The Attributes of God
*The focus of week 1 in the partnership class was on KNOWING GOD. A helpful exercise we talked through was KNOWING GOD through his attributes (or characteristics).
The first half of this post talks about the practical reasons to know the attributes of God while the 2nd half focuses on studying those attributes yourself.
“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:10).
There are many attributes of God that reveal His character and how He relates to the world. God has both unshared (incommunicable) and shared (communicable) attributes. His unshared attributes are unique to God. His shared attributes are those possessed by God and in a limited sense shared by us as people made in His image. Below are just a few of the many practical reasons we need to know the attributes of God:
- Sin distorts our view of God and thus distorts our view of ourselves, others and the world around us (Genesis 3:1-3). Scripture helps us understand the truth about God and thus transforms our perspective on everything. The root of many problems is a result of a distortion of God’s character. A.W. Tozer (an American pastor and author who died in the earlier 1960‘s) wrote, “The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us” (The Knowledge of the Holy, pp. 6-7).
- The more we grow in our awareness of God’s holiness the more we become aware of our sinfulness (Isaiah 6:1-7). Until we are aware we are great sinners we will never know our need for a great Savior. The more we become aware of our sinfulness the sweeter God’s grace becomes. The Cross of Christ looms larger and large in our lives and transforms us.
- The more we understand the attributes of God the more deeply we will rest in the freedom of God’s grace. His forgiveness is based upon His character not our character (Psalm 25:11).
- The more we understand the attributes of God the more deeply it will transform our prayer lives. What we really believe about God shows up in our prayers. Knowing the character of God invites us to pray with great confidence relying on the strong hand of our redeemer to move (Nehemiah 6:3-8).
- The more we understand the attributes of God the more we will understand God’s plan for our lives. Until we have a vision of God we will never have a vision from God (Isaiah 6:8).
- The more we understand the attributes of God the more we will fear God. There is great joy in standing in awe of the greatness and holiness of God (Nehemiah 1:11). It is a life-altering and life-shaping joy. It will deepen our worship and affections for God. Tozer continues to write, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us … Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God” (The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 9).
“The Word, the character, and the actions of God should be evermore before our eyes; we should learn, consider, and reverence them. Men forget what they do not wish to remember, but the excellent attributes of the Most High are objects of the believer’s affectionate and delighted admiration. We should keep the image of God so constantly before us that we become in our measure conformed unto it” (Charles H. Spurgeon commenting on Psalm 18:22).
Read through the attributes of God once daily and mediate on one attribute each day looking up the Scriptures and completing the following questions:
- How does this Scripture correct any distorted views I have of God?
- How does this attribute strengthen my faith in God?
- How does this attribute change the way I view myself or others?
- How does this attribute change my perspective on a challenge or difficult time I am facing?
- How does this attribute change the way I pray?
Though this list is in no way exhaustive, it does give a picture of God.
- Omniscience: God has perfect and complete knowledge of all things past, present, and future. His knowledge cannot be thwarted. It is comforting to know that God knows everything about us (our needs, our sin, our desires, etc.) and still chose to save us (Job 42:2, Psalms 139:1-6; 147:5, Isaiah 40:12-14; 46:10, Hebrews 14:13).
- Omnipotence: God has supreme power and can do anything He wills. His power ensures us of our salvation and ensures us that everything He does has a perfectly good purpose (Job 42:2, Psalms 147:5, Matthew 19:26, Ephesians 3:20, Romans 1:16; 8:35-39, Genesis 18:14, Jeremiah 32:17 and 27, Luke 1:37, Romans 8:28).
- Omnipresence: God is present everywhere, at all times; in the highest heavens He is there and in the deepest sea He is also there (Psalms 139:7-12, Jeremiah 23:24, Proverbs 15:3, Deuteronomy 31:6, Colossians 1:17).
- Immutability: God’s character and being does not change. He is the only constant in the universe and will remain so for all eternity (Numbers 23:19, Psalms 102:27, Malachi 3:6, Romans 11:29, Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17).
