Sunday, June 26, 2011

Who Is God?

"GOD is the name commonly given to the ultimate source and power of the universe and the subject of religious devotion," says The Encyclopedia Americana. A dictionary defines the term "God" as "the supreme or ultimate reality." What is the nature of such an awesome reality?

Is God an impersonal force or a real person? Does he have a name? Is he a triune entity, a Trinity, as many believe? How can we come to know God? The Bible provides truthful and satisfying answers to these questions. In fact, it encourages us to seek God, saying: "He is not far off from each one of us." —Acts 17:27.

An Impersonal Force or a Real Person?

Many who believe in God think of him as a force, not as a person. In certain cultures, for example, gods have been identified with the forces of nature. Some who have examined evidence gathered through scientific research into the structure of the universe and the nature of life on earth have concluded that there has to be a First Cause. Nevertheless, they hesitate to attach a personality to this Cause.

Yet, does not the complexity of creation indicate that the First Cause must have had great intelligence? Intelligence requires a mind. The great mind responsible for all creation belongs to the person of God. Yes, God has a body, not a physical one like ours, but a spiritual body. "If there is a physical body," says the Bible, "there is also a spiritual one." (1 Corinthians 15:44) Explaining the nature of God, the Bible clearly states: "God is a Spirit." (John 4:24) A spirit has a form of life that differs greatly from ours, and it is invisible to human eyes. (John 1:18) There are invisible spirit creatures as well. They are angels —"the sons of the true God." —Job 1:6; 2:1.

Since God is an uncreated person with a spiritual body, he logically has a place of residence. Referring to the spirit realm, the Bible tells us that the heavens are God's "established place of dwelling." (1 Kings 8:43) Also, the Bible writer Paul states: 'Christ entered into heaven itself to appear before the person of God for us.' —Hebrews 9:24.

The word "spirit" is also used in the Bible in another sense. Addressing God in prayer, the psalmist said: "If you send forth your spirit, they are created." (Psalm 104:30) This spirit is not God himself but a force that God sends forth, or uses, to accomplish whatever he wishes. By means of it, God created the physical heavens, the earth, and all living things. (Genesis 1:2; Psalm 33:6) His spirit is called holy spirit. God used his holy spirit to inspire the men who wrote the Bible. (2 Peter 1:20, 21) Hence, the holy spirit is the invisible active force that God uses to fulfill his purposes.

God used his holy spirit to create the earth
and to inspire men to write the Bible

God Has a Unique Name

The Bible writer Agur asked: "Who has gathered the wind in the hollow of both hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in a mantle? Who has made all the ends of the earth to rise? What is his name and what the name of his son?" (Proverbs 30:4) In effect, Agur was asking, 'Do you know the name or family line of any man who has done these things?' Only God has the power to control natural forces. While the creation provides powerful proof that God exists, it is silent about the name of God. In fact, we could never know God's name unless God himself revealed it to us. And he has. "I am Jehovah," says the Creator, "that is my name." —Isaiah 42:8.

God's unique name, Jehovah, occurs nearly 7,000 times in the Hebrew Scriptures alone. Jesus Christ made that name known to others and praised it before them. (John 17:6, 26) That name is found in the last book of the Bible as a part of the expression "Hallelujah," meaning "praise Jah." And "Jah" is the shortened form of "Jehovah." (Revelation 19:1-6, footnote) Yet, many modern Bibles seldom use that name. They often use the word "LORD" or "GOD," written in all capital letters to set it apart from the common titles "Lord" and "God." Some scholars suggest that the divine name may have been pronounced Yahweh.

Jesus made God's name
known to others

Why such differing views about the name of the greatest Personage in the universe? The problem began centuries ago when the Jews superstitiously ceased to pronounce the divine name and started to substitute the Hebrew word for "Sovereign Lord" whenever they came to the divine name as they read the Scriptures. Since Biblical Hebrew was written without vowels, there is no way to know precisely how Moses, David, and others of ancient times pronounced the letters that make up the divine name. However, the English pronunciation, Jehovah, has been in use for centuries, and its equivalent in many languages is widely accepted today. —Exodus 6:3; Isaiah 26:4, King James Version.

Though there is uncertainty about how God's name was pronounced in ancient Hebrew, its meaning is not a complete mystery. His name means "He Causes to Become." Jehovah God thereby identifies himself as the Great Purposer. He always causes his purposes and promises to become reality. Only the true God, who has the power to do this, can rightfully bear that name. —Isaiah 55:11.

Unquestionably, the name Jehovah serves to distinguish Almighty God from all other gods. That is why that name appears so often in the Bible. While many translations fail to use the divine name, Psalm 83:18 clearly states: "You, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth." During his ministry, Jesus Christ taught his followers: "You must pray, then, this way: 'Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.'" (Matthew 6:9) We should, then, use God's name when we pray, speak of him, and praise him before others.

Is Jesus God?

Jehovah God himself leaves no doubt about the identity of his Son. Matthew's Gospel account relates that after Jesus was baptized, "there was a voice from the heavens that said: 'This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.'" (Matthew 3:16, 17) Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

A voice from the heavens said:
"This is my Son"

Yet, some religious people say that Jesus is God. Others say that God is a Trinity. According to this teaching, "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God." It is held that the three "are co-eternal and co-equal." (The Catholic Encyclopedia) Are such views correct?

Concerning Jehovah, the inspired Scriptures say: "Even from time indefinite to time indefinite you are God." (Psalm 90:2) He is "the King of eternity" —without beginning or end. (1 Timothy 1:17) Jesus, on the other hand, is "the firstborn of all creation," "the beginning of the creation by God." (Colossians 1:13-15; Revelation 3:14) Referring to God as his Father, Jesus said: "The Father is greater than I am." (John 14:28) Jesus also explained that there were some things neither he nor the angels knew but that were known only by God. (Mark 13:32) Moreover, Jesus prayed to his Father, saying: "Let, not my will, but yours take place." (Luke 22:42) To whom was he praying if not to a Personage superior to him? And it was God who resurrected Jesus from death, not Jesus himself. —Acts 2:32.

Jesus prayed to God—the Personage who is superior to him

Scripturally, then, Jehovah is God Almighty, and Jesus is his Son. The two of them were not equal before Jesus came to the earth or during his earthly life; nor did Jesus become equal to his Father after being resurrected to heaven. (1 Corinthians 11:3; 15:28) As we have seen, the so-called third person of the Trinity, the holy spirit, is not a person. Rather, it is a force that God uses to accomplish whatever he wishes. The Trinity, then, is not a Scriptural teaching.* "Jehovah our God is one Jehovah," says the Bible. —Deuteronomy 6:4.

Get to Know God Better

In order to love God and give him the exclusive devotion that he deserves, we need to know him as he truly is. How can we get to know God better? "His invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world's creation onward," says the Bible, "because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship." (Romans 1:20) One way to get to know God better is by observing and reflecting appreciatively on what he has created.

We can get to know God better

The creation, however, does not tell us all we need to know about God. For instance, to understand that he is a real spirit Person with a unique name, we need to look into the Bible. Studying the Bible is, in fact, the best way to come to know God better. In the Scriptures, Jehovah tells us much more about the kind of God he is. He also reveals his purposes to us and educates us in his ways. (Amos 3:7; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17) How glad we can be that God wants us to "come to an accurate knowledge of truth" so that we can benefit from his loving provisions! (1 Timothy 2:4) Let us, then, make every effort to learn all we can about Jehovah.

* For a detailed consideration of this subject, see the brochure Should You Believe in the Trinity?, published by Jehovah's Witnesses

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