THE DOCTRINE OF GOD
Holy, Holy, Holy all the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and Seraphim falling down before Thee,
Which wert and art, and evermore shall be.
Reginald Herber (1783 – 1826)
A story was once told of two tortoises. One tortoise lived in a well and the other tortoise lived in the ocean. One day, the tortoise that lived in the ocean took a journey on land and fell into the well. There, the well-tortoise met the other tortoise and heard from him about the ocean. The well-tortoise swam around a section of the well and asked if the ocean was as large as this section of the well. The ocean-tortoise said that it was larger. Next, the well-tortoise asked if the ocean was as large as the whole of the well. Again, the ocean-tortoise said that it was larger. Then the ocean-tortoise said to the well-tortoise; “The water of your well is the only water that you have ever seen. If you had seen the ocean, even if you swam for years in it, you could not even explore half of it and it it can not be compared with this well.” 1 In this sense,God is like the ocean. He is vast and awesome. Although no man will ever understand Him fully (with the exception of Jesus Christ, Who is, both, God and man, and Who does understand), there are those who understand Him in part. The tortoise did not know the full totality of the ocean, but he did know the ocean enough from having swum in it for years, to be able to talk about it. God is like the ocean, only more vast. Although no one (but God Himself) knows Him fully, there are still those who know Him in part, those who swim in this ocean.
There have been many men in history who have challenged the claim that men can know God. Philosophers, such as Plato, taught that God was beyond finding out. Middle Age theologian, Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274), taught that knowing and describing God must be done indirectly and that we come to know him through analogy and inference. The medieval concept of God was that He was greatly transcendent (medieval mysticism may be an exception to this) and ineffable (too overwhelming to be communicated in words). This is not entirely untrue, but it is not the full picture of God’s character. God is a personal God who loves men and women. Acknowledging that God does in some ways veil Himself from sinful man, the fact still remains that God can be known, and desires to be known, by men and women.
How does a person know God? The only way that we can come to know Him is through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Once faith in Jesus Christ is established in the hearts of men and women, a new spirituality is opened up to men and women where they receive knowledge of God through revelation into God’s word, the Bible, and through the experience of faith. The Bible teaches that God is a Spirit. A spirit can only be understood by another spirit. That is why when God created man He gave him a spirit, a soul, and a body. It is by God’s Spirit communicating with human spirits that He makes Himself known, that is why Paul tells us:
‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
1 Corinthians 2: 9, 10
The senses of hearing, touch and smell are all ways in which our physical body takes in information. However, God is not restricted to these senses in order to communicate with our spirit. A touching story is that of Helen Keller. Although she was born blind, mute, and deaf, she learned to communicate with a teacher. The teacher would put Helen’s hands on the teacher’s throat and lips and Helen came to understand her speech. One day, the teacher made efforts to share with Helen spiritual truth about God. When she did this, Helen’s face lit up and she communicated these words to her teacher; “Oh, I am so glad you told me His name, for He has often spoken to me!” 3 God spoke to Helen regardless of her inability to use natural senses. Although revelation from God may not always involve reading the pages of the Bible, all revelation that God gives to man will not disagree with what the Bible says.
Not only is it possible to know God, it is important to know God. Jesus said; “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”(John 17:3). Knowing God is the essence of being a Christian. Jesus Christ is the only one Who can reveal God, the Father, to us. The Bible says; “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Matthew 11:27). Jesus also said; “ No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”(John 1:18). In today’s world, men and women boast about many things. They may boast about material wealth, educational achievements or personal beauty, but none of these things impress the Lord. Instead, He says:
Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 9:23, 24
An important starting point to gaining an understanding of God is to realize that there is only one God. The Bible states; “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no one else.” (1 Kings 8: 60). As one of the Ten Commandments, God commands that “ ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3). God also says:
‘I am the Lord, and there is no other;
Besides Me there is no God.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me;
That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
That there is no one besides Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other,”
Along with these Old Testament witnesses to the truth of there being only one God, the New Testament declares this as well. We read; “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3). Does not the Bible sometimes refer to other gods? Occasionally, yes. The Bible acknowledges the existence of angels, demons and other beings, but angels are angels by nature an demons are demons by nature. There is only one God by nature. The Bible teaches; “However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.” (Galatians 4:8). This is a reference to false deities, false gods, spirits or conceptions of God which are not God by nature. There is only one God by nature, and that God isa unity, also called a trinity.
