The nature of God

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Christians believe that there is one God, who created the world and everything in it.

A young actor, Kezia, describes her daily life as a Christian

According to Christian teaching, God continues to be involved in the world as its sustainer.

The characteristics of God

Christians believe in one God who has a number of important characteristics.

God is one

Christians believe that there is only one God, as explained in the Ten Commandments: You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3)

The majority of Christians believe that God is one but has three distinct persons, collectively called the Trinity. These are:

Unitarian Christians, however, do not believe in the Trinity. Unitarians think of God as either a parent-like being or the Holy Spirit, and they reject the idea that Jesus was God. Instead, they believe that Jesus was a model example of a human being, who was sent as an expression of God’s love for humanity.

God is all-loving

Omnibenevolent means all-loving. According to Christian teaching, God proved his all-loving nature by sacrificing his only son, Jesus, to make up for humankind’s sins. This sacrifice allowed humans the opportunity to have eternal life with God in Heaven.

In his gospel in the Bible, John explains: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)

God is all-powerful

Omnipotent means all-powerful. In the Bible, God shows his power and involvement in the world to human beings many times.

God is all-knowing

Omniscient means all-knowing. God knows everything that happens in the world.

God is forgiving

God pardons people who are sorry for doing wrong. This is shown in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32), where a son who has foolishly spent his father’s wealth is welcomed back home with open arms. Christians believe that God welcomes back people who have committed sins but ask for forgiveness.

Different denominations of Christians have different ideas about God’s forgiving nature. For example, many Quaker Christians do not accept the idea of Hell because they do not believe an omnibenevolent God would send anyone to a place of eternal punishment. Some Christians believe that Hell will be temporary, while others who read the Bible literally, such as Baptists, believe that Hell is permanent and agonising with no second chances, as Jesus describes in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31).

Other characteristics of God

  • Judge – Many Christians believe that after a person dies, God will judge them to decide whether they deserve eternal life in Heaven or punishment in Hell. The Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31–46) explains this. The sheep represent good people who in life helped others – after death, they will go to Heaven. The goats represent selfish people – they must go to Hell.
  • Eternal – God has no beginning or end: The everlasting God … will not grow tired or weary (Isaiah 40:28)
  • Transcendent – God is above and beyond creation. Humans can never fully understand the ways of God: As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8–9)
  • Immanent – God has always been in the world and he continues to be. Christians believe that God is concerned with the lives of people, working miracles and answering their prayers. In this way, Christians believe that God is a ‘personal’ God, meaning a being they can develop a relationship with. Some Christians believe that God expresses his immanent nature through the actions of the Holy Spirit.
Question

What do Christians mean when they describe God as omnipotent?

They mean that God is all-powerful.