|Volume 23 Number 6 June 2021
Brian R. Kenyon
Since God exists and the Bible is the Inspired Word of God, we are assured that what the Bible teaches about the nature of God is absolutely true. Although humans are limited and unable to exhaustively comprehend everything about God (cf., Job 11:7; 26:14; Isaiah 40:28; Romans 11:33-34), there are some truths that can be known about God (Deuteronomy 29:29). God has sufficiently revealed Himself through nature (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:19-20), through the Bible (Psalm 19:7; 2 Timothy 3:16-17) and, in a limited sense, through humanity, because every human being is made in the “image” and “likeness” of God (Genesis 1:26-27).
God’s nature is made up of His essence and attributes. For the sake of study, these can be separated and examined. However, they are so interconnected and interwoven with one another that they are inseparable in the total makeup of God. Essence refers to substance; that which underlies all outward manifestations; that in which the qualities, or attributes, inhere (Thiessen 119). If there were no essence there could be no attributes. Humans are, in a limited way, like God’s essence in that we are spiritual in nature like God.
Attributes are the objective qualities that inhere in the substance (essence); they denote the way in which God exists and operates (Thiessen 123). The non-moral attributes of God are those that do not involve moral qualities (e.g., omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence). Humans cannot be like God in these attributes. The moral attributes of God are those that involve moral qualities (e.g., holiness, love, justice, etc.). To a limited extent, man can and must become like God in these attributes (Matthew 5:48). For example, God said, “You shall be holy; for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44; cf., 1 Peter 1:15-16). John taught that our love should be patterned after and like God’s love (1 John 4:9-17). Again, God’s essence and attributes are so interwoven and related to each other that one cannot be totally excluded from the presence of the others. God’s love, grace and mercy are among His most valued attributes.
God’s love and care for humans, the “crown” of His creation (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:18-25), are well attested throughout Scripture and worthy of our study. God is loving. The kind of love God has for us is not based on outward appearance nor upon family relationship. Rather, God’s love is willed to us, irrespective of whether we love Him back. God always seeks the highest good in the objects of His love. This is demonstrated in the most famous verse about God’s love: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God sought the highest good for the world by sending His Son to die for it. God offers the greatest good to the world through His Son, “everlasting love”! God loves sinners while hating sin (John 3:16; Psalm 45:7). Sometimes, however, the sin is so attached to the sinner that it can be said God does “hate all workers of iniquity” (Psalm 5:5). Again, God’s great love is demonstrated through Christ (Romans 5:8). God’s love is the basis for our love one to another (1 John 4:20-21; 1 Corinthians 13). God’s love will endure forever (Romans 8:35-39; 1 Corinthians 13:13). The love of God demands our love in return (1 John 4:19). It must also be realized that our love for God cannot be separated from our obedience to Him (John 14:15, 23; 15:12-14; 1 John 5:3). God’s love, however, does not imply approval for everything people might do. He never ceased loving even those whom He “gave… up” because of their persistent sin (Romans 1:24, 26, 28).
God’s Grace and Mercy
Grace and mercy are two other parts of God’s lovingkindness. God’s loving grace and mercy are not a matter of debt. That is, God neither owes us grace nor mercy. If each were of debt, then each, by definition, would be impossible. Grace is goodness from God’s love and extended to the undeserving. It can simply be defined as favor. Grace is offered to all. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). However, grace is also “teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12-13). Thus, unless we heed grace’s teaching, it cannot save us! Grace is the avenue of salvation (Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is the means of accessing grace (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:8). Biblical faith requires obedience (Luke 6:46; James 2:14-26). Forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ is the greatest demonstration of God’s grace (2 Corinthians 5:21; 9:15).
Mercy has often been described as when a person does not receive what he or she deserves, whereas grace has been described as when a person receives what he or she does not deserve. While this may have some truth, it does not give the whole picture. Mercy is actually kindness or loving, good will toward the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them (Thayer 203). Because of sin, mankind deserves death (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1-4), but because of God’s mercy, mankind does not necessarily have to receive death! Because of sin, mankind does not deserve salvation, but because of God’s grace, mankind can receive it – “by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:5-7)! When understanding the severe consequences of sin, every human being is the recipient of God’s mercy, at least in a limited way, as being part of this creation (Matthew 5:45), which is designed to point people to the God of salvation (Acts 17:23-28). Additionally, God’s saving mercy is always extended to those who “reverentially” obey Him (Luke 1:50) (Thayer 656). God’s plan of salvation, therefore, is not only an act of grace, but it is also an act of His mercy (Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3).
God is full of lovingkindness! His love, grace and mercy are extended to us each day. What is our response to Him? Do we take it for granted? Or, do we express our appreciation for God’s lovingkindness? Can we say, like Paul, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10)? Let us show our appreciation for God’s great lovingkindness!
Thayer, Joseph Henry. Greek-English Lexicon. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970.
Thiessen, Henry Clarence. Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973.
The Honeybee and the Buzzard
Surely, we all have some knowledge regarding this insect and this fowl – the honeybee and the buzzard. Both have been placed here on this earth for different purposes as designed by the Creator, God Almighty. While their functions are vital, they are radical in contrast. The buzzard is rather despised by the human family. We esteem this bird as being unsightly in appearance and undesirable because of its work, the devouring of dead carcasses. Yet, in the balance of nature, this scavenger has a rightful place in our environment. The honeybee, on the other hand, is well esteemed and respected. While we dislike the sting of such a small insect, we do appreciate the delicious honey that it makes for us. The bee can be seen visiting the beautiful flowers and various blooms in the vegetative kingdom. No wonder the honey that this bee makes is so sweet.
Strangely enough, the buzzard and the honeybee remind us of the various attitudes and dispositions found in different people. First of all, some folks enjoy dwelling on the ungodly, the gossip, the hearsay, the ugly, the bad, the filthy, the hurtful and the immoral. They seem to get their kicks over telling or hearing a good piece of juicy slander. The worse it stinks, the better they like it. This old world is filled with individuals who love filthiness. The Bible refers to people who “speak foolishness” and whose “heart will work iniquity” (Isaiah 32:6). Paul wrote of the unrighteous in this manner. “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness” (Romans 3:13-14). Their ultimate end is eternal perdition, for Jesus said in Matthew 12:36-37, “But I say to you that every idle word men shall speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
We are grateful, however, that there are many Christians who love the good and the beautiful things of life. They think upon what is pure, honest, just, true, lovely and of good report (Philippians 4:8). They feed upon the Word of God that is “sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalms 19:10). They know that “pleasant words are like honeycomb, sweetness to the soul, and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). They “love life” and endeavor to “see good days.” Therefore, such a one will “refrain his tongue from evil” (1 Peter 3:10).
The question is, “To be or not to be.” That is, are you soaring over dead carcasses and seeking the corrupt, or are you feasting upon the beautiful and the good? Let us all be or live like the honeybee and not like the buzzard!