July 2, 2009

Baptist Catechism – Question 1

Yesterday, I intended to start another new weekly series, here on my blog, going through the Baptist Catechism.

First, I should probably begin by explaining what a Catechism is.  Catechism comes from the ancient Greek word καταχέω (katacheō), which means ‘instruct or teach.’ So, a catechism is a method of teaching or instructing, in the case of Christianity, it is a means of instructing in the doctrines of the faith. Most catechisms were designed for small children, to be used by parents in their role as the primary disciplers of their children.

The particular catechism that I am using was taken from Desiring God ministries, and is a modified form of Benjamin Keach’s Catechism. That original catechism was written in 1689 to correspond to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, produced in the same year.

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Question 1: Who is the first and best of beings?

Answer: God is the first [i] and best [ii] of beings

One could go into this statement much deeper than was intended, discussing the fact and nature of God’s existence, the fact and nature of God’s being, etc, but I am not going to go into that today. There are two major things that this statement proposes about God, namely that He is ‘the first… of beings’ and ‘the… best of beings.’

God is the First of Beings

This is a fact that is proclaimed from the very first words of the Bible, where in Genesis 1:1, it says ‘In the beginning, God…’ In order for this statement to make sense, God would have to all ready be in existence at the beginning of all of creation, which means that He existed before creation in eternity past. So, before anything else existed, God was. Not only is this truth present here at the beginning, it present throughout the entire Bible:

  • Isaiah 44:6

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
“I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.

  • John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

  • Revelation 1:8

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” [iii]

 

God is the Best of Beings

The essence of this proposition is that God is over and above all creation, in majesty and glory.  God is the best of all beings, because He is perfect.  Wayne Grudem, in his “Systematic Theology,” describes God’s perfection in this way: “God’s perfection means that God completely possesses all excellent qualities and lacks no part of any qualities that would be desirable for him.” [iv]  That is why the Bible can describe God in the following ways:

  • Psalm 8:1

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.

  • Psalm 96:4

For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.

  • Psalm 97:9

For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.

  • 1 Samuel 2:2

“There is none holy like the Lord;
there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.

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[i] Isaiah 44:6

[ii] Psalm 8:1; Psalm 96:4; Psalm 97:9, 1 Samuel 2:2

[iii] In the Greek alphabet, α (alpha) and ω (omega) are, respectively, the first and last letters of the alphabet. So, what is being said is that God is ‘the first and the last’.

[iv] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.

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