Who Is God?
1. Why is there much confusion as to who God is?
MAN’S need for God and his help has never been greater than now. Our lives depend upon knowing him. But, strangely enough, there is much confusion as to who he is, for today, as in the past, there are many gods worshiped in different lands. Yet the Bible makes clear that there is only one true God.—1 Corinthians 8:5, 6.
2. (a) Is “God” the personal name of the true God? (b) What is his personal name?
2 To distinguish himself from the many false gods, the true God has given himself a personal name. This sets him apart from all others. “Is not ‘God’ his name?” some may ask. No, for “God” is merely a title, just as “President,” “King” and “Judge” are titles. God’s personal name is made known to us through his Word, the Bible, and that name is JEHOVAH. In many translations of the Bible this name is found at Psalm 83:18, where we read (AV): “That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.” And in almost all translations the name is found at Revelation 19:1-6 as part of the expression “Alleluia” or “Hallelujah.” This means “praise Jah” (a shortened form of Jehovah). The Catholic Encyclopedia (1910, Vol. VIII, p. 329) says of this Divine Name: “Jehovah, the proper name of God in the Old Testament.” However, The Jerusalem Bible, a recent Catholic translation, regularly uses the name “Yahweh,” as do a number of other translations. Why is that?
3. (a) How is God’s name represented in the Hebrew Scriptures? (b) Why is it not possible to know exactly how God’s name was pronounced in Hebrew in ancient times?
3 In Hebrew, the language in which the first thirty-nine books of the Bible (AV) were written, God’s name is represented thousands of times by four Hebrew letters, YHWH. In ancient times the Hebrew language was written without vowels, the reader supplying the vowels as he read the words. So, the problem is that today we have no way of knowing exactly which vowels the Hebrews used along with the consonants YHWH. Many scholars think the name was pronounced “Yahweh,” but the form “Jehovah” has been in use for many centuries and is most widely known.
4. (a) How are clergymen who say we should not use God’s name because we do not know its exact pronunciation inconsistent? (b) What is far more important than how we pronounce God’s name? (c) Why is it important to use God’s name, in view of Acts 15:14?
4 Because there is uncertainty as to the exact pronunciation of God’s personal name, some clergymen say you should not use it at all, but instead simply say “God” or “the Lord.” However, they do not insist that you should not use the names “Jesus” and “Jeremiah.” And yet these commonly used pronunciations are quite different from the Hebrew pronunciations “Yeshʹua” and “Yirmeiahʹ.” The vital point is not what pronunciation you use for the Divine Name, whether “Yahweh,” “Jehovah,” or some other, as long as the pronunciation is common in your language. What is wrong is to fail to use that name. Why? Because those who do not use it could not be identified with the ones whom God takes out to be “a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14) We should not only know God’s name but honor it and praise it before others, as God’s Son did when on earth.—Matthew 6:9; John 17:6, 26.
GOD’S QUALITIES AND WHY WE SHOULD WORSHIP HIM ALONE
5. Why has no human ever seen God?
5 What does the Bible itself tell us about God? It tells us that “God is a Spirit.” (John 4:24) A spirit is not composed of flesh and blood, nor of other material substances that can be seen or felt by human senses. (1 Corinthians 15:44, 50) So, human eyes have never seen God. (John 1:18) He is far superior to anything our eyes behold. The majesty of the mountains, the brilliance of the sun, and even the glory of the starry heavens are nothing as compared to him.—Isaiah 40:25, 26.
6. (a) How does the Bible at Revelation 15:3, 4 describe God’s qualities? (b) Did God have a beginning?
6 No wonder that in the heavens the song is sung: “Great and wonderful are your works, Jehovah God, the Almighty. Righteous and true are your ways, King of eternity. Who will not really fear you, Jehovah, and glorify your name, because you alone are loyal?” (Revelation 15:3, 4) As the Creator of all things, Jehovah God, the “King of eternity,” existed before all others. He is “from everlasting to everlasting,” meaning that he had no beginning and will never have an end.—1 Timothy 1:17; Psalm 90:2, AV [89:2, Dy].
7. (a) According to Revelation 4:11, why is it right that our worship go only to Jehovah? (b) By means of what did God accomplish the creation of all things?
7 How right, then, that our worship should go only to him! As we consider his creative works, we too can say: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11) He accomplished the creation, not with tools such as men use, but by means of his holy spirit, which is his invisible active force. (Genesis 1:2; Psalm 104:30 [103:30, Dy]) It is that same holy spirit by which he later caused the Bible to be written so that we might know his will and purposes for men on earth.—2 Peter 1:21.
8. (a) Why are we accountable to God? (b) So, what question ought we to think about seriously?
