God’s Nature and Personality

The Eternal God

“Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”’” (Exodus 3:13-14; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version),

The letters in the middle are the Hebrew letters “YHWH,” the Old Testament name of God. Photo by Ulf Carlbark, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Names of God can tell us a lot about what people think of Him. According to Wikipedia, the English word “God” and its German counterpart, “Gott,” are derived from a Proto-Indo-European word meaning “pour” or “libate”; it is believed that this associates “God” with sacrifices or idols. Some Christians may notice the similarity of “God/Gott” with “good/gut” (note that “Gospel” comes from the Old English “God-spell,” meaning “good news”) and make the connection between “God” and “good.” Yes, God is good. However, this means that God becomes the basis of our idea of goodness; it does not mean I can re-imagine God to justify my false notions about what is good.

The Greek word for “god” is “theos,” which is related to another Greek word “theoreo,” meaning “to look at, to see, to observe.” This is the root of our English word “theory.” Perhaps the Greeks first thought of their deities as beings who saw everything that happens. Perhaps we have turned it upside-down, so that modern Christians often think we can see, observe, and develop our own theories about God.

Other cultures and languages have other words for God, associating the deity with kingship, eternity, power, or some other attribute. The name of God identifies a vital essential characteristic.

In the Old Testament, we find three names for God:

  • El” (or its longer form “Elohim”) is associated with His might and power. In most English Bibles, this is the Hebrew word when you see “God” in the Old Testament.
  • Adonai” means “lord.” It connotes His authority as One who should be obeyed. If you see “Lord” (with only the “L” capitalized) in the Old Testament, it is usually translating Adonai.
  • Yahweh” is usually spelled “LORD” (all capitals or small caps) in our English Bibles. The Hebrew Bible only contains the four consonants which we transliterate as “YHWH” here. Ancient Gentile writers have recorded that it was pronounced “Yahweh” but, by the time of Christ, Jews would normally not pronounce this name of God. To avoid mispronouncing God’s name and using it in vain, they would generally substitute another word like “Adonai” while reading the Scriptures or use a substitute term (like “the Name” or “Heaven”) when referring to God in conversation.

Yahweh essentially means “I am” or “I will be.” This is the name that He revealed to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:13-14. Much of the rest of Scripture unpacks and unfolds the meaning of this Name. God is…period. This concept perhaps reaches its greatest explanation in St. Paul’s description of the divine nature of Jesus Christ:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17).

German theologian Paul Tillich coined the phrase “ground of being” to summarize the nature of God, perhaps echoing the thought of St. Paul:

“{F}or
‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
‘For we are indeed his offspring’” (Acts 17:28).

“Big Bang.” Image courtesy of Max Pixel

God does not derive His existence from anything or anybody else. He just is. As the ground of all being and the Creator of all, everything and everybody derives their existence from Him. This is a hard concept to fully comprehend. We usually find an answer to the question, “But where did {something} come from?” Human nature seems dissatisfied with final answers. We become like small children who reply to every answer by saying, “Why?” During the past few decades, scientists proposed a “Big Bang” as the beginning of our universe, the beginning of everything. Now, many scientists, who previously thought they found the beginning of everything, ponder what existed before the Big Bang. Yet, when we reach God, we come to the end of the questions. He is. He always has been. He always will be. He derives His existence from nobody or nothing else. He just is.

God’s eternal nature may be beyond our comprehension, yet God still reveals Himself to us. Everything else about God springs from that eternal nature He is our Creator because He is eternal. He is sovereign because He is eternal. In a forthcoming post, we will look at some of the ways His eternal nature relates to His sovereignty.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does Theology Matter?

Does theology matter?

When Darkened Glass Reflections was born, the articles were primarily devotional. The “reflections” part of the name referred to the fact that most of the particles came out of reflection and meditation on the Word of God rather than academic theological research. Even though the posts have become more “theological” recently, this blog remains committed to being written on a somewhat devotional level. People who are eager to grapple with heavy-duty scholarly theological questions will have to look elsewhere. Even when writing about theology, I hope the reader comes away with encouragement, insight, or inspiration to walk closely with the Lord. Whether they can explain, compare, and contrast amillennialism, premillennialism, historism, and full preterism is irrelevant to me.

Nevertheless, theology does matter. Since Christianity is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we need to know who He is and what He is like. You cannot have a genuine relationship with someone if you do not know who he or she is, where that person is from, what they are like, etc.

The entire Gospel, the Christian faith, has its roots in the nature of God. The Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds answer questions like these: Who is God? What is He like? Who is Jesus? What is His relationship with God? How is He the Son of God? The creeds say little about mankind. They start and end with God. Scripture begins and ends with God:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1; unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version).

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Revelation 22:20–21).

(Emphasis added in both passages.)

The Bible begins and ends with the Alpha and the Omega: God, who revealed Himself most visibly through His Son, Jesus Christ. The person and nature of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are central to the faith. The answers to questions about who God is affect every doctrinal or theological statement that churches or pastors can make.

If you forget to begin with God, you will eventually reach wrong answers. Most heresies, cults, and false religions build upon a foundation of false views about who God is. Recently, fellow blogger Shofar/Liz shared the following quote by an unnamed “religious leader” in a post on God’s Enduring Love, in which she spoke of the dangers of deception within the church:

“My understanding of a loving, compassionate God supports the basic right of all loving couples to have the full benefits of marriage.”

I will point out two errors that are rampant in modern American Christianity, which are reflected in the quoted speaker’s thinking:

  • Preachers like this quoted “leader” frequently emphasize “my understanding” with limited or no reference to Scripture. If they do quote Scripture, it is generally taken out of context. To them, “my understanding” takes precedence over Scripture and doctrine. The committed follower of Jesus will say “yes” to God and His Word even when it goes against the believer’s wishes or desires.
  • Preachers like this one will focus on one or two aspects of God’s nature and ignore those that make them uncomfortable. The committed follower of Jesus acknowledges and accepts the complexities of God’s nature. I do not deny that God is loving and compassionate: Actually, my spiritual survival depends on those qualities. If I forget God’s love and compassion, I will quickly spiral into despair. However, the true disciple will also recognize that God is holy and righteous. You cannot ignore any aspects of God’s nature without becoming spiritually imbalanced or thoroughly heretical.

Therefore, over the next few months (only an omniscient God knows how many at this time) I will share a series of meditations and devotions about different aspects of God’s person and nature. My prayer and goal is that you not only become more theologically balanced, but that you grow to love God more as you come to know Him more. Perhaps together we can grow beyond merely recognizing those attributes of God that we are tempted to ignore and thoroughly embrace Him in His fullness.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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