Attributes of God
“’To whom then will you liken Me that I would be his equal?’ says the Holy One.” Isaiah 40:25
God is not like us. He is so far removed – so HOLY – that He is completely OTHERLY in every way. So how do we describe God? In Strong’s Systematic Theology the attributes of God are defined, “The attributes of God are those distinguishing characteristics of divine nature which are inseparable from the idea of god and which constitute the basis and ground for His various manifestations to His creatures. We call them attributes, because we are compelled to attribute them to God as fundamental qualities or powers of His being, in order to give rational account of certain constant facts in God’s self-revelations.”
“If an attribute is something true of God, it is also something that we can conceive as being true of Him. God, being infinite, must possess attributes about which we can know. An attribute, as we can know it, is a mental concept, an intellectual response to God’s self-revelation. It is an answer to a question; the reply God makes to our interrogation concerning himself. What is God like? What kind of God is He? How may we expect Him to act toward us and toward all created things? Such questions are not merely academic. They touch the far-in reaches of the human spirit, and their answers affect life and character and destiny.” A. W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Hoy
Biblical Counseling helps us to address heart issues by building a strong Biblical Worldview, by learning how to think rightly, and how knowing God more can help us with a wide variety of emotional problems and suffering in life. In order to trust God, we have to know Him. And in order to know Him we have to study His attributes as revealed in Scripture. Here, we will briefly discuss His attributes of wrath, mercy, holiness, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence and how they each will correlate directly in a counseling ministry. The first three are the communicable, or moral, attributes of God. The last three are His noncommunicable, or non-moral, attributes. These are characteristics of His divine nature.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Romans 1:18
God must punish sin. It is His wrath, His holy anger, that is poured out upon sinners. Any sin against the Creator of the Universe is treason. It was one single sin – a bite of a piece of the forbidden fruit – that cast Adam and Eve out of the presence of God and brought death upon the world. Such a drastic measure must be taken because of how Holy God is. God is a just Judge, and His perfect judgment is eternal torment in Hell for those that violate His Law. And we are all born sinners. We all deserve His wrath. For those not in Christ, this truth brings conviction and fear. For the Christian, this makes us love Him more. For Christ bore the Wrath of God in our place, so that we may be able to stand before God completely justified.
In counseling, we must keep in mind God’s hatred towards sin and anything that opposes or contradicts His nature. Because He is Holy, He cannot tolerate sin. Repeatedly in scripture, we see examples of God’s wrath being poured out upon ungodliness and wickedness. (Judges 2:20-21, Colossians 3:6, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Hebrews 3:11, Revelation 6:16-17, John 3:36, Romans 3:23-35, Romans 12:19, Colossians 3:5, etc.) Scripture discusses the wrath of God much more than His love. We cannot have a realistic grasp of His love for us until we understand His wrath.
Check this out to study more about Gods wrath
“’I will have mercy upon whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So, then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” Romans 9:15-16
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
Mercy is God’s benevolence toward us. It is His withholding that punishment that we rightly deserve. “Wrath is God’s righteous response to evil, but it is not His heart. Justice is the stem; mercy is the flower,” said David Mathis, executive editor of desiringGod.org. Mercy conveys the idea of being loving, compassionate, tender, selfless, caring, forgiving, and even protective. Mercy is exalted in Scripture. (Exodus 34:6-7, Deuteronomy 7:9, Psalm 89:14, Luke 6:36, Job 6:14, Proverb s 11:17
In counseling, we learn to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day. We can keep a healthy biblical perspective and be encouraged to live rightly if we remember that “I am a wicked sinner and God is a merciful Savior.” God’s mercy also includes that He sees our problems and that He wants to help. It is through understanding Mercy that we can have hope. Compassion is synonymous with Mercy. John Piper said that “counseling is the conversational exultation in the manifold mercies of God.”
