The Person and Attributes of God
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
God is not hiding. He invites us to seek Him and promises that if we do, He will reveal Himself to us. Why is it important to seek after God, to try to understand what He is like? Because this is why we were created — to know God and enjoy Him, to behold His glory and give Him glory. This is the highest purpose of any intelligent life.
How do we worship God? According to His Self-revelation. Jesus said that the Father wants us to worship Him “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Worshipping in spirit means we are led by the Holy Spirit and worshipping from our spirit, from the deepest place of our being. But what does it mean to worship God in truth and whose truth is it? It means that we worship according to the patterns that God reveals to us in His Word. Our worship of God is consistent with His revelation of Himself in holy Scripture. It is God who teaches us how to worship Him.
It’s important to know the truth about God so that we do not become idol worshippers. An idol is anything that competes with God for our ultimate love and loyalty. But idolatry is far more than the pursuit of fame, wealth or power, far more than bowing down before the rich and famous or statues made with gold or wood, more than pagan rituals. Idolatry is formulating ideas and theories about God that are false, untrue and unworthy of Him.
Idolatry begins as imagination — imagining God to be something or someone other than the Person whom He declares Himself to be. This can lead to the creation of a god who is not God, recreating God into some human likeness or figment of human imagination.
Since this is true, then churches which are presenting God as someone contrary to His Self-revelation in Scripture are doing nothing other than calling people to worship an idol. They are not making disciples for Christ but disciples of an idolatrous, blasphemous Godless religion.
Yet how can we know truth about the Lord? Since God is spirit, He cannot be seen by the human eye. Since God is eternal, He exists independently of time. Since God is infinite, there is an infinite amount of information about Him which we could not possibly understand.
We can only know God as He discloses Himself to us but in His kindness He has done this — the Lord has pulled back the veil and revealed some of the essential qualities of His being. The true and living God is a personal Being and can be known personally.
We call God’s Self-revelation attributes. An attribute of God is something that is true about God which God has revealed to us. God has used three means of revelation: general revelation through nature, verbal revelation through the holy Bible and personal revelation through Jesus Christ.
1. General Revelation Through Nature
Through the created universe, the Lord has revealed some aspects of His being: “The heavens are telling of the glory of God and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1).
The existence of an intelligently designed universe reveals the existence of an intelligent Designer. The atheist would have us believe this absurd equation:
Nothing + Chance Mutation + Time = Everything
How could nothing cause anything to come into being? And if something did come into being, how could chance mutation result in such a wonderfully complex life form as a human being? The world view of the atheist requires more faith than a Biblically formed world view.
There is a Creator and His creation reveals something of His being:
“For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through that which has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
Creation reveals God’s eternal power and His divine nature. Billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars, all balanced in perfect symmetry across a universe we cannot measure, reveal the awesome, immeasurable power of God.
The balance of sub-atomic particles held together by forces beyond our understanding, the vast information contained in a single strand of DNA, these reveal the wisdom of an intelligent Designer. The continuation of the universe hour by hour reveals the faithfulness of God to sustain and uphold that which He created.
God also reveals something of Himself through our moral conscience, “That which is known about God is evident within them” (Rom. 1:19). Though human beings are fallen and the imprint of God in the soul is marred by sin, all people still retain some sense of the difference between good and evil, mercy and cruelty, right and wrong. This reveals a Creator who Himself must be a moral Being.
God’s general revelation through His creation and through conscience is not enough to bring a person to repentance and faith, it is not saving revelation. But it provides enough information to reveal that God exists. The problem is not that God has hidden His existence. The problem is that people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them, for God made it evident to them” (Romans 1:18,19).
To those who are willing to accept God’s revelation that He exists, God will provide further revelation leading to salvation.
2. Through the Holy Bible God reveals aspects of His being.
In Holy Scripture, the inspired Word of God, the Lord unfolds His holiness, His wisdom, kindness and justice. He reveals His merciful desire to save lost humanity and reveals our Savior. In the pages of the Bible, God reveals His heart and His mind.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). The word inspired is theopneustos. The most literal translation would be God-breathed.
The Old Testament prophets continually said, “Hear the word of the Lord” (for instance Isaiah 66:5 and Jeremiah 22:29 among many examples). Jeremiah said, “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord’” (Jere. 2:1,2a). Hosea said, “Then the Lord said to me” (Hos. 3:1).
God was speaking through them. The Apostle Peter expressed this truth when he said, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20,21).
God is not hiding. He is continually revealing Himself through the writers of the Bible.
3. In Jesus, we encounter God’s Self-revelation in human form.
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son … And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:1,2a,3a).
Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
The Apostle John said, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained (interpreted) Him” (John 1:18).
“No one knows the Son except the Father nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27).
In Jesus we see as much of God’s Self-revelation as we are able to comprehend. He is the “exact representation” of God’s nature.
God is not hiding. He created humanity so that we may behold His glory and praise His glory. He created the universe as a stage on which He may display His glory. God has disclosed His glory in creation, in His Word and above all, He was born in human form so that we might know His glory, bow before His glory and live to the praise of His glory.
In the following lessons, we will explore various aspects of the being of God. We do so in all humility and gratitude, confessing our limitations and giving thanks for the kindness of a God who invites us to know Him, to worship Him and to enjoy Him forever.
“But just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’ For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God” (I Corinthians 2:9,10).
1. What are three means of revelation which God uses to disclose His attributes?
2. How is our worship impacted as we learn more about the nature of God?
God is Spirit
A good place to begin in studying the person of God is John 4:24. Jesus said, “God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are not physical beings. They are spirit beings. The Second Person of the Trinity became incarnate in human flesh, born of Mary and given the name Jesus. He lived among us, died an atoning death for our sins, rose from the dead and now exists in a glorified body. But prior to His incarnation, God the Son was also spirit.
When the Bible speaks of the arm of the Lord or the eyes of the Lord, those terms are used so we can better understand the personal nature of God — He touches our lives, He knows us. But those descriptions are not to be taken literally any more than when the Bible talks about God’s wings covering us (for instance, Psalm 91:4) — that doesn’t mean that God is a bird. God is not a physical being. God is a spirit being.
In the days of the Old Covenant, God represented or manifested Himself in the light and the fire of Shekinah glory — a pillar of fire by night, a cloud of glory in the day. There was a presence of glory in the Holy Place in the tabernacle and in the temple.
In the fullness of time, God incarnated Himself in the form of a man, Jesus Christ, who said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John l4:9). Jesus was not referring to His physical appearance but to His nature. He showed us God’s love and kindness, God’s anger toward sin and mercy toward sinners. He interpreted to us the Being of God.
Jesus now exists in a glorified body but from eternity, God did not exist in a body and therefore was neither male nor female. However, in order that we might relate to Him as a personal God, He revealed Himself to us using a male reference point. God took the form of a man. The purpose of this Self-revelation is so that God can be known personally.
God reveals Himself using personal names: Father, Son, Shepherd, Helper. Personal pronouns are used of God: He, His, Him. The pronoun it is never used to describe God. God is a person — He thinks and acts and feels and speaks. He relates to us and communicates to us on a personal level.
It is wrongly supposed by feminists that the writers of the Bible used male references to God because their imaginations were captivated by male dominated societies which rendered them unable to conceive of God as anything other than male. That is not true. The writers of Scripture were surrounded by cultures which had imagined an incredible number of false gods, many of them feminine deities — mother and daughter and sister gods.
The men who received God’s Self-revelation in holy Scripture were able to see the spiritual and emotional enslavement, the destruction, corruption and cruelty produced in the surrounding societies as a result of the worship of those imaginary deities. We really do become in the image of whatever we worship. Therefore the writers of Scripture valued the worship of the true God according to His Self-revelation.
These writers used masculine imagery because it is the imagery through which God chose to reveal Himself. Divine inspiration is, after all, the reason that anything is written in holy Scripture. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
We can know nothing of God except as He reveals Himself in creation, in holy Scripture and in the person of Jesus. If we would know Him truly and truly worship Him, it must be in the way He has made Himself known to us.
1. Does God the Father have a body?
2. When Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” what did He mean?
God is Self Existent
“In the beginning, God” (Genesis 1:1).
The phrase, “In the beginning,” refers to the universe, not to God. God has no beginning and no end. Genesis, the book of beginnings, presents us with a God who already exists when the story of creation begins.
