Topic: God the Father
Lesson: The Attributes of God - Part 1
Objective: To understand the essence and character of God and to be able to describe God.
Paul wrote, "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!"(Romans 11:33) We cannot fully comprehend God. When we say that we know about God, we know only in part. It is a mistake to ever think that we fully understand everything about God. Yet, God has revealed truths about Himself in the Bible. We can summarize what we know about God. What we know about God will lead us to serve Him and worship Him.
I have looked over five theology books in preparing this lesson, and they all use different words to describe God. The characteristics of God, the qualities that we can describe, are called his Attributes. I have collected descriptions or attributes of God under nine headings. Under these headings we will discuss Scriptures and other words used to describe the attributes of God.
This lesson is in two parts, with five attributes in this lesson (God is Personal, Eternal, Spirit, All-Present, and All-Knowing) and four attributes in the next lesson (God is All-Powerful, Holy, Loving, and Good). The only reason for breaking the lesson like this is to allow each to be presented in one reading, or in a one hour class. Ideally, our concentration would allow us to do both lessons together in one session.
God is Personal
Personal, alive, having a will, a unity. God is a person, he thinks, acts, and communicates. He has a will, and plans. He is a living being, not a force. He is a unity, and is not made up of parts (simplicity). It is right to think of God as personal, although he is far beyond any human person that we know, and has no personality flaws.
"'Come now, let us reason together,' says the LORD. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'" (Isaiah 1:18) This verse tells us that God is rational, he reasons, and that he is willing to communicate and reason with man. This indicates logical thought and discussion, qualities of a personality. In the rest of the verse He presents his offer, a plan of salvation, which shows planning and intent, the will or desires of God.
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one." (Deuteronomy 6:4) This verse, called the Shema (Hear), is used as a call to worship in Synagogues. Although God is a Triune being (Trinity), and we will discuss this next week, He is a unity, He is one. Just as a person can be loving, rational, and strong, these qualities are not different parts. This is what is meant by simplicity, God is not made up of separate parts. When we describe God as love, all of God is love, not just a part. All of God is Just, and this does not contradict the fact that all of God is love. We must remember that the wrath of God is not separate from the Love of God, as if He is part wrath and part love, or as if He changes between them. Wrath and love are in balance in God, and God is both a God of Wrath and a God of Love at the same time.
God is Eternal
Eternal, self-existent, transcendent, freedom, immutable (unchanging). God has always existed and always will. He does not depend on the universe or any created thing for his existence. He is unchanging, although he does act. Although God is unchanging, he may act differently in response to different situations. He will not always judge, nor will he always forgive.
"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else." (Acts 17:24-25) God existed before the universe, shown by the fact that He created it. He does not depend on anything for His existance, he is self-existent. He existed before the universe, and trancends the universe in that the universe does not limit God. If the universe ceased today, my pet cat would cease to exist, the cat is dependent upon the universe, the air, food, etc. But God is totally free from the bounds of the universe.
"In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." (Psalm 102:25-27) God will exist forever, although we know that someday the universe will end. God is unchanging in his being and character.
God is Spirit
Spirit, invisible. We cannot physically see or sense Him, no laboratory instrument can detect Him. There is no 'spiritometer' which can prove the presence of God to a skeptic. We can only know God because He has chosen to reveal Himself. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24) He also instructed his disciples, "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:6) It is also important to know that although we do not see or physically detect God, He does see us! We pray to God whom we do not see, but he both sees us praying and hears our prayers. We are also told that He will reward us.
God is All-Present
All-present (immanent), immense, infinite. We use some words like immanent because they are traditional, and we see them in our doctrinal statements which we must understand. Immanent, with the fourth letter being an 'a', is different from imminent. Immanent means present everywhere, and is only used of God in this sense. But Imminent is used of the return of Christ, it is near at hand. The two words sound very much alike, but have different meanings.
By all-present, we mean that God exists throughout the entire universe, yet he is present at each particular place. He is immense and infinite (in all his qualities), yet he is not 'spread thin' through the universe. All of God's being is present here and now. As we worship this morning, we have God's presence and full attention, but the church down the street which is believing also has his full presence and attention. He is not like my computer, which 'multi-tasks' by switching rapidly between two different things (perhaps that is how Satan must work, who can only be one place at one time). Somehow, God's full presence and attention is with us this morning, yet he is also present in Afghanistan with his full attention. We are not like this, and cannot fully comprehend it, although we know that it is true.
"'Am I only a God nearby,' declares the LORD, 'and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?' declares the LORD. 'Do not I fill heaven and earth?' declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 23:23-24) God is both nearby, here with us right now, and far away. He fills heaven and earth. When I look at the sky at night, God is present beyond the farthest extent of the farthest star. The earth is only a small bit of His creation, yet he is here in our presence.
God is All-Knowing
All-knowing, wisdom, truth, faithful. God knows all things and all things that are possible. He knows the past, present and future. This includes knowledge of all facts and of what is best (wisdom). He is truth, and the standard of truth. He is always true to his character and word (faithful). All-knowing means knowing all things, and that includes facts and actions, and what might have happened. Jesus said, when weeping over Jerusalem, that is Sodom and Gomorrah had witnesses the things Jerusalem had see, that they would have repented and remained. This is a possibility that God knows.
Wisdom means knowing what is best, not just possibilites or a fact. As a child I knew that I might get my hand slapped if I stole cookies from the cookie jar. It was difficult to decide if the cookies were worth the price of a hand slap. God does not have to debate between possible courses of action, His wisdom is always knowing what is best. We seek God's wisdom.
"For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything." (1st John 3:20b) Because this speaks of our hearts, God's knowledge of knowing everything includes knowing our thoughts and struggles. "To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his." (Job 12:13) Again, God knows what is best, and we seek his wisdom through prayer and reading His word.
Paul wrote to Titus of "... a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, ..." (Titus 1:2) God is truth, and this includes being faithful to his own character and to His promises. God cannot lie. Is this a limitation to God's power? Not at all. God does not desire to lie. He is not double minded, like we often are. Sometimes I want to eat a snack, although I also want to lose weight. I am pulled in two directions. But God is not! He has no desire to act except in keeping with his own character and will. And His character and will are honest, true and faithful. Always.
God is personal, eternal, a spirit, all-present, all-knowing, all-powerful, holy, loving, and good. "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (1st Timothy 1:17) This benediction based on some of the attributes of God is an appropriate closing to this lesson. Knowing the attributes of God, which are real qualities, should bring us to the point of richer appreciation of His being and expressing praise to Him.
None for this lesson
"Basic Theology" by Ryrie: Chapter 6
Bible Fellowship Church Articles of Faith, Article 3
"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!"(Romans 11:33)
"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else." (Acts 17:24-25)
"God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24)
"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (1st Timothy 1:17)
"There is but one living and true God (Isaiah 45:5-6), immanent, transcendent, infinite in being and perfection, pure spirit (John 4:24), invisible, immutable (Malachi 3:6a), eternal, almighty, all wise (Romans 11:33-34), most holy, most free, most loving, most gracious, most merciful, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin (Exodus 34:6-7), the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, and withal most just and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin. He will by no means clear the guilty. " ( BFC Articles of Faith, Article 3 - God the Father )