In our previous article we began our discussion of the attributes of God. We concluded the article by calling attention to the distinction between the incommunicable and communicable attributes of the Lord. The incommunicable attributes are the virtues of God which can be ascribed to the Lord alone. The communicable attributes of God are the virtues of the Lord which are reflected in man; there is a creaturely likeness, reflection of them in man. Strictly speaking, we understand, all the attributes of God are incommunicable. God is His attributes. God, of course, cannot be imparted to the creature. He alone is and always remains God. Hence, also His attributes are necessarily incommunicable. As God is wise, righteous, holy, good, etc., He alone is wise righteous, holy, good, etc. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that when we speak of the communicable attributes of the Lord, we emphasize that they are creaturely reflected in the creature. These incommunicable attributes of God, to which we first call attention, are: independence, immutability, simplicity, oneness, infinity (eternal perfection, eternity, omnipresence).

God’s Independency.

The Independency of God we define as that attribute of God, whereby He has the ground and cause (or source) of His Being in Himself, and not in any being or essence outside Him.

This attribute, synonymous with the name, Jehovah, is commonly and properly treated as the first incommunicable attribute. The first truth which the Scriptures reveal of the Lord is surely that He has His own existence, is wholly self-sufficient, and completely independent of all that moves, lives, and has being. His being and life is wholly unique; the Lord cannot be defined for the simple reason that He cannot be classified (to define anything implies that that thing be placed in a certain genus, and then that it be distinguished from other species in that particular genus—e.g., a horse is an animal but then it must also be distinguished from other animals). The Lord is the alone absolute God. Also His names are unique; and of all the names of God, Jehovah is preeminent—this name declares of the Lord that He is the I Am, who is what He was and shall be what He is, who is the Rock, unchangeable within Himself and in all His dealings with His people.

The Lord is independent, Self-sufficient and Self-existing, first of all within Himself. He is God Who is before all things and all things exist through Him— Ps. 90 :2: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God”; see also I Cor. 8:6; Rev. 4:11. He is in the absolute sense of the word the Lord of the whole earth—Deut. 10:17: “For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, Which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward”; see also Joshua 3:13. He owes His existence to nothing, and all things are dependent upon Him—“For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to Whom be glory for ever. Amen.”, Romans 11:36. He is the living God who possesses His life within Himself (“For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself”, John 5:26), and the Lord is the all-sufficient one who is not worshipped with men’s hands, as though He needed any thing—“Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though He needed any thing, seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things,” Acts 17:25.

However, the Independency of God also implies that He is the independent one with respect to and in connection with all things. He is not an Arminian God who is dependent upon a creature, a god who must rely upon the will of a man, a god who is willing and eager to save all, but is frustrated by the refusal of countless thousands whom he would save but who refuse to be saved. He is not a god, who merely offers His salvation to all men who come within the range of the gospel, who must wait until man either accepts or rejects this offer of salvation. God is the independent God, wholly self-sufficient and sovereign, the God who is always first, also in all His dealings with the children of men. He killeth and maketh alive, creates the light and the darkness, peace and evil—“I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside Me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside Me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things”, Is. 45:5-7; see also Deut. 32:39, Isaiah 54:16. The Lord does with the host of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth according to His will (“And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?”—Daniel 4:35), so that the children of men are in His hand as clay in the hand of a potter—“Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it. Why hast thou made me thus: Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”, Romans 9:20-21; see also Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:1ff. His counsel, His good pleasure is the ground, the basis for all that is and for all that occurs—“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure”, Isaiah 46:10; “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. . . . Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed, in Himself: …. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will:”, Eph. 1:5, 9, 11; see also Ps. 33:11; Prov. 19:21; Matt. 11:26; Acts 2:23, 4:28. The Lord does all things for His own sake, His Name’s sake, His glory’s sake—“For the Lord will not forsake. His people for His great Name’s sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make, you His people.”, I Sam. 12:22; “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Thy Name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for Thy Name’s sake.”, Psalm 79:9; see also Deut. 32:27, Joshua 7:9, Ps. 25:11, 31:4, 106:8, 109:21, 143:11, Prov. 16:4, Is. 48:9, Jer. 14:7, 21, Ezek. 20:9, 14, 22, 44. The Lord needs nothing, is all-sufficient—“Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though He needed any thing, seeing He giveth to all life and breath, and all things.” Acts 17:25. And thus He is the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was and who shall come—“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and Which is to come, the Almighty.” Rev. 1:8, see also Is. 41:4, 44:6 48:12. This God is therefore also independent in all His attributes and perfections, in all His decrees and actions. This applies to His will, as in Rom. 11:34, 35: “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?” Also His will is independent, as in Romans 9:19: “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?”; see also Daniel 4:35, Eph. 1:5, Rev. 4:11. His counsel, too, is independent, according to Is. 46:10 and Ps. 33:11. Of the love of God we read that it is first and therefore independent and not dependent upon the will of a man, as in I John 4:10: “Herein is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” And we would conclude with the words of the psalmist in Ps. 115:3: “But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased.” The Lord our God is truly the independent Jehovah.

