Systematic Theology: The Doctrine of God: Lecture Notes: Chapter 11: The Incommunicable Attributes Of God

Systematic Theology: The Doctrine of God[1]

Lecture Notes[2] Chapter 11: The Incommunicable Attributes Of God


9 For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,

10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

(Isaiah 46:9-10)

How is God different from us?

A. Introduction to the Study of God’s Character

The Word does not tell us everything there is to know about God. But we also realize that we cannot collect everything the Word does tell us and fit it into one grouping and fit it into one 1/2 hour lesson. We will be discovering God for all of eternity. What we will do is to categorize Gods attributes into 2 categories.

God’s Communicable and Incommunicable Attributes.
The communicable attributes are those attributes that God shares or “communicates” with us.
The incommunicable attributes are those attributes that God does not share or “communicate” to others.
Some examples of Communicable Attributes are wisdom, knowledge, and love.
Examples of Incommunicable Attributes are being unchangeable, eternal, omniscient, and omnipresent.
For the next 2 weeks, we will look at His Incommunicable Attributes.  We will cover 2 of those today.
For an accurate, fuller understanding, we will look at each attribute in 2 parts. The first part will define the attribute; the second part will state an opposite, or balanced, aspect of that attribute.

1. Independence
A.  Definition
God does not need us or the rest of creation for ANYTHING; yet, we and the rest of creation can glorify him and bring him joy.
He did not create Adam and Eve, and us, because he was lonely.  Many believe that to be true.  If that were the case, he would not be independent or self-sufficient.
This is often called God’s self existence.  He is absolutely independent and self sufficient.  He was never created, and never came into being.
Acts 17:24-25 (ESV)
24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,
25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

Psalm 50:10-12 (ESV)
10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.
12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

These verses tell us that no one has ever given to God anything unless it first came from him to begin with.  God didn’t need us in order to be happy or fulfilled.
John 17:5 (ESV)
5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

John 17:24 (ESV)
24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

This indicates THAT THEY GAVE GLORY AND LOVE TO ONE ANOTHER THAT FAR SURPASSES ANY GLORY AND HONOR WE COULD POSSIBLY GIVE TO THEM! That is so humbling! God doesn’t need you for anything. After humility, our second response should be THANK YOU!

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

It’s not just that God DOES not need us, but God COULD not need us. Otherwise, he would not be the I AM.
The second part of this is that we, and the rest of creation, can glorify Him and bring Him joy. God’s independence does not mean we are meaningless. We don’t add any significance to Him, but he adds significance to us.  Why might we be meaningful? We are meaningful because God created us and he determined we would be meaningful to Him.
Ephesians 1:11-12 (ESV)
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

We are able to bring joy and delight to God. If we truly realized that, we would be more obedient, bolder, and busier than we are.
Isaiah 62:3-5 (ESV)
3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.
5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.

He “allows us” to bring joy to his heart.

2. Unchangeableness.
A. Definition:
God is unchanging in His being, perfections, purposes, and promises, yet God does act and feel emotions, and He acts differently in response to different situations.
Psalm 102:25-27 (ESV)
25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.

(See Heb. 1:11-12, 13:8 where this is applied to Jesus and says He is the same yesterday……)

His character never changes.

Numbers 23:19 (ESV)
19 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?

Isaiah 46:9-10 (ESV)
9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

Then why does God act one way in a given situation and respond differently in a similar situation?  One man said that there is a contrast between “being” and “becoming.”  We are continually becoming; He is pure being and no becoming.  He never changes in his being, his perfections, his purposes, or his promises.
 B. God Sometimes Changes His Mind

For example:

Moses intervened in prayer to stop God from wiping out Israel (Ex. 32:9-14).

He did not judge Nineveh (Jon. 3:4, 10).

He was sorry He made man (Gen. 6:6).

He was sorry He made Saul king (1 Sam. 15:19).

This tells us that God’s attitudes or expressions are different as situations change.  It reveals His present displeasure with the present situation.

C.  God is Both Infinite and Personal

He is infinite in that He is not subject to any of the limitations of humanity or creation yet He is also personal in that He interacts with us as a person and we can relate to Him in response to that. No religion has a relationship with a god that is both holy and infinite, yet loving and merciful. Every other system believes that to have a god that is personal they must give up a god who is infinite.

D.  The Importance of God’s Unchangeableness

Why is this so important?
At first, this may not seem very important. If He could change, then that would mean He could become better or worse. If He changed for the better, He was not the best when we first trusted Him. And how could we be sure He is at His best now? If He could become worse, could He be evil? How “worse” could He become? What could we ever do then to escape this all-powerful, evil God? Would we want to live forever in eternity with a God like that?
Praise God we don’t have to because of His unchangeableness.

If He could change, maybe Jesus would never come back like we have been led to believe. How can we know we have been forgiven of every sin? Maybe His omnipotence would change, so that even though He wanted to keep His promises, He would no longer be able to do so. If God could change, then the whole basis of our faith becomes a foundation built on sand. But we CAN trust Him because He IS unchanging in His being, His perfections, His purposes, and His promises.

 

[1] Based on and various Quotes from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Zondervan

[2] All Scripture from ESV Bible, Crossway

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