Many people have differing, conflicting ideas about God—His nature, form, shape and character. This is because too many form their own opinions about God rather than look to the inspired Word of God to learn what He reveals about Himself.
What is God’s nature and character? The most direct answer from Scripture is that God is love (1 John 4:8). This single word is filled with meaning, expanded on throughout the Bible. Love is an outflowing, loving concern. It is the way of giving, serving, helping and sharing—not the “get” way. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that God’s love is patient and kind. It is never selfish, never rude, never irritated, never resentful. It believes the best and is always hopeful. It is the way devoid of coveting, lust and greed, vanity and selfishness, competition and strife, envy and jealousy, resentment and bitterness, violence and destruction.
The Bible shows that the character of both God the Father and Christ the Son is that of spiritual holiness, righteousness and absolute perfection. God’s inherent nature is the way of peace, justice, mercy, happiness and joy radiating outward toward those He has created.
Many people believe these things about God. But there are other aspects of God revealed in the Bible that help to complete the picture and that must not be ignored.
Consider the name of God in Exodus 34:5-7. God reveals that He is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth.” He describes Himself as “Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” This is a magnificent quality of God. God is a merciful, forgiving God. Think about what this signifies.
God’s way of life produces perfect peace, cooperation, happiness and accomplishment. This way of life became a law. The Apostle John wrote: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). God’s character, God’s love, is revealed in His law—most prominently in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), summarized by Jesus Christ as wholehearted love for God and love for neighbor equal to self-love (Matthew 22:36-40). God gave us His law to make man happy; it is the only philosophy of life that can do so (e.g. John 13:17). Breaking this law is sin (1 John 3:4).
Ephesians 2:4 says God is “rich in mercy” toward sinners. However, the Bible is clear that He does not extend this mercy unconditionally. Continue reading His name in Exodus 34:7: God says He “will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”
This statement reveals a God that many people simply are unwilling to accept or come to know. But it must not be cast aside. It is backed up and fleshed out by many other passages in both the Old and New Testament. The Bible says that God is a God of judgment, admonition and correction, all of which are done in love and are wonderfully positive and constructive (e.g. Hebrews 12:5-7). The fact is, the presence of law requires a penalty for infraction. There can be no law without a consequence for breaking it.
Since God’s law reveals the perfect way of life, breaking that law causes problems! In fact, every particle of human suffering, unhappiness, misery and death has come solely from the transgression of God’s law!
Some people question if God is truly a loving God. They ask how He could allow suffering and injustice in the world. We must understand that suffering comes from mankind choosing to rebel against God and to reject His law—a rebellion that began in the Garden of Eden and has continued for generations since (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12). This truth is explained in “Mystery of Civilization,” Chapter 4 of Herbert W. Armstrong’s book Mystery of the Ages. God is deeply grieved by human suffering and by sin (Ezekiel 33:11).
Aside from the natural penalties that follow sin, God has determined that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The merciful God will not give the gift of eternal life to any human being who would live in sin and misery, as the immortal devil and his demons will.
God “will by no means clear the guilty,” and the sins of fathers, and their miserable effects, tend to afflict their children and later generations—as the sin of Adam and Eve attest! God demands repentance from sin—a total change from a sinful life! And He yearns to see every human being make that choice. He “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
God will not compromise with His law one iota; the death penalty for sin must be paid. But as proof positive of His unparalleled love for mankind, and His absolute goodness and righteousness, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God the Father offered His Son, and Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself, to pay the penalty for our sins upon our repentance. When you understand it, there is no greater demonstration of God’s love, and of who and what God truly is, than that sacrifice, and the life it opens to us.
God is love. He has a marvelous plan to bring His loving way of life and eternal life to all mankind—including all those who have ever lived! To learn more about God, read “Who and What Is God?”, Chapter 1 of Mystery of the Ages. Simply request it, and we will gladly send you a free copy of this important book.