14 May 2007

Westminster Wednesday

Its time for Q&A #4 (part 1):

Q: What is God?
A: God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

One of my favorites. I spent alot of time on this q&a when I taught the kids at church.

From John Flavel we read, Q. 1. Can the Nature of God be defined, so as men may express properly and strictly what God is?A. No: Job 11:7. Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?We do then conceive most rightly of God, when we acknowledge him to be unconceivable; and therefor one being asked the question, what is God? answered rightly; If I fully knew that, I should be a God myself; for God only knows his own Essence.
Q. 2. How many ways are there by which men may know and describe the nature of God?A. There are two ways of knowing God in this Life. First, By way of affirmation; affirming that of God by way of eminence, which is excellent in the Creature; as when we affirm him to be Wise, Good, Merciful, etc. Secondly, By way of Negation, when we remove from God in our Conceptions all that is imperfect in the Creature: so we say God is immense, Infinite, Immutable; and in this sense we also call him a Spirit, (i.e.) He is not a gross corporeal Substance.
Q. 3. How many sorts of Spirits are there; And of which sort is God?A. There be two sorts of Spirits, created and finite; as Angels, and the Souls of Men are. Secondly, Uncreated, and Infinite; and such a Spirit God only is, infinitely above all other Spirits.
Q. 4. If God be a Spirit, in what sense are we to understand all those Scriptures, which speak of the Eyes of the Lord, the Ears and Hand of God?A. We are to understand them as Expressions of God, in condescension to the weakness of our understandings; even as the Glory of Heaven is expressed to us in Scripture by a City, and the Royal Feast. These shadows are useful to us whilst we are in the Body; but we shall know him in Heaven after a more perfect manner.
Q. 5. What may be inferred from the Spiritual Nature of God?A. Hence learn, that it is both sinful and dangerous to frame an Image or Picture of God. Who can make an Image of his Soul? which is yet not so perfect a Spirit as God is? And as it is sinful to attempt it, so it is impossible to do it; Deuteronomy 4:15-16. Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of Similitude on the day that the Lord spake to you in Horeb out of the midst of the Fire; lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven Image, the similitude of any figure, etc.
Q. 6. What else may be inferred from thence?A. That our Souls are the most noble and excellent part of us, which most resembles God; and therefore our chief regard and care should be for them, whatever becomes of the vile Body. Matthew 16:26. For what is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lost his own Soul. Or what shall a man give in Exchange for his Soul?
Q. 7. What further Truth may be inferred hence?A. That men should beware of spiritual Sins, as well as of gross and outward Sins; for there is a filthiness of the Spirit, as well as of the Flesh, 2 Corinthians 7:1. Let us cleanse our selves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit; and as God sees them, so he greatly abhors them, as sins that defile the noblest part of man, on which he stamped his own Image.
Q. 8. What also may be inferred from hence?A. Hence we learn, that spiritual worship is most agreeable to his Nature and Will; and the more spiritual it is, the more acceptable it will be to him. John 4:24. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in Spirit and Truth. Externals in worship are of little regard with God; as places, habits, gestures, etc.
Apply this
First, To superstitious men, Isaiah 66:1-3.
Secondly, To Children that say a Prayer, but mind not to whom, nor what they say.

