The Attributes of God (Part Fourteen)

The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8 CSB).

God has revealed his glory as God in all his attributes. The living God wants us to know the whole truth about who he is, and not merely a part of the truth. When we think of the truth that God is love, we ought to realize that many people tend to misuse this one truth to construct a false idea of the true God. When done in ignorance, this causes people to fail to give God the honor that is due him for all that he is. And it leads people into various theological and practical problems, such as, “If God is love and he loves me, why am I suffering?” When done deliberately, it is actually the worship of a false god created by a person’s sinful imagination. An example of this would be, “Since God is love, he would never condemn a person and send him or her to hell.” Therefore, we need to approach this subject with humility and a teachable spirit.

In our time, professing Christians have only a surface acquaintance with the Bible. It is not unusual for a pastor to see blank stares when he refers to most of the main teachings of the Bible that are beyond the simplest gospel references or verses misused by prosperity teachers, for example, Jeremiah 29:11. “There are many today who talk about the love of God, who are total strangers to the God of love. The Divine love is commonly regarded as a species of amiable weakness, a sort of good-natured indulgence; it is reduced to a mere sickly sentiment, patterned after human emotion. Now the truth is that on this, as on everything else, our thoughts need to be formed and regulated by what is revealed thereon in Holy Scripture. That there is urgent need for this is apparent not only from the ignorance which so generally prevails, but also from the low state of spirituality which is now so sadly evident everywhere among professing Christians. How little real love there is for God. One chief reason for this is because our hearts are so little occupied with His wondrous love for His people. The better we are acquainted with His love—its character, fullness, blessedness—the more will our hearts be drawn out in love to Him” (Pink, The Attributes of God, pp. 90-91).

Part of the problem that people have is a misuse of the texts that say, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). Clearly both texts are teaching that God is love; that is, he not only loves, but love is an essential part of his being that he expresses even toward unworthy, guilty sinners! The error that many people fall into is assuming that John is teaching that love is God’s basic attribute, because he says, “God is love.” However, that assumption fails to notice that John also says, “God is light (1 John 1:5) previously in the letter, and that he records the statement of Jesus that “God is spirit” (John 4:24). There is no reason to deduce from any of these texts the priority of one or the other of these three statements to the other. As we have already discussed in the section on God’s holiness, there is much more reason to say that holiness is God’s basic attribute. Perhaps we should remember at this point what love is according to the Bible. Love is setting one’s heart on seeking the good of the one loved, to the point of self-sacrificial giving for the one loved. Therefore, the teaching that “God is love” is tremendously encouraging to human hearts! The Maker and Preserver of all things, the God who is unlimited spirit with unmatchable holiness and justice is also love. He sets his heart on what he created to seek its good (Psalm 145:13,17). But the question asked by inquiring minds is this. If God is love, as the Bible says, then why is there suffering in creation and why do some suffer eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46)? This question deserves to be answered, and more importantly answering it will lead us to a deeper appreciation of the glory of God. We will invest some articles on the love of God. First, we will think about the characteristics of God’s love, then of his love in a general sense, and then his love in saving his people from their sins. Finally, we will consider how the truth of God’s love ought to affect us and the way we live.

Grace and peace, David

Providence Explained (Part Two)

Genesis 45:4-15

Yesterday, we viewed God’s good purpose (45:4-7). Next, we see God’s great action (45:8-11). So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute’” (NIV).

The Lord exalted Joseph as the governor of Egypt (45:8). Observe his repeated insistence that God had sent him to Egypt. Sometimes it takes a while for the message to get through to people.

We must reassert the truth of God’s sovereignty to a human-centered, naturalistic generation. God had the ability to place Joseph in a position of high authority (cf. Daniel 4:17), and he did.

“Are our leaders appointed by God?” Most surely. “But they’re so corrupt!” Then we ought to call on God to change their hearts or give us new leaders. There used to be a day when Christians would pray for those in authority over them. Listen to the apostle’s words. I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NIV).

Joseph intended to use what God had given to him (45:9-11). He gave reassurance that he would care for them. Often the forgiver must reinforce that he or she loves those who are forgiven. This is what the Father has done through the new covenant ministry of the Spirit of adoption. Joseph knew this was necessary. God’s plan was to save their lives, and it included their relocation to Egypt. Observe how generous the Lord is. He paid for their moving expenses! God’s end includes God’s means to his end.

