Love and the Other Attributes of God
If we keep our focus on Christ, we see that God’s power and God’s love are not two separate attributes, as many people assume. As I often state, love is not merely something God does; love is what God eternally is. Everything God does, therefore, expresses perfect love. God’s power, therefore, is simply an aspect of his love, the love that is defined by the cross.
When God demonstrates his love by giving up his life on Calvary (Rom. 5:8), he is, at the same time, expressing the true nature of his power. Though the cross looks weak in the eyes of the world, in truth it is the only thing that could defeat Satan, overcome all evil, liberate humans from our self-inflicted bondage and ultimately transform the whole cosmos into the Kingdom of God. No amount of power to control people and crush enemies could have hoped to accomplish this.
The same thing must be said of all the other attributes of God. All of them are ultimately expressions of God’s servant love. Here are a few examples of what we’re talking about.
Scripture teaches that God is everywhere (he is “omnipresent”). Since God’s very essence is love, the primary meaning of this teaching is that it’s impossible to hide from God’s love. Even if we make our bed in hell, Scripture teaches, we’re surrounded by God’s triune love (Ps. 139:7-10).
Scripture teaches that God never changes (he is “immutable,” see Ps 102:25-27). Since God’s very essence is love, the primary meaning of this teaching is that it’s impossible for God’s love to ever waver. His love is perfect and unwavering and it endures forever (Ps 36). The immutability of God’s loving character is marvelously expressed in Scripture’s repeated emphasis on God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness.
Scripture also teaches that God knows everything (he is “omniscient”). Since God’s very essence is love, the primary meaning of this teaching is not merely that God knows all the facts that exist, but that God is intimately aware of every facet of our being. As David says, God searches our heart and knows our innermost thoughts and feelings, even before we do (Ps. 139:1-2).
Finally, Scripture teaches that God is “holy.” While this attribute is frequently associated with God’s strict rules and burning wrath against sin, the biblical word for “holy” (Heb 12:16) denotes something set apart, utterly unique and other-worldly. Since God’s very essence is love, the primary meaning of God’s holiness is that God’s perfect love is different from the kind of fickle and shallow love we usually experience in our world.
We see that when we keep our focus on Christ as the definitive revelation of God and therefore understand that God’s very essence is love, the various attributes of God can be seen as simply different ways God’s love is put on display, like light flowing through a prism creating a rainbow of distinct colors. When our focus strays from Christ, and more specifically the love displayed on the cross, however, we invariably begin to define God’s attributes according to our own fallen tendencies.
The “classical view of God” refers to the view of God that has dominated Christian theology since the earliest Church fathers. According to this theology, God is completely “immutable.” This means that God’s being and experience never changes in any respect. God is therefore pure actuality (actus purus), having no potentiality whatsoever, for potentiality is…
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