Thursday, April 8, 2021

The First Covenant

Q. 12: What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the estate wherein he was created?
Answer: When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death. (WSC)
This question explains the first covenant that God made with man. Note several things about this covenant:

1. This covenant was an act of providence rather than creation. Man owed obedience unto God as his Creator, but God did not owe man this covenant relationship. As our confession of faith says, due to the distance between God and his creatures, “they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.” It was of God’s generosity that he placed Adam and Eve in a fruitful garden, gave them fellowship with him, and promised eternal life on condition of the perfect obedience that they already owed to him.

2. While Genesis 2-3 does not explicitly describe this arrangement as a “covenant,” all the elements of a covenant are there: two parties (God and mankind under Adam’s headship), a condition (perfect obedience), a promise of blessing (life in its fullest sense), and the threat of curse (death in its fullest sense). Some have even described the tree of life as the “sacrament” of this covenant of works, a sign and seal of the promise of life. In addition, Hosea 6:7 seems to call this arrangement a covenant, and the parallel between Adam and Christ in Romans 5 also indicates the covenantal nature of this arrangement.

3. While Adam and Eve were covenantally obligated to obey God by keeping the moral law and fulfilling the creation mandate (Gen. 1:26-28, 2:15), their loyalty and obedience was particularly tested by the prohibition of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17).

4. While we are no longer able to obtain life by this covenant due to our sin, yet it forms the background of the rest of the Bible. In the end, through Christ and by grace, we end up with what was promised in the covenant of works. Not only does Revelation 21-22 contain many references to Genesis 2, but echoes of Eden are found throughout the Bible. Even outside the Bible, in the hearts of men and women, there is a natural longing for Eden, for a time and place where man dwelt in peace with God, with each other, and with creation. But the way to that condition is now blocked by sin. It would take another special act of providence, and a costly one, to open again the way to paradise.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Providence of God

Q. 11: What are God’s works of providence?
Answer: God's works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions. (WSC)
In his work of creation, God brought everything into being and gave it design and order. He rested from this work on the seventh day. Yet even then he continued the work of preserving and governing it. He “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3) and “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). This providence encompasses all things that happen: “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).

While the natural order works according to God’s design, it does not work automatically or mechanically. God makes the sun to shine, the rain to fall, and the plants to grow (Matt. 5:45, Ps. 104:14). The food and drink received by all living things is given by God, though he may use many instruments, including people, to do so (Ps. 104:14-15, 145:15-16, Matt. 6:26, Acts 14:17). People and nations are under his providential governance (Dan. 2:21, 4:17), although they are responsible for their actions, which remain voluntary. For example, Babylon (Hab. 1-2) and Assyria (Is. 10:5-19) are both described as instruments of God, being raised up by him for his purposes, yet without their knowledge - they were simply fulfilling their desire in rebellion against God. When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, their intention and act was evil, but God’s intention behind the same event was good (Gen. 50:20). God uses true secondary causes in working out his plan.

Therefore: 1. Be sure to have this God on your side. There is no escape from him, as Jonah found out. 2. For those who are God’s children, this doctrine is of great comfort, leading to hopeful prayer, patience, and endurance. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). 3. Give praise to God, from whom all blessings flow (James 1:17). All the good things we enjoy come from his gracious hand, even though we do not deserve them. 4. Meditate upon God and get to know him better through his works of providence. Behold in his providence, his generosity, wisdom, justice, and power.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Creation of Mankind

Q. 10: How did God create man?
Answer: God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

The doctrine of man is a major area of conflict in our day. Who are we? Who decides who we are? Should we seek to live up to some universal moral standard, or should each of us create his own? Should we seek to fulfill some God-given purpose, or is each of us left to create one's own purpose for one's existence?

This simple but powerful answer from the Westminster Shorter Catechism states that (1) God created mankind, (2) he made mankind male and female, (3) he made mankind after his own image, (4) this image is expressed in man’s knowledge, righteousness, holiness, and dominion. The first three assertions can be found in Genesis 1:26-28, and the fourth can be found partly in the same passage as well as in two verses which describe the renewal of this image: Colossians 3:10 and Ephesians 4:24.