Lastly, Joseph conformed to God’s plan (45:12-15). He insisted that they bring his father down to Egypt. This also revealed his concern for his father’s well-being. And he wanted to be with his father again.

Joseph gave physical expression of his love for them. The repentant need to know that they are accepted again. If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:5-8 NIV). Sometimes a hug or even a handshake can go a long way. Joseph was a good picture of Christ. He is never weary of speaking peace to his brothers. “How He is ever striving, by His word and Spirit, to reveal Himself to you, and to get you to see Him! How does He raise you from the dust and set you on a rock that you may sound His praise!” (Candlish, Commentary on Genesis) “These kisses were seals of love, comparable to the witness of the Spirit in believing men” (Spurgeon).

Grace and peace, David

Providence Explained (Part One)

Genesis 45:4-15

We are unusual creatures. God has blessed us with rational minds, but we do not use them as we ought. On the one hand, we are content to know very little of what we ought to know. On the other hand, we want to know very much about what is not our business to know. If something bad happens, we demand a full explanation. “I want to know the reason for this!” But if something good happens, who cares to find out the reason? We must also work with inadequate source material. We have experienced numerous events, but we do not know God’s reasons for the events. Even Biblical characters had to live with the mystery of providence. Some of them knew what God was doing. However, they had difficulty understanding why God acted in a particular way; for example, Habakkuk. We must also recognize that even the experience of talking with the Lord did not guarantee an explanation for Abraham or Job.

In this passage, we have at least a partial explanation for the suffering that the members of Jacob’s family went through. Even here, however, there is no account of why God chose to act in this way. There are still areas that God reserves to himself. It is not our business to pry into them. To get on many websites, you need to know the password. If you don’t have it, the information is none of your business.

Let’s begin by viewing God’s good purpose (45:4-7). The explanation was given within a context of love (45:4).

Joseph invited his brothers to draw near. The tenderness of love seeks fellowship. This is the way God approaches his people. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16 NIV). Come near to God and he will come near to you (James 4:8a NIV).

Joseph provided reassurance of his identity. This was a clear sign that he really knew them. He pressed the point home that he was their brother. “He did not intend this as an accusation because he immediately continued by telling them that they should not be distressed or angry with themselves for what they had done to him” [Aalders, Commentary on Genesis).

Joseph’s explanation emphasized God’s will and activity. And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance (45:5-7 NIV).

Having seen their repentance, he persuaded them not to punish themselves about their sin (45:5).

Joseph is a good example of a generous spirit. Though we should not excuse our own sins, we should seek to comfort the repentant with gentle words. He told them that God had sent him to Egypt and why he had sent him.

Someone might ask, “Hadn’t his brothers sold him as a slave?” Yes, but Joseph did not look at second causes. Instead, he honored God in all that has happened. The attitude of worship dominated his life. He told them what would surely happen in the near future. For years God had worked toward this time, and there was still more of this particular plan to unfold. God’s arm has a long reach.

Dear readers, let us all humble ourselves by calmly resting in the knowledge that right now the Lord God is working out his plan of salvation for the salvation of many around the world. We all are part of his good purpose. Who knows, the turmoil in your life might work out for the salvation of many? The great slogan in Philadelphia Sixers’ basketball has been “Trust the Process.” Let us trust God’s process.

Grace and peace, David

An Illustration of Electing Grace

Genesis 43:15-34

As the Scriptures tell us the story of God’s glory in Christ, some sections are illustrative of God’s acts of grace. Obviously, an illustration should not be pressed at all points, and we should not lose touch with the historic nature of the account. But with that in mind, we can observe some matters about God’s electing grace.

Electing grace is not the result of human effort (43:15-16). Joseph’s brothers were involved in the normal pursuits of this life. Their minds were set on finding food. They were not looking for Joseph. This is a characteristic of the lifestyle of a worldly person, involved in matters of life to the exclusion of God. Jesus calls us to a different way to live. For the Gentiles [the nations] seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:32-33 ESV). As the brothers were not looking for Joseph, so people do not seek the Lord (Romans 3:11). Sin rules over them so that they have no room for God in their thoughts (Psalm 10:4).

Yet Joseph had a plan to work for their good, a plan for a greater good than they could imagine. All that he has done to this point in time has been with a concern for their ultimate happiness, even if they had to have sorrows along the way. The time had come to interrupt their lives. He wanted to restore his relationship with him, though they had greatly wronged him. God interrupts the lives of his chosen people. He meets them as they go their own way. This interruption comes from his grace alone. View Joseph’s method. Were they seeking food? He would use a banquet to begin to teach them his grace! Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4 ESV).

