An Exposition of the BFC Articles of Faith – God the Son

March 2, 2015
Last time we considered God the Father in our exposition of the AoF. Today, we’ll consider Article 4 – God the Son.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Word,1 the eternal and true God who is of one substance and equal with the Father.2 He took on Himself man’s nature, with all of its essential properties except sin: Being conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary,3 He embodied two perfect and distinct natures in one person. He is truly God and truly man, the only mediator between God and man.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the revelation of God to man.4 In the days of His humiliation5 He lived a sinless life, performed miracles, taught the will of God,5 was crucified, and died. He was buried and arose bodily from the dead on the third day. The Lord Jesus offered Himself a sacrifice for sins,6 satisfied the justice of the Father, propitiated the wrath of God, reconciled God and man,7 and obtained an eternal inheritance.

The Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, from whence He had come, and was exalted, taking His place at the right hand of the Father, where He makes intercession on behalf of all who come to God through Him.8

1 John 1:1-3,14
2 Colossians 1:15-20
3 Matthew 1:22-23
4 Hebrews 1:1-4
5 Philippians 2:5-11
6 Hebrews 9:14
7 Romans 5:10
8 Hebrews 4:14-15

Exposition

The article begins with emphasizing the truth of John 1 that  Jesus, the Son of God, is the Word. He is the manifestation of the direct revelation of God. He has existed from all time (he was never created but is self-existing with the Father) and is completely true. He is not different from the Father, but is the same substance as the Father and is equal in authority with the Father. Both are wholly and completely God. The unique nature of Jesus is that He entered into our reality and took on our human nature completely like until us yet not a sinner. As a human he was conceived by both the Holy Spirit and His human mother, Mary. This gave Him both a divine nature from the Godhead and a human nature from His mother. This binds Him together in a unique was being completely human and completely God, the only true and necessary mediator between God and man. We need no one to go to the Father for us, as Christ has gone to Him once for all for us. 

He is the embodiment of God’s revelation to us. Through Him we have access and know the mind of the Father. While on earth, He lived completely sinless. He did everything that was pleasing to God and did nothing that was unpleasing to God at the same time. While on earth, he did miraculous things and taught us completely all of the will of the Father. Not only that, but He suffered at the hand of mankind and was crucified and died. His death was real, and he was buried and came back to life on the third day. The beauty of this is that God sacrificed Himself for the sake of sinful humanity. He appeased God’s wrath and fulfilled God’s just requirements for sin, and ultimately reconciled God and man. We have access to the Father through the death and resurrection of Jesus and now because of His eternal inheritance, we too share in that inheritance. 

Following His death and resurrection, He returned to the right hand of the Father and though He was humiliated on earth, He rose to full exaltation of his royal majesty in heaven. Now He intercedes on our behalf before the Father. Every time we sin, He says to the Father, “because of my sacrifice He is forgiven.”

In the person of Jesus Christ we have the picture of the love, mercy, grace, and beauty of God. Despite our sin and our ugliness God reached down through Jesus Christ to give us life and life eternally. He makes us new and beautiful because He loves us. And we are lovely, because He loves us. Praise God for His Son!


Articles of Faith – God the Father

February 23, 2015

An Exposition of the Articles of Faith

Last time we considered the Trinity in our exposition of the Bible Fellowship Church’s Articles of Faith. Today, we’ll consider Article 3 – God the Father.

There is but one living and true God,1 immanent, transcendent, infinite in being and perfection, pure spirit,2 invisible, immutable,3 eternal, almighty, all wise,4 most holy, most free, most loving, most gracious, most merciful, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin,5 the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, and withal most just and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin. He will by no means clear the guilty.

1 Isaiah 45:5-6
2 John 4:24
3 Malachi 3:6a
4 Romans 11:33-34
5 Exodus 34:6-7

Exposition

Following our exposition of the Trinity, we move on to consider the nature and attributes of, what we call, the first member of the Trinity: the Father. He is referred to as the Father simply because of his unique relationship to the Son. He takes priority as first, although all are equal in essence, because again, with regards to his relationship to the Son and the Spirit, whom proceeds from both.

