Who is God?

Paul Derengowski, ThM

 

All kinds of people belonging to all kinds of religious persuasions have all kinds of varying conceptions as to who they believe God to be.  To the Muslims God is Allah, “the Master of the universe, the Lord of men, the sole Authority and Legislator, 1 who unfortunately is also so far removed from humanity that he cannot be known personally.  To the Hindu God is Brahman, or the Supreme Reality, that is one among millions of gods and goddesses, and in fact permeates the whole of existence as God, thereby demeaning His person, while exalting creation to level of God.  To the Mormon God is an exalted man, who lives and orchestrates what goes on throughout existence from a planet nigh unto a star called Kolob.  He is polygamously married, and is limited by his physicality, as well as the laws of the universe.  The list is virtually endless when it comes to the multiple mythological and fallacious theologies that abound in an effort to define who God is.

Nevertheless, to the Christian, and according to the Bible, God is Jehovah or Yahweh, meaning that he is the self-exist One.  Hence, when He told Moses to tell Pharaoh that “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14) is the one that sent Moses, He was claiming that He is the absolute source of all existence, including His own.  And when the Apostle Paul stood in the Areopagus and proclaimed, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things (Acts 17:24-25), he was informing the pagan Greeks that one of the major differences between their “Unknown God” and the God of the Bible is that the former needed them to bring about its existence, whereas the real God, who can be known, needs nothing to exist, yet brings all things into existence by the power of his word.

But, God is not only self-sufficient.  God is personal as well.  By this it is simply meant that all the faculties and attributes that go into identifying personhood are inherent in the person of God.  Therefore, God considers the groaning of his people (Ps. 5:1), and plans their destinies (Eph. 1:5).  He loves the world (Jn. 3:16), yet hates the wicked (Ps. 11:5).  He grieves over sin (Eph. 4:30), and yet His joy is the strength of His people (Neh. 8:10).  He has a will (1 Thess. 5:18), and “He does whatever He pleases” (Ps. 115:3).  According to Thomas Oden,

Persons by definition have feelings.  Each one has an identifiable self, intellect, and capacity for response.  God is represented in Scripture as having much of the psychological makeup of what we know as personhood.  God has intellect and emotion; God speaks (Gen. 1:3), sees (Gen. 11:5), and hears (Ps. 94:9).  Metaphorically it is said that God repents (Gen. 6:6) and can be angry (Deut. 1:37), jealous (Exod. 20:5), and compassionate (Ps. 111:4).  Only personal beings can feel such emotions.  No stone or abstract idea or amoeba can speak words, listen, care for others, get angry, respond to hearts—only persons do these things. 2

God also has a name; actually several names, denoting His personhood.  Of course we have already noted that He is known as Jehovah or Yahweh, meaning the “Self-Existent One who reveals Himself.”  He is also known as “Jehovah Elohim” or “Lord God,” 3 “Jehovah Sabaoth” or “Lord of hosts,” 4“Jehovah-Jireh” or “The Lord will provide,” 5 “Jehovah-Rapha” or “The Lord that heals,” 6 “Jehovah-Nissi” or “The Lord our banner,” 7“Jehovah-Shalom” or “The Lord our peace,8 “Jehovah-Rā-ah” or “The Lord my shepherd,” 9 “Jehovah-Tsidkenu” or “The Lord our righteousness,” 10 “Jehovah-Shammah” or “The Lord is there,” 11 “El” or simply “God,” 12 “El-Elohim” or “God of gods,” 13 “El-Shaddai,” or “God Almighty,” 14 “El-Elyon” or “Most High God,” 15 “El-Olam” or “Eternal/Everlasting God,” 16 “Immanuel” or “God with us,” 17 “Elohe-Tsabaoth” or “God of armies,” 18 “Jesus” or “the Lord Jehovah/Yahweh saves,” 19 and the “Holy Spirit.” 20

Perhaps, though, the defining biblical doctrine that distinguishes who God is from the rest of the religious ideologies in the world is the doctrine of the Trinity.  God exists in a triune relationship with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  They are distinct as far as persons are concerned, yet in essence comprise the one true God.  Most all non-Christian religions and not a few cults and sects within Christianity balk over the concept of the triune God, but nevertheless the Bible is quite clear that there is one God (Deut. 6:4; Is. 43:10; 1 Cor. 8:4; Eph. 4:6), but that there are three characters in Scripture claiming equally authority, ability, and status as God.  Those three characters are God the Father, God the Son (Jn. 1:1, 14; Rom. 9:5; Tit. 2:13), and God the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4; Rom. 8:26-27).  Truly those writing the Westminster Confession of Faith were right when they wrote, “In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.  The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.”

Therefore, in answering the question, who is God? we may conclude that God is the self-existent Being, who is personal, and can be known by an assortment of different names—with Jehovah or Yahweh being his primary name—that exists in a triune relationship with God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit.  Of course several of God’s other attributes have not even been mentioned here, such as his omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, omnibenevolence, omnisapience, etc.  Those will be discussed in subsequent sections.  Nevertheless, those things that have been discussed should serve as a brief overview of just who God is, and doctrinal statements offered which are contrary to the aforementioned cannot rightly be deemed an accurate depiction of God, but instead are counterfeits or idols concocted after the imaginations of fallen mankind.

