What is God?

The New City Catechism

What is God?

God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice, and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will.

The Biblical answer is given to us in Ps 86:8-10 and also verse 15.

“Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvellous deeds; you alone are God.” (Psalm 86:8–10) “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15 NIV11)

We live in a time and place where God’s existence is being questioned in at least two ways; Is there a God out there, and if there is one does, he cares?

These questions have come up repeatedly during this pandemic, and these questions have been asked every time we face challenges; we experience loss and when we are confused. 

What is God? Does he exist? Is he like us? 

If he is like us, does he care?

Our humanity craves the supernatural. We have a deep desire, which is sometimes not logical to search for meaning beyond nature’s realm, logic. We were made with a strong desire to worship. 

In every culture and religion system, we can find man quest to worship that which be can’t explain, e.g., the god of rain, the god of the Son, and the sea god. Deities that more than often were worship by sacrifices to appease their wrath. You see this when you look at the Incas or the Mayas.

What I am telling is true. One of my favourite places in London is the British Museum, and I can spend hours, if not days looking at the Rosetta Stone, or the Greek Pantheon, where you can see sculptures of the Greek gods.

One of my favourite place rooms in the British Museum is the Syrian and Egyptian rooms, where you find Syrians kings and deity and different Egyptian Pharaohs and sarcophagus beautifully decorated and so well preserved.

Why am I telling you this? Because it was believed that Kings, like the Assyrians, which are mentioned in the Bible and Egyptians Pharaohs were not just Kings but gods, deities in human form.

So, for so many people through different generations, cultures, backgrounds, ethnicity, there is a desire to make sense of God is, the one who has control over things that cannot be explained and, in most culture, the closer link to a god was a king.

However, this is not the case for the Judeo-Christian Faith. 

Our understanding of God comes from a SELF-REVELATION of God to us.

God, revealed himself, to Adam and Eve, to Noah, to Abraham, to Jacob, who became Israel, to Joseph, to Moses, to David and us in the form of His Son, Jesus who is of the very nature of God who now lives in us through the person of the Holy Spirit. 

Moses knew the difference between the self-appointed god-like man in the form of Pharaoh to God’s real self-revelation. When Moses encountered the burning bush, he understood that he was not in front of Pharaoh but before the Living God.

“And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” (Exodus 3:3–6 ESV)

So, this second question: What is God? “God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice, and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will”. Points to a self-revelation of God, and Psalm 86 teaches who he is and what he does. 

So I would like to say three things about this Psalm

First God is Unique

 “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.”(Psalm 86:8 ESV)

This is a powerful statement, it is a declaration of what God is like, and it leaves not with a set of options or alternatives, but only with one and that is that God stands alone, God is unequal and that he is unique.

David begins this Psalm from a place of prayer. David tells God his suffering, challenges and problems. David has experienced God’s forgiveness; in fact, He is the God who loves him, who hears him and delivers him.

God is no like any other gods. God stand alone, above and beyond any other God, why because He is God creator and Governor over his creation. He is the beginning and the end of all thing. 

This is when it is helpful to revisit our ancient doctrinal writings, that in the pursuit of knowing and describing God can give us the language and understanding of what God is like, this is what the Westminster Confession of Faith says about God:

There is but one only living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty. 

All good and sound, but to be honest, this can be said of any other God, so what makes it so unique?

Christian American author C A Carson says about God that: “He is unchangeable, He is truthful, He is reliable and He’s personal“.

This is right. God is Personal. David experienced God’s self-revelation, and therefore, he was able to pray, be protected and delivered because he knew God in a personal way. All other gods remain out of reach, aloof, remote, but God, he is the God of the covenant, he is the God who loves his creation, he demonstrated his love by becoming one of us, Jesus.. 

Second, He is to be worship.

“All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.” (Psalm 86:9–10 ESV)

Our God is unique because he relates to us and experiences his forgiveness, deliverance and protection. 

David moves from this unique and personal knowledge of God to tell us that He is the creator of all things.

The well-known American revivalist Johnathan Edwards said that God is “The Creator of the world is doubtless also the Governor of it. What he is saying is that he rules over all creation and every nation. 

God’s glory is manifested, and it is experienced in worship. So, if we want to know and share his glory, then the path to glory is the journey of worship.

We can trust, therefore, in the sovereign of God. 

“The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens!” (Psalm 113:4 ESV)

We can trust his Word, and we can Trust his Works!

But there is a sentence in this Psalm, in verse ten, where David again refers to God’s uniqueness, he says “You alone are God”. 

When we lived in Madrid, we were given a flat for about four months at the heart of Madrid city centre. We were within walking distance to so many of Madrid’s landmarks, and we used to walk to El Retiro park and visit one of the most important Museums in Europe, El Prado. 

I became a fan of two Spanish painters, one of them was Francisco Goya. He painted almost at the end of his life a set of 14 painters known as the Black Paintings, these were not meant for public viewing, and they were there in el Prado for all to see and admire them. One was not easy to the eye and challenging and even disturbing to watch, called Saturn eating his Son. (Cronus (Greek term for the Roman God, Saturn) was the youngest Son of Uranus and Gaia and part of the original Titans. His mother coerced him into overthrowing his father and taking control. It wasn’t long before he learned one of his sons would do the same to him. Mad with power, Cronus swallowed every child he and he had.)

Why am I telling you this? Unlike Saturn, who could not conceive that any other gods, even his sons, would share in his power, glory, and worship. Our God is unique; he gave his own Son, Jesus Christ, to us. We killed him, and he came back to life so that everyone and every nation on earth will worship him, and when we do, he shares his glory with his people.

Third, He is Good

“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15 ESV)

I know God is Good, but I also know that God is just, holy, righteous, who hates sin. Yet, look at this verse 15 and in one verse alone, we are introduced to the God of the Covenant. To the very heart of who he is and what he does. This is, why He is above any other.

He is merciful.

He is gracious.

He is slow to anger.

He is abounding in love.

He is steadfast in love.

He is faithful.

Psalm 86:15 is a direct quote from the encounter that Moses had with the Lord, and where the Lord for the second time asked Moses to write on tablets his Words for the people.

“The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped”. (Exodus 34:5–8 ESV)

There are two things that I want to say:

  • Look at what God says about himself: “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
  • Look at Moses response: “And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped”.

I like what C.A. Carson says in the devotional book of the New City Catechism. He says: “to get to the heart of who God is and to bow before him ….that calls us to worship”. Then he warns us: “And if we put anything else in place of God, that is the very definition of idolatry”.

What is God?

God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice, and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will.

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darioleal View All →

Dario is a husband, father, pastor and passionate pursuer of Jesus and His Kingdom. He is a Pastor, loyal friend, and walks the walk when it comes to being a carrier of God’s presence. He expects things to happen when he prays for people. He loves having fun and eating olives (preferably at the same time).

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