An Introductory study of
In the Form of a Catechism
W. R. Downing
A Ministry of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church
271 West Edmundson Avenue
Morgan Hill, CA 95037
Copyright © 2008 by W. R. Downing
Published by P.I.R.S. Publications
Scriptural quotations are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible or from a free translation by the author.
Cover Design: Paul S. Nelson. Cover Picture: St. Paul before the Areopagus by Raphael: Public Domain.
How to Study the Bible
The Believer and His Books
Historiography and Early Church History to 313 AD
The Bible and the Problem of Knowledge
Exegetical Handbook for Biblical Studies
Introductory Lessons in New Testament Greek
A Syllabus for an Introductory Study in Biblical Hebrew
A Biblical and Ecclesiastical Chronology
The New Testament Church
Lectures on Revivals of Religion
Lectures on Calvinism and Arminianism
A Church Membership Manual
This Catechism is an introductory study of Bible Doctrine. It is in the form of a catechism for the ease of study, organization of subjects and memorization. It is intended for use in our own assembly. We believe it advantageous for fathers to use in family worship, for Bible classes, home schooling classes, for older children to use, and for the use of all who would desire to obtain a basic grasp of Bible Doctrine. As such it is intended for daily reading
This is a Baptist Catechism. It is intended for our Baptist people. While we have much in common with other Christians, we also have our own distinctives which we hold to be scriptural. These are emphasized and detailed when necessary.
This is a Catechism with Commentary. The basic and salient issues under each heading are briefly explained and discussed in an orderly manner. As such, it becomes an introductory manual for doctrinal study.
It is our intention, should Divine providence provide the time and facility, to enlarge this introductory work into a much larger work which would make use of exegetical, historical and theological notes, studies and quotations from various authors.
May this elementary work prove, in the kind providence of God, to be both acceptable and useful among our Baptist people.
W. R. Downing
“Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons…the LORD said unto me…I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.” Deut. 4:9–10
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.” Deut. 6:4–9
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Tim. 3:16–17
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Tim. 2:15
“…ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Eph. 6:4
The English word “catechism” is derived from the Gk. verb katēchēo, “to resound, teach orally, instruct by mouth.” This term originally had the idea of “speaking down or from above” i.e., from actors on an elevated stage. It is a compound of the preposition kata, “down, throughout, thoroughly” and the verb ēchēo, “to sound,” the source of our English word, “echo.” There seems to be in this etymology the idea of a responsive answer. Catechizing has the connotation of thorough or repeated oral instruction, and is only one of several related terms for instruction or teaching found in Scripture. The term itself occurs eight times in the New Testament (twice as “informed” in Acts 21:21, 24, referring to word–of–mouth information):
“That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been catechized.” Luke 1:4.
“This man had been constantly catechized in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord...” Acts 18:25.
“And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being constantly catechized out of the law...” Romans 2:18.
“Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might catechize others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.” 1 Cor. 14:19.
“Let him who is being catechized in the word communicate unto him who catechizes in all good things.” Gal. 6:6.
(From the introduction to his own Baptist Catechism)
In matters of doctrine you will find orthodox congregations frequently changed to heterodoxy in the course of thirty or forty years, and that is because, too often, there has been no catechizing of the children in the essential doctrines of the Gospel. For my part, I am more and more persuaded that the study of a good scriptural catechism is of infinite value to our children....Even if the youngsters do not understand all the questions and answers....yet, abiding in their memories, it will be of infinite service when the time of understanding comes, to have known these very excellent, wise and judicious definitions of the things of God...It will be a blessing to them—the greatest of all blessing...a blessing in life and death, in time and eternity, the best of blessings God Himself can give….I am persuaded that the use of a good catechism in all our families will be a great safeguard against the increasing errors of the times, and therefore I have compiled this little manual...for the use of my own church and congregation. Those who use it in their families or classes must labour to explain the sense to the little ones; but the words should be carefully learned by heart, for they will be understood better as the child advances in years.
The practical use of this catechism may be summarized in the following considerations:
1. Catechizing is a scriptural practice. It is taught in both the Old and New Testaments by both precept and example.
2. Many may have a general knowledge of the Bible, but greatly lack in the ability to reason from the Scriptures in a doctrinally consistent fashion. We must know the Bible doctrinally and must know our doctrine biblically. Unless we arrive at a consistent doctrinal knowledge of the Scriptures, our knowledge of the Word of God is both deficient and defective. The use of a catechism leads one to think both scripturally and doctrinally. It is a very basic and necessary introduction to Bible doctrine and to elementary theology.
3. This is a catechism with a commentary. Such a work is meant to educate the entire family. Comments are meant for parents and older students as a means of educating themselves in basic Bible doctrine. The notes are meant to serve as a basis for family instruction and discussion of biblical truth.
4. Questions and answers are followed by one or more proof–texts, and should be memorized with the question and answer.
5. As to methodology, it is suggested that fathers instruct their children in the questions, answers and proof–texts, and then discuss the issues involved. Little children may be able only to memorize the questions and answers, while older children will be able to memorize one or more Scripture references. Those who are older can also begin to assimilate the issues involved.
OBJECTION ONE: Why, as Baptists, use a catechism? Do not catechisms belong only to the Romanists, Lutherans or Reformed Christians? We have only one creed—the Bible! We will not and cannot put any literature on par with the Scriptures, or add to the Word of God in any way.
1. Catechizing, or repetitive oral instruction is scriptural. It was given by Divine mandate in the Old Testament and is ratified in the New Testament by inspired Apostolic example.
2. This is not a question of adding something to Scripture, but rather the use of a necessary aid toward a comprehensive grasp of its doctrinal teaching. God made us rational, morally responsible beings, created in his image and likeness. We have been created with both the ability and necessity to organize. An orderly or systematic approach to Divine truth is a necessity, as seen in the necessary existence of doctrine and theology. Sadly, many who object to the use of a catechism turn rather to the very questionable use of other religious teaching materials which are either doctrinally shallow or unsound.
3. A catechism is an organized elementary approach to the truth of the Word of God. It is a primary introduction to the doctrinal teaching of Scripture.
4. There is a great need for all believers to have at least two types of knowledge concerning the truth of God: First, every young person should at least have a general acquaintance with Scripture. What many call “Bible Stories” gives the younger child a general knowledge of the Bible, its historical format, the basic principles of redemptive history and some knowledge about the various books of the Bible and their leading characters. Second, every young person should be taught to understand, think and reason doctrinally from the Scriptures. For centuries, this has been the purpose of a doctrinally–sound catechism. Catechizing ceased among our Baptist forefathers when they no longer emphasized their doctrinal distinctives and Confessions of Faith. In Sunday schools catechisms were replaced by “Quarterlies,” which have proven, we believe, to be vastly inferior.
5. Baptists used catechisms extensively and with much spiritual profit until the past century. This objection itself demonstrates the sad departure of some Baptists from their own doctrinal distinctives and practice, and the ignorance of some modern Baptists concerning their own history and spiritual heritage. Following are some of the more well–known catechisms written and used by Baptists:
· Henry Jessey, Particular Baptist, A Catechism for Babes, or Little Ones, 1652.
· Hercules Collins, Particular Baptist, The Orthodox Catechism (adapted from the Heidelberg Catechism), 1680.
· Thomas Grantham, General Baptist, St. Paul’s Catechism (based on the six principles of Hebrews 6), 1687.
· Benjamin Keach and William Collins, The Baptist Catechism, 1693.
· The Philadelphia Baptist Association of Particular Baptists published a catechism appended to their Philadelphia Confession of Faith, 1742.
· William Gadsby, Gospel Standard Baptist, published a catechism entitled The Things Most Surely Believed Among Us, 1809.
· C. H. Spurgeon published A Baptist Catechism (compiled from the Westminster Shorter Catechism and Keach’s Baptist Catechism), 1855.
· The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention published two catechisms: the first by J. P. Boyce, A Brief Catechism of Bible Doctrine (1864) and the second by John A. Broadus (1892). The latter work was jointly published by both the Southern Baptist Convention and the American Baptist Publication Society.
OBJECTION TWO: Have not catechisms introduced error into the thinking of many?
1. This may be true, but the fault lies not in the use of a catechism per se, but in unscriptural presuppositions and religious traditions which have been superimposed upon the Word of God.
2. A catechism is true and useful only as it accurately communicates the truth of Scripture.
3. Ideally, evangelizing through catechizing leads to a credible profession of faith.
4. A catechism should be a preservative of the truth and not an introduction into error. A given catechism is only as good, true or accurate as the doctrinal and theological presuppositions of its author[s]. As the very Word of God itself must be approached with consistent presuppositions, so must any religious literature, including a catechism.
1. There is always a danger in departing from Scripture in both doctrine and practice. This is true in any type of preaching or teaching.
2. The best preventive from such a departure has been the use of concise, comprehensive statements that accurately and consistently declare the truth of Scripture—Creeds, Confessions and Catechisms—if they are doctrinally sound and accurately reflect the teaching of Scripture.
3. There is a need for concise and consistent doctrinal or theological propositions and summaries. The word “form” in 2 Tim. 1:13 refers to a distinct outline or summary of Divine truth. A given theological proposition or statement is necessarily more concise than any given verse of Scripture because—if true or faithful to and consistent with the Word of God—it is based upon the analogy of faith [the total, self–consistent teaching of the Word of God as it bears upon any one given aspect of Divine truth], and not upon one or even several proof–texts.
1. This objection is based on a great and legitimate concern for the souls of children who might become mere professing Christians by simply memorizing and mouthing the truth without an inward work of saving grace.
2. This objection might equally be brought against having young, unconverted children read or memorize Scripture, learn to pray or sit under a consistent, educational preaching ministry.
3. Every legitimate avenue for the communication of Divine truth must be used for the conviction, conversion, edification and spiritual maturation of ourselves and our families. This includes every means of grace, both public and private—personal and family Bible reading and prayer, corporate worship, the public ministry of the Word, sanctified fellowship with the people of God and the reading of sound religious literature.
4. The primary instrument after the Scriptures should be the use of a sound catechism. This is in keeping with the principles of instruction Divinely commanded in Scripture. A catechism is meant to supplement and enforce, not replace, the primacy of the Word of God.
OBJECTION FIVE: The use of a catechism promotes the very dangerous practice of developing a “proof–text” mentality i.e., the danger of basing a doctrinal system on a comparatively few selected passages of Scripture, a method used by various cults and others which often produces both a misunderstanding and a misinterpretation of Scripture.
1. This objection is based in part upon the fallacy that the Word of God must declare a given doctrine repeatedly for it to be true. Once is sufficient, although no biblical truth stands on only one isolated text. The necessity for the repetition of any given aspect of Divine truth to establish its validity reveals a very defective view of both God and Scripture. Every statement of Scripture is both true and truth.
2. The truth of Scripture exists as a comprehensive, consistent, unified whole. While the catechism may only give a statement or two to verify the doctrinal teaching of Scripture—if these statements are clear and consistent with the “analogy of faith”—they form a scriptural basis for one’s faith. Very often in evangelistic testimony or in the rigorous exercise of evangelistic apologetics, a clear, sound statement from Scripture may be the only firm or possible foundation for discussion.
3. It is hardly possible that any catechism could or should exist without a given amount of explanation or the necessity for further study. The questions, answers and proof–texts of the catechism provide an introduction to the doctrinal teaching of Scripture, not the final and exhaustive word. The questions and answers necessarily arouse the curiosity of the young child or new convert and call for additional explanation and discussion.
The following questions and answers will serve to review and summarize the issues involved, and enforce the great need for the consistent use of a sound catechism.
1. The use of a catechism is scriptural in principle and is based upon the Divine mandate for biblical instruction in the Old Testament and also the inspired example of the New Testament (Deut. 4:9–10; 6:4–9; Lk. 1:4; Gal. 6:6; Eph. 6:1–4). The question–and–answer format of modern catechisms is incidental to the pervading scriptural principle of catechizing, which evidently consisted of repetitive oral instruction, commitment to memory and an oral response.
2. Everyone needs two types of biblical knowledge: first, everyone should at least have a general knowledge of the Bible, its historical format, the basic principles of redemptive history and some knowledge about the various books of the Bible, the historical circumstances of their writing and their leading characters. Second, everyone should be taught to understand, think and reason doctrinally from the Scriptures. Since Bible times, this has been the purpose of a doctrinally–sound catechism. These two types of knowledge—biblical and doctrinal—necessarily complement one another. Doctrinal truth is the message of the Bible, the very “soul” of Scripture.
3. The use of a catechism is the most concise and best method to instill Divine truth in the mind and heart and impress it upon the memory.
4. Catechisms can be written (and have been written) in such a way as to be adequate and appropriate for any given age or level of spiritual development.
· Little children can at least learn the questions and answers of a very simple catechism, and often begin to memorize at least one verse of Scripture with each set. Much must be done when the mind is young, prone to learn and absorb, and largely unoccupied with the issues of life.
· Older children and new converts can profit greatly from catechisms, which necessarily and naturally call for explanation and discussion.
· The very process of catechizing presupposes that those who catechize others have a sufficient foundation and maturity in the truth to explain from Scripture the truths declared in the catechism.
1. The catechism must be thoroughly scriptural in the formulation of its answers.
2. The proof–texts should clearly teach the truth pertaining to the given question and answer.
3. The doctrinal presuppositions of the catechism should be sound.
4. The questions and answers themselves must be suitable, i.e., of such a nature that they are neither too involved nor complex to be memorized nor too simple to be useful to those who are older. Certain catechisms are better suited to little children; others are more suitable for older children and adults. Some questions necessitate extended answers to adequately convey the truth. Some of the answers in this catechism are necessarily lengthy.
1. To instruct in the essentials of the Christian faith. The issue is truth—Divine truth! We must do everything we can to impress this truth upon the mind and heart of both the saved and unsaved, and especially our children. There are two issues: first, every child and new convert must be instructed in the basics or essentials of the Christian faith as thoroughly as possible (3 Jn. 4). Second, every Christian must seek to become both a Bible student and a theologian (2 Tim. 3:16–17; Heb. 5:11–14; 2 Pet. 3:18).
2. To impress Divine truth upon the heart and mind. The conciseness of the catechism as a series of clear doctrinal statements derived from Scripture, is calculated to instill the truth into the thinking process and impress it upon the mind and into the heart. Unless doctrinal truth is carefully and scripturally contemplated, it is never truly and fully grasped, adequately embraced or practically implemented in the life (Psa. 119:11).
