6. Characteristics of God, Part TwoRelated Media
What are some other characteristics of God?
We have looked at the fact that he is spirit; he does not have a human body. He is a person, meaning he demonstrates characteristics of personhood such as: personality, consciousness, anger, love, and jealousy. God is independent; he doesn’t need anybody or anything. Finally, we saw that he is immutable. God doesn’t change, and therefore, we can trust what he says and does.
What are other characteristics of God? We will look at four more in this chapter. God is eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.
God Is Eternal
Another characteristic of God is that he is eternal. His eternality essentially means that he has no beginning and no ending. Everything else has a beginning but God does not. In fact, he is the one who created time. We see this in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The question we should ask is, “In the beginning of what?” Moses, the author, is referring to time. When God created the earth, he also created time. Later in the Genesis narrative, he creates the sun and moon specifically to track the time. It says, ‘“Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years” (Gen 1:14). God is eternal, and he is the beginning of all things.
In fact, we see God’s eternality in the covenant name he gave to Israel. Moses said, “Who shall I tell the people sent me?” God said, tell them, “I am sent you” (Ex 3:13–14). “I am”, or Yahweh, refers to the self-existent one, the one that always has been. I am because my parents were, but God just is; he is eternal. Jesus used this phrase to describe himself in his discussion with the Jews in John 8:57-58. It says, ‘“You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”‘ (emphasis mine). He was declaring himself to be the God of Israel (Ex 3:13–14), but he also was declaring that he had always existed, as he had previously seen Abraham .
Jesus also declared his eternality in Revelation 1:8. Listen to what he says: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (emphasis mine). Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Christ was calling himself the beginning and the end. He was again declaring his eternality.
This characteristic is taught throughout the Scriptures. The Psalmist said this about God: “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God (emphasis mine)” (Psalm 90:2).
Reflected in the Way God Speaks about Time
Understanding God’s eternality will help us better understand how he often speaks about time and events. Because he is eternal, he has a different view of time than us, and this often is reflected in his declarations.
Listen to what Peter says: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day (emphasis mine)” (2 Peter 3:8). To God, a thousand years happens as fast as one day, but also, one day happens as slow as a thousand years. His idea of time is very different from ours, since he is eternal.
Not only does he see time differently, but he is outside of time. He sees the end from the beginning. Look at Isaiah 46:10: “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (emphasis mine). God stands outside of time, and therefore, can see what has happened in the past, what’s happening right now, and what will happen at the end. His view is very different from ours.
Reflected in the Way God Speaks about Man
We see God’s unique viewpoint in how he often speaks about man. Look at what he says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).
How can God know Jeremiah before he was born? Well, part of the reason is because God is outside of time. He sees Jeremiah before he was born and, at the same time, sees his end. He speaks blessing and purpose over his life before he was formed in the womb.
Look again at how he talks about all believers in Romans 8:29–30:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (emphasis mine)
In Romans 8:29-30, he says not only did he know and predestine believers before time (cf. Eph 1:4-5), but justified them and glorified them. Glorification specifically is an event which only happens at the rapture. It is then that we receive a glorified body. The believers in Rome that Paul was writing to had not yet died and certainly had not been glorified. However, Paul spoke about these events in the past tense. This is a reflection of God’s eternality. They, as all believers, were predestined, called, justified, and glorified. These are words that only can be spoken by the Eternal One. They reflect his unique viewpoint. He sees the end from the beginning. In God’s view, believers are already saved even before they are born. They are glorified in heaven with new bodies before they have even died.
Certainly, we can get a very minute understanding of God’s view in comparison to ours just by looking at a child and his father. The child drops his cookie and cries because it is lost, but the father does not cry because he knows he will simply buy the kid another cookie. They have different views because the father has a broader view and more life experience than the child.
In an infinitely bigger way, God sees the end from the beginning. He knows what our present trials are meant to breed and develop in our lives and what their final end will be. He can speak comfort to us because he sees the end from the beginning. He looks at our situation from an eternal viewpoint.
