The Attributes of God

God’s communicable attributes are those that can be transferred to His creatures, which means they can also be attributes of human beings (such as goodness and love). By contrast, an incommunicable attribute is one that cannot be transferred to His creatures. For example, it is impossible for God to create another god, for everything created is, by definition, a creature.

God’s communicable Attributes

  1. God’s simplicity

God is a simple being in the sense that He is not made up of parts (like the human body has different parts). God’s attributes are not different parts of His being. God is His attributes. And His attributes define one another. For example, we say that God is holy, just, immutable, and omnipotent, but His omnipotence is always a holy omnipotence, a just omnipotence, and an immutable omnipotence. He is not one part holiness, another part omnipotent, and another part, immutability. He is altogether holy, altogether omnipotent, and altogether immutable.

  1. God’s aseity (God’s self-sufficiency)

The word aseity means “from oneself.” He has the power of being in and of Himself. He does not derive it from something else. God is not dependent on anything outside of Himself. God has never needed us to survive or to be, but we His creatures are totally dependent. We cannot survive an instant without the power of His being upholding our being (Acts 17:28). God created us, which means that from our very first breath we are dependent upon Him for our very existence.

  1. God’s eternity and immutability

God cannot impart His eternality to a creature, because anything that has a beginning in time is, by definition, not eternal. God is eternally what He is and who He is. His being is incapable of mutation or change. We, as creatures, are mutable and finite.

Worthy of Praise

“His incommunicable attributes reveal why we owe Him glory, honor, and praise. We stand up and give accolades to people who excel for a moment and then are heard no more, and yet the One who has the very power of being in and of Himself eternally, upon whom every one of us is absolutely dependent and to whom we owe our everlasting gratitude for every breath of air that we take, does not receive the honor and glory from His creatures that He so richly deserves.”

God’s communicable Attributes

God’s communicable attributes are those that can be reflected in human beings – His image-bearers. We are called to imitate God (Ephesians 5:1). We can imitate God only if there are certain things about God that we have the ability to reflect.

  1. Holiness

God’s holiness refers to His greatness and transcendence, to the fact that He is above and beyond anything in the universe. In this regard, the holiness of God is incommunicable. But God’s holiness also refers to His purity, His absolute moral and ethical excellence. This is what God has in mind when He commands holiness from His creatures: “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16). In our fallen state we are not holy at all. But when we are engrafted into Christ, we are renewed inwardly by the Holy Spirit; we are being sanctified, made holy, and we look toward our glorification, when we will be completely sanctified, purified of all sin.

  1. Love

God’s love can be imitated, and we are called to do just that (Ephesians 5:1-2),

  1. Goodness

The goodness of God is another moral attribute we are called to emulate. In our fallen condition we do not reflect God’s goodness in our lives. Yet believers are called to a life of good works, and with the help of the Holy Spirit we can grow in goodness.

  1. Justice and righteousness

The fact that God is just means that He always does what is right. His external behavior always corresponds to His internal character. We are called to emulate God’s justice and righteousness (Micah 6:8).

  1. Wisdom

God is all-wise; and we are told to act according to wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7). Biblical wisdom is found in godly living, not clever knowledge. The purpose of gaining knowledge is to become wise in the sense of knowing how to live in a way that pleases God. God gives us His Word that we might be wise, and not foolish. If we lack wisdom, we are called to pray that God, in His wisdom, would illuminate our thinking (James 1:5).

 

[Adapted from Everyone’s a Theologian by R.C. Sproul]