A little girl asked her father, one day, “Daddy, what is God like?” The question caused the girl’s father to stop and ponder, “How do I know what God is like?” There are two ways to decide this issue. First, we can imagine what God is like in our minds. The problem with this is that we can only imagine something we have seen, or something that is like us, in some manner. The second way is to read what God has to say about himself. This is an autobiography. The Bible is the autobiography of God. God caused a record of what he is like to be written down (and in one place wrote it himself!). The Nicene Creed is a summary, kind of like Cliff Notes, on what God has said about himself. Following the Bible, then, we get a good idea of what God is really like. Reading the Creed gives us a good summary of what God is like.
“Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Deuteronomy 6.4
The Creed begins by saying that we believe the true faith teaches that there is one God. Look up Deuteronomy 6.4 and write down what it says: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
This itself is a creed, a statement of belief. There is only one God and God is One.
The Nicene Creed begins by saying, “I believe in one God.” It says the same thing. There is only One God and He is eternal. Read Psalm 90.2 below and write down what it means.
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
Origen, one of the early Christian bishops, said of God, “According to this strict truth, God is incomprehensible and incapable of being measured. For whatever the knowledge is that we are able to obtain about God, either by perception or by reflection, we must of necessity believe that he is far better by many degrees than what we perceive him to be.” (ca. 225 A.D.; 4.347) God is incomprehensible to finite beings but he wants to be known. So, God makes himself known. He does this primarily in Jesus Christ and through his written word, the Bible. God has things about himself that he can communicate to us.
When we talk about people, we say he is smart or not so smart. We say she has a good personality or is mean. We might say he is good in math or in philosophy. She is logical and he is emotional. These are attributes we use to describe the way people are and how they behave. No one person has all of the good attributes a person should have because we are fragmented because of the sin and the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden (more on this later). Only Jesus Christ is the truly complete man who has all of the good things people are supposed to have. He alone is without sin or error.
God has attributes just like the people he created do. However, his attributes are not the same as out attributes, nor as limited as ours are. God is not wishy-washy (double minded), fickle, or limited in any way. James 1.17 says, “the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” The attributes of God tell us about God and how he relates to us.
God is present everywhere
One of God’s attributes is that he is omnipresent. This means he is present everywhere in his creation in his fullness at the same time. Theophilus, writing around 180 A.D. said,
“This is the attribute of God, the Highest and Almighty, not only to be everywhere present, but also to see all things and to hear all things. He is by no means to be confined in a place. For, if he were, then the place containing Him would be greater than He…For God is not contained, but is Himself the place of all” (2.95). God is also immense. This means he is not limited to his creation alone. If God suddenly destroyed his creation he would not be present everywhere for there would be no place in creation for him to be. However, God himself would not cease to exist.
We are not to think of God in terms of his being present in one place and another part of him in some other place. God fills every space with his whole being and is present in every place in creation in his fullness. “If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there” (Psalm 139.8, NLT). There is no place we can go where God is not. Even if we were in a fast space ship and flew to another galaxy, still God would be there. If we go down with a sinking ship in the deepest part of the ocean, God is there. God is always there, wherever we are, to help us in times of trouble. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46.1). He is there to help, not off somewhere else at the moment when we need him. This is how Jesus could literally say, “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28.20, NLT). God said, also, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb 13.5).
For sinners, God’s omnipresence assures them that all of their deeds are observed by God. They cannot hide their deeds for, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable” (Hebrews 4.13, NLT). However, not only does God see sinful deeds, but he sees every tear of repentance and draws near to the sinner who repents; wherever the sinner finds himself. God also sees our happiness, our good deeds, and all the things in our life. He rejoices with us and is pleased with those of us who belong to him. At the birth of Christ, the Angels sang, “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace to those with whom he is well pleased” (Luke 2.14).
Since those who belong to God are not under his wrath any longer and the Holy Spirit witnesses to this, a believer should not be afraid of God, but comforted by God’s presence.
