God’s Summary Attributes

gods-attributes-summary

We’ve learned that all of God’s attributes adjust to and assist one another. However, there are some attributes that are classified as “summary attributes,” because they don’t fit well into the other categories

Accordingly, God’s attributes of perfection, blessedness, beauty, and glory, fall into the category of “summary” attributes, because they celebrate all of what God is, and are enfolded into the other attributes at all times. In other words, when God employs his wisdom, goodness, or any other of his attributes, an infusion of the summary attributes takes place, making all of God’s character reflect perfection, blessedness, beauty, and glory.

As we turn the page on God’s attributes, I would like us to look doctrine as it pertains to God’s three O’s, as defined by Wayne Grudem in Systematic Theology:

  • doctrine: What the whole Bible teaches us today about some particular topic:
  • omnipotence: The doctrine that God is able to do all his holy will (from Latin omni, ‘all,’ and potens, ‘powerful’).
  • omnipresence: The doctrine that God does not have size or spatial dimensions   and is present at every point of space with his whole being, yet God acts differently in different places.
  • omniscience: The doctrine that God fully knows himself and all things actual and possible in one simple and eternal act. [i]

As you can readily see, the above observations about God’s attributes align with and accommodate the doctrine of the three O’s.

In summary, we must remember that God’s attributes work in concert with another, but sometimes as one or two instruments in a fine tuned orchestra. Therefore, we should never explore one attribute without the other, because that would diminish how truly fine and brilliant God is.

Until next time…

[i] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994)

God’s Moral Attributes

gods-moral-attributes

Our sickness of sin separates us from God. Therefore, God’s penal code—spiritual death—speaks to his absolute moral holiness. God cannot tolerate sin. Divorced from sin, God’s holiness exists within him while he persists in seeking and finding his own esteem.

In the Jewish tradition, the word holy describes the tabernacle—a place removed from the evil and sin of the world—no one could enter except for priests. After being consecrated, priests entered the first room in the tabernacle, known as “the holy place.” Only the high priest entered the “most holy place,” the second room in the tabernacle. Separating the two rooms was a curtain, known as the screening veil.

On the Day of Atonement, the high priest parted the screening veil, and entered the most holy place, offering blood for his and the people’s sins. So rigid and resolute was the statute—a piece of rope secured to the high priest’s ankle would enable the other priests to remove the high priest in the case of his death—without entering the holy of holies (most holy place).

But Christians can enter the most holy place, through the blood of Jesus Christ, our high priest. Without Jesus, the Christian would have no faith.

The reason?

In Hebrews 9:11-12 we read, “…when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Thus, the new covenant prophesied by Isaiah, “Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to  David” (Isa. 55:3) came to fruition.

In addition, the consummate Jew, Saul of Tarsus, who after his conversion had become God’s messenger to the Gentiles, wrote the following while on his first missionary journey:

“As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’” (Acts 13:34)

Here we see Old Testament prophecy coming to life and flowing through to the New Testament, which points to the historic unity of the Bible. As we read and study the Bible from beginning to end, we cannot escape the common thread of God’s holiness.

As the holiness of God is one of his moral attributes, his goodness, love, mercy, grace, patience, peace and order, righteousness and justice, jealousy, and wrath further define his virtue and moral code. Each of these distinguishes the God of Christianity in ways that show his worthiness—his favor shown toward undeserving humanity—his ability to order the universe judiciously and peacefully—his righteous and ongoing activity on our behalf—his jealous love and protection—and his wrath against all sin and rebellion that obstruct these stated moral attributes.

Until next time…

 

God’s Attribute of Truthfulness

gods-attributes-truthfulness

Just as God’s knowledge and wisdom are God, so it is with his truthfulness. And because of God’s being, truth resides organically within him, in his spirituality and invisibility, and all other of his communicable attributes—just as he is the “I AM WHO I AM,” he is, “I AM TRUTH.” God aptly defines and exemplifies absolute truth from within himself. Hence, all that is truth comes from God’s definition of truth, permeating every other one of his character traits, and attributes. On a more personal level, God instilled in us his idea of what the truthfulness of himself is—to help us observe him as God.

