The moral attributes of God are relational attributes, and are exhibited in accordance with the relationship and actions of beings around Him.
God is absolutely free from all defilement, and God is absolutely free from all moral imperfections. Psalm 99:9: "Praise the Lord our God! Worship on his holy hill, for the Lord our God is holy!" Isaiah 6:3: "They called out to one another, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord who commands armies! His majestic splendor fills the entire earth!'"
The holiness of God is manifested in three things. God is utterly opposed to that which is contrary to his nature. Habakkuk 1:13: "You are too just to tolerate evil; you are unable to condone wrongdoing. So why do you put up with such treacherous people? Why do you say nothing when the wicked devour those more righteous than they are?" Proverbs 15:9: "The Lord abhors the way of the wicked, but he loves those who pursue righteousness."
- God's holiness is manifest when He strikes at sin; He must judge or punish it (Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:19: "In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people's trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation.")
- God's holiness is manifest in separating the sinner from Himself (Isaiah 59:1-2: "Look, the Lord's hand is not too weak to deliver you; his ear is not too deaf to hear you. But your sinful acts have alienated you from your God; your sins have caused him to reject you and not listen to your prayers.")
- God's holiness is manifest in the punishment of the sinner (Romans 1:18-32; Romans 2:3-9: "...Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment is revealed!")
How can a sinner approach God? Only through Christ by faith. The atonement of Jesus Christ has its deepest meaning in the holiness of God. It is only the holy sacrifice of Jesus Christ that is capable of meeting the holy standard of God. John 3:16-17.
There is no conflict between the holiness of God demanding punishment of sin, and the love of God loving sinful creatures. God's love is that which impels Him to communicate Himself toward blessing for the highest good of his creatures.
In Scripture we read of the love of God while at the same time reading of giving Himself. John 3:16, for example, is a classic reference to that combination: "For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." And again in 1 John 3:16: "We have come to know love by this: that Jesus laid down his life for us; thus we ought to lay down our lives for our fellow Christians." See also 1 John 4:8-21.
Scripture tells us that God places Jesus Christ as an object of His love: in John 17:23-24, 26 in Jesus' prayer to the Father He says: "I in them and you in me - that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they can see my glory that you gave me because you loved me before the creation of the world. I made known your name to them, and I will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them, and I may be in them." See also Matthew 3:17 and Matthew 17:5 which says: "While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my one dear Son, in whom I take great delight. Listen to him!'"
Scripture tells us that God places believers as an object of His love: in John 16:27 as Jesus speaks to his disciples, He says: "For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God." The verses above from John 17 also speak of this, as well as Romans 8:31-39 which concludes with: "...nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Scripture tells us that God places the world as an object of His love: Romans 5:8 says: "But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." John 3:16 can be repeated here.
Beyond just words that God loves us are actual manifestations of God's love.
1. The infinite sacrifice that God provided for sinners: 1 John 4:9-10: "By this the love of God is revealed in us: That God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins." Also in Ephesians 2:1-5 which says in part: "But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us,...made us alive together with Christ." See also Romans 5:6-10.
2. God calls us His children: 1 John 3:1: "See what sort of love the Father has given to us: that we should be called God's children - and indeed we are! For this reason the world does not know us: because it did not know him."
3. God reclaims the penitent: 1 John 1:9: "But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness." See also Luke 15:11-32.
Righteousness and Justice
There is a difference between righteousness and holiness of God. Holiness has to do with his character. Righteousness has to do with his dealings with his creatures.
In Psalm 145:17 we read: "The Lord is just in all his actions, and exhibits love in all he does." And in Jeremiah 9:24: "If people want to boast, they should boast about this: They should boast that they understand and know me. They should boast that they know and understand that I, the Lord, act out of faithfulness, fairness, and justice in the earth and that I desire people to do these things." See also Romans 3:24-26 and 1 John 1:9.
God manifests His righteousness in these ways:
- In keeping his promises to his covenant people (Nehemiah 9:7-8).
- In providing propitiation for sin in justifying the believer (Romans 3:23-26).
- In forgiving confessed sin (1 John 1:9)
- In bestowing rewards upon the righteous (1 Corinthians 3:14, 2 Timothy 4:8, 2 Corinthians 5:10, and Romans 14:10).
