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Bible verses about God's Nature
(From Forerunner Commentary)

We find regarding the beginning of The Word's existence, something further described in Hebrews chapter 7. Speaking of Melchisedec, who was king of Jerusalem in the days of Abraham, it says also that he was the Priest of God Most High. This Melchisedec had existed from eternity—"without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually" (Hebrews 7:3).

Since Melchisedec was "like unto the Son of God," and abides as High Priest forever continually, and Jesus Christ is now High Priest, Melchisedec and Jesus Christ are one and the same Person.

Therefore Christ was "without father, without mother, without descent [in Abraham's time], having neither beginning of days, nor end of life." God also had existed eternally with the Word. Jesus, when he was "the Word," was an immortal being who had existed always—there never was a time when he did not exist—without beginning of days. He was, then, "like" the Son of God—but he was not yet the Son of God. He also was God, along with God.

These passages show that the Word, in the beginning—before anything had been created—was with God, and he, also, was God. Now how could that be?

There might be a man named John. And John might be with the man named Smith, and John might also be Smith because John is the son of Smith, and Smith is the family name. Yet they are two separate persons.

The only point of difference in that analogy is that the Word, at the time of John 1:1, was not, yet, the Son of God. But he was with God, and he also was God.

They were not yet Father and Son—but they were the God Kingdom!

Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986)
Fully Man and Fully God? (2001)


 

"The mind of man cannot fully understand the mystery of the Trinity. He who has tried to understand the mystery fully will lose his mind; but he who would deny the Trinity will lose his soul."
(From A Handbook of Christian Truth by Harold Lindsell and Charles Woodbridge, pp. 51-52)

This line of reasoning is in direct opposition to Christ's statement in Matthew 13:11, where He says that it was given to the disciples—and by extension, to us—to understand the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Paul writes in I Corinthians 2 that we were given the Spirit of God so that we might understand the things of God, and yet some scholars assert that the Trinity is a mystery—to the point that one will go crazy trying to understand it. In reality, their concept of the Godhead does not align with the Scriptures, and so they have to resort to a convoluted argument to try to convince others, who are looking to the Bible, that their explanation is correct. These scholars admit that nobody will ever understand the Trinity. What they are trying to palm off is not truth at all but an error. It is beyond them to comprehend the true nature of God simply because they do not have God's Spirit and do not believe what the Bible says.

The nature of God is not hard to understand at all. He gives His children the ability to understand it. The world, however, tends to take simple biblical truth and make it into a complicated and confusing false teaching.

Early in the discussion of the Trinity in the book quoted above, the authors admit that the Old Testament has no teaching on the Trinity at all and that the New Testament had no clear statement affirming it. They admit that the doctrine of the Trinity is developed by what they called "Christological speculation."

"Speculation" means they are guessing. Even giving them the benefit of the doubt by saying that this central doctrine of the church has been arrived at by deduction does little more than point out that it was arrived at by plain and simple human reason and not from clear scriptures in God's Word.

This doctrine did not come into the church easily, but rather through a great deal of dispute. It was first introduced at the Council of Nicea in AD 325, presided over by the Roman Emperor Constantine, but it did not become firmly entrenched within the Catholic Church until the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451.

This is a striking contrast to the Council that was held in Acts 15, in which it took God only a couple of days to get a true teaching into the true church, as compared to 125 years for the false church to pick up a false teaching. It is apparent how confusing this doctrine was to them. It was not until a majority of the people were finally convinced into believing it that they were able to force it into the doctrines of that false church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

In His inspired revelation of Himself and His purpose, does God reveal Himself to be a trinity? Notice these quotations from a few authoritative sources:

"Though 'trinity' is a second-century term found nowhere in the Bible, and the Scriptures present no finished trinitarian statement, the NT does contain most of the building materials for later doctrine." (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, "Trinity," p. 914. Author's emphasis throughout.)

"One does not find in the NT the trinitarian paradox of the coexistence of the Father, Son, and Spirit within a divine unity, the mystery of the three in one, yet one does find there the data that serve as the foundation of this later dogmatic formulation." [The Anchor Bible Dictionary, "God (NT)," p. 1055]

"The new element is the historical Jesus, at once the representative of humanity and of God. As in philosophy, so now in theology, the easiest solution of the problem was the denial of one of its factors: and successively these efforts were made, until a solution was found in the doctrine of the Trinity, which satisfied both terms of the equation and became the fundamental creed of the church. Its moulds of thought are those of Greek philosophy, and into these were run the Jewish teachings. We have thus a peculiar combination—the religious doctrines of the Bible, as culminating in the person of Jesus, run through the forms of an alien philosophy." (The Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., vol. 6, p. 284)

"The New Testament teaching upon this subject is not given in the way of formal statement. The formal statement, however, is legitimately and necessarily deduced from the Scriptures of the New Testament, and these, as has been suggested, cast a light backward upon the intimations of the Old. . . . It is admitted by all who thoughtfully deal with this subject that the Scripture revelation here leads us into the presence of a deep mystery." (Unger's Bible Dictionary, p. 1118)

What is wrong with the Bible's own description of God? The problems arise when one tries to blend alien, human, philosophical thinking with the Bible's own clear statements about God. To this odd mix is added man's unwillingness to believe "the simplicity that is in Christ" (II Corinthians 11:3). Would a loving God inspire the Bible to be difficult for His people to understand?

