God and Who He Is
Tim Temple

Introduction

In Romans, chapter 1, beginning in verse 18, God tells us something about His revelation of Himself. Notice, as we read:

Romans 1:

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

These very familiar verses tell us of man's decline into the sinfulness which we see all around us and these are verses we have talked about before. You may remember that these are verses that describe the whole human race and the general sinfulness of mankind, but they also describe the progression that any individual goes through as he turns away from God. They also tell us by contrast of the glory of God and the rightful worship that belongs to God.

As we pointed out in our last study, there are two basic things to consider in beginning a study of basic Bible doctrines—you and God. Since most people are more interested in themselves than they are in God, we began our study at that point with You and Who You are , the doctrine of man. We now want to look at the other side of that and we want to think about God and Who He is. In the next lesson, the Lord willing, we will look at You and God , a comparison of God and man and a study of the doctrine of salvation and why, because of the difference between God and man, salvation is necessary.

Remember, our basic presupposition in this series is the authority of the Word of God, the fact that the information that we need to know is in the Word of God and that the Bible is the Word of God. As we look at the doctrine of God, we also need to recognize another underlying principle, and that is, we cannot fully understand God. We need to remind ourselves of that right from the beginning of this study. Isaiah, chapter 55, verses 8-9, says:

Isaiah 55:

8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

We can know all that we need to know of God, but the Scripture does not reveal to us everything there is to know about Him. There is everything we need to know about Him, but not all that we can know and not all that we some day will know. Deuteronomy, chapter 29, verse 29, is another verse that speaks about God. It says:

Deuteronomy 29:

29The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

There are some secret things about why God does things the way He does, about His timing, about those kinds of things that God does not reveal. He does not hide the fact that we cannot know those things. There are just some things about God that we do not know, but there are things that He has revealed about himself and those things belong to us and should be very precious to us.

A third thing to keep in mind about God is that in I Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 12, and in I John, chapter 3, verse 2, we are told that when we see Him, when we stand in His presence, we will know Him fully. We will know Him just as fully as He knows us. That is part of the blessed hope that we have as we look forward to Heaven—the fact that someday those mysteries of why God works the way He does, the mysteries of His timing which is a very difficult thing for us sometimes to reconcile while He waits so long to answer prayer or why it seems sometimes He doesn't answer prayer and those kinds of things. All those mysteries of God are going to be explained to us when we stand in His presence either at the time of our death or at the time of the Rapture when the Lord comes back and catches us up to be with Him. It is a wonderful thing to look forward to.

As we think about what we can know about God, those things that He has revealed to us, we want to think about it from three standpoints: First, the arguments for the existence of God; second, the attributes of God that are revealed in the Scripture; third, the administration of God. That has to do with the fact that God manifests Himself in a Trinity. God's actions are manifested in three persons and yet one Trinity.

Arguments for the Existence of God

First, let's think about the arguments for the existence of God. Probably the best statement of the existence of God is here in Romans, chapter 1, verses 18-23, which we just read together. Science has observed and experience has demonstrated what this Scripture claims—that all men have an awareness of God. Go back to verse 18, and it says:

Romans 1:

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

God has manifested Himself even to the unrighteous, and the fact that there are people who claim to be atheists and the fact that there seems to be so little knowledge of God is the fact that in the last part of verse 18, it says: “…they suppress the truth.” They hold down the truth. They refuse to believe what God has revealed, and that is so widespread that it would seem sometimes that the majority of the people do not believe in God and do not worship God; but what the Scripture says is that God has revealed Himself to all men, even unrighteous men and that men hold down that truth. They suppress that truth. I am saying that science and experience has demonstrated this.

We have mentioned before the fact that anthropologists have discovered civilization after civilization that have some form of worship. In fact, there has never been a civilization discovered that did not have some kind of worship. Think carefully about what I am saying. I am not saying that all these civilizations are Christians or that they even think in terms of Jehovah God, but there is in man that innate desire to worship a god. It may not be the true God, but it is part of the make-up of man to worship.

