What Is God Like?

Text:  Isaiah 6:1-7 and Romans 11:33-36

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: Amen.

What is God like?  Yes, what is God like?  Being asked this question, I am assuming that your first inclination is probably not to recite and share the Athanasian Creed.  Yes, I assume that you are not thinking about answering this question with the long creed that we confessed today as a part of our Divine Service.  But rather, you are most likely thinking about ways to define God by using a metaphor or a simile or an example.   

But there is a problem.  No matter how we try to define God or visualize God, we can only partly understand God.  The reason why?  We are finite and small and mortal, whereas God is infinite and big and immortal.  In other words, God is not like a product that we can hold in our hands and then examine with our naked eye.  God cannot be put under a microscope or dissected so that we can then write a description and a review about Him.  No way; no how!  We are not big enough, smart enough, or supreme enough to be able to put God into our hands and then think that we can fully grasp and understand Him.  Frankly stated, we are supremely arrogant if we think that we have fully discovered the mysteries of God. 

So, what do we know about God then by our natural reasoning?  Well, we can glean several things, but that is about it.  We can look to this world that we live in and see the fingerprints of a creator in nature and our eco system – we are not here because of an evolutionary mutation or a biological accident.  We can also examine our own bodies and conclude that our bodies are extremely complex and are evidence that we have been knit together by someone greater than ourselves.  Simply stated, by viewing the beauty of creation and the complexity of life – how wondrously constructed and wisely arranged everything is – a person cannot help but conclude that all of this is ‘not’ the handiwork of mankind or the byproduct of chance, but the work of God.  Only the fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” 

Now considering this, if God is the Creator and Master of all that there is (i.e., the creator of mankind, the world, and the universe), we can then conclude that we are nothing more than a small drop in the bucket.  Compared to the grand scheme of things, we are nothing more than a small pawn.  Or, we could say that we are nothing more than a small insect compared to God.  Indeed, if God holds this world in His hands, in comparison, we are nothing more than small tiny insects that inhabit this earth.  No wonder why we can’t fully fathom and understand the complexities and depths of God.  No wonder why we live in fear of God’s wrath as human beings – we are afraid of being crushed. 
We humans though can try and offset our fear of God and our tininess in the face of God, through acting big and tough and unafraid.  We can construct our buildings, create our nations, and stand tall; however, we are all wiped to dust when earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes destroy us.  We really are nothing before God.  We are here today and gone tomorrow; civilizations rise one century and fall apart the next, only to be remembered in the pages of dusty books lying on shelves. 

So what is God like?  Well, God is not like us and apart from owing our existence to God, we find ourselves living in fear of God, because He is big and we are small.  He is in charge and we are not. 

But certainly we should be able to know more about God than just this, right?  That is the problem though.  How can we know more about God when we are like a bunch of tiny insects trying to understand one who is bigger, grander, and more supreme than we can comprehend? 

Dear friends, I do not say this to be mean or rude or to cause you discomfort, but you and I cannot comprehend God.  Our minds are too small, our vision is too weak, and our arms are too short to wrap around God, which leaves us with the limited understanding that we have been created and that we should be afraid of God. 

All of this stated there is another way though.  Yes, there is another way for us to understand and know God.  That is to say, instead of us trying to get to know God on our own terms and by our own efforts and by our own limited intellectual reasoning, what if God came to us and revealed Himself to us?  My dear friends, this is what God did.  He came to us. 

So, when we are asked the question, ‘What is God like?’ our answer is that God is like Jesus of Nazareth.  In Jesus we have “a man who claimed to be God, said things that only God can say, did things that only God can do, and accepted worship that belongs to only God.”[1]  Yes, Jesus is God confronting us as a man.  Jesus is God expressed in human terms.  To know Jesus is to know God. 

This changes everything, does it not?  God became man – He became one of us and dwelt in our midst.  He taught, lived, and moved among us, which means that we can behold His glory, glory as of the only-begotten of the Father full of grace and truth. 

As we behold God in the flesh – Jesus Christ – what should then grasp us then is that this God-Man did not come to be served by us insignificant peons, but rather, He served us!  He served us by going to the cross of Mt. Calvary.  Do not look over this too quickly.  The God of the universe died for ungodly people like you and me and considered it well worthwhile.  He died for sinners. 

Indeed, Jesus gives us the answer of what God is like.  He shows us God is holy and just and also merciful and forgiving.  Jesus shows us that God does not take sin lightly, yet still cares for us because He chose to do something about that very sin – it’s called the cross. 

Furthermore and towards the theme of today’s service, Jesus also shows us that God is Triune.  Yes, from Jesus we hear about the Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God now and forevermore.  Not three gods and not three substances, but three persons.

Now, I would by lying to you if I said that this is easy for us to understand, for it certainly is not.  Again we are back to where we were before, as mere mortals we cannot totally understand the complexities of God; however, we confess these complexities of God as true because Jesus confesses them as true… and Jesus is right because He rose from the dead.  That is to say, there is no Heavenly Father for us other than the Heavenly Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is also no other Holy Spirit for us other than the Holy Spirit that is sent by Jesus. 

What this all means for us this morning on this Trinity Sunday is not it is necessary to wrap our finite minds around the nature of God – to figure Him out and domesticate Him – but rather to know that God – as revealed by Jesus and the Scriptures – is living and active for you and for your salvation.  That is to say, for today’s Trinity Sunday Service we do not confess the Athanasian Creed – the doctrine of the Trinity – for the sake of merely saying it, but we use this doctrine properly when we believe and know that our Triune God is active for us, all three persons active for you and for me.  Indeed, today we have heard from the lessons and readings and the prayers that our God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is alive and active towards us. 

Dear Baptized Saints, consider this! 
You were baptized into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit – one name, three persons; three persons who are active for you and for your good! 

God the Father created you.  He has given you your body and preserves you.  He provides for you and protects you from evil.  All of this is done out of fatherly and divine goodness, without any of your worthiness. 

God the Son has redeemed you a lost and condemned human being.  He has purchased you and freed you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.  He has done this in order that you may belong to Him and live under Him in His kingdom. 

And God the Spirit has called you through the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts and made you holy and kept you in the true faith in the Christian church.  The Holy Spirit abundantly forgives you of your sins through the Word and Sacraments and on the Last Day will raise you and all the dead to eternal life. 

Truly, our Triune God reveals Himself to us in the Word.  We cannot understand Him by our own reason or strength, but He makes Himself known to us and shows us what He is like and gives to us what Christ has accomplished. 

Today we confess and believe upon God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: one God now and forevermore – for you and for me. 


[1] Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel: From Valparaiso to St. Louis (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2004), 153-154.

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