As reminder of what we already considered with the Trinity, there is but one living and true God. In contrast to idols of stone, we worship a living God in whom there is no falsehood. Everything about God is living, and life-giving, and truthful. No deceit is found in him. The article then goes on to consider a number of his attributes:

  • Immanent – He is near his creation. God is present in all of creation. There is no place where God is not.
  • Transcendent – He is apart and above all of his creation. He is independent from all of his creation. All things are upheld by him and the whole universe exists to glorify him.
  • Infinite – God is not bound by the laws of physics. He cannot be held in the created universe.
  • Spirit – God has no body. He is not bound by our physical limitations.
  • Invisible – Since he has no body, he is unable to be seen.
  • Immutable – He never changes. His being and character and actions are completely and wholly and consistent from beginning to end.
  • Eternal – He has existed from eternity past (before time began), and will exist until eternity’s end (which is never).
  • Almighty – He is all-powerful. He can do anything within his character.
  • All-Wise – He is the embodiment of wisdom and skillfully and perfectly exercises knowledge in good and moral ways.
  • Most Holy – He is completely separate from anything that is sinful. God is absolutely perfect in his moral being.
  • Most Free – God is not bound to do anything because of man. He does as he pleases.
  • Most Loving – God’s love is boundless, to the point of his willingness to sacrifice his son for our redemption.
  • Most Gracious – God eternally gives us far more in reward than we can possibly deserve.
  • Most Merciful – God does not give us what we deserve as a manifestation of his benevolent character.
  • Longsuffering – God is eternally patient with his sinful creatures.
  • Abundant in Goodness and Truth – He is completely good and truth. There is no deviation in his character. He is always good and always true.
  • Forgiving – Despite our continued sinful treason against this eternal King, he time and time again forgives us that sin.
  • Rewarder – For those who seek after God, they will find the reward of his love, mercy, and grace.
  • Just, Hating Sin, Not Clearing the Guilty – While God is gracious and merciful, he simply does not excuse sin and wickedness. He does not simply forget about our sin and look past it, but instead, Christ faces our punishment in our place. He hates sin and therefore will punish it. If we are outside of Christ, we will face the judgment, but if we are in Christ, He does.
The Father is known through his attributes, revealed here in the AoF. If you want to know more of the Father, you study the Word of God to learn more about him revealed in his attributes. You will see, that we worship the true and living God who loves us and gives us mercy and grace. When we see him displayed in all his glory, how can we not say with the psalmist, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!”

The BFC Articles of Faith – The Trinity

February 9, 2015
We continue on with our exposition of the BFC Articles of Faith by looking at

Article 2 – The Trinity

There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son,1 and the Holy Spirit.2 These three are one God,3 the same in substance, eternally equal in power and glory.

1 – Matthew 3:16-17; John 20:28
2 – Acts 5:3-4
3 – Genesis 1:1, 26; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14

Exposition

Following our discussion of the Scriptures as God’s direct revelation of God to man, we know can begin to understand the content of that revelation. Scripture presents for us a unique doctrine regarding the person of God. Out of all of the religions of the world, you have two approaches to the nature of God:

1) Polytheism – Multiple Gods (Hinduism for example)
2) Monotheism – One God (Islam for example)

And, while Christianity is a monotheistic religion, the uniqueness of it is, our one God is made up of three persons. Known as the Trinity, or perhaps, better, the Tri-unity of God, this fundamental doctrine of the faith is necessary to believe in order to identify with biblical Christianity. This concept, while taught in Scripture, is difficult for our finite man to grasp, and there is no way we will ever fully grasp the nature of the Trinity.

Our statement here starts off telling us that the God we worship is made up of three distinct persons, namely, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. While we would defer to either one God or many Gods, historic Christianity reminds us that these three persons are one God. We don’t serve one God who at different times is different persons, or some other such heresy. We worship One God who has always and will always be Three Persons.

They are fundamentally the same in essence. One is not more God than the other. All three members are equally God. And not only are they equal in substance they are equal in power and glory. All of them possess the same power. The Father is not more powerful than the Son or the Son than the Spirit, etc.  They don’t always perform the same functions, but we will see how that plays out in the next three weeks.

Now, what bearing does this have upon how we live today? Let me recommend you read Kevin DeYoung’s helpful post, “The Doctrine of the Trinity: No Christianity Without it.” He does an excellent job of showing it’s importance!


70 Years into the Future

February 4, 2015

January 27 marked the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Perhaps nothing in our most recent history is filled with such evil as the systematic destruction of some 1.1 million people in this and other Death Camps. The vileness of raising one people’s importance over another to the extent of putting to death in the most horrific ways those whom are different is such that to even think about it brings one to shudder.

