I AM_The Attributes of God (Part 1)
(ASEITY, IMMUTABILITY and ETERNALITY of GOD)
The Attributes of God simply means the nature and character traits of God as they are revealed to us in the Scriptures. Our God, though infinitely incomprehensible and utterly immeasurable, chose to disclose His identity to His creation. He created us for relationship with Him and it was His initiative to reveal Himself to man.
J I packer says:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
My theology professor once said that ‘everyone is a theologian’ (because everyone has something to say about God). But the question is whether we are a good or bad theologian. What version of “God’ do we believe in? If we Christians say that we believe in the God of the Bible? Do we really know the God of the Bible? Is our knowledge and understanding of God sound and sufficiently correct?
The danger for today’s Christian is to put God in a box. That’s what religion did for centuries. A "god" that we can leave in the church and we can just approach when we are in need or anytime we want or choose to; a version of God that is convenient for us - a “god” made out of our own image and liking… a partial god that soothes our taste; a better or ideal version of us; a shadow of what we've had or did not have with our earthly fathers; all these could be our projections on who God is - but not necessarily what the Bible shows us. Let’s be careful to define God out of our own limited experiences and wishes.
That is why this topic is important for us to cover. It is my prayer that this series will somehow stir up an awakening in our hearts to the God of the Bible. I believe that it is possible for a small local church like ours to be filled with people that have right, clear and high knowledge of GOD that can transform our lives.
If we are going to be honest when we are asked that age-old question: WHO IS GOD? What will your answer be? Our minds can go into many different directions. We cannot quite simply describe in one sentence or paragraph Who God is or what God is like fully. But our beliefs on WHO GOD IS and What He is like is the core, not just of our faith, but how we live our very lives. Though this lifetime is not sufficient toknow God fully; He invites us to spend our lifetime to know Him intimately.
WHERE DO WE BEGIN? THE HOLY BIBLE - it is God’s Character Profile. More than just "God’s love letter to us" - it’s primary purpose is to reveal to every generations, every human being alive know and understand WHO THE REAL and ONLY ONE GOD IS as He has revealed Himself in history!
THE BIBLE INVITES US TO KNOW HIM:
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
…but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge… (knowledge of God)
Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
1 John 2:13
I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
1 Timothy 2:3-4
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Introduction: The Communicable and Incommunicable Attributes
The Bible gives us numerous descriptions of God’s character. Bible scholars sorted out these attributes and came up with biblical frameworks we can use to talk about what God is like and how we know that. Exploring the attributes of God helps us learn sound doctrine, prepare for evangelism, minister as leaders, preach and teach the gospel and most importantly, live in the light of who God is.
There are several different methods for categorising God’s attributes. This series of messages will use the most common classification system which is divided into 2 general categories incommunicable attributes (traits that God doesn’t share or “communicate” to others) and communicable attributes (traits that God shares or “communicates” with us).
Talking about God revealing Himself, the Bible is full of these events. For this part, we are zooming in to the story of Moses' encounter with God in the wilderness through the burning bush found in Exodus 3:1-14. (Read the story along from this link and let's discuss the following attributes)
A few crucial things we can observe and deduce in this narrative: Many people in this world believe in God but they don’t know Him personally. Moses believed in God all his life but up to this point, He has never met God. We can say that this event was Moses' conversion encounter with God. There’s a big difference between knowing about God and knowing GOD. The metaphor given in this passage is FIRE. And just like fire, it is real and can be experienced (see, smell, hear, feel) yet it cannot be "fully" experienced without being burned.
Ron Hansen quotes:
“God gives us just enough to seek Him and never enough to fully find Him. To do more would inhibit our freedom and our freedom is very dear to God.” - Ron Hansen
Just like fire, it is beautiful to behold yet can also be terrifying; it is life giving and warm and useful; but it can also be deadly and fierce and should be respected. Such a brilliant way to illustrate God. The text also says that the bush was not consumed and the fire was "self-existent" and "self-sufficient", which means it did not need or wasn't dependent for fuel or raw material to burn. It just does. ANd this brings us to the attribute of God called ASEITY.
(Independence, Self-Sufficiency and Self Existence)
In several places, Scripture teaches that God is absolutely independent, self existent and self-sufficient. This is because:
A. He doesn’t need creation for any reason. Paul proclaims to the men of Athens, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:24–25).
