What is God like?
In this study, we are going to look at some of the concepts that are fundamental to understanding what God is like, as they concern basic attributes of His being. These include attributes which show God to be very different to us, but also attributes which indicate that he is like us in that he is a personal being.
We will cover
- God’s Form
- God’s Glory
- God’s personhood
- God’s Eternity
God is one – God is a single entity. He is only one being. Jesus quoting Moses said.
Listen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. … The expert in the law said to him, “That is true, Teacher; you are right to say that he is one, and there is no one else besides him. – MARK 12:29 B, 32
God is spirit – God’s nature is spirit; he is a spiritual being. So God is not a physical being, in contrast to people and particularly to idols.
God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. JOHN 4:24
God is everywhere
“I am a God who is near,” says the LORD. “I am also a God who is far away.” “No one can hide where I cannot see him,” says the LORD. “I fill all of heaven and earth,” says the LORD. JEREMIAH 23:23–24 NCV™
Note that “LORD” is the personal name of God. So, God is always near, David in Psalms 139 said
Where can I go to escape your spirit? Where can I flee to escape your presence? If I were to ascend to heaven, you would be there. If I were to sprawl out in Sheol [the world of the dead], there you would be. If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn, and settle down on the other side of the sea, even there your hand would guide me, your right hand would grab hold of me. PSALMS 139:7–10
The Bible often speaks of God’s glory in reference to his wondrous being. In doing so, it has in view God’s essence and/or his attributes. Regarding his essence, God’s glory pertains to his essential being itself, such that his presence is on occasions perceived as his glory and spoken of in terms of it. Regarding his attributes, God’s glory emanates in part from his attributes – such as his power – which in a sense reflect the glory of God’s essence and presence.
Glory is a prominent and key attribute of God
They [kings] will sing about the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD! PSALMS 138:5 ISV
All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. ROMANS 3:23 CEV
The fact that it is God’s glory that people are measured by or compared to, underlines that glory is a key attribute of God. God’s glory manifests his presence.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked intently toward heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ACTS 7:55
Here “the glory of God” is correlated with “God” himself – and so God’s presence. In association with his glory, God is surrounded by brilliant light. Ezekiel describing a vision of God said
I then saw what looked like a throne made of sapphire, and sitting on the throne was a figure in the shape of a human. 27From the waist up, it was glowing like metal in a hot furnace, and from the waist down it looked like the flames of a fire. The figure was surrounded by a bright light, 28as colorful as a rainbow that appears after a storm. I realized I was seeing the brightness of the LORD’s glory! EZEKIEL 1:26–28A CEV
God’s glory is evidenced by the universe that he has made
The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork. – PSALMS 19:1
God is not a “thing” but a personal being with who we can interrelate. God has a mind – knowing and understanding things
For the LORD is a God who knows; he evaluates what people do. 1 SAMUEL 2:3B
And you, Solomon my son, obey the God of your father and serve him with a submissive attitude and a willing spirit, for the LORD examines all minds and understands every motive of one’s thoughts. 1 CHRONICLES 28:9A
God has a will. In Paul’s letter to the believers in the book of Ephesians
In the Messiah we were also chosen when we were predestined according to the purpose of the one [God] who does everything according to the intention of his will, … EPHESIANS 1:11 ISV
God has feelings and character
But the LORD God felt sorry for his people, and instead of destroying the temple, he sent prophets who warned the people over and over about their sins. 2 CHRONICLES 36:15 CEV
You have heard of Job’s endurance and you have seen the Lord’s purpose, that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. JAMES 5:11B
After God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world. HEBREWS 1:1–2
God interacts with people, responding to their needs
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. JAMES 4:8A
When he calls out to me, I will answer him. I will be with him when he is in trouble; I will rescue him and bring him honor. PSALMS 91:15
God has always been alive, the first of all things
Your throne, O LORD, has been firm from the beginning, and you existed before time began. PSALMS 93:2 GNT
This is what the LORD, Israel’s king, says, their protector, the LORD who commands armies: “I am the first and I am the last, there is no God but me. ISAIAH 44:6
God will live forever. King Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel acknowledged this fact.
I extolled the Most High, and I praised and glorified the one who lives forever. For his authority is an everlasting authority, and his kingdom extends from one generation to the next. – DANIEL 4:34B
Paul speaking about God said
Now to the eternal king, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen. 1 TIMOTHY 1:17
Moreover, God transcends time
Now, dear friends, do not let this one thing escape your notice, that a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years are like a single day. 2 PETER 3:8
God dwells outside of the limitations of time, not bound by its finite perspective. From his eternal perspective, diverse periods such as a day and a thousand years are both small, even insignificant. To God the distinction between them is merely relative.
God is self-existing
For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. JOHN 5:26 ESV
God does not change
All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change. JAMES 1:17
How does (or how should) the realisation that God is always near affect you?
What is the relationship between God’s glory and his presence?
What makes God a personal being?
What evidence is there that God interacts with people?
How can we relate to God if we cannot see him?