Q4: What is God?

A: God is a Spirit (Jn. 4:24), infinite, eternal (Ps. 90:2), and unchangeable (Mal. 3:6), in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth (Ex. 3:14; Ps. 147:5; Rev. 4:8; 15:4; Ex. 34:6-7).

I. God is a Spirit (Jn. 4:24).

A. The catechism unfolds this text by defining the nature (attributes) of that Spirit who is God.

1. In speaking of attributes we refer to the essential qualities that belong to, or are inherent to, something.

2. God’s attributes do not simply speak to what He does, but rather define what He is.

B. A “spirit” is difficult to define, but two points are affirmed.

1. God is personal, like the created spirits of men and angels.

a. Created spirits are dependent upon God (Job 34:14-15), but God is independent (Acts 17:25).

2. God is immaterial, as a spirit has no matter (Lk. 24:39).

a. God is invisible (1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16).

b. No man has ever seen God (Jn. 1:18; 1 Jn. 4:12).

(1). God can only be seen indirectly, a reflection in creation.

C. Questions usually raised about anthropomorphic and anthropopathic language.

1. If God is a Spirit, how does Scripture speak of Him having body parts (“hands,” Heb. 10:31; “mouth,” Isa. 1:20)?

a. God condescends to man’s ability to understand in using language that he can relate to.

2. If God is an immutable Spirit, how can Scripture say that God “repents” or is “grieved” or “jealous”?

a. God does not “repent” (Gen. 6:7; 1 Sam. 15:11) as man does (cf. Num. 23:19; Isa. 15:29).

b. When it seems that God alters a course of action (Jon. 3:3-5, 10), it is understood that this new course of action is only His settled, immutably certain response (Jer. 18:7-10).


II. God’s attributes are both incommunicable and communicable.

A. The incommunicable attributes belong to God alone. He does not share them with man.

1. Infinite: God is omnipresent, measureless, He transcends all spatial limitations and is immediately present in every part of His creation (Job 11:7; Ps. 139:7-10; Prov. 15:3; Jer. 23:23-24).

2. Eternal: God does not have a beginning or an end, He is boundless as to time (Isa. 57:15; 1 Tim. 1:17); He knows no growth or age (Pss. 90:2, 4; 102:25-27).

3. Unchangeable: God is immutable ontologically (Num. 23:19; Ps. 102:26; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8), and decretally (Heb. 6:17-18).

a. These verses emphasize the constancy of His being and purpose (Isa. 25:1).

B. The communicable attributes of God are shared with man in limited degrees. God possesses all these infinitely, eternally, and immutably.

1. Being: God is self-existent, personal, self-conscious, self-determining, living and active (Ex. 3:14).

2. Wisdom: God is omniscient, knowing all things effortlessly and intuitively, whether past, present, or future: the eternal now (1 Jn. 3:20).

a. God manifests His wisdom in: declaring the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10); the diversity of His works (Ps. 104:24); His varied providences (Ps. 145:13-16); redemption (1 Cor. 1:18-
2:16); ultimately in Christ (1 Cor. 1:24).

3. Power: God is omnipotent, able to do whatever He wills in the way in which He wills it (Gen. 17:1; Ps. 115:3; Jer. 32:17; Rev. 4:11).

a. God’s power is manifested in: His creating and sustaining all things (Job 42:2; Dan. 4:35; Rom. 1:20; Heb. 1:3); His preservation of the church (Matt. 16:18); His call, regeneration, and
perseverance of His saints (Eph. 1:19; Rom. 8:11; 1 Pet. 1:5); His sovereignty over evil (Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23; 3:18).

b. God’s power encompasses all things not contrary to His will and nature (Matt. 19:26; cf. Tit. 1:2).

4. Holiness: Both qadas (Heb.) and hagiazo (Gk.) basically mean “separation” (Ex. 15:11; Lev. 11:44; Rev. 15:4).

a. “Holy,” referring to God has a primary sense of His unapproachableness, His otherness (Isa. 6:1-3; cf. Rev. 4:6-8; Isa. 8:13).

(1). “Holy,” not really an attribute but rather co-extensive and applicable to all that can be said about God.

b. God is infinitely pure (Hab. 1:13; 1 Jn. 1:5), giving Him a hatred for all impurity (Prov. 3:32; 15:26).

(1). God loves holiness and hates all sin (Ps. 5:5; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 1:15).

(2). God’s name and works are holy (Pss. 111:9; 145:17).

5. Justice: one expression of His holiness (Ex. 34:6-7); God does right in all circumstances (Gen. 18:15; Deut. 32:4; Dan. 9:14).

a. God’s justice is manifested in: His proportional rewarding and showing no partiality (Ex. 23:7; Deut. 10:17); His law which expresses His moral nature (Ex. 20:3-17); His punishing Christ in our stead (Isa. 53:5; Rom. 3:26); His future judgment (Ps. 96:10-13; Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:5; 9:22-23; 2 Thess. 1:7-9); His temporal judgment upon sin (Gen. 20:6; Neh. 9:33; Isa. 10); His rewarding His people (Matt. 5:12; 2 Tim. 4:8).

6. Goodness: This attribute speaks of His condescension toward creation (Ex. 34:6-7). Original Saxon meaning of the English word God is “The Good.”

a. Under this category would be placed God’s love, grace, mercy, pity, compassion, long-suffering, kindness, and other such expressions of His tender and fatherly character.

b. God is inherently good and the author of all good (Pss. 118; 119:68; Ja. 1:17).

c. God’s goodness is seen in many ways.

(1). In creation (Gen. 1:31; Ps. 33:5); providence (Pss. 107:8; 145: 9, 14-16); and His patience (Rom. 2:4).

(a). “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him…” (Nah. 1:7).

7. Truth: God is rational, ethically reliable, covenantally faithful (Ex. 34:6-7).

a. God is the “true” God who is really there (Jer. 10:10; Jn. 17:3), over against the false gods, the “lies” (Ps. 96:5; Isa. 44:9-10, 20).

b. God is sincere and free from deceit (Tit. 1:2).

c. God’s truth is manifested in: the integrity of His doctrine (2 Tim. 1:13; Jn. 17:17); the certainty of His recorded history (Lk. 1:3-4); His fulfillment of prophecies and promises (Heb. 10:23); His faithfulness to the covenant (Ps. 25:10).

III. Application.

A. Use, of knowledge.

1. Though we may know some things about God, let us never forget the unfathomable depths of the majestic Creator and Sustainer of the universe, approaching Him with fear and trembling.

a. Illustration of the incomprehensibility of God. The heathen poet Simonides was asked by Hiero, king of Syracuse, “What is God?” He desired a day to ponder it, and that ending he desired two days, and kept doubling the days until the king asked him what was up. Simonides responded, “The more I think of God, He is still dark and unknown to me.”

b. Compare also Agur’s question (Prov. 30:4).

2. The holiness of God shows us the great evil of sin.

B. Use, of testing.

1. Have no anxiety about anything. Is God of infinite power? Then most certainly all of His promises shall be accomplished.

2. One kept by the power of God (1 Pet. 1:15) can be absolutely sure of salvation.

C. Use, of exhortation: sinners and saints.

1. Sinners. God can have no communion with sinners: woe to those who set themselves against omnipotent power (2 Thess. 1:9). Flee to Christ from the wrath to come.

2. Saints. Study God and increase in the knowledge of Him.

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