His Essence and Divine Nature
How Does God Define Himself?
Does God grow in stature or in knowledge, does he father other gods? Does he have a body like men? Does he change? Does he have feelings and emotions? There are various speculations and mysticism but these must give way to God’s revelation of himself. The doctrine of God is the central point for the rest of theology. If we have a true Biblical view of God it will affect what we believe and our lifestyle.
The Bible is the word of God and He reveals who He is in it. The study of theology (Theo – god and logos – is a rational expression or the rationale which concerning God). True Christianity is more than a religion (a set of beliefs) it is a personal relationship with God. Genuine Christians believe what Jesus Christ taught and practiced. They make him the authority by which they conduct themselves. They base their beliefs upon the facts of the Bible. God’s nature and attributes are clearly described in scripture. He is incomprehensible and we do not know everything about His full complex Being we know only what He has revealed to us in the Bible, and though we do not fully understand it all He gives us the ability to continue learning more about Him. There is always an element of mystery about His greatness. God gives us a picture of Himself in the Bible.
What Are Attributes?
They are the qualities or characteristics of the entire nature of the Godhead. They constitute who He is. The study of these attributes does NOT exhaust what God is. Since God is an infinite (an attribute) being, it follows that there is no way that a mere human could categorize all the attributes of God. They cannot be improved upon since they are perfect because He is perfect. You cannot improve on His love, holiness, joy, justice, power are any other quality. He is incomprehensible and we do not comprehend any of His qualities in their fullness. We do not know any of His qualities completely but only what He has revealed to us of himself to us. We are not referring to His acts (creating, guiding and preserving) nor the corresponding roles (creator, guide, preserver). His greatness and awesomeness has an element of mystery. God’s grace and work are manifestations of His attributes. The Lord Jesus reveals the Father to us. The finite mind of man is continually searching out the Almighty. The bible on almost ever page asserts the personality of God. He designs, acts, speaks, thinks, is capable of feeling, has a name and He is personal.
God’s being or substance is His inner nature, quality or attribute. They are invisible because He is a Spirit but he manifests them to us in order that we may know Him and worship Him. We are limited but the God of grace has manifested His attributes to us to be understood. The believer can master the information God has provided regarding himself. This knowledge is though faith , not the mind or the emotions, faith in the revealed Word of God. We are totally dependant upon divine revelation. When we understand some of this awesome truth we like Moses are standing on Holy ground (Ex. 3:5). Each person in the Godhead has the same perfection of essence. This is the glory of God (John 10:10). All the attributes are present at the same time in God.
1. God is infinite. The Bible teaches us about the infinity of God and he is the cause of everything else. He is everything everywhere, and has no limitations. When Moses asked “Who shall I say sent me” God replied, I am that I am” “I am has sent me unto you” (Ex.3: 14). He is the ultimate, the absolute. We read in Revelation 4:4 “Holy, holy, holy, Lord god Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” He is absolute being and has not been derived from something else, influenced by something else. There was no one to advise Him. He is unlimited and unlimitable. He cannot be limited to a location in time and space or to a local point (Acts. 17:24-25). He is omnipresent (everywhere at all times) and not subject to the limitations of space. He is immense, unlike anything we experience. He was before space and time,
Space and time are not boundaries to Him. He brought space and time into being. He has no restrictions or bounds. All finite things have location. He is exalted above all things. Yet He is a God who is at hand, this is his immanence. “Am I a God at hand…and not a God afar off?” (Jer. 23:23). He fills the whole heavens; He is transcendent (Jer. 23:24). He is without boundaries. We cannot hide form Him (Psalm 139:7-12). Christ shows us His infinity in the great commission; He is not limited by space or time either. (Matt.28: 19-20). Although He is infinite He can choose to limit Himself as in the incarnation when Christ the second person of the trinity deprived Himself of the function of deity for a time (Phil. 2:7). Energy has bounds. The 2nd law of thermodynamics proves things are deteriorating, entropy deals with physical processes and changes in time, matter and space. God is not like that.
