Section 1: God
Week 1: God Is Great
Day 1: God Cannot Be Fully Understood…But He Can Be Known
All of us have ideas about what God is like. The question is: are our ideas about God accurate? That’s a particularly important question for Christians. We love and serve God. At some point though, if our view of God sufficiently misses the mark, we’re really loving and serving another god. That’s not a matter to take lightly. So it’s important that we make an effort to know God as he truly is and not just how we imagine him to be.
God Is Not Like Us
The problem is, once we decide we want to truly know God, we immediately run into an obstacle. God is not like us. As Wayne Grudem puts it, “The difference between the creature and the Creator is an immensely vast difference, for God exists in a fundamentally different order of being.”[i] In various ways throughout this study, we’ll have a chance to examine those differences more closely. But for now, two points should be sufficient to show just how different God is from you and me.
He is self-existent
Everything in our world depends upon something else for its existence. Think about yourself for a moment. Have you always existed? No. Like the rest of us, you came into existence at a specific point in time…and you didn’t make that happen yourself. Your coming into existence was dependent on other people and other factors. God, however, is not like us in that respect. He is self-existent. God didn’t need anything or anyone to bring him into existence; he simply exists by virtue of his own power (Ex. 3:14 Ps. 90:2, Rev. 4:11).
He is completely self-sufficient
Not only did God not need anyone or anything to bring him into existence, he doesn’t need anyone or anything for anything. God is completely sufficient in himself. He doesn’t need food. He doesn’t need water. He doesn’t need sleep. He doesn’t need anything (Acts 17:24-25).
That means God is completely different from everything else in our experience. What is it like to have always existed by virtue of your own power? What is it like to have no need of anything whatsoever? It’s impossible for us to know. We simply have no frame of reference. As a result, the question, “Who is God?” is one we will never be able to answer completely. The fullness of who he is exceeds our comprehension.
Yet He Can Be Known
That raises an important issue for us at this early stage of our journey. Do we have any hope of truly getting to know God? If he really is beyond our ability to understand, doesn’t that mean getting to know him is a fool’s errand?
Thankfully, it doesn’t. Think about someone you know intimately. How well do you actually know them? Do you understand them perfectly? I’ve been married now for more than 20 years. Yet I learn new things about my wife all the time. Just when I think I’ve got her pegged and can predict exactly what she’s going to do, she surprises me. As we continue to go through life together, she is constantly revealing more of herself to me. Although I know her very well, I don’t fully understand everything about who she is.
It’s similar with God. We will never be able to fully understand him because he is far greater than we can comprehend. But, thankfully, he has revealed certain truths about himself to us in ways that we can understand. Because he is not like anyone or anything else in our experience, that revelation doesn’t come close to completely explaining all of who he is. But God has revealed enough of himself to make a relationship with him a real possibility. We will never be able to fully understand God, but we can certainly get to know him better.
If our finite minds could understand God, what would that say about him?
As we begin this study, pray that God will reveal himself to you and draw you into a closer relationship with him.
Want to Dig Deeper?
As Christians, we believe in God’s existence. That truth is central to our faith. But not everyone shares our belief. Many in fact claim it seems obvious God does not exist. In light of that skepticism, believers face an important question: do we have any evidence to support our belief that God is more than just a figment of our imagination? We tackle that question and examine the evidence for God’s existence in the first Digging Deeper section.
[i] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 162.