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Basic Bible Doctrines
Chapter 2, The Godhead
The study of God is the most profound study that one can undertake. Many have done this based on speculation and human reasoning, which has resulted in mere philosophy. We must remember, however, that only in the Bible do we find divine revelation of truth. The Bible is the only divine revelation of the Person, the works, and the programs of God. Therefore, it is only in its pages that we can study about God.
We will approach this study in three points:
• God and His manifestation
• The unity and tri-unity of God
• The attributes of God
GOD AND HIS MANIFESTATION
We read in Hebrews 11:
But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is... (Hebrews 11:6).
The word is in the Greek is the verb of being. “He that cometh to God must believe that He is...” God forthrightly declares His existence, and man must accept this by faith. The Scripture has only one word for those who deny God’s existence, and that is the word fool:
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God (Psalms 14:1).
God’s existence is manifest both externally through the physical creation and internally through the written Word of God. In Romans 1:20 we learn that the creation makes known God’s eternal power and Godhead or divinity. This external evidence can be categorized in three ways:
• The cosmological proof, that basically refers to the apparent order and structure of creation
• The teleological proof, that says the design and purposefulness (or integration) in creation demands a designer
• The anthropological proof, which states that the existence of man and his ability to think and to make moral decisions is unexplainable apart from special creation
These external proofs are intended to send man to God’s Word to find the internal proofs.
The Bible does not begin by explaining the existence of God, but by simply presenting God as Creator!
In the beginning God created the heaven[s] and the earth (Genesis 1:1).
Based upon not only the apparent design, structure, and complexity of creation, but further, based upon the Word of God, we absolutely reject the theory of evolution:
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is… (Exodus 20:11).
Those who believe that time and chance could account for the creation are simply refusing to believe the obvious declaration of both creation and Scripture! Such people have actually made “chance” their god and “time” his magic wand. Who (according to evolution) decided that amebas should have eyes anyway? How does reproduction occur (according to evolution) when two must come together (and all the physical processes must be working perfectly) before there ever is a third? It is easy to see that only the Scriptural account of the Creation can account for “heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is...”
God’s Word simply and forthrightly declares that God exists and that He is a Spirit:
God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
God is separate and distinct from the physical creation. This refutes pantheism which says that God is the creation. Though God is a Spirit, this does not mean that He does not have substance. His substance, however, is not physical. God’s Word teaches that God is spiritual in substance, that He has personality, and that He has morality. References to this are:
God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20).
Who, being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3).
But without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
THE UNITY AND TRI-UNITY OF GOD
Before we look further into the attributes of the Godhead, let us examine the unity and tri‑unity or trinity of God. The Bible expressly declares that God is one, and also that He is triune! We believe that there is one God eternally existing in three Persons. The majority of cults in existence today are a result of a failure to believe this doctrine. Either attacking God’s oneness or His tri-unity (thereby denying the Deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit), they fall into fundamental error and thus are reprobate, i.e., not really Christian.
The Godhead is manifest in three distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Fatherhood of God
God is called the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in Ephesians 1:3. Speaking of the fatherhood of God, Lewis Sperry Chafer said in his book Major Bible Themes:
Theologians ever since the first century have wrestled with a precise definition of how God is the Father of the Second Person [of the Trinity]. Obviously the terms “Father” and “Son” are used of God to describe the intimate relationship of the First and Second Persons without necessarily fulfilling all the aspects that would be true in a human relationship of father and son. This is especially evident in the fact that both the Father and the Son are eternal.
In all that this relationship means, it does not in any sense mean that Christ is God’s offspring or that He was created.
God is also called the Father of those who believed in Christ. Romans 8:15 and Ephesians 4:6 support this. One thing that God is never called in the Bible is the Father of all men. Men in any age have come into the family of God only by believing the gospel that was respectively directed to them.
The Bible does teach in Acts 17:29 that men are God’s offspring, but this refers to the fact that men are the creatures of God; they are under His control, but He is not their Father until they are saved into His spiritual family.
The Oneness of God
The oneness of God refutes the theory of polytheism, which states that there are many gods. God commanded the nation Israel:
Thou shalt have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:3).
Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4).
Thus saith the Lord, the King of Israel, and his redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first, and I am the last, and beside Me there is no God (Isaiah 44:6).
