purpose, power and programme for us.
As we look at these New Testament names and titles for God, let us remember that while it is important to rightly divide the Word of truth, 2 Tim.2.15, and thus distinguish them from His Old Testament titles, we are dealing with the same glorious Person. We are not distinguishing the God of the New Testament from the God of the Old Testament: we are distinguishing the attributes by which He has revealed Himself at a given time. God, Who revealed Himself to men by various designations in Old Testament days, is the very same Person Who reveals Himself to us through His Word in our dispensation.
We will proceed through the names and titles according to the chronological order in which they appear in the New Testament: The Gospels; The Acts of the Apostles; The Epistles; The Revelation.
THE GOD OF ISRAEL - Matt.15.31
"Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel."
This title appears in this form just once in the New Testament. A similar title is used by Paul in his address to the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia: "the God of this people of Israel ..." Acts 13.17. Another similar but distinct occurrence, which we will deal with separately, is the title used by Zacharias in Lk.1.68, "The Lord God of Israel". The implications of the only use of the title, "the God of Israel", in Matthew chapter 15 becomes clear when a number of things are observed.
It is significant that Matthew’s gospel was written with a strong Jewish background; and it is only through recognition of the God of Israel that Gentiles are brought into Divine blessing. Right at the threshold of the revelation of God in the New Testament, we learn through His titles how God will deal with mankind in this dispensation. This point is made: the blessings which come to needy mankind (in this case, the dumb; the maimed; the lame; the blind) are through the God of Israel as He reaches out beyond the borders of Jewry to the inhabitants of Galilee, who at best were regarded as only partly Jewish. In what we regard as the ‘Jewish gospel’, the Lord Jesus reaches out beyond Israel to these outcasts!
Another interesting observation is the position of this title within Matthew’s gospel. The movements of the Lord Jesus immediately before this incident show that Messiah has presented Himself to the Jewish nation and demonstrated His worthy credentials. However, the recalcitrant nation has refused its rightful King and His kingdom. They begin to manifest their opposition to Him. The Lord Jesus notes their hardness, Matt.13.57,58, and as a result of their rejection He begins to withdraw Himself from the nation’s leaders. He withdrew to "a desert place", 14.13, and then to Tyre and Sidon, 15.21. Now He is in Gentile country, and that transfer in location is marked by sign miracles, beginning with the healing of the daughter of a woman of Canaan, 15.22-28, and then the great multitudes around the Sea of Galilee being blessed, 15.29-31.
Rom.15.8,9 show that this move away from the Jewish nation was all part of the grand Divine plan of grace. The Lord Jesus came as the Servant of the Jewish nation to confirm the promises made to it, and to bring the Gentiles into blessing. Thus, Gentiles would bless God for His mercy. In Matthew chapter 15 these Gentiles who have been blessed by Israel’s Messiah glorify the God of Israel, thereby showing greater perception than the Jewish leaders who had rejected Him. The Divine plan to bless the world will be brought to its ultimate fulfilment when God takes up the Jews again in the glorious Millennial reign of Christ. Even though Israel has rejected their King, God will bless the Gentiles through His universal reign, and saved Gentiles will realise that their blessings have come from the God of Israel.
"The God of Israel" is a title first used in the Old Testament by Moses to Pharaoh, Ex.5.1. In Ex.3.6,7, God appeared to Moses at the bush, and using the covenant title Yahweh said that He was "the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob". God gave Moses instructions for his task, "bring forth My people the children of Israel out of Egypt" Ex.3.10. In the understanding of this revelation by God, Moses goes to Pharaoh and calls Yahweh "the God of Israel" 5.1, signifying that the nation belonged to God. He possessed them and will, therefore, accomplish His purpose for them and promises to them. Part of that purpose is the blessing of all the nations of the earth through Abraham’s seed, Gen.22.18. This purpose is reflected in the Lord’s blessing of the Gentiles in Matthew chapter 15.
THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB - Matt. 22.32
"I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."
The background to this statement by the Lord Jesus is His response to the hostile attitude of the Jewish leaders. The Pharisees had tried to entangle the Lord in His words with their famous question about paying taxes, but He turned their query upon them and confounded their efforts to entrap him, Matt.22.15-22.
Previously, the Sadducees had appeared as silent observers at the baptism of the Lord Jesus, Matt.3.7-9; but John the Baptist condemned their unrepentant attitude, and exposed their secret, dark thoughts as he preached. They were incensed at John’s message of the coming Messiah, sullenly saying to themselves "we have Abraham to our father". Basically, what they were thinking was, "we don’t need to repent and prepare for the coming Messiah as we are the true descendants of Abraham", but John emphasised their need of repentance and pointed to their doom if they refused his warning, Matt.3.10.
