Many of us ‘serve’ and ‘worship’ (or purport to serve and worship) God, the one who — we believe — created the world; based mainly on what people who we naturally grew up trusting taught us from the Christian Bible. But do you really know the full or true nature of this God?
It may surprise you to note that a lot of what so many pastors and leaders preach or teach as the nature of God is misleading, and oftentimes absolutely false; notwithstanding the fact that they try to quote the Bible, and are passionate in their preaching and convictions. Unlike the believers in Berea (Acts 17:11-21) some of the preachers and teachers of recent years are passionately amplifying unchecked messages and doctrines they learnt at Children’s Service when they were very young; taught by mostly young lay believers who did not do personal diligent study of the scriptures.
The propriety (or otherwise) of everything we do in our worship life (and the passion or conviction with which we do them) depends on what we know about this God, and so it is very important to find the truth about who this God really is; what this God is like, what this God requires us to do, or not to do, etc. Otherwise a lot of the things we may be doing (or refraining from doing) in our worship and in general life, may be in vain. This presentation, therefore, reveals hidden dimensions about God, by expositing on scriptures that are often inadvertently misinterpreted.
Whereas individual experience comes to bear so much in understanding the nature of God, this presentation limits itself to biblical perspectives, since that is what pastors and followers are depending on, but are largely misinterpreting, misunderstanding, and misapplying same.
Having gotten this far into this presentation, I am persuaded that you are open-minded or objective enough to take a look at what else others see (especially differently) and draw your own independent conclusions rather than live by unexamined dogmas of other people, especially that of your leaders.
If you can pay attention to what is being said in the rest of the presentation, rather than what you think is being said, you will discover amazing insights to further enrich your faith and life. That means you will have to read-over some portions and reflect on them before proceeding.
There are several references to God (the creator of the universe, as opposed to idols, or even gods in general) in the Old Testament (OT) and the New Testament (NT) of the Bible; these references help us to appreciate the nature / attributes of God, in the proper biblical context.
The first distinguishing encounter of God is Genesis 1:1 (and the creation account in general) and the English expression used for the original Hebrew term translated as ‘God’ is ‘elohiym (el-o-heem’). Elohiym is a plural noun; meaning a number of deities together. It is the plural of ‘elowahh (el-o’-ah) which refers to a single deity. And the use of this singular noun ‘elowahh occurs just a few times in the Old Testament. So in a lot of cases in the OT, God refers to a ‘Team.’ This is much evidenced in Genesis 1:26; “And God (‘elohiym) said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness:..” Also Genesis 3:22 says: “Then the Lord (Yhovah) God (‘elohiym) said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, to know good and evil…”
Throughout scripture, especially from Jesus’s teachings, 3 principal divine beings could be identified as forming the ‘God Team or Divine Team’ (as I prefer to describe them) or ‘Godhead’ (as theologians describe them); they are: (a) The Father, (b) The Word (Also the Son: Immanuel or Jesus Christ) and (c) The Holy Spirit. (1 John 5:7, Matthew 28:19) Thus, when referring to God in our discussions or dealings, we have to be clear as to whether we are referring to the ‘God Team,’ or just the Father (or perhaps just the son, or just the Holy Spirit) and therefore use the appropriate personal pronouns; either ‘They / Them / Their’ or ‘He / Him / His;’ remember Genesis 1:26.
To distinguish the Father, the Jews used the proper name: ‘Adonay (ad-o-noy’ which is translated: ‘Lord’) and the national name: Yhovah (yeh-ho-vaw’ which is translated: ‘Jehovah,’ or ‘the Lord;’ also meaning: ‘Self-Existent’ or ‘Eternal’). A typical example is in Genesis 15:7-8, thus: “Then He said to him, “I am the Lord (Yhovah), who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.” And he said, “Lord (‘Adonay) God (Yhovih; a variant of ‘Yhovah’), how shall I know that I will inherit it?” And so on.
