A Short Theology, Part 4: God and His Attributes

Everyone defines who God is and what He is like in their minds, even if they try to avoid it. Those beliefs  color all life's issues.  Within the Christian church, they determine how we counsel and disciple others.

The following series of posts will provide you an overview of God’s attributes and nature, including each person within the Godhead.

God’s Attributes     
This is not an exhaustive list of God’s attributes, but it represents how some of the basic teachings of Scripture affect us as believers.

“For I the LORD do not change...” (Malachi 3:6)
Theologians use the term immutability to speak of God as immovable and unchangeable.  Such an affirmation gives believers hope in something solid during turbulent times. We find it in Psalm 33:11, where we see hope in God’s everlasting counsel contrasted to man’s (v. 10). Our trust in the sufficiency of God’s plans and work is well placed (Eccl 3:14). His immutability means  reveal a shadowy personality in the future, causing us to trust in His good gifts (James 1:17).  This is true despite man's sins; God remains true to His promises, as demonstrated in Malachi 3:6.  Thus, this attribute gives us peace and hope in God’s consistency.   

“Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away?
... Do I not fill heaven and earth?
(Jer 23:23-24)
This term defines another key attribute of God: the Bible describes God as present at the same time in all places. Of course, the Creator's ever-presence is important for the continued operation of the universe (Heb. 1:3).  Yet, Scripture also presents this nearness as a point of hope.  In Jeremiah 23:23–24, God is not just everywhere in some ethereal impersonal sense, but He is “at hand” and knowledgeable of our existence.  When Paul gives his famous address to the Greeks at Mars’ Hill, he compares a true understanding of God to a false one, namely that we need not grope about in the dark for God as if God were not near (Acts 17:27–24).  The Psalmist finds solace in the fact that he cannot escape God if he tried, that God’s hand is always guiding and holding him (Pss 139:7–12).  Scripture presents His ever-nearness to strengthen God's people for trials and temptations. 

For a man's ways are before the eyes of the LORD, 
and he ponders all his paths (Pro 5:21).
Just as omnipresence is ever-presence, omniscience means that God knows all.  Such a theology should both cause holy terror in the heart of the unbeliever and confidence within Christian believers. Because nothing escapes God’s sight (Job 28:24), hope lies in the attentive nature of His knowledge.  God names stars (Ps 147:4) and knows every sparrow and strand of hair on our heads (Mt 10:29–30); He plots our lives (Pro 5:21) and knows everything about us even before our births (Pss 139:1–4).  This all-encompassing knowledge can declare from the beginning of time who God would chose to save (Eph 1:4–5), placing our confidence for salvation in His hands, not our own works.  

No one is good except God alone (Mk 10:18).
Even being an all-knowing God, we may still find Him to be a tyrant, especially considering His unchangeable attitude and ever-present nature (coupled with other attributes not discussed here for sake of space, like sovereignty and omnipotence). Thankfully, He is full of loving-kindness toward those who call upon Him (Ps 6:4; 51:1; 119:76). He is full of mercy and comfort (2 Cor 1:3) and being a God of grace, He will “restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish” (1 Pt 5:10).  As such, He calls us to respond with repentance (Rom 2:4) and to put on these attributes (Col 3:12). 

Righteousness and Holiness
“You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pt 1:16).
These two can go together: we speak of His holiness when we say that He is also transcendent of the sins that stain this world, and His righteousness when we say that He embodies and declares what is morally right. As Creator, He governs the universe as well as the hearts of men, but without human corruption. The Psalmist affirms the righteousness of God and His established rules (Ps 119:137), an affirmation which all of God’s people must recognize. God sends judgments upon us (Eze 7:4), chastening as a Father would His child (Heb 12:6).  He calls all believers to righteous and holy behavior (1 Pt 1:15–16).  Even though we rightly say that He justifies us only through our faith (Gal 3:9), it is because we trust in a righteousness from God, not ourselves (Rom 1:16–17), revealed in the One that is the righteousness of God (Rom 3:23–26).  He stands in contrast to our imperfect imitation of His righteousness (Isa 64:4; Eph 2:8–9), but promises that righteous and holy behavior will flow from those believers who walk in His Spirit (Gal 5:16–25; 1 Pt 1:15), those transformed by the renewing of the mind (Rm 12:2).

There are more attributes of God to consider, but we will stop here for the sake of brevity.  Next time, we will begin looking at the Trinity and what the Bible has to say about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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