God made us male and female. He formed Adam's body from the dust of the ground and formed Eve's body from his side, and he named them accordingly. There are two sexes, and these identities are given to us, ingrained into our bodies, not left to the choice of individuals. This sexual identity, as man or woman, is a good part of God’s creation and should be affirmed. Sin seeks to blur the distinctions God has appointed, and the more it holds sway, the more it distorts human desires, destroying natural orientations (Rom. 1:26-27) and natural affections (Rom. 1:30-31). In our day, this distortion is not merely something individuals might deal with, but an ideology being promoted in our society. One of the ways to resist this ideology is to affirm our God-given identities and demonstrate the beauty and goodness of his design in our lives as we are renewed by his grace.

God created man, male and female, in his image. We are the image of God. This means two things. First, it means we represent God. To mistreat man is to attack God (Gen. 9:6, Prov. 14:31). Man is God’s representative on earth, his vice-regent. Just as a king might set up statues and flags and images on coins to assert his reign - the violation of which is taken personally - so God has set up man as a symbol of his royal authority on earth. Second, it means we resemble God. This is connected to the first point. We resemble him to display his glory on earth. Particularly, we resemble him in knowledge, righteousness, holiness, and dominion. (There are certainly some differences as well: unlike God, we are physical, visible, and finite; unlike us, God is infinite and eternal in all his attributes.)

Sin distorts the image of God. Humanity still has some dignity as God’s image (and should be respected as such, Gen. 9:6), but man has marred the image and acts contrary to it. He remains a rational, moral, religion, and productive being, but his thinking is blind to God and futile, his righteousness is filthy rags, his religion is idolatrous, and his dominion is ultimately vain and often cruel. But thanks be to God that he sent Jesus Christ to save his people that they might “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10).

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Creation of the Cosmos


Q. 9: What is the work of creation?
Answer: The work of creation is, God's making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.

This is how the Shorter Catechism summarizes the doctrine of creation, a fundamental Christian belief undergirding the worldview and message of the Bible. Not only is it taught in Genesis 1-2, but it is taught throughout the Bible (Ex. 20:11, Ps. 33, 104, John 1:1-4, Acts 17:24-31, Rev. 4:11). The Bible teaches that God alone is eternal and uncreated. It teaches that he created everything else, visible and invisible, merely by speaking them into existence. He went on to divide, unite, shape, and fill what he made, wisely designing each part with purpose as part of a harmonious whole.

The earth is therefore not a product of chance, nor of long ages of struggle and death. Rather, it is the product of a good and wise God. Death and misery were not an original part of this world, but came as a consequence of human rebellion. 

This unique work of creation took up six days. Did he need to take that long? No, he did not. Yet one purpose he had in doing it this way was to set an example for us, to work six days and rest one day (Exod. 20:11). 

This doctrine has many practical consequences. For example, it has implications for gender and social order (see here) and for how we interpret nature as a revelation of God (see here). Here is how Kevin DeYoung has summarized some of its worldview implications:

“The opening chapter of Genesis is a rejection of atheism (because there is a God), a rejection of polytheism (because there is only one God), a rejection of pantheism (because the creation is not God), a rejection of humanism (because man is not God), a rejection of naturalistic evolution (because the world and its creatures come into being by intelligent design), a rejection of materialism (because the physical world is not all that is really there), and a rejection of dualism (because both the spiritual and physical are not opposed).” (source)

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Creation and Providence

Q 8: How doth God execute his decrees?
Answer: God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.

In this question the shorter catechism moves from God’s eternal decrees to his work of carrying them out in history. God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). He has a plan from eternity and he also make it happen in time. These works can be divided into two categories: creation and providence.

These two works are distinguished by Genesis 2:1-3. On the seventh day of creation God finished his work of creation and rested. Yet, he continued to work in another way. When Jesus was criticized for doing deeds of mercy on the Sabbath he pointed out that while God rested from his work of creation on the seventh day, yet he continued to work in a different way: “But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working’” (John 5:17). God continues to uphold the world he made. Psalms like Psalm 104 and Psalm 136 describe both creation and providence in their praise of God.

