What is God Like?

By Lucas Sharley

In my church (Eight Mile Plains Methodist, in Brisbane), we have a special reading about knowing God. It’s a set of verses that describe what God is like: God is light, God is love, God is power. But, words without understanding are just sounds. The reading only means something to us if it is connected to ideas about God. In this article, I’ll be giving summaries of what the words from the reading say about God; beginning with light.

1 John 1:5 – “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” What does John mean when he says God is light?

Images are useful for talking about God. They avoid narrow meanings. John could have written, “God is entirely good and is never influenced by evil.” That sentence is precise. It can only mean one thing. But, the image of light means many things. Goodness, purity, sight, understanding, safety, and judgment. John’s use of imagery lets him say a lot in a short letter. 

If images mean many things all at once, how do we know which? What stops us from twisting an image or taking it the wrong way? 

The rest of the Bible stops us. We read every part of the Bible with the rest of the Bible in the background. John describing God as light isn’t a phrase sitting alone that we can capture and turn to our own purposes. It is plugged into how the Bible uses the idea of light everywhere else. I listed several meanings for God is light, and all of them come from the Bible. 

One day he will drag us into the light, crack open our hearts like an egg, and find either the light of Jesus or more darkness. 

Genesis 1, for example. The first thing God says is “Let there be light,” and there is light. God sees that the light is good and separates it from the darkness. Genesis teaches that light comes from God, and it is good, and it is divided from darkness. Light and darkness are used as symbols for good and evil all through the Bible. When John says God is light, he means God is good. 

Or have a look at John 1:9. “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” If you read the chapter, you see that the true light is Jesus, and it’s associated with entering the world and giving light to everyone. Light spreads light. That is its nature. Jesus spreads light in a world that needs it—a world of darkness. “God is light and in him there is no darkness” teaches us that God has sent his light into the world. And we need it. Unlike God, there is plenty of darkness in us. 

But, light isn’t always a happy thing. Jesus uses it in Luk. 8:17 to describe God’s knowledge. God is light because nothing is hidden from him. He does not have the darkness of ignorance or forgetting. Repeating that “God is light” reminds us that God knows all of us; actions, words, thoughts, and feelings. We may forget all the little bad things we’ve done, but God won’t. One day he will drag us into the light, crack open our hearts like an egg, and find either the light of Jesus or more darkness. 

God is light. He is goodness, and radiance, and knowledge. And so much more. 

Lucas serves as the youth pastor at Eight Miles Plane Methodist Church in Brisbane.