- In visiting punishment upon sinners because of their sins (Revelation 16:5-7).
Mercy is the attribute that leads God to seek the good of the sinner, both temporal and spiritual.
What is the difference between Mercy and Grace? This is a simplistic comparison because the true extend of both mercy and grace go far beyond, but a convenient handle on the two can be thought this way: Mercy is God NOT DOING to us that which we DO deserve; Grace is God DOING for us that which we DO NOT deserve.
Mercies are for all people, both for believers and for sinners. How is His mercy manifest?
God manifests His mercy in bearing long with sinners.
- Deuteronomy 4:30-31 says: "In your distress when all these things happen to you in the latter days, if you return to the Lord your God and obey him (for he is a merciful God), he will not let you down or destroy you, for he cannot forget the covenant with your ancestors that he confirmed by oath to them."
- And in Psalm 103:8-11: "The Lord is compassionate and merciful; he is patient and demonstrates great loyal love. He does not always accuse, and does not stay angry. He does not deal with us as our sins deserve; he does not repay us as our misdeeds deserve. For as the skies are high above the earth, so his loyal love towers over his faithful followers."
- Ephesians 2:4-5: "But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you are saved!"
God manifests His mercy in delivering from sickness.
- Philippians 2:27: "In fact he became so ill that he nearly died. But God showed mercy to him - and not to him only, but also to me - so that I would not have grief on top of grief."
God manifests His mercy in giving refuge and defense to His own in time of trouble.
- Psalm 59:16-17: "As for me, I will sing about your strength; I will praise your loyal love (mercy) in the morning. for you are my refuge and my place of shelter when I face trouble. You are my source of strength! I will sing praises to you! For God is my refuge, the God who loves me."
God manifests His mercy toward those who will fear and obey Him.
- Psalm 103:17-18: "But the Lord continually shows loyal love (mercy) to his faithful followers, and is faithful to their descendants, to those who keep his covenant, who are careful to obey his commands."
God manifests His mercy toward those who confess and forsake their sins.
- Proverbs 28:13: "The one who covers his transgressions will not prosper, but whoever confesses them and forsakes them will find mercy."
Above, under Mercy, we noted that Grace is God doing for us that which we do not deserve. Grace isn't free -- the price of grace was paid at the expense of Jesus Christ, hence, a common saying is that GRACE is: God's Riches At Christ's Expense.
The grace of God is manifest toward us through salvation. There is no reason or obligation that God needed to rescue us through a plan of salvation. It is purely an act of His grace. There is absolutely nothing we can do to bring about that action or enhance that process. Ephesians 2:1-2: "You were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you formerly lived according to this world's present path..."
- Titus 2:11: "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people."
- Romans 5:15: "But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. For if the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ multiply to the many!" And Romans 5:21: "So that just as sin reighned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
- Ephesians 2:8-9: "For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast."
The grace of God is manifest toward us in daily living. This is the daily grace which enables us to live. It is daily grace made available to us to be applied to our own lives.
- We are to grow in grace: 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
- Grace can be multiplied or lavished on us: 2 Peter 1:2: "May grace and peace be lavished on you as you grow in the rich knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord!"
- We can always find grace in time of need: Hebrews 4:15-16: "For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, bu tone who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help."
- God wants His grace to overflow toward us: 2 Corinthians 9:8, 14: "And God is able to make all grace overflow to you so that because you have enough of everything in every way at all times, you will overflow in every good work. And in their prayers on your behalf they long for you because of the extraordinary grace God has shown to you."
- The Grace of God is sufficient in all situations: 2 Corinthians 12:9: "But he said to me, 'My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me."
Loving kindness is that attribute which leads God to shower blessings upon his obedient children. The word is used 21 times in the Psalms. It is sometimes translated "loyalty."
- Psalm 23:3: "For I am ever aware of your faithfulness, and your loyalty continually motivates me."
- Psalm 36:7: "How precious is your loyal love, O God! The human race finds shelter under your wings."
- Jeremiah 9:24: "They should boast that they know and understand that I, the Lord, act out of faithfulness, fairness, and justice in the earth and that I desire people to do these thing."
- Jeremiah 31:3: "In a far-off land the Lord will manifest himself to them. He will say to them, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love. That is why I have continued to be faithful to you.'"