Canst Thou By Searching Find God?
If someone were to ask you : “can you prove from the Bible that there is a God?”, what would be your answer? My answer would be : the Bible does not set out to prove there is a God. The Bible declares there is a God. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God….” This God has chosen in accordance with His own will, good pleasure and the glory of His name to reveal Himself to us. Psalm 9:16 says, “The Lord has made Himself known.” And Hebrews 11:6 says that the one “who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who (diligently; sincerely) seek Him.” The Bible does not say that the one who comes to God must come seeking to prove that God exists. The one who comes to God must come believing that God is, that is, that God exists.
In Job 7:11 the question is asked, “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?” The KJV translates as follows : “Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” The answer to both questions is an emphatic “NO!”. Why? In 1Corinthians 1:21 Paul wrote, “For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not come to know God….” The verb “know” has the idea of “to arrive at a knowledge of; to acquire information; to become aware of”. The “world” speaks of humanity in its fallen, sinful state. The world of fallen men, through its wisdom and searching, did not acquire and arrive at the true knowledge of God. The world, through its wisdom and searching, did not find the true and living God. Why? This was God’s will, wisdom and doing. For this reason, fallen man’s searching for God is destined to fail. Fallen man’s searching and wisdom have produced a false knowledge of God. And this false knowledge has produced false religions and idolatry. (see Romans 1:20-23).
The point to be drawn from Psalm 9:16 is that if God did not reveal Himself, man would never find God. If God did not reveal Himself, man would never come to know God. If a man wants to come to know God, he will have to trust God. The heart of the issue, as made clear in Hebrews 11:6, is not wisdom but trust, faith in God, belief in God. Note the words, “must believe”, in this verse. The word “must” speaks of Divine necessity and sets before us God’s unalterable requirement. “Must believe” means “it is of divine necessity to believe that God is”, that God exists, that there is a God.
Consider the following questions :
- If you do not believe that God is, that God exists, what will you be searching for?
- If there is no God, then who or what is God?
- If there is no God, then how would you define God and know what to search for?
- How do you define something that does not exist?
- How do you lay out the properties or attributes of something that does not exist?
- How do you look for something that does not exist?
- How would you know what to look for?
The atheist, who says there is no God, is fighting against nothing because he is fighting against a God who does not exist. The agnostic does not believe it is possible to know for sure that God exists. So, if the agnostic is searching for God, he is something that may not exist. Truly did God say, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” (Romans1:22).
The question that must be answered now is : how did God reveal Himself? The answer in the Bible is two-fold. God has revealed Himself by general revelation and God has revealed Himself by special revelation. In this first article I shall deal with God’s revelation of Himself by general revelation. By general revelation we mean that God has revealed Himself in creation and providence. Let us briefly consider what the Bible has to say about God’s revelation of Himself in creation and providence. Psalm 19:1-4 says,
“The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.”
The psalmist is saying the heavens tell us there is a God. The heavens display the glory of this God. The heavens display the skilfulness of the work of His hands. This is what David spoke about in Psalm 8:3. I want you to note David’s emphasis on God in this verse : “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained.” When you look at the heavens, its glory, its beauty, its expanse, its structure, what do they tell you? They tell you there is a God and He created them. David was astounded and overwhelmed by the glory and majesty of the heavens. And David had no doubts in his mind that the heavens were skilfully created by the God he knew as the LORD or Yahweh.
But going back to Psalm 19, the psalm says day to day the heavens pour out the message that there is a God. The verb “pours” pictures the heavens as constantly bubbling up the message and pouring it forth. And then the psalm says the message has gone and goes out through all the earth, to the end of the world. Psalm 97:6 says, “The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples have seen His glory.” The emphasis is clear here : all the peoples of the earth have seen the glory of God displayed in the heavens.
The second passage I turn your attention to is Acts 14:15-17. Luke wrote, quoting the apostle Paul, who was addressing the citizens of Lystra, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to [the] living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; 17 and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
The point Paul made, that I want you to note, is that despite the ignorance and rebellion of the nations, God did not leave Himself without a witness. God gave to the nations a clear testimony of His existence, His presence among them and His kind and gracious dealings with them. How did God do this? God did “good and gave [them] rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying [their] hearts with food and gladness.”
