Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

God's Attributes

God is known by man as He chooses to reveal Himself. Since God is transcendently over and above man, He cannot totally reveal Himself. As God revealed through the prophet Isaiah, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.’” The only way finite man can know who God is, is through His attributes. In the preface to Charnock’s classic work on the attributes of God, the writer describes God’s attributes as, “a grand foundation for all true divine worship, and should be the great motives to provoke men to the exercise of faith, and love, and fear, and humility, and all that holy obedience they are called to by the gospel; and this, without peradventure, is the great end of all those rich discoveries God hath in his word made of himself to us.”

While some would state that God’s attributes are synonymous to His properties, in reality, they are quite different. According to Erickson, “The attributes are qualities of the entire Godhead. They should not be confused with properties, which, technically speaking, are the distinctive characteristics of the various persons of the Trinity. Properties are functions (general), activities (more specific), or acts (most specific) of the individual members of the Godhead.” For example, Jesus has the property of having a physical, corporeal body. Even after his resurrection, Jesus bore flesh – albeit glorified – and had the properties of a physical state. He ate, walked, talked, and was able to be touched. God the Son has always had the property of a physical state. Realizing this truth makes it easy to understand all appearances of God to man have been Christophanies. After all, God told Moses that no man could see the Father and live. On the other hand, “God [the Father] is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” God the Father and God the Holy Spirit have the properties of a non-physical state – they are incorporeal beings. The key difference between the properties of the Godhead and His attributes is that God can divest Himself of His properties and still be fully God. If God were even to temporarily lose even one of His attributes, He would no longer be God.

God’s attributes are essential to His nature. All three persons of the Trinity share in all of the attributes of God. Omniscience is an example of an attribute of God. By Pinnock and the “open theists” contending that God has limited knowledge of the future, they take away a significant portion of who God is. If God is limited in one of His attributes, since they are all inherent to His very nature and character, He is no longer God – at least as He is described in Scripture. While God’s attributes are intrinsic to who He is, it is important to recognize that the attributes themselves are not God. In contemporary society, it is common to isolate a single attribute of God and hold it up in reverence as a deity. For example, it is understood by most people that God is love. This, however, is not a reflexive statement. In other words, while it can be said that God is love, it cannot be said that love is God. Unfortunately, many people today try to make that statement. There is another implication of the essential nature of God’s attributes to who He is. Many people seek to contrapose God’s attributes and pit them one against another. A prime example of this is when people say that God’s love must be balanced against His righteousness. The concept of balance requires a point of tension midway between two competing objects. God’s attributes are not in some sort of yin-yang face-off with each other. God’s character is manifest in His attributes and He is not bi-polar. He is perfect and He makes Himself known by His perfect attributes – all of them, in all their glorious, inscrutable fullness.


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