Reflected in Prophecy
It should be added that this eternal viewpoint is also reflected in prophecy. Often when God gives a prophecy in Scripture, it can be confusing for us. Let me give you an example. Let’s look at Isaiah’s prophecy of Jesus’s birth.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (emphasis mine)
In the first part of the verse, God prophecies about the coming messiah; however, he places Christ’s first coming and second coming right next to one another. It says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.” At Christ’s first coming, he came as a child and a son, but the “government resting on his shoulders” will not be seen till his second coming, as he sets up his kingdom on the earth. This prophecy confused many of the Jews and that is why they rejected Christ. They were waiting for a conquering king, but Christ, at his first coming, came as a humble servant.
The confusion is taken away when we better understand God’s eternality. God, who is outside of time, sees both of these events happening together, though there is at least two thousand years between the two comings up to this point. To God, a thousand years is like one day.
When we read the Scriptures that speak about God, we must be aware of his eternality lest we become confused. The fact that he is outside of time is seen in much of his speech and specifically his prophecies. We serve an everlasting God, an eternal God with no beginning and no end. When studying his revelation, we see this viewpoint as prevalent throughout Scripture.
How should we respond to God’s eternality?
1. Understanding God’s eternality teaches us to be patient.
God does not operate according to our timetable. With Abraham, he promised him a nation and a land, but Israel did not become a nation for 400 years. Even now, they are still fighting for a land. In addition, the seed he promised Abraham wasn’t born until he was 100 years old.
Scripture says many of the people of God did not receive what they were waiting for. Listen to Hebrews 11:13:
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. (emphasis mine)
God’s timing is not our timing. David is still waiting for his seed to have an everlasting rule on the Davidic throne (2 Sam 7:13). Abraham is still waiting for his seed to have the land of Israel as an eternal inheritance (Gen 13:15). Understanding God’s eternality should help us become more patient.
2. Understanding God’s eternality should draw us to worship.
Our God is not like us. He is eternal and we are finite. This aspect of him should cause us to praise him. He is eternal.
God Is Omnipresent
Another characteristic of God is his omnipresence. This means “that God is everywhere present with His whole being at all times.”1 Listen to what David said about God:
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
David said there was nowhere he could run from God’s presence, not the heavens, not hell, not the sea, and not the sky. God was everywhere. In the same way, we cannot run from God because he is always present in all places, at all times.
How should God’s omnipresence affect us?
1. God’s omnipresence should give us a sense of accountability.
God is not just at church on Sunday or present when we read our Bible; he is there even when we sin and are in rebellion towards his plans for our lives.
We get a picture of this with Jonah, who runs from God’s calling to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. He goes out to the sea in a boat, but there God meets him in a storm. He was tossed into the sea by the crew to preserve their lives, but there God saves him by allowing him to be swallowed by a large fish. Jonah then fulfills God’s original plan for him by calling Nineveh to repentance; however, he does it with wrong motives. Later, God meets with Jonah under the shade of a vine in order to deal with the sin in his heart. There was no place to run from God, and this reality should give us a sense of accountability.
Listen to what James says, “Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door (emphasis mine)!” (James 5:9).
James commands these Jewish Christians, scattered because of persecution (James 1:1), to live without grumbling and complaining because the Judge was standing at the door. He challenges them to live holy lives because God was always near them, ready to discipline them.
God is omnipresent, he is everywhere, but he is in different places doing different things. He is one place to empower and comfort, and in another place to judge. Understanding this reality should create a sense of accountability in us.
2. God’s omnipresence should give us encouragement to serve the Lord.
We see Christ speak of his presence as an encouragement to serve and do ministry. Look at what he tells his disciples in Matthew 28:19–20:
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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (emphasis mine)
Christ gives his omnipresence as a comfort to the disciples and us, as we preach and share the gospel. If it is in front of a court, a classroom, if it’s in a place where we feel scared or intimidated, we can take comfort from the fact that Christ is there with us to encourage and empower us.
