Trusting the unseen isn’t easy. When life seems stacked against us, we naturally lean toward hopelessness. Our ideal of an easy life is chiseled away by our experiences. Another sickness, another loss, another unmet expectation and we find ourselves asking how much more we can take. But, for the believer, it’s even in these moments that we have an anchor for the soul. We have hope in a God we can’t see to get us through circumstances that seem overwhelming and unending.
I wouldn’t trust my life with a mere stranger or acquaintance. The only way we can have this deep faith in God is if we know him well enough to trust him completely. If there’s any doubt in us about God’s character or attributes, if there’s any crack in the foundation, the walls of our faith will begin to falter under the pressures of life.
That is why a study of God’s attributes is so essential. It’s not mere intellectual exercise; our faith depends on it. We continue our study of Great Doctrines of the Bible by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (MLJ) by examining chapter 7 entitled, “The Moral Attributes of God.”
The previous chapter examined the incommunicable attributes of God. Incommunicable attributes are the attributes only God can possess. As created beings, no matter how much we grow in our Christ-likeness, we’ll never be omniscient (knowing everything), omnipresent (everywhere at once) or omnipotent (all-powerful).
However, there are communicable attributes, which are attributes of God that can be seen in men and women, although to a lesser degree. Holiness is an attribute of God, yet men and women are called to be holy. God is love, yet we are to love others. We are not as holy or loving as God, but we are to reflect these attributes more and more as we grow in godliness.
We’ll look briefly at three attributes discussed in chapter 7: holiness, love, and faithfulness.
Scripture teaches that God is holy, which is to say he is absolutely pure and free from all evil. When sinful man encounters God in the Scriptures, they bow before his holiness. Isaiah said, “Woe is me…I’m a man of unclean lips…for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). Ezekiel fell on his face (Ezekiel 1:28) and John fell at his feet as dead (Revelation 1:17). When we stand before a holy God, there’s no boasting in our goodness!
Without a proper understanding of the holiness of God, we will not have a proper perception of our sin. The best way to understand our wickedness is by being in God’s presence:
If you really came into the presence of God and had some conception of His holiness, you would soon know yourself as a vile, terrible sinner. You would say with Paul that there is no good thing in you (Romans 7:18). The way to appreciate your own sinfulness is not to look at your actions, nor your life, but to come into the presence of God. (72)
The holiness of God makes the atonement necessary. The cross shows us that God is so holy, nothing but the awful death of his Son could make it possible for sinners to be forgiven.
God is love (1 John 4:8). God’s eternal love has existed for all eternity past in the Trinity. While God shows love to all his creation (Matthew 5:45; 6:26; Acts 14:17), believers get to enjoy his loving fellowship forever.
MLJ refers to grace as an aspect of God’s love. He explains it as “the unlimited goodness or love of God toward those who have forfeited every claim upon Him and His love, and who deserve judgment and condemnation” (75).
Once again, the cross displays the greatest act of love. The cross shows the holiness of God in that Christ had to face such a brutal death for there to be any chance of atonement, and it also shows his love that he was willing to do it. He was under no obligation to pay the penalty, but he made the riches of his glory known to his vessels of mercy.
God always keeps his promises, fulfills every word he has spoken (Isa. 55:11), and keeps those who are his until that day (Phil. 1:6). God’s faithfulness means he is “one on whom you can absolutely rely; one upon whom you can depend; one upon who you can say yourself, without ever being in any doubt that He will suddenly let go and let you go” (77).
When we fall short of his glory, we have this wonderful promise of his faithfulness: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9).
It wouldn’t matter how great God’s promises were if he wasn’t faithful to keep them, but thankfully he is.
Keep It All Together
For the sake of study, he must speak of the attributes separately (we have not covered all his attributes). But, MLJ warns that we should be careful to remember God perfectly exhibits all his attributes at all times. Holiness without love is dreadful. Love without holiness is empty. “God is altogether in every one of His attributes at the same time; so that we must never put up one of the attributes against another” (78).
The more we learn about God and his attributes, the more we can worship him fully. As we learn about his communicable attributes, the more are able to reflect these qualities of God. As others see these qualities in us, we have the opportunity to tell them of the God who possesses them fully and perfectly. May his attributes be reflected in us and glorify our Father in heaven!
Because God has revealed his character and attributes, we know we can trust him. Even in the darkest moments, our faith rests in the strong foundation of our God who is holy, loving, and faithful.
Next time, we’ll look at chapter 8, “The Names of God and the Holy Trinity.”
Other posts in the “Great Doctrines of the Bible” series: