NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–What does it mean to be made in God’s image? What is the free agency of man? What do Baptists believe about the social order? These and other topics are explored in “Baptist Doctrine Study 2008: The Baptist Faith & Message.”
Published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, the six-session study examines the foundational doctrines, or teachings, of the Baptist faith as reflected in the 21 articles of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
In addition to exploring such Christian doctrines as the doctrines of God, man, Christ, the Holy Spirit and the church, the BF&M study incorporates historical and contemporary illustrations and provides guided applications.
Three denominational leaders served as authors of the study: Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; and R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The first section of the doctrine study examines the Word of God. The first article of the Baptist Faith & Message outlines the specific doctrines of the Bible and proclaims the Bible to be a “perfect treasure of divine instruction.” The study explains that all Scripture, as God’s revelation of Himself to mankind, is trustworthy and stands as a testimony to Christ, who is Himself “the focus of divine revelation.”
SCRIPTURE IS DIVINE REVELATION
The doctrinal study shows how the Bible is authoritative, infallible, inerrant, sufficient and eternal.
“The Baptist Faith & Message does not begin with the Scriptures by mere accident or custom,” the authors of the study write, noting that all doctrines from the study are based on the Bible.
GOD IS INFINITE, HOLY
The second article in the Baptist Faith & Message outlines the doctrine of God, stating that there is only one living and true God who is “an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe.”
The Baptist Faith & Message explains that God reveals Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with “distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence or being.”
God is Triune and the doctrine of the Trinity stands as an essential principle of Christian truth. “Without this doctrine there is no true Christianity, for the Bible reveals that there is only one God and He is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” the authors write. “Biblical Christianity affirms one God in three persons.”
GOD THE FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT
The 2008 doctrinal study examines each aspect of the Trinity as mentioned in the Baptist Faith & Message.
“God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace,” the Baptist Faith & Message’s article 2A states. The doctrine study examines God’s providential hand as seen in His care and protection, His provision and His moral structure of the universe.
“God’s providence is seen in the unfolding purpose of God’s grace,” the authors write. “The record of history is a testimony to God’s purpose and providence.” The study describes the following attributes of God the Father: He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving and all-wise.
God also reveals Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. “The full deity and full humanity of Christ are fundamental to true Christianity,” the authors write. The doctrine study outlines the various aspects of Christ’s life, birth, death, resurrection, ascension and return, with a key aim of teaching participants how to confront false teachings with vigor and truth.
The authors also explain terms such as “incarnation,” “atonement,” “propitiation,” and “substitutionary.” Guided responses pose reflective application questions such as, “Why do you believe in the resurrection of Christ?”
“Heretics and false teachers have always directed their attacks on the doctrines most closely connected with Jesus Christ,” the authors explain. “We must be ready to defend the virgin birth of Christ, His full deity, His full humanity, His miraculous acts, His bodily resurrection, His victorious return, and the substitutionary character of His atonement –- as well as all the other biblical truths about Jesus Christ.”
Compromise on the doctrine of Christ, the authors write, will be fatal to a Christian’s witness and “subversive” to one’s faith.
The Holy Spirit is described as the “Spirit of God, fully divine.” The Holy Spirit exalts Christ and convicts men of sin. Article 2C in the Baptist Faith & Message states, “At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ.”
The authors recount the role of the Spirit in the creation of the Bible and how the Bible can simultaneously be the words of men and the Word of God.
” … [T]he Bible presents the process of inspiration -– verbal plenary inspiration -– as the Holy Spirit moving the human authors of Scripture to write exactly what He wanted them to write,” the authors explain. “At the same time, the words the human authors wrote were the very words they wanted to write. This is because the Holy Spirit works within believers to accomplish His sovereign purposes.”
The authors further note that the ministry of the Spirit includes convicting of sin, calling unbelievers to salvation, bringing regeneration, illuminating truth and sealing believers’ salvation.
MAN, THE IMAGE OF GOD
The study points out that both male and female were created in God’s image as written in Genesis 1:27. The authors note that the image of God in human beings refers to their intellectual and reasoning ability, their dominion over all creation and their spiritual capacity (ability to fellowship with God).
When tempted, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and fell from innocence into sin. Once Adam sinned, the authors write, all humanity came under the condemnation of sin.
“Only God’s plan of redemption allows us to have fellowship with God,” the authors note. “By God’s grace, demonstrated and made ours in Christ, we are restored to fellowship with God and are able to fulfill the purpose for which we were made.”
The doctrine of salvation, God’s purpose of grace and the church also are explored in the doctrine study. In the section on the church, the authors define the structure of the church and explain key terms like “bishop,” “elder,” “pastor,” and “deacon.”
The authors also write on baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Believers’ baptism by immersion in water, they note, pictures the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, providing “a beautiful picture of our salvation and reminding us of His saving work.”
Like baptism, the Lord’s Supper is symbolic. “Baptists believe the Lord’s Supper is not a sacrament but an ordinance,” the authors write. The elements of the Lord’s Supper symbolize Christ’s atoning work and are observed as a congregation.
“When the local church celebrates the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ even as we anticipate His return, when the church will celebrate the wedding supper of the Lamb,” the authors write. “Likewise, when the church celebrates baptism, we complete the picture Christ provided for us of a believer transformed by God’s grace and power.”
The doctrine study also addresses other aspects of the Baptist Faith & Message such as the Lord’s Day, the Kingdom, last things (eschatology), evangelism and missions education, and stewardship.
The study ends with chapters on cooperation, the Christian and the social order, peace and war, religious liberty and the family.
LifeWay publishes a Baptist doctrine study for adults every year. The Southern Baptist Convention designates a week in April as the Baptist Doctrine Study week on the denominational calendar. The 2008 week is April 13-17. Churches, of course, may conduct the study any time they choose. It also can be studied individually.
“Baptist Doctrine Study 2008: The Baptist Faith & Message” is available through customer service at www.lifeway.com and 1-800-458-2772 and from LifeWay Christian Stores at www.lifewaystores.com and 1-800-233-1123.