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Theology Proper

The Doctrine of God

1. Introduction

GodThe great presupposition of theology is the existence of God. Why bother with theology unless we assume that God exists. Even though the existence of God is accepted by faith, faith is based on reliable information. The faith that we have of the existence of God is not a blind faith, but a faith that is based on evidence that stands upon Scripture. Is the Bible reliable as evidence? That can only be answered as one studies the subject of Bibliology. The Bible does not start out with the purpose of proving the existence of God. Rather, it assumes the existence, and gives us His-Story (history) concerning His dealings with man, in effect salvation history.

2. Does God exist?

2.1 “Proof” from nature and the Bible

Paul tells us that even those people, who have not necessarily heard the gospel, or the Bible itself, still have a knowledge of God:

[20] 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. [21] For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Rom 1:20-21)

No one is without excuse, that they did not know there is a God. That would even be the case for those who claim to be atheists. What have people done?

For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. (Rom 1:25)

It is true that there are many who claim that they believe there is no God, yet God calls them “fools.” (Ps 14:1; 53:1)  What kind of person insists that there is no God?

[3] For the wicked boasts of his heart's desire, And the greedy man curses and spurns the LORD. [4] The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, There is no God. (Ps 10:3-4)

It is sin that will cause people to deny the knowledge of God (Rom 1:18).

However, God exists, and for the Christian the Bible amply supports that fact. Right through the Bible we see the story of God. The Bible clearly points to the fact that nature is an excellent source to know about the existence of God (Ac 14:17; Ps 19:1-2).

2.2 “Proof” from philosophy

We will next look at some arguments as to the existence of God. Understand that none of these arguments will convince the one who does not want to be convinced. In effect these arguments then do not prove that God exists, but they do make it more difficult to deny God’s existence.

2.2.1 The argument from change

We know of one constant in this universe…change!  All things are in a constant condition of change. Babies become adults; acorns become oak trees; yet, when something comes to be in a state, we acknowledge that state cannot make itself to be.

As for the thing that changes, although it can be what it will become, it is not yet what it will become. It actually exists right now in this state (an acorn); it will actually exist in that state (large oak tree). But it is not actually in that state now. It only has the potentiality for that state.1

How can we explain the change? What is involved? Should we consider the thing that changes alone, or are other things also involved? The acorn cannot make itself an oak tree. How can the result of change exist before the change? Without being acted upon, having the potentiality for change will not make a thing change! Animals are moved by will and desire, and not by mere molecules. However, if the animal dies

the molecules remain, but the body no longer moves because the desire or will is no longer present to move it.2

As the changing thing changes, do the other things outside of it also changing? Does the mover also move? If that is the case, then all of them are in need to have something else act upon them. “A” was caused to move by “B,” which was caused to move by “C,” which was caused to move by “D.” What caused “D” to move, and before that? And again before that? Change in any entity requires an outside force to cause the change.

The universe is the sum total of all these moving things, however many there are.3

Therefore, there must be some force outside of the universe to cause it to change. It has to be some real being transcendent to the universe. However, if there is no transcendent being outside of the universe, then nothing can cause the universe to change. Yet, we know it changes!

Therefore this being outside the universe is outside matter, space and time. It is not a changing thing; it is the unchanging Source of change.4

2.2.2 Efficient causality (Cosmological argument)

Some things cause other things to be and/or continue to be. Suppose all things are caused by other things. Now suppose there is no God. If this is the case, then nothing could exist. All things need a cause outside themselves to exist. The thing giving being can only give it as long as it is given being. Everything then is in need of being caused to exist. Yet, if God does not exist, then everything is caused by… nothing! This is absurd!

The hypothesis that all being is caused, that there is no Uncaused Being, is absurd. So there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent.5

If there is no Uncaused Being, God, who has existence by his own uncaused eternal nature, then existence cannot be passed on to that which we know exists. Yet, we know we exist. Therefore, there must be a God: the Uncaused Being.