Yet, being seventy years out from the event, and especially as survivors of the horrific camps quickly pass away, we are at a constant threat of forgetting this most heinous act. Roman Kent, who as a survivor, made his way to Auschwitz for the anniversary told the people, “We survivors do not want our past to be our children’s future.” The old adage of those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it, is something that may bear truth. We are always potentially at risk of seeing the same atrocities committed because we forget that they once occurred long ago. The commission of evil against one another isn’t new. It goes back to the very beginning (Genesis 4:8). So, we must remain ever vigilant against these things by making sure we remember them.

I haven’t had the opportunity to be exposed to many of the holocaust memorials. Something inside me finds them to be such unpleasant places. And rightly they should be. For they memorialize the effects of evil. Even today, there are those, through their folly, that would articulate that the systematic eradication of a people group isn’t bad but good (Isaiah 5:20). I have been to one holocaust memorial in Moscow, Russia. Sculptors portrayed the death of the people in the Death Camps by showing a group of naked, emaciated people, slowly falling backward into the ground, and becoming tombstones. It is heart-breaking as it includes both adults and children, and shows that all that remains of them, other than the tombstones are subtle reminders of their life. A shoe. A hat. Glasses. A doll. I weep now just to think about it and to consider the atrocities that were committed. It was certainly not subtle. It was a bold, in your face, reminder that men kill other men. It was a reminder that these people, made in the image of God, were robbed not only of life, but of decency, health, joy, and were forced not just to die, but to become death itself. The memorial is both haunting and beautiful and it reminds us of the capability of evil which exists in all men (Jeremiah 17:9).

Yet, pushing seventy years from the event makes it less real for us. Something for history books. One day, there will be no survivors from the camps. And we will begin to forget. And our forgetting will make us wonder at how nations kill their own like in North Korea and China and Sudan. We will wonder at how terrorists planted throughout the world cowardly detonate bombs in large urban areas to do the greatest damage. We will wonder at how even we, in the land of the free, kill innocents acting as they are collateral damage as we serve as world police. We will wonder at the extent of our lack of care, even in our own back yard, for the weak and the marginalized; the alien, the widow, and the orphan.

Yet, we have no excuse to wonder. We have the evidence staring us in the face regarding the depravity of mankind. While some continue to imply that man is basically good, it seems, that from the historical evidence, man is basically depraved, battling wickedness and evil in their hearts and in the hearts of others. The memorials to such depraved acts of evil are still there. And they should remain there. Not only physically, but in our hearts and in our minds and in our consciences. That way, when we see fresh and new acts of evil and violence, like the beheading of journalists, we won’t be surprised. Instead, we’ll remember the acts of violence committed by mankind for generations and start afresh on, instead, striving for goodness and righteousness. A change of heart will be required (Ezekiel 36:26). But perhaps, just perhaps, a reminder like the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, will prompt us all to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly (Micah 6:8).


Book Review – Discovering Delight

February 2, 2015

Discovering Delight by Glenda Mathes (Reformation Heritage Books), is a needed book in a time of recent disparagement regarding the Law of God. Certainly there has always been debate about the Christian’s relationship to the Law, but recently there has been such an emphasis on grace that the concept of God’s Law has no relationship to the believer, and therefore is virtually considered negligible at the least, and morally evil at the worst. Mathes’ brief medications on God’s Law will rekindle your love for God’s law.

With a particular focus on Psalm 119 and other passages of Scripture regarding God’s Law, Mathes helps us to consider that the Christian need not fear the Law, but actually rejoice and love it. In a combination devotional/commentary, Mathes considers the context and provides exegesis for these passages and provides helpful application for the Christian today.

In particular, if you enjoy devotionals, but wish they went further in depth, this is the kind of volume for you. Mathes helpful analysis and application (with review questions), will provide for you a wonderful feast for you as you expound upon this beautiful Psalm and other related portions of God’s Word.


An Exposition of the BFC Articles of Faith

February 2, 2015
This Sunday past, we began our new member’s class at Cornerstone Bible Fellowship Church by beginning to look at our doctrinal statement, known as the Articles of Faith. I thought it might be helpful to think through, as a church, what we believe. So, I decided to spend the next 28 weeks walking through our doctrinal statement. Here I share it with all of you.

