THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – Communicable Attributes

“If God’s genuineness is a matter of His being true and veracity is His telling of the truth, then His faithfulness means that He proves true…God’s faithfulness is demonstrated repeatedly throughout the pages of the Scripture. He always fulfills what He has said He will do.”

Millard J. Erickson

As for the study of incommunicable attributes, we will now follow the classification proposed by Nyenhuis for communicable attributes; of course, including contributions from other scholars, so that it allows us to have a broad and properly supported idea for each attribute.

But as always, first, it is important to mention that the English version of this article has been translated from the Spanish version of Towards Excellence (https://hacialaexcelencia.org/2022/04/10/los-atributos-de-dios-atributos-comunicables/); not necessarily from the original texts and works of authors here cited. Most Bible verses are from ESV unless otherwise indicated.

So, communicable attributes, Nyenhuis points out, instead give us knowledge of God’s being, while we experience an analogy of His virtues. It should also be noted that the incommunicable attributes qualify the communicable ones; so that these in essence are different in God and different in the human being. God, for example, is infinite and immutable in love, in justice, in wisdom.[1]

And so, Nyenhuis specifies:

little-girl-closed-her-eyes-praying-in-a-field-h-2021-09-01-13-46-02-utc

“What we find in the human being is an echo or reflection of the attribute and is not, in this sense, the original attribute. Echoes and reflections are often weak and disfigured; however, they give us a basis for a knowledge of the reality of God.” (Nyenhuis 1990)

Let us focus then, in the study of the following nine communicable attributes.

  1. God’s Love

God’s love, says Nyenhuis, is the most central attribute of God. In fact, this attribute qualifies all the others, but it must be understood that the others also qualify love.[2]

Chapter 4 of 1 John brings us even more clarity to understand this attribute of God, thus:

“…God is love”. (1 John 4:8)

Dr. Miguel Núñez points out that the Bible not only affirms that God loves us; but also and especially emphasizes that “God is love”. And when the Word says that “God is love”, it means that God is going to love us forever.[3]

By saying that “God is love” we are declaring that this is its essence; therefore, it will not change under any circumstances.

And perhaps the most extraordinary and at the same time humanly incomprehensible of this attribute is that the love of God is giving and sacrificial. John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 explain it very well. It is truly incomprehensible and difficult to accept that, since we are sinners, God the Father sends his Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place, to give us salvation and eternal life in His presence. Inconceivable in human parameters, but a profound spiritual truth!

And Jesus also said:

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Erickson here highlights that Jesus did indeed die for His friends, who surely loved Him and appreciated what He did for them. But He also stresses that Jesus died for His enemies, who despised and rejected Him.[4]

And this is what makes the big difference between the application of this attribute by God and by us, the human beings. God’s love is totally selfless and seeks the good of his creation; not his own. On the other hand, we human beings, imperfect, often seek our own good and not that of our neighbor.

Erickson illustrates this very well, taking the case of an employer and his employee. The employer is surely interested in the good health of his employee because that way he will produce more and better for him.[5]

  1. God’s Grace

Grace, then, is nothing other than the unmerited love of God towards the human being lost in sin. The grace of God, says Nyenhuis, is His benevolent and undeserved attitude towards the sinner.[6]  Which and if the sinner accepts it, comes to a happy end, that is, the salvation of his soul.

And this is where the attributes connect, or qualify each other. Nyenhuis says:

“One of the most remarkable characteristics of grace is that it is unmerited…God loves the sinner even though he cannot provoke love. God loves because God is love. (Nyenhuis 1990)

It is well here to remember the truth of Ephesians 2:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

God’s grace is definitely an unmerited gift from Him to His creation. And when this gift, the gift of the forgiveness of sins, is received by the sinner; there is absolutely nothing to boast about. The greatest thing, the salvation of his soul and everything else that goes with it, is an unmerited gift from his Creator.