In Matt.22.23-28, the Sadducees come along with what was obviously a trick question about a woman dying without children, and marrying in succession seven brothers of her deceased husband. "In the resurrection whose wife shall she be?" they ask. They probably thought that their question was the one that would at last outwit the Saviour, even though earlier on the same day He had defeated the argument of their religious rivals, the Pharisees. But the Sadducees suffer the same humiliation, and they too leave confounded by the wisdom of the Saviour. When the multitude heard the Saviour’s reply "they were astonished at His doctrine".
The Sadducees’ question was based upon a hypothetical situation within their theological specialty, about a woman who dies having had a number of husbands, not through immorality but supposedly because of the requirements of the Levirate law of Deut.25.5,6. They thought their ingenious question was watertight because it was based upon the Old Testament Scriptures. At last, the Saviour’s answer would be found to be in breach of God’s Law. The punch line of their theological conundrum was "and last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her" Matt.22.28.
The Saviour points out to the Sadducees their willing ignorance of the Holy Scriptures: "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven" Matt.22.29,30. He demonstrated their blindness by asking them if they had not read in the Scriptures what God had said to them in Ex.3.6: "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," and adding: "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" Matt.22.31,32. God had made covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whom the Sadducees claimed as their antecedents.
THE GOD OF THE LIVING - Matt. 22.31,32
"But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."
The second part of the Lord’s response to the Sadducees was that God was not only the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but that He was also the God of the living. The truth of the resurrection of the body is a cardinal doctrine to the Lord Jesus and must be defended, for the approach and question of the Sadducees was an attack upon the power of God and the perspicuity of Scripture. The resurrection is the means by which many would enter the blessings of the coming kingdom of the Messiah. In quoting Ex.3.6, the Lord Jesus is teaching that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would enjoy the blessings of the kingdom. J. N. Darby helpfully states in his commentary on Matthew’s gospel: "The promises made to the Fathers remained sure and the Fathers were living to enjoy these promises hereafter." The Saviour’s answer to their ploy goes beyond the content of the question. He does not get tied up by their trickery but shows that, because they deny the Biblical truth of resurrection, they have been led into falsely thinking that this widow’s situation is proof there cannot be a resurrection. The Lord brings them back to the foundational truth of the resurrection. When the everlasting God of the covenant spoke to Moses hundreds of years after the death of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, at that point He was still the God of the living. How come? Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were still in existence. They had died in the confident hope that God will fulfil His covenant promises to them, and for them to realise that hope there must be a resurrection.
God spoke to Moses and identified himself as Yahweh, "I am Who I am", a Divine declaration of the self-existing, eternally present God. The thousands of years in the passing of time, and the obvious fact that the Patriarchs’ bodies have corrupted to dust, do not alter the truth that Jehovah is still their God. He is the God of the living! The patriarchs have not gone out of existence but are in the presence of God awaiting the resurrection. The relationship established with them by God is still in place, and they are thus assured of conquering death in the resurrection.
In addition to the statement recorded by Matthew and Mark, Luke adds an additional comment made by the Lord Jesus: "For He is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him" Lk.20.38. The Lord makes a firm statement of truth: those who have died with Yahweh as their God are presently, even before resurrection, in the enjoyment of His presence for all such ‘live before him’.
THE LORD GOD OF ISRAEL - Luke 1.68
"Blessed be the LORD God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people."
This title was ascribed to God by Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, on the occasion of John’s birth. Zacharias had been struck with dumbness for his unbelief when the angel Gabriel announced to him that he would have a son who would be the forerunner of the Messiah, and that Zacharias would give him the name John.
As soon as his son was born and called John, the dumbness pronounced by Gabriel "until the day that these things shall be performed", Lk.1.20, was lifted, and Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit to enable him to prophesy. The opening words of Zacharias’ prophecy comprised an ascription of praise to his God in these words: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His people" v.68. In his translation, J.N.D. includes an article before each title to show that, rather than this being a composite title, it is actually made up of two distinct titles: "the Lord, the God of Israel". We can understand it as follows; "Yahweh, the God of Israel".
Zacharias is stating that the God of Israel is the ever-existing God of the covenant (Yahweh). Zacharias is obviously in the enjoyment of what the Psalmist states, "Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, Who only doeth wondrous things" Ps.72.18.
"The Lord", as used by Zacharias, is a title favoured by Luke in his writings. It signifies ownership and control. "The God of Israel" is a frequent title in the Old Testament and signifies the relationship that the nation of Israel enjoys with her God. The nation’s God is the covenant-keeping God Who revealed Himself as such to Moses when He called him at the burning bush in Exodus chapter 3. In spite of the nation’s failure up to the time of Zacharias, God had remained faithful to His covenant promises and was about to "raise up a horn of salvation" in the Messiah, Lk.1.69.
