The Attributes of God part 2

I posted earlier about the class I’ve been taking on the attributes of God (The Attributes of God). In that post, I listed the characteristics of God that are incommunicable — unlike anything human. Now I’ll turn to the communicable attributes of God — those things that can be seen (although imperfectly) in us.

  1. Omniscience/omnipotence– God is everywhere and knows everything. Our knowledge is learned, but God’s is complete and innate. He is completely wise, completely trustworthy
  2. Goodness, love and mercy. These qualities of God are shown most fully at the cross. God saves us in order to change us, to make us more like Jesus.
  3. Holiness, righteousness and justice. We all have a sense of right and wrong, but if there is no God, there is no right or wrong. God’s ethical purity is in contrast to our sinfulness.
  4. Jealousy, wrath. These qualities take place in relationship to an offense against the majesty of God. The purpose is to protect us from sin and evil, to perfect our covenant relationship with Him.

You may wonder why it is important to study the attributes of God ( I did). Our teacher (my husband), explained that without a clear understanding of Who God is, we will can easily fall into heresies of different sorts.

The last section of this class dealt with the trinity — I’ll cover that in another post.

For more about the attributes of God see:

The Blind Men and the Elephant

The Holiness of God–R.C. Sproul–Book Review

The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers — Book Review

The Holiness of God–R.C. Sproul–Book Review

I’ve just finished this book, which we’ve been reading in our Tuesday morning Bible study class.  I found it challenging in a way that’s hard to pin down.  According to Sproul,

“The one concept, the central idea I kept meeting in Scripture was the idea that God is holy.”

Any Christian would agree with that statement, but what exactly does holiness mean? One of the first discussion questions (each chapter has these) was When you think of God as holy, what comes to mind?”  I told the class, I could think of things that suggested God’s power or God’s love or God’s mercy, but God’s holiness is difficult to express.

Holiness, of course, means set apart.  Certain items and places are holy because they have been set apart for sacred purposes — the church building itself, the baptismal font, the communion ware and so on.  In the same way, we, the people of God are holy because we have been chosen and set apart to do God’s work.

God’s holiness is different, because God is different.  God’s holiness is expressed in these verses from Isaiah:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

God is so different, we can’t begin to understand Him;  and we can’t truly understand His holiness because it is not so much one characteristic of God, it encompasses all that God is.  God is holy because He is God.  Whatever God chooses to do is holy, because God is always good and always right.  He sees everything from the perspective of eternity. What God does is always consistent  with Who God is. Is this beginning to make sense?

All I can say about this book is, I didn’t so much teach me things, as it taught me how little I actually know;  but maybe that’s a good thing.  It was humbling and somewhat uncomfortable.  At best, I have made a start at understanding the holiness of God.  Read it for yourself and see.  I would love to hear some other opinions.

Note:  There are discussion questions at the end of each chapter (if you’re like me you’ll struggle with them) so it can be studied in a small group setting, or with a friend.

For more on R.C. Sproul visit these posts:

Flee to the Scripture– A Quote by R.C. Sproul

R.C. Sproul on Repentance

A Quote From R.C. Sproul

Resting In His Love

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1

In our weekday Bible study we’ve been reading a book, The Holiness of God, by R. C. Sproul.  Last week one of the participants said, “we need to rest in God’s love.”  What do you think that means exactly?

Well, to me, it means “stop worrying so much!”  If God loves us and desires the best for us, we can rest assured that things will work out.  Will they always seem to be going smoothly?  Will only good things happen to us?  Of course, the answer is a resounding NO.  It does mean that:

“… in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

We can rest because God has a plan for us, and even when things seem to be out of control, they really aren’t.  God’s got us and He’s not letting go.  He is our hope and our salvation.  We don’t have to depend upon the temporal things of this world.  We can rest in His love.  It’s the one thing we can count on.

For another post on our Holiness of God study follow this link:

The Blind Men and the Elephant



The Blind Men and the Elephant

When I was little, my mother used to read me a poem about a group of blind men.  When they encountered an elephant, each one thought the elephant was “like” something different.  The one who felt the trunk thought the elephant was similar to a snake;  the one who touched the elephant’s side, said, “this animal is like a wall’;  the one who grabbed the tail thought the elephant resembled a rope — and so on.

