Our Blessed God

Will 2022 be a good year for you? Is your answer based on your experience over this first week of January or your plans for later this year? How can we be sure to have a good year? Maybe you’re January started with a balance sheet like mine. I have no plans to travel in 2022, a new, more restrictive monthly budget, and I am sad about the death of friends in 2021. I have an allergy to the cedar that is seasonably high right now and am changing my diet because my LDL is up, and I gained some weight over the holiday season. In addition, I’m not looking forward to revising all my legal documents this month. On the plus side, I have wonderful friendships, great neighbors, lovely ministry activities, a new study on God’s blessedness, other Bible studies to lead, and church ministry that is always uplifting. We quickly sink under the conditions of our circumstances, as if they should determine the quality of our lives. Lowering my LDL, losing weight, and completing legal paperwork are not enough to satisfy. A more extensive understanding of God and his ways might do it, especially as I engage with others who are also growing in their faith. If I want 2022 to be glorious, it can’t be about me. Having a curious, hopeful, and optimistic expectation of what the Lord might teach me and do in the lives of my family, friends, church family, and neighbors is something to look forward to. What will give you satisfaction this year when we reach December 31, 2022? How about a greater understanding and appreciation of God’s blessings for his church? If you’ve been following my blog for two or more years, you have probably noticed that I always focus on God’s character and attributes in January. We start with God because profitable spiritual growth begins with Him—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God draws us away from our circumstances to find our blessedness in Him. So we’ll spend 2022 meditating on biblical blessedness. The world may trivialize and mock us for even whispering the phrase, “I’m blessed,” but Christians genuinely are blessed beyond anything the world can imagine. I pray that God will transform our understanding of biblical blessedness, emanating from his character and works. 

God’s Constant Glory and Blessedness

In 1 Timothy’s introduction and doxology, Paul notes God’s divine glory and blessedness. He writes about “…the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” in 1 Timothy 1:11. He concludes the letter exalting God, “who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (6:15-16) “Our eternal happiness consists in large part in our perfect knowledge of the blessed and boundless God. When we ‘see him as he is,’ we will be like Him in holiness and happiness. We will be fully satisfied with His love and likeness…We know His beauty and bounty and love Him. We know His power and faithfulness and trust Him.” (1) As we consider God’s blessedness, we are struck by his “otherness”—being completely different and separate from us, whose blessedness seems fleeting and temporary. “In only a handful of instances in the New Testament is God explicitly said to be ‘blessed’…here and in a few other passages, Paul ascribes blessedness to God himself. The seventeenth-century commentator William Burkitt (1650-1703) rightly noted that Paul used the word here to signify thereby unto us, his transcendent mercy and excelling goodness, in that being infinitely happy in the enjoyment of himself and his divine perfections, and incapable of any profit from, or advantage by, his creatures, he was yet pleased to give us his Son, his gospel, his Holy Spirit, to qualify us for, and bring us to, the enjoyment of himself…The word ‘blessed’ is a signal to dig deeper, to say something about the nature of God behind the good news [of the gospel] being announced…When God is conspicuously Godlike, and shines forth with the comprehensive majesty that belongs to the divine life, we call that the divine glory. What the glory of God is outwardly, the blessedness of God is inwardly. It answers the question, ‘What is it like to possess all of the perfections of God in their totality?’ To have these perfections is to be blessed…it is the foundation of creaturely blessedness: Because God is immeasurably blessed, creatures can be blessed in their proper measure.” (2) Paul was caught up in the Spirit, seeing God as He truly is, perfectly blessed and independently sufficient. Yet God does not use his independence to separate himself from us. Instead, he generously shares his blessedness with us. 

God’s Independent Blessedness

We get caught up in wanting to be independent. Older folks won’t give up their cars, and younger people want to work without too much accountability from a boss who hovers. Kids want phones, and toddlers want to do what they want to do. But God alone, who is genuinely independent, models biblical interdependence and freedom under his sovereign grace in Christ. Jesus, who could have been satisfied to remain in heaven, chose to give up his independence for our sakes. God “who is blessed in himself, in his Son and Spirit, in the perfections of his nature; who is God all-sufficient, has enough in himself for himself, and for all his creatures; who is the fountain and the author of all blessedness, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, which any of them are, or shall be possessed of: and only Potentate…his kingdom rules over all other kingdoms; and he has his power and government from himself, whereas all other potentates have their power from him.” (3) “…he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords…” (1 Timothy 6:15) “God is blessed without reference to us And the notion that blessedness belongs essentially to God, without reference to creatures and without waiting to see how the world process is going to work out…For [Friedrich ] Schleiermacher, all Christian theology had to be derived from a consciousness of having been redeemed, so every doctrine already bore the marks of God being engaged with us redemptively. There was no way to back out of the system and say anything about God in Himself without reference to us: God was always with reference to us. But at least in the mode of praise and adoration, a doctrine like blessedness requires us to say what God is in himself, leaving ourselves quite definitely out of the picture…The situation is exactly similar to the doctrine of the immanent Trinity, where we admit that God would have been Father, Son, and Holy Spirit even if the Father had never sent the Son or Holy Spirit. God is blessed without reference to us. With these doctrines about the eternal God, there is a need to hold your breath and admit it’s not about you.” (4)

When I ask one of our staff members, “How are you,” he always responds with, “I’m blessed.” But he’s not referring to anything he has or has done. He thanks God for knowing him and his knowledge of Christ. Unfortunately, though, most people who say they are blessed are talking about something they possess or can do with God’s help. But what about when we don’t have anything special to report? Are we still blessed? The answer must be yes if we belong to Christ because Christ is blessed. Paul understood God’s unique, divine glory and blessedness. But perhaps we’re more like Job, who thought he knew the Lord fully only to have his understanding of God exposed as incomplete. May God begin to work in us to transform our understanding of His blessedness through his glory. Let’s look forward to ending 2022 with a higher, more complete view of our Lord and our blessedness in him. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7) “And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.” (Job 42:12)

Related Scripture: Job 37:22-23; 38:4-7, 19-21; 42:1-5; Psalm 9:10; 104:1-3; Romans 9:5; 2 Corinthians 11:31; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 17:14.

Notes

  1. Swinnock, George, “The Blessed and Boundless God,” Reformation Heritage Books, 2014, Kindle Edition.
  2. Sanders, Fred, “The Gospel of the Glory of the Blessed God [Part 1],” Reformation 21, January 2015. https://www.reformation21.org/articles/the-gospel-of-the-glory-of-the-blessed-god.php
  3. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” 1 Timothy 6:15-16, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-timothy-6.html
  4. Sanders, Fred, “How to Teach the Doctrine of Blessedness [Part 4],” January 27, 2015, Reformation 21—https://www.reformation21.org/articles/how-to-teach-the-doctrine-of-the-blessedness-of-god-part-4.php

January 6, 2022

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