We are not autonomous; we exist for God. Therefore, it is important that we know what He is like so we can adequately relate to Him and worship Him.
In the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a popular seventeenth-century Christian teaching manual, ‘God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth’.
God has not only created the universe; He has also revealed Himself – His character or attributes – to us. The above description gives a brief summary of what He has revealed himself to be.
We know God is a spirit (John 4:4). He does not have a mortal body like us (1 Timothy 6:16).
Humans are finite; we are limited to the period in which we act (we only live in the present) and the place we can be at a particular time. We are thus limited with respect to time and space. God is not so limited, which is why He is said to be infinite (Psalm 139:7-10; Isaiah 66:1).
With respect to time, God’s infinite nature means that He is eternal. He transcends time completely and does not operate within it (Psalm 90:2; 102:27).
As humans, it is all too common for us to change, whether with respect to our bodies or personality. We grow wiser, some grow taller and bigger. Even our taste and preference evolve. But God is not so. He remains the same, which is why His promises and commands are so reliable (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 6:17; James 1:17).
God is absolutely wise. Nothing he does or commands is ever foolish; He chooses the best goals and decides on the best means for achieving those goals (Psalm 104:24; Daniel 2:20-21).
His power is limitless. He can bring about anything, as long as it is in keeping with His character (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:27).
God is absolutely distinct from His creatures. Following from this, He is morally perfect and there is no sin or corruption in Him. Thus he is described as holy (Exodus 15:11; Job 34:10; Isaiah 6:3-5; Habakkuk 1:13)
As Judge, God maintains his holy character among his creatures. He rewards the obedient and punishes the lawless. This is His attribute of justice (Psalm 89:14; 145:17; 1 Peter 1:17).
Through His goodness, God deals kindly with all His creatures regardless of how evil or good they are (Psalm 145:8-9; Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:17).
God loves truth because He is truthful. He is true in Himself and in all His dealings with His creatures (Numbers 23:19; 2 Timothy 2:13).
This is a summary of God’s character as revealed in the Bible. It does not end here, however. Knowing God involves a lot more than knowing doctrinal facts about Him. We need to enter into a living relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son. And we should nurture that relationship through prayer, meditation on His word, community with other believers, as well as a life of thoroughgoing obedience to all He says.
As J.I. Packer wrote:
“Our aim in studying the Godhead must be to know God himself better. Our concern must be to enlarge our acquaintance, not simply with the doctrine of God’s attributes, but with the living God whose attributes they are.”
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