The Messiah will have the power of salvation for the nation; He alone will be able to bring deliverance, and John is going to be His herald. It is interesting to observe that Zacharias speaks mostly in the past tense from v.68 to v.79. As far as he is concerned, it is an accomplished fact. The birth of his son John was an indication of the completed purpose of God, and assured Zacharias that the promise of a Messiah was as good as already fulfilled. To Zacharias it was a certainty: "He hath visited His people".
The designation "His people", emphasises Zacharias’ appreciation of the nation of Israel as the people of God, to Whom He had made His covenant promises through Moses in Ex.3.7,10, and the first time God calls them "My people". When Zacharias considered all that the birth of his son meant, his heart welled up in praise to God for the Messiah, Whose coming would mean salvation and deliverance for Israel. When first told by Gabriel of the significance of his son, Zacharias was faithless; but he had some months to consider and contemplate what he was told. There is little doubt that, during those silent months of contemplation of the angelic message, he meditated upon the prophetic Scriptures. His unbelief was dispelled, and the flame of faith re-kindled to burn brightly in his appreciation of God. The God of Israel had fulfilled His covenant promise, firstly by miraculously bringing the Messiah’s forerunner into the world through the old and barren womb of Elisabeth. The God Who brought in the forerunner would also bring the Messiah himself, and Zacharias rejoiced in that. The coming Messiah would be as the rising sun which dispels the darkness of a long night, and guide Israel into the peace of the morning light, Lk.1.78,79. Only the Lord (Yahweh) had power to perform such a miracle as the birth of John the Baptist, and He would further fulfil His promise of the Messiah. Zacharias says, "Blessed be such a God". The adjective "blessed" is ‘Eulogeetos’, which is only ever used in the New Testament of Deity. It is a different word from the more common verb meaning ‘to speak well of’. When Zacharias says "Blessed be ..." he is describing what God is; not what he thinks of Him. The Lord is the God of Israel, and He is characterised as a God of blessing.
THE GOD OF OUR FATHERS
This title appears five times, with slight variations, in Luke’s history book, The Acts of the Apostles. In each occurrence it is in a record of an address given. In Acts 3.13 and 5.30 it is used by Peter; in 7.32 it is used by Stephen; and in 22.14 and 24.14 it is used by Paul. In each of these occurrences it has a distinctive national aspect, with "The Fathers" being a title for the progenitors of the nation of Israel: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Space will permit only the treatment of its use by Peter.
"The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go."
This statement by Peter is part of his explanation to a wondering crowd after God had healed the lame man who had lain at the gate of the temple. He tells his audience to neither chide him nor be surprised at what has happened; "Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?" Acts 3.12. As Peter explains that it was not his own power that had healed the lame man, he goes on to establish his own Jewish pedigree by stating that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is also "the God of our fathers". He is Peter’s God, and the God of those who were listening to Peter.
Peter then proceeds to charge the audience with their guilt in the death of Jesus, Who is the Son of God. Through their ignorance of God they had "denied" and "delivered up" His Son, v.17. However, it was God Who had raised His Son from the dead, and Jesus is the "servant" of God (see 3.13 in New Translation by J.N.D.). By Peter’s argument, he shows that the nation was guilty of the rejection of the Servant of the God of their fathers. Peter presents the magnitude of their guilt by the important links he makes with the worthies in their national history. He assembles a huge cast of witnesses against them by quoting men revered in their history: the holy prophets, 3.21; Moses, 3.22; all the prophets, and Samuel, 3.24. The people whom Peter was addressing had been guilty of ignoring centuries of God’s dealings with them as a nation and of rejecting the God-given testimony of the nation’s spokesmen. How great was their guilt!
Those in Peter’s audience who knew their Old Testament Scriptures ought to have identified the significance of Peter’s use of the title, "The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers". This title was first used by God. When God spoke to Moses at Horeb, Ex.3.6, God called Moses as His servant and sent him into Egypt to deliver the nation of Israel. That was also the first occasion in which God called Israel "My people". This ought to have struck the conscience of those who listened to Peter, as he took them back to the day of national redemption.
"The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins."
On this occasion, Peter is not addressing the general public but the Sanhedrin. The High Priest and his cohorts, the Sadducees, had been filled with anger at the activities of Peter and the apostles as they preached, and God healed multitudes. The anger and animosity of the Jewish leaders meant that the apostles were imprisoned. Their incarceration was short, for the angel of the Lord opened the prison doors during the night, brought them out, and commissioned them to go back into the city, where they were to "stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life" Acts 5.20. The apostles were eventually rounded up again, brought before the council, and strictly warned about their preaching, 5.27,28. Peter’s defence to the council was straightforward and plain, as he pointed out their responsibility to "obey God rather than men" 5.29. Peter as much as says that the compelling force of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus means that, as witnesses, they have no option but to preach in His name. They have a heavenly calling and compulsion!
