If we could understand everything that's in section 2 of chapter 2 of the Westminster Confession of Faith with respect to our understanding of the nature and character of God, that I would say to you that 90% of the theological issues that rage over the centuries within the church would be resolved. Well, because I think all of us would be in favor of resolving the vast majority of theological issues that rage within the church today. Welcome to Renewing Your Mind.
I'm Lee Webb. We are exploring the Westminster Confession of Faith with Dr. R.C. Sproul. If you're unfamiliar with this historic theological document, it is one of the most precise and comprehensive statements of biblical Christianity. It was written in the mid-17th century, and it's helped generations of believers understand what the Bible teaches about a host of Christian doctrines. Today, as we get started, Dr. Sproul will quote from chapter 2, section 2 of the Confession.
Let's join him now. Section 2 of chapter 2 goes on to say that God is the alone fountain of all being. This of course flows out of the idea that since He is the only one who has the power of being within Himself, all other things that exist in this world are dependent upon God's being. We've talked about that where Paul says that in Him we live and move and have our being. So here, following on that biblical concept, the Confession is saying God is the sole only single fountain or source of being. Being doesn't come from anything else or from anyone else or from anywhere else because God alone is the source of anything that exists in this world. And now we get a group of statements, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things.
Now let's look at that briefly. Of whom, again that refers to God's being the universal Creator of everything that exists. Nothing does exist apart from Him.
Nothing can exist apart from Him because He's the fountain of being. So all that exists or that is of whom all things exist. And it goes on to say, through whom, that is by means of His creative energy, by means of His power, all things that exist come into being, and to whom are all things. You notice how this is the same language that Scripture uses for the second person of the Trinity, for the Logos, who is the member of the Trinity through whom the created order comes to pass, that Christ is the one by whom, through whom, and for whom all things exist, of course touching His divine nature. And so the purpose for the existence of anything that does exist in this world is not for the creature itself, but it is for God. It is He who has made us and not we ourselves, and not only are we made by Him, but we are made for Him. Now this is again something that we do when we try to rob God of His glory and exchange the truth of God for a lie and serve and worship the creature rather than the Creator, as Paul tells us in Romans 1. That's when we think that the universe was made for us, for me.
I want to be the point of all things. That was the lie that was offered to Adam and Eve. You shall be as gods.
No, the creatures are made for God, not God for the creatures. And He hath most sovereign dominion over them. Now let's look at that. That's an abstract concept. And again, we see that word, the superlative word that we've noticed earlier in chapter 2, that word most. And most here modifies the word sovereign. God is not just relatively speaking sovereign or partially sovereign or more sovereign than other things. He is most sovereign in His dominion over all things.
Again, I've said in the past that I've never met a Christian if you ask that person, do you believe in the sovereignty of God, who's answered me by saying no. Everybody understands that if God is God, He has to be sovereign. That is, He has to have dominion over His creation. He has to rule over the things that He makes, and so He's most sovereign in His dominion over all things. But again, if I push that with people and say, well, is God most sovereign in His dominion over the laws of the universe?
Well, yes. Is He most sovereign in the sense that He has the right to command obedience from His creatures? Does God have the most sovereign right to impose absolute obligation upon His creatures? Does God have the right to say to me, you must do such and such?
He doesn't debate it. He doesn't rule by referendum. He rules by His divine imperative. He alone has the right to exercise and execute His most sovereign dominion. We should understand that, and we can get most Christians to agree, at least with those first two applications of the most sovereign dominion, His dominion over the created order, His dominion over ethics. But as soon as we talk about His grace and salvation, and we talk about whether grace is something that is under His most sovereign dominion, that's where the majority of professing Christians get off the bus and somehow want to take that sovereignty to themselves. And I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times, and we'll explore it when we get into the doctrine later, where I've heard people say that God's sovereignty ends where human freedom begins.
Let me say that again. God's sovereignty ends where human freedom begins. You know, I can't think of too many things that would be more blasphemous to say than that, because just the opposite is true. My freedom, which is real, is a gift of God, is a contingent, derived, dependent freedom, as everything else in my power is as a creature. And my freedom, such as it is, ends where God's sovereignty begins.
My freedom never has sovereign dominion over God for anything. If we could understand and embrace and affirm everything that's in section 2 of chapter 2 of the Westminster Confession of Faith with respect to our understanding of the nature and character of God, that I would say to you that 90% of the theological issues that rage over the centuries within the church would be resolved. And they are resolved right here in our understanding of who God is.
