The Characteristics of God: God is a Person

by: Mark Retzloff
November 16, 2017


As we think about God as spirit, we might be tempted to think that God is not a person. God is a person. Wayne Grudem said this about God’s personhood: In the teaching of the Bible, God is both infinite and personal: he is infinite in that he is not subject to any of the limitations of humanity, or of creation in general. He is far greater than everything he has made, far greater than anything else that exists. But he is also personal: he interacts with us as a person, and we can relate to him as persons.[1]

 

In fact, his personhood may be most clearly seen in the fact that God made man in his image. Listen to Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

 

Because God made man in his image, we can probably learn a lot about God’s person by studying humanity, and vice versa. In what ways do we see God’s personhood? We see it in the fact that God demonstrates characteristics of personality such as anger, joy, and consciousness. Scripture teaches he is angry at sin all the time (Psalm 7:11). Also, when we are walking in holiness and living the life he has called us to, he rejoices over us and even sings. Zephaniah 3:17 says this: The LORD your God is with you; he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

 

Scripture also teaches that he demonstrates the emotion of jealousy. God declares that he is a jealous God who will share his glory with no one. Deuteronomy 6:15 says this: “For the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.”

 

We also see that God demonstrates consciousness. We see this in the fact that he makes decisions. He plans and foreordains things. This is clearly demonstrated in the doctrine of election. God chose people for salvation before time. Ephesians 1:4–5 says this: For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.

 

As we study the rest of his characteristics, they all in some way demonstrate his personhood. It is because God is a person that we can have an intimate relationship with him.

 

 

How can we apply the personhood of God?

  1. His personhood reminds us that we can get to know God more and more as with any person. Paul prays this in Ephesians 1:17: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”
  2. His personhood reminds us that we must develop sensitivity to his person. Scripture says that we can grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Therefore, like with any person, we must develop a sensitivity to God in order to please him in every way. When a person is in a relationship, often one can tell when their partner or friend is mad, even without a word. This is true because that person has become sensitive to him or her. We must, similarly, develop this sensitivity to God. Developing sensitivity to God has an objective side. It is developed by studying his Word. By doing this, we learn what does and does not please him. But there is a subjective side as well. At times, we may even sense God’s feelings. Jeremiah said this: “But I am full of the wrath of the LORD, and I cannot hold it in” (Jeremiah 6:11). Jeremiah could feel God’s anger at Israel. At times we may feel this as well. We may feel the Spirit of God grieving over a movie we are watching or disobedience in a friend’s life. We may feel his love, joy, or peace. Paul said he longed for the Philippians with the very affections of Christ (Phil 1:8). He felt the way Christ felt about them. He had developed sensitivity to his Savior’s emotions and so must we.
  3. His personhood reminds us that God is not a tool or an object to be used. What does it mean that God is not a tool? See, a tool is only used for a specific purpose. We use a toothbrush to clean our teeth, but we don’t have a relationship with a toothbrush. We only care about it to accomplish our purpose. Sometimes, people treat one another like this. We network or talk to people only to open potential doors for a job or a promotion. Sometimes, people are willing to step over others or mistreat them to get what they want out of life. This is treating someone like a tool. Sadly, many Christians treat God like a tool, as if he is just a genie in a lamp. When they want something, they pray to God. When they go through a trial, they come to him, but when things are okay, they ignore him. They are treating God like a tool, to get what they want, instead of as a person. God is a person, and he wants to have a relationship with us. He sent his Son to die for this purpose, so we can have eternal life, which is knowing God (John 17:3). [1] Wayne A. Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 167.

 

Reflection

  1. What does God being a “person” mean? How do we see this reflected in Scripture?
  2. What other questions or thoughts do you have about this section?
  3. In what ways can you pray in response? Take a second to pray as the Lord leads.

 

About the Author

Greg Brown earned a Master of Arts (MA) in religion and an MA in teaching from Trinity International University, a Master of Religious Education (MRE) from Liberty University, and a PhD in theology from Louisiana Baptist University. He has served over ten years in pastoral ministry and currently serves as Chaplain and Assistant Professor at Handong Global University in South Korea, pastor at Handong International Congregation, and as a Navy Reserve chaplain. Greg married his lovely wife Tara Jayne in 2006, and they have one daughter, Saiyah Grace. He enjoys going on dates with his wife, playing with his daughter, reading, writing, studying in coffee shops, working out, and following the NBA and UFC. His pursuit in life, simply stated, is “to know God and to be found faithful by Him.”


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