Mini-Bible Study: How Does God Identify Himself?

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How Does God Identify Himself?

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The first is His written revelation, the Bible. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible is the book by God and about God!

The second method is the evidence of creation, because it was "God who created all things through Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 3:9, emphasis added throughout). Not only is every creature evidence and proof of a genius Creator, but every creature gives us insight into the mind and power of the Creator.

That's what Paul meant when he said: "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they [who would deny God] are without excuse" (Romans 1:19-20, English Standard Version).

In this study we focus on many of the wonderful things we learn about God by reading His written Word, the Bible, which is His masterpiece of self-revelation. Hopefully it will whet your appetite to read the entire Bible so that you can learn much, much more about Him.

Then as you get into the habit of studying the Bible and praying every day and putting God's Word into practice in your everyday life, you will be forming a deep, personal relationship with God. You will be going beyond getting to know about God. You will be getting to really know God as your Father and Friend.

This study focuses on key scriptures in the Bible where God reveals highly significant things about His nature and actions.

A breakthrough in understanding

Consider the story of the righteous man Job in the biblical book that bears his name. This story relates the spiritual transformation of Job from a man who knew a great deal about God to a man who really came to know God in a personal and intimate way.

This book is highly thought-provoking. For most of the book, Job and his friends are stating what they think they know about God, but their limited views fall far short of understanding the great mind, purposes and plan of God. After God talks with Job, Job has a major breakthrough in understanding.

Job said: "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5-6). Job came to see God in a deeper way with the eyes of faith and spiritual understanding. Job was ashamed of accusing God of mistreating him during his ordeal, and he deeply repented. When he said, "I abhor myself," he meant that he despised his self-justification and implications that God had been unjust and uncaring.

Job apparently came to realize more deeply that everyone's life includes suffering and that suffering is a means to spiritual growth. Job surrendered to God's will, having become assured that God is the sovereign Lord of the universe, has perfect understanding and always does what is best for us in the long run. We must trust Him.

Has anyone ever seen God?

Almighty God is Spirit and, in His usual glorified state, is invisible to the human eye (Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 11:27). That partly explains why John said, "No one has seen God at any time" (John 1:18).

But how should we interpret that since the books of the Old Testament give many accounts of God appearing to people?

Notice that the second half of John 1:18 shows that John was talking about God the Father, not God the Son, Jesus Christ. Also Jesus said, "Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God [referring to Himself, Jesus]; He has seen the Father" (John 6:46).

These verses point to the fact that the God who appeared to people during Old Testament times was the One who later became Jesus Christ!

Prior to Jesus' birth as a human being, John refers to Him as "the Word" and as "God": "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). Later John wrote, "And the Word became flesh [when He was born of Mary] and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).

In a future study we will thoroughly prove that the God who appeared to people in Old Testament times was the Word who became Jesus Christ, not God the Father. In this study, we merely want to establish that fact to prevent any confusion.

However, when we discuss the nature or character of God, we make no distinction between God the Father and God the Son because They are identical in nature and character (see John 10:30; John 14:9; John 17:11, John 17:22).

So although we don't literally see God with our eyes (and won't until Christ's return to earth), we can perceive and better understand His nature, character, purposes and goals. That is the purpose of this study.

What is God's first role with respect to our very existence?

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).

"So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27).

"You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the earth" (Psalm 104:30).

"For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it" (Exodus 20:11).

Notice that every Sabbath day is a reminder that we are created beings and a reminder of who our Creator is! That has many implications, including the fact that God is the Owner and the supreme Ruler over His creation, and He is dedicated to providing the best possible care of His creation. We can also learn many things about Him by observing His creation, as we are told in Roman 1:18-23.

Consider that God also created all the laws, including the laws of science and mathematics and the spiritual laws.

When did creation take place? There is often confusion over this question. God's original creation of the universe and planet earth was evidently prior to the time of Adam and Eve's creation. But eventually the earth suffered a cataclysm and all life was destroyed. Genesis 1:2 apparently should read, "The earth became without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep" (the word typically translated "was" here is properly rendered as "became" in other verses).

Then the rest of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are describing God's re-creation of the world about 6,000 years ago. As Psalm 104:30 words it, God sent His Spirit to "renew the face of the earth." These two phases of God's creation will be thoroughly explained and proved in a future study.

What single word best defines God's character?

"He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:8, repeated in 1 John 4:16).

"Jesus said . . . '"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself"'" (Matthew 22:37-39; quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18).

Love defines God's nature, and love is what He most wants to see in the character of His children. Therefore, it's no surprise that His greatest commandments are to love—to love God and to love other people.

What are some other words that define God's character?

"For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright" (Psalm 11:7).

"But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:15-16; quoting Leviticus 11:44-45; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:26).

"For the Lord is good . . . You [God] are good and do good" (Psalms 100:5; Psalms 119:68).

"Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."

God is righteous, holy, good and perfect. Righteous means straight and true in a moral sense. Even during Jesus' earthly life, He never sinned. God defines the absolute standards of righteous character, and He sets the perfect example. God's laws spell out His righteousness (see Psalm 119:172), and by obeying them we are imitating Christ and becoming like Him. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5).