The Kalam argument, I believe also fall under this argument. “Kalam” is an Arabic word meaning “speech.” However, it came to represent the argument that the world could not be infinitely old and must have been created by God. It basically has three propositions. First, everything has a cause for it coming into being. Second, the universe came into being. Third, as a result the universe has a cause for its coming into being. The first proposition is granted, because only people in asylums would consider this untrue! Even scientists are starting to believe that at some point the universe began to exist. Look especially at the Big-Bang theory! This settles the second proposition. Therefore, the third proposition is also settled. Since the universe began to exist, there had to have been a cause for it. Something that needed no “causing” for its own existence, a Creator, had to cause it.

2.2.3 Degrees of perfection

We all live our lives accepting degrees of variance in differing ways. We look at colours and notice they can be lighter or darker than each other. We can have cooler and hotter days. In effect, we arrange everything in our lives in terms of more or less; better and worse. When we do consider these degrees of perfection we comparatively think of them in terms of the perfect and the totally deficient. A lighter colour is thought of on a scale as approaching pure white, whereas a darker colour approaching pitch black.

Which is the better state of being: a stable and permanent state of being, or a fleeting and precarious state of being? It is obviously the stable and permanent state of being.

we apprehend at a deep (but not always conscious) level that being is the source and condition of all value; finally and ultimately, being is better than nonbeing.6

We also accept that intelligent being is better than unintelligent being. What is a better being: a being able to give and receive love or one that cannot? Is our way of being better than that of a rock or flower, or even an ant? The answer has to be in the affirmative. In states of being, with degrees of perfection pertaining to being, then, there must exist a “best” standard, a source of all perfections we recognise as belonging to us as beings. There must, therefore exist a perfect being. In degrees of perfection in being, then, there must be a perfect Being. He is God!

Naturally an objection may be lodged to this argument, which says that our argument assumes a real “better.” The objector may ask whether all our judgements of comparative value aren’t merely subjective? The objector has found his own answer by asking the question. If the objector did not think that it was better to ask rather than not, he would not have asked the question. By asking, the objector felt it better to find the true answer rather than not. Subjectivism can only remain spoken, not lived.

2.2.4 Design (Teleological argument)

The argument according to design has a wide and popular appeal. Upon reflection on nature everyone has to admit that the universe at least seems to have design. Our argument is as follows:

First, no one can argue against the idea that the universe displays a huge amount of intelligibility within the objects of our observation, as well as the other things those objects interact with and relate to. Existence and coexistence display a complex yet beautiful order and conformance that leaves the most casual observer in wonder. Second, this intelligible order can only exist due to one of two things: chance or intelligent design. Third, it cannot be chance. Fourth, as a result the universe must be the product of intelligent design. Fifth, design is only possible in the context of a mind, or designer. Sixth, an intelligent designer had to have been involved in the creation of the universe.

We know that the first proposition is true. What about the second? If the order we observe is not the product of intelligent design, then how did it come about? Did it just happen? Was it mere chance? However, if this order we see is not due to pure chance, then it has to be due to some sort of purpose. Therefore, that purpose can only be due to intelligent design. The second proposition stands! Will the third proposition stand up to scrutiny? Non-believers assume right off the cuff that it has to be by chance that we have the universe. It is impossible to be by design, because they have already eliminated God from the picture. To them it is purely by chance that this universe portrays such intelligibility. They believe that believers should demonstrate why the universe does not exist by chance alone. Why should it be upon the believer to come up with an alternative to design if the universe indeed shows an insurmountable amount of information to prove design? Indeed, chance is not really credible, as chance can only be understood against the background of order. So, the third proposition stands. From the third proposition the rest flows quite cleanly.

2.2.5 The Ontological argument

Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) devised this argument. He was searching to produce a simple presentation, which would show that God is, and what God is.

It is, perhaps, the most controversial proof for the existence of God. Most people who first hear it are tempted to dismiss it immediately as interesting riddle, but distinguished thinkers of every age, including our own, have risen to defend it. For this reason it is the most intensely philosophical proof for God’s existence; its place of honor is not within popular piety, but rather textbooks and professional journals.7

Anselm’s argument is as follows:

  1. It is greater for a thing to exist in the mind and in reality than in the mind alone.
  2. “God” means “that than which a greater cannot be thought.”
  3. Suppose that God exists in the mind and not in reality.
  4. Then a greater than God could be thought (namely, a being that has all the qualities our thought of God has plus real existence).
  5. But this is impossible, for God is “that than which a greater cannot be thought.”Therefore God exists in the mind and in reality.8

2.2.6 The Moral argument

This argument is based on man’s sense of right and wrong. In this sense man has a need for justice to be done. Out of this sense of justice we argue that there must be a God who is the source of right and wrong and will in the end measure out justice to all people.

