Q. 4. What is God?
Q. 4. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Ps 90:2)
“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Mal 3:6)
“And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”” (Rev 4:8)
“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Num 23:19)
How can finite creatures comprehend the infinite God? It would be like a color-blind man trying to describe the beauty of the rainbow. He may try, but we know what a challenge that will be! Or can a deaf man experience the beauty of Bach’s violin concertos? Again, he is saddled with insurmountable obstacles. Similarly, fallen and limited creatures cannot comprehend the holy and infinite God.
But that does not mean we cannot know God at all. For the infinitely wise and powerful God has spoken precisely so that finite sinners may know him truly. If the Scriptures are merely religious opinions of men, then we would have no hope of ever knowing God. But, “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 competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17) This is what we mean by “inspiration.” Scriptures are the very words of God, spoken (breathed out) by the Spirit of God, given to us that we may know him and his works. If God cannot speak to us so we can understand, he would not be a God worthy of worship. We would have to question his wisdom and abilities. But God’s wisdom is both infinite and perfect. So he knows how to reveal himself and his works so that even fallen creatures can understand. For this reason he has given us the Scriptures.
So what do Scriptures teach us about God? God is, first of all, a Spirit. That means we should not think about God in terms of how we think of ourselves. “Tall” or “skinny” are not the words we use to think about God. God has no body. Instead, the majesty of his Spirit is described by terms like “infinity,” “eternity,” “immutability (cannot change),” “essence (being),” “omniscience (all-knowing),” “omnipotent (all-powerful),” “holiness,” “justice,” “goodness,” and “truth.”
We come to know God when we come to know his attributes, his characteristics, if you will. On a side note, the second commandment forbids representing God in visible forms. For, first, God is a Spirit holy and infinite. How can we insult our Creator by casting him in the image of his creation? Secondly, the Bible teaches us to embrace God by believing who he is and what he has done, not by “imaging” him. “Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”” (John 20:29)
Now, speaking of Jesus, some people advocate using pictures of Jesus to underline his physical incarnation. Well, yes, Jesus was and continues to be fully man and fully God. He has a face, arms, legs, and nail-pierced hands and feet. So considering Jesus’ humanity entails, in some sense, thinking about his body. It was his body that hung on the cross. And we know what a human body looks like.
Be that as it may, the Scripture’s way of emphasizing Jesus’ humanity is not in terms of what his body looked like, but in terms of his suffering, and the compassion that results from it (Heb 2:17, 4:14-16). Scriptures also teach Jesus’ humanity in terms of his thirst, hunger, tiredness, which are all very human attributes. It seems to me the Scriptures teach us how to think about Jesus’ humanity in these terms, and we should not be wiser than God. Plus, God’s wise providence has placed us now 2,000 years since the time Jesus was born, lived, died, and was resurrected. It is God’s wise providence which has placed us in our time, in our place, where we do not behold Jesus face to face. Instead we await that glorious day when faith shall become sight. I don’t know about you. But I look forward to seeing Jesus face to face in heaven.
But until then, whatever pedagogical value the pictures of Jesus’ have (I am doubtful there is any value to them) are simply overwhelmed by the dangers they present. As a child I grew up in churches filled with pictures of Jesus. Those pictures and false images of Jesus were burned into my tender and impressionable heart. To this day I struggle, often when I think of my Savior, with faces which surely were not my Savior's, clothes which my Savior surely did not wear, and all the baggage that are simply unworthy of my Savior. Why did they do this to me? The pictures of Jesus did me no good, only irreparable harm to my devotion. I can only say this to all Christian parents: Do not do this to your children! If you minister to children at church, again, do not do this!
What, then, is the safe and biblical way of thinking about God? Think of his attributes. His infinity, eternity, immutability, essence, omniscience, omnipotence, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. Meditate on these things and they will enlarge your hearts and minds. They will deepen your worship, too. Then teach them to your children. Not the effeminate Jesus with the fine, flowing hair, with fair skin untouched by the sun, wearing colorful and flowing robes. But the holy God incarnate, the man of sorrows, who with all of God’s power became frail and went to the cross for you and for me.