Catechetical Sermon: What Is God? (Part 1), 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)



What is God? This is a very important question. 

We should remember that we were created to know God, to glorify him, and to enjoy him forever. We should also remember that Jesus Christ has redeemed us from sin and misery so that we might be reconciled to God. The Christian is one who loves God, and we love him because he first loved us. The Christian is one who communes with God, and worships and serves him through faith in Jesus the Messiah. Do you love God, Christian? I know that you do. Given our love for God and the fact that we have been reconciled to him through faith in Jesus Christ, should we not also desire to grow in our knowledge of him as well? Isn’t that how we relate to those we love? Do we not seek to know those we love better and better with the passing of time? Certainly this is should be the case with God. As our love for him increases, so too should our knowledge of him. And we will find that as our knowledge of God increases, so too will our love. 

Please allow me to remind you of how we got here in our catechism. 

Q. 1. Who is the first and chiefest being?

A. God is the first and chiefest being. 

Q. 2. Ought everyone to believe there is a God?

A. Everyone ought to believe there is a God; and it is their great sin and folly who do not. 

Q. 3. How may we know there is a God?

A. 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 effectually for the salvation of sinners. 

Q. 4. What is the Word of God?

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

Q. 5. May all men make use of the Holy Scriptures?

A. All men are not only permitted, but commanded and exhorted, to read, hear, and understand the Holy Scriptures.

Q. 6. What things are chiefly contained in the Holy Scriptures?

A. 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 Scriptures  chiefly reveal to us what man ought to believe concerning God,  and here in question 7 we ask, “What is God?” The answer that is given here is very brief, but truly marvelous.

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 about the nature of a thing. If I were to ask you what is a rock? You would tell me about its makeup, composition, and 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, and not a rock or a dog or some other thing? 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, affections, and a will. Man is autonomous but limited in power. Man is a creature with a beginning, etc., etc. Again, when we ask the question, what is this thing or that?, we are asking about its nature. 

And that is what question 7 of our catechism is asking about God. What is he? One thing we will learn is that he is not like us! He is different. Yes, he has made us in his image. This must mean we are like him in some ways. We have been made in such a way that we can know him, relate to him, and imitate him in certain respects. But we must not make the mistake of assuming that God is like us in every way – a bigger, better, and more powerful version of us! He is not. God is different from us even on the level of whatness. In other words, he has a different nature. We are human. He is Divine.  


God Is A Spirit

In this little sermon, I only wish to focus on the first four words of the answer to question 7.  What is God? God is a spirit, our catechism says. What is man? Most fundamentally, we may that that man is body and soul. What is God? God is a spirit.

This can demonstrated from the Scriptures in many ways. The easiest and quickest way is to point to John chapter 4. There we are told of an encounter that Jesus has with a woman from Samaria who came to draw water at a well. He had a conversation with her about many things, but eventually, the conversation came to focus on God and the proper worship of God through Word and Spirit. One reason this passage 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” (John 4:24, ESV). It’s not as if this was a new revelation concerning God. From the days of Adam, God’s people have known that God is 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 not composed of parts. 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 imagine him as radiant light. But neither of these things is true. God is spirit. He is invisible. He does not have a body. Neither is composed of light.  

You should know that our catechism summarizes our confession of faith, the Second London Confession. Listen to what our confession says about what God is. The answer is the same, but it is more thorough. “The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence [existence] 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…” (2LCF 2.1). That is a wonderful statement, and it is wonderful, first and foremost, because it is true. God is “a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions…” 

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 language of created things and apply them to God to help us understand who he is, and men sometimes miss the fact that the language is functioning in an analogical way.  

For example, Christ taught us to pray to God as Father. We have earthly fathers. So, there must be some things about earthly fathers that help us to understand things that are true about God. Things like this: He is our source. He loves us. He is our protector and provider. These things are true of earthly fathers, and these things are true of God, but not in the same way. Through Christ, God is our heavenly Father and we are his beloved children. All of that is true. But we must remember that God is our father in an analogical way, not in an univocal, 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 body parts. We know that God does not have them, really. When the Scriptures speak of God’s hand or face or right arm, the language is analogical. It tells us something true about God and his works, but it is not meant to be taken in a literal way, for we know that “God is spirit” (John 4:24). 

Sometimes the Scriptures will speak of God using the language 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 who God is and what he has done, is doing, or will do in the world. But if we wish to know what God is, then we ought to give priority to those passages that speak directly about his whatness of God. Again, Jesus said, “God is spirit”. And the LORD revealed himself to Moses as the great I AM. He is the self-existent, eternal, and unchangeable one. James calls God “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17, ESV). These passages speak very directly about the nature of God. 



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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