Another place we find both of these works mentioned is in Hebrews 1:1-4. And not only does it mention both creation and providence - it says that both of them the Father does through the Son: “through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:2–3). Psalm 104 adds that both are also accomplished by the life-giving Spirit. “When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground” (Psalm 104:30). Just as we see the Father, Word, and Spirit in the opening verses of the Bible, so they continue to be active in maintaining the world. And God's triune work will become particularly evident in the special work of providence known as redemption.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Piety, Aeneas, and Cornelius

Aeneas' Flight from Troy by Federico Barocci
Once a week I teach an ancient history class for a local homeschool co-op, and one of the books we are reading is the Aeneid by Virgil. The main theme of this epic poem is that of pietas, a trait demonstrated by its Trojan protagonist, Aeneas. This Latin word refers to reverence and dutifulness and is the word from which we get the English word "piety." Aeneas demonstrates it by his devotion to the gods and his father by showing reverence to them and embracing the duty they gave him of founding the city of Rome for his people and descendants. The force that is opposed to pietas in the Aeneid is not only impiety, but furor (the Latin word for passion, frenzy, or rage). In the Aeneid, this frenzy and passion is personified by Juno who stirs up storms, the lust of Dido, the Trojan wives who seek to burn the ships, and the hostile forces and civil tumult in Italy, all of this to turn aside pious Aeneas from the path of duty.

The English word "piety" has the same basic meaning as pietas: reverence and devotion to God and others to whom you owe reverence like parents, resulting in fidelity to one's obligations (see here and here). But today, as C.R. Wiley points out in his lecture "Make Men Pious Again," the word "piety" may come with connotations far removed from the world of the Aeneid. Perhaps "piety" sounds overly formal and sanctimonious. On the other hand, perhaps it sounds like something otherworldly, something that restricts the faith to the private world of feelings. Historically, though, piety has been both something that is rooted in the heart and something with consequences for all of life. Furthermore, this concept is found in the Bible. 

The Greek equivalent to pietas is εὐσέβεια (eusebeia). Instead of being translated piety, it is usually translated "godliness," but like pietas it refers to reverence, devotion, and dutifulness before God. Here is where its various forms are used:

εὐσεβής - (adj.) godly, devout, pious: Acts 10:2, 7, 2 Peter 2:9.
εὐσέβεια - (noun) godliness, reverence, piety: Acts 3:12, 1 Tim. 2:2, 3:16, 4:7-8, 6:3, 5-6, 11, 2 Tim. 3:5, Titus 1:1, 2 Peter 1:3, 6-7, 3:11.
εὐσεβέω - (verb) I show godliness, pay homage, am religious: Acts 17:23, 1 Tim. 5:4.
εὐσεβῶς - (adv.) godly, devoutly, piously: 2 Tim. 3:12, Titus 2:12.
θεοσέβεια - (noun) reverence for God, godliness: 1 Tim. 2:10, θεοσεβής in Jn. 9:31.

As in the Aeneid, the Bible describes εὐσέβεια in opposition to impiety and evil passions. The passions of the flesh "wage war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11) much as they waged war against Aeneas to turn him aside from his duty and destroy him. But this deliverance from frenzy comes through Christ, who is "the grace of God" who "has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness [impiety] and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly [pious] lives in the present age…" (Titus 2:12).

