“Who is God?” is one of the most frequently asked questions by both children and philosophers alike. When we study about God, we are studying about the One who affects us most. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all life and will reward those who commit their lives to him. But most people appear to live without recognizing God. He is called the all-knowing One, yet so few know much about him. He is a God of order, yet the discussion about God ends in confusion. When a crisis of life comes suddenly upon us, we find ourselves searching for God, yet not quite sure who God is.
THE DIFFICULTY OF KNOWING GOD
We must be aware of the source of the staggering problem that confronts us as we seek to know God. To understand fully the nature and existence of God is an impossible task for us in this life (1 Cor. 13:12). God cannot and never will be fully comprehended by human minds. The very nature of unlimited reality can never be understood by a limited mind. The very words we use to describe God are finite words and cannot adequately describe an infinite God. Beyond these problems, God has withheld himself. “No man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:18). Therefore, the following observations on the nature of God are, at best, like man attempting to describe the nature of the sun-calculated opinions based on partial facts.
WHO IS GOD?
Men have tried for centuries to adequately define God. Many theologies and catechisms have been produced in this effort. They have found how difficult it is to produce a simple statement defining God in his totality. A definition of God will include seven aspects. The Scriptures define God as: (1) Spirit, (2) a Person, (3) life, (4) self-existent, (5) unchanging, (6) unlimited by time or space, and (7) a unity, which means God is one God.
Every definition must have a definitive term, such as “the man is a husband.” The definitive term “husband” gives meaning to the word being defined. The following chart gives seven definitive terms that give meaning to the nature of God. Notice each definitive term contains a specific truth about God. When all are placed together, a picture of God’s nature as he has revealed himself, is seen.
God is Spirit. Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Even though the King James Version uses the article “a” with Spirit, God should not be referred to as a Spirit, which means “one of many.” The original languages should be interpreted to read “God is spirit,” which describes his nature.
As Spirit, God is not limited by a physical body. “Spirit” means incorporeal being. God is a real Being who does not exist in or through a physical body (Luke 24:39). Although God is said to have hands (Isa. 65:2), feet (Ps. 8:6), eyes (1 Kings 8:29) and fingers (Exod. 8:19), he is not to be understood as having a physical body. God attributes human form and personality to himself in order to relate to humanity in terms meaningful to us. In some passages God is also said to have wings (Ps. 17:8; 36:7) and feathers (Ps. 91:4), but this figurative language, depicting God as a protecting mother bird, does not imply that God has a physical body.
A spirit is also invisible. Though God was in the pillar of fire that led Israel through the wilderness, he was never visible to the nation (Deut. 4:15). There are some passages in Scripture where it seems that men actually saw God (Gen. 32:30; Exod. 3:6; 34:9, 10; Num. 12:6-8; Deut. 34:10; Isa. 6:1). Actually, it would be more correct to say these men saw a reflection of God, but did not see him directly. The only ones who have seen God are those who saw Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). Because God is invisible Spirit, no one has ever seen him (John 1:18; 1 Tim. 1:17).
The second commandment is a ban on the making of idols. It prevents the use of idols in religious service. God prohibits idols for many reasons but one of them was because God is Spirit.
God is a Person. Most of the religions of the world portray God as an impersonal Being or a force. The Bible paints a totally different picture of God. He has all of the characteristics of personality.
A basic characteristic of personality is self-awareness, the ability to know oneself. When God told Moses, “I am that I am” (Exod. 3:14), God was describing himself according to his own perception. He was aware of who he was.
God also has self-determination, the second characteristic of personality. Selfdetermination implies freedom and God is free to do whatever he chooses. Hence, being a person is equated with freedom. The opposite of freedom is determinism and there is nothing that makes God do or be anything. God is free to follow the direction of his nature. Hence, when man is made in the image of God, man is a free being, responsible to his Maker.
Self-determination involves accepting the responsibility for one’s life. The selfdetermination of God is seen in that he exists by himself and perpetuates himself by his nature (Job 23:13; Rom. 9:11; Heb. 6:17).
Personality also implies intelligence. God is said to know (Gen. 18:19; Exod. 3:7) and have known (Acts 15:18). The infinite wisdom and omniscience of God is clearly taught in the Bible (Jer. 39:19).