I think the most striking example of the existence of God is that of Helen Keller. She was a little blind and deaf girl, and finally a teacher was found that could get through to her; and as Helen Keller's teacher began to teach her various things and she finally came to the lesson where it explained the concept of God, Helen Keller is said to have said, “I knew Him, but I did not know His name.” Even a little child who was in literal darkness all of her life, who could not hear or see, even she, when communication was finally opened up, said, “I knew there was a God. I did not know what to call Him. I did not know His name, but I knew that that was the truth.” It is an innate truth within the hearts and minds of human beings that God exists.

The Ontological Argument

From a philosophical standpoint, perhaps we might say a scientific standpoint, this argument for the existence of God is known as ontological argument —the fact that the existence of God can be demonstrated from the universality of belief in Him. The fact that all creatures believe that there is a God indicates there is a God.

The Cosmological Argument

There are some other philosophical arguments. The second one is the cosmological argument , and that is the argument that an effect must have a cause and therefore a universe must have a creator. The existence of a watch indicates the existence of a watchmaker—that kind of thing. We cannot look at the universe without concluding that there is some prime mover, as some of the scientists like to call it, some original creator there, whether He is thought of as the creator or not.

Psalm 19 is an illustration from the Scripture of the cosmological argument, the fact that an effect must have a cause and the universe must have a creator. Psalm 19 says that the rising and the setting of the sun demonstrates that God exists.

The Teleological Argument

Then there is a very similar argument called the teleological argument , and that is the argument that a design must have a designer. Isaiah, chapter 40, brings out that fact. “Look at the stars and look at the universe around us. Who has created these things,” it says. “Who calls those hosts by number?”

The Anthropological Argument

Then there is a fourth argument called the anthropological argument and that argument says that because man and human life is such a complex thing, that argues for an existence of a creator. There could not be a complex being like human beings or even like the animals without a creator, without a God of some kind. Psalm 139 brings that out:

Psalms 139:

14I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

Philosophers don't include the references, but the reason I have included the references is to show you that the Bible reveals such a God. It touches on every one of these human arguments. These arguments, the ontological, cosmological, teleological and anthropological are human arguments. These are arguments that human philosophers have put together to demonstrate the existence of God. They are lines of reasoning that human philosophers use in concluding that there is a God, but my point also is that the Scripture answers to each of these lines of reasoning. Let me say again that the philosophers don't uniformly quote these references, several of which are in the Psalms, but I have given them to you to demonstrate that the Scripture makes those same kinds of claims about our God. So these are at least some of the arguments for the existence of God. If someone asks you, “Well, why do you say there is a God anyway?”, here are at least four acceptable arguments for the existence of God.

The Attributes of God

The second thing we want to think about God is the attributes of God. The Bible, in various places, mentions at least twelve characteristics of God. These are just scattered through various places in the Scripture and I am going to read to you at least one Scripture for each of the characteristics of God. There are other Scriptures that touch on these characteristics, these attributes of God, but I have just chosen one in each instance to demonstrate what the Scripture says about God.

God's Absolute Sovereignty

First, the Scripture says that God is sovereign. He has supreme volition. Psalm 115, verse 3, says:

Psalms 115:

3But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.

God does what He chooses to do. He has absolute sovereignty. In fact, Psalm 2 speaks of how the rulers and kings of the earth think that they are so powerful and that they are sovereign over their own nation and there are many examples of that from history, but God is in Heaven. In fact, Psalm 2 says that He laughs at human rulers and their supposed sovereignty. So the first attribute of God is sovereignty.

His Absolute Righteousness

The second attribute of God is absolute righteousness. Psalm 48, verse 10, says:

Psalms 48:

10According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness.

Not only is God the absolute sovereign of the universe, but His actions are always right. His actions are always righteous.

His Absolute Justice

A very similar attribute, but a very distinct one, is absolute justice. Deuteronomy, chapter 32, verse 4, illustrates that:

Deuteronomy 32:

4He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

Isn't it a wonderful thing to know that this God of absolute authority is also a God of absolute righteousness and absolute justice? How terrible it would be if we had a powerful God who was not just and right. We have seen on a human level illustrations of that in other countries where military leaders have enough power to run the show and keep it up even in the face of the opposition of a nation as powerful as the United States. But when their people begin to run out of food and products, it becomes increasingly difficult. This is an example of a man who has tremendous power, but he also has tremendous injustice and unrighteousness. God is opposite of that on an infinite scale. He has absolute sovereignty, but He also has absolute righteousness and absolute justice.

