The Belgic Confession, Article 1 (continued)

The same reference to the attribute of God’s omnipotence is found in the New Testament in the divine name. In II Corinthians 6:18 it is combined with the name Lord, as follows: “And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” And in I Timothy 6:15 God is called “the only Potentate.”

Secondly, we may ask: what is the testimony of Scripture as to the meaning of this divine perfection?

And then we may observe, in the first place, that Scripture currently speaks of God’s omnipotence in concrete terms and in connection with the concrete revelation of God’s power in the works of His hands. In other words, the Bible teaches us that we must not think merely in the abstract of God’s omnipotence as an unlimited power, according to which God is able to do anything at all. Even when Scripture speaks of God’s power as unlimited and irresistible, it does so in connection with a certain concrete situation. We may mention a few passages of Holy Writ by way of illustration. In Isaiah 40:26 the host of heaven is cited as a proof of God’s power: “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.” And again, in vs. 28 of the same chapter: “. . . . the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary.” God’s power to accomplish His will is frequently presented in Scripture as one of the marks whereby He is distinct from any idol of man’s making. Thus we read in Jeremiah 10:10-13: “But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under those heavens. He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion. When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.” The same thought is set forth in Psalm 115. The complete impotence of the idols of the heathen is set forth after the omnipotence of our God is affirmed: “But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.” vss. 3-7. Psalm 29 extols the might of Jehovah throughout, making mention of the accomplishments of “the voice of Jehovah.” For, “The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” Ps. 29:4Psalm 33speaks of His wonderful power as follows: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” vss. 6-11. And so the Psalms abound with references to God’s wonderful works as so many evidences of His mighty power. To Abraham, when Sarah laughed at the impossibility of her giving birth to a son in her old age, the Lord says: “Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” Genesis 18:9-15. And at the annunciation, after Gabriel has made known to Mary the coming wonder of the virgin-birth as well as the pregnancy of her aged cousin Elizabeth, he says: “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Luke 1:37.

In the second place, in close connection with the above, we may observe that Scripture always presents this divine power and energy as a unique power. God is the God of the wonder! His power is exactly characterized by the fact that it accomplishes that which it is impossible for the creature to accomplish. It is a power that is absolutely free and sovereign, a power that is not and cannot be limited by any power outside of Himself. It is a causal and creative power. Any of the passages cited above also serve as Scriptural proof for this.

In the third place, we do well to remember that God has revealed His infinite power most clearly and wonderfully in His great work of salvation. He is the Almighty Creator of all things. But still more, He is the Lord of life and of death, the God that quickens the dead. To this wonderful revelation of God’s power in Jesus Christ our Lord the apostle Paul makes reference in Ephesians 1:17-21: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.”

In the fourth place, we ought not to abstract the omnipotence of God and merely conceive of it as an infinite power, according to which God can do anything at all. God cannot lie. He cannot deny Himself. He cannot do that which is foolish or wicked. And therefore, bearing in mind the truth of the divine simplicity and of the unity of all God’s virtues in Himself, we must rather define God’s omnipotence as that divine perfection according to which God is able to accomplish whatsoever He pleases. Very briefly stated, the practical significance of God’s almighty power for the believer lies in the fact that he may be assured that nothing can separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, and that therefore nothing can prevent his salvation. Cf. Romans 8:35-39.

7. God is Perfectly Wise.

When we discuss the mention of God’s wisdom in this article of our Confessio Belgica, we may remark, first of all, that here again it becomes evident that this statement is not and is not meant to be exhaustive. For in an exhaustive mention of the divine perfections one would certainly include the knowledge, or omniscience, of God. Rather must we assume at this point that the knowledge of God is presupposed in the virtue of divine wisdom. The divine wisdom without the divine omniscience is impossible. We may therefore briefly refer to God’s knowledge in this connection: for Scripture makes frequent reference to it. “The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.”I Sam. 2:3. “He that teacheth knowledge, shall he not know? The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.” Psalm 94:10, 11. Isaiah poses the question, “With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?” Isa. 40:14. In Hebrews 4:13 we read: “But all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” And thus there are many passages of Scripture which speak of God’s mind, His understanding, His thoughts, and His counsel. We must remember that God’s knowledge, like all His perfections, is uniquely divine. It too is characterized by absolute freedom and sovereignty, eternity and immutability. God’s knowledge does not have its source outside of God, but in Himself. It is not derived, but original. It is not caused, but causative. It is not dependent upon its object, but its object is dependent upon it. Briefly, we may describe that knowledge as the divine perfection according to which God fathoms with infinitely perfect consciousness Himself and all His works, both those within and those outside of the divine Being.

In the second place, we may observe that our creed makes no distinction between the attributes of God’s intellect and the attributes of God’s will. This distinction is sometimes made; and it is not without some justification, that is, as a method of classification. Then to God’s intellect belong such attributes as knowledge and wisdom, while to God’s will would belong attributes such as righteousness, holiness, grace, mercy, etc. As we noted, this distinction is not made here. And it is well to remember that we must not separate between God’s mind and His will. If we conceive of God’s knowledge and His wisdom as being purely intellectual, not ethical, not only do we do violence to the truth of God’s simplicity, but we also make it impossible properly to conceive of these perfections of God. God’s knowledge and wisdom are not abstract intellectual attributes, but ethical perfections as well. God’s is a holy knowledge, and His is a holy wisdom. It is for this reason that also in the rational, moral creature, according to Scripture, the ethical aspect of knowledge and wisdom is always emphasized. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”

Concerning the divine wisdom we read in that class& chapter of Proverbs 8, where “wisdom cries” (vs. 1): “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was . . . . When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” Proverbs 8:22-30. In Romans 16:27 God is called “the only wise God.” The same expression is found in I Timothy 1:17. In Psalm 104:24 we read: “O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.” But again, as with God’s power, it is especially in the wonder-work of salvation that God’s wisdom is revealed. The wisdom of the world is made foolish by God through Christ crucified. “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” I Cor. 1:20-24. We are of God in Christ Jesus, “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” I Cor. 1:30. And, contemplating God’s sovereign work of salvation, the apostle exclaims: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”

God’s wisdom is that divine virtue according to which God lives His own divine life as the Triune God with perfect adaptation to His infinite blessedness as the Holy One, and according to which He is able to attain the highest possible glorification of His own name through the adaptation of all things to that purpose of His Self-glorification, and to adapt all things to one another with a view to that purpose.

And again, the significance of this divine virtue from the practical, spiritual point of view of faith may be briefly stated. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the tailed according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.