God is Spirit

by Scarlett Stough

If we are to worship God and not practice idolatry, we need to know who God is. Since God is Spirit, we cannot create a picture or a sculpture that can capture the fullness of who he is.

The Apostle Paul was distressed to see that the city of Athens was full of idols. When he was challenged about his teaching, Paul said to the people gathered around he was going to proclaim the “unknown God.” He told them, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.” He went on to say, “For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:16-28). He then began to preach about Jesus' death and resurrection.

Jesus had a conversation with a woman who lived in Samaria (John 4:4-26). She thought the place one worshiped was important; the Samaritans worshiped in a different place than Jerusalem. He told her worship is not about the place.

Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.

John 4:21-24

Whatever our background religiously or culturally, often we worship an “unknown God.” We may not have molded images and bow down to them, but we can have mental images of God which do not accurately represent who God is. An image I grew up with was one of a God who was constantly judging my behavior. God is the ultimate judge, but God's intention is to be our Savior, not to sentence us for our sins (2 Peter 3:9). God described himself to Moses:

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

Exodus 34:6-7

God becomes known to us as we grow in our obedience to him.

We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

1 John 2:3-6

God is love (1 John 4:16). We also come to know God by maturing in our ability to love others as God loves.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

1 John 4:7-8

We can know God through his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 5:20-21).