A sermon preached at Avenue Road Alliance Church, Toronto
by A. W. Tozer
Psalm 147:5 "Great is our Lord ..."
I want to do a lot of defining as I go along and say simply, as if you didn't know--I know most of you, or all of you do, unless there are some children--that finite means limited: the thing has a limit to it. So long, so heavy, so old or so something... infinite means that it doesn't have any limits; that there isn't any limit to it. So that infinitude just means a condition of having no limit. So, once more, a big word, when it is reduced down, is found out to be not such a big word after all.
So, I am to talk about the infinitude of God and this, above all the messages that I have brought to you ever, this, will make the greatest demand upon your intelligence and upon your imagination and your powers of reason. The reason that this is so is, that we are going to try to conceive of a mode of being with which we are completely unfamiliar; not merely somewhat unfamiliar, but completely unfamiliar.
God dwells in a mode of being totally beyond us and wholly above us and infinately removed from us yet when we think about God we are trying to think about someone unlike anything we know. God says, Who am I like? or to whom will you compare me? The answer being, nobody; nobody's like God, nothing's like God. God is like Himself.
We dwell in matter and space and time and we are creatures. God is not material; he doesn't dwell in matter. And he isn't spacial; He doesn't dwell in space. And he isn't temporal; he doesn't dwell in time. And he isn't a creature; God is a Creator, not a creature. God was before any creature was and as I have said before, nothing adds anything to God and nothing can take anything away from him.
This poetic notion that God created the world as a theatre where He could display His glory and all that may have something in it, but creation didn't add anything to God and I say it can't take anything away from Him. So we have to try to receive into our mind something wholly different from anything we are familiar with and something wholly beyond anything we are familiar with. You have to get the idea of limitlessness into your head and that is a pretty tough one for us dwellers in time and space. Now one thing you have got to keep in mind is, that anything I say about God this morning isn't God.
You see, friends, theology is what we can learn about God but knowing God is quite something else altogether. Now, anything that I'll say this morning, any intelligent sinner can understand and then go to hell. But eternal life is knowing God and not knowing about God. The difference between a theologian and a saint is that the saint knows God and the theologian knows about God. There is a difference you see, my brother, and theology is what can be known about God--what our little heads can lay hold of--and you don't have to be a Christian to know theology; chances are you would be a Christian or you won't think it interesting enough to monkey with it. But if you're studying doctrine, you can teach doctrine, and study doctrine and not be a Christian. And I have no doubt that many Bible teachers aren't truly Christians; they only know about God, they are specialists in the Book of Romains and Ephesians and Hebrews but they don't know the God of Romains nor Ephesians nor Hebrews. And you can go to Bible conferences and you can hear theology--or doctrine as we like to call it--you can hear doctrine, and you can understand the doctrine, and yet not know God at all.
"This is eternal life that they might know (God) Thee", and "know" there means experience. There is a difference between knowing and experiencing. I know about Eisenhower but I have never experienced Eisenhower. I have never see him, I have never shaken hands with him. I have never heard his voice, except over the radio; I have never experienced Eisenhower, and yet I know about Eisenhower. Anything that I can or shall say about God this morning any sinner can get it, if he's intelligent, and yet go to hell in the end. So don't get puffed up if you happen to feel, well, you understand about God's infinitude. That doesn't mean anything to you, unless you have been born of the Spirit and washed in the blood, because over here in the book of First Corinthians we read this: "It is written, Eye hath not seen, nor eye heard, neither has it enter into the heart of man the thing which God hath prepared for him that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his spirit, for the spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so, the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God."
You can know about God without the Spirit, but you'll never know God except by the Spirit. You see, we intuit God. Now 'intuit' is another word people might run away from but it's not so difficult. Intuition is how you know you're alive. How do you know you're alive? You get up in the morning and say to yourself, Now I wonder if I am alive this morning? Then you pinch yourself and say, Well, I have feeling, then you say, Well, I am hungry; I must be alive! You don't reason you're alive: you know you're alive by intuition.
