The First and Chiefest Being (Faith of Our Fathers)


The Baptist Catechism starts with the question, “Who is the first and chiefest being?” This question is necessary because it starts with the origin of all proper thought about God: God Himself. “God is the first and chiefest being.” This recognition is key. As finite, material creatures, we are incapable of grasping the truth of an infinite, immaterial God (Isa. 55:8-9; Rom. 11:33-36). We are wholly inadequate for these things, unless God graciously enables us. Out of recognition of our human impotence, The Baptist Catechism begins by highlighting our supremely omnipotent God. We are fallen, sinful, finite beings; God is the first and chiefest Being. Thus, we do not start with man, but with God.

In recognizing God as the first and chiefest of beings, we recognize in Him a particular otherness. He is completely unlike all His creatures. Specifically, He is from everlasting to everlasting. He is the only Being without beginning. Thus, He is the only Being who can rightly claim to be both the first and the last, and He does so time and again.

“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
‘I am the first and I am the last,
And there is no God besides Me,’” (Isa. 44:6; NASB; cf. Isa. 41:4; 48:12; Rev. 1:8; 2:8; 21:6; 22:13).

No creature can lay claim to being first and last over all creation. All of creation has a beginning and, were it God’s design, all creation would have an end. God not only created all things, but He sustains and directs them, too (Col. 1:17). All of creation is God’s creation and, with it, He does as He pleases (Ps. 115:3; 135:6). How shall man stand as a mere spectator of the vast scope of God’s creation and not give Him due honor and praise for all of His mighty works?

God is distinct from all of His creation. However, He is not merely distinct from it in His eternality, His creation, and His providence; He is also distinct from it in His majesty. God is the first Being; He is also the chiefest Being. By this, the catechism means to draw our attention to God’s preeminence over all things.

Our tendency, as fallen creatures, is to worship the creature rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:25). As a Master Artist, God has adorned His creation with His divine signature. We are like art critics who stand in awe of a masterful painting and give credit to the individual brush strokes and arrangements of color rather than to the painter who gave the painting life. Credit for Symphony No. 5 does not go to the individual trumpet blasts, but to Beethoven himself. How much more is the God of creation due His proper exaltation and adoration for the works of His hands?

“For You are the Lord Most High over all the earth;
You are exalted far above all gods,” (Psalm 97:9; NASB).

Let the pagans sing the praises of their false gods, but let our praises of the one true and living God far exceed theirs. Let us exalt Him as the Lord Most High over all the earth! Let us sing with the saints of old:

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him, all creatures here below.
Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”
Let our study of theology always stem from a heart of doxology. Let our pursuit of head knowledge always spring from a wealth of heart praise. Let our desire to take in greater truth about God never be to the end of puffing up the student, but that of lifting up the Creator in praise, and adoration, and worthy exaltation. He truly is worthy, for He truly is the first and chiefest of beings. As J.I. Packer writes:
“We need to ask ourselves: What is my ultimate aim and object in occupying my mind with these things? What do I intend to do with my knowledge about God, once I have it? For the fact that we have to face is this: If we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate and dismiss them as very poor specimens,” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God, pg. 21.).1

 

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1This post taken from Studies in The Baptist Catechism: Section One – Authority, Revelation, and Scripture (Q.1) over at CredoCovenant.com.