The Bible Describes Who God Is
When the apostle Paul came to Mar’s Hill in Athens he said, “as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23). Far too many of those who consider themselves Christians do not really know the God they serve. Just as Paul needed to distinguish the true God of Heaven from the man-made pagan gods of his day, so today Christians need to study the attributes of God to distinguish Him from the imaginary Gods conceived in the minds of men.
Is the God of the Bible the product of man’s imagination? Atheist Robert G. Ingersoll wrote, “An honest god is the noblest work of man.” Prat de Lamartine said, “God is but a word invoked to explain the world.” Pagan gods are the inventions of mortal men. In his letter to the Romans Paul gave us a motive for man inventing gods to his liking (see Rom. 1:22-24).
The fact is man would have never invented the God described in the Bible. God is Holy. So holy in fact He has nothing to do with sin, cannot even be tempted to sin, and is separated from sinners. Why would man invent a God who is perfect, while knowing that all men are imperfect. Man is weak when born and weakens as he grows old. Why invent an all-powerful God man is unable to manipulate and control. God is angry with sinners every day and full of wrath. He will condemn impenitent sinners to an eternal Hell of fire. Surely, man would have never wanted a God like this. When men create a God He is someone they can outsmart and manipulate. They create a God who has the same moral weaknesses that plague their existence.
It is not enough for Christians to merely believe that God is, that is, He exists (Heb. 11:6). He must know the God he believes in. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1). If the atheist is a fool for declaring there is no God, how foolish is the Christian who declares there is a God yet does not know who he is. Many of those who are ignorant of God have the mistaken idea that God is somehow like man in his nature. The image, man paints God to be, is someone who is not appealing. No one would really want such a God to be their friend. Many are losing their faith, not because God has let them down but because they have believed so many lies about who God is. He is not too busy or cruel, vindictive, a liar, blood-thirsty, etc. Others have trivialized God into a kindly grandfather who is so loving He would never condemn even the most wicked man to hell. In this postmodern world God has been given a make-over to make Him more appealing to the masses. God is not anything we want Him to be. Karen Armstrong, a former nun and a fellow of the Jesus Seminar, explained how one ought to pursue God, “just keep your mind open and look for God. I like to look for God in other people, in other things, rather than thinking of a being up there.”
Yet God was not created in our image. Man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26,27). To know who God is will help us understand ourselves better and who God wants us to be.
The first thing man should discover in his pursuit of who God is, is that He is far greater than any man. To understand and to truly get to know God is a noble pursuit but also a most challenging task (Rom. 11:33-36).
How can we worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23,24), if the truth is: we do not know the truth about who God really is? Such worship would be vain. Is it possible to pray to God without understanding who it is we are addressing in prayer, thanking, and petitioning? We sing “How Great Thou Art” and “Our God is an Awesome God,” but do we really know the One we are praising?
“Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?” (Job 11:7). The answer is “NO!” By himself man cannot understand or know the great attributes of God. God has revealed Himself through nature and through the inspired scriptures. In addition, the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God explained in the New Testament. God is His attributes. To know these attributes is to understand His nature. Through the promises of God we are to be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). This is not possible if one does not know the nature of the divine. Being like God is something that is learned not instantly obtained the moment one arises out of the waters of baptism. He must study the Bible’s description of God.
● God is Eternal
Where did God come from? When did He come into being? The answer is that the question does not even make sense. It is like asking, “What does thunder smell like?” Thunder is a noise and is not in the classification of things that have odor, so the query itself is defective. It is like asking, “Who made the Unmade?” or, “Who created the Uncreated?” One may as well ask, “Who are the parents of the unknown soldier?” If you could answer who his parents were he would no longer be the unknown solider. Likewise, you cannot answer how old God is or where He came from, because if you did He could not be the eternal God. This line of questioning assumes that everything is subject to the limitations of time and space, and there is nothing outside the limitations of time and space.
He is the “Eternal God” (Dt. 33:27) and the “everlasting God, Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth” (Is. 40:28). In fact, the very name of God “Yahweh” means “the Eternal” (Genesis 21:33). When Moses suggested that people would ask him who had sent him to free the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, God told him to say that “I AM THAT I AM” had sent him. (Ex. 3:14). In short, God just is.
● God is Changeless
The old saying: “The only thing that is constant is change” is apparently true. However, there is One who never changes: GOD. Time changes everything, but it cannot change the eternal God. Unlike the false gods of paganism, who were thought to be fickle and whose capricious anger was thought unpredictable. God is not subject to no mutations. God has neither evolved, grown or improved. As He has declared, “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob” (Mal. 3:6).
