Sep 2, 2014

God's Incommunicable Attributes

Acts 17:28

"In him we live and move and have our being."

God's oneness, we have seen, pertains to His essence. There is only one divine essence— monotheism—not many individual divine essences—polytheism. Christian monotheism states that there are three persons who fully share this one essence; nevertheless, there is only one divine being. This being is characterized by attributes that define who God is and what He does. Just as we have different attributes such as eye color, talents, and personality traits that make us who we are, God has attributes that make Him who He is.

Let us keep a few things in mind as we discuss the divine attributes. First, we differentiate between the attributes of the Lord, but we cannot speak of these attributes in true isolation from one another. God is a simple being, meaning He is not divisible into parts. Our Creator is not one part holy, one part love, one part just, and so on. If we could take away any of the Lord's attributes, we would no longer have God. Practically speaking, this means that our Creator does not—indeed, He cannot—set aside any of His attributes. Thus, God's love does not compromise His holiness. Instead, it is a holy love, a just love, an eternal love. God's justice is a holy justice, a loving justice, an omnipotent justice. The atonement marvelously reveals divine simplicity. God does not show mercy at the expense of His justice. In forgiving us, the Lord exercises a merciful justice. He executes His just wrath on our sin, but He does so in Christ, and we receive the mercy of His forgiveness (Rom. 3:21-26; 1 John 1:8-9).

We must also note the distinction between God's incommunicable attributes and His communicable attributes. God alone possesses what we refer to as His incommunicable attributes, but He shares or communicates His communicable attributes to us.

Scripture reveals several incommunicable attributes of our Creator. Unlike creatures, God is self-existent. He depends on nothing outside of Himself for His existence, but everything He has created depends on Him for its being (Acts 17:28). The Lord sustains everything that He has made, upholding the world by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). We could blink out of existence and the universe would go on. If God were to cease to exist, everything else would cease to exist as well. This attribute of self-existence is also known as divine aseity.

Divine infinity is another incommunicable attribute. The Lord has no beginning or end. He is not confined by any spatial limitations. He is infinite, existing without boundaries, and His knowledge, acts, and presence cannot be limited (Ps. 147:5).

Coram Deo

God's attribute of infinity greatly comforts us. Because He has no boundaries, there is no place where He is not. We can never get so far away from Him that He cannot help us, and He is always close at hand when we call upon His name. Nothing can surprise Him or keep Him from staying with us in every circumstance. Having no beginning or end, He cannot be defeated by anything, and we can put our lives in His hand with full confidence.

For Further Study