What are God’s attributes? Each Friday we will look at an attribute of God. Attributes of God are the foundational beliefs about who God is and what He is like that come from Scripture. You can’t worship a God fully if you only know Him partially. This week, the transcendence and immanence of God. Transcendence is that aspect of God’s character that recognizes His position above and beyond all that He created. He is great, impenetrable, and matchless. His immanence recognizes that He graciously enters into His creation, working and acting within the world that He has made.
“God is both further from us, and nearer to us, than any other being.” – C.S. Lewis
It has become normal to hear people refer to God as the “Man upstairs.” The user may not intend it this way, but such references reveal a lack of understanding about who and what God really is and diminish His character to only slightly higher than us. We were made in the image of God. God was not made in the image of us. People wrongly assume that God’s worth is just slightly higher than ours. This is not what scripture tells us.
Psalm 113:46 tells us, “For the Lord is high above the nations; his glory is higher than the heavens. Who can be compared with the Lord our God, who is enthroned on high? He stoops to look down on heaven and on earth.” The psalmist praises God for His transcendence — placing God in his rightful place “above all nations,” filled with authority, and independent from His creation. God is infinite, omnipresent, and sovereign over all. God is past the limits of our finite understanding. This is no small God, able to be pacified or distracted. Our only right response is reverence, awe, and humility.
We need to remember, however, that God’s transcendence does not contradict His personal interactions with us: it increases the value of that relationship. The next verses in the same psalm paint a picture of an immanent God. “He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump. He sets them among princes, even the princes of his own people! He gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother. Praise the Lord!”
The grace and mercy of God are evident in this passage. Even the most invisible and devalued in our society are treasured and sustained by the God who is present with us; the God revealed in the gospel of Matthew as “Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.” (1:23).
Take a moment to ponder these truths. God is immanent. He sees you—your struggles, your pain, your sickness. Because He is personal and intimate with you, you can come to Him in need and He can sympathize with your weakness (Hebrews 4:15). God is also transcendent. He can do something about your needs. Our prayers will not return void because the God who is with us is also the creator and sustainer of the universe. He is able to change both our circumstances and our heart.
- Do you ever feel like God is just too big or too far away to care for you?
- It has been said, that we have exactly as much of God as we ask for. Agree or disagree and why?
- God is transcendent, which means he is highly exalted. He is in his own category, above and beyond us. God is also immanent, meaning He is ever-present in a personal and intimate way. What does that mean to us in daily life?