Incommunicable Attributes of God
What Are Attributes?
In order to understand what God’s attributes are, we first need to take a look at what an attribute even is. An attribute is a quality or feature that is considered a part of someone or something’s characteristics or traits. So, when we apply that to an individual person, then we are talking about the things that you believe. These beliefs are an unchanging part of your person, like your core beliefs. Though core beliefs could be slightly different for each person, everybody has some sort of beliefs that they tend to live by. Examples of these core beliefs or values are loyalty, duty, respect, selflessness, honor, integrity and personal courage. There are many more that could be named, but I think you get the idea. For the most part, your core beliefs aren’t going to change because they are a part of you. They are the characteristics that make you who you are. You could have some major life changes happen like marriage, divorce, moving far away from everything you know or accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. These things are all going to change the way you live, your day to day habits or even the way you interact with others, but you will still maintain those core beliefs. Let’s look at loyalty. If one of your personal core values is loyalty then that isn’t going to change. Your loyalty may move from one person to another or one entity to another, but even through those changes you will still be loyal. I think a good example of this is marriage. Before you get married then your loyalty will be given mainly to your parents. However, once you get married then that loyalty will transfer to your spouse. You will still maintain loyalty to your parents, but your spouse should get the majority of that loyalty. After all, Jesus did say in Matthew 19:4-5, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?” This is referring back to Genesis 2:18-24 and points out the fact that we were designed, from the beginning, to leave our parents to become one with our spouse. That requires our loyalties to shift from our parents to our spouse. It is very important to understand this concept, and that it applies to all of your core values. Therefore, I want to reiterate that your values may shift and change to focus on a different target, but those core values themselves do not change. The reason this is so important is because this also applies to God and His attributes, characteristics and core values. Once we start looking at some of the different attributes of God we will see that God’s attributes do not change. God does not change. He is the same God today as he was yesterday, and will be the same God for the rest of eternity. So, next, let’s look at the two main categories of attributes that God has.
Types of Attributes
There are two main categories of attributes for God that we can find in the Bible. The first is incommunicable attributes. This means that they are attributes that He doesn’t share or communicate with us, the human race. These are the characteristics of God that only He possesses and are unique to Him alone. The opposite of that is the communicable attributes which are those that He does share or communicate with us. Though this category is shared with us, we do not have these attributes as fully as God does. I will explain this more when we cover these in the communicable attributes section in the second part of this article. This part is going to cover seven incommunicable attributes. This is not an exhaustive list, but will cover some of the most noticeable and applicable attributes that we can use when praying and are not in any particular order. These seven attributes are as follows:
Something else that we need to know is the fact that these attributes will apply to all three parts of the Holy trinity. With this in mind, whenever we read our Bibles and see an attribute given to any aspect of the trinity, then we know that it applies to the whole trinity and not just one part of the whole. Using the example of loyalty that we covered earlier in this article, if your spirit is loyal to your spouse then that means that your body and mind are also loyal to your spouse. It would be very difficult to make the argument that one part of your being follows your core values while the rest of your being doesn’t follow those same values. I hope that you can see the absurdity in that argument. I also hope you can see how this applies to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I may have three different attributes in this title, but that is because they can all be tied together. For example, for something or someone to be infinite then that means that it can’t have an end. It goes on into eternity which is the same as being eternal. Both mean that they will go on forever without an ending. We can add self-existence into this because if God was present even before the creation of our world and will still be God after this planet is gone, then that means God is self-existent. He was before us and will be after. We, as the human race, are none of these things. We were all born and we will all die. God has always been and will always be. We see this in Colossians 1:17 which says, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” I think we can also see this in John 1:1-5 which reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This also helps to strengthen the concept that each part of the trinity has the same attributes. The fact that the Word, Jesus, was there at the beginning of creation and that Jesus was with God while at the same time being God as part of the trinity, tells us that the trinity is one, infinite, eternal and self-existent.
Immutable refers to the fact that God is unchanging and can’t even be changed over time. We just learned that God is eternally infinite and self-existent in the last section, and now we are learning that He is unchanging. What does this tell us? That God is the same today as he was yesterday, and will be the same God to the end of time. However, it goes beyond that. It also means that the attributes that we see about God, or any part of the trinity, still apply to us today. That the God of the Old Testament is the same God in the New Testament and is the same God today. We can see this in Malachi 3:6 which says, ““I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” This means that we can find comfort in knowing that God will always be the same with the same attributes.
