It is a good thing to give thanks unto Thee and to sing praises unto Thy name, O
Most High, to show forth Thy loving-kindness in the morning and Thy faithfulness
every night. As Thy Son while on earth was loyal to Thee, His Heavenly Father,
so now in heaven He is faithful to us, His earthly brethren; and in this
knowledge we press on with every confident hope for all the years and centuries
yet to come. Amen.
As emphasized earlier, God’s attributes are not isolated traits of His character
but facets of His unitary being. They are not things-in-themselves; they are,
rather, thoughts by which we think of God aspects of a perfect whole, names
given to whatever we know to be true of the Godhead.
To have a correct understanding of the attributes it is necessary that we see
them all as one. We can think of them separately but they cannot be separated.
”All attributes assigned to God cannot differ in reality, by reason of the
perfect simplicity of God, although we in divers ways use of God divers words,”
says Nicholas of Cusa. ”Whence, although we attribute to God sight, hearing,
taste, smell, touch, sense, reason and intellect, and so forth, according to the
divers significations of each word, yet in Him sight is not other than hearing,
or tasting, or smelling, or touching, or feeling, or understanding. And so all
theology is said to be stablished in a circle, because any one of His attributes
is affirmed of another.”
In studying any attribute, the essential oneness of all the attributes soon
becomes apparent. We see, for instance, that if God is self-existent He must be
also self-sufficient; and if He has power He, being infinite, must have all
power. If He possesses knowledge, His infinitude assures us that He possesses
all knowledge. Similarly, His immutability presuppose His faithfulness. If He is
unchanging, it follows that He could not be unfaithful, since that would require
Him to change.
Any failure within the divine character would argue imperfection and, since God
is perfect, it could not occur. Thus the attributes explain each other and prove
that they are but glimpes the mind enjoys of the absolutely perfect Godhead.
All of God’s acts are consistent with all of His attributes. No attribute
contradicts the other, but all harmonize and blend into each other in the
infinite abyss of the Godhead. All that God does agrees with all that God is and
being and doing are one in Him.
The familiar picture of God as often torn between His justice and His mercy is
altogether false to the facts. To think of God as inclining first toward one and
then toward another of His attributes is to imagine a God who is unsure of
Himself, frustrated and emotionally unstable, which of course is to say that the
one of whom we are thinking is not the true God at all but a weak, mental
reflection of Him badly out of focus.
God being who He is, cannot cease to be what He is, and being what He is, He
cannot act out of character with Himself. He is at once faithful and immutable,
so all His words and acts must be and remain faithful. Men become unfaithful out
of desire, fear, weakness, loss of interest, or because of some strong influence
from without. Obviously none of these forces can affect God in any way. He is
His own reason for all He is and does. He cannot be compelled from without, but
ever speaks and acts from within Himself by His own sovereign will as it pleases
I think it might be demonstrated that almost every heresy that has afflicted the
church through the years has arisen from believing about God things that are not
true, or from overemphasizing certain true things so as to obscure other things
equally true. To magnify any attribute to the exclusion of another is to head
straight for one of the dismal swamps of theology; and yet we are all constantly
tempted to do just that.
For instance, the Bible teaches that God is love, some have interpreted this in
such a way as virtually to deny that He is just, which the Bible also teaches.
Other press the Biblical doctrine of God’s goodness so far that it is made to
contradict his holiness. Or they make His compassion cancel out His truth. Still
others understand the sovereignty of God in a way that destroys or at least
greatly diminishes His goodness and love.
We can hold a correct view of truth only by daring to believe everything God has
said about Himself. It is a grave responsibility that a man takes upon himself
when he seeks to edit out of God’s self-revelation such features as he in his
ignorance deems objectionable. Blindness in part must surely fall upon any of us
presumptuous enough to attempt such a thing. And it is wholly uncalled for. We
need not fear to let the truth stand as it is written. There is no conflict
among the divine attributes. God’s being is unitary. He cannot divide Himself
and act at a given time from one of His attributes while the rest remain
inactive. All that God is must accord with all that God does. Justice must be
present in mercy, and love in judgment. And so with all the divine attributes.
The faithfulness of God is a datum of sound theology but to the believer it
becomes far more than that: it passes through the processes of the understanding
and goes on to become nourishing food for the soul. For the Scriptures not only
teach truth, they show also its uses for mankind.
The inspired writers were men of like passion with us, dwelling in the midst of
life. What they learned about God became to them a sword, a shield, a hammer; it
became their life motivation, their good hope, and their confident expectation.
From the objective facts of theology their hearts made how many thousand joyous
deductions and personal applications! The Book of Psalms rings with glad
thanksgiving for the faithfulness of God. The New Testament takes up the theme
and celebrates the loyalty of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ who before
Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; and in the Apocalypse Christ is seen
astride a white horse riding toward His triumph, and the names He bears are
Faithful and True.
Christian song, too, celebrates the attributes of God, and among them the divine
faithfulness. In our hymnody, at its best, the attributes become the wellspring
from which flow rivers of joyous melody. Some old hymnbooks may yet be found in
which the hymns have no names; a line in italics above each one indicates theme,
and the worshiping heart cannot but rejoice in what it finds: ”God’s glorious
perfections celebrated.” ”Wisdom, Majesty and goodness.” ”Omniscience.”
”Omnipotence and immutability.” ”Glory, mercy and grace.” These are few samples
taken from a hymnbook published 1849, but everyone familiar with Christian
hymnody knows that the stream of sacred song takes its rise far back in the
early years of the Church’s existence. From the beginning belief in the
perfection of God brought sweet assurance to believing men and taught the ages
Upon God’s faithfulness rests our whole hope of future blessedness. Only as He
is faithful will His covenants stand and His promises be honoured. Only as we
have complete assurance that He is faithful may we live in peace and look
forward with assurance to the life to come.
Every heart can make its own application of this and draw from it such
conclusions as the truth suggests and its own needs bring into focus. The
tempted, the anxious, the fearful, the discouraged may all find new hope and
good cheer in the knowledge that out Heavenly Father is faithful. He will ever
be true to His pledged word. The hard-pressed sons of the covenant may be sure
that He will never remove His loving-kindness from them nor suffer His
faithfulness to fail.
Happy the man whose hopes rely
On Israel’s God; He made the sky,
And earth and seas, with all their train;
His truth forever stands secure;
He saves the oppressed, He feeds the poor,
And none shall find His promises vain.