Purpose of this Session
The great God that we serve has various characteristics. In this session we will explore some of the things that make God who He is.
Attributes are those characteristics or qualities belonging to a person. These attributes make God who and what He is, and fall into two main categories:
Belong to God alone. Essential Characteristics of His being, which exist apart from any relationship to His creatures.
Perfect qualities of God ‘s Being, especially in relation to His creatures, and which He intends man to also possess.
God's Essential Attributes
These attributes make God, God. They are incommunicable and cannot be possessed by any other Being. These qualities of God’s Being, when mediated upon, expand the mind and heart to worship Him in His awesomeness and Majesty, and humble the heart.
i. God is Eternal
No beginning and no end. Always been and always will be.
Never was a time when God was not.
God exists from eternity to eternity.
Time past, present and future is comprehended in the I AM, and He is entirely independent of restrictions regarding time. All that was, is and will be is a present reality to Him.
God in His essential Being is infinite, having no limitation. He is bounded only by His own nature and will.
Eternity of Being cannot be ascribed to any other created being because they all have a beginning. The eternal life we receive proceeds from God who alone is an eternal being.
ii.God is Self-existent
God exists in and from Himself.
He is the reason for His own existence.
He is not dependent on anything or anyone for His existence, and depends on no one for His thoughts (Rom 11:33-34), will (Rom 9:19; Eph 1:5), counsel (Psalm 33:11) or power (Psalm 115:3).
He is the Source of all life, and His life is underived and inexhaustible.
God is completely self-sufficient and has never had in eternity past, nor can ever have in the ages to come, a single need for which His own divine nature has not already provided.
Every other created being is dependent upon God for their origin, life and continued existence.
Scriptures to consider in regard to God’s Self-Existence: John 1:4; 5:26; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; Isaiah 41:4; Psalm 36:9; 1 Kings 8:22,23,27; Psalm 50:10-12; Exodus 3:13-14
iii.God is Immutable
Unchanged, and unchangeable as to His character and being.
The laws of His being are eternal and unchanging.
As Father, Son and Holy Ghost, God is unchanged and unchangeable. He never differs from Himself.
In His essential and moral attributes He is entirely perfect, and change is impossible. In the perfections of His character He is unchangeable. God may vary His actions and dealings with mankind and His creation, but in His being He does not change. He is eternally God, the same.
Mankind by necessity must change in order to become all that God intends him to be.
Scriptures to consider in regard to God’s immutability: James 1:17; Psalm 33;11; Heb 13:8; Psalm 102:27; Malachi 3:6;
1 Sam 15:29; Numbers 23:19; Heb 6:18; Isaiah 46:10; Rom 11:29
iv. God is Omnipotent (all powerful)
God is all-powerful.
Nothing is impossible for or with Him (if it is consistent with His holy nature. For example, it would be impossible for God to lie).
God has the power to do whatever He wills, and He has the absolute Sovereign right to govern and dispose of His creatures as He pleases.
He has power and authority in all realms, both natural and spiritual.
He is the absolute and sole ruler of the universe, and has total freedom, power, knowledge and determination to carry our every action pre-determined within His being.
Within God’s Sovereign will He has decreed that man exercise free-will concerning his own personal actions and choices, even if these choices contradict and violate God’s desire for them.
Scriptures to consider in regard to God’s Omnipotence: Rev 19:6; Gen 17:1; Ge 1:1; Rev 4:11; Jer 32:17,27; Job 42:2; Heb 1:1-4 (AMPLIFIED); Matt 19:26; Gen 18:14; Dan 4:32, 35; Rev 17:17; Rom 9:18; Isa 40:12-15; Psalm 103:20
v. God is Omniscient (All-knowing)
Knowing all things at all times without prior discovery of the facts. He has complete and universal knowledge of all things actual and possible, past, present and future.
He has actual and immediate knowledge of everything, being present everywhere at all times and therefore being witness to all that is said, done or even thought at any given moment in eternity.
His knowledge is absolute and unaquired,
He has perfect knowledge, perfect wisdom and perfect understanding.
He is entirely incapable of error and is perfectly equipped to be the perfect Judge. He is entirely infallible.
Scriptures to consider in regard to God’s Omniscience: Prov 3:19; Jer 23:23-35; Psalm 139:2,4; 147:5; Isa 29:15-16; 40:13-14; Prov 15:3,11; 1 John 3:20; Acts 15:18; Rom 11:33; Heb 4:12-13; Acts 2:23; 3:18; Dan Ch 2 and 7; Matt Ch 24 and 25; Jude 1:25
“God perfectly knows Himself and, being the source and author of all things, it follows that He knows all that can be known. And this He knows instantly and with a fullness of perfection that includes every possible item of knowledge concerning everything that exists or could have existed anywhere in the universe at any time in the past or that may exist in the centuries or ages yet unborn. God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all beings and every being, all creaturehood, and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feeling, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell.” (The Knowledge of the Holy,)
The Knowledge of the Holy
vi. God is Omnipresent (Present everywhere at the same time)
All-present. Everywhere present at all times.
