Reformed Systematic Theology: Who Is God? Part 1/10

This is part 1 of a 10 part series on the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. I prepared this series for my family. The content is based on Bruce Ware’s Big Truths for Small Hearts. This article describes the character of God and his attributes.

Who Is God?

We can only know God because He has revealed Himself to us. We cannot discover God on our own. God is too big. Until God decides to show us who He is, we cannot know anything about Him. Thankfully, God has revealed himself.

God Reveals Himself

God has revealed Himself to us in two ways.

God revealed Himself through what He has made

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. (Psalm 19:1-2)

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 are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20)

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? (Job 38:4-11)

Through observing the created world, we can learn about God’s greatness and glory. Be amazed at the intricate details of our human body. God is truly wise and powerful.

God revealed Himself through our conscience

God has given us a conscience that tells us that there are things that are right and wrong. We know at a young age that lying is wrong, and obeying our parents is right. God has placed this inner understanding in our hearts.

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them. (Romans 2:14-15)

God Speaks

God revealed himself through his creation that we see and experience. He created our conscience to evaluate what is right and wrong. But God did not stay silent. God also speaks.

And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)

In Genesis 1:6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24 and 26, “God said” is used 7 times. God speaks, and His words are powerful and active.

Today, God speaks to us through the Bible.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

All the Bible is God’s word, and what He wants us to know is contained in the Bible.

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

Even though the Bible was written by human hands, it was God that was working in them. The Bible is the inspired word of God.

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

The Holy Spirit moved the authors to write the words of the Bible. Because the Bible is the word of God, it is useful and profitable for our growth.

We perceive some things about God through His creation, but because God has spoken, we can learn so much more about him by studying his word, the Bible.

God Does Not Need His Creation

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24-25)

God does not need anything, and nothing can be added to him. God has everything. God gives His creation what it needs. Creation cannot give anything to God because God lacks nothing.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)

God possesses everything that is good. Any good that creation possesses comes from God.

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? (Isaiah 40:12)

God is unique. God is great. There is none like Him.

God is not lonely. God did not need to create man. His creation adds nothing to His greatness and goodness.

God Came Near Us

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isaiah 57:15)

God is “high and lifted up.” He also chose to dwell among the “contrite and lowly spirit,” namely us. He chose to come to us not because He needed us. God does not need us, but we need God. We need God to “revive the heart of the contrite.”

God’s love is different from anything in our world. When a husband and wife love each other, they both have needs that the other person can meet. God does not have needs. His love for His creation is completely unselfish.

“God’s love is bottomlessly selfless, by very definition; it has everything to give and nothing to receive.” (The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis)

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

In spite of our sin and inability to offer Him any benefit, God loves.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

God came to us despite our sin through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus, who was perfect and sinless, died on the cross. Jesus took our place, paying the penalty of death that we deserved to pay.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

When we turn away from our sin and trust in Jesus’ death as a payment for our sin, God promises to forgive us and make us clean.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

God Is Great

God is eternal

God’s life had no beginning. He has no end. There is nothing else that is eternal. We are all created beings, and we had a origin and beginning. God is unique. God had no beginning. He has no end.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:1-2)

God is self-existent. He has life in Himself. God is also self-sufficient. He has everything necessary for life in Himself.

God is holy

To be holy means to be different than anything else. There is no one like God. God is unique. He is separate. He is set apart.

And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3)

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:11)

God is holy and separate from everything that is wrong, impure and sinful. God cannot be any less than who He is as God. Because God is truth, there is no falsehood in God. Because God is faithful, He cannot recant on His word. Because God is righteous, He cannot do evil. God cannot tolerate or accept the evil done by others.

God never changes

Because God is perfect, He does not change. He cannot get better. He cannot get worse.

Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. (Psalm 102:25-27)

God Is Good

God is perfectly wise

To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:27)

Knowledge is storing information in your brain. You can acquire knowledge without wisdom.

Wisdom is using knowledge and applying it to solving a problem. Wisdom applies knowledge to plan for the future. Wisdom is using knowledge for a particular purpose.

Someone who is cunning uses knowledge to accomplish something that is evil. Wisdom is applying knowledge to accomplish what is good, helpful, and right.

God has all knowledge. God knows everything that can be known. Guided by His holy and righteous nature and His perfect knowledge, God decides everything perfectly and brings about all things to work for the best.

O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. (Psalm 104:24)

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

God’s wisdom was manifested in His creation, His work of salvation, and Jesus’ death on the cross.

God is infinitely powerful

The God of the Bible is both perfectly wise and almighty in His power.

The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:13-14)

Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. (Jeremiah 32:17)

God is perfectly good

Because we are sinners, we can have difficulty understanding when someone is perfectly good. Our God is perfectly good. His life, character, and actions are completely good.

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. (Psalm 5:4)

You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. (Psalm 119:68)

Part of God’s goodness is His love for people in spite of their sin. God longs for His people to be blessed. God desires to extend grace and mercy. Grace is kindness given to those who deserve punishment. Mercy is kindness given to those who are hopeless and helpless.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us… For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:1-4, 8-9)

God shows His love, goodness, and grace when He sent Jesus to pay for our sin and restore our relationship with Him.

The triad of God’s wisdom, power, and goodness makes Him worthy of our worship. There is none like Him.

 

Basic Christian Beliefs Series

Part 1Who Is God?
Part 2What Is the Trinity?
Part 3God the Sovereign Creator
Part 4Our Human Nature and Sin
Part 5Person of Jesus Christ
Part 6Works of Jesus Christ
Part 7Holy Spirit
Part 8Our Salvation
Part 9Church of Jesus Christ
Part 10Second Coming of Jesus Christ

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