● God is the Father
When discussing the Fatherhood of God it is imperative to keep in mind that there are three types of relationships involved. First, God is the Father of all mankind in the sense that He is their progenitor or creator. “For in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, `For we are also His offspring.’ “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising” (Acts 17:28,29). In relationship to the rest of the Godhead, God is Father to His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’”(Matt. 17:5). Finally, God is the Father of those who have been born again of water into His family, those who have obeyed the Gospel to be saved, and added to the household of God “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Mt. 12:50). “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. (Mt. 23:9; cf. Jn. 1:12; 3:3). It is the Father/Child relationship which God has with His redeemed which is the focus of this lesson.
● God is Jealous
Jealousy can be a bad character trait. In fact, it is listed as one of the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19f). Yet, the fact is, “the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex. 34:14). How can God be jealous? “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8) and “love is not jealous” (1 Cor. 13:4 NAS). Can God be sour and selfishly possessive? The truth is, jealousy is not always a negative character trait. It can be a divine virtue.
. The Hebrew word for “jealousy” means “redness of the face that accompanies strong emotion” (Feinberg, 1942, p 429). The Old Testament word “jealous” means to become intensely red. Just as we become red in the face when angered or embarrassed or passionate about something or someone, so our God has emotions as well. The term can be associated with fire. “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deut. 4:24).
● God is All-Knowing
God’s omniscience (all-knowing) extends throughout the entire known and even unknown universe. He is also perfectly cognizant of every event. “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite” (Ps. 147:5). Were it in anyway possible for something to occur apart from either the direct means or sanction of God, God would not be seen a omniscient. God is all-knowing, unlike Zeus and the pagan gods who were often tricked by cunning men and women.
● God is All-Powerful
One of the most common words used in the Hebrew in reference to deity is “el.” It is from a primitive Semitic name meaning “to be strong”. The term is commonly found in the poetical books of Psalms and Job. It was El who was able or powerful enough to deliver the children of Israel out of Egypt. “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe” (Deut. 10:17). Jesus is prophesied to be “Mighty God” in Isaiah 9:6. The term “El” is often used in combination of other terms to describe the nature of God, such as, El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty) or El Elyon (The Most High God). El is found in ancient compound proper names as El-isha, El-izabeth, Isra-el, Beth-el, Dani-el.
Another common description and name of God is “Almighty.” It is used 48 times in the Old and 9 times in the New Testaments. The word “almighty” means holding sway over all things or ruling everything. It is first used when God appeared to a ninety-nine year old Abram, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless” (Gen. 17:1). Thus, God is omnipotent or all-powerful.
● God is Everywhere
God is here and near and everywhere. This is not pantheism. This is a doctrine which identifies God with the universe. To the pantheist God is everywhere in everything and is everything. God, is however, omnipresent or all present. He is everywhere at the same time.
● God is Love
One of the most profound statements about God and love is: “for God is love” (1 John 4:8b). Notice John did not claim that “God had love” or “God will love” or “God is loving,” but “God is love.” Every other attribute of God’s nature is influenced by this characteristic of the Divine.
● God is Holy
No other of the attributes of God’s nature is ascribed to Him more than that of “Holy.” It is the very centerpiece of His nature. The holiness of God permeates all Divine attributes. His name is holy (Psalm 97:12). God is the Holy Father (John 17:11). His power is a “holy arm” (Psa 98:1). “Power is God’s hand or arm, omniscience His eye, mercy His bowels, eternity His duration, but holiness is His beauty” (Stephen Charnock). God is referred to as “Holy, Holy, Holy” (Is. 6:3; Rev. 4:8). This represents an emphatic statement pointing out the importance of recognizing God is totally holy. He is infinitely holy.
● God is Just
God is a just Judge of all the earth and He always does what is right. God’s righteousness refers to His fairness, His impartiality, and His justice. He is no “respecter of persons” (Rom. 2:11; Eph. 5:9; Col. 3:25; 1 Pet. 1:17; Acts 10:34,35). God possesses the quality of fairness to a perfect degree. No one can sustain a charge of unfairness against God.
● God is Trustworthy
There is a book titled, “If God Loves Me, Why Can’t I Get My Locker Open?” In other words, can God really be trusted? God is indeed 100% perfect and worthy of our trust because of His great character. God keeps all His promises. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23). Although all men lie God does not lie. “Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). In fact, we can live “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie” has promised (Titus 1:2).
– Daniel R. Vess