Six Major Attributes Of God

What are six of the greatest attributes of God? Is it love, mercy, longsuffering, or something else?

God is Holy

God is love (1 John 4:8), is longsuffering (2 Peter 3:9), is patient (2 Pet 3:15), is full of grace (Eph 2:8), and is merciful (Luke 6:36), but perhaps the greatest attribute of God, above all other attributes, is that God is holy. In fact, the only time an attribute of God is mentioned three times is about His holiness. It is never said that God is love, love, love or God is merciful, merciful, merciful, or God is faithful, faithful, faithful, although He is all of these. When something of significance is mentioned, or when there is a sign of intimacy, something is often mentioned twice. For example, Jesus said, “Verily, verily,” but also said, “Simon, Simon,” and “Saul, Saul,” so in the Hebrew, if something or someone is mentioned twice, it was intended to get their full attention. It is also a sign of an intimate relationship, like with Moses, Moses, and Abraham, Abraham. The point is, mentioning something twice was intended to give the reader or listener the sense that this a very important point…somewhat like an exclamation point would be, so when Jesus would say, “Verily, verily,” what followed had great significance. With that in mind, Isaiah saw a vision in which God was on His throne, and it must have been a vision because no human can actually see God and live (Ex 33:20), but Isaiah “saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him [God] were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory“ (Isaiah 6:1-3). Perhaps these angles have their feet covered because they were on holy ground, as with Moses’ case when he met God in the burning bush. With the other two wings they covered their faces, possibly because even the holy angels cannot look at God close up and live, and with the other two wings, they flew or hovered over the throne of God. The number three does denote divine perfection, and God’s holiness is displayed in His righteous judgments in the Old Testament, but even today, God has not changed (Heb 3:8), and since God does not change, Peter quotes the Old Testament command (Lev 11:44) that “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet 1:16).

The Self-Existent One

In Exodus 3:14, God revealed His name to Moses as “I AM,” or the Self-Existent One. It could be thought of as, “I AM that I AM.” The Hebrew word is Hayah is and means “I AM What I AM,” or “I Will Be What I Will Be.” In the medieval Jewish tradition, “I will be what I will be” is one of the Seven Names of God. The verb Hayah can also mean, “to be, to become, come to pass, to abide (forever), remain, and be in existence.” [2] God’s name is perfectly fitting since there is no outside cause for His existence as He has always existed and has no need of anything to continue to exist. Many Bible Scholars believe “I AM Who I AM” is the best translation of all [3], because like God, He never changes, and has been, is, and always will be (Ex 3:15). [4] This is what so angered the religious leaders when Jesus kept referring to Himself as “I AM,” particularly in the Seven I AM’s found in the Gospel of John (John 6:35).

Omnipotent God

God is also omnipotent. He told Moses “I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them” (Ex 7:5a). This omnipotence was mightily displayed in the fire, thunder and hail, the locusts, the boils, the utter darkness, and all of the plagues whereby “the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt” (7:5b). Even those “among the servants of Pharaoh [who] hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses,” understood that God has power to bring about whatever He speaks (Ex 9:20). Jesus too displayed His omnipotence in calming the storm (Mark 4:35-41), in withering the unproductive fig tree (Mark 11:20-26), and in resurrecting Lazarus from the dead (John 11). In fact, if Jesus had not specifically mentioned Lazarus by name, I believe that all who were in their graves would have come out of their graves because Jesus Word has effectual power.

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A Consuming Fire

Another of God’s attributes is found in Exodus, chapters 1-19. For much of the time, God is a burning or consuming fire. Certainly wherever He abides is holy ground, but He frequently appears as a burning pillar of fire or consuming fire which He did before Moses in the burning bush (Ex 3:2-5). He was later seen as that pillar of fire witnessed by Israel in the Wilderness (Ex 13:21), and fire is seen as an active manifestation of His presence, and where He was known to the other nations. When God made a covenant (“a cutting”) with Abraham, (Gen 15:17), He appeared as a consuming. Jesus also describes fire as part of God’s righteous judgment (Mark 9:43-48), and in the final consummation of His holy wrath in the Revelation of Jesus Christ (20:14; 21:8). The fiery judgment is significant because it displays His anger against sin and that He is uncompromising in His attribute of holy perfection (Jude 1:7), but also intended be a warning to “flee from the wrath to come” (Luke 3:7c; Matt 3:7c).

Merciful God

Mercy is one of God’s attributes that stands out more to those who have trusted in Christ than matters to the world in general. Even though many see Him as a harsh and judgmental God in the Old Testament, and radically different from the God of the New Testament where God is seen as a loving and caring God, should read the Book of Revelation and see if they still think that way. The fact is that when the people grumbled against Moses in (Ex 16:2-4), God had every right to extinguish them on the spot; instead He sent them “bread from heaven” (Ex 16:4) in His great mercy. As a merciful God, He heard Israel’s cry during their oppressive treatment under the heavy yoke of their Egyptian bondage. This cry moved Him to free them (Ex 2:23-24), and God gave Pharaoh ample opportunity to release Israel before God sending His plagues (or “strikes,” as the Hebrew says). [5] On the cross, Jesus epitomized the mercy of God, saying “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24). No human can fathom such mercy, and we might not even think about the suffering the Father had to endure in watching His One and only Son go through this. Imagine a parent seeing their child go through that. Truly the Father suffered too, but the cross was motivated out of love, and in this love, shows up as mercy.

Omniscient God

Another of God’s attributes is that of His omniscience which is displayed throughout the Bible. In one case, He is named for His attribute, like as El Roi, as the “God Who Sees Me.” [6] That’s because God knows the beginning from the end, and what will come to pass before it does. How else could He say to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land” (Ex 6:1), but also declare that “Pharaoh will not listen to you” (Ex 7:4a) which did end up happening. Jesus as God is also omniscient as “he knew all people” (John 2:24), knew the exact time of His crucifixion (John 17:1), who would betray Him (John 13:11), and even how He would be betrayed, as we see when Jesus tells Judas to do what he has to do quickly (John 13:27). Jesus knew well in advance that one of His own disciples would deny Him, (Mark 14:30), even though that disciple (Peter) said he was willing to die for the Lord.

Conclusion

Of course, God is also love, but that shows up in His mercy, so it’s comforting to know that God does not change. He never has a bad day. His attributes remain the same forever, and humans have an attribute that doesn’t change either…it’s called the sinful nature (Rom 3:10-12, 23), but even that God can change by His Spirit, but we can be thankful that God does not change, like He saved us through Christ, but He changed His mind. No, God never changes, and neither does the Word of God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). That is still true. God cannot lie (Heb 6:18; Num 23:19). Jesus is the one and only way (Acts 4:12), today, and forever. Whatever attribute you think is the greatest, they cannot be separated from one another and rated, and they are all equally important in the sense that God is perfectly holy, is self-sufficient and self-existent, and He is also omnipotent, a consuming fire, merciful, and omniscient, but thankfully, God is still drawing men and women to Himself through Christ (John 6:44), so today may be the best day for your salvation (2 Cor 6:2), particularly since there is no guarantee about tomorrow.

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

1 Desmond T. Alexander. From Paradise to the Promised Land (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing, 2012), 190.

2 “Hebrew Lexicon : H1961 (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 24 Mar, 2014. http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H1961&t=KJV KJV (Accessed November 28, 2017).

3 Ibid., p. 191.
4 Ibid., p. 191.
5 Ibid., p. 194.
6 Ibid., p. 191.

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