2 August 2020
The authentic Christian understanding of God is trinitarian: God is a single divine being eternally existing as three distinct persons – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit – the three sharing equal divine dignity and glory. The Father shared in glory with the Son from all eternity, before all worlds. It is this fellowship, in the communion of the Spirit, that upholds the pillars of the earth, otherwise this planet would cease to be. It is within this fellowship that both creation and recreation were planned in the context of mutual personal love and delight. Indeed, within the Trinity, there is not only self-existence and self-sufficiency; there is also endless self-delight and satisfaction. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are coequal and coeternal, uncreated and inseparable, undivided though distinguishable, sharing a life and fellowship of endless delight and satisfaction in the context of wondrous unending love.
It is Christ who brings us to see, and then to sharei in, the glory of God. It was to this end that the Son of God assumed our humanity. But in reality, it is the Father who gave us His Son to redeem us and His Spirit to renew us; the three divine persons work together to raise us up into spiritual life and bring us to the glory of God’s kingdom. God, in establishing His covenant of redemption with us (within the covenant of grace), invites us to share in the inner life and fellowship of the triune God! This is our high calling and privilege that the transcendent God, so infinitely distant from us creatures, should reveal Himself to us in the Bible and in His Son and come near to us to be with us, for us and in us in the covenant of redemption.
We must not dismiss the doctrine of the Trinity; if the place of any of the three persons is misunderstood or denied, the gospel falls. Clear confession of the Trinity is foundational and essential. The gospel proclaims precisely the joint saving action of the three persons, and is lost as soon as our understanding of their distinct divine personhood is lost. In our preaching and teaching, we may make the mistake of stressing the cross all the time and say little about the Holy Spirit, or stressing God’s saving plan or the Spirit’s renewing work all the time and say too little about the cross. False proportions in our doctrine are the beginning of false doctrine itself. It is with this in mind that I propose to share on God the Father in the context of the trinity; we have been taught to address God as “Our Father” and we confess our faith in the Apostles’ creed and in the Nicene creed, beginning with the affirmation: “I believe in God the Father almighty…” Despite this apparent familiarity, to many believers, God the Father may be the most neglected member of the Trinity.
Take for instance: we have heard numerous times various ones praying: ‘Our father, we thank you for dying for us on the cross…’ or ‘Dear Father, we look forward to your second coming…’ This may seem rather trivial but perhaps it reflects somewhat our lack of understanding and appreciation of the trinity and the distinct personhood of the three persons in the Godhead. Misunderstanding the doctrine of the Trinity would invariably affect the accurate communication of the gospel and also deplete the enrichment of our worship and adoration of the triune God. In looking at the Father, we must be conscious that the three persons of the Godhead ‘work together as a team’; although we focus on the Father in our study of the triune God in this instance for a more wholesome appreciation of the Father, we must not forget that the biblical sense of God is uniformly trinitarian, Christ-centred and Spirit-centred to the core.
We begin with the sense that God in heaven, this world’s maker and judge, is our Father, who sent His Son to redeem us; who adopted us into His family; who loves us; watches over us, listen to us, cares for us, showers gifts upon us, who preserves us for the inheritance of glory that He keeps in store for us, and to whom we have access through Christ, by the Spirit. When we use the term “God’ in this sharing, we are looking specifically at God the Father although the term refers to the three in one in reality. Some of the attributes brought up may refer more to God the Father in their emphasis, but it must not be forgotten that they also would include the Son and the Spirit to some extent.
The attributes of God
The Self-existence of God
God is uncaused and uncreated, existing by the necessity of His own being, never needing to be created because He always was, and without any capacity or possibility ever not to be. He is the eternal One, who possesses the ground of existence in Himself. He did not receive His being from another, nor did He bring Himself into existence (Psalm 90:2;Isaiah 40:28; Genesis 1:1). He is the ground and first cause of all things, and it is only through Him that all things exist (including ourselves). We and all things are therefore dependent on Him for our existence. He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else (Acts 17:25, 28). All things hold together in Him (Colossians 1:16-17). Our appreciation of this should help us to be humble, contrite and fully dependent on HIm in our lives. Our God is infinite: it means that in HIs being and perfections, He is absolutely free from all limitations, conditions and defects. He is not limited is space and time; even the heavens, the highest heaven, cannot contain Him (1 Kings 8:27).
The unsearchable Knowledge and Wisdom of God
God is boundless and unsearchable in knowledge (Romans 11:33); He has no teacher, no counsellor; no one has understood the mind of God. He is omniscient, knowing all things even before He created them. All things depend on God’s knowledge, while HIs knowledge depends on nothing, but is as independent as His own essence. If we truly recognise this, there is no place to be proud of our achievements in our knowledge and understanding, for “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55: 8-9). There is certainly no place to be arrogant and to question God in a ‘high and mighty way’, for we are just mere creatures before an almighty all-knowing God and creator.
The knowledge of God is perfect and infallible. He sees all things at once in their totality.
