To know God. That is the full measure and purpose of the Christian life. We know God in many ways, both by searching out and listening to what He has revealed to us about Himself, and by experiencing Him through relationship, by abiding in Him through obedience, by interacting with Him through prayer.
The purpose of the following series of articles is to take a broad view of what God has revealed to us about Himself, to get a more complete picture of His attributes and qualities. I will attempt to tie together what these mean to us and how the attributes of God help us understand not just who He is, but why who He is matters. Many of the hard questions and struggles we face as Christians are framed by our understanding of who God is, and a good understanding of Him helps us to put our circumstances into perspective.
The following series of posts are not intended to be exhaustive. This subject is too large for me to cover extensively, and better men and women have written books that delve more deeply, but I do want to try and capture the some important elements and offer some of the insights I have gleaned as I have come to know Him.
The posts will follow a question and answer format, asking then answering to the best of my ability a series of questions about who He is.
One final note before proceeding. I’ve provided links in the further reading section that explore some of the topics I’ve discussed here. Though I tend to agree with most of the content given, the works are the works of other individuals and may not express my own thoughts and feelings with complete accuracy. Nevertheless, the articles are useful and should be approached the same way my own writing are approached, with thoughtfulness, discretion and a desire to learn the truth.
What is He?
refs: John 4:24, Numbers 23:19, John 1:1-18
This is a decent place to start. What is God made of? What kind of being is He in a material sense? Why can’t I see Him? What should I expect from my interactions with Him?
God is a Trinity
First, it’s important to note that God is a being that has three aspects which manifest as three individual persons. Christians and Jews talk about the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, each as God, each as unique individuals. God’s triune nature is difficult to understand, and there are parts of it, I believe, that are beyond our comprehension. But it is important. Christians often switch between the different members of the Godhead, using them interchangeably. This is permitted because each member of the Trinity is God in the full sense of the word.
God the Father is a Spirit
God the Father is a spirit. I believe this means that he has no material body, at least, not like our bodies on this earth. His existence is very unlike our own, and though there are aspects to His being that we can relate to (He has an identity, He is intelligent, He feels emotions and desire), there is also much about Him that we cannot comprehend.
Why is this important?
God’s spiritual nature makes it possible for Him to be
- Immutable (a physical body is by its nature a thing that changes, because it exists inside of space/time)
- Infinite (God could not be in all places at once were He only a physical being, because that would violate the laws of our physical universe)
- Creator (since creation is physical, before creation there would be no physicality as we define physicality. The material world of which we are composed and exist did not exist before God. God existed before the creation of our reality because He created that reality.)
God the Son was a Spirit that was incarnated as a Man
The bible says that God is a spirit, but His unique nature, as a triune being, allows Him to be more and do more than mankind can. The Son occupies an important and distinct role in the being of God.
If Jesus existed before creation, as is indicated in John 1:1-5, 10-14, then He existed, like the Father, as a spirit. This means Jesus, like the Father, has all the attributes of God. He is immutable, eternal, and infinite. What is spectacular is that Jesus condescended to become human, to humble Himself, stooping down and laying aside for a time the trappings of Godhood and submitting Himself to the limitations and hardships of humanity (Phil 2:6-8).
Why is this important?
Jesus’ physical incarnation makes it possible for
- us to relate to God. Before He became a man, He was not able to show us by example what man should live like or be like. He was tempted as we are tempted (Heb 2:8) and He suffered as we have suffered. His experiences as a man allowed him to demonstrate to us what it looks like to live as we are supposed to live. By coming to earth He gave us an example to follow (John 13:15, 1 Peter 2:21).
- God to bear our sins on the cross. Without Christ’s death, we would have no recourse for our sin (Heb 9:22), and the penalty that must be paid because of it (Rom 6:23). Jesus needed to be a man to pay man’s penalty, and only a sinless man could pay the penalty of another, and only God’s Son would be sufficient to pay the penalty for all men (Rom 3:23, John 3:16). In a very real sense, Jesus willingness to sacrifice Himself on the cross allows us to relate to God, by providing a way to cover our sins he made it possible to reconcile His love for us with His just character.
God the Spirit is a Spirit
Like the Father, the Holy Spirit does not have a physical body, though He is a distinct person in the Trinity.
Why is this important?
The Holy Spirit is God’s agent on the earth, and dwells in every believer. He is the substance that binds us together into the body of Christ, called the Church. If He had a physical body, He would be unable to exist in multiple places, unable to influence and speak to the entire body of Christ as individuals, while simultaneously binding us together as a single organism.
He is a person with a mind (Romans 8:27, 1 Corinthians 2:10-11), a will (1 Corinthians 12:11, 1 Corinthians 12:11) and emotions (Ephesians 4:30, Hebrews 10:29) who speaks to the church (Acts 8:29, 11:12, 13:2), comforting, counselling, and teaching us. He is immaterial and His effect on us is miraculous, constant and vital.
[Note: I’ve provided links in the further reading section that explore some of the topics I’ve discussed here. Though I tend to agree with most of the content given, the works are the works of other individuals and may not express my own thoughts and feelings with complete accuracy. Nevertheless, the articles are useful and should be approached the same way my own writing are approached, with thoughtfulness, discretion and a desire to learn the truth.]
In my next article, we will begin to explore God’s attributes, looking into why each aspect of His character and being are important. Thanks for reading, and if you have comments, thoughts, corrections or additions, please do so in the comments.