A Biblical Framework for Studying the Attributes of God |
The Names, Ways, & Attributes of God
The conceptual essence of true Theology has been corrupted. The ideological supremacy of Biblical logic has been dethroned and usurped by a disguised pretender. In order to rescue the Church from this plague of human wisdom, we must rediscover the sufficiency of God's wisdom. The diabolical perversions of Theological enterprise must be identified and corrected. Every crooked thing must be made straight. Every half truth needs to be made whole. Every incomplete idea must grow into the greatness of biblical perfection. Human wisdom must not be allowed to masquerade as divine wisdom any longer.
"Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." - 1 Tim 1:5-7
Every unlawful use of the Bible must be identified and proven false (1 Tim. 1:3-11). The words of men are confounding the word of God; therefore, like purging a great House from an infestation (2 Tim. 2:20), the crafty words of men must be found and exterminated (Gal. 2:4-5, 2 Tim. 2:14-19, Eph. 4:14). Being thus minded, let us turn our attention to the normal rhetoric of Systematic Theology, especially as it pertains to conducting the reader into a study on the Attributes of God.
"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;" - Eph. 4:14
The word "attribute" isn't in the Bible. Neither is the word "characteristic" or "trait". Nevertheless, theology books conduct their studies of God through analyzing the attributes of God. How do they do it? Meanwhile, as a plague upon society, learned students of theology boast a full comprehension of the character and personality of God! How can they be so confident (Isa. 29:13-14)? Certainly, any attempt to know the truth of Scripture without actually knowing God will always lead to heresy; however, any attempt to communicate the knowledge of God while deviating from THE BIBLICAL NARRATIVE will also lead to heresy.
This is the case even when well-meaning theologians attempt to compile a comprehensive list of the attributes of God by simply extracting the explicit statements of Scripture that speak about the character traits of God. Certainly, even though the words "attribute" or "characteristic" aren't in the Bible, the character traits of God are abundantly present. However, there are BIBLICAL EQUIVALENTS to these words that are totally ignored by modern theologians while they go about harvesting the character traits of God from Holy Writ. Therefore, in the extraction process of harvesting, the compiled attributes lose their original identity in the context of THE BIBLICAL NARRATIVE. Even so, when the list of growing attributes amounts to a Systematic Theology of sorts, the readers behold a distorted Image of God that is perverted by man's wisdom.
The Names and Ways of God are biblical equivalents to the "attributes" or "characteristics" of God. For example, in the Name Elohim, as depicted Genesis 1, we observe how God is the Mighty & Strong Creator God; just like we can see divine attributes in El-Elyon (the Most High God) in Genesis 14:18-20, El-Roi (God that Seest) in Genesis 16:13, El-Shaddai (God Almighty or God All-Sufficient) in Genesis 17:1, El-Olam (the Everlasting God) in Genesis 21:33, and Jehovah-jireh (the Lord Sees & Provides) in Genesis 22:14. However, these BIBLICAL EQUIVALENTS are synonymous to and more excellent than these generic words. The scope of what is communicated in the Names & Ways of God does far exceed that of an attribute or a characteristic.
That's why knowing (Ps. 9:10, 91:14), remembering (Ps. 20:7), fearing (Mal. 2:5), and acting in the Name of God (Ps. 118:10-12) does automatically result in salvific aid and safety (Ps. 124:8, Prov. 18:10). Evidently, according to Scripture, the Name of God isn't merely something that can be spelled-out on paper or spoken in a word. In fact, such a relationship with the Name of God is strictly forbidden (Ex. 20:7, Deut. 5:11, Ps. 139:20, Isa. 29:13). To truly understand all that is meant by God and taught in Scripture concerning the Name of God, one must think spiritually by the virtue of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 2:14, Rom. 8:5-8). For, the Name of God isn't merely a word by which mankind should address God, nor is it just a characteristic about God; rather, it speaks of the actual living Person of God. Demonstrably, that's why the Name of God can be in or near people or places (Ex. 23:21, Ps. 75:1); or, that's why it can be recorded or placed in / upon people or places (Ex. 20:24, Num. 6:27, 2 Chron. 6:20).
Therefore, when Jesus came in the Name of the Father (Jn. 5:43, 10:25), it didn't mean that Jesus acted on behalf of the Father or because of the Father; nor did it mean that Jesus acted in defense of the Father's reputation or in remembrance of the Father. Rather, it meant that Jesus was living, thinking, speaking, and acting in the Father (Jn. 5:19-20, 10:30, 37-38, 14:9-11, 20); or, it meant that Jesus was being empowered by the Spirit of the Father. Therefore, speaking of His humanity (Php. 2:5-11), Jesus openly admits that He could do nothing without the Father (Jn. 5:30). Furthermore, as a Man, and as a trailblazer on behalf of Fallen Mankind, Jesus made a way for us to be saved. Literally, Jesus Christ is the Way (Jn. 1:12-13, 14:6, Acts 4:12).
This Way pertains to the unique relationship that Jesus Christ had with the Father during His earthly sojourning as a Man. Speaking of this, Jesus said, "I and My Father are one" (Jn. 10:30). Jesus Christ now makes possible for all mankind what was only possible for Him. Through being made one with the Them - the Father and the Son - redeemed souls are made to share in the salvific glory (Jn. 17:22), love (Jn. 15:9-10, 17:21-23), and life (Jn. 6:56-57) that was uniquely exhibited in the life of Jesus. It was always the will of God that redeemed mankind would be one with God in this way ("...that they may be one, even as We are One" - Jn. 17:22; Jn. 14:21, 23).