3. To evangelize the unconverted. Christian parents catechizing their children is the very best means of truly evangelizing them in a consistent and balanced way. Their minds must deal with truth and their consciences may be probed in the context of the whole counsel of God. In later years the truth may be brought home to the conscience through the remembrance of such instruction (Eph. 6:1–4; 2 Tim. 3:15).
4. To prepare for the public ministry of the Word. The public preaching of the Word of God must touch upon a variety of issues—the truth of the Gospel, a Christian world–and–life view, the whole range of Christian doctrine and its application to the life of the church and the individual, the Christian family, the Christian’s relation to the unregenerate society in which he lives and the varieties of Christian experience. Catechizing necessarily prepares parents, children and young converts for the ministry of the Word by instilling in them a God–consciousness, enabling them to begin to think consistently from the Scriptures, giving them a basic understanding of scriptural and doctrinal truths, and acquainting them with doctrinal and theological terminology (2 Tim. 1:13; 2:2)
5. To act as a preventative from error and heresy. The best preventative from error and heresy is the Word of God rightly [correctly or consistently] understood. The catechism is a concise and exact statement of the Word of God in its doctrinal expression (Eph. 4:11–16; 2 Tim. 4:1–5; 2 Pet. 3:16–18).
6. To act as a preventative from spiritual decay. The true knowledge of the Scriptures is necessarily a consistent [and therefore non–contradictory] knowledge of its doctrinal teaching. The use of a catechism as a concise, logical, systematic approach to Divine truth should refresh the mind and heart and quicken one’s zeal. There is a necessary and immediate relation between truth and the conscience and between truth and zeal—if the Spirit and grace of God are present (Heb. 5:10–14; 2 Pet. 3:16–18).
7. To edify believers of all ages and levels of spiritual maturity. Everyone without exception will profit from the use of a catechism. Little children and new converts will be consistently instructed in the faith, mature believers should be refreshed and quickened by the reiteration of truth and aged believers should be sustained and enlivened by the immutable truth set forth from the Scriptures.
8. To review the essence of Christian doctrine. The scope of its teaching and the conciseness of its answers make a catechism a primary source for a review of any aspect of doctrinal truth simply, concisely and scripturally stated.
9. To provide a great and necessary help in defending the faith. The conciseness of the catechism in expressing doctrinal truth, and the memorization of the proof–texts, provide the essentials necessary for defending the faith or explaining it to others clearly and scripturally (2 Cor. 10:3–5; 1 Pet. 3:15; Jude 3).
ANSWER: The time and effort spent on the use of a catechism should be as much as or more than the time and effort spent on any other discipline. Much time may be given to sporting events to develop necessary motor and social skills, but what good do these do for the soul? Catechizing is for both time and eternity. As the study of mathematics, history, the basic use of hand or mechanical tools, and the general acquisition of skills are deemed necessary for the education of the child, so time and effort must be expended to instruct the mind and heart and thus reach the soul. What instruction is more important than that of Divine truth? What skill is more important or lasting than that of understanding the doctrinal teaching of the Scriptures?
ANSWER: Everyone should greatly benefit from the use of a catechism:
1. Little children, who need to be instructed in the basic teachings of Scripture for the good of their own souls and their salvation, and to prepare them to sit under the preaching of the Gospel in an intelligent manner.
2. Older children and young adults, who need to know the truth of God’s Word and the way of salvation.
3. New converts, who need to be confirmed in the faith through basic instruction in doctrinal truth.
4. Mature believers, who need to have a comprehensive knowledge of the truth in order to both live consistently and intelligently in the faith and also to instruct others in Divine things.
5. Elders, ministers and teachers, who must not only be firmly grounded in the faith, but must teach and minister to others also on their respective levels. A review of a catechism on essential doctrinal points should be an essential part of sermon preparation.
6. The unconverted of any and all ages. In the catechism they will find the truth scripturally, simply and consistently explained. Such will certainly work to their understanding of the preaching, and may work to their conviction of sin and intelligently closing with Christ in saving faith.
1. An immediate or primary value. This consists in the inculcation of Divine truth into the mind or heart, and through this, to the conscience and the life. To the unsaved, it provides a scriptural basis for the truth of the Gospel and the hope of salvation. To the saved, it builds a solid scriptural and doctrinal foundation for all of life.
2. An ultimate or secondary value. The catechism will to a given degree mark the person for life, whether saved or unsaved. The truth once committed to the memory will find its mark in instilling a God–consciousness, awakening the conscience and providing a scriptural sense of right and wrong.
What a different situation would exist today in our families and in society in general if most had been instructed in a sound catechism! What a different moral climate would prevail, what a blessed point–of–contact with the truth of the Gospel would have already been implanted in the mind and heart. Today we live in an openly secularized society where many men and women have no belief in God or concept of the truth whatsoever. Nothing exists in their hearts or minds to prevent their downward plunge into wickedness and immorality. At one time the necessary spiritual and moral barriers were erected and enforced by the use of a sound catechism in much of society.
What of the present lack of or even disdain for doctrinal truth among professing Christians? A true and complete knowledge of the Scriptures is a doctrinal knowledge. Unless we arrive at a doctrinal knowledge of Scripture, our knowledge will necessarily remain to a given extent partial, inadequate and often quite inconsistent. We must know the Bible doctrinally and we must know our doctrine biblically. This is the goal of catechizing.
And what of our churches? The present trend toward mere tradition, worldliness, subjectivism and irrationalism is largely the result of the awful absence of truth—truth believed and inculcated through preaching and the use of a sound catechism. What a difference would be seen in our churches today if our fathers had been faithful in catechizing this present generation! In an age which questions all authority, challenges the veracity of Scripture and largely refuses to hear authoritative biblical preaching from the pulpit, a solid scriptural and doctrinal foundation is sorely needed. What a difference will be seen if we ourselves reverse this sad departure from the scriptural practice and begin to systematically, lovingly and patiently instruct and indoctrinate this generation! Would not this in itself be a true revival?
The study of Divine things in general is termed “Theology,” from the Gk. Theos, “God,” and logos or logia, “word, study or doctrine of.” The doctrine of man is called “Anthropology,” from the Gk. anthropos. Literally everything is determined by one’s doctrine of God as revealed through Scripture. It is of the utmost importance to be both scriptural and prayerful in such study.
2 Tim. 3:16–17. 16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Matt. 4:4. …It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
See also: Gen. 2:17–19; 3:1–12; Deut. 8:3; Heb. 1:1–3; 2 Pet. 1:20–21; 3:15–16.
Some catechisms and works on theology begin with God and then reason to the Scriptures as a necessary revelation of and from God. This is a philosophical approach. We must begin with the Scriptures. The Bible alone is objective, inscripturated truth (2 Tim. 3:16–17). This should ensure that our thinking will remain scriptural rather than philosophical in both consistency and in our approach to Divine realities.
The Bible is our sole rule of both faith [belief, doctrine] and practice [life]. The Scripture is our one objective source of truth and knowledge, and our standard for proper living because it is the very Word of God inscripturated [written down]. See Questions 7, 9 and 10. It is through the Scriptures that we have a true knowledge of God, ourselves and universe about us. We may know much about God from his creation (Rom. 1:18–20) and from our own instinctive thought–process, as we have been created in God’s image and likeness [natural revelation]. But God’s moral self–consistency [his absolutely righteous character], his redemptive love, his grace and mercy, and other necessary moral characteristics can be known only through the redemptive history inscripturated in his Word [special revelation]. See Question 5. It is in the Scriptures alone that we find salvation from sin, hope of deliverance in the active and passive obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ; true, objective reconciliation with God, and the certainty of hope for the future. Nature may cheer us with its beauties and wonders; we may have high and lofty thoughts in our imaginations, but only in the Scriptures do we find the heart of God revealed and discover the glory and sweetness of the gospel.
Further, we must understand that the Fall has affected the thought–processes of man, and his perception of spiritual realities is either very limited or distorted by sin [the noetic effects of sin, from the Gk. noeō, “to perceive, understand.” Fallen man’s intellectual and moral thought–process and judgment have been crippled by the Fall. Cf. Rom. 1:21–25; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 4:17–19]. See Questions 37 and 38. Thus, natural revelation [God revealed through his creation] becomes distorted through a fallen and sinful perspective. Finally, what truth man does know through natural revelation to any extent [sufficient to hold him inexcusable], he seeks to suppress, as it aggravates his mind, convicts his conscience and sets itself against his natural and sinful presuppositions (Rom. 1:18–20). See Question 10. The Scripture does not reveal everything (Deut. 29:29), but it does reveal sufficiently what we need to know: that we are sinners before God, how to have forgiveness of sins, how be reconciled to God through the Lord Jesus Christ, how to live acceptably before him in this life and prepare ourselves for eternity. It is through the Scriptures alone that we have a consistent Theistic Christian world–and–life view, a valid Christian experience and a transcendent, yet practical faith. See Question 121.
Believing that the Bible is the very Word of God inscripturated is not merely theoretical or abstract. It is the substance of a living faith which rests in the truth of God’s Word regardless of circumstances. Such belief is not mere fideism [a bare irrational faith]. Our faith is grounded in the rational Word of an intelligent, self–revealing God. The witness of the Holy Spirit authenticates this Word to the mind, heart and soul of the believer. Its commandments, prophecies, warnings and promises are wholly and infallibly true. The Scriptures are therefore to form the very fabric of our lives. See Question 10.
Many may disavow Christianity because they cannot believe in the miraculous, or presume that there are inconsistencies in the Christian system. These object to the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Virgin Birth, the vicarious nature of our Lord’s death or to the resurrection, etc. These are thought to be unreasonable, i.e., contrary to reason. Such realities are never the real issue. The primary issue is that God has spoken plainly and with absolute authority to man (Heb. 1:1–2), and this record has been inscripturated. This Divine revelation in written form continues with full authority [the meaning of “it is written” (Gk. gegraptai, perfect tense) is “It stands written with undiminishing authority”]. The real issue is ever the veracity of God in and through the Bible. The Scriptures are his Word, and we are either obedient or disobedient to him and to them. See Part II.
Do the Scriptures have their proper place in our lives? Do our lives reflect their guidance and transforming power? Do we love and obey God as revealed in his Word?
1 Cor. 10:31. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
Rev. 4:11. Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
See also: 1 Chron. 29:10–14; Eccl. 7:29; 12:13–14.
This universe and everything and everyone in it exist for the good pleasure and glory of God. Man is the image–bearer of God, created like him and for him (Gen. 1:26–28). Man was created originally righteous to find meaning and fulfillment in serving God and enjoying his fellowship (Eccl. 7:29). See Question 33. The first man, Adam, was created to “think God’s thoughts after him,” i.e., to give the same meaning to everything which God had given to it by virtue of his creative act. See Question 31. In the context of primeval, unfallen creation, nothing more could be added to the joy and fulfillment of the first pair. However, in Adam the human race fell from its original righteousness and became intellectually incapacitated, morally depraved and sinfully empirical (Gen. 3:1–8; Rom. 1:18–25; 5:12; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 4:13–17). See Questions 34, 37 and 38. Salvation in time and human history is the redemption of the Divine image in man (Rom. 8:29). This necessitated the incarnation, humiliation and exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:5–11), and the union of believers with and in Christ (Rom. 6:1–14; 8:28–39; Col. 3:1–4). See Question 125. Ultimately, every Divine attribute will be glorified, either in the judgment or redemption of man and the universe (2 Pet. 3:7–13).
The nature and character of God revealed in Scripture form the basis for all truth, knowledge, hope and confidence for the believer. We trust God and rest in him by faith, not because of what he has done, does, or might do for us, to us or through us, but rather because of who and what he is, i.e., faith rests in God’s Person, not merely in his actions. We only find meaning and fulfillment when we do so in the context of the true enjoyment and glory of God.
Have you found the chief end of man? Are you realizing why God created you and situated you at this point of time in history? Is the glory of God your constant and highest aim? Do you find enjoyment in your relationship to the Most High?
Psa 29:2. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
Psa. 73:25–26. 25Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. 26My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
Psa. 96:9. O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.
Prov. 1:7. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Prov. 9:10. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
Jn. 17:3. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
1 Cor. 10:31. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
See also: Rom. 1:18–32; 11:33–36; Acts 17:27; Eph. 4:17–19.
There are various approaches to the belief or disbelief in God. No belief–system is simply neutral; each carries with it necessary theological, moral and ethical implications. These implications have been and are seen throughout the history of mankind and in its various cultures and societies. Every religion, therefore, has a corresponding world–and–life view.
Theism is the belief in a god or gods. Atheism is the disbelief in God or gods. Atheism, as held by modern, secularized man, presupposes evolution, chance and fate. Deism is the rationalistic idea that God is an absolute personal being and creator of the universe, but that he has neither revealed himself nor is involved in the events of nature, history or the human drama. Thus, man need not fear God or retribution. Polytheism is the belief in many gods. Polytheism cannot bring all the Divine characteristics into one being. Skepticism, denying Divine revelation, believes that reason cannot prove the existence of God. Pantheism holds that God is identical with creation. It is the denial of the personality of God, and thus of any accountability to God. Panentheism provides a philosophical basis for open theism or Process Theology. God is identified with the universe, but he is more than the universe. He is the eternal mind of which the universe is the body, as it were. Both God and the universe are in the process of expanding; the future is unknown. Religious Pluralism, characteristic of postmodern philosophy, is the idea that all religions have some good, and men may have a meaningful relationship with God through various religious paths. These various views all lack a definitive, revealed source, a self–attesting Divine revelation—and thus a sufficient epistemological base [source of truth and knowledge].
Biblical Christianity is not merely theistic, i.e., it does not simply believe in the existence of a God. Biblical Christianity holds to Christian Theism, which necessarily means the triune, self–disclosing God who has revealed himself in creation, providence, history, his inscripturated Word and in the Lord Jesus Christ. Only Christian Theism possesses the sufficient basis, as revealed religion, to provide a coherent system of truth, theology, creation, history, morality and ethics—an inclusive world–and–life view. See Questions 120–123. Christian Theism as a belief–system holds that the triune God has revealed himself, that he is the one Great Object of knowledge, and that having a right relationship to him through the Person and work of his Son leads to the highest meaning and fulfillment.
