God's Attributes of Goodness, Love, Grace, Righteousness, and Holiness


1. Describe God’s goodness. If God were God and all that he is in being God, yet were not good, we would be in big trouble. In fact I am not even sure how we can explain goodness apart from God. I believe it is actually one of the biggest apologetics for the proof of the existence of God. I mean how do we explain what good and bad apart from God. To me it almost seems impossible. “The awareness of morality leads to God much as the awareness of falling apples leads to gravity. Our moral intuitions recognize the effect, but what is the adequate cause? God is the only explanation for moral terms that make them coherent and our moral intuitions make sense.” (Greg Koukl) It is interesting that he original Saxon meaning of our English word "God" is "The Good." The goodness of God in some ways seems to be the totality of all of God’s attributes. To say that God is good is almost the equivalent of saying that God is God. “And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” (Exodus 33:19) We cannot separate what is good from God. You cannot have goodness without God, just as you cannot have God without goodness. God alone is good. And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. (Mark 10:18) The goodness of God is a character trait which applies to every other attribute. God’s wrath is good. God’s holiness is good. God’s righteousness is good. God is good in His entirety. There is nothing about God that is not good. There is nothing God purposes for His children that is not good. God gives to His children only that which is good. And He withholds nothing good from us. God is good, and He is at work in our lives for good. Nothing which God creates, nothing which God accomplishes, is not good. I believe Wayne Grudem’s one sentence description of the goodness of God is very good: “The goodness of God means that God is the final standard of good, and that all that God is and does is worthy of approval.” 2. Is something good or right because God commands it, or does God command a thing because it is good and right? Well, first of all, what is good and right is not based on a random choice or personal whim of God. God cannot command whatever he wants, and call it good. Goodness is not based on God’s power to command. Nor is God responsible to some higher power outside of himself. God does not command something because it is ‘good and right’ as if ‘good and right’ were a standard that he must submit or adhere to. An objective standard does exist, though. What is good and right is not based on the whims of a capricious powerful God. However the standard is not external to God, but internal. What is good and right is grounded in the immutable character of God, who is perfectly good. His commands are not whims, but rooted in His holy nature.

Could God simply decree that torturing babies was moral? No. God is bound by his own character. Therefore he cannot he command us to murder people, or worship false Gods.

As Scott Rae, professor at Biola University, puts it, “Morality is not grounded ultimately in God’s commands, but in His character, which then expresses itself in His commands.” In other words, whatever a good God commands will always be good. Because goodness is a part of who God is. It is an attribute of God himself. Like I said before, trying to describe what good apart from God is impossible. How do we know telling the truth is good? Because God tells us it is. Is it good, just because God told us? Yes, and No. But more so because he has revealed part of who he is to us. That is how we know. Without God there would be no such thing as good 3. Describe God’s love.

God would have been a loving God even if he had never created anything. God’s love is a part of who he is, without which he would cease to be God. 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. God loves himself in an everlasting perfect way, as there has been a perfect love amongst the Trinity from all eternity, and it will go on into all eternity. The Father loves the Son (Matt. 3:17) and the Son loves the Father (John 14:31) Gods love is the heart of the biblical story. Not only is the overflow of who he his, his love and joy that manifested itself in creation but it is especially precious to God’s people. This attribute of God shows that it is part of his nature to give of himself in order to bring about blessing or good for others. Jack Cottrell offers an excellent definition of God’s love: His self-giving affection for his image-bearing creatures and his unselfish concern for their well-being, that leads him to act on their behalf and for their happiness and welfare. God’s love extends to everyone and everything he has created. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16) God’s love in sending Christ is directed to the world as a whole. Yet, it is only believers who receive eternal life. What is probably most amazing though, is not that God has such a love for something that is so big, but that he has such a love for what is so bad. As B.B Warfield as so wonderfully put it, “And this is the measure by which we are invited to measure the greatness of the love of God. It is not that it is so great that it is able to extend over the whole of a big world: it is so great that it is able to prevail over the Holy God's hatred and abhorrence of sin. For herein is love, that God could love the world - the world that lies in the evil one: that God who is all-holy and just and good, could so love this world that He gave His only begotten Son for it, - that He might not judge it, but that it might be saved" The most stunning way to see the love of God is by way of reference to the cross of Christ. But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8) If we ever doubt God’s love we need only to look to the cross. It is through the cross that God not only cancels sin debt, but will reconcile a whole broken world to himself (Colossians 1:20). God created out of the overflow of his love, and God redeems out of the overflow of his love. God’s love is also covenantal. While it is true that God loves everyone and everything he has created, he has a very special covenantal love for his elect. “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:4-5) “Jesus loved His people before the foundation of the world — even from eternity! and when He called me by His grace, He said to me, 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee’” 4. Describe God’s grace.

