Posts Tagged 'nature of God'

Who Is God , Part 1

What do you know about God? How well do you understand Him? If you are a Christian, then God should be the most important Person in your life, therefore you should know Him very well and know all about Him. Sadly, a lot of Christians are blissfully unaware of even the most basic facts of God – His nature, character, His divine attributes. How embarrassing it will be for you when you stand before God and you realize you knew more about your spouse, or your kids, or your co-workers than you ever did about the God created you, saved you, and made you His child. For the next few weeks, we’re going to take a look at what the Bible reveals about God so that we can all get to know Him better, and in doing so we’ll appreciate Him more and love Him with a deeper, more informed love.

Just to get us started, let’s take a very interesting verse; something that the apostle Paul wrote to his friend, young Pastor Timothy:

That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:10 | TNIV)

Right away your probably see something in what Paul wrote that looks a little off, given what we know about salvation: “God…is the Savior of all people…especially of those who believe.” The question that should pop into your head is, “Who else is God saving except those who believe?” What did Paul mean when he wrote, “especially of those who believe?” We’ll delve into that, and the rest this verse in detail later on in this series, but for now, I want to focus on another phrase of great import: “We have put our hope in the living God.” That’s the essence, really, of what salvation is all about: Trusting God. It only goes to reason that if you know more about God, then you’ll have more hope. Or, we could say, the more you know about God, the more hopeful you will be. And hope is an important thing:

Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 24:14 | TNIV)

As we begin to learn all that we can about God, the first aspect of His Person is the foundation of all the others. God is holy. When we talk about the holiness of God, what do we mean?

Holiness of God

Let’s go back to the beginning. In the book Exodus, we read this concerning the holiness of God:

Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? (Exodus 15:11 | TNIV)

That verse hints at what is involved in God’s holiness. Somehow it relates to the fact that no other god, and of course those other “gods” refer to little gods created in the minds of men, comes close to being like the true God.

This aspect of God’s character means that God is absolutely morally pure. God cannot sin nor can He tolerate sin. You may think that “holy” means things like “good” or “well behaved” or “decent,” but it may surprise you to know that the root meaning of “holy” is “separated” or “separate from.” But in what sense is God separated? First, and most obvious, God is separated from man: He is in Heaven, we are on earth. There is a distance between God and man; we don’t occupy the same time and space. But God is also separated from man in His nature and character. For example:

• God is perfect, man is imperfect;
• God is divine, man is human;
• God is morally perfect, man is sinful and corrupt;

Very simply put, holiness is the distinction that sets God the Creator apart from all that He created, including man.

And throughout the Bible, God tried to drive this point home to His people. For example, in the written words of Scripture, we read all about how God is holy. But even when He supernaturally revealed Himself to man – in visions, for example – He did so in such a way to show how holy or separate He is. There are several examples of this, but Isaiah’s vision of the transcendent God is maybe the best.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy , holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. ( Isaiah 6:1 – 4 | TNIV)

What an awesome scene! No earthly king or potentate could compete with it. That’s what God was trying to impress upon Isaiah: God is NOT like anybody or anything on earth or elsewhere. That’s what the holiness of God means. And that’s what separation looks like.

Did the coming of Jesus change any of that? In other words, is God still separated from redeemed man?

Another side of God’s holiness

In John’s first letter, we read this:

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. (1 John 1:5, 6 | TNIV)

You don’t see the word “holy” in those verses, but that’s what John was writing about. Instead of writing “God is holy,” John wrote, “God is light.” Of course, light has nothing to do with holiness, but John contrasts the idea that “God is light” with the fact that there is no darkness in Him. There’s that idea of separation again – light is separate from darkness. Light is not the same dark and we all know that when you turn a light on, the darkness goes away – the two cannot co-exist in the same time and space. God must forever be separate from sinful man. The two cannot co-exist. That’s essentially what John was getting at when he wrote: “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.” In other words, if a person – any person – claims to be a Christian but lives a life steeped in sin, then they are lying about being a Christian. They can’t be. Now, that’s not to say that Christians are sinless. They sin. But, because they have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, they are able to have some fellowship with God. They can’t have that fellowship apart from Christ.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13 | TNIV)

This is absolutely essential for people to understand – John needed his readers to understand it. If a person wants to have fellowship with God and with the Son of God, he needs to understand what makes that fellowship possible. Because God is holy, He remains necessarily separate from sinful human beings – that’s all people, by the way. But because the blood of Christ washes away our sins, we are able to experience, to a certain degree, the presence of God on an ongoing basis.