Electing grace uses ministers in its plan. His servant acted according to Joseph’s will (43:17). Obedience to the master’s will is the first concern for proper service. Once R.C. Sproul was asked in a seminary class, “Why bother to evangelize if God has chosen who will be saved?” He answered, “I guess possibly because he told us to.” Joseph’s brothers misinterpreted the servant’s obedience (43:18). For this reason, the servant had to deal with their objections. The brothers stumbled over the events of providence in their lives and tried to justify themselves (43:20-22). But the steward pointed them to God as the true explanation for the event (43:23). God was the first cause, though Joseph was the second cause (cf. 42:25). We must tell people that God is involved in human history.

The servant did the most important thing; he led them to Joseph (43:24). He took them to the correct place. Sinners meet the Savior at the cross. Take them there to Christ (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). He dealt with them kindly. God’s servants ought to show forth the generosity, kindness, and compassion of their Lord. Do sinners see the beauty of the Lord when you speak to them?

Electing grace throbs with love. Joseph’s affections were set on them, even when that was hidden from them. He was interested in their well-being and inquired about it (43:27). Joseph was deeply moved when he saw his brother (43:29-30). Compare Christ’s attitude (Hebrews 12:2).

Joseph was self-controlled in the pursuit of his plan (43:31). He would not directly eat with them until the relationship was restored (43:32). He gave evidence of his great wisdom (43:33). He was discerning in his bountiful provision (43:34). In the same way, we should honor God for his wisdom in electing grace. Read Romans 8:28-30 with joy!

Grace and peace, David

The Godly Person Looking at Life (Part Two)

Psalm 36:1-12

Next, David turns his attention to the character of God (36:5-9). When we think of all that God is, well we might say, “Here is a whole world to explore” (Kidner). David directs those who listen or read to three specific areas.

Consider the Lord’s immeasurable love and faithfulness (36:5). These two qualities of God are joined in various places (cf. Psalms 57:3; 61:7; 86:15; 89:14; 115:1; 138:2). How can you think of love apart from faithfulness? There is no need for uncertainty about God’s character. David wants us to fill our souls with the grandeur of God’s love and faithfulness. Go outside on a clear night; gaze upon the wonder of deep space; understand that God’s love and faithfulness reach beyond what you can see and comprehend.

Ponder God’s incalculable righteousness and justice (36:6a). We see these two joined in other places (Psalms 33:5; 89:14; 97:2). Have you ever seen the Rocky Mountains? Great mountains are “firm and unmoved, lofty and sublime” (Spurgeon). Mighty winds disturb them not, and so nothing affects God’s righteousness and justice. “Not even to save his elect would the Lord suffer his righteousness to be set aside. No awe inspired by mountain scenery can equal that which fills the soul when it beholds the Son of God slain as a victim to vindicate the justice of the Inflexible Lawgiver” (Spurgeon).

Survey the Almighty’s active involvement with his creatures (36:6b-9).

  • God preserves life. Since the fall, we pursue destruction, but God keeps life going, constantly providing and restoring the balances of nature.
  • His love is precious. Think of valuable coins and costly jewels. The regalia of a mighty emperor is a shabby rag compared to the love of God. The value of God’s love surpasses all! What can be compared to having the almighty, eternal, all-wise, everywhere present, Sovereign Lord fully committed to love and cherish you?
  • He provides secure shelter. We can hide under the shelter of his wings (cf. Ruth 2:12; Matthew 23:37) during life’s scariest times. Sometimes we all need a hiding place. We need to be kept safe until the storm passes by. Listen my friend; the Lord Jesus invites you to find refuge under his wings. Why will you tremble naked and defenseless before sin, condemnation, and death? Run to Jesus while you may!
  • He gives abundant joy. Since sinners are at war with God, they view him as sour and dour, as full of gloom and doom. But when we see God’s justice forever satisfied in the cross of Christ, we understand his kindness and sternness (Romans 11:22). God is good and joyful; at his right hand are eternal pleasures (Psalm 16:11). When we trust him, we may drink from his river of delights.
  • He is the source of life and light. God is self-existent, having life in himself. He chooses to give life to his creatures. To have life, we must connect with God himself. This happens when you turn from your sin and trust in Christ for salvation. In a world of darkness, God is light in the full biblical meaning of purity, clarity, truth and joy.

