Attributes of God by Don McKay

The post In this forum are all by Pastor Don McKay. They were moved here from the old forum by Eye. They were the hottest topics discussed under his forum in the odf forum.
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Attributes of God by Don McKay

Post by Eye » Tue Oct 10, 2017 3:45 pm

As I have said here many times our understanding of God and His divine Attributes is absolutely necessary to understanding God's Word. This is because God is by nature of his Divine Attributes limited in what He can do. This is not imposing limits on an omnipotent God it is delineating God's character and the qualities of His nature which determine how He has to do things.

For instance, many try to trip Christians up by asking, "If God is all-powerful, can He make a rock so large that He can't move it?" this question is an example of a very limited understanding of God and His attributes. There are limits to what God can and cannot do, but these are determined by His divine Attributes. God is completely Holy. He cannot allow sin in His presence. However, We are told that God is omnipresent which means that He is every where at once. Doesn't this mean that if He is everywhere at once that at some point He must be in contact with sin? Obviously the answer is yes. But there is a class of Angel who have the task of protecting the presence of God From sin. One of the class of angels is the Cherubim. It was a Cherubim that was placed at the entrance of the Garden of Eden to keep Adam and Eve & family from reentering Eden. There are carved images of two cherubim on the Judgment seat of the Ark of the Covenant watching over the Judgment seat. In God's presence we are told that He is surrounded by Cherubim who watch over the throne and carry God when He travels. Lucifer, believed to have been the most powerful and authoritative of the Cherubim is believed to have been directly responsible for maintaining the holiness of the presence of God, until he decided that he would ascend to the throne and replace God am became Satan.

Part of the problem that we have is that we can only have a partial understanding of the spirit realm in which God, the angels and demons exist and carry on their work. This is one of the strongest reasons for us to study the Attributes of God because it is only through gaining as much as possible an understanding of God's Divine Attributes that we can possibly understand as much of the Scriptures as we possibly can.

For most of us the only Attribute of God that we can think of is the Attribute of Love. This is so much the case that we have placed such an emphasis on this Attribute that many tend to define Scripture through the lens of God being the embodiment of Love. But this is only but one of God's Divine Attributes and it has to be tempered by His other attributes such as His holiness, Righteousness, Justice, omniscience, etc.

I believe that one of the best introductions to the study of the Attributes of God was written by a Pastor friend of mine. I know that he will not mind his words being used here to introduce the same study as he undertook to teach years ago.

A Study of the Attributes of God


A. W. Tozer said, ”What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.“ Is this true? Indeed it is, for those who worship God must, according to John 4:24, worship Him in spirit and truth. Yet a fundamental problem with many churches and Christians today is the lack of a solid understanding of the attributes of our sovereign God. As followers of Jesus Christ, a biblically high view of God is absolutely essential, for we will only be strong and faithful to the extent that our view of God and His grace is biblical. In the same vein, we will only be as obedient, worshipful, and pleasing to our Holy Creator as our view of Him is high.
It should not be surprising, then, that a Christian or a church with a weak and/or distorted view of God will also be a Christian or church that will not be as strong as it should be as it deals with the onslaughts of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

When we are born, we enter this world with a high view of ourselves (cute as they are, no one questions the fact that the self-centeredness of little children surfaces quickly!). And as we grow older, we often attempt to know God on our terms and, consciously or not, pull Him down to our level. But when we do, God lovingly but firmly says, ”You thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you“ (Psalm 50:21). When we are born from above (or less precisely, ”born-again“, John 3:3), we do not mystically nor instantly have a full knowledge of God, let alone our responsibility before Him. Therefore, we must apply our hearts and minds to that which God has revealed of Himself and ourselves, for it is only then that we will come to a richer appreciation of His marvelous grace . . . an appreciation that moves us beyond dry, head knowledge and into the vibrant, life-changing application of His truth.

Many are our sins but none so serious as that of idolatry. In the past idols were made out of wood and stone with hammer and chisel, but many of today’s idols are more subtle. They are built in the hearts and minds of men and women and are the outworking of hearts set not on pleasing God but on pleasing self. And what’s tricky is that many of these idols masquerade as ”good“ things, e.g., children, families, church work, careers, sports, money, etc. But if the god we serve and worship is a god that is foreign to the pages of Scripture, a god that has been fashioned in our own minds and/or by a distortion of God’s Word, then we are, in effect, idolaters. We must therefore guard ourselves from idols of any kind (1Jo 5:21) and be willing to ”flee from idolatry“ as Paul exhorts us (1Co 10:14). We must strive, by God’s grace, to increasingly live for and thereby worship Him in both spirit and truth.