Therefore, just as Jesus came in the Name of the Father (Jn. 17:11-12), we are to live, move, and have our being in Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:20, Php. 1:21); and, in so doing, we are acting in the Name of Jesus Christ (Jn. 14:9-14, 26, 15:16, 16:23-24, 26; 2 Cor. 5:14-21). Herein, Jesus has declared the Name of the Father to us (Heb. 2:12, Jn. 17:26); and, in declaring it, redeemed mankind has come to know the Name of the Father (Jn. 14:6-14); and, in coming to know it, we have come to know God Himself (Jn. 10:14-15, 17:3)! Furthermore, this makes possible the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, as stated to the Apostles, "as the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you" (Jn. 20:21; Lk. 10:16, Mk. 10:40, Jn. 13:20).
All things considered, it was never the intention of the LORD to declare the Names of God all throughout the Bible in some superficial reckoning of character traits. This idea totally contradicts the Name of God as it is defined in Scripture. Therefore, at the revelation of Elohim (the Mighty & Strong Creator God) in Genesis 1, Jehovah Elohim (the Eternal Self-Existent Mighty Creator God) in Genesis 2:4, El-Elyon (the Most High God) in Genesis 14:18-20, El-Roi (God that Seest) in Genesis 16:13, El-Shaddai (God Almighty or God All-Sufficient) in Genesis 17:1, El-Olam (the Everlasting God) in Genesis 21:33, Jehovah-jireh (the Lord Sees & Provides) in Genesis 22:14, and El-Elohe-Israel (God the God of Israel) in Genesis 33:20, we observe a salvific personal portrait of God as He characterizes Himself.
One would think that such a characterization wouldn't go unnoticed by Systematic Theologians as they catalog the attributes of God. How did it happen? This isn't just the makeup of the Book of Genesis. This signature method of divine revelation pervades the Bible. God crystallizes His own attributes with new Names all throughout the storyline of redemption, adorning the divine narrative with dazzling and unforgettable ornaments of glory. How can such fine jewelry be ignored by the theologians of our time (Matt. 7:6, Prov. 11:22, 23:9)? What lame carpenter would construct a theological survey of the attributes of God devoid of the Names of God (Jn. 3:10, Eccl. 12:9-11, 1 Cor. 3:9-10)? When, in fact, the ideological composition of the knowledge of God would utterly collapse without the Names of God!
Modern theologians don't pay too much attention to the storyline in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, despite the fact that the Names of God do flourish into new glories in the plot of these Books. They don't even believe that the Exodus Generation was legitimately saved; which means that they deny that the Exodus Generation actually knew the LORD. I'm sure theologians have no problem acknowledging that the Patriarchs were truly saved (Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob); hence, they might put some weight upon the Names of God revealed in Genesis. In other words, they might admit that the Patriarchs personally knew and walked with God just like Noah and Enoch before them (Gen. 5:22, 24, 6:9, 17:1-2; Ps. 90:1); and, on the contrary, the wicked of the earth in those days rejected the LORD, saying to God, "Depart from us; for we desire not the Knowledge of Thy Ways." (Job 21:14). However, it is commonly believed that the vast majority of the Exodus Generation didn't even know the LORD.
"And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his Name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is My Name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations." - Ex. 3:13-15
"And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the Name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. And I have also established My Covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers." - Ex. 6:2-4
"And he said, I beseech thee, shew me Thy glory. And he said, I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the Name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy." - Ex. 33:18-19
"And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped." - Ex. 34:5-8
This marks the beginning of a whole new era of redemption in the Name of Jehovah (I AM). By ignoring the Exodus Generation, Theologians overlook an era where God crystallizes many attributes with the Name of Jehovah. Even with the emphasis made in Exodus 3:13-15 & Exodus 6:2-4, and the momentous occasion described in Exodus 33:18-19 & Exodus 34:5-8, the events of this storyline are lackluster and underwhelming to most readers. Why? The loss and tragedy of a generation going astray distracts the reader from these crystalline moments of redemptive history. It's all chalked-up to be some kind of failed attempt at redemption; ...end of story! For, most readers don't believe the Exodus Generation even knew the LORD!
Given the circumstances, it's understandable why the Names of God herein revealed are underwhelming to readers. If indeed the primary recipients of these revelations were mostly dead to God and alive in sin, how can the Names of God revealed in the plot and storyline of their journey be that important? Therefore, the space taken up in the Canon by the Exodus Generation is commonly belittled and the Names of God revealed in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are almost totally overlooked. Then again, it's commonplace nowadays for the cohesive message of the Old Testament to be almost totally disregarded.
In reality, if the Exodus Generation never knew the LORD, then the most important utility of the Names of God is undermined and nullified by their testimony. Yet, as a startling contradiction, the storyline of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy does abundantly confirm the fact that the Exodus Generation knew the LORD. In a total of nearly 25 undeniable acts of salvific power in their Exodus alone (all of which definitively revealed the personality of God in an effectual communication of the knowledge of God), and scores of other times in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, lo and behold: the LORD wrought upon the Israelite people to make sure the promise, “…ye shall know that I am the LORD your God” (Ex. 6:1-8, 7:16-19, 8:10, 22-23, 9:13-16, 29-30, 10:1-6, 11:6-10, 14:4, 17-18, 30-31, 16:6, 12, 19:4, 9, 20:2, 5-7, 18-21, 24, 23:20-33, 29:42-46, 31:13-15, 33:16, 18-19, 34:5-28).