Life apart from the living God is very uncertain and troubled. But why continue in that path? You may have joy and peace as you trust in Jesus Christ!

This produces the response of prayer (36:10-12). This prayer flows out from the truth already presented. Three ideas in his prayer:

  • A request for love and justice (36:10). We need both. We were made to experience and to share the love of God. Our lives are empty apart from his love and sharing it with others. As we live forever with the Lord, we will know more and more of how infinite his love is. And we will share this with others loved by the Lord. It won’t just be “God and me”; it will be “God and us”. And we need his righteousness at work to put our world to right. So much is wrong now! This is like the days of Noah; violence fills the earth.
  • A request for protection from the wicked (36:11) – Since we are frail, we need God to protect us from those who would harm us. “Our best defense against violence is still prayer” (Leupold).
  • An affirmation of faith (36:12) – David concludes with a look to the future. He talks about the destiny of the wicked. Many times, it seems as if evil is sure to win. But this verse calls us to look to the end of God’s story. The Sovereign Lord will triumph, and we will share in his final victory!

Keep these two contrasts before your view: the wickedness of the sinner and the incredible goodness of God. The way of life is to turn from sin and trust the life and joy giving Savior. Call on him without delay. We need to share the God of faithful love and righteous justice with others. We will have many opportunities, if we are able to stir ourselves to action. Warmer weather is on the way. We can invite others over for dinner, to go for a walk together, to attend a ball game or an outdoor concert together, or perhaps to go on a day trip together. Go where people are gathering, like some of the new town centers or special evenings in the gardens.

Grace and peace, David

Three Prisoners (Part One)

Genesis 40:1-23

By God’s appointment, the lives of people become intertwined. From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live (Acts 17:26 CSB). We receive a family by birth, neighbors by residence, schoolmates by education, fellow workers by occupation, and friends by common interests. The lives of each affect the others, often in surprising ways. Certain other people, whom we might not meet under normal circumstances, can suddenly enter our lives. It might be a car accident, a tragedy in the community, a stay in the hospital, even getting stuck in a ditch on a snowy night.

God’s purpose is always at work. He will work out all things in conformity with the counsel of his own will. In him we have also received an inheritance, because we were predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:11 CSB; cf. Romans 11:36). His purpose is not often visible to our observation. There are times he forever changes the direction of our lives by someone we meet. Such a time now comes to Joseph. However, do not think that he could read the rest of his life’s story in his meeting with two new prisoners.

The Lord opened a new chapter in Joseph’s life (40:1-4). The immediate occasion was the anger of a king. Involvement in politics exposes oneself to dangers. A king’s fury is a messenger of death, but a wise person appeases it (Proverbs 16:14 CSB). In our current situation, we observe hatred on all sides politically. It is more than kings that have fury. Pray and act for peace.

The exact nature of their offense, real or imagined, did not matter. They served an absolute monarch whose slightest whims were law. There was no opposition party, no appeal beyond the decisions of Pharaoh. If they displeased him in the slightest, his wrath could demand their demise. Yet in this dire situation, the living God was in control of the king. The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will (Proverbs 21:1 ESV). God directed that they be assigned to Joseph’s care.

These two new prisoners had connections with royalty. “Again we perceive how the Lord was favoring Joseph by opening the way for him to reach positions of great responsibility in the structure of the government of Egypt” (Aalders).

For a while nothing happened. Life on this planet is not a series of exciting events. All three prisoners experienced for a while the gloom and despair of prison existence. The dull days of our lives ought to be used in preparation for the days of great significance. The time to grow as a Christian is the present. The hour of crisis is a poor time to learn. We need to recognize that the people that the Lord has placed in our lives are there for a reason, for mutual benefit. Perhaps they will expose weaknesses in your spiritual character that require change. Or they might be near, because the Lord wants you to point them toward Christ and salvation. In every case, the people nearby are your neighbors, and so you are to love them. Love them joyfully today!

Grace and peace, David

Joseph and Temptation (Part Three)

Genesis 39:11-23

When we encounter temptation, the invitation to evil and its consequences is obvious. Yet by God’s amazing love and power, there is a radically different possibility—an opportunity to show forth the triumphs of his grace! What we see in this account is an interesting contrast between the ugliness of human depravity and the beauty of renewed godliness. God made use of both to accomplish his own purpose.