First, we know that real moral obligation is a fact. We see it everyday. This moral obligation is an objective fact. We are not merely speaking of the belief in moral values, which could be totally subjective. Second, either the atheistic view of reality is correct, or the view of those believing in a God. Third, however, is the fact that the atheistic view of reality is simply inconsistent with the fact that there is moral obligation. Fourth, this then leads to the proposition that the religious view must be correct.

3. Can God be known?

As Christians we believe that God is incomprehensible (unable to fully comprehend), but we also believe that God can be known, a prerequisite to salvation. Zophar’s question comes to us with force:

Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty? (Job 11:27 NASB9)

What is the answer to the question of Isaiah?

To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him? (Is 40:18)

Yet, for our salvation Jesus said

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (Jn 17:3)

Even though God is incomprehensible, we do believe that God revealed Himself in the Logos, and can therefore be known unto salvation. In Reformed theology we believe that God can be known, yet it is impossible to for man to know Him exhaustively and perfectly in every way. It is impossible for the finite to fully comprehend the infinite. To know and comprehend God exhaustively and perfectly is to be God!

We may know something of God’s love, power, knowledge, wisdom, greatness and so forth, but we will never know any of the attributes of God exhaustively. Even though this is the case, it does not mean that we can never know God at all! What the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God does for us, is that it spurs us on always to know more about God, and to know Him more. We can never know too much about God. The knowledge of God is so awesome that we can exclaim with David

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. (Ps 139:6)

However, man can obtain a knowledge of God that is perfectly sufficient for the understanding of God’s purpose in the life of man. Even though we cannot know God exhaustively, we can know Him truly. What has been revealed to us is true about God. Having said this, it is only from the divine self-revelation that man can attain true knowledge of God.

All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and 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. (Mt 11:27)

There are many things that we know about God that are true: God is love (1 Jn 4:8), God is light (1 Jn 1:5), God is spirit (Jn 4:24), and many more. God wants us to know Him. In fact, He wants us to find our joy in knowing Him.

[23] Thus says the LORD, Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; [24] but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, declares the LORD. (Jer 9:23-24)

4. Character of God

4.1 The Names of God

The Bible speaks of several names of God, yet it also speaks of the name of God.

O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth (Ps 8:1)

The name of God can be thought of as His self-revelation. In Biblical times a name was not merely a designated word for each person to differentiate them from other persons. A name was an expression of the nature of the thing to which the name belonged.

4.1.1 The Old Testament ‘El, ‘Elohim, ‘Elyon

‘EL (אל) is the most simple name by which God is known in the Bible. It is likely that it comes from ‘ul, meaning first, or lord, or on the other hand mighty and strong. On the other hand ‘ELOHIM (אלהים) could come from the same root, or it could come from ‘alah (אלה), which means to be smitten with fear. ‘ELOHIM is a plural word and indicates a fullness of power. ‘ELYON (עליוֹן) is derived from ‘alah (אלה), to go up, be elevated. It designates God as the high and exalted One, the Most High. We can find ‘ELYON in Gen 14:19-20; Num 24:16; Is 14:14.

[19] He blessed him and said, Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; [20] And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand. He gave him a tenth of all. (Gen 14:19-20) ‘Adonai

This word is related in meaning to the previous words. ‘Adonai (אדני), meaning lord, comes from ‘ADŌN (אדוֹן), command, rule pointing to God as the almighty Ruler. Shaddai and ‘El-Shaddai

SHADDAI (שׁדי) is derived from SHADAD (שׁדד), meaning to be devastatingly powerful, showing God as possessing all power in heaven and on earth. SHADDAI speaks of the Almighty, whereas ’EL SHADDAI (אל שׁדי) means God Almighty.

