What are God's Attributes - His Communicable and Incommunicable Characteristics?

God made us in His image (Genesis 1:27), which means He imprinted upon us several of His attributes. Yet, God did not endow humans with all of His characteristics.

Updated Apr 26, 2022
What are God's Attributes - His Communicable and Incommunicable Characteristics?

God made us in His image (Genesis 1:27), which means He imprinted upon us several of His attributes. This sets us apart from the beasts of the field and the birds of the air (Genesis 1:28).

Yet, God did not endow humans with all of His attributes, hence why man stands at a lower rank than even the angels (Hebrews 2:7).

In our search to see how God bestowed Himself in us, we’ll discover what He shared with mankind (communicable attributes) and what qualities belong to Him and Him alone (incommunicable attributes).

The Communicable Attributes of God

Before we dive into this, we do have to understand that if we share attributes with God, we do not share the full extent of them.

For instance, both God and humans have an innate sense of justice (Proverbs 21:15). Although we all share in this sense of wrong and right, due to our sinful nature, we can have this to a lesser extent or a polluted version thereof. This applies to all the communicable attributes.

In addition to a sense of justice, God and mankind have the ability to love. For this reason, Jesus told us the two greatest commands: love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39). Of course, we cannot exercise the amount of love God has for us. The Greek even has a word for it: agape, unconditional, selfless love. Yet we can phileo, love others in a deep friendship sense.

Other communicable attributes include:

Knowledge: God gifted us with our ability to think and know about Him. Without such knowledge, we cannot come to know about God’s goodness and His saving work.

Reason: God has given us the skills to reason and think logically. Apologists implement such reason to bolster the veracity of the Gospel through arguments and proofs such as the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Truth: We have an innate sense of truth. We want to know what is and isn’t factual about the fabric of our reality.

The Incommunicable Attributes of God

Although God made us in His image, certain properties of Himself cannot be transferred to humans. The following characteristics are not communicable:

Holiness: Plenty of verses in the Bible pay tribute to God’s holiness and perfection (Psalm 22:3; Isaiah 43:15; Exodus 15:11). No one can find fault within Him. Jesus resisted the Devil’s temptations and temptations of every kind.

All-Powerful, All Present, All-Knowing: God contains all the power in the Universe. He knows all things, and having created time itself, has power over that as well. Theologians have wrestled with God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence because each of these three has brought about millennia of philosophical and dogmatic debate. Humans struggle to grasp these concepts because we, as finite beings, cannot imagine the complexity of such things.

Eternal: God exists outside of time and always has been. Hence, why Jesus says, “Before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58). This attribute is offered by God to those who believe in Jesus Christ as John 3:16-17 tells us, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."

Immaterial: As humans with a physical body, we struggle to grasp the fact that God is Spirit. Although He came in physical form as Jesus, He is not confined to a material body.

Why Do the Attributes of God Matter?

Christians may wonder why we took the time to write an entire article on characteristics we partly share with God. Here’s why:

God made us in His image. That means He:

  • Sees the importance of every human life enough to put a piece of Himself into every single one.
  • Makes it possible for us to receive salvation through Him, seeing He endowed us with the wisdom, rationality, and knowledge to understand such things.
  • Helps us to understand the brokenness in the world through our sense of justice and truth, and our need for a Savior.

Therefore, we should see each human being in the same way: made in God’s image and in need of God.

But we should also keep in mind that we don’t share everything with God. Often, we can place ourselves as the god of our lives, but in seeing that we don’t have these incommunicable attributes, we are able to perceive where we fall short and where our Savior carries us to eternity.

Scriptures on the Attributes of God

Jeremiah 32:17 ~ ‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.

Psalm 147:5 ~ Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

Psalm 145:17 ~ The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.

Psalm 90:2 ~ Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

1 John 4:8 ~ Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 3:20 ~ For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

Malachi 3:6 ~ For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

1 Samuel 2:2 ~ There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.

John 1:1-3 ~ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

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