Question: “How should a believer respond to the characteristics of God?”
Answer: God reveals Himself to believers through His Word (the Bible) and through His Son (Christ Jesus). The more we study the Bible, the more we come to understand God’s characteristics, the qualities He possesses. As mortals, we struggle to grasp the power and majesty of the God who has created time, space, matter, and all life. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8).
For the purpose of this article, we will focus on three key characteristics of God and the believer’s response to each.
Perhaps the most important characteristic of God is the moral attribute of His holiness. Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 describe the triple force of God’s holiness: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Only when a person glimpses the holiness of God in comparison to human sinfulness is there any hope for true repentance. When we realize the dreadful consequence of sin and consider that the sinless Son of God suffered our punishment, it brings us to our knees. We are silent before the face of God’s holiness, struck dumb by the reverence such holiness demands. Like Job, we say, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth” (Job 40:4). Understanding God’s holiness causes us to exalt His compassion (2 Corinthians 1:3), mercy (Romans 9:15), grace, and forgiveness (Romans 5:17) toward us. “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:3–4).
God’s most endearing characteristic is His love. Love requires relationship, and throughout eternity the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have existed together in relationship. God created us in His image, and we were created to be in relationship with Him (Genesis 3:17–18; Romans 1:19–20). Such is the extent of God’s love that He sent his only Son to redeem us from our sins. “This is how we know what love is; Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. God is love. . . . We love because he first loved us” (1 John 3:16–19). God provided the solution to sin in the person of Christ Jesus. Jesus came to take our punishment for sin and to satisfy God’s justice (John 1:1–5, 14, 29). At Calvary, God’s perfect love and perfect justice met. When we begin to grasp the great love of God, our responses are humility, repentance, and reciprocal love. Like King David we pray that God will create in us a pure heart and a steadfast spirit (Psalm 34:18; 51:10, 17). God lives in a high and holy place, but with Him are believers who are contrite and lowly in spirit (Isaiah 57:15).
Finally, we will consider the sovereignty of God (Psalm 71:16; Isaiah 40:10). God is eternal, from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:2). He is the source of all life (Romans 11:33–36). He is independent of His creation (Acts 17:24–28). Abraham, Samuel, Isaiah, Daniel, and David all acknowledged God as their Sovereign Lord: “Praise be to you, O Lord, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name” (David’s words in 1 Chronicles 29:10–13). The believer honors the Sovereign Lord who has bought us and gladly submits to Him (2 Peter 2:1; James 4:7; Jude 1:4).
King David eloquently summed up the characteristics of God: “The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity. . . . The Lord on high is mighty. Your statutes stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days, O Lord” (Psalm 93:1–2, 4–5).
A few men of faith have been privileged to experience God’s presence, to have God speak directly to them. This is how some of them responded:
Moses asked to see the glory of the Lord, and the Lord agreed to cause all of His goodness to pass in front of Moses. “I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen” (Exodus 33:21–22). Moses’ response was to bow down and worship. Like Moses, the believer will bow down and worship the Lord, filled with awe as we contemplate the glory that is our God.
Job never lost his faith in God, even under the most heartbreaking circumstances that tested him to his core. “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face” (Job 13:15). Job was utterly silenced by God when He spoke to him out of the storm. Job confessed that he spoke of things he did not understand, things too wonderful for him to know. “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:1–6). Like Job, our response to God should be one of humble obedience and trust, submission to His will, whether we understand it or not.
Isaiah had a vision of the Lord seated on his throne and of seraphs who cried out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). So overwhelming was this vision that Isaiah cried out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:1–5). Isaiah realized he was a sinner in the presence of the Holy God, and his response was repentance. John’s vision of the throne of God in heaven inspired in him great awe. John fell down as if dead at the feet of the glorified Lord (Revelation 1:17–18). Like Isaiah and John, we are humbled in the presence of God’s majesty.
There are many other characteristics of God revealed in the Bible. God’s faithfulness leads us to trust Him. His grace prompts gratitude in us. His power incites awe. His knowledge causes us to ask Him for wisdom (James 1:5). Those who know God will conduct themselves in holiness and honor (1 Thessalonians 4:4–5).
Recommended Resource: Knowing God by J.I. Packer