We’re reading a book in our Tuesday morning Bible study called The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul.  It’s making me realize that our understanding of God is a lot like those blind men with the elephant.  How do we describe or understand the word holy?  Of course, you may know the definition is ” separate, or set apart.”  That means God is not “like” us;  he is on a different level altogether.  He is perfect beyond our understanding of perfection.

One of the study questions from the book was “how do you experience the holiness of God.”  That’s hard for me to pin down.  I’ve experienced God’s love, God’s power, God’s mercy, and so on.  I know God is all-knowing, all-seeing and immutable.  However, God’s holiness encompasses all of God’s attributes.  Holiness is what makes God God;  and that, like the elephant, is bigger than we in our humanness can grasp.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

Living the Questions

At our church we’ve started a Bible study on the holiness of God, based on the book of the same title by R. C. Sproul (I’m sure I’ll be reviewing it later, but I’m not done yet).  Yesterday we discussed how we can’t really comprehend God’s holiness, or many other concepts, such as eternity, omnipresence and more.  There are some questions we simply have to live with in our humanness.  This isn’t an excuse for failing to study and learn and grow in our understanding.  That’s part of what faith is about. I’m reminded of this quote by Rainier Maria Rilke.:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was a lyrical poet born in Prague, once the capital of Bohemia, now the Czech Republic.  He is considered one of the leading Christian existential poets.

The Holy Scriptures also tell us:

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”  1 Corinthians 13:12

In this life, there will always be questions– but someday we will know and understand the truth.  I look forward to that day.

Together In The End

I am posting this for Lutheran Lady, Barbara, who is a member of our congregation.  I hope you enjoy her heartfelt message.

Fifty-five years ago we moved eighty-eight miles away from our families, and since that time we have gone back to gather with family and friends for various occasions.

Other than our return for weddings, graduations and baptisms, funerals seem to draw us back far more frequently as we return to offer our condolences to those whose loved ones have gone to glory.

Each time I stand in a funeral home with the clan and friends of the family, I am so very aware of the “coming togetherness” among the mourners.  Relationships, which were often estranged, seem to morph into something more than mere civility in a sad situation. Forgiveness and genuine empathy replace anger and bitterness, and very often emerge into a lasting love and friendship.

I’ve often wondered whether others are impacted as am I by the coming together with one another and wonder what it means. In his book, The Holiness of God, R. C. Sproul states:

“Death often frightens us. When we see another person die, we are reminded that we are also mortal, that someday death will come to us. It is a thought we try to push from our minds. We are uncomfortable when another’s death rudely intrudes into our lives and reminds us of what we will face at some unknown future date. Death reminds us that we are creatures. Yet as fearsome as death is, it is nothing compared with meeting a holy God. When we encounter Him, the totality of our creatureliness breaks upon us and shatters the myth that we have believed about ourselves, the myth that we are demigods, junior-grade deities who will try to live forever.”

I’m sure that many people who attend funerals come because it is expected of them and they do their duty by attending.  But as they move and interact with others, I believe God is doing a wondrous, maybe even miraculous work among them. Who but God knows – maybe the timing of the deceased is an important factor for relationships that need healing.  Perhaps the pastor’s message enlightens attendees who finally realize that time is of the essence for saying, “I’m sorry” or “forgive me.”

In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” An abundant life most certainly includes a life of peace, love, forgiveness and unity. It truly warms my heart to see the clan gather as one people under God. As the memorial service follows the viewing, and the words of scripture are read, I am grateful for the pastor’s opportunity to remind us all to: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Col: 3: 13-14).  And as we recite the Lord’s Prayer TOGETHER, may we pray in all sincerity, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Mt: 6:12.

May each funeral we attend wake us up to the fact that we are all God’s children and we are all in this place together. We will all one day die and hopefully ALL meet on the golden shore to love God and each other forever.