To say that God is a “unity” is to say that He is a “composite unit.” It is a great mystery, and yet a reality, that even though there is one God, within the one God there is a plurality. God sometimes refers to Himself in plural terms, for example; “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:26). Also, we read; “Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’”— (Genesis 3: 22). In the Bible, God is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are numerous passages in the Bible where the three are mentioned together in the same passage, for example; “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19). Also, in 1 Peter 1:2, we read; “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” All three were present at Jesus’ baptism; “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16, 17). Some people try to explain the unity and plurality of God by offering illustrations such as that of an egg being one and, yet, consisting of three parts; a shell, a white and a yoke. Another example is that of water, which can exist as a solid, liquid and as a gas. These illustrations may help some, but they still fall short of describing the great mystery of the unity and the plurality of God.
Let us look at each member of this Divine Unity in Scripture. God, the Father, is frequently in Scripture referred to as God. For example, we read: “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” (1 Peter 1:2). Jesus Christ, especially, referred to God as the Father, for example; “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.’” (John 6:27).
While the Scriptures refer to God, the Father, as being God, they also declare Jesus Christ, the Son, to be God. Truly, Jesus Christ is the most amazing person to have walked this earth. His teachings were the most profound ever taught by a man. His actions and works were the most faultless ever witnessed. Many acknowledge Him as a good man, however, the Scriptures teach that Jesus Christ was more than just a man. The Scriptures repeatedly refer to Jesus as being God, for example; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”(John 1:1-2). The “Word” in these verses is a reference to Jesus. Also, the Apostle Paul said; “whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:5) and; “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,”(Titus 2:13). The Disciple Thomas testified that Jesus was God by addressing Him as such; “Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:28). When we read further, we see that Jesus did not rebuke this statement. He accepted Thomas’ worship. The Bible shows God the Father, addressing Jesus the Son, as God; “But of the Son He says,
‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.”
(Hebrews 1:8). Also, Jesus is called “Immanuel,” which means, “GOD WITH US.” ( See Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23).
There are also divine actions or works that Christ has done, and shall do, that only God can do. Jesus created all things; “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:3). We also read; “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1: 16). Jesus preserves all things; “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”(Hebrews 1:3). Jesus gives eternal life; “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28) and “even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.” (John17:2). Jesus raises the dead. He said; “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.’” (John 6:39- 40). Also, it is proper to pray to Jesus; “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:”(1 Corinthians 1:2) and; “They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’” (Acts 7:59).
Jesus’ followers worshiped Him, and only God may be worshiped. We read in Matthew 4:10: “Then Jesus *said to him, ‘Go, Satan! For it is written, “YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.” ‘ ” Yet, Jesus’ followers worshiped Him and Jesus accepted that worship. We read further; “And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’” (Matthew 14:33). We also read; “And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.” (Matthew 28:9). Again; “ And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy,” (Luke 24:52). Even the angels are commanded to worship Him; “And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, ‘And let all the angels of God worship Him.’” (Hebrews 1:6). One day, every knee shall bow to Jesus Christ; “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10, 11).
Some might ask, “Is not Jesus the Son of God, and does that not make him someone other than God?” The terms “son” and “father” are not best understood from our Western World view, but, rather, from the Semitic backgrounds that these passages were written in. The Semitic concepts of “son” emphasizes “likeness or sameness of nature” 4 Some may ask, “Are not Christians sons of God, and if so, isn’t Christ the same as any Christian man?” Again, there is a difference. Jesus is the Son of God by His own right, but His followers are God’s sons by adoption.
