Characteristics of God

By Tim Isbell, February 2018

The Bible helps us understand God, and how to relate to him. But it’s a monumental task to distill the Bible’s 66 chapters into a concise list of God’s characteristics.

Fortunately, “systematic theologians” do the distilling for us. My go-to source for such a list is Millard Erikson’s Christian Theology, which describes God’s characteristics in two chapters (37 pages). That’s still too complex for me, so I reduced Erickson’s two chapters to this single web page. It's where I go every time I need a quick reminder of who God is. 

The Greatness of God

Spirituality. God is not composed of matter or a physical nature. He does not have the limitations of a human body.

Personality. God is an individual being with self-consciousness, will, the capacity to feel, make choices, and he is capable of reciprocal relationships with other personal and social beings.

Life. God is alive. The scriptures teach that when people ask who God is, God responds, “I am.” The continuance of God’s existence does not depend on anything outside of himself.

Infinity. Not only is God unlimited, he is also unlimitable. He is aware of what is happening, has happened, and will happen. But he cannot do anything whatsoever; he can only do those things which are proper objects of his power. Thus, God cannot do the logically absurd or contradictory. He cannot act contrary to his nature.

Constancy. God’s core nature does not change, even over vast expanses of time.


The Goodness of God

Moral purity

Holiness. God is unique and separate from all of creation and embodies absolute purity or goodness. His perfection is the standard for our moral character and the motivation for religious practice. The entire moral code flows from God’s holiness.

Righteousness. God exhibits righteousness in his moral purity and in applying his holiness to relationships with all other beings - including us. Further, God’s law is an accurate expression of his nature and as perfect as he is. He acts in accord with the law that he established.

Justice. God administers his kingdom consistent with his law, to which he requires us to conform. He is like a judge who as a private individual adheres to the law of society, and in his official capacity administers that same law to others. This makes clear the fact that sin has definite consequences.

Integrity

Genuineness. God is real, not fabricated or constructed like all other claimants to deity. God does more than just embody the qualities of greatness and goodness; he is those attributes.

Veracity. God represents things as they are. This means more than just that God never lies - it says he cannot lie. And God expects veracity from his followers.

Faithfulness. If God’s genuineness is a matter of being true and his veracity is telling the truth, then his faithfulness means that he proves true. God keeps all his promises. He will never commit himself to something where he is incapable.

Loving

Benevolence. God has a genuine concern for the welfare of those whom he loves. He unselfishly seeks their ultimate welfare, having an unselfish interest in them for their sake. He loves women and men mainly on the basis of their likeness of himself, which he placed within them.

Grace. God deals with his people not according to their merit or worthiness or what they deserve, but according to their need. In other words, he deals with us on the basis of his goodness. This is different from benevolence, which is the idea that God does not seek his good, but rather that of others. It is possible for God to love unselfishly, with a concern for others, but still to insist that we do something to earn the favors received. Grace, however, means that God supplies us with undeserved favors. 

Mercy is his tenderness of heart and compassion toward the needy - whether or not they offend him. If grace contemplates humans as sinful, guilty, and condemned, mercy sees humans as miserable and needy. 

Persistence. God withholds judgment and continues to offer salvation and grace over long periods of time. God’s story shows that he is relentless in pursuit of a relationship with his people.


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