“The Reformed Doctrine of God” by DR. RC Sprout

The following is an article by the late Dr. RC Sprout entitled, “The Reformed Doctrine of God.”
His premise is why we need to read, study, and teach the whole council of God.
So, let me start with two questions today. Why is it important for us to study the doctrine of
God? Why is it important to know His character and ways, His nature, and attributes? You might
say it’s not important, but if you do not understand who God is and what He does, you will not
understand your nature, your sin, and your need to be saved. In fact, if you desire to study the
whole gambit of Christian doctrine, which is called systematic theology, you must start with the
study of God, or nothing else makes sense.
What I am about to say may seem contradictory, but all branches of Christianity believe the same
thing about who God is and what He does. The Reformed position is no different than another
Christian tradition, yet, the Reformed doctrine of God is the most significant distinction from the
other traditions.
The Reformed doctrine of God sets us apart from other traditions because no other tradition’s
theology takes seriously the doctrine of God’s relationship to every other doctrine. In most
systematic theologies, you get an affirmation of the sovereignty of God on page one of the
textbook, but then once you move on to soteriology (doctrine of salvation), eschatology (doctrine
of last things), and anthropology (doctrine of humanity), and so on, the author has seemingly
forgotten what he said about God’s sovereignty on page one.
Reformed theologians, however, see the doctrine of God as informing the whole scope of
Christian theology. They are self-conscious of this. That’s one of the reasons why Reformed
Christians tend to focus so much on the Old Testament. We’re concerned about the character of
God as defining everything—our understanding of Christ, our understanding of ourselves, our
understanding of salvation. We turn to the Old Testament because it’s one of the most important
sources that you find anywhere in the universe on the nature and character of God. Reformed
Christians tend to take the Old Testament very seriously because it’s such a vivid revelation of
the majesty of God.
Here are some of the key revelations of God in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 6, we find one of the
most vivid disclosures of divine holiness in all of Scripture. Then, of course, there’s the Lord’s
revelation of Himself and His covenant name to Moses at the burning bush that we read about in
Exodus 3. That’s a must-read chapter for anyone seeking to understand God’s independence and
self-existence. In Genesis 15, we see our Creator’s commitment to truth and His faithfulness to
keep His covenant promises. Here God swears by Himself to fulfill His pledge to Abraham to
give him innumerable descendants. For a vivid portrayal of God’s unfailing, effectual love for
His people—His bride—you can hardly find a better place to go in Scripture than the book of
There are many more examples, but what do these episodes all have in common? These
revelations of God all take place at various crisis points in the lives of God’s people. Both Isaiah
and Moses were about to be sent on a great mission to proclaim the greatness of the Lord to
hardened people. What did they need most at a time like that? Not a promise of success—indeed,
Isaiah was told that his message would harden hearts. No, what they needed was an
understanding of the Lord’s character. When God wanted to give them assurance, He gave them
Himself. The same was true of Abraham and Hosea. Humanly speaking, Abraham had little
evidence to believe that God would give him many descendants. So, the Lord assured the
patriarch of His faithfulness by committing Himself to His own destruction—an
impossibility—should He not keep His Word. Hosea lived in a day when it seemed as if God had
fully and finally cast off His people for their unfaithfulness. What hope could the Lord provide
that He loved Israel with an everlasting love? It was the revelation of Himself as the Husband
who is perfect in love and faithfulness.
Reformed theology’s doctrine of God and its emphasis on all His attributes at every point in the
unfolding of salvation sets it apart from other Christian understandings of the Lord. Our doctrine
of God is drawn from Genesis through Revelation, from the Old Testament as much as from the
New Testament. Why, therefore, wouldn’t we soak up the whole counsel of God and read both testaments with great devotion?