“There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.”
—The Westminster Confession of Faith 2.1
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.’”
Commentary from the sermon “The Attributes of God” by Alistair Begg:
“In earlier generations amongst God’s people, they would have found it very possible to answer the question ‘What is God like?’ For that question was … the fourth question … in the Westminster (Scottish) Catechism. … Your reply would have been ‘God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.’1 That would have been your answer. … Charles Hodge, the great theologian, said of that definition in the catechism that he reckoned it was ‘probably the best definition of God ever penned by man.’2
“Now, when you’ve stated the definition, you still need to do something with it. So the Reformers divided the attributes of God into the incommunicable attributes and the communicable attributes—the incommunicable attributes being things like God’s self-existence, or His infinity, or His immutability. The reason they are referred to as incommunicable attributes is because they are uniquely true of God, and these factors cannot find their counterpart in any human being. A human being is not sovereign. A human being is not immutable. A human being cannot be omniscient. And it is those aspects of God’s being which the Reformers refer to, then, as incommunicable.
“Incidentally, it is a shame that some of these incommunicable attributes have scared so many people away by a failure on the part of teachers to use less theological terminology, less frightening terminology, and therefore introduce people to the truth. For example, we’ve all lived with words like omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence. And when you’re a little youngster at school, these are kind of scary words. … When it comes to the incommunicable attributes, they are not incommunicable because teachers make them incommunicable; they are incommunicable because of the character of God—so that omnipotence simply means that God is all-powerful, that omnipresence means that God is everywhere, and that omniscience means that God is all-knowing. …
“Then the communicable attributes of God are, for example, His love or His goodness or His wisdom—attributes which may find their counterpart in moral beings such as man; attributes which, when we discover them in God, we are called upon to see them enshrined in our lives by God’s help. What is God like? This is what He’s like.
“‘But,’ says somebody as you listen to this, ‘isn’t there a more fundamental question that we need to answer before we go any further? And that is this question: Why study the attributes of God at all?’ Says the person, ‘This kind of thing seems to have been okay for the people in 1855 around London. After all, they were a very different breed of people. They didn’t have so much to amuse themselves. They weren’t as sophisticated as we are today. But now we’re one hundred and thirty years on, and surely man has advanced beyond all that. People have told us that man has come of age. Frankly, he is wiser, he is stronger, he is richer, and he is no longer,’ says this individual, ‘dependent on these kind of things. So if you have an interest in theology and you want to think about the attributes of God, that’s fine. Go to a library somewhere, or go in a corner and think about it. But why study this? Why take up all this time this evening to ponder these truths?’
“Now, that question presupposes by its very asking that the study of God’s being and His character will ultimately prove irrelevant. That is not the case. The Bible says it’s not the case. History says it’s not the case. Human experience says it’s not the case. Knowing about God is crucially important for the living of all of our lives.”
“There is … one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Commentary from the sermon “One God and Father of All” by Alistair Begg:
“Read your Bible, and what do you discover? The Hebrews start out, ‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD [your] God, the LORD is one,’ (Deut. 6:4) and ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength’ (Deut. 6:5, paraphrased). What do they do? They say, ‘Well, I don’t really want to do that. They’ve got a much more exciting program over here. They got a golden calf. There’s dancing. There’s all kinds of stuff. And what about these other pagan deities? What about these Baals? What about these Asherah poles?’ And suddenly, those who know better begin to pursue false deities. And the role of the psalmist and the role of the prophet is to say to them, ‘Come on, now! You know better than that. You know that there is only one true and living God. Why would you chase after all of these substitute gods? Why would you try and bow down before them?’ ‘Choose this day whom you will serve’ (Josh. 24:15). ‘If Baal is God, then serve him. But if God is God, then serve Him’ (1 Kings 18:21, paraphrased). … Fast-forward into the New Testament, and what is Paul doing? He’s doing the exact same thing! He’s calling the people of his day to the one true and living God.
