Afternoon Sermon: What Is God? (Part 1), Baptist Catechism 7, John 4:1-26

Baptist Catechism 7

Q. 7. What is God?

A. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. (John 4:24; Ps. 147:5; Ps. 90:2; James 1:17; Rev. 4:8; Ps. 89:14; Exod. 34:6,7; 1 Tim. 1:17)

Scripture Reading: John 4:1-26

“Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he.’” (John 4:1–26, ESV)



What is God? This question, and that answer that is provided by our catechism,  is so incredibly important that I wish to take two sermons to address it. This will be part 1, and next Sunday, Lord willing, will be part 2. 

We should remember that we were created to know God, to glorify him, and to enjoy him forever and ever. And we should also recognize that Christ has redeemed us from sin so that we might be reconciled to God, to know him, to glorify him, and to enjoy him forever. The point is this: when we ask the question, “what is God?”, we are not merely doing heady theology, but are addressing matters that should be very near and dear to hearts. In Christ, we have been reconciled to God. We love God because he first loved us. And if you love someone, you will certainly want to know who they are. So then, this question, what is God? Is not only a vital question theologically speaking, it is also a vital question religiously speaking, and by that I mean, it is vital as it pertains to our love for God and our devotion to him. 

And let me also remind you of how our catechism has led us to this question. Our catechism begins with God, and I love that it does.  The scriptures begin with God, don’t they? “In the beginning, God…” And all things have God as their beginning! “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” And so our catechism beings in a most appropriate way when it is asks, “Who is the first and chiefest being?” The answer: “God is the first and chiefest being.” That is a good place for us to start, isnt it. Question and answer 2 then says what the scriptures say regarding what man should think about God. It states, “Everyone ought to believe there is a God, and it is their great sin and folly who do not.“

So then, our catechism begins by talking about God and establishing that he exists and that man is to live in this world being mindful of his existence. 

Questions 3 through 6 then deal with the question of “knowing”. How can this God be known? The answer is that “The light of nature in man and the works of God plainly declare that there is a God; but His Word and Spirit only do it fully and effectively for the salvation of sinners.” So then, the things that God has made tell us something about his existence. But God revealed himself much more clearly to us in his Word. 

 What is the Word of God? The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, and the only certain rule of faith and obedience. 

May all men make use of the Holy Scriptures? All men are not only permitted, but commanded and exhorted, to read, hear, and understand the Holy Scriptures. (John 5:39; Luke 16:29; Acts 8:28-30; 17:11)

And what things are chiefly contained in the Holy Scriptures? The Holy Scriptures chiefly contain what man ought to believe concerning God, and what duty God requireth of man.

So you can see that question 7 begins to address the first thing that the scriptures are said to contain. The chiefly contain what man ought to believe concerning God… And here in question 7 we ask, “What is God?” The answer that is given here is truly marvelous. But you should know that our catechism will deal with the broader question, what should man believe concerning God?, all the way through to question 43. In these questions, we are taught about God, his nature, his attributes, his plans and purposes, and his actions. 

Question 7 is about the nature of God. Notice, it asks what is God?  When we ask about the whatness of a thing, we are asking questions about the nature of a thing. If I were to ask you what is a rock? You would probably tell me about its makeup or composition and its characteristics. Rocks are made up of minerals, and they are hard. And if I were to ask you what is man? You would need to tell me about the nature of man. What makes a man a man? We would need to say that men and women are composed of body and soul. The body has certain parts, and so too does the soul. Man has a mind, a will, and affections. Man is autonomous but limited.  Man is a creature with a beginning, etc., etc. My point is this: when we ask the question, what is this thing or that?, we are asking questions about the nature or being of a thing. 

And that is what question 7 of our catechism is doing with God. What is he? That is the question. And if I could the matter in a different way, the answer is this: God is not like us! He is different. Yes, he has made us in his image. We are like him in some ways. We have been made in such a way that we can know him, relate to him, and mimic him. But we must not make the mistake of assuming that he is like us – a bigger, better, and more powerful version of us! He is not. God is different from us on the level of whatness. In other words, he has a different nature. We are human. He is Divine.  


God Is A Spirit

I only wish to focus upon the first four words of the answer to question 7 today.  What is God? God is a spirit, our catechism says. What is man? Man is body and soul. What is God? God is a spirit.

Just a moment ago I read from John 4 which tells us about an encounter that Jesus has with a woman from Samaria who came to draw water at a well. That passage is important for a number of reasons. One reason it is important is because of what Jesus says concerning what God is. Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” It’s not as if this was a new revelation concerning God. From the days of Adam, God’s people have known that he is a spirit. But this passage is helpful because Jesus says it directly. 

“God is spirit”, Jesus says. To state the matter negatively, God is not physical. He does not have a body. He is invisible.

You know, it is not uncommon for men and women to be confused about this. Many will think of something physical when they try to imagine God. Some will think of God as a big, powerful, grey haired grandpa in the sky. Others will image him as radiant light. But neither of these things is true. God is spirit. 

Our catechism summarized our confession. Listen to what our confession says about what God is. “The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute…” (LBC 2.1).

So why do men think of God as a physical being? One, we are prone to idolatry. We have this tendency to think of God as if he were a creature – a bigger and better version of us, perhaps. Two, the scriptures do sometimes use the langue of created things and apply them to God to help us understand what he is like, and men sometimes miss the fact that the langue is functioning in an anological way.  

Christ taught us to pray to God as Father. We have earthly fathers. And there are things about earthly fathers that help us to understand things that are true about God. He is our source. He love us. He is our protector and provider. Through Christ, he is our heavenly Father and we are his children. All of that is true. But we must remember that God is our father in an analogical way, not in an univicol, or one to one, way. We would be wrong to think of him as a big, great, and powerful version of an earthly father in the sky. 

Sometimes the scriptures speak of God’s hand, his arm, his face, or back. These are human things. These are creaturely things. When the scriptures use this langue to tell us something about God, do we learn things that are true of him? Yes! But again, we must remember that the langue is analogical. 

Sometimes the scriptures will speak of God using the langue of human emotion. Humans experience changes in emotion. God does not. But we learn something true about God’s relationship with the world he has made when the scriptures speak of God repenting, grieving, longing, etc. 

All of these passages that attribute human and creaturely characteristics to God are important. We learn true things about God through them. But if we wish to know what God is, then we ought to give priority to those passages that are dealing with the whatness of God. “God is spirit”, Jesus said. The LORD revealed himself to Moses as the great I AM – the self-existent, eternal, and unchanging one.  James calls God “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17, ESV).



What is God? Our catechism is right to say that “God is a spirit”. And next week we will consider what it means for God to be “ infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.”

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