Understanding the Bible
Chapter 3- Major Bible Themes: God
What has God revealed in His Word? A lifetime of study cannot fully answer this question. God's Word is inexhaustible. There is always more to discover.
But in essence, the Bible tells the story of humanity in relation to God. Major themes in this story include the character of God, the nature of Man, and the person of the Savior. There are other related themes. But let's begin with these.
- The Character of God-
- To many people, the Bible seems to present two very different views of God. To them, the God of the OT appears to be angry & vengeful, while the God of the NT is loving & kind. Of course, this is a misunderstanding. God says of Himself: "...I am the LORD. I change not..." (Mal 3:6).
- Here are just a few of the things that God has revealed to us about Himself. Notice that the OT & NT paint a consistent picture of Him as:
[Note: OT references below will display in the lower left window, NT in lower right.]
- - the Creator - Gen 1:1, Joh 1:1-4,14
- - the Source of life - Gen 2:7, Joh 5:26
- - the Sustainer of creation- Psa 102:25-27, Col 1:16,17
- - Personal (not just a force)-
- He interacts with man. Gen 2:16,17, 1The 1:9
- He makes Himself known. Num 12:6, Heb 1:1-3
- It is essential that we know Him. Jer 9:23-26, Joh 17:3
- He experiences emotion. Examples:
- love - Prov 3:12, Joh 3:16
- hate - Prov 6:16, Rev 2:6
- joy -- Zeph 3:17, Jude 1:24
- grief - Gen 6:6, Eph 4:30
- Yet, unlike man, He is not limited (eg., by time or space).
- - Eternal- Psa 90:2; Rom 1:20
- - All knowing- Psa 139:1-4; Joh 2:24; Heb 4:13
- - Everywhere present- Psa 139:7-12; Acts 17:24-28
- - Holy (totally separated from all that is evil)- Lev 11:44; 19:2; Jam 1:13
- He is the standard of "good". Gen 1:31; Mat 19:16,17
- He is the standard of "right". Gen 2:16,17; Luk 6:46 (cp. Deu 32:4; Psa 11:5-7; Psa 19:8,9; Rom 7:12)
- - One God / Triune God-
- In the OT, God reveals Himself as One God. Yet, His oneness is mysteriously plural.
- Elohim- The basic OT word for God is El. It can be used of God or of false gods. Almost always, when it refers to the true God, it is in the plural form "Elohim" (begining with the first verse in the Bible). This is more than a literary way of expressing His greatness (via the 'plural of majesty'), since there is also an interrelation within the Deity. Notice the plural pronoun "us" in the following passages:
Gen 1:26, 3:22; Isa 6:8.
- Echad- "Hear O Israel: The LORD our God (Elohim) is one LORD." Deu 6:4,5 The word "one" is the Hebrew word "echad". This word often expresses the oneness of a unity of parts. For example, the "one flesh" of marriage Gen 2:24, or "one cluster of grapes" Num 13:23.
- Thrice Holy- "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD..." Isa 6:3
Why was one "holy" inadequate? Why were three "holies" enough?
- Three primary names of God: Elohim, Jehovah, Adonai are used in the OT.
- (Although these three names hint that God is triune, they are not to be thought of as individual names of the members of the Godhead. Rather, the various (primary & compound) OT names of God express the essence of all that God is.)
Furthermore, there are three groups or classifications of the names of God, each group containing three names. (The meanings of these names are discussed in the course of the Book Notes studies in Genesis.)
(Note: There are at least seven additional names that are compounded with 'Jehovah.' However, they occur only one or two times. The names shown in the chart above occur frequently.)
|Classification||English form (in KJV Bible)||Hebrew form (example)|
|Primary names of God||God|
|El, Elah, Elohim (Gen 1:1)|
Jehovah (Gen 4:1)
Adon or Adonai (Psa 8:1)
(with El = God)
Most High (or) most high God
|El Shaddai (Gen 17:1)|
El Elyon (Gen 14:18)
El 'Olam (Gen 21:33)
(with Jehovah = LORD)
LORD of hosts
|Jehovah Elohim (Gen 2:4)|
Adonai Jehovah (Gen 15:2)
Jehovah Sabaoth (1Sam 1:3)
- In the NT, the three Persons of the Godhead are revealed. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each described as possessing personhood, and as being fully God.
- Some NT passages speak of the three Persons at once (eg. Mat 3:16,17), as working together (2Cor 13:14), or as one (eg. Mat 28:19; Note that "name" is singular but applies to all three). Yet, the NT ackowledges only one God. (1Tim 2:5)
- This picture is not foreign to the OT. (eg., Isa 48:16,17; Observe that the One speaking, who has been sent by ''the Lord God and His Spirit'' is not Isaiah, for He clearly identifies Himself as the LORD, in v.12,13.)
- - the God of Wrath / the God of Mercy-
- Wrath and Mercy are not mutually exclusive. The Holy God must judge sin. Because He is longsuffering, judgment may be delayed (ie., God may hold back His wrath), but it will come. In His Mercy, God makes a way of escape from judgment for His own people.
Ex 34:6,7; Jer 9:23-24; Lam 3:22; Hab 3:2; Rom 9:15-18
- Some examples of God's mercy in the midst of His wrath:
- Noah, delivered upon the waters of judgment.
- Israel, delivered through the plagues upon Egypt.
- Believers, delivered by Jesus Christ who will judge the world.
Acts 17:31; Rom 8:31-34; Joh 3:36
Go to Understanding the Bible, Lesson #4 - Bible Themes: Man
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