What is God Like?
Have you ever wondered what God is really like? Is it even possible for us to truly know? The answer to the latter question is a definite yes! And, the place where we can access the necessary information to tell us is the Bible. The Bible is the word of God and itself a revelation from Him that both informs us as to who He is and what He is like. In the Old Testament we read of the amazing and real encounters certain
individuals had with God when He made Himself known to them in some particular way and place. These historical narratives have so much to teach us about what God is like. However, it is the New Testament that brings to us the fullness of the revelation of God through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was in this world as man, yet still possessing all the attributes of His deity. Whatever He did and said, it was God doing and speaking. Wherever He went God was there.
Now before proceeding further, it is important to understand that the question does not ask: 'What does God look like?' We are not thinking about physical form, shape or likeness when it comes to God because He is Spirit (John 4:24), invisible (1 Tim 1:17) and dwells in light unapproachable (1 Tim 6:16). However, this does not mean that there is no physical or visible aspect to a revelation of God for clearly there is. Take for example the occasion when He appeared to Moses in the burning bush, in itself a common enough sight, but the uniqueness of what Moses saw was in the fact that bush burned yet was not consumed by the flames; it remained intact (Ex 3:1-5). Also, consider Israel at Mt Sinai where they saw the mountain literally ablaze with the glory of God and the smoke ascending like the smoke of a furnace because He had descended upon it (Ex 19:18). Or think of Elijah on Mt Carmel who called upon the God 'who answers by fire' (1 Kings 18:24) and saw His answer, along with all present on the occasion, when 'the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench (1 Kings 18:38). In these, and all the manifestations of God recorded in the Old Testament the reality of His presence was experienced, but no physical likeness to that of a man or any other creature was seen or described. And, just in case someone is wondering, because the Lord and two angels visited Abraham on the plains of Mamre in the form of men (Gen 18:1-2) does not mean or indicate that the Lord is, or looks like a man. That was both a temporary and special visit to earth at the human level for the specific purpose of confirming the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah before the Lord judged them (Gen 18:20-21).
With this in mind, it's important to realize that in asking this question: 'What is God like?' we are thinking in terms of His nature, glory and attributes; what are His unique characteristics and essential qualities? Think of it this way. On the human level a person is not merely defined and valued only on the basis of how they look physically or what they are like in body. No, it is a person's character and the qualities they possess that makes them who they are. In other words, the way an individual thinks, acts and relates to others defines what is called, personality. So we want, as far as it is possible, to learn something about God's 'personality'. The word personality however, does seem somewhat inadequate with reference to God. It almost feels as if we are limiting the divine and infinite, yet in order to gain some understanding of Him we have to use and think with terms that make sense to us.
Moses made a specific request to the Lord before ascending Mt Sinai to meet with Him for a second time with two tablets of stone upon which God was going to write again the Ten Commandments of the law (Ex 34:1) since the first set had been broken by Moses at the foot of the mountain when reacted to the sin of Israel over the golden calf (Ex 32:19). He asked the Lord: "Show me Thy glory?" (Ex 33:18). To which the Lord replied: “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” (Ex 33:20). Then the Lord promised him this:
“Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen” (Ex 33:21-23).
When Moses came down from the mountain His face shone with a visible reflection of the glory of God so much so that the people could not look upon him (Ex 34:29-35). Yet, what a remarkable thing it is to learn that the very glory of God which was only reflected on the face of Moses was actually revealed by the Lord Jesus Christ when He was in this world. Not by a shining radiance from His face, but in His very person by the words He spoke and the miracles He performed. In the gospel of John we read:
'And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth ... No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him' (John 1:14, 18).
As already mention previously, it is through the Son of God and by His coming into this world that we fully learn what God is really like. The record of the New Testament leaves us in no doubt as to the nature and character of God. Again though, I would stress we are not thinking of physical appearance. The Son of God became a man in order to reveal God to men and enable men to relate to God. We do not know what Jesus actually looked like. The Bible says nothing about the colour of His hair or eyes. It mentions nothing about His height or weight. These things are not important for us to know. He was God manifest in flesh, but that does not mean for a moment that God is flesh or has any appearance of human likeness for as previously observed, God is spirit. The Bible teaches that the Lord Jesus was and is ever in the form of God, but He also took to Himself the form of a servant and came into this world as a man (Phil 2: 5-8) and in so doing He came to give a tangible revelation of God.