P.T. Forsyth, in his work, “Cruciality of the Cross,” made this statement about the blood of Christ:

The blood of Christ stands not simply for the sting of sin on God but the scourge of God on sin, not simply for God’s sorrow over sin but for God’s wrath upon sin.

That’s a fancy way of saying this: Sin caused Jesus to bleed, and God caused Jesus to bleed. Sin, in the sense that our Lord was beaten up and stabbed by sinful man. God, in the sense that His Son was being punished for your sins, not His; He’s forever sinless. The Son of God bore the wrath of God the Father in His body, on the Cross. And because He did that, Christians can enjoy the presence of God. Now, it’s not a perfect presence though. Because there is still a real separation between God and even His children. He’s still “up there” and we’re “down here.” But through the work of Jesus Christ and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, we are able to be in God’s presence, wherever we are, any time.


To sum up, there are three things we need to remember when we say God is holy. First, there is a chasm or a great gulf between God and sinner.

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. (Isaiah 59:1, 2 | TNIV)

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? (Habakkuk 1:13 | TNIV)

But not only is the sinner cut off from God, God is cut off from the sinner. Before man fell from grace, God and man walked together in the garden. Their fellowship occupied the same space and time. Now, though, that kind of unbroken fellowship is impossible.

Second, if a man wants to approach God, he must do so based on the merits of Another. No man can come into the presence of God because of his sin problem. But, thank God, Jesus came and has made that free access possible.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1, 2 | TNIV)

For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18 | TNIV)

Lastly, even though we have free access to God through Jesus Christ, we should still approach Him with reverence and godly fear.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28, 29 | TNIV)

Why fear? Because God is holy and you aren’t. So you should rightly fear being in His presence. When you understand what the holiness of God is, then you will have a right understanding of how bad sin is and what it does to you.

“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:4, 5 | TNIV)

That is an example of how we should all go into God’s presence, in an attitude of  humiliation, contrition, and of dependence.  When we see ourselves correctly, we will have a correct view of the holiness of God.

(Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About God


Everybody seems to have their own ideas about God; who He is, what He does, where He lives, and even what He looks like.  God might well be the most libeled Person ever.  Fortunately for all the people who have ever preached sermons or written books or made movies that defamed God’s character, He doesn’t seek damages.  At least not in this world.

Some people think God is a mystery.  Other people think He is some kind ethereal idea; a nebulous cloud of strange matter that hangs out in the darkest corners of the universe.  No wonder they make up all kinds of crazy things about Him.  Yet, God is not a nebulous “something,” nor is He a mystery.  He is, in fact, a Person, who is knowable by man.  There may be things we may never completely understand about this divine Person, but then the same holds true about our wives.  The fact that (as some husbands reckon) women cannot be understood certainly doesn’t stop husbands from loving their wives!

God has revealed as much of Himself to man as man needs to know in the here-and-now in His Word, the Bible.  If a man thinks God is a mystery, it’s only because that man hasn’t picked up a copy of the Bible and read through.

Part of God’s self-revelation to man are the names by which He is known.  In the Old Testament, there are several names for God, each name pointing to a different aspect of His character.  Here is a handful to give you an idea:

  • Elohim.  This name of God is seen over 2,000 times throughout the Old Testament and paints a picture of God’s fullness and majesty.
  • Yahweh.  This God’s proper Name, often erroneously translated as Jehovah.  It appears some 6,000 in the Old Testament.  In Exodus 3:13, God refers to Himself as “Yahweh” in the phrase, “I Am that I Am,” meaning simply God is an eternal Person.
  • Adonai is a popular Old Testament Name for God, and means “Lord of Hosts.”

There are many, many more Names for God in the Bible.  But Names aren’t they way God has revealed Himself to man.  Let’s look at some Scriptures that will help you understand more about our God.