I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside Me... (Isaiah 45:5).
One New Testament verse that points out the oneness of God states:
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things... (1 Corinthians 8:6).
From these Scriptures we conclude that the Word of God declares repeatedly the unity or oneness of God.
While the unity of God is plainly taught in the Old Testament, it is more implied in the New Testament. The Trinity, however, is plainly taught in the New Testament, while it is more implied in the Old Testament.
When we say that God is a trinity, we would like to state that we do not mean that there are three Gods, but rather one God manifest in three Persons. The Scriptures plainly teach not only the unity of God but also the trinity of God, and they clearly ascribe attributes of Deity to all three Persons of the Godhead. Thus, while it is impossible for the human mind to fully comprehend this truth, the Scriptures nevertheless declare it; and therefore we believe it!
In an interesting book by Nathan Wood, The Trinity in the Universe (formerly called The Secret of the Universe), it is pointed out that we can see the structure of the Trinity imprinted again and again in the universe. For instance, in time—past, present, and future; in space—length, breadth, and height; in matter—solid, liquid, and gas. Thus, we say that while the Trinity has no real parallel in human experience, because it is part of divine revelation we accept it.
While the word trinity is never found in the Bible, it is nonetheless plainly taught. In the Old Testament where it is clearly implied, we turn to Genesis 1:1. In the Hebrew language, like English, nouns have number, that is, singular and plural. In the Hebrew, however, number is expressed in singular for one, dual for two, and plural for three or more. In Genesis 1:1 the word God is the Hebrew word Elohim. This word has a plural ending (though it is used as a singular noun), suggesting the trinity of the Godhead. This same truth is again brought out in Genesis:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… (Genesis 1:26).
This relates that God created man after His own triune likeness. Thus, we believe that man also is a tripartite being—that is, spirit, soul, and body. There are several other references in the Old Testament where God refers to Himself in this way:
Come, let us go down, and there confound their language… (Genesis 11:7).
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us… (Isaiah 6:8).
Isaiah’s great answer was, “Here am I; send me.” How wonderful it would be if God’s people today would have this same attitude! Our last reference in this regard is Ecclesiastes where Solomon wrote:
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth… (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
The word Creator here is in the plural, again suggesting the Trinity.
Turning now to the New Testament, we must remember that although the word trinity is not found it is expressly taught. In Matthew 3 where the Lord Jesus was baptized by John, the narrative declares that all three members of the Godhead were present:
And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:16,17).
Here the sinless Son of God submitted to a sinner’s baptism under the Jewish kingdom program to fulfill all righteousness. Many in this dispensation teach that we must follow the Lord in this baptism, but this was a baptism that the Lord alone could fulfill. Not only is water baptism not for this day of grace, but this baptism was where Christ was numbered with the transgressors. This was where He was identified with sinful man so that He might bear our sins—the just for the unjust. That is what is meant when the Bible says that it “fulfilled all righteousness,” by working out God’s righteous method of remitting our sins.
Next we read:
Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
Once again the reader will note that the three Persons of the Godhead are mentioned together. Most take this passage to be a formula for water baptism today. This, however, is not the case. This passage is actually referring to Christ giving the Twelve Apostles the authority of the triune Godhead to water baptize under the kingdom program. Seeing that the Apostle of this dispensation said in 1 Corinthians 1:17 that Christ sent him not to baptize, we would deny that this verse in Matthew even applies to us today. Even when it did apply, however, it was not a formula!
In John, we read where the Lord Jesus said:
And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth... (John 14:16,17).
Then we read one of the Apostle Paul’s most famous benedictions where the triune Godhead was addressed for the blessing of the saints:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen (2 Corinthians 13:14).
In Ephesians 1 we see that the three Persons of the Godhead are referred to in relation to the believer’s redemption. Notice in verse 4 that the purpose of the Father was to choose us in Him (that is, the Son) before the foundation of the world. Then in verse 7 we have redemption through the Son (that is, His shed blood resulting in the forgiveness of sins), and finally, we have the seal and earnest of the Holy Spirit in verses 13 and 14. Thus, the whole work of man’s salvation is totally dependent upon God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Father purposes it, Christ performs it, and the Holy Spirit regenerates and seals it. All that is required of us is to believe the gospel, that the finished work of Christ paid our debt in full:
…Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3,4).
