The Belgic Confession, Article 1 (continued)

4. God is Immutable.

The eternal, incomprehensible, invisible God is the Unchangeable One. This immutability of God is already implied especially in the attributes of God’s simplicity and eternity, but it may be singled out, on the basis of Scripture, as one of the divine perfections. Even as God is perfectly one in all His perfections, and as He is God from eternity to eternity, so He is perfectly and eternally the same, not subject to change. Abundantly the Scriptures reveal this truth. Our God isJehovah. And every time the Scriptures employ this name of God they reveal that He is the Unchangeable One. Thus, when the Holy One reveals Himself to Moses in the burning bush as the faithful covenant God, we read, Exodus 3:13-15: “And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them ? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” Through this same Moses it is revealed that “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” Deut. 32:4. Jeremiah declares: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” Lam. 3:22, 23. And again: “Thou, O Lord, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation.” Lam. 5:19. And through Malachi God’s immutability is set forth as covenant faithfulness as follows: “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” Mal. 3:6. In Hebrews 1:10-12 we read: “And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.” And to mention but one more New Testament passage which plainly teaches this divine attribute, we read in James 1:17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of. turning.”

God’s immutability, then, is that divine attribute according to which He is eternally complete in His Being, His Nature, His purpose, and His works, and therefore remains eternally the same in His infinite and constant fullness, above all becoming, all change, all increase or decrease. God is the eternal I AM! The creature, who exists in time and space, can never say, “I am.” He is always swept forward on an indivisible moment of time out of the future into the past, ever changing and becoming. But God is. And He is all that He is in perfect Self-consciousness and in the infinite and constant fullness of His divine Being. He does not age. He does not increase in virtue and power; He does not grow weaker and decrease in virtue. In His Essence and all His virtues, in His mind and all His divine thoughts, in His will and all His divine purposes, in His infinite life and divine love, in His works and all His manifold glory, He is absolute fullness, the Self-sufficient God.

Nor must we conceive of God in any other wise. When the Scriptures upon occasion make mention of a divine repenting, this certainly must not be understood as positing a change in God. Nor must we facilely pass this off as an “anthropomorphism,” a human form of speech concerning the Unchangeable One, without anything further. But we must remember that this too is the revelation of the immutable God. This eternal and immutable God reveals Himself in time. And what is thus revealed to us in a succession of moments as divine repenting is eternally and unchangeably in the mind of God, who changes not.

The practical significance of this attribute is rich for our faith and assurance. Most often in Scripture this divine immutability is presented under the aspect of divine covenant faithfulness. And for God’s covenant people in the midst of the world, amid a scene of change and decay all around, and themselves still imperfect and frequently unfaithful, what an unbounden source of assurance it is to know that our God is Jehovah, Who changes not—changes not in His eternal love, in His elective purpose, in His eternal covenant of grace, in His unfailing compassions, in His great faithfulness and abiding mercies. “We all believe with the heart, and confess with the mouth, that God is . . . . immutable!” And therefore, in the words of the Baptism Form, “If we sometimes through weakness fall into sin, we must not therefore despair of God’s mercy, nor continue in sin, since baptism is a seal and undoubted testimony that we have an eternal covenant of grace with God.”

5. God is Infinite.

God is the Infinite One. He is infinite in all His virtues and in His very Essence. And for that very reason frequently God’s infinity is presented in terms of time (God is eternal), and in terms of space (God is omnipresent, or immense). To God’s eternity we have already called attention in connection with this first article. And of God’s omnipresence, according to which God, as the Immeasurable One, transcendent above all space, is yet not only with all His power, but also essentially, in all creation and in every creature with His whole infinite Being, our Confession does not make special mention. It is therefore well in the connection in which we find this term simply tounderstand God’s infinity in the broadest sense of the word as that attribute of God according to which He is without limits in all His divine perfections. Better it might be to avoid the rather mechanical term “infinite,” and to speak instead of God’s “endless perfection.”

Here again, of course, we stand before the naked truth of God’s incomprehensibility. Who can fathom the Unfathomable? How shall the finite ever define the infinite? That this is true is clear even from the very limited “definition” given above. It is a negative one. For how shall we say anything positive about infinity without dragging it down into the sphere of the finite, the limited? God’s perfections are end-less. They arewithout limits. More than this we cannot say. And even then we speak in terms of “ends” and “limits.”

Nevertheless, the Scriptures reveal this divine perfection in many ways and by means’ of various terms. First of all, we may say that the Old Testament name of God that is so often translated by our usual word for the deity, “God,” carries the connotation of God’s endless perfection. This is the name Elohim, which is a plural form, but a form which nevertheless everywhere is followed by a singular verb. And we may undoubtedly seek the explanation of Scripture’s use of this name along the line that it is a plural of intensity. When God reveals Himself through the name Elohim as the one God, He teaches us that He is the God of all perfections and excellencies. God is one in all His virtues; but we cannot know Him except in the manifold revelation of His glorious perfections. And the name Elohim reveals God as the Excellent One, Whose glory we can only know in the revelation of His many wonders. He is the God of endless perfection. But, in the second place, Scripture teaches this attribute of God explicitly in many passages. Let us take note of just a few passages. We read in I Kings 5:27: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and the, heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” In Psalm 139are the well-known words often cited in connection with God’s omnipresence: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee . . . . How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.” Ps. 139:7-12, 17, 18. And in Psalm 145 God’s greatness is extolled by the psalmist as follows: “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable One generation shall praise thy works: to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts, I will speak of the glorious honor of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works. And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and I will declare thy greatness.” Ps. 145:3-6. In Acts 17:24 the apostle Paul preaches: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” And in I Timothy 6:16 God is described as “dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto.”

From a practical, spiritual point of view this attribute of God requires, first of all, that I shall look away from myself and all creatures as an object of adoration and trust, and wholly thirst after God, Who is the only and inexhaustible and overflowing Fountain of all good. And, in the second place, it implies that in His presence I should humbly feel my own insignificance and humbly walk with my God, which is pleasing to Him.

6. God is Almighty.

We must bear in mind that also this attribute of God, sometimes classified as a communicable attribute, that is, as an attribute of which there is a reflection in a creaturely measure in man, is nevertheless a uniquely divine perfection. There is no comparison between the strength of the creature and the power of the Almighty. The difference between them is not one of degree, which after all would place the power of God within the confines of His own creation; but it is an essential difference. And therefore, bearing in mind the truth of the divine simplicity, we must bear in mind, that already a11 we have confessed previously, as well as all that remains yet to be confessed concerning God’s attributes, is to be applied to the divine omnipotence. God’s might is one, simple, spiritual. It is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite. And it is perfectly wise, just, good. Also of God’s omnipotence, therefore, the question must be put: “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.” Isaiah 40:25.

When we turn to Holy Writ, we find no difficulty in multiplying passages which speak expressly of this divine perfection.

First of all, we may observe that the attribute of God’s omnipotence is so strongly emphasized in Scripture that it is expressed in God’s very names. He is named the “Mighty One of Israel,” Isaiah 1:24. In blessing Joseph, Jacob says: “But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel.) Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above,” etc. Genesis 49:24, 25. According to Genesis 17:1, “when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” And frequently we read simply of the “Almighty” in the book of Job.

(to be continued)