One of the great things about the Confession is the high view of God to which it holds. Because of sin, the default human position is to have a low and distorted view of God that makes him more like us. We can control that God, or we at least don’t have any fear or reverence for the god that we create in our heart and minds. While we need to apply Scripture to our lives, sometimes the application of Scripture is simply a renewed awe of the blessed Trinity.
“God, having all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself, is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creature which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them.”
John 5:26 tells us, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” God’s self- or all-sufficiency teaches us that the existence of creation is not in itself necessary for God to be God. When God created the universe, he did not change because of it. We call this God’s “immutability”, meaning by nature that God is unchanging.
John is saying that God did not receive life from any other source. He himself is the source of all life. He is the only eternal one. Out of his own life comes all other forms of life. This is not some esoteric babble from an ivory tower. For God to be God, there must be none beside him. Just consider how worthy of honor and glory he is simply because of his good and eternal nature.
The Confession also reminds us that “he alone is the fountain of all being.” Everything that has life and breath has come from him. All the things that no human eye will ever see, that exist simply to glorify its creator, came from his word. Over all those things, the enormous and the minuscule, he exercises complete dominion and authority. He sees and knows with perfect understanding the things that no human mind can, all because he created all things.
Job 22:2 asks the question, “Can a man be profitable to God?” It’s not a question meant to demean mankind, but it does teach us that our service to God does not change God. Though God commands us, our obedience does not add anything to him. Neither does our disobedience take anything from him. He is holy in himself, apart from his creation.
One of the greatest statements on the self-sufficiency of God and man’s place before him comes from Paul in Acts 17:24-25. “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”
Man makes car engines, coffee machines, and combines to serve himself. When these things work as they’re intended, they add value to our lives. Our labor is more profitable to us, for which we should praise God. The same is not true for God. He has all that makes him God in himself.
Because has made all things and is outside of creation, “in his sight all things are open and manifest, his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain.” There is a branch of theology called “open theism” which says that God has chosen to not know some things about the future so that man might exercise a modicum of free will. There is another branch called “Molinism” which says that God possesses a kind of knowledge that can see all possible scenarios, how man might respond in each of them, then orchestrates events so that history works out to his intention. Niether of those represents the biblical doctrine of the God’s knowledge. In open theism, God is simply ignorant. In Molinism, God is Dr. Strange who can see 14,000,605 possible futures but only 1 where he wins.
God’s knowledge is complete. Contrary doctrines seek to give man more free will than he has. If free will is the deciding factor in world history, then we need to repent of it up immediately. Free will is what has damned each and every one of us apart from God’s mercy. If that’s how we define free will, then we are hopeless.
We must, however, harmonize God’s knowledge and man’s responsibility. Does God simply know what we do, or does he ordain what we do? Perhaps we can’t perfectly understand the complex interdependence of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, but we certainly cannot elevate one over the other.
God is also “most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands.” This statement returns us to consider God’s goodness. Nothing he commands his creatures or ordains in creation is contrary to his good and perfect nature. Finite minds may not understand, but knowing that he does not do anything to do us harm protects us from cursing God when things or people are taken from us or horrible things happen to us.
This is not to denigrate or belittle the horrific events that happen to real people. But it is to reframe them. If “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28), then we must reconsider how we face what comes our way.
Finally, “to him is due from angels and men, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience, as creatures they owe unto the Creator, and whatever he is further pleased to require of them.” Our worship may not change God, adding or taking away from him, but it is still owed to him.
The first two sections of the Confession’s doctrine of God and the Trinity have described what can be said about all three Persons. Next week, we’ll take a dive into what distinctions there are between Father, Son, and Spirit.