There are three primary characteristics, or attributes, of God. Each are equally dominant and always constant.
- He is the Almighty
- He is Holy
- He is Loving
Theologians talk about incommunicable and communicable attributes of God. Namely, what things belong to God exclusively and what things has He intended that we share in. Everything under the characteristic ‘Almighty’ are the things that are incommunicable, or exclusive to God, while everything under holiness and love are communicable, or also intended for us.
We may test the validity that something is a primary characteristic of God if it is ascribed as the cause of His glory. The glory of God is not an attribute of God, but a result of a primary attribute of God. It is God’s almightiness, His holiness, and His everlasting lovingkindness, that necessarily creates His resplendent glory.
He is the Almighty
Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Revelation 11:17 “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.”
Revelation 21:10,11,22 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God….I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
The almightiness of God is a primary attribute because His glory says that He alone is God. Only God is the Almighty. There is no other like Him. God is One [Deut. 6:4]. He is an absolute being that necessarily excludes the existence of any other absolute being [Deut. 4:35,39; Is. 45:5,6].
Under this primary attribute, of being the Almighty, we have all of the incommunicable attributes, or those things that we shall never be. He is all-powerful (i.e., omnipotent), all-knowing (i.e., omniscient), and present everywhere (i.e., omnipresent). He is eternal, which necessarily means that He is not bound by time (e.g., all time is present to Him). He is the Almighty, the absolute ruler over all that He has created. Though He has delegated a role of determination to mankind, who has been made in His image, God is nevertheless that One to whom man must give an account. He is exclusively divine, exclusively autonomous and self-determining, without beginning, change, or end (i.e., immutable).
He is Holy
Isaiah 6:1-4 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.
Holiness is a primary characteristic or attribute of God because it fills the whole earth with His glory. He is thrice holy, meaning to the highest exclamation. It equally governs the other primary attributes and all their following attributes. As the Almighty He is ever holy and His love is also every guided by His holiness.
Revelation 15: 4 “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; for ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.”
God is good, without any temptation toward evil or possessed of any imperfection by evil [James 1:13].
1 Corinthians 13:6 [love] does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth…
1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
Our Holy God has created us to share His holiness and without the righteousness of God, obtained by faith in Jesus Christ alone, there can be no salvation. The characteristic of holiness is therefore a communicable attribute, in that we may become holy.
1 Peter 1:14-16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” [Lev. 19:2]
Philippians 3:9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith…
He is Loving
Exodus 34:6,7 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
This proclamation by God regarding His very person, that He abounds in lovingkindness, is a fulfilment of Moses’ request in Exodus 33:18, ‘Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”’ God proclaims lovingkindness as who He is and therefore why the people of God are saved.
2 Chronicles 7:1-3 Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the house. The priests could not enter into the house of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’S house. All the sons of Israel, seeing the fire come down and the glory of the LORD upon the house, bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave praise to the LORD, saying, “Truly He is good, truly His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
The lovingkindness of God is a primary attribute of God because it causes the glory of God to become manifest.
1 John 4:8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
Love is a necessary primary attribute of God because it is what God has done for all eternity, in the members of the Godhead mutually loving each other. God is love because when there was just God and no other there was intrinsically love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father would have us to love the Son even as He has loved the Son.
John 17:25,26 “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
God wants us to share in His primary attribute of love, even that love that has been shared between the eternal persons of the Godhead. The Father wants us to love God the Son even as He has loved Him.
As image bearers God has created us to love Him, to share in mutual love with Him with the Trinity, and with other image bearers.
1 John 1:3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
His love is a holy love and understood to be self-directed by His immutable holiness.
The attributes of wrath, jealousy, mercy, grace, and all that we owe our salvation to, is under this primary attribute of love. It is because God is all loving that He is wrathful and jealous.
God created everyone in love, as He cannot but love what bears His image, and will continue to love everyone He has created, though His love may be brought to perfection with the wicked in the form of wrath in an eternal hell. Hell is that awesome and terrifying expression of the love of God that has been unrequited by sinners, again, expressed negatively as wrath or anger. It is the great and unfailing love of God that is the reason why God sent His Son into the world so that everyone can be saved [John 3:16].