The Perfect Attributes of God Imperfectly Reflected in Sinful Fallen Man

God made Adam (man) and Eve in His image (Gen 9:6). The image of God in man has been marred to some degree worse than we could ever think or imagine because of the fall of humanity (Gen 3). Man tends to think more highly of Himself than he ought (Rom 12:3). He puts confidence in his flesh (Phil 3:3). He aspires to be like God (Gen 3:5), but that is to usurp the power and position of God. Man steals glory from God, by not acknowledging the Almighty in everything.

Theologians are those who study God. Christian theology has its source material from the Bible. When a man looks at the creation, he knows something of God (Rom 1:19–20). When he reads the Bible, he knows something more personal about God (Jn 5:39–47). In fact, God is revealed as three Persons: Father; Son; and Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19).

Each of the three Persons of the Godhead are God. They are one in substance, but they are a plurality of Persons (unity in community). The attributes of God are displayed for us, in God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible. These attributes are sometimes accentuated by whichever Person of the Trinity is in view (e. g. Father in election; Christ in redemption; Spirit in regeneration).

Every attribute of God is perfect, and the context in which an attribute is displayed, also informs us. Our best view to God and the attributes of God is the Person of Jesus Christ. Again, what we know of the Son of God, enfleshed, is found in the Bible (Jn 1:14). Jesus is the fullest revelation of God to man.

When we look at Jesus Christ, we are looking at the perfect man. Every thought, word, emotion, and action is perfect, in Him. For us to see and know God the Father, we look to His Son, the God-man, who dwelt among us (Jn 1:14), as one like us, yet without sin (Heb 4:15).

When God employs compassion, it is perfect compassion. When God displays anger, it is perfect anger and perfect anger is righteous anger. We have a view to this, with Jesus cleansing the Temple at Jerusalem (Mt 21:12). There is something to see and to learn in everything Jesus teaches and exemplifies in Scripture. We are watching God operate, as we witness Jesus in the Bible.

There is no limit to our infinite, eternal God. Therefore, the best approach to doing theology is humility. We are privy to only so much knowledge of God (special revelation), but for most people, we barely scratch the surface of understanding. We become naïve rather quickly when we depart from Scripture. Speculative theology is not helpful. We have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), when we look to the Scriptures that bear witness of Him (Jn 5:39–47), but we are far from knowing the whole truth of what is in our hands.

Bible exegesis and hermeneutics becomes increasingly important, to know more and to know more accurately. There is much to be reconciled in Scripture, as we see the wrath of God and the mercy of God at work, sometimes coincidentally, as with the cross of Jesus.

We must remember that every account in the Bible has a context. This includes people and circumstances. Jesus spoke harshly to the Jewish religious leaders at Jerusalem. He had His reasons. We have much to learn from Him (Jn 6:45), and it is His Spirit teaching us (Jn 14:26). Our subject is voluminous and complex, yet we look again, and it is simple and true, too. This paradox itself is amazing.

A common error is to think God is like us. Our evaluation of ourselves is the root of the problem in thinking God resembles us. When I am angry with my neighbor, it is not on par with God’s anger toward sinners (Ps 7:11; 11:5). It is easy to misrepresent the God of the Bible in this way…and many do.

God’s treatment of humanity is not the same. We know that there is no partiality with God. We should reap what we sow. We sow sin almost all of the time, yet God slows down His anger and wrath (Ps 145:8). Thus, men think they are sinning without consequence. Even when God’s just judgment visits someone, the neighbors usually attribute it to karma. Still, it is God’s prerogative to have mercy and compassion on whomever He wills (Rom 9:15–16). Is God unjust in this? May it never be!

Most preachers spend their time telling others about God’s love (Jn 3:16; 1 Jn 4:8). They either openly or with a veil, speak of God’s love for all people, everywhere and all times. This prevents them from ever speaking honestly about God’s exclusive love for His chosen people, Christ’s bride, His church (Rom 5:5, 8; 8:35–39; Eph 1:4–5; 5:25; 1 Jn 4:19). Is God love? Yes (1 Jn 4:8). Does God love? Yes (Jn 3:16; Rom 5:5, 8). Everyone? What about Esau and those who do iniquity? Read Psalm 5:5 and Romans 9:13.

The ever-present error among men is to speculate apart from Scripture (e. g. “Sin breaks God’s heart”). The next most common error is to twist Scripture. This is most readily seen by applying attributes displayed for the benefit of Israel, the church, to the whole world (Universalism and Arminianism). God certainly operates “out of character” when He abandons Job, expresses His disdain for the Israelites, ordains the beheading of John the Baptist, the crucifixion of Jesus, or the martyrdom of the prophets, apostles, and saints. What kind of love is this? The kind we have difficulty understanding.

The best approach to understanding the full gamut of God’s attributes, displayed in Scripture, is to leave them alone. Consider the context of a displayed attribute. Learn any explanation given in that particular context. Look for the attribute displayed elsewhere in Scripture, and correlate how God deals the same or differently in the two or more contexts. God has mercy, but not toward everyone. God loves, but not everyone. God is never inconsistent. We just cannot see, nor understand all that is going on.

We must never conclude that God is driven by emotion. Every emotion known to us, is some distorted reflection of the perfection of God’s heart…in the context, in which we see it displayed in the Bible. Not only will our judgment be off, for lack of understanding, but in our growing in grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Pet 3:18), our advancement is subject to God’s providential impartation of knowledge. We are still in the flesh and easily given over to pride.

Finally, let us look at ourselves with a much lower view than we naturally do during self-evaluation. Let us elevate our view of God and His plethora of perfect attributes. Let us learn to acknowledge the great chasm between our display of the same attributes displayed by God, especially Christ Jesus our Lord.

It is right to trust that whatever miniscule closures in the gap, between God and the Christian, is attributed solely to the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9, 11), who is working us into conformity to the perfect God-man (Rom 8:29), who we will resemble in glory. As for now, let us walk humbly with our God and mind the gap between us.

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

January 5, 2021

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher