Question: "What are the communicable and incommunicable attributes of God?"
Answer: Communicable attributes of God are those that humans can also possess, although only to a finite extent. If something is communicable, it is able to be communicated or transmitted to others. Incommunicable attributes of God are those attributes exclusive to Him. Humans cannot share the incommunicable attributes of divinity.
As finite beings, humans will not share in even the communicable attributes of God to the same extent that God has those attributes. For example, God is love (1 John 4:8). Humans can love, but we do so imperfectly. God is also just. Humans have a sense of justice and can carry out justice but, again, do so imperfectly. God is Creator. Humans are creative, but we cannot create ex nihilo as God has. Some of the other communicable attributes of God are grace, mercy, goodness, truthfulness, rational thought, and relationality.
As we grow in Christ and are transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit in us (Romans 12:1–2; 2 Corinthians 3:18), we share in God’s communicable attributes in a more meaningful and perfected sense. When we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus, we become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Yet we also still battle against our sinful natures and must learn “to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22–24). It is in abiding in Christ that we can bear fruit (John 15:1–17). It is through the filling of the Holy Spirit that we exhibit characteristics like “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). It is when we are in Christ that our love more closely resembles godly agape love and is less tainted by our own sinfulness.
It is important to understand that we will never be fully like God, and in no sense will we ever become gods. God is distinct from us, and yet we are made in His image and redeemed by His Son. We are called to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15–16) yet know that only He is completely holy; any holiness in us comes from Him. Our sharing in God’s communicable attributes is for His glory and is made possible by His design of us and His enabling as we abide in Him.
God’s incommunicable attributes are those characteristics that cannot be shared with His creatures. God’s incommunicable attributes are things that only God can have and that make Him distinct from creation. For example, God is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, sovereign, transcendent, immutable, and self-existent. We can define these attributes, but we often do not fully comprehend them and can never call them our own. The incommunicable attributes of God are what make God, God. They are His distinguishing features that only He possesses. The incommunicable attributes of God are cause for us to revere, worship, trust, and praise the Creator.