Category Archives: B – The Character (Attributes) of God

The Attributes of God – Communicable Attributes – Part 2 Wrap Up

Yesterday my family and I discussed the personal application questions that Wayne Grudem asks for Chapter 13, “The Character of God: ‘Communicable’ Attributes (Part 2),” of his Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994), which we are reading in our after breakfast Bible reading time. The day before our discussion I asked each member of the family to pick at least one question out of the eight asked by Grudem and answer it mentally in preparation for our discussion. Because three of us picked the same question, we had only two questions to discuss. In our discussion each person read the question(s) he or she had selected and shared his or her answer to it and then the rest of us commented on the question and/or the answer.

In one of the questions that we discussed we named some ways in which we could increase in power so that we could bring about results in the world that are pleasing to God. Ways that we named were reading the Bible, praying, attending church, fellowshiping with other Christians, reading inspirational books, and listening to Christian music.

In the other question which we discussed we expressed satisfaction with the way that God had created us, agreed that it was okay for us to feel happy over ourselves if we displayed our happiness in gratefulness to God but not if we displayed it in pride, and concluded that we would feel fully happy when (and only when) we reach Heaven.

We didn’t have time to read the Bible passage, Psalm 73:25-26, or the hymn, “If Thou but Suffer God to Guide Thee,” which Grudem suggests for the chapter.

The Attributes of God – Glory

And above the expanse over their heads [the heads of the four living creatures in Ezekiel’s initial vision] there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness all around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it I fell on my face” (Ezekiel 1:26-28, ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV).

Yesterday my family and I read what Wayne Grudem says about the glory of God in Chapter 13, “The Character of God: ‘Communicable’ Attributes (Part 2),” of his Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994), which we’re reading in our after breakfast Bible reading time. Grudem opens his consideration of the glory of God by distinguishing between two senses of the “glory” of God. In one sense it refers to God’s good reputation and the respect that He receives because of it. Bible passages given by Grudem in which it has this sense are Isaiah 43:7, John 17:5, and Romans 3:23.

In another sense God’s “glory” refers to the brightness that God sometimes causes to surround Him when He reveals Himself, such as He did when he appeared to Ezekiel. He did similarly when He appeared to the people of Israel in Exodus 24 and to John on the island of Patmos in Revelation 4. Other passages that refer to this glory of God are:
– “O LORD my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment” (Psalm 104:1-2).
– “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them [the shepherds], and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear” (Luke 2:9).
– “And the city [the new Jerusalem] has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb [Jesus]” (Revelation 21:23).

Grudem closes his consideration of God’s glory by pointing out that God made us to reflect His glory, quoting Paul, “And we all, with unveiled face [like Moses in Exodus 34:34], beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Grudem goes on to observe that although we aren’t now surrounded by a visible light there is a beauty about the way of life ¬†of a person who loves God which is often evident to those around him or her and to suggest that in the life to come such brightness will be intensified.

The Attributes of God – Beauty

One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.”
(Psalm 27:4, ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV)

Yesterday my family and I read what Wayne Grudem says about the beauty of God in Chapter 13, “The Character of God: ‘Communicable’ Attributes (Part 2),” of his Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994), which we’re reading in our after breakfast Bible reading time. God’s beauty is related to His perfection. Grudem distinguishes between them by taking God’s perfection to mean that God doesn’t lack anything desirable and His beauty to mean that God has everything desirable.

We reflect God’s beauty when we exhibit conduct that is pleasing to Him. Peter tells the women in the churches to which he writes to “let your adorning” or source of beauty be “the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” rather than “external things [like] the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jeweley, or the clothing you wear” (1 Peter 3:4). Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus that our displaying such beauty is so important to God that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Grudem closes his consideration of God’s beauty by encouraging us to enjoy fellowship with other Christians in which we see God’s character reflected because in doing so we are delighting in God Himself.

The Attributes of God – Perfection and Blessedness

Yesterday my family and I began reading about what Wayne Grudem calls God’s “summary” attributes in Chapter 13, “The Character of God: ‘Communicable’ Attributes (Part 2),” of his Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994), which we’re reading in our after breakfast Bible reading time. Grudem calls them “summary” attributes because they could be taken to describe all the other attributes of God rather than being listed as separate attributes. We considered God’s perfection and His blessedness yesterday and shall consider His beauty later today and His glory tomorrow.

Jesus tells his disciples, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48, ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV), and David says about God, “His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). Thus, according to them, God is perfect or complete, possessing fully all desirable attributes.

Paul describes God as “the blessed God” and “the blessed and only Sovereign” (1 Timothy 1:11 and 6:15). Noting that in both cases the Greek word translated “blessed” means “happy,” Grudem defines God’s blessedness as His being happy with Himself and all that reflects His character. Genesis 1:31, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good,” and Isaiah 62:5, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you,” refer to God’s pleasure in His works of creation and His people.

Grudem closes his consideration of God’s blessedness by observing that we imitate it when we delight in and express thanks for the abilities and other characteristics with which He has provided us and for creation as it reflects Him. He concludes by noting that we find our greatest blessedness by delighting in God Himself, the source of “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17).