I can't help but throw this anecdote into this. Early on in the ministry of Ligonier, back in the early 70s, we had a man visit us who was a consultant for Christian ministries, who had worked with lots of ministries around the country, and he was helping us to define our mission to focus on what we were about. And he asked me this question. He said, What do you think is the single most important thing that American people, unbelievers, don't know that they need to know?
And I said, That's easy. The single most important thing that secular, pagan Americans need to understand is who God is, not that He is, because they already know that He is, because He's manifested Himself to all people, as we've already seen. And he said, Okay, is your primary task to declare the character of God to the pagan world?
I said, No. Our ministry is not basically an evangelistic ministry. It may have evangelistic elements involved with it, but our mission is educating Christians, believers.
That's what we're about. And he said, Okay, well then let me ask you this. What do you think is the single most important thing that Christians need to know that they don't currently know? I said, That's easy.
And he said, What? I said, Who God is. Because nothing strips us of our spiritual growth and power more than our lack of understanding of who God is. And I think that we have somehow lost that focus. We've lost it in our education.
We've lost it in our preaching, and certainly we've lost it in our worship in the local church. Because ideally, every time we assemble together for the purpose of adoring God and offering to Him the sacrifice of praise and listening to His Word, we should get at least that much deeper understanding of who God is. And just that much more understanding of who God is should have us leaving the sanctuary on Sunday morning in a state of dazzled awe before Him.
But we're still babes dealing with elementary principles. We haven't begun to explore the depths and the riches of who He is. And the more we understand who He is, the more we are driven to our knees and driven to adoration and to tremble before Him in reverence. But the church has lost her sense of reverence because the church has lost her understanding of who God is. There really is an eclipse of God in the church today. Let me remind you that an eclipse does not destroy anything. It merely hides it. When the sun is eclipsed by a shadow, it's hidden from view, but nothing has happened to the sun. It still shines in all of its glory, in all of its radiance, in all of its brightness.
It's still there. It's just that we don't see it because a shadow has moved across it, obscuring it from our vision. And that's what happens in our culture and in our church today, that the nature and character of God is obscured, put behind shadows, and we need to remove those shadows. He has most sovereign dominion over them to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever Himself pleases. When Luther struggled with all of the suffering and calamity that people in the sixteenth century world dealt with, with plagues and pillaging from marauding forces and the hatred of people and torture and all of that, and this great theologian would be having people, you know, constantly come up to him, wringing their hands and saying, Dr. Luther, you know, how can these things be?
How can God allow these things to happen? And he said the first principle of the Christian is to let God be God. My favorite illustration of that is in the Old Testament story of Eli when he's there ministering the temple, and he has as his protégé his student, young Samuel. Remember, Eli had not disciplined his own sons, and they were living scandalous lives in the priesthood. And in the middle of the night, there came that call to Samuel.
Remember this story? Samuel comes to voice. Samuel thinks it's Eli. He runs over and shakes him awake and said, Did you call me? He said, No, no, no, you're dreaming.
Go back to sleep. So he goes back to sleep, and then again he hears the voice, Samuel. And Samuel jumps up and goes and shakes Eli awake again, and Eli says, No, no, no. And finally Eli gets the idea that's going on and that maybe God's trying to call out to Samuel, and he says, If you hear that again, say, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.
So Samuel goes back to bed, and the next time it's the double knock, the repetition of his name. Samuel, Samuel. And Samuel says, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. Well, then what does God tell Samuel? He tells him that he's going to bring his judgment on the house of Eli, on his sons and on Eli himself.
Not to mention the ark of the covenant. And so in the morning Eli says to Samuel, What did God say? And Samuel was like my wife after a telephone conversation that lasts an hour.
Nothing, you know. He doesn't want to let the cat out of the bag. And of course Eli realizes that the message that Samuel got was not very positive. And he said, Samuel, you tell me what God said, or may whatever He said to you come to pass to you.
And so Samuel then reveals to Eli all that God told him about the judgment that was at hand. Now, if that happened in a contemporary Christian community in America, the average Christian would respond to that message by saying, Oh, that couldn't be the Word of God. God would never do that.
God would never bring judgment upon His own people. But when Eli heard what God said to Samuel, do you remember what He said? He said, It is the Lord.