God asks Job, “Who has given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine” (Job 41:11). No one can give God anything that he didn’t first give them.
B. He created everything. In John’s apocalyptic vision, the 24 elders proclaim, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11). John’s gospel opens with the claim that, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
Initially identifying Himself as the God who had committed Himself in covenant relationship with the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). Moses asks God’s name. And God gives Him His Name -“I Am who I AM” or "I will be what I will be". This is the Hebrew name YHWH (YAHWEH); which sounds like the verb “to be”. That name in all its forms proclaims ATTRIBUTES of GOD. The names of God revealed in the Scriptures, reveals WHO HE IS.. and from Who He is flows what He does. So, what does this name imply?
“I AM” proclaims his IMMUTABILITY and ETERNALITY. He is the God who is not bound by time (outside of time and created time); and also as the One who can never change for all time. He is the same, yesterday today and forever.
Scripture shows us that God is unchanging in his being, perfections, purposes, and promises (Psalm 102:27, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17).
So what about passages where God appears to change his mind? For example:
Moses prayed to prevent the destruction of the people of Israel (Exodus 32:9–14)
God added fifteen years to the life of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:1–6)
The people of Nineveh repented and God withheld his promised wrath (Jonah 3:4, 10)
Aren’t these instances where God did change? These instances should all be understood as true expressions of God’s present attitude or intention towards the present situation. If the situation changes, then of course God’s attitude or expression of intention will also change. This is just saying that God responds differently to different situations but His essential attribute remains the same.
God has no beginning, end, or succession of moments in his own being—he is timeless—and he sees past, present, and future equally vividly. The psalmist affirms that God is timeless in Psalm 90:2: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
We read in Psalm 90:4, “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” The phrase “a thousand years” is a figurative expression for as long a time as one might imagine. This means all of past history is viewed by God with great clarity and vividness. To God, all of time since the creation is as if it just happened.
In the New Testament, Peter tells us, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Since “a thousand years” is a figure of speech, one day lasts forever in God’s mind.
Taking these two considerations together, we can say the following: in God’s perspective, any extremely long period of time is as if it just happened. And any very short period of time (such as one day) seems to God to last forever. Thus, God sees and knows all events past, present, and future with equal vividness..
This is OUR GOD! He is Magnificent! The GREAT I AM though eternal, unchanging, independent and self-sufficient wanted our participation in His story. He chose to use Moses and get His attention and wanted Him to draw near.. but as he came close enough, God said, don’t come any closer… God can live without us but He chose to be in relationship with us. Just like fire, we can’t live with God and not be consumed and we can’t live without God either. We are created for Him and to be with Him but because of sin we can’t live in His presence without dying for He is Holy - pure perfection where no impurity can dwell therein!
How can a holy God live with sinful men? And the answer is JESUS... GOD can live without us but He doesn't choose that. He wants us near and He wants us saved and the only way that is possible is when weare washed clean by the blood of His Only Son (John 3:16). Even at the burning bush, the fire could have consumed Moses but "the Angel of the Lord" (Exodus 3:2-4) was there to stand in the gap and protect Moses. Who is this Angel of the Lord? Read verses 2 and 4 again. He is the Lord Himself - the pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. As Alec Motyer puts it:
“The angel is revealed as a merciful ‘accommodation’ or ‘condescension’ of God, whereby the Lord can be present among a sinful people when, were he to go with them himself, his presence would consume them…. He is that mode of deity whereby the holy God can keep company with sinners. There is only one other in the Bible who is both identical with and yet distinct from the Lord. One who, without abandoning the full essence and prerogatives of deity… is able to accommodate himself to the company of sinners… Jesus Christ.”
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” - John 8:58
QUESTIONS for DISCUSSION
What is the difference between knowing about God and knowing God?
Why is it vital for us to know GOD?
What does the name of GOD, "I AM" reveal to us about His attributes?
Discuss the three attributes. How is your view, knowledge and appreciation of God now that you understand these?
How should this change the way we live, pray, make decisions and respond to situations?
Read the account on Moses encounter with God in the burning bush. How can you relate with this and what insights have you gained in this story?
How is the story of Moses in the burning bush related to JESUS? What makes JESUS the GREAT I AM?
Recommended Supplementary Readings:
The Eternality and Aseity of God
Matthew Barrett – The Gospel Depends on a God Who Does Not Depend on You