GI-8: WHAT IS GOD LIKE? (Part 1)

How would you answer the question, “What is God like?” If someone sincerely asked, how would you answer them? For Christians, that’s an important question because in order to answer it, we must at least have an idea of who God is and what he is like.

Attempting to answer that question will be the topic of the next few articles. Obviously, that’s a huge undertaking and I will barely make a very tiny scratch in the surface of this topic. A.W. Tozer, a pastor and Bible scholar from a century ago, wrote in his classic book, “The Knowledge of the Holy,”

“Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, “What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man.”

He continues,

“That our idea of God corresponds as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is.”

In other words, we can’t be satisfied with basic doctrinal teachings of who God is. We can’t be satisfied with saying, “Oh I believe that,” and then check a box and move on, which we all do way too often. We must be willing to go deeper, much deeper and press in and touch the heart of the one true God.

Throughout history, every culture in the world has had some concept of what God is like. Some have assumed that God is in control of the weather and have made images of a storm god throwing lightning bolts around. Some have assumed that God is powerful, and so they worshiped the most powerful thing they could see, the sun.

Some believe that God is unknowable and aren’t really interested in finding out if He’s knowable or not, so they claim to be agnostic. That used to be me. And, of course, there is a very small minority who believe that there is no God, so eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.

A university president said to Rev. Billy Graham:

“If it were possible for preachers to tell people what God is and what God is like, it would make the question of religion a good deal simpler for many people.”

His response?

“I believe it is possible to know what God is like.”

In the Bible we have a full disclosure of what God is like. If you do not believe the Bible and that it is sufficient to give us an answer to the question of what God is like, then you will never be satisfied. To your mind, any answer I might give you is nothing more than my opinion or speculation. I believe, aside from the Bible, every other idea about God is indeed the product of the imagination, opinion or speculation. Your guess is as good as anyone else’s. However, if we believe that in the Bible God has revealed all that He wants us to know about Him in this life, then we can discover the truth about God and our minds can be satisfied and our hearts can have peace and hope as we learn the answer to the question, “what is God like?”

FIRST, GOD EXISTS

Hebrews 11:6 says,

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

There’s the “F” word—faith. To some people that’s a dirty word. But even though there is plenty of evidence for the existence of God, belief in God does require some faith. We should make no apologies for that. But to believe that something popped into existence without the aid of creator requires more faith than I have. The Bible never argues for God’s existence; it simply states it. From the perspective of the biblical authors, the fact that God “is” should be self-evident through the works He has created (Psalm 19:1-6).

In previous articles we learned from the cosmological argument that:

  1. Everything the begins to exist, has a cause for its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its existence.

We learned that Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity states that all time, space, and matter had a definite, simultaneous beginning. What has a beginning has a cause, which is what’s known as the law of causality, the law of cause and effect. Without a first cause there are no effects. God is that uncaused first cause. We also learned that the universe had a beginning from the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the universe is expanding.

According to Hebrews 11:3,

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

That’s the cosmological argument in a nutshell, right there in the New Testament. We see similar expressions in the Old Testament, too. We spend so much time wondering about the origin of the universe, when the answer is right in front of us.

We learned from the fine-tuning argument how precisely over 100 constants, 122 to be precise, had to be so finely tuned in order for life to exist and that fine-tuning points us to a Fine-Tuner—God. All of these facts, the various arguments we explored (and there are others) easily explain the ultimate cause of the universe—God.

I’m not anti-science. Quite the contrary. But, science observes what already is and tries to understand it all. It looks for causes and effects. When things go wrong in the world, such as the recent coronavirus pandemic, it looks for the cause and attempts to come up with cures. When it was decided to send men to the moon, various science disciplines were called on to make that happen. The pursuit of scientific study has resulted in amazing discoveries that have had tremendous benefit to all of humanity. But it cannot explain the beginning of the universe or the origin of life itself. Neither can it prove or disprove the existence of God.

As we have seen so far, the universe and all of life was created by Him. He is the first—the uncaused cause behind it all. Under the “umbrella” of creator, we know certain other things about Him.

GOD IS INFINITE

Since God created the universe then He must be outside of it. Infinity is something that can’t be measured. It means to be without limits or boundaries. God is infinite and his characteristics are infinite. This is something that is impossible for finite humans to get our minds around. We just can’t. We are finite. He is infinite. We are limited in our understanding and our physical bodies. He is unlimited.

Infinity is something that can’t be measured. It means to be without limits or boundaries. As finite, limited humans, we like to be able to measure things. But measurement is for things like weight, height, depth, speed, distance, volume, quantity, etc. I can stand on a beach on Lake Michigan and look out knowing it has boundaries that can be measured. Not so with God. We can stare up at a starry sky and imagine that the universe is infinite. It’s not. Not so with God.

C.S. Lewis gave this illustration:

“If you could think of a sheet of paper infinitely extended in all directions, and if you took a pencil and made a line one inch long on it, that would be time. When you first began to push your pencil on it, that would mark the beginning of time. And when you lifted it off the paper after one inch, that would mark the end of time. And all around, infinitely extended in all directions, is God.”

If there were a point where God stopped, then God wouldn’t be perfect. Think of it this way: if God knew almost everything, but not quite everything, then God wouldn’t be perfect in knowledge. His understanding wouldn’t be infinite. But Psalm 147:5 says,

“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
      his understanding is beyond measure.”

