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Bible Q

What are the attributes of God?

It is impossible to provide a complete list, but we can summarize some of how God is revealed in the Bible. God presents himself to us throughout the Bible, showing different characteristics at different times, just as we do. At times he shows his power, at other times his gentleness. In the flood he showed his punishment and in sending his son, his love. He deals with mankind in many different ways and describes himself to us because he loves us and wants us all to love him.

Perhaps the most detailed description of God in the Bible is given in Exodus 34 when Moses asked to see God. God told Moses that it was not possible for a man to see the face of God and live, but presented himself to Moses in a clear and simple description.

The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV)

In this description, God reveals the following attributes

Compassion is feeling sorry for others in their suffering—feeling pity and mercy. God sent his son to take away our sins and the suffering that sin brought into the world (John 3:16).
God shows us his grace by doing something for us even though we do not deserve it. An example of this is the mercy and kindness shown in sending his son to die for us (Romans 5:8).
Slow to anger
God does not deal with us as we deserve. Despite our sins, he is patient with us. This was one of Jonah’s complaints about God—he knew that God would be patient and forgiving if people were willing to repent (Jonah 4:2).
Abounding in love and faithfulness
God has not forgotten the promises he made to Abraham almost 4,000 years ago. We can still become heirs of these promises today. This is real faithfulness—abounding faithfulness. God shows great unchanging love too; he has kept working with Israel throughout history, trying to guide them in right ways.
God’s capacity for forgiveness is seen clearly in how he dealt with Paul, a man who had viciously attacked the early believers in an attempt to destroy them (1 Timothy 1:12–16). God forgave Paul. He can forgive each of us if we repent and forgive others.
Punishing the guilty
If we do not repent, we are guilty and have nothing but God’s punishment to look forward to (Hebrews 10:26–27). It is important to note that this is one of the characteristics of God that we are not to copy, but must wait for God to act. God says that vengeance is his and he will repay (Romans 12:19).

A few more of God’s characteristics are shown in the following verses.

Characteristic Old Testament New Testament
creator and sustainer Genesis 1:1-31; Psalm 104:5–31 Acts 17:24–28
father Deuteronomy 32:6 1 Corinthians 8:6
holy Exodus 15:11 1 Peter 1:15–16
loving Exodus 34:6 John 3:16
sinless Deuteronomy 32:4 James 1:13
lawgiver and judge Isaiah 33:22 James 4:12; Hebrews 12:23
supreme Isaiah 43:10 1 Timothy 2:5
eternal Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 40:28 1 Timothy 6:15–16
angered by 2 Chronicles 24:18 Romans 1:18
forgiving/justifying Exodus 34:7; Isaiah 43:25 Romans 8:33
jealous Exodus 20:5 1 Corinthians 10:21–22
all knowing Isaiah 44:6–8; 46:10 1 John 3:20
present everywhere Psalm 139:7–12 Acts 17:24–28
hears prayer Psalm 65:2 Matthew 6:6
gives and keeps promises Joshua 21:45; 23:15–16 Acts 13:32–33
all powerful Isaiah 44:24–28; Jeremiah 27:5; 32:17,27 Luke 1:37

This answer was based on chapter 6 of The Way of Life, Bethel Publications, 2002.

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