God’s Attributes

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.

1 Chronicles 29:11-13 (All Scripture quotations are from the ESV)

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

1 Timothy 1:17

From the above Scriptures we are provided a summary of who God is. For instance, we see that God is the only true God, sovereign, invisible, and worthy of honor, glory, and praise. Let us take a further look at the attributes of God, albeit, not exhaustively. Keep in mind, too, that some of the below attributes do not necessarily have Scriptures that explicitly say something like “God is…”. This is the case for the doctrines of divine simplicity and impassibility. These attributes, however, are implied in a number of passages, as well as understood philosophically, which is to say that they are understood logically and as being in accordance with the metaphysical reality of things.

God is…

Spirit. God is immaterial and invisible. Put another way, he is incorporeal (without body) and cannot be seen by the eyes of man. When Scripture speaks of God as having body parts, such as eyes or hands, it is to be understood as an anthropomorphism — the attribution of human characteristics for our aid in understanding God and his works.

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. - John 4:24

Simple. God is not composed of parts; he is not divisible. There are no basic or foundational components of which God is composed; he simply is himself. This means, too, that we cannot divide up his attributes, as if God were part holy, part righteous, part [fill in the blank].

God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.'  And he said, 'Say this to the people of Israel: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" - Exodus 3:14

Eternal. God has no beginning and no end. He is the Uncaused Cause, the Unmoved Mover, having life in himself (aseity) and dependent on no one.

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. - Psalm 90:2

Immutable. God does not change. Whereas change assumes progress and imperfection, God is perfect. To change assumes potentiality, whereas God is pure act or pure actuality. He has no potential to become something he is not.

They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment.  You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. - Psalm 102:26-27

Impassible. God does not have passions; he is without emotional change. To deny this would be to assert that God has states of being, that he changes in his being. When Scripture speaks of God in terms of passion, it is to be understood as an anthropopathism — the attribution of human emotions or feelings to aid in our understanding of God and his works. Note, this does not simply mean that God is controlled in his passions, nor is it to say that God is uncaring or unloving. See recommended resources below for help in this area.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." - James 1:17

Infinite. God is immeasurable and incomprehensible. There is no limit to God and his perfections. While we may know something of God from creation (his unwritten word) and the Bible (his written word), the finite creature cannot exhaust the infinite Creator.

Can you find out the deep things of God?  Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?  It is higher than heaven--what can you do?  Deeper than Sheol--what can you know?  Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. - Job 11:7-9

Omnipotent. God has infinite power. There is nothing that God cannot do that is not contrary to his nature or logic. Nothing can stay his hand.

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. - Psalm 115:3

Omnipresent. God has infinite presence, or he is present everywhere. Everything is laid bare before him; the hidden things of man are open to him.

Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD.  Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. - Jeremiah 23:24

Omniscient. God has infinite knowledge, or he knows all things (actual and potential). Creation testifies to the infinite knowledge and wisdom of God.

O LORD, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.  You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. - Psalm 139:1-6

Sovereign. God’s will is ultimate and he reigns over all the earth. He decrees the end from the beginning, accomplishing all his purpose to the end of his glory and the good of his people.

For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever.  Amen. - Romans 11:36

Holy. God is wholly unique or wholly other. He is the perfection of purity and loves good and hates evil.

And one called to another and said: 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!' - Isaiah 6:3

Good. God is kind, loving, and caring. He is neither indifferent nor cruel. He is abundantly benevolent and beneficent.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. - Psalm 136.1

Just. God always does that which is right. Like a good judge, he administers justice in the world and will one day bring final judgment to the unrighteous. His justice is the plumb line for the governments of the world.

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you. - Psalm 89:14

Merciful. God is compassionate and slow to anger, showing patience to sinful man. He is understanding towards us and knows that we are but dust.

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.  For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. - Psalm 103:13-14

Faithful. God is trustworthy and unfailing. His word is a solid foundation upon which we may build our lives. Far from being a covenant breaker, God both establishes covenants and sees them through. He cannot lie.

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. - Deuteronomy 7:9

Triune. God is one God (being) existing in three distinct, yet co-eternal and co-equal persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. They are of one essence, meaning the above attributes apply equally to all three persons, undivided. The Athanasian Creed (late 5th Century to early 6th Century; not actually written by Athanasius who died in AD 373) is an historical articulation of the Trinity. Following is a portion of the creed:

And the catholic [i.e. the Church universal] faith is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Spirit uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Spirit unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Spirit Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God.

Athanasian Creed

Although mysterious to our finite minds, this doctrine is abundantly testified to on the pages of Holy Scripture.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. - 2 Corinthians 13:14

The above descriptions of God’s attributes are by no means an exhaustive treatment (far from it). In a nutshell, we may say: Great is our God and greatly to be praised! Additionally, we see God’s attributes, such as his love, mercy, and justice, most clearly in the gospel of Christ, who is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).

For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. - 2 Corinthians 4:6

The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith 2.1:

The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself [aseity], infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts [simple], or passions [impassibility], who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and withal most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

Recommended Resources:

God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God by Mark Jones

All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Theism by James Dolezal

God Without Passions: A Primer by Samuel Renihan

Knowing God by J. I. Packer

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