- Eternality: God exists outside of time, yet He created time and chooses to operate within it. Because He can see all events in the context of eternity, He knows what is best for all events that take place in our lives (Psalms 90:2; 93:2; 102:12, Ephesians 3:21).
- Self-Existence: God is the only being that has existed without being created and does not continually rely on another being for sustained existence. It is very reassuring to know that God is the sustainer of all things and that He is ultimately in control of all events (Exodus 3:14, Isaiah 41:4; 43:10; 44:6; 48:12, Revelation 1:8 and 17; 2:8; 3:14; 21:6; 22:13).
- Sovereignty: God is sovereign over all events, but He does allow human freedom as He wills. He has ultimate authority over all things past, present, and future and most importantly He is sovereign over our salvation (2 Samuel 7:28, 1 Chronicles 29:10-13, Psalms 103:19, Genesis 50:20, Romans 1:18-32; 8:28]
- Transcendence: God is completely distinct from anything else in the universe. It is comforting to know that His greatness and power is unsurpassed in all of the world (Genesis 1:1, Psalms 102:25-27, Isaiah 42:5, Acts 17:24, 1 John 2:15-17).
- Creator: God has formed all things in creation ex nihilo (out of nothing). We should take pleasure in His creation and also take joy in knowing He created everything out of His own self and by His own power (Genesis 1:1, Psalms 33:6; 102:25, Isaiah 44:24, John 1:3, Romans 11:36, Hebrews 1:2; 11:3).
- Spirit: God is found in a state that is invisible as well as immaterial. The Spirit has cognition, emotions and a will. Since we are made in the image of God, it is incredible to know that we have a spirit that will go on eternally with Him if we know Him (John 1:18; 3:1–10; 4:19–24; 6:40; 14:16–17; 16:12–16, 2 Corinthians 3:15–17, 1 Timothy 6:15–16, Psalms 139:1-4, Ephesians 4:30).
- Holiness: God is entirely pure and separate from everything evil. Since He is absolutely holy, we can only come into relationship with Him through the imputed righteousness of Christ. And through sanctification we are made holy and conformed to the image of Christ (Exodus 3:5, Leviticus 19:2, Psalms 5:4-6; 99:5, Isaiah 6:3; 8:13; 57:15, Habakkuk 1:12-13, 1 John 1:5, 1 Peter 1:14-19, 2 Corinthians 3:18, 1 Peter 1:2).
- Love/Goodness: God is perfectly good and loving, and all that is good and loving is a gift from Him. This same love should be the example and motivation for all that we do in our lives (Exodus 34:7, Psalms 84:11, John 3:16, Ephesians 2:4-7, Galatians 5:22, 1 John 4:8-16, Matthew 22:37-40, Proverbs 13:24, Hebrews 12:6).
- Truth: All truth comes from God, and we are to speak the truth as well as live in the truth (Numbers 23:19, John 14:6; 17:17, Titus 1:2, 2 Corinthians 1:20).
- Justice/Righteousness: God is perfectly just in all He does. He does not conform to what is deemed right and wrong, but rather, right and wrong flow out of who He is. God deals fairly with all people in all times and so should we (Genesis 18:25, Exodus 34:7, Deuteronomy 32:4, Acts 17:31, Romans 2:11).
- Mercy: God does not enact His wrath on some people because He is loving and merciful. Christ’s crucifixion in our place was the ultimate act of mercy in history. Out of God’s mercy for us, we should be people who are constantly merciful to those around us (Exodus 34:6–7, Matthew 18:23-35, Romans 12:8, Ephesians 2:4-7, Titus 3:5).
- Beauty: God is beautiful and His creation reflects this. We should take time to reflect on His beautiful creation as well as His own personal beauty and glory (Psalms 27:4; 50:2, Ecclesiastes 3:11, Isaiah 33:17).
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us … Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like” (A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 9).