The Attributes of God

When Abraham lived on the earth four thousand years ago, there was one thing that distinguished him and his family from those around him: his belief in the one true God. Most of the world believed that more than one god existed. Even to this day, Abraham's descendants, the Jews, the Muslims, and the Christians (Gal. 3:7, 29), who now collectively make up nearly half of the earth's population, are distinguished from the rest of the world by the same issue of faith. Truly, the prophecy that Abraham's descendants would be as numerous as "the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore" (Gen. 22:17) is being fulfilled right now before our eyes as millions of people throughout the world give their lives to Christ each month and become new Christians. The Bible declares that the following are attributes of God:

There is only one God.

I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. (Isa 45:5)

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (Deut 6:4)

One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph 4: 6)

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Tim 2:5)

There is no other god anywhere. It is not sufficient to believe that we have only one God for us. The Bible demands that we respect the absolute oneness of God.

Occasionally the Bible makes reference to “gods” (elohim in the Old Testament; theos in the New Testament), but it must be understood that this is a generic word that people applied broadly in Biblical times. In the Bible it can refer to the one true God, to false gods (or idols), and also to men who have been appointed as judges. This last application apparently results from the role of judge being somewhat god-like in nature.  According to the Biblical Hebrew dictionary, “Elohim; this masculine noun is plural in form but it has both singular and plural uses. In a plural sense it refers to rulers or judges with divine connections…” (Hebrew word 430 in The Complete Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, 1997) In the Mosaic law, “Then his master shall bring him unto the judges…” (Ex 21:6 KJV), the word “judges” is translated from the Hebrew word “elohim“.

In Psalm 82:6 the statement is made, “Ye are gods…”, and this statement is quoted in John 10:34. The context must be examined in order to determine the precise meaning of the word “gods” within its range of possible meanings. The other verses in Psalm 82 make it clear that this psalm refers to men who are judges, not anyone that we would call “god” in today’s English. More specifically, the people who are being addressed in this psalm are unjust judges. Note verse 2: “How long will ye judge unjustly?” This psalm condemns these men for judging unjustly, which eliminates the possibility of their having achieved an eternal godhood similar to that of God. Verse 6 states, “Ye are gods…” They are already “gods” in this sense. It doesn’t state that they may become gods. So they are a kind of “gods” at the time of this statement, and they must be a kind of “gods” that can be evil. Verse 7 states, “But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.” An eternal “god” would not be mortal (able to die) and would not be subject to loosing his “godhood”.  So when reading a word in the Bible that has a range of meanings, it is important to avoid jumping to conclusions about which specific meaning within the range is the appropriate one.

Another example of the importance of context in the interpretation of the word “gods” is found in the New Testament: “…indeed there are many 'gods' and many 'lords', yet for us there is but one God” (1 Cor 8:5-6) I have shown in the chapter “Interpreting the Bible” that this reference is to idols and false gods of the city of Corinth.

God always has been God. He did not develop into God.

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Ps 90:2)

We speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. (1 Cor 2:7)

God has always been God because "from everlasting" means forever in the past. There never was a time that He was not God. Even time itself had a beginning, but God did not.

When Moses asked God for his name, He answered "I AM WHO I AM." (Exodus 3:14) The short version of this name in Hebrew is Yahweh (often incorrectly spelled Jehovah). This expression in Hebrew means "one who exists entirely because he exists", or in other words "one who is self-existent", or in other words "one who is eternal: not created by anything or anyone else."  Thus the Hebrew concept of God is one who exists and has always existed eternally.  Whereas everything else has a beginning and exists as a part of God's creation, God has no beginning. God is the "First Cause" identified by Aristotle.

As a means of examining the rationality of this doctrine, consider hypothetically the possibility of God the Father having developed into God at some time in the past, before which he was less than the Almighty God that he is today. Then there would have been of necessity a god before him, that is his god, through whom he came into existence in the first place. His god would also have had a god above him and so forth back infinitely. Thus if God were not always God Almighty, then there would need to be an infinite number of gods above him. The gods would be so numerous that it would be impossible to count them, and God would be infinitesimally insignificant relative to the whole scheme of things.

No one else will become a god.

Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. (Isa 43:10)

A common goal of all Christians is to become more like Jesus. This includes personal development in the many wonderful attributes of the Savior: purity, loving one another, being obedient to the Father, and standing firm against evil. Furthermore, Jesus prayed, "that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us … that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity…" (John 17: 21-23, italics added) Therefore, those who receive salvation will become one with God just as the Son is one with the Father. Paul taught, "If we endure, we will also reign with him." (2 Tim 2:12, italics added)

However, a goal of becoming a god is the same goal that caused Lucifer, "the star of the morning", to be cast out of heaven and to become Satan. "How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! … You said in your heart… I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly… I will make myself like the Most High. But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit." (Isaiah 13:12-15) It is also the basis of the original temptation and sin that resulted in the fall of man. "’You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.’" (Gen 3:4-5) , On the other hand, Jesus taught by example that humility, rather than seeking godhood, makes a person truly godlike:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! (Phil 2:5-8)

God created the universe without using pre-existing matter.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen 1:1)

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. (Heb 11:3)

The "heavens" in Genesis 1:1 refers to all of the stars in the sky, or in other words, the universe. Christians and Jews have traditionally interpreted this to mean that God created the entire universe and all of the matter in it at some point or period in time known as "the beginning". Furthermore Hebrews 11:3 clarifies that God did not use existing matter to create the worlds.  God created everything, including time and space and matter and energy.  Since something cannot be produced by nothing, either God or the universe (and its matter) must have eternally existed.  The Bible makes it clear that it is God that is eternal, not the material universe.  Most non-Biblical religions believe the opposite. (See Galileo's Dialogue for more details on this subject.)