Q. 1. What is the sense and meaning of this Word [Infinity?]A. It signifies that which hath no bounds or limits, whithin which it is contained, as all created things are.
Q. 2. In how many respects is God infinite?A. God is infinite or boundless in three respects.First, In respect of the perfection of his Nature; his Wisdom, Power, and Holiness, exceed all measures and limits; as 1 Samuel 2:2. There is none Holy as the Lord, etc. Secondly, in respect of time and place; no time can measure him, Isaiah 57:15. Thus saith the high, and lofty one, that inhabiteth eternity. 1 Kings 8:27. Behold the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain thee, how much less this House which I have built? The Heaven of Heavens contains all created Beings; but not the Creator. Thirdly, In respect of his incomprehensibleness, by the understanding of all Creatures, Job 11:7. Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection?
Q. 3. If God be thus Infinite, and no understanding can comprehend him, How then is it said in 1 John 3:2. We shall see him as he is?A. The meaning is not, that glorified Saints shall comprehend God in the understandings; but that they shall have a true apprehensive Knowledge of God: and that we shall see him immediately, and not as we do now through a glass darkly.
Q. 4. What is the first Lesson to be learned from God's Infinity?A. That therefore men should tremble to sin even in secret. Psalm 139:11. If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me, even the night shall be light about me.
Q. 5. What is the second Instruction from hence?A. The second Instruction is, That there is an infinite evil in sin, objectively considered, as it is committed against an Infinite God; and therefore it deserves Eternal Punishment; and no satisfaction can possibly be made for it, but by the Blood of Christ. 1 Peter 1:18. Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold but — with the precious Blood of Christ.
Q. 6. What is the third Instruction from God's Infinity?A. The third Instruction is, That those who are reconciled to God in Christ need not fear his ability to perform any mercy for them; for he is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think. Ephesians 3:20. And those that are not reconciled, are in a very miserable condition, having infinite power set on work to punish them. 2 Thessalonians 1:9. Who shall be punished with everlasting Destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.
Q. 7. What is the fourth Instruction from God's Infinity?A. That no place can bar the access of gracious Souls to God. They are as near him in a Dungeon, as when at Liberty; and that he knows their thoughts, when their tongues cannot utter them.

Q. 1. What is it to be Eternal as God is?A. The Eternity of God is, to be without beginning, and without end, Psalm 90:2. From everlasting to everlasting thou art God.
Q. 2. How doth God's Eternity differ from the Eternity of Angels, and Human Souls?A. It differs in two respects: First, In this, That though the Angels, and the Souls of men shall have no end; yet they had a beginning, which God had not. Secondly, Our Eternity is by gift from God, or by his appointment; but his Eternity is necessary, and from his own Nature.
Q. 3. In what sense is the Covenant called an Everlasting Covenant?A. The Covenant is called and Everlasting Covenant, 2 Samuel 23:5. because the mercies of it, conveyed to Believers, as Pardon, Peace, and Salvation, are mercies that shall have no end.
Q. 4. In what sense is the Gospel Everlasting?
A. The Gospel is called the Everlasting Gospel, Revelation 14:6. because the effects thereof upon the Souls it sanctifies, will abide in them forever.
Q. 5. In what sense is the Redemption of Christ called the Eternal Redemption?A. The Redemption of Christ is called Eternal redemption in Hebrews 9:12 because those whom he redeems by his Blood shall never more come into Condemnation. John 5:24. He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.
Q. 6. Why is the last judgment of the world by Christ, called Eternal judgment?A. The last judgment is called Eternal judgment, not because God judged men from Eternity, or because the Day of Judgment shall last to Eternity; but because the consequences of it will be Everlasting joy or misery to the Souls of men; therefore it's called Eternal Judgment, Hebrews 6:2.
Q. 7. What may wicked men learn from the Eternity of God?A. Hence wicked men may seee their own misery in the perfection of it; that they will have an eternal enemy to avenge himself upon them forever, in the World to come. 2 Thessalonians 1:9. Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord.
Q. 8. What may good men learn from it?A. That their joy and happiness will be perfect and endless, who have the Eternal God for their portion. Psalm 16:11. In thy presence is fulness of joy, at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
Q. 9. What may all good men and bad learn from it?A. All men may learn three things from the Eternity of God. First, That their life is a thing of nought, compared with God. Psalm 39:5. Mine age is nothing before thee. Secondly, That sins, or duties, long since committed, or performed, are all present before God. Thirdly, That God can never want opportunity to do his work, and carry on his designs in the world. All time is in the hand of the Eternal God. Revelation 12:12. The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

