Chapter 4 – The Essential Nature of God

Table of Contents

1. The Knowledge of God

The possibility of knowing God has been denied on several grounds. But while it is true that man can never fully comprehend God, it does not follow that he can have no knowledge of Him at all. He can know Him only in part, but nevertheless with a knowledge which is real and true. This is possible because God has revealed Himself. Left to his own resources, man would never have been able to discover nor to know Him.

Our knowledge of God is twofold. Man has an inborn knowledge of God. This does not merely mean that, in virtue of his creation in the image of God, he has a natural capacity to know God. Neither does it imply that man at birth brings a certain knowledge of God with him into the world. It simply means that under normal conditions a certain knowledge of God naturally develops in man. This knowledge is, of course, of a very general nature.

But in addition to this inborn knowledge of God man also acquires knowledge of Him by learning from God’s general and special revelation. This is not obtained without efforts on man’s part, but is the result of his conscious and sustained pursuit of knowledge. While this knowledge is possible only because man is born with the capacity to know God, it carries him far beyond the limits of the inborn knowledge of God.

2. The Knowledge of God as Known from Special Revelation

While it is not possible to define God, it is possible to give a general description of His being. It is perhaps best to describe Him as a pure Spirit of infinite perfections. The description involves the following elements:

a. God is a pure Spirit. The Bible contains no definition of God. The nearest approach to it is found in the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman, “God is spirit.” This means that He is essentially spirit, and that all the qualities which belong to the perfect idea of spirit are necessarily found in Him. The fact that He is pure spirit excludes the idea that He has a body of some kind and is in any way visible to the physical eye. b. God is personal. The fact that God is spirit also involves His personality. A spirit is an intelligent and moral being, and when we ascribe personality to God, we mean exactly that He is a reasonable Being, capable of determining the course of His life. At present many deny the personality of God and simply conceive of Him as an impersonal force or power. However, the God of the Bible is certainly a personal God, a God with whom men can converse, whom they can trust, who enters into their experiences, who helps them in their difficulties, and who fills their hearts with joy and gladness. Moreover, He revealed Himself in a personal form in Jesus Christ.

c. God is infinitely perfect. God is distinguished from all His creatures by infinite perfection. His being and virtues are free from all limitations and imperfections. He is not only boundless and limitless, but also stands out above all His creatures in moral perfection and in glorious majesty. The children of Israel sang of the greatness of God after they passed through the Red Sea: “Who is like unto Thee, 0 Jehovah, among the gods? Who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” Exodus 15:11. Some philosophers of the present day speak of God as “finite, developing, struggling, suffering, sharing with man his defeats and victory.”

d. God and His perfections are one. Simplicity is one of the fundamental characteristics of God. This means that He is not composed of different parts, and also that His being and attributes are one. It may be said that God’s perfections are God Himself as He has revealed Himself to man. They are simply so many manifestations of the divine Being. Hence the Bible says that God is truth, life, light, love, righteousness, and so on.

To memorize:

Passages proving:

a. That God can be known:

  • 1 John 5:20 – And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
  • John 17:3 – “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

b. That God is a Spirit:

  • John 4:24 – “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
  • 1 Timothy 6:16 – who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him [be] honor and eternal dominion! Amen.

c. That God is personal:

  • Malachi 2:10 – “Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?
  • John 14:9 – Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and [yet] you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how [can] you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

d. That God is infinite in perfection:

  • Exodus 15:11 – “Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders?
  • Psalm 147:5 – Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.


For Further Study:

a. Do not the following passages teach that we cannot know God?

  • Job 11:7 – “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?
  • Job 26:14 – “Behold, these are the fringes of His ways; And how faint a word we hear of Him! But His mighty thunder, who can understand?”
  • Job 36:26 – “Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know [Him;] The number of His years is unsearchable.

b. If God is a spirit and has no body, how do you explain the following passages?

  • Psalm 4:6 – Many are saying, “Who will show us [any] good?” Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD!
  • Psalm 17:2 – Let my judgment come forth from Your presence; Let Your eyes look with equity.
  • Psalm 18:6, 8-9 – In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, And my cry for help before Him came into His ears. … Smoke went up out of His nostrils, And fire from His mouth devoured; Coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down With thick darkness under His feet.
  • Psalm 31:5 – Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.
  • Psalm 44:3 – For by their own sword they did not possess the land, And their own arm did not save them, But Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your presence, For You favored them.
  • Psalm 47:8 – God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne.
  • Psalm 48:10 – As is Your name, O God, So is Your praise to the ends of the earth; Your right hand is full of righteousness.
  • and many others.

c. How do the following passages testify to the personality of God?

  • Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
  • Deuteronomy 1:34-35 – “Then the LORD heard the sound of your words, and He was angry and took an oath, saying, ‘Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers,
  • 1 Kings 8:23-26 – He said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and [showing] lovingkindness to Your servants who walk before You with all their heart, who have kept with Your servant, my father David, that which You have promised him; indeed, You have spoken with Your mouth and have fulfilled it with Your hand as it is this day. “Now therefore, O LORD, the God of Israel, keep with Your servant David my father that which You have promised him, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your sons take heed to their way to walk before Me as you have walked.’ “Now therefore, O God of Israel, let Your word, I pray, be confirmed which You have spoken to Your servant, my father David.
  • Job 38:1 – Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,
  • Psalm 21:7 – For the king trusts in the LORD, And through the lovingkindness of the Most High he will not be shaken.
  • Psalm 50:6 – And the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself is judge. Selah.
  • Psalm 103:3-5 – Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, [So that] your youth is renewed like the eagle.
  • Matthew 5:9 – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
  • Romans 12:1 – Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship.


Questions for Review:

  1. In what sense is God knowable and in what sense unknowable?
  2. What is the difference between inborn and acquired knowledge of God?
  3. Is it possible to define God? How would you describe Him?
  4. What is involved in God’s spirituality?
  5. What do we mean when we speak of God as a personality?
  6. What proof have WE for the personality of God?
  7. What do we mean when we speak of the infinity of God?
  8. How are the being of God and His perfections related?
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