Basic Christian Theology
God shares some of His attributes with us. Those attributes that we can see in God give us examples to imitate. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Looking at God long and hard actually has a transformative affect of us, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” We become like what we behold. That gives a particular importance to these communicable perfections of God because our looking at them in God can perfect them in us!
- How should the unity of God be expressed in your life? What are the barriers that often stifle that unity of attributes in you?
- The spirit is more potent than the physical as is seen by the fact that God is spirit and precedes the physical world...the spiritual always animates the material. Do you spend more time on the spiritual or the material/physical? How might you seek to shift that (if applicable)?
*Leader: a small example from my own life: I used to exercise first thing in the morning. It occurred to me later that what I do first is a reflection of what I think is most important. I cared more about training my body than about training my spirit. I needed to change my daily schedule to reflect what is really of primary importance.
- God has graciously imparted the righteousness of Christ to us (2 Corinthians 5:21) so our position in the heavenlies is secure, but we still bear responsibility for growing in practical righteous (Psalm 84:11). What area(s) of your life need reform in the righteousness department (how you treat your spouse, financial stewardship, conduct at work,etc...)?
- What is the path to growing in a unity of attributes, a concern for the spiritual over the physical, and a practical righteousness?
*Leader: If you haven’t already, read 2 Corinthians 3:18 from the summary statement and help underscore the point that we become like what we behold. Beholding God more and more in His Word, in prayer, and in experiential obedience, will shape us into imitators of God.
- Often we are content to be saved by God but feel no compulsion to be like the God who saved us. Do you struggle with that complacent spirit? How might we stir one another up toward godliness?
God’s attributes are so perfectly held as to be regarded not simply as attributes, but as perfections. God’s perfections are either incommunicable (possessed by Him alone) or communicable (possessed by us to a lesser degree). His incommunicable perfections include His Aseity, Independence, Holiness, Omnipresence, Omniscience, Omnipotence, and Immutability. No human possesses the qualities or characteristics. These things establish God as far beyond and far greater than we are. That being the case, the fact of His disclosure of Himself to us and His care for us should move and humble us.
- When you’re talking with people about the Lord, do you ever find yourself feeling a pressure to convince them that God exists? Does Romans 1 free you from this pressure at all?
1a-Which do you think is more powerful in evangelism: offering a compelling logical proof for God’s existence, or asserting that the person you’re speaking to already knows the God of the Bible and is rebelling against Him?
1b-I personally believe that the second is more potent because it strikes at the heart of the person because it strikes at the heart of the Gospel (man’s willful rebellion against God). Would you have the courage to make such a pronouncement to a nonChristian?
- Which of these perfections most stirs your affection for the Lord? Why?
- How would daily reflection on these perfections of God change how you live? How might they encourage you in daily life?
*Leader: For example, focusing on God’s omniscience may help you uproot secret sins because, in fact none of them are secret. Thoughts about God’s omnipotence May help you ease anxiety if you’re asking God to work mightily in your life.
The Bible is our primary and normative means of special revelation. It contains the very words of God. That should have incredible implications for how much time we spend in and to the degree to which we order our lives after it. Christians believe that the Bible is inspired and authoritative, errant and infallible, and that it is the cannon or measuring rod, by which we assess our lives.
- Does the fact that God breathed out the words of Scripture change the way you read it, or add to your desire to do so?
- How are you doing with bowing to the Bible’s authority in your life? Do you actively submit yourself to its teaching?
- Our cultural context struggles to respect ancient sources. We think that new is better. We like updates. How do you process the Christian belief that the Bible is infallible? Are there segments of the Bible’s teaching where you struggle not to wish for an update of some kind?
- How can we apply the Bible as our standard in modern thinking and current events?
*Leader: sketch some of the social landscape in our country. Race riots calling for justice, abortion activists calling for women’s rights, trans activists calling for....whatever insanity they’re calling for. Based on what? What’s their standard for human rights? What’s their standard of justice? They don’t have one save their feelings and intuitions. God in His kindness, has given His people a standard so that we aren’t cast into an endless debate or endless searching for truth, because He’s given us a standard.
Ancillary discussion points if the leader chooses to engage/if people ask question along these lines:
- The Church didn’t determine the Canon. We discovered it.
- What about the Apocryphal writings?
-Authorship too late
-Disagreement with the canon (teaching salvation by works- Gospel of Thomas says you have to become a man to be saved, etc...)
- Why canonize Hebrews if we can’t pin down Apostolic sanction or authorship?
-Its agreement with existing Canon.
-Its contribution to the clarity of Old and New Covenant relationship.