The triune, self–disclosing God of Scripture is the source of all true knowledge. Man, as a created being, must find the source of truth and knowledge outside himself. Thus, man is by necessity a creature of faith. Although modern man would fain consider himself to be scientific and empirical in his epistemology [science of knowledge and truth–claims], he is necessarily brought to a principle of faith, and therefore a presuppositional stance for what he considers to be true and truth. As the image–bearer of God, man must find meaning—truth and knowledge—in his Creator. See Questions 31, 120 and 121. For man to truly know himself, he must, as the image–bearer of God, begin with God.
God is the Creator, Sustainer and Governor of the created universe, and his laws reign in every sphere—spiritual, moral and physical (Rom. 11:36). To know God is to possess true knowledge; to suppress the knowledge of God is to deny the possibility of truth, knowledge and reality. To have a right relationship with God in the context of his Law–Word, i.e., to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ by faith, is to truly know him and thus to possess the only correct and consistent basis for truly understanding anything or all things. To have a right relationship to God through the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ is to find forgiveness, reconciliation, peace and communion—and thus communion with and enjoyment in God (Rom. 3:21–26; 5:1–2; 1 Jn. 1:3–7).
For believers, the inscripturated Word of God constitutes our sole rule of both faith and practice. Under the sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18; Acts 2:36), this Word is to govern every sphere of life—the spiritual, religious, moral, ethical, social, political and physical realms. Jesus Christ is the sovereign Lord of this universe and his Word is the believer’s law. The totalitarian claims of Christ Jesus as sovereign Lord must be believed, loved, joyfully obeyed, declared and defended in every sphere of human existence.
As The Lord God is Creator, Possessor and Sovereign Ruler of heaven and earth, as every fact is a created fact and as we are to do all for the glory of God, there is nothing which is secular; all is ultimately sacred. Thus, everything in our thinking, speaking and acting is ultimately a form of worship—or ought to be. Formal worship, either private or public, must reflect the character of God; it is to be holy, righteous, reverent, joyful and God–honoring i.e., worship must be theocentric [God–centered] and not anthropocentric [man–centered]. True worship is to be regulated by the Word of God, not the innovation of man. Worship and entertainment are mutually exclusive. Much of contemporary “worship” is neither worthy of the name nor glorifying to the God of Scripture. See Questions 144 and 151.
True spirituality is essentially intellectual, as one must apprehend and come to terms with the inscripturated truth of God in order to comply with the gospel and consistently apply this truth to the life and experience. There is no place for an irrational religion. An intelligent faith, which is grounded in Scripture, gives the proper and sufficient basis to feeling. Truth and the emotions are inherently related. The former is to serve as the basis for the latter or religion would become irrational and inconsistent. See Question 7. Do you know God? Do you enjoy him as he has revealed himself to you in his Word? Is your worship God–honoring? Does it reflect his holy, righteous character?
Job 11:7. Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?
Psa. 19:1–3. 1The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. 2Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. 3There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
Acts 17:27–28. 27That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 28For in him we live, and move, and have our being...
See also: Gen. 1:1; Jn. 1:9, 18; Rom. 1:18–25; 2:14–16; Col. 2: 9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb.1:1–3.
God is our Creator; we are his creatures. The Scriptures are careful to maintain this Creator–creature distinction and relation. Therefore we can only know him as he is pleased to reveal himself to us. He is infinite; we are finite. He is absolute [self–existent and without any external limitations]; we are relative [dependent upon God and outward circumstances for our existence and meaning]. We are not only limited by our creatureliness, but also by the intellectual consequences [noetic effects] of sin (Rom. 1:18–25; 1 Cor. 2:14).
God has revealed himself to us in various ways. These ways are progressive in nature and history: first, God has revealed himself to us through the light of nature. Man is the image–bearer of God, and possesses an instinct for the Divine. The noetic effects of sin have dulled and distorted this. Man by nature is incurably religious, but lacks both the ability and motivation to seek God aright (Acts 17:22–31). He is “epistemologically bankrupt,” i.e., sinfully futile in his incapacitated reasoning and suppresses what truth he does know, as his inner being is “darkened” (Rom. 1:18–25; Eph. 4:17–19). Second, God has revealed himself in and through his creation to the extent that fallen man is inexcusable, although he suppresses this witness (Rom. 1:18–20). See Question 10. Third, God has revealed himself through his providential dealings in history, but man interprets such superstitiously from his own presuppositions in terms of chance, fate or luck, not giving glory to God (Rom. 1:21–25; 2 Pet. 3:3–6). See Question 35. Fourth, God has revealed himself through his Word. This revelation has been inscripturated and preserved (Jn. 17:17; 1 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20–21). It remains for all time as a witness to God’s nature, character, purpose and veracity. In the Scriptures alone is the message of salvation and reconciliation. Finally, God has revealed himself in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, his eternal Son and the only Redeemer (Jn. 1:14, 18; Phil. 2:5–11; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:1–4). See Questions 25, 70–75.
It is through the Scriptures that we may know God, ourselves, understand the world about us, and have a definite and authoritative revelation concerning salvation from sin, righteous living, human history and our own destiny. Do you know him? Do you know him and yourself as revealed in his Word? Do you know him savingly in the Lord Jesus?
Matt. 4:4. But he [Jesus] answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Gen. 2:16–17. 16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
See also: Gen. 1:28–29; Psa. 19:1–14; Rom. 1:18–20; Heb. 1:1–3.
General revelation includes the light of nature, creation and the works of providence. Special revelation is spoken directly from God for us to understand. Man was neither meant to live apart from nor has ever been without a direct and understandable Word from God. Even unfallen Adam in the Garden of Eden had a direct Word from God to govern his life and actions (Gen. 2:15–17). No one can simply and fully understand the truth of God from nature (Rom. 1:18–20) or from his own thinking or feelings. Natural revelation is insufficient of itself, although it is sufficient to leave man inexcusable as to the reality and power of God. Philosophy begins with man and his search for the ultimate; Scripture is a direct revelation from God. Conscience alone is not a safe or infallible guide, as man is a sinful, fallen being (Acts 26:9; Rom. 1:18–32). The conscience must be subject to the Word and Spirit of God (Rom. 9:1). See Question 10.
Man was created “to think God’s thoughts after him,” i.e., to give the same meaning to everything which God had given to it. This was necessary because man was a creature and was placed in a world which had already been created and defined by God. Man was created and continues as a creature of faith because the source of truth and knowledge remains external to himself. Even those who do not acknowledge God or his Word are creatures of faith; this is unavoidable. Man by nature must believe. He must believe in someone or something. At the very root of his being, every person is a creature of faith, and presupposes or assumes such when he seeks to interpret any fact or to reason about any issue. Behind rationalism, empiricism [the modern scientific method] or intuition, man still posits his approach by faith in something or someone. He remains by nature a presuppositionalist.
The Word that God has given to man is intelligent, comprehensible and perpetual. God gave his Word to be understood and obeyed. His Word stands forever—it never diminishes in its authority. Although God gave his Word thousands of years ago, it is as full and authoritative as though he has just spoken it. Note the words, “It is written,” when the New Testament refers to the Old Testament Scriptures. The inscripturated Word of God stands forever with full authority. Do you know God through both natural and special revelation?
2 Tim. 3:16–17. 16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Matt. 4:4. But he [Jesus] answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
See also: Psa. 1:1–3; 19:7–14; 1 Cor. 10:31; 2 Tim. 3:15–17; 1 Jn. 5:13.
Apart from the Scriptures, our knowledge of God, ourselves and the world about us would be seriously, even fatally defective. Natural intuition, speculation and reason prove both insufficient and misleading because of the noetic effects of sin and natural disinclination toward God (Rom. 1:18–32; 8:7; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 4:17–19). Religious experience, no matter how fervent or emotional, would be without a necessary stabilizing foundation in Divine revelation. We both need and have a direct, intelligent and sufficient word from God.
The opening statement of Scripture, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1) is determining for all which follows throughout Divine, inscripturated revelation. This statement is presuppositional concerning the existence of God, his absolute sovereignty, the eternal Creator–creature relation and distinction, and the truth that every fact is a created fact, i.e., there are no “brute” [undefined or uncreated] facts in the universe. See Question 30.
Because man is made in the image and likeness of God, he can only truly know himself by beginning with a study of God. God can only truly and adequately be known as he has been pleased to reveal himself in his inscripturated Word. Thus, the Scriptures reveal to us who God is, who we are, what occurred in the Fall, how we are to be reconciled to him, live for him and anticipate being forever with him. The Scriptures reveal all that is necessary for us to live godly in this life and to prepare for eternity. Thus, Scripture is to be our sole rule of both faith [what we believe] and practice [how we are to live]. From the Word of God we are to find and implement a Christian Theistic world–and–life view or biblical and comprehensive philosophy of life which is godly and consistent. See Questions 120–123. Are you reconciled to the God who has revealed himself in his Word? Do you seek to align your life to His truth?
The doctrinal study of the Scriptures is termed “Bibliology,” from the Gk. biblos, “book,” which is the first word in the Greek New Testament. In this day, when the Scriptures are assailed as to their Divine inspiration and authority, it must be understood that the Bible is our only objective truth; everything else is subjective and subject to misunderstanding or change.
2 Tim. 3:16–17. 16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
See also: Ex. 17:14; 24:12; 31:18; Lk. 24:25–27, 45–47; Jn. 5:45–47; Heb. 1:1–3; 2 Pet. 1:20–21; 3:15–16.
The word “Bible” derives from the Gk. word for “book.” It occurs as the first word of the Greek New Testament: “The book [biblos] of the generation of Jesus Christ...” (Matt. 1:1). It is from this occurrence that we have our English word “Bible,” which now refers to all of the written Word of God. The Bible is both a book and a library of sixty–six books which comprise the canon of Scripture. The Scriptures form a unified, non–contradictory [coherent] whole as the very Word of the living God inscripturated [preserved in written form].
The Bible is also known as “Scripture,” or “The Scriptures.” The word means “writings” [Gk. graphai] and refers especially to the Word of God in written form—the Word of God inscripturated and preserved for us. The formula found seventy–one times in the New Testament, “It is written,” means that it stands written with full and undiminishing authority.
The Christian life is comprised of two aspects, objective and subjective. The objective is revealed in the truth of Scripture as the standard of belief and conduct; the subjective aspect is our personal experience, which ought to derive from and reflect the objective aspect. Apart from Scripture, we would be left entirely with the subjective aspect. All would necessarily become relativistic (no final, authoritative word, except the strength of individual experience), empirical (all judgment would be based on experience alone), existential (completely subjective and tending toward irrationalism or emotionalism) and pragmatic (whatever seemed to work best would be right). Thus, the most emotional or mystical would be the most spiritual, and the strongest or most persistent personalities would determine the direction of Christianity. The only safeguard for such deviations is the inscripturated Word of God rightly understood and correctly interpreted (Psa. 119:105; Isa. 8:20; Jn. 17:17; 2 Tim. 2:15).
The end of all Bible study is doctrinal truth. One simply does not know the Scriptures until he consistently arrives at their doctrinal teaching, and conversely, no one knows Christian Doctrine as he should, unless he understands it biblically. It is the doctrinal teaching of Scripture that is to govern our thinking, guide our lives and rule over our emotions.
Some might object to an “intellectual” Christianity, preferring a more simplistic or “devotional” approach, not realizing that the devotional—if legitimate at all—must derive from the doctrinal, and the doctrinal from the hermeneutical, and the hermeneutical from the exegetical [exact reading of the text]. Many seem to want a “heart” and not a “head” religion, which often becomes a misplaced zeal without adequate knowledge. Irrationality is not spirituality, nor is feeling the proper basis for faith or practice. We must understand that ignorance of Divine truth, religious irrationalism, and an aversion to doctrine, serious study and learning, are neither Christian virtues nor characteristics to be emulated.
As God made man with both a heart and a brain, and made him upright with his brain above his heart, we prefer a necessary balance as reflecting the Divine design. Emotions are to be responsive to Divine truth, never causative. Did not the Apostle Paul write to one of his most beloved churches, “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all discernment, in order that ye may approve on examination things which differ…” (Phil. 1:9–10) And to another assembly: “I….cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him…” (Eph. 1:15–17). And did not the Apostle Peter close his last epistle with the words, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (2 Pet. 3:18)?
Why study the Bible? The following are the main correct reasons: to glorify God, to commune with Christ, to know the will of God, to be obedient to God, to grow toward spiritual maturity, to further our sanctification, to prepare for the ministry of the Word, to understand the purpose and retain the purity of the church, to edify others, to evangelize the unconverted, to intelligently defend the faith and to prepare for eternity. Are you a lover and student of the Bible?
If the Bible is the very Word of God preserved in written form [inscripturated]—and it is—then there are certain things that are necessarily true: The Bible is the inspired Word of God, not merely the work or words of men. Because the Bible is the very Word of God, it is authoritative—the very highest authority. As the very Word of God inscripturated, it is infallible—incapable of error and without deceit. As the inspired, authoritative, infallible Word of God inscripturated, it is necessarily inerrant or without error and wholly true in every respect. Because the Bible is the very Word of God and completely trustworthy in every respect, it is sufficient as our only rule of both faith [what we are to believe] and practice [how we are to live]. God has seen fit to authenticate and preserve certain books and no others. Together these form the canon or body of Divine truth we call “the Bible” or “the Scriptures.” The process by which only these certain books were duly recognized is called the canonization of Scripture.
The very nature of Divine inspiration, authority, infallibility and inerrancy necessarily determines the preservation of the Scriptures throughout the ages in the original languages as the very Word of God.
There are three further, important terms with which one ought to be familiar: exegesis, hermeneutics and application. Exegesis [to bring out the significance of the text (word meaning, grammar and syntax) in the original language] pertains to the reading of the text, i.e., it answers the question, “What does the text say?” Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation. It answers the question, “What does the text mean?” (Lk. 10:26). Application refers to the text of Scripture as it may be applied to a given situation: “How does or can this passage legitimately be applied to our modern era and situation?” Application derives from interpretation. A necessary distinction must be made between interpretation and application. If these are confused, then one may believe that the application is the interpretation, and thus be removed from truly understanding a given passage. Some preaching violates this principle and leads to misunderstanding and confusion.