Unlimited by time or space. Always present simultaneously and universally in the entire universe.
He fills and extends beyond space. He is not limited to or by space, and space is comprehended in Him. Finite space and all that it encompasses depends for its continued existence upon Him, and consists and is held together by His Word of power. (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3)
Theologian A H Strong defines this attribute in “Systematic Theology”: “God, in the totality of His essence, without diffusion or expansion, multiplication or division, penetrates and fills the universe in all its parts”
In considering God’s omnipresence some have erred toward pantheistic theology which states not only that God is in everything, but that everything is God. God is both immanent (present closely with His creation) and transcendent (absolutely other than, above and beyond His creation).
Scriptures to consider in regard to God’s Omnipresence: Acts 17:27-28; Psalm 139:7-12; Jer 23:23-24; Matt 18:20; Isaiah 66:1; 43:2; 6:3; Eph 1:23; 2 Chron 6:18; Amos 9:2-4
God's Moral Attributes
God’s moral attributes are those qualities of Being that belong to Him perfectly in relation to His creatures. These attributes can be possessed by His children to varying degrees, and should be increasing in our experience as we walk together with our Father.
God’s moral attributes include perfect holiness, perfect righteousness, perfect love and perfect faithfulness.
i. Perfect Holiness
Wilmington, in his Guide To The Bible, says:
“God is holy. Without a doubt the most prominent attribute of God as presented by both Old and New Testament Scriptures is his holiness. This one single perfection would perhaps come closer to describing the eternal Creator than any other characteristic he possesses. It has been suggested that his holiness is the union of all other attributes, as pure white light is the union of all the coloured rays of the spectrum.”
God is absolutely pure, without spot or blemish. He cannot sin nor tolerate sin. He is perfectly holy in all He thinks, says and does, and holiness perfectly describes above all else the inward character of our God. His holiness demands that His great desire for the salvation be subordinated to His nature, which also demands justice. Some protest that if God is love, how can he send sinners to hell. God is love, and has provided in every way possible for our escape from eternal damnation, but He is also a consuming fire, and His holiness will one day be manifest in final judgement against sin.
In this regard we quote again from Tozer’s, “The Knowledge of God”:
Holy is the way God is. To be holy He does not conform to a standard. He is that standard. He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fullness of purity that is incapable of being other than it is. Because He is holy, all His attributes are holy; that is, whatever we think of as belonging to God must be thought of as holy.
God is holy and He has made holiness the moral condition necessary to the health of His universe. Sin’s temporary presence in the world only accents this. Whatever is holy is healthy; evil is a moral sickness that must end ultimately in death. The formation of the language itself suggests this, the English word holy deriving from the Anglo-Saxon halig, hal, meaning ‘well, whole.’
Since God’s first concern for His universe is its moral health, that is, its holiness, whatever is contrary to this is necessarily under His eternal displeasure. To preserve His creation God must destroy whatever would destroy it. When He arises to put down iniquity and save the world from inseparable moral collapse, He is said to be angry. Every wrathful judgement in the history of the world has been a holy act of preservation. The holiness of God, the wrath of God, and the health of the creation are inseparably united. God’s wrath is His utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys. He hates iniquity as a mother hates the polio that would take the life of her child.”
The Knowledge of the Holy
We list here a number of scriptures regarding God’s holiness: Lev 19:2; 1 Pet 1:16; Exodus 15:11; 19:12-25; 26:33; Isaiah 6:3; 57:15; 59:2; Habbakuk 1:13; Revelation 4:8; Psalm 29:2; 47:8; 99:9; Ex 3:1-15; 39:30; 1 Kings 6:16; Mark 1:24; Heb 2:11; 12:10
It is suggested that the student look up, read and consider each of these scriptures in their own time, ticking each reference as they do so.
ii. Perfect Righteousness
God is perfectly righteous, demonstrating His love for holiness, and just, demonstrating His abhorrence for sin. God’s righteousness and justice are synonymous. God’s holiness demands that the sinner be judged. Such judgement is God’s righteousness and justice in action (Rom 2:6-11; 2 Thess 1:7-10).
Conner in Foundations defines Righteousness: “Righteousness is a holy God acting in a just, honest and upright manner, toward His creatures.” His righteousness will be manifest in both judgement and reward (2 Timothy 4:8).
A. W. Strong writes in this regard however: “Neither justice or righteousness bestows reward. This follows from the fact that obedience is due to God, instead of being optional or a gratuity. No creature can claim anything for his obedience. If God rewards, He rewards in virtue of His goodness and faithfulness, but not in virtue of His justice or His righteousness.” (Systematic Theology)
It is interesting to note that Paul emphasises the gospel as a revelation of God’s righteousness, not just of His love. The gospel is only the gospel when it embraces the terror of God’s judgement against sin, contrasted with the glorious reality of Jesus’ redemption offered to all who believe. When we do come in faith to God through His Son, He bestows His righteousness upon us as a free gift. This is a humbling and awesome truth that should overwhelm our hearts with gratitude.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.””
