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THEOLOGY > God > God's Essence > God is Personal 


God is personal (Gen. 1:26; Dan. 4:35; Eph. 1:11). He is not an impersonal force or a power, not a concept or an idea, that is, God is not the mere projection of man’s thoughts. He is personal—He is the living Spirit-Being (see: God is Spirit); He has life, personal life. Because God is personal, He has intelligence and volition, and is capable of thinking and willing. Activity, therefore, characterizes His existence, an existence which is not static but dynamic. He is more than a philosophical First Cause or Prime Mover and more than a figment of man’s evolving thought.

Because God is personal, he can be known and can reveal Himself; He is capable of communication, for to be personal is to communicate. And He is known through the communication of Scripture (see: Bible), the communication of Jesus, the communication of the Spirit, and to a lesser degree, the communication of nature.

To be personal is to be characterized by passion (Ex. 34:6; Neh. 9:17; Isa. 40:11; 49:15; 63:9; Lam. 3:22; Hos. 11:8; Mic. 7:19; Eph. 4:30). We cannot fathom the unchanging God who is said to be “slow to anger” and “abundant in kindness” (Neh. 9:17). Some would compare such statements concerning God’s passions with those statements that apply various aspects of man’s anatomy (hands, eyes, etc.) to God (anthropomorphisms), calling such statements that speak of God’s passions anthropopathisms (projecting upon God the emotions of man). Perhaps they are to be so understood; perhaps they must be so understood in light of God’s immutability (see: God is Constant). For passions seem to imply change or fluctuation and God is changeless or constant. Even if it is true that passions are inconsistent with God’s essence, these figures of speech still illustrate and focus attention on something that must be true of the Divine Essence.

For some the impassibility of God makes theological sense, but it does not seemingly coincide with the plain statements of Scripture, which project a dynamic aspect rather than a static aspect in God’s nature, dynamic in the sense that God is not unmoved. This does not mean that the divine passions are constantly changing (for God does not change), but that passions are present within the divine essence and are consistent with the essence.

The believer comes to the Father because He cares!  Can we truly fathom the love of God being without feeling, without emotion, without passion? Admittedly these terms (feeling, emotion, passion) are human terms but do they not convey something about God that is real and that we cannot comprehend, much less verbalize. Is God touched or is He not touched by our suffering and sin? Does love not cost the Lover? When the greatest Lover loved, the cost was His Son; was the Lover unmoved at the cost? Did not the heavens turn dark? Perhaps, there is no way to answer these questions. How can man understand the relationships within the God-Head? Scripture states that God is not unmoved or unable to “sympathize” (Heb. 4:15). How is this statement and other such statements to be understood? At least it means that God is not a machine or robot in His acts toward man. The believer has the privilege of addressing Him as "Father."

If passions are applied to God and in some way are postulated to be consistent with the Divine Essence, the reason for the passions becomes significant. We cannot evaluate God’s passions by man’s passions or compare them with each other. They are of a different nature, for the passions of the Divine Essence do not arise from improper considerations; there is no selfish anger, no jealous envy, no unjust indignation. There are no passions arising from wrong motivations. His anger is righteous; His jealousy is holy; His wrath is justified. Passions do not control God nor is He conditioned by them or changed by them. To postulate them is to postulate something that is as consistent with Deity as love, holiness, and constancy. The important point is that God is not an unmoved God—He is touched by our infirmities. As children we say "Our Father."

The passions of God are best understood in the person of Jesus. He wept (Jo. 11:35); He had joy (Jo. 5:13); He remembered His former glory and prayed for its return (Jo. 15:5); He had righteous zeal (Jo. 2:17); He experienced being forsaken (Matt. 27:46)—(Was Jesus’ agony of being forsaken by the Father totally a reflection of His human nature alone?); He suffered (Heb. 2:10, 18). He was not unmoved. But the passions of the God-Man originated from proper motivations and were manifested properly. Both the source of the passions and the expression of the passions were consistent with Deity.

God’s personal essence, with its implications of intelligence, volition, communicability, and, perhaps, passion, explains the similar aspects of man’s nature. Man is not self-originating but was created by God who made man in His own image, an image that in part is personal (see: Image of God and Nature of the Image). Not only in this sense, but at least in this sense, man is like God, not fully but partially—man is personal.

Man’s fellowship with God both in the present and in eternity is anchored in the fact that God is personal and man is personal. Man is not an emanation from God, but he is made in the image of God. The ultimate goal, therefore, of man is not to be reabsorbed into the being of God (the Hindu state of Nirvana), not to be merged with the Divine Essence from which he is derived, but to have personal fellowship with God and to enjoy Him forever.

The fellowship experienced between the finite and the Infinite is mysterious and, ultimately, incomprehensible. He is not like us; we are made like Him. His personhood, however, is profoundly different from ours, but because He is personal and because He has made us personal, there can be fellowship. And since man’s identity will not be lost in eternity, eternity will be characterized by unending fellowship between God and man.

Then God said,
"Let us make man in Our image,
according to our likeness."
Gen. 1:26

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