Again, Jesus is unique. Men and women begin their lives at birth. He, however, existed before His birth. He existed from all eternity. The Bible, referring to Jesus as the Word, teaches; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”(John 1:1). Jesus is the Word. Again, we read; “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” (John 8:58). The Bible says further; “ Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17 :5).
Jesus Christ is the Word.Jesus is by nature God.
While the Scriptures declare that Jesus is God, they also declare that the Holy Spirit is God. He is called the Holy Spirit because both His nature and acts are holy. We read in Acts:
But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’
Lying to the Holy Spirit is not lying to men; it is lying to God. In Scripture, He is sometimes called the “Spirit of God” (see 1 Corinthians 3:16). He is also called “the Spirit of the LORD” (see Isaiah 11:2). He is called “The Spirit of the Lord GOD” (see Isaiah 61:1) and He is called “The Spirit of the living God” (see 2 Corinthians 3:3).
Not only is the Holy Spirit God, He is a person. The Bible often refers to the Holy Spirit with personal pronouns such as “He” and “Him”, for example; “ He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:14). (See also John 15: 26 and John 16:7). The Holy Spirit acts in ways that require personality, for example, the Holy Spirit speaks; “Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot.’”(Acts 8:29). The Holy Spirit searches all things; “ For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:10). The Holy Spirit uses the power of will:
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
1 Corinthians 12 :7-11
The Holy Spirit intercedes; “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;” (Romans 8:26). The Holy Spirit leads; “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14) . The Holy Spirit commissions; “ While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” (Acts 13:2).
There is much that can be learned about God by studying His names. Names were very important to the ancient Hebrew people. A person’s name was believed to provide insights into their basic nature. While this may or may not be true of a human person, it certainly is true of God. The Scriptures put a good deal of emphasis on God’s name, for example; “Willingly I will sacrifice to You;
I will give thanks to Your name, O Lord, for it is good.” (Psalm 54:6) and; “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.” (Proverbs 18:10). By learning God’s names, we will have a better understanding of His character and gain a greater trust in Him. The Bible tells us; “And those who know Your name will put their trust in You,
For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” (Psalm 9:10).
The first name used for God in the Bible is Elohim. It occurs about 2570 times in the Old Testament and its meaning relates to revealing God as a God of power. It tells of His power in creating, ruling and judging the moral universe. Elis used as God’s name about 200 times in the Old Testament and some believe that it is the oldest Semitic name for God. It is believed to be an equivalent for Elohim and stresses God’s power, immensity, strength, greatness, authority and majesty. Another name for God is Eloah. This appears in the Old Testament 56 times and the suggested meaning for this name is “Adorable One.” The Hebrew text of the Old Testament also contains many compound names for God combined with El. El Shaddaiis one compound name and it is generally accepted to mean “God Almighty.” Another compound name using El is El Olam. This is generally accepted to mean “Everlasting God.” Another example of a compound name is El Elyon which means “most high God.” 6
The most common reference for God in the Hebrew Old Testament’s manuscripts is YHWH. We call this the “Tetragrammaton.”It occurs 6,823 times. It is derivative of the verb “to be.” Its suggested meaning would be; God is the self-existing one, the One Who was, Who is, and Who will be. This would fit in well with God’s statement to Moses in Exodus 3:14; “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM'; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”. In the original Hebrew, YHWH is written in consonants without any vowels. It has been translated as “Jehovah,” but many scholars feel that “Yahweh” is a more accurate pronunciation than “Jehovah” for this name. However, YHWH is usually translated “LORD” in English language Bibles.