Mass has been created and destroyed (mass increased and decreased) through nuclear reactors and particle accelerators. Anyone who believes that God is incapable of creating matter believes that God is less capable than mortals.

God is omnipotent.

Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. (Rev 19:6)

For nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1:37)

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matt 19:26)

The Bible states that God is almighty, which means omnipotent, having unlimited power.  However, if God were not the only god, then He would not have dominion over the domain of the other gods and thus He would not be omnipotent.

The Trinity

Muslims argue that Christians are polytheistic and that they are not followers of the God of Abraham. They feel that the Christian concept of trinity is actually a doctrine of worshipping three gods rather than one God. Others argue that the doctrine of trinity is self-contradictory because it is a belief that one person occasionally appears as three different persons. It would imply, for example, that when Jesus prayed, He was praying to Himself. However, the conflict expressed in these arguments arises from misunderstanding the doctrine of trinity.

It's amazing to me how misunderstood the doctrine of Trinity is among non-Christians.  Most seem to confuse it with the doctrine of "modalism."  The historical background on this heretical doctrine is provided by www.catholic.com :

"The early Christians were quick to spot new heresies. In the third century, Sabellius, a Libyan priest who was staying at Rome, invented a new one. He claimed there is only one person in the Godhead, so that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all one person with different "offices," rather than three persons who are one being in the Godhead, as the orthodox position holds. Of course, people immediately recognized that Sabellius’s teaching contradicted the historic faith of the Church, and he was quickly excommunicated. His heresy became known as modalism."

The doctrine of trinity is simply that there are three distinct individual Persons in the Godhead over heaven and earth.  Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, defines "Trinity" as "the coexistence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the unity of the Godhead (divine nature or essence). The doctrine of the trinity means that within the being and activity of the one God there are three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." (Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1995 edition, page 1277)

I’ve heard people argue that the doctrine of trinity cannot be true because the word trinity isn’t in the Bible. But the word trinity is only a short-hand word that Christian scholars have coined in order to refer to the doctrine. Take for example the sacrament of communion. It is clear the Jesus instituted the sacrament of communion during the Last Supper and that this is a true doctrine. (Luke 22:19) Yet the word sacrament doesn’t appear anywhere in the Bible. The word sacrament (which comes from the Latin word sacramentum) was coined by Christian scholars during the Middle Ages. So there is no logical basis for thinking that a name for a doctrine needs to be in the Bible for the doctrine itself to be Biblical, and the argument that the word trinity is not in the Bible is irrelevant.

The consistency of the doctrine of trinity with the Old Testament's doctrine of monotheism is illustrated by the first Christians who were all Jews, steeped in the monotheistic traditions of the Old Testament, and yet they accepted the doctrine of trinity.  Even though the Old Testament vehemently declares the oneness of God (Isa 45:5; Deut 6:4), the coming of the Messiah is foretold in prophecy.  In a vision, the  Old Testament prophet Daniel saw God the Father, the Ancient of Days:

As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat … Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. (Dan 7:9-10)

And then he also saw the Son of Man, a term that Jesus applied to himself in Matt 16:13, in the vision. Note that this Second Person identified by Daniel is also worshipped even though the Mosaic law prohibits any worship other than worship of God:

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Dan 7:13-14)

The Bible names the three persons in the Godhead as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matt 28:19)

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor 13:14)

The three persons of the Godhead are also mentioned together in Luke 3:21-22.

God the Father is the only Person with the title God. There is no one else with that title in this universe or anywhere. Although the New Testament introduces the doctrine of trinity, it continues the Old Testament affirmation that there is one and only one God:

One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph 4: 6)

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Tim 2:5)

Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Cor 8:6)

Jesus Christ is the second member of the Godhead:

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Cor 11:3)

The Bible makes it clear that Jesus also posses the attribute of Godhood, or in other words Deity:

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, (Col 2:9)

The word “god” is translated from the Greek word theos in the original New Testament text. When it is used to refer to the supreme ruler of heaven and earth, as apposed to false gods, it is capitalized by modern language translators. Although it has one meaning in such references, it has two applications: as a title, and as an attribute. As previously mentioned, the Father possesses the title, God. But Christ fully posses the attributes of Godhood or Deity, and in the second application of the word, Christ is God. Which means that Christ is Deity:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped... (Phil 2:5-6)

Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. (Rom 9:5)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1:1-2, 14)

Jesus does not have the title, God. Thus, the expressions God Jesus, or Jesus the God, are not used. Nonetheless, Jesus fully posses the attribute of Deity. So Jesus is Deity, and in that application of the word, Jesus is God. He possesses many titles, including the Son of God and the Christ, meaning the Messiah. (See Lord.) Notice that Paul refers to Jesus as being God in very nature which is to say as an attribute rather than a title.

