grace

This week we continue in our reflection of of God’s attributes, specifically his goodness attributes. In this post and the previous two posts, we are following Millard Erickson’s division of greatness and goodness attributes found in his book, Introducing Christian Doctrine. Last week’s attributes focused on God’s character and nature with regard to his purity and righteousness. This week’s post emphasizes God’s goodness with regard to his loving interaction with humanity.

How do you imagine God? Do you think of him as an ancient old man smiling down on his poor creatures? Do you think of him as a grandfather figure? Do you think of him as a wrathful tyrant ready to strike rebellious humans with a lighting bolt? By the way, that last question describes the Greek deity, Zeus, far more than the God of the Bible.

My reason for asking your perception of God is that who you believe God to be plays a significant role in how you respond to him. If God is wrathful, then you might be afraid of hm. If God is a loving grandfather type, then you might want to just sit with him. If God is an old man prone to smiles, then you might merely laugh at him.

Our perceptions of God are not always accurate. For right and true understanding of who God is, we need his self-revelation found in Scripture.

The testimony of Scripture is far greater and more glorious than our typecast images of God. In fact, our typecast images of God might be idolatrous (see Exodus 20:3-6).

When we reflect on God, we need to see him for who he reveals himself to be rather than our preconceived notions. We need to see God as fully and gloriously as possible. These posts are my very limited attempt to get us to think of God in the greatness, grandeur, glory, and goodness that he has revealed himself to be. If this is your first time reading one of my posts, please go back and reflect on God’s transcendence, immanence, Trinitarian unity, greatness, and goodness (pt. 1). Here are three more goodness attributes that we discover from the Bible.

God is mercy. Mercy is not getting what one deserves. Mercy is the counterpart to justice. It is just when God punishes sin. Throughout biblical history, God punished sin individually and corporately. In the Old Testament, God judged Israel for her idolatry and punished individuals specifically for their sinfulness. When God shows mercy, he stays his hand of judgment. We want God to be just, and he is. But if God were absolutely just, in that he could only act according to justice, then we would be in a hopeless situation. If God were just with you and me, we would be destined for eternity in the judgment of hell. Yet God is merciful. He does not give us what we deserve.

God is grace. Grace is getting what one does not deserve. An acrostic of GRACE exhibits a biblical analogy using the phrase: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Paul explained, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). God saves us by his grace, that is his unmerited favor to us. God does not save us according to our works for then we would be doomed to punishment. He does not save us because of our work for our works are not sufficient to satisfy his holiness and righteousness. He saves us by his grace. God merits believers with the righteousness of Christ. More than that, God shares with believers his abundant riches and glory. Grace in the greek language is charis, or gift. God’s grace is an undeserved gift that he bestows upon believing sinners. His grace is that he makes saints of sinners.

God is love. If people who are not followers of Christ believe anything about God, it is that God is love. God specifically defines himself as love when John writes: “God is love” (1 John 4:7). The word used here for God’s love is agape. It is a selfless, other-oriented love. God loves not because of what he gains, but because of what he gives. His love is purely and perfectly for the good and benefit of the objects of his love. Only God can perfectly love like this. While God expects us to love him and others with this kind of love, we only can love this way because he first loved us this way (Matthew 22:37-40; John 13:34). God’s love for his creatures is what motivated him to send Jesus to save us (John 3:16).

God is greater than we can imagine, and his goodness is deeper than we can dream. These attributes are perfected in the person of Jesus Christ. He is God’s expression of love to mankind as well as full of grace, truth, and mercy (John 1:14).

These attributes of God should motivate us to follow Jesus. It is God’s mercy, grace, and love that invites wicked sinners into a relationship of forgiveness with a holy and righteous God. If you are not yet a follower of Jesus, consider these attributes.

  • Discover the God who is just and the justifier of those who believe by his mercy and grace.
  • Worship the God who loves you in spite of your sinfulness.
  • Obey the God who does not give you the death and judgment you deserve.
  • Serve the God who offers you the unmerited riches of his grace forever and ever.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 3:21-26 (emphasis mine)

After several weeks of hiatus, I’m back to posting a regular word of the week theology post. Our most recent theme addressed the doctrine of revelation. In these posts we explored terms related to the Word of God and how we can trust it.

The next theme we are going to work through is theology proper, or the doctrine of God. In the spring, I posted on theology as something more than an academic discipline. In the next number of posts, I’m going to work through terms related specifically to the doctrine of God.

Remember, theology is the study of God and God’s relation to the world. The doctrine of revelation (our most recent theme) studies how God makes himself known to us through general and special revelation. The doctrine of Christ (which we started with in January) studies how God revealed himself to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. In theology proper, we are going to reflect on the character, attributes, and glory of God. This will be a daunting task.

No book, article, sermon, or blogpost can exhaust the wonders, glories, and majesty of God. One of the reasons for the hiatus over the last few weeks is my personal hesitancy in how to explore the doctrine of God adequately and accurately in a blogpost format.

As a result, the subsequent posts regarding God, his character, his person, and his attributes will be limited. I will attempt to choose terms that I can explain clearly and accurately in the limits of a blogpost. I will also aim to reflect what I believe to be one of the primary truths of Scripture–God is knowable.

Theological terms and doctrinal studies can become academic or dry. As a bit of a theology nerd, I have been known to bore a congregation (or my family) by diving too far down into theological minutia. But this is not what theology is supposed to be. Theology is supposed to be about God making himself known and accessible to us.

Jesus prayed in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

The primary purpose of studying the doctrine of God is to know God through Jesus Christ. My hope is that the posts that follow in the weeks to come will help us to know God better.

In his classic book, Knowing God, J. I. Packer observed:

We must say that knowing God involves, first, listening to God’s Word, and receiving it as the Holy Spirit interprets it, in application to oneself; second, noting God’s nature and character, as his Word and works reveal it; third, accepting his invitations and doing what he commands; fourth, recognizing and rejoicing in the love that he has shown in thus approaching you and drawing you into this divine fellowship.

J. I. Packer, Knowing God, 37.

So let us approach these posts in the following ways:

  • We approach the study of God with humility recognizing the greatness, majesty, and grace of God.
  • We approach the study of God with curiosity recognizing that we will never exhaust the truth and truths about God in our finite understanding.
  • We approach the study of God with fear (awe and reverential respect) recognizing that God in his holiness is to be feared.
  • We approach the study of God with faith recognizing that God revealed himself to us through his creation and his Word reflecting God’s desire to make himself known to us.
  • We approach the study of God with gratitude recognizing the privilege of knowing God and being known by God.
  • We approach the study of God with perseverance recognizing that we will never exhaust the knowledge of God in our finitude.
  • We approach the study of God with submission recognizing that what God reveals about himself to us should result in repentance, change, and obedience in our relationship to him.

In next week’s post, we will begin with several of the primary names God uses in Scripture when he reveals himself to us.

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