We could describe God’s grace as “sovereign, unmerited favor, given to those who deserve his wrath.” God’s grace, like his love, is covenantal. It is implicit in the covenant name of God. Yahweh initiates the covenant, by choosing undeserving people to bear his name: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Israel as a nation. That is grace.

Grace is The Father who sent His son Jesus to die for sinners that did not deserve it and could never repay it. Grace is resistible until it is not. Grace gives freely and it takes away freely. Grace is not fair. Grace pays all the workers the same wage, whether they worked nine hrs, six hrs, three hrs, or one (Matt. 20:1-16). Grace is the dying thief on the cross hearing from Jesus, today I will see you in paradise.

Someone once said that trying to control the grace of God is like trying to catch a tiger by the tail or as was said in the famous little world of Narnia; "Safe, who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. and He's the King, I tell you.”

Gods grace is pure and it wild and it is free. Because God is God, He is sovereign, and He is good. He has no needs outside of Himself, nor is He lacking or of any want. He is completely satisfied in Himself. Therefore there are no strings attached, no conditions to be met.

Because he is the only one who is like this, we have no prior experience on which to figure this out by, thus we have a really hard time understanding, unless he allows us to get a glimpse. Which if he does, is completely by his grace. We sometimes ask the question: if God’s grace is not based on human merit, what is the reason for it? Is it arbitrary? No. But it is completely based on something only found on God himself. I heard a saying the other day to the affect that, “grace bats last”. I like that. We are down but we are not out. It’s kind of like the clean up batter in baseball. When all had seemed like without hope, after 400 yrs. of silence from God, in the fullness of time, Jesus appeared ( ). Often we even feel like we have failed God so many times that we are no longer worthy of his grace. Wait a minute! We were never worthy of His grace to begin with.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

If we ever think we are worthy enough for any other reason than the finished work of Jesus, that in fact the moment we are outside the bounds of grace and are at least in part working to be our own savior.

The very definition of grace is favor to the undeserving. If we could earn it, there would have been no reason for Jesus to come. We can’t earn it, so he did come. Therefore trusting in him is more glorify to God than anything you will ever be able to do for him or not do for him. God’s grace often meets us when we are in our deepest depths of despair or in the deepest blindness by the great works of our self achievement and God opens up your eyes through the preaching of the gospel and you turn away from yourself and to him as your only hope. I like what Jesus said as he unrolled the scroll in Luke 4 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” (vs. 18-19) Grace is here, penetrating all corners of the earth, as long as Jesus is on the throne and his disciples are at large (Matt. 28:19-20). God’s grace is saving, God’s grace is empowering, God’s grace is Gods Riches At Christ Expense. God’s grace is amazing. "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Titus 2:11-14) But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

5. Describe God’s righteousness.

God’s righteousness means that God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right. The main idea of divine righteousness is that God acts according to a perfect internal standard of right and wrong. All his actions are within the limits (if we can use that term reverently) of that standard. So righteousness is the form, the structure of God’s goodness, and his goodness is the concrete, active embodiment of his righteousness. To say that God is good implies that God is righteous. God reveals his standards to us in his deeds and personal self-revelation, but most explicitly in his revealed law. His law is not arbitrary, but is based on his own nature. The moral law is not something above him, that has authority over him. Nor is it something that he has created, as though (as nominalism would have it) he could change it at will (making adultery to be virtuous, for example). Rather, his moral standard is simply himself, his person, his nature. His acts are righteous because he is a righteous God. Righteousness, therefore, is his desire, his pleasure. The standard of our moral behavior is not an abstract concept, but an infinite person, God himself.

