Ready to Answer - Lesson 4

By Jim Baird

What is God Like?

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. Students will be able to explain how God is described in the Bible, and will recognize that the God of the Bible is the kind of perfect, all-powerful God that makes the most sense.


  1. It is important not just to read these notes to the class. Teacher should be very familiar with the outline and choose how to present the material, making notes in the margins as needed. Practicing the lesson a few times will allow the teacher to look at the students’ eyes while making the presentation.
  2. Some find it helpful to underline the key words that will spark their memory of what to say and do next.
  3. Blackboard should be provided, clean with chalk and erasers.
  4. Students should have access to Bibles, or have overheads of all scriptures.
  5. If you are going to use the handouts associated with this lesson, give them out after the introduction. The underlined material in these notes appears in the handouts.


The God of the Bible fits in many ways the one God that it makes a lot of sense to believe in anyway.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Introduction: (about 5 minutes)

Q: Why did we say last week that most people have believed in a god or gods of some kind? A: Because it is easier to see how the world could come from a person than how a person could come from the world. Q: What was the Simplicity Principle we talked about last week? A: Try to get them to restate it and then put it on the board. The Simplicity Principle: When any two explanations are equal in other ways, the simpler one is more likely to be true. Q: How did we use the Simplicity Principle to understand about God? A: We used it to show why it makes a lot more sense to have one God who can explain everything than many gods. This week, we will look at some of the other characteristics that make sense when we think about God. And we will compare the picture of God that comes from common sense and the picture of God that is found in the scriptures.

Learning Experiences: (about 40 minutes)