It is interesting that Luke, a Gentile, recounts the healing of a lame man named Aeneas (Acts 9:32-35) just before introducing a godly Roman centurion (Acts 10) in a book that ends with the gospel of the kingdom coming to Rome (Acts 28). Perhaps there was a symbolic meaning in Luke's inclusion of Aeneas' healing - that pagan Rome and its piety was helplessly disabled, in need of Christ the Savior. In any case, in Acts 10 we come to a good example of a pious man who served the true God. Cornelius, the Roman centurion from Italy, is described by Luke the same way Aeneas is described by Virgil: "a devout [εὐσεβής] man" (Acts 10:2). So consider some ways that Cornelius' piety was demonstrated:
  • He feared God (10:2). In particular, he feared the one true God. God deserves honor and respect, but impiety treats God lightly and causally. This fear is an attitude of reverence and awe which is expressed by paying homage to God and serving him according to his word. The Bible teaches us much concerning the fear of God (e.g. Prov. 1:7, Jer. 6:20-24, Mal. 1:6, Heb. 12:28-29). A pious man fears God. 
  • He feared God with all his household (10:2). This likely means he practiced it with them in family worship, cultivated it through instruction and by example, and applied it in their way of life. This influence extended to the soldier who attended him, who is also described as “devout” (10:7). While Cornelius practiced private prayer, he did not keep his religion to himself, but brought his household along with him. A pious man leads his household in piety and promotes piety within it.
  • He gave alms generously to the people (10:2). Alms were gifts to the needy and were given in the synagogue and on the street (Matt. 6:2). For example, the lame beggar at the temple asked for alms (Acts 3:2), Paul brought alms to the Jewish Christians from the Gentile Christians (Acts 24:17), and Tabitha was known for her alms, such as making clothes for the widows (Acts 9:36). In the church, the deacons were appointed for the regular distribution of alms. A pious man is generous and merciful (see also Ps. 112:5, 9). 
  • He prayed continually to God (10:2-3). Not that he prayed every minute of the day, but consistently throughout the day (such as at "the ninth hour"). His alms and prayers were like sacrifices to God (10:4, see also Heb. 13:15-16). As Aeneas demonstrated his piety by offering sacrifices to the gods, so the Christian offers these spiritual sacrifices to the one true God through Christ. A pious man is mindful of the worship of God, reverently offering these sacrifices. 
  • He was a just man (“upright,” 10:22). Piety itself is an aspect of justice - God deserves our reverence and devotion - and it moves a person to justly fulfill the rest of his obligations to God and man. It motivates us to fulfill our callings in life, knowing that by doing so we serve the Lord (Col. 3:23-24). Thus, piety can be used to refer to the way of life that results from true doctrine (1 Tim. 4:7-8, 6:3). In 1 Timothy 5:4-8, Paul notes that εὐσέβεια is shown in fulfilling family obligations such as honoring parents and supporting them in old age ("filial piety"). So a pious man is just, fulfilling his duties to God and man.
  • He sought Peter to hear his message from God and invited his household and friends to hear it (10:7-8, 24). This eagerness to hear God's word and to bring others along is described in Isaiah 2:3 and Zechariah 8:21-23. A pious man seeks to hear God’s word, to bring his family to church, and to invites his friends and relations to join him. 
  • He received the gospel (10:44-48, 11:17-18). Not only did he seek God's word, but he also received it - something which the pious should do throughout their lives. I believe Cornelius was already regenerate, believing in God's old covenant promises, but here he and his household received the gospel of Christ's finished work and were brought into new covenant blessings, being filled with the Spirit and baptized into the visible church of Christ. Likewise, a pious man repents of his sin, believes the gospel, and is baptized with his household. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The Decrees of God

Q 7: What are the decrees of God? 
Answer: The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.
The Bible not only makes known what God is and the persons in the Godhead, but also his decrees and their implementation in history. In fact, in the decrees and works of God, we see his divine attributes vividly displayed and demonstrated. We are called upon repeatedly in the Psalms to make known his deeds among the people because they reveal him and his glory.

This question particularly notes how his eternal decrees make known his sovereignty and wisdom. He has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass (exercising sovereignty) according to the counsel of his will, directing them to an end: his own glory (exercising wisdom). And these decrees are his eternal purpose - he is unchanging and unwavering in what he has always intended. These decrees were made in eternity, before time began. Ephesians 1:4 says that God the Father chose us in Christ “before the foundation of the world.” Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 1:11 that we were “predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will...” His predestination of us to salvation is described as one part of his eternal purpose. He works all things, not only matters of salvation, according to his plan. Later questions will describe how he works all things (i.e. his works of creation and providence). It is sufficient to point out here that God does not work every part of his decree in the same way - sometimes he acts directly, and other times through second causes (people, nature, etc.).

