Systematic Tehology: The Character of God[1] Lecture Notes[2] Chapter 13: Communicable Attributes (Part 2)

Systematic Tehology: The Character of God[1]

Lecture Notes[2] Chapter 13: Communicable Attributes (Part 2)

26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all,
27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God

(Acts 20:26-27)

How is God like us in attributes of will and in attributes that summarize his excellence?

D. Attributes of Purpose

14. Will. God’s will is that attribute of God whereby he approves and determines to bring about every action necessary for the existence and activity of himself and all creation.

Scripture frequently indicates God’s will as the final or most ultimate reason for everything that happens. Paul refers to God as the one “who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11).

The phrase might more explicitly be translated, “who continually brings about everything in the universe according to the counsel of his will.” More specifically, all things were created by God’s will: “For you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11).

For example…

All the events connected with the death of Christ were according to God’s will, the church at Jerusalem believed, for in their prayer they said, “truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with all the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27–28). The specific mention of the various parties involved at different stages of the crucifixion, together with the indefiniteness of the plural relative pronoun “whatever” (Gk. ὅσα, from ὅσος, G4012, “the things which”) implies that not simply the fact of Jesus’ death but all the detailed events connected with it are comprehended in this statement: God’s hand and will had predestined that all those things would come about.

Another example…

Sometimes it is God’s will that Christians suffer, as is seen in 1 Peter 3:17, for example: “For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will than for doing wrong.” Then in the next chapter Peter says, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19).

  1. As children grow toward adulthood, what are proper and improper ways for them to show in their own lives greater and greater exercise of individual will and freedom from parental control? Are these to be expected as evidence of our creation in the image of God?

 

15. Freedom. God’s freedom is that attribute of God whereby he does whatever he pleases. This definition implies that nothing in all creation can hinder God from doing his will. This attribute of God is therefore closely related to his will and his power. Yet this aspect of freedom focuses on the fact that God is not constrained by anything external to himself and that he is free to do whatever he wishes to do. There is no person or force that can ever dictate to God what he should do. He is under no authority or external restraint.

God’s freedom is mentioned in Psalm 115, where his great power is contrasted with the weakness of idols: “Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases” (Ps. 115:3). Human rulers are not able to stand against God and effectively oppose his will, for “the king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov. 21:1).

 

16. Omnipotence (Power, Sovereignty). God’s omnipotence means that God is able to do all his holy will. The word omnipotence is derived from two Latin words, omni “all,” and potens “powerful,” and means “all-powerful.” Whereas God’s freedom referred to the fact that there are no external constraints on God’s decisions, God’s omnipotence has reference to his own power to do what he decides to do.

This power is frequently mentioned in Scripture. God is “The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle!” (Ps. 24:8). The rhetorical question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14; Jer. 32:27) certainly implies (in the contexts in which it occurs) that nothing is too hard for the Lord. In fact, Jeremiah says to God, “nothing is too hard for you” (Jer. 32:17).

Paul says that God is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20), and God is called the “Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:18; Rev. 1:8).

This is why the definition of omnipotence is stated in terms of God’s ability to do “all his holy will.” It is not absolutely everything that God is able to do, but everything that is consistent with his character. For example, God cannot lie. In Titus 1:2 he is called (literally) “the unlying God” or the “God who never lies.” The author of Hebrews says that in God’s oath and promise “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18, author’s translation). 2 Timothy 2:13 says of Christ, “He cannot deny himself.” Furthermore, James says, “God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13). Thus, God cannot lie, sin, deny himself, or be tempted with evil. He cannot cease to exist, or cease to be God, or act in a way inconsistent with any of his attributes.

 

17. Perfection. God’s perfection means that God completely possesses all excellent qualities and lacks no part of any qualities that would be desirable for him.

It is difficult to decide whether this should be listed as a separate attribute or simply be included in the description of the other attributes. Some passages say that God is “perfect” or “complete.” Jesus tells us, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). And David says of God, “His way is perfect” (Ps. 18:30; cf. Deut. 32:4). There is some scriptural precedent, therefore, for stating explicitly that God lacks nothing in his excellence: he fully possesses all of his attributes and lacks nothing from any one of those attributes. Furthermore, there is no quality of excellence that it would be desirable for God to have that he does not have: he is “complete” or “perfect” in every way.

 

18. Blessedness. To be “blessed” is to be happy in a very full and rich sense. Often Scripture talks about the blessedness of those people who walk in God’s ways. Yet in 1 Timothy Paul calls God “the blessed and only Sovereign” (1 Tim. 6:15) and speaks of “the glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:11). In both instances the word is not εὐλογητός, G2329 (which is often translated “blessed”), but μακάριος (G3421, which means “happy”).

Thus, God’s blessedness may be defined as follows: God’s blessedness means that God delights fully in himself and in all that reflects his character. In this definition the idea of God’s happiness or blessedness is connected directly to his own person as the focus of all that is worthy of joy or delight. This definition indicates that God is perfectly happy, that he has fullness of joy in himself.

The definition reflects the fact that God takes pleasure in everything in creation that mirrors his own excellence. When he finished his work of creation, he looked at everything that he had made and saw that it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). This indicates God’s delight in and approval of his creation. Then in Isaiah we read a promise of God’s future rejoicing over his people: “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isa. 62:5; cf. Prov. 8:30–31; Zeph. 3:17).

 

19. Beauty. God’s beauty is that attribute of God whereby he is the sum of all desirable qualities. This attribute of God has been implicit in a number of the preceding attributes, and is especially related to God’s perfection. However, God’s perfection was defined in such a way as to show that he does not lack anything that would be desirable for him. This attribute, beauty, is defined in a positive way to show that God actually does possess all desirable qualities: “perfection” means that God doesn’t lack anything desirable; “beauty” means that God has everything desirable. They are two different ways of affirming the same truth.

Nevertheless, there is value in affirming this positive aspect of God’s possession of everything that is desirable. It reminds us that all of our good and righteous desires, all of the desires that really ought to be in us or in any other creature, find their ultimate fulfillment in God and in no one else.

David speaks of the beauty of the Lord in Psalm 27:4: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”

 

20. Glory. In one sense of the word glory it simply means “honor” or “excellent reputation.” This is the meaning of the term in Isaiah 43:7, where God speaks of his children, “whom I created for my glory,” or Romans 3:23, which says that all “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It also has that meaning in John 17:5, where Jesus speaks to the Father of “the glory which I had with you before the world was made,” and in Hebrews 1:3, which says that the Son “is the radiance of God’s glory” (author’s translation). In this sense, the glory of God is not exactly an attribute of his being but rather describes the superlative honor that should be given to God by everything in the universe (including, in Heb. 1:3 and John 17:5, the honor that is shared among the members of the Trinity). But that is not the sense of the word glory that we are concerned with in this section.

In another sense, God’s “glory” means the bright light that surrounds God’s presence. Since God is spirit, and not energy or matter, this visible light is not part of God’s being but is something that was created. We may define it as follows: God’s glory is the created brightness that surrounds God’s revelation of himself.

  1. When the shepherds near Bethlehem experienced the glory of the Lord shining around them, “they were filled with fear” (Luke 2:9). Yet when we come to live forever in the heavenly city, we will continually be surrounded by the light of the glory of the Lord (Rev. 21:23). Will we then continually feel this same fear the shepherds felt? Why or why not? Would you like to live in the presence of this glory? Can we experience any of it in this life?

 

 

 

[1] Based on and various Quotes from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Zondervan

[2] All Scripture from ESV Bible, Crossway

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