Chapter 2: Of God and of the Holy Trinity
Who is God? What is God like? What does it mean that God is immutable? Does God never change His mind? What is God's love? What is God's justice? Does God know all things? What is the Trinity? Is it biblical? Do we believe in three gods? What does the word essence mean? What does the word person mean?
§1 The Attributes of God
- The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; 1 whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; 2 whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; 3 a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; 4 who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; 5 working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his own glory; 6 most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; 7 the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, 8 and withal most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty. 9
- Deut. 6:4; Jer. 10:10; 1 Cor. 8:4,6; 1 Thess. 1:9
- Job 11:7-9; 26:14; Isa. 48:12; Acts 17:24-25
- Ex. 3:14; Job 11:7-8; 26:14; Ps. 145:3; Rom. 11:33-34; 1 Cor. 2:11
- John 4:24; 1 Tim. 1:17; Deut. 4:15-16; Luke 24:39; Acts 14:11, 15; James 5:17
- Mal. 3:6; James 1:17; 1 Kings 8:27; Jer. 23:23-24; Ps. 90:2; 1 Tim. 1:17; Gen. 17:1; Rev. 4:8; Isa. 6:3; Rom. 16:27; Ps. 115:3; Ex. 3:14
- Eph. 1:11; Isa. 46:10; Prov. 16:4; Rom. 11:36
- 1 John 4:8, 16; Ex. 34:6-7
- Heb. 11:6; Gen. 15:1; Matt. 5:12; 10:41-42; Luke 6:35
- Neh 9:32-33; Ps. 5:5-6; 11:5; Nahum 1:2-3; Ex. 34:7
This is the God of Scripture. He is the only God that exists and there is no other. There is only One God, who is not uni-personal, but tri-personal as the Confession confesses and clarifies especially in paragraph 3. In this paragraph we will take a brief look at the attributes of God. Systematic theologies spends several chapters discussing the attributes of God, but here we will merely give a very brief biblical data for the attributes of God.
The Incommunicable Attributes of God
Theologians distinguish between the communicable and incommunicable attributes of God. The communicable attributes of God are those attributes which man and God have in common. For example, both man and God are able to be just, love, show mercy, have knowledge. On the other hand, the incommunicable attributes of God are those perfections which are not shared with others, like His triune nature, eternity, immutability, absolute sovereignty, omnipresence, omnipotence. God's attributes are God's perfections, they are not defects, but they are the things which shine forth His glory and majesty.
The Singularity Of God
The Bible is clear on the fact that there is but one God. The Scriptures are manifold proving this in both Testaments. The doctrine of the Trinity is Monotheistic and Christianity is at the core monotheistic. In Mark 12:29 the Lord Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4 saying that the most important commandment “is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ The Lord Christ Himself affirmed the doctrine of Monotheism, which teaches that there is but one Being of God. Isaiah 43:10 is definite in its affirmation of Monotheism: ‘“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.’ Before Yahweh there was no other god, and after Him there shall be no other God. He is the only God that exists and is but one God. We also come back to this point in paragraph 3 when we will discuss the doctrine of the Trinity, which teaches that although there is but one Being of God, yet this being exists in three Persons.
The Lord our God is described as a living God, that implies that He is active and interacts with the world. He is not a god who sets up the world, and leaves it on its own. Rather, He is the living God whose providence guides every step. The expression “living God” is used 28 times in the Scriptures, which implies the activity of God in this world, and it is also an expression against the dead idols of the heathen. In Leviticus 26:30 the Lord warns Israel if they go astray to serve idols saying: “And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you.” They’re bodies will be cast upon the dead bodies of their idols. They will be just like their idols with whom they provoked Him to anger—dead.
He is not only the singular and living God, but He is also the true God. He is the only God that exists and He is likewise truthful. He is the “God of truth” (Isa. 65:16). The expression “true God” is used 5 times in the Bible (2Chron. 15:3; Jer. 10:10; John 17:3; 1Thess. 1:9; 1John 5:20), and it is often connected with God being a living God. Jeremiah 10:10 declares, “But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.” To say that God is the living and true God is to separate Him from the idols. Paul writes of the Thessalonians, and of all Christians that we “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1Thess. 1:9).
The Independence of God
God is absolutely dependent on no other being than Himself. He is all sufficient in and of Himself. God is wholly happy, glorious, holy, loving and joyful in and of Himself. He was not unhappy before the Creation, nor was He less glorious or loving. All life, happiness, glory and holiness is in Himself. He is the I AM THAT I AM! Self-existent and self-sufficient, glorious, holy, just and loving. This attribute is also called God's self-sufficiency, self-existence, aseity.
‘The term aseity’, writes John Frame, ‘comes from the Latin phrase a se, meaning “from or by self.”’ To speak of God’s aseity therefore is to speak of His independence from anything and anyone but Himself. God is dependent on no one for His existence, because He is the only Necessary Being—a being that must exist, in any possible world. He is the Being on Whom all reality and all creation depends, yet He Himself depends on nothing. Without Him all would turn into chaos and the world will not be, but because of Him, there is order and not chaos. All that the God of the Bible has, He has in and of Himself, and is dependent upon no other being. The very name of God, which was given to Moses in Exodus 3:14 is “I AM WHO I AM.” It is a basic and most fundamental observation that in the Bible names represent the nature and character of the people whom they bear. Names are not merely nice sounding, but, they say something about the name-bearer. The name of God, YHWH, represents all the perfections of God and God explains it as “I AM WHO I AM.” In essence and at the most minimal level, this name teaches the absolute independence of God. He is what He is because of Himself. John Gill notes on this passage saying that “This signifies the real being of God, his self-existence, and that he is the Being of beings; as also it denotes his eternity and immutability, and his constancy and faithfulness in fulfilling his promises, for it includes all time, past, present, and to come; and the sense is, not only I am what I am at present, but I am what I have been, and I am what I shall be, and shall be what I am.”
The Bible over and over again declares the independence of God from the created world. Paul on the Areopagus declares that the true God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything,” but in contrast, “since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). This is the scriptural proof for our assertion that God is the Independent Being on Whom all creation depends. Scriptures teaches that God owns all things (Deut. 10:14; Job 41:11; Ps. 24:1; 50:10-12; 80:11). He is called “the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen. 14:22). 1 Chronicles 29:11 majestically declares, “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.” All that we have comes from His hand. John the Baptist says that “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven” (John 3:27; Jas 1:17). Amazingly, in 1 Chronicles 29, King David acknowledges that when we give things to God, we are giving Him things which He has given us. For all the offerings which the people brought for the Temple, David thanks the Lord and says...