NOW when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. (Gen 17:1 NASB) Yahweh and Yahweh Tsebhaoth

It is in the name YAHWEH (יהוה) that God shows Himself as a God of grace. Many pronounce this most sacred Jewish name for God as JEHOVAH. The reason for this is that originally the name of God (יהוה) which is simply the Hebrew letters (YHWH), was not written with any vowels, like the rest of the Hebrew language. Due to the dispersion of the Jews in the many times that they were captured or driven out of Israel, they lost the use of their language. With the effort by the ben Asher family in the 10th century to put vowels in the Hebrew written language to assist with correct pronunciation, they did not know what vowels to use for this sacred name. YHWH became such a sacred name that they were not permitted to speak the name. The Jews had a tradition that whenever YHWH was seen in the Hebrew text, they would say ‘ADONAI in the place of YHWH. Therefore, the pronunciation of YHWH was lost. So, when the Masoretic text was put together with vowels, they simply used the vowels of ‘ADONAI. However, when the word ‘ADONAI preceded YHWH, the vowels of ‘ELOHIM were used to decorate YHWH (יהוה).

The YHWH was made known to Moses in Ex 3:13-15

[13] Then Moses said to God, Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, "The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, "What is His name?' What shall I say to them? [14] God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM; and He said, Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, "I AM has sent me to you.' [15] God, furthermore, said to Moses, Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, "The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.

YHWH comes from the word HAWAH (הוה), which is a rare synonym for HAYAH (היה), meaning to be.

The pronunciation Jehovah was unknown until 1520, when it was introduced by Galatinus; but it was contested by Le Mercier, J. Drusius, and L. Capellus, as against grammatical and historical propriety… The traditional 'Ιαβε of Theodoret and Epiphanius… favour יהוה [YAHWEH]… 10

4.1.2 The New Testament Theos

In the New Testament the Greek equivalent for ‘EL, ‘ELOHIM and ‘ELYON is θεος. ‘ELYON is represented by υπσιστος θεος (HUPSISTOS THEOS) as in Mk 5:7,

and shouting with a loud voice, he said, What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!

SHADDAI is rendered as παντοκρατωρ (PANTOKRATWR) and ’EL SHADDAI is rendered as θεος παντοκρατωρ (THEOS PANTOKRATWR). Kurios

The name YHWH is explained several times by variations of a more descriptive kind like the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Beginning and the End, Rev 1:4, 8, 17; 2:8; 21:6; 22:13. Beyond that the New Testament follows the LXX, which exchanged ‘ADONAI for it, and translated this by KURIOS (κυριος), from KUROS (κυρος), power. Although this name does not exactly have the same connotation as YHWH, it designates God as the Mighty One, the Lord, the Possessor and Ruler with legal power and authority. It is used of God and Christ. However, when translating YHWH, this word is used throughout. Pater

PATER (πατερ), Father, is used in the general sense of originator or creator in 1 Cor 8:6; Eph 3:15; Heb 12:9 and Js 1:18. It serves to express the relationship in which the first Person of the Trinity stands toward Christ, the Son of God, or the relation in which God stands to believers as His children, in all other places.

4.2 Incommunicable Attributes

God’s incommunicable attributes are those attributes that He does not share with others, eg. God’s eternal nature, unchangeableness, omnipresence. Some examples of His communicable attributes are love, knowledge, mercy or justice. However, in the communicable attributes God does not share all of an attribute with us. When He shares His knowledge with us, He does not share it all so that we have the same amount of knowledge He does. In the same way He does not share the rest of the communicable attributes with us.

4.2.1 God’s Independence

God is in no need of the Creation He made, yet we can bring Him honour and glory. God does not need any part of creation in order to exist or any other reason.

[24] The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. [25] And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. (Ac 17:24-25 NIV)

The doctrine of the Trinity shows us that there was no loneliness or sociological lack in God, but rather a perfect love and fellowship from all eternity.

Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (Jn 17:5)

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, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. (Jn 17:24)

Only God lives by virtue of His very own nature. He is the Uncaused One. God’s self-designation of YHWH in Ex 3:14,

God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM; and He said, Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, "I AM has sent me to you.”

implies that God’s existence and character are determined by Himself alone, and He is not dependent on outside factors.

Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. (Ps 90:2)

4.2.2 God’s Immutability

God is devoid of change whether in His Being, Perfections or His purposes and promises. If God could change, it could only be for better or for worse. Perfection cannot become better, and God cannot become worse, since He is perfection. God’s immutability is taught in Scripture in passages like Ex 3:14; Ps 102:26-27; Is 41:4; 48:12

For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. (Mal 3:6)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17 ESV)

You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end. (Heb 1:12 NIV)

God does not change, whether it is character, power (Rom 4:20f), His plans and purposes (Ps 33:11; Is 46:10), His promises (1 Ki 8:56; 2 Cor 1:20), His love and mercy (Ps 103:17) or His justice (Gen 18:25; Is 28:17).

Many confuse the immutability of God with immobility. God is certainly not immobile, as He is always active and enters into relationships with changing men.

There is change round about Him, change in the relations of men to Him, but there is no change in His Being, His attributes, His purpose, His motives of action, or His promises.11

When the Bible speaks of God repenting or changing His mind, it is merely to show God’s present attitude or intention with respect to the situation as it exists at that particular moment. God deals differently with mankind in different situations. If the situation changes, then God’s attitude changes with it. For example, when God sent Jonah to preach to Nineveh about their impending doom (Jon 3:4), He certainly meant it! However, when the Ninevites heard the message they repented and turned from their evil ways. So, when God saw their repentance

When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. (Jon 3:10)

Some versions here say that God repented of the calamity He was going to send them. Did God repent as we should, or did He respond to the changing situation? Whenever God warns anyone of impending doom, the fact that God would withhold such doom when the people repent is implicit in the warning, and such a warning does not have to explicitly state that God would indeed not send doom when people repent.

Whenever God says that He would send judgment, as with Hezekiah and Moses, it is a true declaration on God’s part. This judgment will be executed provided that there was no change in the situation.

4.2.3 God is Infinite

God’s infinity is that attribute of God by which He is free from all limitations. God is not limited by creation or any time-space reality. He is also not confined to the universe.

[7] "Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? [8]  It is higher than heaven—what can you do?  Deeper than Sheol—what can you know? [9]  Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. [10] If he passes through and imprisons and summons the court, who can turn him back? (Job 11:7-10 ESV)

God’s greatness cannot be fathomed (Ps 145:3).

In relation to time God is eternal. God is shown to be God from eternity to eternity (if eternity has a past or future!). Eternity cannot itself be explained in time-bound language, since it totally transcends time and is essentially different.

Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. (Ps 90:2 NASB)

God’s eternal nature is elevated above all temporal limitations and cannot be bound by time itself. He

possesses the whole of His existence in one indivisible present.12

God transcends all temporal limits, but He also transcends all spatial limitations. Even though He transcends space and time, He is present in every part of space with His whole Being. This explains God’s immensity, in that God is not diluted in space, so that different parts of Him fill different corresponding parts in space. God is not absent from any part of space, neither is He more present in one part of space than another.

4.2.4 God’s Omnipresence

God’s immensity is explained by the fact that God is not limited by any spatial factors, and transcends all spatial limitations. God’s omnipresence is explained by the fact that God is present at every point in space with His whole Being, acting differently in different places. God cannot be contained in one place at any given time.

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! (1 Ki 8:27)

Here are other passages that also speak of this matter: Jer 23:23-24; Ps 139:7-10.

4.3 Communicable Attributes

4.3.1 God’s Spirituality

What is God made of? This is answered in Jn 4:24 when Jesus told the Samaritan woman that God is spirit. God is not merely a spirit, but He is spirit.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Tim 1:17 NIV)

which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,  [16] who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (1 Tim. 6:15-16 ESV)

God is invisible, and no one can see God.

God has given us spirits in which we worship Him (Jn 4:24). We are also united in our spirits with the Lord’s Spirit (1 Cor 6:17).

4.3.2 God’s Omniscience

God knows Himself and all actual and possible things completely in one simple and eternal act. God simply knows everything.