If God could be measured, he could not be God. If God had all power in the universe except 1%, he could not be God. Whoever or whatever had the 1% could hoard it and never allow it to be accessed or used. If any of God’s attributes (his knowledge, wisdom, mercy, love) could be limited by something beyond Himself, then he could not be God.

A.W. Tozer wrote,

“whatever God is and ALL that God is, He is without limit. He is measureless. In fact, there may be attributes that God possesses that we finite humans know nothing about because of our limitations.”

God has revealed himself as evidenced by the existence of the universe; also, as evidenced by the complexity and intricacy of life and by His Word. Through His word we gain deep insights into what He is like. One of his infinite characteristics is that…

GOD IS ETERNAL

The universe, consisting of space, time, and matter, had a beginning. Call it the Big Bang or whatever you prefer, but it began. God could not be limited by space; therefore, He is infinite. He could also not be limited by time; therefore, God is eternal.

“Before the mountains were born
     Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (Psalm 90:2)

The Bible teaches that there was no time when God did not exist. In fact, He existed before time because He created time. He has been and will be as He is–forever. Forever He has been. Forever He will be. He had no beginning and has no end. He is the Eternal and Unchanging Person.

Stephen Charnock, 17th century Puritan scholar, in his classic 2 volume work, “The Existence and Attributes of God,” wrote,

“Though we cannot comprehend eternity, yet we may comprehend that there IS an eternity; as, though we cannot comprehend the essence of God what he is, yet we may comprehend THAT he is; we may understand the notion of his existence, though we cannot understand the infiniteness of his nature; yet we may better understand eternity than infiniteness; we can better conceive a time with the addition of numberless days and years, than imagine a Being without bounds…”

He’s saying that though we may understand that eternity and infiniteness exist, it’s impossible to fully understand each of them on their own. We are not eternal or infinite beings, so it’s difficult to understand a Being who is both. That doesn’t eliminate the notion that God IS both. Infinity is as different from space as eternity is from time. God is both infinite and eternal and, therefore, transcends both space and time.

GOD IS ALL-POWERFUL (OMNIPOTENT)

Another one of God’s attributes is his omnipotence; his all-powerfulness. He is All mighty. If we believe that the cosmological argument is true, that God created the universe, and if we believe that God precisely fine-tuned the galaxy we live in, the planet we live on, in order to sustain life, then God not only exists, but He is powerful. He must be all powerful. In his book, “When Skeptics Ask,” Dr. Norm Geisler, wrote,

“Only a God with incredible power could create and sustain the whole universe. His energy would have to be greater than all the energy that was ever available in the whole Creation, for He not only caused all things, He holds them together and keeps them in existence and still sustains His own existence. That is more power than we can imagine.”

God possesses what none of his creation can: an unimaginable, unlimited, infinite amount of power. If God exists, he must be all-powerful. If he is infinite, without any limits whatsoever, then he has limitless power. He is the source of all power. God’s omnipotence is an attribute of a personal God whom Christians believe to be the Father of the Lord Jesus the Messiah and of all who believe in Him.

Tozer describes God’s power in three propositions:

  1. God has power: God has power and whatever God has is without limit; therefore, God is ALL-POWERFUL / omnipotent.
  2. God is the source of all power: The source of anything must be greater than anything that flows out of it. God is the source of all power no matter what kind of power it is, He is ultimately the source.
  3. God gives power, but still retains it.

Just imagine, all of this power I’ve been describing. God’s power manifests itself many ways. He even gives out his power to humanity. The power to breathe, move, think, create, love, to move and be moved, the power to live. He gives that power out freely and yet he never runs out of power. His power is not depleted in any way. If giving power away depleted his power in any way, no matter how small, he would cease to be God.

GOD IS ALL-KNOWING (OMNISCIENT)

To say that God is all-knowing, or omniscient, is to say that He possesses an infinite amount of perfect knowledge. I guess we could say that He is the one, true know-it-all. He has no need to learn. In fact, God has never learned and cannot learn. If there was something that he ever needed to learn, who would teach him? If there were someone, then that being would be God. On a human level, when it comes to God’s all-knowing, Tozer presents us with two sides of the same coin. He writes of first the negative side…

“In the divine omniscience we see set forth against each other (both) the terror and fascination of…God. That God knows each person through and through can be a cause of shaking fear to the man that has something to hide—some unforsaken sin, some secret crime committed against man or God…”

We can’t hide anything from Him. He is all-knowing. Then of the opposite side of the coin, he writes this…

“And to us who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope that is set before us in the gospel, how unutterably sweet is the knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows us completely. No (one) can inform on us, no enemy can make an accusation stick; no forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some hidden closet to abash us and expose our past; no unsuspected weakness in our characters can come to light to turn God away from us, since He knew us utterly before we knew Him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us.”

There is nothing that surprises God about us. Nothing unexpected catches Him by surprise regarding you and me, because there is nothing unexpected to Him. Because we are hidden in Christ what hope and comfort that should bring us.

I’ll continue on this topic in the next article. I hope you are taking away something from each of these articles and that I have stoked the fires of your desire to learn more and become more confident in what you believe and why. I would love to hear from you, so please email me and leave a comment at billv@equip412.com. As always, please keep your comments courteous and respectful.

Also check out the Equip 4:12 site for future vlogs and articles, and please subscribe. You’ll be able to download some chapters from my book, “Be The Difference,” for free when you do.

Until next time, remember…

“…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

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