God uses the Bible to tell
us who he is and what he is like. His character is shown through
his creation and in the way he deals with the people and things
he has created. At certain times, through his friendship with
particular people, he gives more detailed descriptions of
himself and his expectations of us.
After first trying to run away from God, Jonah went to Nineveh
(the capital of the Assyrian empire) as God commanded and
warned them of coming destruction. As Jonah feared, all the
people turned from their evil ways and so God relented. Jonah
was very angry. To teach him a lesson, God used a worm to
destroy the plant under which he was sheltering. Jonah was
concerned about a plant he had done nothing to raise. Should
not God be much more concerned about 120,000 ignorant people
whom he had created?
The kingdom of Assyria was aggressive and brutal. God sent
Jonah to Nineveh to warn them. What does this tell us about
2. God had said that Nineveh
would be destroyed in 40 days and yet it wasn’t destroyed
once the people repented. What conclusions can we draw about
God’s threats of future destruction elsewhere?
3. Why was Jonah angry that
God had forgiven the people of Nineveh?
4. Did Jonah have a right
to be angry about the plant?
5. About 60 years later,
Assyria destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel (where Jonah
came from) with great brutality.
Was Jonah right to want Nineveh destroyed?
6. What do you think Jonah
was meant to learn about God from this incident?
God shown in creation
How could we know what God is like without the Bible? Just
look at creation. What could show God’s living power
more clearly than the magnificence of the stars and the tiny
and intricate detail seen in a cell? Before we even start
looking at the Bible, we begin to see the character of God
in what he has made. However, the Bible tells us about God
in much more detail than creation ever can.
The character of God
God presents himself to us throughout the Bible, showing different
characteristics at different times, just as we do. At times
he shows his power, at other times his gentleness. In the
flood he showed his punishment and in sending his son, his
love. He deals with mankind in many different ways and describes
himself to us because he loves us and wants us all to love
Some important characteristics of God
Perhaps the most detailed description of God in the Bible
is given in Exodus 34 when Moses asked to see God. God told
Moses that it was not possible for a man to see the face of
God and live, but presented himself to Moses in a clear and
simple description. God described himself as having all of
the following characteristics.
Compassion is feeling sorry for others in their suffering—feeling
pity and mercy. God sent his son to take away our sins and
the suffering that sin brought into the world.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal
life. (John 3:16)
God shows us his grace by doing something for us even though
we do not deserve it. An example of this is the mercy and
kindness shown in sending his son to die for us.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we
were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Slow to anger (v6)
God does not deal with us as we deserve. Despite our sins,
he is patient with us. This was one of Jonah’s complaints
about God—he knew that God would be patient and forgiving
if people were willing to repent. Jonah
few characteristics of God
1; Psalm 104:5–31
4:12; Hebrews 12:23
33:27; Isaiah 40:28
34:7; Isaiah 43:25
and keeps promises
Abounding in love
and faithfulness (v6)
God has not forgotten the promises he made to Abraham almost
4,000 years ago. We can still become heirs of these promises
today. This is real faithfulness—abounding faithfulness.
God shows great unchanging love too; he has kept working with
Israel throughout history, trying to guide them in right ways.
God’s capacity for forgiveness is seen clearly in how
he dealt with Paul, a man who had viciously attacked the early
believers in an attempt to destroy them. God forgave Paul.
He can forgive each of us if we repent and forgive others.
Punishing the guilty (v7)
Ananias and Sapphira were believers who wanted so much to
look good to others that they forgot it is impossible to fool
God. They sold some property and lied about how much they
received to make it appear that they were willing to give
all they had to God. But God knew the truth. Ananias and Sapphira
died because God does punish the guilty. If we do not repent,
we too are guilty and have nothing but God’s punishment
to look forward to. Acts
5:1–11 , Hebrews
It is important to note that this is one of the characteristics
of God that we are not to copy, but must wait for God to act.
God says that vengeance is his and he will repay. Romans
God will not accept half-hearted worship. Trying to be friends
with God and friends with the world will never work. God warns
that being a friend of the world will make you his enemy.
Only worship God; never money or power or fame. James
What else do we know about God?
Two additional and important characteristics not mentioned
in Exodus 34 are that God is holy and he is a creator.
Holiness is being separated from evil. God wants us to be
holy as he is holy. He sent Jesus to show us what that meant;
what being God-like meant in human life. Jesus shows the character
of God as it should be seen in our lives. 1
God can still be a creator in us today as he creates in us
a new life, a new hope, a new joy and a new peace. He does
not want any to perish, but wants all to repent and find
that new life. John
Two major differences between God and us are that God can
never do evil and that he never changes. He is still the same
today as he showed himself to be in the Bible. Malachi
God is a complex character and he wants to teach us what he
is John 17:3 like. He asks us to copy many of the characteristics
he shows us. For example he is
slow to anger,
abounding in love
and faithfulness, and
forgives wickedness, rebellion and sin.
also tells us some of his characteristics to warn us. He
not leave the guilty unpunished and
to know God and his character is the most rewarding course
of learning we can ever take. It is vital to our life now
and in the future.
1. How do we know which characteristics of
God we should copy and which are to be left for him alone
2. Consider God’s application of forgiveness
and punishment of the guilty. Is there a difference between
a sinner and one who is guilty? (See Exodus 34:6–7.)
3. In the Lord’s prayer Jesus tells
us to call God our father. What similarities (and differences)
are there between the character of God and the character shown
by a human father?
1. Choose a well-known person from the Bible
(e.g. Abraham, Moses, David or Paul) and make a list of the
characteristics God showed personally to them.
2. As God has worked in your life, which
of his characteristics have you seen?
3. Choose three characteristics of God that
you would like to show more of in your own life. Make a plan
for developing these characteristics in your life. (Hint:
try to get friends who will help you check on your progress.)
mind of Jesus by William Barclay, Chapter 11 (published by
SCM Press Ltd., 1960). 22 pages. A very good summary of the
character of God, particularly as that character is revealed
by Jesus. Some of the other parts of the book are not so good.
Thine is the kingdom by Peter Southgate (published by the
Dawn Book Supply, 2nd ed., 1997). Chapter 3 (16 pages) gives
a clear description of God’s character.
BBB Study 8
BB Study 1
The God you’re looking for by Bill Hybels (published
by Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997). A very readable introduction
to the character of God. As with most non-Christadelphian
books, there are a few errors. In this case, they don’t
affect the main message of the book.
14. Holiness and obedience
32. Jesus: Son of God and Son of Man