Through faith alone in this truth God will justify any man freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Let us look at one more reference in regard to the Trinity. One of the glorious truths that we are exhorted to guard in this next passage is the truth of the Trinity:
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all (Ephesians 4:4–6).
The seven‑fold unity of the Spirit spoken of here concerns the spiritual truths that we are to guard in this dispensation of grace. The Trinity, however, is an integral part of this portion. In verse 4 there is one Spirit. In verse 5 there is one Lord. In verse 6 there is one God and Father. Thus, we can see that the Scriptures offer abundant proof that God is triune. As we stated earlier, many cults have begun because of a rejection of these very truths.
There are also several verses that relate to both the oneness and the trinity of God. They refer to more than one Person of the Godhead in the same work or as being equal.
I, even I, am the Lord, and beside Me there is no Savior (Isaiah 43:11).
These words are very strong and conclusive. From this passage the Jehovah’s Witness cult dares to take their name. In verse 10 the prophet says, “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord…” The word Lord is the Hebrew word Jehovah. So they claim to be Jehovah’s witnesses, while at the same time boldly denying the Trinity and the Deity of Christ. All one must do is to make two simple comparisons using this passage to dispel all error. First, it says here that beside Jehovah, there is no Savior. In Matthew it is said of Mary:
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS; for He shall save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
Indeed, the name Jesus is a transliteration of the Hebrew word Joshua and means Jehovah is salvation (cf. Titus 2:13). The second comparison we can make is from Isaiah 43:
…before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after Me (Isaiah 43:10).
This verse can be compared with another in this same book:
Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).
Here the name Immanuel literally means God with us! How then do people deny that both the First and Second Persons of the Godhead are referred to as one and the same? This verse is even quoted in Matthew (1:23) to show that the Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of prophecy. Also in this regard is a verse found in Isaiah:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
Here the Son, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ, is called “The Mighty God” and “The Everlasting Father”! Once again, the three Persons of the Godhead are one and the same.
Another area in which the Persons of the Godhead are named as co-equal is in the Creation.
In the beginning God created the heaven[s] and the earth (Genesis 1:1).
It also goes on to say that the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, but we compare this passage with a verse found in John. Speaking of the Son, John wrote:
All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3).
Thus, it is the Second Person of the Godhead who is referred to here as the Creator God! To verify this all we need to do is turn to Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians where, speaking of the Son, we read:
For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers—all things were created by Him, and for Him (Colossians 1:16).
Many of these verses relating to the Person and work of the Son will be dealt with more fully in our chapter, The Person of Christ. Suffice it for now to say that in Colossians 1:15 Christ is even called “the image of the invisible God.” This concurs with the Gospel of John where it says of the Son, who is called the Word of God, “that the Word was God.” This can be the only meaning of such verses as John 10:30, where it says, “I and My Father are one.” This does not just mean that They are one in purpose, but rather it means that They are one in Nature and Deity.
The Holy Spirit is not to be left out of this oneness, and so we offer a reference to the co-equality of the Person of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 5:3,4 Peter who is filled with the Holy Spirit actually calls the Holy Spirit God.
But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not thine own? And after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God (Acts 5:3,4).
In this passage Ananias and Sapphira (who we believe were unbelievers) were trying to join themselves to the group of believers who were practicing the Lord’s instructions concerning the kingdom program. Part of the instructions of that program were those given by the Lord where He specifically said:
Sell what ye have, and give alms… (Luke 12:33).
In view of the coming millennial kingdom, which was being offered as at hand, they were to seek their treasure in this kingdom. So, here in Acts 4 we read that, in obedience to the Lord, they had all things common and with great power the Apostles gave witness of the resurrection. This was the miraculous demonstration of spiritual power which was also consistent with that kingdom program. Therefore, we read in Acts 4:34 that as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them and brought the prices of the things that were sold and laid them at the Apostles’ feet.
Distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. Those who would like to obey the baptism of that kingdom program, as instructed in Matthew 28:19, should take note that the Lord also said:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you… (Matthew 28:20).