If God existed before creation, then He must be Self-existent. The Self existence of God refers to the truth that God is the uncreated cause of His own being. He owes His existence to no one but Himself. Everything else in the universe owes its existence to something or someone outside of itself. But this is not so of God. He alone is the reason for His own Being.
Uncreated Being must also be timeless, everlasting, and we will discuss that in a later lesson. Uncreated Being must also be Self sufficient and we will discuss that also in a later lesson.
The Bible offers no explanation for the origin of God because God has no point of origin. Time words apply to created things but not to God — there is no time when God did not exist.
If God is the cause of His own Being, and if God existed before creation, then all life must originate in Him and flow from Him, as Jesus said, “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself” (John 5:26).
“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men” (John 1:3,4).
Because God is uncreated, “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).
God does not explain Himself to the scientist or to the philosopher. The Bible does not attempt to prove the existence of God. It merely declares Him to be. Moses asked God’s name and the Lord replied, “I Am Who I Am” (Exodus 3:14).
He is the Great I Am before and beyond Whom there is no other, “Who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (I Timothy 6:16). Yet in His overflowing mercy, He comes to us, awakens us to Himself, reveals Himself to us.
1. Does God have a beginning?
2. Who or what is the cause of God’s being?
God is Self Sufficient
“In Him was life” (John 1:4a).
God’s Self existence reveals His Self sufficiency. Since God is the source of His own being, He depends on nothing outside of Himself for the continuation of His being. If all life flows from God then He needs nothing to be added to Him. He is the Source of all that was and is and shall be. What could He need? He needs nothing because He cannot be diminished. He never grows weary because His power cannot be depleted.
All life originates in God and flows from God: “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3).
God not only created the universe and all life in it, He continually sustains all that He created: “He upholds all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3).
All creatures, all plant life, all living things, are dependent on elements and factors outside of themselves in order to survive — food, water, air. Human beings exist by the will of God and depend on God for continued existence. But God is dependent on nothing, needs nothing outside of Himself.
The Self-sufficiency of God implies His perfect wisdom and perfect power.
A Self-sufficient God must be omniscient, all wise, the source of all wisdom. But He receives wisdom from no one and has never lacks knowledge, fact, information or truth regarding anything. The Psalmist exclaimed, “Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite” (Ps. 147:5). When the Lord asks a question such as, “Adam, where are you?”, it is not for the purpose of gaining information. Rather, it is so that we may be accountable to Him.
A Self-sufficient God must be Almighty. Therefore the Bible reveals that God possesses all power, is the source of all power, receives power from no one and His power is never diminished in its exercise, as He revealed through the prophet Isaiah, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable” (Isa. 40:28).
God created the universe to display His glory but God would still be glorious if no one ever beheld His glory. Humanity was created to worship God but if no one worshipped Him, God would not be diminished in any way.
When we consider the Self existence and Self sufficiency of God, we see that God can never receive anything that He did not first give. The poet was correct when he said,
“We give thee but thine own, what’er the gift may be
all that we have is thine alone, a trust O Lord from thee”
(William W. How, 1823-1897)
The Self-sufficiency of God provides us with an amazing revelation of love. The God who is complete within Himself, who needs nothing, chose to pursue us, to awaken us to His love, to redeem us, that we might receive His love and love Him in return.
The Self-sufficiency of God provides us with an amazing revelation of wonder — the God who needs nothing desires our worship.
This is life —the living God establishes His life in us and releases His life through us. The God who needs nothing from anyone will work through everyone who yields to Him in faith.
“For it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
1. What does it mean that God is Self sufficient?
2. How does the revelation of God’s Self-sufficiency impact your worship of Him?
God is Eternal
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or you gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God” (Psalm 90:1,2).
When we speak of the eternity of God, we mean that God is without beginning or end, free from all progression of time. We mean that God exists simultaneously before the beginning and beyond the end and is independent of beginning and end. We mean that He exists before time and beyond time and yet meets us in time, all in the same unending moment of His Being.
Because God is Self-existent, uncreated Being, therefore He must also possess endless Being, for it is impossible that He would cease to exist. Nothing can cause Him to not be.
It follows that if God is the uncreated Origin of all that is, then He must pre-exist time for time is just another expression of His creative power. God is no more subject to time than He is subject to pumpkins or giraffes or anything else He created.
As Creator, God contains in Himself the cause of all time. Albert Tozer expressed this truth so eloquently, “God dwells in eternity but time dwells in God” (The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 45).
So it is that the four living creatures around the heavenly throne worship the Lord saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Rev. 4:8).
Moses asked God’s name and the Lord replied, “I Am Who I Am”; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I Am has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14). God’s name expresses the inexpressible timelessness of His being.
The Lord testifies of Himself, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). He is the One who began the beginning and it is He who will conclude the end. He is not referring to His own existence because beginning and end are time words and cannot apply to God. God never began to exist nor can He ever cease to exist. Rather, all creation has its beginning and end in God.
When God uses time words, they are for our benefit but have no application to God. God has no past and no future — there is no progression of time in God. God lives in the unending moment of now, as we have said.
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord said, “I am God and there is no one like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done” (Isaiah 46:9b,10a). God declares the end from the beginning because His eternal, infinite being stretches out to contain all that was and is and shall be.
It is not that God sees the end and remembers the beginning because He is all knowing. Rather, He is always, continually present beyond the end and before the beginning. He is not simply the Alpha and the Omega. He is Alpha and Omega in the same moment. Beginning and end meet in God.
The God who began time will conclude time, will empty time into the eternity of His being.
There is a time coming when time will dissolve into eternity. Redeemed in Jesus, we are invited to share eternity with God. Eternity is not endless time but the absence of time. Eternal life is the very life of God. This is God’s invitation to the redeemed — that we share His life forever.
We are eternal spirits living in finite, mortal bodies which are subject to death. We see around and within ourselves constant proof of corruption and death. Yet there is within the human spirit an unquenchable longing for more, an instinct that we were created for more than these passing years. We know there is something in us that transcends these few moments of time.
This sense of everlastingness was planted in us by the everlasting God. Created for eternity, living in time, the eternal God is the only safe refuge for time driven pilgrims. This refuge is open to all who will surrender to the Lordship of Jesus. Because He is the source of eternal life, to know Him, to abide in union with Him, is to have eternal life. This is Jesus’ gift to all who believe in Him:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).
“And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (I John 5:11,12).
Jesus, our eternal Savior, says, “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19).
1. How would you describe the eternity of God?
2. How does the revelation of God’s eternity impact your prayers?
God Is Infinite
At the dedication of the Jerusalem temple, as Solomon prayed, he said, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!” (I Kings 8:27).
When we say that God is infinite we mean that He is without boundaries of time or space. The universe cannot contain Him — He transcends all He created.
When we say that God is infinite, we mean that He exceeds all limitations. All that God is, He is without limit. We cannot describe that which has no limits. We cannot say, “This is what infinity is like.” By definition, that which exceeds all limits must exceed the boundaries of language.
Infinity must also surpass our ability to imagine. We cannot imagine what we cannot describe. If we could conceive of God’s infinity, then God could be contained by our minds and He would not be infinite.
Because God cannot be contained within any boundary, He cannot be measured. Whatever can be measured is within the realm of our ability to describe with our tools of measurement and that cannot be infinite.
Since God cannot be measured, we cannot ascribe largeness or smallness to God. Large and small are words of measurement and God cannot be measured.
Because God is infinite, all His attributes must also be infinite. For instance, the Psalmist declares, “His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5). We could say the same thing about any other attribute of God — His love or His power.
Because all of God’s attributes are infinite, they cannot be diminished or increased. Therefore, God cannot ever be more or less than He always is.
This means God cannot ever love us more or less than He already does. He loves us with perfect, measureless compassion. His love cannot be diminished though He lavishes His love on a million, million children of the covenant. In His mercy, God plants His measureless love within our hearts so that we may love Him in return. Yet if no one loved Him, God’s love could not be less for it is infinite.
When God exercises His power, His power is never diminished, neither does God become weary nor does He need to rest. It is as easy for God to create a billion stars as it is for Him to create a lily. He shares His power with us in our weakness yet in sharing His power with a million, million children of the covenant, His power is not less.
Therefore we read, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable (unsearchable)” (Isaiah 40:28).