John W. Ritenbaugh
God Is . . . What?


 

Genesis 1:1

Even before leaving the first verse, a serious student of the Bible is confronted with a difficulty - unless he is willing to believe what the Bible consistently shows from the beginning to the end. The fourth word in the Bible is "God," Elohim in Hebrew. But that takes some explaining. Elohim is God - plural. "In the beginning Gods created the heaven and the earth." For an English-speaking person, this is confirmed in Genesis 1:26, where the translators finally used plural pronouns to conform to the plural noun antecedent, Elohim.

The translators recognized in verse 26 that Elohim - "God" - was speaking to somebody, and He was speaking to someone who was just like Him, which is why the word Us is used. They were forced into using a plural pronoun. "Let Us make man in Our image." In fact, Elohim is used 66 times in a row at the beginning of the Bible before any other Hebrew word is translated into the English "God." That occurs in Genesis 6:5 when finally another word is used for God.

Someone reading this beginning in Hebrew would have to be impressed that the author of this book was trying to get something across to the reader that "Gods" (plural) did everything - not an individual but a least two. Elohim is used in the Old Testament 2,570 times, and every usage is plural - "Gods."

As shown by this plurality, the God Family clearly consists of more than one Being, or more than one Person or Personality.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

Genesis 1:26

This verse uses the plural pronouns "Us" and "Our" to refer to their antecedent elohim. Two divine personalities were working as one. They were equal in that both were God but not equal in authority, even as husband, wife, and child are equal in their humanity but not equal in authority. Jesus said it Himself: "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28).

John W. Ritenbaugh
God Is . . . What?


 

Genesis 1:26-27

Notice the overall context of these verses. It is the very first chapter of the Bible, and God is laying the foundation for what will follow. If the foundation is not laid correctly, then the rest of the building is crooked. God is beginning to establish our vision of what His purpose is and where we are headed with our lives, and being what we are, we need to have some insight into what He is. So He tells us immediately that we are made in His image and His likeness.

He contrasts us with the animals. Each one of them reproduces after its kind. And when they reproduce, they look like their parents. They look like each other. God is clearly implying that He is reproducing Himself and that His purpose is that we will be exactly like Him when He is finished with us. Even now, in our physical forms, we are made in His image so that we will have the potential to be exactly like Him.

Virtually every explanation of these two verses begins with an assumption: that God did not really mean what He clearly states.

Verse 26 says the creation of man is about to occur. It is yet future. Verse 27 says that the creation is in the past tense. By the time the statement in verse 27 is done, man is already in His image. It is not future. It is past tense. It is not an image and likeness in progress as in the creation of a character image, but within the context, the image was already accomplished. A physical image and likeness of God has been made.

Who knows better? The God who authored the Book and the people He used to write these things down—or people who are looking at it centuries after the fact and have never seen God or heard His voice, people who are using a combination of Bible verses, metaphysics, philosophy, science, and assumption?

What is the assumption based on? It is usually on men's definition of the word "spirit." They combine that with John 4:24, which says that "God is Spirit." Adam Clarke provides a typical explanation: "Now as a divine being is infinite, he is neither limited by parts or definable by passions. Therefore he can have no corporeal image after which He made the body of man" (vol. 1, p. 38).

That is a direct contradiction based upon an assumption. It is based upon disbelief. Certainly, God does not have a material body, but that does not address the issue. The issue is whether He has a spiritual body, which served as a model for mankind, and whether He has a body that has parts.

This is important because men within the church of God are now telling members that God does not have form in mind at all in this verse, but only character image. This is important to us in understanding the nature of God and getting a correct perspective of the goal and purpose of life itself. They are associating Him with being not much more than the Catholic beatific vision or with man becoming part of a vague, immaterial blob without independence. This would effectively do away with the doctrine of being born again into a constructive and developing Family of creators.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 1)


 

Genesis 1:26

At the very beginning of the Book, God tells us what He is doing. His project, His work, began with the formation of man as a physical being in the bodily form of God, and it will not end until mankind is in the nature and character image of God.

To accomplish this, God gave men free moral agency to enable us to choose to follow His way and assist in the development of His image in us, since we cannot be in His image unless we voluntarily choose to do so. Then the character is truly ours, as well as being truly His, because it is inscribed in us as a result of what we have believed and experienced.

God is not merely eternal. He is supreme in every quality of goodness, and in Him absolutely no evil dwells. In the Bible, this goodness is called holiness, which is transcendent purity. It permeates every aspect, every attribute, of God-life. God's character is holy, and it flows out from Him in acts of love, making it impossible for Him to do anything evil. This is the state towards which He is drawing us.

Law must be seen in this context. If we tear law from the context of God's purpose, then we can come up with anything we want to say about law. We can say, "Oh, it is all done away," or "We do not need to do this." However, we cannot tear it away from the purpose of God, and there is a reason for this.

Does God abide by law? The creation screams at us that He does! Everything He creates operates by law, and it does so because it came from His wonderfully orderly and organized mind. It is a reflection of what His mind is like because this is the way He is. He is a law-abiding God.