Joseph suffered a furious attack of seduction by Potiphar’s wife. It happened while Joseph was at the place of duty (39:11). Remember Joseph’s prudence. Men sometimes encourage women by flirtatious or seductive talk. Since we live in a culture that lusts after salacious humor, it is too easy to say things that carry a double intent. At times, it is done for a laugh at a woman’s expense; at others to send out signals of the man’s interest in the woman. But Joseph had taken the opposite course (39:10). In God’s providence, he was in danger. No one else was in the house. The modern small office or store provides a similar situation. Proper behavior and good intentions alone cannot protect us from the snares of temptation (cf. Matthew 26:41).

Joseph had a narrow escape (39:12). Her act was whorish (cf. Prov 7:10-13). His only way out was holy flight. He used the best available means to resist her advances, his feet. “It is better to lose a good coat than a good conscience” (Henry). Joseph had a godly, instead of a worldly, concept of manliness.

Joseph experienced a bitter aftermath. One might expect Joseph to be even more outwardly blessed by God immediately after such obedience to him. However, Joseph’s battle is incomplete. Two new enemies appear.

First was the unsatisfied lust of Potiphar’s wife (39:13-18). An old saying says something like, “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned.” Potiphar’s wife was humiliated by Joseph’s refusal to join with her in sin. She determined to get revenge. Let us learn from her sin.

  • Lust can never bring lasting joy. Consider the lust of Amnon for Tamar (2 Samuel 13).
  • Lust eventually gives birth to hate. Love always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7). Lust soon tires of its toy and seeks someone else for excitement. It should not surprise us that marriages built on the sand of selfish passion collapse. Only commitment to love one other person produces endurance.
  • Lies then become easy to tell. She was able to twist the circumstantial evidence in her favor. Notice, by the way, her craftiness – “this Hebrew” (39:14). “A great deal of evidence may be brought against a perfectly innocent man. Let us, therefore, be slow to condemn persons of unblemished character” (Spurgeon. cf. 1 Timothy 5:19).

Second was the jealous anger of Potiphar (34:19-20). He is not to be blamed in this (Proverbs 6:30-35). However, she cleverly made him feel guilty (39:17). Watch out for those who manipulate people with guilt feelings. God restrained Potiphar’s anger so that Joseph was not killed. “This is to be ascribed to the good providence of God, which restrains the waves of the sea, and the passions of men, and sets them their bounds which they shall not pass, which watched over Joseph in a peculiar manner” (Poole). However, the rejection of forbidden pleasure gained Joseph shackles and irons. Deeper suffering came to him (Psalm 105:18).

I doubt the health, wealth and prosperity error would have had much appeal to Joseph at this point. Joseph’s obedient faith led him to a prison, Christ’s to a cross, and Stephen’s under a pile of stones. “The iron is entering into his flesh and into his spirit. The earth is shaken beneath him. The heavens are darkened over him. ‘My God,’ he may cry, ‘my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Psalm 22:1)” (Candlish).

Unexpectedly, Joseph receives a slight improvement in his situation. His life has been like a wiggly road along a mountain. He found that he had a “fellow prisoner”. The Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden (39:21 NIV; cf. Is 43:2; Ps 139:7-12). God’s worked by common grace in the warden’s heart to make him favor Joseph.

For this reason, we see Joseph back in training for God’s purpose for him (39:22-23). He received another supervisory position. He had learned to manage slaves. Now he had to learn to handle a more difficult group. In this, Joseph had renewed success. Notice the emphasis of the Spirit of God – the Lord. . . gave him success in whatever he did.

Learn to hope and endure, regardless of how deep and dark your prison may be. Think of how you may glorify God in that place. Your present darkness might be the place where God causes his glorious light to shine.

Grace and peace, David

The Attributes of God (Part One)

He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 CSB).

The life of the believer is to be about knowing God. I have written on other occasions that true knowledge of God involves a knowledge of facts, a knowledge of skills, and a knowledge of God’s triune person. We definitely need the knowledge of skill, about how God tells us to interact with him. Such skills are usually called “spiritual disciplines”. But to my mind anyway, to join “discipline” with a personal relationship sounds strange and very impersonal. We don’t refer to the husband-wife relationship as “marital disciplines”, do we? “Hi honey, I want to do some ‘marital disciplines’ with you!” Even the illustration is laughable at best. We know a person by interacting with him or her, by sharing life with those we love.