A God of Power
About the age of thirty the Lord Jesus was baptized by John in the river Jordan. That was the occasion of His anointing by the Holy Spirit when God, His Father, opened the heavens and declared: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt 3:17). This event marked the beginning of a ministry that was to show the power of God in this world like it was never seen before. His many miracles ranged from turning water into wine (John 2:1-11), giving sight to the blind (Luke 18:35-43) and raising the dead back to life (John 11:38-44). The greatest display of God's power however, was demonstrated through the resurrection of Christ from the dead and His exaltation to highest glory. The Bible says:
'And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come' (Eph 1:19-21).
The Bible also reminds us that the gospel is ‘the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes’ (Romans 1:16). The same power that raised the Lord Jesus from the realm of the dead is the same power that saves sinners from eternal death and imparts to them eternal life.
A God of Holiness
Jesus was often accused of not being who He said He was. Even with unmistakable and indisputable evidence demonstrating that He was no ordinary man but the very Son of God, people still refused to believe in Him. The Jews accused Him of being a Samaritan possessed with a demon (John 8:48); a deliberate racial and diabolical insult. The Pharisees arrogantly said of Him, “We know that this man is a sinner” (John 9:24). The Lord Jesus challenged His detractors on one occasion as they argued with Him; “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (John 8:46). The fact is they couldn’t. Even Pontus Pilate at His trial had to announce more than once, “I find no fault in Him at all” (John 18:38). The Lord Jesus lived a perfect life, all His life. Not only did He not sin, but He could not sin. His sinless and holy life was the revelation of the nature of God and because of who and what He is, He was able to die on the cross on behalf of sinners. Only the Son of God as perfect man was able to answer to the God of holiness for the problem of sin. And so the truth of the gospel is: ‘Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God’ (1 Peter 3:18).
A God of Love
The Lord Jesus told Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). It was God’s Son who brought the reality of divine love to this world; His life revealed it and ultimately His death displayed it. The greatness of God’s righteous love is defined by the fact that He sent His Son to take the place of sinners and bear their judgment, upon the cross. Thus, the apsotle John could write:
'In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins' (1 John 4:9-10).
A God of Grace
The Bible says that ‘the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men’ (Titus 2:11). The Lord Jesus visibly brought grace to this world. John's gospel reminds us that 'the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ' (Jn 1:17). Divine favour and kindness were seen in His miracles, communicated in His teaching and demonstrated by His saving power. Many lives experienced the touch of divine grace as God smiled on an undeserving world. It was through grace that the Mary Magdalene was delivered from satanic power (Luke 8:2), that a sinner like Zacchaeus, the tax collector from Jericho, was saved (Luke 19:1-10), and why a criminal in the last moments of his wasted life received forgiveness and the promise of paradise (Luke 23:39-43). The only basis of salvation for anyone is the grace of God - ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast’ (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV*).
A God of Mercy
Matthew, one of the twelve disciples of Christ was also a tax collector like Zacchaeus. When he received the call from the Lord to follow Him, he responded immediately and in recognition of the occasion, provided a great feast in his home for the Lord Jesus. Also present at the meal were many of Matthew’s fellow tax collectors and other types of ‘sinners.' This was a situation which did not please the religious elite. They demanded to know why a teacher like the Lord Jesus would associate with those they considered to be the ‘low life’ of society. The Lord soon answered their criticism; “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:12-13). The Lord Jesus did not come to call those who didn’t need Him, neither did he come to judge, criticize and condemn. Instead, His was a mission of mercy that showed compassion, called sinners to repentance and offered forgiveness.
A God of Judgment
The Lord Jesus came into the world not to bring men into judgment, but to provide salvation for them (John 3:17). As already stated His first coming was a mission of mercy that climaxed with the Cross and His glorious resurrection. However, this does not mean that He in any way masked or fudged the real consequences of sin. God's love, grace and mercy do not compromise with sin, rather they provide an answer to it. The Cross of Christ proves that God judges sin and the very reason the Lord Jesus suffered and died on the Cross was because He bore the reality and totality of the divine judgment that our sin deserves (Isa 53:5-6).
The Lord Jesus also warned of the certainty of judgment for all who die without forgiveness (Luke 13:1-5; 16:19-31) and of the reality of coming judgment in the future when all people will stand before Him to be judged for their works (Matt 25:31-46; John 5:28-29). Hell that holds the soul, and death that holds the body will never prevent or shield sinners from standing before the almighty judge - the Lord Jesus Christ for He has 'the keys of Hell and of death' (Rev 1:18*). One of the dreadfully solemn things about divine judgment is that all who reject God's mercy and refuse Christ as Lord and Saviour will be made to face and acknowledge their sins on the day of judgment. Not for any hope of forgiveness, but to demonstrate the righteousness of God in consigning them to eternal punishment (Rev 20:11-15). But this need not be the experience of any, and I would appeal to any and every reader to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).
This is what God is really like.
KJV* - King James Version