2 Tim. 3:16. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
2 Pet. 1:20–21. 20Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
See also: Isa. 8:20; 1 Cor. 2:9–14; Heb. 1:1–3.
The term inspiration derives from the Lat. inspiro, “to breathe into,” referring to the human authors. The actual issue, however, is that the Scriptures themselves are “God–spirated,” i.e., God–breathed [theopneustos] (2 Tim. 3:16).
The great truth of Divine revelation is that God has spoken to men (Heb. 1:1–3). He has not only spoken to men, but he has spoken in understandable terms. The great truth of inspiration is that this revelation is preserved and protected as the very Word of God inscripturated. Inspiration is the supernatural influence exerted on the sacred writers by the Spirit of God, by virtue of which their writings are the very Word of God. Thus, Divine inspiration extends to the very writings themselves. Any view of Divine inspiration which does not pertain to the very text itself as inspired, is both inadequate and defective. Inspiration is thus both verbal [extending to the very words, and therefore to the nuances of grammar and syntax in the original languages] and plenary [full or equal throughout].
There is a distinct difference between a translation and a version. The plethora of modern versions makes this discussion necessary. A strict translation begins with the original language and, while expressing itself in another language, keeps as closely as possible to the text in the original language with its grammatical intricacies, syntax and idioms—even to the sacrifice of style. A version differs from a translation in that it is a version of a previous translation in a second language, uses the grammar, syntax and idioms of that second language and makes much greater allowances for smoothness of reading and expression of thought. In short, a translation holds more closely the original language while a version holds more closely to the second language. To the extent that a given translation or version expresses the thought and truth of the original language, such a translation or version is the authoritative Word of God. This necessarily takes into consideration the idiomatic expressions of a language, the incapacity of some secondary languages to express the fullness of the original, and a determined faithfulness to the grammar, syntax, context and theology of the text.
Many modern “versions” are wholly inadequate, as they are not based on any given text, but are in reality paraphrases, and some have actually changed the meaning of the text and so altered its doctrinal teaching. There is no substitute for a knowledge and study of the original languages.
The Divine inspiration of Scripture is the primary presupposition of Christianity. It is Divinely revealed religion and thus stands unique among the religions of the world. The Scriptures are then the pou sto [Lit: “a place where I may stand”] or point–of–reference for the Christian. Biblical Christianity is Christian Theism, i.e., the truth of the triune, self–disclosing God of Scripture. All subsequent faith [what is to be believed] and practice [how we are to live] derive from this truth. The Scriptures are thus our only rule of both faith and practice. How vitally important it is then both to know them and to correctly interpret them. Is Scripture your rule of faith and practice?
Matt. 4:4. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
2 Tim. 3:16–17. 16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
See also: 2 Cor. 10:4–5; Heb. 1:1–2; 1 Pet. 3:15; 2 Pet. 1:20–21.
The term “authority” derives from the Latin auctor, “originator” or “author.” The authority of Scripture derives from the self–disclosing or self–revealing triune God of Scripture. The Bible is the authoritative Word of God because it is just that—the very Word of God inscripturated. Man as the image–bearer of God is Divinely and instinctively preconditioned to receive authoritative Divine revelation both in creation [natural revelation] and in God’s Word [special revelation] (Psa. 19:1–6; Jn. 14:6; Rom. 1:18–20; Col. 2:3; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; 2 Pet. 1:20–21). Both are sufficient to hold him inexcusable (Rom. 1:18–20; 2:11–16; 2 Pet. 3:3–5). The Scriptures are self–authenticating or self–attesting, i.e., they witness to themselves by virtue of their coherency [non–contradictory nature], the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, the witness and power of the Holy Spirit and their power to transform lives. See Questions 14 and 136.
The authority of Scripture is necessary. Man needs special revelation [a direct and authoritative word from God] to lead him to truly and rightly know God, be reconciled to him and live in the context of his revealed will. The authority of Scripture is comprehensive. It encompasses the whole of life and reality. The authority of Scripture is executive. The Word of God comes to us as mandate or command—his “Law–Word”—not merely suggestion or information—we must read, study, submit and conform to it as such. The authority of Scripture is legislative. It is to be our rule of both faith and practice. The authority of Scripture is judicial. It is the ultimate and absolute standard of what is right or wrong, revealing the moral self–consistency of God. The authority of Scripture is perpetual. It is never “old fashioned” to believe and obey the Bible. “It is written” means “It stands written with full and undiminishing authority.” See Question 1. The authority of Scripture is ultimate. Because the Scriptures derive from God himself, there is no other criterion or authority to which they can be subjected or by which they may be judged. Thus, using the facts of history, science or various arguments to credential Scripture is inherently to give such evidence more authority than the Scripture itself. See Question 136.
There is an essential and primary matter which ought to be addressed concerning biblical authority. In a meaningful exchange [an intelligent conversation at the presuppositional level, i.e., a conversation in which one speaks from his basic assumptions, expressing his faith and world–and–life view. See Questions 120 and 136] when the believer is asked by an unbeliever why he believes and holds the Bible to be the very Word of God, he answers, “Because the Bible declares itself to be the Word of God, and this assertion is evidenced by the witness of Scripture to itself.” To this, his respondent may retort, “That is ‘circular reasoning,’ and thus, it is invalid! Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy. It is begging the question!” [petitio principii. This occurs when one assumes in his premises what he is attempting to prove in his conclusion]. But when speaking or arguing in the context of ultimate issues, all human reasoning is broadly circular or presuppositional, and is necessarily faith–based.
In other words, all facts are interpreted by one’s presuppositions. This holds true for the Christian who acknowledges his faith–based presuppositions, and also for the non–believer who may deny this, and claims to rest in the alleged “neutrality of scientific facts.” All facts are created facts. There are no “brute” or “neutral” facts, and the unbeliever himself necessarily, though unadmittedly or unknowingly, assumes Christian Theistic principles and laws or he cannot argue “scientifically”! Indeed, unless one assumes an ordered universe established by given laws, no coherence is possible on which to ground any science. The laws presupposed by science are God’s laws. The question is, are one’s arguments consistent with his professed system. In this respect, the believer is consistent [non–contradictory or coherent] and the non–believer proves inconsistent. See Question 136. Is God’s Word authoritative in your life?
Jn. 17:17. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
Lk. 24:44. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
See also: Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:13–18.
Infallibility means incapable of error and free from deception. Because the Scripture is the very Word of God, it is necessarily infallible. Infallibility necessarily follows from Divine inspiration. The Word of God reflects the attributes of its Divine Author as to its veracity or trustworthiness.
The term “infallibility” also means “unfailing” or “certain.” The Word of God is infallible in the sense that everything revealed or predicted in Scripture will certainly come to pass in the eternal purpose of God (Isa. 46:9–11; Eph. 1:3–11; Phil. 2:9–11; 2 Pet. 3:7–13). Further, God’s Word sent forth will not return void of result, but will accomplish the Divine purpose (Isa. 55:10–11). The infallibility of Scripture is foundational to every promise and prophecy God has given.
The Eastern or Greek Orthodox Church holds that infallibility rests in the Councils of the Church. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that infallibility rests with the Pope [papal infallibility in matters of faith]. Biblical Christianity holds that infallibility rests with the Scriptures alone [sola scriptura]. One can easily see how closely the authority and infallibility of Scripture are related. Do we hold to the infallibility of Scripture in a practical sense? Do we trust God’s promises? Do we heed his warnings?
Jn. 17:17. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
Also see: 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20–21.
Because the Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God, it is infallible and inerrant. The term “inerrancy” [without and incapable of error] dates from the nineteenth century when the trustworthiness of the Scriptures in historical and scientific matters was questioned. This term was added to the term “infallibility” as a further test of orthodoxy.
Some have tried to satisfy the charges of rationalistic biblical criticism and modern science and at the same time seem orthodox by attempting to hold to a “salvific” inerrancy [that the Scriptures are only true and trustworthy as they pertain to the truth of salvation, while alleging that they do contain historical and scientific errors]. This view is nothing more than a relativistic view of Scripture—a subtle accommodation to unbelief—and is in itself an inherent denial of inerrancy. If the Scriptures contained any error, such would be a reflection upon the veracity of God. He either could not or would not give us his Word without error.
Matt. 4:4. ...It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
See also: Jn. 17:17; Col. 3:16; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; 2 Peter 3:18.
Man, as the image–bearer of God was created as a creature of faith because, first, every fact is a created fact, and, second, because the source of truth and knowledge was external to himself, i.e., his faith was to be placed in the Word of God. Only fallen man seeks to find the source of truth within himself, independent of God, i.e., fallen, sinful man considers himself to be autonomous [a law unto himself, i.e., self–determining and completely independent of God] (Gen. 3:1–7).
Christians are to have a “revelational epistemology” [Epistemology is the science of knowledge and truth–claims], i.e., the Scriptures are to form our authoritative, non–contradictory source for truth and knowledge. This holds true for our lives, worship, morality, corporate church life, evangelism and defending the faith.
Although the Scriptures do not reveal everything (Deut. 29:29), their revelation is sufficient for our knowledge, obedience and expectation. To go beyond Scripture in matters undisclosed to us is speculation. To reason from the Scriptures and draw “good and necessary consequences” is legitimate, as it is by this means that we apply the Scriptures consistently to our lives, remain consistent with preaching on aspects of doctrinal truth or to situations which may confront us—but only if such consequences or reasoning are both good and necessary. We must never base any doctrine on such reasoning. Good and necessary consequences are concerned with application, not interpretation. Our Lord used this means of reasoning from the spiritual nature of God to true spiritual worship (Jn. 4:23–24). He reasoned from the Scriptures to justify his healing, doing good on the Sabbath Day, and reasoned that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath (Matt. 12:10–12; Mk. 2:23–28; 3:1–5). He also reasoned from God’s care of creation to comfort and provision (Matt. 6:28–32; 10:28–31; Lk. 12:22–31).
Historically, in the organized or state church [Roman Catholic], authority and sufficiency derived from Scripture, tradition [writings of the Church Fathers, ecclesiastical traditions, etc.] and Papal edict. At the Protestant Reformation, the cry became, sola scriptura [by Scripture alone], sola fide [by faith alone], sola gratia [by grace alone] and solo Christo [by Christ alone], as opposed to the Church of Rome with its traditions, Papal decrees, prayers to Mary and the saints, and its sacerdotal and sacramental doctrine of salvation. The Protestant Reformers held that the Scripture alone was sufficient and authoritative to guide both the church and the individual life.
Baptists, as true New Testament Christians and the inheritors of primitive Christianity, have always held to the sufficiency of Scripture as our primary distinctive or characteristic. Every other distinctive derives from this. See Question 156. Do we approach the Scriptures in such a consistent and practical way?
2 Pet. 3:15–16. 15And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
See also: 2 Tim. 3:16–17; 2 Pet. 1:20–21.
All of the Holy Scriptures together form a book—the Bible. But the Bible is itself comprised of sixty–six books. It is a Divine library of various books—thirty–nine in the Old Testament [Genesis—Malachi in our English Bible] and twenty–seven in the New Testament [Matthew—Revelation in our English Bible]—that together form the canon of Scripture.
The word canon is derived from the Greek canōn, and originally signified a measuring staff or straight rod. It was probably a derivative of the Hebrew kaneh, or reed, an Old Testament term for a measuring rod [a reed used as a measuring instrument]. By the time of Athanasius (c. 350), the term “canon” was applied to the Bible, both as the rule of faith and practice, and as the body of inspired and authoritative truth.
The existence and validity of a scriptural canon [a certain number of books or writings that are truly from God and are unique in that sense] necessarily presupposes Christian Theism [the belief in the triune, self–disclosing God of Christianity as revealed in the Scriptures]. Only if it is presupposed that the triune, self–revealing God of Scripture has spoken, and that this revelation has been inscripturated [written down] under Divine superintendence [inspiration], can the issues of canonicity [which books are truly God–given] be settled in a positive manner. See Question 9.
Early Christianity did not canonize the Scriptures by its own [the church’s] authority, i.e., select which writings were to be included, but rather recognized those writings that were and are canonical. The differences between the canonical and non–canonical writings were and are immediately discernable. How did the early Christians recognize certain books as Scripture and reject others? The answer lies in the application of various principles gathered from early Christian writings which detail the process used by the early Christians and churches: first, is the book authoritative? Does it possess Divine authority? Second, is the book authentic, i.e., was it written by one of the Apostles or the stated author? Third, does it agree with the rest of Divine revelation and with the rule or “analogy of faith?” [This refers to the inclusive, non–contradictory or coherent nature of the Scripture as the very Word of God inscripturated. This also refers to the self–consistent teaching of Scripture as it touches on any given point]. Fourth, is the book dynamic, i.e., does it possess the power of God to evangelize and edify? This refers to the witness of the Spirit in the power of his Word. Fifth, is the book recognized by the early Church Fathers? Sixth, Is the book received by the people of God? Thus, the Scriptures formed the churches, and not the reverse. Scripture stands upon Divine authority, not upon any ecclesiastical authority. The Scriptures, then, are self–attesting or self–authenticating. The Holy Spirit witnesses to the veracity of Scripture to the believer. See Question 10.
Some deny the finalization of the canon of Scripture, holding to a continuing inspiration, i.e., that God still speaks directly to and through men through visions, “tongues” [ecstatic utterances] or inspired “prophesying.” Such leaves the Word of God in an incomplete and ultimately, in a non–authoritative state. See Question 84. Do we revere the Scriptures and love their Author as we ought?
1 Jn. 2:20, 27. 20But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things....27But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
1 Cor. 2:9–10. 9But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
See also: Matt. 4:4; Lk. 24:13–32, 44–47; Jn. 17:17; 1 Cor. 2:9–16; Eph. 1:15–21; Col. 3:16; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; Heb. 5:10–14; 2 Pet. 3:18.
The Spirit of God, who especially indwells every true believer, gives spiritual insight into the Scriptures, and through the Scriptures, into spiritual or doctrinal truth. Illumination, therefore, not only concerns the mind; it also includes the life in a two–fold sense: first, the end of all Bible study is the arrival at propositional or doctrinal truth. Every Christian in this sense is to be a theologian. Second, doctrinal truth is to have a profound effect upon the believer’s life, i.e., “theology determines one’s morality,” or, “everything in life is ultimately disciplined by one’s theology.” There is a necessary relationship between Scripture rightly learned and held, and the personal character, i.e., a person’s life is necessarily the reflection of his theology.