However, we cannot see Him - not literally, with our eyes. It is here that faith enters the picture: We can see evidence of Him, and we can believe what He says. His law outlines the way that He lives. It is the way of this holy, law-abiding God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 20)


 

Genesis 2:24

This verse shows that two human personalities can become one flesh. Why, then, can God not be one with two distinct personalities who work independently yet in complete harmony? Paul adds in I Corinthians 6:17, "But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him." If a human can be one with God and remain entirely distinct, why cannot another spirit being with a separate personality be one with Him?

John W. Ritenbaugh
God Is . . . What?


 

Genesis 3:1-5

Satan made a seemingly gentle suggestion against God's word and work, first by presenting them in a negative light. God had spoken to Adam and Eve, giving them His word. They had gathered much about the mind and personality of God because of what He said.

In addition, they could see with their own eyes a great deal about God's person, personality, and mind by what He had made. They were in a beautiful garden, which reflected the mind of God. They could see the beauty of His mind, and how His mind provided things beautiful and delightful to enjoy. They knew a great deal about the mind of God simply from what they were able to observe.

By making the challenge the way Satan did, he first made them mildly skeptical about God's love, asking them, “Does God really love you?”

Second, he made it seem as though obedience to God was, in reality, servility. He made them begin to feel as though God's way was restrictive; that He was holding back good things from them. This thought naturally lead them to think much more could be obtained from life if they just followed their body's and mind's natural inclinations.

Third, he played his trump card: Not only would they not die, but they would be in control, free to determine right and wrong. In short, they would be equal to God!

Satan successfully brought them into a spirit of competition against God, resulting in the enmity described in Romans 8:7. He indirectly lied about God Himself, and he directly lied about the penalty, giving them misinformation about the reward.

He did tell them the truth, that their eyes would be opened and that they would not immediately die. Their eyes were opened, and they now looked at things through the twisted perspective, seeing evil in everything. From innocence, they became ashamed of their nakedness. The effect began immediately.

This is important because right thoughts precede right actions; right thoughts determine the release of proper emotions. Our thoughts express themselves even in our most casual relationships, in daily work, and most importantly, in our intimate relationships in our home and family. Most of all, they express themselves in our relationship with God. False beliefs about God and His purpose for man are far more destructive than alcohol and drugs. They confuse, divide, and bring on warfare.

Satan's lies, his counterfeits, and his devices are usually so subtle that only a trained mind can discern them. God teaches us to be able to see. He trains us to be able to spot the ploys, contrivances, and stratagems of our enemy so that we can overcome and defeat him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 2)


 

Exodus 3:13-14

A name expresses more than mere identification. God's name expresses His nature and operations, so He must explain His name to Moses. The Israelites in Egypt did not know God. They undoubtedly had a memory of Him, or they would not have cried out to Him to relieve them of their bondage. However, they had no relationship with Him and therefore did not really know Him. They knew of Him, but they did not know Him.

By comparison, neither did we know Him when we were in spiritual Egypt, even though we were not completely ignorant of Him. When Paul spoke to the pagan Greeks in Acts 17, he spoke assuming that they knew somewhat of the God he represented. He introduced his God to them as the "unknown God," and explained enough about Him to enable them to relate to Him. Nor were they completely ignorant of the God of creation. Nevertheless, when in spiritual Egypt, ignorance of God and His true nature and operations is pretty deep, and that is part of humanity's basic problem.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Pre-Passover Look


 

Exodus 32:1-8

The Israelites gave their mind to a different god, and immediately things began to take place in their life. That is the principle involved here. On a nationwide scale, it will determine the direction, morality, government, art, literature, education, and economics of the entire nation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

Exodus 32:7-10

God was not faking His anger. To say He was mad is to underestimate the intensity of His anger. God does not mislead people by feigning a reaction. He was truly upset by what the Israelites had done. As this occurred early in their journey, it shows the concept of God's nature that they brought with them out of Egypt. They conceived His nature—His very Being—to be something no greater than an uncomprehending, dumb beast that had nothing in common with them, except that it was alive and a mammal.

In our Western cultures, we tend to see God very narrowly, which is quite different from the Bible's approach to His nature. What or who a nation worships is very important to the quality of life within that nation. It will determine the nation's morality, its kind of government and its operation, its educational system, and its economics. It will determine much of its entertainment, music, literature, architecture, art, clothing fashion, and its vision of the future.

What an individual worships will determine what he will do with his life, how it will be lived, and what will be important to him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

Exodus 34:5-8

God expounds eleven attributes: YHWH, El, the Merciful One, the Gracious One, the Longsuffering One, the Mighty One, the Kind and Loving One, the True One, the One who Preserves Kindness, the Forgiving One, and the Chastising One.

God gives Moses, not so much a vision of His power and majesty, but of His love, of how He relates to His creation. The real glory of God is His character, His nature, especially toward His children. His names are signposts of His nature, reminders of what we can expect Him to do as we live by faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Third Commandment (1997)


 

Exodus 34:5

God was preaching him a sermon on what He is. The names of God describe Him. They tell us what God is, what He does, and what He will do for us.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

Exodus 34:5-7

Here is how God obliged Moses: Besides passing before him and revealing His form except for His face, He preaches to him what amounted to a sermon on His name—on the third commandment! He expounds eleven attributes: Yahweh, El, the Merciful Being, the Gracious One, the Longsuffering One, the Mighty One, the Bountiful Being, the True One, the Preserver of Bountifulness, He who bears away iniquity, and He who visits iniquity.

