Blogging the Institutes–1.10.2–God’s Attributes. Explained.

“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List

God’s Attributes. Explained.

Certain Bible passages vividly describe God’s attributes. Moses provides us for a summary of God’s attributes in the passage when he wrote, “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation’” (Exodus 34:6-7). From this passage, we see a couple important things.

First, God’s eternity and self-existence is affirmed by the declaration of His magnificent name two times. Second, when Moses enumerates God’s attributes, God is described as He is in Himself, but who He is in relation to us. He does this so that our worship of God may be based upon true knowledge than empty visual speculation of idols. Furthermore, the attributes espoused in Exodus 34:6-7 are the same ones we see shining in the heavens and displayed on the earth–compassion, mercy, justice, judgment and truth. Power and energy are understood in the name Yahweh.

Similar descriptions are used by the prophets of God’s attributes. Moreover, I will only refer to Psalm 145 which presents a summary of God’s attributes and is so thorough just about every attribute is referenced. Even so, every attribute mentioned there can be observed in creation. The same God we observe in creation is the same God we see in His word.

In Jeremiah, where God proclaims the character that we must acknowledge, is the same character as given to us other places in His word and in creation. “Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:24). Assuredly, the most important attributes for us to know are these three: lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness. Lovingkindness upholds our security and relationship with Him. Judgment will be exercised on the wicked and eternal condemnation awaits them too. Righteousness preserves the faithful. The prophets declares that when you understand these, then you are well on your way to glorifying God. Now, the prophet is not omitting God’s truth, power, holiness, or goodness. 

Think about this way: how could we know His lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness exist unless they were based upon His inviolable truth? How could we know that God will governs the world with justice and righteousness without presupposing His mighty power? Also, how could He show lovingkindness to us unless it flows from His goodness? In sum, if all of His ways are lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, then His holiness is thereby made known. Finally, the knowledge of God which is set forth before us in Scripture, is designed for the same purpose by which it shines in creation: That we would learn to worship God with integrity of heart and complete obedience, and also depend entirely upon His goodness.

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