The true knowledge of any person requires accurate facts about him or her. My wife is not married to a tall, handsome, athletic, wealthy, charming guy; she is married to me, and any distortions of the facts about me would disrupt our relationship. It would set her up for countless disappointments. This is one reason why we need accurate truth about God.

What do we mean by the phrase “the attributes of God”? The attributes of God are those characteristics or qualities that mark or define God’s mode of existence or constitute his character. Before we consider God’s attributes, we need to keep certain preliminary points in mind:

  • Since God actually exists, he has attributes and we can discuss them (Romans 1:20).
  • When we consider God’s attributes, we are not talking about some made up ideas, because God has revealed himself so that he (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) might be known (Romans 1:19-20; cf. Acts 17:27).
  • What God has revealed himself must be accepted on faith (Hebrews 11:6). Limited creatures cannot possibly search out and comprehend God in all his majesty. But we can know the truth that he has revealed about himself.

What is God? The Lord God tells us that he is the Creator of all things and that he is living, triune, unlimited, personal spirit. From these words, we at once understand that his being is on a higher level than ours. God’s revelation of his attributes helps us to know more of his being. (The names of God also help us understand God better, but the study of God’s name is a different subject.) As Christians have studied what God makes known about himself in the Scriptures, various attempts have been made to classify God’s attributes to guide our understanding. Most attempts have divided them into two categories, such as metaphysical and moral or incommunicable and communicable. But it is difficult to sort all into just two types. We will choose another approach to find out what he tells us about himself as a living, triune, personal spirit.

  • Metaphysically – God is self-existent, infinite (eternal, omnipotent and omnipresent), invisible, immutable and incomparable
  • Ethically – God is holy, righteous (just), faithful and good
  • Intellectually – God is omniscient and wise
  • Emotionally – God is loving, gracious, merciful, patient and jealous
  • Relationally – God is transcendent, immanent and sovereign

As we study God’s attributes, we will seek to understand (truly though not exhaustively) the ideas about God that each attribute conveys. Next, we will contrast God’s being with ours, and finally briefly think about the significance of each attribute to our worship and way of life. Clearly in a short study like this, we will only be able to touch the surface of God’s revelation of himself. But hopefully this will whet our spiritual appetites to search the Scriptures more deeply.

As we study God’s revelation of his attributes, we must not forget reverence. We cannot put God under the microscope, view what we see, and then coldly catalog our observations. If we do not worship, we have not seen him and have become proud in our minds. Nor may we criticize God. We cannot call him to account or dare to “remake God” according to our opinions. The human mind is limited and twisted by sin. We only think clearly when we think in conformity with the Scriptures!

Grace and peace, David

Do Everything in Love

1 Corinthians 16:14

Let all that you do be done in love (ESV).

God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). He desires that we are like him. He wants our inner beings to be love, and our conduct to demonstrate his kind of sacrificial love (Ephesians 5:1-2). He desires the full compass of who we are and what we do to be love. But….

Yeah, we all really struggle here. As followers of Christ, we want to imitate God’s love, and I think we make serious attempts for comprehensive loving behavior. But it’s a fight to love in everything. I know it sounds strange to put the words “love” and “fight” together. (If you thought of marriage during that last sentence, be thankful that your spouse can’t completely read your mind!) Seriously, we don’t want to admit that it can be difficult to do everything in love, to do the wise actions that demonstrate God’s kind of sacrificial love to our family and friends. On the other hand, we will admit that it’s very difficult to love sacrificially our neighbors, coworkers, and enemies. You see, we suppose that we basically are loving people, and if circumstances don’t mess with us, we will do everything in love.

We ought to do everything in love, but in our text, the Holy Spirit through the apostle decided to instruct us about this. Why do we allow a cross word, an angry look, a small disappointment, or a subtle exclusion of us set us off into actions that are anything but loving?

The answer is not in the circumstances that upset us. It is inside us. Godly behavior is not like the checklist that we all are supposed to do before driving cars. Do you remember that checklist from driver’s education? Before we began to drive, the instructor made us check so many things about the car, the passengers, and the surroundings. We haven’t yet taken our granddaughter anywhere in our car, but there will be new items on that mental checklist! But godly love is not conformity to a checklist. It rises from something inside you.