God did not demonstrate for Moses His power and majesty, but His love, His way of relating to His creation. In other words, the glory of God is the manifestation of His character, His nature, His manner of dealing with His people, His potential children. His names are signposts of His attributes and character. They advertise His nature. They remind us of what we can expect Him to do and what He requires.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Third Commandment


 

Deuteronomy 10:17

This concept is shown throughout the Bible. There is a plurality within Elohim, and Elohim is consistently described as "the Lord of hosts." Hosts means "armies." A little bit broader and clearer definition is, "He is Lord of many things."

We also find cautions throughout the Bible not to let any of these lesser gods take the place of Elohim, who is revealed to us in the very first chapter of His book. The reason our culture has such a narrow view of this is because a false Christianity has dominated its religious thinking. For the past 1600 years, it has taught a false god, the non-biblical and inexplicable "three-in-one" Trinity. The Trinity is inexplicable because theologians try to fit their explanation into a biblical context, and it does not and will not fit. Their final "out" is that the Trinity is a mystery that one must accept on faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

Daniel 11:32

The word translated "know" (Hebrew, yada; Greek, ginosko) is foundational when considering God's sovereignty. Yada appears in Daniel 11:32: "Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits." "Know" indicates a close, warm, and even passionate intimacy combined with head knowledge that produces an "edge" in a person's life. This enables us to trust God and, at the same time, to perceive what He is doing. It is this factor that makes God's Word authoritative to us.

This warm, close, and passionate relationship forms the very foundation of a true, working willingness to submit to His sovereignty. Do we really believe that, because God is holy, His anger burns against sin? That, because He is righteous, His judgments fall on those who rebel? That, because God is faithful, His promises of blessing or cursing are absolute? That, because God is omnipotent, nobody can resist Him? That, because God is omniscient, there is no problem He cannot master? "The people who know their God" do! Because God is what He is, we are seeing His prophecies of the end of this age being fulfilled in the world and in the church, and that translates into tumultuous, difficult, and sometimes scary and confusing times.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Introduction


 

Habakkuk 1:5-11

God says, "You are not going to believe what I am about to tell you, Habakkuk, but I am already at work to deliver you and punish the sinners around you." Then what does He do? He tells the prophet that He is sending the ferocious, bloody, terrifying Chaldeans to conquer Judah!

The prophet must have been stunned! This was not the answer he expected in the least. What kind of deliverance is humiliating defeat at the hand of these utterly godless people who struck terror into the entire Middle East? In addition, they were Gentiles, and God was taking their side and cruelly punishing His own people. It must have shaken his faith to hear God tell him, "I am coming to spank this nation with the worst of the heathen."

And just as God said, Habakkuk did not want to believe it. In his eyes, the deliverance was worse than the original corruption—at least that is what he thought at first. From what he understood of God, this made no sense. How could a loving God punish His own special people with a club like the Chaldeans?

To understand God's answer we have to understand what God's work is. Psalm 74:12 says, "God is . . . working salvation in the midst of the earth." Genesis 1:26 says God is creating man in His own image, building character in us so that we can live eternally as He does. What is astounding is how He chooses to do it because He does it far differently than we would. As the old saying goes, "God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform." To a man's way of thinking, His works are truly mysterious; sometimes, we do not have a clue how He works.

Isaiah 55:8-11 explains that God sometimes does things in a very round-about way, but it has a kind of boomerang effect. At times, it seems God goes in one direction, off the beaten path, but that is merely our perspective of it. We find out later—after we have grown in wisdom and understanding—that He has been following His plan all along. We are the ones who have not kept up. Habakkuk deals a great deal with perspective—man's perspective versus God's. God always gets His job done. When He sends forth His word to accomplish a work, it always comes back to Him with the result He intends. It may not make much sense to us at the time, but it surely works because God is behind it. In the end, it is the best way.

Many have questioned why God has allowed the church to decline and scatter in recent years. What is happening here? Why has God had to do this in order to bring us into His Kingdom? Why must He destroy to make well? We have shaken our heads at the swiftness and brutality of it all. That is how Habakkuk felt with the Chaldeans breathing down the Judeans' necks. If God had told us a few decades ago that the church would lose, say, two-thirds of its members, would we have believed Him? Would we have even considered that a work of God? "Look . . . and watch—be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you" (verse 5). Now we can understand how Habakkuk felt. He had prior warning, and it made him question God's very nature.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 1:12-13

This verse begins a section that leads up to Habakkuk's second question. He begins immediately with asking, "Is this really the holy God of Israel? Am I talking to the very God of the universe, the One who lives forever? Can this really be God, if He will punish His own people by the hands of these terrible Chaldeans?" This verse shows how much his faith was shaken.

"We shall not die" is an emendation by the Jews. They think that God should never be linked with death. But Habakkuk actually says, "You shall not die." He is reaffirming to himself just who is speaking to him—the Eternal God! He is desperately trying to square what God had just told him in verses 5-11 with what He understood of God's nature.

