- by Dr Andrew Briggs

One of the most important questions that any thinking person can ask is "What is God like?" There is no way that men can work out the answer to this question by themselves, we can only know what God chooses to show us, and the definitive record of this is to be found in the Bible. God has communicated the truth about Himself in various ways; in Jesus He did it in the highest form to which we can respond, namely a human personality. Therefore finding out what Jesus is like tells us about what God is like. In this CROSSFIRE, however, we shall consider some of the teaching about God found in the Bible; the reader may then study for himself how this was lived out by Jesus.

The Greatness of God in Creation

It is futile to attempt to prove the existence of God. Any proof requires something more absolute than the thing being proved, by which to prove it. God would not be worth believing in if there was something more absolute than He is. The Bible never tries to prove the existence of God, it simply states it. Once the existence of God has been acknowledged, the created world can then tell us much about His greatness (Romans 1; 19, 20).

Three different ways of thinking about God's activity may be summarised thus:

  1. Atheism is the belief that there is no God. (b) Deism is the belief that God created the universe then left it to run by itself. (c) Theism holds that God created the universe and has continued to be active in it ever since. The teaching of the Bible is theistic, God made the world and He now holds it all together (Colossians 1; 17).

If God is responsible for everything that happens, then our scientific knowledge merely corresponds to those parts of His activity that we understand in physical terms. Thus there is no conflict between science and Christianity; indeed science is encourgaed by the Bible and has in a large measure been pioneered by Christian men. Far from eliminating God by the discovery of new knowledge, scientists are finding out how God makes the world work. This is a cause for worshipping God.

The Holiness of God in Judgement

Holiness is an immensely attractive quality. It means being absolutely perfect, with no trace of the faults with which we are so drearily familiar in ourselves. It is one of the most important attributes of God; `Holy' is the only adjective that is repeated of Him three times (Isaiah 6; 3).

Because God is holy, it is impossible for any sin to enter His presence. He is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and He cannot look on wrong (Habakkuk 1; 13). Nothing unclean, nor anyone who practices evil or falsehood, will enter God's city in heaven (Revelation 21; 27). No immoral or impure man, nor anyone who is covetous, has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God (Ephesians 5; 5). The attitude of those who expect to be able to sail into God's holy presence may be contrasted with the experience of men who actually met God. Moses was too frightened to look at God and he covered his face. Job put his hand on his mouth and stopped talking, and despised himself. Isaiah said, "I'm in a mess" and was deeply ashamed of his language and that of those around him. Daniel became physically weak, and his usually cheerful expression was wiped off his face in a frightening way. Peter fell down at Jesus' knees saying, "Go away from me because I am a sinful man, O Lord". When John saw the risen Lord Jesus he fell at his feet as though dead. These were some of the most righteous men in the Bible, yet each one of them was deeply ashamed of himself before God.

Understanding the holiness of God means taking Him seriously. Repentance begins at home, and we cannot expect anyone else to take God seriously if we do not ourselves. We are to be holy because He is holy (1 Peter 1; 16). A person who takes sin lightly has not only failed to understand the nature of sin, he has failed to understand the nature of God and our relationship with Him. Such a person cannot be looking forward to heaven, for it is precisely because there is no sin there that we shall be able to enjoy a perfect relationship with God without obstacles and without regrets.

The Love of God in Redemption

One way of describing God's love is by analogy with the love of good parents even for rebellious children. Just as the parents of a teenager who fails to return home one evening may be unable to sleep or think about anything else until he or she has come back, so God longs that we should return to Him however badly we may have let Him down.

Love may be measured by what a person will do to meet a genuine need. Our problem lies in the fact that God is the source of all life, because of His greatness, and yet we cannot approach Him to receive spiritual life because of His holiness. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves from this predicament since, as a result of our sin, we are separated from Him, and will eventually perish. But God loved the world so much that He gave His Son, in order that anyone who believed in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3; 16). This cost God the suffering of Calvary, where Jesus took all the guilt and punishment of our sin and died in our place, so that we can be forgiven and accepted by God. Because Calvary is much more than simply a demonstration of love, it also shows us how much God loves us. From the Cross God says to the world, "I love you", and He longs that we should be reconciled to Him by accepting the forgiveness purchased there.

The first reaction to learning more about the character of God should be to worship Him; indeed, worship at its most basic consists of praising God for His attributes. This will lead in turn to a deeper level of trust. His greatness means that He will not prove incompetent when we rely on Him; His holiness means that He will not take advantage of us when we yield to Him; His love means that, even when we fail Him, we are still secure in our relationship with Him.

For additional reading: To tell you the truth - by John Eddison Knowing God - by Jim Packer

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