Time does not apply to him he was before time began he was before all things (Psalm 90:1-2; Jude 25; Eph. 3:21). God is the “alpha and Omega” the beginning and the end (Isa. 44:6; Rev.1: 8; 21:6; 22:13). He does not age, grow, diminish, or develop. There are no variations of his nature. He cannot love less today than yesterday. He cannot be more powerful tomorrow than he was 1000 years ago. He does not change He is constantly the “same yesterday, today and forever.”
Time has different points in human experience. God is aware what happens in time because he has measured it out and has a plan in time as well as eternity. He knows all of history past present and future. He sees everything at once. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch over good and evil” (Prov. 15:3). He is aware of all that happens. Jesus said “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” (Matt. 10:29), and that even the hairs of the disciple’ heads are numbered (vs. 30). Hebrews 4:13 says that “before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” He knows every truth, every lie, and every action. We are completely transparent before God. . He is not surprised by what takes place in time. His plans do not fall apart nor does he have a contingency plan. He is sure about what happens and what will happen. He does not guess what will happen he ordains what will happen. His understanding is immeasurable (Psalm 147:5).
2. God is Sovereign
a) There is nothing or no one higher in the universe. He is ruler of all (1 Chron. 20:6).
b) He is involved with individuals, for tramps to kings (1 Sam. 2:6-8).
c) National entities and kingdoms are ordained by Him (Dan. 2:20-22).
d) God never uses His sovereignty to coerce man’s will (2 Peter 3:9).
3. God is Spirit. God’s essential being is spirituality. He is not composed of matter and does not possess a physical nature that would limit Him to a particular place or time. “God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). He said this to the woman of Samaria who had a false concept of God. The location of worship was secondary to the person worshipped. John wrote, “No man has seen God at any time” (John 1:18). Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). To see God is the ultimate aim of philosophy, the ultimate hope of science, the ultimate desire of all nations. You cannot travel into space and hope to see God, you cannot detect Him with a telescope or a microscope, God can be known only by His revelation of Himself. He is not limited to matter or space or time. Spirit is something invisible but real, just like breath. Spirituality is the nature of God. This is why He forbade the making of images and likenesses in the Old Testament. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth…” (Ex.20: 4).
He is invisible Paul wrote, “Now unto the King, eternal, immortal, invisible.” (1 Tim.1: 17 c.f. 1 Tim. 6:15-16; John 1: 18; Col. 1:15; Heb. 11:27). Stephen said, “Howbeit, the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands (Acts 7:48, c.f. 17:24). He has no material dimensions such as a physical body. He is not limited to a building. Man can never comprehend God unless He reveals Himself. The second word “spirit” does not refer to the Holy Spirit but to the human spirit. This is why man needs to be born again spiritually so as to have a relationship with God.
Did Moses not see the “back parts” of God? (Ex. 33:18-23). The words “as it were” shows this experience is not intended for man to literally see the infinite God.
Anthropomorphisms and Aanthropopathisms – Language of Accommodation
God revealed Himself in a way which the common man could comprehend Him
a) Anthropomorphisms Language is a means of communication. There are passages of scripture which suggest God has physical features. These are called anthropomorphisms (They depict God as having some physical characteristics of man. There are many reference to God’s hand (Ex.3: 20); arm (Ex.6: 6; Deut. 4:34; 5:15); ear (Isa. 37:17; 59:1; Ps. 11:4). “The everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27); “My Father’s hand” (John 10:29); “The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool” (Isaiah 66:1); “The eyes of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 16:9); “Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1). It is obvious that these references to bodily members are to be understood metaphorically. Both categories are figures of speech, not descriptions of God’s true nature, character or essence. Figures of speech referring to God in human terms do not furnish data contrary to doctrine, that God is incorporate Spirit. They are an attempt to express the truth about God through human analogies. In the Old Testament they appear in theophaines or appearances or temporary manifestations of God in a physical form. Jesus said, “ A spirit does not have flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). Because God is a Spirit we cannot make images, objects, likeness or paintings of Him. God is infinite you cannot paint a picture of Him. (Mormons believe God the Father and the Son have human bodies but the Holy Spirit does not). He is not restricted to any location.