Just as there are compound names for God with “El” as their root, so too there are compound names for God with “Jehovah” as their root. We learn that Jehovah Saboathis “LORD of hosts”, which depicts God in charge of the great armies of heaven. The name Jehovah Jirehstands for “the Lord will provide.” Jehovah Nissistands for “the Lord our banner” or “the Lord our personal leader.” God, the sanctifier, is Jehovah Qadesh.We are reminded of the LORD’s care for us by Jehovah Raah, “the Lord is my shepherd.” We learn that God heals for He is referred to as Jehovah Rapandha. Another name is Jehovah Shammah meaning “the Lord is personally present” and “Jehovah Shalom”means “the Lord is peace.” 7 These are some of the compound uses of the name “Jehovah” but there are others, also.
The Bible has more things to tell us about God. Theologians will often make the distinction between God’s divine essence and His divine attributes. His essence refers to what God is in His basic being, and His attributes tell of how He acts. When we consider God’s essence, His foremost quality is His Holiness. The first reference in the Bible that refers to God’s holiness is;
(Exodus 15: 11). As we continue reading in the Bible, we will come again and again to verses declaring the holiness of God, such as; “ For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth.” (Leviticus 11:44). The word for holiness in Hebrew is kadashwhich means “set apart, to cut off or to separate.” 8 The idea behind the word is that if something is holy, it is separated from every-day use. When we say that God is transcendent, we mean that He is separated from what is unholy. Impurity and sin are not in Him. The holiness of God was emphasized by the boundaries set around Mount Sinai when God came down upon it (see Exodus 19:12-25). In the tabernacle there were divisions between the holy and most holy places and this was a further way of showing separation between God and sinful man. We read; “ You shall hang up the veil under the clasps, and shall bring in the ark of the testimony there within the veil; and the veil shall serve for you as a partition between the holy place and the holy of holies.” (Exodus 26:33). Holiness is also a reference to God’s perfection, His moral perfection. Holiness is more than an attribute. It is an aspect of God’s essence. It is an expression of His very being. It has been said that “God doesn’t conform to some holy standard – He is the standard.” 9 King David wrote;
(Psalm111:9). God is to be revered for His Holiness. His holiness is His absolute moral perfection. He is clean of impurity and clean of every defilement.
One expression of God’s holiness is His hatred of sin. God judges sin. In the Bible we read of the Lord coming “… with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.’” (Jude 14,15). Truly the greatest expression of God’s holiness was that of Jesus’ dying in our place and taking our sentence. In this great act, Jesus took the penalty for sin and satisfied God’s requirement for justice. Now, those who surrender their lives to God and come to God for forgiveness, may receive forgiveness. The Bible gives text after text telling of the holiness of God, such as; “And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.’”
(Isaiah 6 :3)
While I have said that holiness is the most outstanding characteristic of God’s nature so, too, is His spirituality an aspect of His nature. God is Spirit; “ God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.’” (John 4: 24). God is Spirit and, as such, is essentially different from solid matter, that is to say, the Spirit of God is without physical parts and is not confined to one physical place. The Bible records instances of God manifesting Himself to man in tangible ways, such as speaking from out of a burning bush (see Exodus 3:2-4) andbeing in a pillar of cloud and in a pillar of fire (see Exodus 13:21). However, these phenomenons were not a part of God’s essential being. Instead, they were simply forms by which He chose, and used to express Himself at specific locations and at specific of times. The Bible calls God “the invisible God”; “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15). Also, we read; “ Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17). God is Spirit. Jesus said; “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24).
As well as God being a Spirit, He is also personal. By that I mean that He has aspects of personality such as He thinks, wills, feels and is conscious of Himself. He relates to men and women on a personal basis, for example; “For not from the east, nor from the west,
Nor from the desert comes exaltation;
But God is the Judge;
He puts down one and exalts another.”
(Psalm 75 :6,7). God has a will. We read; “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2). God has emotions; “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”(1 John 4:8). God sees; “The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.” (Genesis 11:5). God hears;
(Psalm 75: 7). Everything that the Bible says concerning repentance, faith, prayer and confession is all based on the premise that God is a personal God. The Bible uses personal pronouns to refer to God. God is a He, not an it.