This anointing or illumination is distinct, a mark of grace, and utterly necessary for the Christian’s experience and growth (Rom. 1:18–22; 1 Cor. 2:9–16; Eph. 4:17–19). This spiritual insight or perception enables true Christians to study the Scriptures, feed upon the Bible as their spiritual food, receive instruction, become doctrinally consistent and astute, be completely outfitted for their spiritual lives, and grow toward spiritual maturity.
Although there are not degrees of inspiration, there are degrees of illumination, depending upon one’s faith, godliness, study of the Scriptures and spiritual maturity (1 Cor. 2:9–13; Eph. 1:15–19; 2 Pet. 3:18).
It must be carefully noted that spiritual illumination is not static, but may even decrease due to unconfessed sin, grieving the Spirit of truth, unbelief, spiritual sloth, or from turning away in fear or unbelief from any aspect of Divine truth (Eph. 4:30; Heb. 5:10–14). To come to terms with any aspect of scriptural truth and then reject it, for whatever reason, necessarily results to the same degree in the inability to discern truth from error. Do we pray for understanding and illumination (Psa. 119:18)? Do we seriously seek to live up to the standard of what truth we know?
Gal. 4:4–5. 4But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Lk. 24:44–47. 44And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 45Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, 46And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
See also: Gen. 3:15; Lk. 24:25–27; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:1–3.
The self–revelation of the triune God to man has been inscripturated. This revelation is termed “The Holy Scriptures” or “The Bible.” This Divine revelation is progressive in nature. God did not communicate his truth completely in Genesis [both creation (Rom. 1:18–20) and redemption (Jn. 3:14–16; Gal. 4:4–5) are revelations of and from God.], the Pentateuch, the Prophets, the Psalms or even the Gospels. There is a progressive principle which extends throughout all Divine revelation—God began his self–revelation in Genesis, then continued this revelation through patriarchal history, the Law, the history of Israel as a nation set apart for this express purpose, the incarnation of our Lord and his earthly ministry, and finally, through the inspired Apostles who brought this revelation to a close. In other words, the Scriptures have not come from God as a Systematic Theology, but as redemptive revelation in an historical format, i.e., in the form of redemptive history which is progressively revealed and developed from the creation (Gen. 1) to the consummation (2 Pet. 3; Rev. 19–22). Doctrine is not fully and finally set forth in Scripture at the very outset, but is first revealed in germ or essence, then progressively revealed to its fullness and finality. The guiding principle of Divine revelation is thus progressively historical, personal, chronological and doctrinal.
The Scriptures historically contain two Testaments. The first, or Old Testament [containing the Old Covenant], is preparatory and anticipatory. The second, or New Testament [containing the New or Gospel Covenant], is characterized by finality and fulfillment. Mark the following lines:
New is in the Old contained,
The Old is by the New explained.
The Old Testament is largely personal (patriarchal history—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph), then national (the Mosaic legislation, the history of national Israel under the Unified Kingdom, Divided Kingdom and Isolated Kingdom) and prophetical. The New Testament is largely personal, ecclesiastical, universal (the earthly life and ministry of our Lord, the various epistles to churches and the gospel to sinful humanity without racial, national or cultural distinction) and prophetical.
All redemptive truth organically and doctrinally culminates in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Cf. Jn. 14:6; Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:12–17; Heb. 1:1–3). It practically culminates in a consistent, godly life by the grace of God (Cf. the believer’s union with Christ in both his death and resurrection–life and its necessary and practical results in the experience, Rom. 6:1–14; Eph. 1:3–14; 4:1; Cf. 4:22–6:9, and the practical Christian ethic that is to be demonstrated in the life. Cf. also Titus 2:11–14). See Question 77. This union will eschatalogically culminate in the future resurrection to glory and the new creation (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; Rom. 8:11–23; Eph. 1:10; 2 Pet. 3; Rev. 19–22). See Part X.
2 Cor. 5:21. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Gal. 3:13. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.
See also: Gen. 3:15; Isa. 9:6; Matt. 1:21–23; Lk. 24:25–27, 44–47; Rom.3:21–26; 8:28–39; 1 Cor. 15:20–26; Gal. 4:4–5; Eph. 1:3–14; 1 Tim. 1:15; 3:16; Heb. 1:1–4; 7:23–25; 9:12; 10:10–14; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 Jn. 2:1; Rev. 4:11.
The Bible is not a book about history, although it comes to us in an historical format. The Bible is not a book about ethics or morality, although the moral self–consistency [righteousness] of God is predominant and the Christian ethic is a necessary element. The Bible is not a book about science, although it speaks concerning creation, the universe, the earth, the heavens, plants, animals, man and spirit–beings. The Bible is not a book about philosophy, although it deals with (1) epistemology [the science of knowledge and meaning], (2) metaphysics [ultimate questions concerning God, reality, meaning, life, death, etc.], (3) a distinct world–and–life view and (4) Ethics [a standard of conduct and moral judgment]. It also speaks about and gives operative principles concerning such diverse issues as civil government, the environment, monetary inflation, sanitation and public welfare. The Bible is essentially about salvation—the history of the eternal, redemptive purpose of the triune God to save sinners from the curse, the reigning power of sin and its ultimate consequences.
The doctrine of salvation or redemption in the Scriptures is a true and complete salvation, not merely something potential or theoretical awaiting the ability of the sinner to make it effectual. The scriptural doctrine or message of salvation must be entirely of free and sovereign grace alone because of the awful sinful state and spiritual condition of man. If salvation derives from God, then it necessarily comes to man wholly by grace [undeserved and wholly unmerited favor].
The scriptural message of salvation must deal fully and finally with sin and its effects and consequences—the guilt, penalty, pollution, power and the very presence of sin. Salvation is from sin with all its effects, consequences and potential. Because the salvation revealed in Scripture derives from God in content and effectiveness, it is a complete and effectual salvation. See Question 36.
The doctrine of salvation in the Scripture must necessarily redeem the sinner from the reigning power of sin and truly and actually reconcile him to God, restore him to a right standing [imputed and imparted righteousness], and transform his soul, mind and body. See Questions 92 and 94. The scriptural truth of salvation is not fragmented, but rather a unified whole, which is necessarily complete.
God cannot arbitrarily set aside sin (Cf. Rom. 3:21–26). His moral self–consistency [absolute and perfect righteousness] forbids it. Sin must be fully and finally dealt with either in the person of the sinner or in the person of an innocent substitute. All Scripture points to the Lord Jesus Christ: the Old Testament by type and prophecy; the New Testament by realization and fulfillment. In his Person and work the Lord Jesus meets every requirement as Mediator, Redeemer, Lord and Advocate [Great High Priest]. See Questions 72 and 92.
This message of salvation––redemption and forgiveness of sin through the Lord Jesus Christ and reconciliation to God––is to be declared throughout the world. The God–ordained means is through the preaching of the gospel. See Questions 138–139. Has this message of salvation from the reigning power and ultimate consequences of sin become your hope and rejoicing?
Matt. 4:4. …It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
2 Tim. 2:15. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Tim. 3:16–17. 16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
See also: Psa. 11:3; 19:7–14; 119; 138:2; Amos 8:11; Matt. 5:17–18; 1 Jn. 2:3–5.
The Scriptures are the very Word of God inscripturated. The vital importance of possessing the very Word of God in exact and written form cannot be overestimated. This is at once a great blessing, privilege and responsibility. It is the believer’s only objective rule and guide. Everything else is relative and subject to change. Subjective religious experience can easily be misunderstood and misinterpreted. Religious feelings or impressions may and can deceive. Religious fervency, zeal or subjective experience can never become a substitute for an intelligent, humble obedience to the Word of God.
Believers need to study the Word of God for their spiritual health, doctrinal purity and practical consistency. The life of the church as the pillar and ground of the truth necessitates a biblical faithfulness. Evangelism and defending the faith presuppose a biblically–based content and impetus.
In a day characterized by doctrinal disinterestedness and looseness in both believing and living, an emphasis on subjective experience, and a lack of careful Bible study, the very foundations of Christianity continue to be shaken. Almost every biblical doctrine has either been modified or come under attack. The thrice holy God of Scripture is largely unknown. Multitudes of professing Christians are wholly ignorant of his Divine attributes. The salvation of sinners, biblically a spiritual work of God, is often reduced to the mere psychological level. What faithful, godly service God requires in his Word has often been cast aside for a pragmatic, innovative approach which is neither biblical nor godly. The regulative principle of worship, which seeks to be wholly scriptural and glorifying to God, is often set aside for contemporary expressions which are man–centered and characterized by entertainment.
Indeed, even within the ranks of Evangelical Christianity, the authority of Scripture is often little valued. Many no longer look at modern religious innovations from a scriptural perspective, but tend to pragmatically view Scripture from the perspective of such modern innovations! The Scriptures are then twisted to conform to this modern, religious pragmatism. The only preventive against this current myriad of ills is to faithfully return to the knowledge, worship and service of God through his Word. May such a scriptural reformation lead to the blessing of revival! Both Scripture and history witness to such. See Questions 143–145.
It must be carefully noted that God honors his Word above all else, and so must we (Psa. 138:2; Matt. 5:17–18). Further, it is incontrovertible that the Holy Spirit never leads the believer contrary to or apart from the inscripturated Word of God. If we are to know the revealed will of God and walk obediently before him, then we need to have a thorough knowledge of his Word. Such is not always an easy matter. One must become a serious and spiritual student of Scripture, given to prayer for guidance and understanding, becoming acquainted with the proper principles of interpretation, making the necessary distinction between interpretation and application and coming to terms with biblical doctrine. All such study must then be consistently applied in practice. The true Christian may have to stand alone in his biblical convictions. Blessed is the believer who finds the fellowship of those who are like–minded in their reverence of and obedience to the Word of God! Do you live daily under the practical authority of God’s Word?
1 Jn. 2:3–5. 3And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
See also: Rom. 12:1–2; 15:18; 2 Cor. 2:9; 7:15; Phil. 2:8; Plm. 21; Heb. 12:2–13; 1 Pet. 1:13–16; 2 Pet. 3:18; 1 Jn. 1:8–10; 2:1.
There is a principle of obedience and humble submission to God and his Word that is to characterize true believers. In the context of God’s truth and revealed will, human beings are divided into those who are described as unbelievers, or “the children of disobedience” and believers, or “obedient children” (Eph. 2:2; 1 Pet. 1:14). But believers still sin and act out of character as Christians when they neglect or disobey the revealed will of God. There is a direct correlation between one’s faith and one’s obedience to the Word of God. Loving, willful obedience betokens a relatively healthy faith; disobedience betrays a given amount of unbelief. The degree of loving, willful obedience and submission to God’s Word in the life is in direct correlation to one’s spiritual maturity (Heb. 5:10–14). A lack of obedience and submission means Divine chastening, which, though corrective and done in love, may be very grievous (Heb. 12:1–14).
The ultimate purpose of God in the life and experience of the believer is to conform him to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:17–18; 1 Jn. 3:1–3). This is found in the path of obedience to the revealed will or Word of God. Disobedience, or acting out of character as a believer, necessarily calls forth Divine chastening and various trials and adversities which are designed to bring one back into the path of obedience, blessing and maturity. See Question 125.
Why do Christians––the very redeemed of Christ Jesus––disobey the Word of God? The reasons may vary. Sin is a sad reality, a failure, a terrible contradiction in the experience of every believer. Sadly, almost every believer at times simply neglects the Scriptures, and so thinks or acts contrary to God’s truth because it is not as fixed or refreshed in his mind as it ought to be. He thus thinks or acts without the holy restraint of God’s truth. We can all be blind to at least some of our sins through our ignorance or neglect of God’s Word, because of our own inherent self–righteousness, or the alleged right of some cause, controversy or contention. It may often be all too easy to defend ourselves at the expense of Divine truth. Every one of us must deal with the reality of indwelling sin and remaining corruption, of which every sin is a sad manifestation (Rom. 7:13–25).
Unbelief masquerades behind every sin, and unbelief is inherent to our natures. At times, spiritual pride and self–righteousness may dull our minds and deceive our hearts. We may even excuse the very sins in ourselves which we condemn in others because our consciences are neither convicted by the Scriptures nor exercised regularly in prayer. A neglect of prayer grieves the Spirit of God who uses the Word to convict us of sin. Such are some of the more common reasons why Christians disobey God’s Word. The only hopeful cure, apart from the severe discipline of Divine chastisement, is to make the study of the Scriptures, coupled with private prayer, our primary daily spiritual exercise. Do you pray? Do you obey?
The general study of God is termed “theology,” from the Gk. theos, “God,” and logos or logia, “word or study of.” The specific doctrinal study of God is termed “Theology Proper.” A true and inspired knowledge of God is essential for a knowledge of everything and everyone else. Man is the image–bearer of God. Only as he comes to know God scripturally can he truly know himself, the creation about him, understand history, situate himself in this great, Divinely–ordained context and view the future with the certainty of faith.
Deut. 6:4–5. 4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
Matt. 22:37–39. 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Jn. 4:23–24. 23But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
See also: Gen. 1:1; Ex. 20:1–17; 1 Sam. 15:22–23; Isa. 57:15; 64:6; Acts 4:12; 16:30–32; Rom. 3:19–26; 5:1–3; 8:7–8; Eph. 2:4–5, 8–10; 1 Tim. 6:15–16; Rev. 4:11.
God is unknowable, except as he has been pleased to reveal himself, and he has revealed himself in both creation [natural revelation] and in his Word [special revelation]. He is our Creator; we are his creatures. He is infinite; we are finite. He is eternal or supra–temporal; we are temporal. He is spirit; we are corporeal. He is omnipresent; we are physically localized. He is immutable; we are mutable. He is omnipotent and omniscient; we are relatively impotent and ignorant. He is infallible; we are fallible. He is absolutely sovereign in every sphere; we are utterly dependent upon him for life and breath and all things (Acts 17:24–25, 28). When we leave the objective, metaphysical realm and enter the moral realm, the contrast remains: God is absolutely holy; we are unholy. He is absolutely righteous; we are unrighteous. He is sinless or impeccable; we are sinful and depraved.