In today’s society we cannot find anyone, including ourselves, whose truthfulness remains steady—never swaying—never influenced by motives—never telling a “white lie.” But God’s truthfulness is unlike any of these, because although he remains the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, he is not static. As God works in us, he sanctifies us through his grace, and is constantly moving within the circumstances of our lives and the world, using people for his purposes. So God’s truthfulness manifests itself through individual and general circumstances. Most people of faith tell about how God worked in their life at one time or another. But for those people not engaged in any kind of faith, there are numerous ways to see God’s truthfulness right before their eyes. For example, how many times have we marveled, gasped, and stared at a rainbow—some double and triple?

Rainbows are God’s chosen way to demonstrate his truthfulness and as a seal of his covenant with Noah.

In Genesis 9, we read: “And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth” (vs. 12-15 NIV).

While discovering this perhaps little known phenomenon, we find ourselves on the cusp of reality. Furthermore, we have a visible witnessing tool, in which the reality of God—who he is— and how he works—is explained to our unbelieving friends. Through the reading and study of Genesis 9:12-15, we see that God told the truth, and remained faithful to his promise.

Resisting the temptation to trivialize Scripture as metaphorical fantasies conjured up in the imagination of a biblical writer, let’s remember that God spoke the words and he said a rainbow would appear.

How many rainbows have you seen in your lifetime?

Until next time…

Magic Carpet on the Black Ice Ride

black-ice-3

Have you taken this ride yet? It’s fast, scary, exciting, and just about all I could handle when I rode it. The attendants are usually on lunch break, there is no slowing device or brakes, and if yours is on a hill it just keeps going faster and faster! It’s best if you sit down while riding the magic carpet on black ice, but some of us like to live on the edge.

When I took my first ride last week, I forgot to fold my arms at the elbow, crossing them over each other for balance. That was a huge mistake. Flailing arms are not a stabilizing factor on this type of ride. In fact, they are a hindrance. It also helps if you take your ride late in the day after the sun has been out for a while. You may get wetter, but it’s worth it!

Also, it’s to your advantage if you have rocks and/or snow banks near your landing area. Raw pavement is a definite hazard unless you are wearing battle gear, including a helmet or have great-great-great-grandad’s shield ready for use. Those protections go a long way when riding the magic carpet on black ice. Plus, they’re usually camouflaged so that when you land, no one can see you. That’s best, don’t you think?

I chose to make a hard landing, one in which there was no control. That was a bad decision. Still, it could have been worse. Fortunately, my face was up close and personal to a snow bank rather than concrete. Unfortunately, I am still suffering the consequences. Although distinctive, road rash on the left side of my face can be extremely uncomfortable. And then — there are the scabs. I’ve always wanted to see about getting the slight bump in the middle of my nose flattened just a bit. Unnecessary! Now all I have to do is wait for the red colored washboard to smooth back into its zinc color again, and my nose will be more distinctive than ever! I thought about taking before and after pictures…

Another thing I am grateful for is the intense stimulation that went through my entire body like a lightning rod going through cartilage, bone, and fat. Oh? You don’t have fat? Sorry, might have been better for you. Now, I might have chosen a different method to re-awaken every fiber in my body, but beggars can’t be choosy — can they? I receive friendly reminders of this most exhilarating ride every minute or so. And the puffed up pouty lips women say they would die for? Well, I have them! Except mine aren’t the least bit even, they bleed, and have little scabby things hanging off of them.

All in all, my magic carpet ride on black ice was a new experience that I’ll never forget.

Hope you never take this ride.

Until next time…

God’s Attribute of Wisdom

gods-attributes-wisdom

The indwelling of God’s attributes accompanied him at the time of creation. Their presence in him weren’t added to him later—they aren’t a “collection.” To understand how this works, we must first remember that God is a unity—a consolidation of who he is as a person. For example, when God creates us, we are what we are. Similarly, God is what he is. And all that is in him includes his attributes.

Portrayed as a woman in Scripture, wisdom seems to appear as a character who is praising herself in Proverbs 8:22-29:

“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be. When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth. I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.”

