Theologian A.W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” So understanding who God is is most important. Scripture is clear that there is One true God existing in three Persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each has a distinct role yet operates in complete unity. While this triune God can be filled with mystery we can also know God through the characteristics of God, helping us better understand and experience God the Father, Jesus the Son of Man, and the Holy Spirit.
- I believe the God of the Bible is the one true God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- I believe that while God is mysterious I can know and experience God.
- I will reflect on how I understand the trinitarian reality of God, and explore the extra resources if I have questions.
- I will explore how I experience God, Jesus and the Spirit in my life.
- I will reflect on 2 Corinthians 13:14 this week.
Hi, if we haven’t met yet, my name is Kylie. I’m one of the pastors at Blue Oaks. We’re in a series looking at beliefs that are catalytic to spiritual growth, and today we get to uncover a little bit about the mystery of God.
I have a question for you, Who is God? It seems like a simple question and yet we all carry in our minds an image of God. When I think about God I think about my 8th grade Bible class, we were learning about Revelation and one of the tasks was to draw God, I remember drawing this glowing light on a jeweled throne and thats how I think of God sometimes. Maybe when you think about God you hear Morgan Freeman’s voice or maybe you think about Arianna Grande’s song. Maybe you think of a story in the Bible or that 10 Commandments movie that came out forever ago. Maybe you think of pain or doubts or disbelief. No matter where we find ourselves today, no matter where we presently land on the spectrum of belief, my hope is that we get to encounter God today. We are going to not only get to know God and the structure of God but we are also going to spend some time reflecting on the characteristics of God. I hope that God finds you, meets you in the present and that your knowledge of God grows and that your love of God grows today.
Scholar and Theologian AW Tozer once wrote:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
– AW Tozer
Tozer understood that what we think about God drives not only our understanding of us and our faith, but our thoughts about God also drives our actions. How we see God shapes how we believe, how we love and how we serve and how we worship. But God is tricky, because while we know a lot about God we also live in this mystery of God. Scholars and theologians and pastors and people way smarter than me have spent hundreds and hundred of years trying to perfectly understand the mystery surrounding God and they haven’t officially reached a total consensus. Yet we know a little, enough to understand the structure of God. And that is what we are going to start today off with, we are going to explore what we believe in God by looking at the triniatirain reality of God in the Old and New Testament.
We often talk about God with this Bible word, trinity. It is a word you’ll hear me use when we talk about God, it is a word that is expressed in the Old and New Testament. The trinity is an explanation of how God is both one and three. God is one in essence and being but three in persons. My Dad, who is a pastor, explained it to me using math. Now im not a math person, but math gives us a glimpse into this trinitarian reality. So math, if I were to ask you what 1+1+1 is whats the answer? Well 1+1+1 is….THREE. Crushing it. See the trinity is three persons that craft this three, tri triune or trinity. But the trinity is also one. We see this is math too. What is 1 x 1 x1. Well don’t worry I pulled out my calculator to check but 1 x 1 x 1 is 1. God in the Bible this triune trinitarian God is both 1+1+1 and is also 1x1x1. God is one and God is three. Math briefly and in some ways easily shows us this, and so does the Old and New Testament.
So, who is God? In the Old Testament we get our first glimpses of God in Genesis 1; we read that in the beginning God was. Present, active, creating God was. This God we read about in the first verse, the first sentence of the Bible, infuses into the rest of the Old Testament and we get this understanding that God is one all powerful, all knowing God. One God, one true God. In a world filled with so many different god options, in a culture where other religions and other gods were everywhere, the Old Testament writers point out that believers saw God as the one true God and they oriented their lives around this one God.
The Old Testament writers explore this one true God, in fact the book of Isaiah is filled with reflections of this one God, describing who God is. The writer of Scripture says in
‘Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.’
Later on in chapter 44 we read:
‘I am the first and I am the last, apart from me there is no God.’
Isaiah reverberates with an understanding of one God so while their worlds and our world is filled with god options the God we know and love and serve is the one true God. The God of the Old Testament is understood to be the one, primary and powerful. Yet, and here’s where the mystery begins, this God is one but also plural.
Throughout the Old Testament we see an understanding of God as the one true God, and we also see this pluralised understanding of God. In fact, one of the names we often see in the Old Testament for God hints at this plural God. We see both YHWH and Elohim used to describe God and Elohim is a plural noun. It hints at this God who is both one and three. The Old Testament writers and believers understood that God is one in being and essence and yet three in persons. Intermixed into the Old Testament are glimpses of God in three, God as both spirit and son of Man.