And he shut his mouth. If we don't understand now that God has every right to do by us, for us, or upon us whatsoever pleases Him, not whatsoever pleases us, we don't know that now. We'll know it on the day of judgment, where we will find out that on that day, God will do with us, to us, and for us whatsoever pleases Him. We're here for His pleasure, for His glory.
So we've come to think of God as a cosmic bellhop, that He's there to meet our needs, to deal with all of our requests, you know. Who owns the kingdom? How many times have we prayed the Lord's Prayer, and how do we end it? For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory. What we want to say is, mine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.
But that's not the way it is in reality. And ladies and gentlemen, how could it be any other way when you consider the glory of God and who we are as creatures? Obviously, it's His kingdom. It's His power.
It's His glory forever. In His sight, all things are open and manifest. Now the word manifestum, from which the English manifest comes, means clear.
It's not obscure. There's nothing dim or fuzzy about it. In His sight, He sees all things wide open. Manifest clarity. Now sometimes we get a vague, dim perception of reality. But there is a heightened perception of reality that comes in the sight of God. You know, one of the great arguments in philosophy throughout the ages is the argument of what is truth. And somebody said that to you today, like Pilate asked Jesus, what is truth? How would you define truth? You know, Francis Schaeffer used to speak of true truth, meaning by it objective truth. Truth is not relative. Truth is objective. There are absolute truths.
And yet throughout the ages, the question has been debated. Kierkegaard said truth is subjectivity, not on your life. John Locke taught the principle of what was called the correspondence theory of truth. And he said it this way, that truth is that which corresponds to reality.
Now that's good as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough. And the followers of Locke understood that because they understood that nobody in this world has an absolutely perfect and pure perception of the truth. Anytime I'm called to moderate a dispute among people, I'll say what we deal with here are the facts. That's one set of problems we deal with, then the perceptions of the facts, and then the feelings about those perceptions.
And all of those things are part of the facts. You may disagree with my understanding of the facts, but the fact that you disagree with me is a fact, and so on, because we don't see all things in perfect purity. And so Locke's view of correspondence was challenged by those who said, but people differ in their perceptions of reality, and so they have different perceptions of truth. Therefore, truth is different according to how you perceive it. That's why they had to add to it this, that truth is that which corresponds to reality as it's perceived by God. Because there's no distortion in God's view of what is, of what is real. All things are open and clear to Him.
He knows us inside and out. I was just reading this book on recent discoveries and how synapse connections and neurotransmission takes place in the brain recently, and in this book I was reading they have a quiz that you take, I can't resist a self-quiz, where they ask you questions, true, false questions on how you are in terms of how you see things, how you react to things, how you feel about things, and all that sort of thing. And so there's maybe 40 questions or 50 questions where they ask you to evaluate yourself on how you respond to certain things. And I go through this and I see that I have say like 22, just throw that and figure out arbitrarily, 22 truths.
So then I put it to the test. I asked Vesta, I said, Vesta, tell me what you think I'm like, right, because nobody knows me better than she does, we've been together for over 50 years and everything, and five times out of that 22 I said something was true, she said, no, it isn't. That's not how I think you are, you know. No, who deceives us more than we deceive ourselves and all of that? But I'm hidden from my own view. We all have blind spots, but there aren't any blind spots in God. All things are open, all things are clear to Him. That's Dr. R.C. Sproul with a message on God's self-existence. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind.
On this Friday, I'm Lee Webb. Thank you for being with us. We are studying the Westminster Confession of Faith, a helpful, concise description of biblical Christianity. It is a theological document that has helped the Church for generations, and Dr. Sproul's book, Truths We Confess, provides his detailed commentary on this confession and applies it to modern life. For your donation of any amount today, we would like to send you this hardcover book.
You can give your gift online at renewingyourmind.org, or one of my colleagues here will be happy to take your call at 800-435-4343. The Westminster Confession explains many biblical doctrines, but there are times when we run into a confusing passage or a theological issue that we don't understand. Ask Ligonier is a service we offer that allows you to submit your questions about the Bible, theology, the Christian life, and apologetics. Trained team members will answer your questions in real time. This is not a robot answering your questions. You'll be able to interact with a caring Christian who wants to help you find the answer.
You can find those answers when you go to ask.ligonier.org. Well we will continue our look at the Westminster Confession because it brings such precision to our understanding of the Christian faith. So all next week we will continue Dr. Sproul's series. We'll learn about God's decrees, God's foreknowledge, predestination, and other essential doctrines. So I hope you'll make plans to be with us beginning Monday for Renewing Your Mind. God bless. God bless.
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