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What is God Like? Bookmark

What is God Like?


SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret
) Chairman, Board of Directors
“And this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3 NIV)

This is an introduction to, and the first in a series of articles offering answers from Scripture to the above question.  To say that this is an important question, that deserves serious consideration, is a huge understatement!

I first learned something about God’s glorious attributes years ago from two main sources: Lutheran Catechism and reading the Bible for an “Advanced” English course as a senior in high school. Catechism provided sound doctrine (and large words) to describe characteristics of God found in the Bible.  In reading the Bible for itself, I found out that what it said about God matched the big words I learned in Catechism.  (As odd as it might sound in today’s scholastic environment, in those days it was permissible to write a paper about The Bible as Literature, my chosen subject.)

In addition to Scripture itself, a source of information for these posts is J. I. Packer’s book, Knowing God.   Scripture references, unless otherwise noted, are from the NIV and linked to their context in an online Bible.  Please read them, read the context around them, and let Scripture speak to you.  There are of course other, more exhaustive treatments of the Attributes of God; one of the most notable is Arthur W. Pink’s work, (http://www.eternallifeministries.org/awp_attrib.htm).

This article can provide only a brief glimpse into the awesome character of God and hopefully will whet your appetite to learn even more about the Creator of the universe and the One who sent His own Son to die so that you might live.  The reason for these posts is two-fold.  First, there seems to exist today, in American Christianity, a deplorable lack of knowledge concerning what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture.  Most of what we hear from pulpits across the country speaks only of God’s love, and even that, for the most part, is described according to our concept/definition of love, not His.

The second reason is from Scripture itself.  John 17:3 tells us that “eternal life is knowing God.”  That can be a bit difficult to get our heads wrapped around, but it speaks of how our eternal life has a “right here, right now” aspect.  How can that be explained in more practical, understandable terms? What effect does knowing God have on a person?  J. I. Packer suggests four great effects:

  1. Those who know God have great energy for God.
  2. Those who know God have great thoughts of God.
  3. Those who know God have great boldness for God.
  4. Those who know God have great contentment in God.

We must ask ourselves, do we desire such knowledge of God?   When you ask yourself this question, remember that it’s not a matter of knowing God so we can “become” great for God, it’s simply that really “knowing” leads to “having.”

And lest I forget, when God sees knowledge of Himself in His children, it gives Him pleasure.

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6 KJV)

When you think about it, generally, the most we can know about other people is what they reveal to us.  The extent and quality of our knowledge of them depends more on them than it does on us. Knowing God is no different.  Only what God has chosen to reveal of Himself can be known, and that which God has chosen to reveal to us can be found in Holy Scripture.

Our quest to know God begins by understanding that God is our Creator and that we are a part of His creation (Genesis 1:1, Psalm 24:1).  God said that man is created in His image.  Man is above the rest of creation and was given dominion over it (Genesis 1:26-28).  Creation is marred by the “fall” (Genesis 3:17-18) but still offers a glimpse of His works (Romans1:19-20).  This glimpse of God that we do have is available to all men─we are all born with the knowledge that God IS. By considering creation’s vastness, complexity, beauty, and order, we can have a sense of the awesomeness of God.  However, considering how lightly and how often we use the term “awesome” in today’s culture, I don’t think it’s a nearly “big enough” word to begin describing God.

I remember when I was just a wee lad and we would visit my grandparents’ farm in Wisconsin.  There weren’t any street lights, and I remember looking up at the night sky and all the stars with a feeling of “WOW, God made that!” filling my little heart with wonder at how BIG God is.  That was awesome.

I also remember a church, nestled in tall pine trees across the road from Grandma’s house.  I found an old photo of that church, dated back to around 1955.  As if it were yesterday, I can still hear the hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” resounding through the pines as we walked to church.  That was awesome.

I can’t describe just how “BIG” God was to this 5-year-old, from just looking at the night sky and hearing a hymn.  As we grow older and begin to read Scripture, our sense of God’s greatness looms even larger, or at least it should.

Face it: we don’t much care for hearing God when He speaks to us about our sin, our guilt, our helplessness, our weakness, our blindness, and our spiritual “deadness.”  We would rather hear just the “good stuff” He might say about us.  Nevertheless, knowing God involves listening to His Word and receiving it, as the Holy Spirit interprets and applies it to us and to the character of God.  When we see our “true selves” in the blinding light of Scripture, we can “know” God more fully, and might even have something to boast about.

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.”  Jeremiah 9:23-24

God is the Great I AM - Eternal and Unchangeable

“Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’”

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you.’” - (Exodus 3:13,14).

