[ Doctrine in Detail ]

Topic: III. God the Father

Lesson: A. The Attributes of God - Part 2

The last lesson began a two lesson study of the Attributes of God, which is continued here.

Objective: To understand the essence and character of God and to be able to describe God.

"Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in-- behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain." (Psalm 139:4-6) Our study of the Attributes of God should help us to understand, with our intellect at least, that God is far superior to us. Although we know things about Him are true, our mind and experience are too limited to really comprehend all that He is. For instance, we know that God knows what we are going to say before we say it. Sometimes I don't even know what I am going to say before I say it! Even when I plan to say something, I might change the words as I speak. While I know this is true of God, I do not know what it is like to have this kind of knowledge, I cannot feel or experience what it is like. This is simply a warning that while we grow in our knowledge of God by study, and know more about Him as we learn about His attributes, we never fully comprehend God. That knowledge is 'too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.'

In the last lesson we discussed descriptive words or attributes gathered under the headings of God being personal, eternal, a spirit, all-present and all-knowing. In this lesson we will continue by discussing God as all-powerful, holy, loving and good. We will then look at how this has been stated in a few historical statements of faith.

God is All-Powerful

All-Powerful, sovereign. God has infinite power. He is supreme in power and position, sovereign of all things. He is fully capable of carrying out His holy will. Position and Sovereign refer to his primacy and rule over all things, including all of creation. His power is unlimited, and beyond our comprehension.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us ..." (Ephesians 3:20) This verse tells us that God's power and ability to do things is far beyond anything we can ask for or imagine, and this power is also at work within us! This should be a great encouragement in our prayer life. "Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" (Matthew 19:26) In context, Jesus is saying that man alone does not have the ability to enter heaven, but with God this and all other things are possible. God is fully able to accomplish his own will and plan.

"In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will," (Ephesians 1:11) We do not fully understand how God can give us choices and free will, yet 'predestine' us - more on this in another lesson. But we are reminded that he DOES work out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will. He is sufficiently powerful to work in time and space to accomplish what he choses.

God is Holy

Holy, peace and order, righteous, just, jealous, wrath. God is holy, consistent with his own purposes. People are holy to the extent that they are set apart for the service of God. In the Old Testament, the utensils of the Tabernacle and Temple were considered holy and 'set apart'. But God does not need to be 'set apart', his holiness simply describes that all of his character and actions are in perfect keeping with his nature and his will. He is a God of peace and order, not of confusion. He is righteous and just in all His thoughts and actions. He always does the 'right' 'thing at the right time. But he is full of zeal (jealous) for His own glory, and his justice includes wrath upon sin and disobedience. The Holy God hates sin and disobedience.

"And they were calling to one another, 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty, the whole earth is full of his glory'" (Isaiah 6:3) Isaiah saw a vision of Seraphim and Cherubim praising God, a vision also seen by John as recorded in the Book of Revelation. What do these angelic beings proclaim as they worship God eternally? Simply that God is Holy, Holy, Holy. In Hebrew, repeating a word emphases it. So this means God is the very holiest of the most holy. He is infinitely holy.

"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through." (1st Thessalonians 5:23) Paul often opened letters with 'grace and peace to you from God the Father'. God is characterized by peace, which includes order. "For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice, upright men will see his face." (Psalm 11:7) God does right, that is what righteous means. He is an active lover of Justice. Sometimes we do not understand why God is doing what He is doing, why He lets certain things happen. But we can always be certain that what God does is the right and fair thing.

"The LORD reigns forever, he has established his throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness, he will govern the peoples with justice." (Psalm 9:7-8) Holiness and justice and peace do not mean overlooking sin and evil. He will both judge and govern the peoples with justice. While he is doing this in the present, there will come a time when God's kingdom is physically established on the Earth and Jesus will literally judge and govern. There is also a final judgment awaiting all people.

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, ..." (Romans 1:18) Righteousness and Justice require wrath against sin. Paul wrote that some people deliberately suppress any knowledge of God and the truth, and even in Paul's time the wrath of God was being revealed. God's wrath is not just a future punishment, He was expressing it in Paul's day and today.

"... the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment." (2nd Peter 2:9) There are clearly two actions here. God rescues godly men, even though godly men are not perfect, but he holds the unrighteous for the day of judgment while continuing their punishment. What is this punishment? It appears to be going on even today, during life, as it is something that God is continuing. But this punishment also has a future aspect that will be fully revealed at the Day of Judgment.

