A Very Brief Introduction to God
The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world.
[Psalm 19:1-4, New Living Translation]
Today people use our most sophisticated technological tools to comb through the skies for messages from outer space. If they’re not listening for coded messages from some extraterrestrial intelligence, they’re searching for messages buried in the observable phenomena of the cosmos—looking for clues that might take them as close as they hope to get to the knowledge of ultimate reality. Something. Anything!
Wouldn’t it be ironic if the most important message in the universe was already written so clearly across the skies that anyone could understand it who really wanted to? Wouldn’t it be even more ironic if the heavens are actually telling us something that we really do understand, but millions of us refuse to believe?
In ancient times people also looked for messages in the heavens. They weren’t necessarily hunting for evidence of their origins, or for contact with other beings, but rather for omens concerning people and events. And in the process, they, too, ignored the greatest of all messages that the skies had for them. Perhaps we haven’t really come as far as we think we have since then.
The Bible tells us that God placed undeniable evidence of Himself in the world around us; and yet we’ve denied it anyway. The Bible also tells us that because God is determined that people should know Him, He sent prophets, and workers of miracles; and yet people either ignored them, or persecuted and killed them. The same thing happened when God Himself came into this world in the person of Jesus Christ.
Even so, we now have the record of God’s personal revelation of Himself in Scripture. It is a record that tells us far more than anything we could hope to learn about Him by observing His creation. It tells us of a Being so unfathomably vast that He transcends both time and space, since He Himself created time and space.
In 1647 a group of theologians appointed by the English Parliament began working on a set of catechisms for adults and children. (A catechism is a traditional question-and-answer form of religious instruction.) And according to accounts that have come down to us, when this room full of great Bible scholars came to the question, “What is God?” they found themselves suddenly overwhelmed by the responsibility of coming up with a worthy answer.
So they asked one of their members to pray. Tradition has it that it was the youngest man there, George Gillespie of Scotland, who began praying, “‘O God, Thou art a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in Thy being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.’”
Once the prayer ended, the rest of the assembly realized that the answer to their prayer could be found in Gillespie’s prayer, and his words became the answer to question four in the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
While historians have raised questions over the details of this incident, there is no question that the answer those theologians recorded in 1647 remains one of the best summaries of what the Bible tells us about God.
It begins with the essence of God’s being. Jesus said, “God is Spirit” (John 4:24, English Standard Version), because He does not have a physical body and is not confined by any material substance.
In fact, God is not limited by space and time at all but is infinite. (“Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you” [1 Kings 8:27, English Standard Version].)
He has no beginning and no end. He is eternal. (“From everlasting to everlasting, you are God” [Psalm 90:1, English Standard Version].)
God does not learn new things, change His mind, or become more mature. He is unchangeable. (“For I, the Lord, do not change,” wrote the prophet Malachi, [Malachi 3:6, English Standard Version].)
The fact that God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being means that He is fully present—or “omnipresent”—everywhere at all times. (“‘Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.’” [Jeremiah 23:23-24, English Standard Version].)
Regarding His wisdom: there is nothing that escapes His knowledge, either in the past, present, or future. He is “omniscient,” or all-knowing. (“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes…” [Hebrews 4:13, New Living Translation].)
As for His power, He is “omnipotent,” or “almighty,” a word used of Him many times throughout the Bible. (“For the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns” [Revelation 19:6, English Standard Version].) And His infinite, eternal, and unchangeable holiness, justice, goodness, and truth makes Him the only supreme and righteous judge of the universe He created. (“He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness” [Psalm 96:13, English Standard Version].)
The God Who reveals Himself in Scripture is beyond human comprehension. And yet when we consider the fact that, along with these amazing characteristics, the Bible teaches that God is personal, He becomes all the more unfathomable to us.
How could a being Who is personal exist from all eternity, having no beginning? Even if we assume that He exists outside of time and space, if God is personal, does He not experience loneliness, as all finite personal beings do? So isn’t it necessary to assume that God had to create people to meet some divine need for friendship?
These questions receive their final answer in the New Testament, where we learn that while God’s being has only one essence—because there is only one God—somehow that essence is shared by three persons. There the Bible teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—separate persons, and yet each fully God, each equally sharing the same being—were together from all eternity, sharing love, and joy, and fellowship with each other.
The revelation of God as a Trinity puts the final touches on a picture of God as a being Who is lacking in nothing. He did not create us to complete something that was lacking in His own Being. God depends on no one outside Himself for anything.
And yet, while all this means that God is incomprehensible to our finite minds, nevertheless, as a personal God, One with personal relationships built into His very being, the Bible insists that we can know Him. In fact, knowing God in a personal way, not merely knowing about Him but having a relationship with Him, is one of the ways that the Bible describes eternal life. (“‘And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’” [John 17:3, English Standard Version])
Such knowledge of God—such a personal relationship with Him—begins by placing one’s faith, trust, and confidence in the One Who came here to be God’s full and final revelation of Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. Won’t you trust in Him today?