What Is God?

Paul Derengowski, ThM


To answer this question we will not so much go into what God does as what he is as a being.  For some are often confused over biblical language that describes humans as being created in God’s image and then automatically assume that that means that God is either a human being as well, or that he possesses the same kind of corporeal (physical) qualities as humans, and that just is not the case.  Therefore, what is God ontologically, and why is it necessary that God exist as such?  Is there some specific reason why God could not be a human being?  After all, Jesus was human, while being God too, was he not?

First of all, God has not expended too much space in Scripture describing his being.  We know from John 4:24 that “God is spirit,” meaning that God’s essential quality of being is spirit in nature.  It is the same nature that the writer to the Hebrews would claim that Jesus emulated as the “exact representation” when he revealed God (Heb. 1:3 cf. Jn. 1:18).  Some have argued that that representation entailed God’s physicality, but such reasoning does not jive with the rest of Scripture which clearly tells us that Jesus has not always possessed a physical body.  John 1:14, for instance, tells us, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…” meaning that prior to Jesus’ incarnation he lacked a physical constitution.  Yet, nowhere do we see that because of such a lack that Jesus also failed to represent God’s nature exactly.  In fact, earlier in John’s gospel we are told that the Word was God, and existed in an intimate relationship with God prior to the beginning of all creation (Jn. 1:1).  Not only would it be impossible for a person to carry on such a relationship if they were not the “exact representation” of God, it would also be impossible for God to inspire one of his writers to record that such a person was God unless he was the “exact representation,” without God being guilty of telling a falsehood, which is equally impossible (Heb. 6:18).  Therefore, God is spirit, and does not possess a physical quality.

What sets God apart, though, as a spirit is his exclusivity.  For there is only one God (Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:4), to which no one else, nor nothing, in existence is comparable (Ps. 40:5).  Isaiah the prophet, after asserting the essential insignificance of the nations before God, rhetorically asked, “To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him?” (Is. 40:18).  The answer is, there is nothing in existence for which one can compare to God.  This is probably the driving force behind one of God’s first commandments given to Moses to refrain from creating an idol found in the Decalogue.  God commanded Moses, which was passed on to the people of Israel, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in water under the earth” (Ex. 20:4).  Why?  Because the being of God, in his infinite majesty and glory, cannot be compared to anything of a finite nature, and to violate God’s command by creating something from the imagination of man, even though it might be for an honorable purpose, is still so woefully short of a real depiction of God, that it would be a dishonorable insult to God.

Some might ask, then, about the image of God in man.  Is that not comparable to God’s being?  The short answer is, no.  For even though man is created in God’s image, man is still a creature, infinitely distinct from the Creator, and those characteristics inherent in man that God has communicated to him are only part of the package of what it means to be God.  Hence, man will always be a finite being, capable of reflecting and fellowshiping with God because of those attributes that God has instilled in him, yet man will be nothing else.  Conversely, God will always be an infinite being, exclusive as to who he is, and cannot be anything or anyone other than God.

Therefore, the question of what God is can be answered in that God is of the quality of spirit, as a spirit, and that because of his constitution as God, is not comparable to anything else that he has brought into existence, that otherwise did not exist, and that would include even the image of God in man.  Although some might become confused or balk at such a suggestion, it is only because God has graciously revealed himself as such that we could know what we do about him.  And since God cannot lie, and his Word is true, then we must either abide by that revelation, or before long any number of theories or suggestions about what God is could be entertained with equal plausibility and endless uncertainty, with God ultimately being reduced to the distorted whims and convoluted speculations of perverse men steeped in sin.

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