Read Part 1.
As we contemplate God’s perfections, we need to pay attention to what God has disclosed about Himself, linking these qualities together as they are linked together in His person. The perspectival aspect that is so important to grasp when we are dealing with the attributes should be remembered.
Millard Erickson actually criticizes the great Puritan Stephen Charnock for seeming to compartmentalize the attributes of God. When we are dealing with the perfections—whether it be the power of God, the presence of God, the holiness of God, or His patience, love, justice, grace, mercy, truth, eternality, immutability, omnipotence, etc.—we should see the attributes wrapped up in each another; that they are different perspectives on the unity of the one God, not parts of God, but rather perspectives on God.
We have been saved by God’s grace and mercy and love and power and truth and justice, so this places us under an obligation to glorify Him. I Corinthians 10:31 declares,
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
But how can we do that truly if we have not made ourselves familiar with the way God has disclosed Himself in the Bible?
The Glory of His Name
Psalm 29 reminds us to,
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. (Psalm 29:2)
When the psalmist speaks of the “name” of God here, he is talking about the character of God—that which defines God, that which God, in naming Himself for us, wants us to know about Himself. We are to proclaim the honor due to His name—in fact the honor of His name—and make His praise glorious. As the psalm suggests, this is best done when the truth about God arrests our hearts and we begin to reflect His holiness.
Sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! (Psalm 66:2)
We’re scarcely in a position to participate in this if we are ignorant of what it means to speak of God’s attributes. To glorify God in His attributes is to declare either to oneself or to another, the absolute perfections of our Creator. It is also to apply this knowledge to ourselves.
For example, how might a Christian’s contemplation of God help him in trying times? Here are eight things to ponder.
First, the saints are never alone. The Lord is always with us. Hebrews 13:5 instructs us:
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
The love of money is a rejection of providence of God and of rewards in heaven. It is also a snubbing of the presence of God. As Psalm 139:7 says,
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
Second, God knows all about our situations.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. (Psalm 139:2-3)
The thought is a beautiful one to meditate upon. The verse is not saying anything about God’s control, but rather about His knowledge. We honor God’s knowledge when we plan our steps with this truth in mind. And so,
The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)
Third, all believers are destined for a kingdom of love and peace, they are to enter into the joy of the Lord.
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. (Revelation 21:22)
Then, really for the first time, we will know the value of goodness, holiness, peace, and wisdom, and be able to appreciate what these things are to the optimal degree. For eternity we shall dwell in the House of the Lord (Psalm 23:6).
Fourth, these things are as true for us now as if we were already there! Because of the predestination and plan of God (Romans 8:28-30).
Fifth, God’s nature never changes (Malachi 3:6), therefore, neither will His tender mercies toward His children.
So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7)
Our Relationship to This World
In terms of the present, as adoptive sons and daughters of God and partakers of the divine nature, we are not to think of this world as our home. In Jesus’ prayer to His Father for us He spoke of us thus:
They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:16)
This is a profound idea. We really don’t belong here. Not in this era. Not in this act of the play. Once we are regenerated we are children of the resurrection and of that coming world of which the resurrection of Jesus was the prelude.
This present evil age, as Paul calls it in Galatians 1:4, is the opposite, the antithesis of our world, which takes its character from the divine character. This teaches us that our eyes need to be lifted in hope for our long home.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)
By being citizens of heaven the Apostle is not necessarily saying that we will inhabit heaven forever. He is saying that the Savior comes from heaven to earth to transform its landscape, its politics, its culture so that it becomes an extension of heaven—it becomes, in Matthew’s language, the kingdom of heaven.
There are many great comforting truths that can be gleaned by meditating on the perfections of our great God in the Word of God, which will fill the saints hearts with hope and boldness.
For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness. (Psalm 18:28)
Man cannot know himself rightly unless he knows God rightly. And in order to do this he must discover God’s self-revelation in the Scriptures. There he finds that God’s holiness and justice condemn man, but God’s mercy, love, and grace seek man’s restitution. God uses His wisdom, holiness and justice in order to do that (Rom. 3:26).
In working out our salvation, we can see all these attributes working together harmoniously. God is not at odds with Himself in justifying a sinner. Moreover, if a man rejects God’s salvation he will find that he will encounter the knowledge, truth, justice and holiness of God which will expose his wicked heart and leave him without excuse at judgment day. But the saint will see the kingdom which reflects so much more clearly the peace and joy and love of God, and all the other perspectives of God’s unified nature. He should try to tie every circumstance he meets to at least one of these perspectives, or what we call God’s attributes.
Paul Martin Henebury is a native of Manchester, England and a graduate of London Theological Seminary and Tyndale Theological Seminary (MDiv, PhD). He has been a Church-planter, pastor and a professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics. He was also editor of the Conservative Theological Journal (suggesting its new name, Journal of Dispensational Theology, prior to leaving that post). He is now the President of Telos School of Theology.