Discerning The True and Absolutely Good God

“For those who are praised as having most closely followed Plato, who is justly preferred to all Platothe other philosophers of the Gentiles, and who are said to have manifested the greatest acuteness in understanding him, do perhaps entertain such an idea of God as to admit that in Him are to be found the cause of existence, the ultimate reason for the understanding, and the end in reference to which the whole life is to be regulated.  Of which three things, the first is understood to pertain to the natural, the second to the rational, and the third to the moral part of philosophy.  For if man has been so created as to attain, through that which is most excellent in him, to that which excels all things,—that is, to the one true and absolutely good God, without whom no nature exists, no doctrine instructs, no exercise profits,—let Him be sought in whom all things are secure to us, let Him be discovered in whom all truth becomes certain to us, let Him be loved in whom all becomes right to us.”
-          Saint Augustine of Hippo (c. 354 - 430)

Plato’s understanding of God is significant because it still influences Christian thought in the 21st century. His philosophy permeated Cambridge Platonism in the 17th century where there was a strong call to marry orthodoxy with rationalism, a call we continue to hear today. Thus, Platonism has led to intolerance of orthodox Christian dogmas. Although Plato sought a higher ethical standard for man through imitation of the “gods,” he failed to recognize the one true God as the source of eternal moral authority.  This week’s readings will guide us toward a proper understanding of God as the source of all that is good. We will do this using Augustine closing testimonial as our guide:  “let Him be sought in whom all things are secure to us, let Him be discovered in whom all truth becomes certain to us, let Him be loved in whom all becomes right to us.”

Monday: Read Psalm 139
How does reading Psalm 139 bring to you a sense of security? Does verse 23 enhance your sense of security, or does it brings thoughts of caution and fear of God? Where do you find feelings of security?

Tuesday: Read Psalm 8
What about God is the psalmist celebrating? Verses 3 and 4 tell of God’s condescension to man. What does this mean, and how does this bring thoughts of security to you? How do the many excellencies of God enhance your feelings of security?

Wednesday: Read Luke 17:20-37
Jesus’ plan of eternal security is to be found in the Kingdom of Heaven through a personal relationship with Him. Verse 33 is the key to understanding this passage. Do you think in this life you can find the type of security to which Jesus refers?

At this point you should understand the security Augustine referred to was the security of eternal life. For Augustine the physical security we have in the Lord in this earthly realm is only a mirror reflection of the eternal security to come. Unlike Plato he believe in the sovereignty of God, that God is in control and looking after His children, giving us a foretaste of the assurance of salvation. Augustine was giving us a strong rationale for seeking God.  

Thursday: Read John 1:14-18
John tells us the truth became human (flesh) and lived (dwelt) with us. Thus, this passage tells us in confident terms Jesus is the source of truth. Then in verse 16 John drops the word “truth” and says we received His fullness, that is, grace upon grace. What do you think the connection is between grace and truth?

Friday: Read Colossians 1:1-6
Here Paul emphasizes the words grace and truth by using each twice. In verse 4 Paul gives us the solution to discovering the truth. What is his answer? In verse 6 Paul speaks of the Word of Truth as a living person coming to dwell among us; then he speaks to how that is manifested in the life of the believer. What is this manifestation, and how is it being lived out in your life?

Augustine’s point was that when you discover Jesus you discover truth. The certainty of this is revealed in the believer by the fruit he bears in life. It is imperative to notice that Paul spoke first of grace and then truth being revealed in grace. This is an important distinction in understanding how we come to faith by grace alone.  

Saturday: Read Galatians 5:1-6
Here Paul is telling us self-righteousness (legalism) cannot co-exist with righteous justification (grace) through Christ. If we fear breaking the Law of God, what does that say about our understanding of God’s grace? Verse 6 Paul pulls his thoughts together using the words faith and love. What is the tie-in and how should it play out in our lives?

Sunday: Read Psalm 100
This Psalm is a call for all of mankind to exalt, praise, and recognize God as the benefactor of man. Verse 3 tells us we are to acknowledge four things concerning our relationship to God. What are they? When tying this in with verse 5, do you get a greater understanding what Augustine meant when he wrote, “let Him be loved in whom all becomes right to us?” Can you articulate that understanding to other believers and more importantly to the lost? How do we get right with God; is it something we do, or is there another factor to consider?

Augustine was a brilliant scholar, but more importantly he recognized his limitations as a man, knowing that God is the only source of all that is good. He came to the realization that man must seek, discover, and ultimately love the source of truth. His overriding point is, Jesus the man is also Jesus the Truth and therefore the Word of God is eternally connected to the Person of God. Augustine wanted us to love God and to find in Him our love for the truth. The truth of God is found in His loving grace which brings His ultimate good to mankind: salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

[1] Augustine, Saint (2008-02-13). The City of God, complete in one file (Samizdat Edition with Active Tables of Contents), improved 4/2/2011 (Kindle Location 6946). B&R Samizdat Express. Kindle Edition.

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