Why Study The Attributes of God
It’s been said, “A man’s own character will necessarily be determined by the character of the god whom he worships.” Very true! A person’s entire life is affected by whom they worship. And to rightly worship the God of the Bible, we must have a correct understanding of his attributes.
For the next few weeks, I plan to do a series of blog posts concerning the Attributes of God. Each week, I hope to post one attribute of God amidst other posts.
In addition to one’s entire life being affected by whom they worship, here are 3 more reasons why I believe it is vital for us to study the attributes of God.
Reason 1: It pleases God.
Colossians 1:10 reminds us a life that is honoring and pleasing to the Lord is one that is continually “growing in the knowledge of God.” And since God is knowable only through his attributes, we can grow in the knowledge of God only if we study his attributes, as revealed to us in the Bible. And that’s what makes theology, which basically means “Study of God,” essential for Christian growth.
It’s a misunderstanding to think theology is solely for the scholarly branch of Christianity. On the contrary, theology is for every Christian. Why? Because every Christian should seek to please God by growing in their understanding of his nature!
Reason 2: It guards us against having a wrong view of God.
A lack of proper understanding of God’s attributes leads to a wrong view of God and hence a life that fails to please him. A.W. Tozer, in his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, wrote these words:
“A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well…there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.”
So, it is vital to have a proper understanding of God’s attributes. Agreed, even a lifetime study of God’s attributes will not yield to us a complete understanding of his attributes because it is impossible for finite creatures to understand an infinite God fully.
However, we are created in the image of God. That means we have the innate capacity to correlate certain truths about God. And having been re-created in Christ [2 Cor 5:17] and with the ongoing illuminating work of the indwelling Holy Spirit [1 Cor 2:13], we can know God more and more even while we are in the human body. Even after 25 years of being in ministry, Paul’s persistent desire or goal was this: “I want to know Christ” [Phil 3:10]. May that be our continual goal as well.
Reason 3: It produces joy in our hearts.
The Westminster Catechism states the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. As we grow in our understanding of God, our love for him increases, and so does our obedience. As a result, the Holy Spirit produces more joy in our lives. And “joy” is one of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit [Gal 5:22].
How encouraging are the words of the renowned preacher of the past, Charles Spurgeon,
“Plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in His immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.”
So, there we are. 3 reasons for studying the various attributes of God: (1) It pleases God, (2) It guards us against having a wrong view of God, and (3) It produces joy in our hearts.
A Few Basic Truths Concerning the Attributes of God.
What it is. An attribute is a quality or characteristic that is inherent in a person about someone. When referring to God’s attributes, we are talking about the various qualities inherent in him and revealed to us in the Scriptures.
What it is not. The various attributes of God are not component parts of God. In other words, God is not 10% love, 15% holy, 5% mercy, etc. Each attribute describes his total being. For example, love is not a part of God’s nature; God in his whole being is love. Holiness is not a part of God’s nature; God, in his total being, is holy. Righteousness is not a part of God’s nature; God, in his total being, is righteous. God will not compromise one of his attributes when exhibiting another attribute of his.
For example, the same God who is love is also the same God who exhibits wrath. So, it is important not to conclude that God is love means he will eventually save all people. He who is love is also One who is holy and one who is a God of wrath as well. The statement, God loves the sinner but hates the sin should be stated with great caution.
While God does rescue repentant sinners because of his loving nature, he must and will eventually judge unrepentant sinners by casting them into everlasting hell because of his holy character. God does not just punish the sin, but also the sinner who continues in sin without turning to him through his Son Jesus Christ.
We always need to remember that God is the sum of all perfections. That’s why when we study the attributes of God, we must be careful not to emphasize one attribute of his at the expense of the others.
The Categories of the Attributes of God.
Incommunicable Attributes: These are attributes that belong to God exclusively. They are not passed down to us. Examples would be God’s self-existence, eternality, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, etc.
Communicable Attributes: These are attributes of God that humans can possess finitely. Examples would be love, mercy, kindness, etc.
Let me also be quick to admit that it is not always easy to classify some attributes as strictly belonging to one category and not the other. For example, while omniscience is an incommunicable attribute, humans do possess limited knowledge. So, we must be careful not to focus so much on the category of the attribute. Instead, the focus should be on the study of the attributes themselves.
I hope these preliminary thoughts help as we proceed to study a few of God’s attributes in future posts.