The bird, the little baby, knows it's alive: it's intuition. It's what man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of a man which is in him! The spirit of a man is that in a man which knows he's alive. And he doesn't have to have any reason about it: he knows. So what is it that knows God but the spirit of God? I can't know you're alive except by reason. I look down here and I see my brother, and I say to myself, Well, there he sits. He has got a plaid shirt on. He is sitting there humped over and he's alive. Alright, I know he is alive. He looks alive. I reason that he is alive and he has never reasoned about it at all! You don't have to reason to know you are alive: you'll know it by an instinct, intuition, we call it.
Now, the Holy Ghost knows himself with a divine intuition and nobody can know God except those who have the Spirit of God which gives to us that divine intuition so that we know God not by reasoning about Him but we know Him instinctively and intuitively. That's why you can take some little old lady that never got through third grade and only reads by moving her lips and reading out loud and yet she can stand up and praise God at the top of her voice! And you can argue her out of it, you can make fun of her, you can tell her she's ignorant, you can tell her there is no God, you can tell her the gospel is a figment of human imagination. You can argue her down, and when you are finished she will look puzzled, but she's just as likely to just keep on singing because her knowledge of God is an intuitive knowledge! She didn't get it through reason so you can't reason it out of her.
Anything you reason into a mans head, a better reasoner can reason out of his head. That's is why I'm worried when we have an altar-call and people come to the altar and the preacher gets down there with a New Testament with red marks on it and he begins to reason a man into the Kingdom. And anything you can reason into a man, a better reasoner can reason it out of him. But if he meets God and knows God by the Holy Ghost he is not reasoned into the Kingdom, he is born into the kingdom and since he wasn't reasoned in, he can't be reasoned out.
Now that was wasn't at all part of it but I thought I'd say those things before I went any further. God is infinite and we know this from the Scripture. It is one thing God has revealed about Himself by reason and by revelation and, you know, God knows no limit and no bounds. That is what we are trying to say this morning: that whatever God is, he is without limits, and all that God is, He is. And all He ever was or will be and all that He ever is, or will be, He is, without limits.
Have you ever thought that because we have to think with our minds and because our little heads are finite and God is infinite therefore we have to think backwards about God when we reason about God. Now, when you get down on your knees to pray you don't reason, you worship and that is something else. But when you are trying to think about God, you have to think in negatives. The old mystic theologians said that the only way you could ever think about God right was to think negatively about God and you will find that in the Scriptures themselves, as well as in theology.
For instance, self-existence; what is self-existence? It means that God has no origin. What is self-sufficiency ? It means that God has no support. What is God's eternity? It means that God had no beginning and God can have no ending. Our friend down in New York to the contrary notwithstanding, that is negative reasoning. We reason to God's eternity by saying that God had no origin. We reason to his self-sufficiency by saying that He has no one to hold Him up. We reason to God's eternity by saying that God had no beginning. We reason to his immutability by saying that God cannot change. "I, the Lord change not." We reason to his infinitude by saying that he has no limitations. We reason to his omniscience by saying that God cannot learn. Now that would shock some people to say that God can't learn. You can only learn when you are ignorant. That is, if there is one thing in the world you don't know, you're still ignorant. And everybody's ignorant, only, as one fellow said, they're ignorant on different subjects! Everybody's ignorant and everybody can learn. You can learn, but God can't learn because God already knows instantly and perfectly everything that can be known.
So if you have been in the habit of giving God a lecture and briefing Him every morning on what is going on you may as well stop, because you can't tell God anything He doesn't already know because God knows everything that can be known or that is knowable from eternity past to eternity to come. So don't bother God by telling Him an awful lot of things; spend more time worshipping and you'd be nearer to God.
We go to God with our grocery list. I have a book of requests here, so I believe in requests, I write my requests down and I always keep them with me here, I have got my little book here, I have written in my little 10-cent-store book the things I want God to do the major things, you know, and then I check them God answers prayer. I've got a few unanswered prayers but the most of them are answered. And I believe in that, but I don't think we should come to God like to a general store every morning with a list and tell God what we want, and then the next morning appear with another list thanking Him for the list He answered before. That's pretty childish, and cheap, and it's a pretty low way to worship God. There ought to be time when we go into the presence of God with no requests on our heart. Just go to tell God how lovely He is, just to tell God how wonderful He is. And if we don't think he is wonderful, then we don't know him the way we ought to!