When we meet God in Genesis we get a glimpse of another part of the trinity, the Spirit. In
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Calm, peaceful, amidst the Chaos of creation the Spirit is there. There is nothing more about the Spirit in creation, but in both Psalms and Ezekiel we read about the Spirit giving life to created things. Throughout the Old Testament we see links between the Spirit and Breath or Soul, a link between the Spirit and our very existence. In the Old Testament the Spirit becomes this intimately connected, personal presence that gives life and breath and creativity and peace. Distinct from God but also God, the Spirit adds a personalization and a presence in places where God seems absent.
The last part of the triniatarian God that we see in the Old Testament is the Son of Man. Now because we are post resurrection people we read between the lines of this one, and we know that the Son of Man is Jesus and yet this obviously wasn’t apparent for the Old Testament believers, the final person of the trinity is thus described as a Son of Man. We read about this part of the trinity in Daniel 7. In chapter 7 Daniel is having a dream and we read that “visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed.” First Daniel sees four great beasts, each unique and different in form, and then in verses 13 and 14 we read about the Son of Man.
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.
He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
A Son of Man described by Daniel is both unique and important. The word Daniel used to describe a Son of Man is unique, most of the old testament was written in Hebrew and so we see different iterations of the son of man or ‘ben adam’ in other parts of the Old Testament. These instances talk about humans or people, but Daniel uses a different term, an aramic term. When Daniel writes here he writes about ‘bar enasha.’ It is the only time that this specific aramic phrasing is used, and it was used to understand this sort of human but God figure. Daniels description could literally be translated as ‘I saw one who looked HUMAN coming with the clouds of Heaven.’ Daniel understood that this son of man was a member of humanity BUT was an elevated member because this man sat at the right hand of God. Both human and God, sound familiar? A Son of Man completes this three and one God. The son of Man being a part of God but also different, distinct.
This trinitarian glimpse we get in the Old Testament continues into the New Testament. The triune God is recorded in a different lens, a new experience of God explored and explained and so we see a different but still similar understanding of God as one and God as three.
Lets start with the obvious we see the Son of Man morph into Jesus. In Jesus God becomes human to unite other humans with God. The Gospels continuously portray Jesus as both fully human and also fully God. Jesus is human, he is emotional and longs for things, he has friends and family, he loses people he loves and confronts challenges and lives in the midst of highs and lows or as it we call it in the student world the happies and crappies. And Jesus is God, he heals and he shepherds and he sacrifices. Jesus is God but Jesus is also a distinct being. Jesus adopts this Son of Man understanding that Daniel wrote about, 78 times in the New Testament Jesus is known as the Son of Man, in fact 77 of those times Jesus says it. Jesus becomes the embodiment of the Old Testament Son of Man, continuing our understanding of God as three in the Bible. Jesus, distinct and yet God as THE son of man.
In and through Jesus we also see a different side of God. Throughout the Gospels we see God the Father. Jesus continuously speaks of and with God in the term Abba, which we translate to as Father. In prayers, in quiet moments, in the Garden of Gesthemane Jesus relates to and intimately calls out to his Father. God in the Gospels is not an abstract force or energy but is a personal, present, relatable, and understanding God, a Father. This can be complicated for some of us who have difficult relationships with our Dads, and thats understandable. The Father name for you may hold pain or resentment and so we struggle to equate a loving, grace filled God with Father. If thats you, remember that God in the New Testament is experienced and personal, loving and grace filled and so maybe if we struggle with the Dad talk we focus more on who God is rather than on how God is being named.
Jesus knew God as eternally other but also as this center of life. And this idea of God the Father, God as the relational, became adopted by other New Testament writers. In 1
yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live.
1 Peter 1:3
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Ephesians uses God the Father all throughout its first chapter. God becomes and takes on this Father name.
And then we have the Spirit. The Spirit no longer hovers in chaos, in the New Testament the Spirit spurs an activity and continues this connection with the triune God. I love the baptism scene we read about in Matthew, in chapter 3 we see God and Jesus and the Spirit.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.
The presence of the Spirit is active and moving in Matthew, similar to what we read about in
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit descends, rushes, filling the space and creation with its presence. And the Spirit continues to do so. When Jesus was leaving the earth he charged teh dsicples with something we call the great commission. In
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit works and moves and we see the Spirit as an integral, alive and acting part of the trinity.
The triune God in the New Testament takes the established names and understanding of the Old Testament and continues them, revealing how this Trinitarian God acts in both its being and persons. So who is God? Well God is the God of the Old and New Testament. God is the one true God, all knowing, all powerful, all present. God is one being and essence and is also three in person. God the Father, Jesus the Son of Man, and the Holy Spirit together and distinctly working in and through creation, in and through our lives. God is 1 + 1 +1 and God is 1 x1 x1.
