Church Education Trust

Christian Belief

ST002/4 The Nature of God.


The Nature of God.

It has already been pointed out that the finite can never fully comprehend the infinite. Paul speaks of "the blessed and only Potentate, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see:...," (1 Tim,6s15,16).

Nothing can be known of Him apart from His revelation of Himself. This revelation however, does furnish a true knowledge of God though not a complete one.

(a) Definition of God.

It may seem presumptuous and irreverent to speak of defining God, especially in view of the passage just quoted from Erich Sauer. If we were attempting by our definition fully to explain God, it would be so. But this is not our purpose. We are endeavouring to clarify briefly the conception of God as given to us in the Scriptures.

This is done in all the main creeds and confessions of faith and is necessary and helpful. The following is a selection from the various statements which have been made, "We believe in one eternally existent, infinite God, Sovereign of the universe, That He only is God, creative and administrative, holy in nature, attributes and purpose. That He, as God, is Triune in essential being, revealed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit." (Church of the Nazarene Manual) .

"There is but one living and true God, everlasting without body, parts or passions; of infinite power, wisdom and goodness; the Maker and Preserver of all things, both visible and invisible, and in the unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power and eternity; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost." (Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England).

"God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, power, holiness, justice,goodness and truth.' (Westminster Catechism).

"God is the personal Spirit, perfectly good, who in holy love, creates, sustains and orders all."
(W.N.Clarke - Outlines of Christian Theology). Clarke also maintains that the essential matters are covered by this statement and gives his reasons as follows:-

  1. The Nature of God. - He is a Personal Spirit,
  2. The Character of God - He is perfectly good.
  3. The Relation of God to all other existence - He creates, sustains and orders all.
  4. The Motive of God in His relation to all other existence - His motive is holy love.

Wiley remarks that Dr.Cocker has pointed out that "we cannot think of God as the unconditioned being, conditioning Himself, without conceiving of Him as Reality, Efficiency and Personality. These constitute the conception of the Divine Essence whereby it is what it is. When we think of the attributes of such a Being, we must think of them as Absolute, Infinite' and Perfect.

And when we think of the relations of God to finite existence and finite consciousness, we regard Him as Ground, Cause and Reason of all dependent being. He combines these into one categorical scheme of thought and gives us this outline.

  1. BEING (Essential)........ Reality, Efficiency and Personality.
  2. ATTRIBUTES (Related Essence)........ Absolute, Infinite and Perfect.
  3. RELATION (Free Determination)........ Ground, cause and reason or End.

Thus in absolute Reality we have the ultimate Ground; in the Infinite Efficiency we have the adequate Cause; and in the Perfect Personality we have the sufficient reason or final cause of all existence." (Cocker., Theistic Conception of the World pp.41 ff.)

(b) God's nature as revealed in the Divine Names. The Name of a person or object often expressed its inner nature. -"The name of anything is the imprint of its nature and the expression of the impression its nature makes."

The following paragraph from the pen of Erich Sauer explains the importance of the name; given to God in the Scriptures. "The history of salvation, as the self--revelation of the Godhead, must be also the manifestation of essential names of God, and the self-descriptions of God become a pointer to His self-revelation in the history.

But because here the principal matters are two, creation and redemption for the third, the glorifying, arises of itself as the ultimate purpose of these two through their completion - so must there be in this whole matter a revelation of two principal names of God, one name of His sovereignty, rule and power, as Creator, and one name of His covenant, and of His redeeming love.

"This is actually the case. Two divine self-descriptions govern the whole: 'Elohim` 2,570 times, whereas the occurrence of all the other names together only amounts to less than 1,000 times.The study of these Divine Names is interesting and helps us to understand some of the aspects of the Divine Nature. The following are the most important of the names:-


This word is probably from a root "El" meaning "power". It is a generic term and is used also of heathen gods. When used of the true God, it is almost always used in the plural. It is usually thought that the plural is the plural of majesty, but the remarkable point is that whenever an adjective or verb goes with it, the adjective or verb is in the singular.

While there are some scholars who do not seem to attach much importance to this, it does appear to point to the fact of the Trinity and to maintain a monotheistic position, The word implies majesty, fulness and glory of the Divine powers and is always rendered "God" in the A.V. and R.V. translations of the Bible in English.


The original form of this name has been lost. The Jews, because of the warning in Lev.24:169 were afraid to pronounce the name, and every time the name occurred, they substituted the word "Adonai" which meant "Lord". "As Ancient Hebrew had no vowels, only the consonants of the original word remained in the text. The equivalent of this in English is J. H. W. H. Later, when vowels were added by the Masoretcs in about 600 A.D., the vowels for the word "Adonai" were used. The name was therefore never pronounced and its real form was completely lost.

The pronunciation "Jehovah" was first introduced early in the 16th century. It is generally agreed that the form of the name was probably more like "Jahweh" but there can be no certainty. When the name occurs in the Old Testament it is always rendered in small capitals as "LORD" in the A.V., R.V. and R.S.V. versions of the bible in English.

While Elohim is generic, Jehovah is a proper name and is, in a sense, a personal name. It, therefore, lifts the plate from power to personal relationship. God`s own interpretation to Moses is "I AM THAT I AM" or "HE WHO IS WHAT HE IS." While there are differences of opinion as to the derivation of the name, it is almost certain that behind it lies the idea of
absolute Being conjoined with the process of continual becoming, through the
historical revelation of Himself to His people."

The name refers to God`s personal faithfulness to His people and is used specially of the keeping of His covenant, and thus to personal and spiritual relationships. It is often found compounded with another word to express personal or national triumph. e.g. Jehovah Jireh (the Lord will provide or see Gen.22:14), Jehovah Nissi (the Lord my Banner - Exodus  l7:l5) etc. Elohim and Jehovah are also found in combination (the LORD God) thus revealing God as Creator and Redeemer.


This word is from a Hebrew root "shad" or "breast",combined with the singular of Elohim, it means "Almighty" "Nourisher", "Strength-Giver", the One who "pours Himself into believing lives".


This is the plural form of the usual Hebrew word for "lord", "master", and is the word mentioned above under "Jehovah". The plural form is that of majesty and, as such, is used of God very frequently. It implies lordship and. possession. While Jehovah refers to self-existence, Adonai refers to the lordship of the self-existent one.

These names have to do mainly with God's essential nature. There are others which have to do more with His attributes, e.g. 0mnipotent, and these will be considered when thinking of the attributes of God.

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