When the Jewish leaders heard Peter say that "the God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree", they should have grasped the significance and implication of those words. But Israel was completely out of touch with the objectives of God and the fathers of the nation, when its leaders put to death the Lord Jesus. They slew the Lord Jesus; but God reversed that by raising Him from the dead!
THE GOD OF GLORY - Acts 7.2
"And he said, ‘Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran."
The titles that we have previously considered, explain those to whom God had revealed Himself, e.g. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This title explains how God revealed Himself to Abraham: He revealed Himself in glory, or by glory.
Stephen had initially been accused of blasphemy against Moses and God, 6.11; but, when called before the council, the charges are changed to blaspheming against the temple and the Law, 6.14. As Stephen sat before that august body of men his face beamed like an angel, 6.15, and the High Priest asked Stephen to account for himself, 7.1.
Stephen’s address to the council is masterful in its argument and content. He immediately demonstrates respect for his superiors by using the expression, "Men, brethren, and fathers". They are fellow-Jews (men, brethren), but also national superiors (fathers). He then takes them back to the very commencement of the nation and claims Abraham as the father of those who were listening to him, as well as of himself. From Abraham, to whom the God of glory had appeared, Stephen was claiming common ancestry to his inquisitors. He had been accused of blaspheming Moses; but he uses a title for God as the God Who revealed Himself in glory to Moses at Sinai, Ex.24.16. He had been accused of blaspheming God; but he uses a title for God that describes how He revealed Himself to Isaiah, Isa.6.3. Stephen shows that he appreciated God as the God of Glory; and that this God of Glory is the same God Who had appeared to Abraham, their ancestor. Here he is rebutting the charge of blasphemy, and the insinuation of rejecting national traditions in the founding of the nation – Stephen is totally orthodox! The reason his face was "as it had been the face of an angel", 6.15, was simply because Stephen knew intimate fellowship and communion with the God of glory. Like Moses of old, whom he was accused of blaspheming, Stephen’s face radiated the glory of God in Whose presence he had been, Ex.34.33,35.
As Stephen progresses through his defence, he mentions the main epochs of Israel’s national history, and identifies the main characters: Abraham, 7.2; Joseph, 7.9; Moses, 7.20; David, 7.45. He then demonstrates that, even though their history began with the God of glory, each epoch manifests national disgrace. The epoch that began with Abraham, ended by the patriarchs selling Joseph into Egypt in envy, 7.8,9. The epoch that began with Joseph who had God with him, 7.9, ended in bondage in Egypt under Pharaoh, 7.19. The epoch that began with Moses being born, and "the time of the promise drew nigh which God had sworn" 7.17, went through cycles of rebellion and forgiveness, like no other period. The epoch that began with David making provision for the building of a house for God, would end in disgrace by these present leaders resisting the Holy Spirit, just as their ancestors had done, 7.51.
Stephen concludes his defence by showing that what had started in illustrious glory, by the God of glory appearing to their father Abraham, had manifested nothing but failure the whole way through, because of man’s stiff-necked rebellion against God. That rebellion was manifested throughout every epoch by the nation persecuting the prophets who spoke of the God of glory, 7.52. But, worse than that by far, the nation that had been given the Law by the mediation of angels had not kept the Law, but had betrayed and murdered the Just One, 7.53.
The outcome of Stephen’s address is significant. The man who, in the new dispensation, was the first to speak of the God of glory, "being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God." In a few moments, as the stones rain brutally upon his body, Stephen, whose name means ‘a crown’, would be in the very presence of the God of glory, Whose glory is his last sight upon earth.
As we conclude our meditation on this majestic title, which is used directly only by Stephen, alluded to by Paul, 1 Cor.2.8, and James, Jms. 2.1, we must ask, does the God of glory ever appear to us today? The answer lies in the life and ministry of Stephen. He spoke of the God of glory appearing to Abraham, and saw the glory of God linked in close proximity to the right hand of God. Here was a man who lived in communion with heaven, and what he saw as he entered its gates in martyrdom was what he had contemplated throughout his Christian life. A man who had spent his life contemplating the God of glory, manifested in the Lord Jesus Christ, had the blessed privilege of seeing the glory of God as his life on earth was being brutally ended. It is not without significance that his life was marked by Divine grace and power: "And Stephen, full of grace and power, wrought wonders and great signs among the people" Acts 6.8, (J.N.D.). The lesson for today is obvious: contemplation of the God of glory manifests itself in the grace of God and the power of God as we move among people.
THE GOD OF JACOB - Acts 7.45,46
" ... David; who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob."