  1. Why believe God is a Creator, and not just a Builder?
    1. Most of the ancient cultures of the world believed only in builder gods. Ancient myths about the origin of the universe involved the gods building the world from preexisting stuff.
    2. The Israelites were different. Their story began with God alone, creating everything else. As Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” This is echoed in Hebrews 11:3, which says, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, in that what is seen was not made of what was visible.”
    3. It is interesting to note that this ancient teaching of the Israelites really stands up well to the Simplicity Principle we use in science and in common sense today.
    4. The explanation that God alone is the explanation for everything else is much simpler than the explanation that God or gods existed, and pre-existing stuff existed as well, and then the gods built the world.
    5. Warning: Both are pretty hard to imagine, but when we are trying to think about the origin of everything, it is not surprising that we get beyond what we can easily imagine. Even so, the Simplicity Principle helps us see which explanation is more likely.
  2. Why believe God is perfect in all ways rather than a being more like us?
    1. There are several answers to this question.
    2. The first answer goes back to the Simplicity Principle.
      1. One of the things that we use to measure which of two or more explanations is simpler is which one leaves the fewest unanswered questions.
        1. On TV, the detective always puts all the clues together to answer every question that has been raised during the story. But in real life detective work, detectives never answer all their questions. They just try to leave as few unanswered questions as possible.
        2. The idea of God who is perfect in all ways is very simple by this test, because it leaves fewer unanswered questions than any other scheme.
        3. Every limit raises a question
          1. Example: If we find out that you don’t know algebra, this leads to the extra question about you, “Why not?”
        4. With every limit we set on some characteristic of God, we generate another question.
          1. In the same way, if we said that God had limited knowledge, we would immediately want to know why his knowledge was limited in just that way.
          2. We would ask questions like:
            1. “Has God forgotten something he used to know?”
            2. “Is there something or someone that is putting that limit on God?”
            3. “Is there some special feature built in to God,so that he can’t get past this level of knowledge?”
          3. Each of these would be good questions, and trying to answer them makes the idea of a limited god much more complicated. It is simpler to stay with the idea of a God who is unlimited, where these kinds of questions don’t apply.
          4. The same could be said about the power, goodness and life-span of God. Any limits you set automatically bring up a lot more questions. So the idea that God is unlimited (perfect) in all these ways is simpler.
        5. Once we see that the idea of a perfect God is so simple, we understand why it is more likely to be true than other views of gods and goddesses.
          1. Since the idea of a perfect God is simpler, then the Simplicity Principle indicates that in general, the idea of a perfect God is more likely to be correct.
    3. In addition to the argument from the Simplicity Principle, another argument for the perfection of God comes from our need to have a moral governor of the universe.
      1. As moral governor of the universe, God is the one who has promised to reward the righteous and punish the wicked with true justice.
      2. But if he is a limited god, he may not be able to fulfill his promise.
        1. Some other god may interfere with him.
        2. His own power may not be enough to accomplish his promise.
        3. Or he may not really know true right and wrong, and so turn out to be an unfair judge, or even to reveal the wrong moral principles to us.
      3. For these reasons, it makes sense to us, if we think that there is a moral governor for the universe, to think of the perfect, unlimited God.
    4. One final argument: to think of God as perfect in all ways makes God ultimate and independent in a way no limited God could be.
      1. To say that God is ultimate and independent is to say that there is nothing greater than him on which he depends.
        1. As a human, I depend on my parents to give me life. So I am neither ultimate nor independent.
        2. Virtually all life on this planet depends on the energy coming from the Sun, so life is not ultimate or independent.
        3. So when we say God is ultimate and independent, we mean that he doesn’t depend on anything, and that everything depends on him.
      2. If our god is limited, we would wonder if there is an even higher god behind him on which he depended. And we would wonder who made our god and for what purpose.
      3. In fact, we would be more interested in worshipping the god who made our god, since that god is the one that is truly worth worshipping.
    5. These are all reasons why it makes sense to think ofGod as perfect in all his characteristics.
  3. Who is the God of the Bible?
    1. Based on the reasoning above, we have come to a picture of one personal God, the creator of everything else, perfect in power, knowledge, life-span and in every other way.
    2. This picture is the picture of God we find in the Old Testament, as well as the New. Before the Indian and Greek philosophers began seeking the one behind the many, the Israelites had received the revelation of the one true God.
    3. [May want to put the following characteristics of God,with the verses mentioned, on the board or overhead.]
    4. In the Bible, God is one.
      1. It was the belief in the oneness of God that set the Israelites apart from all their neighbors. While the Egyptians, Arabs, Mesopotamians, Canaanites and Philistines were worshipping many gods, the Israelites had been taught that God is one.
      2. Q: If you had to boil the message of the Gospel down into one verse, what would it be? A: If they don’t say John 3:16 pretty soon, prompt them with: What is the sign that is held up at most football games?]
      3. Just as John 3:16 is the core of the New Testament message, there is a passage that most Jews throughout history have seen as the core of the OldTestament. It is Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”
      4. To this day this passage is sung in almost every synagogue service of Jews all over the world. It is what orthodox Jews bind on their arms or foreheads when they pray, and what most Jewish homes have on the door frame.
    5. In the Bible, God is creator.
      1. We have already seen that the Jews saw God as the independent creator of everything else, as shown in Genesis 1 and elsewhere. Psalm 33: 6-9 gives poetic form to this same idea.“ 6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;he puts the deep into storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him.9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.”
    6. In the Bible, God knows everything.
      1. Many passages praise the knowledge of God. Maybe the best is Ps. 139:1-18.
      2. [If there is time, have the students look at this Psalm and find the ways that God’s knowledge is described.]
      3. “1 For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. LORD, you have searched me and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down;you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. 5 You hem me in-behind and before;you have laid your hand upon me.6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide meand the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of theearth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.”
    7. In the Bible, God has all power.
      1. The limitless power of God fits naturally with his creation of the world. In Genesis 18, God revealed this to Abraham and Sarah. When he promised them that Sarah will have a baby, Sarah laughed at the idea (so did Abraham, ch. 17). She was 89 years old and had been barren her whole life. But God asks the rhetorical question “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” and answers it the next year when Sarah gives birth to Isaac (whose name means laughter).
      2. So the Israelites understood from early on that the God they were worshipping was almighty, though like us, they had trouble believing it at times.
    8. In the Bible, God is eternal.
      1. [Have the students look at Psalm 90:2-4, or summarize if time is pressing.] Psalm 90:2-4:2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 3 You turn men back to dust,saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.” 4 For a thousand years in your sightare like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”
    9. So the Israelites had a picture of God that was far ahead of its time. That picture of God was revealed to the tiny nation of Israel, and no one could have predicted that it would ever catch on. But since Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe in that basic idea of God, it is now the most common religious belief on the planet.

Application: (Not more than five minutes)

  1. Sometimes it takes us years to come to realize what our beliefs really mean. All Christians believe that God is absolute and all-powerful, and perfect in all other ways, but have we really understood what that means?
  2. What are some of the ways more confidence in God’s absolute perfection would help us live better Christian lives?
  3. Q: What is the connection between praising God and developing our faith?
  4. A: You’re angling for the recognition that praise of God’s glory, when we really pay attention, will help us develop deeper faith that God really is in charge and can be trusted.
    1. For instance, it is very hard to go from telling God how wonderful he is to sinning against him the next minute.
    2. Likewise, the more I have filled my mind with the awesomeness of God, the more courage I will have to stand up for my faith, knowing that he stands with me.

Further Resources:

  1. Richard Swinburne, Is There a God? Oxford University Press, 1996. Chapter 1

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