Q1: Who is the first and best of beings?
A: God is the first and best of beings.
The first question of our catechism says alot about our priorities, and, we believe that our priorities reflect biblical ones. Before we ask “what is the chief end of man?”, we must ask a couple questions about God. The first of those is this: “who is the first and best of beings?”
The answer of course is God. But I want to show that to you from scripture, and then clarify just a little, a couple nuances with the question itself.
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.
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.
These verses (and more) show both that God is the first, and indeed he’s also the last! But they also show that he is the best! The way you can see it from scripture is that God is continually exalted above “all gods” or “all other gods”. Isaiah even says that there are no other “gods” besides the one true God. The reason that scripture uses “other gods” as the comparison to show how God is the “best of beings” is because other people acknowledged these “other gods” as being far exalted above mankind. If God then, is far above all these “other gods”, indeed if the one true God is the ONLY true God, then he is most certainly the best of beings!
But, the catechism question itself has some great nuanced language also. Let me explain. The question asks “who is the FIRST” of beings. What does this mean? Does it mean that God was a created being? That he is first in a sequence? No, John 1 tells us that without Christ, who is God, nothing that has ever been made, was made. Meaning this: nothing that has ever been made, was made without God. God could not have been created then, because he was involved in the creation of every single created thing.
Instead, the question means that God is first in order of priority. He is the “first”, meaning that in honor and reverence and praise and “bestness”, he comes before any other being. This is what Isaiah means when he says that God is the first. By virtue of being God, God is the most important being.
All things were created by him – 1 John 1:1-5
All things are sustained through his power – Col 1:17
All things exist for him and his glory – Romans 11:33-36
Without God, not only would we not have a “first” or a “best” being, we would not have any being at all. There would be nothing, if it weren’t for God!
But it goes further than that, because the catechism gets at another vital and wonderful piece of who God is when it asks “who is the BEST of beings?”.
God is not merely first in order of priority, he is not merely first because without him, nothing else would exist, he is also first because he is the best. God is not only the most powerful and necessary being in existence, he is also the most wonderful, satisfying, praiseworthy being in existence! It would be a lifetime of blog posts that would need to be written in order to begin to scratch the surface of how true that is, but it is true, nonetheless. God is the best being.
We’ve all had a best friend, and yet, no friend on earth has ever been as amazing as God promises to be for us. No other friend is as good as God is to us. No other friend is as loving as God is to us. No other friend is as understanding as God is of us. No other friend is as forgiving as God is of us. No other friend is as gentle as God is with us. No other friend is as faithful as God is to us. No other friend is as concerned as God is for us. And no other friend has ever gone as far as God has for us to bring us peace, joy, life, happiness, and satisfaction. No other being is better than God! He is not only first, but he is also best!
And ultimately, we know that God’s goodness is demonstrated most fully in the good news that he sent his son, Jesus, to live, die, and rise again, in order to make us “at peace” with himself! The gospel is the pinnacle of the demonstration of God’s “bestness”, for without the gospel, we would have intrinsic knowledge (Romans 1:18-23) that God is the “first”, but we would be left without the precious knowledge that he is the “best”!
(For a link to the whole HBC Catechism, see here)