Quest. 22: What are the attributes of God?
Ans: The attributes of God are those perfections inherent in the Divine nature which the Bible reveals concerning God.
Ex. 3:14. And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
Rom. 11:36. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
See also: Lev. 11:43–45; 1 Kgs. 8:27; 1 Chron. 29:11–12; Psa. 31:5; 90:2; 139:1–17; 145:3, 17; 147:5; Isa. 6:1–3; 57:15; Jer. 23:24; Mal. 3:6; 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 Jn. 4:16.
The word “attributes” refers to those characteristics or qualities that are inherent in the Divine essence and thus attributed to [revealed about, assigned to or descriptive of] God in Scripture. We know or comprehend God in our finiteness through these attributes or characteristics. These are all perfections, i.e., God is necessarily perfect in every one of these qualities or characteristics.
The Divine attributes are coherent in God. The term “coherence” when used logically, philosophically or theologically, denotes consistency or to be without contradiction or conflict. If a system has any inconsistencies or contradictions, it is said to be “incoherent.” When used of the Divine attributes or perfections, it means that these Divine characteristics do not contradict or come into conflict with one another. There is no incoherence within the Divine Personality.
We can only know God as he has been pleased to reveal himself to us. Yet we can seek to understand God from the Scriptures and make our knowledge orderly and systematic. We can attempt to categorize or arrange the Divine perfections to help us think properly about God “as spirit, infinite and perfect, the source, support and end of all things” (Rom. 11:36). While our knowledge of God is only partial and inadequate due to our finiteness, fallen state and the noetic effects of sin, yet it is a true knowledge through our God–given capacity as the image–bearers of God, the context of Divine revelation and the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit.
Various attempts have been made to classify the Divine attributes. Most would classify these Divine attributes as: the Communicable and Incommunicable Attributes, i.e., those which belong to God alone (e.g., omnipresence, omnipotence, immensity, eternity, etc.) and those which to some extent are communicable to his moral creatures (e.g., love, mercy, wisdom, etc.). Others would classify them as Absolute (those belonging to God alone) and Relative (those expressed to some extent in man). Some would attempt to classify them as Immanent or Intransitive and Eminent or Transitive Attributes. All such attempts must ultimately prove insufficient, as God is simply transcendent in all his perfections.
God Considered as Spirit, Infinite
God is spirit, i.e., God is neither visible nor material; he is incorporeal (Jn. 4:24). He may be perceived through the created universe (Psa. 19:1–6; Rom. 1:19–20), in the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:18; Col. 2:9), and personally and spiritually by faith (Heb. 11:6, 27). Because God is spirit, we cannot see him with our physical eyes. We “see” him through the “eye” of faith, i.e., by or through faith (Heb. 11:6).
When the Bible speaks of God as having “eyes,” “hands,” “feet,” or “ears,” etc., it is using human terms [anthropomorphisms] to help us understand that God sees, works, moves and hears, etc. Pure spiritual beings such as angels or demons are far superior to physical beings, and God is absolutely superior and ultimate—there is no one or thing above or beyond him. He is ultimate and infinite, the Creator, Governor and Sustainer of all things.
As a Spirit, God has life in himself and gives life to everything (Acts 17:25, 28; Heb. 1:3, 10:31). He is a personality, not merely an influence (Gen. 1:1; Ex. 3:14; Rom. 11:33–36).
God is absolutely perfect in everything and in every way. If there were any imperfection in God, he simply would not and could not be the God of Scripture. He is perfect truth. Because God is both true and truth, he can be trusted—believed in without fail (Deut. 32:4; Psa. 146:5–6; Titus 1:2; 1 Jn. 5:10). He is also perfect love. God’s love cannot be separated from his other perfections. His love is holy, righteous, just, gracious and merciful (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 4:8–10, 16). He is perfectly holy (Psa. 145:17; Isa. 57:15; 1 Pet. 1:15–16), righteous (Gen. 18:25; 2 Chron. 12:6; Psa. 11:7) and perfectly wise (Rom. 11:33–36; 1 Tim. 1:17).
God Considered as the Source, Support
and End of All Things
This means that God is the Creator or Originator and Definer of all things, the one who sustains all things in the universe, and that all things exist and are being brought to final consummation [their final ordained end or conclusion] in him (Acts 17:24–28; Rom. 11:33–36; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:1–3).
In relation to time and space, God is transcendent, i.e., he far exceeds all the limitations of the universe he has created. He is above and beyond all time and space. There is nothing that exists above or beyond God. There is no law, person or thing to which he must answer; he is absolute, and all created reality is relative to him. He is moved only from within himself and his own moral self–consistency (Psa. 90:4; 113:5–6). God is also eternal or supra–temporal, i.e., he exists above and beyond time (Gen. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:17). He is immense and imminent, i.e., fully and personally present throughout the universe (1 Kgs. 8:27; Heb. 4:12–13).
In relation to creation, God is omnipresent (Psa. 139:7–10), omniscient (Psa. 139:1–5; Jer. 17:9–10; 23:24; Acts 1:24; 15:8) and omnipotent (Gen. 1:1, 3; Psa. 115:3; Isa. 46:9–11).
In relation to moral beings, God is faithful and truthful (Deut. 7:9–10; Jn. 17:17; 1 Cor. 1:9; 10:13; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:13–18; 1 Jn. 5:10), gracious, merciful and good (Psa. 103:1–2, 8–14, 17; Rom. 2:4; 8:28–39), loving and kind (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:5; Eph. 2:4–10; 1 Jn. 4:8, 16), righteous, just and holy (Psa. 145:17; Isa. 6:1–4; Hos. 1:1–11; Rom. 3:21–26; 11:33–36).
By Dr. W.R. Downing