“God is incomprehensible.”—Philo of Alexandria, first-century philosopher.
“[God] is not far off from each one of us.”—Saul of Tarsus, addressing first-century philosophers in Athens.
AS YOU read those two statements, which one describes your view? Many find the words of Saul of Tarsus, also called the apostle Paul, comforting and appealing. (Acts 17:26, 27) And the Bible contains other assurances like that one. For example, Jesus offered a prayer that contains a warm assurance that his followers can come to know God and receive his blessing.—John 17:3.
However, philosophers such as Philo took a different view. They implied that we could never know God at all because he is completely incomprehensible. Where does the truth lie?
The Bible frankly acknowledges that there are some things about God that are difficult for humans to understand. For example, the length of the Creator’s existence, the brilliance of his mind, and the depth of his wisdom cannot be measured, quantified, or fathomed. They simply exceed human comprehension. However, those aspects of God present no obstacle to our getting to know him. In fact, meditating on those very things can help us to “draw close to God.” (James 4:8) Let us consider a few examples of such incomprehensible things. Then we will look at aspects of God we really can grasp.
What Aspects Are Incomprehensible?
GOD’S ETERNAL EXISTENCE: The Bible teaches that God exists “from everlasting to everlasting.” (Psalm 90:2) In other words, God had no beginning and will have no end. From a human point of view, “the number of his years is beyond comprehension.”—Job 36:26.
How you benefit: God promises you everlasting life if you truly come to know him. (John 17:3) How reliable would such a promise be if God himself did not live forever? Only “the King of eternity” could fulfill such a promise.—1 Timothy 1:17.
GOD’S MIND: The Bible teaches that God’s “understanding is unsearchable” because his thoughts are so much higher than ours. (Isaiah 40:28; 55:9) Appropriately, the Bible asks the rhetorical question: “Who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”—1 Corinthians 2:16, English Standard Version.
How you benefit: God is able to listen to millions of prayers at the same time. (Psalm 65:2) He even notices every sparrow that falls to the ground. Will God’s mind ever be overloaded, preventing him from noticing you and listening to your prayers? No, because his mind is not limited. What is more, “you are worth more than many sparrows” to him.—Matthew 10:29, 31.
GOD’S WAYS: The Bible teaches that man can “never find out the work that the true God has made from start to finish.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Hence we will never know everything about God. The wisdom behind God’s ways is “beyond tracing out.” (Romans 11:33) However, God is willing to reveal his ways to those who want to please him.—Amos 3:7.
The length of the Creator’s existence, the brilliance of his mind, and the depth of his wisdom cannot be measured, quantified, or fathomed
How you benefit: If you read and study the Bible, you will never cease to learn new things about God and his ways. This means that we can draw ever closer to our heavenly Father for all eternity.
What You Can Know
Just because we cannot fully comprehend certain aspects of God does not mean that we cannot get to know him at all. The Bible contains plenty of information that helps us to get to know God better. Consider some examples:
GOD’S NAME: The Bible teaches us that God has given himself a name. He says: “I am Jehovah. That is my name.” God’s name appears some 7,000 times in the Bible, more than any other name.—Isaiah 42:8.
How you benefit: Jesus said in his model prayer: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.” (Matthew 6:9) Could you also use God’s name in your prayers? Jehovah is willing to save everyone who shows proper respect for his name.—Romans 10:13.
GOD’S DWELLING: The Bible teaches that there are two “realms”—a spirit realm where spirit creatures with spirit bodies exist and a physical realm consisting of our earth and the universe. (John 8:23; 1 Corinthians 15:44) In the Bible, the word “heavens” often refers to the spirit realm. The Creator’s “dwelling place” is in those “heavens.”—1 Kings 8:43.
How you benefit: You get a clearer picture of God. The Creator is not an obscure force that is everywhere and in everything. Jehovah is a real Person who lives in a real place. Still, “there is not a creation that is hidden from his sight.”—Hebrews 4:13.
GOD’S PERSONALITY: The Bible teaches that Jehovah has endearing qualities. “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) He never lies. (Titus 1:2) He is impartial, merciful, compassionate, and slow to anger. (Exodus 34:6; Acts 10:34) It may come as a surprise to many that the Creator desires to have a “close friendship” with those who respect him.—Psalm 25:14.
How you benefit: You can become Jehovah’s friend. (James 2:23) Then, as you come to know Jehovah’s personality, you can better understand Bible accounts.
“SEARCH FOR HIM”
The Bible portrays a clear picture of Jehovah God. He is far from being incomprehensible. In fact, the Creator wants you to get to know him. His Word, the Bible, promises: “If you search for him, he will let himself be found by you.” (1 Chronicles 28:9) Why not get to know God by reading and meditating on Bible accounts? If you do so, the Bible promises that God “will draw close to you.”—James 4:8.
You might wonder, ‘Since I cannot comprehend everything about the Creator, how can I ever be his friend?’ Consider this: Does the best friend of a surgeon need to have a degree in medicine? Not at all! The surgeon’s friend might have a completely different profession. Still, a close friendship is possible. What really counts is that the surgeon’s friend knows the surgeon’s personality as well as what he likes and what he dislikes. Similarly, you can learn from the Bible what kind of person Jehovah is—exactly what you need to know in order to forge a friendship with him.
Far from providing a faint outline of the Creator, the Bible contains the kind of information that we need in order to get to know God. Would you like to learn more about Jehovah God? Jehovah’s Witnesses offer a free home Bible study program. We invite you to contact the Witnesses in your area or to visit our website, www.jw.org.