Well, that God is infinite, means that God knows no limit and no bounds and here we have got to start eliminating all popular usage. When we talk about unlimited wealth that is perfectly silly, because there is no such thing as and unlimited wealth. Rockefeller didn't have unlimited wealth; he just had a huge amount of it. People looked at it and said, Why it has no limit! But that is silly; it does have a limit. And we say boundless, and we talk about the 'boundless deep' and the poets talk about the tide and said 'that which grew from out the boundless deep turns again home' but the deep isn't boundless. The scientists know how many gallons of water there are in the ocean and they know how much the earth weighs, so that 'boundless' is a word you can't use down here because everything does have a bound.
And then, the word 'infinite'. You talk about an author or a musician taking 'infinite pains' with her music, but she doesn't take infinite pains; she just takes a lot of pains. And energy is not 'boundless'; there is just a lot of it. If you get hit by a few hundred thousand volts of electricity your friends standing around will say, There was boundless power in that lighting stroke!, but it wasn't boundless; it can be weighed, it can be measured, scientist can tell you how much it was. So the words 'infinite' or 'boundless' or 'limitless' or 'measureless' belong to God and nobody else ever should use them. If they use them, they ought to know they don't mean what they're saying.
There is only one who's measureless and that is God: you can't measure God. Some of you sisters who have been working too hard at the table are a pretty good size but you can weigh yourself at least! Some of you tall fellows are awfully tall! I remember one time I was at St Paul's, Minnesota, and I was staying over at Minneapolis. I got in the elevator one night coming down and all I could see was hip pockets and I said: Bless my heart, what's this! And I began to look up for their heads, and there they were: the Indianapolis basketball team there to play Minneapolis' basketball team (incidentally, that night Minneapolis tucked them into their pocket, I remember). But I thought, what is this? Here were these fellows, you know, right up there, and I was a little boy! I am about 5 foot 10, you know, but I was a little boy! They were tall, but they weren't limitless; they could be measured. You didn't think so, standing beside them, but actually you could measure them; they had a limit. They went up there a long way, but they did finally stop. Now, measurement, you see, is a way we have of giving an account of ourselves and it's a way created things have of giving an account of themselves it describes limitations and imperfections. But God never gives an account of Himself anyhow and since God isn't matter, you can't weigh Him and since He isn't space you can't measure Him and since God isn't energy you have no way of computing Him.
We can only describe the contingent and the relative but God, being absolute and self-existent, there is no way of measuring God. So there is no use about talking about God as big. Big is a creature word, you know. And it is a relative word, and if a boy catches a fish as long as your fountain pen it's a big fish to him, and if his father catches one a foot long that is a big fish to him! But the men who catch them in the ocean catch them ten feet long and that is a big fish to them! And that whale that swallowed Jonah was a big fish to Jonah ... and everything is relative. A boat ten feet long is a big boat to some people, but the Queen Mary could tuck that under her finger nail! 'Big' is a word that we use when we are talking about degrees of things but since God doesn't dwell in degrees He's absolute.
Are you afraid of that word absolute? Some people go to college just enough to be ignorant. I have a daughter-in-law like that. She has got an IQ of 148--which is just pushing on genius--and she is the most perfect example of an ignorant person, who knew more before she went to college then she did when she came out! Just ignorant, you know. One of my sons went to university and came out of university and when he was through he walked around and said, Dad is an absolutist, Dad is an absolutist! Well, I didn't shrink and run and hide in the closet and say, Please don't call me an absolutist. Of course I am an absolutist! I believe that God is absolute and that God doesn't dwell in degrees and that you can't measure God nor weigh God. God is absolutely God, and nothing else.
All light came from absolute light and all power came from absolute power and all intelligence came from absolute intelligence and all ideas came from absolute ideas. So that I am an absolutist. No, don't worry me! Because I am an absolutist. I believe that God the Father Almighty is absolutely what He is.
