The Bible’s Viewpoint
What Is the Nature of God?
“GOD is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth,” explains the Bible. This statement reveals a basic truth about God’s form, or nature—he is a spirit! (John 4:19-24) Still, he is described in the Bible as a person, an individual. His name is Jehovah.—Psalm 83:18.
Some Bible readers have expressed confusion regarding the nature of God. Since God is an invisible spirit, rather than a material being, why are there so many passages in the Bible that speak of God as if he had eyes, ears, nose, heart, arms, hands, fingers, and feet? * Some may conclude that God has human form because the Bible says that man was created in his image. A closer look at what the Bible says can eliminate such confusion.—Genesis 1:26.
Why Human Characteristics?
To help humans to understand God’s nature, Bible writers were divinely inspired to use human characteristics to refer to the Almighty. Scholars call such terms anthropomorphic, meaning “described or thought of as having a human form or human attributes.” These terms reflect the limitations of human language to describe the true God, Jehovah. The intent was to capture the essence of the heavenly and convey this in ways that humans can comprehend. This does not mean that we should take these terms literally any more than we would Biblical references to God as “the Rock,” “a sun,” or “a shield.”—Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 84:11.
Similarly, to convey the idea that man in a limited way has qualities like those that Jehovah possesses to an absolute degree, the Bible says that man was created in God’s image. Obviously, it does not mean that humans are spirits or that God has human form.
Is God Male or Female?
Just as assigning human features to God is not to be understood literally, use of the masculine gender to describe God should not be taken literally. Gender distinction is unique to physical creatures and is a linguistic device that reflects the limitations of human language to capture fully the essence of Almighty God, Jehovah.
The Bible’s use of the designation “Father” helps us to understand that our Creator can be compared to a loving, protective, and caring human father. (Matthew 6:9) This does not mean that we are to view God, or even other spirit creatures in heaven, as being male or female. Gender, in the sense of sex, is not a characteristic of their nature. Interestingly, the Bible indicates that those who are called to be joint heirs with Christ in his heavenly Kingdom do not expect to retain their human gender when they are glorified as spirit sons of God. The apostle Paul reminded them that “there is neither male nor female” within their ranks when they become glorified spirit sons of God. They are also figuratively described as “the bride” of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. All of this illustrates how human features as ascribed to God—as well as to his only-begotten Son, Jesus, and other spirit creatures—should not be understood literally.—Galatians 3:26, 28; Revelation 21:9; 1 John 3:1, 2.
Correctly understanding the male role, Bible writers employed the masculine gender when referring to God. They saw in man, properly fulfilling his role, an appropriate reflection of Jehovah’s loving, fatherly interest in his earthly children.—Malachi 3:17; Matthew 5:45; Luke 11:11-13.
God’s Dominant Quality
Although a spirit, the supreme Sovereign is never aloof, shrouded in mystery, or uncommunicative. His spirit nature is no impenetrable barrier to righthearted individuals, who want to know and appreciate his love, his power, his wisdom, and his justice, which also define his nature and are evident in creation.—Romans 1:19-21.
God’s nature, though, may be summed up in his dominant quality, love. So outstanding is his love that he is said to personify it. (1 John 4:8) This quality encompasses other characteristics of his nature, such as mercy, forgiveness, and long-suffering. (Exodus 34:6; Psalm 103:8-14; Isaiah 55:7; Romans 5:8) Jehovah is indeed a God of love who invites us humans to draw close to him.—John 4:23.
^ par. 4 See, for example, Genesis 8:21; Exodus 3:20; 15:8; 31:18; 1 Samuel 8:21; Job 40:9; Psalm 10:17; 18:9; 34:15; Proverbs 27:11; Ezekiel 8:17; Zechariah 14:4; Luke 11:20; John 12:38; Romans 10:21; and Hebrews 4:13.
HAVE YOU WONDERED?
▪ What is God’s name?—Psalm 83:18.
▪ Where can we find manifestations of God’s qualities?—Romans 1:19-21.
▪ What is God’s dominant quality?—1 John 4:8.