These things in the early chapters of the Book of Acts were just as surely a part of the Lord’s instructions for that kingdom program as was water baptism. The simple truth is that we today are not under that kingdom program. These instructions along with that entire program have been set aside while God is dealing with the world according to a secret program, the dispensation of the grace of God.
In Acts we read:
But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land?...Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God (Acts 5:3,4).
These verses absolutely establish that the Holy Spirit is a co-equal member of the triune Godhead.
It is important to have these and other verses ready to defend this important scriptural doctrine against all who pervert the truth. We should mark well that we are not as the Unitarians who, while holding to the oneness of God, deny the Trinity, and therefore, deny the Scriptures!
THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
As we said earlier, the attributes of Deity are ascribed to all three Persons of the Godhead. By attributes we mean simply characteristics or qualities possessed by and, therefore, attributed to God that declare His Deity.
Two interesting words that relate to the Godhead are found in the Pauline Epistles. The two words, though from the same root, express two different aspects of the Godhead. The first word is found in Romans 1:20 where the word Godhead means divinity and has to do with the eternal power and works of God. The second word is found in Colossians 2:9 where the word Godhead means Deity and has to do with His Person. We should note that in Colossians 2:9 we read that the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Christ! And so the divinity, that is, the eternal power of God, and the Deity, or the Person of God, are clearly manifest respectively through creation and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The attributes of God, then, make Him distinctively and exclusively divine! The attributes of God can be broken down into two basic categories. These are the moral and the nonmoral. Another way to say this is the communicable and the noncommunicable attributes. By communicable we mean those attributes that can be given to His creatures. Noncommunicable, of course, would then be those attributes that cannot be transferred and are only possessed by God.
Of the nonmoral or noncommunicable attributes we would list these, that are sometimes generalized as the immensity and the immutability (the infiniteness and unchangeableness) of God:
The moral or communicable attributes that are possessed in their perfection only by God are:
The Names of God
We shall first look at the nonmoral attributes and recognize their scriptural support. It is interesting to recognize that the names of God in Scripture bear testimony to His attributes. The three principal names of God in the Old Testament are:
The name Elohim means the Strong One, or Almighty One, and points to His omnipotence. It is this name that is used in connection with the Creation in Genesis 1:1.
The name Jehovah means the Self-existent and Self-sufficient One and would point to those attributes. We receive this definition from Exodus where God declared:
…I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent Me unto you (Exodus 3:14).
This is also the name that is connected with God’s covenant and redemptive purpose for Israel.
Last is the name Adonai. This name means Lord and Master and signifies total ownership and control. Thus, the names of God point out many different aspects of His Deity.
God’s Nonmoral or Noncommunicable Attributes
Let us note some scriptural examples of God’s nonmoral attributes.
Omnipotence. Omnipotence means all-powerful and has to do with God’s almightiness. God spoke to Abram in Genesis:
…the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect (Genesis 17:1).
Later in the Book of Genesis, God spoke to Jacob:
…I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins (Genesis 35:11).
In this same regard in Exodus God said to Moses:
And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by My name JEHOVAH was I not known to them (Exodus 6:3).
In the New Testament the Lord Jesus attested to God’s almightiness in Matthew:
But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
Romans teaches that the creation manifests God’s eternal power:
For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead… (Romans 1:20).
Ephesians also says:
And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead… (Ephesians 1:19,20).
This great power is declared to be in us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power! This is not power for miracle working in this dispensation, but power to live a victorious, God-honoring, and fruitful life! This is borne out by another verse:
Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us (Ephesians 3:20).
Looking at the Lord Jesus Himself, in the Epistle to the Colossians, Paul wrote:
And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist (Colossians 1:17).
Verse 16 teaches that the Lord Jesus created all things, and verse 17 declares that by Him all things consist or are held together (this is not atoms and molecules held together, but as in the context, all power and authority are controlled and held in place by Him). These verses attest to the fact that the Lord Jesus and the Father equally possess the divine attribute of omnipotence!
Finally, in Revelation we read:
And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, and like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of mighty peals of thunder, saying, Hallelujah! For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth (Revelation 19:6).
As the Book of Revelation looks beyond this present dispensation of grace, we see God in His omnipotence bringing to a glorious fulfillment His program for the earth through the establishment of Israel’s kingdom.
