It is a majestic, glorious theme of the Bible that God
is revealed as a real being. It is also a fundamental tenet of Christianity
that Jesus is the Son of God. If God is not a real being, then it is impossible
for Him to have a Son who was the “image of His person” (Heb. 1:3).
The Greek word actually means His “substance” (RV). Further, it becomes
difficult to develop a personal, living relationship with ‘God’, if ‘God’
is just a concept in our mind. It is tragic that the majority of religions
have this unreal, intangible conception of God.
As God is so infinitely greater than we are, it is understandable
that many people’s faith has balked at the clear promises that ultimately
we will see Him. It is impossible for sinful man to see God (Ex. 33:20
RSV) - although this implies that were it not for our sinfulness, God
is indeed a being who can ‘be seen’. Israel lacked the faith to see God’s “shape” (Jn.
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they
shall see God” (Mt. 5:8).
“His (God’s) servants shall serve him: and
they shall see his face; and his name (God’s name - Rev. 3:12) shall be
in their foreheads” (Rev. 22:3,4).
Such a wonderful hope, if we truly believe it, will
have a profound practical effect upon our lives:
“Follow peace with all men, and holiness,
without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb.
We should not swear oaths, because “he that
shall swear by heaven, swears by the throne of God, and by him that sits
upon it” (Mt.
“We shall see him as he is (manifest in
Christ). And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even
as he is pure” (1 Jn. 3:2,3).
In this life our understanding of the heavenly Father
is very incomplete, but we can look forward, through the tangled darkness
of this life, to meeting Him at last. Our ‘seeing’ of Him will doubtless
be matched by our greater mental comprehension of Him. Thus from the absolute
depths of human suffering, Job could rejoice in the totally personal relationship
with God which he would fully experience at the last day:
“Though after my death worms shall destroy
this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:26,27).
And the apostle Paul cried out from another life of
pain and turmoil:
“Now we look in a glass mirror, with a poor
image; but then face to face” (1 Cor.
Old Testament Evidence
These promises of the New Testament build on a considerable
Old Testament backdrop of evidence for a personal God. It cannot be over
stressed that it is fundamental to appreciate the nature of God if we
are to have any true understanding of what Bible based religion is all
about. The Old Testament consistently talks of God as a person; the person-to-person
relationship with God of which both Old and New Testaments speak is unique
to the true Christian hope. The following are strong arguments in favour
of a personal God:
“God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”
(Gen. 1:26). Thus man is made in the image and likeness of God, as manifested
through the angels. James 3:9 speaks of “...men, which are made in the
similitude of God.” Our creation in the image of God surely means that
we can infer something about the real object of which we are but an image.
Thus God, whom we reflect, is not something nebulous of which we cannot
conceive. Ezekiel saw God enthroned above the cherubim, with the silhouette
of “the likeness of a man” (Ez.
§“He (God) knows our frame” (Ps. 103:14);
He wishes us to conceive of Him as a personal being, a Father to whom
we can relate.
Descriptions of God’s dwelling place clearly
indicate that He has a personal location: “God is in heaven” (Ecc. 5:2);
“He has looked down from the height of His sanctuary; from heaven did
the Lord behold the earth” (Ps. 102:19,20); “Hear in heaven your dwelling
place” (1 Kings 8:39). Yet more specifically than this, we read that
God has a “throne” (2 Chron. 9:8; Ps. 11:4; Is. 6:1; 66:1). Such language
is hard to apply to an undefined essence which exists somewhere in heavenly
realms. God is spoken of as “coming down” when He manifests Himself. This
suggests a heavenly location of God. It is impossible to understand the
idea of ‘God manifestation’ without appreciating the personal nature of
§Is. 45 is full of references by God to
His personal involvement in the affairs of His people: “I am the Lord,
and there is none else...I the Lord do all these things...I the Lord have
created it. Woe unto him that strives with his maker...I, even my hands
have stretched out the heavens...look unto me, and be saved, all the ends
of the earth”. This last sentence especially shows the personal existence
of God - He desires men to look to Him, to conceive of His literal existence
with the eye of faith.
§God is revealed to us as a forgiving God,
who speaks words to men. Yet forgiveness and speech can only come from
a sentient being, they are mental acts. Thus David was a man after God’s
own heart (1 Sam. 13:14), showing that God has a mind (heart), which is
capable of being replicated to some limited degree by man, although man
by nature is not after God’s heart. Passages like, “The Lord repented
that He had made man...and it grieved Him at his heart” (Gen. 6:6), reveal
God as a feeling, conscious being. This helps us to appreciate how we
really can both please and displease Him, as children can a natural father.
If God Is Not Personal...
If God is not a real, personal being, then the concept
of spirituality is hard to grapple with. If God is totally righteous but
is not a personal being, then we cannot really conceive of His righteousness
manifested in human beings. Once we appreciate that there is a personal
being called God, then we can work on our characters, with His help and
the influence of His word, to reflect the characteristics of God in our
God’s purpose is to reveal Himself in a multitude of
glorified beings. His memorial name, Yahweh Elohim, implies this (‘He
who shall be revealed in mighty ones’, is an approximate translation).
The descriptions of the reward of the faithful in God’s coming Kingdom
on earth show that they will have a tangible, bodily existence, although
no longer subject to the weaknesses of human nature. Job longed for the
“latter day” when he would have a resurrection of his body (Job
The faithful are promised that they will inherit God’s
nature (2 Pet. 1:4). We will be given a body like that of Jesus (Phil.
There can be no sensible concept of worship, religion
or personal relationship with God therefore until it is appreciated that
God is a real being and that we are made in His image. We need to develop
His mental likeness now so that we may be made fully like Him in the Kingdom
of God. So much more sense and comfort can now be gained from the passages
which speak of God as a loving Father, chastening us as a Father does
his son (e.g. Dt. 8:5). In the context of Christ’s sufferings we read
that, “It was the Lord’s will to bruise Him” (Is. 53:10); although he
“cried unto God: he heard my voice...and my cry came before him, even
into his ears” (Ps. 18:6). God’s promise to David of a seed who would
be God’s Son required the miraculous birth of a human being who was truly
in the image and likeness of his father.
A correct understanding of God is a key which opens
up many other vital areas of Bible doctrine. But as one lie leads to another
lie, so a false concept of God obscures the truth which the Scriptures
offer. If you have found this section convincing, or even partly so, the
question arises: ‘Do you really know God?’ We will now further explore
Bible teaching about Him.
(1) Risto Santala, The Messiah In The Old Testament
In The Light Of Rabbinical Writings (Kukkila, Finland: BGS, 1992),
The Holy Spirit
...the Bible declares that the Holy Spirit is God. The Bible also tells us that the Holy Spirit is a divine person, a being with a mind, emotions, and a will.
The fact that the Holy Spirit is God is clearly seen in many Scriptures, including Acts 5:3-4. In this verse Peter confronts Ananias as to why he lied to the Holy Spirit and tells him that he had “not lied to men but to God.” It is a clear declaration that lying to the Holy Spirit is lying to God. We can also know that the Holy Spirit is God because He possesses the characteristics of God. For example, His omnipresence is seen in Psalm 139:7-8, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” Then in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11, we see the characteristic of omniscience in the Holy Spirit. “But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”
We can know that the Holy Spirit is indeed a divine person because He possesses a mind, emotions, and a will. The Holy Spirit thinks and knows (1 Corinthians 2:10). The Holy Spirit can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-27). He makes decisions according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). The Holy Spirit is God, the third Person of the Trinity. As God, the Holy Spirit can truly function as the Comforter and Counselor that Jesus promised He would be (John 14:16, 26, 15:26).