This is another title that Stephen used in his address to the Sanhedrin, to describe King David’s God. Stephen points out that the notable feature of David’s reign was his continual desire to build a house for "the God of Jacob". This title shows that David was going back in his mind to Jacob’s blessing upon his twelve sons before he died. It likely is that David lived in the good of those promises made by God to Jacob, who, from his experience of God, conferred the blessings on his sons, Genesis chapter 49. One of Jacob’s blessings that would have meant a lot to David was the one to Joseph, Gen.49.22-26. Even though David had known many enemies who had "sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him" Gen.49.23, by the power of God, like Joseph, he found that his "bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob" Gen.49.24. God had promised David that He would prosper his kingdom, and He had fulfilled that promise. This is the same God Whom Stephen serves! David explains this power in Psalm 18, where he speaks about power being given to his hands and arms, in the context of the Divine title El, which designates God as the one true God, Ps.18.32. In Psalm 18 David ascribes praise to his God for the Divine power which enabled his hands and arms to defend himself, "It is God [El] that girdeth me with strength ... He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms" Ps.18.32-34.
Since "the mighty God of Jacob" has blessed David in such a way, his heart is motivated to ensure that nothing would be allowed to hinder him in providing a habitation for "the Mighty God of Jacob" Ps.132.5.
In using this title, Stephen’s implication is powerful; and little wonder it caused the Jewish leaders to be "cut to the heart" Acts 7.54. The Just One, Whom they had betrayed and murdered, 7.52-53, was, in fact, God dwelling among men. These leaders were completely at odds with the great King David, whom they revered so much.
THE GOD OF THIS PEOPLE OF ISRAEL - Acts 13.17
"The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with a high arm brought He them out of it."
This title is used by the apostle Paul in an address in the synagogue in Antioch, Pisidia. He gives a brief synopsis of national history, commencing with God’s choice of the nation when they were in Egypt. He refers to the time when God heard the cry of His people and came down to deliver them. When God called Moses to the task of delivering the nation, this was the first time He used the expression "My people" to describe them, Ex.3.7,10. Prior to that, they are referred to as "the children of Israel" or "the Hebrews". It is interesting to observe that earlier Pharaoh had identified the Egyptians as "his people" ("Pharaoh charged all his people ..." Ex.1.22). The scene was set for God to put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel, Ex.11.7.
The people chosen by God were "exalted", literally ‘made high’: this most likely refers to their exaltation from slavery to nationhood as God’s people. Paul commences his historical insights with a people who are exalted and redeemed out of Egyptian bondage, and ends with a Redeemer Who is exalted in resurrection, Acts 13.30,33,34,37. As Redeemer, the Lord Jesus is a greater figure than Moses ever was; for through Him "is preached ... the forgiveness of sins, and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" Acts 13.38,39.
THE GOD OF THE GENTILES - Rom.3.29,30
"Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith."
In Romans chapter three, Paul has been careful to point out the special position that the Jews held in relation to God: they were the custodians of the Law, 3.2. However, that special covenant position did not exclude them from the condemnation of the Law; Paul says that he has already proved both Jews and Gentiles equally to be under sin, 3.9. He further points out that by the Law there cannot come justification, 3.20 – the Law is impotent to bless either Jew or Gentile. What then is the answer to man’s universal need? The only solution is "the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe" 3.22.
If all men are condemned by the Law, and all men can be saved through faith in Christ, then God must be the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews. The old covenant blessings of the land, the Law, etc. do not give Israel a privilege beyond the Gentiles. There is no discrimination with God: our relationship with Him is through faith in Christ and not through national descent. A saved Gentile can claim the God of the gospel as his own God, just as much as a saved Jew can. By the means and miracle of the grace of God in forgiveness and justification, a religious God-fearing Jew and a pagan Gentile can both be brought on to the same plane through faith in the risen Christ.
THE GOD OF PATIENCE AND CONSOLATION - Rom.15.5
"Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus."
As the apostle approaches the end of this great epistle, he shows how the blessings bestowed upon us by grace ought to have an effect in our lives. Chapters 14 and 15 deal with the subject of relationships between saints. In chapter 15, the exhortation is for the strong to consider the weak. The paragraph in which the title "The God of patience and consolation" appears, concludes with the apostle’s prayer. It is packed full of practical injunctions that, if adhered to, would improve relationships between believers.
- v.1 - The Price to be paid by the strong – "bear the infirmities";
- v.1 - The Pleasure to be considered – "not to please ourselves";
- v.2 - The Purpose to be fulfilled – "to edification";
- v.3 - The Pattern to be followed – "even as Christ";
- v.4 - The Precepts to be observed – "things written ... for our learning";
- v.4 - The Patience to be employed – "patience and comfort of the scriptures";
- v.5 - The Peace to be manifested – "to be likeminded one toward another";
- v.6 - The Praise to be given – "with one mind and one mouth glorify God".