When it comes to holy, the two most common questions I see is, ‘what is holiness?’ and ‘what does it mean to be holy?’ When discussing the holiness of God it refers to the fact that God should be exalted and worthy of complete devotion. It also means that God is perfect in goodness and righteousness. It can also mean that God is sanctified, different or distinct. All of these are ways to describe, not only the holiness, but God Himself. This means He is holy and by following the example given to us by Jesus, we can see what it means to be holy. Psalm 99:9 says, “Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the Lord our God is holy.” There are many places in the Bible that may point to any part of the trinity as being holy. Another example is in Revelation 4:8 that states, “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” If the angels and “creatures” in heaven call God holy, then I believe we can safely say that God is holy.
For someone to be considered sovereign then they must possess supreme power or authority. An earthly example of this would be someone like a king or queen of a country. That person is considered to be the supreme power for that country, but even that pales in comparison to the supreme power that God possesses. Even though there may be a royal family in a different country, that family has no authority over me in this country. Whereas, God has that authority over the entire world. This leads into our last three incommunicable attributes.
Omnipresence, Omnipotent and Omniscient
We will combine these last three together because they are all related to one another even though each one is different. You may be wondering what these mean. Let’s be honest, these aren’t words that are used frequently in any area besides religious circles. Omni is a root word that means all. Therefore, omnipresence means that God is all-present or always present. Omnipotent means that God is all-powerful which is similar to sovereignty, but even bigger. Omniscient means that God is all-knowing. You may be wondering how this works and how these three attributes work together. In order to understand that, let’s take a look at some biblical examples for each one.
Omnipresence can be seen in Psalm 139:7-10 which says, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” This is saying that no matter where we go, from heaven to hell and everywhere in between, God will be there. He will be there to offer us help if we ask, but we have to ask. God is everywhere and therefore sees everything. Jeremiah 23:23-24 says, “‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the Lord, ‘and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.” God sees everything, but we also have to remember that God is invisible. He lives in the heavenly realm and not our earthly realm. I would also like to point out here that God doesn’t live by a clock like we do. Time does not exist in heaven. God sees Earth as a sliding scale that He can change according to His will which leads us into our next attribute.
Omnipotent can be seen in Psalm 33:6 which says, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” I think this can also be seen in Mark 11:23 which says, “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” If we tell a mountain to throw itself into the sea then we are not actually talking to the mountain. We are praying to God and asking Him to throw the mountain into the sea. If Jesus says that we have the power to do this, then I believe we have that power. The problem is that we are a sinful people and therefore everybody has some level of doubt in their hearts. That is why nobody can actually tell a mountain to throw itself into the sea and expect God to fulfill that prayer. The point I am trying to make, however, is the fact that God has that power. The power to make a mountain crumble; the power to fill the Grand Canyon and make it smooth; the power to turn a desert into lush farm ground. God has the power to create life, planets and even galaxies.
Omniscient can be seen in Romans 11:33 which says, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” There are none more wise than God. The depths of His knowledge are infinite. 1 John 3:20 says, “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” It is highly likely that our hearts will lead us astray. As humans, our hearts want to chase after those worldly possessions that the devil makes appealing to us. Though we may live with the best of intentions, we often fall short and unknowingly worship idols. You may be thinking, “I don’t worship idols. You are crazy. This doesn’t apply to me.” But that leads me to ask, do you ever place anything before God? For example, have you ever been spending time in prayer when your phone rings and you break off your prayer in order to answer it? Guess what, you just put your phone and that call before God. That is idolatry. Have you ever been watching a television series and opted to watch one more episode instead of reading your Bible? You just turned that television into an idol because you put it before God. This same concept can be used for anything that you put before God. However, we know that God is greater than our hearts and anything we place before Him. If we repent and return our focus on God, then God will see that and forgive us. The question then, is how does God know everything?
At the end of the first paragraph of this section I mentioned that you may be wondering how these three attributes work together? Well, we can now answer that question as well as explain how God knows everything. God knows everything because He is everywhere at once beyond the limitations of time or space. He also does this by having the knowledge, authority and power to do whatever He wants based on His perfect will. God created the heavens and Earth, if He chose to alter something on this Earth or in our lives, then what could stop Him? He is omnipotent. He has the power and authority to do so. Every attribute that we have looked at so far points to this fact. God is an unlimited power source for each one of us, but we must ask Him to intervene for us and then have the faith that He will do what we ask. We just need to trust Him and His attributes. Trust that He is infinite, eternal, self-existent, immutable, holy, sovereign, omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. If we can do this, then we can tap into that unlimited power supply known as Yahweh.
We are currently working on another article where you can read about more attributes of God that will be titled “Communicable Attributes of God.” Until then you can use this current article on attributes to strengthen your prayer life by combining it with our “Pray Acronym” article.