God is mysterious, difficult to fully grasp. At times this triniaritan reality offers more grey and questions than it gives answers so if you have questions or concerns or crises as we say to our students its okay. I mean its stumped theologians and authors and kings and pastors and scholars for hundreds of years, thats why its a mystery. Luckily there is some certainty, some tangible and obvious things we can know when we ask who God is. The trinaitrian structure is one of those things, something we can know because its revealed through the scriptures. There are more those things we can know too, these things are the attributes, the characteristics of God and of Jesus and of the Spirit. We are going to spend the last bit of time looking at the characteristics of the Trinity, offering glimpses into the mystery.
We see a lot of characteristics of God throughout the Bible, and the ones we will talk about aren’t an exhaustive list. As God’s name changes it reflects these characteristics. God is powerful, mighty, in the Old testament we read about God in the Hebrew names El and Eloheem and El Shaddai, all reflections of this power. We see God’s power in the Egyptian plagues and in the parting of the Reed or Red Sea, we see God’s power throughout the middle of the Old Testament where we read about wars and battles. We see and know God’s power in the story of Joshua and Job and Mary and Paul and Peter. God is powerful and God is also present. Throughout the Old Testament we see God hearing and seeing God’s people; I love this verse in Exodus 3, it happens in the moment when Moses sees the burning bush in the wilderness and God tells Moses
I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers,
To me its a powerful instance of a relational, intimate, God who sees and hears. God said I have heard my people, I have seen my people. God sees, God hears. God is a God who takes action, in this story of Moses the verse ends with God saying this
I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
A God who sees, a God who hears, a God who delivers. We see this characteristics of God over and over again; God sees and hears and delivers Esther and Ruth, Jonah and David. Not always obvious, but always seeing and hearing and delivering in the Bible and in our lives.
God later in the old testament, in proverbs, is the personification of wisdom. In Psalms God is a shepherd. In the pillar of fire and in the story of Daniel and Amos God is a guider. God is a god of Characteristics that protect, defend, guide, love, nurture, nourish, revive, his creation. At times this God is characterised by silence too, a reality some of us have experienced. This God, this triune God, is all of those things and more and that God is with you right now providing things that you need or that you dont even understand you need. Those are some of the characteristics of God.
And then we Jesus, a Son of Man in Daniel becoming THE Son of Man in the New Testament. Jesus reflects some of the characteristics of God, but does so in an embodied real, tangible, felt way. In the Gospel Jesus is characterised by his actions; Jesus heals and he teaches. He literally touches and speaks. He pauses with the women at the well and he protects the Children. He makes meals and feasts for his friends and for the 15000, he lavishly leans into peoples lives with power. Jesus sees and knows Peters potential and forgives and loves when the disciples fail time after time. Jesus in perhaps the most important aspect or characteristics, saves. The Son of Man, fully human and fully God, sacrifices as our saviour. It is an immensity of love and grace and compassion that characteristics Jesus.
And then we have the Spirit. I love our introduction to the Spirit in Genesis. The Spirit hovers, gently, calmly. In the whirlwind of creation, as God throws in land and birds and beasts, the Spirit hovers. It is a characteristic of certainty and peace, something we are all lacking in this strange year. As the Spirit is seen in breath and soul we see characteristics of closeness, of again an intimacy that is felt. The Spirit in the New Testament is again this presence, understood at the baptism of Jesus and coming in as a rushing wind in Acts. Powerful, stirring, a living presence. The Spirit is characterised by guidance, a force that moves and assures and drives us.
See this triune God, this trinitarian being that we talk about can be confusing. My pea brain cant grasp how it all works BUT i know that I experience God in these characteristics in the attributes. I have experienced a God who is powerful and purposeful, I have experienced a God who is absent and silent yet obviously present. I have experienced Jesus unstoppable love and grace and forgiveness, I have experienced Jesus healing and friendship. I have experienced the Spirit and its ability to guide; to challenge me when I’m obviously doing wrong stuff, and guiding me when I am making life changes or choices. Friends, this is the reality of our God. Our God is one and three in one and this triniatiran God is filled with characteristics that are intimately woven in and through our lives. God is a being we don’t fully understand and yet maybe the point isnt to fully understand the intricacies and mysteries of God, maybe the point is to be known by this God so that we can participate in life with God.
Next week Lisa is going to be talking more about God as a personal God, and I encourage you to tune in. If God spoke to you today and if you’re wondering what you can do to know more about God or if you have questions or doubts or concerns check out the next steps or talk to a small group leader or send me an email.
As we wrap up today may be filled with this blessing from
2 Corinthians 13:14
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Blue Oaks Church