Another characteristic of personality is emotion. Some may not use the word “emotion” relating to God, but rather the word “sensibility.” However, emotions are attributed to God. Note the following feelings that are present in God: Genesis 6:6 (grief; John 3:16 (love); Psalm 103:8- 13 (kindness); Exodus 3:7, 8 (empathy); John 11:35 (sorrow); Psalm 7:11 (anger).
Because God is a Person, he also has a will, the volitional aspect of personality. He has the ability to make his own decisions and choose his own actions (John 4:34; Rom. 12:2). The acts of God are not responsive to outside stimulus as ours sometimes are. When God acts, his volition is motivated according to his predetermined will.
If we possessed the infinite understanding as does the will of God, we would find, God’s activities very predictable. Paul urged the Romans, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, . . . that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1, 2).
God is life. Joshua told his people, “Ye shall know that the living God is among you” (Josh. 3:10). Young David recognized that Goliath was defying “the living God” (1 Sam. 17:26) and not just Israel. Later he wrote, “For with thee is the fountain of life” (Ps. 36:9). Peter called Jesus “the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). The Bible makes frequent reference to the “living God.” He is both the source and sustainer of life (John 5:26). In essence, life comes from the nature of God, because God is life. When God gives life to something, he gives a part of his nature to it. All life comes from “the life” (John 14:6).
God is self-existent. One of the common names for God in the Old Testament is “Jehovah.” The name comes from the verb “I am.” In Exodus 3:13-15, Moses confronted Jehovah in a burning bush. When Moses asked for an identification of God, the answer given was, “I am that I am.” The name implied not only that God always was, is, and will be, but that God is independent of any other thing. “Jehovah,” therefore, means “the self-existent God.” Others interpret the name to mean also “the one who is utterly trustworthy and reliable.” Man exists in dependence upon food, water, and air, but God exists independently. From before birth man is dependent upon others, but God is dependent only upon himself.
God is immutable. By definition, God is perfect and cannot become better (Ps. 102:25- 27). If he became less than perfect, he would not be God. God is therefore immutable; he cannot change.
The Bible states, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent” (Num. 23:19). To deny the immutability of God, some have pointed to the biblical accounts of God repenting. A close look at these accounts (Gen. 6:6; 1 Sam. 15:11) reveals that it was men, not God, that changed. When men sinned, God was consistent in his nature to judge sin. The word “repent” used in these references refers to an expression of sorrow rather than a change of character or nature.
When men sought to live for God, God was still consistent in his nature to reward believers. The changing life-styles of men caused the consistent behavior of God to appear to change, but the change was not in God. God is unchangeable.
God is unlimited in time and space. God is unlimited by time. The Bible describes him as the one who “inhabiteth eternity” (Isa. 57:15). Paul called him “immortal” (1 Tim. 1:17). Abraham recognized “the everlasting God” (Gen. 21:33). Moses observed “even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Ps. 90:2). The psalmist wrote, “But thou art the same and thy years shall have no end” (Ps. 102:27).
Time is the measurement of events that appear in sequence. Since God created the world, he existed before the first event. God never had a beginning point. He always existed. And God will continue without a terminal point. This is why Christ was called the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.
Neither is God limited by space. Space is all the area where there is physical reality and being. Space is the distance between objects. God is independent of space. His existence goes beyond the farthest located object. The presence of God never ends. Paul told the Athenian philosophers that “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24). Solomon observed that “the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him [God]” (2 Chron. 2:6).
Both time and space are results of God’s creative act. He himself exists beyond time and space. God is infinite, while time and space are limited. God alone exists in the universe without limitations. If another God did exist, then God would not be the self-existent, allpowerful, unlimited God. It is axiomatic that two unlimited beings cannot occupy the same space. If another God did exist, then God could not be an unlimited God. The infinity and immensity of God are strong arguments for the sovereignty of God in the universe.