It is probably this same type of encouragement we see given in the book of Philippians as the church is called to let their gentleness or care for others be known to all. Listen to what Paul says: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (emphasis mine)” (Philippians 4:5).
Let this truth encourage us to be faithful in giving, serving, and ministering to one another because God’s presence is near. He is near us to give us grace and strength. He is near to carry us and empower us to do his works. Our Lord is near.
3. God’s omnipresence should give us comfort when discouraged.
The Psalmist said, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
The word “close” can also be translated “near” the brokenhearted. God is near us in our pain and near us in our distress in a special way. His omnipresence gives us accountability, gives us encouragement for ministry, and also comforts us in pain.
What about Hell?
What does God’s omnipresence say about hell? Sometimes believers say hell is the absence of God. This is not true, for this would contradict the “omnipresence of God” and the “sovereignty” or “providence of God.”
Colossians says he “holds all things together” (Col 1:17). Just as we cannot exist without God, neither can hell. He is even present there; he is present holding it together, but also specifically present for judgment. Consider Amos 9:1–4 and how it describes God being present to judge.
I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and he said: “Strike the tops of the pillars so that the thresholds shake. Bring them down on the heads of all the people; those who are left I will kill with the sword. Not one will get away, none will escape. Though they dig down to the depths of the grave, from there my hand will take them. Though they climb up to the heavens, from there I will bring them down. Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, there I will hunt them down and seize them. Though they hide from me at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent to bite them. Though they are driven into exile by their enemies, there I will command the sword to slay them. I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.
When looking at God’s presence, we must realize he is present everywhere. The question is, “What is he present for?” In hell, Scripture would say he is present to bring judgment instead of blessing. With those serving God in ministry, he is present to empower. With the brokenhearted, he is present to encourage.
How does God’s presence affect you? Does it comfort you, does it scare you, or are you ambivalent to his presence? How can you grow to be more aware of God’s presence? David was so aware of it he said, “I can’t get away from you” (Psalm 139). Thank you, Lord, that you are always present.
God Is Omniscient
Another characteristic of God is his omniscience. If you break the word into two parts: “omni” means “all” and “science” means “knowledge.” God has “all knowledge.” A. W. Tozer’s comments on God’s omniscience are helpful. He wrote:
God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creaturehood and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feeling, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell.
Because God knows all things perfectly, He knows no thing better than any other thing, but all things equally well. He never discovers anything, He is never surprised, never amazed. He never wonders about anything nor (except when drawing men out for their own good) does He seek information or ask questions.2
The Scripture teaches this in many ways. Look at what the writer of Hebrews says: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).
Our God sees everything, and similar to his omnipresence, this is also meant to give us a sense of accountability. In fact, Solomon said this: “The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).
His eyes are everywhere, watching both the good and the wicked.
Different from Human Knowledge
What makes God’s knowledge different from ours is the fact that everything we know has been taught to us. We learn by reading books, listening to our teachers, and looking at the Internet, but God intrinsically knows everything. Listen to 1 John 3:20: “Whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (emphasis mine).
Unlike us, he does not have to be taught because he innately knows everything. Listen to what Isaiah 40:13–14 says about him.
Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?
He essentially says, “What school did God go to?” He didn’t go to school. He knows everything there is to know.
In fact, his knowledge is so vast that not only does he know actual events but potential events. Look at what Jesus said to the cities that would not repent at his preaching and miracles.
Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
Jesus said if the miracles that he performed in Korazin and Bethsaida, the cities of Israel, would have happened in Tyre and Sidon, they would still be standing today.