As we read the Word of God and receive its instruction and encouragement, our hope is strengthened, v.4. In life’s most difficult circumstances the child of God has in his heart an expectation of deliverance. In vv.5,6 Paul prays that the God of patience and consolation will give them a spirit of unity among themselves. Patience (steadfastness) and consolation (encouragement), v.5a, are the characteristics of our God. In v.4 the Scriptures are the agency of patience and consolation; and now in v.5 God is the author of these same two qualities. If believers are to be likeminded, they will need steadfastness and encouragement to help them exercise godly consideration for one another.
This title of God assures us that, whatever resources we need to enable us to show patience and enjoy consolation in the face of difficulty, these are granted by our God, Who is the sublime source of these Christian graces. While He is the ultimate source, it is through the Scriptures that we get to know the God of patience and consolation. If we want to know God and live right, we need to meditate in the Scriptures: they are for our instruction.
THE GOD OF HOPE - Rom.15.13
"Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost"
This is the second prayerful petition by the apostle in this chapter, and the second title of God. It is Paul’s desire that, as they increase in their knowledge of the God of patience and consolation, v.15, the God of hope will fill them with joy and peace. His short prayer expresses his desire that the saints at Rome would be filled completely full with joy and peace, so that their hope would continue to grow. In the succinct expression of his desire, we learn truths that are fundamental to the Christian faith. Hope, faith, joy and peace are features of the believer’s life. In fact, joy and peace are seen as features of the kingdom of God, Rom.14.17.
Paul’s prayer teaches us a number of valuable lessons about how he expects his desire for the saints at Rome to be achieved. If they are to abound in hope, the following must be realised in their experience:
- The Author of hope is God – "The God of hope";
- The Agent of hope is the Holy Spirit – "Through the power of the Holy Spirit";
- The Channel of hope is faith – "In believing";
- Their Measure of hope should be increasing – "That ye may abound in hope";
- The Pre-requisite of hope is joy and peace – "Fill you with all joy and peace".
If the saints at Rome take heed to Paul’s desire as expressed in His prayer, they will be in the full enjoyment of these blessings. Their enabling by the power of the Holy Spirit will be as a consequence of their faith.
THE GOD OF PEACE
Rom.15.33 "Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen."
The apostle’s closing prayer in this section of the epistle commences with the word "now" (as in the previous two petitions of v.5 and v.13). This indicates urgency in the mind of Paul: he wants them to enjoy an answer to his prayer right now. The contents of these petitions are as follows:
- v.5 – Likeminded one toward another
- v.13 – Filled with joy and peace
- v.33 – God of peace with you.
The practical outworking of this trio of blessings is that, if believers are going to be able to live peacefully (be likeminded) and be filled with peace, they will need the abiding presence of the God of peace. He alone is the author and source of peace, and can supply the resources needed for individual and collective peace among believers. If a believer is out of fellowship with God, for whatever reason, he will not be enjoying peace in his own soul, and will not be able to fulfil the injunction of Paul to the Ephesians: "endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace" Eph.4.3 (J.N.D.).
- His Person - The only source of peace is "the God of peace";
- His Presence - The substance of peace is "with you";
- His Plenitude - The scope of peace is "you all".
Rom.16.20 "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly."
In v.17 the apostle has been advising the saints in Rome to be careful of those who cause divisions and occasions of stumbling. In v.20 he gives them the assurance of Divine resources which are at their disposal. Their only resource to deal with conflict is the conquering force of God over their enemies: He is the God of peace. The God Who is characterised by peace shall come to their aid quickly, and the result will be the bruising of Satan, and peace.
While there is no doubt that the God of peace will work in the present to control the activities of Satan and grant peace to His people; there is equally no doubt that there is a future aspect to this bruising of Satan. When the woman’s Seed, Gen.3.15, deals finally with Satan, the saints will be in the eternal presence of their Lord and Master. Then Satan will truly be under their feet.
Phil.4.9 "Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: And the God of peace shall be with you."
The apostle has given quite a number of practical exhortations in the preceding verses of chapter 4. He summarises the saints’ duty by saying that those things which they have heard, learned and received from Paul’s teaching, and seen in his life, should be done by them. If they put into practice all that he has imparted, they will enjoy the presence of "the God of peace", Who is the only source of the "peace of God" v.7. It is interesting that Paul uses a definite article in v.9 – "the God of the peace", indicating that the peace in v.7 is supplied by the God of peace of v.9.
1 Thess.5.23. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ"
"The very God of peace" is translated by J.N.D. as "The God of peace Himself". The trials that lay ahead for the Thessalonian saints, in the absence of the apostle who loved them so much, could be met in the preservation of spirit, soul and body which the God of peace Himself grants. The God of peace Himself – none other or none less – could preserve them in sanctification. The preservation and sanctification that He ensures will bring them into the enjoyment of peace amidst their difficulties.
THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT - 2 Cor.1.3
"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort."
