AUDIO – The Attributes of God: What is God Like?

At Jubilee we have been doing a series of talks this autumn, each one lasting about an hour, during which we attempt to instruct the hearer to a greater extent than is possible in our Sunday morning sermons. One of the ones I did – which was on the subject of “What is God Like?” – has just been made available online at the Jubilee Audio Sermons site. You can visit there to download the sermon or listen to it here:

These talks have been inspired by the following verse:

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

I do want to acknowledge my indebtedness to Dr. Wayne Grudem, whose Systematic Theology was used as a major resource for this talk. When preparing to speak as a Christian, I believe that it is important to lean on the wisdom found in the work of others, and I certainly did that here.

I definitely did make this my own, however, so don’t blame Dr. Grudem for any errors! I will now share the full notes here. You can also download the PowerPoint file. As with all my material on this blog, you are welcome to use it in any way that does not involve making a profit, and you should, of course, attribute it if you copy the entire article.

THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – WHAT IS GOD LIKE?

Do NOT expect to understand everything about God – He is infinite; we are finite and cannot understand Him fully. Almost all language used about God is a metaphor, and therefore it has the whisper “God is, but is not the same” as the concept used to describe Him.

This is not a mere intellectual exercise, but has two goals:

1. To know, worship, and follow God more.

2. For our beliefs about God to be clearly grounded in the Bible.

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Arguments for God’s Existence

  • Intelligent design of the universe (teleological).
  • God as the ultimate cause – that which came first (cosmological).
  • The greatest being we can conceive (ontological).
  • The presence of a universal basic set of ethics (moral argument).
  • The spiritual nature of mankind – the mind/body problem.
  • The God-shaped hole in all cultures.
  • Christianity does people good (pragmatic argument).
  • But . . . we cannot use our reason to prove God’s existence, for that would make our reason above God.

The Bible Assumes God Exists and People Know

  • “In the beginning, God created …” (Genesis 1:1)
  • “…his invisible attributes…have been clearly perceived…” (Romans 1:18-22)
  • “The fool says in his heart, There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)
  • God is unknowable and invisible, but chooses to reveal Himself.
  • “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways…” (Romans 11:33-34)
  • “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

God Has Both Transcendence and Immanence

  • Christians often emphasise one or the other.
  • Jesus – the revelation of God.
  • “…the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power…” (Hebrews 1:1-4)
  • “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:18)
  • “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.” (John 12:41)
  • “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him … Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” (John 14:7-10)

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)
  • “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)
  • “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:9-11)
  • “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6)

The Trinity Reflects a Chain of Authority

  • “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” (John 15:26)
  • “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3)
  • “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” (John 14:10)
  • “God has put all things in subjection under his feet…when all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:27-28)

We Believe in One God in Three Persons

  • “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26)
    “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
  • “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” (Matthew 4:10)
    “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God.” (Isaiah 45:5)
  • Jesus accepts worship: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
  • “Let all God’s angels worship him.” (Hebrews 1:6)
  • Jesus shares seventeen attributes unique to God – “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” (Colossians 2:9)

1. God is an Independent Community – Because of His Self-Sufficiency and Trinity, He Doesn’t Need Us!

  • “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24-25)
  • He didn’t make the world because he was lonely.
  • “God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
  • Jesus: “Father . . . you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)

2. God is the Creator of Everything.

  • God: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)
  • Jesus: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17)
  • The Spirit: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2)


God created diversity

  • “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” (Psalm 104:24)
  • “…so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 3:10)

3. God is Eternal – He Always Existed

  • God: “Before the mountains were brought forth or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2)
    “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” (Revelation 1:8)
  • Jesus: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5)
  • “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13)
  • “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:5)
  • Spirit: “…through the eternal Spirit…” (Heb 9:14)

4. God is Omniscient – He Knows Everything

  • God: “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” (1 John 3:20)
  • “No creature is hidden from his sight…” (Hebrews 4:13)
  • “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17)
  • Jesus: “…needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25)
  • “Now we know that you know all things.” (John 16:30)
  • Spirit: “For the Spirit searches everything…” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11)
  • Psalm 139:1-6


God knows the future

  • God: “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose . . . I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.’” (Isaiah 46:9-11)
  • Jesus: “I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am.” (John 13:9)
  • “God knows everything that ever was, everything that now is, and everything that is to be; all that is actual and all that is possible. Therefore God knows in advance all the free acts of all free creatures.” (John Edgren)
  • “Everyone who believes in God at all believes that He knows what you and I are going to do tomorrow.” (C. S. Lewis)
  • Openess Theology denies this.

