By Joel Settecase / 7-minute read
Who is God in the Christian View?
Naturally, if you are already a believing Christian, then the question of who God is might seem like a no-brainer. However, a moment's reflection will reveal to you how vital it is for you to think about this question. After all, you do not live in a world filled only with other Christians. You live in the real world.
The real world is filled with non-Christians, and even if you are in somewhat of a Christian bubble (as I often seemed to find myself when I was a local church pastor), it is inevitable that you will often find yourself in conversation with someone who believes differently than you (again, this too happened frequently when I was a pastor).
Each of these instances represents an opportunity to testify about who God is and what Jesus has done in your life. And the last thing you would want to have happen, when that happens, is to be stuck for words when it comes to how you describe who God is. When the time comes, you will want to be confident you can do this in a way that is clear, concise and accurate (that is, biblical).
The question of who God is is foundational. This is why the very first question-and-answer of Catakids, the New Covenant Catechism for Little Ones, reads like this:
Q: Who is God?
A: The Lord is God!
To be sure, you could begin there with your discussion partner. However, you will eventually want to go deeper and explain just who “The Lord” is in the Christian view. In the Think Institute resource, Think: The Biblical Worldview, we describe God’s Lordship. That description could be summarized as follows:
What Are the Characteristics of God?
God is that Someone who is greater than ourselves, who explains our existence. He is infinite (meaning unlimited in his nature), personal (we can know him), and diverse within himself. That is, the Lord is “Triune,” meaning one God in three Persons--Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
If you have more time, you may give the Scripture references for each of these points:
God is infinite: “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). “I am the first and I am the last. There is no God but me” (Isaiah 44:6b).
God is personal: “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent—Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). “The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).
God is diverse: “yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through him, and we exist through him” (2 Co. 8:6). “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn. 1:1). “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:13).
If you have even more time, you can mention that God is the Creator of all things, and he relates to his creation in certain ways.
God is transcendent (above creation) (Isaiah 40:22).
God is immanent (immediately present everywhere in creation) (Psalm 139:7-12).
God is sovereign (exercising authority, control and presence over creation).
There is much more you could say about who God is, including that God is love (1 John 4:8), perfectly just, amazingly merciful, etc.
All of the above attributes make up the Christian view of God. It is important to keep in mind that, as Christians, these are not what we think God ought to be like. We derive our conception of God not from our own wishful thinking but rather directly from holy Scripture. We did not write the Bible; we inherited it as a sacred trust, and we cannot go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6).
What Is the Christian God Called?
While we often refer to God simply as “God,” the word God is really more of a title than a proper name.
In the Old Testament, God introduces himself to his people as “I am” (Exodus 3:14), and he is properly called “Yahweh,” the personal-name form of “I am.” In our English Bibles “Yahweh” (YHWH in the biblical Hebrew) is rendered, “The LORD.”
In the Greek of the New Testament (especially in the writings of the Apostle Paul), the word God (ho Theos) is typically used to refer to God the Father.
God the Son, being manifested on the earth as a man named Jesus, is rightly referred to as either Jesus or “the Lord.” It is notable that Paul so often uses “Lord” (Kurios in the Greek) to refer to Jesus, given that that is the word used in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint) to refer to Yahweh.
In the New Testament the Holy Spirit is called the Holy Spirit or simply, the Spirit. He is also referred to as the Spirit of Christ, the Advocate, and with reference to other various functions that he carries out (the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit of life, etc.).
Who Is God and Who is Jesus?
In the Old Testament, there are times when an “angel” speaks to the people of Israel, yet this “angel” is called Lord and worshiped as such. It is the opinion of this writer (as well as many scholars) that, while there are many angels who are infinitely lower than God (being creatures), these depictions of the Angel of the Lord, who acts and speaks as God, are actually depictions of God the Son, the Creator himself, before he became a man.
Jesus is not identical to God the Father, nor to the Spirit. And yet the three are one, meaning perfectly unified in their essence, thinking, and purpose (John 5:19). As Jesus himself said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
Why Is God Important to Christianity?
Like the question of God’s identity, the question of God’s importance may also seem like a no-brainer, but how well can you answer it?
A correct understanding of God is vital because he is the perfect standard of goodness and truth, kindness and strength. He is the holy and just judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25). We have to know who he is in order to begin to understand our world.
On a more personal level, God is a Father to believers, and he loved us while we were yet sinners and sent his Son to die for us (Romans 5:8). He chose us to be his children before he created the world. God the Son is Jesus, our Savior, King and closest friend. God the Holy Spirit is our Advocate and life-giver, who gives us faith in Jesus, strengthens us for good works and makes us persevere in the faith.
What Is God and Who Is God?
To summarize, when asked who God is, say, “God is the infinite, personal, Triune Lord, who is higher than everything yet present everywhere, and who has exercises authority and control over all things.” And then get ready for a great conversation as you unpack what all that means.
There is much, much more we could say about the biblical view of God. However, whatever we say about him, we need to say it in a way that both accords with Scripture and makes sense to our discussion partners (which means avoiding unnecessary theological jargon whenever possible). Knowing who God is, and knowing him personally, is life’s greatest privilege, and it is our privilege as believers to share that knowledge with others.
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