But we use the word absolutely so foolishly. We say, 'She's absolutely beautiful.' No she isn't, she's just pretty! But she certainly isn't absolute, because there was a time she didn't look like that and there will be a time she doesn't look like that. And anything that once wasn't and later won't be isn't absolute: it's just relative. And some of you dear ladies that imagine that you're good-looking are fairly good-looking. I haven't seen any stunning beauties on the ground but you all look nice. But, listen sister, listen sister, you're not absolutely, your not absolutely beautiful, you're just beautiful. And a man thinks he is absolutely strong. Nothing is absolutely: only God . Never use such a word about anything but God! Because absolute means that it is not a part of anything, that it is not a component, it is that, and there is no way of describing it, and that's God.
Oh! Brother, I have a good time with God; I do! I don't shout around like my old friend over here. I like to hear him , I admit it and I enjoy that. One of my joys of going to camp meetings is to hear him because he means it! If he didn't mean it, I'd be the first one to go lead him aside under a tree and give him a talking to, but he means it. But I am not built like that. I can sit utterly unruffled and having things break around me that would excite some people to death but I am not excitable--very. But I get wonderfully excited about God; wonderfully excited over God! And you get before the great God who made heaven and earth and all the things that are therein--why that excites my heart!
Now, we measure things, I am trying to say. Weight, is how we account for the gravitational pull, and distance is how we account for removal in space, and length is how we account for extension in space, and there are other ways; liquid is a quart or a gallon, or whatever it is. My good friend, who is now in the Baleine Valley is a missionary. And he was a city-raised boy and he married a country girl. And he was giving an illustration one day in his preaching as a young preacher. He said something about if a cow could give 40 quarts of milk, she'd be doing pretty well and his wife said: "Brother, you can say that again!" She was from the country and she knew cows but he didn't!
And while I am at it, while I am at it, since I am making a terrific demand on your head this morning, I may as well tell you this one about my good red-headed friend Ed in the Baleine Valley. He was a city boy but he went down on the farm where he found his wife, and they were studying there and they had an old pig there, an old sow and they expected her to have a litter and he was more or less--like the rest of them, you know--waiting around for the event. Then one day somebody rushed in and said, I think she 's going to have her pigs; she's making her nest. And Ed rushed outside and started looking in the trees!
Well, you see don't you, friends, that there are measures down here. A cow gives so much milk and there is so much water in the spring and so many horsepower in your engine, so many candlepower in your electric light, so far from here to the next town. We weigh and measure things but God is outside all these things and above all that.
Thou art infinite, O God, and none of these words or concepts touch or describe God. They describe the imperfect only, and God is perfect. And thus we don't weight or measure God, he knows no degree. 'One God, one Majesty; there is no God, but thee, unbounded, unextended unity'. And God has no measure and no amount. God is measureless, boundless, and thus infinite.
Now what does all this mean to us, brothers and sisters? Well, that is really what I want to talk about: what does all this mean to us? It means that whatever God is to you, God is to you absolutely and without measure. It means that if God is your father he is not like your earthly father with limits and imperfections. It means that if God is your father he is infinitely your father and he is your father in infinite measure and degree. Although neither measure nor degree apply to God we have to use it or else have a blank space in our heads. And so God is your father: a perfect father. God can do what you can't do.
I think now as I am older that I wasn't a perfect father by a long way to my children because I sometimes used sarcasm on them to get them to obey. Well, that was a great breakdown. And I heard the sermon last night and I sat there thinking that I wasn't so good a father and if I had been like some of you I would have gone to the altar but I have my altar wherever I am. I wasn't a perfect father for a number of reasons; one of them was that I knew they were intelligent little scoundrels so I knew that if I just came head-on there would be just one Tozer bumping another one and that is just like an irresistible force meeting an immutable object. So I would just flank them with a little sarcasm and that wasn't good because I know I hurt them. So I am not a perfect father and I don't suppose there are any perfect fathers here. Brothers and sisters, let me say to you that God is the perfect Father. And God never makes any mistakes.
And I am so glad that God never read any books on what a young father ought to know. And I am glad God never worries about psychology and never hunts up a teacher to teach him how to be a father. No, no, my friends; God is our Father, and he is infinitely our Father and he is perfectly our Father.
