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What the Bible teaches about God

Below is one of the questions from the Westminster Shorter Catechism dealing with the doctrine of God, and supporting Scripture proofs. Explanatory notes follow. Further questions and explanation follow in Part 2 and Part 3 of this section.

Q: What is God?

A: God is a Spirit1, infinite2, eternal3, and unchangeable4, in his being5, wisdom6, power7, holiness8, justice, goodness, and truth9.

Scripture proofs:

1 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24John 4:24
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.  

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2 Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? (Job 11:7Job 11:7
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

7 Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?  

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3 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. (Psalms 90:2Psalms 90:2
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.  

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4 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17James 1:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.  

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5 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. (Exodus 3:14Exodus 3:14
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.  

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6 Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite. (Psalms 147:5Psalms 147:5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

5 Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite. his...: Heb. of his understanding there is no number  

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7 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. (Revelation 4:8Revelation 4:8
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. rest...: Gr. have no rest  

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8 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: (Revelation 15:4Revelation 15:4
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

4 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.  

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9 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6-7Exodus 34:6-7
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.  

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The nature and character of God

A. God is a Spirit.

Cp John 4:24John 4:24
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.  

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. This is a description of the essence of God. He is “an immaterial substance”. See Luke 24:39Luke 24:39
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.  

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. When God speaks of Himself in Scripture as having hands, feet, eyes, ears etc. (see Ps 34:15Ps 34:15
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

15 The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.  

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, Is 1:20Is 1:20
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.  

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, Heb 10:31Heb 10:31
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  

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) this is simply a figurative reference to His power, ability to see, hear etc. We are so limited in our ability to understand God that He condescends to speak of Himself in terminology that we can understand. God differs from the spirits of angels and men in that He is uncreated and infinite Spirit. The spirits of men and angels are created and finite.

B. God is infinite.

There is no limitation or bounds on His being or perfections and therefore He is beyond our finite comprehension. Cp Job 11:7Job 11:7
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

7 Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?  

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. There is no spatial limitations on God, Jer 23:24Jer 23:24
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

24 Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.  

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, I Kings 8:26. Further, He is infinite with regard to time, I Tim 1:17.

C. God is eternal.

He has neither beginning nor end. Cp Ps 90:2Ps 90:2
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.  

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. There is a sense in which men and angels are described as having eternity—but in a limited sense. The soul of man is immortal and will live forever yet it has a definite beginning in time. God has neither beginning nor end.

D. God is unchanging.

God is always the same without the slightest alteration. This is true of His nature and essence, Ps 102:25-27Ps 102:25-27
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

25 Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. 26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: endure: Heb. stand 27 But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.  

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; His purpose, Heb 6:17Heb 6:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: confirmed...: Gr. interposed himself by  

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; His love and favour, James 1:17James 1:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.  

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.

The character of God is outlined in this list of His attributes. To some degree these attributes are described as communicable — i.e. they are communicated to men both in a natural sense (man created in the image/likeness of God); and in a gracious sense they are communicated to the redeemed by His Spirit (we may grow in wisdom etc. and likeness to God) Men are limited, finite and changeable in their possession of these qualities but not God. He Has each to perfection, unchangeably and eternally.

1. His being is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. The essence of God is in view.

2. His wisdom is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. Man’s wisdom grows and decreases and is obtained by observation, deduction and instruction. God has perfect knowledge of all things possible, past, present and future. Cp Psalms 147:5Psalms 147:5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

5 Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite. his...: Heb. of his understanding there is no number  

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. The wisdom of God is demonstrated in creation, Psalms 104:24Psalms 104:24
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

24 O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.  

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; in redemption, Ephesians 3:10Ephesians 3:10
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,  

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3. His power is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. God can do all things, Gen 17:1Gen 17:1
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. perfect: or, upright, or, sincere  

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. His power is witnessed by His works of Creation and Providence, Rom 1:20Rom 1:20
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: so...: or, that they may be  

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, Heb 1:3Heb 1:3
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;  

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.Redemption also demonstrates His power, Ephesians 1:19, 1Ephesians 1:19, 1
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, his mighty power: Gr. the might of his power The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians 1 1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:  

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Peter 1:5, Matt 16:18Matt 16:18
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Peter: this name signifies a rock  

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. What the Scriptures reveal of what God will yet do further demonstrates His power. He will judge the world, renew its entire fabric, replace it with the new heavens and new earth etc.

4. His holiness is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. God is infinitely and unchangeably pure. He is free from all impurity and evil. His holiness demands that He bless resemblance to it in His creatures and punish the lack of it. Cp Revelation 4:8Revelation 4:8
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. rest...: Gr. have no rest  

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, Psalms 145:17Psalms 145:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. holy: or, merciful, or, bountiful  

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, 1 Peter 1:151 Peter 1:15
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;  

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, Hebrews 12:14Hebrews 12:14
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:  

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5. His justice is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. The perfect justice of God is seen most clearly in His inflicting punishment on Christ as the sin-bearer. Cp Isaiah 53:10Isaiah 53:10
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. thou...: or, his soul shall make an offering  

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. It is also seen in His punishing the sins of the wicked both in time and eternally.

6. His goodness is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. His goodness is exhibited in the works of creation, Genesis 1:31Genesis 1:31
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. And the evening...: Heb. And the evening was, and the morning was etc.  

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; His provision for all His creatures, Psalms 145:9Psalms 145:9
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

9 The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.  

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, Matthew 5:44-45Matthew 5:44-45
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  

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; His longsuffering towards the wicked, Romans 2:4Romans 2:4
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?  

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; His pardoning mercy to penitent sinners, Exodus 34:6-7Exodus 34:6-7
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.  

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7. His truth is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. God is sincere and free from all falsehood and pretence. Cp Titus 1:2Titus 1:2
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; In: or, For  

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, Hebrews 6:18Hebrews 6:18
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:  

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. The truth of God is seen in His word, John 17:17John 17:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.  

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— its history, prophecy, promises (2 Corinthians 1:202 Corinthians 1:20
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

20 For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.  

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), threats etc.

Each of these attributes works in perfect harmony with the other. To emphasize one at the expense of another is to have a caricature of God. The Divine attribute of wisdom is seen in the harmony that exists in the being of God. There is no conflict within God.

 

Next topic: The Trinity

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