Nature and Attributes
does the Bible describe God?
a. Nature or essence of God:
(1) God is spirit Ė God is a non-corporeal Being,
unique, and indivisible (Jn 1:18; 4:24; 1Ti 1:17; 6:15-16); the anthropomorphism
of describing God as possessing eyes, ears and other body parts is simply
analogy that human can understand (Ex 3:20; Isa 37:17)
(2) God is personal Ė God is not an impersonal
force; he has self-consciousness and self-determination (Ex 3:14); God
loves (Rev 3:19) and hates (Pr 6:16).
(3) Unity Ė There is only one God (monotheism,
Dt 6:4; 1Co 8:6); the plural word Elohim (Gen 1:26) only indicates dignity
and majesty of God.
(4) Trinity Ė God is three persons in one.
b. Incommunicable attributes (character) of God (not
present in man):
(1) Independence, self-existence: Godís existence
does not depend on anything outside of Himself (Jn 5:26; Ro 11:33)
(2) Immutability or constancy: Godís character
is unchanged. (Mal 3:6; Jas 1:17; 1Sa 15:29)
(3) Infinity: God is without limit. (1Ki 8:27;
Ps 145:3; Ac 17:24)
c. Communicable attributes (some resemblance
Perfection: there can be nothing higher or better.
(Job 11:7-11; Ps 145:3)
Eternity: God is above time and is not subject to
its limitations; for God, there is only an eternal present, no past or
future. (Ps 90:2; Rev 1:8)
Omnipresence (immensity or infinite presence): God
is present everywhere and is not subject to the limitations of space. (Is
66:1; Ps 139:7-10; Jer 23:23-24)
Omniscience (infinite knowledge): God possesses all
knowledge and is all-comprehensive; He knows all things past, present,
and future, and not only the things that have real existence, but also
those which are merely possible; thus He foreknows all possibilities (knowledge
of the hypothetical). God knows what would have been had things been otherwise.
(Jn 21:17; Isa 46:9-10; Ps 139:1-4; 147:4-5; Mt 11:21) However, this foreknowledge
does not determine events. Human freedom remains freedom, significantly
Omnipotence (infinite power): God has the execute
His will completely (Ps 115:3; Ro 1;20); however, He cannot lie, sin, or
deny Himself (Nu 23:19; 1Sa 15:29; 2Ti 2:13; Heb 6:18; Jas 1:13,17) because
these are against His character.
(1) Wisdom: God knows what is best so He decides
on the most worthy ends and on the choice of the best means to realize
those ends. (Ro 11:33-34, Ps 19:1-7)
(2) Goodness: God deals kindly with all His creatures.
(Ex 33:19; Mt 5:45, 6:26; Ps 145:9)
(3) Love: God relates compassionately to His creatures
with His benevolent affection, good will, and empathic understanding; He
seeks the highest good for humans. (Ps 103:17; Eph 2:4-5; 1Jn 4:8,10)
Grace (unmerited favour): God loves the undeserved
man through pardoning sin. (Eph 1:5-8; 2:7-8; Ex 34:6; Titus 2:11)
Mercy or compassion: God is tenderhearted; He shows
compassion toward the miserable, needy people He loves; He does not bring
on fallen people what they deserve. (Ex 3:7,17; Ps 103:13; Mt 9:36; Eph
Longsuffering, persistence, or forbearance: God is
patient; He bears with the sinner who does not heed the instructions and
warnings of God; He delays or lessens retribution. (1Pe 3:20; Ps 86:15;
Ro 2:4; 9:22-23)
(4) Holiness: God is distinct from all His creatures
for His moral perfection; He is totally free from all moral impurity or
sin; He is separated from all that is sinful. (1Sa 2:2; Isa 6:5; 1Pe 1:16)
(5) Righteousness and justice: God maintains
a moral governance in the world; He acts justly and shows no favoritism
in giving rewards or punishments. (Ro 1:32; 2:9,11; 1Co 4:7; Ac 10:34-35;
Ps 19:7-9; Jer 9:24a)
(6) Faithfulness: God is trustworthy; He never
defers from the fulfilment of His promises. (Nu 23:19; Heb 6:17; 1Sa 15:29;
Jn 17:17,19; Heb 6:18; Titus 1:2)
(7) Sovereignty: God is the supreme ruler and has
the imperative to decide as He pleases; called the sovereign will of God.
(Mt 7:21; 20:15)
God is changeless. How do we explain ĎGod repentsí?
This is an example of anthropomorphism (using human analogies
to explain the mystery of Godís character). Other examples include references
of Godís hand (Ex 3:20), Godís arm (Ex 6:6; Dt 4:34; 5:15), Godís ear (Isa
37:17; 59:1; Ps 11:4). These references are to be understood metaphorically.
When God is described as "changeless" or "immutable", it
refers to Godís consistent nature as insurmountably good, that is, He remains
always only the best. No change can or will take place in the divine character.
However, God is capable of responsive interaction. Augustine showed that
God changes works without changing plans.
Immutability does not mean that God is unresponsive or incapable
or interaction. "God repents" or "God relents" (NIV) describes Godís free
responsiveness to human needs amid changing historical circumstances. Godís
compassions do not fail (Jas 1:17); they are new every morning (Lam 3:23).
In three Biblical examples, disasters should be a just punishment
but God is merciful and He changed His plan because of changed circumstances,
including the repentance of the Ninevites (Jnh 3:10), the repentance of
David (2Sa 24:16; 1Ch 21:15), and the prayers of Amos (Am 7:1-6).
In other cases where the word "repent" was used, it only
describes the grieving of God because of manís sin (Gen 6:6; 1Sa 15:11,35)
God is holy and righteous. Why did He create sin?
Sin is not a substance that needs to be created. It is a
quality; sin is the privation (or lack) of goodness. One example is a personís
hate. God created the person but hate is originated from the person, not
something created by God.
A further question is: why did God permit sin to exist? He
could have created man who can only choose good.
But there is and can be no love without freedom. No one can
be coerced into loving another. Love includes the provision of a choice.
Either love exists freely or it does not exist at all. True freedom includes
the possibility of choosing wrongly. Otherwise, man would be just like
Jealousy appears to be a negative emotion. How can a loving God be jealous?
This is another example of anthropomorphism so that the word
used is not completely accurate.
When Israel worshipped other gods, God was described as being
jealous (Ex 20:5; 34:14; Dt 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; Jos 24:19). It should be understood
that Godís holiness includes separation from idolatry and sin. God demands
His people to be faithful. Idolatry (worshipping other gods) is a major
Love is always consisted of two components: the passion to
possess the object of love (Gr. eros) and the passion to self-giving
(Gr. agape). Love prizes the beloved so earnestly that it yearns
for possession; at the same time, love prizes the beloved so highly that
it cannot withhold any available gift or service, even to the point of
His deep love for His people leads to the sacrifice on the
cross. On the other hand, He also demands fidelity from His people, just
like a husband demands fidelity from his wife.
The word "jealousy" provides us with some (though not
totally accurate) notion of how God was angry with Israel for their infidelity
despite His deep love for them.