“Now, to declare this—and I don’t mean in an unkind way, but just in an honest way—to declare with Paul that there is one true and living God … is to reject the cultural spirituality of our time—a spirituality which is increasingly pantheistic; a spirituality which confuses God with nature, which contains God within nature. … When we declare with Paul here that there is ‘one God and Father of all’; that He is upholding the universe that He created; that He is omnipresent, that He is everywhere; that He pervades every corner of life and that He is, at the same time, tripersonal, then we realize that when people want to talk about God and knowing God and who God is, there’s a great need for us to be willing to take a stand.”
“God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”
Commentary from the sermon “Concerning Worship” by Alistair Begg:
“Mentally and verbally, each of us is at the center of our universe, filtering everything through how it affects us. That’s selfish! So the writer says, ‘Remember this: God’s in heaven, and you’re on earth. So you might want to just not talk as much as you’ve been doing. You might not want to try and dribble out with all your verbal, evangelical clichés to try and impress your friends and neighbors…’
“You might want to consider the infinite, qualitative distinction between God and us. … It is as far removed as anything we could conceive. God is infinite; we are finite. He’s immortal; we’re mortal. He is invisible; we’re visible. He’s Spirit; we’re flesh. He’s almighty; we’re weak. He’s holy; we’re sinful. He’s pure; we’re impure. He’s omniscient; we’re ignorant. He’s unchangeable; we’re fickle. He’s faithful; we are unfaithful. He is love in all of its fullness, and we’re at best partial in our love.”
“The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.”
Commentary from the sermon “Some Thoughts on Providence” by Alistair Begg:
“Let me give to you the direct quote from the Westminster Confession. Here we go: ‘God—the … Creator of all things—upholds, directs, disposes, and governs all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least.’3 …
“Now, it’s important to recognize what is being said here. The divines are not suggesting that God as Creator is simply exercising a kind of maintenance ministry, a sort of deistic view of the universe: that there was a Watchmaker, and He made the watch, and He wound up the watch and He set the watch down, and then He’s just let everything run on its own from there. No. The language is very straightforward—namely, that He directs, He controls, He sustains, He upholds all things according to His word. ‘All things’ means all things. It means stars, planets, nations, sparrows, and even the hairs of our heads. And that is a scary thought if we divorce it from the fact that the hands that control all things are good hands—that as the question is posed in Genesis 18, Abraham says, ‘[Will] not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ (Gen. 18:25 KJV). Can we trust God to do the right thing? And the answer is, yes, you can trust Him to do the right thing. So therefore, if there’s going to be somebody who is upholding, controlling, sustaining, and governing everything that happens in the universe, you want to make sure that this God is not simply powerful but that He is also good. …
“What do we have to say to our friends and colleagues who believe themselves to be living in a chance universe, who believe that their very existence is a result of simply the coalescing of time and matter and chance? Well, on the strength of God’s Word, we’re able to say this: that the world was created by and is in the hands of a good God. The psalmist says, ‘The plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations’ (Psalm 33:11 NIV).”
“The word of the LORD came to Samuel: ‘I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.’ … And Samuel said to [Saul], ‘The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.’”
Commentary from the sermon “A Monumental Collapse — Part Two” by Alistair Begg:
“God is not immobile. He’s immutable, but He’s not rocklike; He’s not unfeeling. But nor is He ebbing and flowing in relationship to His promises and to His warnings and to His judgments. God was grieved by Saul’s disobedience—a disobedience He knew was coming. But His intentions hadn’t changed. In fact, everything is actually unfolding as God had said through His prophet it would unfold: ‘If you will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you and [against] your king’ (1 Sam. 12:15).
“… Those of you who want to stumble unduly over this contradiction between a God who is expressing regret in 11 and unable to regret in verse 29: it is a paradox, and it does challenge us, but we shouldn’t be surprised by it. The whole approach that we need to take in these kind of things is to make sure that we don’t allow some detail in the story of the Bible to create such a problem for us so as to prevent us from paying close attention to what isn’t a problem for us and what is so clearly spoken.
“Because we do know this: that God is consistent in His dealings, and He’s also sorrowful in His response. And frankly, only a God who is true to His warnings and His promises and yet who is described for us as being grieved by the disobedience, that is the only God, actually, who’s worthy of our praise and our worship. We can’t have a God who’s blowing hot and cold: ‘Oh, well, I don’t think I’ll fulfill My promise this time. Oh, well, things have changed. Well, I think I’ll have to do it differently. ….’ God is not like that. He can’t be like that. He isn’t like that. The Bible makes it perfectly clear.”