This title could be given as "the God of every kind of consolation". Paul is not describing the consolation that God supplies, but rather he is describing the God Who supplies the consolation. He is speaking about the characteristic of God: He is the God Who supplies every kind of consolation. Whatever distress ("all our tribulation", "any kind of trouble" v.4) can be met by the consolation which God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, supplies. Paul is going to divulge what he has learned of his God through experience, v.8ff; and the principal lesson is that God is "blessed" v.3. Even though Paul endured many tribulations, he still maintained that God is blessed.
Wherein lay that blessedness? It was enjoyed by Paul in the midst of his tribulation, through the consolation that God supplied to him. Paul learned what we ought to learn in every trial, that God is blessed. In his tribulations, Paul learned that his God was "The father of mercies and the God of all consolation". God was the source and supplier of every kind of mercy. The word used here is plural, indicating that God supplied an abundance of mercies: there was no shortage of supply. Along with an abundance of mercy for any trial, Paul received every kind of consolation. The word used here is from the same root as ‘the paraklete’.
God’s purpose in supplying such a variety and abundance of mercy and consolation for our trials is that we may "be able to comfort them which are in any trouble" v.4. God expects that we will use the consolation and mercy that we receive in our trials to help other believers when they come into tribulation. Yet, how selfish we can become when we see another believer in difficulty. If in our trials we have got to know God as He expects, we will be quick to empathise with others in theirs. Indeed, we will draw near to them and give them the benefit of what we have learned of God in our trial, so that they may be encouraged and strengthened.
THE GOD OF LOVE AND PEACE - 2 Cor.13.11
"Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you."
As Paul draws this epistle to a close, he provides the recipe for spiritual living in the form of five short actions that the Corinthians should employ for their good. The result of these five actions will be that they realise and enjoy the presence of God "with them" [literally, ‘certainly in their midst’]. The awareness and enjoyment of the presence of God is not realised by the ritual quoting of Matt.18.20 at the commencement of a meeting. The presence of God among His people is dependent upon them being in the right spiritual condition with God and between themselves. When there are good relationships horizontally there will be a right relationship vertically. We are inclined to think that the case is vice versa. If we make sure we are right with God, good relationships with each other will follow. Not so! Get right with each other, and then God will manifest His presence among us. These five actions are:
Farewell – "Rejoice" (J.N.D.)
Be Perfect – Mend the broken relationships
Be of good comfort – Encourage, or console one another
Be of one mind – Each should have the same thoughts as the others
Live in peace – Immerse your life in the sphere of peace.
When they have done all this, then they will enjoy the blessèd presence of the God Who is characterised by love and peace. The God of love and peace will not be present among those who do not show love for one another, and are not at peace with one another. Relationships in the local assembly are of the utmost importance, and we should ensure the fullest input to each of these five actions.
THE GOD OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
This title occurs as follows:
"The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not" 2 Cor.11.31.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love" Eph.1.3,4.
"That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him" Eph.1.17.
"We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you" Col.1.3.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" 1 Pet.1.3.
The God of our Lord Jesus Christ – what a distinctive title! Its interesting occurrences, although varied in form, can be divided into two themes. It is used in praise of God, 2 Cor.11.31; Eph.1.3; 1 Pet.1.3; and in prayer to God, Eph.1.17 and Col.1.3. When used in praise of God, it is not saying that God is to be blessed; but it is a statement of fact – God is blessed.
Whether it is "the God of", or "the God and Father of", both descriptions imply a very close relationship. This relationship is between both the Father and the Son, and between the Father and us. The One Who is our God and Father, is also the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To understand how the Lord Jesus used these titles will help us grasp the depth of their meaning. On the cross the Lord Jesus referred to His Father using both "My God" Matt.27.46; Mk.15.34, and "Father" Lk.23.46. The gospels according to Matthew and Mark are the gospels of the trespass offering, and the gospel according to Luke is the gospel of the peace offering. When dealing with the matter of sin the Saviour uses the title "God", which speaks of the holiness of God. Whereas, when dealing with the matter of relationship enjoyed, as in the peace offering, He uses the title "Father".
When the apostle uses both "Father" and "God", he is combining the concepts of the sacrifice by Christ for sin, and the Sonship of Christ. The foundation of our blessing is based on the fullness of His Sonship, which is inter-twined with the fullness of His sacrifice for sin. He Who is "blessed" 2 Cor.11.31, has "begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" 1 Pet.1.13, and has "blessed us ... in Christ" Eph.1.3,4. He will also supply "the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him" Eph.1.17. It is to the God of such magnificent mercy and blessing that the apostle prays for the saints at Colosse, Col.1.3.
It is not without significance that the title "The God of our fathers" is never used of believers in the Church age; except in the Acts of the Apostles, where it was used when speaking specifically to believers with Jewish nationality. They had links with the fathers of the nation. When speaking to believers with a Gentile background, our blessings go back to the New Covenant; and in that the Lord Jesus Christ is our ‘progenitor’, so to speak. Therefore, our God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as the fathers of the nation, brought Israel into relationship with God; and our Lord Jesus Christ has brought us Gentiles into relationship with Him.
