Adjectives to Describe All that is God
What we you think of when the idea of God comes up? Many words come to mind: Perfection, excellence, superiority, majesty, magnificence, glory, exaltation, radiance, awesomeness, brilliance, beauty and loveliness, splendor, grandeur, supremacy. . . And then there are describers like: Surpassing, breath-taking, tremendous, fearful, amazing, exquisite, overwhelming, beyond imagination, unfathomable, inscrutable, exceptional, transcendent, wonderful and wondrous, grand and great and exceeding great.
Sad to say, but now nowadays these words are used to describe pizza or pet tricks.
When was the last time you stood in silent awe of the being of God? When was the last His presence took your breath away, or have you come close to falling at His holy feet as a dead man? When will we move by an encounter with the living God rather than an a-mazing loan offer from a credit card company? We been satisfied with gasping “oohs” and “ahs” at fireworks while rarely, if ever, crying out in reverent worship: “Ah Lord God!”
In the combination of all of His perfections and attributes, all of our human words fall short of describing God’s perfection. Can we also put our hands over our mouths? Let us be left like Job:
Then Job replied to the LORD: “I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted.”
[The LORD had asked,] “Who is this that obscures My counsel without knowledge?”
[Job replied,] “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”
[The LORD had asked,] “Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.”
[Job concluded,] “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
The term “Attributes of God” speaks of various facets of the being of God, characteristics or qualities which combine perfectly in His being.
Background Concerning the Attributes of God
1. Scripture as the Source of Understanding the Attributes of God
We can only know God according to His revelation of Himself to us. The world that is here requires a cause of some sort. But there is now way to figure out that nature of the ultimate “Uncaused Cause.” Any attempt to reason up to God from nature will prove inadequate. Nature, however, is clear revelation from God of certain invisible things of God – His glory, goodness and eternal power (Acts 14:17; Rom. 1:20).
- Limitations of Revelation from Nature:
- The Need for Scripture to Obtain Fullest Possible Understanding:
We cannot figure out God by reasoning. He has ordained to reveal Himself and His true nature through Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Learning God’s attributes involves observing the descriptions of God found in the Bible. We bring together these glimpses of God’s being to obtain the fullest possible view of what God is like. Until we see Him face to face we can only know in part (1 Cor. 13:9-12; Rev. 22:1-5).
2. Relationships between the Attributes of God
Sometimes two characteristics seem to be mutually exclusive or contradictory, yet they come together as an amazing unity within the being of God. We worship God in all of His vast mystery, standing in awe as we embrace the ambiguity that overwhelms our natural minds.
For example, God’s justice and His grace are both wonderfully revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ. Careful comparison (Luke 13:18-20) reveals many of the attributes as complementary pairs, such as justice and mercy, goodness and severity, love and wrath.
The attributes of God never oppose each other, but they complement one another perfectly. There is harmony within the attributes of God (Ps. 85:10). God is a unity and the attributes are like facets of a single precious gem. Every action and decree of God is perfectly consistent with all His attributes.
3. Descriptions of the Attributes of God
Since we know the Scriptures are the authoritative revelation from God, then we understand that He is showing us Himself through those inspired words. We do not find in the Bible any definitive lists of attributes of God. We have the Ten Commandments, but we don’t find a passage that announces: “Here are the Seven Attributes of God.
As we search the Scriptures, we find that the attributes are displayed through a number of different terms and in the various literary forms, such as historical narrative or poetry. We carefully bring together all the particulars God has disclosed throughout the Bible in order to arrive at a unified understanding of His attributes. We must consider the living context of these descriptions and avoid producing artificial man-made lists.
4. Coming to Know God, not Just Know About Him
Our chief aim in examining these descriptions must always be to know God as He reveals Himself and to thereby find life (John 17:3). We do not want to merely know about Him, but we want to seek Him, to find Him and know Him and to experience His great love (John 17:23-24; Acts 17:24-27).