The word "great" has been kind of watered down over the years. In fact, since the 1800s, use of the word "great" in printed books has decreased by 10 percent. (Sorry, bit of a word nerd here.) Sometimes "great" gets used in such a sarcastic manner that may seem demeaning to use "great" as a description for God—like it's not strong enough. There are so many more adjectives to choose from that might fit better, right? Awesome, for one.
But the watered down, sarcastic connotation of the word "great" is not what English translators of the Bible meant at all. When Psalm 145:3 sings, “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom" and when Scripture describes God as "great" by giving evidence His wondrous works (e.g., Psalm 86:10; 96:4; 135:5; Job 5:9; 9:10; 1 Chronicles 16:24), "great" is an extremely powerful word.
When "great" is used to describe a person, it also implies a certain higher, above the norm character or quality. Someone might say that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a "great man." That means he was of a unique and superior character than your average Joe.
When the Bible uses "great" to describe the person of God, it sets Him apart from any human beings who may be considered "great." How? Scripture highlights God's worthiness to be praised, worshiped, and cherished (2 Kings 17:36; Psalm 5:7). We see God's greatness in His love for us (1 John 3:1), His mercy (1 Peter 1:3), His patience (Romans 9:22), His faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23), His power (Ephesians 1:19), and so much more. No one could ever match God's perfect character (Psalm 71:19).
And let's not forget about Jesus' greatness! (He is also God after all.) When Jesus cast a demon out of a boy, the crowd was “amazed at the greatness of God” (Luke 9:43). Jesus is "our great God and Savior" (Titus 2:13) and "a great priest over the house of God" (Hebrews 10:21), which puts Jesus at the highest possible rank, with supreme authority and ability over all priests throughout all time.
Not only is God great as He is, but the Bible shows us evidence of all the great things He has done—from creating the universe, to carving a path through the Red Sea, to the miracles Jesus performed on earth, to the final judgement He will enact upon the world. Anyone who has experienced God's influence in their lives discovers His great works firsthand. And even more of His wondrous greatness is yet to come!
"Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness..." —Psalm 150:2
Since God is the creator of all things, He is greater than His creations. He is bigger than we can even comprehend, in the sense that He is not bound by time and space the way we are. He is wiser than we are because He sees all of time in one blink—past, present, future—and knows how every possibility will play out (Isaiah 40:13; 1 Corinthians 1:27). In fact, you could say that God defines greatness, and every other use of the word simply pales in comparison.
In the Bible, "great" means "preeminent; of an ability, quality or intensity that is considerably above average; distinguished; excellent." When "great" is used to describe a person, it also implies a certain higher, above the norm character or quality. God has great love, power faithfulness, mercy, and more. He is worthy to be praised, worshiped, and cherished because He is bigger than we can comprehend. God defines greatness, and every other use of the word simply pales in comparison.
Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two teenage kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.