THE CHARACTER OF GOD

 

This session was taught at the Christ Church Manchester School of Theology on Saturday 17th March 2018. The CCM School of Theology was set up to serve local churches in Manchester and beyond.

Topic: The Character of God 

In this session, we talk about the Character or attributes of God. We look at the two different classifications of God’s attributes. Those which are incommunicable (those which he does not share with us) and those which are communicable (those which he does share with us).

Speaker: Greg Willson

Greg is on the Leadership Team of Grace Church Manchester and is planting a new congregation in the City this year (2018).

LISTEN

NOTES

How should God’s story shape our story? In this second session, we will consider what we mean by ‘the authority of Scripture’ and look at some of the tools required to apply God’s word to our lives.

The Incommunicable Characteristics of God

 

  • God is Independent (aka Aseity)

‘The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.’  (Acts 17:24-25)

Eternally existing, self-existent
Isa. 40:18-31

Independent in existence, thought, actions, …
cf. his revealed name in Exodus 3:14:
“God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”

So…do we not matter? What are we to God?

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

(Zephaniah 3:17)

  •  God is Unchangeable (aka Immutability)

Long-suffering:
“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. (Malachi 3:6)

His goodness to us:
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
(James 1:17 NIV11)

Herman Bavinck:
“The doctrine of God’s immutability is of the highest significance for religion. The contrast between being and becoming marks the difference between the Creator and the creature. Every creature is continually becoming. It is changeable, constantly striving, seeks rest and satisfaction, and finds this rest in God, in him alone, for only he is pure being and no becoming. Hence, in Scripture God is often called the Rock. . . .”

 

  • God is Eternal

Time:

Timeless in Himself:

‘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)

Job 36:26
Sees all time…all the time:
Psalm 90:4

Wayne Grudem: “But here Scripture tells us that God views a thousand years “as yesterday.” He can remember all the detailed events of a thousand years at least as clearly as we can remember the events of ‘yesterday.’”

Isaiah 46:9–10

Space:

‘But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built.’ (1 Kings 8:27)

Isaiah 66:1
Psalm 139:7–10, Jeremiah 23:23–24

 

  • God is Unity

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)

‘yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.’ (1 Corinthians 8:6)

 

The Communicable Characteristics of God

  • Being

Spirituality:
‘God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ (John 4:24) – God is spirit

‘”You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”‘ (Exodus 20:4–6)

‘which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.’ (1 Timothy 6:15–16)

Wayne Grudem: “Whatever this means, it is a kind of existence that is unlike anything else in creation. It is a kind of existence that is far superior to all our material existence.”

  •  Intellect

Knowledge:
Job 37:16, 1 John 3: 20,

‘these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 1For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.’ (1 Corinthians 2: 10–11)

Wisdom:
Romans 16:27, Job 9:4, Job 12:13,

‘O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.’

(Psalm 104:24)

Wisdom in redemption: 1 Corinthians 1:24, 30
1 Corinthians 1:21, 27, 29

Showcased through the church to all:
‘so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.’ (Ephesians 3:10)

‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.’ (Psalm 111:10)

Truthfulness:

‘But the Lord is the true God;
he is the living God and the everlasting King.
At his wrath the earth quakes,
and the nations cannot endure his indignation.
Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”‘

(Jeremiah 10:10–11)

John 17:3, Job 37:16

Faithfulness:

‘God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?’

(Numbers 23:19)

2 Samuel 7:28

  • Morality

Goodness:
“No one is good—except God alone.” —Jesus
(Luke 18:19)
Psalm 100:5, Psalms 106:1; 34:8

Good to all;

‘The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.’

(Psalm 145:9)

James 1:17

Especially to His children; 

Psalms 84:11, Romans 8:28

Love:

‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.’ 
(1 John 4:18-19)

Berkhof: “He does not even withdraw His love completely from the sinner in his present sinful state, though the latter’s sin is an abomination to Him, since He recognizes even in the sinner His image-bearer. John 3:16; Matt. 5:44, 45. At the same time He loves believers with a special love, since He contemplates them as His spiritual children in Christ. It is to them that He communicates Himself in the fullest and richest sense, with all the fulness of His grace and mercy.”

John 16:27; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:1

Grace, Mercy, Patience:

Ephesians 1:6,

‘so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:7)

Titus 2:11, 3:4

Mercy; Psalm 145:9
Patience (aka forebearance, long-suffering): 1 Peter 3:20

Holiness:

Psalms 24:3, 71:22, 89:18; Isaiah 1:4, 5:19, 5:24

Informs how we ought to speak and act:
‘Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.’ (Leviticus 19:2) 

Peace (aka order):

Romans 15:33, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Isaiah 55:12

also: the story of creation

Righteousness/Justice:

Deuteronomy 32:4, Psalm 19:8

Wayne Grudem: “As a result of God’s righteousness, it is necessary that he treat people according to what they deserve. Thus, it is necessary that God punish sin, for it does not deserve reward; it is wrong and deserves punishment.”

Romans 3:25–26
Job 40:2, 8

Jealousy:
Exodus 34:14,

‘For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.’

(Isaiah 48:11)

Wrath:
Exodus 32:9–10, John 3:36,

Not just in the Old Testament!

‘and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.’ (1 Thessalonians 1:10)

Romans 3:24–26 

  • Activity

Will:

Ephesians 1:11
Everything created by his will: Revelation 4:11
Secret and revealed will:
Deuteronomy 29:29: The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

Freedom:

‘Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.’ (Psalm 115:3) 

Power (aka omnipotence):

Psalm 24:8; Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:27; Jer. 32:17
Ephesians 3:20
God, the “Almighty”
He can do more than He actually does: Matthew 3:9, 19:26

 

  • Others

Perfection:

‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ (Matthew 5:48)

‘As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.'(Psalm 18:30)

Blessedness:

1 Timothy 1:11; 6:15
Everything good originates from Him: James 1:17

Beauty:
Grudem: “He is the sum of all desirable qualities.”
Psalm 27:4
‘They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.’ (Revelation 22:4)

Glory:

Old Testament: Psalms 24:10, 104:1-2
Christ: Luke 2:9, Matt. 17:2
New heavens and earth: Rev. 21:23

Made to reflect His glory:
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit

 

 

Recommended Resources

 

Systematic Theologies:
Wayne Grudem; Systematic Theology,

Louis Berkhof; Systematic Theology,

John Frame; Systematic Theology,

Herman Bavinck; Doctrine of God, Reformed Dogmatics

Other Resources:
A.W. Pink; The Attributes of God

Christopher Wright; The Mission of God

J.I. Packer: Knowing God, Concise Theology

Tim Keller; Prodigal God

James Dolezal; All That Is in God

     

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