The something is the love of God. God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5b). Radical change has happened to those who follow Christ. The Spirit has come on us to fill our inner persons with God’s love. This love reached us at the time we were “weak”, “ungodly”, “sinners”, and “enemies” (Romans 5:6, 8, 10). It was love that reconciled us to God. It gives us a new position in Christ before God. It starts to transform our condition in the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The inner person or heart is the place from which we start to do everything in love. We have a sweet assurance that God loves us. New thoughts develop in the heart. “Since God loved me when I was his enemy, I can reach out with his kind of love to my enemies. Since God loved me when I was a sinner, I can forgive those who have stepped out of line in their treatment of me. Since God loved me when I was ungodly, I can bear with those who are unlike me. Since God loved me when I was weak, I can help those who are too weak to interact with me as they should.” Thoughts like these begin to develop new attitudes. We see people, not as those to be criticized or condemned or cast off, but as those who ought to receive the benefits of sacrificial love – God’s love through us.

This change comes from within as we lay hold of the truth that we did not deserve God’s love. It came from his grace and mercy. It came through great cost, the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. God’s love is cross-shaped, and it remakes our thoughts and attitudes in this same cross-shaped pattern. We then begin to do everything in love, not because love is an item on our checklist, but because it is the pulse of our hearts. God’s overflowing love causes us to overflow with love for others. Doing everything in love comes from a heart filled with God’s love.

Grace and peace, David

The Source of Love (Part 2)

1 John 4:19-21

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister (NIV).

God’s love produces love in us. The experience of God’s character transforms our spiritual condition. Consider this. One of John’s great word pictures of God is that God is light. When light enters a room, it overcomes the darkness. In this picture of God being light, God is holy and his holiness produces holiness in his people (1 John 1:5-7).

  • In the same way, God is love and his love produces love in his people. As his light overcomes darkness, so his love overcomes our hatred.
  • John exposes three black lies (1:6; 2:4; 2:22-23) in this letter. All three lies falsely claim that a person can know God and yet not be transformed by fellowship with God. Such false claims deny the power of God’s character (cf. 2 Tm 3:1-5).
  • But God is the God of glory (brightly shining excellent worthiness), and when we encounter him by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, his powerful glory starts an ongoing transformation. God’s holiness, truth and love bring about change. Think of a light on a dimmer switch. Before you push it to turn on the light, there is darkness. And as you turn up the switch, the light becomes brighter. As our fellowship with God increases, our lives shine brighter with his holiness, truth and love.

In what ways is the intensity of God’s glory changing you? For example, God is faithful. Is faithfulness developing in you? God is patient and kind. Are you patient and kind?

God’s love creates love for God’s family. The parts of our lives are not disconnected. Contemporary people wrongly assume that a person can be one sort of a person in one role and another sort of person in another role. For example, “he or she is a good political leader, even though he or she is sexually immoral.” While that it might be true of work that is mere technique, it is not true of anything that involves morals. A jealous person might be able to shovel the snow out of your driveway, but that does not mean that they shovel out of kindness, or that they will necessarily do a “good job” shoveling snow. Unless a person has a change of mind about sin, it eventually affects performance.

In the same way, we cannot disconnect our relationship with God from our relationship with God’s people. For example, some say, “I’ll trust God, but I’ll never trust another Christian!” But according to this text, such an attitude is not possible. If you cannot love your brother, whom you can see, you also cannot love God, whom you cannot see. Why? “If the first commandment is that I should love the Lord my God with all my heart and mind and soul and strength, then it must follow of necessity that I am greatly concerned about doing what God asks me to do. And what does God ask me to do? The first thing He asks is that I should love my brother” (Lloyd-Jones, The Love of God, pp. 197-198). My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you (Jn 15:12 NIV).

God’s commands agree with the principle of relationship. The Lord has commanded us to love God and to love our neighbors. The two greatest commands are so closely joined that loving God requires that we love one another. John draws this statement from the teaching of Jesus (John 13:34-35). Following Christ is demonstrated to the world by our love for one another. And this kind of love flows from grace, and not out of worthiness of the object loved. God loved us without a cause in us, and so we must love one another in the same way.

This is where true Christianity gets tested. We do not love each other because we feel, “What fine people they are! They like me and I like them!” No, that is far from what the Lord is saying. We love, because we have been deeply affected by the source of love, God, and the power of his love, having transformed us, reaches out to love others. Is this true of you?

Grace and peace, David