Through Christ’s glorious reign, the blessings of this kingdom will overflow to the Gentiles, and finally the kingdom will proceed into the new earth.
One important rule to remember in regard to the terrible events of the Book of Revelation is that the book is all future to this present dispensation of grace. None of the things in the Book of Revelation can happen today because the events are God’s dealings with the earth under the prophetic program. God’s administration for the day in which we live was a secret and will be completed with the rapture of the Body of Christ—before the events of the Book of Revelation can begin.
Omnipresence. Considering God’s omnipresence, we note first that the word means all present or everywhere present. This can be seen in the Psalms:
Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in sheol, behold, Thou art there (Psalm 139:7,8).
Proverbs further states:
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3).
A corresponding verse is in Jeremiah:
Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord (Jeremiah 23:23,24).
Here are truths that the finite mind cannot comprehend, and yet by faith we accept the Scripture’s revelation. How can God be in all places at the same time? Or, how can the Holy Spirit indwell every believer at once and still be in heaven? Indeed, these are truths too wonderful for us, and yet the Scriptures declare them to be so!
Omniscience. Let us look next at the omniscience of God. Omniscience means all knowing; and as God is infinite in power, He is also infinite in wisdom and knowledge. Speaking of God, Psalm 147 says:
He appointeth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power; His understanding is infinite (Psalm 147:4,5).
God makes known His infinite ability:
Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure (Isaiah 46:9,10).
At the end of verse 11 we should also note that God concludes by saying:
…I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it (Isaiah 46:11).
How glorious is our God! He knows all and has an eternal purpose about which, because of His almighty power, He says, “I will do it.” How remarkable to realize that these attributes of wisdom and power are possessed by all three Persons of the Godhead. We read in 1 Corinthians 1:24 that Christ is the power and wisdom of God and again in Colossians 2:3 that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge!
Eternal. Considering the eternal nature of God, Deuteronomy says:
The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms… (Deuteronomy 33:27).
We read further in the Psalms:
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God (Psalm 90:2).
As we consider the triune Godhead in this regard, we note in Revelation that it says, speaking of the Lord Jesus:
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty (Revelation 1:8).
In light of these words can any deny the Deity of Christ? Three more times in the Book of Revelation the Lord is referred to as “the Alpha and the Omega,” and in Revelation 21:3–7 this title is assigned to both God and the Son.
Immutable. The last of the nonmoral attributes we will consider is God’s immutability. Immutable simply means unchanging or unchangeable. The great testimony of the Word of God is that God never can change, that all of His attributes both moral and nonmoral are timeless and sure. Psalm 102 says of the earth and the heavens:
They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall become old like a garment; like a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end (Psalm 102:26,27).
Malachi also says:
For I am the Lord, I change not… (Malachi 3:6).
It is worthy of note that this very passage is quoted in Hebrews 1, where from verses 8 through 12 this and several other attributes are directed toward the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The immutability of God’s counsel and Word or oath are attested to in Hebrews 6:17,18. Another reference to God’s immutability is in James, where we read:
...the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17).
It is also in this exact regard that the Lord Jesus is referred to in Hebrews:
Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
He is immutable in His attributes.
The Moral or Communicable Attributes of God
God’s holiness. Though all of God’s attributes are equal in importance, if we were to view His attributes as the wheel of a wagon with its spokes and rim and hub, we would equate the hub of the wheel with the holiness of God. The other attributes would fit in like the spokes of the wheel, but at the center we would find His holiness.
The word holy as belonging to God refers to His absolute purity. God is absolutely pure and totally separate from everything impure. The Bible is literally full of the holiness of God. Perhaps one of the best places to begin is in Isaiah, where the seraphim cry:
…Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts… (Isaiah 6:3).
This is also an obvious reference to the three Persons of the Godhead. Under the law in Leviticus, God commanded Israel:
…ye shall be holy; for I am holy… (Leviticus 11:44).
Of course, under the law man is not able to obey this command. However, under God’s grace believers are now able to live godly lives because of the Holy Spirit that indwells them. It is on the basis of this principle of spiritual life that Peter could say to his hearers, as he quoted from Leviticus 11:
But, as He who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of life, because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy (1 Peter 1:15,16).