God is one. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). There can only be one God. To speak of more than only one supreme, absolute, perfect, and almighty being called God makes about as much sense as talking about a square circle. The meaning of words would become useless and truth would collapse. “Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God” (Isa. 44:6). When we talk about the Trinity, we are still talking about one God in three personalities. The idea of God as a Trinity was suggested in Hebrew thought by the name of God, Elohim, which is a plural. Elsewhere in Scripture, God is also spoken of as plural, such as: “Let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26, italics added).
THE NECESSITY OF KNOWING GOD
Those who choose to deny the existence of God spend time justifying their reasons for so doing. Some who cannot deny God find themselves hating God and rebelling against him. Then there are those who seek God honestly. But behind all the reasons why men seek or rebel against God is one obvious fact: a person’s understanding of God sometimes determines the reason to search him out or to flee from his presence.
Seeking knowledge of God is a clear command in the Bible. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). When troubles come upon us, it is often then that we find “God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). As David gave his son Solomon the plans for the temple, he said, “Know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found by thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cut thee off forever” (1 Chron. 28:9). The unexpected twist is that, when we are seeking God, he is searching for us.
Knowing God is a prerequisite to knowing ourselves. In order to better know ourselves, we must have a better understanding of God, for the Bible says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27). The more we can learn about God, who he is and what he is like, the more we will learn about ourselves. The most revealing thing about a man is his idea of God. Subconsciously, he strives to become like his God. Societies built upon a low view of God are called “primitive.” Those which have recognized the master design of the universe created by an omnipotent God are called “advanced.”
Knowing God is foundational for knowledge. Jesus said, “I am . . . the truth” (John 14:6). Whatever is true in the universe is founded upon the nature of God. This is because one of the descriptions or definitions of God is “truth.” The Book of Proverbs has a great deal to say about wisdom and practical principles of living. Most Bible commentators agree that the wisdom that Solomon wrote was a typical picture of Christ.
Knowing God is one of the benefits of eternal life. When Jesus prayed in the garden before his betrayal, he identified this truth: “And this is eternal life, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). It is impossible to know God without being saved. Jesus said some will claim a right to enter the kingdom based upon their charitable works. “Then will I [Jesus] profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:23). The only way to know God is by faith (Heb. 11:6). By faith we must accept what God says about himself as true.
Knowing God promotes spiritual growth. The apostle Paul constantly desired to mature in his spiritual life. One of the motivating factors in his life of continual spiritual growth was a deeper knowledge of God. He wrote the Philippians that he forsook all “that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). Peter gave the same exhortation to Christians in 2 Peter 3:18.
Knowing God precedes loving God. People do not fall in love with strangers, whether the stranger is a man or God (note Jer. 9:23, 24). The greatest commandment of Scripture is to love God (Matt. 22:35-38). Before we can love God and obey Scripture, we must first know the God we are commanded to love.
HOW TO KNOW GOD
The Bible commands that we know and love God for himself. This creates a dilemma for mankind. Job experienced this dilemma when he cried out, “Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!” (Job 23:3). The question is sometimes asked, “How can a man know God?”
By faith. It is impossible to know God apart from faith. Faith is accepting what God says about himself. The Bible says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6).
By the Word of God. The Bible is the object of our faith, what God has said about himself.
By desire. Some people are perfectly content to deny the existence of God without any serious consideration of the subject. These people are prevented from knowing God because they do not want to know God. Unless men have a desire to know God, they will never know him. Why? The Bible says, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).
By involvement. Our knowledge of God can grow just as our knowledge of a friend grows. This requires involvement with God on our part. This is more than learning the content of Scripture. We must apply scriptural content to our lives. Jesus said, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:21-23).
Knowing God is the highest privilege afforded to men. Unfortunately, most people fail to recognize the priority that ought to exist in this area. If the greatest commandment is to love God with our total being, this must precede our effective service for him. Only as we study the Word of God and apply its principles to our lives will we come to know God as we should.
Monday: Deuteronomy 6:1-15
Tuesday: Psalm 46:1-11
Wednesday: Matthew 22:34-46
Thursday: Isaiah 40:18-31
Friday: Psalm 103:1-22
Saturday: Psalm 33:1-22
Sunday: Psalm 90:1-17
Taken from: What The Faith Is All About by Elmer Towns