And then God has His mercy. Now think about the mercy of God and think that it is infinite. There is no degree to it. Man has mercy. Out in the state of Illinois, this man Leopold who with Loeb in 1926 I think it was, killed young Bobby Frank and was sentenced to 199 years and Loeb died in prison and Leopold learned 26 languages and became a recognized scientist, yet he has been 33 years in that prison and he has tried to get out on parole a number of times and this last week he came up for Executive Clemency and I left Chicago before it was settled but I think Leopold was to receive pardon. He is sick; he won't live very long although he is only 52 years of age but he is a scientist and he said he wants to spend the rest of his life helping people, so he wants to go to a hospital and be a helper there until he dies. That's very fine.
But if they pardon him it will be mercy. But mercy wasn't big enough to pardon him to start with. Justice came in and sentenced him to 199 years. What I am trying to say is that man's mercy knows limits but God's mercy knows no limit. So you can go around preaching the mercy of God without limits. There is no limit in the mercy of God because you can't find the boundaries of God's limits. Everything that God is, he is without limit. So that if you could think of God's mercy as a sea you could swim in it for ten million years and never come to the shore because if doesn't have a shore! So that if you could think of God's mercy as being like the atmosphere you could get into an airplane traveling at the speed of light and you could go on for ever and still never find the limits of God's mercy!
Now, the reason this interests me is that I never want a little bit of something; I either want enough, or you can have it. I couldn't worship a God that was little and that had to worry about His mercy. If God had to call all the archangels around and say: "I wonder if we will have enough mercy for that. We are getting a little low on it. It hasn't rained for sometime and I was just wonder if we got have enough mercy." Brother, God has all the mercy there is and that is all you need. If God willed to do it, God has enough mercy to pardon all the demons and all pardon angels and the devil himself and everybody in hell. God doesn't will to do it; so I don't believe that there will be a universal redemption of angels and devils and sinners, but I say there is mercy enough in God to have mercy upon all beings. And if there were one million times ten millions more sinners than there are it wouldn't put a strain on God's mercy because His mercy is infinite and you can't strain infinitude.
And, then think of the love of God :
This is the Lord we adore.
Our faithful unchangeable friend
Whose love is as great as his power
And neither know limit nor end
So think of God's love. Now, a mother's love is usually held up as being the most beautiful thing in the world and as near to limitless as you can get. But a mother can be outraged to a point where her love will die, or a mother can die and her love will die with her. But God can't die and there isn't any way of God ceasing to love. See, God doesn't love you because you are lovable, he loves you because he is love. For that reason God loves his world, and he loves his universe and it never changes any. Some people think that when Christ died on the cross God loved us more then he had before. No brother, Jesus dying didn't increase the love of God any, because you can't increase the love of God. How can you increase that which is limitless and boundless? Where would get any love to add to the love of God? There isn't any way of increasing God's love. So God loves you with all the love there is in the universe. That ought to make you feel good! I don't know whether it does or not, but it should. "Yea, I have loved you with an everlasting love." That is what the scripture says; 'an everlasting love'. And so the love of God is everlasting. I think of this song.
Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the sky of parchment made
Were every stock on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll
Contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
Whoever wrote that had the idea, the love of God is absolutely infinite and there isn't any place to find the end of it so that if you live in the eternity to come as you will and exist forever for you came into the world a little protesting, squawking, sticky infant you came into the world with eternity in your heart, brother. A little rabbit is born to live three years, then die. I watched a little bird hop around looking out my window and I thought "Poor little guy! You will only be here a while and then you will go back to the dust from which you came." But when you were born something eternal was born. You see, God is eternal both directions. The word eternal means from the vanishing point to the vanishing point. 'Out of mind' to 'out of mind' that is what eternal means in Hebrew. From 'out of mind' to 'out of mind' in both directions. So you are not eternal backwards. There was a time when you weren't and God spoke and you were. But you are eternal in this direction that out of mind to the vanishing point you will not cease to be. So though you have eternity in your heart and will never cease to be you can never out live the love of God and you can never go beyond the love of God.
"Because I, the Lord, fill all things and the heaven and heavens can not contain me" and God being love eternity and all space is not only filled with the love of God but overflowing with the love of God! You never can overdo the love of God although you can preach so much about the love of God that people forget he is a God of justice and do harm to the church. Don't forget that.