Because God is infinite, He cannot be constrained, obstructed or restricted. He will always accomplish His will. Therefore He says, “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9,10).
Because God is infinite, He cannot be defeated. Therefore, He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11).
Because God is infinite, He must be eternal. He cannot be bound by time or any other aspect of His creation. Yet in His mercy, the timeless God invites time-bound humanity to share His eternity with Him: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).
Sin destroys all it touches yet even sin has its limits but God’s grace and mercy are lavished without limit on the sinner who cries out to God. Because God is infinite, there is room in His heart and in His heaven for every sinner who will turn to Him in repentance and faith.
1. Does God have any limits or boundaries?
2. How does the infinity of God impact your understanding of His love, His power, His wisdom?
God is Unchanging
“For I, the Lord, do not change” (Malachi 3:6).
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17).
God is never different from who He has always been. God does not evolve, grow or change.
Another way of speaking of God’s unchanging nature is to say that He is perfect.
Toward what goal would God grow or change? His wisdom and knowledge are perfect. God has always known everything that could ever be true with perfect understanding. There is nothing God needs to learn or discover.
God perfectly possesses, exercises and delegates all power — He can never be stronger or weaker. The exercise of His power does not decrease nor increase His power. God is always Almighty.
Because God is perfect in all that He is, He cannot be diminished or increased. All that God is, He is forever and cannot ever be less or more or other, which is to say that He is unchanging.
Because God is perfect in all that He is, He is perfect in all He does. Whatever God does is done in perfection and neither adds to nor detracts from His being. For instance, the exercise of His might cannot in any way diminish His might, as we read, “The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired” (Isaiah 40:28).
Every expression of God’s being is perfect. For instance, God loves us with perfect love which cannot ever be more or less. When we refuse to love God in return, God is grieved, not because He is diminished by our lack of love but because we are diminished.
Because God is unchanging, the purity of His holiness cannot decrease nor increase. God is perfectly holy in and of Himself and He cannot cease to be Himself nor can perfection become something less, more or other than perfect.
Because God is unchanging, His truth expressed in His Word can never be untrue. His covenants can never be undone. His promises can never be invalidated. His purpose cannot be defeated.
What God said to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob 4000 thousand years ago is as true today as it was then. Therefore we read, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
In a world that is in a constant state of change, flux, decay and transition, we find the unchanging being of God to be a source of great inspiration and hope. In this unchanging God we find the only permanence available to us. This world is passing away but our God changes not.
This unchanging God “is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride … The God of Jacob is our stronghold” (Psalm 46:1,2,7). We can be at peace in the midst of calamity for we have an unchanging refuge — the Lord God.
We are like grass of the field which blooms in the morning dew but withers in the heat of the day.
We are alive and dying in a world decaying every moment, surrounded by the corruption of death. With each passing moment, we are changed. Yet God in His unchanging mercy meets us in the brief hours of our living, redeems us and invites us to share His unchanging eternity.
So now we praise God that we are subject to change. In Christ we are changed from slaves to sin to pilgrims of grace. We are changed from sinners dead in our transgressions to saints alive forevermore. We are changed from cursed to blessed, from broken to whole, from stained to holy, from sinking in the miry clay to standing on the Rock of Ages.
We are changed from self centered rebels to God-worshipping disciples, changed from dying creatures under judgment to new creations redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, transformed from glory to glory. We are changed as this corruptible being puts on incorruptible.
We no longer groan under the tyranny of change but rejoice in the blessedness of transformation and through this blessed metamorphosis, we arrive finally at everlasting permanence. Our change empties into God’s permanence.
The Apostle Peter reminds us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:3-5).
The same God who drove Adam and Eve from the garden calls us to the cross and there we find an unchanging fountain of grace and an inheritance of salvation that is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, reserved in heaven for us, who are protected by the power of a God who changes not.
God’s holy wrath and holy love change not and this is our salvation.
1. Does God evolve or grow?
2. How does the revelation of God’s unchanging nature impact your prayers?
God Is Faithful
“Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9)
Since God is unchanging, He must also be faithful. An unfaithful God would be a God subject to change and God cannot change, cannot deny Himself, cannot be other than Himself. He must, then, be always faithful in all He is and says and does.
Since God is faithful, His word must always be true. Therefore the Psalmist says,
“The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6).
“The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:8).
Since God’s word is always true, His ways must always be true. One of the names ascribed to Jesus is Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11). What the Lord does is an expression of who He is. God’s works are faithful and true because He is faithful and true.
Therefore the Psalmist says, “As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the Lord is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 18:30).
Since God’s words and ways are always true, His promises must always be trustworthy and the covenants which He establishes can be depended upon to a thousandth generation, which is a way of saying “forever.”
This is the God who testifies of Himself, “My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips” (Ps. 89:34).
This is the God who said to Abraham, “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you” (Gen. 17:7).
This is the God who said to Jacob, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Gen. 28:15).
This is the God of whom Paul testifies, “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one” (2 Thess. 3:3). God is faithful to His word and His covenant promises and we may rest in His faithfulness.
This is the God of whom it is said, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)
Because God is infinite, without limit, then there can be no measure or boundary to His faithful covenant love. Therefore the Psalmist worships, saying, “Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness reaches to the skies” (Psalm 36:5).
Jeremiah, even as he mourned the destruction of Jerusalem, rejoiced in the unchanging nature of God, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22,23).
God was faithful to judge Jerusalem because He is holy and just and His justice cannot be violated without consequences. When Israel fell into grievous sin, God patiently warned the nation through the prophets for centuries but the majority of the people had spurned God’s warnings. So God was faithful to judge sinful Israel, pouring out His holy wrath. In judgment, God was faithful to His holiness, to His justice and to His promise to judge sin.
But the Lord also promised to restore what He had destroyed. Daniel was a Jew living in exile in Persia seventy years after God’s judgment of Israel. As he read from the prophet Jeremiah, Daniel realized that the years of judgment were ended and it was time for Israel to be rebuilt. He then had confidence to pray, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Daniel 9:4).
The Hebrew word which we translate as lovingkindness is chesed which speaks of faithful, covenant love. Though Israel had violated the covenant with God and had been unfaithful, God was utterly faithful to Himself and to His covenant promises. Faithfulness to the covenant required judging Israel because of unrepented sin. But Daniel also understood that God’s judgment did not nullify His faithful, covenant love for Israel.
Therefore, Daniel prayed to the God of judgment for the outpouring of His restoring mercy for God is always perfectly just and perfectly merciful, ever faithful. As Daniel prayed, a progression of events was set in motion which led to the return of the exiles and the restoration of the nation of Israel. God was faithful to His covenant promises, both to judge and to restore.
Whatever our circumstances, we who have committed to follow Jesus may rest in this confidence, that our God is faithful to complete what He has begun in us. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phlpns. 1:6).
Paul further testifies, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (I Thess. 5:23,24).
May we, confident in the covenant love of our Creator / Redeemer, “Hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
1. How does God’s unchanging nature reveal His faithfulness?
2. How does the revelation of God’s faithfulness impact your prayers?
God is All Wise (Omniscient)
“His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5).
When we speak of the omniscience of God, we mean that He knows all truth that could ever be true and all truth that would have been true if something else had been true.
The Lord testifies of Himself, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. You arrange the letters of an alphabet to make words. All of the knowledge available to a society can be communicated through the various combinations of letters to make words. In revealing Himself as the Alpha and Omega, God is saying that He is the source of all knowledge, the beginning and the end of all that can ever be revealed as truth.
God’s wisdom and knowledge are perfect, without limit, infinite. There is nothing God must learn. There is nothing God may be taught. God has never forgotten anything, has always known all that can ever be known with perfect clarity. Therefore we read,
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him is the glory forever!” (Rom. 11:33-36).
God is always able to accomplish His purpose because He knows all facts and all truth at all times that would lead to the establishing of His purpose. There is no unknown possibility that might prevent His purpose. Therefore God says,
“Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9,10).
God the All-Wise is the source of all wisdom and the revealer of all truth, “He reveals mysteries from the darkness and brings the deep darkness into light” (Job 12:22).
“He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding” (Daniel 2:21).
Whatever truth we understand is the result of God’s revelation of truth to us. Therefore we read:
“But just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’ For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God” (I Cor. 2:9,10).