5. God is Not Bound by Time

  • God: “. . . with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8)
  • “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” (Psalm 90:4)
  • “I am who I am.” (Exodus 3:14) or I am what I am, or I will be what I will be – God’s name Yahweh.
  • Jesus: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him.” (John 8:58-59)
  • Wayne Grudem: “God views the whole span of history as vividly as He would if it were a brief event that had just happened. But He also views a brief event as if it were going on forever. God sees and knows all events – past, present, and future – with equal vividness. Though He has no succession of moments, He still sees the progression of events at different points in time.”

6. God is Unchangeable

  • God: “For I the Lord do not change.” (Malachi 3:6)
  • Jesus: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
  • God both does and doesn’t have regrets!
  • “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me.” (1 Samuel 15:11)
  • “The Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” (1 Samuel 15:29)
  • But God does truly relate to us.
  • “If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.” (Jeremiah 18:7-10)
  • John Piper: “So the repentance over Saul means not that he did not know what Saul would be like, but that he disapproves of what Saul has become and that he feels sorrow at this evil in his anointed king, and that he looks back on his making him king with the same sorrow that he experienced at that moment when he made him king, foreknowing all the sorrow that would come. For God to say, “I feel sorrow that I made Saul king,” is not the same as saying, “I would not make him king if I had it to do over, knowing what I know now.” God is able to feel sorrow for an act that He does in view of foreknown evil and pain, and yet go ahead and will to do it for wise reasons.”

7. God is Wise

  • God: “. . . the only wise God.” (Romans 16:27, see Psalm 147:5)
  • Jesus: “Christ…the wisdom of God.” (1 Cointhians 1:24)
  • Holy Spirit: “. . . the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and under-standing, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:2)

8. God is Truth

  • God: “God is not man, that he should lie…” (Numbers 23:19)
  • “God, who never lies.” (Titus 1:2)
  • Jesus “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6)

9. God is Omnipresent – He is Everywhere

  • God: “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence…” (Psalm 139:7-10)
  • “Do I not fill heaven and earth, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:24)
  • Jesus: “ For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)
  • But, it is not wrong to speak of God “coming.”
  • “…we will come to him and make our home.” (John 14:21)
  • “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send…” (John 15:26)

10. God is Omnipotent – He is All-Powerful

  • “… Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jeremiah 32:17)
  • “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think…” (Ephesians 3:20)
  • Jesus: “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41)

11. God is Uncontainable

  • God: “…heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you…” (1 Kings 8:27)
  • Jesus: “…he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light…” (Matthew 17:2-6) (Building a tent to contain him was foolish!)

12. “God is Light.” (1 John 1:5)

  • Jesus – “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12)

13. “God is Spirit.” (John 4:24)

  • Jesus “And the Word became flesh…” (John 1:14)

14. “God is Holy.” (Psalm 99:9)

  • Jesus “I know who you are the Holy One of God.” (Luke 4:34)

15. God is Righteous and Just

  • God: “No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19)
  • “. . . your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
  • Jesus: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

16. God is Jealous and Full of Wrath Against Sin

  • God: “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful…” (Nahum 1:2)
  • Jesus: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:17)

17. God is Sovereign – His Will Always Comes to Pass

  • God: “. . . according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11)
  • “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)
  • “… it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)
  • “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)
  • Jesus: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)

But he is not responsible for sin.

  • “God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one…” (James 1:13-14)

WHO IS JESUS?

Jesus Shares All the Attributes of God

  • He was eternally one of the three persons in the Trinity. He is frequently described with the word “lord” which is used 6,814 times in the Septuagent for Jehovah/Yahweh. Jesus is also fully man and a real man’s man.
  • “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him . . . the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1) “And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.” (John 2:15)

Jesus Was Truly a Man

  • He was born of a normal human mother.
  • He “grew and became strong” (Luke 2:40) and “increased in wisdom and in stature
    and in favour with God and man.” (Luke 2:52)
  • He was hungry.” (Matthew 4:2) and he said, “I thirst.” (John 19:28)
  • He got “wearied” from a journey (John 4:6) and he slept. (Luke 8:23)
  • He was not a “Clark Kent” figure only pretending to be vulnerable.
  • There were things that Jesus, the man, did not know. “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32)

Jesus Felt All Our Emotions

  • He “marvelled.” (Matthew 8:10)
  • “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The sceptre of your kingdom is a sceptre of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (Psalm 45:6-7)
  • “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)
  • “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” (Matthew 26:38)
  • John Piper: “Jesus was fully human and fully God – he was not God with a human veneer – like a costume. He was a real flesh and blood man, a carpenter’s son.”
  • Mark Driscoll: “It’s hard to worship someone you can beat up.”
  • Wayne Grudem: “An infinite God came to live in a finite world. In Jesus, God and man became one person . . . For Jesus Christ was and always will be, fully God and fully man in one person.”