“When He went ashore, He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He became to teach them many things.” Mark 6:34
Please click here to study more about God’s mercy
“It does not seem proper to speak of one attribute of God as being more central and fundamental than another; but if this were permissible, the Scriptural emphasis on the holiness of God would seem to justify its selection….The holiness of God is, first of all, that divine perfection by which He is absolutely distinct from all His creatures, and is exalted above them in infinite majesty.” Louis Berkoff
“God is holy. Of all the attributes of God, holiness is the one that most uniquely describes Him. In reality, this is a summarization of all His other attributes. The word holiness refers to His separateness, His otherness, the fact that He is unlike any other being. It indicates His complete and infinite perfection. Holiness is the attribute of God that binds all the others together. Properly understood, it will revolutionize the quality of our worship” John Macarthur
Holiness is the summary of all of God’s characteristics. Essentially, it means “set apart.” God’s OTHERNESS is because He is so completely holy. God is the only being in the entire universe that is entirely outside of it. He alone is entirely independent and self-sustaining.
“Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you – majestic in holiness awesome in glory, working wonders?” Exodus 15:11
“The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he! The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!” Psalm 99:1-5
It is His Holiness that causes Him to not tolerate sin because He alone is the standard of what is right. Therefore, the Law is merely an extension of His holy character. God demands that we be holy like He is. (Isaiah 6:3, Psalm 99:9, Habakkuk 1:13, Revelation 4:8, Revelation 15:4, Isaiah 6:2-3, 1 Samuel 2:2.) When we counsel others, we need to focus on the holiness of God, for it is through that that we grow in progressive sanctification. The holiness of God helps us to have a reverential fear of God and to keep in mind how to live our lives.
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14
Here is one of Andrew’s podcasts on God’s holiness
The omnipotence of God is an aspect of His Sovereignty. God has absolute power with no limitations. God does not get bored or tired of us. He has all power now, and it does not diminish.
“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power…” Hebrews 1:3a
God is in control of all things. Everything happens in accordance to His will. He controls all actions, all events, the natural events, the trials we face, the decisions we make – everything is under the full authority and control of God. Even our sickness and financial affairs have all been ordained by God.
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” Ephesians 1:11
When we counsel others, we can take great comfort in knowing that God is totally Sovereign over even our pain and suffering. Our problems do not exceed His vast capacity for bearing our burdens. We can find rest in knowing that He is doing all things for His glory and for our good (our progressive sanctification.) There is a tremendous about of hope to be gleaned in studying Gods Omnipotence. (Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 32:17, Job 42:2, Corinthians 10:13, Matthew 6:26-28, Proverbs 16:33, James 1:3, Proverbs 21:1, Colossians 1:17, Acts 17:25)
“Being strengthened with all power; according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” Colossians 1:11
Listen here to a podcast on God’s omnipotence
God is All-Knowing. This omniscience means that He never needs to be taught. This too is an aspect of God’s sovereignty.
“Do you know how the clouds hang poised, the wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?” Job 37:16
He knows the heart of man and each and every one of his thoughts. There is nothing that happens outside of God’s knowledge. Not only does He have a knowledge of all things, but He has an understanding of all things. His understanding is limitless. God possesses perfect wisdom. (Isaiah 46:9-10, Isaiah 40:13-14, Psalm 139:4, Psalm 139:15-16, Job 21:22, Psalm 147:4-5, 1 Chronicles 28:9, Romans 11:33, 1 John 3:20,)
“Nothing in all creation is hidden from Gods sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:13
“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.” Psalm 147:5
He knows all things, and since He has perfect understanding and wisdom – to whom better to turn when counseling for wisdom in difficult situations? Also, since God knows all things – even out thoughts and dreams – it is an exhortation to take our thoughts captive and to try to live a pure life even in our own private time.
Here is a podcast episode discussing God’s omniscience
God is everywhere. He is completely omnipresent. He is outside of the universe, totally apart from the laws of time and space. (Proverbs 15:3, I Kings 8:27, Acts 17:24, Colossians 1:17.)
“’Am I a God who is near,’ declares the Lord, ‘And not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places so that I do not see him?’ declares the Lord, ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:23
“Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, You are here! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with You.” Psalm 139:7-12
Since God is present everywhere, we cannot hide from Him. He is with us when we are distressed, when we are ashamed and wanting to hide, when we sin in secret, and when we are in danger. God will never leave us – He is always there. As counselors, this can be a very helpful attribute to remind counselees of.
Check out Andrews podcast on God’s omnipresence
How wonderful are the attributes of God that we can even come to a partial knowledge of Him. Let us strive to always focus on our Lord, and to bring others to a knowledge of Him.
“How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension! The Lord supports the humble, but he brings the wicked down into the dust. Sing out your thanks to the Lord; sing praises to our God with a harp.” Psalm 147:5-7