Again, the clear distinction between the three divine beings must be noted and kept in focus as we go along. We have one Supreme God (the Father, who is not the Son nor the Holy Spirit; though divine) then we have the Word (who is the Son, and not the father nor the Holy Spirit; though divine), and then we have the Holy Spirit (who is not the Son nor the Father; though divine). Later, we will explore this further.
God is Spirit
It is commonly known from scripture and from experience that God is Spirit, and thus cannot be seen visibly. In Jesus’s proclamation as per John 4:24, it is obvious that he was referring to God the father. Indeed, the English expression used for the original Greek term translated as ‘God’ here, is ‘theos (theh’-os) which is essentially used in the singular sense.
It is important to note that, unlike man that is both spirit and flesh, God the father is pure spirit; without form or visible parts. The human elements/parts like eyes, ears, arms, etc. used in reference to God in scripture and in our dealings, are simply communication tools (within our human communication limitations); more like a metaphor. Being pure spirit we can safely assume that He is not limited by time, space, and distance; likewise, He is not limited in knowledge, and power. Note that it is only a safe assumption because one cannot adequately prove or justify the assertions.
Indeed, all the three divine beings that form the ‘God Team’ are spirits. However, the Word came on earth (through human birth) to represent God the father in bodily form as a person or man (Immanuel or Jesus Christ, the son of God; Matthew 1:26, John 1:1-14, 1 Timothy 3:16) and as an ambassador; to make our relationship with God the father more real. Note that it was not the Father that became flesh and dwelt among us, rather, it was the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us; this distinction gets blurred when we simply use God (as some translations do; to say that ‘God became flesh’ is too ambiguous or blurry, and could also be misleading). Currently, Jesus is back to God the father in heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God (the Father; a little more on this later), and he will come again. In his place here on earth, the Holy Spirit came; a kind of ambassadorial replacement. Again, note that it was not the Father that came to replace Jesus on earth, it was the Holy Spirit.
Rather not surprisingly, the three divine beings share similar characteristics. It is, thus, not surprising that Jesus possessed and exhibited so much supernatural powers even whilst here in human form.
Key Characteristics of God (‘elohiym)
1. They have creative power. (Genesis 1, etc.)
2. They have organisational prowess (Genesis 1 & 2, etc.)
3. They have destructive abilities (Genesis 18 & 19, etc.)
4. They can grief (Genesis 6:6, etc.)
5. They can hear, and speak; They can communicate, converse or interact with humans (Genesis 2 & 3, etc.)
6. They can hate (Proverbs 6:16, etc.)
7. They can love (John 3:16, etc.)
8. They care about us (1 Peter 5:6-7, etc.)
These characteristics make it possible for us human beings to relate with them; just as we do with other human beings, but with divine reverence. These characteristics are found in us (humans) also. So rather loosely, we can say that God is a ‘person.’ But, note that it is not that God has the characteristics of man; rather, man has the characteristics of God; after all, we were made in their image, after their likeness. (Genesis 1:26)
It is important to note that our discussion has based mainly on what the scriptures say without subjecting them to whether they are literal, or figurative, metaphorical or allegorical; that is a discussion for another day. Our interest and focus has been to understand what the Bible is saying; through objective reading of it, objective study, and therefore objective comprehension; devoid of undue or excessive biases.
Now, Deuteronomy 6:4 says: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” What does it mean to say that the Lord is one? Also, is it safe to say that God the father works by Himself, and also through the son, and the Holy Spirit; or they work together at the same time at all times? We will explore these and more in the second part of this discussion. You may click here to see the second part of this discussion.
Jesus declared that the Father was (and is still) seeking true worshipers to worship Him (the Father) in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). True worshipers have a fervent acknowledgement of the power and might of God in their hearts all the time; wherever they are, and irrespective of what they are doing; they may express it in words at times, but when they do, it is in truth; a true reflection of the state of their hearts, and not a charade (Isaiah 29:13, Matthew 15:18 / Mark 7:6). True worshipers do everything as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24). True worshipers worship God for Who He is; not because of what they expect God to do for them.
Indeed, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”