"You are of purer eyes than to behold evil." Habakkuk understood God to be pure and holy, so he wonders, "How can God do this evil thing to His people? He is purer than that." God has revealed something about Himself that the prophet has not yet grasped. His understanding is being stretched. He thought he knew what God's character was like, but God had just thrown him a curve ball.

Habakkuk asks God, "How can You restrain Yourself from just simply annihilating these Chaldeans? Look how wicked they are!" In verses 6-11, God Himself had described all of their evil doings. They take what is not theirs. They march through the breadth of the earth and gobble up town after town after town. They eat what they want. They take the jewels, the gold, the silver, the people themselves, and they transport them back to their own lands. Habakkuk cries, "These are terrible people, God, and You are going to let them punish Your own special people? This is not the God I remember learning about as a child."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Matthew 5:3

Those who possess poverty of spirit are pronounced "blessed." In one sense, they are blessed because they now have a disposition the very opposite of their natural one. This is perhaps a fundamental proof that God has begun working in them by His Spirit to create them in His own image. Poverty of spirit is part of the nature of our Creator, as Jesus affirms in Matthew 11:29.

God makes many promises to those of this disposition:

  • "But I am poor and needy; yet the LORD thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God" (Psalm 40:17). If God is thinking on someone, he has the attention of the One with greatest power, wisdom and love in all the universe!
  • "The humble shall see this and be glad; and you who seek God, your hearts shall live. For the LORD hears the poor, and does not despise His prisoners" (Psalm 69:32-33). One can be glad even in difficult circumstances because God hears the poor and He will deliver.
  • "For He will deliver the needy when he cries, the poor also, and him who has no helper. He will spare the poor and needy, and will save the souls of the needy" (Psalm 72:12-13). Beyond deliverance, these verses promise mercy in judgment and perhaps salvation to the poor in spirit. No wonder Jesus calls them blessed!
  • Psalm 107:41 is a psalm of thanksgiving: "Yet He sets the poor on high, far from affliction, and makes their families like a flock." God will make sure that in time the poor in spirit will receive exaltation. Their families, too, receive blessings.
  • Two psalms reveal the eternal destiny of the poor. Psalm 113:7-8 says, "He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap, that He may seat him with princes—with the princes of His people." Psalm 132:13-17 reads, "For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation: This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. There will I make the horn of David grow; I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed." In these psalms salvation and glory are definitely promised—the ultimate in blessing!

Truly blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God! This is an attitude we should fervently seek to pave the way in becoming a whole new man.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Two: Poor in Spirit


 

Matthew 7:15-20

Jesus does not spell out what "fruits" to look for, although in the Olivet Prophecy, He does link the deceptions of false prophets with the lawlessness and lack of love that abounds at the end time (Matthew 24:11-13). However, the rest of the Bible elucidates God's character and nature, so we already have the tools to evaluate whether a message allegedly coming from God fits with what His Word reveals about Him. God is not double-minded; He will not contradict Himself.

David C. Grabbe
What Is a False Prophet?


 

Matthew 11:25-27

Moses asked to see the visible glory of God, and He proclaimed His name verbally. Jesus is saying, "If you want to see the mind and nature of God, if you want to see His attitudes, look at Me." God reveals Himself and declares His glory to us through the life, works, and words of Jesus of Nazareth as He opens our minds by His Holy Spirit.

Jesus is "the way" because of all mankind, only He, unmarred by sin, has intimate knowledge of God. Knowing God depends on our knowledge of the truth about Jesus. He shows the way we must walk, the direction and manner of living and relating to others. This is precisely the knowledge Jesus gives. Many times when we ask directions in a strange city, the response confuses us because we are unfamiliar with the town. But when we ask directions of Jesus, He says, "Come, follow Me, and I will take you there."

Some people may teach truth, but He embodies truth; He is "the truth." A man may teach geometry, and his character may not affect his teaching. But if one teaches moral truth, character is paramount. Keeping the third commandment properly revolves around knowing the truth about God and His way.

Colossians 1:15; 2:9 are among the strongest statements in the Bible about the divine nature of Jesus: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. . . . For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." He not only is equal to and reflects God, but He also reveals God to us because He is God. He is completely holy and has authority to judge the world.

We can have no clearer view of God than by looking at Christ. He is the full revelation of God to man. He is the complete expression of God in a human body. He is unique: God became a man, imposing upon Himself the same time-space limitations as other men.

He had every opportunity to waste time, get sick, eat gluttonously and become overweight, drink and experience a hangover, "fly off the handle" in anger, or attack others when someone pricked His vanity. He could have become bitter from rejection or depressed when things did not go His way. He could have worked or played with intense competitiveness to "win at all costs." He had to face death, His own as well as of loved ones. He could have felt "the deck was stacked" against Him.

