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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Understanding the God of the Bible

Don Stewart :: In What Sense Is Our Knowledge about the God of Scripture Limited?

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In What Sense Is Our Knowledge about the God of Scripture Limited? (The Incomprehensibility of God)

Understanding the God of the Bible – Question 4

One of the key truths about God is His incomprehensibility. This means that our knowledge about Him is limited. This does not mean that we cannot understand Him at all. It merely says that we cannot fully comprehend Him.

Paul wrote to the Romans about this incomprehensibility of God.

Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods! (Romans 11:33 NLT)

It is indeed impossible for us to comprehend either the decisions He makes or the methods He uses to make them.

We read about this in the Book of Job. One of Job’s friends said that God’s does things which are beyond our understanding.

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. (Job 37:5 NIV)

Indeed, His ways cannot be comprehended by us.

There are a number of important points we need to make about our knowledge of God. They include the following.

Our Knowledge about God Is Limited

Because we are human beings, our knowledge about God is necessarily limited. It is compared to seeing through a dim mirror. Paul gave this analogy when he wrote to the Church at Corinth. He said,

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12 NASB)

When Paul says “then I will know fully,” he does not mean that he, or any of us, will know everything about God. Indeed, the God of Scripture can never be fully, or completely, understood by our limited human minds. The fact of the matter is that is God is infinite, and we are finite. Even the words we used to describe His character are limited by our finite understanding. We cannot fully understand even one of His attributes, let alone all of them. This is something which all of us must appreciate.

God Is Not Visible to Humans

Furthermore, the God of the Bible is not visible to the human senses. He is the “unseen God.” John wrote about this when He said,

No one has ever seen God. God’s only Son, the one who is closest to the Father’s heart, has made him known. (John 1:18 God’s Word)

Therefore, our observations about God are limited to what He has told us about Himself. Indeed, we cannot see Him or observe what He is doing. We are not capable of doing this.

There Are Many Things about God That Are Beyond Our Comprehension

It is important to understand that there are many things about the character of God that are beyond our comprehension. This is to be expected because the God of Scripture is infinite, and we are finite. The Bible lists the following things about God that humans cannot comprehend.

1. The Love of God

The Apostle Paul wrote that the love of God surpasses our knowledge. He said the following to the Ephesians.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:19 NLT)

We cannot understand the depths of God’s love for us. It is truly beyond our ability to comprehend.

2. His Thoughts Cannot Be Understood

The psalmist also said that we cannot under the thoughts of the God of the Bible. He stated that they are without number.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! (Psalm 139:17 NLT)

The innumerable thoughts of God toward us cannot be comprehended.

Isaiah the prophet records the Lord saying that we cannot comprehend His thoughts, or words. The Lord put it this way.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)

God’s thoughts are beyond our understanding. Therefore, should not try to understand what He is thinking or why He acts in the ways in which He does.

3. God’s Greatness Cannot Be Comprehended

Human beings cannot understand the greatness of our God. We read the following in the Book of Psalms.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. (Psalm 145:3 NIV)

The Lord is indeed the great God. However, we cannot begin to fathom His greatness.

4. The Deep Things of God Are Not Understandable

Paul wrote about the “deep things” of God that are beyond our comprehension. He said the following to the church at Corinth.

But we know these things because God has revealed them to us by his Spirit, and his Spirit searches out everything and shows us even God’s deep secrets. No one can know what anyone else is really thinking except that person alone, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And God has actually given us his Spirit (not the world’s spirit) so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. (1 Corinthians 2:10-12 NLT)

The deep things of God cannot be understood by humanity. It is only the Spirit of God which can explain them.

5. God’s Understanding of Things Is Perfect

His understanding is so much greater than ours. The psalmist said the understanding of the Lord has no limit.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. (Psalm 147:5 NIV)

While our understanding of all things is limited, God’s understanding, of all things, is absolutely perfect.