An Exposition of the Articles of Faith

Article 1 – The Holy Scriptures

1-1 The Holy Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are the inspired,1 infallible Word of God,2  a divine revelation, the original writings of which were verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit.3 They are the supreme and final authority of faith and conduct.4

1-2 Inspiration is a special act of the Holy Spirit3 by which He guided the writers of the Scriptures so that their words would convey the thoughts He wished conveyed, would bear a proper relationship to the thoughts of the other inspired books, and would be kept free from error of fact, doctrine, and judgment.5

1-3 The Holy Scriptures, the written Word of God, are composed of all books of the Old Testament and New Testament, namely:

Old Testament
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah,Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, MalachiNew Testament
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, I Peter, II Peter, I John, II John, III John, Jude, Revelation
1 (2Tim. 3:15-17)
2 (Psa. 119:89), (John 10:35), (Isa. 40:8)
3 (2Pe. 1:21), (1Pe. 1:10,11), (1Cor. 2:12,13)
4 (John 17:17), (Luke 24:27,44), (Rev. 22:18,19)
5 (Mat. 5:17,18)

Exposition

We begin with the Bible because that is our source of information about God, man, sin and salvation. So, if we have a wrong view of the Bible, the rest of our theology will be skewed.

The article reminds us that these Scriptures are holy, as in free from sin, because they come from God Himself who is holy. They contain both the Old and the New Testaments. Some of us have a tendency to emphasize one over the other, whereas both are God’s revelation to man and both are vitally important for our study.

These Scriptures are inspired, meaning they are breathed out by God. They are the very real words of God communicated through His servants. They are therefore infallible, or that they are reliable and accurate and without error. They are a divine revelation in that they come directly from the mouth of God. And the original writings, in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, are inspired (breathed out by God) in their very words, not just in their concepts (verbally). This inspiration occurs by the power of the Holy Spirit as He comes upon men. Since they are from God Himself, that makes them the final arbiter (not men, but the Word of God alone) of what is true and right in matters of faith (what we believe) and conduct (how we live).

The article goes on to describe how inspiration occurred. By the work of the Holy Spirit, He directed men to write down Scripture with a particular purpose. If we consider that men are both fallible and make error, how could they write infallible, inerrant words? The Holy Spirit directed them to do this so that only what God wanted communicated would be written down, would be done in a way that all 66 books of the Bible forms a coherent whole, and would be kept free from error of any kind. This means that the Bible, translated and preserved for us in English, is the very Word of God, free from error in its original (translators can make mistakes) and therefore the Words of God for men to live by and to know the Living One, Jesus Christ.

The final aspect of the article emphasizes that it is the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments that are in the Bible. Not the apocrypha as is found in Roman Catholic Bibles (like Bel and the Dragon, 1 Maccabees, etc.) nor are the pseudepigrapha (false writings) that were written much later (like the Gospel of Thomas). Only the 66 books, as attested to by the early church, are the actual Word of God written down for mankind. Anything else is not part of the Bible.

Therefore, the Word of God, that we have translated and we hold in our hands is the very Word of God. It is living and breathing and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. It is both life-giving, and condemnatory, as it reveals to us both our sin and our need and provision for a Savior. As Alistair Begg has said, “if you want to hear from God, open your Bible.” Indeed. Open the Word of God and read it today!


The Resurrection: An 18th Century Defense for 21st Century Christians

January 19, 2015

The two key elements at the heart of Christianity are the cross and the empty tomb. Rarely do many outside of the faith deny the veracity of the cross. It seems self-evident that the man Jesus would have died. But, the element more difficult to believe is that of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Just as Paul found the men at Athens skeptical of the resurrection (Acts 17:32), so do we too today have people who struggle to accept this most important truth. In fact, without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christianity itself falls apart. Paul makes this explicitly clear in 1 Corinthians 15:12–19:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.[1]

Christianity stands or falls on the doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In an age of skepticism regarding anything supernatural, Christians find it difficult to show people the truth of Christianity because of denials to the resurrection. This though is not a new phenomenon.

During the rise of the Enlightenment period in the 18th century, it became common to embrace only what could be verified using normal human faculties. Since no one could reproduce a resurrection, logically, it must be impossible. Therefore, when one removes the supernatural emphasis from Christianity, particularly through the denial of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, all of Christianity falls. Thankfully, there were people who fought against the tide of anti-supernaturalism during the Enlightenment period. One such man was John Gill.

John Gill was born in Kettering, Northamptonshire, England on November 23, 1697. His parents were God-fearing individuals of the Calvinistic Baptist tradition. His early years were spent studying in the local grammar school where he excelled in languages.

The church at Kettering recognized his gifts as a preacher and in 1719 became pastor of the famous Horselydown congregation in London where he served for a staggering 52 years until his death in 1771.