We should take great comfort in this. God knows what would have happened if you would have gone to that university instead of this university, if you had been raised in the U.S. instead of another country, if you had married that person instead of this person. God knows all those things, and yet, chose or allowed you to be where you are (cf. Eph 1:11, Rom 8:28). This should give us great comfort, as we look over the events of our lives.
God Is All Wise
As we talk about God’s omniscience, it should be noted that God is more than knowledgeable, he is all wise. This means he always knows the best possible solution to every problem. Look at what Paul calls God: “To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Romans 16:27).
He is the all wise God, and specifically for Christians, he uses this wisdom to guide every event in our lives for the good of bringing us into conformity with the image of his Son. Romans 8:28–29 says:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (emphasis mine)
Were there possible better paths, better decisions we could have made? Certainly, in some cases. However, God, in his wisdom and sovereignty, chose to allow the events in our lives to happen, good and bad, for the purpose of making us look more like Christ.
This may be hard to believe as we look at some of the events and failures of our lives or other believers’ lives, but it is true. God is all wise, and he uses that wisdom to make us more like his Son. This should give us great comfort and help us trust God more. Proverbs 3:5 says this, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
Not only does God know what potentially would have happened, but Scripture teaches he has an “intimate knowledge” of each person. He even knows the number of hairs on our head. Luke 12:7 says: “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Listen to what David says:
“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.
He knows our thoughts, our sitting up, and our lying down. He is intimately involved in our lives because he loves us.
What does this mean for us? How can we apply the fact that God is omniscient?
1. God’s omniscience means that we can be open with God in sharing our thoughts, fears, worries, and struggles.
In many of our relationships, we hide the truth. We often don’t tell others how we are really feeling or share what is going on in our hearts for fear of rejection or misuse of the information. However, God already knows, and he understands our situation better than we do (Matt 6:8). Therefore, this should encourage us to share our most intimate concerns with God. Peter said, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
God’s omniscience is an encouragement for us to be transparent in our relationship with the Lord. He calls for us to cast our anxieties before him and to ask for our daily bread (cf. Matt 6:11).
2. God’s omniscience should give us a sense of accountability, especially when we are tempted.
We may be able to hide our cheating, our lying, or our lustful thoughts from others, but we can’t hide it from God. Not only does God know, but one day, he will even judge our “careless words” (Matthew 12:36). Listen again to what Hebrews 4:13 says: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (emphasis mine).
God knows, and we will have to give an account to him for our sins. This should be a motivation to live righteously and also to continually confess our sins daily before him. He promises to forgive the sins that we sincerely confess before him (1 John 1:9).
3. God’s omniscience should continually draw us into prayer, as we seek him for daily wisdom.
Scripture teaches that God loves to give his children wisdom. James 1:5 says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (emphasis mine).
Solomon asked for wisdom, and God gave liberally. Solomon became the wisest man on earth (1 Kings 3). In fact, in Proverbs he told us to seek after wisdom more than silver and gold (Prov. 8:10–11). Solomon said this because God wants to give it; he wants to guide us into the right paths for our lives (Prov. 3:6).
4. God’s omniscience should continually draw us to the study of Scripture, for Scripture is the revelation of God’s wisdom.
David said this about the Word of God: “The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple (emphasis mine)” (Psalm 19:7).
Let us come daily to the Word of God so we can become wise. God’s omniscience should continually draw us to seek the wisdom of the one who is all knowing and all wise.
God Is Omnipotent
What is another characteristic of God? Scripture would also teach that God is omnipotent, which means that God is all-powerful and able to do anything consistent with his own nature.3 This is very important to us as Christians because when we look at how corrupt our nations are or how far away our friends or church communities are from God, we can take great comfort from this truth—God is all powerful. It simply means, “He’s able” (Ephesians 3:20).4 He is able to accomplish the impossible.
Power in Creation
Jeremiah said: “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you (emphasis mine)” (Jeremiah 32:17).
Jeremiah declared that one of the greatest examples of God’s power is the creation of the heavens and earth. He said, “Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth.” However, it is not only the fact that he created the heavens and earth, but how he created them.
