Who is God?
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Thus begins the biblical understanding of God. This is not a formal argument for God’s existence. The Bible assumes that God’s existence is a given, and the rest of creation owes its existence to the power and sovereignty of God. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).
There is much misunderstanding about who God is, though this is nothing new. When Moses came to Pharaoh telling him to let God’s people go, Pharaoh replied, “Who is Yahweh that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know Yahweh, and besides, I will not let Israel go” (Exod. 5:1-2). Pharaoh had no idea who he was dealing with. In his mind, Yahweh was a lesser being who didn’t deserve to be respected to trusted.
Denials of God often entail straw-manning God, making God out to be a character unknown to Scripture, or bringing God down to a level no greater than humans. Once this is done, God is easily dismissed, for who wants to believe in a god who is no wiser and no more knowledgeable than humans? When unbelievers mockingly speak of “the flying spaghetti monster” or something similar, they have only shown that they are like Pharaoh in that they do not know who God really is. Believers should not try to defend a caricatured version of God. Rather, believers find themselves in a situation much like Paul’s when he went into Athens and had to begin talking about “the unknown God” (Acts 17:22-31).
“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens by the span,
And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure,
And weighed the mountains in a balance
And the hills in a pair of scales?” (Isaiah 40:12)
Who is this God? While the God of Scripture is beyond anyone’s full understanding, there are many attributes revealed. It is beyond the scope here to try to catalogue them all, but there are a few initially of which people should be aware. Some will be grouped for the sake of brevity. However, the attributes and characteristics of God should be viewed as a whole, not simply parted out as separate pieces. Every aspect of who God is should be understood as consistent with all else that is known about Him. For example, God’s justice and ability to judge should be seen as consistent with His power, wisdom, and knowledge.
First, God is the Creator (Acts 17:24), and as the Creator, He has the right to command, to expect obedience, and to be respected and honored for who He is. This also means that He is all-powerful and has the ability to do “far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). Any version of God that denies this power is not fairly dealing with the biblical God.
Second, God is the God of all wisdom and knowledge. Paul exclaimed, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Rom. 11:33). God will always know far more than any human, and He will always be able to exercise His knowledge and power according to the greatest possible wisdom. A conception of God that will not allow for His vast wisdom and knowledge as being far superior to what any human can understand will be flawed.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:4).
Third, God is a God of love, goodness, and holiness. “God is love” (1 John 4:16). He is a holy God in whom there is no sin (Lev. 11:44). God is the standard of all that is good and right. He is not accountable to a higher standard of goodness, for there can be no more higher standard than He. Any view of God that sees Him as amenable to something higher than Himself is faulty. Further, all that He does will be consistent with love, goodness, and holiness.
Fourth, God is just and has the right to judge. Sin is a violation of the nature and glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Being holy, God could not overlook all the sin. Even people call for justice when wrong is done. Consistent with who He is, there must be a reckoning for the problem of sin. As judge of all the earth, He will do what is right (Gen. 18:25). God brings judgment and justice because sin cannot stand in His presence. This is His right to determine, and any understanding of God that will not acknowledge this will be faulty.
Fifth, God is a God of fellowship. That is, His nature is relational and He desires fellowship. This aspect of God helps us better understand two vital teachings of Scripture: 1) That God is triune. Scripture teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are fully divine and are one in all things; 2) That God, who made mankind in His image, has reached out in order to maintain a relationship with those whom He has made. Sin breaks fellowship, s0 when sin entered the world (Gen. 3), God put into effect His plan to allow sinful humans to be forgiven and come back into fellowship with Him. This plan culminated in the death and resurrection of the Son, Jesus Christ, and the gospel message is the proclamation of the grace and forgiveness of God available through Him.
All of God’s attributes, characteristics, and actions are surrounded by His glory. The glory of God is arguably the most overarching theme of Scripture, and all that is done, including salvation, is “to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:12). This glory is manifested in the presence of “light,” a theme which is interwoven throughout Scripture. God “alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16). “Let there be light” are the first words recorded as being spoken by God (Gen. 1:3), Scripture ends with God being the light in heaven (Rev. 22:5), and Jesus came from heaven as “the light of the world” (John 9:5).
While much more may be said about God, the preceding points may serve as foundational in a quest to understand more about God and His nature. When discussions about God occur, understanding what is meant when people talk about God is critical. For Christians, the only God they are interested in serving and defending is the God of Scripture, with all the characteristics attributed to Him. They are not interested in defending a lesser, toned-down version of a god unknown to Scripture. The God of the Bible is great beyond understanding.
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