This article is a part of a discipleship series for new believers. It is intended to provide new and growing believers with a solid foundation. The first four articles dealt with some basic disciplines of the Christian life. These next few will be examining some of the core beliefs of Christianity. This specific article will provide an introduction to understanding who God is. The links at the end of this article will give more detailed descriptions of God’s nature and work.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Table of contents
God exists! That may seem intuitively obvious to most people, although some would dispute it. But it is the necessary starting point for any discussion about God. The Bible itself does not attempt to prove the existence of God. It just assumes that he does. But it does tell us most of what we can know about God.
God not only exists, but he also exists necessarily. This means that it is impossible for him not to exist. It means that he has always existed. And that he always will exist. God’s existence is not dependent on anything else.
When Moses asks God for his name at the burning bush, God replied, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14). This name reflects the self-existence of God. He just is.
As a human, I have definite limits on what I can do and be. But God has none of those limits. He is infinite. We use three words to describe different aspects of God’s infinite nature, Omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.
Omnipotence means that God is all-powerful. There is nothing that he cannot do that is not logically impossible or contrary to his nature. Jesus told his disciple that “with God, all things are possible” (Matt 19:26). And God is identified as God Almighty over 100 times in the pages of the Bible.
Omniscience refers to God knowing all things. Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” God knows all things. There is nothing in all of creation that is hidden from him.
Omnipresence refers to God being everywhere in his creation. There is no place where God is not. Jeremiah 23:23-24 says, “‘Am I only a God nearby’, declares the Lord, ‘and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.” And Psalm 90:1-2 says, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” God is present throughout all of creation as well as all of history and our future.
One of the unique doctrines of the Christian faith is the Trinity. This doctrine holds that there is one God, but that one God contains three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Father, Son, and Spirit are individual persons, but they share a single essence. They are one God.
In Matthew 18:19, we are told to baptize believers “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The word translated as “name” in this verse is singular. We are to baptize in the name of the one God in three persons.
The doctrine of the Trinity is not easy to grasp. And many have distorted it over the years. In particular, the relationship between the Father and Jesus, the Son. But the Scripture affirms that even though they are two distinct persons, they are one in essence. And both have existed from eternity past.
Transcendant and Immanent
Transcendence and immanence are used to describe God’s relationship to his creation. Transcendence refers to his existence independent of creation. In contrast, immanence refers to his nearness, his activity within his creation.
God is not a part of his creation, nor does he depend on it in any way. He transcends the creation and is not limited by it. The gods of many religions exist as a part of the physical universe. They may help give the universe shape and order, but they are a part of it. God is different. He existed before the universe and will continue to exist when it is gone.
While God’s existence is independent of the universe, he is actively working within it. He is immanent. The story of the Bible is one of God’s ongoing involvement with his creation. In particular with humanity. The most obvious sign of his immanence is the incarnation. When God the Son became a man and lived on earth for 33 years.
The Bible affirms that God is the creator of all that is. The Bible starts by claiming that God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). Psalm 8:3-4, along with many other psalms, declares that God is the creator. John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16 identify Jesus, the Son, as the creator of all things. And Hebrews 11:3 says that it is by faith that we believe God created the universe from nothing. God has created all that exists, apart from himself, from nothing. Nothing exists that he did not make.
But God did not just create the universe and then leave it alone. He continues to be actively involved in all that happens with it. He is involved with the natural process on earth (Acts 14:17) and with nations and human government (Acts 17:26). And he has made me who I am (1 Cor. 4:7). God not only created the universe. But he is guiding it along to his intended purpose.
A term often used concerning God’s rule over his creation is sovereignty. God is sovereign over all he has made. There are nuances in the way that different groups understand God’s sovereignty. But, at its heart, God is the ruler of his creation. Nothing in all of creation happens without his direction or permission.
One of the biggest challenges with accepting God’s sovereignty is the presence of evil in the world. There is no denying that evil is present and causes tremendous suffering. Because of that, some would argue that God is incapable of dealing with evil. That he is not sovereign over all things. But that assumes that God could have no purpose in allowing evil to exist and cause the suffering it does. There is no reason to believe that the omniscient God could not see beyond what we are capable of. And that he might allow the suffering that is so prevalent in our world today to further his purpose in creation.
Some Questions to Think About
These questions are not directly answered in this article. But they are worthwhile thinking about and wrestling with. The articles linked at the bottom will have answers, although not necessarily the only answers. Or complete answers. Some things about God are beyond our full comprehension.
- What reason is there for believing that God exists?
- Can God make a rock so big that he cannot lift it?
- Does God cause evil? Or only permit it?
You are welcome to respond to these questions in the comment section below. If you do, be sure to check the “Notify me” checkbox just above the Post Comment button so you can get any feedback. Note that all comments are moderated. Only respectful comments relevant to the topic will be posted.
Posts in the Discipleship Series
- Bible Study – Discipleship 101
- Spending Time Together – Discipleship 102
- Worshipping Together – Discipleship 103
- Drawing Near in Prayer – Discipleship 104
- Understanding Who God Is – Doctrine 201
- What Is Humanity – Doctrine 202
- What Is Sin? – Doctrine 203
- Jesus: Our Savior – Doctrine 204
- Gifted to Serve: Discipleship 301
- Meditation, Solitude, and Fasting: Discipleship 302
- What Is the Bible? – Doctrine 401
- The Nature and Work of the Holy Spirit: Doctrine 402
- What Is Jesus’ Church?: Doctrine 403
- Creation and Providence – Doctrine 404
- The Doctrine of the Kingdom of God
The information in the linked articles will give you some additional information that will help in understanding who God is.
- The God of General Revelation: What Creation Tells Us
- The Doctrine of the Nature of God
- The Doctrine of the Work of God
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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4 thoughts on “Understanding Who God Is – Doctrine 201”
I believe that love is the greatest above all else to getting to know God.
It is true that God is love. And that his primary command for us is to love. To love in the same way that he loved us.
The greatest understanding about God is only through faith only if you believe, and in relationship with him is He revealed.
Without faith, it is impossible to please God. As you said, our walk with God is by faith. And it through faith that we can come to know him.