God’s Simplicity.

The Simplicity of God we define as that perfection of the Lord whereby He is indivisible and not composed and that all His attributes are one in Him. The word, simplicity, as used in the discussion of the perfections of God, is the state of being simple, of being free from division into parts, and therefore from compositeness.

That God is simple implies, therefore, that He is eternally one within Himself, is not divided into various parts, so that the one part of His being is e.g., grace and another part a different virtue; God’s essence and His virtues or perfections are not distinct so that, instead of saying that He is His attributes, we would then confess that He possesses attributes; God and His attributes are eternally one; the Lord is His perfections. Simplicity we understand, is the contrast, the opposite of being composed, “made-up” into various parts.

The attribute of God’s simplicity implies, of course, that He is a spiritual being, even as we are taught in the well-known words of Christ in John 4:24 where we read that God is Spirit (not a Spirit, but Spirit). Whatever is physical is composed, constituted of parts. It is true that the Scriptures speak of God in human fashion, but even then the Word of God is characterized by definite limitations. Of the internal organs of our body only the heart and the bowels are attributed to the Lord; nowhere does Scripture ascribe to God such organs with which nourishment, consumption, and development are associated. We read of the Lord, to be sure, that He sees, hears, smells, but never that He tastes or handles. A body is never attributed to Him; and although we read often that the Lord reveals Himself unto His people in a human appearance, yet, throughout the Scriptures, He is Elohim, the God that is to be feared, and who is far exalted above all that is creature. We read of Him that He exists of Himself (Ex. 3:13-14: “And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”), is eternal Ps. 90 and Deut. 32:40: “For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.”), is omnipresent (Jer. 23:23, 24: “Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.”; Deut. 10:14, Psalm 139), is incomparable (Ps. 89:6, 8: “For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord: who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord? O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong Lord like unto Thee? or to Thy faithfulness round about Thee?”; Is. 40:18, 25: “To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto Him? To whom then will ye liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.”; see also Is. 46:5), is invisible (Ex. 38:20, 23: “And He said, Thou canst not see My face: for there shall no man see Me, and live. And I will take away Mine hand, and thou shalt see My back parts: but My face shall not be seen.”), is God of whom no image or likeness con and therefore may not be made (Ex. 20:4: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”) And although He repeatedly reveals Himself in appearances, dreams, visions, yet He is omnipresent, the Lord Who created and sustains all things.

The incommunicable attribute of simplicity is taught in the Word of God. Having emphasized the utter vanity and foolishness of idols in verses 1-9, which idols are hewn out of the trees of the forest and bedecked with gold and silver and cannot speak or go, the holy writer in Jer. 10:10 writes: “But the Lord is the true God, He is the living God, and an everlasting King: at His wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide His indignation.” Literally we read in this passage that “the Lord is the God of truth.” Substantives as well as adjectives are ascribed to the Lord. God is not only truthful, does not merely speak the truth; God is truth. And the same thought is expressed in the Word of God in I John 1:5 and 4:8: “This then is the message, which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all . . . He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” Hence, we confess the simplicity of God, also according to Article I of our Confession of Faith, and thereby declare that the Lord is indivisible, not constituted of any parts, or composed, and that all His attributes are one In Him. God is, with His entire being, all His virtues, the highest and absolute good, and therefore the God of infinite, sovereign, and unchangeable perfection.

God’s Infinity.