It is important to note that for everyone who has trusted Christ in this dispensation of grace, Christ has been made unto us sanctification (or holiness), and this is the very holiness of God.
God’s righteousness. God’s righteousness is His rightness. In view of His holy character, all His judgments and actions are right. There is no unrighteousness in Him. The Apostle Paul said:
…Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid (Romans 9:14).
It is this truth that caused Abraham to say in Genesis:
…Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right (Genesis 18:25)?
The scriptural references to the righteousness of God are too numerous to mention, but we note that it says in the Psalms:
Righteous art Thou, O Lord, and upright are Thy judgments…Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Thy law is the truth (Psalm 119:137,142).
And in Romans we read:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For in it is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:16,17).
The great proclamation of Scripture in this dispensation is that God justifies or declares righteous the sinner who simply trusts Christ as Savior.
God manifested the principle that faith is the basis of imputed righteousness through Abraham and even earlier, but Abraham became the father or chief example of faith. We read in Romans:
For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness (Romans 4:3).
It is now, however, by the revelation given through Paul that we learn that the obtaining of the righteousness of God apart from the works of the law is manifested, as Paul declared in Romans, chapter 3:
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is manifested...even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe… (Romans 3:21,22).
We should note also from this passage that in this method of forgiving sins, it says:
To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness, that He might be just, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus (Romans 3:26).
God dealt righteously with sin and can, therefore, justly declare righteous any man who will simply trust Christ. Salvation is the complete remission of sins and the obtaining of God’s righteousness by grace through faith, bringing about peace with God. Thus, it says in Romans:
Therefore, being justified [or declared righteous] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).
The love of God. The love of God is another attribute we will consider. In the First Epistle of John we read:
…God is love (1 John 4:8).
The word for love is agape, and this word speaks of an entirely divine love. It is the unending, consistent interest and condescending concern of a perfect God toward entirely undeserving sinners. It is that perfect quality of God that gives without having first received. This love is giving sacrificially of one’s self for the good of another.
We must keep in mind, however, that God’s love never contradicts His holiness or His righteousness. In love God provided a holy, righteous means by which sin could be forgiven, and in love this is offered to all men. However, if a man rejects the offer of God’s love, the holiness and righteousness of God demand that judgment must fall upon the sinner!
The Scriptures declare many times that the greatest manifestation of the love of God is Christ dying for our sins upon Calvary’s cross. We read of this in Romans, where it says:
But God commendeth His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
The grace of God. The grace of God must also be considered in the study of His attributes. It is this attribute that marks out this secret dispensation in which we live. Grace simply means undeserved or unmerited favor.
In 1 Peter 5:10 God is called “the God of all grace,” and indeed His grace has been manifest from the beginning. Genesis 6:8 says that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” God told Moses, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious.” John says that grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. These are all manifestations of the attribute of God’s grace, but mark well that there is only one dispensation of grace! We might put it this way: There has been grace in every dispensation, but there is only one dispensation of grace.
This is a secret dispensation that God made known only through Paul. God is building a trophy of His grace called the church, the Body of Christ. This church is made up of both Jews and Gentiles reconciled into one Body by the cross. This reconciliation is accomplished by God’s grace through faith in the finished work of Christ alone. Ephesians 3:1–12 is one of the primary passages on this subject. Part of the glory of this grace is that this Body will occupy the very heavenlies with God for all eternity!
The faithfulness of God. The final attribute we will discuss is the faithfulness of God. Faithful means worthy of complete trust. The Scriptures declare that this is one of the unchanging attributes of the triune Godhead. In Deuteronomy it says:
Know, therefore, that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God… (Deuteronomy 7:9).
The Book of Lamentations also declares:
…His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22,23).
Paul declared this in 1 Corinthians 1:9, saying, “God is faithful,” and also in Hebrews 10:23, “…For He is faithful that promised.” It is the fidelity (or faithfulness) of God that makes all of His promises sure. Indeed, our very salvation is based upon the faithfulness of God to His Word! It is in this regard that the Apostle Paul said:
Even the righteousness of God which is by faith [or the faithfulness] of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe… (Romans 3:22).
The salvation that our faith in Christ obtains is because of His faithfulness!
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