There are several references to God (the one we adore, 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 full / proper 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 / Jesus Christ) and (c) The Holy Spirit. (1 John 5:7, Matthew 28:19) Thus, when referring to God in our discussions/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 / 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 / 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 / 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 of 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 / 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 of God make it possible for us human beings to have a personal relationship 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)
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.”