8 Since all things were created ‘because of his will,’ they all must serve God’s purpose. Jehovah informed the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, of his purpose for them, and he held them accountable to act in harmony with it. Are we, too, accountable to God? Yes, because God is the Source of our life. This is true, not only because we have descended from that first human pair to whom God gave life, but also because our continued life each day depends on the sun, rain, air and food from which Jehovah continues to let us benefit. (Psalm 36:9 [35:10, Dy]; Matthew 5:45) To what extent, then, do we live our lives in harmony with God’s purpose for us? We ought to think seriously about this, because our opportunity for eternal life is at stake.
9. (a) In what way should we fear God? (b) Why can we be glad that Jehovah is almighty?
9 Are we really to fear God? Yes, but with a healthy fear of rebelling against his will, because his will is right. In even ordinary things, do we not fear to take risks that could cause injury or loss of life? How much more so should we fear to displease “Jehovah God, the Almighty.” Yet we can be glad that he is almighty, for “as regards Jehovah, his eyes are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9;a see also Isaiah 40:29-31.) And we may be sure that Jehovah always uses his power with a right purpose and for the good of those loving what is right. For “God is love.”—1 John 4:8.
10. What qualities of Jehovah make us happy to have him as our God?
10 Jehovah, therefore, is not an oppressive God. “All his ways are justice.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) True, he is “a God exacting exclusive devotion,” but he is also “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.” (Exodus 20:5; 34:6) “He himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14 [102:14, Dy]) We can be happy indeed to have such a just yet compassionate God as our Supreme Judge, Lawgiver and King.—Isaiah 33:22.
11. Even if we may not understand the reason for a certain law of God, what will move us to obey it?
11 With Jehovah there are “wisdom and mightiness; he has counsel and understanding.” (Job 12:13) Evidence of his wisdom is seen in all his creative works, in both heaven and earth. We may well ask, then: “Why should anyone ever doubt God’s wisdom?” The Bible shows that his requirements are for our good, with our everlasting welfare in view. It is true that there may be times when we, as humans having limited knowledge and experience, do not fully appreciate why a certain law stated by God is so important, or how it really works for our good. Yet our firm belief that God obviously knows far more than we do, that his experience is so much greater than ours, and that what he does is for our everlasting good, will move us to obey him with a willing heart.—Psalm 19:7-11 [18:8-12, Dy]; Micah 6:8.
IS GOD A “TRINITY”?
12. (a) What do church creeds, such as the Athanasian Creed, teach about God? (b) What questions should we ask about this teaching?
12 Many religions of Christendom teach that God is a “Trinity,” although the word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible. The World Council of Churches recently said that all religions that are part of that Council should advocate the belief that there is “one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” that is, three persons in one God. Those teaching this doctrine admit that it is “a mystery.” The Athanasian Creed, of about the eighth century of the Common Era, says that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost (Spirit) are all three of the same substance, all three are eternal (and hence had no beginning), and all three are almighty. So the creed reads that in the “Trinity none is afore or after other; none is greater or less than another.”b Is that reasonable? More importantly, is it in agreement with the Bible?
13. According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, did the Hebrew prophets and the first Christians believe in a “Trinity”?
13 This doctrine was unknown to the Hebrew prophets and Christian apostles. The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967 edition, Vol. XIV, p. 306) admits that “the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not taught in the OT [Old Testament].” It also admits that the doctrine must be dated as from about three hundred and fifty years after the death of Jesus Christ. So the early Christians who were taught directly by Jesus Christ did not believe that God is a “Trinity.”
14. How did Jesus show that he was not equal with his Father?
14 When Jesus was on earth he certainly was not equal to his Father, for he said there were some things that neither he nor the angels knew but that only God knew. (Mark 13:32) Furthermore, he prayed to his Father for help when undergoing trial. (Luke 22:41, 42) Also, he himself said: “The Father is greater than I am.” (John 14:28) Because of this, Jesus spoke of his Father as “my God” and as “the only true God.”—John 20:17; 17:3.
15. How do we know that Jesus was not equal with God even after he was raised from the dead?
15 After Jesus’ death, God raised him to life again and gave him glory greater than he had before. However, he was still not equal to his Father. How do we know? Because later the inspired Scriptures state that God is still “the head of the Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) The Bible also says that Jesus is to reign as God’s appointed king until he has put all enemies under his feet, and that then shall “the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:28, AV) Clearly, even since his resurrection Jesus Christ is not equal with his Father.
16. (a) Does Jesus’ statement, “I and the Father are one,” teach a “Trinity”? (b) What did Jesus mean by that expression?
16 But did not Jesus say on one occasion, “I and the Father are one”? (John 10:30) Yes, he did. However, that statement does not even suggest a “Trinity,” since he spoke of only two as being one, not three. Jesus was surely not contradicting the scriptures we have already read. What he meant by this expression he himself made clear later when he prayed regarding his followers that “they may be one just as we are one.” (John 17:22) Jesus and his Father are “one” in that Jesus is in full harmony with his Father. And he prayed that all his followers might likewise be in harmony with his Father, with Jesus and with one another.
