Afternoon Sermon: What Is God? (Part 2), Baptist Catechism 7, Psalm 147

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: Psalm 147

“Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground. Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre! He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills. He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry. His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you. He makes peace in your borders; he fills you with the finest of the wheat. He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes. He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold? He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow. He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his rules. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 147, ESV)



Have you noticed that it is difficult to imagine God? In fact, it is not only difficult, it is impossible. Stop trying! Think about the word “imagine” (i-m-a-g-i-n-e). You can see (and hear) the word image in it, can’t you? When we imagine something we see a picture or image of that thing in our mind. Imagine a dog. Imagine and tree. Do you see how easy that is? But if I were to tell you to imagine God as he really is, you cannot. The reason for this is not that there is something wrong with your intellect or your imagination. No, the reason you cannot imagine God is because God cannot be imaged.   

God is a most pure spirit, remember? He does not have a physical body. Yes, God has revealed himself to man in physical form. He has appeared as radiant light, as a cloud, as fire, and as precious jewels. But it woud be a mistake to think that God is composed of light, cloud, fire, or precious stones.  No, God is not physical. He is a most pure spirit. A most pure spirit cannot be imagined because a spirit has no image. 

And there is another reason that we cannot imagine God, and that has to do with his transcendence. God is wholly other. He is not like anything in the created world. Though we can know God truly (through his self-revelation) we cannot comprehend him exhaustively, for he is with limits. Everything in this cerated world has limits. Time has limits. Physical objects, no matter how big or small, have limits. Energy has limits. We can imagine created things because created things have borders and boundaries. I can imagine a snail, a snake, and a whale. I can even imagine the sun, though that is more challenging. I can imagine ten years and a thousand years. I can even imagine a million years, though that is more difficult. I can imagine these things because, even if they are very big, they all have limits and boundaries. But God transcends everything in this created world. He is without limits of any kind. This is why our finite minds will never be able to fully comprehend him, for he is infinite. 

This is what our catechism teaches in question 7. 

What is God? Answer: God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. 


Infinite, Eternal, and Unchangeable

Infinite means not finite. To be finite is to have limits or boundaries. You and I are finite. We possess a limited amount of strength. Our intellect is limited. And we are spatially limited too. You and I only tackle up so much space, and we can only be in one place at a time. We are finite in so many ways, but God is infinite. He does not have boundaries or limitations of any kind. 

By the way, it is common for people to say that God is big. I understand what people mean by this, and I do not think they need to be corrected in casual conversation. But really, God is not big.  To say that God is “big” implies that God has a size. He does not. God is not big. He is infinite. 

When we say that God is eternal we mean that God is without beginning or end, and is, in fact, not bound by time. You and I had a beginning. There was a time when we were not. God did not have a beginning. There was never a time when God was not. You and I will never come to an end, but this is only because God has made us to live forever. He will sustain us. But God will never come to an end because he has life in himself. And furthermore, you and I experience the passing of time. One moment gives way to the next in infinite succession. God does not experience this. He is eternal. He had no beginning, he will have no end, and he is not bound by time. He created time in the beginning when he made the heavens and the earth. But he does not experience the succession of moments as we do. Therefore, he sees the future as clearly as he sees the past and the present. He is eternal. 

And God is also unchangeable. This is what James 1:17 says. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” You and I change continuously. We grow stronger and weaker. We learn. Our emotions fluctuate. Everything in the created world moves and changes. But God is different. He never changes. Indeed, he cannot change. Can God improve? Can he grow stronger or wiser? Then that would mean he was less than God before. Or can he grow weak or foolish? No, that would mean that God would cease to be God. God is unchangeable. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 

So you can see that God is different from us. He is transcendent. 


In His Being, Wisdom, Power, Holiness, Justice, Goodness And Truth

And notice that our catechism says that God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.

I love the way this is stated. The three qualities of infinity, eternality, and immutability (God’s unchangeableness), are applied first to God’s being, then to his attributes.

First, our catechism rightly teaches that God is “ infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being.” God is. He is the I AM, the self-existent One. No one gives him life. He has life in himself, and is the giver of all life. God, in his being, is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.

Next, our catechism mentions six attributes, or perfections, of God. 

God is wise. Proverbs 8:14 says, “I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength.” And in Psalm 147:5 we read, “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” God is wise, but he is not wise in the way that men and women are wise. God’s understanding and wisdom is beyond measure. God’s wisdom is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. God is wise, and perfectly so. 

God is powerful. In Jeremiah 32:17 we read, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” God is powerful, but he is not powerful in the way that men and women are powerful. God’s power unbounded. Nothing is too hard for him. God’s power is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. God is powerful, and perfectly so. 

God is holy. This means that he is set apart from us and without corruption of any kind. In Revelation 4:8 we find a vision of the heavenly throne of God. There we read, “And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” And in 1 John 1:5 we read, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” God is holy, but he is not holy in the way that men and women are holy. If men and women are holy, it is because God has made them holy by his grace through faith in Christ. But God is holy in himself. God’s holiness is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. God is holy, and perfectly so. 

God is just. This means that God always does what is right. He judges with perfect equity. In Romans 9:14 we read, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!” God is just, and perfectly so. His justice is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.

The same may be said of the goodness of God. Psalm 106:1 says, “Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” And 1 John 4:16 says, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

And the same may also be said of God’s truthfulness. “Let God be true though everyone were a liar”, Romans 3:4 says. And Psalm 117:2 speaks of God’s truthfulness in terms of his faithfulness, saying, “For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!” 

These fundamental attributes of wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth are better-called perfections in God, for God does not only possess a lot of wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth, but is wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth and perfectly so. In other words, these qualities are found in him infinitely, eternally, and unchangeably.  



As we have considered the question, what is God?, I have tried to stress that God is not like us. We are like him in some respects, for we are made in his image. 

God is spirit, and we are like him in that we too are spiritual — we have souls. But God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, whereas we are finite, created, and mutable. 

And yes, we have the capacity for wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. But we possess these qualities in a limited way. We may grow in these qualities, and even diminish. In God, these qualities are perfections. 

Brothers and sisters, while it is true that we cannot imagine God, it is possible for us to think thoughts that are true about him, for he has revealed himself to us truly in his word. And here is a god place for us to start. What is God? God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. 

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