His Absolute Love

Then something that is even more wonderful than that, the Scripture tells us that He has absolute love. John, chapter 3, verse 16, says:

John 3:

16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Other verses come to mind like I John, chapter 4, verse 10, which says:

I John 4:

10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

This is the same basic message as John, chapter 3, verse 16, but really maybe even more telling because it gives the best illustration of love that you can think of. You think of the greatest human illustration of love and God says, “Herein is love, not that we love God…” The best illustration we can think of somebody's loving God is not really an illustration of love. “Herein is love, not that we love God, but that God loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Romans, chapter 5, verse 8, says:

Romans 5:

8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

That is love of the unlovely. That is love of enemy. So this God who is absolutely sovereign, who is absolutely righteous, who is absolutely just, is also a God of complete, perfect love.

God is Eternal

Then a fifth characteristic of God is that He is eternal. He has eternal life and Psalm 90, verse 2, says:

Psalms 90:

2Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

He has always existed. He will always exist. This is probably the hardest concept for our human minds to comprehend and really is not comprehensible to us completely. C.S. Lewis said that God's trying to reveal Himself to us is very much like we who think in three dimensions. As human beings we can think and see and feel in three dimensions. We operate in a three dimensional world, but suppose we were to discover a civilization that could only operate on two dimensions. They only understood height and width. They did not understand depth. There are many things we could communicate to that civilization, many things that they could understand, but there would be many things that would only be understood in theory. C.S. Lewis said, “That's the way God's revelation to us is. He is on such a much higher plane than we are that there is only a certain amount that we can comprehend. It is not an inability of His to communicate it to us, but it is an innate inability that we have to comprehend that, and eternal life is one of those characteristics.

Before creation, God existed, and after this universe as we know it is wiped out and the new earth and new heaven are created, He will still exist. So—eternal life.

His Omnipotence

The sixth characteristic of God is His omnipotence. He is totally powerful, and the best illustration I can think of is Genesis, chapter 1, verse 1, where we read:

Genesis 1:

1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

What could be more powerful than that? Another illustration is Romans, chapter 1, verse 4, where Paul is writing to the Romans and he says:

Romans 1:

4And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

So the creation of everything that we see around us or the resurrection, the restoring of life—either of those tells us about God's omnipotence.

His Omniscience

Then Colossians, chapter 2, verse 3, talks about His omniscience. He is all knowing. This verse says:

Colossians 2:

3In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

This is speaking of Jesus Christ, but of course Jesus Christ is God. He is all knowing. It is so silly to try to not let God know how we feel about something, Why not go ahead and be honest with God because He already knows those questions that we may have or those disappointments we may have. That is just one of many ramifications of the omniscience of God. He is all knowing.

He is Omnipresent

Then Psalm 139, verse 7, gives us an eighth attribute of God and that is that He is omnipresent. He is everywhere present. Notice as we read:

Psalms 139:

7Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

Wherever a person might be, God is there. Incidentally, this attribute of God is sometimes confused with the pagan doctrine of pantheism. Pantheism says that God is everything and that everything is God. This is not saying that God is everything. This is saying that God is everywhere present, so don't let somebody try to confuse you about pantheism when we say that God is omnipresent. We are not talking about pantheism.

God's Immutability

Then a ninth characteristic of God is His immutability. James, chapter 1, verse 17, speaking of when we ask God for wisdom, says:

James 1:

17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

He never changes. He is always the same in all of these attributes that we have already been talking about.

He is Absolute Truth

Then He is absolute truth. He has total veracity. Jesus says in John, chapter 14, verse 6:

John 14:

6Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

“I am truth, the embodiment of truth,” Jesus said. There are many other illustrations and many other references of that, but I think a good statement of that is where Jesus not only said, “I tell the truth,” but He said, “I am the truth.” God is not just truthful. Human beings can be truthful, but God is truth.