The final passage I turn your attention to is Romans 1:19-20, “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
How did fallen mankind come to know there is a God? Paul’s answer is, “that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” Note the word “evident”. It also means plain, clear, observable. “Is known” focuses on the reality of the knowledge that fallen man has about God from creation. But fallen man has rebelled against this knowledge. You cannot rebel against something that you do not know. To rebel against something you must know it, you must understand it.
“Within them” can also mean “among them”. There are those who believe the emphasis is on subjective knowledge. Others say the emphasis can be two-fold : objective knowledge leading to subjective knowledge. However, the primary point here is this : “God made it evident to them.” Fallen mankind did not seek this knowledge. Fallen mankind did not find this knowledge by their own wisdom. God took sovereign action and gave to fallen man this plain and evident knowledge. God, by His sovereign will, placed this knowledge in man from the day He created man. Herein lies the primary reason that fallen men are without excuse when they reject God. In a real sense God has set Himself before them and their response to God is “NO!”. God is knocking at their door. They know its God. And their response is, “No, I will not open this door to You.” Their response is : “You are not real. You do not exist. You cannot exist.”
In vs.20 Paul turns his argument to creation. His argument is that the evidences for God have been clearly seen and understood since the creation of the world. The verbs “have been clearly seen [and] being understood” are present tenses. The emphasis is that the evidences for God have been clearly seen and understood from the first generation that descended from Adam, to the people in Paul’s day and to all people in our day. The verb “clearly seen” is found only here in the N.T. It is found eight times in the Septuagint (Greek O.T.). The emphasis is to see with your own eyes. There is a play on words in the Greek between “clearly seen” and “invisible attributes.” The idea is : “His unseeable things … are clearly seen”. The verb “being understood” also means “to perceive with the mind; to gain insight into”.
Paul said God’s “invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen.” The adjective “eternal” governs both “power and divine nature”. The word Paul used for “eternal” is not the usual Greek word that is found in the N.T. The usual Greek word, aionios, has the idea of time in it. The word Paul used does not have the idea of time in it. Its literal meaning is “always-ness”. The emphasis is on God’s always-ness, God always existing and unoriginated. The creation reveals to us God’s always existing and unoriginated power and God’s always existing and unoriginated divine nature.
God’s eternal power that is displayed in creation is His omnipotence. Jer.27:4-5 says, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, … “I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm ….” Jer.32:17 says, “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You.” Isa.40:26 says,
“Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.”
The Greek word translated “divine nature” appears only here in the N.T. It also means deity, divinity, divineness. It is a summary term for the attributes which constitute deity. Paul is making it clear that creation reveals to us attributes of the eternal God Himself, the God who is unoriginated, without beginning or end. Look at creation and you will see God’s power, wisdom, sovereignty, and glory displayed. You will see God’s love of beauty and variety. You will see glorious simplicity in the midst of mind-boggling complexity. Look at creation and everything is stamped with the labels : God, wisdom, omnipotence, sovereignty, and glory.
You look at a dress and you instinctively know there was a dressmaker. You look at a piece of jewellery and your instinctively know there was a jeweller. You look at a book and you instinctively know there was a writer. You look at a building and you instinctively know there was a builder. We can go on and on and on with the list. But when fallen man looks at creation his response is : “is there a creator?” or “there is no creator.”
The question is : how are responding to the evidences God has set forth in creation about Himself? Let me put the question another way : what has fallen mankind done with the evidences set forth in creation that tell us God exists, that there is a God and He created the heavens and the earth by His great power? What has fallen man done with truths God made evident to him? Paul says in vs.18 that fallen men, in their ungodliness and unrighteousness, “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” “Ungodliness” refers to a lack of reverence for God. “Unrighteousness” is used twice and points to lawless or wicked deeds.
The verb “suppress” is present tense and speaks of habitual action. The verb means to hold down or to press down. The picture focuses on the response of fallen men coming face to face with the truth creation reveals and that God makes evident to them. They reject the truth, they oppose the truth, and they do everything possible to hold down or hinder the spread of the truth. They do so “in unrighteousness”, that is, in a life context of an unrighteous character and unrighteous living. Paul would tell us in vs.30 that fallen men are “haters of God”. Therefore, they are also haters of the truth God has revealed by general revelation in creation or by special revelation in His holy Word.
And so, to close this first article, I repeat the question : how are responding to the evidences God has set forth in creation about Himself?