(Rom 1:16-17 NKJV)
We list here a number of scriptures regarding God’s righteousness: Ezra 9:15; Dan 9:14; Psalm 67:4; 89:14; 96:10; 119:137; Rev 16:5-7; Deut 32:4; Genesis 18:25; Isa 11:4-5; Rom 1:17; 2 Chronicle 12:6; John 17:25; Ephesians 4:24
iii. Perfect Love
The heartbeat and motivation of the Father is His immense love for His creation. The greatest of demonstrations has been clearly displayed for us through the life and sacrifice of His Son on our behalf. Love is an act of God’s will whereby He chooses to give Himself continually on behalf of His creation.
The love at work in the Godhead is expressed to man not only in creation, but most fully in redemption. The holiness of God judged sin, the love of God made available salvation for the sinner.
His Person, His nature, and the overflow of His heart of love for us, manifests in:
His Providential Goodness and CarePsalm 145:9, 15-16; Matt 6:26; Acts 14:17; Rom 2:4
A. W. Tozer writes of God’s goodness: “The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men. He is tenderhearted and of quick sympathy, and His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, frank, and friendly. By His nature He is inclined to bestow blessedness and He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.” (The Knowledge of the Holy)
The Grace of God
His undeserved, unmerited, unearned patience and favour bestowed upon sinful men.
Eph 1:6-7; 2:4-5; 2 Tim 1:2; 2 Peter 3:9
“The very simplest definition of this beautiful attribute is unmerited favour. It is helpful at this point to contrast mercy with grace. God’s mercy allows him to withhold merited punishment. God’s grace allows him to freely bestow unmerited favour. Mercy is not getting what we deserve, namely, hell. Grace is getting what we do not deserve, namely, heaven.”
The Mercy of God
showing pity toward the miserable condition of the sinner because of sin.
Eph 2:4; James 5:11; Psalm 102:13; 36:5; 130:7; Rom 11:30-31; Isa 55:7; 2 Tim 1:2
“Mercy is that eternal principle of God’s nature which leads Him to seek the temporal good and eternal salvation of those who have opposed themselves to His will, even at the cost of infinite self-sacrifice.” (A. W. Strong, Systematic Theology)
The compassion and the kindness of God
His sorrow for the sufferings of others with the urge to help, a pity and sympathy which moves Him to act on behalf of the sufferer, and His gentle benevolence toward His creatures.
Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; Psalm 31:21; 78:38; 86:15; 103:8-18; Eph 2:7; Col 3:12; Titus 3:4; Isa 54:8,10; Joel 2:13
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:4-7 NKJV)
“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us…that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7 NKJV)
We list here a number of scriptures regarding God’s love: 2 Cor 13:11; Deut 7:6-8,13; John 14:23; John 3:16; Gal 2:20; 1 John 4:16-19; John 17:24-26; 13:34-35
iv. Perfect Faithfulness
God is absolutely trustworthy, loyal and reliable, and true to His Word. God’s Word is His will and bond. It is as sure as Himself. God is the ultimate and only Source and standard of Truth in the universe.
His faithfulness to His creatures is shown, among other things, in keeping His promises both to friends and enemies, in temptations (1 Cor 10:13), in correction (Psalm 119:75; Heb 12:6); in forgiving our sins (1 John 1:9); in answering our prayers (Psalm 143:1); in keeping us saved (1 Cor 1:8-9; 1 Thess 5:23-24; 2 Thess 3:3); and in defending His people (Psalm 89:24)
We list here a number of scriptures regarding God’s faithfulness: Psalm 119:86, 138; 1 Cor 1:9; 10:13; 2 Tim 2:13; Heb 2:17; Heb 10:23; 11:11; 1 Peter 4:19
As with all other moral attributes, God desires that this attribute also be built into the lives of His children:
Matt 25:21; 1 Cor 4:2; Rev 17:14; Gal 3:9
We conclude this section with a further quote from Tozer:
“If an attribute is something true of God, it is also something that we can conceive as being true of him. God, being infinite, must possess attributes about which we can know nothing.”
Knowledge of the Holy
Just as angels can know nothing of God’s mercy, having never had need to experience it (1 Peter 1:12) so we, as created beings, surely cannot comprehend the mysteries of God’s eternal being. The limits of our comprehension fall as far short of conceiving the true majesty of God as one end of the universe to the other. We will surely spend our eternity awed by His greatness, exclaiming with the Cherubim, “Holy, Holy, Holy”. In our finite understanding, and in human words, there can be no possibility of describing the Lord in His fullest sense. We must be content to take His self-revelation as the small window we peek through until that great day when we will know and see Him as He really is.
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1John 3:2 NKJV)