Wisdom’s poetic narrative about herself is boastful—a commendation of sorts. Nevertheless, the impact on her readers shows her importance, ranking, and availability. As God’s constant companion, she delighted in humanity.

Therefore, as we look at the wisdom in God’s plans for redemption and see it manifested in our lives, we again must turn to him with thankful hearts; and claim for ourselves the beginnings of wisdom, which emanate from “The fear of the Lord” (cf. Prov. 1:7, 9:10; Ps. 111:10).

Through reverent fear of the Lord, our application of God’s knowledge and wisdom to our faith must surely depend on his truthfulness. Unless we know for sure that his truthfulness is also him, how can we depend on his eternal promises?

We will look at God’s truthfulness next week.

Until next time…

 

God’s Mental Attribute of Knowledge

gods-attributes-knowledge

God’s knowledge manifests itself in his intelligence, cognition, and awareness of what we need to live on the good planet earth. For example, after Noah, his wife, and family left the ark, God made three promises:

“Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

As long as the earth endures,

seedtime and harvest,

cold and heat,

summer and winter,

day and night

will never cease” (Genesis 8:21-22).

In this passage, there isn’t a reason for why season should follow season.

Nevertheless, we know that each season functions as a timetable for harvests that are essential for us to survive. Imagine that we had no clocks or weather forecasts. We would wake when it’s light, go to bed when it’s dark, plant gardens when the ground has thawed from the icy cold, harvest the plants when they have grown through the warm spells, and get the soil ready before the cold days and nights begin again. In his promise to Noah, God ensured that this regularity would continue forever. Knowing that God’s knowledge is infinite, shouldn’t an eternal promise such as this, stimulate a desire for humanity to live in the present, while preparing for eternity?

When referring to God’s knowledge as “omniscient,” we might say that he has known himself and all things that exist or may possibly exist—as one cosmic, golden nugget of truth—that began at creation. In Psalm 139:16 we read, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” God knows the past, present, and future. In addition, by knowing himself, God knows that all things are possible through him.

As we think about the complexities of the universe and the many variations that have occurred, it’s important to understand that God’s knowledge also extends to the details of those millions of fluctuations and modifications coming from disciplines such as science and technology. Furthermore, to reason and/or ponder about his conclusions about any given event or subject isn’t necessary for God. His knowledge never changes or grows. From the very beginning of the universe and through his omniscience, God knew what would happen and what he would do. God’s knowledge is eternal—a forever attribute we should acknowledge and celebrate!

Until next time …

 

 

 

 

God’s Attribute of Invisibility

gods-attributes-invisibility

It doesn’t make sense to think of God’s invisibility as a communicable attribute. If we can’t see him, then how can he communicate this attribute to us? And how can we humans understand that God’s invisibility is another part of his being? The easy way to see God is through his visible created things, such as mountains, oceans, animals, and desert sands. But stopping at that point isn’t enough for those of us who cherish our love relationship with God.

The Apostle Paul tells us, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Paul is saying that we can understand God’s power and divine nature through his created things, but it is through that understanding that we care for and develop our relationship with him.

Many passages of Scripture speak to God’s invisibility. For example in John 1:18, we read “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” From this passage, we learn two things: (1) that no one has ever seen God and (2) that even though he is invisible to humanity, he still shows himself to us through “the one and only Son, who is in closest relationship with the Father,” and “has made him known.” Jesus, the God-man reveals the invisible God in Scripture.

And in the Old Testament, even though Moses spoke to God he did not see God’s face (cf. Exodus 33:20). Instead, “Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud [essence of God] would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses” (Exodus 33:9). Furthermore, in the exodus, God showed himself to the Israelites, either as a “pillar of cloud by day or a pillar of fire by night” (cf. Exodus 13:21-22). Nevertheless, for those of us living in the twenty-first century, how can we think God when we cannot see God?

We can adjust our vision by seeing God in every created thing of nature; the sun, stars and moon, animals, bodies of water, mountains; our fellow human beings, our children, and lastly ourselves. More important, we can see God in every word of the Bible—and in the reflection of his beloved Son. As the God-man, Jesus taught and demonstrated the visibility of the Father throughout his time on earth.

Until next time …