God is Infinite
God is not bound by his creation, which is finite. He is infinite, without beginning and without end.
God is Eternal
God is eternal. Even the word eternal is a time oriented word, and thus of creation. We cannot effectively talk about what it means for God to be eternal. What we can say is that he existed before he created and if all things that are should cease to exist, God would remain. He never had a beginning, and he has no end. He exists. He is not bound by time, he does not die, he does not come into being, nor does he cease to be.
God is Simple
God is simple and by that is meant that there is nothing that need be, nor can be, added to God to make him better or more complete in any fashion. He is already infinitely good, holy, loving, and etc. Everything that makes God, God, is already present in full perfection in his essence.
St. Augustine said in The City of God, Book 11, Chapter 10:
There is, accordingly, a good which is alone simple, and therefore alone unchangeable, and this is God. By this Good have all others been created, but not simple, and therefore not unchangeable. “Created,” I say,—that is, made, not begotten. For that which is begotten of the simple Good is simple as itself, and the same as itself. These two we call the Father and the Son; and both together with the Holy Spirit are one God; and to this Spirit the epithet Holy is in Scripture, as it were, appropriated. And He is another than the Father and the Son, for He is neither the Father nor the Son. I say “another,” not “another thing,” because He is equally with them the simple Good, unchangeable and co-eternal. And this Trinity is one God; and none the less simple because a Trinity. For we do not say that the nature of the good is simple, because the Father alone possesses it, or the Son alone, or the Holy Ghost alone; nor do we say, with the Sabellian heretics, that it is only nominally a Trinity, and has no real distinction of persons; but we say it is simple, because it is what it has, with the exception of the relation of the persons to one another. For, in regard to this relation, it is true that the Father has a Son, and yet is not Himself the Son; and the Son has a Father, and is not Himself the Father. But, as regards Himself, irrespective of relation to the other, each is what He has; thus, He is in Himself living, for He has life, and is Himself the Life which He has.
It is for this reason, then, that the nature of the Trinity is called simple, because it has not anything which it can lose, and because it is not one thing and its contents another, as a cup and the liquor, or a body and its color, or the air and the light or heat of it, or a mind and its wisdom.
God knows all things
God is also omniscient. This means God knows everything and is all-wise. For one thing, God is present everywhere so he does not have to guess what is happening anywhere in his creation, including your life. He knows because he is there. However, he also knows because he knows. His knowledge is not confined to the present. He is also transcendent. Time was created by him. He is above, outside of, beyond, and not confined by anything he created, including time. God transcends time. The past, present, and future are the same to God. Have you ever hears someone say that it is too late to pray? God is transcendent and it is never too late to pray because time does not matter to God, nor limit him, as it does you. Also, God knows whether you will pray or not, even in the future about the present, and can act accordingly. Doesn’t this give you hope and comfort?
“God does not wait for talkative tongues…but knows absolutely the thoughts of all. What the voice communicates to us, our thoughts speak to God. For, even before the creation, he knew what would come into our minds. So, prayer may be uttered without the voice.” (St. Clement of Alexandria, ca. 195 A.D.; 2.535)
Jesus said that we do not have to be like non-Christians, constantly seeking wealth, prosperity, and all sorts of things that pass away. Rather, he said, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt 6.8).
That God is omniscient and he is transcendent, knows all and is not bound by time, he will be able to bring to light the deeds of every person, whether good or bad deeds, at the last judgment. This is also how he can speak of the future with great certainty that his plans will succeed. “From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done” (Isaiah 43.13; NLT). God also said in Isaiah 46.10-11, “Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish” (NLT).
God is all-powerful
“O Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!” Jeremiah 32.17
God is also omnipotent. He is all-powerful and able to do anything he wills to do. The scriptures we just read show that no one is more powerful than God and he can, and does, do whatever he wants to do. Only God is omnipotent. “I am El-Shaddai–‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life” (Gen 17.1, NLT). Look up Revelation 4.8 (the last book of the Bible) and write down what it says about God: _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
God is able to do all things he purposes to do. “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42.2). With God all things are possible (Matthew 19.26) and nothing is too difficult for him (Jeremiah 32.17).