He is Holy

I Peter, chapter 1, verse 15, gives us the eleventh attribute of God. It says:

I Peter 1:

15But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;

Not only is God holy, but He has given us the power to live holy lives.

God Has Absolute Freedom

Then number twelve in the attributes of God is freedom. God has absolute freedom. Isaiah, chapter 40, verses 13-14:

Isaiah 40:

13Who hath directed the spirit of the Lord, or being his counseller hath taught him?
14With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?

God has absolute freedom. He is not dependent on any other being. He is the One Who is the originator of everything that we see about us, everything with which we are familiar. He has total freedom.

The Administration of God

We have thought about the arguments for the existence of God and the attributes of God, so the third thing we want to look at is the administration of God. As Frances Shaffer said, “He is there and He is not silent.” Not only does God exist, demonstrated by the four arguments that we mentioned earlier and by the Scriptures we mentioned earlier, not only do we know about His attributes, but He is an active God. His creation and His continuation of creation indicates that He is an active God.

Colossians, chapter 1, says that all things are created by Jesus Christ and all things continue to hold together by Jesus Christ,” but a further study of Scripture indicates that not only is He an active God, but His administration, His activity, is in the form of a Trinity. He is three persons yet one. There are several reasons that we say that. First, we know that God is a plurality because in Genesis, chapter 1, verse 26, at the very beginning of the story of creation, we find that God said:

Genesis 1:

26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…

That verse tells us that God is plural, that God has a plurality to His nature. Another verse is Isaiah, chapter 6, verse 8, where Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up in all of His glory. It is a very impressive chapter, but in verse 8, he said:

Isaiah 6:

8Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

Again a plurality. Those verses do not demonstrate the Trinity in themselves, but they do set the stage for the Trinity by telling us that God is a plurality. There is no question about the use of those terms. All the linguists and Bible scholars through the years have agreed that those are legitimately translated as plural terms.

The Compound Names of God

Another line of reasoning in this is the use of compound names in the Scripture. There are three basic names. There are many names of God in the Scripture, but there are three in the Hebrew that are primary names of God and are the ones we see most often. First, there is the word that in English we have come to call Jehovah. Probably a pronunciation more close to the original is YAHWEH, but because we are familiar with the term, we will call it Jehovah . This is a Hebrew word that we could say is the supreme reference to God. Literally, it means “the self existent one who reveals Himself.” It embodies all of those characteristics of God that we have been talking about plus the fact that He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. So it is the summary word for God. It is spelled with all capital letters in the English. You see the word LORD spelled in all capitals in every version of the Bible I have seen and that is an indication it is the Hebrew Word YAHWEH or Jehovah, the supreme name for God, LORD, and many times in the Scripture we see that term. We sometimes see the word Jehovah spelled out, but many more times we see the word LORD and that is the Hebrew word Jehovah also.

Another major name of God is the name Elohim, which speaks of His activity and that is a plural word. It is usually translated with the English word God , but Elohim is plural. The im on the end of the word speaks of that. Then the word El is also a name of God. Then the word Adonai is another major basic name of God. It speaks of His compassion, and it is usually translated with the English word Lord without all capitals. So the fact that the Scripture uses these various names for God indicates that there is more to His nature than we can understand, more to His nature than can be expressed in human terms. This is another of those things that I believe we won't fully understand until we get to Heaven how God could be three persons and yet one—but taken together, these names indicate that God is one Being with three personalities.

We need to be very careful as we express this to other people and even be careful that we understand it ourselves. We are not saying that we have three Gods. We are not saying that we worship three Gods. It would be easy for somebody to mistakenly think that when we say that Jesus is God and that the Holy Spirit is God and God the Father is God. It would be easy for someone to say, “Well, you worship three Gods.” What the Scripture indicates is that He is One God Who manifests Himself in three persons. Again, as far as I am concerned, that is something that is one of those two dimensional/three dimensional kind of things that we can't fully comprehend.

