I’ve not posted anything for quite some time. So, it might be profitable to post my notes from a few bible studies. Anyway, here’s the first one on ‘God’. The studies were very discussion based.
The Shared and Unshared Attributes of God:
Unshared attributes = “Incommunicable” attributes: Those characteristics of God that are unique to him, and are not also characteristics of His creatures.
Self-existence; “Solitariness”; Independence; Unity; Trinity; Sovereignty; Unchangeableness; Infinity; Omnipresence; Omnipotence; Omniscience;
Shared attributes = “Communicable” attributes: The attributes that we share by being made in God’s image.
Spirituality; Knowledge; Wisdom; Truthfulness; Holiness; Love; Mercy; Wrath; Will; Freedom; Beauty;
‘We must understand, again, that insofar as we are created in God’s image, the separation between His incommunicable and communicable attributes is not razor-sharp or absolute: there is a “flavor” of all of them in us.’
God is “eternal”…not in time….but we are immortal, extending infinitely through time in one direction.
God has three persons in his nature, but we have one person in ours. We are both personal.
We have knowledge, but God has all knowledge.
Except for self-existence, no incommunicable attribute is completely unshared by us, and no communicable attribute is shared fully by us.
The subject this evening is GOD. But, not just any God – obvious I know, but we are speaking of the God of the Bible. The ideas we have of God are not to be our own thoughts. We may not like the idea of a Wrathful God but it’s not for us to make an image that’s more appealing.
‘The being of God is characterised by a depth, a fullness, a variety, and a glory far beyond our comprehension, and the Bible represents it as a glorious harmonious whole, without any inherent contradictions. And this fullness of life finds expression in no other way than in the perfections of God.’ (Berkhof, p42.)
Three phrases there that may help us: ‘The being of God’ ‘a glory far beyond our comprehension’ ‘the Bible represents it as a glorious harmonious whole’
The attributes of God are usually divided into ‘Communicable’ and ‘Incommunicable’. Can we say what the ‘Incommunicable’ attributes are?
His Immutability, Eternity & Infinity.
What about the ‘Communicable’ attributes? I’m not sure if this going to come up when we get to the study of man – illustrates how integrated all these doctrines are!
The Creator God – Creator / Creature distinction. He is other than us. He does not need us. We are, and always will be creatures. Only God is eternal needing nothing outside of His own being. We are entirely dependent. We’ll see more of this when we look at the Trinity in a few weeks time.
God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything,
- Also called the “self-existence” of God.
- Acts 17:24-28 Ps 50:10-12
- Did God create us because He was lonely? John 17:5 John 17:24
- He alone is independent; all else depends upon Him: Rev 4:11 John 1:3 Rom 11:35-36 1 Cor 8:6 Ps 90:2
- The most fundamental, self-given name of God asserts his self-existence: I AM THAT I AM. Ex 3:14 He alone determines who he is; He alone really IS; He is being.
- God necessarily exists, and we do not. Our existence depends on His; His existence depends on nothing. There is one Creator; everything else is Creature.
- This is the most fundamental difference between God and everything and everyone else. It sets Him apart utterly.
- Gen 1:1 Eph 1:11
- Do our praises add anything to God’s glory? Neh 9:5 Job 35:7,8 Luke 17:10 Is 40:15-18, 22-23 I Tim 6:16
The Covenant God – It is He that has made a Covenant and bound Himself to its requirements. The Covenant is grounded in His character and attributes. The promises of God are Yes & Amen.
The God of Providence – follows on from being the Creator. Nothing is outside of His own Sovereignty. Q. Do we really understand and apply this character of God to our own lives and worship Him for who He is? (See The Heidelberg Catechism below)
He is the Self Disclosing God – Despite the fact that he does not need us, He has chosen to reveal Himself and to manifest His Glory, His Grace, His Love, His Mercy, His Peace, His Wrath, and many other characteristics. Were He to remain silent then we would be (un)blissfully unaware. Interestingly, Schaeffer makes the point that our failures actually point to God. This is consistent with His own Word – Romans 1
There’s an important Apologetic aspect to this: God has revealed Himself to everyone. Romans 1:19–20 (NAS)19) because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 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,
Rom 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
Rom 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (ESV)
He is a personable God – He may be known. We do not just know about Him but may actually know Him.
All of these attributes and characteristics point us to the obvious truth that we are talking about the God of Scripture and not just ‘God’.
Having looked at these things very briefly it would be profitable to read out a couple of Q & A from the ‘The Heidelberg Catechism’
The Solitariness of God – Exodus 15:11
The Decrees of God – Acts 15:18
The Knowledge of God – Heb. 4:13
The Foreknowledge of God – Acts 2:23
The Supremacy of God – 1 Chron. 29:11, 12
The Sovereignty of God – Dan. 4:35
The Immutability of God – Mal. 3:6
The Holiness of God – Rev. 15:4
The Power of God – Ps. 62:11
The Faithfulness of God - Lam. 3:22, 23
The Goodness of God – Ps. 136:25
The Patience of God – 2 Pet. 3:9
The Grace of God – Eph. 2:8,9
The Mercy of God – Ps. 136:1
The Loving-kindness of God – 36:7
The Love of God – John 3:16
The Love of God to Us – Ephesians 2:4
The Wrath of God – Rom. 1:18
The Contemplation of God – Job 11:7-9
The Bounties of God – Matthew 22:4
The Gifts of God – Isaiah 9:6
The Guidance of God – Proverbs 3:5
The Blessings of God – Proverbs 10:22
The Cursings of God – Jer. 17:5
The Gospel of the Grace of God – Acts 20:24
‘Although the purpose of this page is to give an overview of the Attributes of God, I must apologize because this table is not even “the fringes of His ways and how faint a word we hear of Him!” (Job 26:14) As Horner has written “There can be no condensed learning of God; the very thought is an insult to His transcendent majesty. Rather we have to learn…what it is to slow down and meditate on the truth of His Being, to ruminate over, to ingest and digest the revelations concerning His holy character, to wonder overwhelmingly, to “be still [cease striving] and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10)’ (from CARM website)
Compare this with Allah (probably requires a more detailed post)
Question 26. What believest thou when thou sayest, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?
Answer: That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them; (a) who likewise upholds and governs the same by his eternal counsel and providence) (b) is for the sake of Christ his Son, my God and my Father; (c) on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt, but he will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body (d) and further, that he will make whatever evils he sends upon me, in this valley of tears turn out to my advantage; (e) for he is able to do it, being Almighty God, (f) and willing, being a faithful Father. (g) (**The letters in the answers refer to the Bible verse but they take up too much space to put in here.)
Question 27. What dost thou mean by the providence of God?
Answer: The almighty and everywhere present power of God; (a) whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs (b) heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, (c) fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, (d) riches and poverty, (e) yea, and all things come, not by chance, but be his fatherly hand. (f)
Question 28. What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by his providence does still uphold all things?
Answer: That we may be patient in adversity; (a) thankful in prosperity; (b) and that in all things, which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, (c) that nothing shall separate us from his love; (d) since all creatures are so in his hand, that without his will they cannot so much as move. (e)