6. God’s Knowledge Is without Limits

The psalmist said that God’s knowledge is too great for our understanding. Again, we read in the Psalms,

O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my every thought when far away. You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD. You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to know! (Psalm 139:1-6 NLT)

His unlimited knowledge is compared to our finite knowledge. He knows all but we know so little. Indeed, all of us are painfully aware of our limited knowledge.

7. God’s Peace Is beyond Our Understanding

The peace that God grants believers is also beyond our human understanding. Paul wrote to the Philippians,

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7 NASB)

While we can experience this wonderful peace from the God of the Bible we certainly cannot completely comprehend it.

8. God’s Power Is Not Comprehended by Us

We are unable to comprehend God’s mighty power. In the Book of Job, we have the following testimony.

“Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?” (Job 26:14 ESV)

It is not possible for us to understand the mighty power of God.

9. We Cannot Understand the Mysteries of God

There are mysteries of God that we, as limited human beings, cannot understand. We also read in Job,

“Can you discover God’s hidden secrets, or are you able to find the Almighty’s limits? God’s wisdom is higher than heaven. What can you do? It is deeper than the depths of hell. What can you know? It is longer than the earth and wider than the sea.” (Job 11:7-9 God’s Word)

There are certain mysteries that belong to God alone.

Consequently, we find Scripture informs us of a number of specific things about God that are beyond our understanding.

10. We Need Humility in Studying God’s Nature

Since Scripture itself acknowledges that things about the nature of God are beyond our comprehension, we should approach the subject of the attributes of God with humility. There are many things that we have to admit that we do not know.

Therefore, we must be careful about our speculations about what we think God can or cannot do, or should or should not do. The words of the Apostle Paul are worth remembering in this instance.

But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, “Why have you made me like this?” (Romans 9:20 NRSV)

Consequently we should never question God’s wisdom, or the decisions that He makes. He always knows best. We do not.

11. We Only Know As Much As He Reveals to Us

We can only know as much about God’s character as He chooses to reveal. Going beyond divine revelation is pure guesswork on our part. Scripture does not encourage such. Paul wrote,

I have applied all this to myself and Apol’los for your benefit, brethren, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. (1 Corinthians 4:6 RSV)

We need to pay attention to the Scripture. When we attempt to say more about God than what has been written in Scripture, there is the tendency toward self-pride. However, the only certainty that we can have is when we rely upon what has been revealed. Otherwise, we have no certainty whatsoever.

12. We Can Know Him Personally

While we cannot fully understand so many things about God we can know Him personally. This wonderful fact is emphasized in Scripture. We read in Jeremiah,

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV)

Personal knowledge of God is possible. This is the good news that the Bible proclaims.

Therefore, we must appreciate what we can know and cannot know about God. We do indeed have our limits.

Summary – Question 4
In What Sense Is Our Knowledge about the God of Scripture Limited? (The Incomprehensibility of God)

The Bible itself informs us that the God of the Bible is beyond our comprehension. He is incomprehensible in the sense that we cannot understand everything about Him.

Although we can know many things about Him, there are many other things we cannot know. What we do know about Him is based upon what He has revealed. Apart from God’s revelation, everything else is guesswork.

Indeed, Scripture specifically says that we cannot understand things such as the knowledge of God, the love of God, the thoughts of God, the greatness of God, the goodness of God, the peace of God, the power of God and the mysteries of God. Realizing this should certainly cause us to be humble.

Consequently, there should be humility when we examine these issues with respect to God’s character. We can only know as much about God as He Himself chooses to reveal.

The good news, however, is that we can know some things about Him as well as we can know Him personally! We can have a relationship with the Creator. This is one of the great themes of Scripture. Knowledge about God and personal knowledge of God is possible.

To sum up, we need to understand the limitations of our knowledge of the Almighty. Indeed, there are certain things which we can know and there are other things which we cannot know.

Should We Attempt to Categorize the Attributes, or Characteristics, of God? ← Prior Section
God's Unique Characteristics (Introduction) Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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