Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Where to Begin: God [Dec, 2022, Contribution to Seventeen82]

This article first appeared at Seventeen82

As ARPs, it is by means of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms that we obey the Scriptural mandate to maintain a pattern of sound words. By the Confession’s own viewof the Holy Scriptures, such patterns of sound words must be servants of Scripture, not substitutes, or even supplements. This is what we might call the preliminary principle of Reformed Presbyterianism.

Beginning where Scripture begins: Him Who alone is God

Since the superiority and sufficiency of Scripture is a preliminary principle, we are not surprised that when it comes to summarize and organize Scripture’s doctrine, chapter two of the Confession begins where the Scripture does: not with the beginning but with Him Who alone has no beginning. With God.

When the law begins with creation in Genesis 1, or the gospel begins with the incarnation in John 1, God is already there. He is, as WCF 2.1 says, “infinite in being […] immense, eternal.” These are very carefully chosen words that convey the very different-ness of the “one only living and true God.” Sometimes, we call this difference the “Creator-creature distinction.”

He is infinite in being. Being is inherent to Him. Wherever or whenever there is existence, it is deriving existence from Him. We grope at the greatness of this when we say that God is everywhere. But the Confession is more price and full when it says that He is “immense.” Beyond measuring. Not existing in space but space itself getting its very existence from Him, wherever it is. He is “eternal” not only in the sense that He is everlasting but that time itself gets its very existence from Him, whenever it is.

“In the beginning, God…” (Gen 1:1). “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was facing God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

So the Confession begins there too. It begins with the One from Whom are all things, through Whom are all things, and to Whom are all things. The catechisms actually start there (cf. WSC 1, WLC 1) and come to the preliminary principle (Scripture alone) second. To God be the glory forever, Amen! WCF 2 is a marvelous chapter, summarizing Holy Scripture’s teaching about God in so few words. The first two paragraphs in particular are much denser and richer than what we are accustomed to reading or thinking through.

A master-course in adoration: doctrine that trains us in devotion

Perhaps, you are similar to the author of this little article and often find yourself ashamed before God as you try to pray prayers of adoration, and find that there is very little forthcoming from your mind, heart, and lips for this great and essential part of true prayer. We know that the best source for such praying is God Himself in the Scriptures, but we open our Bible and hardly know where to begin. Chapter two of our Confession may be of help.

2.1. There is but one only, living, and true God, who is 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; 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.


2.2. God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, not deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest; his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them.

May I suggest, gentle reader, that these two paragraphs are an excellent guide into the great mystery of what to adore in God? If you were just to read them, changing from the third person (“He,” etc.) to the second (“You,” etc.), what rich praying this would be!

You might even pause upon each thought and form appropriate meditations upon and illustrations of each attribute. You might make use of the proof texts, and expand to similar passages. Soon, you would enjoy prayer that’s full of adoration to God, touching all the bases of how He Himself has described Himself to us, in order to honor Him well in prayer. Additionally, this would be addressing and remedying a deficiency in your own heart and mind toward the Lord. What a blessing!

The God Whose attributes are summarized here is the God Whom we exist to glorify and enjoy. Eternal life is to know Him and Jesus Christ Whom He sent. And great care has been taken to leave off no indispensable attribute from His self-witness in Scripture or include any attribute that He Himself has not taught us.

A sure guide through hazardous ground: speaking correctly about the Trinity

This is quite evident in the brevity and carefulness of the paragraph describing the Holy Trinity:

2.3. In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

How easy it has been for men to think or speak wrongfully about the Holy Trinity, and what damage is done by such errors! But our Confession is very precise. One substance, power, and eternity. One Person cannot receive substance or power from the other, or God would not be One. One Person cannot be before the other, or else God would not be One. And there can only be the one eternity; begetting or proceeding cannot take place in a chronological sequence, or else the begotten or proceeding One would not be eternal. Still, the Persons have a relation to one another. This relation is how we know that there are three Persons in God. Therefore, the nature of that relation of One of the persons to the other is sometimes called a “Personal property.”

It is a great mercy from God to have a thoroughly biblical guide for navigating such a fine path, with great danger attending the slightest departure.

Where do your thoughts begin, gentle reader? Where your desires? Where your purpose? Where your day? With our Confession, may you and I follow Scripture and begin with God!


  1. All glory to God, Pastor! What a help I hope this to be to the untying of my tongue in adoring worship.

    1. Praise be to our God, Whose Spirit gives us life to desire Him, gives us light to see Him by faith, frees our lips to praise Him, and even gives us Scripture Words with which to do so! May He give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God to shine in your heart in the face of Jesus Christ today!