“Of God and the Holy Trinity”
In part 1, we concluded our meditation on the attributes of God by considering the cluster of statements which point to the divine simplicity. Rather than making God an impersonal thing with whom it is impossible to have a relationship, we saw that His simplicity means that His character and affection toward us His people will never change. This is the theme of the next cluster of attributes mentioned in the Confession. Together they speak of God’s …
“who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute”
Even in Christian theologians today we meet with views of God which attribute mutability, change, and being subject to time. God, however, is the great “I am” who is not subject to time or change. This is the point of the name, Yahweh. Exodus 3:14 says: “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” The same transcending of time is present when Jesus speaks of His divine nature in John 8:58” “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” The attributes of eternity, immutability, and infinity imply each other. An infinite God who dwells above or transcends time cannot be subject to the changes which time affects. Thus, He can say of Himself in Malachi 3:6: “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” The infinity of God with regard to time and change does not undermine the possibility of a relationship with God. It stabilizes it and means that nothing can change His love for us and determination to save us!
“working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his own glory;”
If God is eternal and immutable, then so must be His eternal decree. His eternal plan cannot change. God is sovereignly capable of working out everything according to that eternal blueprint. The classic statement of this in all the Bible may be that of Paul in Ephesians 1:11 where he says that “we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” Such a God is surprised by nothing and prepared for anything and maybe trusted in everything because it is always His eternal plan that is being worked out in history and in our lives!
“most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin”
The love of God is often debased by the low views of godhood so prevalent around us. Nevertheless, it is one of the fundamental attributes stressed by the Confession. The Confession stresses it because the Bible does. One of the classic descriptions of the divine nature is found in Exodus 34:6-7. It emphasizes the love of God. It reads in part: “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin …” The greatness of God must never obscure for us the greatness of His love for us as His people and our confidence in His care and willingness to forgive our sins.
“the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and withal most just and terrible in his judgements, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.”
The final category or cluster of the attributes of God of which the Confession speaks is the category of the justice of God. The very same description of the glory of God just quoted from Exodus 34 concludes with this emphasis as well: “yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations (Exod. 34:7).” Love in God never leads to a making light of sin. It does lead to the sending of His Son as a propitiation for our sins. The love of God for us makes a way for Him to be just and the justifier of the one who believes in Jesus.
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.