10 Things to Know about God’s Attributes
- Mark Jones Author
- 2017 24 Jul
1. God is simple.
What that means is this: God is free from all composition; He is not the sum of his parts. There is not one thing and another in God. Rather, whatever is in God, God is. He is absolute, which means that there are no distinctions within his being.
2. When we speak of his attributes, we must keep in mind that because his essence remains undivided, his goodness is his power.
Or, God’s love is his power is his eternity is his immutability is his omniscience is his goodness, and so forth. In other words, there is technically no such thing as attributes (plural) but only God’s simple, undivided essence. Why is this important? The simplicity of God helps us to understand that perfect consistency exists in God’s attributes.
3. God is infinite.
The infinity of God is sort of like a “meta-attribute,” such as simplicity, in the sense that it qualifies all the other attributes. Infinity means that there is no limit to God’s perfections. When we consider God’s attributes, we must always consider them as infinite. His infinity is a positive concept, so that we must say that his attributes are intensively and qualitatively infinite. God’s infinity is the highest sense of perfection. “Not yet finished” (or “indefinite”) is an improper way to understand infinity with regard to God. Rather, without bounds or limits or degrees, God knows infinitely and is a sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere. He is as present in our midst as he is farthest from us in the universe. Yet while he is present in one place, he is never confined to any place.
4. God is eternal.
First, his eternality is unlike the eternal state experienced by humans or angels, all of whom were created in time. Time has a beginning with succession of moments, but God has no beginning, succession of moments, or ending. God’s eternality speaks of his timeless and unchangeable (yet not static) nature. As theologians of the past have argued, the statement “Time began with the creature” rings truer than “The creature began with time.”
5. God is unchangeable.
God is what he always was and will be (James 1:17). Because of his simplicity, his eternality demands his immutability. Eternity speaks about the duration of a state, whereas immutability is the state itself. Immutability in God means not only that he does not change but also that he cannot change (Ps. 102:26).
6. God is independent.
God’s independence is his sufficiency. From his self-sufficiency are enough gifts, both natural and supernatural, to satisfy all creatures that shall ever come into existence. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all satisfy each other. Because they eternally and unchangeably do so in loving communion, they can satisfy others with whom they commune in love. If there were infinite worlds of loving creatures, all desiring happiness in God, he could as easily bless all as he could one. He is all life, so that all outside him derive life from him.
7. God is omnipotent.
When discussing God’s power, theologians typically distinguish between his absolute and ordained power. Absolute power refers to what God may possibly do but does not necessarily do. He could create a billion worlds of living creatures without deciding to actually do it. God’s ordained power denotes what he actually decreed according to his will and then providentially accomplishes. With such language we are not setting forth two distinct powers in God but rather understanding his omnipotence by way of application (ordained power) and non-application (absolute power). God’s power must also be understood as exercised according to or “governed” by his nature. His power must be a good power.
8. God is love.
There are three types of outward love exercised by God:
God’s universal love toward all things: “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made” (Ps. 145:9). Even the creatures of the earth are beneficiaries of God’s love.
God’s love toward all human beings, both elect and reprobate: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:44–45). God still loves a person who hates and rejects him, even granting him the ability to manifest such hate in thoughts, words, and actions.
God’s special love toward his people: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
9. God relates to us anthropomorphically.
Almost all that pertains to humans in the Scriptures is also attributed to God. The Bible speaks of God’s “face” (Ex 33:20), “eyes” and “eyelids” (Ps. 11:4), “ear” (Isa. 59:1), “nostrils” (Isa. 65:5), “mouth” (Deut. 8:3), “lips” (Isa. 30:27), “tongue” (Isa. 30:27), “finger” (Ex. 8:19), and many others body parts. The Bible is anthropomorphic through and through. God accommodates himself to us in Scripture and sometimes appropriates to himself language that helps us to understand certain truths about him.
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10. God’s attributes shine forth most clearly in the person and work of Christ.
He is the image of the invisible God. Christ reveals the Father to his people. In Christ’s life, death, and resurrection we see God’s attributes everywhere displayed. To know God is to know God through Jesus Christ.
Mark Jones serves as the pastor of Faith Vancouver Presbyterian Church (PCA) in British Columbia, Canada, and research associate at the University of the Free State in South Africa. He has authored several books and speaks all over the world on Christology and the Christian life.
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Publication date: July 24, 2017