The Attributes of God


candleThere are several fundamental attributes embedded within God’s nature, which are considered to be unchanging. First, God is spirit. God does not have a corporal body as we do. Even though the scriptures often speak of God as having physical attributes, God is a spiritual being. Old Testament writers relied quite heavily upon the use of anthropomorphic language, saying for instance that God turned his “face” toward God’s people, because that was the way they conveyed God’s creating and sustaining presence among them. We give to God human attributes because of our language limitations, but God is not like us physically and God is not finite. God is eternal, reaching not only forward but also backward into time. Unlike human beings, though, God does not experience time in the same context as we experience time; God existed before all things and knows the “beginning” and the “end.” He is omniscient; God is all-knowing (Isaiah 46:10). And concerning space, God’s experience of it is very different from ours. God is omnipresent. God is present everywhere, always (Jeremiah 23:23-24).


God is active in the world, ever present, sustaining and creating. And not only is God omniscient and omnipresent, God is also omnipotent. God is in charge of all things created and uncreated (Jeremiah 32:17; Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37). We have come to rely upon the cycle of life, death and new-life because God is constant and faithful to whom God is as life-giver. God is active and involved in the world and in the lives of His creatures.


God is both immanent and transcendent. When we say that God is transcendent, we mean that there is a difference between the Creator and the creation. God continuously calls things into existence. The One who creates is greater than all things. He is over and above creation, but at the same time the Creator is in relationship with creation. When we talk about the immanence of God, we talk about the fact that God offers to humanity a lived experience. God is personal and does not stand aloof or separate from the world (Acts 17: 27a). The God who entered into covenant with Israel is also the God who, through Jesus Christ, enters into covenant with the Christian community. “I will be your God and you will be My people,” exclaims the Lord (Ezekiel 36:28).


The “I”and “you” language points to a reciprocal relationship; it points to a giving and receiving relationship. It is possible to know God and to be known by Him. He is “Omni;” God is greater and beyond all that we can humanly understand, but at the same time, we are not inanimate “objects” to God. Human beings are “subjects;” we are persons whom God seeks out and with whom God willingly enters into covenant relationship. God calls us into relationship with God’s-self because God is “good” in character. We believe that God desires to share all things good and beautiful with God’s created so as to bring well-being to God’s creatures and thereby glorify God’s own name. “God is the chief end of human beings, which is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (The Heidelberg Catechism).

(An excerpt from Thinking of Him by Paula J Behrens, Copyright 2011)