The moral attributes, however, coincide with our fallen, sinful state in the context of his eternal redemptive purpose: God is gracious and demonstrates his grace in redeeming the utterly undeserving. He is merciful and extends his mercy to those who suffer under the ravages of sin. He is righteous and imputes righteousness to us through faith in Jesus Christ. He is love, and believers are the objects of this love. He reveals himself redemptively as our “Heavenly Father,” and we by grace and faith become his “sons” or “children.” (Matt. 6:9; Rom. 8:14–18; Gal. 4:5–7; 1 Jn. 3:1–3). In the reality of redeeming grace, believers, though imperfectly, reflect God’s moral attributes to a given degree (Matt. 5:7; Lk. 6:36; Jn. 13:34–35; 15:12; Rom. 5:21; 8:4; 13:8; Gal. 5:22–23; Col. 3:12–14; 1 Pet. 1:15–16; 1 Jn. 2:29; 3:7, 10). See Question 94.
Natural revelation points us to the greatness, power and majesty of God, but special revelation also points us to his moral attributes in the context of either redemption or judgment. Natural revelation is so great and inclusive that its witness leaves man inexcusable as to the power and Divine nature of God (Rom. 1:18–20). Special revelation satisfies the mind and heart as it reveals the fullness of God in his redemptive purpose and saving work.
God is absolutely holy [absolutely pure and separate from all his creation], and cannot be approached by anyone unholy or sinful. He is also morally self–consistent or absolutely righteous [right and incapable of wrong or inconsistency]. He demands, as is his sovereign right, that human beings, made in his image and likeness, also be holy and righteous (1 Pet. 1:15–16). In the scheme of redemption, God’s love, grace and mercy rise to answer the demands of his moral self–consistency without any contradiction or inconsistency, providing deliverance and reconciliation through the Person and work of the Lord Jesus (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 3:21–26).
Man, created originally righteous, apostatized from God in an empirical attempt to become autonomous from God and his Law–Word (Gen. 3:1–19). In Adam, who was Representative Man [federal head of the human race] man became a sinner by imputation, nature and tendency and by personal transgression (Gen. 5:3; Rom. 3:23; 5:12–19). By this, he became wholly alienated from God and brought himself under Divine condemnation.
The reality and need of redemption ultimately rest in the holy, righteous, moral self–consistency of God. A righteous, just and holy God cannot arbitrarily set aside sin without becoming morally inconsistent or self–contradictory (Rom. 3:21–31). This is why the eternal Son of God entered the human race through the incarnation (Matt. 1:21; Rom. 8:2–3; Phil. 2:5–9; 1 Tim. 3:16). The Lord Jesus Christ was and is God in the flesh, the God–man, the “Second Man,” the “Last Adam,” the Redeemer to save sinners, the Mediator to reconcile God and men (1 Tim. 2:5). In his infinite, eternal, redemptive love, God sent his Son to be the great propitiation [one through whom the absolute righteous demands of God can be satisfied. Through his active obedience he met the demands of the Divine Law and through his passive obedience, he paid its awful penalty], so believing sinners can be reconciled to him (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 3:24–26). Only in this way—through faith in the Lord Jesus––could God be “both just and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).
Because we are sinners by imputation, as well as by nature and personal transgressions, whatever we think, say or do is inherently tainted with sin. We cannot escape this. What righteousness we inherently have is a self–righteousness (Isa. 64:6). This is why salvation cannot be by works or self–effort. This is why God cannot accept our efforts to please him. If we are to be saved from sin, it must be by grace [unmerited favor—wholly and utterly undeserved—in the place or stead of merited wrath] alone. There can be no mixture of grace and works. Any addition of works [human ability] would destroy the very principle and reality of Divine grace (Rom. 11:5–6). Free grace and free will are utterly opposed to one another.
How are we to be saved from our sin? How are we to be reconciled to God? How can we receive the grace of God? By faith. Faith is belief, trust, commitment, reliance on someone or thing [“faith” is the noun; “believe” is the verb]. Saving faith trusts, believes in and relies on God, his Word, and specifically his Son as both Lord and Savior. Saving faith lays hold of the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ in total commitment and appropriates it. This is what it means to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” and be saved (Acts 16:31). See Question 89. Have you savingly come to terms with God’s truth?
Ex. 20:7. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Matt. 6:9. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
See also: Gen. 22:14; 32:27; Ex. 3:13–15; 6:3; 9:16; 15:3; 17:15; 34:14; 2 Sam. 6:18; Psa. 20:1; 83:18; Isa. 9:6; 57:15; Jn. 10:25; Phil. 2:5–11.
In modern, Western society, names may mean very little, but God revealed himself in another era, in other languages, and to a culture in which names carried great significance. It is in this very important context that the names of God must be understood. A name was not only for personal identification, but also for personal revelation.
The names of God are very significant as an essential part of his self–revelation to men, so they, despite their finiteness, can sufficiently comprehend the incomprehensible and infinite God. These are the primary means of both his identification and his self–revelation as a distinct person (Gen. 17:1; Ex. 6:3). They reveal various aspects or characteristics of his Divine character, e.g., self–existence (Ex. 3:14–15), majesty (Gen. 14:18; 21:33; 24:3), power, strength or might (Gen. 17:1; Rev. 4:8), omniscience (Gen. 16:13; Acts 1:24), sufficiency (Gen. 17:1), provision (Gen. 22), holiness (Isa. 57:15), righteousness (Jer. 23:6), jealousy (Ex. 34:14), a God who is to be feared (Gen. 31:42, 53), etc. The names of God reveal his faithfulness in promises, power, judgment, covenant relationship and redemption (Gen. 24:12; Ex. 6:3).
The names of God in the Old Testament may be categorized as those which are generally used of God, and those which more specifically denote some aspect of his character. The general names are: “God” [El, Elohim, “strong, powerful, mighty”], “LORD” [Yahweh, “Jehovah,” the self–existent, covenant–keeping God”] and “Lord” [Adonai, “Sovereign Master”]. The more specific titles denote some aspect or attribute of the Divine character, such as “The Name” (Lev. 24:11), “The Rock” (Deut. 32:4), “God Almighty” (Gen. 17:1), “The Most High” (Gen. 14:19), “Lord of Hosts” (Isa. 1:9), “The Holy One” (Isa. 40:25), “Jealous” (Ex. 34:14), etc.
The names of God in the New Testament are also both general and more specific. The general titles are: “God” [Theos, equivalent to the Old Testament “El” and “Elohim”] and “Lord” [Kurios], used for Jehovah, for the Lord Jesus Christ and also in a mere human context for “Sir” (Acts 9:5; Jn. 4:11). Despotēs for Adonai, [“Sovereign Master”]. The more specific titles include: “The Almighty” [Ho Pantokratōr, or “All Powerful”], “The Blessed” [One to receive praise and honor] and “Father” (Matt. 6:9–13; Rom. 8:14–16; 1 Cor. 1:3; 8:5–6; 2 Cor. 1:2–3; 6:17–18; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 1:3ff).
It is significant that the titles of Deity are used of our Lord Jesus Christ in Old Testament (Isa. 9:6; Mal. 3:1) and the New: “God” (1 Tim. 3:16; Titus 2:13), “Lord” (Jn. 20:28; Acts 9:5–6; 22:6–10; Heb. 1:10; Jude 4; Rev. 19:16), “The Word” (Jn. 1:1) and “Son,” implying an equality and a unique relation to and intimacy with God the Father (Jn. 1:18; Col. 2:9; Heb. 1:8). The term “Son of Man” may not refer merely to his humanity; it is a messianic title, deriving from the Old Testament (Dan. 7:13–14).
Ex. 3:14. And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
Rom. 11:36. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
See also: Lev. 11:43–45; 1 Kgs. 8:27; 1 Chron. 29:11–12; Psa. 31:5; 90:2; 139:1–17; 145:3, 17; 147:5; Isa. 6:1–3; 57:15; Jer. 23:24; Mal. 3:6; 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 Jn. 4:16.
The word “attributes” refers to those characteristics or qualities that are inherent in the Divine essence and thus attributed to [revealed about, assigned to or descriptive of] God in Scripture. We know or comprehend God in our finiteness through these attributes or characteristics. These are all perfections, i.e., God is necessarily perfect in every one of these qualities or characteristics.
The Divine attributes are coherent in God. The term “coherence” when used logically, philosophically or theologically, denotes consistency or to be without contradiction or conflict. If a system has any inconsistencies or contradictions, it is said to be “incoherent.” When used of the Divine attributes or perfections, it means that these Divine characteristics do not contradict or come into conflict with one another. There is no incoherence within the Divine Personality.
We can only know God as he has been pleased to reveal himself to us. Yet we can seek to understand God from the Scriptures and make our knowledge orderly and systematic. We can attempt to categorize or arrange the Divine perfections to help us think properly about God “as spirit, infinite and perfect, the source, support and end of all things” (Rom. 11:36). While our knowledge of God is only partial and inadequate due to our finiteness, fallen state and the noetic effects of sin, yet it is a true knowledge through our God–given capacity as the image–bearers of God, the context of Divine revelation and the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit.
Various attempts have been made to classify the Divine attributes. Most would classify these Divine attributes as: the Communicable and Incommunicable Attributes, i.e., those which belong to God alone (e.g., omnipresence, omnipotence, immensity, eternity, etc.) and those which to some extent are communicable to his moral creatures (e.g., love, mercy, wisdom, etc.). Others would classify them as Absolute (those belonging to God alone) and Relative (those expressed to some extent in man). Some would attempt to classify them as Immanent or Intransitive and Eminent or Transitive Attributes. All such attempts must ultimately prove insufficient, as God is simply transcendent in all his perfections.
God is spirit, i.e., God is neither visible nor material; he is incorporeal (Jn. 4:24). He may be perceived through the created universe (Psa. 19:1–6; Rom. 1:19–20), in the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:18; Col. 2:9), and personally and spiritually by faith (Heb. 11:6, 27). Because God is spirit, we cannot see him with our physical eyes. We “see” him through the “eye” of faith, i.e., by or through faith (Heb. 11:6).
When the Bible speaks of God as having “eyes,” “hands,” “feet,” or “ears,” etc., it is using human terms [anthropomorphisms] to help us understand that God sees, works, moves and hears, etc. Pure spiritual beings such as angels or demons are far superior to physical beings, and God is absolutely superior and ultimate—there is no one or thing above or beyond him. He is ultimate and infinite, the Creator, Governor and Sustainer of all things.
As a Spirit, God has life in himself and gives life to everything (Acts 17:25, 28; Heb. 1:3, 10:31). He is a personality, not merely an influence (Gen. 1:1; Ex. 3:14; Rom. 11:33–36).
God is absolutely perfect in everything and in every way. If there were any imperfection in God, he simply would not and could not be the God of Scripture. He is perfect truth. Because God is both true and truth, he can be trusted—believed in without fail (Deut. 32:4; Psa. 146:5–6; Titus 1:2; 1 Jn. 5:10). He is also perfect love. God’s love cannot be separated from his other perfections. His love is holy, righteous, just, gracious and merciful (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 4:8–10, 16). He is perfectly holy (Psa. 145:17; Isa. 57:15; 1 Pet. 1:15–16), righteous (Gen. 18:25; 2 Chron. 12:6; Psa. 11:7) and perfectly wise (Rom. 11:33–36; 1 Tim. 1:17).
This means that God is the Creator or Originator and Definer of all things, the one who sustains all things in the universe, and that all things exist and are being brought to final consummation [their final ordained end or conclusion] in him (Acts 17:24–28; Rom. 11:33–36; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:1–3).
In relation to time and space, God is transcendent, i.e., he far exceeds all the limitations of the universe he has created. He is above and beyond all time and space. There is nothing that exists above or beyond God. There is no law, person or thing to which he must answer; he is absolute, and all created reality is relative to him. He is moved only from within himself and his own moral self–consistency (Psa. 90:4; 113:5–6). God is also eternal or supra–temporal, i.e., he exists above and beyond time (Gen. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:17). He is immense and imminent, i.e., fully and personally present throughout the universe (1 Kgs. 8:27; Heb. 4:12–13).
In relation to creation, God is omnipresent (Psa. 139:7–10), omniscient (Psa. 139:1–5; Jer. 17:9–10; 23:24; Acts 1:24; 15:8) and omnipotent (Gen. 1:1, 3; Psa. 115:3; Isa. 46:9–11).
In relation to moral beings, God is faithful and truthful (Deut. 7:9–10; Jn. 17:17; 1 Cor. 1:9; 10:13; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:13–18; 1 Jn. 5:10), gracious, merciful and good (Psa. 103:1–2, 8–14, 17; Rom. 2:4; 8:28–39), loving and kind (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:5; Eph. 2:4–10; 1 Jn. 4:8, 16), righteous, just and holy (Psa. 145:17; Isa. 6:1–4; Hos. 1:1–11; Rom. 3:21–26; 11:33–36).
Deut. 6:4. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.
Matt. 28:19. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
See also: Gen. 1:1–3, 26–28; Isa. 44:6–8; 1 Cor. 8:4–6; Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16.
The term “Trinity” derives from the Latin trinitas, or “threeness,” from tres, three, and uno, one. The trinity or tri–unity of God is a great mystery. It is a Divinely–revealed truth because it is revealed only in the Scriptures and is received by faith. There is no analogy [corresponding truth or illustration] found in creation. Any attempt to illustrate the trinity or tri–unity of God from creation necessarily fails.
The truth of the Trinity can be seen as it is set forth from the Scriptures in four statements: God the Father is God (Matt. 11:25). God the Son [the Lord Jesus Christ] is God (Isa. 9:6; Jn. 1:1–3, 14, 18; Col. 2:9). God the Holy Spirit is God (Gen. 1:1–2; Acts 5:3–4; 2 Cor. 3:17). There is only One God (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 44:6–8; 1 Cor. 8:4–6).
There are two theological terms with which we ought to be familiar—the Ontological and Economic Trinity. These are two ways of viewing the one Trinity because of our finite comprehension. The word “ontological” means “being” [Gk. ontos, “being”], and refers to the Persons of the Godhead in their essence and relationship to one another. The word “economic” [Gk. oikonomia, “economy”] means “management” or “administration,” and refers to the Persons of the triune Godhead in their unified cooperation in the works of creation, redemption and providence. The terminology “Ontological Trinity” means that God has eternally existed in Three Persons. Some hold erroneously that God is only trinitarian in relation to the created universe. Such a view necessarily and inherently denies the Ontological Trinity and thus both the eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ and the personality of the Holy Spirit. See Questions 25 and 26.
Matt. 6:9. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
See also: Matt. 11:27; Rom. 8:14–16; Eph. 1:3.
For an introduction to this question and answer, see Questions 20–23. God the Father has revealed himself as “the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ,” the “Father” to the nation of Israel as a corporate covenant people (Isa. 64:8; Mal. 1:6; Jn. 8:41), and as “Father” to the Christian individually and corporately (Matt. 6:9; Rom. 8:14–16). This distinction is eternal and ontological, and not merely related to the Economic Trinity (i.e., God is not a trinity only in relation to creation and redemption, but the distinctions within the Godhead are eternal—the Father has always been the “Father” in relation to the Son and the Spirit). See Question 23. This self–revelation of God as “Father” in the Scriptures is for our understanding, comfort, confidence and hope.
The revelation of God as our “Father” enables us, as finite creatures and his spiritual children, to apprehend him, know his love, love him in return and rejoice in such a filial relationship. This revelation enables the believer to know God as the One who loves him, receives him, protects him, provides for him, chastens him, hears his prayers, knows his trials and will one day receive him to himself in glory. Luther stated this blessed truth when he said that if he could but call God “Father,” he could pray—and so can we! See Questions 99–102.
Jn. 1:1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Col. 2:9. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
1 Tim. 3:16. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
Titus 2:13. Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
See also: Isa. 7:14; Jn. 1:14, 18; 14:6–11; Phil. 2:5–11; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8.
God is Spirit, and so invisible, i.e., incorporeal [without bodily parts] (Jn. 4:24; 1 Tim. 6:15–16). The Lord Jesus Christ in his incarnation is the full and final revelation and representation of the eternal God (Jn. 1:1–3; 14:6–11; Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16)—the very “exegesis” of God (Jn. 1:18). It is in the Lord Jesus Christ that man’s inherent desire to “see” God is fulfilled (Jn. 14:9). It is in and through the personality and actions of the Lord Jesus during his earthly ministry that we see revealed the power and moral attributes of God. In his transfiguration we see a glimpse of his eternal glory as very God (Matt. 17:1–8; Mk. 9:1–8; Lk. 9:27–36; Jn. 17:4–5; 2 Pet. 1:16–18).
The eternal Son of God became incarnate [took to himself a true and complete human nature, soul and body] for the redemption of sinners (Lk. 1:35; Gal. 4:4). He did not become incarnate as a mere individual, but as Representative Man, “The Second Man,” “The Last Adam” (Rom. 5:12–18; 1 Cor. 15:45–47). It is in this capacity that we must view and understand his humanity, his perfect obedience to the Law, his wilderness temptation, his earthly life and ministry, his suffering and death, his glorious resurrection and his ascension into heaven to rule as the God–Man on the throne of his glory (Matt. 28:18; 1 Cor. 15:20–26; Phil. 2:9–11; Heb. 1:3).
He was and ever remains the perfect and sinless Son of God by virtue of the virgin birth, and so was alone qualified to be our Redeemer and Savior (Gal. 4:4–5; Lk. 1:26–35; Rom. 5:12–19). The Lord Jesus Christ could not be a mere human being and both live a perfect life under the law, then suffer and die for sinners—neither his life nor suffering and death would accomplish anything. He would only have died as a martyr—and for his own sins. The efficacy [effectiveness] of his work depended on his Person—his Divine nature and impeccable human nature.
At and through the incarnation, the eternal Son of God entered into the realm of time. The Lord Jesus Christ is thus the “God–Man,” not the “Man–God.” By this we mean that it was God the Son, the second Person of the triune Godhead, who took to himself a full and complete human nature through the miracle of the Virgin Birth, including a soul and body, and not a man who was or is in the process of becoming God. The two natures within our Lord (i.e., the hypostatic union of his human and Divine natures) are not commingled [mixed together] or confused, but separate and distinct, i.e., he is not half–God and half–man. The incarnation was necessary for the Lord Jesus Christ to be the perfect and effectual Mediator between God and men (1 Tim. 2:5), and therefore our Redeemer, Savior and Intercessor (Rom. 3:21–26; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 Jn. 2:1). Because of his unique Person and finished redemptive work, he alone qualifies as the Savior of sinners (Acts 4:12).
The early Church Fathers, seeking to safeguard the eternal distinctions within the Godhead from error and heresy, to safeguard the eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ, and using scriptural terminology, referred to the eternal distinction between the Father and the Son as the “eternal generation” of the Son by the Father. They also referred to the eternal distinction between the Holy Spirit and Father and Son as the “eternal procession” of the Holy Spirit, as Scripture declares that he proceeds from the Father and the Son (Jn. 14:16–17, 26; 16:7; Acts 2:32–33). This attempt at scriptural language was used to preserve the distinctions within the Godhead and was not meant to imply any inherent subordination, succession or emanation. Beyond the language of Scripture, we dare not go. The incarnation of the eternal Son of God remains the most profound mystery of the ages. To deny the eternal Sonship of Christ Jesus is to deny the Ontological Trinity, maintain only the Economic Trinity, and thus implicitly deny the immutability of the nature of the Godhead. See Question 23.
Through the Virgin Birth (Matt. 1:18–25; Lk. 1:26–35), his perfectly sinless life lived under the Law (Jn. 8:46; Gal. 4:4–5; 1 Pet. 2:21–22) and his sacrificial, substitutionary death (Lk. 19:10; Phil. 2:5–8; 1 Tim. 1:15; Heb. 9:12, 27–28) and resurrection (Matt. 28:5–6; Acts 2:22–33; Rom. 1:3–4) our Lord became the God–Man, holy, impeccable and the only qualified Redeemer of sinners (Acts 4:12), our Great High Priest (Heb. 4:14–16; 5:5–10; 7:11–28; 1 Jn. 2:1) and the final Judge of all men (Acts 17:30–31; 2 Cor. 5:10; Phil. 2:9–11; Rev. 20:11–15). The name “Jesus” [Gk. Iēsus, “Yahweh is salvation”] refers to his humanity, “Christ” [Gk. Christos, “Anointed One”] to his office and mission as the promised Messiah (Jn. 1:41; 4:25) and “Lord” [Gk. Kurios, “Yahweh”] to his Deity and position of exaltation (Matt. 28:18; Acts 2:36; Phil. 2:9–11; Heb. 1:1–13). His full name and proper title is “The Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Divine nature of our Lord formed the basis for his personality and upheld and sustained his human nature as the God–Man in the hypostatic union [the union of the two natures in one Person]. Thus, he was necessarily impeccable, i.e., he did not and could not sin. The two Latin phrases are posse non peccare, able not to sin [peccable], and non posse peccare, unable to sin [impeccable]. The impeccability of our Lord was necessary to his redemptive work.
Although the modern emphasis is upon the redemptive work of Christ rather than his Person, most controversies have historically centered upon the latter. The great issue has been the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ and the relation of his two natures in one Person. The doctrinal heresies concerning the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ have been: Valentinian Gnosticism, which denied the true Deity of Christ by holding that the “Christ element” came upon him at his baptism and left him in the garden agony before his crucifixion. Thus, he died as a mere man (Jn. 1:14, 18). Docetic Gnosticism, which, holding that all matter was inherently evil, denied the true humanity of Christ, holding him to be a phantom being (1 Jn. 1:1; 4:2–3). Dynamic Monarchianism, A second century anti–trinitarian heresy that denied the Deity of Christ and taught that he was a mere man who received an anointing at his baptism and so was in the process of becoming Divine. Modern representatives in principle include Socinians, Christadelphians, Unitarians, Theosophists and Mormons. Modalistic Monarchianism, an anti–trinitarian heresy that held to one Person in three manifestations rather than distinct Persons in the Godhead. Also called Sabellianism, Patripassianism, etc. United Pentecostals [“Jesus Only”] or the “Apostolic Church” is the modern representative of this ancient heresy. Arianism, an anti–trinitarian heresy which denied the absolute Deity of Christ. The modern representatives are Socinians and Russelites [Jehovah’s Witnesses] (1 Tim. 3:16). Apollonarianism, an anti–trinitarian heresy which denied the true humanity of Christ. Eutychianism, which taught the fusion of the two natures in Christ. Nestorianism, which seemed to unduly separate the hypostatic union of the two natures of Christ into two persons. Monophysitism, which taught that Christ had a composite nature rather than two distinct natures. Monothelitism, which held that Christ had but one will and thus demeaned his true humanity. There were two views: either the human will was merged with the Divine will so that only the Divine will acted, or the two wills were fused into one. The more modern Kenosis Theory, deriving from Phil. 2:7. The extreme form of this theory holds that Christ emptied himself of his Deity or Divine nature and became a mere man. Modified forms of this theory are that in some way he emptied himself of some Divine attributes, and so was less than full Deity.
The controversies concerning our Lord’s redemptive work center on the nature and extent of the atonement. Some hold that he suffered and died for all men without exception and so all will be saved [consistent universalism]. Others, that he died to make salvation possible and all men savable if they but add their ability to his work [inconsistent universalism]. Some consistently hold that our Lord suffered and died for a specific people, and that every one of these will be infallibly redeemed [consistent particularism].
The Lord Jesus Christ is at once the only Mediator between God and men (1 Tim. 2:5), the only Redeemer and Savior of sinners (Rom. 3:24–26; Eph. 1:5–7) and our Great High Priest (Heb. 4:12–16; 7:19–28; 8:1–2; 9:11–14, 24; 1 Jn. 2:1). He will be the coming Judge of all men (Jn. 5:22). He is also our example and our goal. The Lord God is in the process of redeeming his image in believers, and we are being conformed to the image of his Son by the work of the Holy Spirit in our adoption, sanctification, chastening and testing. This conformity will be complete in the resurrection unto glory (Rom. 8:23, 29; 2 Cor. 3:17–18; Phil.3:20–21). For a full description of the Lord Jesus Christ, see Questions 70–76. Do you have a saving relationship to the Lord Jesus through faith?
2 Cor. 3:17. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
Matt. 28:19. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Eph. 4:30. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
See also: Gen. 1:2; Mk. 3:28–30; Acts 5:3–4, 9; 13:2–4; 16:6; 20:28; 1 Tim. 4:1.
God the Holy Spirit is a distinct Person within the Godhead. As the issue with the Lord Jesus Christ has been his Deity, so the great issue concerning the Holy Spirit has been his distinct personality. He is not a mere influence, impersonal force or an emanation from God (Acts 13:2, 4). He possesses the peculiarities, power and prerogatives of a distinct personality: he speaks (Acts 13:2; 1 Tim. 4:1), creates (Gen. 1:2), commands (Acts 13:2–4), possesses intelligent judgment and prerogative (Acts 15:28; 20:28), prohibits (Acts 16:6), can be tempted and lied to (Acts 5:3–4, 9), grieved (Eph. 4:30) and sinned against (Mk. 3:28–30). [Our Lord at times used the masculine form rather than the neuter in the Greek to refer to the Holy Spirit, when the word “spirit” itself is neuter, thus emphasizing his personality (Jn. 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:8, 13–14) ]. He was involved with the other Persons of the triune Godhead in creation (Gen. 1:1–3) and in the eternal Covenant of Redemption and Grace [the eternal redemptive purpose]. See Questions 67, 77 and 84.
The early Church Fathers, seeking to safeguard the eternal distinctions within the Godhead from error and heresy, and using scriptural terminology, referred to the eternal distinction between the Holy Spirit and Father and the Son as the “eternal procession” of the Holy Spirit, as Scripture declares that he proceeds from the Father and the Son (Jn. 14:16–17, 26; 16:7; Acts 2:32–33). This language was used to preserve the distinctions within the Godhead and was not meant to imply any inherent subordination, succession or emanation. To deny the eternal personality of the Holy Spirit is to implicitly deny both the Ontological Trinity and the immutability of the Godhead. See Questions 23 and 25.
It is the peculiar office of the Holy Spirit to apply the work of our Lord’s completed redemption or satisfaction [the finished work of Christ] to the life and experience of the Christian individually—in particular: regeneration, repentance, faith, adoption and sanctification—and to the church corporately (Gal. 5:22–23; Eph. 1:15–20; 13–14; 4:11–16, 30; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2). See Question 84. He thus makes our Christian experience possible and practical.
The work of the Holy Spirit within the believer’s personality is one of enabling, transforming and sanctifying grace. Believers are commanded to walk in the Spirit and thus not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. The Spirit of God restrains them from living as they once did (Gal. 5:16–18). The “fruit of the Spirit,” i.e., those graces which the Holy Spirit manifests in the life, are among the essential marks of grace (Gal. 5:22–23). See Question 112. Do we bear the marks of God’s grace and Spirit in our lives and experience?
Eph. 1:11. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
Rom. 8:28–30. 28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
See also: Psa. 115:3; Isa. 46:9–11; Rom. 11:33–36; Eph. 1:3–14; 2:1–10; Rev. 4:11.
God as a person with a distinct personality must be a being with purpose and determination. As God himself is infinite, imminent and eternal, his purpose in relation to his creation is necessarily an eternal, all–inclusive purpose. As an infinitely wise and intelligent personality, his purpose must be the same.
The Scriptures reveal that God “works all things after the counsel of his own will,” i.e., that he has purposed or predetermined all things. This is known as foreordination or predestination. By definition “predestination” means “to determine the destiny beforehand.” The term has a three–fold usage in Scripture, referring, first, to the comprehensive, eternal purpose of God (Eph. 1:11); second, to his soteriological [pertaining to salvation] purpose (Rom. 8:28–31; 9:1–24; Eph. 1:3–14); and third, to the eschatological purpose realized in the believer’s glorification and ultimate conformity to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).
The comprehensive use of the term may be described as the eternal (Isa. 46:9–10; Acts 15:18; 1 Pet. 1:20; Rev. 4:11), immutable (Isa. 14:24; 46:11; Prov. 19:21), all–inclusive (Acts 17:25, 28; Eph. 1:11; Rev 4:11), all–wise (Jer. 51:15; Rom. 11:33–35; 16:27; Eph 3:10–11; 1 Tim. 1:17; Jude 25), just (Isa. 45:21; Zeph. 3:5; Rom. 9:14) holy (Ex. 15:11; Isa. 57:15) and loving (Rom. 8:38–39; Eph. 1:3–5) decree or purpose of God (Isa. 14:24; Dan. 4:17, 24; Eph. 1:11), whereby, from eternity, from within himself (Psa. 115:3; Dan. 4:35; Rom. 11:33–36; Eph. 1:5, 9) and for his own glory (1 Chron. 29:11–13; Eph. 1:3–6, 12–14; Rev 4:11), he has determined whatsoever comes to pass (Rom. 11:33–36; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3; Neh. 9:6).