How did he create them? Scripture says he just spoke. That is a lot of power. There are some people who speak on the earth and things get done. The president speaks and things start moving. But God speaks and the universe is created. That is how powerful God is. Listen to what David said as he meditated on God’s power in Psalm 33:6–9:
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. (emphasis mine)
But what is also so wonderful about God’s creation of the earth is the fact that he created it ex nihilo. Ex nihilo is a Latin phrase which means “out of nothing.” Now, if we were going to build a house, we would need bricks. If we were going to make a beautiful painting, we would need paint and canvas. But for God, he doesn’t need any of those materials; he can make things out of nothing.
Listen to what Paul said about God’s creative powers: “This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing (emphasis mine)” (Romans 4:17, NLT).
The writer of Hebrews said this: “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 (emphasis mine)” (Hebrews 11:3).
Our God can create out of nothing. You might say, “How is that possible? What about the law of thermodynamics? Energy is never created nor destroyed but only transferred.” However, God is the one who created the laws of thermodynamics, and therefore, is not bound by it.
God is able. He is able to do more than we could ever ask or think (Eph 3:20). Christ said: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Qualified by His Character
“With God all things are possible.” However, with that said, we do need to qualify that statement. God’s omnipotence is qualified by his character. Listen to what Paul said: “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself (emphasis mine)” (2 Timothy 2:13).
This means that if we are faithless in trusting God, he will remain faithful because he cannot deny or disown himself, meaning his own characteristics. Man is fickle; we love this person today, and we hate the same person tomorrow. But God’s characteristics are always the same; he is faithful. God is righteous, and he can never stop being righteous. He cannot disown himself.
Therefore, God’s omnipotence is qualified by the rest of his characteristics. There are some things God cannot do. For example, he cannot lie (Titus 1:2), he cannot be tempted with evil (James 1:13), and he cannot deny himself (2 Tim 2:13). Also, he always works to bring glory to his name. Therefore, God’s use of his infinite power is qualified by his other attributes.
What other ways do we see God’s power?
We see his power in nature ,as God destroyed the earth by flood in Genesis 6-7. We see his power over death, as he resurrected his own Son (Rom 8:11). We see his power over the devil, as the devil must get permission from him as seen in Job 1. We see his power to save, as he redeems souls all throughout the earth. His power is so great, that Scripture says that he sustains the earth by his Word. He is always holding everything together. Hebrews 1:3 says:
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (emphasis mine)
How should we apply this reality in our lives?
1. In considering God’s omnipotence, we should pray bigger and dream bigger.
It clearly should affect how we pray and how we live. There are many who have tiny prayers and tiny ambitions for their lives. They just want to live and make it through. Listen to what Matthew said about Jesus’s hometown: “And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith” (Matthew 13:58).
Many people never see or experience God’s mighty power. They never see God use them or others greatly to expand his kingdom, to lead people to Christ, or to encourage others. Why? It is because of their lack of faith.
It’s hard to talk to some Christians because you wonder if they are worshiping the same God. “I can’t serve. I can’t talk to people about my faith. I am scared. I can’t do this. I can’t do that.” Yeah, you can’t, but what about God?
I fear many Christians are like the Jews from Christ’s hometown. Because they knew Jesus and had been raised with him, they lost their wonder of him, and therefore, struggled with believing in him—struggled with their faith.
Listen to 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work”.
Don’t you want a God that can make all grace abound to you? He can make sure you always have what you need in finances, food, and other resources. He can make sure that you always abound in every good work. That’s the life we should want. We should want an all-grace abounding life.
Paul gives this specific promise as an encouragement for believers to be faithful and to trust in God’s goodness as they serve him, particularly in the area of giving (2 Cor 9:7). He wants us to know, “He is able.” Look at what else Paul said: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).