Genesis 1:1 

Going back as far as we can go, we read this about God:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  (Genesis 1:1  NKJV)

Here the name in behind our English word “God” is Elohim.  What was our majestic, glorious God doing in the beginning?  He is seen working; specifically, Elohim is seen creating the material universe.  This is an important verse—maybe the most important verse in the Bible because it tells us, (1) where everything came from, and that (2) Elohim, the majestic Creator is the One responsible.  Of course, Moses, the man who wrote Genesis, doesn’t tell us how or when this work of creation took place.  The purpose of Genesis 1:1 is not to give us all the answers, but to introduce Elohim to us.  God is referred to as Elohim 35 times in Genesis 1.  Why?  Because Moses, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wanted his readers to understand something about God, so he used the name, Elohim.  In the Creation story, we see Elohim in action:  God demonstrating His infinite, unstoppable power by bringing the material universe into being simply using the power of His Word.  He didn’t need anything else.  God is so majestic (Elohim), that He is able to make something out of nothing.

That’s an amazing aspect of God.  Imagine how powerful He must be; to be able to bring an orderly universe into being.  If God was able to do this, what can He NOT do?  He can bring order to your chaotic life.  He can create solutions to your problems out of nothing.  This truth about God raises two questions.  First, why do some people have so much trouble believing in a Creator; a Personal Being behind the creation of a perfectly ordered universe?  And, secondly, why do some Christians have so much trouble trusting in God to help them?

Perhaps the easy answer to each question is one of accountability.  If you truly believe in Elohim, a Personal, all-powerful God, then you will be accountable to Him, some day.  People, even Christians, don’t like that.

Exodus 15:11 

Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods?  Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?  (Exodus 15:11  NKJV)

In the book of Exodus, this verse occurs within a “song of deliverance.”  It was Moses’ song, sung shortly after the Hebrews left Egypt.  After so much time in bleak bondage, with no hope for the future, to suddenly be set free by a glorious action of God, no wonder Moses wrote such a song!

The first thing we discover about God is that He is unique.  There is no one like Him.  Remember, these people had lived for generations in a land with many “gods.”  God, with a “big G”, wanted His people know that all those “small G” gods were merely pretenders to the throne; that He was and is the One true Sovereign in the whole universe, and He backed that up with action.  He and He alone set His people free and the Egyptians were dumbfounded; they couldn’t stop the Hebrews from walking out.

God is portrayed in a most heroic fashion in these verses.  But more than just a hero, God is seen as supreme over all.  Put yourself in the Israelite’s sandals, as you watch the Red Sea parted by the power of God.  Then marvel as you see the mighty, fearsome Egyptian army drowned by that same power.  God, majestic and powerful, dispensed of the enemies of His people.  But even more than supreme over nature and people, God is “glorious in holiness.”  That’s a profound attribute.  God is glorious because He’s separate from and not part of any aspect of this world.  Stop reading, and think about that for a moment.  God is not bound the laws of nature.  Seas don’t stop Him, the darkness doesn’t slow Him down, and the greatest armies of man are as nothing to Him.  This is because God is holy—separate and distinct from everything.  But this doesn’t mean He is “all by Himself”!  You and I, like the believing Israelites, are also holy; just as separate from this world as God is.

Isaiah 40:28—31 

Does God ever get tired?  These verses answer that very question with a resounding “NO!”  The opening of Isaiah 40 sets the tone for the rest of the chapter:

Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”  says your God.  (Isaiah 40:1  NKJV)

There’s not a lot of comfort in the world for God’s people today, so we know that this verse and what follows look forward to the future, to the time when God’s judgments of Israel are past, when Jerusalem will have paid for her sins, and when the Lord returns.  The promised comfort will be possible when the Messiah returns.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”  (Isaiah 40:3  NKJV)

We know that the New Testament uses that verse in reference to John the Baptist, and it was his job to introduce the Messiah to the world.  Unfortunately for Bible readers, the Old Testament prophets never distinguish between the first and second comings of Jesus; they are always sort of blended together.  Clearly, the prophecies of these verses were not fulfilled at the first coming of our Lord; therefore we know they must be referring to the second coming.  When He returns, they will be completely fulfilled.

The rest of chapter 40 contains some phenomenal descriptions of God’s character and omnipotence.  Some of what Isaiah wrote here sounds a lot like Job 38, in which God questions Job, to set him straight.