The gospels show God coping with life on the same terms as men. Now we can really see what kind of character God possesses. Jesus' life gives us firsthand knowledge of what the true way of life is, allowing us to cooperate with Him in His purpose. Among many other things, we see God teaching, healing, sacrificing His life, correcting in love, guarding His flock, and patiently counseling.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Third Commandment (1997)


 

Luke 1:77-79

No salvation is possible without forgiveness. Our Father cannot forgive our sins on the grounds of justice, and therefore He does so through His tender mercy. He has made Himself our God by giving us grace—undeserved favor. He passes by the transgressions of His people because He delights in mercy. He is so full of pity that He delays to condemn us in our guilt, but looks with loving concern upon us to see how He can turn away His wrath and restore us to favor.

Micah 7:18 adds, "Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy." God is love, and love is kind, but perhaps our approach to His forgiveness has been prosaically legal. The Scriptures reveal that God does kindness with intensity of will and readiness of mind. He forgives with all His heart because He delights in mercy! He says, "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies." God's nature works to give mercy, not punish; to create beauty, not destroy; to save, not lose.

Can we not see a lesson in this? Are we anywhere near God's image in this? How many of us, fellowshipping among God's people, are hiding resentment and bearing the seeds of bitterness against a brother because of some offense—or carrying a grudge, or filled with envy, or communicating gossip? Are these things acts of kindness? Does a forgiving spirit that delights in mercy enter into acts that destroy a brother's reputation and widen existing divisions?

One other phrase in Luke 1:78 shows the kind and tender nature of our God: "He visited us." God did not merely pity us from a distance, nor did He allow His compassion for us to remain as an unresolved, inactive feeling. David writes in Psalm 8:4, "What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?" But God did just that!

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed he does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like his brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:14-18)

God has not merely pitied us from a distance, but He has entered into life, our life, on our level. The Creator stooped from His high and pure abode as glorious God, and veiled His divinity for an abode of animated clay. He assumed our nature, was tempted in all things like us, took our sicknesses, and bore our infirmities for the express purpose of being a merciful and faithful High Priest. He did not enter into our world and yet maintain a status superior to us. He truly walked in our shoes and still went about doing good.

Christ, Paul adds in Galatians 1:4, "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." Who knows how many individual acts of kindness—from the conception of the plan to its fulfillment—are contained within this simple statement?

This is the heart of God's nature. He generously and mercifully gives that others might benefit. Now, because of what He did, this nature is growing in us. By His Spirit He has taken His abode in us to enable us to work out our salvation, and as we yield, our lives are changing, gradually conforming to His image. He dwells in us despite all our provocations, stubbornness, neglect, and rebellions. How often we must disappoint Him, and yet as our High Priest and Intercessor, He stands ever ready to serve us with yet more kindness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness


 

John 1:1-4

"The Word" in this passage is translated from the Greek logos, which means "spokesman," "word," or "revelatory thought." It is a name there used for an individual Personage. But who or what is this Logos? Notice the explanation in verse 14:

"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."

When he was born as Jesus Christ, he was flesh and blood, materialistic, and could be seen, touched, and felt. But what was he? As God—as the Logos? That is answered in John 4:24, "God is a Spirit," and spirit is invisible. We know what was his form and shape as the human Jesus. But of what form and shape was He as the Word?

The Word, then, is a Personage who was made flesh—begotten by God, who through this later begettal became his Father. Yet at that prehistoric time of the first verse of John 1, the Word was not (yet) the Son of God. He divested himself of his glory as a Spirit divinity to be begotten as a human person. He was made God's Son, through being begotten or sired by God and born of the virgin Mary.

So here we find revealed originally two Personages. One is God. And with God in that prehistoric time was another Personage who also was God—one who later was begotten and born as Jesus Christ. But these two Personages were spirit, which is invisible to human eyes unless supernaturally manifested. Yet, at the time described in verse one, Jesus was not the Son of God, and God was not His Father.

Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986)
Fully Man and Fully God? (2001)


 

John 4:24

The King James has wrongly translated this verse from the Greek. It really says "God is spirit," not "a" spirit - there is no indefinite article in the Greek. Basically, Jesus is saying that God is invisible and immaterial.

This scripture directly refers to the Father. "Spirit" is used in the sense of composition. However, just because the Father and the Son are spirit does not mean they have no form. If they had no form, how could the Bible honestly say that humans were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26)? They do have form. Physically, we are in Their image.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)


 

John 5:17

This verse clearly identifies two of the persons within the Godhead: the Father and the Son. The Jews understood what He was driving at; they knew He was saying, "I am God." Jesus Christ was identifying Himself as within Elohim. The Jews understood this, and they were ready to jump on Him for blasphemy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

John 5:19-23

Jesus would have had to have been with the Father to see the Father do these things. He even asserts Himself as having the powers that go with the Godhead: to raise the dead.

In verses 22-23, Christ is clearly asserting and affirming to those people that He is one of the Godhead. One is called the Father. The other is called the Son. The plural Elohim is simple to understand within this instance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

John 17:5

The first thing Christ does in this prayer is establish that He was with the Father. In this case, the word with means "beside" or "alongside of." This agrees with John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word [Christ], and the Word was with [along side of] God, and the Word was God."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

John 17:11

Deuteronomy 6:4 states, "The LORD our Elohim is one LORD." In John 17:5, Jesus establishes that there was a time when He was alongside the Father, but now He says that He is with, alongside of, His disciples. He is not alongside of the Father, and in this context, He asks the Father, "that they [the apostles] may be one as we are." What kind of oneness is this, if it is not being "alongside of"? John 17:21 shows this unity is actually "inside of"!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

Acts 5:3

This verse is unclear on the nature of the Holy Spirit, and it must stand in the light of verses from other parts of the Bible before it is correctly understood. For instance, nowhere in the Bible is the Holy Spirit shown to have manlike shape. The Father and the Son are revealed to have body parts like us—they even sit on thrones—but the Spirit is described to be like wind, oil, fire, and water.