With Him are wisdom and might; To Him belong counsel and understanding. (Job 12:13)

[4] He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. [5] Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. (Ps 147:4-5 NIV)

[27] Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God"? [28] Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  (Isaiah 40:27-28 ESV)

4.3.3 God’s Wisdom

In God’s wisdom we understand that He always chooses the best way to achieve the best goals. God never makes mistakes.

to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. (Rom 16:27)

To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his. (Job 12:13 NIV)

God’s wisdom is seen in creation (Ps 104:24) right through to His great plan of redemption (1 Cor 1:24, 30).

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33 ESV)

In some ways God shares His wisdom with us.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. (Ps 111:10 NIV)

4.3.4 God’s Truthfulness

God is the true God. All His words and knowledge are true and the ultimate standard of truth.

God is the true God and all other gods are false Gods.

[10] But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, And the nations cannot endure His indignation. [11] Thus you shall say to them, The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens. (Jer 10:10-11)

And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (1 Jn 5:20)

Only God, therefore, can conform to the true idea of God: infinitely perfect in power, wisdom, goodness, lordship, etc. We cannot define what God must be like, since we are mere creatures. We are not the ones who decide what He must conform to. No! We need to conform our view of God to what He revealed Himself as in the Scriptures.

Apart from God being the true God, His knowledge is also true knowledge.

Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who is perfect in knowledge? (Job 37:16 NIV)

Naturally we see God’s true knowledge in the doctrine of His omniscience.

4.3.5 God’s Goodness

Something is good if it answers in all parts to the ideal.

And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. (Mark 10:18 ESV) God’s general goodness

God deals in a good way with all His creatures.

[8] The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. [9] The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works… [15 The eyes of all look to You, And You give them their food in due time. [16] You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing. (Ps 145:8-9, 15-16) God’s love

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his unique Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life. (Jn 3:16 ISV)

[44] But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Mt 5:44-45)

Why does God love His creation? Is there anything of any merit in creation, and for that matter us, that warrants the love of God? I do not think so! God loves all He has made, because He made it. He loves His creatures for His own sake, since all He does He does to glorify Himself.

When it comes to those who are His children, He pours on them a special love. The reason He loves them is that they love Christ.

for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. (John 16:27 ESV)

God’s love for His own was so deep, that He didn’t wait for them to become good or even believe before He loved them, but He loved them while they were still sinners.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 Jn 3:1 NIV) God’s grace

The Biblical word “grace” is a translation from chanan (חנן) in the Hebrew and charis (χαρις) in the Greek. Grace may be manifested by God and man, and denotes the favour which one shows another (Gen 33:8, 10, 18). The favour in these cases is not necessarily undeserved.

The Bible generally uses the word to denote the unmerited goodness or love of God to those who have forfeited it, and are by nature under a sentence of condemnation.13

Grace is the goodness of God to mankind who did not deserve it. All spiritual blessings flow from God’s grace as the source (Tit 2:11; 3:4-7):

[6] to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  [7] In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,… [2:7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  [8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 1:6-7; 2:7-9 ESV) God’s mercy

In the Old Testament Hebrew two words are employed for “mercy:” chesed (חסד) and racham (רחם). Both the New Testament and Septuagint use ελεος to designate the mercy of God.

If the grace of God contemplates man as guilty before God, and therefore in need of forgiveness, the mercy of God contemplates him as one who is bearing the consequences of sin, who is in a pitiable condition, and who therefore needs divine help.14

The mercy of God can negatively be understood as withholding judgement on someone when judgement is deserved.

God’s mercy is bountiful, Dt 5:10; Ps 57:10, and it lasts forever, 1 Chr 16:34; 2 Chr 7:6; Ps 136. In the New Testament it is often mentioned together with God’s grace, 1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:1 and Tit 1:4.

