It’s been said, “A man’s own character will necessarily be determined by the character of the god whom he worships.” This is true. A person’s entire life is affected by whom they worship. And in order to rightly worship the God of the Bible, we must have a right understanding of his attributes.
For the next few weeks, I am planning to do a series of blog posts concerning the Attributes of God. Each week, I hope to post one attribute of God amidst other posts. In addition to the above-mentioned fact that one’s entire life is affected by whom they worship, here are 3 more reasons as to why I believe it is important for us to study the attributes of God.
Reason 1: It pleases God.
According to Colossians 1:10, one of the characteristics of a life that is honoring and pleasing to the Lord is a life that is continually “growing in the knowledge of God.” And since God is knowable only through his attributes, we can grow in the knowledge of God only if we study his various attributes as revealed to us in the Bible. This makes theology which basically means “Study of God” essential for Christian growth.
It is a misunderstanding to think theology is for the scholarly branch of Christianity. On the contrary, theology is for every Christian. Why? Because every Christian should seek to please God by growing in their understanding of the nature of God by studying his attributes.
Reason 2: It guards us from having a wrong view of God.
A lack of proper understanding of God’s attributes leads to a wrong view of God and hence a life that fails to please him. A.W. Tozer in his book, The Knowledge of the Holy wrote these words:
“A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well…there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.”
So, it is vital that we have a proper understanding of God’s attributes. Agreed, even a lifetime study of God’s attributes will not yield us the complete understanding of his attributes because it is impossible for finite creatures to fully understand an infinite God.
However, because we are created in the image of God, we have the innate capacity to correlate certain truths about God. And having been re-created in Christ [2 Cor 5:17] and with the illuminating work of the indwelling Holy Spirit [1 Cor 2:13], we can know God more and more even while we are in the human body. Paul’s persistent desire or goal as found in Philippians 3:10 was this: “I want to know Christ.” This was his goal nearly after 25 years of being in the ministry and almost at the end of his life. May that be our continual goal as well.
Reason 3: It produces joy in our hearts.
The Westminster Catechism states the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. As we grow in our understanding of God, our love for him increases and so does our obedience. As a result, the Holy Spirit produces more joy in our lives for one of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit is “joy.” [Gal 5:22].
How true are the words of the renowned preacher of the past, Charles Spurgeon,
“Plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in His immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.”
So, there we are. 3 reasons for studying the various attributes of God—It pleases God; It guards us from having a wrong view of God and finally, It produces joy in our hearts.
A Few Basic Truths Concerning the Attributes of God.
What it is. An attribute is a quality or characteristic that is true about someone. When we refer to God’s attributes, we are referring to the various qualities of God that are inherently present in God and revealed to us. It is good to remember this truth: God is knowable only through his attributes. Therefore a study of various attributes of God are essential to our knowledge of God.
What it is not. The various attributes of God are not component parts of God. In other words, God is not 10% love, 15% holy, 5% mercy, etc. Each attribute describes his total being. For example, love is not a part of God’s nature; God in his total being is love. Holiness is not a part of God’s nature; God in his total being is holy. Righteousness is not a part of God’s nature; God is in his total being is righteous. God will not compromise one of his attributes when exhibiting another attribute of his.
For example, the same God who is love is also the same God who exhibits wrath. So, it is important not to conclude that God is love means he will eventually save all people. He who is love is also One who is holy and one who is a God of wrath as well. The statement, God loves the sinner, but hates the sin should be stated with great caution. While God does rescue repentant sinners because of his loving nature, he must and will eventually judge unrepentant sinners by casting into everlasting hell because of his holy nature. God does not just punish the sin, but also the sinner who continues in sin without turning to him through his Son Jesus Christ.
We always need to remember that God is the sum of all perfections. So, we must be careful when we study the attributes of God that we do not emphasize one attribute at the expense of the others.
The Categories of the Attributes of God.
Incommunicable Attributes: These are attributes that belong to God exclusively. They are not passed down to us. Examples would be God’s self-existence, eternality, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, etc.
Communicable Attributes: These are attributes of God that can be possessed by humans in a finite way. Examples would be love, mercy, kindness, etc.
Having said that, let me also be quick to admit that it is not always easy to classify some attributes as strictly belonging to one category and not the other. For example, while omniscience is clearly an incommunicable attribute, humans do possess limited knowledge. So, we must be careful not to focus so much on the category of the attribute. Rather, the focus is to be on the study of the attributes themselves.
Hope these introductory thoughts are of help as we proceed to study a few of God’s attributes in future posts.