Not only is God personal, but He is self-existent. By this, I mean that He does not rely on any other power to sustain Himself. As I have said earlier, His name, YHWH means “to be.”
As well as God being self-existent, He is eternal. This means that He is without a beginning and without an ending. We read;
(Psalm 102: 27)
(Psalm 90:2). In two places God is referred to as “the Everlasting God” (see Genesis 21:33 and Isaiah 40:28). God is without a beginning and without an ending.
As well as being eternal, God is infinite. The Scriptures say; “ ‘But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!”(1 Kings 8:27) and:
‘Am I a God who is near,’ declares the Lord,
‘And not a God far off?
‘Can a man hide himself in hiding places
So I do not see him?’ declares the Lord.
‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 23: 23,24
There is a fine line between saying that God fills heaven and earth and saying that God is heaven and earth. Christianity is not pantheism. God both encompasses all things and also transcends all things. All things are created by Him and He is greater than, and above, all of His creation.
Not only is God infinite, He is also all-knowing. This means that He knows both Himself and all other things. His knowledge is fully complete.
(Psalm 147:5) and; “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”(Hebrews 4:13). The Lord knows all things definately and completely. He is aware of all things and, at the same time, aware of specific details. He knows even how many hairs are on our heads; “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matthew10:30). It has been said that “God knows what is in man; all that is in man; all that is in all men.” 10The most amazing thing about God knowing all things is that He knows everything about us, and still loves us.
Not only is God all-knowing, He is all-powerful. The term “Almighty” is applied to God 56 times in the King James version of the Bible. God’s power is governed by His holiness. Although He has all power, He will never use His power in a way that is inconsistent with His moral standards. We read of Job saying to God; “Then Job answered the Lord and said, ‘I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.”
(Job 42:1-2). We also read; “ ‘Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,” (Jeremiah 32:17). We read further; “But our God isin the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” (Psalm 115:3) and;
“Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.”
(Revelation 19:6). It has been said that God’s power “was not all expended in creation; it is not weakened by His preservation of all things.” 11 Amen. God is all-powerful.
As well as being all-powerful, God is unchanging. He does not change in His essence or His attributes. This does not mean that He does not change His specific actions in response to people or situations. Scripture says; “For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.”(Malachi 3:6) and;
‘Even they will perish, but You endure;
And all of them will wear out like a garment;
Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will not come to an end.
We also read; “In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath,” (Hebrews 6:17). God does not diminish, increase, decrease or expand. A change in essence or attributes always involves imperfection and, because God is perfect, He cannot change. The Bible tells us; “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”(James 1:17). God’s nature and principles are constant.
Having discussed God’s divine essence and nature, we will now look at his moral attributes. His moral attributes deal with how God acts towards His creation. Firstly, God acts in righteousness and justice towards man. God declares; “but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.”(Jeremiah 9:24). The terms “righteousness”and “justice”are related. Righteousness has to do with God’s holy standards, whereas justice is God’s response when those standards are transgressed. One author has said that “justice is the maintenance of moral government in the highest attainable excellence.” 12 The Bible testifies of God’s justice and righteousness in the following passages; “ Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?’” (Genesis 18:25) and; “ Then Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘I have sinned this time; the Lord is the righteous one, and I and my people are the wicked ones.” (Exodus 9:27) and;
The most sobering attribute of God is His wrath. The Bible teaches; “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” (Romans 1:18). God’s wrath is His anger and indignation. It is directed against sin and is felt by sinners, for example, we read;
(Nahum 1:6) Also, we read further; “and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). God’s wrath is judicial, in judging sin.The man and woman who is following God need not fear God’s wrath, for we read; “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Thankfully, wrath is not God’s only attribute, but rather, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. ” (Psalm.103:8).
