The Islamic call to prayer begins with “Allahu akbar”, which means “God is great” or “God is greater”. This phrase is recited by Muslims in many different situations.
There are lots of ideas about God. Some think God’s like a harsh judge or policeman. Others think God’s like an indulgent grandfather. Is God close or distant? Is God involved in our world or disinterested? Is God separate from creation (nature) or a part of it? Is God fixed or changeable?
Job’s friends were rebuked for misrepresenting God (Job. 42:7). And the Israelites were commanded not to worship false gods (Ex. 20:3-5). God has revealed Himself to humanity in creation, the Bible and Jesus Christ. As all we know about Jesus is from the Bible, the Bible is the best way to know what God is like and what He is not like.
What does the Bible reveal about God’s attributes, characteristics, nature or qualities? In this case we are looking at who God is, not what He does. Erickson (2013) divides these attributes into two categories: God’s greatness, and God’s goodness. This blogpost summarizes eleven aspects of God’s greatness.
God is Spiritual
Jesus said, “God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24NIV). This means that God’s not part of our physical world. It’s like He is in a different dimension or realm of reality. He is not composed of physical matter and is not restricted by the limitations of our physical universe. So God is invisible (1 Tim. 1:17; 6:15-16). But Jesus did reveal some of God’s attributes when He took on a human form (Jn. 1:18; Col. 1:15). So, let’s study the Bible to find out more about the unseen God and how He wants us to live.
God is Alive
Jesus said, “as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son (Jesus) also to have life in Himself” (Jn. 5:26). God is self-existent and the source of all life (Acts 17:25). In contrast to dead idols, He is a living God (Jer.10:10; 1 Th. 1:9). Because God is alive, He can think, act, communicate, and answer our prayers. And He can give spiritual life to those who seek Him. So, let’s bring our cares and needs to the living God in prayer.
God is Personal
The Bible teaches that God is personal, with self-consciousness, intelligence to reason and design, a will, capable of feeling, and choosing and having a relationship with people. Personal names and pronouns are applied to God. In the beginning, God communicated with Adam and Eve. And later, Jesus visited earth as a human being. God is not an impersonal force. So, let’s interact with the personal God as we read the Bible.
God is Triune
It is evident from Scripture that there is one true God who is in the form of three persons. When dismissing idols as gods, Paul said that “There is no God but one” (1 Cor. 8:4). And in a discussion on faith and deeds James said “You believe that there is one God. Good!” (Jas. 2:19). So Christianity is monotheistic. But it is a different monotheism to that of Islam.
Jesus told His disciples, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son (Jesus Christ) and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19). Here the singular name of God is said to be “the Father … the Son and … the Holy Spirit”, which is three persons. Jesus was God (Jn. 1:1). He was “in very nature God” and equal with God (Phil. 2:6). Jesus was also “the exact representation of His (God’s) being” and called “God” and “Lord” (Heb. 1: 3, 8, 10). Also, the Bible uses the “Holy Spirit” and “God” as interchangeable expressions” (Acts. 5:3-4; 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19). So let’s praise God for sending Jesus as part of His plan of salvation. And pray to Him in Jesus name because Jesus is our mediator (Jn. 16:23). And realize that the Holy Spirit is always available to help us because He lives within us.
God is Infinite
As God created everything, He can’t be limited by anything. This includes: time, space, knowledge, power, and anything else we can think of. He is outside time and space (or in a different dimension or realm of being). So He can’t be limited by any of the constraints in the universe. God’s greatness can’t be measured. So, let’s respond with awe to the infinite God. As this attribute is beyond our understanding, it is considered in more detail in the next four attributes.
God is Eternal
Because God existed before there was time, He isn’t limited in time. He’s not located at a particular time in history because He created time. This means that He doesn’t have a time clock like us. He always is, always was and always will be. God is eternal – He is “the eternal God” (Gen. 21:33; Dt., 33:27; Rom. 16:26). As God existed before anything else came into being (Gen. 1:1), He can continue to exist independently of everything else. Because He had no beginning (or cause), God has no birthday or age. He also has no end – He is immortal. Moses prayed, “from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Ps. 90:2). This means that God is always present. He has access to creation at all times. Although God isn’t bound by time, He is aware of the succession of events within the history of the universe. And because God is eternal, He doesn’t get taken by surprise. So, let’s appreciate the eternal life we have though the eternal God.
God is Everywhere (omnipresent)
Because God existed before there was space, He isn’t limited in space. He’s not located at a particular point because He created space. This means that He doesn’t have any GPS coordinates like us. Conversely, there is no point in space where it can be said that God isn’t present. David wrote, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens (up), you are there; if I make my bed in the depths (down), you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn (east), if I settle on the far side of the sea (west), even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Ps. 139:7-10). David couldn’t hide from God’s presence. This means that God is accessible at any point in His creation. And God can access all the universe. So God is omnipresent. But this doesn’t mean that He is everything. So, let’s be aware of God’s presence at all times.
