Biblical People
God. [Heb. El, Elohém, Eloah, YHWH; Aramaic Elah; Gr. Theos.]

Philosophy and religion have met their greatest challenge in their endeavours to define God. Philosophy, for the most part, has equated God with "first cause," "natural law," "cosmic force," or at best has accepted God as "ultimate reality." The Bible attributes personality to God, and describes Him as creator, sustainer, lawgiver, judge, ruler, and father (Gen 18:25; Deut 33:2; Ps 103:13; Ps 104:27-29; Is 40:28; Dan 4:17; Acts 17:25-28; Rom 8:15). Religious philosophy describes God by such terms as "omnipotent," "omniscient," and "omnipresent." These terms teach certain important truths about God.

The existence of God is universally attested by His creation, and is witnessed to by the nature of man (Rom 1:19, 20; 2:14, 15), but this witness, apart from the revelation that God has given of Himself in the Scriptures, provides but a limited and often erroneous concept, and in the Bible itself God has revealed only as much of Himself as we need to know. But to this we must go for our definition of God. Speculation beyond revelation is useless and even dangerous.

The Bible portrays God as a being who is able to create, to communicate, to love. God's relationship to Abraham illustrates this warm, personal relationship. God had a plan for Abraham as expressed in the "covenant" He made with him. Six times this covenant is repeated: 1st, when God called Abraham to leave his family home (Gen 12:1-3); 2nd, when Abraham arrived in the land to which God had called him (vs. 6, 7); 3rd, when Abraham had experienced the disappointment of Lot's selfish choice (ch 13:14-17); 4th, when Abraham needed his confidence restored after the battle of the kings (ch 15:1, 5, 6); 5th, when Abraham had sinned and needed forgiveness (ch 17:1-8); and 6th, when Abraham had proved his faithfulness in a severe crisis (ch 22:15-18). Others experienced this same kind of friendship (Ex 33:11; Num 14:13, 14; Ps 139:7-10; Is 40:28, 29; etc.).

The God of the Bible is portrayed as a God of love (Jn 3:16; 1 Jn 4:7, 8; etc.). He is described as "merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (Ex 34:6, 7), yet also as a God of justice who will "by no means clear the guilty" (v 7). These same 2 aspects are set forth in the NT statement: "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God" (Rom 11:22).

The OT witness regarding God is significant and revealing. In an age when the gods of the nations were represented as being earthy and sensual, the OT writers set forth the ethical nature of God (Ps 24:4; Hab 1:13). They also saw God as universal rather than tribal, and as one God rather than a proliferation of competing deities (Gen 14:22; Deut 6:5; Is 45:25; 66:1; Dan 4:17). Man's conception of God could not be complete until He revealed Himself in the person of Jesus. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" (Jn 1:18). Thus the most complete information man may find about God is not to be found in nature, or in personal experience, or even in the scrolls of the prophets of old, but in the Gospel narratives, and in the teachings of the apostles. These revelations are the norm by which all other revelations of God must be measured.

This revelation is described in Jesus' instruction to His disciples (Jn 14:1-10), in the prayer of Jesus for His disciples (ch 17), and in Heb 1:1-5. To a world that misunderstood God, Jesus portrayed His Father's character (Mt 5:44, 45; Lk 1:78, 79; 6:35). In the sacrifice of Christ were seen the infinite wisdom, love, justice, and mercy of God. An understanding and appreciation of this will not only inform but transform (2 Cor 3:18; Eph 3:14-19; Col 1:9-11).

God is portrayed as One who demands much but who gives freely (Mt 16:24; Rom 8:32). He expects obedience, but pays an infinite price to make obedience possible (Ex 23:21; Deut 11:27, 28; Is 5:4; Hos 14:4; Jn 3:16). He has an immutable law, but He supplies inexhaustible grace (Mt 5:17-19; Rom 5:20; Php 4:13). He hates sin with bitter hatred, but loves the sinner with wonderful love (Ps 101:3; Is 63:9; Jer 31:3; Rom 2:8, 9; 9:25). He is the Creator and sustainer of the limitless universe, yet He is the anxious father waiting at the gate for the prodigal's return (Ps 33:6, 13, 14; Ps 104:27, 28; Is 44:22; Lk 15:20). He challenges the intellect of the most brilliant men the world has known, yet He accepts the devotion of a little child (Job 36 to 41; Is 45:20, 21; Jer 9:12; Ps 103:13; Mt 7:11). Jesus referred to Him as merciful (Lk 6:36), concerned about human needs (Mt 6:32), generous (ch 7:11), loving (Jn 3:16), spiritual (ch 4:24).

Occasionally, the Bible writers break forth in rhapsodies of praise to God. What the prose of intellect fails to express the poetry of praise is able to portray. After describing God's plan for saving men, Paul declared, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God how unsearchable are his judgements, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen" (Rom 11:33-36) -- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary.

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