-Its effect on it’s readers is Scripture quality effect.
- Did the N.T. Writers know they were writing Scripture?
-Paul, “The Laborer deserves his wages...” Quoting Lukes Gospel (Luke 10:7) after saying, “The Scripture says...”
-2 Peter 3:16 “As they do the other Scriptures...”
- Did Jesus say that the Apostles would author Scripture?
-John 14:26, “Holy Spirit will bring to your remembrance all that I said...”
Special Revelation is God’s revelation of Himself through dreams and visions, prophets, Christ, and Scripture. It is not accessible to all people in the same way that General Revelation is, and it provides far more detailed material than General Revelation does. General Revelation is God’s kind gift to all people; Special Revelation is God’s kind gift to His people (that is not to say that no pagans receive special forms of revelation or that non Christians can’t read the Bible, but far and away, it is God’s people who are the recipients and proper interpreters of these specials forms of revelation).
- With which of these forms of special revelation have you had personal experience?
*Leader: Some in your group may have had, or may believe that they have had
experiences with dreams/visions or prophecy. Don’t be afraid of that or shut the conversation down, but if someone does share something like that, be sure not to miss the next question.
- If we think we’ve received a dream or a vision from God, or a word of prophecy, how do we assess its validity?
*Leader: God will not contradict His written word. Since all Scripture is breathed out by God, He is not going to breath something into you that contradicts what He breathed out in His word.
- There is a form of Special Revelation that Wes did not cover in the teaching session, but that is nonetheless important, and is given to all believers, do you know what it is?
*Leader: It is the Spirit of Truth who testifies within us, helps us interpret Scripture, and convicts us of particular sin.
- Ask your group to share instances when they experienced the illuminating work of the Spirit in their study of Scripture, or His convicting work in revealing sin, or His affirmation of their belonging to God in the middle of a rough season. All of these are a special revelation from the Lord, through His Spirit, to the believer.
- Does this category of Special Revelation produce awe in you?
*Leader: Help your group see how incredible a thing it is that the God of the universe stoops to communicate with us! Leave them with a charge: if God has bothered to speak to me, I will listen, and I will obey.
General Revelation is God’s revelation of Himself through nature and morality. All people at all times have access to this revelation of God which leaves them without excuse for failing to worship Him.
Questions from, and in addition to, the video:
Leader: before asking any questions have someone recap the teaching and explain in
their own words what General Revelation is.
- Do you struggle with the principle in Romans 1 that all men are without excuse for their failure to worship God because God has generally revealed Himself to all men?Leader: draw the group into this question. It is a good opportunity to inscribe a biblical worldview which biases us toward God’s rights rather than toward humanity’s. The question ought not be, “why won’t God cut more slack?” The Christian’s question should be “why does God bother to reveal Himself and interact with us at all?”
- What are the consequences, with regard to God’s character, if God’s general revelation is insufficient for man to know and worship God?
Leader: If God has not revealed Himself sufficiently in nature and morality then He is unjust in His punishment of humanity for our rejection of Him. If it is not the case that all men know and reject God then we are not under God’s wrath and we need no Savior. Make sure your group grasps this crucial aspect of General Revelation.
- How does your understanding of General Revelation inform your evangelism?
Leader: The truth of Romans 1 (that all men know God but simply suppress that truth in unrighteous) means that even in our post-Christian, secular society, we do not need to argue for the existence of God in evangelism. Remember that everyone you meet already knows that they are in rebellion against God so don’t waste time trying to convince them of that, just assert it and let the Holy Spirit bear witness to them of the truthfulness of the assertion.
Leader: Some will struggle with this point. Some may not even agree with it. Take them back to Romans 1 to make sure they see the truth in Scripture that all men know and suppress the truth of God’s existence.
- What is wrong with the man made religions that seemingly seek to respond to God’s General Revelation through worshipping, false gods like the sun god, or contriving something like the Greek pantheon?
Leader: False religions deny exactly what Romans 1 says God makes clear: external power and divine nature. Man made religions always construct gods in their image; gods they can please and placate. If you can please and placate your god than he must not have eternal power and a divine nature. In this way man made religion denies God’s reveal nature, again, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.
We’ve spent some time on what could be regarded as negative aspects of General Revelation. Ask the group to name some of the benefits that come our way by means of God’s General Revelation.
Leaders: Generally revealed morality has led to nations with just laws because we
intrinsically know what is good and what is evil. General Revelation through nature has led to the scientific revolution to which we owe our modern comforts and amenities. Conclude with a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s revelation and a prayer of salvation for your friends and family who still suppressing the truth of God in unrighteousness.