“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1).
The gospel begins and ends with God. It is His message. It is His story. It is His activity in this world. Consider the wonder of the Creator of all that ever has been or ever will be condescending to reveal Himself to us in our own languages! While God surely does reveal Himself in and through His creation (Ps 19), this “general revelation” is only enough to condemn us all and remove our atheistic and idolatrous excuses (Rom 1:18-23). But, praise God He has chosen to reveal Himself to us in an intimate, saving way. This He has done in the Bible, the record of God’s saving activity on earth (Deut 4-5).
The gospel, then, is first and foremost a message about God – who He is and what He has done. Though we finite humans cannot exhuastively know God, thanks to the Scriptures, we can know Him truely. What is it, then, that we should focus upon when studying for ourselves, and teaching others, of God?
Narrowing this study of God down is a daunting task! (I do not mean to imply we can narrow God down, but only that we must try to narrow down our study of Him to grow in our knowledge and love of Him.) Again, we could talk about the character and being of God for eternity and never exhuast the subject, and perhaps never even scratch the surface of God’s glory! This is what makes the prospect of heaven so delightful – being with God and seeing His glory in the face of Christ forever.
R. C. Sproul has gone on record to say: “I think the single most important thing we need to have is an awakening to the character of God” (quoted in Table Talk magazine, June 2010). I could not agree more. But, where do we start?
To simplify for our children and the lost around us, I have come to land upon three essential character traits of God that I strongly believe we must communicate if we are going to be effective witnesses for the gospel of God.
One, God is holy. That is, He is high above us, set apart, and absolutely morally perfect. When the Bible repeats things, we had better take notice. Without a doubt, the emphasis placed upon God’s holiness in the Bible is paramount. God kills Nadab and Abihu on the spot for violating His holiness before His chosen people (Lev 10). Twice we are told God is thrice holy and awesome creatures never cease to proclaim this truth (Isaiah 6; Rev 4). God is holy, so much so that all His other traits can be pre-faced with the word. His love is holy love. His indignation is holy indignation. His mercy is holy mercy, and so on. God is holy, in an all-consuming way that ought to strike fear and reverance in us.
Two, God is righteous. He is right, period (Deut 32:4; Jer 12:1). What He does is by definition right (Gen 18:23-25; Ps 145:17; Rev 16:7). The Lord’s righteousness is seen in His love for the right and His hate for the wrong (Ps 11:5-7). God is righteous.
Three, God is just. Obviously, God’s righteousness and justice go hand-in-hand (as do all His attributes). Righteousness and justice are a “package deal” with God (Ps 33:4-5). “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways” (Rev 15:3). “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne” (ps 89:14). Any questions?
God is holy. God is righteous. God is just. The Scriptures clearly emphasize these three Divine attribues, from Genesis to Revelation. We do well, then, to lay heavy stress upon them in our personal meditation on the Word, and in our sharing of the gospel.
The gospel is a message about God. It begins with Him. May the Lord help us get this right. Talk much of Him. Think much of Him. Boast much of Him. Fear Him. Love Him. Trust Him. Study Him. Teach our children of Him. When we do, we are on our way to becoming gospel people.
Superb resources worthy of your time and attention are: The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul and God is the Gospel by John Piper. To assist you as you teach your children, try Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce Ware and The Big Book of Questions and Answers by Sinclair Ferguson. Catechisms are also great tools to teach your children the doctrine of God. But remember in the end, you can do no better than to teach them the Word of God from an open Bible.