What is God's role in rescuing people from sin and its penalties?

"And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world" (1 John 4:14).

"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:3-4).

When you read the Bible, notice how often you see the words savior, save, saved and salvation. Notice also synonymous words and like deliver, delivered and deliverer. When God began to announce the Ten Commandments, He introduced Himself this way: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6). The miraculous liberation of the Israelites from Egypt illustrates God's plan to miraculously deliver all people out of slavery to sin. And every Sabbath day is a reminder of God's role as Savior (Deuteronomy 5:15).

The angel that appeared to Joseph told him that Mary's child should be called Jesus (meaning Savior) "for He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).

The word salvation is used to refer to the various steps that God takes to save us, but our ultimate salvation will be our resurrection from mortality to glorious immortality (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).

Is God the supreme example of grace, mercy and generosity?

"The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy" (Psalm 145:8).

"And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19; see also 1 Timothy 6:17; James 1:5).

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies" (Psalm 103:2-4).

Our gracious God not only provides all our needs, but also bestows on us the gift of grace. The apostle Paul often used the Greek word translated grace to refer to all the spiritual gifts that God offers humanity, including the forgiveness of sin and the offer of eternal life. God's grace is truly amazing and awesome—it is gracious generosity greater than our minds can comprehend!

The Old Testament writers often used the Hebrew word hesed when referring to a primary characteristic of God. There is no single English word that adequately translates the profound meaning of this word. It is variously translated as "mercy," "merciful kindness" or "lovingkindness" (which is how it is translated in Psalm 103:4), though it also connotes covenant loyalty or faithfulness. The committed love aspect is perhaps best captured in the word devotion.

Is our merciful God also a God of justice?

"He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord" (Psalm 33:5).

"For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing" (Deuteronomy 10:17-18).

We live in an unjust world, and often life isn't fair. That makes it all the more wonderful that we can rely on a God who is completely just and fair.

A central question is this: Since everyone sins and the penalty of sin is death, how can God save us and still be a God of perfect justice? It is because Jesus Christ took our place and suffered the death penalty for each of us. Jesus died to fulfill God's justice and thereby made it possible for God to offer mercy toward all humanity —showing both the gravity of sin and God's great love for us.

Is God omnipotent (all-powerful)?

"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust'" (Psalm 91:1-2).

"Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You" (Jeremiah 32:17).

"I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You" (Job 42:2).

"And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:19-20).

The word Almighty literally means "all-powerful." One of God's names is El Shaddai, which is often translated "God Almighty." All of Psalm 91 is inspiring, for it describes the complete confidence we have if we are trusting in God. After all, God can easily protect us no matter how great the dangers are.

God also has supreme spiritual power to defeat Satan the devil, to transform the worst of sinners, and to resurrect mortal human beings to become immortal glorified saints in the coming Kingdom of God.

Is God omniscient (all-knowing and all-wise)?

"Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite" (Psalm 147:5).

"God . . . knows all things" (1 John 3:20).

"O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether" (Psalm 139:1-4).

"The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works" (Psalm 33:13-15).

"Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Luke 12:6-7).

God not only knows everything that is taking place in all the seemingly endless universe, but He is in ultimate control over it all. How comforting to know we have a Creator and Provider who will never forget us or overlook our needs and prayers!

Is God omnipresent (present everywhere at once)?

"'Am I a God near at hand,' says the Lord, 'And not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?' says the Lord; 'Do I not fill heaven and earth?' says the Lord" (Jeremiah 23:23-24; compare 2 Chronicles 2:6).

"Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell [in the grave, or in the ground], behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me" (Psalm 139:7-10).

"For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him" (2 Chronicles 16:9).

God can be everywhere at once because His Spirit—His projected power, mind, life and essence—is everywhere. So the help and understanding that God sends by His Spirit are just as effective and perfect as if God were standing right beside us.

God's Holy Spirit also serves as His eyes and ears to give God perfect and total awareness of everything in every place. Hence, God's Spirit provides two-way communication.

Last but not least, does God claim all authority and lordship?

"God, who made the world and everything in it, . . . is Lord of heaven and earth" (Acts 17:24).

"For the Lord Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth . . . God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne" (Psalm 47:2, Psalm 47:8).

"You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:3).

"You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him" (Deuteronomy 13:4).

God is the sovereign power over all the universe (see also Genesis 14:19-22; Matthew 28:18). Everything was created by Him. He expects complete loyalty, reverence and obedience. We must not allow anything in our lives to rival God. He must always come first, as Jesus stated in Matthew 22:37, quoted earlier.

Apply Now

What are other qualities and characteristics of God? Write down as many as you can think of. Think about what God is like, what He has done, what He is doing now and what He promises to do. Also take time to reflect on all that you have written down. And in your prayers in the days ahead, spend time thanking God for all that He is to us and all that He does!

Also, be sure to read the Bible study aid Who Is God? People have many questions and misconceptions about who and what God is, and this booklet will show you the answers right from the pages of your Bible. To really understand God, you need to read this Bible study aid booklet!