WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–The revealed, faithful Word of God should govern all Christian theology, speakers said at a 9Marks conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, in the second of a nine-year series on nine “marks” of a healthy church.
Seven hundred people attended the conference which focused on biblical theology, the second mark of a healthy church as set forth by 9Marks, a ministry led by Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C..
Dever, Daniel Akin, Thabiti Anyabwile, David Platt and Matt Chandler were the conference’s featured speakers at Southeastern’s Wake Forest, N.C., campus.
“Christ is the promise of the entire Bible. He is the promised redeemer,” Dever said in opening the Sept. 10-11 sessions with a message reflecting how God’s promises in the Old Testament provide the context for Christ and the New Testament, in pointing to Him as the fulfillment of everything God has said and promised to His covenant people.
“We have a faithful Word of God revealed to us,” Dever said. “We should believe it, we should trust it.”
Anyabwile, pastor of First Baptist Church on Grand Cayman Island, said the Word of God espouses a high view of God’s sovereignty, a key component of sound, robust biblical theology. People often think of themselves as having absolute liberty in all matters, including salvation, he said, with their first reaction to the doctrine of election as laid out in Romans 9 often being emotional, not intellectual.
“God’s purpose is not that our hearts would discolor his truth,” Anyabwile noted, “but that his truth would color our hearts.”
This truth, Anyabwile said, must be stated carefully, but it is nonetheless part of faithful preaching of Scripture. The purpose of election, in its fullness, is to demonstrate God’s own glory, Anyabwile reminded. “Election increases God’s glory, and the increase in glory should increase our affection for God,” he said.
Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., urged pastors and church members to heighten their affection for God by meditating on His holiness.
“We have an incomprehensibly great God,” Platt said. In a message from Isaiah 6 and Isaiah 53, he recounted how Isaiah recognized the holiness of God after the death of King Uzziah, when he saw the true King seated on the throne. Platt said the angels surrounding the throne of God burn for his holiness, continually crying out the only word they can to describe him — “holy.”
God’s holiness is starkly contrasted against man’s sinfully depraved nature, Platt said. Rather than seeing sin in light of its magnitude, however, it must be viewed in light of the holiness of the one against whom men have sinned, he said, noting, “If you sin against an infinitely holy God, you are infinitely guilty and deserve infinite destruction.”
But, Platt noted, there is a scandalously merciful Savior who, though his wrath is justly directed at depraved sinners, instead poured out his wrath on his Son in the place of sinners.
There is only one possible response to a God who says, “Your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for,” Platt said.
“Surely this kind of mercy evokes more than raising a hand and praying a prayer,” Platt said. “Surely this evokes urgent surrender of our lives — no matter where He calls and no matter how tough it is.”
Akin, president of Southeastern, said the wedding together of Christology and practical theology produces biblical theology, as seen in the text of Philippians 2.
Referencing numerous Old Testament texts, Akin showed how a solid, Christological foundation already was in place before the New Testament. The authors of the New Testament, however, consistently return to the portrait painted in the Old Testament texts, as can be seen in Philippians 2 as they show the mind of Christ, revealed in Old Testament Christology.
“[The Apostle] Paul is doing inner-canonical biblical theology to inform us who Christ is so we adopt and live out that mind [of Christ],” Akin said.
Systematic and biblical theology, then, must work together to show that an exalted God, Son, Man, who always is and always was, is sitting on the throne, Akin said. “There is nothing more relevant than biblical theology that exalts a great God, humbles sinners and glorifies the Lord,” he said.
Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, said when churches are based on a biblical theology, they cultivate a Gospel spirit. Chandler said he envisions the body of Christ cultivating a Gospel-breathed environment in which people see it’s OK to not be OK, but it is not OK to stay there.
Chandler spoke on the account of the Ephesian church throughout the New Testament, recognizing their doctrinal soundness, but also their loss of their first love.
The church at Ephesus, praised in Revelation as a faithful, patient and sound church, also is called out as one that has turned to another gospel and no longer recognized their sin, Chandler said. The church, which once freely confessed their wickedness and sinful hearts, lost their view of the Gospel and therefore, their power.
“I love the idea of Jesus being our advocate who takes away our sins,” Chandler said. “If the Ephesians would have grabbed hold of that, confession is a lot easier when you understand that Christ is for you, not against you.”
An environment of confession and repentance, Chandler said, creates an environment in which people see God as their advocate and recognize they can run to him when they fall, not away from him. This kind of church, where the Gospel is breathed in and out, is one in which sanctification occurs and Christ is exalted and celebrated as man’s only hope.
Adapted from a report by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.