b) Anthropopathisms. God cannot change because he is perfect. You cannot improve upon perfection or modify it. Therefore God does not change His mind, will, plans nature or actions. He is always the same always faithful. However some scriptures seem to teach god changes His mind or repents. These are called anthropopathisms. “Anthropos” is man, “pathos” means function. It is the function of the soul without an outward manifestation. Anthropopathism credits to God human emotion, thought or mentality. Hatred – an expression of divine justice (Rom.9:13), anger – God’s judgements are not based upon passion (Rom.1:18), scorn – (Ps. 2:4), benevolence – (Rom. 8:32) compassion – (Lam. 3:22-23) longsuffering – (Num. 14:18) happiness – God is absolutely happy and content. God does not hate nor is he jealous, he has no eyes or legs, arms or ears. God’s purpose in using these terms are teaching aids in order to enable us to learn. He “comes down” tour level and speaks to us in terms we can understand otherwise it would be over our heads.
His thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways, yet our thoughts for early childhood are towards belief in a Supreme Being. The human mind brings us to an awareness of God (Rom.1: 19-20). All people who are in not mentally incapacitated from a very young age have become God conscious. However, understanding God is a sophisticated process of reducing the infinite to finite expressions, called language of accommodation and sometimes termed figures of speech. He has a way of communicating with us. Early in life you become aware that God exists. The great task of understanding God involves spiritual revelation, the mind of the believer and the will to accept and obey what He says about himself. Those who reject Him at God consciousness scripture and language of accommodation that reveals God becomes a dead issue. For those who desire to know God and how He functions it is necessary to study deeper and develop their relationship with him. Religious theories lead us to a dead end in falsehood, legalism or cynicism (Rom. 1:21-23; Ps. 14:1). How do we find our way? How does language of accommodation help lead us to truth? How can we understand the integrity of God?
c) God’s Repentance. The Hebrew word “repent” meaning to feel sorry for our sins, to renounce them as obnoxious sinful and wrong, and feel remorse over wrong doing. This conveys the message to us of how God felt about the sins in Noah’s day (Gen. 6:6). But God cannot repent. Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent.” He does not have no sin, no bad habits nor does he make mistakes. The bible says he is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” He has nothing to feel sorry about. In the original Hebrew “nacham” and Greek “metanoeo” it simply means change ones mind. Scriptures say God cannot change His mind (Isa. 46:10; Ps. 102; 25-27; Mal. 3:6; Matt. 10:30; Heb. 4:13).
There is not variation or instability in Him, not even a shadow of turning (James 1:17). God may appear to change but He does not. When He seems to change He is simply expressing His character differently as called by differences and changes in man or in history, not in God. He treats each individual and every historical situation according to the facts of the case (Ps. 33:13-15; 139:1-18, 23-24; 147:4-5).
We are born spiritually blind and cannot discover God’s being and character, but in our darkness shone the grace of God. He has revealed Himself (Isa. 55:8-9; 1 Cor. 2:9). When we respond positively to God consciousness, God is responsible to provide an eternal relationship with Himself. God has revealed Himself in the Bible, the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). The Holy Spirit works in our human spirit, which is dead towards God, enabling us to hear the Gospel clear and understandable (Gen. 6:3; Jn.6: 44; Jn. 16:7-11; 2 Peter 2:21). Only then can the unbeliever make a decision to accept Christ or reject Christ. At the moment of faith the new believer comes alive spiritually towards God (1 Thess. 5:23). Now God can provide doctrine to the believer, which can be understood and applied. But being spiritually born again does not enable us to understand God even though we are now His and adopted into His family. We grow in “grace and truth” the knowledge of the truth helps us understand God in a deeper and more meaningful way. God the Holy Spirit continues to work in us after the work of salvation. He comes to live in us, and we are to be filled with the Spirit (Eph.) and walk in the Spirit, and be controlled by the Spirit. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit then we can take in the word of God and apply it and be brought to maturity. In Scripture God had to design a simple approach to complex and advanced doctrines. For the sake of clarity, when describing the character and function of infinite God the Bible often resorts to language of accommodation. To make certain His thoughts, policies, decisions and actions are lucidly explained; God takes into account our limitations and basic ignorance. He graciously describes himself as having human feelings, passions, thoughts, anatomy and even human sins – in order to communicate to us for which otherwise we would not understand.
