Dear Church Family,
In our continuing study of the Westminster Confession of Faith in the adult Sunday school class, this past Sunday we examined the second chapter of the Confession: “Of God and of the Holy Trinity.” There is certainly much that we could say by way of examination of the doctrine that is taught in this chapter; however, it might be helpful to simply summarize the teaching of this chapter by showing how each of the three paragraphs answers a different practical question.
WCF 2.1 – How do the attributes of the God of Scripture differ from the attributes of most pagan false gods?
Many false religions believe that there are many gods (polytheism); however, this portion of the WCF begins by declaring the teaching of Scripture that “there is but one only living and true God” (Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Corinthians 8:4). Following this statement affirming the monotheism of the Christian faith, the WCF lists about 25-30 different attributes about God. It would be too much to try and expound upon each of these in this format, but we may summarize these attributes of God as falling into two categories.
The first group of attributes refer to God’s transcendence (His otherness or above-ness in relationship to us): “infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory.”
The second group of attributes refer to God’s immanence (His closeness or nearness in relationship to us): “most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments; hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.”
These attributes which speak to God’s transcendence and immanence is another way in which the God of Scripture differs from other false gods. In some false religions, the god or gods are so transcendent such that they are cold, distant, and lacking in any kind of mercy or kindness. In other false religions, the god or gods are so immanent such that they are capricious, impulsive, and selfish.
The God of the Bible who created man in His image is far different from those gods that men have created in their image. The only living and true God is holy and unapproachable (transcendent, Isaiah 6:3), yet He has also condescended to us by revealing Himself and sending His Son in order that we might live in His presence (immanent, 1 John 4:8-16).
WCF 2.2 – How is God related to His creation?
There are several words that help to summarize the relationship between God and His creation as it is taught in the second paragraph of this chapter in the WCF:
Aseity – God is self-existent and self-sufficient, not dependent upon His creation for anything (Acts 17:24-25).
Source – God is the alone fountain of all being (Romans 11:36).
Sovereignty – God has dominion over all creation and can do with it as He pleases (Daniel 4:35).
Omniscient – God’s knowledge of His creation is infinite, infallible, and independent (Psalm 147:5; Romans 11:33-34).
Righteous – All that God does in relation to His creation is holy and He is deserving of our worship (Psalm 145:17; Romans 7:12).
WCF 2.3 – What’s so important about the doctrine of the Trinity?
The Biblical doctrine of the Trinity – there is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4) who exists in three distinct Persons (Genesis 1:1-3; Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14) – is an essential and basic element of the Christian faith. It is a delimiting doctrine in that it sets a baseline (or necessary belief) for all those who claim to be followers of Christ.
In showing the early Church how they ought to be discerning about false prophets and not believe every spirit, the Apostle John emphasizes the doctrine of the Trinity as a basic test of orthodoxy:
2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. (1 John 4:2-3)
Just as the first Christians needed to learn to be discerning and test the teaching of every spirit, we must do the same. There are some who claim to be Christians, yet implicitly deny what the Bible teaches about God and the holy Trinity. So, we must know what the Bible teaches about who God is.
At the same time, as those who claim to be Bible-believing Christians, we must also be discerning about what we believe and think, ourselves. True believers can sometimes begin to think of God on their own terms, and not according to how He has revealed Himself in His Word, thinking of God as we would like to think of Him rather than as He truly is. So, we must revisit and continually remind ourselves of what the Bible teaches about who God is in order that we may truly worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch