ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
What is God like? What are his characteristics? If we believe that there is a Creator, then this Creator must have certain attributes. The following lists give God’s most prominent eternal attributes, character attributes, and personal attributes, with a brief explanation and scripture for each. These are referenced extensively in Christ in Scripture blog posts. Those listed here are God’s main attributes. Others not listed are a form of one of these. For example, loveliness is a form of beauty, excellence a form of holiness, etc.
GOD’S ETERNAL OR INFINITE ATTRIBUTES
These are the attributes that only God possesses. They belong to him and no one else, and are the main reason we worship God. They are evident in the created universe. This is referred to as general revelation, attributes of God that all people can see.
God is ruler over all the created universe, and the supreme authority over all created beings. Preeminence is similar to sovereignty.
“See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.” (Isaiah 40:10)
God is limitless, measureless, and he knows no bounds. In all his attributes, he is infinite. His love, mercy, holiness, and justice are limitless.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
God created the universe, and so is not a part of it. He transcends the three-dimensional physical world.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
Immanence means that God is intricately involved in every aspect of the created world: he surrounds, permeates, and maintains it.
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:3)
God’s power is unlimited, demonstrated by the power released during the creation of the cosmos. He continues to exercise his power throughout the universe.
“Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jer. 32:17)
God is not limited by or confined within the three-dimensional physical world. He is separate from it and so is above it and surrounds it. In a physical sense, he is non-dimensional.
“…Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD. (Jer. 23:24)
By logic, since God created everything, he knows everything and is aware of everything, past, present, and future. Wisdom is the application of knowledge, and so is a form of knowledge. Therefore God is also all-wise.
“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13)
God is eternal and immortal, he is the only self-existent being. He is outside of time; he sees the past the present, and the future all at once.
“Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Ps. 90:2)
“God, the blessed and only ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal…” I (Timothy 6:15-16)
God does not change, he is not affected by anything in the physical world.
“I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. …” (Mal. 3:6)
This means that God is uncaused, and depends on nothing or no other being for the source of his existence. Included in this is self-sufficiency. He himself provides sufficient reason for his own existence.
“God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”” (Exodus 3:14)
God is the source of all light and energy, and he dwells in the midst of intense light.
“God, the blessed and only ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, …. who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.” (I Timothy 6:15-16)
GOD’S CHARACTER ATTRIBUTES
These are the attributes that define God’s character. We worship God for these attributes also, but they are mostly evident to those that know him on a personal level. God himself is the source of these qualities; they do not originate in humans. Humans can also possess them on a small scale if they are in a faith/love relationship with God: “…he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature…” (2 Peter 1:4)
God is morally pure and uncontaminated.
“Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you – majestic in holiness awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Ex. 15:11)
God is good. Goodness is intrinsic to his nature. He is kind and merciful toward all people.
“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” (Psalm 145:8-9)
God’s love for all people is unconditional, because he is love.
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)
Everything God says is true and right. He speaks the truth in genuineness and honesty. He does not deceive.
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…””(John 14:6)
God is infinitely wise, as he sees and understands all things. God’s wisdom is found in Christ, and is available to those who believe in him. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. Earthly wisdom can be found by anyone who seeks it.
“…in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)
Grace is God’s generosity and kindness shown by the gifts he offers to those who are undeserving. He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked, and offers his gifts to all. The greatest gift he has given is the gift of salvation through his Son Jesus Christ, even though most will not accept it.
“We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
God gives spiritual light and moral guidance to those who seek him. Christ is the light of the world, a lamp to guide those who are in darkness.
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”” (John 8:12)
God rescues those that are in danger, and has compassion on those that deserve punishment. His greatest act of mercy was redeeming the lost through Christ. Kindness is similar to mercy.
“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.” (Micah 7:18)
God is fair and impartial in his treatment towards people, and protects the innocent. When he punishes sin he does so fairly and not excessively. He also executes judgment on those who are unrepentant.
“Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Dt. 32:3-4)
God is faithful and loyal to his people. He keeps the promises he makes. The greatest promise he has kept was that of providing a Savior, a Messiah, to save us from our sin.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23)
This attribute is closely related to grace. God is kind and generous, and desires the best for us. He is not capricious, mean spirited, or angry.
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…” (Titus 3:4-5)
God is patient and does not act rashly or punish quickly. He gives the benefit of the doubt to those that can change. We waits on executing judgment until there is no other chance that people will repent.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
Beauty is the quality in God that gives us deep satisfaction to behold him. We can only see glimpses of his beauty in this life, but we will behold his unshaded beauty in heaven.
“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
GOD’S PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES
These are the attributes that all humans share with God. In God they are infinite, while in humans they are finite and limited. Genesis 1:27 states that God created us in his own image, meaning that God and humans share certain attributes. The accounts of the creation of the universe and of Adam and Eve interacting with God in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 introduce us to these attributes. The story would make no sense unless both God and humans possessed all of them. They are highly connected to each other—for most you cannot have one without the others. Most of the infinite attributes of God have finite counterparts in humans.
God is a person and not an impersonal force. Humans are also persons. By persons we mean individual, self-conscious, rational, and moral beings. God is self-existent, so his personhood is not dependent on anything. Our personhood and existence are totally dependent on God, since he is our Creator. Common to all persons is consciousness. God’s personhood means that he is also relational. He created each of us to have a person to person relationship with him.
“And the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”” (Luke 3:22)
God is the source of life and he gives life to us. Life that occurs in humans is the finite counterpart to God’s infinite life. Our life is derived from and totally dependent on God’s life. So we are mortal and God is immortal. The human spirit especially was created like God’s Spirit so that we can share life with God and have intimate fellowship with him, giving us a link to the eternal. So the finite and transient spirit of man is the human counterpart to the immortal Spirit of God. When we are “born from above” with the Spirit of God, we then possess eternal life.
“The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4)
Both God and humans have intelligence. God’s intelligence is infinite, while ours is obviously finite. While animals can also have a degree of intelligence, God gave humans the ability of abstract thought. This is the capacity to think about ideas and concepts not directly tied to anything physical. Included in intelligence are reason and memory.
“By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place.” (Proverbs 3:19)
Speech is intelligent communication, the expression of thoughts in spoken words. God has spoken countless times since creation and many of his words are recorded in Scripture. God gave humans the same ability, to speak intelligently. “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
God makes intentional decisions, and because he is all powerful, he is also totally sovereign. God has also given humans the ability to make rational and moral decisions, but limited in scope and effect. So our will is the finite counterpart to God’s sovereignty.
“Therefore the earth will mourn and the heavens above grow dark, because I have spoken and will not relent, I have decided and will not turn back.” (Jeremiah 4:28)
God can communicate intelligently, and we can communicate to him, and also to others. Prayer is communication with God.
“O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.” (Psalm 130:2)
God is in himself holy and morally pure. He has made humans moral agents, possessing a knowledge of right and wrong.
“Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”” (Genesis 4:6)
God possesses emotion: love, joy, compassion, sadness, anger, pity, and jealousy, and he also gives these to humans. Even animals have some capacity for emotion.
“The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.” (Numbers 14:18)
God made the universe by his unlimited creative powers, and has also given humans the power to create on a small scale. Our artistic and creative abilities are the finite counterparts to God’s infinite creative power.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
A good reference on the attributes of God is The Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer.
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