TRUHT FOR TODAY - BIBLICAL ESSAYS BY PASTOR PAUL MIZZI

Godís attributes

"And the Lord passed by before him and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty..." (Exodus 34:6,7).

It should be borne in mind, as it is the duty and high privilege of all Christians, that as we meditate on God's attributes, we do so to our spiritual profit and growth in grace. For it is the people who know their God that shall be strong.

Yes, the Scripture calls us a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, that we may declare the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvellous light. Our knowledge of God is our life; in his light we see light. However, many pitfalls exist as we meditate on our infinite and eternal God. For our heart is deceitful and the remnant of sin still lurks within it, even in our regenerated state. We are wont to be idolatrous and not accept God's self-revelation. There is ever that temptation to fashion God after our own image.

The urgent need of the church today is to look upon her God as the all-sufficient, ever-blessed and glorious Creator and Redeemer. The church is blessed as she worships, but do we experientially know the One we worship, and are we ever growing in his grace and knowledge? Or have we become formal and staid, self-satisfied?

The right attitude in approaching God is indicated by C.H. Spurgeon: "There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity....But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it....I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead."

The attributes of God, as revealed progressively to us in the Scripture, is a solid place to entrench our soul as it feeds itself. Here we will consider the natural attributes of God and how they relate to each other. His attributes are his characteristics, excellencies or qualities, exercised visibly in his work of creation, providence and redemption. We call them attributes not because we add them to the essence of God but rather because they inhere in him. They were and ever will be his. They tell us something about God's substance, his invisible essence.

Such a study of the divine attributes is important because they reveal God to us. The Bible, for instance, speaks about the personality of God, as he determines, plans, executes his decree, speaks, and enters into relationships, especially among the three persons of the Trinity. Thus, knowing that God is immutable, we also know that God ever was and will be personal, contrary to the pantheistic concept of an impersonal God.

In establishing a basic and prepositional world-view, the Scripture declares that the Creator is eternal, whilst his creation of space and matter took place in time and concurrent with time. Nature and the whole of created order is disintegrating and wasting away; only God remains the same. "Thy years shall not pass away...they change but thou remainest..."

What we call "the reality of life" is real (and not an illusion) because it finds its reality in God who made it. God is the true God and in him lie all facts and truth. In apologetics, for instance, it would be erroneous for the Christian to take his stance alongside the unbeliever and argue towards proving the existence of God. The traditional "proofs" of God's existence have value as testimonia, but are useless in trying to convince an unbeliever to believe in God through these "proofs." No, Scripture rather starts with a basic stance, which is never compromised, "In the beginning God created..." We cannot for one second assume that God is not there and thus attempt to prove his existence. We cannot escape God. "In him we live and move and have our being." The FACT of God makes all other innumerable facts intelligible and actual. Apart from God, all is nonsense and incomprehensible; all is absurd and unreal.

God's relationship with the universe is further seen in his omniscience. In one simple and eternal act, God knows all things possible, actual, past present and future, even contingent events and the free acts of moral agents, such as men and angels. And immutably so; for God cannot be ignorant of anything; if so, then he is not perfect. God has forgotten to forget.

Thus God is consistently presented in Scripture as the infinite and ineffable God; the God who hides himself (Deus absconditus) and at the same time who reveals himself. But an aura of mystery always surrounds him, for he dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen nor can see.

The God of all these excellencies we meet most directly and effectually in Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the open manifestation of the Deity: "He who has seen me has seen the Father." The eternal God entered time; the infinite God took his abode in human flesh. And this, so that he may reveal his grace, mercy and love towards his elect, whom he foreknew.

A.W.Tozer wrote: "Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God."