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God’s Character – Simplicity

The first of God’s incommunicable attributes (attributes that we do not share with God) that we will explore is his Simplicity: that God’s existence is identical with his attributes, or to put it another way, that He is not the sum total of his attributes but is simultaneously everything that all of his attributes reveal.

One good way of understanding this is by considering how we are not like God in this respect. When I get angry, it is very rare that while I am being angry, I am also being completely loving. At best I will be 50% angry and 50% loving, but that’s only on a very good day! Not so with God. Whenever God acts, He is the being that He is, and was, and will be forever – He is 100% loving, while being 100% just, while being 100% merciful.

But that’s not all. If I were to not be gracious, then I would still be a human being, a member of the Homo Sapien species, created in God’s image. But there is no genus of “God”, there is no species that God fits into. His goodness, His love, His holiness are simply who God is. If He were not to be any of these things, then He would not be God.

This is illustrated most vividly and profoundly at the cross. In this moment where God’s righteous wrath is focused on our sins that Jesus carried, we read that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19). This moment where we would expect to find God in anguish and inner turmoil, we find that he is concentrating both his full and deserved wrath and his full and overflowing love. Actually, we have seen this only recently in our Romans series where God is both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26). Although our sin deserves punishment, He is also able to justify us in His son Jesus.

So what does this mean for us and how we should praise God? One implication is that we never need fear a God who is irrational, who gets overwhelmed by emotions. God cannot fly into a vindictive fit of rage because he is always fully loving and kind, a wonderful relief for sinners such as us!

But this flip-side is also true: we do not have a God who simply smooths everything over; those deserving of punishment and God’s wrath will receive their due rewards. Another implication is that we can trust that God is constant and always keeps his promises, because God is never free to be not-God. None of his attributes can be suspended, withdrawn, diminished, or altered, since his attributes are identical with his existences. He is the same God yesterday, today and tomorrow. The same God of Abraham, of Moses, of Elijah, of David, who became human in Jesus, the God of Peter and of Paul, the God of Rick, the God of Jono, and the God of you! What a wonderful thing to praise God about!