Of God's Unchangeableness
Q. 1. What Scriptures plainly assert this Attribute?A. Exodus 3;14. And God said unto Moses, I AM that I AM. Daniel 6:26. For he is the living God, and steadfast forever. James 1:17. With whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Q. 2. Whence doth God's Immutability flow?A. The Immutability of God flows from the perfection of his Nature, to which nothing can be added, and from which nothing can be taken away. If anything could be added to make him better than he is; or if anything could be taken away, to make him less good that he is, then he were not the chiefest Good, and consequently not God.
Q. 3. By what other argument prove you his Immutability?A. I prove it from the Eternity of God. If God be Eternal, he must be Immutable; for if he change by addition of something to him he had not before, then there is something in God which he had not from Eternity. And if he change by diminution, then there was something in God from Eternity, which now is not; but from Everlasting to Everlasting he is the same God, and therefore changeth not.
Q. 4. But it is said, God repents, and Repentance is a change; How then is he Unchangeable, and yet repents?A. In those Phrases God speaks to us, as we must speak of, and to him; not properly, but after the manner of men; and it only notes a change in his outward Providence, not in his Nature.
Q. 5. But how could God become man, and yet no change be made in him?A. There is a twofold change, one active, made by God, that we allow. He made a change upon our Nature by uniting it to Christ; but a passive change made upon God, we deny. The Nature of man was made more excellent, but the Divine Nature was still the same.
Q. 6. What is the first Instruction from God's Immutability?A. That those that are most unchangeable in holiness, are most like God. Let him that is holy, be holy still.
Q. 7. What is the second Instruction from hence?A. That the happiness of God's people is firm, and sure, being still upon the word of an unchangeable God. Malachi 3:6. For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Hebrews 6:18.
Q. 8. What is the third Instruction from this attribute?A. That the hopes of all wicked men are vain, being built upon a presumption, that God will not deal with them as he hath threatened he will do.
Q. 9. What is the last Instruction from God's Immutability?A. That Christians may take as much encouragement now from the nature, word, and providence of God, as the Saints in any former Generation did, or might do; for he is the same now, he was then.

Of God's Wisdom
Q. 1. How manifold is the Wisdom of God?A. There is a personal and essential wisdom of God; the personal wisdom os the Son of God. 1 Corinthians 1:24. Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Colossians 2:3. In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. The essential wisdom of God, is the essence of God; of which this Question speaks.
Q. 2. What is the Essential wisdom of God?A. The Essential wisdom of God, is his most exact and perfect knowledge of himself, and all his Creatures, and his ordering and disposing them in the most convenient manner, to the Glory of his own Name. Ephesians 1:11. According to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
Q. 3. What is the first property of God's Wisdom?A. The first property is, he is only wise. Romans 16:27. To God only wise be glory. And whatsoever wisdom is in Angels, or Men, is all derived, and borrowed from God; but his from none. Isaiah 40:14.With whom took he counsel? And who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding?
Q. 4. What is the second property of God's Wisdom?A. The second property is, That he is incomprehensible in his wisdom. Romans 11:33-34. Oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, etc.
Q. 5. What is the third property of the wisdom of God?A. The third property is, That God is perfectly wise, which no Creatures, no not the very Angels in Heaven are. Job 4:18. And his Angels he chargeth with folly.
Q. 6. What is the most glorious display and eminent discovery of the wisdom of God?A. The most glorious display of the wisdom of God was in the work of our Redemption by Jesus Christ. Colossians 2:3. In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 1 Corinthians 1:24. Christ the wisdom of God.
Q. 7. What is the first Instruction from God's wisdom?A. The first instruction is, That God is a fit object of our trust, dependance, and resignation. Isaiah 30:18. And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you; and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you; for the Lord is a God of judgement; blessed are all they that wait for him.
Q. 8. What is the second Instruction from hence?A. The second instruction is, That it is a dangerous arrogancy in the Creature, either to prescribe unto God, and direct his Maker Job 21:22. Shall any teach God knowledge, seeing he Judgeth those that are high? Or to quarrel with his providences, as not so fit and convenient as they should be. Job 40:2. Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? He that reproveth God, let him answer it.
Q. 9. What is the third Instruction from it?A. That the people of God have much reason to quiet, and encourage themselves, when crafty and subtle Enemies surround them. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man. 1 Corinthians 1:25.
Q. 10. What is the fourth Instruction from God's wisdom?A. The fourth instruction is, That the true way to wisdom, is to be sensible of our own folly. 1 Corinthians 3:18. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. And to apply ourselves by prayer to God the fountain of it. James 1:5. If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God.
Q. 11. What is the last Instruction from God's wisdom?A. That the study of Christ, and of the Scriptures, is to be preferred to all other studies in the world. Colossians 2:3. In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom, and knowledge: And the Scriptures contain all that Wisdom which is for our salvation. 1 Corinthians 2:7. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world, unto our glory.

The rest of God's attributes we'll cover next week!

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