God is All-knowing (omniscient)
Because God existed before knowledge came into being, He knows everything. David wrote, “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (Ps. 139:2-6). And the writer of Hebrews says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him (God) to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13). God sees and knows everything! Nothing is hidden from Him. Nothing is a mystery to Him. So God is omniscient. Since He knows everything, His justice will always be administered fairly. So, let’s trust the all-knowing God to know what is best for us.
God is All-powerful (omnipotent)
Because God created and sustains everything, He has unlimited power. From Genesis to Revelation, He is referred to as “God Almighty”. God told Abram, “I am God Almighty” (Gen. 17:1). And John saw “the Lord God Almighty” in his vison of the heavenly city (Rev. 21:22). God’s power over nature is illustrated in the Bible by many miracles such as the birth of Isaac, the plagues in Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, and Christ’s miracles including the stilling of the storm. Of course God cannot act contrary to His nature or fail to fulfil His promises. So, let’s trust the all-powerful God to keep His promises.
God is Constant (unchanging)
God’s attributes don’t change with time. Although the Jews repeatedly broke their covenant with God, God kept His part of the covenant in accordance with the statement that “I the Lord do not change” (Mal. 3:6). And James says that God “does not change like shifting shadows” (Jas. 1:17). There is no reason for God to change because He is perfect. So He is constant, consistent, reliable and trustworthy. He’s perpetually the same. That’s why God is said to be like a rock (Dt. 32:4). This means that God is dependable and will fulfil His promises. So, let’s rely on the constant God.
God is All-sufficient (sustainer)
When Jacob blessed his son Joseph, he said that God Almighty blesses “with blessings of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and womb” (Gen. 49:25). So God nourishes and sustains His people like a mother breastfeeds her infant. Because God is self-sufficient, He needs nothing from anyone. He is able to supply all the needs of His people; “my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). God has addressed all our problems, doubts and difficulties, in the gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ. So, let’s rely on the all-sufficient God to get through the trials of life.
God’s greatness in Scripture
The Bible refers repeatedly to God’s greatness. He is “the great God” (Dt. 10:17; Ezra 5:8; Neh. 8:6; 9:32; Ps. 95:3; Dan. 2:45) and “great and awesome” (Dt. 7:21; Dan. 9:4). Also, Jesus is said to be “our great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13). The Hebrew word is gadol (Strongs #1419), which in this context means great in importance (Brown-Driver-Briggs). The Greek word is megas (Strongs #3173), which in this context means a person of great rank because of their ability, virtue and power (Thayer’s Greek Lexion). In these passages, this greatness relates to the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The magnitude of His greatness is described as:
– “God is greater than any mortal” (Job 33:12)
– “How great is God—beyond our understanding!” (Job 36:26)
– God is “very great” (Ps. 96:4)
– God is “greater than all” (Jn. 10:29)
God’s greatness demands a response:
– “praise the greatness of our God!” (Dt. 32:3)
– “great is the Lord and most worthy of praise” (1 Chron. 16:25; Ps. 104:1)
– “And they were all amazed at the greatness of God” (Lk. 9:43)
God and humanity
The only attributes listed above that are shared by humanity are spirit, life and personality. But there are also differences. While on earth, our spirits are linked with our bodies, whereas God the Father and the Holy Spirit are spirits without bodies and Jesus Christ is a spirit linked to a resurrected (heavenly) body. Although we are alive, we are not self-existent or the source of all life. And although we can know, feel, will and act, we can’t do this as three persons! But because we are both personal, we can have a relationship with God.
Lessons for us
Our God is great because He is an infinite, eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, living and personal triune spirit, who is reliable (constant) and all-sufficient. God is mega! He is unique, being far above humanity and any other deity. He’s greater than Allah and all other gods. So He deserves our praise and worship!
Millard J. Erickson (2013) “Christian theology”. Third edition. Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI, USA.
Written, April 2017
Using the resource that God gives us
There are two natures present within believers – the sinful and the divine. The sinful nature is inherited by everyone and powered by Satan (Rom. 5:12; Jas. 3:15). In some Bible translations it is also referred to as “earthly,” “the flesh,” “the world” or the “old man.” Sin is evident every day of our lives, causing many of the struggles in the Christian life.
