Who Is God?
Hundreds of years ago, the Egyptian ruler Pharaoh asked the question, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey Him?” (Exodus 5:2). That question is still asked today. It is not an easy question to answer, because to do so we must use our finite minds to try to grasp the infinite. There are some things about God that we may never fully understand until we face Him in eternity (Job 11:7; Psalm 145:3; 1 Corinthians 13:12). But with the help of the Holy Spirit, there are many things we can grasp and should know about God.
Knowing what God is like is foundational to knowing God Himself, and knowing God is the essence of being a Christian.Back to Top
God Is Absolute
“I believe God.” The apostle Paul faced an uncertain future when he uttered those words to a frightened crew as a storm engulfed their boat on the raging Mediterranean. But Paul had been told that after the trip, he would stand trial before Caesar and that God would spare the lives of all who sailed with him. So it was with confidence and great faith that he told his fellow sailors, “Keep your courage men, for I believe God, that it will happen just as He told me” (Acts 27:25).
We too face an uncertain future as our world seems to grow crazier each day. It seems that wrong is right and right is wrong. Without a doubt, the very foundations of our society are crumbling beneath our feet and we have lost our way.
Recent statistics show that today most Americans do not believe in moral absolutes. Instead, 69% believe in “situation ethics,” where right and wrong are determined by circumstances. At the same time, 70% say it\'s important to do what God or Scripture says is right. 91% of Americans also believe that religion is important, but 63% of those people reject the concept of moral absolutes!
We all must have a set of absolutes to live by. Otherwise, whose definition of truth will we embrace? Throughout history, people have been interested in a relationship with God, but only on their own terms. Voltaire said, “God made man in His image and man returned the favor.” Today many people are still remaking God into their image, into a deity that they can control (Isaiah 5:20; 2 Timothy 4:3–4; Romans 1:21).
In Kyoto, Japan, there is an unusual place of worship called the Temple of the Thousand Buddhas. On display inside the shrine are more than a thousand likenesses of Buddha, each just a little different from the others. It is set up this way so that a devotee can come in, find the one that looks most like himself, and worship it.
Many Christians essentially seek to do the same thing. But no one has the luxury of picking and choosing the attributes of God that are most appealing. We are given the option of accepting Him or rejecting Him, but not of changing Him.
God is omniscient (all-knowing).
God is vitally aware of His own creation—mankind. What\'s more, He is interested in us as individuals. Not one single thing occurring in any place escapes His knowledge (Psalm 139:1–6; Psalm 147:4; Matthew 10:29; Proverbs 15:3).
God is omnipotent (all-powerful).
God can do all things. Nothing is too hard for Him. No problem is so large that He cannot deal with it and, if it is His will, He is able to eliminate it altogether (Psalm 139:7–12; Job 42:2; Genesis 18:14).
A.B. Simpson said, “There is no difficulty too intricate for Him to unravel. There is no little detail of life too petty for Him to take an interest in. There is no toil too tedious for Him to go through with us. There is no tangle too involved for Him to unthread and loose. There is no complication or difficult circumstance too extreme for Him to not be willing to take hold and lead us gently out into the light.”
God is omnipresent (present everywhere).
You are never alone. Like Paul on that storm-tossed ship, you can boldly say: “I believe God!” He will be with you no matter what you face in life (Isaiah 43:2). He is always everywhere (Jeremiah 23:24; Psalm 139:7–10).
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God Is the Moral Standard
“How do you define right and wrong?” This question has never been more important than in these times of eroding morals and constantly changing values. We, as a society, have moved away from absolutes. “Moral relativism” is the rule of the day.
To know the difference between right and wrong, a person must have a base to start with. This is where God comes in. He has set clear standards for right and wrong, based upon His own perfect nature. We have already learned that these standards are worth heeding because God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present. Now let\'s look a bit deeper into His character.
God is truth.
As in ancient times, our world worships many false gods. But our Bible teaches of the one true God, the only God whose knowledge and words are true.
How can we know that we worship the true God? Is it because we feel right or have certain opinions? Certainly not, for we are flawed in our ability to know what is true or false. The final court of arbitration is God Himself. He has told us that He exists and that He is truth (Jeremiah 10:10; John 17:3; Romans 9:20).
God is holy.
We repeatedly see this fact throughout Scripture. When we read of angels, we do not see them focusing their praise on the fact that God is “eternal,” “faithful,” or “mighty,” though God is all of these things. Rather, they praise Him as “holy, holy, holy!”