Our God can do more than we can ever ask or think. He is able. That is a God that we can and should believe in. That is the God we need, as we go through the trials and tribulations of life. That is the God we need, as we seek to see the nations know Christ. That is the God we need, as we pray for strongholds to be broken in our communities and our churches. We need to believe in a God that is able.
In fact, Scripture teaches that believing is the way to tap into this power. Jesus said this, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). Paul prays this in Ephesians 1:18–20:
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. (emphasis mine)
We need our eyes awakened to this great power as well. This great power is available only to those who “believe”. Are you believing for God to work in your family, your church, your neighborhood, and your city? Are you trusting in God? Our God is able.
How else should we apply God’s omnipotence?
2. In considering God’s omnipotence, we should be careful not to limit God.
Often when God calls us to do something, we try to limit him because we are focused on our inabilities. Moses, when he was called to lead Israel, began to question his abilities. He said, “I can’t speak, I am slow of tongue.” However, God confronted him with his omnipotence. “Who made the tongue” (Ex 4:10-12)?” Whatever God calls us to do, he will empower us to do. We should not limit God.
In addition, we should never give up on the most rotten sinner or the worst looking situation because he is able. Therefore, we must never limit God.
3. In considering God’s omnipotence, we should always worship with thanksgiving.
His omnipotence is a wonderful characteristic, especially as you consider it in accordance with his love, grace, wisdom, and mercy. Our God is all-powerful, which is only fitting for one that is perfectly holy, wise, and gracious. We have seen a lot of power abused throughout history, but God never abuses his power. It is always used to the best and wisest end. For this reason, we should always worship and praise. Thank you, Lord!
God Is Merciful
Mercy by definition means “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power.”5 Grudem defines it as “ God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress.”6 The Bible teaches us that God is a God of mercy. David said this in 1 Chronicles 21:13: “I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men” (emphasis mine).
How is God’s mercy great? What examples do we see of this in Scripture?
One of the stories in the Bible that most clearly displays God’s mercy is the story of Ahab. He, along with his wife, Jezebel, ruled Israel and caused them to sin against God more than any other king previously. They killed many of the prophets and hunted others, including Elijah.
One time, Ahab messed up so badly that God told him that he was going to kill him and his whole family, and that none of them would have proper burials. This was the worst king in the history of Israel. Listen to how Ahab responded and what God did in 1 Kings 21:25-29.
There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.) When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.
The worst king of Israel mourned before God, and God gave him mercy and favor because of it. Ahab, probably, will not be in heaven with us. There is no evidence that he was a saved man, but because of his humility before God, the Lord had mercy on him. He did not give him what he deserved. This is amazing to consider.
Similarly, look at the display of God’s mercy in the book of Amos:
This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: He was preparing swarms of locusts after the king’s share had been harvested and just as the second crop was coming up. When they had stripped the land clean, I cried out, “Sovereign LORD, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!” So the LORD relented. “This will not happen,” the LORD said. This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: The Sovereign LORD was calling for judgment by fire; it dried up the great deep and devoured the land. Then I cried out, “Sovereign LORD, I beg you, stop! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!” So the LORD relented. “This will not happen either,” the Sovereign LORD said.
The prophet Amos saw judgments coming to Israel, which prompted him to pray for mercy, and God relented from each of them. Another story showing God’s great mercy is the story of the apostle Paul. Look at how Paul describes it:
Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
1 Timothy 1:13–14
As Paul said, he was shown mercy. The man, who hunted and killed Christians, by God’s grace and mercy, became perhaps the greatest apostle.
In all these stories, we see that the character of God is merciful. He delights in forgiving people and being merciful to those who don’t deserve it.
How should God being merciful affect us?
1. God’s mercy should compel believers to seek God’s forgiveness for their sins.
First John 1:9 says: “If we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
This verse is abounding with mercy. When a believer confesses his sin, God forgives us for the specific sin and also cleanses us from all unrighteousness. When I confess known sin to God, he even forgives the sins I am unaware of. His mercy is abounding. He desires to give mercy to sinners.
