I purposefully brought two things together in this title that are often, unfortunately, separate. The first is the “attributes.” These are often thought of as “facts” about God (eternity, omnipresence, omniscience, etc.). But these seem cold, detached from life, and speculative: “how could you possibly know things about God?” Attributes are thought to be abstract and unimportant in a life of faith.
The other is the title of God given in Revelation (1:4, 4:8, 17:8), the God Who we know because He shows Himself to us, the personal God. Far from the abstract God, the God of Scripture is intimately known in His Son and is powerfully present (John 14:23), not known through smart-sounding sentences or human philosophy.
It’s important to keep these together for a few reasons.
First, the attributes are never to be separated from the God Who reveals Himself in Scripture and His Son, otherwise we risk creating another god. The God Who is eternal is the God Who became flesh in time (John 1:14); the God who is omnipresent (everywhere present) became a Jewish man in the Middle East in the 1st century; the God Who is unchanging responds to us, His creatures (Job 40:6). The attributes describe truthfully the God we meet in the face of Jesus. If we separate them, we risk creating a division between the God of Scripture and some abstract god in our minds.
Second, the attributes help us remain firm in our faith, because they give us a glimpse (however imperfectly!) into the being of the God Who is faithful and solid. These attributes help us see truths about God that are “below the surface” so to speak, but support the biblical God, giving us a deeper appreciation of Who God is and what He has done for us. For example, God is faithful because He keeps His promises. How can we be sure God keeps His promises? God’s unchanging nature supports this (which is attested in Scripture). When we read about God’s promises, remembering His unchanging nature should make those promises more solid for us.
Finally, these attributes should lead us to praise. Hopefully, you’ll see how these reflections on God’s character lead us to more heartfelt gratitude of God and what He has done for us in Jesus by the Spirit. We do not desire knowledge for its own sake, but to live more faithfully and worship more fully with our lives. The God Who is so far beyond us has come close, praise Him! The God Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever hears our cries and gives us daily bread, thanks be to Him! The God Who is omnipresent is more present in my stress and pain that even I am, there is none like you O Lord! (Jeremiah 10:6)
If you find yourself struggling to understand how the God Who saves us is also the God Who is eternal, that’s good! You’re beginning to see the mystery of God, Who is beyond our comprehension. When we reflect on the attributes, we push into the mystery of God, and mystery always leads to awe, and awe to praise. In all of this, we are responding to the God Who first reached out to us, to make Himself known to His creatures that He desires to save.
One final note. We will use philosophy (and other tools) to assist us in drawing out the truths that are implied in Scripture. This does not mean philosophy creates these attributes and that we’re somehow moving beyond Scripture. Rather, we utilize various tools so that we can know God more fully. Many of these attributes are not explicitly stated in Scripture (the word trinity isn’t in Scripture!), but they do accurately describe the God of Scripture. We always keep the Scriptures central, but various tools are available to help us sift the treasures found there.
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” 1 John 5:20