Gill would become a prolific author and one of the most influential theologians of the Particular Baptist cause.

Gill’s Defense of the Resurrection

Gill, was a frequent preacher and teacher upon all things doctrinal and the doctrine of the resurrection was no exception. He preached sermons at the famous Lime Street Lectures in 1731 on the subject. In it he defended the reality of the resurrection from the dead. While we cannot spend a detailed amount of time analyzing his defense, we can make some general conclusions about how he defended the resurrection and how we can learn to do the same today from his example.[2]

First, Gill knew his opponents and their arguments. Gill, even uneducated beyond some initial grammar school, made it his goal as both a Christian and as a minister of God’s Word to be informed in the writings of the orthodox and the unorthodox alike. Gill, expertly versed in Jewish thought and literature, also was aware of ancient pagan authors and the arguments they made. He was aware of Christian thinking on the issue from the early church through the Reformation and post-Reformation Puritan period in which he found himself. He was aware of the arguments made by those who agreed with a resurrection and those who denied it.

Second, he progressed through his argumentation in a logical way. First, he considers that the doctrine of resurrection is a “credible” thing. It is not completely impossible to consider, even in a secular-thinking world. From there he goes to more explicit references in Scripture to argue for the resurrection of the dead. Finally, he considers how the resurrection is necessary because it is connected with all kinds of other doctrines in the Bible. He clinches it with the key: If Christ is raised, so too are we. This leads the reader along the argument, slowly building the case, so as when one reaches the end, he faces an insurmountable amount of material defending the resurrection from the dead.

Third, we can see that clearly the core of the defense of the resurrection for Gill comes straight from the Scriptures. When much Enlightenment thinking was turning to the other “book of the revelation of God” namely nature, to define the world, Gill still sees the lasting answers in God’s special revelation, Scripture. Predicated on all of this is the concept that our theology can only be derived from the Scriptures itself. It is God’s communication to man and thus gives us the answers we are looking for. Instead of rooting his argument in the conclusions of others, he looks to the Scriptures to defend this crucial doctrine.

What Can We Learn from Gill’s Defense?

It is not just the secular atheistic world that denies the core supernatural elements of our faith but also much of liberal Christianity too denies the miraculous and especially the resurrection from the dead. It is imperative that we understand and defend this crucial element of our faith. If the resurrection of Christ is denied then our faith is in vain. What then can we learn from Gill when defending the truth of the elements of our Christian faith?

First, the maxim of “know thy enemy” is completely true in this instance. If we want to honestly interact with those who disagree with our position, we need to know what they are saying. Too many Christians attempt to argue against the arguments of liberals and atheists alike and know nothing about what they actually believe about the subject. Study the issue especially as articulated by those who disagree with you.

Second, know the Word of God. There is no more important tool in your arsenal than the Word of God. Gill demonstrates his vast knowledge of the Word of God on the subject and can draw Scriptures from all over the Bible to rally to his argument. Knowledge of the Bible and how it systematically fits together helps to provide a strong argument for affirming the truth of the resurrection because it creates a systematic understanding of the teaching in the entire Bible.

Finally, know how to make your argument. The reality is that the unbelieving mind cannot grasp the spiritual things of God. You cannot convince them with logical arguments that the resurrection is reasonable or possible apart from the Word of God. The mind of the unbeliever is hostile to God. So, our goal is to present the truth claims of the Scriptures and pray that the Spirit of God would use this Word to draw our hearer to Christ. So, Gill’s approach to simply systematically walk through the Scriptures as the best and most reasonable defense of the resurrection is our most basic approach.

Conclusion

Our world may seem more sophisticated today than it was in Gill’s time. Yet, frankly, little has actually changed. The arguments are the same. Nothing new is under the sun. Unfortunately what has changed is how little we care about history. Many of these fights have been raging for hundreds of years. Think about how much we can learn from those who have gone before us. Gill’s comprehensive defense of the resurrection should help us in our own defense of this crucial doctrine. And there is no more important doctrine. In closing, Gill’s words as to the importance of the resurrection are fitting:

The whole gospel is connected with it; if there is no truth in this, there is none in that. As the doctrine of the resurrection receives confirmation from the doctrines of personal election, the gift of the persons of the elect to Christ, the covenant of grace, redemption by Christ, union with him, and the sanctification of the Spirit, so these can have no subsistence without supposing that.

[1]All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version.

 [2] The sermons are available at http://www.pbministries.org/books/gill/Sermons&Tracts/sermon_87.htm

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,152 other followers