THE GOD OF PEACE - Heb.13.20,21
"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
As the Holy Spirit draws this great epistle to a close, He inserts a doxology of praise to the two great Persons of the whole book; God, and His Son. However, in keeping with the theme of the epistle, He describes God as the God of peace. Reconciliation with God has been made possible by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. In the earlier chapters, God is seen as the God of Heaven, chapter 1, the God Who is holy, 2.17, the God of creation, chapters 3 and 4, the God of the sanctuary, chapter 5, the God of the old covenant, chapter 6, and the God of the new covenant, chapters 8-10. Now, on the basis of an accepted sacrifice which has established a new covenant, He is known as He could not have been known under the old economy: He is the God of peace.
Spiritual peace is possible because of blood that has satisfied His righteous demands in respect of sin. Practical peace is available because ‘the Shepherd of the sheep, the great One’ has been brought again from the dead by God. As Jewish believers look to the trials which lie ahead, they are assured of peace in the midst of the storm. They will be equipped for service ("make perfect" A.V.) by the same powerful God Who brought their great Shepherd from the dead. Divine power, as seen in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, is available to them in the trials of life.
The God Who is characterised by peace will work on their behalf. Peace has been made by the sacrifice of His Son, thus God is now related to them as the God of peace.
THE GOD OF ALL GRACE - 1Pet.5.10
"But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you."
The apostle Peter concludes his epistle with a prayer that his readers might be edified. Within the brief compass of his prayer he includes adoration of God, expectation of glory, and the edification of the saints.
He addresses God as the God of every kind of grace. These saints have been warned to expect trials, chapter 4, because of their links to Christ. They are similarly encouraged to remember that they have been brought into a living hope that is filled with glory, chapter 1. Frequently throughout the epistle their minds are directed to the coming glory of Christ, in which they will share, 1.3,13; 4.13; 5.1.
With them, we have been called to holiness, 1.15; called out of darkness into His marvellous light, 2.9; called to suffering, 2.21; and called to suffer ridicule, 3.9. What a contrast there is from the first to the last: called out of darkness, to a pathway of trial, that will end in glory! The only resource to equip us for that pathway, and enable us to endure it, is the God of every kind of grace. He will enable us to triumph in every kind of trial.
THE GOD OF THE EARTH - Rev.11.4
"These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth."
The title "God of the earth" is generally rendered "The Lord of the earth". Even though it does not exactly fit with the remit of this chapter, "The God of ...", we will make brief mention of its significance.
Revelation chapter 11 is dealing with the two faithful witnesses during the Great Tribulation, who forfeit their lives for the cause of Christ. However men may despise them, during the days of their witness they are regarded by heaven as two olive trees and two lampstands. The expression "standing before the Lord of the earth" signifies that their authority is derived from Christ’s creatorial rights to the earth. He is the One "for Whom are all things" Heb.2.10. This is a title for the Lord, as God looks down upon His faithful servants on earth.
THE GOD OF HEAVEN - Rev.11.13; 16.11
"And the same hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven" Rev.11.13.
This scene is the sequel to what we considered in v.4. The faithful witnesses have been slain, raised again from the dead, and raptured to heaven. Such an intervention of Divine power has caused a mighty upheaval upon earth, and the remnant of faithful ones give glory to the God of heaven. They acknowledge the rights and authority of the God of heaven over earth. This is a title for God, as His faithful servants look upward to heaven in hope.
"And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds" Rev.16.11.
The events surrounding this use of "the God of heaven" are the final climactic dealings of God with the beast and his wicked empire. As the fifth angel poured out his vial directly upon the seat of the beast’s universal power and influence, the reaction of the subjects of his kingdom was just like the hardened men in Pharaoh’s day. Instead of bowing to the authority of the God of heaven, they blasphemed His name and refused to repent. This is a title for God, as ungodly and rebellious men look upwards to heaven in hatred.
THE LORD GOD OF THE HOLY PROPHETS - Rev.22.6
"And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the LORD God of the holy prophets sent His angel to shew unto His servants the things which must shortly be done."
The angel that has been conveying to John the sayings of the book gives his assured seal to the whole of the preceding revelation. He has been sent by the Lord God of the holy prophets, and the truth he has conveyed to John is as sure and reliable as the Old Testament Scriptures. It carries the Divine seal, and is in harmony with all that the holy prophets wrote – as opposed to any false prophet. The things which John saw, heard and recorded for us in this great book are true in themselves and trustworthy.
It is fitting that the final title for God in the closing book of the Bible is "the God of the holy prophets". All that has gone before is from this One Who commissioned men to write the Holy Scriptures, which are as reliable and trustworthy as God himself.