Speaking of God, Moses says, “All his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Deut. 32: 4). Abraham successfully appeals to God’s own character of righteousness when he says, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18: 25). God also speaks and commands what is right: “The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart” (Ps. 19: 8). And God says of himself, “I the LORD speak the truth, I declare what is right” (Isa. 45: 19). As a result of God’s righteousness, it is necessary that he treat people according to what they deserve. Thus, it is necessary that God punish sin, for it does not deserve reward; it is wrong and deserves punishment. In Romans 1:17, Paul indicates why he is “not ashamed of the gospel”: For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” To Martin Luther, this verse posed a problem. As a Roman Catholic monk, he was accustomed to thinking of God’s righteousness only as the divine standard of judgment. God’s righteousness, therefore, was a fearsome thing. How could the revelation of God’s righteousness be “good news” (gospel)? Even more perplexing, how could it be “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16)? Luther eventually concluded that God’s righteousness here is not the righteousness by which he judges men on the last day, but the righteousness he gives us, imputes to us in this life, by grace through faith. This meaning is clear in chapter 3: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (Rom. 3:21–22a) As our sin and condemnation came through the one man Adam, so our righteousness, justification, and life come through the one man Jesus (Rom. 5:12–19). His righteousness comes not through our works, but only through God’s free gift, his grace (3:24). Christ “became to us . . . righteousness” (1 Cor. 1:30). And: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21) Though this gift of righteousness is free to us, it is not free to God. An awful price has been paid, the sacrifice of God’s only Son, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:25–26) So we see now why the gospel of Christ is a revelation of God’s righteousness, not only of his goodness, grace, and love. The gospel tells us what God has done so that he can declare us righteous, not because of our works, but because of the sacrifice of Christ. But it also vindicates God’s own righteousness (Rom. 3:26). How could God declare sinners to be righteous? Is this not precisely a perversion of justice, that he should “clear the guilty”? Is that not, indeed, a violation of his own name (Ex. 34:7)? But the perfect sacrifice of Jesus is the basis of our righteousness, and when God clears our guilt for Jesus’ sake, he is acting justly. So through Christ, God is able both to justify the ungodly (us) and to defend himself against any charge of injustice.

Now we understand why God is not only faithful, but also just, to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9). And we understand that the righteousness of God is not only law, but also gospel. It is not only a standard of conduct, but the power of God unto salvation.

God treats all creatures in righteousness. He never violates his standards of conduct. But in the active redemptive sense, God’s righteousness saves only those who are righteous by faith.

6. Describe God’s holiness.

God’s holiness means that he is separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own honor. We are not to meet God as an ordinary friend or enemy, but as One who is radically different from us, before whom we bow in reverent awe and adoration. It is his uniqueness (Ex. 15:11; 1 Sam. 2:2), his transcendence as our Creator.

Because we are sinners as well as creatures, God stands over against us, not only as transcendent, but as ethically pure. It is particularly as sinners that we fear to enter God’s holy presence. When Isaiah heard the seraphs cry, “Holy, holy, holy,” he immediately remembered his own sin: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5) Thus, the holy Lord tells us to back away. But amazingly, he also draws us to himself and makes us holy as well. Israel becomes his “holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). The Israelites will be holy, “for I the LORD your God am holy” (Lev. 19:2). They participate in a holy assembly (Ex. 12:16), keep a holy day (16:23), sacrifice at a holy place (26:33), through a holy priest, anointed with holy oil (30:25), wearing holy garments (31:10). They learn God’s will through the “holy Scriptures” (Rom. 1:2). NT Christian believers are “saints,” holy ones (Rom. 1:7)

Holiness, then, is a very rich concept. It speaks of God’s transcendence and separation from finite and sinful creatures. But it also speaks of how God draws them to himself, making them holy. Holiness marks God’s transcendence, but also his immanence, his presence to redeem us. He is not only “the Holy One,” but “the Holy One among us,” “the Holy One of Israel.” And as both transcendence and immanence, judgment and salvation, law and gospel, God’s holiness drives us to worship him. Yahweh is the Lord who moves us to worship him with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28)


© 2014 by CORAM DEO MISSIONS

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