Not Like Us

“When we belong to Christ, lest and less do we believe that God is like us, and more and more do we become like God (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 3:2).”
-Jonathan Leeman (Don’t Call it a Comeback, p. 57)

When a person thinks about “what God is like”, more often than not the person starts with their own characteristics and then attempts to make them “better”.  In other words, “God is like us” is the way most people think about God.  Jonathan Leeman, a co-author of Don’t Call it a Comeback, challenges this assertion.  Leeman declares God is not like us.  He goes on to declare that the attitude that “God is like us” is at the heart of sin:

We know that God knows more than we do, and that he’s morally superior – “better”.  But we still assume that God, broadly speaking, shares our sense of justice and morality, our views on love and sex, our politics and passions, our ideas of an evening well spent and a life worth living.  He’s basically like us… like me.

It is this assumption that’s at the heart of what the Bible calls our sin.  The Serpent promised that we could be “like God,” which is really just another way of saying, “God is like you, so do as you please.”  And we have believed this lie ever sense…

What does the Bible mean when it says that God is not like us?…[It is] saying that God is not like us because his purposes cannot be thwarted; he is unimaginably powerful and breathtakingly good; he is shockingly gracious and loving to the undeserving; he has known the end since the beginning.

Over and over the Bible has to say he’s not like us because we repeatedly try to make him like us.  We squeeze God into our own mental universes.  We domesticate him and fashion him after our image.  But what foolishness!… God is not like us, but far more worthy and far more holy.  He is not to be trifled with… What’s more, we can comprehend him – not fully, but sufficiently (pp. 48-49).

Leeman spends the next several pages opening up some of the ways that we can comprehend God through the pages of Scripture.  Before concluding his chapter, he pauses to emphasize why we must have a proper theological understanding of God according to the Bible, rather than establishing our theology of God based upon ourselves:

God is not like you or me.  He’s unimaginably better.  He’s mightier, fiercer, more loving, more majestic.  He is holy, holy, holy…

Either God will be the center of one’s doctrinal solar system or something else will.  What we believe about God determines what we believe about everything: It determines how we view Scripture… It determines how we understand the gospel… It determines how we view the church…

What we believe about God also determines how we live today.  Belief in God is not merely an epistemological matter.  It’s a matter of lordship and the heart’s affections.  Either we live in rebellion against God, indifferent to the harm we cause others, or we live in obedience and worship, demonstrating among God’s people the loving and holy oneness of the Father and Son through the Spirit (John 17:20-26).  A right trust in God ultimately yields holy individuals and a loving church, a community of people who display God’s glory before all heaven and earth (Eph. 3:10).

When we belong to Christ, less and less do we believe that God is like us, and more and more do we become like God (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 3:2) (pp. 56-57).

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