Why are you using your ignorance to deny my providence?   (Job 38:2  TLB)

That’s God’s response to Job’s assumptions about God; assumptions he and his friends spouted for over 30 chapters.  Some of what Job said about God was true, some was off base.  Notice God called Job “ignorant.”  That he was—presuming to know all about God when, in fact, he knew very little.  Here’s what prompted God to set Israel straight in Isaiah’s day:

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God”?  (Isaiah 40:27  NKJV)

Thinking anything is hidden from God is at least ignorant!  It’s also arrogant.  God addresses their “concern” that He is not listening to them or ignoring them by describing Himself to them.  Specifically, God assures His people that He is on the job and that He is never tired or unaware of anything.

The Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.  His understanding is unsearchable.  (Isaiah 40:28b  NKJV) 

Not only is God always on the job; not only does He never get tired; He has enough energy and vitality to spread around!

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.  (Isaiah 40:29  NKJV) 

That’s incredible, isn’t it?  The very people who were complaining about God’s lack, in fact, lacked what they accused Him of lacking!  But God is ever gracious.  He promises to empower the weak, old or young.  However, that promise isn’t for just any weakling.  There is a condition for receiving this supernatural strength:

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.  (Isaiah 40:31  NKJV)

The key for Israel, and for us, is to wait upon God.  Israel’s problem back then is our problem today:  impatience.  We want what we want from God right now.  Very few believers want to take the time to “wait upon the Lord,” but they want His promises.  When, from their vantage point, God doesn’t come through for them, they accuse Him of not listening or of taking a nap.  The problem, as it always is, rests on man, not on the Lord.

If you need strength, He has it for you.  He has more than you could ever use!  But first, you have to do what He asks of you.

Romans 11:33—36 

The apostle Paul begins the eleventh chapter of Romans with a question many Jews of his day were asking:

…has God cast away His people?  (Romans 11:1  NKJV)

Now, we know the answer to this question, but to Jews of the first century, many of whom where living scattered all over the known world with the ever present threat of persecution hanging over them, this was a genuine issue.  Had God really forgotten all about them?  Had God erased all of His promises?  Of course not, was Paul’s enthusiastic answer.  Israel was not forgotten and it will never be forgotten.  In fact, the exact opposite will prove to true!  Israel can be saved and WILL be saved, as is stated plainly in verse 26:

And then all Israel will be saved.  (Romans 11:26  TLB)

Naturally, it isn’t a “blanket salvation.”  Israel will be saved on the same basis as all people—by responding in faith to the Gospel of forgiveness through the work of Jesus Christ.  Paul’s point is simply this:  other people are being saved, and Israel will be saved, too.  God has not forgotten His people.

This was tremendous revelation to Paul.  Just think about it; God had given Paul the barest glimpse of His eternal plan.  No wonder responded the way he did!

Oh, what a wonderful God we have!  (Romans 11:33a  TLB)

Then he proceeds to write about some of the reasons why God is so “wonderful.”  God has an abundant supply of precious wisdom (sophia) and knowledge (gnosis).   He knows things we could never know and He knows things before we discover them.  Not only that, God’s thought processes, unlike ours, are absolutely prefect; completely objective in every way.  Furthermore, God’s decisions or judgments are perfect and nobody is able to “keep up” with when and how He makes them.  Recall the words of Isaiah:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.  (Isaiah 55:8, 9  AV) 

What Paul seems to love most about God is the very thing that drives most of us crazy:  the seeming mystery of the “how’s” and the “why’s” of God.  This didn’t bother the apostle at all.  He understood something Tersteegen also did:

A God comprehended is not God at all.

If God at times seems hard to figure out and His divine attributes without limits, then that must mean His love is also limitless and, at times, unfathomable.  This ought to be a great comfort to all believers, as it was to Paul.  Our Lord makes available to believers who love and trust Him, a measure of His divine nature.

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:4  AV)

The world, with it’s conflict of ideals and out of control passions may seem to be in a state of chaos, but when we see it through the lens of God’s attributes—His wisdom, knowledge, love, etc.—our own understanding of it transcends our own understanding.  He gives us perfect perspective and peace and we are able to see the world, not as a chaotic mess, but as a place full of lost souls, looking for something we have.


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