A discussion concerning God must first affirm that God is independent, absolute and sufficient in Himself. He is the Great "I AM" the self existent One having life in Himself derived from no other (John 5:26). He is the first cause and all causality results from His action, thereby showing Himself as uncaused (Ex. 3:14). Being uncaused and underived, God depends on nothing for His existence. Truly God's self existence is incomprehensible to the human mind and can only be accepted by faith (Heb. 11:3).
© June 2006 By D. Eric Williams
Faith also allows us to accept the Bible's presentation of God as Trinity. Deuteronomy 6:4 says; "Hear Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One." This is defined as the (preface), to the greatest commandment by Christ Himself. Nevertheless, Jesus affirmed that He and the Father are One (John 10:30), that to know Him is to know the Father (John 8:19, 14:7), and that the only way to know the Father is through the Son (John 14:6). He also declared that the new covenant rite of inclusion (baptism), must be pronounced in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Since the new covenant is between the One God and His people (without angelic mediation - Gal. 3:20), it stands to reason that the Three Persons delineated in the baptismal oath embody that One God. In short, the one true God is one God and three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, of one substance, power and eternity (Matt. 3:16-17, 28:19, 2 Cor. 13:14). These three are equal in their deity and perfection and yet have distinct personalities and roles within the Godhead (John 5:17-19, 10:30, 15:26, Rom. 8:28-30, 1 Cor. 6:11). Moreover, the Trinity is spirit, pure, holy and good; He is worthy of our love, confidence, honor and obedience (Deut. 6:4, Ps. 83:18, 90:12, 147:4, Jer. 10:10, John 4:24, Eph. 4:6).
According to the Bible, the three Persons of the Trinity were present and active at creation. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth and the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters. (Gen.1:1f). Colossians 1:16 tells us that creation came into being by the creative action of Jesus, the eternal son of God. John, in his gospel, affirms that Jesus is the word (logos), of God, alluding to the fact that the "first statement of the Bible about God is about His creative activity and that this activity is depicted as one which is fulfilled only through His Word - ‘God spake.' The result is the combining of the primitive Christian logos statement with the christological pre-existence statement leads necessarily to an assertion of the identity of the historical figure of Jesus with the Word of the divine Creator."1 (A more full discussion of the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit will follow in separate sections particular to each. All of the following discussion applies to the Trinitarian God.)
The Bible tells us that God is eternal - infinite concerning His relationship to time. As with the rest of His creation, God is in no way limited by the created factor of time. From everlasting to everlasting He is God (Ps. 48:14, 90:2). He is enthroned as King forever (Ps. 29:10). He is the One who sees both the beginning and the end (Rev. 1:11). He exists forever without regard to past, present or future. His truth and mercy have no end (Ps. 100:5). Being transcendent, not limited by time, He is the One who choreographs the succession of events in time as the sovereign Ruler of history in every aspect, both insignificant and important (Deut. 32:39, 1 Sam. 2:6-10, Prv. 16:1, 9, 33, 20:24, 21:1, 31).
The Bible also tells us that God is omnipresent. He is everywhere in creation (Deut 4:39, 10:14), and we cannot in any way hide from Him (Ps. 139:7-12, Prv. 15:3, Jer. 23:23). Coupled with His eternal being, this renders God fully capable of superintending every aspect of history and creation. He upholds all things by the immediate word of His power; He is not a watchmaker who, having wound the timepiece, occupies Himself with other duties (Col. 1:17, Heb. 1:3), but governs immediately history and creation for His own purpose and glory.
The God of the Bible is likewise a personality - a self conscience being - in that He is not merely an impersonal force. He is a moral and intellectual Being from whom comes beauty and goodness, not just the definition, but the actual quality. According to the Bible, God is love (1 John 4:8). Here again, love is not simply defined by God as an abstract quality, but He is indeed love. And, since abstract concepts require action in order to be revealed we see that God manifests the fact that He is love by sending His Son to die on the cross for the sins of those who hate Him (John 3:16, 1 John 3:16).
Moreover, God is portrayed in Scripture as possessing the capacity for anger, jealously (His name is Jealous), compassion, pity, sorrow and so on (Gen. 6:6, 19:16, Ex. 34:6, 14, Num. 25:3, Jg. 2:18 and many more). Far from being an impersonal force, God is the source of all personality. Indeed, the world with its six billion or more individuals cannot exhaustively portray the ultimate personality, God Himself. Truly, human personality is but a dim reflection of the personality of the Absolute Other.
Ultimately all that we declare about God is eclipsed by the idea of His transcendence. The Bible tells us that God is Holy, completely set apart from the created order. Moreover, He is holy in that there is no unrighteousness in Him and holy in His transcendence. When the Christian affirms that God is transcendent he does not agree with the concept of transcendence accepted by the deist. God is not distant from Creation and uninvolved; biblical transcendence confirms that He is altogether different than creation not that He is disinterested. He is the absolute other and yet the Christian affirms that God is immanent. Again, the Christian understanding of God's immanence does not coincide with the pantheistic definition of immanence. In other words, God is not identified as creation. Instead He is in direct contact with creation as the One who orders and sustains all things on a moment by moment basis (Col. 1:17).