God's grace is infinite. Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. I like that passage and I want to tell you one more little story and then quit.
This little story happened in Omaha, Nebraska. I heard a man preach, and to save my life I don't know what he said. That is the blessed thing about preaching: you can hear a man preaching and get blessed and don't remember what he said. But just the fact he was talking about God gave you a big lift, and sent you out feeling better determined to be a better Christian, even if you didn't remember what he said. And most of what we say isn't worth it. But I don't remember what this man said and he was one of America's great preachers. But I went down to my hotel room and I got down on my knees and I was praying. I was influenced by the sermon but not instructed by it. And there I was, on my knees, and there a sense of my own sinfulness came over me and the knowledge of the sins I had committed, and the wrongs I had done, and all the rest and even though I had been saved for many years and preaching for many years, I got under conviction like a sinner before the altar. And there before the great God I was pouring out my iniquities and my awfulness to God and then when I was through, God didn't answer me exactly but he let me begin to reason.
And I thought to myself, Now, wait here a minute: You're a sinner--or you were--but you're a finite sinner. Therefore if every corpuscle in your body was a sin and if every nerve in your body was a sin and every hair on your head was sin, and you had sin like a mountain or like an ocean, there would still be a limit; someone could count it. Somebody could put the boundary around it. Some surveyor could come and say: I am counting Tozer's sins. It would take him months to do it, but finally he would get around the outside of it. Some geologist could come and say: I am measuring Tozer's sins and he could measure them out and it could be a long measure but he could finally get to the top because I am finite and a limited man and I can only sin finitely.
Therefore, all my sins, even though they are worse than I think they are, have a limit to them somewhere. But Jesus, when he died on the cross, died to make an infinite atonement without any limit at all! Where sin abounded grace did much more abound. So I knelt there thinking before God and I said, Well God, I am not going to let this bother me any more, because even if every cell in my body were a sin it still can be counted but who can count the infinite infinite boundless worth of the blood of the Lamb. And something whispered to my heart that one drop of the blood of Jesus Christ--being God--one drop of the blood of Jesus is capable of making atonement for all of Adam's race, from Adam and Eve down to the newest baby born one minute ago.
So that is why I walk around relaxed and kind of loose. Because God's mercy is big enough for me. God's grace is big enough for me. You can go anywhere. Here is a brother over here who is a guard over in a prison. Why, that man can go to the worst triple murderer and say to him, The love of God can take you in if you let him! God's love is big enough and God's atonement is big enough and the mercy of God is great enough because there is no limit to it. You only killed three people but if you had murdered the whole humain race it would have had a limit but the atonement in Jesus' blood has no limit. Limitless, boundless, grace. So that is why I like to sing: "Marvellous grace of our loving Lord".
That is a reasonably good song, brother. They don't make many good ones nowadays but that comes close to being a good one. And that is pretty good. "Infinite, matchless, marvellous, grace, grace that is greater then all our sin". Well that is the end of the sermon and now just a word or two to say this to you: Pray every day for a good vision of God. Pray every day God will make you think big about Him. An unworthy, low concept of God seems to me is the greatest weakness of the modern church. God is the Man upstairs he is somebody. He's Him, He's He. He is that strange being yonder but He is just a big man up there just a greatly enlarged movie star. Well, the result of all that is that our Christianity is dragging in the gutter and I would rather drag the American flag in the gutter then to drag Christianity in the gutter--wouldn't you? I never have, and in the army I use to see them put the flag up and if it started to touch the ground some soldier would dive to get it. They didn't want that noble flag to be in the dirt. So let us take our thoughts of God our concept of God and think of it infinitely beyond the flag of our country. Never let it drag in the dust. Never think a low thought about God. Never compare God to people. Never compare God even to archangels; God our heavenly father's above it all.
And now, the most wonderful thing of all is that a God like that, a God before whom angels veil their faces, a God whose presence is heaven and whose absence is hell, that that, infinite, absolute, boundless, omnipotent, eternal omniscience God should come down and walk around in the form of a baby. And say : "Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laded and I will give you rest". And, that that God should say, When you pray, say: "Our father who art in heaven hallowed be Thy name." So when you pray to your father, remember who your father is and you'll be a better son.
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