- JRM Sydney
The Moral Attributes of God
Every name of God highlights aspects of His character. One of these names is Elohim. Elohim is the first and one of the most frequently used names for God in the Scriptures. It is this name that is used in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth.” In fact, the word appears some 2,750 times in the Old Testament. The term "Elohim" means “Supreme One” or “Mighty One.”
As its first usage, it refers to the Creator God and in that creation account, all that this Creator God creates are described in Genesis 1 as "good". In fact, the Scriptures tells us that everything that flows from God is good. E.g:
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Goodness flows from a Good God. And that is the first among the Moral Attributes of God that we have learned this past Sunday. Before we continue, it is important to note that the moral attributes of God are those that are categorised as His "Communicable Attributes". Meaning, they are the character traits of God that he shares with His creation; that we especially humans have an innate likeness to or granted nature with our Creator.
What are the moral attributes of God?
For this part, we are only going to talk about the first three overarching attributes in that list. Moral attributes are concerned with the principles of right and wrong behaviour or how good or evil is defined.
1. GOD’S GOODNESS
No one is good but One, that is, God. - Mark 10:18
We have always chanted in church life this declaration:
"God is Good all the time! And all the time God is Good!"
And rightfully so because we serve a GOOD GOD. This not just by a mere wish or hope but it is revealed again and again in the Bible. God's goodness means that He Is infinitely, unchangingly kind and full of goodwill.
AW Tozer describes it:
The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men. He is tenderhearted and of quick sympathy, and His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, frank, and friendly. By His nature He is inclined to bestow blessedness and He takes holy pleasure in blessing His people.
One of the most intrinsic attributes of God is His goodness. God is not good because it is attractive for Him to be so, nor does He follow after some sort of standard for goodness. God is actually so good that He is the source of goodness; He alone is the rule and measure of what we truly know to be good. To the Christian, the goodness of the Lord is a blanket of security and a source of peace.
The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
- Psalm 145:9
You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
- Psalm 119:68
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! - Psalm 107:1
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. - Nahum 1:7
Our Lord’s goodness is one of the most frequently mentioned divine attributes in Scripture, but it is also one that is all too often misunderstood. Therefore, it is vital for us to remember that divine goodness, like God’s other attributes, cannot be considered in isolation. God will never exercise His goodness in any way that would cause Him to set aside another of His attributes and all His attributes are in unison and does not contradict each other. E.g. God’s goodness exists within his immutability, and infinite nature, so that he is unchangingly, always good; His mercy flows from his goodness; He gives grace for He is good as much as He exercises justice rule for He is good; etc.
Goodness is God’s essential character. It means that the Lord is not evil, that He does not love sin and, indeed, cannot even be tempted with evil. It also means that God does not possess or have lots of goodness; e.g. 99% good. He is Goodness Himself. He is not like a man. There is nothing evil in Him. By this, we know that everything He does and He gives flows from His goodness.
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! - Matthew 7:11
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
- Psalm 34:8
As with God’s other perfect attributes, Christians find it easier to affirm the goodness of God when things are going well. When life takes a curve turn, though, that’s when we begin to question God’s goodness to and for us. When the Psalmist writes “O, taste and see that the Lord is good,” (Psalm 34) he is inviting us not just to believe that God is good but to experience God’s goodness. And, interestingly, “the psalmist affirms his experience of God’s goodness from a place of suffering. In verse 19, he makes the remarkable announcement, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” Even with a good God, who is sovereign over everything and has the power to do whatever he likes, good people still suffer. His punchline, though, comes in the next phrase: “but Yahweh delivers him out of them all.” Evil happens, but “none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned” (34:22).
2. GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS
The righteousness of God is the divine attribute that describes God as acting always in a way that is consistent with his own character. (e.g. Good, Just, Holy, Merciful, Love, etc.). Righteousness is similar to goodness and holiness but differs in that it requires works to establish it. Someone can be holy, but not righteous if good works do not accompany it. God is good, but He refers to Himself as righteous because He works out His goodwill as well. For God to be righteous means HE IS ALWAYS RIGHT. There has never been a time nor will there ever be a moment that God is or can be wrong.
"But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these, I delight," says the Lord.
- Jeremiah 9:24
The Lord is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works.
