Monday, April 30, 2012

What Kind of God is God? Elohim

John 17:3“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."

The beginning and goal of salvation - knowing God
What kind of God is God?  Who is God? What can God do?  These three questions are starting point when approach the God of the Bible.  According to Jesus Christ, this is the beginning and goal of salvation - to know (by experience, not just in theory) the true God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent. 

Ways that God reveals Himself in the Bible
In the Bible, we get to know God in a number of ways. 

1. Firstly through what theologians call His attributes or characteristics. 

2. Secondly, through His works (such as creation, providence, redemption and what will be the renewing of the Heavens and the Earth following Christ's Return). 

3. Thirdly, by seeing the covenants or agreements that He made with His people (the patriarchs and Israel in the Old Testament and the church in the New Testament). 

4. Fourthly, by His names. 

5. Then finally and most significantly, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who is the fulness and complete manifestation of the invisible God in History (The Gospels), in Missions (Acts), in the church's life (The Epistles) and at the end of all time (Revelation).

What kind of God is God?
In Creation I learn about God, which means I understand that ultimately One God created all that I see and know. (Romans 1:18-20).  By means of the conscience and creation I can answer from God's General revelation what God is.  Of course it is in the Bible too that God reveals much more detail about what kind of God He is in terms of His goodness, mercy and salvation.  The Bible is what we call "special revelation", since it deals specifically with issues pertaining to  God's identity, eternity, history, salvation, man and the coming Kingdom through Christ's return. 

The name Elohim tells us what kind of God God is
The chief Name that tells us what kind of God the Bible reveals is the name "Elohim".  Translated "God" in all English Bibles, "Elohim" (which is Hebrew by the way) or "God" occurs over 2700 times in the Old Testament alone.  The name "Elohim" refers to God as a covenant keeping God, the "strong one".  The root of the name is "Elah", which means "Strong or mighty one" or "One who Swears".  The "im" ending is a plural ending in the Hebrew, which tells us that God is One, and yet also relates in and of Himself.

Elohim (God) in Genesis 1
Genesis 1:1 is where we see the first mention of God or "Elohim" - "In the beginning, God (Elohim) created the Heavens and the Earth."  Undoubtedly the emphasis of the text is that One God, not many gods, created the universe.  Then when you go down to Genesis 1:26-27 you read - "Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. "

Elohim tells us that God is One God in existence and plural in His identity
Notice what we see in the underlined words?  We see plural words: "Let us" and "Our" - telling us that something about Elohim is in the Plural.  Yet in the next verse we see singular words: "God created" and "He created" - stating the truth of God being One God.  Although the Old Testament does not fully bear out the biblical doctrine of the Trinity like we find articulated in the New Testament, yet this "plurality and unity" of God points in that direction. (Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Corinthians 13:12 are just some of the New Testament passages of which we speak)

God is a God who relates.  He is Elohim.  He is One God who is Plural in His dealings within Himself and with His people.  Relationally then, God is plural.  Existence wise, God is One.  Elohim sets the stage for what would become the Biblical doctrine of God's true nature: The Triune God head.  This then is the One True God.

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