Describing God

Most churches have an internet presence, and on their website post a series of belief statements.  Many if not most will have a belief statement describing God including how God describes Himself.  The church talks about “who God is” by a listing a series of attributes of God found in Scripture.

This belief statement usually contains all or most of these thoughts:

God is a Spirit and is the Creator of all things. He alone is eternal (has always existed) and is the self–existing one (He is completely self–sufficient and independent of anything else for His existence). He is loving, all–knowing, all–powerful, omnipresent (present everywhere at all times), unchanging, holy (without sin), just, long–suffering, gracious, righteous, and merciful. He is the One True God (all other so–called gods are nothing but man–made idols) who reveals Himself in three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Here is one Example:link

What is most interesting to me is that when we examine the Biblical text which define and authenticate these ideas, God is not simply giving us a list of His attributes.  God is actually defining Himself in the context of activities or events, as well as dealings with us individually and corporately as human beings.

Look at these brief examples:

Genesis 15:7 “I am the LORD, who brought you out…”
Genesis 26:24 “I am the God of your father Abraham…”
Genesis 28:13 “I am the God of Abraham…and the God of Isaac…”
Genesis 46:3 “I am God, the God of your father…”
Exodus 3:6 “I am the God of…Abraham…Isaac…and Jacob”
Exodus 6:7  “I will take you as My people, and I will be your God.”
John 10:10 “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Romans 8:1 “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:20 “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;”

Do you see the pattern here?  God’s definition of Himself is found in relationships, and His own actions within those relationships.

Should someone ask me, “Who is your best friend?”, I would not respond, “She is this wonderful, 5 ft. 4 in. female, approximately 66 years old, brunet, hazel eyes, and a smile that never ends.”  These are attributes of my friend, but they don’t really answer the question.  So, my answer would be “She’s my wife.”  I find the answer in relationship, not attributes, although the attributes are fantastic!

From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is completely filled with God desiring to reveal Himself in relationship with individuals and with mankind as a whole.  He reveals Himself through these relationships and His actions.  In thousands of stories and interactions with humanity, the divine God, the LORD of all creation reveals Himself in control, as authoritative, and always present among us.

Is God eternal?  Is He self-sufficient?  Is He loving, all-knowing, all-powerful, omnipresent, unchanging, without sin, just, long-suffering, gracious, righteous, and merciful?  Without a doubt, the LORD is all this and more!

However, the only way to realize or experience these truth-statements, is in a personal faith act of your choosing to believe God is who He claims to be!

Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

This means that to be properly in relationship with God a person has to move beyond the intellectual assent of knowing facts about God’s attributes, to a place of believing God has revealed all this information just for you; so that you can know, then believe it to be so.

The ultimate revelation of Himself to humanity is the Man/God, Jesus.  In His physical presence on earth, He established one simple fact: the LORD desires relationship with individual human beings.  Jesus demonstrated in very clear actions and words, that God loves every one of us.  He said He wouldn’t leave us as orphans on this worn out, sin-filled planet. He said, one day He would return to take us where He is.

The questions posed in all this information:

Do you know God, or know about God?
Are you in relationship with God, or are you hung up on His attributes?
Who is God to you?

God Acts – an outline

If you have been one of those people who made it their goal to read the Bible all the way through … cover to cover, including the maps and concordance… what you quickly notice is how difficult it is to understand the timeline of this work.  The Bible is not linear.  The books overlap and many cover the same time period but from different authors perspective.  But one thing is clear from the very beginning, God is actively involved with the world He created.

When we ask the question “Who is God” the Bible becomes the definitive work for not just discovering the answer, but also for understanding how the information found there applies to us individually.  In Scripture we find God acting in many ways to reveal Himself to mankind.  Here is a brief outline of what we’ll examine in this section of God ACTS.

God acts:

  • Activity in and with the natural world through miracles, providence, and creation
  • Making heavenly proclamations including His Lordship in eternity past, controlling everything in the present, and a plan for eternity future
  • All these activities and proclamations are done in accordance with the plan to redeem His creation from sin and death.

Why would God go to such lengthy extremes to reveal Himself in this way?

Let’s start with God acting in this world through miracles.

So, what constitutes a miracle?

Many people today define “miracle” as anything occurring outside the laws of nature.  However, Scripture doesn’t say all that much about natural law, because the Bible authors didn’t know enough to identify miracles as exceptions to the laws of nature.  Even when Jesus calmed the storms of the sea, the emphasis from those who witnessed this is interesting.  “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” (Luke 8:25)

God has always been busy in and through His Sovereign control of nature. The authors of the Bible speak of miracles as an extraordinary demonstration of God’s LORDSHIP.  One great example is the deliverance of the Hebrew people as they left Egypt.  God made the waters separate so His people could cross on dry land, but they had no concept of natural law being suspended.  Moses wrote that the event happened through a “strong east wind.” [Exodus 14:21]

So here’s the thing.

The wording used in Scripture for “miracle” whether expressed in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, or the Greek terminology of the New Testament, seems to focus on three general ideas:  powers, signs, and wonders.

Powers… are miracles where God acts in extraordinary ways controlling His creation. [Luke 8:25; or Exodus 14:21 above]

Signs… correspond to the idea of an authentic communication from God about His intentions.  [Luke 2:12]

Wonders… circumstances of events intended to wake us up and realize God really is here, right now, just like Peter did in Luke 5:1-10.

Well… do miracles still happen today?

To answer this question, maybe we should recognize that while there are many miracles demonstrated in the Bible, even in this historical record miracles didn’t happen every day.  Miracles were the exception, not the rule, and they were usually to validate the words of a prophet (OT) or an apostle (NT), but especially to authenticate God the Father’s witness that Jesus Christ is the Son.  In fact, there is a 400-year time span between the last book of the Old Testament, and the first book of the New Testament, where God didn’t act, or speak in any way at all.  Because of this truth, we shouldn’t expect miracles to be a regular part of the Christian life either.

God never promised this.

That said, there is nothing to indicate God doesn’t or won’t work in a miraculous way today.  The term “wonder” usually applies in Scripture to floating axe heads [2 Kings 6:1-7], turning water into wine [John2:1-10], or miraculous feedings [Mark 8:1-13],

But Psalm 134:3-4 says, “Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever, to him who alone does great wonders…” then verse 25 says, “He gives food to every creature.”  We don’t pay enough attention sometimes to realize God feeds us all, through His Sovereign control to keep this world in order, producing the food we eat.

In this sense God is working in extraordinary ways (miracles) all the time, all around us.

Next time… God acts in Providence.

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