God is the source of all truth and the revealer of all truth:
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16).
All God’s works are done in wisdom:
“The Lord by wisdom founded the earth, by understanding He established the heavens” (Proverbs 3:19).
God created all things and understands perfectly all that He made. He created the sub-atomic particles which comprise matter and the laws which govern the operation of those particles. He created uncounted galaxies and the laws which determine the symmetry of their orbits and the majesty of their existence. We cannot even imagine the depth or height of God’s creative wisdom but the testimony is this,
“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16).
God sustains all that He created and enables the continuation of all things according to His predetermined purpose. The Bible testifies,
“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).
God is working all things toward His perfect conclusion in His perfect timing according to His perfect wisdom. Because God is perfectly wise, He is able to accomplish all that He purposes in the most perfect manner. He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).
God “calls into being that which does not exist” (“calls those things which are not as though they are)” (Romans 4:17) because He knows perfectly what He intends to do and knows perfectly how He intends to do it. Nothing can resist His perfect wisdom executed by His perfect power.
Abraham understood this and though God called him to do something humanly impossible — father a son at the age of 100 with a 90 year old wife — nevertheless, Abraham persevered in faith because he was “fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform”
(Rom. 4:21). Abraham trusted that the All-Wise God knows what He is doing.
There are instances in the Bible where God asks questions of people. This is not to draw the truth out of anyone, as if God lacked knowledge. It is rather to draw people into the truth.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they hid themselves, though not from the All-knowing God. The Lord called out, “Where are you?” It was not that God needed to discover anything. He was giving Adam the opportunity to be accountable for his sin.
David the Psalmist understood God’s omniscience when he said,
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me,
you know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down
and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it all” (Psalm 139:1-3).
David understood that the all-knowing God had known him perfectly even before his birth,
“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in secret …
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance and in your book were all written the days
that were ordained for me when as yet there was not one of them” (Psalm 139:15a,16).
Before David was born, God understood perfectly the composition of his being and ordained a calendar of days, events and opportunities for David before he had begun to live.
David could only praise the Lord in wonder,
“How precious also are your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them,
they would outnumber the sand” (Psalm 139:17,18a).
To those who rebel against God, the fact of God’s omniscience is terrifying. No act of rebellion is unknown and there is no far kingdom to which the rebel may flee for sanctuary. We read,
“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebr. 4:13).
But to the redeemed, God’s perfect knowledge and wisdom is a wonderful blessing of peace and security. What storms will we encounter that our God did not know, a thousand, thousand years before? What flooded rivers will block our path but God had seven bridges built from eternity? What valleys of darkness will we walk through that the Lord is not present to Shepherd us?
David marveled, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4).
And David said, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You” (Ps. 139:7-12).
Jesus said that not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from the knowledge of our Heavenly Father, “So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31).
In His kindness, the All-Wise God grants wisdom to those who humbly ask, “For the Lord gives wisdom, from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let Him ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
In His wisdom, He chose to redeem us “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) and He perfectly works out His redemptive purpose in our lives in time and into eternity.
We believe that we are led by a Good Shepherd whose wise, providential shepherding will always express perfect mercy through perfect wisdom, opening before us opportunities and divine appointments that will lead to blessing in our lives and those around us.
We believe that though we cannot see the future more than a few steps at a time, our Creator / Redeemer is working out in perfect wisdom a perfect purpose designed in eternity past. It is not necessary that we understand, only that we trust.
Therefore the omniscience of God is our blessing and we rejoice in His promise:
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).
1. How do you define the omniscience of God?
2. How does the revelation of God’s perfect wisdom impact the way you regard the future?
God is Almighty (Omnipotent)
“Once God has spoken, twice I have heard this, that power belongs to God” (Psalm 62:11).
To say that God is omnipotent is to say that God possesses all power.
Because God is infinite, without limits, then His power must also be unlimited.
Because God is everlasting, His power must be everlasting.
Because all life originates in God, then all power must find its source in God.
Because God is perfect, He can never be less than He is. Therefore, His power cannot be diminished. The exercise of power in creation, redemption, judgment, blessing or any other act, does not cause God’s power to decrease. God delegates power to angels and to people but this in no way diminishes God’s power.
God not only created the universe, He created the laws which govern the universe. But these principles — gravity, electromagnetism, to name two — are merely the footprints of God in space and time. They are expressions of His sustaining power.
Because God is Almighty, it is as easy for Him to create a billion galaxies as to create one lily. It is as simple for God to raise the dead as it is to answer a child’s prayer. Jeremiah exclaimed,
“Ah Lord God, behold, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for you” (Jeremiah 32:17).
Because God is consistent in the exercise of His power, we trust the uniformity of the laws of nature. But behind and within these impersonal principles of nature is a personal God.
We see the exercise of God’s omnipotence in the following ways:
1. God exercises His omnipotence as Creator:
“He established the earth upon its foundations” (Psalm 104:5).
2. God exercises His omnipotence as Sustainer of all He creates:
He “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3b).
3. God exercises His omnipotence as Ruler over the nations:
“And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).
“He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away” (Job 12:23).
4. God exercises His omnipotence as Judge of kingdoms and kings:
“When I select an appointed time, it is I who judge with equity. The earth and all who dwell in it melt; it is I who have firmly set its pillars … For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation; but God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another” (Psalm 75:2,6,7).
“It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings”
5. God exercises His omnipotence as Judge of sinful humanity:
“Because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
“And He will judge the world in righteousness” (Psalm 9:8).
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it … And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne” (Revelation 20:11,12)
6. God exercises His omnipotence as Redeemer of sinful humanity:
The greatest exercise of God’s power is displayed in redeeming lost, hopeless sinners through the apparent weakness of a crucified Savior:
“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God … But we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Corinthians 1:18,23,24).
7. God will display His omnipotence in concluding history:
In His timing, by His power and for His glory, the Lord will dissolve this sin-tainted universe and create a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells:
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up … looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:10,12,13).
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away” (Revelation 21:1).
Yet how marvelous that this God of infinite power also gives strength to all who humbly call upon Him:
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:28-31).
The Apostle Paul was plagued by what he called “a thorn in his flesh.” We don’t know if this was a physical ailment or a reference to persecution or demonic opposition but he prayed to the Lord three times that God would remove this thorn. The Lord refused saying,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Paul’s response then was to say, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness so that the power of Christ may dwell in me … for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9,10).
In the hands of Almighty God, our weakness becomes a power multiplier.
1. How do you define the omnipotence of God?
2. How does the revelation of God’s perfect power impact the way you regard your weaknesses, fears and needs?
3. How does the revelation of God’s perfect power impact your prayers?
God Is Transcendent
When we say that God is transcendent, we mean that He exists above and beyond this universe, above and beyond all kings and kingdoms, before and beyond all ages, seasons and epochs, all that was and is and shall be.
To say that God is transcendent is to say that He is independent of all that He has made. Whereas the pantheist worships God in a tree and in all other created things, declaring the created thing to be divine, we worship the God who created the tree and all things but is not contained in nor bound by anything He has created.
Creation is dependent on God, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) but no created thing restricts or influences the exercise of God’s being. All things are upheld by the continued word of His power (Hebrews 1:3), but God is upheld by Himself alone.
God’s other attributes imply His transcendence:
His holiness speaks of His otherness, His separateness from all He created.
His eternity reveals that time cannot contain God. He was and is and shall be, all in the same moment. Though God meets us in time, He exists before and beyond time, above and beneath time, independent of the passage of time.
His infinity reveals that there is no limit to His being, He transcends all measurements of space and time. Though God is present in all places at all times, neither physical space nor time can contain Him. Therefore calendars, clocks and distance have no meaning when we think of God. Holy, eternal and infinite, God transcends all of created space and time.
When the Temple of Solomon was being dedicated, the glory of God filled the temple and the priests could not stand in the presence of such overwhelming glory (2 Chronicles 5:13,14). Solomon then prayed a prayer of dedication in which He confessed by divine revelation, “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house which I have built” (2 Chronicles 6:18).
God filled the temple with the glory of His presence but the temple could not contain God nor can the universe. Creator God is greater than all He has created.
