“Who is like the LORD our God, who dwells on high, who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth?” (Psalm 113:5–6). “For who in the heavens can be compared to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the LORD?” (Psalm 89:6). “Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11).
Texts such as these fill our minds and hearts with wonder and awe before our great covenant God. But these words must also cause us to be faithful witnesses in our culture which is so dark with unbelief. Although the latest surveys show that 97% of Americans claim to believe in “god,” many do not believe in the one true God of Scripture. Of these 97% notice the following numbers of people who worship false gods
- 3% believe there are many gods
- 4% believe everyone is God
- 7% believe that God is the total realization of human potential
- 11% believe that God is the state of higher consciousness
While almost everyone in our culture believes in “god,” 25% of them have created a god in their own image! As one theologian has said, “In the beginning God created man in His image, and man has been returning the favor ever since.”
Are you “ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you?” (I Peter 3:15) All of us are called to be salt and light, and the best way to let our light shine and our salt sting is to know what we believe and why we believe it—before we are asked! This is why we study the Belgic Confession.
Our Confession of Faith has six major parts to it. First, there is the Doctrine of God in articles 1–13. Second, there is the Doctrine of Man in articles 14–15. Third, there is the Doctrine of Christ in articles 16–21. Fourth, there is the Doctrine of Salvation in articles 22–26. Fifth, there is the Doctrine of the Church in articles 27–36. And sixth, there is the Doctrine of the End in article 37.
Let us begin with the first part of our Confession: the Doctrine of God Article 1, which can be outlined as follows:
I. The Nature of God
II. The Attributes of God
2. Communicable Attributes
Beginning in the Beginning
The doctrine of God is what we call “Theology Proper.” And our Confession of Faith begins, rightly so, with the doctrine of who God is and what He is like. Our Confession begins just like the Bible begins: “In the beginning God…” (Genesis 1:1). To begin our Confession with God is a confession of how we view the world. God has eternally existed before all things, He is the beginning of all things, and He is the end of all things. As Paul says, “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).
I. The Nature of God
“…there is one only simple and spiritual Being, which we call God.” God is One We will deal with the unity of God when we get to articles 8–9 on the Holy Trinity. For now, though, let us understand that we affirm the simple teaching of Scripture as understood by the ancient Church. The three great ecumenical creeds of the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” affirm the unity of God by saying
I believe in God (Apostles’ Creed)
We believe in one God (Nicene Creed)
The catholic faith is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity (Athansian Creed)
One of the purposes of the Confession was to link the Reformed Faith back to the ancient faith so that we would not be seen as radicals, like the Anabaptists, but as in essential harmony with all true Christians.
God is Simple
We also confess that God is “simple.” Anyone who has delved into books such as Stephen Charnock’s, The Existence and Attributes of God or Herman Bavinck’s, The Doctrine of God, knows that God cannot be understood simplistically. So what does the term “simple” mean? It obviously doesn’t mean that we can fully understand Him or that God is a simpleton; instead it means that He cannot be divided. This means that God cannot be di vided up like a piece of pie; one part being the Father, one part being the Son, and another part being the Holy Spirit; or, one part being love, one part being just, and another part being holy. Each Person of the Trinity is 100% God, not one third of God. And the whole essence, the whole Being of God is love (1 John 1:5), is just (1 John 1:9), and is light, or holy (1 John 4:8). God is 100% love, 100% just, and 100% holy all of the time.
God is Spirit
We also confess God to be “Spirit” (John 4:24). This means that God has no physical body (except God the Son who became a man) and that He is of a different substance than us. The spirituality of God and the simplicity of God go together, as a “Spirit” does not have flesh and bones and a “Spirit” cannot be cut up into parts. So “who is like the LORD our God?” (Psalm 113:5) No other per-son, thing, or “god.” He is uniquelyour God and the only God.
Rev. Daniel R. Hyde is the Pastor of the Oceanside United Reformed Church in Oceanside, CA (www.oceansideurc.org).
Questions for Further Study/Discussion
- What are some of the false beliefs about God that you know of in your circle of influence that the Biblical doctrine of God can respond to?
- How does the Belgic Confession’s beginning with the doctrine of God apply to how we view the world?