There are many saints that walk around with condemnation about something they did or did not do in the past. This is because they don’t truly have an understanding of God’s great mercy. For that reason, they instead listen to and accept the condemnation of their flesh and the devil. Some have stopped going to church, some have stopped praying and reading their Bibles. They feel too guilty. Jesus took the penalty for our failures and our sins so that we could receive mercy. If we truly have a revelation of what Christ has done for us, we will run to the throne room of God constantly, to receive grace and mercy in our time of need (Heb 4:16).
2. God’s mercy should compel believers to pray for mercy over others.
If we understand God’s mercy, it should cause us to seek and plead with him for mercy over others. At the cross, Jesus prayed, “Lord, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He asked for mercy towards his persecutors. The Lord’s Prayer says, “forgive us our sins” as it ushers us to seek forgiveness for not only our sins but others (Matthew 6:12). In fact, listen to what Samuel said to Israel. “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you (emphasis mine)” (1 Samuel 12: 23).
In 1 Samuel 12:19, the people asked Samuel to pray that they would not die for their sin of rejecting God and asking for a king. Samuel replied that he would not “sin” by failing to pray for them. We should see this as a duty from our Lord that we have been called to do, to pray for the sins of others, to pray for forgiveness, and to not sin by failing to do so.
This is often forgotten in our churches. If we truly understood this characteristic of God, we would plead with him for mercy on behalf of our nations, our communities, our families, friends, etc. The Lord’s Prayer sets this as an abiding principle for the church: “Forgive us our sins.” In fact, Scripture says that God seeks after people who will pray this way. Ezekiel 22:30 says this: “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none” (emphasis mine).
Do you ever ask for mercy over the sins of others? This is the same thing we saw the prophet Amos do for the nation of Israel (Amos 7:1-6). It is the same thing Moses did as he constantly asked God to forgive the nation of Israel for their sins (Ex 32:9-14). It is the same thing Stephen did as he asked for forgiveness over those stoning him (Acts 7:60). It is the same thing that Christ prayed for on the cross. “Lord, forgive them for they know not what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). It is the same thing we must constantly do for those around us. God has called us to be priests that make intercession for people who are far away from God (1 Peter 2:9, 1 Tim 2:1-4).
3. God’s mercy should compel believers to practice mercy.
The Beatitudes give mercy as a continuing attitude and action of the redeemed. Listen to Matthew 5:7: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
In the Beatitudes, Christ is teaching the attitudes that are within those who are truly part of the kingdom of God. With this specific attitude of mercy, Jesus gives a reciprocal promise. He says mercy will be given to those who have shown mercy. Those who practice mercy in their daily lives: forgiving others, giving to the poor, etc., will always receive mercy from God. But those who do not show mercy, God will show his justice. Matthew 6:15 says: “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Certainly, this should be a warning to us. If we withhold mercy, God will withhold mercy from us—he will not forgive us. But even worse than withholding mercy, he will judge us for not being merciful as he is. Listen to the end of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant:
Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
Christ declared that torment awaited those who were not merciful. This torment is probably implemented by demons as seen with Saul and those in the early church who were handed over to Satan (cf. 1 Sam 16:14, 1 Cor 5:5, 1 Tim 1:20). How many Christians are under demonic torment because of a grudge they hold against somebody that hurt them or because they have been harsh towards others instead of merciful? This is a warning Christ gave to his apostles, and, certainly, we must heed it as well.
However, Scripture promises blessing to those who are merciful. Not only will they receive mercy but also other graces from God as well. Proverbs 19:17 says, “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.” Proverbs 11:25 says, “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Reward and refreshment await those who relieve others of their pain through acts of mercy.