Isaiah encountered the Lord in His glory and said, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted (high and lifted up)” (Isaiah 6:1). That is an attempt to describe God using human language but in reality, God transcends all that is high or low, all heights and all depths.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that God “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (I Timothy 6:16). The transcendent God could not be known except that He chooses to make Himself known. Yet He does make Himself known — He is the Self-revealing God. Though the Lord exists outside of time and space, He has revealed Himself in time and space in a variety of ways.
1. God reveals Himself through that which He has made:
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
“The heavens are telling of the glory of God and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1).
2. God reveals Himself through His inspired Word, the holy Bible:
How often the prophets began a message with these words, “Thus says the Lord.” In fact, “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16) for the purpose of revealing His truth, His attributes and His purpose.
3. God revealed Himself through His incarnation in human form — Jesus Christ.
What an incredible event this was — the God who encompasses the entire universe, who transcends all of time and space, chose to enter time and space. Creator became a creature. The eternal God entered time. The infinite God was contained in a womb.
We could not have invented this, yet here is the record:
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world” (Hebrews 1:1,2).
Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9b). Jesus is the revelation of God’s character, His heart.
What does Jesus reveal about the heart of the Father? Jesus says He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 29:10). He says, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Jesus is the revelation of God’s desire to lavish His redeeming grace upon a world of fallen creatures. And so God meets us as a babe born in Bethlehem’s stable, as a crucified Lamb on a blood soaked hill, as a risen Savior with bread in His hands in a weary sunset.
God met Adam and Eve in the garden of their falling, met Abraham under an oak tree, Gideon at the wine press where the man was hiding. In mercy and humility, this eternal, infinite, glorious God also condescends to meet us in the times and places where we live. The God who transcends time and space has chosen to enter time and space and when we choose to worship Him in this small bit of time and space which we inhabit, this is profoundly pleasurable to God.
The God who transcends this universe
has come to us, calls to us, awakens us
to His presence among us.
1. What do we mean when we say that God is transcendent?
2. How does the revelation of God’s transcendence impact your worship of God?
When we speak of omnipresence we mean that God is present in all places at all times.
There is no time or place in the universe where God is not. This attribute of God follows on His infinity. If God is infinite, unlimited in all He is, then He must also be omnipresent.
This attribute of God follows on His eternity. If God is everlasting, unbounded by time, then He must also be present at all times.
This attribute is the counter-balance to God’s transcendence. Whereas God transcends all times and places, cannot be contained within any created thing, including time or universe, God is also present in all times and places.
David asked, “Where can I go from your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Psalm 139:7).
Where indeed? Heaven and earth cannot contain Him but neither can they exclude Him.
He surrounds the universe but also fills it.
He fills the universe but is not contained by it.
He is before and beyond time but also fills time with His presence.
He is over and above, beneath and inside
ruling over all, sustaining all, filling all.
Creation exploded into light and life
from an unseen Word spoken by an invisible God
whose presence and power uphold what He began.
Paul reminded his listeners in Athens,
“In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
The fountain of all life flows from Him and returns unto Him.
God is there and God is here.
All of our life is lived in His presence.
Every prayer, every act of worship:
“‘Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:24).
The first of our family rejected Him,
rebelled against Him but He came seeking them
in the garden of their rebellion, this God who is present.
He made covenant with Israel,
broke their chains of slavery, led them in a cloud by day
and pillar of fire by night, spoke to them through prophets
and in the fulness of time, was conceived in the womb of Mary,
was born in human form, this God who is present.
We could not find Him,
this God who is present
so He came seeking us.
He knows every truth of our being
knew this before the beginning
and is waiting at the ending of our days,
this God who is present.
He will stop at nothing to awaken us to His presence
to enable us to open our heart to Him
that He might redeem us and fill us with Himself,
this God who is present.
He cannot be changed, this unchanging God.
He cannot be overpowered, this Almighty God.
He cannot be surprised, this all-knowing God.
He cannot be contained, this transcendent God.
Yet the least prayer of the smallest child
moves God’s heart to pour out grace,
this God who is present.
The God who cannot be contained by anything
desires to inhabit our praise and where we gather to worship Him,
there He is in the midst of our song, our dance, our passionate praise,
this God who is present.
1. What do we mean when we say that God is omnipresent?
2. How does the revelation of God’s omnipresence impact your worship of God?
God Is Merciful
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy is everlasting” (Psalm 136:1).
As the Psalmist repeats God’s mighty acts of deliverance in the history of Israel, He keeps returning to this refrain, that God is good and His mercy, the expression of His goodness, endures forever.
The fact that God is both merciful and just is not a contradiction. God is altogether merciful and perfectly just, always and forever. Therefore He judges sin and rescues sinners.
Because God is holy, He must judge sin — His justice must overcome that which is unjust. Yet the Lord testifies of Himself, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (faithfulness)” (Exodus 34:6).
The reason for the mercy of God is hidden in the heart of God. There is nothing in unholy creatures that requires a holy God to love us. But God has chosen to love us, to lavish His mercy upon us, for reasons known only to God and there is nothing in the universe that can prevent God from loving us for thus He has freely chosen to do.
Because God is everlasting, eternal, ageless,
therefore His mercy has no beginning and can never cease to be.
Because God is perfect, His mercy is perfect
and can never be less or more than it always has been.
Because God is unlimited, infinite,
His mercy has no bounds, no limits.
God’s mercy endures forever,
perfect in every expression toward us.
Because God is Self-existent, His mercy is motivated from within His own being. We do not cause God to be who He is. It is not any supposed merit on our part that causes God to lavish His grace upon us. It is because He is good that He is merciful.
Our repentance does not cause God to be merciful but opens a way for us to experience the mercy which He already desires to lavish upon us. Faith does not cause God to be merciful toward us. Faith is simply confidence in the essential, everlasting goodness and mercy of God. We believe that God is predisposed to act toward us in kindness. We trust that behind every blessing is the goodness of God expressed through the mercy of God.
In the innocence of Eden, Adam and Eve experienced only the mercy and goodness of God. When they sinned, they instinctively understood that their sin offended the perfect holiness of God, but rather than run to the God whose unmeasured love they had enjoyed, their response was to hide. They were right to fear God for an offended God must judge sin but wrong to run from Him, for only God can save us from our sin. Their response should have been, “Fear God and run to Him.”
Sin blinds us to the goodness of God and causes us to hide from the Lover of our souls. The purpose of Christ’s redeeming work is to remove the veil from our eyes and reconcile us to the One who has always loved us: “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the kind intention of His will” (Ephesians 1:4b,5).
Though we were God’s enemies, rebels against His kindness, “God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4,5).
Why did God do this? “So that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).
Throughout human history we see the mercy of God displayed.
When Adam and Eve sinned, inviting death into God’s perfect world, God met them in mercy, called to them, covered them, promised a someday Deliverer who would take their death upon Himself. In the Garden of Gethsemane, we see the God of mercy kneeling in prayer, offering Himself as the answer to His own promise — the Deliverer, the holy Lamb for sinners slain.
Mercy is not a feeling God has.
It is the infinite, eternal, unbounded
expression of His goodness.
God in His justice confronts the sinner.
God in His mercy covers the sinner,
redeems the sinner, delivers the sinner.
God in His justice declares the sinner guilty.
God in His mercy takes our guilt upon Himself.
The Just One becomes the Justifier of the unjust.
“Why have you done this?” we wonder.
Mercy gives no reasons but pours out of itself
unbounded streams of grace and blessing.
We are invited to come before this God
with thanksgiving for His kindness and with reverence
for His holy majesty and mighty power.
“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,
tremble before Him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:9).
To worship God with holy reverence
and trust in His unmeasured goodness,
this is mature faith.
We bow trembling before His justice
and praise Him for His goodness and mercy;
we reverence Him, awed and unafraid,
as He lavishes His kindness upon us.
1. Is there a limit to the perfection of God’s mercy?
2. How does the revelation of God’s mercy impact your prayers?
3. How does the revelation of God’s mercy impact the passion of your praise?
God is Just
“The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just;
a God of faithfulness and without injustice,
righteous (just) and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
God is just, righteous in all He says and does.
His justice is an expression of His moral goodness.
Because God is good, He must judicially confront
that which violates His goodness.
His justice is an expression of His holiness.
Because God is pure, He confronts that which is not pure.
Justice is an expression of God’s mercy.
Because God is merciful, He confronts that which violates mercy.
Though sinners violate God’s justice,
God’s justice has never violated a sinner.
