February 26, 2024

The Most Important Question

Sinclair Ferguson
The Most Important Question

Of all the questions a Christian could possibly ask, which is the most important to answer? Today, Sinclair Ferguson poses the question that ultimately shapes our identity and the whole of our lives.


I wonder what you would say was the most important question a Christian can ask. Maybe there’s no single right answer to that question. Certainly, some philosophers have thought that the most important question is, Why is there something there and not nothing? And that’s a great question to ask people, isn’t it? It gives you the opportunity to point out that answers like the big bang or evolution can’t possibly be right, even if there were a big bang at the beginning of the cosmos. And even if things did evolve, neither big bangs nor things evolving come from nothing. And nothing is no thing—nothing. I’m sure you know the wise old Latin adage, ex nihilo nihil fit, nothing comes from nothing. That’s exactly right.

But for the Christian, as someone who believes in God and trusts God, perhaps the most important question is, What is God really like? I’d like to think with you this week about that question, and perhaps we should begin with a negative.

Now, I don’t mean what is sometimes called negative theology or describing God by saying what He isn’t, what the theologians call apophatic theology or the via negativa. The negative I’m thinking about is that the answer to the questions What is God like? and Who is God? should never begin with the words, “Well, the way I like to think about God is . . .” Not to put too fine a point on it: How I like to think about God isn’t really a relevant factor when it comes to the question, What is God actually like? God isn’t the result of what I like or don’t like to think. He isn’t in the business of saying, “If that’s the way you’d like Me to be, well of course I’ll become like that.” That’s utterly ridiculous, isn’t it? Who do we think we are?

So, what is God like? When the church wrote and used catechisms—that simple question-and-answer format to help people get a grasp of biblical truth, what I sometimes think of is putting Velcro strips into our minds so that the truth of Scripture would stick there—this was often one of the first questions that was asked.

In the famous Shorter Catechism that Presbyterians often use, it’s actually the fourth question after asking “What is the chief end of man?” and “What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?” and then “What do the Scriptures principally teach?” It goes on to ask, “What is God?” And its answer is majestic: “God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.”

That statement would be worth reflecting on for a whole week of podcasts, I suspect. But not this week. Because this week, I wonder if you noticed the subtle difference between the question I asked at the beginning and the one the Shorter Catechism asks. I didn’t ask What is God? but Who is God?

I wonder if that reminds you of one of the great moments in the Bible. I’m thinking about the moment when God appeared to Moses at the burning bush and told him He was going to deliver His persecuted people and commanded Moses to go to the Israelites to tell them that God had appeared to him and given him a message. Remember what Moses said in reply? Well, of course he asked the question, “But when I say God has sent me, they’re going to ask, ‘Well, OK, Moses, who is He? What is His name?’ What shall I tell them? What am I going to say?” They wanted to know who God is: “Who is this God, Moses? What’s He like?”

And that’s a tremendously important question for us because, in many ways, our Christian lives are determined by the way we think God is, what He’s really like. And the fact of the matter is that, as one of the psalms tells us, we tend to become like whatever we worship. Who God is and what He is like is bound to shape who we are and what we are like and how we live. So, this really is an important question, and we’ll return to it tomorrow, but let’s think about it today as well.