- Psalm 145:17
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. - Psalm 19:7-9
God is not defined by the term “righteous,” as much as the term “righteous” is defined by God. God is not measured by an outside standard of righteousness; God sets the standard of righteousness. It is God’s own nature and will that determine what is right and wrong, and when Scripture affirms that God is righteous it assures us that God always conforms to himself – he faithfully adheres to his own perfections. He acts only and always according to the very highest principle of justice: himself. God’s righteousness is the ethical dimension of his character which is a very important source of our ethical standards in governmental, societal and relational dealings.
This is a truth about God that we are glad to know. It is one thing to know that God is sovereign (omnipotent) and so rules the world by his own will. But it is pleasant to know that he rules in righteousness. For all the apparent questions we might have in life, it is necessary indeed that we know that God is just and that he will always do what is right – however difficult it may be for us to see it at a given moment.
The judge of all the earth will do what is right. - Gen 18:25
I will meditate on the glorious splendour of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works. Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, and I will declare Your greatness. They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, and shall sing of Your righteousness. - Psalm 145:5-7
3. GOD’S HOLINESS
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord Almighty” – Revelation 4:8
The holiness of God refers to the absolute moral purity of God and the absolute moral distance or separation between God and his human creatures. The word holy means sacred, set apart, revered, or divine. And yet none of those words is adequate to describe the awesome holiness of our God. That God is holy means he is endlessly, always perfect and eternally incorruptible.
“Therefore you are to be holy, as your Heavenly Father is holy,” - JESUS, Matthew 5:48
Because God is Holy, his standard for us is holiness as well. And you and I know that whatever religiosity of effort of goodness we do or how we live, we are way below that standard of holiness and no ne can ever attain it.
“There is no one righteous, not even one...
- Romans 3:10
"... for all have sinned and fall short of the perfections of God."
- Romans 3:23
"For the wages of sin is death..." - Romans 6:23
That’s why we need Christ. Without Christ taking the place for us and dying for our sins, we would all fall short of God’s holy standard. Tozer says this about what God’s holiness demands:
“Since God’s first concern for His universe is its moral health, that is, its holiness, whatever is contrary to this is necessarily under His eternal displeasure. To preserve His creation God must destroy whatever would destroy it. When He arises to put down iniquity and save the world from irreparable moral collapse, He is said to be angry. Every wrathful judgment in the history of the world has been a holy act of preservation. The holiness of God, the wrath of God, and the health of the creation are inseparably united. God’s wrath is His utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys.”
Thankfully, the Christian will never have to experience God’s holy wrath poured out. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, the penalty for our sins was paid and we were imputed (credited) with Christ’s righteousness. Now, when God looks on us, he sees Christ’s perfect holiness. Hallelujah! It is only in this that we can hope to stand in the presence of the blindingly pure, perfect, Holy One of Israel.
SO WHAT SHOULD BE THE IMPLICATIONS OF THESE FOR US?
1. It's Not Our Goodness but His Goodness
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by good works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:8-9
For we are created with innate goodness as the likeness of God. But sin distorted and polluted that goodness that's why we need to be restored. Our own goodness or good works can never save us. It is God's goodness that does. But in our saving, God restores us in that good works comes as a result because that is what we are originally made for.
2. Not a Righteousness of our own but Christ's righteousness
Christians are called righteous, not because they have any ability to accomplish good works, but because they reside in the good works (or righteousness) of Christ. Christ's obedience is transferred to us and God grants us eternal life as a result!
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. - 2 Corinthians 5:21
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. - 1 Peter 3:18
This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. - Romans 3:22
3. We don't make ourselves holy, Christ made us holy and we ought to live holy lives as our response
19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:19-23
God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.
- 1 Corinthains 1:30
13 So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” - 1 Peter 1:13-16
Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful. - 1 Thess. 5:23-24 NLT
QUESTIONS for DISCUSSION:
Name three of the most good-natured person that you know personally. Why do you say that they are a good person?
Have you been described as a good person? Why or why not?
What do Communicable Attributes mean?
What does Moral Attributes mean?
What does it mean that "God is Good"?
What does God's righteousness mean?
What is God's Holiness?
Why are these three attributes good news for us?