LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–It almost seems too obvious to say that at the heart and center of Christian faith and practice is the great and glorious Triune God of Scripture. But sadly, I am afraid, we too often forget this “obvious” fact.
Living in a secular and pluralistic age has had more of an impact on us than we would like to believe. As David Wells has reminded us in his important work, No Place for Truth, what a secular and postmodern age often does to “God” is not to eliminate him, but rather to relocate him from the center of our lives to that which is periphery and inconsequential. Unfortunately, as Wells also demonstrates, this effect of living in a secular age is often true of the church as well.
But as Article 2 of the Baptist Faith and Message reminds us, this is something the God of the Bible will not allow. For when we turn to Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, we are presented with “the only one living and true God,” our Creator and Lord.
On every page, the God of majesty and glory confronts us as the one who will have no rivals, and as such, he rightly demands and deserves our “highest love, reverence and obedience.”
In this context, what a privilege it is to confess and affirm Article 2a of the BF&M — “God the Father.” For as the statement reminds us, the God of Scripture is a Triune God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — who may be distinguished by their personal properties.
But it is also a beautiful reminder that because of God’s gracious work of redemption in Christ, we may now “become children of God” and have the supreme joy of calling God our Father.
Think of it! We who were ruined by the Fall and we who rightly stood under God’s just condemnation are now, by grace “through faith in Jesus Christ,” able to address God as Father.
Of course, this incredible truth must be understood and appreciated within the context of a biblical understanding of God the Father. For if we make him less than he truly is and if we attempt to domesticate him in such a way that his authority, sovereign rule, knowledge and holiness are not what Scripture says they are, then I dare say that the truth that we are “children of God through faith in Jesus Christ” will ring hollow with us.
But if we keep before us the glorious God of Scripture, then the thought of being his children will move us today as it moved the Apostle John of old — “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are” (1 John 3:1a).
But it must be quickly added that this great privilege of knowing God as our Father is only found “through faith in Jesus Christ.”
The BF&M correctly notes that God, as providential Lord, is “fatherly in his attitude toward all men” (Matthew 5:43-48; Acts 14:15-17; Romans 2:1-4). For in God’s work of providence, he sustains and keeps the world that he has made, sending both rain and sunshine alike upon believer and unbeliever.
However, the great privilege of adoption is reserved only for those who have been joined to Jesus Christ by faith. Galatians 4:1-7 is very clear about this. For it is only when God the Son comes into the world and redeems us by his substitutionary work that we receive the blessing of adoption into the family of God as full sons and daughters of the King. On any other basis, there is no adoption into the family of God.
How should we live in light of this biblical teaching? I think there should be at least two responses. First, we need to recommit ourselves to knowing our great God and making him central in all of our thought and life. Our God deserves and demands nothing less. Second, we need to recommit ourselves to the faithful proclamation of the gospel, for it is only in Christ alone that people come to know God as Father.
What a privilege as well as an awesome task. May the Lord find us faithful in both.
Wellum is assistant professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Full text of Article 2: God
There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.
A. God the Father
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. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.
Genesis 1:1; 2:7; Exodus 3:14; 6:2-3; 15:11ff.; 20:1ff.; Leviticus 22:2; Deuteronomy 6:4; 32:6; 1 Chronicles 29:10; Psalm 19:1-3; Isaiah 43:3,15; 64:8; Jeremiah 10:10; 17:13; Matthew 6:9ff.; 7:11; 23:9; 28:19; Mark 1:9-11; John 4:24; 5:26; 14:6-13; 17:1-8; Acts 1:7; Romans 8:14-15; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 4:6; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 11:6; 12:9; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 John 5:7.
B. God the Son
Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One
Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.
Genesis 18:1ff.; Psalms 2:7ff.; 110:1ff.; Isaiah 7:14; 53; Matthew 1:18-23; 3:17; 8:29; 11:27; 14:33; 16:16,27; 17:5; 27; 28:1-6,19; Mark 1:1; 3:11; Luke 1:35; 4:41; 22:70; 24:46; John 1:1-18,29; 10:30,38; 11:25-27; 12:44-50; 14:7-11; 16:15-16,28; 17:1-5, 21-22; 20:1-20,28; Acts 1:9; 2:22-24; 7:55-56; 9:4-5,20; Romans 1:3-4; 3:23-26; 5:6-21; 8:1-3,34; 10:4; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:2; 8:6; 15:1-8,24-28; 2 Corinthians 5:19-21; 8:9; Galatians 4:4-5; Ephesians 1:20; 3:11; 4:7-10; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-22; 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 3:16; Titus 2:13-14; Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14-15; 7:14-28; 9:12-15,24-28; 12:2; 13:8; 1 Peter 2:21-25; 3:22; 1 John 1:7-9; 3:2; 4:14-15; 5:9; 2 John 7-9; Revelation 1:13-16; 5:9-14; 12:10-11; 13:8; 19:16.
C. God the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. Through illumination He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Saviour, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service.
Genesis 1:2; Judges 14:6; Job 26:13; Psalms 51:11; 139:7ff.; Isaiah 61:1-3; Joel 2:28-32; Matthew 1:18; 3:16; 4:1; 12:28-32; 28:19; Mark 1:10,12; Luke 1:35; 4:1,18-19; 11:13; 12:12; 24:49; John 4:24; 14:16-17,26; 15:26; 16:7-14; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4,38; 4:31; 5:3; 6:3; 7:55; 8:17,39; 10:44; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6; 19:1-6; Romans 8:9-11,14-16,26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14; 3:16; 12:3-11,13; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; 1 Timothy 3:16; 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:14; 3:16; Hebrews 9:8,14; 2 Peter 1:21; 1 John 4:13; 5:6-7; Revelation 1:10; 22:17.
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