WHO IS GOD?
What is God like?
The Bible gives us glimpses of God and tells us about some of his characteristics - his love, compassion, power and creativity.
Read time: 4 minutes, 36 seconds
There is no description which fully explains what God is like. We cannot see him; we cannot prove he exists. The Bible gives us glimpses of him and tells us about some of his characteristics, for example, his love, compassion, power and creativity. God is holy – perfect and blameless. But there are elements of God that we cannot grasp because they are just beyond our comprehension. God exists beyond our understanding of time and space. The universe exists because he made it happen. He is self-sufficient and self-sustaining. He does not need us. And yet Christians believe that we can know this God personally, even intimately, and that this is what he wants to.
Christianity teaches that God exists as three distinct elements – the Trinity – which are in relationship with each other: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Son is Jesus Christ who lived in the Middle East 2,000 years ago. In the Bible book of John, Jesus explained the closeness of his relationship with his Father, saying ‘I and the Father are one’. In the same Bible book Jesus says, ‘anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’. We can get an idea of what God is like by looking at Jesus’ life. The Bible books, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, record eyewitness accounts of what he said and did. We see his compassion and love for people – especially the poor and oppressed; his desire for justice; his anger with hypocrisy and wrong-doing and his self-sacrifice in being put to death even though he was innocent. During his life on Earth, Jesus was totally human, but also totally God.
The Holy Spirit is another aspect of God – a spiritual form of God which cannot be seen but can be experienced personally. Christians believe that the Holy Spirit comes to live within them. They speak of experiencing a deep sense of love and peace. Christians believe the Holy Spirit changes the way they think and act, for example, enabling them to forgive someone who has wronged them where forgiveness was impossible previously.
God is all-seeing and all-knowing. We cannot hide from him. He knows our thoughts. In fact, the Bible book of Psalms says God knows us even before we are born - ‘you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb’….. ‘you have searched me and you know me… you are familiar with all my ways… before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely…’ Another Bible book, Proverbs, encourages people to honor and respect God describing it as ‘the beginning of wisdom’. God does not need our praise but it is important to him and gives him pleasure.
Christians believe that God made the universe and that he created men and women to share it with him. God wanted us to have a relationship with him.
The Bible book, Genesis, says he made us ‘in his image’. He has given us the capacity to be immensely creative and to love unconditionally; we too have a sense of justice, morality and a spirituality which sets us apart from other living creatures.
God did not just create the universe and walk away. He remains intimately involved in it. He cares about people. The first book of the Bible, Genesis, tells us that even when humanity’s relationship with God went sour in the garden of Eden, he devised a rescue plan – hinting at the coming of Jesus Christ to restore that relationship.
In the years that followed, God made an agreement with a nomad living in the Middle East, Abraham, that he would become the father of a nation – the Jewish people. An encounter between God and one of Abraham’s descendant, Moses, is described in the Bible book Exodus and gives an insight into God’s otherness and awesomeness. God speaks to Moses from a bush which is on fire but not burning up. He tells Moses to take off his sandals because he is standing on holy ground. When Moses asks his name, God replies ‘I am what I am’.
Later, when the Jewish nation was being led astray by evil leaders, God inspired prophets to urge the people to return to right ways of living. The prophets also spoke of a coming Messiah – someone who would rescue them and bring them back to God. That Messiah was Jesus Christ.
God is holy and loves justice. There is a price to be paid for all the wrongdoing in the world. But God, in the form of Jesus, took the punishment for it on himself by being executed on a cross even though he had never done anything wrong. Christians believe that because Jesus did this, humanity can be set free from blame and be in a relationship with God for eternity. As the Bible book John says, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’.
God remains intimately involved in the world he made. After Jesus had returned to heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit to live in people who are followers of Christ. He created the Church – a worldwide family of Christians. And he wants an ongoing relationship with all people. That’s what humanity was made for.