“TO WHOM THEN WILL YE LIKEN GOD? Or what likeness will ye compare unto Him?” asked the prophet (Isaiah 40:18). The Bible indicates that He is not exactly like anything or anybody we know. It does use our language to describe Him in human terms. The fact that it speaks of the arm, eye, hand or mouth of the Lord does not mean that He has these organs any more than it means He resembles a fowl when it says, “He shall cover thee with His feathers” (Psalm 91:4).
If He could be completely comprehended, explained and analyzed by man, then He would exist at man’s level. We should beware of rejecting facts about God just because we have no similar reference point or experience with which we can compare. A man asked Job, “Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” (Job 11:7). The answer is that we can know about God what He is pleased to reveal about Himself in Scripture and no more. Some concepts exceed the limits of our understanding.
Unique Attributes (Those Only God Possesses)
Certain statements are made in Scripture about the characteristics of God as He has chosen to reveal them to us. We call them “attributes.” God is:
He has life in Himself (John 5:26). He comes from nothing prior. He already existed in the beginning (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1).
From “everlasting to everlasting” He is God (Psalm 90:2; cf. Habakkuk 1:12). “He who is” expresses the name of I AM (Exodus 3:14), the One who compasses past, present and future (Revelation 4:8).
This means “without bounds or limits.” Nothing can contain God (1 Kings 8:27). Nothing can measure Him.
The Almighty has power and authority to do whatever He chooses (Job 42:2; Matthew 19:26). This is called “omnipotence.”
He has unlimited knowledge, understanding and awareness (Psalm 147:4-5). Nothing can be added to this in any way and nothing can either surprise or deceive Him (Hebrews 4:13; 1 John 3:20). This is called “omniscience.” He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). It includes His foreknowledge of all things (Acts 2:23).
He is unlimited as to place or time. He is everywhere at all times (Psalm 139:7-12). This is called “omnipresence.” He is inescapable (Jeremiah 23:23-24; Amos 9:2).
He may change in actions or dealings but He never changes in His eternal character and purposes (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). He is neither fickle nor unfaithful. This is called “immutability.”
He needs absolutely nothing from any source because He has no deficiencies (Acts 17:24-25).
He is ruler and controller over all and none can hinder Him. He works all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11; Isaiah 40:13-14). He has the unrestricted right as God to do whatever He pleases (Romans 9:15-18). He does not owe anything to anyone.
Relative Attributes (Those Man Can Share)
This is that sacrificial and self-giving expression which seeks the highest good for another. It is practical and beneficial. Because God loved us, He gave His Son to die for us (John 3:16). His love is not dependent on the loveliness or responsiveness of the object. In fact, God loves the hostile, the unappreciative and the sinful person, though hating the sin (1 John 4:10; Ephesians 2:4-5; Romans 5:8; Jeremiah 31:3). Compassion is closely allied with love. It involves inner sympathy or pity for others (Psalm 86:15; Matthew 9:36; Matthew 14:14).
His holy displeasure against all evil wherein men persist and will not repent (Colossians 3:5-7; Romans 2:4-6) is not a contradiction to His love but a different aspect of His character. Romans 1:18 shows us the object of his wrath: “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.”
His undeserved and freely-bestowed favor toward others is not a debt in response to good works (Romans 4:4-5; Romans 11:6). Grace offers salvation to mankind (Ephesians 2:8; Titus 2:11).
His active pity or compassion toward offenders or the needy, whereby relief is given, is similar to grace (Psalm 103:8). God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4).
He is apart from all other beings and there is no evil or impurity in Him (Psalm 99:9; Isaiah 57:15). He is called “The Holy One.” Heaven chants His holiness (Revelation 4:8; Isaiah 6:3). In the absolute sense, none is holy but God (Revelation 15:4; Hebrews 7:26). This quality necessitates the punishment of sin (Isaiah 59:2). We are called to be holy because He is holy (1 Peter 1:16).
6. Righteousness and Justice.
These spring from the same root word in the original language of the New Testament. This is impartiality or fairness in dealing with others. Nothing wrong can proceed from Him (Nehemiah 9:33; Psalm 145:17). He is the righteous Judge (2 Timothy 4:8) and He will unfailingly do that which is right (Genesis 18:25). His justice demands that sin’s penalty be paid and His love provides the payment so that He can be both “just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).
