Lesson 5 The Nature of God
To have a positive relationship with the Lord, we must know His nature and His real character. Is He angry because of our sin, or is He a merciful God who wants to give us His life and blessing, independent of our performance? The Scriptures actually give us two different views of God, not that He has ever changed or done anything differently. There was a period of time that in the terminology used in the Bible, God “held men’s sins against them.”
This can be compared to raising children. When they’re very young, it isn’t possible to reason with them, to tell them why they should act properly or why they shouldn’t be selfish and take toys away from their brothers or sisters. They have to be told the rules and, if they break them, be disciplined. The rules have to be enforced even though they don’t know about God and the devil, or that they’re giving place to the devil when they are selfish. They may not understand the concepts, but they can understand that if they repeat the action, they will be punished.
In a sense, that’s what the Lord did in the Old Testament. Before people were born again, they didn’t have the spiritual perception we have under the New Covenant, so He had to give laws and enforce them with punishment, sometimes even death, to deter them from sin. Because Satan was destroying people through sin, there had to be restraints placed on sin, and they had to be enforced. Although this left the false impression that God didn’t really love us because of our sin, that is not what the Word of God teaches. Romans 5:13 says, “Until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed where there is no law.” “Until the law” means until the days of Moses when God gave the Ten Commandments and other ceremonial laws that applied to the Jewish nation. Up until that time, sin was in the world but wasn’t imputed. The word “impute” is a bookkeeping term; e.g., you go to the store to buy something and say, “Put it on my tab.” When it is put on your tab, it is recorded and charged against your account, and the purchase is imputed to you. If they failed to impute it, that means it wasn’t recorded and held against you.
This verse is saying that until the time the Ten Commandments came, sin was not being held against people. That’s an amazing statement. Look at Genesis 3 and 4. Most people have the concept that when Adam and Eve sinned against God, because He was holy and man was now sinful, He could have nothing to do with sinful mankind. They think God drove man out of the Garden to remove him from His presence because a Holy God couldn’t have anything to do with unholy man. They further think that until you clean up your act through right actions, God once again cannot have any relationship with you. That is contrary to the message Jesus brought.
Romans 5:8 says God commended His love toward you, and while you were yet a
sinner, Christ died for you; so the New Testament teaches that God extended His love to you
while you were living in sin, not after you have cleaned up your act. One of the great truths
of the Gospel that will change your life is to understand that God loves you just like you are.
He loves you so much that if you receive His love, you won’t want to stay as you are. You will
change, but you’ll change as a byproduct of God’s love not in order to get His love.
In Genesis 4 you can see that God was still fellowshipping with man, still talking with
Adam and Eve even after they sinned. He talked with Cain and Abel, and when they came to
offer sacrifices to Him, He spoke to them in an audible voice. By their reaction, we can see
that they were accustomed to hearing His voice, and it didn’t scare them. When Cain killed
his brother Abel and became the first murderer on the earth, God’s audible voice came from
heaven: “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain lied to God, seemingly without compunction. That
can happen only if a person is so used to hearing the voice of God that they take it for granted
and have no fear of it. All this says is that God was still fellowshipping with mankind and had
not broken fellowship, as is commonly believed. He was not imputing man’s sins to him. Does
that mean that He condoned their sins or that they were not wrong? No, that’s the reason He
eventually gave the Law. God had to give the Law to bring man back to a proper standard.
God had to show man that he needs a Savior and that he has to humble himself and receive
forgiveness as a gift. Sadly, religion has manipulated and controlled these things to teach that
the Law was given so you can keep it and thereby earn God’s forgiveness and acceptance. No!
The purpose of Old Testament Law was to magnify your sin to such a degree that you would
despair of ever saving yourself and say, “God, if this is your standard of holiness, I can’t do it.
Forgive me, have mercy on me.” The overall nature of God has always been love.
Discipleship Questions. 1-4
1. Read Romans 5:13. What does the word “impute” mean?
13 For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
2. Read Romans 7:7. What was the purpose of the Law?
7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”
3. Read Galatians 3:24. According to this verse, what was
the purpose of the Law?
24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
4. Read John 8:1-11. How did Jesus deal with the woman
caught in adultery?
1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. 7So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
11She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
Discipleship questions 5-10
5. Did Jesus’ words and actions reflect the true nature of God?
For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.
6.Read 1 John 4:8. According to this verse, what is the true nature of God?
8He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
7. Read Romans 5:6. God’s love was directed toward us
when we were what?
6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
8. Read Romans 5:8. God loved us while we were what?
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9. Read Romans 5:10. God loved us while we were what?
10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
10. If you asked Jesus Christ to forgive you and be your Savior and Lord, trusting Jesus’ sacrifice as payment for your sin, would God show you His true nature of mercy and grace?