The Attributes of God – Omnipotence

God told Abraham, “I am God Almighty,” and John reports him as saying, “I am…the Almighty” (Genesis 17:1 and Revelation 1:8, ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV). Thus God claims to be all-powerful or omnipotent (the Latin word omni and potens mean “all” and “powerful”).

Yesterday my family and I read about God’s omnipotence in Chapter 13, “The Character of God: ‘Communicable’ Attributes (Part 2),” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994), which we’re reading in our after breakfast Bible reading time. Here I’ll share some of what we read and talked about.

The quotations with which I opened this post are just two of several places in the Bible that refer to God as “the Almighty.” As well many passages refer to His power, including these:
– “Ah, LORD God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17).
– “But Jesus looked at them [his disciples] and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
– “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). The angel Gabriel is speaking to Mary about the forthcoming birth of Jesus.

God manifests His power in creating and caring for everything, in miracles, and in the saving of sinners. Moreover such passages as Matthew 3:9, in which John the Baptist tells the Pharisees and Sadducees, “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham,” indicate that God is able to do some things that He doesn’t actually do.

However there are some things that God cannot do. For example, he cannot do the contradictory, such as to make a stone too heavy for Him to lift, and he cannot do things which are contrary to His nature, such as to lie, as Hebrews 6:18, “It is impossible for God to lie,” points out.

Grudem closes his consideration of God’s omnipotence by observing that He has made us in such a way that we can show in our lives some of each of God’s attributes of purpose–will, freedom, and power. When we use them to make choices and do things that are pleasing to God we reflect His character and bring glory to Him.

The Attributes of God – Freedom

“Our God is in the heavens; he does what he pleases” (Psalm 115:3, ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV).

Yesterday my family and I read about God’s freedom in Chapter 13, “The Character of God: ‘Communicable’ Attributes (Part 2),” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994), which we’re reading in our after breakfast Bible reading time. After noting that this attribute of God is related to His will, which we’d considered the previous three mornings, and to His power, which we’ll consider tomorrow, he observes that it focuses on God’s not being restrained by anything external to Him.

Grudem then cites Psalm 115:3 (see above) and two other Bible passages that affirm God’s freedom.
– “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). Grudem explains the verse as indicating that human rulers cannot effectively oppose God’s will.
– “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?'” (Daniel 4:35). King Nebuchadnezzar is speaking.

Grudem closes his consideration of God’s freedom by suggesting that since He is free we shouldn’t look for reasons why He had to do certain actions, such as to create and to save us, othee than that He willed to do them and that His will has complete freedom. I agree with his advice.

However I do have a problem with Grudem’s being a Calvinist and yet holding that God is completely free. Calvinists hold that God preordained everything, which means that the future is fixed and so God isn’t free to do anything differently from what He preordained would happen. I’d have the same problem if Grudem were an Arminian. They hold that God foreknows everything, which means that the future is fixed and so God isn’t free to do anything differently from what He foreknows will happen. (For a comparison of Calvinism and Arminanism, see my November 17, 2012 post, “Calvinism and Arminianism.”)

On the other hand, open theists believe that God preordained only some things and that all that He knows of the future are those things and what He can predict with His perfect wisdom from His complete knowledge of the past, of the present, and of what He has preordained. Thus according to them the future isn’t fixed and God can act freely. For an overview of open theism, see my October 27, 2012, post, “An Introduction to Open Theism.”

The Attributes of God – Secret Will and Revealed Will

Yesterday my family and I continued reading about God’s will in Chapter 13, “The Character of God: ‘Communicable’ Attributes (Part 2),” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994), which we’re reading in our after breakfast Bible reading time. In the previous two days we’d read about God’s will in general and about His necessary will and His free will. Yesterday we read about His secret will and His revealed will.

Like us God can will some things secretly and later make this known to others. This is indicated by Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we do all the words of this law” (ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV).

God’s revealed will contains His will for our moral conduct and His commands for us, and His secret will contains the hidden decrees by which He governs the universe and determines what will happen. His revealed will is sometimes called His “preceptive will” (a precept is a general rule of action or behaviour), and His secret will is sometimes called His “decretive will” (a decree is a decision or order made by an authority).

Some Bible passages that refer to God’s revealed will are:
– “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of the Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
– “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his will'” (John 4:34).
– “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’ (Romans 12:2).
– “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14).

Some Bible passages that refer to God’s secret will are:
– “But Joseph said to them [his brothers], ‘Do not fear…As for you, you meant evil against me [by selling Joseph], but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:19-20). “Meant” here means “willed.”
– “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?'” (Daniel 4:35). King Nebuchadnezzar is speaking.
– “He [God] has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (Romans 9:18).
– “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go up to such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’…Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’ (James 4:13-15).

Grudem closes his discussion of God’s secret and the revealed will with a warning to be careful in speaking about evil events happening according to the will of God even though the Bible sometimes speaks of them that way. He gives two reasons for His warning. The first is that we might begin to think that God takes pleasure in evil, which he doesn’t. The second is that we might begin to blame God rather than ourselves for our sins. He notes that he’ll discuss the relationship between God and evil further in Chapter 16, “God’s Providence.” I’ll consider it with my family and here when we read that chapter in our family Bible reading.