Notes:

  1. Suzanne Haneef, What Everyone Should Know About Islam and Muslims (USA: Library of Islam, 1996), 16.
  2. Thomas C. Oden, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2006), 1:84
  3. Gen. 2:4, 5, 7-9, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22: 3:1, 8, 9, 13, 14, 21-23; Ex. 9:30; 2 Sam. 7:25; 2 Ki. 19:19; 1 Chr. 17:16, 17; 28:20; 2 Chr. 1:9; 6:41, 42; Ps. 59:6; 72:18; 80:5, 20; 84:9, 12; Jon. 4:6.
  4. 1 Sam. 1:11; 4:4; 15:2; 17:45; 2 Sam. 6:2,18; 7:8, 26, 27; 1 Ki. 18:15; 2 Ki. 3:14; 19:31; 1 Chr. 17:7, 24; Ps. 24:10; 46:8, 12; 48:9; 84:2, 4, 13; Isa. 1:9, 24; 3:1; 5:7, 9, 16, 24; 6:3, 5; 8:13, 18; 9:6, 12, 18; 10:16, 26, 33; 13:4, 13; 14:22-24, 27; 17:3; 18:7; 19:4, 12, 16, 17, 25; 21:10; 22:14, 25; 23:9; 24:23; 25:6; 28:5, 29; 29:6; 31:4, 5; 37:16, 32; 39:5; 44:6; 45:13; 47:4; 48:2; 51:15; 54:5; Jer. 6:6; 7:3, 21; 8:3; 9:6, 14, 16; 10:16; 11:22; 16:9; 19:3, 11, 15; 23:15, 16, 36; 25:8, 27-29, 32; 26:18; 27:4, 19, 21; 28:2, 14; 29:4, 8, 17, 21, 25; 30:8; 31:23, 35; 32:14, 15, 18; 33:11, 12; 35:13, 18, 19; 39:16; 42:15, 18; 43:10; 44:2, 11, 25; 46:18, 25; 48:1, 15; 49:7, 26, 35; 50:18, 33, 34; 51:14, 19, 33; 51:57, 58; Mic. 4:4; Nah. 2:14; 3:5; Hab. 2:13; Zeph. 2:9, 10; Hag. 1:2, 5, 7, 9, 14; 2:4, 6-9, 11; 2:23; Zech. 1:3, 4, 6, 12, 14, 16, 17; 2:12, 13, 15; 3:7, 9, 10; 4:6, 9; 5:4; 6:12, 15; 7:3, 4, 9, 12, 13; 8:1-4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 14, 18-23; 9:15; 10:3; 13:2, 7; 14:16, 17, 21; Mal. 1:4, 6, 8-11, 13, 14; 2:2, 4, 7, 8, 16; 3:1, 5, 7, 10-12, 14, 17, 19, 21.
  5. Gen. 22:14.
  6. Ex. 15:26; Num. 12:13; 2 Ki. 2:21; 20:5; Ps. 6:2; 41:4; Jer. 17:14.
  7. Ex. 17:14 (cf. Is. 49:22).
  8. Jdg 6:25.
  9. Gen. 48:15; Ps. 23:1
  10. Jer. 23:6; 33:16 (cf. Jdg. 5:11; Ps. 11:7).
  11. Ezek. 48:35.
  12. Gen. 12:8; 16:13; Ex. 20:5; 34:14; Num. 12:13; 16:22; 23:8; 23:19, 22, 23; 24:4, 8, 16, 23; Deut. 4:24, 31; 5:9; 6:15; 7:21; 32:4, 18, 21; Josh. 3:10; 22:22; 24:19; 1 Sam. 2:3; 23:5; Neh. 9:31; Job 5:8; 8:5, 13, 20; 9:2; 12:6; 13:3; 15:4, 11, 13, 25; 16:11; 18:11; 19:22; 20:15; 22:13; 25:4; 27:2, 9, 11, 13; 31:14, 23; 32:13; 33:4, 14, 29; 34:12, 23, 31; 35:13; 36:5, 22; 37:5, 10, 14; 38:1; 40:19; Ps. 5:4, 10:11, 12; 16:1; 17:6; 19:1; 29:3; 31:5; 36:6; 43:4; 50:1; 52:3, 7; 55:19; 68:20, 35; 73:11, 17; 74:8; 77:10, 13; 78:7, 8, 18, 19, 34, 41; 80:10; 82:1; 83:2, 3; 86:15; 89:7; 94:1; 95:3; 99:8; 106:14, 21; 107:11; 118:27; 139:17, 23; 149:6; 150:1; Is. 9:5; 10:21; 12:2; 14:13; 31:3; 40:18; 43:12; 45:14, 15, 21, 22; 46:9; Jer. 51:56; Lam. 3:41; Ez. 28:2, 9; Dan. 11:36; Hos. 2:1; 11:9; 12:1; Jon. 4:2; Mic. 7:18; Nah. 1:2; Mal. 1:9; 2:10.
  13. Jos. 22:22; Ps. 50:1.
  14. Gen. 17:1; 35:11; 48:3; Ez. 10:1.
  15. Gen. 14:20, 22.
  16. Gen. 21:33; Ps. 90:2.
  17. Is. 7:14; 8:8, 10; Matt. 1:23.
  18. 2 Sam. 5:10; 1 Ki. 19:10, 14; Ps. 89:9; Jer. 5:14; 15:16; 35:17; 38:17; 44:7; Amos 4:13; 5:14-16, 27; 6:8.
  19. Is. 9:6; Mic. 5:2; Matt. 1:23 cf. Is. 7:14; ; Jn. 1:1-3, 14, 18; 8:58; 10:30, 33, 38; 14:6; 20:28; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:15-19; 2:9; Tit. 1:4 cf. 2:13, 3:4, 6; Heb. 1:3, 5, 6, 8-13; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 Jn. 5:20; Rev. 1:8, 17; 2:8; 22:13.
  20. Job 33:4; Is. 61:1; 63:10; Ez. 11:24; Matt. 12:31; Jn. 3:6; 6:63; 14:26; 16:13; Acts 5:3, 4; 1 Cor. 2:10; 2 Cor. 3:6, 17; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 4:30; Heb. 9:14.

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