Question 4a: What is God?

Here we must approach with reverence and care – remembering Moses at the burning bush. We build on the foundation of previous weeks when we have looked at the topic of revelation and authority, and the scriptures. Malcolm Watts says – ‘this is Theology’ as nothing else is. Pastor Malcolm Watts’ series on the Shorter Catechism is here from the Emmanuel Salisbury Website.

First, consider the genius of the question itself: the question assumes the existence of God, does not set out to prove God, as useful as that might be. We agreed that too much time is spent trying to argue this point. The Shorter Catechism takes a scriptural approach, ‘In the beginning God’.

Why do we not ask who is God? Although a valid question, it is vital and primary to consider the nature of God, the dignity of his blessed Person, rather than establishing his roles or titles. We should not overlook the need to meditate on God’s attributes.

What is God?

Can we even ask this question and properly answer it?! Flavel says ‘no’, quoting Job 11:7. Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? To know God to perfection, you have to be God. But we have the Lord Jesus Christ, as John tells us in John 1:18 (King James Version)

No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

The catechism gives the best answer ever conceived:

God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

Worth memorising!!

Even mere humans can be mysterious enough! Who has plumbed the depths of what a human is? The brain confounds science! How much more the eternal God??!

What is God? We do have several statements in the Bible which answer directly to this question, even follow this formula: ‘God is…’ Each of these statements are in or by John.

(1.) That God is light, 1 John 1:5.

(2.) That God is love, 1 John 4:8, 16.

(3.) That God is a Spirit, John 4:24.

I used Fisher to help with these:

Why is God said to be light?

A. Because of his infinite purity and omniscience, Hab. 1:13 Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil and canst not look on iniquity wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously and holdest thy.; Heb. 4:13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.; and because he is the fountain and father of all light, whether material, natural, gracious, or glorious, James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

Why is God said to be love?

A. Because, according to the manifestation he has made of himself in Christ, love is the reigning excellency of his nature, which gives a dye or tincture to all his other perfections, in their egress, or exercise about the salvation of sinners, of mankind, John 3:16; 1 John 4:8-10

8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

‘God only knows the Love of God… oh that it now were shed abroad in this poor stony heart.’ Charles Wesley

Why is he said to be a Spirit?

What IS spirit? This is easier defined by what it is not…

The angels are spirits. They appear as superior to humans in the Scriptures (Ps 8:4,5; Heb 2:6,7), but the mystery of human nature is being a unified soul and body. Death is a separation of these, a change in the mode of existence when the soul is parted from the body. The dead body does not cease to exist when it dies. The joint soul/body that humans are, while spoiled by sin, is yet exalted by the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh’ (Rom 8:3) It was also pointed out that humans will judge angels! 1 Cor 6:2-3

Luke 24:39. “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”

Is 31:3 Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit.

Malcolm Watts – God is a Spirit, “God is real, not a myth not an idea, dream, a fantasy, not even a hope. He is a spirit. ‘the wind is mysterious but it exists’.”

‘God has the quality of being a spiritual being’ John Henry Bennetch 1950

Therefore men are not content with material things. Spiritual company is more suitable. But ultimately we cannot find ultimate contentment in anything less than to be in fellowship with the Eternal Spirit. (John 17:3) And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

The doctrine class will recommence 7th January 2011, Lord willing.