  1. God’s Mercy

There are two important terms to consider: Racham, in Hebrew; and Eleemon, in Greek; both mean to have compassion. Therefore, God’s mercy can also be called compassion.[7]  In other words, it is God’s love towards the one who is suffering the consequences of sin; in a sense, mitigating the pain caused by sin.[8]

Here are two biblical texts that help us better understand this attribute:

“The Lord passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, ´The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…”  (Exodus 34:6)

 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17)

Exodus 34:6 and Hebrews 2:17 illustrate the concept of this attribute very well; and by the way, the meaning of the original terms (Hebrew and Greek) above, in relation to the compassionate heart of our God.

  1. God’s Patience

The patience of God also called long-suffering. This is seen in the fact that God “endures” the wicked and those who challenge Him. God postpones punishment, so He gives sinners a chance to repent. Examples of God’s patience are found in the following texts: 2 Peter 3:3-9; Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34.[9]

  1. God’s Sovereignty

God’s sovereignty is limited solely and exclusively to His own will. This also entails the absolute superiority and omnipotence of God. In other words, God is accountable to no one; He just plans it and executes it. This is how Nyenhuis describes it and emphasizes that it is above the law. In fact, the law in the broad sense is an expression of the will of God.[10]

And as Chris Poblete says and illustrates:

“Sovereignty speaks of the divine control that God has over everything that happens. There is nothing beyond the control of His loving hand: neither the designs of the wicked (not even the plans of the evillest dictators in history), nor the way the earth works on itself apparently against the lives of men (like earthquakes), not the workings of demons (or even Satan), and not my own free will.” (Poblete 2011)

Certainly Romans 8:28,38-39 are a clear affirmation of the sovereignty of God. Everything, absolutely everything helps the children of God for good, according to His purposes; and not only that, but there is nothing beyond the control of the sovereign hand of God. This is how Poblete understands it.[11]

  1. The Truth of God

God is true and God is true in the revelation of Him. If God were a liar, Nyenhuis explains, humanity’s existential situation would be chaotic and desperate. This attribute is what allows us to distinguish the true God from idols, which, as Psalm 115:3-8 points out, have eyes and do not see; they have ears and do not hear; They have a mouth but they don’t speak. And a tremendous aspect of truthfulness is God’s faithfulness, which is the basis of our trust.[12]

In fact, other scholars classify faithfulness itself as an attribute, let’s see what Erickson says about it:

TE-MErickson-english“If God’s genuineness is a matter of His being true and veracity is His telling of the truth, then His faithfulness means that He proves true…God’s faithfulness is demonstrated repeatedly throughout the pages of the Scripture. He always fulfills what He has said He will do.” (Erickson 2003)

In the book of Numbers, we find a very inspiring portion that suits the theme:

God is not man, that he should lie,
    or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has He said, and will He not do it?
    Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it?”  (Numbers 23:19)

God always does what He has said He will do; and this is what brings complete peace, to those who have put their trust in Him.

  1. God’s justice

Nyenhuis in his analysis points out that justice is God’s perfection insofar as he complies with all the standards that God sets for Himself. In fact, there is no standard or guideline above God. God is the one who pronounces the sentence on His own acts.

Nyenhuis also highlights God’s remunerative justice. This refers to the fact that God rewards and rewards according to the conditions and promises that He Himself has established. A clear example of this is the Word found in 1 John 1:9.

On the other hand, Nyenhuis continues in his analysis and presents retributive justice. This has to do with the punishments that God imposes because of sin. Justice is an expression of God’s wrath against sin. God is undoubtedly just that He does not overlook the sins of His people and therefore, in His place, He punished His Son Jesus. The application of justice is fundamental to our salvation. Surely, God’s justice must be satisfied through Christ, or through the sinner.[13]

Now, Erickson points out that as far as justice is concerned, God not only acts in accordance with His law, but also administers His kingdom in accordance with it. It also means that God administers His law fairly, never showing favoritism or partiality.[14]

  1. The Holiness of God

According to the study of Dr. Miguel Núñez, “holy” means separated and free from corruption. God is free from corruption, he emphasizes. And he also highlights that God is a being apart from the rest of creation. God has set apart for Him those who are His children, he affirms.[15]

Thus, the essential idea of ​​God’s holiness, says Nyenhuis, is His moral excellence or perfection, that is, the infinite distance between Him and all impurity, sin, or contamination. If one thinks about concepts like honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, trustworthiness, purity, dignity, and others; put all this and more, including when one refers to the holiness of God.[16]

  1. The Wisdom of God

According to some thinkers, wisdom is considered to be a kind of intelligence. Thus, the wisdom of God is that intelligence of God through which He determines all things and leads them to Himself.