The divine nature is a consequence of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers, giving them a new attitude and godly behavior (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23-24). This becomes evident when one is controlled by the Holy Spirit and obedient to God (Rom. 6:16; 8:6-9). The divine nature is sometimes referred to as “godly,” “heavenly,” “spiritual” or the “new man.” The divine nature is beneficial now and for the future (1 Tim. 4:8).
Purpose Of The Divine Nature
Second Peter 1:3-11 tells why Christians should express the divine nature in their daily lives. Its development is essential for a useful life and it is God’s provision to counteract the sinful nature. He has given us “everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3 NIV), so we have the resources to live a life that pleases Him.
Through God’s power and promises we should “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Pet. 1:4). His promises include His living among His people, in the person of the Holy Spirit, and treating us with parental care, as His children (2 Cor. 6:16-18). So, the power to express the divine nature is divine, not human (Jn. 15:5). The Greek word translated “participate” is “koinonos”, which means “partakers,” “sharers” or “having something in common,” and is described elsewhere as partners and companions. This implies that God shares His nature with us, and our active involvement (“make every effort” in 2 Pet. 1:5) is conveyed in the New International Version by expressing this as the verb “participate.”
An important reason for participating in the divine nature is that it helps us combat the sinful nature (2 Pet. 1:4). If we follow the Spirit’s guidance, we “will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Gal. 5:16). Also, replacing activities of the sinful nature with those of the divine nature helps stop giving Satan a foothold in our lives and reduces our double-mindedness (Eph. 4:22-27; Jas. 4:8). The more we participate in the divine nature the less time we’ll have for the sinful nature.
Therefore, we are exhorted “to make every effort to add to your faith goodness … knowledge … self-control … perseverance … godliness … brotherly kindness and … love” (2 Pet. 1:5-7). The Greek word for how to do this is “spoude,” meaning “eager, earnest, zealous, diligent.” We should “make every effort” to express these characteristics of the divine nature.
This is followed by a promise of effective and productive lives if these qualities are increasingly present (2 Pet. 1:8), as in our growth towards Christlikeness (Eph. 4:13-15). Failure to develop these virtues leaves us spiritually blind and forgetful (2 Pet. 1:9).
Also, there is this promise: “If you do these things you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom” (2 Pet. 1:10). The Greek word for fall is “ptaio,” meaning “to stumble.” It is used metaphorically in this verse meaning to stumble into sin. Similarly, Christ has been described as “Him who is able to keep you from falling” (Jude 24). But of course, James said, “we all stumble in many ways,” so this means that the more we are occupied with the divine nature, the less likely we are to fall into sinful behavior (Jas. 3:2).
Images Of The Divine Nature
Fortunately for a generation that thinks visually, the Bible teems with illustrations. Scriptural examples of the divine nature in believers can increase our understanding of this gift from God.
The fruit of the Spirit is well known: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Paul urges believers to clothe themselves with: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness. “And over all these virtues put on love” (Col. 3:12-14). Furthermore, we are exhorted to flee sinful behavior and pursue: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness, and peace (1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22). Finally, the wisdom that comes from heaven is: pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (Jas. 3:17). This results in a “harvest of righteousness” (v. 18).
The symbols used in these examples provide a further impression of the divine nature. It increases, grows, sustains, protects, is a worthwhile goal, and is true wisdom. What attractive and desirable images!
Attributes Of The Divine Nature
The main features of the divine nature, summarized from the Bible, are listed at the end of this article. These are the characteristics of God and Christianity. They are seen in creation (Rom. 1:20), in Christ (Jn. 14:9-11) and should be evident in believers before a watching world. Christ told His followers to love one another so that others would know who were His disciples (Jn. 13:34-45). Fruitful lives are also evident in His disciples (Jn. 15:8). Similarly, the divine nature should distinguish believers today, as God communicates through them (2 Cor. 5:20; 1 Jn. 3:7-10).
Enough Evidence To Convict Us Of Being Christian?
Christianity changes people, transforming their attitudes, desires and values. For example, the dramatic changes to Peter and John were explained by the fact that they “had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). By participating in the divine nature, believers are changed by the Holy Spirit to become more like Christ: “transformed into His likeness” (2 Cor. 3:17-18). Then there is our final transformation: “When He appears, we shall be like Him” (Phil. 3:21; 1 Jn. 3:2).
After advising Christians to be occupied with things that are: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy, Paul urges them to put into practice what they have learned (Phil. 4:8-9). Who controls our lives is largely up to us. We can make choices on how we live our lives more often than we think. This is why we should “make every effort” to let the Spirit replace our sinful values, attitudes and desires with godly ones.
So, let’s get involved in the divine nature, making the most of every opportunity to be God’s fellow-workers, recognizing the divine nature in others and encouraging other Christians in it as well (2 Cor. 6:1; Eph. 5:16).
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