Who is God?

¶324.9 a. Describe your personal experience of God and the understanding of God you derive from biblical, theological, and historical sources.

Before I approach the subject of God and my own experiences, I believe we must first define God through the interpretation of Scripture and Tradition. Although Scripture gives insight into attributes of God, we also must acknowledge that, “the mystery of God surpasses our language and abilities of expression.”[1] Within our tradition we try to explain the Trinity of our Monotheistic faith. In the Gospel of Matthew 28:19, Jesus instructs his disciples to go and baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”[2] In this Scripture passage, we see the beginning understanding of the Trinity. Throughout our tradition and history, theologians have tried to explain their understanding of God and have argued over the doctrine of the trinity. Wesley argued Father, Son and Spirit as distinct “Persons”, but also are “one in essence, in knowledge, in will, and in their testimony.”[3]


God is first and foremost the divine spirit, thereby a God without body parts. The biblical references to the body parts of God such as Job 40:9, “Have you an arm like God…”, are metaphors that the human mind can comprehend.[4] God is also not bound by any limitations; God is infinite in all things. God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Although God is fully Sovereign, God does not take advantage of this power. God does not coerce humanity into following him, but does give them the grace to do so.[5] In Exodus 34:6-7, God shares with Moses a brief understanding of God’s character, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

This verse from Exodus begins to get into the work of God. Scripturally we see it is God the Father who forgives sin.  Wesley argued from a characteristic more seen in the Eastern Fathers in explaining Sin as an ailment and God is the physician.[6] However, before God can forgive, God must create. Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning when God created…” Scripturally, the very first action is an attribute of God: God is the creator. The rest of Genesis 1:1 tells us that God created both the Heavens and the Earth. However, God not only created, he also provides for humanity. Wesley argued that nothing happens in our world by chance.[7] But on the contra, God is always concerned with humanity and their failings.[8]

God the Son

God, through the Son was able to bring about Salvation. The greatest understanding of God the Son is that God became flesh (John 1:14). Through Jesus, came the truth and grace (John 1:17). God the Father could forgive our sins in any fashion, but it was through the death and resurrection of his Son that God had accomplished this deed. As Christ Jesus will return, we also understand God the Son to be the judge of the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1).

The Holy Spirit

The Spirit is the Godhead in which humanity comes into contact with most often. It is only by the Spirit’s presence and empowerment that humanity knows anything about our faith and knowledge of God. The Spirit gives us the ability to become holy, but as the Spirit is God, does not coerce. The main function of the Spirit is to bring about renewal of God’s creation, humanity. [9] The Spirit is able to do this through God’s forgiveness by Christ’s atonement. In order for this to occur, the Spirit leads the person to faith (Prevenient Grace), and the person comes to accepting faith (Justifying Grace). It is then only by the Spirit that we mature in our Christian lives and pursue perfection in God’s love. In our Christian lives we may see ‘fruits of the Spirit’, which is not the Spirit but rather the byproducts of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). The Spirit also gives believers gifts. These gifts are not used for personal gain, but should be used only to build up the Church (1st Corinthians 14:4-5).

My Experience

Wesley has the understanding that all that we know of God is through our experience of God.[10] My personal experience of God cannot be solely defined by words. However, throughout my life I have experienced a God of Love, Grace, Justice and Righteousness. The definition above of God does not give justice to God, but is what I have experienced of God Almighty.

[1] Ted A. Campbell, Methodist Doctrine (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1999). 42.

[2] All Biblical References will be from the NRSV unless noted

[3] Randy L. Maddox, Responsible Grace (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1994). 138-139.

[4] Randy L. Maddox, Responsible Grace (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1994). 50.

[5] Randy L. Maddox, Responsible Grace (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1994). 54.

[6] Theodore Runyon, The New Creation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1998). 29.

[7] Randy L. Maddox, Responsible Grace (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1994). 60.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Randy L. Maddox, Responsible Grace (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1994). 121.

[10] Randy L. Maddox, Responsible Grace (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1994). 48.

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