What is God Like?
Part 1: His Natural Attributes
COPYRIGHT ©1999 - James M. Frye
All scripture quotations are taken from the Authorized King James Bible. Any deviations are not intentional. All underlines, bold and words within brackets are the author's.
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In this article we shall seek to increase our understanding of God. What is He like? The Bible says many things about God. Something that is true about God is often referred to as one of his attributes.
Due to the size of this subject, we will need to divide our material into two articles. In the first, we will look at God's natural (non-moral) attributes. In the second, we will look at His moral attributes. So let's begin by looking at God's natural attributes.
1. God is Incomprehensible
The first thing we need to understand about God is that He is incomprehensible. That is, we can never fully understand Him. There are many things that we can know about God, but to understand Him completely is impossible for us.
Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
Job 11:7 Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?
For us to be able to fully comprehend God, we would have to be God, for He alone fully understands all things.
2. God is Omniscient
The word omniscient means all-knowing. The Bible teaches that God knows everything.
Psalm 147:5 Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.
1 John 3:20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
God knows everything, and He is the only one who does. As a matter of fact, God never learns anything new. He has always, from all eternity past, known all things.
How is it that God is able to predict future events with absolute accuracy in the Bible? It is only because God knows the future that he is able to do this. God knows and has always known all things: past, present, and future.
3. God is Omnipotent
The word omnipotent means all-powerful. The Bible teaches that God has all power and might.
Genesis 17:1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
Almighty means: having all might or power. God is all-powerful.
Matthew 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said
unto them, With men this is impossible; but with
God all things are possible.
Jeremiah 32:17 Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:
Someone once asked the question: "Is God able to make a rock so heavy that He himself cannot lift it?". We could come up with many similar questions. Could God make a light bulb be both on and off at the same time? Could He make something white and not white at the same time? Of course not. We must remember that nonsense is still nonsense, whether we try applying it to God or to anything else.
When the Bible speaks of God being able to do all things, it means that God is able to do anything that He wills to do. There are some things that the Bible tells us God cannot do. For example, the Bible tells us God cannot lie.
Hebrews 6:18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
Titus 1:2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
Lying is a sin. Since God is Holy, He cannot sin. It is against His nature.
4. God is Omnipresent
The word omnipresent means ever-present. The Bible teaches that God is present everywhere at the same time.
Psalm 139:7-10 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
Jeremiah 23:24 Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.
5. God is Eternal
The Bible tells us that God is eternal. He has existed forever. There has never been a time when God did not exist. He has no beginning and no end.
Psalm 90:2 Before the mountains were
brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth
and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.
6. God is Unchangeable
Unlike man, God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Malachi 3:6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
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.
7. God is Transcendent
When we say that God is transcendent, we mean that God is above, beyond, and separate from His creation.
Isaiah 57:15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Notice that the last verse says that God created the heaven and the earth, not that God was the heaven and the earth. There is a false view of God today known as Pantheism. Pantheism teaches that God is all, and all is God. Those who hold to this belief think that the universe and all that is in it are a part of God.
For example, Pantheists often refer to Mother Earth or Mother Nature. Why? It is because they believe that the earth is Divine. Those in the New Age Movement hold to this belief.
8. God is Self-Sufficient
What do we mean when we say that God is self-sufficient? We mean that God is complete in and of himself. He does not need anything from any outside source to maintain either his existence or happiness.
Acts 17:24-25 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
9. God is Immanent
Deism is another false view of God. It teaches that God created the universe, wound things up, and then left us to fend for ourselves. Deists believe that God is too High and Holy to spend time interacting with His creation. The Bible, on the other hand, is filled with accounts of God's interaction with man. It tells us that God is not only transcendent, He is also immanent. That is, God is near to and interacts with His creation.
Jeremiah 23:23 Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off?
Acts 17:27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
10. God is Personal
When God refers to Himself in scripture, He calls Himself "I". He is not some sort of impersonal force but is a live being. Earlier, we talked about Pantheism, the view that God is all and all is God. Pantheists often make the mistake of thinking of God in non-personal terms. They see Him as some impersonal force, Divine mind, or higher level of consciousness that may be tapped into. But this is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is a personal being.
Exodus 3:14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
Jeremiah 10:10 But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.
11. God is a Spirit
John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
The Bible tells us that God is a Spirit. This means that God does not have a physical body. But doesn't the Bible also speak of God as having hands, feet and other body parts? Yes it does, but these are anthropomorphisms. An anthropomorphism is a figure of speech that describes God in human terms. God has chosen to speak about Himself in this way so that we may better relate to Him.
There are many such passages in the Bible. For example, Exodus 15:8 says that God parted the Red Sea with the blast of his nostrils. Does this mean that God has a fifty-foot nose? Of course not.
12. God is Invisible
Since God is a Spirit, He is also invisible. God can not be seen by the human eye.
Hebrews 11:27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
1 Timothy 1:17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
13. God is Sovereign
When we say that God is sovereign, we mean that God is free to rule his creation as he sees fit with no outside interference.
Ephesians 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
Daniel 4:35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
Psalm 135:6 Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.
Since God is all powerful, no one can stay His hand, nor withhold his purpose.
In this article we have covered a number of God's attributes. You can test your understanding of God by trying to define the attributes listed below. It's a good idea to keep at it until you can define each of them without looking them up.
11. A Spirit