The only shape it is ever given is that of a dove (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32), and some dispute that the Spirit looked like a dove but rather in a visible form descended like a dove. Nevertheless, the Spirit is never described to have a humanlike shape. Man was created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27), so man looks like God. If the Spirit were also a person in a "trinity," it too would look like a man just as the Father and Son do (John 14:9). Yet, at best, the Spirit had a dove's shape in one instance, and a man and a dove have never been mistaken for each other.

Other verses show the apostles giving praise, glory, and honor to the Father and Son without mentioning the Spirit (Romans 1:7; I Corinthians 1:1-4; Galatians 1:1-5; and so on through the epistles). If it were part of the Godhead, this would be a grave omission.

Many of the Spirit's attributes can be shown to originate in the Father or the Son. For example, the Spirit is named "Comforter" in John 14:26 (KJV), yet the Father is called "the God of all comfort" in II Corinthians 1:3-4. Other examples include making intercession: Romans 8:26I Timothy 2:5 and Hebrews 7:25; and enabling spiritual understanding: I Corinthians 2:10-16 and I John 5:20.

In addition, the Spirit has no familial relationship to Christians. God is our Father and Christ is our Elder Brother. Paul says "Jerusalem above . . . is the mother of us all" (Galatians 4:26). The Spirit, though, is not a person but a gift of God, the mind and power of God working in and through us (II Timothy 1:7).

Finally, the history of the trinity doctrine is open knowledge. The true church never accepted the idea, and even the false church did not embrace it until three centuries after Christ! Even then, it was only accepted as a political concession to the Roman emperor, Constantine. Add these facts to its absence in the Scripture, and it is no wonder the Catholics and Protestants call it a mystery!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Lying to the Holy Spirit


 

Romans 1:18-20

Our knowledge of God is certainly partial at best, but we cannot plead complete ignorance. Paul says His creation reveals enough of Him to make a major difference in our lives. Failure to keep the first commandment is the major reason why this world is in its current condition. Had mankind kept it, the natural, spiritual progression would have led him to keep the rest because he would then, at the very least, have had the correct Source of law and morality. Without keeping this commandment, the best that man can do in establishing standards is by his own experience, and that leads him directly to Satan!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Romans 1:18-20

Godhead indicates divinity or nature, and a modern translation will translate it that way, usually as "nature"—the nature of God. The word itself in the Greek means "that which is divine," and divine in English means "relating to God," or in this context, His nature.

In this passage, Paul is saying that the creation of God is a constant and natural revelation, and therefore it is available to all. If people will just stop to think about it, they can learn a great deal about God. However, it is not enough of a revelation for God to hold mankind responsible in terms of salvation, for that takes a special, personal calling and revelation from Him. However, it is enough for God to hold them responsible for their conduct, which is what the remainder of Romans 1 explains.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 3)


 

Romans 4:19-21

There was nothing vague about God to Abraham. His relationship with God was of such intimacy that he thoroughly understood His character and purpose. He knew that he could trust God to act and react within clear parameters. Abraham added up what he knew about God and about His promise that Isaac was the promised seed, reached a conclusion, and acted. He knew God would have either to resurrect Isaac or to provide a substitute. He chose to trust the One he knew has the power and is faithful.

What if, like most Americans, Abraham had just guessed, based upon vague remembrances of a Sunday school class, movies, fiction works, and paranormal inspirations? We can assume that he would have worshipped the idols of his father Terah. A right concept of God is a Christian necessity because a wrong notion of Him is the very foundation, the starting point, for idolatry. In brief, the essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.

God makes this clear at Mount Sinai after making the covenant with Israel and giving them His law. In Exodus 32, Aaron, confronted by the sinful pressure of his peers, became carried away and made a stupid Golden Calf to rescue them from their perceived dilemma. Aaron and the Israelites revealed that their false concepts of God remained. God had the idol immediately destroyed. Israel sinned in attempting to determine the nature of God based on their own reasoning, and many died in a punishing demonstration of the true God's wrath at this egregious sin.

The Israelites of today are still at it; modern Israelites are fantasizing about God. The idolater simply imagines a conception of God and then acts as though his conceptions are true. He is deceived and certainly does not know the true God as Abraham did.