This truth is of benefit to us in at least two ways. First, it should exalt God in our eyes when we behold his sovereign power and the exercise of his unsearchable wisdom which has designed every thing which comes to pass from all eternity with purpose, fitting each part for his glory (and his people’s good). He is not trying to keep up with mankind, forming his plan in the moment in response to man, but is enthroned on high, bringing his will to pass. Second, it should comfort us to know that there is purpose and intention behind the events of this life, as chaotic and uncertain as they may seem to us. And not only is there purpose, but it is the purpose of our wise and good Father in heaven. Nothing takes him by surprise, for he has in fact foreordained it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Sensuality

ἀσέλγεια is a Greek word that occurs 10 times in the Bible and the ESV consistently translates it with “sensuality” or “sensual.” This is fairly accurate if you use Noah Webster’s 1828 definition of sensuality, “Devotedness to the gratification of the bodily appetites; free indulgence in carnal or sensual pleasures.” But if you look up the word online, you will see sensuality is commonly used today to simply refer to the enjoyment of physical pleasure. Thus, someone could get the mistaken idea that the Bible teaches that it is wrong to delight in physical pleasures. On the contrary, he gave us our senses and things like food and drink and sexual relations that we might enjoy them and be happy and grateful (Acts 14:17, Ps. 104:15, 1 Tim. 4:3, 6:17). The problem is when we desire or use these things unlawfully and inappropriately. We ought not to idolize them, covet them, abuse them (see here and here), or pursue them in an unrestrained manner or in a way where we loose control.

The word ἀσέλγεια properly refers to a “lack of self-restraint which involves one in conduct that violates all bounds of what is socially acceptable … esp. of sexual excesses” (BDAG Greek-English Lexicon). The KJV usually translates it with “lasciviousness,” which more accurately translates the word, although it might sound old-fashioned. Other words that can be used to translate it would be licentiousness, wantonness, self-abandonment, or shamelessness.

It is an important concept to note today, as our culture tends to put very few restraints on indulging sensual desires. In fact, some people deem it immoral to hinder or discourage people from indulging any of these desires or to deem any particular indulgence as shameful (at least, as long as they are not harming another person without their consent). But Scripture notes that this lasciviousness is ungodly and something that Christians leave behind. Instead, they are to live in a manner that is self-controlled, dignified, and righteous, gratefully using their God-given senses as God intended, delighting appropriately in what is good and lovely.
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in [ἀσελγείαις], passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (1 Peter 4:1–5)
“Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and [ἀσελγείαις], not in quarreling and jealousy.” (Romans 13:13)

The Doctrine of the Trinity

Q 6: How many persons are there in the Godhead?
Answer: There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.
Since God is at the center of our faith and religion, it is vital that we believe the right things about him. If we are to have fellowship with God, we need to know who he is, even if the truth seems rather mysterious. We find in Scripture that God is a personal God and that in fact he is three persons, though he is only one God, one divine being. 

The word “substance,” used in the catechism, is traditionally used interchangeably with the word “essence” to refer the undivided divine nature (think of question 4, “what is God?”). All three persons share the full divine being, all that God is, so that they are equal in power and glory. Each person of the Trinity has all the attributes of God. 

These persons are distinct, not interchangeable. They are distinguished by their personal properties. As our larger catechism explains in its tenth question, these personal properties are that only the Father begets the Son, only the Son is begotten of the Father, and only the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, and this has always been the case from eternity. Jesus is the only-begotten of the Father (John 1:14), and the Spirit is the Spirit of the Father (John 15:26) and of the Son (Gal. 4:6). From eternity, they have been with each other and loved each other (John 1:1, 17:5, 24). Furthermore, in history they play united but distinct roles in the work of salvation, as 1 Peter 1:1-2 describes, “To those who are elect exiles … according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.”

