Have you ever heard someone say that they love the Lord, but they are not really into studying things like doctrine? I certainly have. I recall a horrific song lyric from popular Christian music in my early college years in which a singer proudly proclaimed, “I don’t need theology to know that God’s good to me.”
But, the truth is, we do need theology to know that God is good to us. Theology is the study of God, the knowledge of God. Without theology, without doctrine, we do not know God.
Now, I’m not here saying that you must have a fully, categorically developed systematic theology to love the Lord. You certainly do not need a seminary education to read the Bible and follow your Savior. But, knowing God and the doctrine of God is truly helpful.
Let me point us to a doctrine that I think matters a great deal for our current moment. It is the doctrine of God’s omnipresence. This doctrine means that there is no confining God by any sort of spatial limitation. God is present in all places, equally, at once. God is everywhere, and there is nowhere that God is not.
Jeremiah 23:23–24 – 23 “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? 24 Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.
God fills heaven and earth. God is not contained within heaven and earth. God is not a part of heaven or earth. But God is present throughout all space. After all, God created space, and all space belongs to him.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
Here we see that David knows that he cannot go anywhere without being where God is. David cannot go east or west, to heaven or to hell, and be away from the Lord.
It is important that we grasp that, while God is present everywhere at all times, his action in those places might be quite different. God is not present in hell to bless but to judge. When the Bible uses language of God being far from us, it is saying that God is turned less favorably toward us, not that he is in any way removed by physical distance. When the Bible speaks of God as near to us, it is saying that he is pleased with us or is blessing us, not that his presence has somehow arrived in a place where he was not before.
The doctrine of God’s omnipresence is one that is important. We teach it unhesitatingly to our children. And, if you will let yourself think about it, you will see that this doctrine speaks a great deal to us in our present social moment.
God is where you are. Even when you are separated from society, the Lord is not gone. You may not be able to go and be at a baseball game or even sit in a church auditorium with your dear friends. But you have not been separated from the presence of the Lord. God, as David said, hems you in behind and before. You cannot flee from his presence.
Let’s consider two things from this doctrine for us today. First, God is with you and sees you. Just because you are socially distanced from others does not mean you are hidden. What you do, even while alone, is fully visible to the Lord. Think about that as you consider how to spend your time and your energy. Think about that as you consider what to look up online or what to post on social media.
And, let us also be comforted by the omnipresence of the Lord. As a believer, I hate the idea of having to try to function as the church on-line. I do not like preaching to an iPhone. I do not like singing without others around me. But, and this is vital, God is here. Wherever you are, God is here and there and everywhere. While we do not want to be the church scattered, we can be comforted in knowing that, no matter how many miles separate us, no distance at all separates us from our God. And, in a symbolic sense at least, as we are all in Christ, we are not truly apart. Yes, we want to be together. But, we are with our Lord. Our Lord is with us. And Our Lord is here to keep us, to preserve us, to bless us, to comfort us, and to give us the joy of giving him glory, even in a time of social separation.
Friends, it is true that some doctrinal study can get quite complicated and confusing. It is true that some folks become so enamored with the scholarly that they appear to lose their hearts. But, do not put down doctrine. Without doctrine we do not think well about the omnipresence of the Lord. And without that thought, we miss out on a great comfort for all believers in the middle of a very strange time.