Nothing is hidden from Him. Knowing this, we cannot hide from Him; He sees us and notes our inner motives and beings (Psalm 94:11; 1 Chronicles 28:9). We cannot manipulate Him, for He is perfectly acquainted with every detail in the life of every creature in heaven and on earth. We cannot but be honest and transparent before Him (Hebrews 4:13), for He knows all things about all things – nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. His wisdom is pure, loving and good, and, because it unites with His powers, it never fails.
The Authority and Power of God
‘Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him’ (Psalm 115:3). He is absolutely free to act as and when He chooses without consulting any of HIs creatures or requiring their approval. There is no other authority in heaven or on earth to whom He is responsible. The universe is under God’s control and, being superior to every obstruction, He does freely everything that seems good to Him. Nothing He wills is ever frustrated, and His counsels are immovable and infallible. ‘The plans of the Lord God stand firm for ever, the purposes of His heart through all generations’ (Psalm 33:11).
There are no events in this world that are not directed by HIs hand in accordance with His pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:5, 11). There are no ‘accidents’ outside His control. In the light of this, we can be confident in His authority and power and we can trust Him absolutely without any wavering, for He is in control and He never makes a mistake. We can be sure that God is entirely dependable and able to keep His promises and to fulfill them.
The Immutability of God
‘I the Lord do not change’ (Malachi 3:6); the Father of the heavenly lights does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17). God is both immutable in Himself and unchangeable by anything outside Himself. He is eternally exalted above every cause and effect and entirely separate from any possibility of change. He cannot grow, decay, improve or deteriorate. He is perpetually the same and can never cease to be God – He is perfect. He can never become more or less powerful for He is eternally omnipotent. Nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:17); His love endures for ever (Psalm118:29). His word of truth stands firm in the heavens (Psalm 119:89), He is constant in all HIs perfections and therefore utterly dependable in HIs relations and faithful to His covenants. Great indeed is His faithfulness and we can rest in this.
God’s decree stands as an immovable mountain, founded on infallible wisdom and supported by unrestricted power. His eternal purpose is unchanging in nature (Hebrews 6:17), His promises never fail and HIs plans are executed without modifications. What He performs in time He planned from eternity, and what He planned in eternity He carries out in time.
Some have raised that a number of passages in the BIble seem to ascribe changes to God. He appears to change His mind (Exodus 32:14; Jonah 3:10). God cannot change in HIs being, perfections, promises or purpose, but He does act and move. He does not change HIs will but He does change His work. When a change occurs, it is not a change in God, for HIs will and essence are the same, but a change in man and in his relations to God. The change was in the creature, which began to be what it was not before. God always acts upon His creatures according to His immutable, holy and just nature. Hence the innocent are the objects of His kindness and the wicked the objects of His wrath.
The Goodness of God
The nature of God is pre-eminently characterised by goodness. In fact, pure and perfect goodness is the royal prerogative of God alone. If we look at all the previous attributes and miss the goodness of God, we miss the real essence and being of our God. God is good – good in Himself, good in His essence, good in the highest degree, and the possessor of whatever is pleasant, excellent and desirable. Whatever is perfect goodness is God and whatever is truly goodness in any creature is a resemblance of God. In HIm there is nothing but good and only good proceeds from Him. God exercises HIs goodness in various modes – love, grace, mercy, forbearance – according to the relations and conditions of His creatures.
He is in Himself absolute moral perfection and perfect bliss. He is all-good and alone-good, and the highest good for all His creatures. No one is good – except God alone (Mark 10:18). His goodness includes His righteousness, justice and holiness. Because He is righteous, just and holy, He expresses wrath against evil and sin – His wrath is a judicial and righteous hostility to sin, which manifests itself in frightful and yet just judgements against the wicked.
As we focus on the divine perfections of God the Father, we trust that we would understand the glory of God’s character. Not only do we bow before Him in reverence and awe, but we feel confident to approach the throne of grace, so that we might receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need. When we know and appreciate God’s goodness and His perfect love for us, it strengthens our assurance that no matter what happens to us in this life, nothing can affect the security of our eternal salvation. God will not withhold or withdraw His love from us, but will hold us in His hand through darkness and storms, through persecution and death. A mother can even forget her baby and have no compassion on her child, but God assures us that He will not forget us (Isaiah 49:15).
When we understand the righteousness of God, we know that one day all the wrongs we daily see will be put right and, with the inhabitants of heaven, we would praise and worship God for His just and true ways, for He alone is holy, true and just. We need not fret that the wicked seem to prosper and injustice continues to prevail.
When we understand the character of God and what His Son, Jesus Christ, has accomplished on the cross, it moves us to draw near to God as a child draws near to his father, without fear and in perfect peace. When we appreciate His immutability, omniscience, omnipotence, sovereignty and faithfulness, we can have absolute confidence in His being, HIs promises and His ability to bring to pass His eternal plans and purpose for His people collectively and personally. Indeed, He is totally reliable and dependable – nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, and we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).