God is eternal, meaning He had no beginning and that His existence will never end.  He is immortal, infinite (Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 90:2; 1 Timothy 1:17). God is immutable, meaning He is unchangeable; this means that God is absolutely reliable and trustworthy (Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; Psalm 102:26,27).

God’s life does not change.

Created things have a beginning and an end, however their Creator is from everlasting to everlasting.

“In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.  They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.  Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”   (Psalm 102:25-27)

A small child will often ask, “Who made God?”  Our answer is simple. He was always there. Children accept that answer more easily than adults, with the childlike faith that Jesus reminded His followers we all need.  When Mom told this little 5-year-old that God was always there, that settled it─Moms don’t lie!

God’s character does not change.

The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament.  Listening to sermons in many of today’s churches, one might come away with the idea that the God who destroyed His enemies, the enemies of His Chosen people, and those among people who would dishonor His Name, has somehow changed into a kindly grandfather who waits for us to jump into His lap for a hug and a bit of candy.  While God is certainly the giver of all good things to His children, His moral character is changeless, as James reminded dispersed followers undergoing trials and temptations (James 1:12-17 NKJV).

God’s truth does not change.

How many times have we had to eat our words because something that was said was not what was really meant, or something that we thought was truth turned out to be not true.  God’s Word, however, spoken but once, stands as truth for all eternity (Isaiah 40:6-8).

God’s ways do not change.

The wages of sin is death, so Romans 6:23 tells us.  It will always be so. This verse also tells us that God offers eternal life through His Son.  It will always be so.  God discriminates between sinners, causing some to hear the gospel message, while others hear the words but not the message (Acts 16:13-15).  To some he grants the gift of repentance and faith, while others He leaves in their sin, demonstrating that he owes mercy to no one and that it is entirely an act of His grace that any are saved (Romans 9:15).

God’s purposes do not change.

“One of two things causes a man to change his mind and reverse his plans: want of foresight to anticipate everything, or lack of foresight to execute them. But as God is both omnipotent and omnipresent, there is never any need for Him to reverse His decrees.” (A.W. Pink)

The plans of God stand firm forever... (Psalm 33:11). Whatever God does in time, He planned from eternity; and whatever He planned in eternity WILL be carried out in time.

God’s Son does not change.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Jesus is able to, and will save all who come to Him─all that the Father gives Him (John 6:37-40).

This fact is the strong consolation and assurance for all God’s people.

What is God Like?


SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret
) Chairman, Board of Directors
“And this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3 NIV)

This is an introduction to, and the first in a series of articles offering answers from Scripture to the above question.  To say that this is an important question, that deserves serious consideration, is a huge understatement!

I first learned something about God’s glorious attributes years ago from two main sources: Lutheran Catechism and reading the Bible for an “Advanced” English course as a senior in high school. Catechism provided sound doctrine (and large words) to describe characteristics of God found in the Bible.  In reading the Bible for itself, I found out that what it said about God matched the big words I learned in Catechism.  (As odd as it might sound in today’s scholastic environment, in those days it was permissible to write a paper about The Bible as Literature, my chosen subject.)

In addition to Scripture itself, a source of information for these posts is J. I. Packer’s book, Knowing God.   Scripture references, unless otherwise noted, are from the NIV and linked to their context in an online Bible.  Please read them, read the context around them, and let Scripture speak to you.  There are of course other, more exhaustive treatments of the Attributes of God; one of the most notable is Arthur W. Pink’s work, (http://www.eternallifeministries.org/awp_attrib.htm).

This article can provide only a brief glimpse into the awesome character of God and hopefully will whet your appetite to learn even more about the Creator of the universe and the One who sent His own Son to die so that you might live.  The reason for these posts is two-fold.  First, there seems to exist today, in American Christianity, a deplorable lack of knowledge concerning what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture.  Most of what we hear from pulpits across the country speaks only of God’s love, and even that, for the most part, is described according to our concept/definition of love, not His.

The second reason is from Scripture itself.  John 17:3 tells us that “eternal life is knowing God.”  That can be a bit difficult to get our heads wrapped around, but it speaks of how our eternal life has a “right here, right now” aspect.  How can that be explained in more practical, understandable terms? What effect does knowing God have on a person?  J. I. Packer suggests four great effects:

  1. Those who know God have great energy for God.
  2. Those who know God have great thoughts of God.
  3. Those who know God have great boldness for God.
  4. Those who know God have great contentment in God.

We must ask ourselves, do we desire such knowledge of God?   When you ask yourself this question, remember that it’s not a matter of knowing God so we can “become” great for God, it’s simply that really “knowing” leads to “having.”

And lest I forget, when God sees knowledge of Himself in His children, it gives Him pleasure.