“The Lord supports the afflicted (the humble);
He brings down the wicked to the ground” (Ps. 147:6)
God is just, righteous in all He says and does.
Therefore He judges that which violates His moral order
and establishes that which is consistent with His righteousness.
“The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow,
but He thwarts the way of the wicked” (Ps. 146:9)
“He executes justice for the orphan and the widow” (Deut. 10:18).
Nothing outside of God compels Him to be just. God establishes justice because God is just. God judges injustice, destroys the kingdoms of the unjust because this is consistent with who He is. Eventually all injustice will be judged and perfect justice will be established because this is God’s nature.
When the Lord gave commandments to Israel through Moses, He required that the nation deal justly with the poor, the orphan, the alien and the widow (see for instance, Deut. 24:17-22).
Through the Old Testament prophets, God continually expressed His vision of a just society, calling, teaching and admonishing the people and their leaders to do justice.
“Hear now, heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel.
Is it not for you to know justice?” (Micah 3:1).
“Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness
and his upper rooms without justice,
who uses his neighbor's services without pay
and does not give him his wages” (Jere. 22:13).
God requires justice from those who govern. Psalm 72 was probably written for Solomon’s coronation and is a portrait of the just ruler:
“Give the king Your judgments, O God, and Your righteousness to the king’s son. May he judge Your people with righteousness and Your afflicted (Your humble) with justice … For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help, the afflicted also, and him who has no helper. He will have compassion on the poor and needy, and the lives of the needy he will save. He will rescue their life from oppression and violence, and their blood will be precious in his sight” (Psalm 72:1,2,12-14).
When those who are responsible to do justice refuse, God holds them accountable:
“God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked” (Ps. 82:1-4).
God judged Sodom not only because of the immorality of that city but because of their oppression of the poor:
“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom:
she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease,
but she did not help the poor and needy” (Ezkl. 16:49).
God judged Israel, not only because of their worship of idols and their immorality but because of their oppression of the poor:
“‘Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me’ says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 3:5).
Because the ancient Israelites understood that God is just, they cried out for justice. This yearning cry was part of the prayer life of Israel, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help and you will not hear? I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ Yet you do not save … Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted” (Habakkuk 1:2,4).
This longing for justice was part of the worship life of Israel, “Let the sea roar and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing for joy before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity” (Psalm 98:7-9).
Throughout Israel’s history, the Lord promised a Messiah who would come someday and establish justice on the earth:
“But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked” (Isa 11:4).
“He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity” (Psalm 9:8).
Jesus promised that when He returns, He will sit on His throne and judge the nations (Matthew 25:31). This promise was part of the preaching of the early church, “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30b,31).
The Apostle John saw that day and recorded it in the Revelation, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it … and the dead were judged” (Revelation 20:11,12c).
John heard heaven worshipping the God whose justice triumphs over the injustice of this fallen world, “After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous, for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her’” (Revelation 15:3,4).
Even now, the martyred saints cry out from heaven’s altar, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will you refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
As we await that future day when God will establish His justice across this earth, how are we to respond to injustice in our own lives and in the world around us?
1. We not only proclaim the God who will someday establish His justice on earth. We celebrate the God who acts in history to make His judgments known. The Psalmist declares, “Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns; indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity” (Ps. 96:10).
2. We are not to take vengeance for injustice which we personally suffer. The Apostle Paul endured much at the hands of persecutors, as did his fellow believers but his exhortation to the church is very clear:
“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).
Paul was often unjustly accused, arrested under false pretenses, beaten in violation of the law, but he never launched a protest movement and never gave in to bitterness. He trusted God to vindicate him while he prayed for the salvation of his enemies.
That doesn’t mean we tolerate evil. It means we place matters of justice and judgment in God’s hands. God may execute justice through ordained authorities and we have the right to appeal to the governmental authority as Paul appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:10-11). Or we may appeal to God directly as did the apostles when they were threatened (Acts 4:23-31).
If we are God’s servants, we must give our desire for justice over to Him. Jesus set an example for us, who, “Being reviled, did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (I Peter 2:23).
Again, this does not require us to be silent in the face of injustice. We are servants of Jesus but our Lord is not silent and He uses His servants to speak His truth. But we must speak the truth in the proper context, humbly and in love.
3. We pray for our persecutors, those who act unjustly toward us:
Jesus said, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). Our Lord then showed us what that looks like, as He prayed from the cross, “Father forgive them.” As a result of that prayer, many who had persecuted Jesus came to believe in Him (see Acts 6:7).
4. We pray that God will establish justice in our lives and in the world around us. When we pray for justice, we are praying in a manner consistent with the revealed will and heart of God.
“Vindicate me, O God, and plead my case against an ungodly nation; O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!” (Psalm 43:1).
5. We also thank the Lord that He did not respond to our sin with justice but with mercy. This should make it easier to pray for those who act unjustly toward us, when we consider God’s response to our own personal injustice — He offered us mercy.
God’s justice and mercy are not mutually exclusive. God is always perfectly just and perfectly merciful. When James exclaims, “Mercy triumphs over judgement” (James 2:13b) he was not pointing out a contradiction in the nature of God. God exercises justice because He is just and He exercises mercy because He is merciful.
How can mercy triumph over justice? How can the just God declare me, an unjust sinner, to be just? Because God placed the sins of the unjust upon the Just One, the holy Lamb of God who on the cross bore our injustice, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (I Peter 3:18).
God chose to place our sinful injustice on the holy Lamb
so that He may pour out His mercy on forgiven sinners.
The just God of all mercy condemns me,
because I am an unjust sinner and He is just.
The merciful God of all justice pardons me
because He is merciful.
Jesus bore God’s justice that I might experience God’s mercy.
Therefore God is both “just and the justifier” of sinners (Romans 3:26).
And so John is able to say, (I John 1:9)
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous (just)
to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1. How does God’s justice impact your appreciation of God’s mercy?
2. How does God’s justice impact your prayers?
God is Holy
“Exalt the Lord our God and worship at His holy hill, for holy is the Lord our God” (Psalm 99:9)
Holiness is God’s definition of beauty. The holiness of God is not so much a separate attribute as a way of speaking of all God’s attributes. To say that God is holy is to say that God is perfect and pure in all that God is.
Because God is pure in all His being, He is pure in all He thinks, says and does. God’s thoughts, words and works are holy because God is holy. The exercise of any divine attribute is an expression of His holiness. Whether God acts in judgment or mercy, displays His power or His wisdom — all that God says or does is an expression or revelation of His holiness.
Since mercy, love and justice are expressions of God’s holiness, then they are never contradictory in God for they are all expressions of the same attribute — His holiness.
The holiness of God is also a way of speaking of His moral separateness from sin, His otherness from all that is sinful. Sin creates a barrier, a terrible separation, between the unholy sinner and the holy God. A holy God cannot look upon sin and must judge that which is sinful. The communion which once existed between God and humanity before Adam’s sin was broken by that sin.
This is revealed in the boundaries set at Mt Sinai when God revealed Himself there. Before the Lord met Moses on Mount Sinai, He directed Moses to consecrate the people for two days (Exodus 19:10,11). That outward preparation — the washing of garments — was symbolic of the inner purification necessary prior to the nation’s encounter with God. The Lord also commanded Moses to warn the people, “Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death” (19:12).
After all of that, as the glory of God settled on the mountain, God again commanded Moses to warn the people not to come up onto the mountain to try to gaze upon the Lord lest “many of them perish” (Exodus 19:21). Even after the rituals of purification, the people could not come near to the holiness of God, could not even gaze upon the holiness of God and live.
Isaiah was a good man by the standards of his day or any day. Yet when he found himself in the presence of a holy God and heard the angels calling out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory”, this good man cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:3,5). Such was the infinite distance between a good man and the perfectly holy God.
The barrier between a holy God and sinful humanity was revealed in the separation of the tabernacle and later the Jerusalem temple into outer court, holy place and most holy place; sin and guilt offerings to enable fellowship with God (Leviticus 1-7); the establishment of a priesthood to mediate between God and people (Leviticus 8-10); laws concerning impurity (Leviticus 11-15).
God placed His glory in the Jerusalem temple in the Holy of Holies. There was a thick veil separating this most holy place from the rest of the temple. Only the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies and only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, bearing sacrificial blood for himself and the people.
