God's Incommunicable Attributes

God’s Incommunicable Attributes

Every field of study has specialized vocabulary. Theology, which is the study of God, is no different. We have looked at the being of God (who He is), and we have looked at the names of God. Now we look at His attributes.

An attribute of something is its quality or characteristic. Water is wet; fire is hot; iron is hard—these are attributes. When we ask about God’s attributes, we are asking, “What is God like?” God tells what He is like in the Bible.

God has two kinds of attributes, which theologians sometimes classify as “incommunicable” and “communicable” attributes. A communicable attribute can be shared with the creature. The creature, therefore, can reflect and display some of God’s characteristics. An incommunicable cannot be shared with the creature. No creature can reflect or display such divine qualities.

God’s attributes are essential to His being. Perhaps, you have the attribute of strength. You are a strong person. But you will grow old and weak, and sometimes (for example, when you are sick) you lose the attribute of strength. You are still yourself, but without the characteristic of strength. Strength, therefore, is not essential to your being. God’s attributes are who and what He is—God is not only good. He is goodness; God is not only wise. He is perfect wisdom; God is not only holy. He is holiness. He is unchangeably and infinitely and perfectly good, wise, holy, and all His other attributes.

Many of God’s attributes are misunderstood, or even ignored and denied. For many, God is simply a God of love, but they forget about His spotless holiness, His perfect righteousness, and His awesome power. When we do this, our view of God is too low, and we dishonour Him.   

God’s incommunicable attributes are His independence or self-sufficiency, His simplicity or unity, His infinity (or eternity and omnipresence), His omnipotence or sovereignty, His immutability or unchangeableness and His omniscience. No creature can share any of these attributes of God—they are something that only God is.

When we understand God’s glorious incommunicable attributes, we worship before this great God. And we are glad, because all of the attributes of this great God are necessary for our salvation, and all them are revealed so that God—and not we—receives all the glory.

This God—and only He—is the God of glory. Worship Him, all the earth!