The Moral Attributes of God
In this study we will be discussing God’s moral attributes. Previously we studied the Essence and Substance of God and the Non-Moral Attributes of God. We saw that the essence and substance of God is “that which underlies all outward manifestation” and attributes of God are the “inherent characteristics closely associated with or belonging to God.” In this study we will be looking at God’s holiness, righteousness (justice), goodness, love, mercy, grace, and faithfulness.
The holiness of God. There is a great need for the recognition of God’s holiness. The Bible tells us to “hallow His name” (Matthew 6:9). We need a divine revelation of the holiness of God — without which we will never be used of Him the way he desires. Anyone who desires to make (or ever has made) an impact for God must understand His holiness. We see this in the case of Moses (Exodus 3:3-5), Joshua (Joshua 5:13-18) and Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-6).
John wrote, “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5 NASB). Light philosophically represents truth, physically God’s glory and morally holiness. God is holy and there is nothing unholy or sinful in Him. There are five things we learn from this.
- Our own personal sinfulness. At Isaiah’s revelation of God he said, “ Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5 NASB). Peter at his first revelation of the Master “Fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8 NASB)! Where there is a revelation of God’s holiness there will also be a revelation of our personal sinfulness.
- There is a great chasm between God and man. Sin separates us from God. Isaiah cried out, “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2 NASB). Immediately after sinning Adam and Eve hid from the presence of the Lord (Genesis 3:10). As a result of sin “He (God) drove the man out” (Genesis 3:24 NASB). They were driven out of the garden and His presence. Because God is holy and we are sinful there is a great chasm between God and man.
- We must approach God in the merits of another. We cannot approach God in our own merit. That is why Jesus came. The only way we can approach God is by means of Jesus’ blood and righteousness. “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2 KJV). “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20).
- We should approach God with reverence. In these days of casualness, we have lost a sense of reverence in the church. I have always believed people should be free to attend church however they feel comfortable, but I often wonder if we have taken things a little too far. Have we lost all our reverence for God? “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29 NIV).
- We should aim for holiness. “Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NASB). “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14 KJV). Most of us have heard it preached over and over that without holiness no man shall see the Lord but that is not what it says. It is being misquoted. The key word is “follow.” It’s without the pursuit of holiness that no man shall see the Lord. None will ever be completely holy in and of ourself, but we must pursue being holy as He is holy. We are to “Be imitators of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1 NKJV).
The righteousness and justice of God. This is God’s holiness in action. In Abraham’s intercessory prayer for Sodom and Gomorrah he said, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right” (Genesis 18:25 KJV)? God always does what is right in every situation and at all times. It’s not in His character or nature to do otherwise. He is always just. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, What have You done” (Daniel 4:35 KJV)? No one will ever be able to point an accusing finger at God saying, “What have you done?” He always does what is right.
A just judge will always do the right thing in punishing wrong doers. So how can God be just and still withhold punishment from sinners? The only way He could be just and justify us was by pouring out His wrath on Jesus in our place. He was just and judged all our sin by pouring out His judgment on His Son. That is why Paul could write, “To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26 KJV). He is both just and the justifier of all who trust Christ. Whenever we sin, we can be assured that when “We confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The Bible says, “God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10 NKJV). Whatever we do in His name He does not overlook. He will always reward faithful service for Him. He will take note of and remember all our work and labor of love in His name, especially in our ministry to His people. Pastors, the service you do for Him to the body of Christ (His church) does not go unnoticed. He will reward your faithfulness! Don’t let the devil ever make you think your service is in vain. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV).
The goodness of God. Let me assure you that He is a good God. No matter what happens or what you may be facing always remember He is good. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17 NKJV). There is not even a shadow in God’s goodness. He is pure, unadulterated goodness. The Psalmist exhorts us saying, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalms 34:8 NKJV). We serve a good God. Even the bad things in life He promises He’ll cause to turn out for our good.
Let me encourage you, your future is bright. “Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come” (Hebrews 9:11 NASB). You say, things have been good. Well, there’s more good to come. Maybe you’ve been going through a rough patch, things are going to get better. There are “good things to come.” “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NASB). “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalms 84:11 NASB).