Jesus Remains a Man Forever

  • “…a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have…” (Luke 24:38-43)
  • “This Jesus…will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

How Can Jesus be Both Man and God?

  • Error 1 – A human body, but not a human mind or spirit – Mickey Mouse suit.
  • Error 2 – Two persons in one body – circus “horse” suit.
  • Error 3 – One new nature – neither God nor man! -Drop of ink in water.
  • The Solution: Two natures, but one person (see Power Point for graphical images of these – thanks to Wayne Grudem for the illustrations!)

Some Things are True of Only One of Jesus’ Natures

  • Jesus’ human nature ascended to heaven and is no longer in the world – John 16:28 “I am leaving the world.”
  • But . . . his divine nature is everywhere present. -Matthew 28:20 “I am with you always.”
  • Jesus felt weak and tired. (Matthew 4:2; 8:24; Mark 15:21; John 4:6), but in His divine nature He was omnipotent. (Matthew 8:26-27; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3).
  • Jesus was 30 years old and existed from eternity!
  • A false objection: “Omniscience and ignorance, omnipotence and impotence cannot coexist. The former swamps the latter.” (A.N.S. Lane)

The Two Natures and Jesus’ Death

  • “. . . it is not correct to say that Jesus’ divine nature died, or could die, if “die” means a cessation of activity, a cessation of consciousness, or a diminution of power. Nevertheless, by virtue of union with Jesus’ human nature, his divine nature somehow tasted something of what it was like to go through death. The person of Christ experienced death. Moreover, it seems difficult to understand how Jesus’ human nature alone could have borne the wrath of God against the sins of millions of people. It seems that Jesus’ divine nature had somehow to participate in the bearing of wrath against sin that was due to us (although Scripture nowhere explicitly affirms this). Therefore, even though Jesus’ divine nature did not actually die, Jesus went through the experience of death as a whole person, and both human and divine natures somehow shared in that experience.” (Wayne Grudem)

A BIBLICAL SUMMARY – KEY VERSES

  • “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty . . .” (Exodus 34:6-7)
  • “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose . . .I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” (Isaiah 46:9-11)
  • “…who, though he was in the form of God …” (Philippians 2:6-11)

WHAT WE SHOULD SAY ABOUT GOD

  • Together for The Gospel 2006
    -We affirm that the Bible reveals God to be infinite in all his perfections, and thus truly omniscient, omnipotent, timeless, and self-existent. We further affirm that God possesses perfect knowledge of all things, past, present, and future, including all human thoughts, acts, and decisions.
    -We deny that the God of the Bible is in any way limited in terms of knowledge or power or any other perfection or attribute, or that God has in any way limited his own perfections
  • What does Jubilee Believe About God?
    -“Life in Jubilee Church can be summarised as: loving God, loving each other, and loving the world.” (Membership Course)
  • Jubilee is a member of the Evangelical Alliance and holds to its Statement of Faith:
    “We Believe in . . .
    -The one true God who lives eternally in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
    -The love, grace, and sovereignty of God in creating, sustaining, ruling, redeeming, and judging the world.”

This God Chooses to Take Delight in Us!

  • God: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
  • Jesus: “. . . who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.” (Hebrews 12:2)

He Wants Us to Delight in Him!

  • “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4).
  • “Delight yourself in the Lord; and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4).
  • “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1)

CONCLUSIONS

  • If we believe in a good, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, all-wise, all-loving God who is in control of every detail of the universe and works it all out for our good, how can we not worship Him and trust Him with our future?
  • When we know God better, we become more like Him.
  • “And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
  • “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.” (Psalm 27:4)
  • “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock has been a blogger since April 2003, and a member of Jubilee Church, London since 1995, where he seves as part of the leadership team alongside Tope Koleoso.

Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus.

Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway.

Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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