“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.”
Commentary from the sermon “The Goodness of God” by Alistair Begg:
“What the Bible affirms is that God is spontaneously good. Spontaneously good. And He overflows with generosity. And that overflowing generosity is a disposition unlike anything we as human beings know, because it is “a disposition to give to others” without any “mercenary motive”—to give without the prospect of a return. It is a generosity that “is not limited by what the recipients” of that generosity “deserve.” And indeed, it is a generosity which “consistently goes beyond” what the recipients deserve.4 …
“Even the best of fathers need to be approached at the right moment. But we can approach our heavenly Father, James says, confident of the fact that when we call out to Him in our need, He will always act appropriately.
“When we go to God as Father, we will never find Him to be these four things. (These are not points that I’m going to work out; these are four things if you want to write them down.) We will never find Him to be unaware. (We cannot take God by surprise; He is omniscient.) We will never find Him to be unable. We will never find Him unavailable. And we will never find Him unwilling.”
“Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
‘Behold your God!’
Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.”
Commentary from the sermon “Here Is Your God!” by Alistair Begg:
“[God] doesn’t come like some great general onto a field of battle. He gathers the lambs in His arms. He carries them up close to Him. He gently leads those that have young.
“Why would He ever do this? Because after all, ‘we, like sheep, we went astray; every one of us turned to his own way’ (Isa. 53:6, paraphrased). … Because God seeks. He’s a shepherd who goes out onto the highways and byways, and He seeks, and … He brings the lost people in. That’s why He told the story: there were ninety-nine of the sheep all in the fold, but there was one missing, and the shepherd goes out onto the hillsides looking for the one that’s missing (Matt. 18:12–13). It’s a picture of who God is. Oh, this is good tidings! Yes, He is a sovereign Lord, but He is a gentle Shepherd.”
“The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Commentary from the sermon “Faith in Jesus” by Alistair Begg:
“You see, God acts in consistency with His character. God is love; therefore, He acts in love. God is holy; therefore, He acts in holiness. God is just; therefore, He acts in justice. And what Paul is doing quite masterfully here is pointing out that it is here that the love of God and the justice of God are combined. The penalty demanded by the law is not set aside; it is paid for by Christ.
“You see the nature of the Gospel? You see, it is a false gospel, it’s a silly idea, that says, ‘You know, God used to be really concerned about this, but Jesus came, and He’s not that concerned about it, and you should really not worry about it too much at all.’ God is greatly concerned about it, to the extent that His love would be expressed to you, who by nature are in rebellion against Him, don’t give a rap for what He’s on about. And that He would love you, and love me? …
“So here’s the question: How can God justify the ungodly while remaining consistent with His own character, while showing His own righteousness? And how can He do it in such a way that is there in the old context? That’s verse 25: ‘to show [his] righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.’ Do you ever read the Old Testament and say, ‘Well, how does this work? How did God not just deal with all of that?’ Well, He was dealing with all of that, in the former times on account of what was to be and, you will notice, ‘at the present time,’ verse 26, as a result of what has been—that the cross of Christ is the pivotal event not only of the story of redemption but actually the history of the entire world. Whether it was then or now, reconciliation is in and through the death of Christ.”
“He has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Commentary from the sermon “Knowing God” by Alistair Begg:
“In other words, all the wrongs will be put right. All of the injustice will be dealt with. That sense of outrage that we feel when we look at something that is unresolved … and the injustices that are represented in humanity, that cry out from the fields of the workers (James 5:4) and cry out from behind bedroom doors and so on, will one day be put to rights. God has already intervened in the person of His Son Jesus, and He now announces that there is a judgment day that is fixed, that will be fair, and that is absolutely final.”
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 4. ↩︎
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (1871), chap. 5, sec. 1. ↩︎
The Westminster Confession of Faith, Modern English Study Version, 5.1. ↩︎
J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1975), 146. ↩︎