The Berean Expositor
Volume 22 - Page 171 of 214
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"God is Spirit" (John 4: 24).
pp. 194 - 198
In the previous paper we did little more than face the immensity of our quest, and its
relation to our limited powers of comprehension, and the fundamental revelation that God
"is" (Heb. 11: 6). We now proceed to learn what He is. Perhaps no humanly-framed
definition has ever surpassed the words of the Westminster Confession:--
Q. What is God?
A. God is Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being,
wisdom, power, holiness, goodness and truth.
The answer has the merit of a true definition in that it states what God is--"a Spirit"--
before proceeding to describe His attributes--that He is "infinite, eternal, unchangeable".
This is the sequence which we must always observe. If, for example, we begin with the
statement that God is almighty, we provide no adequate definition, for it immediately
raises further questions: Is He an almighty force or is He is personal God? Is He human
or super-human? Such questions are answered by the opening words of the definition--
"God is a Spirit".  With this knowledge as a basis, the attributes of God become
We do not propose to follow the Westminster Confession further, but to follow the
doctrine of the apostle John, who has stated in at least three places what God is:--
As to Essence.
God is SPIRIT (John 4: 24).
As to Manifestation.
God is LIGHT (I John 1: 5).
God is LOVE (I John 4: 8).
The revelation given in John 4: tells us that "God is Spirit", but, inasmuch as there
are both good and evil spirits, we need the expansion which the epistle provides. The
statement that "God is Spirit" differs from the other statement by the absence of the verb
"to be" and by the order of the words: Pneuma ho Theos, literally--"Spirit the God".
This is an example of one of the commonest figures of speech--or the placing of a word
out of its usual order in a sentence for the sake of emphasis. The name for this figure is
hyperbaton; hyper, meaning "over" and baton, from banein--"to step". Modern English
is almost devoid of inflections, and while this makes the learning of the language less
formidable, it also makes it imperative that words in a sentence be kept in their true order.
In a language as rich in inflections and case endings as the Greek, the subject of a
sentence can be moved from one end to the other without risk of ambiguity. For the sake
of any to whom these things may be unfamiliar, we give a few examples of this figure:--
Rom. 5: 8. "But God commendeth His love toward us."
Order in original: "But commends His love to us God."
I Tim. 3: 16. "Great is the mystery of godliness."
Order in original: "Great is, of godliness, the mystery."
John 1: 1. "And the Word was God."
Order in original: "And God was the Word."