3. Doctrine of God, part II - Communicable Attributes

Important Passages

Genesis 1:26-27: “Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

Ephesians 5:1-2: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

1 Peter 1:15-16: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”

Most important communicable attributes of God

These are called “communicable” because we share them with God as children made in his image. Though our expression of these attributes are broken due to sin, they are repaired through Christ:

  1. Love – Love is to seek the well-being of the another unconditionally, even through self-sacrifice. God is love (1 John 4:8) and expresses His love perfectly through Jesus. Because we are touched by sin, our expression of love towards others will always be tainted. But we are still able to express it.
  2. Mercy – To receive mercy is to not receive what is deserved (judgment, condemnation, etc.). Conversely, to give mercy is to not punish another for what they deserve. We can exhibit mercy to others though we do not always do it properly and perfectly.
  3. Goodness – Goodness is virtue and holiness in action. Goodness flows out of a living faith in God. (Galatians 5:22-23, James 2:14-26).
  4. Justice – Justice is to know and seek what is right and fair. “(Psalm 89:14, Leviticus 19:15, James 2:1-13, Isaiah 45:21).

    Just a side note on the relationship between justice and mercy:

    “In every other religion in the world that holds to the idea of a supreme deity, that deity’s mercy is always exercised at the expense of justice. For example, in Islam, Allah may grant mercy to an individual, but it’s done by dismissing the penalties of whatever law has been broken. (…) Christianity is unique in that God’s mercy is shown through His justice. There is no setting aside of justice to make room for mercy. The Christian doctrine of penal substitution states that sin and injustice were punished at the cross of Christ, and that only because the penalty of sin was satisfied through Christ’s sacrifice does God extend His mercy to undeserving sinners who look to Him for salvation.” (source: gotquestions.org)

  5. Wisdom – People are capable of expressing wisdom, which is the proper use of knowledge. But this is best done in light of Scriptural revelation. We can possess wisdom but not perfectly. (Psalm 1, all of Proverbs)
  6. Truthfulness – Truth is whatever that corresponds to reality. More than just not lying, Christians seek to know Truth and share the Truth to others (John 14:6, 2 Timothy 2:15, Ephesians 4:15)

1.    https://carm.org/communicable-incommunicable-attributes-of-god)
2.    gotquestions.org [very good resource if you have questions]
3.    http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/gods-communicable-attributes/