Another great attribute of God is His truthfulness. God never deceives, exaggerates or falsifies. He is “…’The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;”(Exodus 34:6) and;
(Psalm119:151). Isaiah, the prophet, says; “O LORD, thou artmy God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thycounsels of old arefaithfulness andtruth.” (Isaiah 25:1KJV) and we are further told that
‘God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent;
Has He said, and will He not do it?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
(Numbers 23:19). He is called “the God of truth” in this Scripture verse;
‘Because he who is blessed in the earth
Will be blessed by the God of truth;
And he who swears in the earth
Will swear by the God of truth;
Because the former troubles are forgotten,
And because they are hidden from My sight!
We can trust God without reservation.
God is not only truthful, He is good. God’s goodness is a dimension of His holiness. To say that God is good is to say that He possesses every excellent quality that can be possessed. He is like an eternal fountain of bounty, generosity and grace. For example, we read;
Included in God’s goodness is His mercy and loving kindness. The following Scripture verses tell us; “ For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.” (Deuteronomy 4:31). We also read; “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,” (2 Corinthians 1:3). Scripture also says; “The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.”(Psalms 103: 8). Also, we read; “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,” (Exodus 34: 6 KJV). Another dimension of God’s goodness is His grace. Grace is commonly defined as unmerited favor and it is precisely that, as God has been gracious to undeserving men and women. We read; “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1 Peter5:10). In the year1620, when the Pilgrims settlers arrived in Massachusetts, the winter killed off half the colony. Those who survived experienced a harvest of plenty. Together they celebrated and that celebration became the first Thanksgiving Day. They were celebrating God’s goodness. We read; “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”(Romans 2:4). The word “patience” signifies someone having power to judge but, instead, waits for long periods of time before action. Is that not how God has been with us?
The last of God’s attributes that I will discuss is His most wonderful, His love. Love goes even deeper than goodness. “Goodness gives things, but love gives itself”; 13 We read in the following passages; “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.”(1 John 4:8-9) and; “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) and; “ Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11). The highest kind of love is God’s love, called agapein the Greek. It is not selfish. It is instead self-sacrificing, self-giving, and overflowing; “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
Although trying to describe God is like the ocean-tortoise trying to describe the ocean to the well-tortoise, still God can be known by people and His nature discussed. Where we can’t fully understand, because of His immensity, we just worship Him. He can be known by revelation into His word and through the experience of faith, and that faith only in Jesus Christ. No one knows God the Father except Jesus and whomever Jesus reveals Him to. God is a personal God who desires to be known. Let none of us glory in our wisdom, our might, or our riches but, rather, may we be remembered for our understanding of, and knowing, the Lord. Let us carry in our souls and our hearts the eternal life which comes from knowing Him; “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”(John 17:3).
Spiros Zodhiates, Was Christ God? (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers,1994), 58-59.This isn’t a quote, rather it is my paraphrase.
Thomas Holdcroft, The Doctrine Of God (Oakland: Western Book Co., 1978), 6.
Spiros Zodhiates, Was Christ God? 12.
Loraine Bottner, Studies In Theology (U.S.A.: Reformed Publishing Co., 1975), 152-153.
Thomas Holdcroft, The Doctrine Of God, 9-10.
John MacArthur, Jr., God: Coming Face To Face With His Majesty (U.S.A.: Victor Books, 1993), 41.
Systematic Theology Vol. 1 by John Miley, D.D., LLD., Copyright 1989 by Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 187.
John MacArthur, Jr., God: Coming Face To Face With His Majesty, 85.
Thomas Holdcroft, The Doctrine Of God, 35.
Bottner, Loraine. Studies In Theology. U.S.A.: Reformed Publishing Co., 1975.
Holdcroft, Thomas. The Doctrine Of God. Oakland: Western Book Co., 1978.
MacArthur, John. Jr. God: Coming Face To Face With His Majesty. U.S.A.: Victor Books, 1993.
Miley, John, D.D., LLD. Systematic Theology, Vol. 1. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1989.
Zodhiates, Spiros. Was Christ God? Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1994.
“Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,
1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org)
Also used the King James Bible