Being holy means that God is without sin and will not look on sin. This is why the death of Jesus Christ was necessary. For God to be able to look upon you and me, we must appear as sinless and holy. Since we cannot achieve that state by ourselves, Jesus was given to cover us with His holiness (Psalm 24:3; Proverbs 15:9; Isaiah 59:1; Habakkuk 1:13).
God is righteous.
God is just in His dealings with mankind. "For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face" (Psalm 11:7 NIV). Even Pharaoh recognized this fact as he and his people were suffering under the plagues. Pharaoh acknowledged the perfect justice of God in punishing him for his sin when he said, “I have sinned this time; the Lord is righteous, and my people and I are wicked” (Exodus 9:27).
Some people don't like the fact that God has control over their lives (Many people even refuse to recognize that God has control over their lives!). Job eventually questioned God's dealings with him. God answered Job's questions quite bluntly, and put things back into perspective for him (Job 38–40).
God is good.
God is the final standard of what is good, and all that God is and does is worthy of approval. This does not mean that God's goodness is contingent upon our approval. God is good whether we choose to believe it or not. Jesus said, “No one is good, except God alone” (Luke 18:19 NIV; see also Psalm 106:1; Psalm 34:8).
If God is good, then the definition of good that we should adhere to is: that which God approves, that which is consistent with His character.
God is just.
This attribute is closely related to holiness and righteousness. God hates sin and His just nature demands that He judge it. God has given us His law and has declared, “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). It is because He is just that God has wrath and anger (Deuteronomy 32:4, Exodus 32:9–10; John 3:36; Romans 1:18).
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God's Attributes Work Together
It is important to understand that the attributes of God complement one another.
We learned that God is omnipotent (all-powerful) and that He is also righteous. If He were a God of perfect righteousness, but without power, we could not be sure that justice would ultimately prevail. On the other hand, if He was a God of unlimited power, yet lacking righteousness, how unthinkably horrible our universe would be.
Similarly, in God's holiness, He is unapproachable by sinful people. But in His love, God approaches us. Because God is holy, just, and righteous, He hates sin and judges it. Yet because He is loving and patient, He gives us chance after chance.
Many people ask, “How can God be loving, yet hate something?” God is the essence of love, but that is not His only attribute. As parents, we love our children with all our hearts. Because of that strong love, we would hate anything that would harm them. If a wolf came after a toddler, a loving parent would hate it and stop it. In much the same way, God hates the sin that separates us from Him.
Other people ask, “How can a God of love send someone to hell?” Our just God has given His law. Because He is righteous, He has said, “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). But it is not His intention to send anyone to hell. In fact, hell was not even created for mankind, but for the devil and his demons.
Because God loves humanity, He sent His only Son to die in our place and take the punishment for our sins. Only Jesus, as God incarnate, was qualified to bridge the gap between a holy God and sinful man. If we reject God's loving offer of forgiveness and harden our hearts to His Word, we essentially seal our own fate. God has made a provision for man's salvation, but He cannot change the outcome if man refuses to accept His grace (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:14; John 3:36).
In the same way, the principle of gravity will not change if someone dives off the Golden Gate Bridge, and gravity would not be to blame for the tragic outcome of such a decision. The person who jumped is responsible for his actions, just as the person who ends up in hell is responsible for his or her fate. The outcome is a consequence of choice. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “The gates of hell are locked from the inside.”Back to Top
Our Response to Who God Is
How should we react to a God who is all these things? We should seek to live holy lives in gratitude for all that He has done for us (1 John 2:6).
We, His children, must be truthful. Like God, we should love truth and hate falsehood (Proverbs 12:22; Isaiah 59:2–4; 3 John 1:3).
We should seek to be holy. To live a holy life is to be wholly committed to God (1 Peter 1:15).
We should be righteous. We should love all that draws us closer to Him and hate all that drives us away (James 5:16).
We should be good, just, and loving. His love must show itself through us (John 15:4).
Our God is great and greatly to be praised (Psalm 145:3). We do not need to be afraid of Him. He is powerful and worthy of our respect, but our reverence should not be that of cowering. Instead it should inspire a love so strong that we will do all that is necessary to keep from displeasing Him. Christians should be driven by their love for God to discard and avoid anything that will hurt their relationship with Him.Back to Top
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version™. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ™. NIV ™. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by biblical, Inc. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.