God is Loving

Loving, forgiving, mercy, grace, patience, rewarding. God constantly and eternally gives of himself to others. He sent His son as a means of taking away sin, showing love, mercy and grace to sinful people. He is patient, and rewards those who seek Him.

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." (1st John 4:8-9) Notice that God is love. Love is not God. The fullest expression of God's love was sending Jesus to die for our sins, that we might live through Him.

"... The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness ..." (Exodus 34:6) God does have anger, but this does not contradict His love. He is patient, slow to anger. Otherwise, we would have all been destroyed while we were sinners, before we were 'saved' from our sins. God has compassion, when we suffer and pray to God, we know that He is compassionate. When we pray for friends who are not yet 'saved'. We should remember that God is gracious, abounding in love. When we stand on a promise of God, we remember His faithfulness.

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6) It may seem selfish to talk about God rewarding us. But the writer of Hebrews tells us three things in this verse. First of all, God does reward those who earnestly seek him. Second, we need faith to come to God, and this faith that we need includes faith that he exists and also that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Finally, without this faith, including that God is a rewarding God, it is impossible to please Him. This does not mean that we can name our own reward, or even that the reward will be immediate. But God is a loving God who will reward 'those who seek Him'.

God is Good

Good, glory, beauty, blessed (happy). God is infinitely good in all that he is and does. His glory is exceedingly magnificent, his beauty unimaginable. He is blessed and the source of all blessings.

"'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. 'No one is good - except God alone.'" (Luke 18:19) Jesus was perhaps referring to Himself as God, as Jesus was good. It is very clear that only God is ultimately good, He is the standard of Good. He is always giving of Himself, He is never selfish. "Taste and see that the LORD is good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in him." (Psalm 34:8) The goodness of the Lord can be experienced, it can be tested. We do not want to tempt God, or to doubt Him. But we are told to 'taste and see that the Lord is good.' I believe that this means stepping out on faith, acting on our faith that God will provide or that obeying Him will lead to true contentment. If we will 'taste' in faith, we will see that the Lord is good and we will gradually grow in our faith.

"... the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me." (1st Timothy 1:11) The word translated blessed in 1 Timothy 1:11 means happy. It could be read, '... the glorious gospel of the happy God.' God takes joy in the gospel. Our God is a happy God.

"One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple." (Psalm 27:4) No one can or ever has seen God. Yet the psalmist asks to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, which is also connected with seeking Him. Perhaps this gazing is not done with our physical eyes, but with our minds and imaginations. While we talk of what God is like, we are in a sense gazing upon His beauty. To some extent, worship or ascribing worthiness to God is gazing upon His beauty. Looking at his works and admiring the creator who has done wonderful things is gazing upon His beauty.

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23) Unfortunately, every person (except Jesus) who has ever lived has fallen short of the glory of God. Whatever the glory of our creator is, we have not lived up to it. The least of God's glory is far more magnificient than the greatest achievements of man.

"... Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth - everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made." (Isaiah 43:6-7) What is the purpose of life? That is a great philosophical question of the ages. God has an answer, He says you and I were created for His glory. "The chief ends of man is to glorify God." (Westminster Confession of Faith) While I cannot tell my son whether God wants him to be a doctor, farmer, or computer programmer, I can tell him that God has created him to glorify God. Would it make a difference in our world if each of us taking this class saw this as our number one reason for existing? I often think of caring for my family and even my career as my top reasons for living. Without forgetting those, can I live with glorifying God as my number one goal? Apparently, God created each of us for His own glory whether we know it or not. And if we do not know this, we do not know the real reason for our existence.

Historic Statements of Faith

Article 3. "There is but one living and true God, immanent, transcendent, infinite in being and perfection, pure spirit, invisible, immutable, eternal, almighty, all wise, most holy, most free, most loving, most gracious, most merciful, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin, 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." (BIble Fellowship Church Articles of Faith)

Chapter II. "There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty. " (Westminster Confession of Faith)

Conclusion

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.


Written Assignment:

No assignment for this lesson.

Reading Assignment:

Basic Theology by Ryrie, Chapters 6 and 7


Key Verses:

"Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in-- behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain."(Psalm 139:4-6)

"One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple."(Psalm 27:4)

Additional References:

"The chief ends of man is to glorify God." (Westminster Confession of Faith)


All Bible quotations are from the New International Version (NIV), (C)Copyright 1984 by the International Bible Society, used by permission.
Doctrine in Detail (C)Copyright 2002 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved

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