We define God’s Infinity as that virtue or attribute of God whereby He is free from all limitations in all His perfections. This attribute, therefore, denies that there are or can be any limitations to the divine being or perfections.

Two scriptural passages which are commonly quoted to confirm this virtue of the Lord are Job 11:7-9 and Psalm 145:3. In the first of these passages we read: “Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.” And the latter passage reads: “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable.”

God’s Infinity is commonly distinguished as: His absolute perfection, eternity, and omnipresence. The latter virtue is again subdivided into: transcendency and immanency. Let us look into these attributes of the Lord a little more closely.

God’s Absolute Perfection.

We have already quoted Job 11:7-9 and Ps. 145:8. To these Scriptural passages may be added Matt. 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” If one looks at God’s perfection in the light of His Infinity, bears in mind that the perfect God is also the infinite God, the emphasis must necessarily fall upon the truth that the Lord’s perfection is absolute. God is infinite. The creature, man, is finite. The word “finite” means literally: that which is bounded, limited. We are finite because we are limited, are characterized by boundaries, have an end. That applies to our entire existence, the physical but also the psychical. We have a beginning and, as far as our present existence is concerned, also an end. We were born and must die. But we are also limited as far as our thinking and willing, etc., are concerned. We can think only of finite things. It is impossible for us to conceive of anything, understand anything that is infinite, without beginning or end, limitless. Does this, then, necessarily imply that therefore the infinite, the limitless does not exist? That would be absurd. Am I not the creature and is not the Lord the Creator? Is it strange that the creature does not understand the Creator, that the finite does not fathom the Infinite? The Creator is surely exalted above the creature, also above that which is finite. The Lord is the infinite God. He is without boundaries, is limitless, boundless.

This implies, of course, that Jehovah is infinite in His perfections, is the God of absolute perfection. Fact is, the infinity of the Lord reveals Him unto us as free from all limitations, as in no sense of the word limited by the universe or confined to the universe. The infinite God is surely the absolute God, who is never limited or determined by anything outside Him, who has no bounds, beginning or end of any nature, who owes His existence eternally unto Himself, and who is therefore the absolute, infinite, non-related, not related to or bound by any creature, and therefore the God of absolute perfection. Indeed, the Lord is great and His greatness is unsearchable.

God’s Eternity.

God’s eternity we define as that virtue or perfection of God whereby He, negatively, is not limited to or by time, and, positively, continuously lives His infinite and perfect life with perfect and complete consciousness.

The Word of God teaches us throughout that God is eternal. We read in Ps. 90:1-2: “Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” In Ps. 102:11-12 we read: “My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass. But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever; and Thy remembrance unto all generations.” In Eph. 3:21 we read: “Unto Him (God) be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” And in II Peter 3:8 we read these well known words: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” We conclude with the words of the Lord Jesus in John 8:58: “Jesus saith unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”

In the light of these passages from the Word of God we are able to make a few observations. On the one hand, the Scriptures seem to leave the impression that “eternity” is endless time. The word itself means a long, long time. We often think of “eternity” as a period of time which is indefinitely prolonged, forwards and backwards; that God is eternal means then that He is without beginning and without end. Besides, could we conceive of “eternity” any differently? This also applies to the other virtues of the Lord. We speak of His infinity. This means literally that He is not finite. However, it must be perfectly clear to us that God is not merely negative, is not merely different from us. God’s infinity must mean more than that He is not finite. This also applies to the Lord’s eternity. But, we cannot think of this virtue of the Lord except in contrast with our own existence. Moreover, do not the Scriptures which we have quoted speak the same language? Do we not read in Ps. 90 these words: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting. . . .” And in the words of Ps. 102 these words occur: “My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass. But Thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever; and Thy remembrance unto all generations.” In Eph. 3:21 the apostle speaks of the endless life of the church, and we quote: “Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.”

Obviously, therefore, the Scriptures do speak of the “eternity” of God in the sense of “endless time”. Does this necessarily mean that Eternity is therefore to be identified with time, only time as indefinitely prolonged, without beginning or end? Not at all. The Word of God also employs other language, as we shall presently see. In fact, this is even true of the passages we have already quoted. Negatively, however, the eternity of God signifies that He is not limited by the laws of time, and this truth is emphasized in these passages from Holy Writ.