17. Why does the statement at John 1:1 not teach a “Trinity”?
17 What about the statement at John 1:1 (AV), which refers to Jesus as “the Word,” saying: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”? Does that not prove the “Trinity”? No. Notice, first of all, that only two persons are mentioned, not three. Also, in this same chapter, Joh 1 verse 2 says that the Word was “in the beginning with God,” and Joh 1 verse 18 says that “no man hath seen God at any time,” yet men have seen Jesus Christ. For these reasons, and in full harmony with the Greek text, some translations of Joh 1 verse 1 read: “The Word was with God, and the Word was divine,” or was “a god,” that is, the Word was a powerful godlike one. (AT; NW) So this portion of the Bible is in agreement with all the rest; it does not teach a “Trinity.”c
18. How does the Bible account of what took place at Pentecost of 33 C.E. show that the holy spirit could not be a person?
18 As for the “Holy Spirit,” the so-called “third Person of the Trinity,” we have already seen that it is, not a person, but God’s active force. (Judges 14:6) John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptize with holy spirit even as John had been baptizing with water. Water is not a person nor is holy spirit a person. (Matthew 3:11) What John foretold was fulfilled when God caused his Son Christ Jesus to pour out holy spirit on the apostles and disciples during the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., so that “they all became filled with holy spirit.” Were they “filled” with a person? No, but they were filled with God’s active force.—Acts 2:4, 33.
19. (a) So, is the “Trinity” a Bible teaching? (b) In what ancient land did the pagans believe in trinities of gods?
19 What, then, do the facts show as to the “Trinity”? Neither the word nor the idea is in God’s Word, the Bible. The doctrine did not originate with God. But, you will be interested to know that, according to the book Babylonian Life and History (by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, 1925 edition, pp. 146, 147), in ancient Babylon, the pagans did believe in such a thing; in fact, they worshiped more than one trinity of gods.
WORSHIPING GOD “WITH SPIRIT AND TRUTH”
20. According to Romans 12:2, what must we do to give God exclusive devotion?
20 To love and respect a person, one needs to know him as he really is. To give God the exclusive devotion that he deserves, you need to study his Word and ‘prove to yourself the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.’ (Romans 12:2) The important thing is not how humans want to worship God, but how God wants to be worshiped.
21. In the words of God’s own Son, how does God want to be worshiped?
21 Religious ceremonies and “aids to devotion” may seem beautiful in the eyes of those who use them, but how does God view them? Surely you want to know, because you want to have God’s approval. God’s own Son tells us that “the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23) Is the use of images, for example, worship “with spirit and truth”? Does it please God?
22. (a) What does the Bible, at Exodus 20:4, 5, say about religious images? (b) What does God’s Word say to show that the use of images as an “aid” to worship is no part of true worship?
22 At Exodus 20:4, 5, in one of the Ten Commandments, God himself says: “You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything . . . you shall not bow down to them or serve them.” (The Catholic Jerusalem Bible) Some people regard a religious image simply as an “aid” to worshiping God because they can see and touch the image. But God inspired the apostle Paul to write: “We are walking by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) God is very frank about the matter. He tells us that the use of images is no part of true worship, but that such images are “a falsehood.” (Isaiah 44:14-20; Psalm 115:4-8 [113:4-8, second set of numbers, Dy]) Even though one may say that the honor given to a religious image is less than that given to God, God himself says that he will not share any of his glory and praise with such images.—Isaiah 42:8.
23. As we look around our homes, what words of the apostle John should we keep in mind?
23 Lovingly, the apostle John warns us: “Guard yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21) Why not look around your home and ask yourself whether you are doing this? (Deuteronomy 7:25) By bringing your life and way of worship into harmony with Jehovah’s loving will you may gain his everlasting blessings.—1 Corinthians 10:14.
24. If we truly want to draw close to God, what should we do?
24 Continue to learn of Jehovah’s majesty and his loving purposes, and you will grow in love for him. Never let a day go by without thanking him for the good things that you enjoy because of his loving-kindness. As you learn more about him, impress upon your heart the importance of loyalty to him as the great God of the universe. By loving obedience to him, you will put yourself in the way that leads to eternal life.—Ephesians 4:23, 24; Psalm 104:33-35 [103:33-35, Dy].
a 2 Paralipomenon 16:9, Dy.
b Cyclopœdia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, by J. M’Clintock and J. Strong, Vol. II, p. 561.
c Trinitarians have practically ceased to cite the words “the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” that appear in some Bible versions at 1 John 5:7. Textual scholars agree that these words are a later spurious addition to the inspired text.