God’s mercy is also known as lovingkindness and compassion. God’s longsuffering

Longsuffering is actually an aspect of God’s great love and goodness to His creatures. The expression in Hebrew is ‘EREK’APHAYIM (ארך אפּים), meaning long of face and slow to anger. The literal translation here would be slow of angers. The Greek MAKROTHUMIA (μακροθυμια) expresses the same idea. In His longsuffering God bears with the evil ways of His creatures in spite of their protracted disobedience. It is in this patience that God postpones the inevitable… merited judgement. Longsuffering is mentioned in Scripture in passages such as Ex 34:6; Ps. 86:15; Rom 2:4; 1 Pet 3:20; 2 Pet 3:15. God’s holiness

To be holy in the Old Testament comes from the word QO’DESH (קדשׁ), which is derived from the word QADASH (קדשׁ), meaning separate, apartness. The same idea is expressed in the Greek New Testament by HAGIAZW (αγιαζω) and HAGIOS (αγιος).

It is natural for us to think of holiness as a moral or religious quality, but this is not primarily so. Its central idea is that of a position or relationship between God and a person or thing. When we speak of God’s holiness we think of God’s wholly-otherness, His complete separateness from anything that is not God. We speak of God’s total transcendence. God is absolutely distinct from His creation.

Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders? (Ex 15:11)

God is holy in everything that reveals Him. This is the majesty of holiness of God (1 Sam 2:2; Is 57:15).

The second aspect of God’s holiness, the first being His separateness, is the ethical aspect. This aspect may not be divorced from the separateness aspect of God’s holiness. The ethical aspect is also an aspect of separation, but from moral evil or sin. God can have no fellowship with sin.

So listen to me, you men of understanding. Far be it from God to do evil, from the Almighty to do wrong. (Job 34:10 NIV)

This aspect of God’s holiness expresses God’s majestic purity, or ethical majesty. God’s majestic purity is positive in that God is a God of moral excellence. When man comes into contact with this God of majestic purity he responds

"Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" (Isaiah 6:5 ESV) God’s righteousness

God’s righteousness is closely related to the holiness of God. Righteousness speaks of the strict adherence of the law. It portrays the execution of God’s justice. In God’s righteousness, justice is manifested in giving every man his due.

The Hebrew terms for righteous and righteousness are TSADDIK (צדיק), TSEDEK (צדק) and TSEDAKAH (צדקה). The parallel words in Greek are DIKAIOS (δικαιος) and DIKAIOSUNE (δικαιοσυνη).

This attribute is ascribed to God frequently: Ezra 9:15; Neh 9:8; Ps 119:137; 145:17; Jer 12:1; Lam 1:18; Dan 9:14; Jn 17:25; 2 Tim 4:8; 1 Jn 2:29; 3:7; Rev 16:5.

Two aspects can be found in God’s righteous justice. The first is the rectoral justice of God. This specifies the rectitude (uprightness, integrity) which God reveals as the Ruler over both good and evil. In this God is the Lawgiver of a moral government in the world with promises of rewards for the obedient and warnings of punishment for the transgressor. This aspect pertains to God as an upright Lawgiver.

There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. (James 4:12 ESV)

Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today? (Dt 4:8)

Second, we find the distributive justice of God. This reveals God’s uprightness in executing the law, apart from His uprightness in making the law. This aspect relates directly to the uprightness of God in the distribution of rewards and punishments.

[10] Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds. [11] Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done. (Is 3:10-11 NIV)

Distributive justice itself has two aspects. On the one hand it is a remunerative justice. By this we mean the distribution of rewards to men and angels (Ps 58:11; Mic 7:20; Rom 2:7).

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, (Deut. 7:9 ESV)

On the other hand, there is retributive justice. This justice relates to the infliction of penalties. This is an expression of divine wrath (Rom 2:9; 12:19; 2 Thes 1:8).

And although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Rom 1:32)

5. Endnotes

[1] Peter Kreeft & Ronald Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Monarch, Crowborough, E. Sussex, First British Edition, 1995, p50.
[2] Ibid., p50.
[3] Ibid., p50.
[4] Ibid., p51.
[5] Ibid., p51.
[6] Ibid., p54.
[7] Ibid., p69.
[8] Ibid., p69.
[9] “Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible® Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.” All Scripture quotations are from the NASB unless otherwise indicated.
[10] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon with an appendix containing the Biblical Aramaic, Hendrickson, Peabody, Massachusetts, 1979, p218.
[11] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology New Combined Edition, Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 1996, p59.
[12] Ibid., p60.
[13] Ibid., p71.
[14] Ibid., p72.
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