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What is God really like?



Any explanation or discussion about the nature of God should start with a humble acknowledgement that there will always be an element of mystery when it comes to understanding what God is really like. Why? Because God is infinite and we are not. We are finite, and If we, with our limited human minds, could fully comprehend the very nature of God, then he wouldn’t be God. Why? Because he’d be on the same level as us, and therefore he certainly wouldn’t be worthy of our worship, love, and obedience. Whether they’ll admit it or not, many skeptics refuse to believe in, and obey, God until they can fully comprehend him in this way. Such a position is impossibly arrogant and incredibly foolish.


It is also foolish to slide to the other extreme and contend that we simply cannot know anything about what God is really like. Why? Because God is a revelatory God. He has revealed himself to us in many ways. For example, God has revealed his existence and nature to us through creation, conscience, scripture, and the God-man, Jesus Christ.


Creation

Firstly, God has revealed Himself to us through creation - the natural world around us. The apostle Paul in Romans 1:20 states, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” The contingent natural world around us points us to God.


Conscience

Secondly, God has revealed Himself to us through our consciences. The Apostle Paul in Romans 2:15 explains how the knowledge of God and His law is written across every human heart, and how our consciences bear witness to this truth. Our intuitive sense of good and evil, right and wrong, points us to the existence and goodness of God.


Scripture

Thirdly, God has revealed Himself to us through the Scriptures. God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, inspired the prophets and apostles to record his words. David said in 2 Samuel 23:2, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue.” In Jeremiah 1:9 the author writes, “The Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘Now, I have put my words in your mouth.’” In 1 Corinthians 2:13 the apostle Paul states that, “When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak the words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.” In 2 Peter 1:20-21, the apostle Peter makes the same point. He writes that, “no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit and they spoke from God.”


The Bible is not like any other book. It is the very Word of God and serves as one of the central means by which God has revealed his existence, nature, plans, and purposes to the world.


Saviour (Jesus Christ)

God has revealed his existence and nature to humanity most decisively through the person Jesus Christ. God entered into history, entered into humanity in the form of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God is made manifest in the flesh. Through the unparalleled life, teachings, and works of Jesus - the God-man - God’s nature, along with his plans and purposes, are clearly revealed to each and every one of us.


It is clear that we can know quite a lot about God’s existence and nature. Let’s now look at just how much we can know about what God is really like. Such as, his infinite characteristics; his relational heart; and his holy nature.


Infinite characteristics

God is eternal

The Bible teaches that God is eternal (Exodus 3:14). God possesses an infinite life that is without beginning or end (Psalm 90). God was not caused or created. As thirteenth century Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas wrote, God is ‘Ipsum esse subsistens’. This Latin phrase has been translated by Bishop Robert Barron as meaning ‘the shear act of “to be” itself’. God is the very source of being, The necessary self-existent, uncaused first cause who created all things. He created time, and involves himself within time, and exists eternally outside of it. It’s impossible to fully grasp eternity with our limited, finite human understanding, but an eternal self- existent being really is part of what God is like.


God is omnipotent

The Bible reveals that God is omnipotent, meaning ‘all-powerful’. God can do absolutely everything and anything that is consistent with who He is. Psalm 147:5 states, “How great is our Lord! His power is absolute.” The Almighty God as Sovereign of the universe has the power to know the future and cause it to happen. Isaiah 46:9-10 states, “I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.”


God is omnipresent

God is omnipresent, meaning ‘ever- present’. His knowledge and power have no limits. God is ever-present within and beyond our universe of time and space. Jeremiah 23:23-24 states, “Am I only a God nearby?” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.” As finite human beings we simply cannot fully comprehend such a being, yet that is what God is really like.


God is immutable

God does not change. He will not waver or lie. He will always do what He says he will do. God always acts consistently with who he is. He remains constant, firm, and secure. Psalm 102:26-27 states, “They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” In Numbers 23:19 we read, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil?” We can trust in who He is because He is unchanging. He is immutable.


God is omniscient

God knows all. He has infinite knowledge of the past, present, and future. Psalm 193:1-6 states, “You have searched me Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” God is omniscient. He knows absolutely everything.


Relational heart

Firstly, God’s relational heart is evidenced by his very nature. We discover through Scripture that God is a trinity (He exists as three persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - in one divine essence). This triune aspect of God demonstrates that he is relational. Before human beings, before planet earth, before the universe or time itself, we know that God existed eternally as a relational being; the three persons of the Godhead sharing and enjoying the love and relationship of God.


Secondly, God’s relational heart is evidenced by his actions. God created humans in his image, as relational beings. God created human beings to have a relationship with us. He did not create us because he was lonely or needed us for relationship. He already existed as relationship. Out of love he created us. So that we may experience and enjoy a relationship with him, the very source of love, joy, peace, happiness, meaning, truth, and all things that are good. The Bible declares that God is a loving God who is passionate about his relationship with you (Exodus 34:14). The Psalms beautifully describe the loving heart of God.


- Psalm 103:8

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.


- Psalm 119:90, 156

Your faithfulness extends to every generation...Lord, how great is your mercy.


- Psalm 146:7-9

He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. The Lord loves the godly. The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.


- Psalm 147:3

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.


As you read through the scriptures the loving, relational, father heart of God is undeniable. He is merciful, compassionate, unfailing, faithful, just, and caring. He protects the ones He loves and provides for their good. The greatest demonstration of God’s loving, relational heart is seen in the life, death and resurrection of our saviour Jesus Christ. What was God’s response to human sin and rebellion? Did he forsake us or leave us in our sin, which separated us from him? No, he reached out in love to draw us back to him. Jesus Christ (God the Son), humbled himself, came to earth, and was willing to suffer and die so that he could defeat death and restore a relationship with you and me. That is the relational heart of God.


Holy nature

God created us as relational beings. We were made to relate to him and each other; to love him and love each other as we love ourselves. But where we, as fallen human beings fail to love fully, God does not. Scripture reveals to us that God is perfectly holy (Revelation 4:8), just (Revelation 16:5 and Psalm 28:5), and right (Psalm 119:137). Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “He is the rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!”


It’s important to remember that God doesn’t simply do holy, just, and righteous things; this is something he is. James 1:17 states, “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.” God is pure, unchanging, eternal goodness. Everything that is good comes from him; holiness, justice, righteousness, beauty, fulfilment, meaning, truth, joy, love, peace, etc. comes from his very nature. Consider Psalm 25:8, “The Lord is good and does what is right.” Revelation 3:7, He is “the one who is holy and true.” Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.” Psalm 145:137, “The Lord is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness.” Psalm 92:15, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him.”


So, how can we know what God is really like? Because he is a revelatory God. He has revealed himself to us in a myriad of ways. Namely, through creation, conscience, Scripture, and the life, death, and resurrection of our saviour, Jesus Christ. We can know a great deal about God and what he is like. Such as, his infinite characteristics, his relational heart, and his holy nature. We know more than enough to acknowledge his existence and nature, and to love and worship him, and to live according to his good and true ways.


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Further reading recommendations


'Who is God?' by Richard Bauckham


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