God seeks out those with whom He desires to make the covenant. At that time, all they understand about Him is in broad terms. They are then to seek Him out to know Him more precisely. Those who make the New Covenant with God are required to seek out intimate details regarding His nature, purpose, and character.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part One): Our Biggest Problem


 

Romans 8:9-14

The context is human beings in whom the Spirit of God dwells. Jesus, as a human being, having the Spirit of God without measure, was still considered to be part of the Godhead. These verses, verse 14 especially, show that if God begins to give His spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32), they also become the sons of God! This is also seen in I John 3:1-2.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

Romans 8:29

The purpose for our admittance into God's presence is that "we be conformed to the image of His Son." When first justified by Christ's blood and admitted into God's presence, we stand before Him, but we are not yet in His Son's image. At this point, the work has only begun; Christ's righteousness is only legally imputed to us. That righteousness is indeed real, but it is not yet inscribed or engraved into our character to become part of our very being. We stand free, clear, and accepted, but we do not have the same nature, mind, or character as the Son.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Eight): Conclusion (Part One)


 

1 Corinthians 2:11

There are experiences, ideas, and feelings in each of us that are so personal, private, and intimate that nobody knows them except we ourselves. And nobody can know these feelings unless we decide to reveal them.

In like manner, only God can tell us about Himself, which is why no man could ever find that knowledge on his own. God has to tell us who He is and what He is like. Does not Jesus say in John 6:44, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day"? Paul confirms Jesus' statement. Unless God chooses to make Himself known, we—no one—will never find out about His true nature.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

1 Corinthians 15:42-49

The image Paul speaks of is not merely that we will be composed of spirit even as Christ is, but that our very nature and character be like His. If God desired that we merely be spirit, He could have made us like angels. Angels, however, are not God; they are angels. God is doing a work in us through which we will become like Him, not like angels.

His purpose requires that we cooperate. Though our part is very small by comparison to what He is doing, it is nonetheless vital. Notice how Paul draws this beautiful section of I Corinthians to a conclusion by drawing our attention to what it will take on our part to make God's purpose work: "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (I Corinthians 15:57-58).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Three): Hope


 

Ephesians 3:14-15

The Family of God is located both in heaven and on earth. In heaven there are two Beings of spirit who are part of the God Family. This flies right in the face of the concept of strict monotheism! But even more startling is that God considers true Christians to be part of the God Family already!

Currently two members of the Godhead are spirit. But God—Elohim—said, "Let Us create man in Our image" (Genesis 1:26), and what is evident from the beginning of the Bible all the way to the end is that Elohim is expanding! God is increasing what Elohim is. God is increasing the number of those who are in the God Family. This is not hard to understand. Now we are already children of God. We are in His Family.

To us, monotheism indicates that one is worshipping one distinct and unique almighty personality, and if anyone claims anything more than that, that person is considered to be a polytheist—worshipping many gods. This is hard to accept here in this Western world, and this resistance to accepting what the Bible clearly reveals about the God Family has in large measure led to the introduction of the "Trinity." People just cannot accept the simple truth of the Bible, that God is expanding. He is increasing His number. We will be part of that God Family.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

2 Timothy 2:13

This verse tells us that we can trust Him all the way to death because "He cannot deny Himself." God's very nature and character constitute a solemn obligation that He is His own law, that He is bound by what He is and that He can never be even in the smallest degree contradictory to or less than the level of His own consistent and uniform self. No wonder James 1:17 exclaims:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

As God, He must be true to the character of goodness and wisdom that His very name implies.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

2 Timothy 2:13

A somewhat different use of the concept deny oneself occurs in II Timothy 2:13. God is faithful and cannot deny His character or His promises (Romans 3:3). However, a comparison of Paul's statement with Jesus' call to self-denial is enlightening. God, being so different from self-centered men, has nothing in His perfect character that needs to be denied. In His perfect goodness, God can only affirm Himself.

Martin G. Collins
Overcoming (Part 5): Self-Denial


 

1 John 4:7-12

If we are going to be like Him, these verses are important to us because they tell us much about Him and our responsibilities. First, love is of God—He is its Source. This love the apostles write about comes from God and is not normally a part of man's nature. It is agape love. Human love apart from God is at its best a mere pale and vague reflection of what God is eternally.

Next, John says "God is love." Sublime as this is, some have misunderstood it because it can be misleading. God is not just an abstraction like love. He is a living, dynamic, and powerful Being whose personality has multiple facets. He cannot be boxed, wrapped, and presented as merely being one attribute.

John's statement literally reads, "The God is love." The Greeks used an emphatic form of writing, and here the emphasis is on the word "God." The syntax means the two words "God" and "love" are not interchangeable. "Love" describes God's nature. A good paraphrase would read, "God, as to His nature, is love." God is a loving God!

This does not mean that loving is one of God's activities, but that every activity of God is loving. If He creates, He creates in love. If He rules, He rules in love. If He judges, He judges in love. Everything He does expresses His nature. God and His nature are manifested by what He does. By love God is revealed and known.

The very existence of life in others besides Himself is an act of love. His love is revealed in His providence and care of His creation. Since we are not robots, free-moral agency is an act of His love. God, by a deliberate act of self-limitation, endowed us to respond with mind and emotion. We are not animals. God's love is the explanation for redemption and our hope of eternal life. Out of love, God has given us something to live for. Life is not just a matter of going through the paces. We do not live our lives in vain.

God made humanity in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). But the Bible says, "God is Spirit," and "God is love." Man, though, is flesh, and the Bible describes us as carnal, self-centered, and deceitful. In practical fact, this means that man cannot be what he is meant to be until he loves as God loves. Only then will he truly be in the image of God because he will have the same nature as God. So, to achieve his potential, a person must love, but he must love with the love of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love


 

 




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