God may be all-powerful, but he is also good, and will never do anything contrary to his nature, his perfections. God has the power to assure he will never do anything against his own nature. The believer is thus assured that God will never prove “two-faced”, nor will he ever tempt anyone with evil. “And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else…Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1.13&17; NLT).
God has two kinds of power. First, God has absolute power, which is his ability to work without any other aid or causes. Creation, miracles, and regeneration to make us who were dead in our sins to be alive, are examples of this power of God. God also has ordinate power where God uses ordinary things in extraordinary ways. An example of this is God’s providence in which he lovingly supplies food, water, the daily necessities of all things, and lovingly cares for all people and things in his creation.
God’s omnipotence is a source of security for all who believe into Christ for their salvation. Once God has done a regenerating work in someone’s life (born anew), no one can undo it. The believer is made secure by the power of God. Jesus said in John 10.28-29, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand” (NLT). God also has the unlimited power to meet the needs of everyone who puts their faith in Christ, whether it be food, shelter, finances, healing, or anything else that is needed.
“Is anyone greater than God, or more merciful than God’s goodness?” (St. Cyprian, ca. 250 A.D.; 5.443)
God does not change
God is immutable. This means that he does not change and this is why we survive in the face of hostile evil forces and our own sinfulness. “I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed” (Malachi 3.6; NLT). God’s essence, attributes, will, power, and consciousness do not change, forever. All things that are created change, whether for the good or the bad, but not God. He has no need to change for the better, for he is perfect. God will never be wiser, more holy, more just, more merciful, more truthful, nor will he ever be less so. His plans and purposes do not change from everlasting to everlasting. God’s will never changes so God is forever faithful to his promises. One good illustration of this is his covenant promise to Abraham and God’s eternal faithfulness to this is why you are now saved. God is not a human being so his actions have to be unalterable (Numbers 23.19).
There are a few passages in the Bible that on first glance seem to show that God changes his mind. He doesn’t. In those cases, they are always an attempt to put into human terms a finite explanation so we can understand a little of what an Infinite God is doing. Since God is omniscient, in some cases where God seems to be changing his mind, upon study, it becomes clear that God knew that repentance or intercession would take place and so he would be merciful. Also, there are some places that is becomes clear on further study that God was actually using the circumstances as a part of his original plan to reveal who he is, and to conform someone into his image. Do not be afraid, God does not change.
God is impassible. This is part of his unchangeableness. God does not have emotional fluctuations. The Bible does show that God has emotions, but they are perfect and they do not change, as human emotions do. Human emotions are imperfect, changing, and controlling. But God is perfect in every aspect and he is not like his creation. St. Iranaeus, an early bishop of the Church, said: “The Gnostics endow God with human affections and emotions. However, if they had known the Scriptures, and had been taught by the truth, they would have known beyond doubt that God is not like men. His thoughts are not like the thoughts of men. For the Father of all is at a vast distance from those dispositions and passions that operate among men.” (ca. 180 A.D.; 1.374)
God is simple. “There is, accordingly, a Good which is alone simple, and therefore alone unchangeable, and this is God…the nature of the Trinity is called simple, because it has not anything which it can lose, and because it is not one thing and its contents another, as a cup and the liquor, or a body and its color, or the air and the light or heat of it, or a mind and its wisdom.” (St. Augustine, ca. 400 A.D.; N1.2.210). By ascribing simplicity to God we mean that there is nothing he needs to make himself complete. He simply is. Nor, is he composed of various parts. God is pure spirit and has no body or soul. For that very reason he is not subject to division. The three persons in the one God are not various parts of the essence of God. The whole being and essence of God belong to each one of the Persons. God and His attributes are one. He is life, light, love, righteousness, truth, holiness, and more.
What is the most important thing you learned in this lesson?
What do you think God is trying to teach you?