4. God is a Person. “I am who I am” (Ex. 3:6, 14-15). God is often thought of as an inanimate thing (a stone, an image, a star, astrology) or animate creature (a monkey, an elephant, a rat etc) who people worship. He is not an object to be manipulated. Not a force without intelligence, emotions and feeling. He is not something to be used or something that solves our problems and meets our needs. These make Him harsh, technical or magical. The Bible reveals Him as a person who has a name and is to be respected. He communicates and relates to people. Adam and Eve had a relationship with Him. We love him and call upon Him for who He is not what He does or what He can do for us. What He has done is proof of who he is. He knows, he feels, he wills, “Men began to call upon the name of the Lord (Gen.4: 26. He uses the personal pro noun “I” many times. He is absolute and perfect in personality. God knows Himself in every aspect and is never confused about who he is. .
He is pictured as our Father. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:16).
“…that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt.5: 45).
“Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).
“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Mt. 18:35).
Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven” (John 6:32). “Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You” (Jn.17: 1).
“And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5)
As a Father he loves, cares, hears, speaks, is good. There is a two-way relationship he receives and accepts what we offer we receive what he offers.
5. God is Eternal Life. Eternal means there never was a time he did not exist. He has no birthdays or anniversaries nor does he go on holiday or a journey as Elijah implied in the contest between the ever-present Jehovah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He existed before the beginning of time (Gen.1:1). It was not other gods who made the heavens and the earth. Jeremiah refers to him as the true living God who controls nature (Jer.10:10-11). God is alive, the Thessalonians turned from idols to “the true and living God” (1 Thess. 1:9). Hebrews 11:6 says that everyone who “would draw near to him must believe he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” John speaks of God having life in himself, He is the source of all life (John 5:26). He has no terminus. There never was a time He did not exist. All other creatures need something to sustain life He needs nothing. He is the uncaused one, it is his nature to exist. He breathed the “spark of life” into the new baby. The Holy Spirit is the source of eternal life in the new believer. He imparted His life to all who believe in Jesus Christ (Jn 3:16, 18; 10:10; 14:6; 20:31; 1 John 5:11-12).
God continues to exist (he is not dead as some would have us believe). He continues to sustain life on earth giving nourishment, warmth, protection and all that is necessary (Matt.6: 25-33). All nature depends upon the Fathers provision. God does not need anything nor is he served by human hands (Acts 17:25). He is dependent on no one or no thing; every thing is dependent upon him. At the same time he is not all of or unconcerned or indifferent. He did not wind up the earth then walk away and leave to its own devices (Deism). Because He is the Creator of time, He can act either within time or outside of it.
6. God is Immutable or Constant.
This aspect of God has to do with His unchangeableness. Psalm 102:24 -27; Isaiah 46:9, 10; Malachi 3:6 set forth this unchangeableness. James 1:17 clearly states that “the Father of Lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
a) God said “I the LORD do not change” (Mal. 3:6). He is unchanging.
b) He never gets wear or faints (Isa. 40:28). Psalm 102:26-27, “They will perish, but thou doest endure; they pass away; but thou art the same, and thy years have no end.”
c) He never gets wear or faints (Isa. 40:28). He never gives way under pressure. His thoughts are permanent (Psalm 33:11). “there is no variableness or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). He is always at his best and never moody.
d) He is absolutely dependable. He does not get tired looking after you.
e) He cannot increase or decrease.
f) He loves you as much today as when he gave Christ to die for you. He will never leave you or forsake you.
g) He does not change his mind or improve on his plans. His actions are unalterable (Num. 23:19). His indentations and plans are always consistent. He is faithful and never changes his mind about his promises or covenants.
h) When it says he changes his mind they are anthropomorphisms or
anthropopathisms describing God’s actions and feeling in human terms and
from a human perspective. Pain and regret are included in this.
i) What may seem to be a change of mind may actually be new stages in the
working out of God’s plan. An example was the mystery of the church. God
used the Jewish nation as the custodian of his truth in the Old Testament and
the salvation of the Gentiles was not considered much by the Jews. But in the New Testament we see God’s plan unfolding to take in believing Gentiles.
j) Some apparent changes of mind are a result of man moving into a different relationship with God. God did not change when Adam sinned; rather man moved into God’s disfavour. Nineveh repented and was spared. Man changed, not God.