What is God Like?
Part 2: His Moral Attributes
COPYRIGHT ©1999 - James M. Frye
All scripture quotations are taken from the Authorized King James Bible. Any deviations are not intentional. All underlines, bold and words within brackets are the author's.
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In this two-part series we have been looking at the attributes of God. We have defined an attribute of God as something that is true about Him. In our previous article, What is God like? - Part 1, we looked at God's natural (non-moral) attributes. In this article, we will look at God's moral attributes.
1. God is Holy
Psalm 99:9 Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy.
Revelation 15:4 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.
Habakkuk 1:13 Thou [God] art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity...
God is holy. That is, He is separate from sin and possesses absolute moral purity.
The prophet Isaiah was given a vision of God. In the presence of God's infinite holiness, he became immediately aware of the depths of his own sinfulness.
Isaiah 6:1-5 In the year that king Uzziah died I [Isaiah] saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain [two] he covered his face, and with twain [two] he covered his feet, and with twain [two] he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
Now Isaiah was a good man, but next to God "all his righteousness was as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6).
2. God is Righteous & Just
Deuteronomy 32:4 He [God] is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
Psalm 145:17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
Revelation 16:7 And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.
As we said in part one of this series, God cannot sin. Therefore, everything that He does is perfectly just. He cannot punish the innocent nor clear the guilty. If you are ever tempted to think that God has done something wrong, realize that He cannot. We may not understand why God allows certain things to happen, but we dare not accuse the most high God of unrighteousness.
Romans 9:14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
3. God is Merciful
Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
Nehemiah 9:31 Nevertheless for thy great mercies' sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.
God is merciful. This means that God does not always give people what they have coming to them.
Romans 9:15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
God is not obligated to be merciful. He is sovereign in respect to the distribution of His mercy. He has mercy on whom He chooses to have mercy. If he decides not to be merciful to a particular person, and instead gives them their just due, He is perfectly righteous in doing so.
4. God is Gracious
Psalm 145:8 The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.
Psalm 116:5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
God is not only righteous and merciful, He is also gracious.
Righteousness is when God gives us what we deserve.
Mercy is when God doesn't give us what we deserve.
Grace is when God gives us what we don't deserve.
We see God's grace in respect to salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Salvation is not something we receive because we deserve it. That is, it is not something that we have a right to. It is something that God gives us according to His grace: Something that we do not deserve and could never earn.
5. God is Good
Psalm 145:9 The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.
Psalm 52:1 Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness of God endureth continually.
Psalm 33:5 He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.
Psalm 25:8 Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
God is good. That is, He is a good God. He is not bad or evil. It is His nature to be good. In many ways, God is good to both the just and the unjust alike.
Matthew 5:45 ... for he [God] maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
6. God is Loving
God is love. That is, He is the epitome of love.
1 John 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
I have often heard people say, "The God of the New Testament (N.T.) is a God of love, but the God of the Old Testament (O.T.) is a God of wrath". First of all, there is only one God (1 Cor. 8:4, Isa. 45:5). The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament. Secondly, in part one of this series, we saw that God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He was not somehow different in the O.T. than He is in the N.T.. What we should say is, "God's love is more clearly revealed in the New Testament than in the Old Testament". The O.T. did reveal God as loving (Isa. 63:9, Zeph. 3:17, Deut. 7:7 etc.) but not as clearly as the N.T..
God has a very special love for his elect (Rom 8:28-39). He did not set His love upon them because they are lovable, but in spite of the fact that they are not.
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us [believers], in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
We did not choose to love God, but He first chose to love us. Then we loved Him in return.
1 John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
The fact that God is loving does not set aside the fact that He is also holy and just. We stated earlier that since God is righteous, He cannot punish the innocent nor clear the guilty (Num. 14:18). God cannot just overlook sin and say "don't worry about it". Since He is a just judge, He must punish sinners. This is the reason for the cross. For God to justly forgive sinners, someone had to pay the penalty for their sins.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For he [God the Father] hath made him [Jesus Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
7. God is True & Faithful
2 Corinthians 1:18 But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay.
1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
God is faithful and true. When He makes a promise you can be sure he will keep it.
Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
Since God is true, His word (the Bible) is also true.
Psalm 119:160 Thy word [the Bible] is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.
8. God is Longsuffering
Numbers 14:18 The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
Psalm 86:15 But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.
God is longsuffering. Some of the newer Bible translations have changed this word to patient. But patience does not carry all of the rich meaning of the word longsuffering. Longsuffering tells us that putting up with people involves suffering for a long time.
1 Peter 3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
This passage speaks of God's longsuffering in regard to the flood. God put up with mankind's sinful behavior for a long time (over 100 years) before sending divine judgment.
9. God is Angry & Wrathful
When we say that God is angry & wrathful, we do not mean that God goes around in a grumpy mood all the time. We mean that God is justly angry and wrathful against sin.
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
Psalm 7:11 God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.
Jeremiah 4:8 For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl: for the fierce anger of the LORD is not turned back from us.
Exodus 22:22-24 Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.
10. God is Jealous
When we think of jealousy, we usually think of man's sinful jealously. But we need to understand that there is not only a sinful form of jealousy, but also a godly form of jealousy.
2 Corinthians 11:2 For I [Paul] am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
God is jealous with a godly jealousy.
Deuteronomy 4:24 For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.
What does the Bible mean when it says that God is jealous? It means that He is zealous to protect what belongs to him and will not allow another to have the honor and glory that is due to him alone.
Deuteronomy 6:14-15 Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.
God is justly jealous when people become involved in idolatry, for He alone is worthy of our worship.
Isaiah 48:11 For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.
God does not like people taking the glory that is rightfully due Him.
Acts 12:21-23 And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.
In this series we have looked at a number of God's attributes. Please keep in mind that we have not been able to cover every single attribute of God. We have, however, looked at the more important ones. It is my hope that this series has given you a better understanding of what God is like. To God alone be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.