As we consider these promises, it should be a tremendous encouragement to those serving in mercy ministries. Mercy ministries often burn people out. However, God promises to reward and refresh us for our faithful service. Let us, especially, hold onto God’s promise of refreshment. God refreshed Christ with the ministry of angels (Mark 1:13). He refreshed Elijah with food that was brought by ravens (1 Sam 17:4). David was strengthened in the Lord (1 Sam 30:6). We should hold on to God’s promises.
Secondly, it also should be an encouragement to those who are burnt out or too depressed to serve. Sometimes, the best way to receive encouragement or relief is to have mercy on others, for then, God will have mercy on us. When discouraged, we often isolate ourselves and become consumed only with our problems. However, in ministering to others, God ministers to us. Christ promised that in taking on his yoke of service, we would find rest for our souls (Matt 11: 29). This is a challenge to the life of self-centeredness. It is a life about others that is full of refreshment and the blessings of God.
Understanding that this is a characteristic of God should cause us to practice the discipline of being merciful. By practicing mercy, we will look more like our Father who is great in mercy, and it also is the doorway to receiving tremendous blessings in our lives.
4. God’s mercy should compel believers to love mercy.
Listen to what Micah 6:8 says: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (emphasis mine).
Micah says we must not only show mercy but love it. It is very possible for our acts of kindness and forgiveness toward others to have the wrong motive or simply to be done out of obligation. First Peter 4:9 says, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
God not only commands our actions but he commands our hearts. He commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love him with all our heart, mind, and soul. God has called for us to love showing mercy because he loves showing mercy.
This is a wonderful characteristic of God that we must strive to show every day to those God has placed around us. God’s mercy must also continually drive us to the feet of God in prayer to ask for mercy on us, our communities, our nations, and all those around us. Thank you, Lord, that you are God of mercy. Thank you, Lord, that you don’t keep a record of sins, for who could stand your wrath (Psalm 130:3).
In order to know, understand, and better worship God, we must know his characteristics. We have seen that in order for us to understand how God speaks in Scripture, we must understand God’s eternality. He is outside of time and knows the end from the beginning. He is omniscient; he knows all things and, in fact, is all wise. It is for this reason that we must continually seek his wisdom in every circumstance. God loves to give wisdom liberally and without partiality. He is omnipresent; he is in all places at all times. He is omnipotent, all-powerful. It is for this reason that we can pray to him and bring even our greatest problems before him. With man, many things are impossible, but with God, all things are possible. This should affect our prayers, it should affect our vision. We serve a God with unlimited resources. Finally, God is merciful and we should be merciful as well.
- What does God’s eternality mean? How do we see God’s eternality reflected in Scripture, and how should God’s eternality affect our relationship with God?
- What does God’s omnipresence mean? How do we see this reflected in Scripture, and how should God’s omnipresence affect us?
- What does God’s omnipotence mean? How do we see this reflected in Scripture, and how should it affect us?
- What does God’s omniscience mean? How do we see this reflected in Scripture, and how should it affect us?
- Define the word mercy. What ways do we see God’s mercy reflected throughout the Scripture? What ways is God calling us to demonstrate his mercy to the church and those around us?
- Pray that God would be great in mercy to your nation for its sins (Psalm 51:1). Pray a prayer of confession for specific sins and ask for God to bring revival.
- Pray for God’s power to be seen in a mighty way in the government, the school system, and the churches in your nation. Pray that God would draw people to himself.
- Pray that God would pour out tremendous wisdom and power on your Christian leaders so that he may be glorified in the church. Pray for specific people as God puts them on your heart.
Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown
The primary Scriptures used are New International Version (1984) unless otherwise noted. Other versions include English Standard Version, New Living Translation, and King James Version.
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Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version ® (ESV ®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
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1 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 46.
2 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 47.
3 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 45.
4 Tony Evans. Theology You Can Count On. (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 2008), Kindle edition.
5 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mercy (accessed on March 12, 2014).
6 Wayne A. Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 200.