“All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him.” —A.W. Tozer
Everyone knows there is a God. This is true because he reveals himself to us in nature, in our fellow human beings, and in the fact that we have a conscience. So the question is not “Is there a God?” but “Who is God and what is he like?”
But why should we want to know what he is like?
Why should we study the attributes of God?
There are several reasons we will briefly explore.
We cannot simply ignore the metaphorical God-shaped elephant in the room, or at least not forever. The fact that there is a God means we need to know who he is and what he is like in order to make a decision about how we will respond to his existence. And how we respond shapes and affects how and why we do everything else in our lives. As Dr. Steve Lawson says, paraphrasing Dr. R.C. Sproul, “What you believe about God is the most important thing about you.”
We must know about him in order to know what we believe about him. When you want to know more about a person you study them. You learn what makes them tick, what makes them angry, what they love, what makes them laugh. You dig deeper to understand why they do the things they do. You spend time with them and the more time you spend with them the more you get to know their character. You discover if they are kind, loving, loyal, forgiving, begrudging, rude, selfish, etc. And if they wrote a book about themselves, that would make it even easier!
God wrote us a message about himself.
God chose to use words, not drawings or clouds in the sky, to reveal himself to us. Although nature reveals God generally, it is easily misinterpreted. The Bible reveals God specifically. It is God’s story about himself. In it we find statements about who he is such as “God is love” (1 John 4:8), “God is a spirit” (John 4:24), and “God is light” (1 John 1:5). He also uses his Word to tell us what he is like. He is righteous (Psalm 11:7), he is merciful and gracious (Exodus 34:6), he is majestic in holiness (Exodus 15:11), he is immortal (1 Timothy 1:17). And when the author makes explicit truth statements about himself, we should not ignore them.
We need to be able to distinguish between the one true God and false ones.
Everyone is a theologian. What I mean is that everyone believes something about God. Everyone theorizes about who they think he is. Everyone makes assertions about what they think he is like. Since we all have our own views about God, it is important to see if we have formulated our beliefs on accurate information. Failure to do so can lead us into dangerous territory.
It leads to a right view of ourselves.
All people are created in the image of God. Have you ever heard the expression, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?” If you want to better understand someone, you look at where they came from—their parents. They will have similar traits, tendencies, and talk. God is our Creator or Father. He made our characteristics to resemble him in many ways. Human beings are but a copy of the true Being. And as we will discuss in more detail in this series, there are ways we are like him, ways we have marred his image in us, and ways he is unlike any of us. Understanding God will help us better understand ourselves.
Knowing God can give us comfort, hope, and assurance in this world.
The news is nightly filled with negativity—natural disasters, violent crimes, disease, and political ploy from every side. With all the pain, uncertainty, and overwhelming amount of evil in the world, knowing that God is sovereign, good, just, and all-powerful (to name a few examples) can save us from a multitude of worry, fear, and despair.
It makes our churches stronger, healthier, and of more benefit to the Christian mission.
Churches border on the line of irrelevance and irreverence when they do not rightly understand who God is and what he is like. They have nothing of distinction to offer people when their God looks no different than the gods of this world. Their services become nothing more than idolatry when they worship a God of their own imagining, made after their own image. Conversely, churches see some of their healthiest years and growth when they hold firm to biblical truths about God. Individual believers will grow stronger in their faith as they grow in their understanding of God and will grow in personal holiness as they are “renewed in knowledge after the image of [their] creator” (Colossians 3:10). Evangelism efforts will be fortified as Christ-followers deepen in their awe of the God they serve.
It leads to right and reasonable worship.
Learning about God is not about fact consumption. Knowing information about God is not the end goal; it is a means to a higher end. Our theology should lead to doxology, or our knowledge should lead to praise. But you cannot worship what you do not know.
In our lack of God knowledge we are prone to two extremes: either an ignorance that leads to absence of praise, or an ignorance that leads to emotionalism bordering on fanaticism (worshipping something without solid reasons). Knowing God gives substance, reason, and purpose to our worship. Once we know him, it makes perfect sense to worship him. The apostle Paul, after considering the mercies of God, concluded that offering everything we have to him in return was our reasonable worship. As Dr. Joel Beeke states, “The attributes of God give specificity to the praises of his name. God’s people do not worship a nebulous, unknown mystery that inspires emotion without understanding; they worship the God whom they know in his attributes.”
Knowing God is the only way to eternal life.
All other reasons to study the attributes of God flow into this tributary. All people were made to know the one who created them. Jesus Christ came to make him known to us, but he came to make him known in a very specific way—the way that leads to life. ”And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). The most important reason we should find out who God is and what he is like is not just so we can know about him but so we can know him personally. We can only know him in this way when he reveals himself to us in his grace through his Son, Jesus Christ. When we look to Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, we will truly know him and the eternal life that is in him. Knowing him is the beginning of all knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).
Seek to know him more today.
If you do not know God today, seek after him like you would a fortune in riches. Knowing him is the most valuable treasure in this world and the easiest one to find. God placed you exactly in your time and place so that you would seek him and find him, and he is actually not far from you (Acts 17:26-27). If you already know God personally through faith in Christ, seek to know him deeper and closer than ever before. “To know God is more enlightening than an advanced degree from a prestigious school, more strengthening than a great army, and more enriching than a vault of gold” (Dr. Joel Beeke). You could spend your life pursuing no greater thing.