What is God like?

Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.
— RC Sproul, The Holiness of God
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us...Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.
— AW Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

I find it incredibly life-giving to regularly revisit the attributes of God (i.e. what God is like). Taken individually, they are stunning; taken together, they are breathtaking. Without knowing it, our fallen hearts often get derailed and we end up with a god that is very different than the God of the Scriptures.  Often the god that is rejected by those, perhaps some of you, who do not follow Jesus is nothing like the true God and should, in fact, be rejected. Yet, even for those that do follow Jesus, our understanding of who God is and what he is like can get lopsided and one-dimensional.

Often, our lack of zeal, joy, and love of God can find its root in the fact that we don't see God rightly. Therefore, I commend the regular reviewing of and ruminating over the attributes of God as a helpful means of grace. This is not a dry exercise for students of theology. This is an act of worship to stir faith and get God right. As Tozer says above, "Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God."

Christians often speak of the attributes of God in two categories: shared and unshared. Unshared attributes of God belong to God alone. Shared attributes are those that God “shares” with us by nature of bearing his image. It is crucial to highlight that God is not merely a collection of attributes added together. Rather his whole being includes, and is the source of, all of his attributes. In other words, he is entirely loving, entirely merciful, entirely true, entirely good, entirely gracious, entirely just - all at the same time. Every attribute of God that we find in Scripture is true of all of God’s character, at the same time, all the time. Let's look at some of them together. Take time consider what each of these actually means about what God is like.

UNSHARED ATTRIBUTES (i.e. incommunicable)

INDEPENDENCE (i.e. self-existence or aseity): God’s independence means that he is not dependent upon anything or anyone for his existence. He needs no one and no thing to aid, support, supplement, or otherwise help. He is the source of life itself; the fountain of all that is. 

INFINITE (also, eternal): For God to be infinite means that he has no beginning or end. He is immense and unbounded by time, though He is conscious of time and works in time. Infinity applied to time is eternity. Infinity applied to space is omnipresence.

OMNIPRESENCE: God is everywhere at all times. He is not far, distant and disinterested. We can’t hide from him in our sin, nor is he far in trouble.

UNCHANGEABLE (i.e. immutable): God does not change. Ever. He is unchangeably good, right, true, holy, just, merciful, gracious, perfect, glorious and loving - forever. He is unchangeable.

UNITY (also, oneness): God’s unity refers to the fact that God is not divided. The Scripture doesn’t emphasize one attribute of God at the expense of others, rather each attribute is perfectly and completely true of God, all the time (Ex 34:6-7)

SHARED ATTRIBUTES (i.e. communicable)

SPIRIT: God is a spirit, invisible and immaterial. This does not mean God is unreal, but invisible, without size or dimension. God is the absolute ground of all creaturely essence, whether bodily or spiritual. We too are spirit, which is part of God’s image in us. We are spirits, embodied. When we die, our body is dead, but our soul lives on. We are created, finite spirits.

HOLINESS: God is absolutely separate from any evil. By faith in Christ we are simultaneously declared righteous and continually made holy by His sanctifying work in our lives (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Cor. 3:18). God is totally separate from all evil and sin, which is the basis for which He demands purity in His creatures.

OMNISCIENCE (or, knowledge): For God to be omniscient means that he has complete and perfect knowledge of all things - past, present, future - actual or potential. God has all knowledge from the beginning, without the need for increasing knowledge. There is nothing he does not know. While humans are unable to know all things, we are able to know some things.

OMNIPOTENCE (or, power): For God to be omnipotent is for God to be all–powerful and able to do all that He wills. In other words, God has absolute power. With God, all things are possible (Mt 19:26). God has supreme rule and authority over all things. While humans do not have absolute power,  God does permit human freedom (e.g. Gen. 50:21, 22)

WISDOM: God is infinitely wise and the source of all wisdom. Wisdom is making the best decision and choosing the best way to achieve that decision. Wisdom is knowledge applied.

TRUTHFULNESS (or faithfulness): God is the source and final standard of truth. All that he does is true. In other words, being the source of truth, God is fully reliable and faithful in all things. He does not lie or lead astray. He will always do what he says he will do. God is true over against everything that is false.

JUSTICE (also, righteousness): God does not conform to a standard of right and wrong, but right and wrong originate in Him. He deals rightly and fairly with all people, in all situations. Though we may not see it now, he will make all wrongs right in the end.

GOOD: God is the source and final standard of good. There is no standard of good outside the character of God. God defines good.  In suffering, God’s goodness reveals itself as compassion. Amidst sin, God’s goodness reveals itself as grace. To his people, God’s goodness reveals itself as lovingkindness.

LOVE: For God to be loving means that he eternally gives himself to others. God is the source and final standard of love.  There is no standard of love outside the character of God.

MERCY, GRACE, PATIENCE: These are separate, though closely related, attributes. “God’s mercy means God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress. God’s grace means God’s goodness toward those who deserve only punishment. God’s patience means God’s goodness in withholding of punishment toward those who sin over a period of time.” Sometimes God’s mercy is described as God not giving someone what they do deserve (e.g. hell). While, God’s grace is described as God giving someone what they don’t deserve (e.g. salvation).

RIGHTEOUS (or just): God is the source of all that is just and right and is the final standard of what is just and right.

WRATH (or, jealousy): God’s wrath refers to his intense displeasure over sin. The Bible speaks of hating sin and evil as a virtue, as they are acts of rebellion against a good and gracious God. Therefore, we image God when we feel just hatred against injustice, evil and sin. Followers of Jesus need not fear God’s wrath because Jesus “delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess 1:10; Rom 5:10) and Jesus bore the wrath of God that was due to us for our sin, that we might be saved (Rom 3:25-26).

BEAUTY, BLESSED, PERFECTION, GLORY: These are sometimes referred to as summary attributes of God. God’s perfection refers to the combination of all his excellencies. God’s blessedness refers to God’s deep and profound happiness. To describe God as beautiful is to say that he is the sum of everything that is desirable. God’s glory refers to (1) his honor and (2) the perfect light that surrounds him. “God is the sum total of all excellencies as the one than whom no greater, higher, and better can exist, either in thought or reality. God is exalted above all shortcomings and limitations.” God is absolute perfection. The degree of his happiness corresponds to the measure of his perfection and beauty.

"To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." 1 Timothy 1:17