Nyenhuis stresses that wisdom is evident in creation, providence, and redemption. And indeed, the Psalmist praises God’s wisdom when he considers His works.[17]

Lord, how manifold are your works!
    In wisdom have you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.” (Psalm 104:24)

And in this line, Dr. John MacArthur invites us to reflect on the depth of God’s wisdom, thus:

“Consider creation, from the unlimited number of galaxies in the universe to the distinctive structure of a single atom; from the grandeur of a blue whale to the intricacies of countless microscopic creatures that live in a pond. One attribute of God stands out above all others in the display of creation: His wisdom.” (MacArthur 2011)

Each element of creation was certainly brushed with the wisdom of the Creator God.

Now the number of God’s attributes varies somewhat according to the study of theologians or scholars who present it. And in the comparative studies that the reader may do, he will find slightly different proposals, although established on the same basis that has been used in this research. In fact, analyzing the character of God is a vast, endless, and fascinating subject, and from this side of eternity we will hardly understand who God is in its entirety.

On the other hand, throughout this study, it has also been seen that the incommunicable attributes qualify the communicable ones; and also some attributes, especially among the communicable ones, qualify each other. So, the number of attributes can surely vary.

But what matters here is not the number of God’s attributes as such. What matters is that, through the study of them, we have the understanding about who the Triune Creator God is and the depth of His nature, the depth of the nature of His Being.

Certainly, the study of the character attributes of the Triune Creator God takes us to a higher level. Having gone through the different moments of creation; and even, having looked at a few wonders of the natural world that surround us today; we have no choice but to stop for a moment, raise our gaze to infinity and recognize that in every brushstroke of creation the Triune God is present.

Infinitely extraordinary, infinitely perfect! The Creator is infinitely perfect! And as great and magnificent as the universe looks, how much more will the Maker of it be! The Creator does not depend on anyone for His existence at all; however, every microparticle in the universe depends on an order from the Creator for any movement.

But we do not depend only on a great telescope to realize the immensity of the Triune Creator God. Yes, He transcends space and time because He simply made them and is not confined to them.

But, descending to Earth as such, we observe that, just as the Triune Creator God breathed life into the first human being – Adam; likewise, he has breathed the breath of life into his present creation. Every time we get up, after a pleasant night of rest, we can do nothing but thank God for a new dawn, full of life and health! How self-evident it is here to recognize that God’s perfect love is indeed infinite, beyond our comprehension!

At this point, it is worth remembering here the Word of James 1:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of lights, with Whom there is no change, no shadow of variation.” (James 1:17)

The signature of excellence of the Triune Creator God is stamped throughout the universe; and although some have wanted, but no one will be able to eliminate it:

“You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and You preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships You.” (Nehemiah 9:6)

[1] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 93.

[2] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 94.

[3] Miguel Núñez, “Los atributos comunicables de Dios,” Coalición por el Evangelio, https://www.coalicionporelevangelio.org/articulo/los-atributos-comunicables-dios/

[4] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 319.

[5] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 319.

[6] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 94.

[7] Miguel Núñez, “Los atributos comunicables de Dios,” Coalición por el Evangelio, https://www.coalicionporelevangelio.org/articulo/los-atributos-comunicables-dios/

[8] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 94.

[9] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 94.

[10] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 114.

[11] Chris Poblete, “The Attributes of God: Sovereignty,” Blue Letter Bible, https://blogs.blueletterbible.org/blb/2011/10/28/the-attributes-of-god-sovereignty/

[12] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 115.

[13] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 116.

[14] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 314-315.

[15] Miguel Núñez, “Los atributos comunicables de Dios,” Coalición por el Evangelio, https://www.coalicionporelevangelio.org/articulo/los-atributos-comunicables-dios/

[16] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 136.

[17] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 138.

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