In this same application of the word indicating the attribute of Deity, Christians sometimes testify that God exists eternally as three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is equivalent to saying that Deity, the ruling Body that rules heaven and earth, exists eternally as three Persons.

It is important to emphasize that the doctrine of trinity is not self-contradictory as critics of the doctrine sometimes claim. If it had stated that three persons are one person or that one god is three gods, it would have been self-contradictory. And anything that is self-contradictory must be false. But it doesn’t make either of these statements. The Godhead is distinctly composed of three Persons, and these three Members of the Godhead are never referenced as one person according to this doctrine. Furthermore, the word God is never pluralized when used in reference to true Deity. The doctrine never uses the term “gods” in this light. Thus, it is impossible to state under the doctrine of trinity that one god is three gods.

It is also important to emphasize that the doctrine of trinity does not contradict the Biblical doctrine of the unity and the uniqueness of the one true God. The doctrine does not permit the use of the word “gods” in the plural sense in reference to the true divine Leadership of heaven and earth. In either application, as a title or as an attribute, the word “God” is used exclusively in the singular. In the application as attribute, there is God, meaning Deity, that rules heaven and earth. And in the application as a title, there is exclusively one Person with the title God, the Father. There are no other true gods anywhere under the doctrine of trinity. The Old Testament Hebrew word for God is elohim, a plural word, but it is always used in sentence structures as a singular word when referring to the true God of heaven and earth. And thus translators always translate elohim into the singular word God in those cases. The Old Testament writers use the word elohim as a plural word when referring to false gods or to the judges of Israel, who held the title, “gods.”

Jesus emphasized the perfect unity between himself and the Father in the Godhead and thus the Godhead acts as a unified divine entity at all times:

"I and the Father are one." (John 10:30)

"Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?" (John 14:9-10)

But He also referred to his individuality as a Person in the Godhead. Thus, He made it very clear that there are individual Persons in the Godhead:

"I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me." (John 8:28)

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matt 24:36)

Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." (John 20:17)

"You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." (John 14:28)

Furthermore the references to the distinction of Jesus as the second Person in the Godhead extend beyond his earthly presence.  We are informed that after his resurrection He remains eternally at the right hand of the Father: "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'" (Acts 7:55-56)  Thus, it is clear that Jesus is not the same Person as God the Father. (See also Mat. 26:64; Mark 14:62; 16:19; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:33; 5:31, 7:56; Rom. 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2)

Jesus also referred to the role of the Holy Spirit as another individual Person in the Godhead:

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26-27)

Jesus Christ

The NT (New Testament) writers often refer to the second Person in the Godhead as the Son, the Christ (Greek for the Messiah), and Jesus, along with many other titles that reflect different aspects of his glory. John begins his documentation of the gospel by referring to Him as the Word since before the birth of Jesus people only knew the Messiah through the OT (Old Testament) scriptures, the Word of God. Furthermore, the NT writers refer to over sixty prophecies in the OT of the Messiah coming to earth. John explains that it is Christ through whom the earth was created as documented in the OT. (John 1:3, 10) So when the Messiah who was known in the OT times through the scriptures became flesh as prophesied in those scriptures, John recorded the event as "the Word became flesh". (John 1:14) Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT predictions of the Messiah.

Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16) All other sons and daughters of God are adopted. Human beings are not naturally sons and daughters of God, and in fact many people are not children of God at all. However, when a person accepts through faith Jesus as his Savior, he is adopted into the family of God. (John 1:12) Jesus is the older brother of those who come to Him in faith and who thus become co-heirs of the kingdom with Him. (Heb 2:11,17; Rom 8:17)

Jesus was not created. He has always been with the Father as a member of the Godhead. (John 1:2) However, all living beings outside of the Godhead in heaven and on earth are created. Both angels and human beings are created beings. (Gen 1:27; Ps 148:2-5) For example, the Devil is a created being, a fallen angel, who has misused his free will to rebel against God. (Is 14:12)

Jesus condescended to human form when he came to earth two thousand years ago. (Heb 2:9) He did this not only to overcome sin and death, but also to serve as a role model for his brothers and sisters. (Heb 2:10-14) Through the life of Jesus as documented in the Bible, we can actually see God (that is, Deity) as a person, confronting the same problems in life that we face. (Heb 4:15) Through the earthly life of Jesus, God is no longer an unapproachable supreme concept.

Jesus did not come to earth for his own sake. There was nothing here for his personal benefit, and He did not need to obtain a lowly human body. His mortal life here, along with his death on the cross, was a great personal sacrifice for our sakes that demonstrates the love of God. (John 3:16)

© 2005 William C. Hamer