There really are not any human illustrations to completely communicate this, but one that has been used to try to indicate it is the egg. The egg has a shell and a yolk and a white, and those are three distinct beings and yet it is one egg. The problem is and maybe this would illustrate it from a negative standpoint that Jesus Christ is completely God. He is not just a part of God. He is completely God and the Holy Spirit is completely God and the Father is completely God. With an egg, the shell is just a shell. The shell is not the whole egg and the yolk is not the whole egg and the white is not the whole egg, but each of the Persons of the Trinity is completely God, even though He is a separate manifestation of God. So if that is confusing to you, just praise the Lord that you will understand it when you get to Heaven because there is no way to understand it fully as human beings.

Another illustration is in the sun—heat and light and energy. That communicates the idea, but again it is not a complete comparison because those are three distinct elements in the sun and together they are all parts of the sun, but not one of them in itself is the sun; yet any one Person of the Godhead is completely God.

I think the closest illustration is in Scripture itself. Turn to Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verse 4. This verse in many senses is the most important verse in the Bible to the Orthodox Jews. It is called the Confession of Faith , and they often quote it. It is like a creed that they quote. It is a very simple statement, but notice what it says:

Deuteronomy 6:

4Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD:

This basic statement of the Jewish faith contains the names of God specifically. First, notice that the word LORD is capitalized. I said earlier that that indicated the word JEHOVAH, the self-existent One Who reveals Himself. The word God there in verse 4 is a translation of the Hebrew word Elohim, the plural form of the name of God. Then it repeats the name Jehovah. So a paraphrase of what this verse is saying is: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one Jehovah,” or an expanded translation of the verse might be something like this: “God, in His threefoldness is still just one God.” That is what they were saying in their statement of faith. Their basic statement of belief about God was His plurality and yet His singularity. He is three, yet one. The New Testament agrees with that. Each member of the Trinity is referred to as God in various places in the New Testament.

The action of the Trinity, I think, is illustrated in something that we all ought to know very well, something that is the most basic thing that we know, and that is our salvation. John, chapter 3, verse 16, tells us that “God, the Father, so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.” In that verse God the Father is the planner of our salvation. God loved the world and so He gave His Son. God the Father originated the plan. The Son is the executor of the plan. He is the One Who put the plan into action. Another verse that tells us that is Romans, chapter 6, verse 23:

Romans 6:

23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

It is a gift from God the Father, but it comes to us through the work of Jesus Christ our Lord. Then the Holy Spirit is the administrator of that gift. The Holy Spirit seals us unto a day of redemption. We read that when we become a believer in Jesus Christ, God the Holy Spirit becomes the seal which God sees that which indicates those who are His, and the foundation of God standeth sure having this seal. The Lord knows who are His. We may not know, but God knows. How does He know? Because the Holy Spirit seals us as God's own children. The Holy Spirit reveals God to unbelievers. He opens the hearts of unbelievers to the truth of God and in fact enables us to understand the message of salvation. Then the Holy Spirit convicts believers of sin and causes us to come to the point of confessing our sins. The Holy Spirit is active in the administration of our salvation. He is the One who keeps it going on a day-by-day basis. So all three Persons of the Godhead are intimately involved in our salvation. They are intimately involved in everything. They do everything together as a Trinity, but it is most easily illustrated, I think, in our salvation.

A verse that demonstrates all three members of the Godhead and mentions all three members of the Godhead is I Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 3:

I Corinthians 12:

3Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

There are all three. “No man can say that Jesus (the human name of God the Son) is LORD, (God the Father) but by the Holy Spirit.” So the three of them together produce our ability to know and fellowship with God. God is a Trinity.

To try to talk about the doctrine of God in thirty or forty minutes like we have done is very much like the physics professor who gave as his final exam the one question exam and that one question said: “Define the universe and give three examples.” It just really can't be done. It is an impossible task really to fathom all the unfathomable truths of God. It is another of those things that God has revealed to us everything that we need to know. We have tried to touch at least on an outline basis all these things that God has revealed about Himself.

Conclusion

I hope this will be a help to you by way of review and also perhaps by way of communicating to those who do not know God. It is important for us to have these things straight in our own thinking as we go out to try to witness to others and to communicate to others about this God whom we worship and hopefully whom we serve.


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