With God there is no falsehood, no unfaithfulness, no lack of consistency with Himself (Numbers 23:19; 1 John 5:20). He is the truth (John 14:6). He is absolutely and totally faithful (2 Timothy 2:13; Revelation 19:11).
His self-imposed restraint of actions that otherwise might properly be taken is a quality that is becoming to one who has great power. Endurance with longsuffering toward that which is displeasing is one aspect (Romans 9:22; Acts 13:18); persistence in seeking good is another (2 Peter 3:9).
God has all-knowledge, but His application of that knowledge displays an infinite wisdom—a deep understanding coupled with sound judgment (Romans 11:33; Ephesians 3:10). “There is no searching of His understanding” (Isaiah 40:28). The all-wise God searches the hearts of all men (Romans 8:27; 16:27).
His kindness of heart is the very quality which should lead men to repentance (Romans 2:4). God is full of this kindness, good will or benevolence (Psalm 119:68; 145:9). Human difficulties or sorrows should never cause us to doubt His goodness.
God is the greatest of all givers, having shown this in the supreme gift of His Son (John 3:16). That is why He loves cheerful givers (2 Corinthians 9:7). God gives liberally (James 1:5). It is He who opens the windows of heaven to pour down blessings. His style is to give measure, “that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).
Study Guide The Likeness Of God
God’s ways are governed by His character and His attributes. The following questions should help us to understand Him better.
1. It is difficult for man to understand what God is like because (select one)
a. man thinks God is like he is.
b. God’s ways are “higher” than man’s ways.
c. there is nothing or no one with whom to compare God.
d. God is unknowable.
e. all of the above.
f. a through c above.
2. What relationship does God have to everything that exists (Acts 17:24-25)?
What characteristics of God are described in the following verses that emphasize His total independence and self-sufficiency? (Explain in your own words.)
John 5:26; 1:1; Genesis 1:1
Exodus 3:14; Psalm 90:2; Revelation 4:8
1 Kings 8:27
3. Read Psalm 139. List three characteristics about God indicated in this passage,
4. Paraphrase (rewrite in your own words) Romans 8:28.
What comfort can a Christian get from this passage?
5. Which of the following is
not true of God’s love (select one)?
a. God loves the whole world.
b. God loved us before we loved Him.
c. God’s love is everlasting.
d. God’s love overlooks sin.
6. The wrath of God is as real as His love. What are the objects of God’s wrath (select three)?
a. all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men
b. the hard, unrepenting heart
c. the disobedient
d. the forgiven sinner
7. Match the following characteristics of God with the definition on the left:
-----Undeserved and freely-bestowed a. Grace (Ephesians 2:8; Titus 2:11)
favor toward others.
___Active pity or compassion toward b. Holiness (Psalm 99:9; Revelation
offenders or the needy. 15:4)
-----Completely lacking in impurity or evil. c. Mercy (Psalm 103:8; Ephesians
Set apart from all other beings. 2:4)
-----Impartiality or fairness in dealings d. Righteousness/Justice (Nehemiah
with others. 9:33; Genesis 18:25)
8. When the Bible says God is holy, it means (select one)
a. He is sinless.
b. He hates sin and loves all that is good.
c. He is separate from sinners.
d. all of the above,
What do you say? Carefully think through the characteristics of God that you studied above. Which are particularly comforting to you?
Are there any that disturb you? Why or why not?
Often people say, “I think God would do this” or “I don’t think He would do that.” Why is it important to understand the character of God before speculating on what He might or might not do?
What do others say? Contact at least three people this week and ask them the following questions. You may wish to say something like the following:
“I’m involved in a Bible Survey here in (name city). Could you help me by sharing your opinion on three important questions? (1) What are some characteristics of God that men do not share? (2) What does it mean that God is holy? (3) How do you account for the Biblical description of God as both a God of love and a God of wrath? Thank you so much for your help. Would you like for me to mail/e-mail you a copy of the survey results? Thank you.”
Record their names and addresses on the 3x5 cards provided by the class leader. Record the answers on the back, indicating if survey results are desired. Then return the cards next class meeting. Results of the survey will be tabulated by the class leader and mailed to each person indicating an interest.