What should be a believer's response to the characteristics of God?
Shock and awe, fear and faith, worship and praise, adoration and delight, humility and love—these are some of the appropriate and inevitable reactions that occur when a believer in Christ contemplates the characteristics of God. Studying the doctrine of God and His characteristics may sound dull or dry to some people, but for Christians, pondering the characteristics of God is pure joy! The ultimate goal of doctrine is doxology. We cannot love whom we do not know.
Some of God's characteristics are so awesome that we cannot fully comprehend them. As finite, time-bound creatures, no corollary exists in us or in this world by which we can compare them. In fact, one of God's characteristics is His incomprehensibility, that being that we cannot fully comprehend Him (Romans 11:34; Isaiah 40:13; Job 15:8). Some of God's characteristics are so mind-boggling and mind-blowing that the only proper reaction is praise (Romans 11:33). For instance, God is eternal. He has no beginning and no end. God has aseity. That is, God is self-existent. He is the Uncaused Cause whose existence is necessary in order for anything to exist (Isaiah 40:18; Acts 17:25; Colossians 1:16–17). Life itself has its origin in God (John 5:26). The characteristics of God which have been revealed to mankind in general revelation alone, such as His eternal power and divine nature, are sufficient grounds to obligate everyone to worship Him, honor Him, and give Him thanks (Romans 1:20).
However, God has revealed much more about His characteristics than general revelation alone; He has given us His Word (i.e. special revelation). By searching the Scriptures we can see how the patriarchs, prophets, disciples, and apostles responded to God's revelation of Himself. Although God's characteristics are revealed throughout the Old and New Testaments, for the sake of space, we will be examining just a few "highlights" of such revelations.
In Job, we see the characteristics of God's omnipotence, sovereignty, and righteousness. Job was an upright man who nevertheless underwent extreme suffering. When Job began to question God's justice, we hear one of God's greatest self-revelations concerning His sovereignty, righteousness, and power. Subsequently, we see Job's reaction, which includes utter silence followed by self-abhorrence and repentance (Job 38:1—42:6).
In Isaiah chapter 6, verses 1 through 4, the prophet is given a vision of God's holiness. In reaction to this vision Isaiah cries out, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" (Isaiah 6:5). When confronted with God's holiness, Isaiah experiences dread and comes to see his own sin and unworthiness.
On Mount Sinai, God revealed many of His characteristics to Moses. For example, Exodus 34:5–7 states, "The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, 'The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.'" Here we see God revealing His characteristics of mercy, grace, patience, love, faithfulness, justice, and wrath. How does Moses respond? Moses bows his head to the ground and worships God (Exodus 34:8).
Finally, God has revealed His characteristics in the incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature (Hebrews 1:1–4). God revealed Himself fully in Jesus Christ (John 1:18; 14:9; Colossians 1:15). What are some of the appropriate responses we see in the New Testament regarding the revelation of Christ as God in the flesh? John the Baptist declares Jesus to be the pre-existent Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world, whose sandals John did not consider himself worthy to untie (John 1:29–30). Mary, the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, reacted by anointing Jesus' feet with an expensive ointment and wiped His feet with her hair as an act humility and devotion (John 12:2–3). The apostle known as Doubting Thomas, after placing his hands on the scars of the resurrected Jesus exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:27–28). These are just a few of the responses recorded by believers who recognized that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. The only appropriate response to this revelation is to bend our knees and confess with our tongues that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9–11).
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