It’s important for us to continue in His goodness. “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness” (Romans 11:22 NKJV). If you have strayed from His path let the goodness of God turn you back to Him today. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness” (Jeremiah 31:3 NASB). When we stray God uses three things to turn us back to Him:
- Conviction. “When He has come, He will convict the world of sin” (John 16:8 NKJV).
- His goodness. “Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4 NKJV).
- Discipline. This is the last resort. “Do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him” (Hebrews 12:5 NKJV).
Consider this prophetic word of encouragement. “I will fill the soul of the priests with abundance, And My people will be satisfied with My goodness, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:14 NASB). Are you ready to be satisfied with His goodness? Notice, “I will fill the soul of the priests with abundance” comes first and “My people will be satisfied with My goodness” follows. If you want to be satisfied fully with His goodness, make sure your priest (pastor) is filled with abundance in all things. Often people are envious and even embittered when their pastor is prosperous. However, it is only then that the people will be truly satisfied with all of His goodness.
The love of God. This is one of the most well known of all God’s attributes. The Bible emphatically states, “God is love” (1 John 4:8 and 16). It’s not that God loves but He is love. It’s not just something He does but who He is. Love isn’t God, this concept only perverts His love. God’s very nature is love. It’s is not what God does but who He is. There are manifestations of His love, but they are a mere bi-product of who He is. Manifestations of His love flow from His very being. Below are some manifestations of God’s love.
- The sacrifice of His Son (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16; 4:9; Romans 5:6-8). It’s God’s love that satisfies His holiness. It’s impossible to look back to Calvary and say God doesn’t love us.
- Calling us His children (1 John 3:1).
- Giving us life and position in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-6).
- His discipline (Hebrews 12:5-11).
- His inability to forget about us (Isaiah 49:15-16).
- Rejoicing over our return (Luke 15:3-24).
What should our response be to God’s love?
- Continue in the love of God (Jude 21).
- Love Him back (1 John 4:19).
- Love one another (1 John 4:11-12).
The mercy of God. Mercy is not giving us what we deserve. Praise God! We deserved judgment but God had mercy on us for Christ sake. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us” (Ephesians 2:4 NKJV). God is abundant in mercy toward us. “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalms 86:15 KJV). Peter said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
Praise the Lord! Even when we fall short and sin, we are encompassed about with mercy when we turn to Him. David had sinned with Bathsheba and had her husband killed, but when he turned to the Lord he said, “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about” (Psalms 32:10 KJV). We are compassed about with mercy. It’s a fence or wall surrounding us. When everyone is condemning us and expecting us to get what we deserve, mercy shouts back, let them alone. I have them covered. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed” (Lamentations 3:22 KJV). There was a story of a painter who was painting a portrait of a women. She was anxiously waiting to see the end product. When it was finally complete, she looked at it and angrily said, sir this portrait doesn’t do me justice. He replied, It’s not justice you need, it’s mercy. Thank God He doesn’t give us what we deserve.
Study tip: Read Matthew 18:23-35, James 2:13 and Romans 9:16-24.
The grace of God. Whereas mercy is not giving us what we deserve, grace is giving us what we don’t deserve. It is unmerited favor. A. W. Tozer said, “Ages upon ages will hardly be long enough to allow us to experience all the riches of His grace.” (“Root of Righteousness,” page 86) Paul said, “So that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7 NASB). John wrote, “Of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (John 1:16 NASB). “Grace upon grace.” There is enough grace in God’s storehouse to meet every need we may have. Grace is there to:
- Save us (Ephesians 2:8-9).
- Make us His work of art (Ephesians 2:10).
- Make workers of us (Ephesians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 15:8-10).
- Help us when we don’t measure up (Romans 5:20).
- Pick us up when we fall (Romans 5:20-21).
- Sustain us in times of trouble (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
- Fufill our financial needs (2 Corinthians 9:8).
The faithfulness of God. God is a faithful God. We may try to be faithful, but it is who God is — it is part of His very being. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23 KJV). “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13 NASB). He is faithful to:
- Fulfill His calling through us (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
- Protect us from evil (2 Thessalonians 3:3; John 17:15; 1 Peter 1:5; Psalms 91-1-16).
- Keep His Word and promises (Numbers 23:19; 2 Corinthians 1:20).
- Complete the work He began in us (Philippians 1:6).
- Forgive (1 John 1:9).
- Not deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).
- Show us fresh mercies daily (Lamentations 3:22-23).