Purpose of Course
The goal of these studies is for each of us is to glorify God as we grow in our knowledge of and love for Him. The result will be an increase in holiness as we live in joyful obedience to His Word. We aim to experience what Isaiah described when he said, ”Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee“ (Isa 26:3). We will spend the next five months or so endeavoring to acquaint ourselves with God by looking closely at what Scripture has revealed of His character and attributes. We will also study other foundational, yet oft-neglected, truths that directly impact how we live the Christian life. Without seriously applying our hearts and minds to these things that God has revealed in His written Word, we will never grow as we should in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

On the other hand, this class is not geared to merely building up an intellectual understanding of abstract theological terms and concepts. That would not be true acquaintance with God. Many men have lived, are living, and will live who possess great knowledge of theology and the Bible, but have never truly experienced and understood the precious, heart-changing gift of God’s grace through saving faith in Jesus Christ (as a classic example, the head of the religion department at my wife’s college, a prestigious Eastern school, was an Oxford Th.D., former Vatican priest turned atheist!) As A. W. Pink said in the introduction to his book, The Attributes of God:

”Something more than a theoretical knowledge of God is needed by us. God is only truly known in the soul as we yield ourselves to Him, submit to His authority, and regulate all the details of our lives by His holy precepts and commandments.“

We intend, Lord willing, to build a knowledge of God that surpasses mere intellectualism, a knowledge that, by His grace, changes our lives forever. We will aim to ”know as we ought to know“ (1Co 8:2) so that we might please God, wonder at His majesty, and understand and appreciate what the psalmist meant when God inspired him to write, ”Be still and know that I am God“ (Psa 46:10). Rather than leading to pride, such knowledge will lead to true humility. Along these lines, the following extended excerpt from chapter one of J. I. Packer’s book, Knowing God, remains wise counsel that we all should heed:

”…We … to stop and ask ourselves a very fundamental question —
a question, indeed, that we always ought to put to ourselves whenever we embark on any line of study in God’s holy book. The question concerns our own motives and intentions as students. We need to ask ourselves: What is my ultimate aim and object in occupying my mind with these things? What do I intend to do with my knowledge about God, once I have it? For the fact that we have to face is this: If we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it; and we shall look down of those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate and dismiss them as very poor specimens. For, as Paul told the conceited Corinthians, ”Knowledge puffs up . . . The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know“ (1Co 8:1-2).

To be preoccupied with getting theological knowledge as an end in itself, to approach Bible study with no higher a motive than a desire to know all the answers, is the direct route to a state of self-satisfied, self deception. We need to guard our hearts against such an attitude, and pray to be kept from it. As we saw earlier, there can be no spiritual health without doctrinal knowledge; but it is equally true that there can be no spiritual health with it, if it is sought for the wrong purpose and valued by the wrong standard. In this way, doctrinal study really can become a danger to spiritual life, and we today, no less than the Corinthians of old, need to be on our guard here.

But, says someone, is it not a fact that a love for God’s revealed truth, and a desire to know as much of it as one can, are natural to every person who has been born again? Look at Psalm 119: ”teach me Your decrees“; ”open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law“; ”Oh, how I love Your law!“; ”How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!“; ”give me discernment that I may understand Your statutes“ (vv. 12, 18, 97, 103, 125). Do not all children of God long, with the psalmist, to know just as much about our heavenly Father as we can learn? Is not, indeed, the fact that we have received a love for His truth in this way one proof that we have been born again (2Th 2:10)? And is it not right that we should seek to satisfy this God-given desire to the full?

Yes, of course it is. But if you look back to Psalm 119 again, you will see that the psalmist’s concern to get knowledge about God was not a theoretical but a practical concern. His supreme desire was to know and enjoy God himself, and he valued knowledge about God simply as a means to this end. He wanted to understand God’s truth in order that his heart might respond to it and his life be conformed to it. Observe the emphasis of the opening verses: ”Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Blessed are they who keep His statutes and seek Him with all their heart . . . Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying Your decrees!“ (vv. 1-2, 5).

The psalmist was interested in truth and orthodoxy, in biblical teaching and theology, not as ends in themselves, but as means to the further ends of life and godliness. His ultimate concern was with the knowledge and service of the great God whose truth he sought to understand. And this must be our attitude too.“

We will all be deeply challenged in our thinking and, therefore, our living in the upcoming weeks. Let’s move forward together echoing A. A. Hodge’s prayer ”that in gaining breadth we may not lose height, and that in gaining peace and love we may not lose purity and truth.“

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