Our Westminster standards take up and affirm the truths affirmed in the ancient creeds of the church, such as the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. We recite the Nicene Creed every week in worship, and the Athanasian Creed is worth reading as well. But here is a simple summery of the doctrine of the Trinity from J. Gresham Machen:
“The New Testament is just as much opposed as the Old Testament is to the thought that there are more Gods than one. Yet the New Testament with equal clearness teaches that the Father is God and the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, and that these three are not three aspects of the same person but three persons standing in a truly personal relationship to one another” (The Person of Jesus, 13-14).
It is into the name of this Triune God that we are baptized. We are called to serve and entrust ourselves to this Triune God. We are called to have fellowship with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, with each one particularly and being drawn by each one to the other two and to their unity as one God. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

There Is Only One God

Q 5: Are there more Gods than one?
Answer: There is but one only, the living and true God.
There is only one God. The God revealed in Scripture is one God and he is God alone. This fundamental truth is asserted by the law (Deut. 6:4), the prophets (Is. 45:5-7), Christ (Mark 12:29), and the apostles (1 Cor. 8:4-6). "I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God..." (Isaiah 45:5). Both Jeremiah 10:10 and 1 Thessalonians 1:9 describe God as the living and true God, as opposed to idols which are dead and false. Unlike false gods, the one true God speaks, hears, and acts sovereignly, having created all things, doing whatever he pleases, working all things according to his purpose.

Deuteronomy 6:4 states that “The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” It goes on to remark on several consequences of this oneness in verses 5-9. 
"[5] You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [6] And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. [7] You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. [8] You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. [9] You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." 
First, as verse 5 teaches, God deserves wholehearted love, with nothing held back. Your devotion is not to be divided among several gods. You and I are to be singleminded, serving one God with everything we have.

Second, as verse 6 teaches, God’s word ought to be on your heart. One God means one law - one consistent and unchanging moral standard - and one gospel - one way of salvation. His word is supreme. 

Third, as verse 7 teaches, you should teach God's word to your children and speak of it and consider it throughout the whole day. It should be the foundation for your worldview, shaping your view of all of life. 

Fourth, as verses 8-9 teach, God has a sovereign claim over your personal life (hand and eyes), your family life (house), and your social and political life (the city gates). All of life is to be lived to the glory of God in accordance with his word.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

What Kind of Being Is God?

Q 4: What is God?
Answer: God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
As the story goes, the Westminster Assembly came to this question as it was producing the Shorter Catechism and asked George Gillespie, a minister from Scotland, to draft an answer. Sensing his inadequacy to answer “what is God?” he suggested that they pray. In his prayer he said, “O God, thou art a spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in thy being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” This part of the prayer was quickly recorded by another member of the assembly and proposed as the answer to the question! While the story may or might not be true, we should approach the study of God with a similar attitude of reverence and worship. 

God has revealed himself to man, so that we are not in the dark about his existence or nature. Our knowledge of him, when based upon his revelation of himself, is limited but true. He has revealed himself in his creation (Rom. 1:19-20) and in his word, which we have in the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. He reveals that he is a Spirit (John 4:24), which means he does not have a body. Indeed, he is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, and these attributes apply to his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. That is, his being is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. His wisdom is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. His power is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. And so forth. Consider passages like Psalms 90:1-4, 135:5-6, 136, and 139:7-12.

God is not limited by time or space. Neither is God foolish, weak, common, unjust, miserly, or fickle. Now our experience can at times provoke us to feel that God is weak, unjust, miserly, etc. But we must hold fast to his word and believe that God is who he says he is in the midst of trials. One way that our faith is strengthened is when we recount the past deeds of the Lord and give thanks. Consider what he has done for you. Consider what you have received from him. Consider what he has done for his people in the past. Consider what he has done in your life - particularly in taking pity on you when you were under the condemnation of sin.
“It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
and rescued us from our foes,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
he who gives food to all flesh,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.”
(Psalm 136:23–26)