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Who is God and What Are His Characteristics?

September 14, 2010
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I think this must be the start of this discussion. It would be impossible to intelligently discuss God without a firm idea of who he is. I also think most of the problems we have with understanding Christianity come from our inability to see things from God’s point of view.

  • God is Holy.  This is so much more than we normally think of it.  I am at a loss to describe it so I will quote an excerpt from my study Bible:
    Holiness is the fundamental descriptor of who God is. It is not merely one of his many attributes; it is the key to his very being. Calling God “the Holy One” speaks to the transcendence of his nature, in sharp contrast to the finite creation, whose creatures are bound by time and space. God speaks of himself as I AM WHO I AM (Exod 3:14), defining himself by himself. God is the Wholly Other, the One who is completely self-sufficient and distinct from the created order.God’s holiness also speaks of his character. It is common to describe God’s holiness in terms of his separation from sin and his wrath against it, but holiness embraces all of God’s character, including his mercy. God revealed himself to Moses as the God of compassion and mercy.  He said, I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.  In his holiness, God shows this unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty (Exod 34:6-7).  God’s holiness can be deadly to uninvited intruders (Isa 6:3, 5; see Exod 28:35) or to those who treat it with contempt. His infinite holiness is too much for finite, fallen mortals and would utterly destroy them apart from God’s sustaining grace. Understanding God’s holiness should thus trigger a response of awe and reverence. Anything less would be profane. 
  • God is Love, he is all good.He is good to the point that he refuses to share eternity with anyone or anything that isn’t perfectly good. He is good to the point that he defines true love.  The fruits of his Holy Spirit are described in the Bible as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  If that is what comes out of us when we commit to him, it would be safe to say that is a great description of his own character, and that is very good.  That is Love.
  • God is just. This is the characteristic most often forgotten about or left out, but it explains so much of Christianity and life here on earth. Because he is just, every evil deed must be punished and every good deed rewarded.  Either we suffer our own punishment, or we accept Jesus suffering for our sins, but every sin must be punished.  We must all be treated with justice, but that does not mean we are all treated the same.  No one who spends eternity in Hell will be able to say they don’t deserve to be there, or even attempt to do so.  In the end, they will know they have been treated with justice.  This requires God to allow some things to happen on earth that appear extreme, but they serve as severe warnings to us all.
  • God is soveriegn.  While God will not do anything that is against his own character, beyond that, in the end, he can do whatever he pleases.  All of us were told by our parents once in a while; “Because I said so.”  As we became parents ourselves, if you are that old, we all said the exact same words.  Compared to God, we are all young, foolish, children who cannot hope to comprehend all God’s reasons.  He does not have to get anyone’s approval or authority to do anything.  This soveriegn power is dangerous in the hands of humans (think of the kings and dictators in our history), but with God who is all good, his every decision is good.
  • God is without beginning or end. He has always been and will always be. We struggle to manage our day so it is extremely difficult for us to imagine managing all of the universe, for all time. Yet that is God’s perspective. If you think in terms of forever, a 80 year life is but a blink of an eye. It changes everything. I question if time even exist for God, but that would be another subject.  However this perspective changes how you make decisions.  Using temporary suffering to create eternal goodness becomes not only plausible, but natural if you truly can comprehend eternity, which we of course cannot.

 

  • God is all-powerful. This is much harder to understand than it first appears. This forces God to make decisions and choices that we cannot even imagine. If you can’t do something, you don’t have to choose whether to do it or not. If you are all powerful, you must always choose every act.  But being all powerful doesn’t mean you can do what cannot be done.  It is common to ask, “Can God create a rock so large that he cannot move it?”  That is not a question as much as the creation of an impossible goal by using a circular argument.
  • God is all knowing.  Again, impossible for us to grasp entirely, yet indispensible for understanding his choices, and also largely the reason his choices cannot be entirely understood.

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