Yet when Jesus died as the Lamb slain for the sins of the world, the veil in the temple was split from top to bottom, signifying that a way had been opened into the presence of the Holy God (see Matthew 27:50,51 Mark 15:37,38). And so we are exhorted,
“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).
Humanity could never bridge the distance between a holy God and sinners. Such a bridge would have to be sinless and we cannot build such a bridge. But in Christ, the sinless Lamb of God, God has reconciled us to Himself. We who once could not look upon the holy God, could not enter His presence, are now through repentance and faith in the shed blood of Christ, invited to “draw near” and live forevermore in the holy presence of the holy God.
How could a holy God forgive unholy sinners without violating His holiness? How could a just God declare the unjust to be just?
“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
“And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (I Peter 2:24).
In His wondrous sacrifice for sin, Christ took upon Himself the sins of sinful people, bore the judgment of God against our sin, atoned for our sin and died our death, thereby enabling the outpouring of God’s forgiving grace. God did not violate His justice with His mercy. Rather, God’s holiness required justice and God’s holiness provided mercy. Jesus, the crucified Lamb, is the perfect, holy expression of both justice and mercy.
Now, holiness is God’s gift to redeemed sinners: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
“For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Peter 1:4).
As new creations in Christ, God establishes in us the very righteousness of Jesus: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Now, as we behold the glory of Jesus in worship and in His word, we are progressively “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
We “put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:10).
As we read God’s word and commit to live the truth, the Holy Spirit takes that word and transforms us from the inside out, breaking old habit patterns, confirming new ways of thinking and living, empowering us to live this new life, progressively consecrating us in the image of the Lord who redeemed us.
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior because it is written, ‘You shall be holy for I am holy’” (I Peter 1:14-16).
Holiness is both a command and a promise.
Holy is what we must be if we will walk with a holy God.
Holy is what we will be as we walk with a holy God.
The goal is that Jesus will someday present us “before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (Colossians 1:22). Holy and blameless — perfected in holiness, able stand in the presence of glory.
What a promise! The holy God will someday receive us into His holy presence.
What a presence that must be!
When Isaiah was lifted up into heaven, he saw the seraphim veiling their faces and saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:3). In the presence of infinite, unutterable holiness, even the holy angels covered their face and Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me” (6:5).
John the Apostle found himself in the presence of the glorified Christ and said, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man” (Revelation 1:17). As John listened to the thunder of heaven’s worship, he heard the creatures crying continually, “Holy, holy, holy” (Revelation 4:8).
Centuries ago, the Holy One
came seeking unholy rebels who had spurned His love
and profaned His purity.
Moved by holy love, He still seeks.
Buried in the sleep of death, we would
never have known His presence.
But He awakens us to Himself
quickens us to look to the One whom
none can see, veiled in holy light.
In our lethal uncleanness, in the profanity of death,
we awaken trembling, finding refuge in the wounds of Christ
even as Moses found refuge in the cleft of the rock.
We hide from the Holy One in Himself
fearing perfect holiness revealed in perfect love
yet drawn irresistibly into the Holy Place.
The Holy One sees us perfect in the Lamb
while washing us in holy fire of all that is not holy
till finally perfected in holy fire, blameless.
The Holy One demands that we approach
with reverential fear. Beholding perfect purity,
we fall to our knees in worship and awe.
Yet in that moment, we are summoned
to come boldly unto the holy throne of grace and there we find
mercy and grace to help in time of need.
There we praise Him for His holiness,
for the justice which holiness requires
and the mercy which holiness bestows.
1. How would you define or describe the holiness of God?
2. How does God’s holiness impact your worship of God?
“For I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established and I will accomplish all my good pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9b,10).
To say that God is sovereign is to say that He alone is God. He has no equal.
Sovereignty is implied in all God’s attributes.
Because God possesses all power and since all authority flows from Him, there is no creature that can possess more power than God. All authority is delegated by the sovereign God.
Because God possesses all wisdom and is the source of all wisdom, there is no creature that can possess more wisdom than God. All wisdom is derived from the sovereign God.
Because God is the Creator of all that exists, all existence must be subordinated to its Creator. God is sovereign over all His creation.
Since God is the All Wise, Almighty, sovereign ruler of the universe, He is absolutely free to do all He purposes to do. Therefore He says, “My purpose will be established and I will accomplish all my good pleasure” (Isaiah 46:10).
He is the God who, “Works all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). He alone moves time and history.
God is able to declare the end from the beginning not only because He has perfect knowledge of all that could ever take place but because He has purposed the end from the beginning and He possess the power to bring about His purpose.
No created being or power can prevent the outworking of God’s sovereign will. To prevent the accomplishing of God’s plans, something or someone would have to be more wise or more powerful than the All Wise, Almighty and that is impossible.
God’s Self-Existence declares His sovereignty. Human beings are creatures of necessity — it is necessary that we breathe, drink liquid, eat food. But there is no necessity that impinges on God. His life originates in Himself. He is sovereign over all necessity.
God’s eternity declares His sovereignty. Time presses against the human soul. We see around and within ourselves corruption and the presence of death. But God exists before and beyond time. Nothing threatens His eternity. He is sovereign over time.
God is sovereign over the events of world history:
“And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).
It is God who determines the times and boundaries of empires and nations, great and small. He raises up rulers and removes them according to His sovereign purpose.
"When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples, according to the number of the sons of Israel” (Deuteronomy 32:8).
God set the boundaries of the nations in accordance with His future plan to establish Israel as His covenant people, through whom He would work His salvation purpose!
God moved Cyrus, the Persian king, to release captive Israel so that they could return to their land and continue the outworking of God’s salvation purpose. “I have taken you by the hand though you have not known me” God said to that pagan king (paraphrase of Isaiah 45:1-4).
God is sovereign in the salvation of lost sinners. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44).
God is sovereign. He alone is God. There is no other.
People ask, “If God is sovereign, then why does He allow evil?”
We must be clear on this: God does not do evil nor does He tempt anyone to do evil.
Evil exists because God created angelic and human creatures and gave them a free will. The sinful exercise of free will by a fallen angel led to the temptation of people and the sinful exercise of free will by humans gave place to evil on this planet.
Why does God allow the continuation of evil when the Bible declares that God is good?
God could put an end to all evil in the world today by removing human freedom. But then we would no longer be human and history would be concluded. God does not wish to destroy our capacity to make choices because He wants people to freely choose to worship and love Him. He does not want to conclude history today because He is still drawing people to His grace.
So that we could experience and understand His grace, God was born in human form. God dealt with evil, not by concluding time and history, but by entering time and history — conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.
Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” On the cross He carried our sins and died our death.
No other God has said, as did the Lord to Moses, "I have heard the groaning and seen the suffering of my people and have come down to deliver them."
There is no other God who took upon Himself the evil of sinful humanity, who suffered in place of sinners, who was marred beyond recognition. No other God has risen from death bearing the scars of redeeming love.
There is no other God with wounds.
This is God’s response to evil.
The eternal God has entered time and stands before us offering grace to all who will flee to Him from this storm which we have created. We are free to run to Him or refuse.
God in His sovereignty allows us the exercise of our free will to choose good or evil, grace or damnation, blessing or cursing, light or darkness. We are not free to choose the consequences.
Why has God done this? Because it was His sovereign pleasure.
History continues and people choose to do evil or surrender to the grace of redeeming love. Those who repent of sin and bow before our gracious Savior are then invited to join with the Lord in doing good, in sharing mercy, in speaking truth, in pouring out healing mercy.
Up ahead, beyond this present storm, we hear the promise of new heavens and a new earth where the lion will lay down with the lamb, where children will sleep in peace and rise to a new day of promise, where righteousness and justice prevail.
God sees that day clearly,
declares its triumphant dawning.
He will have His way. He alone is God.
There is no other. He alone is sovereign.
God Is One and God Is Three: Three Persons, One God
God has revealed Himself as three Persons:
God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
yet existing as one God, Trinity in unity.
God has revealed Himself as three Persons:
God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
yet existing as one God, Trinity in unity.
Sometimes the word Triune is substituted for Trinity. That’s a good word because it communicates trinity in unity. This concept — God revealed as three Persons / one God is a mystery and a truth which the church believes and confesses. We should not be troubled that the word Trinity is not found in the Bible. The issue is not the word itself but the truth which is clearly revealed in Scripture.
