Certain questions have been asked nearly as long as mankind has existed: Who are we? Who is God? Why are we here? These are the fundamental questions of human existence that have challenged philosophers, theologians and common folk throughout the ages. Any examination of our lifespan and its meaning at some point will arrive at these inquiries. As we contemplate the reality that everything that lives, grows and breathes will one day cease to be, and no one knows the hour it will end, we struggle to find the meaning behind it all. We have a finite period of time to discover the answers. What does life mean? Who are we? Who is God? Why are we here?
In order for us to determine who we are and why we are here, we must first determine where we come from. If we are but “material,” a soulless collection of cells, tissue, enzymes and minerals, then we are only the most evolved species on the food chain and our lives mean nothing at all. If there is no God, no objective right and wrong, no source of wisdom outside of our own instincts and desires, then longing for meaning, human rights, justice, equality and peace is an empty chasing after the wind. If we are only the “apex predator” in a perpetual survival of the fittest, our inquiries die on the doorstep of materialism. In reality, even those who profess such beliefs still long for meaning, and an end to violence and injustice that their worldview cannot provide.
The answers to our questions must come from a transcendent source, from something beyond us. We need something testable, something that is based on more than just opinions, desires and speculations. The Bible provides us with this source. It is the most widely attested collection of documents in historical antiquity, and it holds fast under the scrutiny of historical, legal and scientific inquiry. The Bible makes a historic and exclusive truth claim about who God is, and what he says about our lives and what they mean. It is prudent for us then to investigate these claims as we seek answers to the fundamental questions of our existence.
The first of God’s commandments as recorded in the Book of Exodus tell us that “You shall have no other gods.” If we are to follow this command, we must first understand who this God is. The good news is that he has revealed himself to us clearly and concisely in his word: he is one God made up of three distinct persons. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is a profound mystery, and beyond our comprehension as many of God’s attributes are. He is eternal, without beginning or end. He is in all places, and knows all things past, present and future. He is all powerful and cannot be defeated by any person or any force. He is truth and speaks truth. He created the universe, the world and everything in it by speaking. No one has ever looked upon the Father, except for when they looked into the face of Jesus Christ his Son (John 14:9), and no one has believed in the Father or the Son except by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what God has revealed to us about himself.
The Bible makes a historic and exclusive truth claim about who God is, and what he says about our lives and what they mean.
Perhaps the most shocking and incomprehensible thing about God is not that he is eternal, or all-powerful, or all knowing, or everywhere at all times. The most astonishing thing about God is his love for people who hate him. God created mankind in his own image, and gave us the world for us to thrive in and enjoy. There was no hardship, no labor, no disease, no natural disaster, no loneliness, no violence and no death. All things were more perfect than we can imagine. Adam and Eve’s rebellion broke the world and everything in it. It separated God’s most beloved children from him, and set them on a course to the eternal torment of hell. Everyone born of Eve would now surely face present and eternal punishment.
God in his shocking mercy did not surrender us rebels to the fires of hell. He did not give us what we most certainly deserved. Instead he promised that a Savior would come to reconcile his broken children to him, as they could not reconcile themselves. He promised that this Savior would crush their enemies, and lead them to a land of unending abundance, void of all those horrific things that came from the world and everything in it being broken. He promised that this Messiah would make right all the things mankind had made wrong.
At just the right time, God became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, and he lived a life that was blameless and perfectly in accordance with his Father’s will. His sinless nature made him the only fitting blood sacrifice that could substitute for our sin. In his death and resurrection, he has defeated death and hell for us. We are reconciled to the Father by Jesus Christ the Son, and kept in faith by the power of the Holy Spirit.
What is our life to look like in light of this revelation? Theologian Johann Gerhard gives us a formula we can rely on to help our understanding:
“The very foundation and principle of a holy life is godly sorrow for sin. For where there is true penitence, there is the forgiveness of sin; where there is the forgiveness of sin, there is the grace of God; where the grace of God is, there is Christ; where Christ is there is Christ’s merit; where Christ’s merit is there is satisfaction for sin; where there is satisfaction, there is justification; where there is justification there is a glad end and a quiet conscience; where there is peace of conscience, there is the Holy Spirit; where the Holy Spirit is present, there is the ever blessed Trinity; where the Holy Trinity is there is life eternal. Therefore, where there is true penitence, there is life eternal.”
Who is God? He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Who are we? His broken but beloved children, whom he created, redeemed with his blood, and whom he loves in spite of our weaknesses and failures. Why are we here? To love and to serve God and neighbor, to live in repentance and trust in the mercy of God alone for our salvation. The one true God has revealed himself as the answer to the longings of every human heart. The search has ended. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Holy, Holy, Holy.