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6 KJV)

When you think about it, generally, the most we can know about other people is what they reveal to us.  The extent and quality of our knowledge of them depends more on them than it does on us. Knowing God is no different.  Only what God has chosen to reveal of Himself can be known, and that which God has chosen to reveal to us can be found in Holy Scripture.

Our quest to know God begins by understanding that God is our Creator and that we are a part of His creation (Genesis 1:1, Psalm 24:1).  God said that man is created in His image.  Man is above the rest of creation and was given dominion over it (Genesis 1:26-28).  Creation is marred by the “fall” (Genesis 3:17-18) but still offers a glimpse of His works (Romans1:19-20).  This glimpse of God that we do have is available to all men─we are all born with the knowledge that God IS. By considering creation’s vastness, complexity, beauty, and order, we can have a sense of the awesomeness of God.  However, considering how lightly and how often we use the term “awesome” in today’s culture, I don’t think it’s a nearly “big enough” word to begin describing God.

I remember when I was just a wee lad and we would visit my grandparents’ farm in Wisconsin.  There weren’t any street lights, and I remember looking up at the night sky and all the stars with a feeling of “WOW, God made that!” filling my little heart with wonder at how BIG God is.  That was awesome.

I also remember a church, nestled in tall pine trees across the road from Grandma’s house.  I found an old photo of that church, dated back to around 1955.  As if it were yesterday, I can still hear the hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” resounding through the pines as we walked to church.  That was awesome.

I can’t describe just how “BIG” God was to this 5-year-old, from just looking at the night sky and hearing a hymn.  As we grow older and begin to read Scripture, our sense of God’s greatness looms even larger, or at least it should.

Face it: we don’t much care for hearing God when He speaks to us about our sin, our guilt, our helplessness, our weakness, our blindness, and our spiritual “deadness.”  We would rather hear just the “good stuff” He might say about us.  Nevertheless, knowing God involves listening to His Word and receiving it, as the Holy Spirit interprets and applies it to us and to the character of God.  When we see our “true selves” in the blinding light of Scripture, we can “know” God more fully, and might even have something to boast about.

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.”  Jeremiah 9:23-24

God is the Great I AM - Eternal and Unchangeable

“Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’”

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you.’” - (Exodus 3:13,14).

God is eternal, meaning He had no beginning and that His existence will never end.  He is immortal, infinite (Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 90:2; 1 Timothy 1:17). God is immutable, meaning He is unchangeable; this means that God is absolutely reliable and trustworthy (Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; Psalm 102:26,27).

God’s life does not change.

Created things have a beginning and an end, however their Creator is from everlasting to everlasting.

“In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.  They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.  Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”   (Psalm 102:25-27)

A small child will often ask, “Who made God?”  Our answer is simple. He was always there. Children accept that answer more easily than adults, with the childlike faith that Jesus reminded His followers we all need.  When Mom told this little 5-year-old that God was always there, that settled it─Moms don’t lie!

God’s character does not change.

The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament.  Listening to sermons in many of today’s churches, one might come away with the idea that the God who destroyed His enemies, the enemies of His Chosen people, and those among people who would dishonor His Name, has somehow changed into a kindly grandfather who waits for us to jump into His lap for a hug and a bit of candy.  While God is certainly the giver of all good things to His children, His moral character is changeless, as James reminded dispersed followers undergoing trials and temptations (James 1:12-17 NKJV).

God’s truth does not change.

How many times have we had to eat our words because something that was said was not what was really meant, or something that we thought was truth turned out to be not true.  God’s Word, however, spoken but once, stands as truth for all eternity (Isaiah 40:6-8).

God’s ways do not change.

The wages of sin is death, so Romans 6:23 tells us.  It will always be so. This verse also tells us that God offers eternal life through His Son.  It will always be so.  God discriminates between sinners, causing some to hear the gospel message, while others hear the words but not the message (Acts 16:13-15).  To some he grants the gift of repentance and faith, while others He leaves in their sin, demonstrating that he owes mercy to no one and that it is entirely an act of His grace that any are saved (Romans 9:15).

God’s purposes do not change.

“One of two things causes a man to change his mind and reverse his plans: want of foresight to anticipate everything, or lack of foresight to execute them. But as God is both omnipotent and omnipresent, there is never any need for Him to reverse His decrees.” (A.W. Pink)

The plans of God stand firm forever... (Psalm 33:11). Whatever God does in time, He planned from eternity; and whatever He planned in eternity WILL be carried out in time.

God’s Son does not change.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Jesus is able to, and will save all who come to Him─all that the Father gives Him (John 6:37-40).

This fact is the strong consolation and assurance for all God’s people.



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