What the Bible says about what God is like…

[This is the first of two Addenda to the essay on “What God is Like.”]

God is not made of clay. We don’t get to mold him into whatever form pleases us. We get our information about him primarily from the Bible – at least I do – and I am convinced that the data there is reliable. I believe in the Bible and what it teaches me about God. Though this short essay has taken more of a philosophical approach and is not full of a lot of specific excerpts from the Scripture, please don’t take that to mean that I’m making stuff up about God. In this section you’ll find a primer of Scriptural support for my musings. Any number of other worthy resources on the character of God can give you a much more exhaustive list of passages, to say nothing of your own thoughtful reading through the Bible. In addition to the Bible itself, if I had to recommend just one book on the Person of God, it would be A.W. Tozer’s tiny book, The Knowledge of the Holy. It’s one of my favorite books of all time.

Don’t mistake the following list (or any other systematic study of theology) as evidence that God can be reduced to categories or bullet points. And don’t assume that these are all the things that could be said about his personality. It’s not as though there’s some magic number of attributes that comprise a thorough description of the divine. I’m not saying, “God’s character is six-fold; not seven or eight, just these six.” On the other hand, to my mind, there is value in having some semblance of organized thoughts about him. Though he wants to be known, and not simply studied, he does want us to know him as he actually is, and not as we would like him to be. “The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of him.” (Tozer)

Reliable information about the way God really is can be found in his Book wherein we are repeatedly cautioned against worshipping false gods and idols.  An idol is not only a wrong god, but may be a wrong concept of the true God. In place of gold or silver, many of our false gods are built of attributes that don’t belong to the true God at all. This type of idolatry is often the worship of a God concocted of qualities that we wish he had! Yet the true God seeks worshippers who worship him “in spirit and in truth.”

The following is a small list of qualities that I consider to comprise God’s character and a partial list of passages that affirm these qualities.

He’s holy

I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Leviticus 11:44

He is a holy God; and he is a jealous God. Joshua 24:19

Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God? 1Samuel 6:20

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. Psalm 22:3 

O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One… Habakkuk 1:12

God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. Psalm 47:8

He’s good

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8

You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. Psalm 86:5

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good. Psalm 135:3

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

The Lord will do what is good in his sight. 1 Chronicles 19:13

No one is good except God alone. Mark 10:18

He’s merciful

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ… Ephesians 2:4

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:11

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. Luke 1:50

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36

Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. Isaiah 55:7 

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1Peter 1:3

He’s loving

I have loved you with an everlasting love… Jeremiah 31:3

Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extend of his love… John 13:1

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. John 15:9

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

The God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11

God is love… 1 John 4:8

He’s wise

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Romans 11:33

Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:24

No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 1 Corinthians 2:7

By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; Proverbs 3:19

He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge Isaiah 33:6

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. Daniel 2:20

He’s faithful

He is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love for a thousand generations. Deuteronomy 7:9

Those who suffer… should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. 1 Peter 4:19

Even if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. 2 Timothy 2:13

He who promised is faithful… Hebrews 10:23

Faithful is he who calls you who also will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:24

I will betroth you in faithfulness… Hosea 2:19

He’s just

Retributive justice

In all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully, while we did wrong. Nehemiah 9:33

Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Psalm 97:2

There is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Isaiah 45:21

The LORD our God is righteous in everything he does… Daniel 9:14 

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne Psalm 89:14

Distributive justice

The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. Psalm 103:6

I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy. Psalm 140:12

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18

May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. Psalm 72:2

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne Psalm 89:14

Which of the passages above inspire you… inform you… convict you… comfort you?

Do you have a friend that could use a primer on God’s character? Why don’t you share this with them and invite them into a conversation about it.

If either you or your friend haven’t read the rest of the essay, you might go back to the beginning and work your way through – and share the posts with other friends along the way.

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