God's transcendence and immanence are expressed in the prayer outline that Jesus provided to His disciples. The outline begins with; "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name" (Matt. 6:9). The Greek here is agiasqhtw and points to His "separateness," His being set apart from the common or profane, His "antithesis to everything worldly or creaturely."2 At the same time, God is immanent, a Father who may be confidently approached by His children.
God's transcendence and immanence are also unveiled in the biblical account of creation. The Bible tells us that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). Which is to say that the time/space/matter universe we live in had a beginning, and that God was the One who gave it that beginning. The universe is neither eternal nor does it emanate from God nor is God dependant upon it; creation is wholly separate from Him while remaining wholly dependant upon Him (Col. 1:16-17). Indeed the Bible plainly states that "the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which are visible" (Heb. 11:3).3 Thus God is the transcendent One, the Absolute Other who, as Creator, has absolute authority over that which He has made (Ps. 50:10-12, 89:11-ff, 104, Prv. 16:4, Is. 45:9, Rom. 9:20-21, ). Not being a part of creation God is unchanging since there is "nothing besides His own eternal Being upon which He depends"4 (Num. 23:19, Mal. 3:6, James 1:7) He does not change in wisdom, knowledge or understanding; there is no one to teach Him (Job 21:22, Is. 40:13). He did not evolve from a lower life form, but exists as God in eternity. As the Creator wholly apart from creation, God's knowledge of Himself is not dependant on any other thing and His knowledge of the created realm is not from investigation but is rooted in the idea of creation which He possessed in eternity. God created facts and laws concerning the universe which we discover and so, "it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter" (Prv. 25:2). In other words there are aspects of God's wisdom which are hidden in His creation and men do well to seek it out. Yet the tendency is to ignore the display of God in the material realm and ascribe the intricacy seen there to other means (Rom. 1:18-ff).
According to the Bible, the world does not exist for its own sake nor ultimately for the sake of man; but it was brought into being in order to disclose God and glorify Him. For instance, God is a shepherd (Ps. 23:1), a fire (Heb. 12:29), like a lion and like a flock of birds (Is. 31:4?5). He is an eagle (Deut. 32:11), a lamb (Is. 53:7, Rev. 5:6), a hen (Matt. 23:37), the morning star (Rev. 22:16), food, drink and bread (Is. 55:1, John 6:35), a rock (Deut 32:4), and a tower (Prv. 18:10). Thus the Christian view of the universe must be fundamentally symbolic.5 We look at a flower, a rock or an eagle in flight and say, "here is wisdom, and here is God on display." These things are expressions or symbols that help us to discover God. Or to put it another way, the stuff of creation allows us to peer into the (ultimately incomprehensible), mind of the Creator (cf. 1 Cor. 2:16).
For instance, the Bible says that;
There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yes, four which I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, and the way of a man with a virgin Proverbs 30:18?19.
Now what is it that is so difficult to grasp about an eagle, a snake, a ship and a man wooing a woman? On the surface nothing. And that's the problem. We tend to think on the surface and never take time to meditate and consider the beauty, the subtlety, the symbolism of the world around us. The Bible tells us that our minds must be trained in "God?think" (wisdom), because only a wise man can "understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles" (Prv. 1:6?7). In other words, careful study of the enigma called creation and meditation on what we discover will tell us about who God is and what He is like; because wisdom is found in the enigma of an eagle in flight, a serpent on a rock, a ship in the sea or a man wooing a woman.
As we watch an eagle in flight we are impressed by it's strength and grace. But we also see that God is gladdened by the strength and grace of an eagle because the eagle is an image of something in God. Not in the way that Man is the image of God; yet there is something in God that only an eagle could represent, just as there is something in God that only fire can properly image ? or a hen or a lion or a loaf of bread. And because God is beyond reckoning, it requires all of creation to illustrate even that small part of Him that the human mind can understand. Hence the need for Believers to cultivate a deep interest in the natural realm.
Another example; the universe itself is what we might call a "tri-part continuum" made up of time, space and matter/energy.6 The universe is not a triad with distinct and separate components, but a tri?unity or a continuum wherein each component is coexistent and coterminous.7 In other words, the universe is all space, all time and all matter/energy. Any part of the universe is all three. In short, the universe itself is a likeness of the trinity.
Yet, the created realm is not sufficient to disclose the nature of God. Psalm 19 tells us that the voice of creation speaks of God in a universal language, understood by all mankind (Ps. 19:1-6). Notwithstanding, man requires the written revelation of God in order to know Him as He demands (Ps. 19:7-14). Even then, the witness of creation and the written word is not enough. Ultimately, man requires the display of God in Jesus Christ the Eternal Son incarnate.8