We see a hint of this mystery in the very beginning of creation:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness’” (Genesis 1:26).
The word for God which is used here, Elohim, is a plural noun and is used with plural pronouns, “Let us make man in our image.” (Although this could be a literary device known as “plural of majesty” — using the plural to emphasize greatness or majesty, it certainly points to the later revelation of the plurality of the Godhead).
The truth of God’s plurality was present in the Old Testament but God did not emphasize it to the Hebrew people because Israel was surrounded by the worship of so many false gods. To a nation surrounded by multiplied gods, the Lord emphasized His unity as revealed in the Scripture which every Jew confessed, “Hear O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
However, as history unfolded, God progressively revealed that although He is one God, He exists as three distinct Persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — distinctly three, perfectly one in essence, co-equal in glory and majesty, co-eternal.
The traditional, orthodox confession of the church is that God is one in essence, three in Person.
We do not believe in multiple Gods possessing distinctly different attributes, rather, one God existing as three distinct Persons sharing all attributes, sharing the same essence of being.
We are not polytheists — believers in multiple gods. We are not unitarians, believing in one divine person possessing one nature. We believe in one God who exists as three Persons, each of whom possesses all the attributes of God, each holding in common all that God is. We confess that God is one and God is three in the same moment, forever.
The members of the Trinity are distinct from one another yet at all times perfectly one in unity while remaining perfectly three. They are not three forms of God in the sense that vapor, liquid and ice are three forms of water. The members of the Trinity are not forms of God but truly God. And whereas three forms of water do not normally exist at the same time, God exists as three Persons, one God at all times.
They are not each a fraction of God in the sense of each being 1/3 of God. They are each fully God and fully one. For instance, in Galatians 1:1 the Father is referred to as God; in Acts 5:3,4 the Spirit is referred to as God. In John 20:28, Thomas refers to Jesus as, “My Lord and my God.” Each member of the Trinity is uniquely, distinctly God.
The Revealing of the Trinity
1. We see a hint of the Trinity in the words of David the Psalmist, “The Lord says to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet’” (Psalm 110:1).
This Psalm was understood to be Messianic. In it, David is depicting the Lord God speaking to the Messiah (David’s Lord). Jesus quoted this verse to prove that the Messiah would be more than a man — He would also be God and yet distinct from God the Father.
2. We hear an echo of the Trinity in these words spoken through Isaiah, “Come near to me, listen to this; from the first I have not spoken in secret, from the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord God has sent me, and His Spirit” (Isaiah 48:16).
Though that might have been obscure to the people of Isaiah’s day, we understand it is the Messiah announcing His mission from God the Father. And we also see the Holy Spirit as a distinct entity apart from the Father and the Son.
3. We see the Trinity revealed in the birth of Jesus.
In Matthew 1:18,20 we are told that the Holy Spirit will cause Mary to conceive. In verse 23, we are told that the Child will be “Immanuel, God with us.”
In Luke 1:30 the angel tells Mary that the child conceived in her “will be called the Son of the Most High.” When Mary asks how this could happen, the angel replies, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
The incarnation of Jesus in the womb of Mary was an act in which all the members of the Trinity participated. God the Father and God the Holy Spirit enabled the conception of God the Son in the womb of Mary.
When Jesus, the eternal Son of God, was conceived in the womb of Mary, He became perfect Man but did not cease being perfect God, as the Apostle Paul reminds us: “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).
In John 1:1-3,14 we read:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being … And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John speaks of the second Person of the Trinity as the Word of God — a distinct Person — “the Word was God” — but existing in unity “with God”. He shared in the work of creation yet “became flesh, and dwelt among us.”
This is a mystery — the eternal God entered time, God the Creator became a creature, the infinite God accepted limitations of time and space. God became Man yet did not cease to be God, nor was the unity of the Trinity interrupted when God became Man.
4. We see the Trinity revealed in the baptism of Jesus:
“After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased’” (Matthew 3:16,17).
God the Holy Spirit anointed God the Son for ministry as God the Father spoke His blessing.
5. We see the Trinity revealed in the words of Jesus.
Speaking of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers, Jesus said:
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:16,17).
“We will come to him and make our abode (home) with him” (John 14:23).
“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about me” (John 15:26).
6. We see God the Father revealed as a distinct Person in the prayers of Jesus:
“Father, I thank you that you have heard me” (John 11:41).
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son, that the Son may glorify you” (John 17:1).
7. We see the Trinity revealed in the atonement:
“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14).
8. We see the Trinity revealed in the resurrection:
“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, Who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:1-4).
The resurrection was a work in which all three members of the Trinity participated:
9. We see the Trinity revealed in the salvation of sinners. The Apostle Peter wrote,
“To those who are chosen, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: may grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure” (I Peter 1:1b, 2).
10. We see the Trinity revealed in Jesus’ commission to the church:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Mathew 28:19).
Notice in that commission the perfect unity of God in action — three distinct Persons operating in a harmony of will.
11. We see the Trinity revealed in Paul’s benediction to the church at Corinth:
“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).
And again, in Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians:
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father … strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man … so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph. 3:14,16,17).
12. We see the Trinity revealed as the Holy Spirit intercedes to the Father on behalf of believers
(Romans 8:26) and as the Son also intercedes to the Father (I John 2:1).
Throughout the Bible we see three Persons at work simultaneously in unity. They are not three manifestations of the same Person but three distinct Persons working in unity. For instance, in 2 Thes. 2:13, Paul says that we are beloved by the Lord, chosen by God, sanctified by the Spirit. All that God does, He does in perfect harmony.
Jesus became the Son of Man but did not cease to be Son of God in unity with the other members of the Godhead. As the God / Man, Jesus expressed His distinction from God the Father as He prayed, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me” (John 17:24). But He also expressed His unity with the Father, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
Unity does not deny the distinctiveness of the three Persons — God is one God but three distinct Persons, co-equal in glory and majesty, co-eternal, equally worthy of worship and honor. Jesus was and is the Son of God but also God the Son. The Holy Spirit is not a cosmic force but a divine Person.
The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that God has never been lonely — He has always enjoyed fellowship within the GodHead. Our human longing for fellowship is a reflection of the joy of God within the Trinity and is therefore an expression of the image of God in us.
The fact that we can’t comprehend the truth of the Trinity should caution us against trying to create gods out of our own imagination. We cannot fully understand the God who has revealed HImself as Three-in-One. Much less can we design gods with our own minds.
What we can do is to worship God and confess the truth as God has revealed truth:
God is three Persons
existing wholly and indivisibly,
simultaneously and eternally
as three members of one Godhead:
God the Father,
God the Son
God the Holy Spirit.
1. Look back through the lesson and find one Scripture in which we see the three members of the Trinity at work and describe the work of all three.
2. What does this mean — Trinity in unity?
God is not hiding. God has disclosed Himself in creation, in His word and in the person of Jesus. God invites us to seek Him and know Him. This is the highest purpose of anyone’s life. There is nothing more fulfilling than to know God and enjoy Him.
Also, it is important to understand God’s Self-disclosure so that we do not formulate false ideas and lying philosophies about God. This can lead to the creation of a god who is not God.
It is important to understand who God is so we do not fall prey to doctrines of demons. Idolatry is not just a matter of bowing down before statues or practicing pagan rituals. Idolatry, at its root, is imagining God to be something or someone other than who He declares Himself to be.
What we know about God is based on His Self-revelation. We call this revelation attributes. An attribute of God is anything true of His character.
What do we know about God?
1. God is a spirit.
2. God is Self Existent
3. God is Self Sufficient
4. God is Eternal
5. God is Infinite
6. God is Unchanging
7. God is Faithful
8. God is All Wise (Omniscient)
9. God is Almighty (Omnipotent)
10. God is Transcendent
11. God is Omnipresent
12. God is Merciful
13. God is Holy
14. God is Just
15. God is Sovereign
16. God is One and God is a Trinity: Three Persons, One God
We know these truths about God because God has disclosed Himself to us. There is an infinite treasure of the depths of God that we do not know, cannot grasp now with our finite minds. But we will have an eternity to discover, marvel at and worship the manifold riches of our God.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face;
now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also
have been fully known” (I Corinthians 13:12).