Although the terms “predestinate,” “predestination” and “foreordained” occur but seldom in Scripture, there are a wide variety of terms in the original languages [thirty–two in Heb. and Gk.] which connote Divine purpose, determination, will, sovereignty and predestination. To eliminate the idea of Divine predestination from Scripture would completely change the nature and character of God, render relative or null and void his promises and prophecies, and destroy the very essence and fabric of Scripture. It would be, in effect, the complete abandonment of biblical Christianity for an “Open Theism” or “Process Theology” in which God himself would be growing and expanding with the universe, and the future would remain unknown, even to him. To say “God” is to say “purpose,” and to say “purpose” in the context of God as revealed in Scripture, is to say “predestination.”
The biblical doctrine of predestination is a most glorious, mysterious and yet intensely practical truth. As part of Divine revelation, predestination is to be known, studied and believed (Acts 20:20, 26–27). It preserves the Creator–creature relationship that pervades Scripture. Predestination is the fountain of all grace, giving to free and sovereign grace its glorious nature and distinct character (Rom. 11:5–6; Eph. 1:3–11; 2:1–10). It is the expression of God’s sovereign, eternal, immutable love to his own, and is at the very foundation of the believer’s confidence and assurance of salvation (Deut. 7:6–8; Rom. 8:28–39; Eph. 1:13–14; 1 Pet. 1:3–5, 18–20; 1 Jn. 4:9–10, 19). Predestination is the biblical source of all boldness, encouragement and comfort in trial (Rom. 8:28–39; 1 Cor. 15:58; Gal. 6:7–9; Eph. 2:8–10). Rightly understood, it is a proper biblical incentive to holiness and responsible action (Eph. 1:4; 2:8–10; Phil. 1:29; 2:12–13; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:1–2; 1 Jn. 2:28–3:3). It must always be remembered that, scripturally, God has ordained the means as well as the end. See Questions 67 and 68.
The so–called “Problem of Evil” ought to be considered. This can be stated in the following terms: “How can evil exist in a universe created and governed by an all–powerful, benevolent [inherently and completely good] God?” This “problem” is more psychological than logical, theological or philosophical. Man would rather call God and his actions into question than submit himself to God in complete trust, even to a God who is benevolent in the context of his omnipotence and righteousness (Rom. 9:11–24). This question is largely a matter of unbelief in the face of Scriptural testimony to the purpose and patience of God in the fulfillment of his eternal purpose. But it remains a question which is often asked as a rebuttal to believers in general, and to those who hold to biblical Divine sovereignty in particular.
The possible answers, according to human reasoning, are: first, if evil exists [and it does as a sad and awful reality], then there is no omnipotent [all–powerful], benevolent God—the argument of the atheist.
Second, evil exists and therefore, if God exists, he must be either limited in his power or arbitrary in his moral character—the argument of those who espouse a non–biblical [pagan] concept of God.
Third, evil exists, therefore there is more than one God or there are equal dualistic forces [good and evil] in conflict. This is the non–biblical [pagan] argument of those who would posit a dualism (a “good god” and “bad god” or opposing good and evil forces or principles) in conflict for control of the universe.
Fourth, evil does not exist, except as an illusion in our human thinking. This is the non–biblical view of some western cults and Eastern religions (e.g., Christian Science, Buddhism). This would make any ultimate distinction between good and evil arbitrary, and thus deny the moral self–consistency of the Divine character.
Fifth, evil exists as a mystery, independent of God, who remains to a given [limited] degree powerful and benevolent, necessarily operating in a utilitarian sense. This is the inconsistent argument of some (including Pelagians and Arminians) who attempt to deliver God from the charge of being the “author of sin” and so unscripturally limit his power in order to retain his goodness.
Finally, evil exists in the universe of an omnipotent, benevolent God, who is completely sovereign over it and uses it for his own glory and the highest good—the argument of the biblical Christian [consistent Calvinist].
This final assertion is the only view that can be consistently aligned to the teaching of Scripture (e.g., Gen. 50:20; Judg. 2:15; 9:23; 1 Sam. 16:14; 2 Kgs. 22:16; Psa. 76:10; Isa. 10:5–15; 45:7; Amos 3:6; Acts 4:27–28; Rom. 8:28; 9:11–21). Every other view, deriving from sinful humanistic reasoning, and so calling God and his actions into question (Rom. 9:19–21), seeks to point out an incoherence [inconsistency] in the Scriptures and the Christian system. These views either deny God and his power over evil, or limit God and seek to bring him down to the finite level (Rom. 1:21–25) and destroy his sovereignty and moral self–consistency—and thus any sufficient or consistent basis for Divine coherence.
The existence of evil in a universe created and governed by an all–powerful and benevolent God is not incoherent if God has a morally sufficient reason for this evil to exist. Such a view does not take all the mystery out of the problem of evil. God is infinite, and so is his wisdom, power and purpose. We are finite, and simply cannot comprehend all that is implied in this profound issue. Why God, who is absolutely morally self–consistent, should ordain evil, must to a given degree remain a mystery to finite beings.
Further, when considering the problem of evil, one must take into account the reality of time. What might be considered as evil in the context of past or present reality may later prove to be great blessing or to result in such (Gen. 42:36; 50:20; Acts 4:27–28; Rom. 8:28–31). Finally, only if God is in absolute control of evil can he ordain it for good, and we can trust the purpose, prophecies and promises of his Word. Do we trust the purpose of God, although we may not understand it? Do we complain against his providence? Can we by faith grasp the truth of Rom. 8:28?
1 Pet. 1:15–16. 15But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
Psa. 145:17. The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
See also: Isa. 6:1–3; 57:15; Rom. 3:21–26.
God is morally self–consistent, i.e., he is absolutely holy and righteous, and therefore cannot be inconsistent in his moral character. He is both right and righteous, never wrong or unrighteous. Because God is absolutely righteous, whatever he does or commands is right (Gen. 18:25). Because God is absolute and transcendent, there is no higher moral law or principle than the moral character of God. Man is fully accountable to God, but God is in no way accountable to man—or anyone else. Although God is not accountable to man, yet believers are challenged to argue his promises and persevere in earnest prayer (Lk. 11:1–13; 18:1–8; Jas. 5:16–18).
God is absolute, never arbitrary, as he himself is both the source, support and end of all things and is morally self–consistent [absolutely righteous]. Because God is morally self–consistent or absolutely righteous, he cannot arbitrarily set aside sin—he must be propitiated. His moral self–consistency demands that either the sinner be punished, or an innocent, suitable substitute take the sinner’s place [vicarious or substitutionary atonement]. The eternal, redemptive purpose of God is to redeem a covenant people, make them conformable to his moral self–consistency and conform them to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:17–18; Eph. 1:3–7; 1 Pet. 1:15–16; 2:9). This redemptive purpose necessarily delivers from the guilt, penalty [justification], pollution, power [sanctification] and presence [glorification] of sin (Rom. 8:29–30). Have you been reconciled to this God through the Lord Jesus Christ?
Jn. 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
1 Jn. 4:8, 16. 8He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love....16And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
See also: Ex. 34:6–7; Psa. 23:6; 103: 8–14; 136:1–26; Rom. 8:35, 38–39; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 1:6; 2:4–5.
God has a general benevolence toward his entire creation. This causes him to providentially care for this creation, including the land (Lev. 26:34–35; 2 Chron. 36:21), the plants (Matt. 6:28–30), the animals (Deut. 25:4; Psa. 147:9; Matt. 10:29; 12:11–12) and mankind (Matt. 10:28–31; Rom. 8:28–39). This general benevolence, however, must not be confused with his redemptive love. This love must possess a definite moral character or quality. Redemptive love is in perfect harmony with other attributes of God. It is a holy, righteous, infinite, intelligent, gracious and perfect love. Such a love must have definite objects; by necessity such love could not be indefinite or nebulous in nature. The objects of this Divine, redemptive love are the elect of God among the Jews and the Gentiles (Jn. 3:16; Eph. 1:3–7). Christians are to reflect this love in their own lives and relationships (Matt. 22:36–40; Jn. 13:34–35; Rom. 13:8–10; 1 Jn. 3:10–18).
Grace is unmerited [undeserved] favor in the place or stead of merited [deserved] wrath. Divine grace views sinners as wholly or totally undeserving of love and kindness, yet moves toward them for blessing rather than the wrath and judgment they so rightly deserve. There are two aspects of Divine grace toward sinful men: common grace, or the kindness of God toward men in general, and saving grace, or the redemptive purpose of God exercised personally and effectually toward the objects of salvation in both eternity and time. See Question 78.
As grace views sinners as undeserving, mercy views them as suffering under the ravages and limitations of sin, and takes pity upon them (Psa. 103:13–17). The Scriptures emphasize that God’s “mercy endures forever” (Psa. 136), i.e., that he is long–suffering and shows his loving kindness and pity to those who do not deserve it. Have you found this grace and mercy?
The works of God are traditionally considered in a three–fold manner: creation, providence and redemption. This section considers the first two works. As the image–bearers of God, we have and find meaning and significance only in the context of God and his creative and redemptive purpose, i.e., we must know God as he has revealed himself to us before we can know ourselves.
The purpose of God is progressively revealed through Divine providence, which is that process through which he brings to pass his eternal decree in time and history. We should be in awe of the power and purpose of God revealed through his creation and providence!
Gen. 1:1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Heb. 11:3. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
Isa. 45:18. For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
See also: Gen. 1:1–31; Psa. 148:1–5; Prov. 16:4; Isa. 40:26; 42:5; 45:12; 65:17; Acts 17:24–25; Rom. 11:33–36; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:15–17; 2 Pet. 3:4–13; Rev. 4:11.
The triune God created the universe ex nihilo [out of nothing] (Gen. 1:1–3; Jn. 1:1–3; Col. 1:15–17). The triunity of the Godhead is ontological, i.e., God is essentially a triunity in himself, apart from creation. See Question 23. [It is presupposed that he created this nothingness or void in which he created this universe]. It must also be evident that if God created all things, then every fact is a created fact and creation was a definitive act. Thus, every fact is to be interpreted or understood in the context of God and his intended meaning and significance. This has great doctrinal, scientific and moral implications.
The opening words of Scripture, Genesis 1:1, are most profound, and set in order the remainder of Divine revelation. This opening statement is more than an historical statement concerning the origin of the universe or a proof–text against evolution. It is a declaration which is determining for all which follows in Scripture. Is the Bible inspired? Is it infallible? Is it inerrant? Is it coherent? If so, then, as the very Word of God, it is necessarily the ultimate authority, self–consistent and non–contradictory throughout. See Part II. What we find in the opening statement must prove consistent through to the very conclusion of Scripture—from Genesis to Revelation.
First, there is a presuppositional principle. Scripture commences with a presuppositional stance. The Bible never seeks to “prove” the existence of God; this is presupposed from the very beginning. This principle is foundational. Man was created in the image of God as a creature of faith, with the source of truth and knowledge outside himself, and therefore was created as a presuppositionalist. He was placed in a world already created and defined by God. He was, in other words, created to “think God’s thoughts after him,” i.e., to give the same meaning to everything that God had given to it. To do otherwise would be sin. This presuppositional principle is absolutely determining for mankind. Our presuppositions, taken together as forming our world–and–life view, necessarily determine our thoughts, motives, words and actions. See Questions 120–123. Indeed, all facts are interpreted by one’s presuppositions. This is absolutely inescapable. Ultimately, therefore, everything derives from a principle of faith—one’s belief–system—whether one is a believer or an unbeliever. See Questions 31, 120 and 136.
Second, the Bible necessarily begins with a declarative or revelatory statement concerning the power and work of God. This principle also characterizes Scripture throughout. Man by nature begins with his needs; God begins with a declaration in his self–revelation, whether it be creative or redemptive (e.g., Gen. 1:1–3; 17:1; 28:10–17; 35:11; Ex. 3:1–6, 19–20; 5:2; 6:1; 20:1–2; Acts 7:2ff; 9:3–6; 22:14; Rom. 9:17). Creation itself is part of this Divine revelation. It reflects his power and Godhood, and exists to reveal his glory. This natural revelation is so pervasive as to hold man inexcusable with its testimony (Rom. 1:18–20; Psa. 19:1–3; Rev. 4:11).
Third, we find the self–existence and infinite nature of God, or his absolute independence from his creation. To say “…God created…” is to hold that God is not part of his creation. He is above and beyond it, prior to it, separate from it; and so not dependent in any way upon it. Man cannot add anything to God, nor can he take away anything from him—except in his own depraved imagination—which has no effect upon objective reality whatsoever (Rom. 1:18–32). This principle separates true and false religion.
Fourth, we are faced with the absolute sovereignty of God over his creation. See Question 22. This the Scriptures consistently maintain. God is infinite, omnipotent, immanent and transcendent. Man is finite, and beset with creaturely limitations. Man must never detract one iota from God, attribute to him finite attributes or human limitations, or detract from his glory. His perfections are necessarily immutable. Any perceived limitation or inconsistency in the Divine nature is only subjective and irrational, and derives from an innate principle of unbelief and sinful hostility.
Fifth, we must mark that every fact is a created fact. This necessarily means that there are no “brute” facts, i.e., uninterpreted or “neutral” facts in the universe. Because every fact is a created fact, all the ground, literally and figuratively, belongs to God. There are thus no “neutral” facts to which unbelievers or secular science can appeal. There is no “neutral ground” on which the believer and unbeliever can meet for a meaningful exchange. There is common ground or a point–of–contact, but this is in the context of man being the image–bearer of God, having God’s Law indelibly inscribed upon his heart, and existing in the context of created facts which he unconsciously takes for granted (Gen. 1:26; Rom. 2:14–15; 1:18–20). This truth is determining for worship, for the preaching of the Gospel, for the defense of the faith, for the Christian life, for science and for a Christian philosophy of education. It must be remembered that all facts are necessarily interpreted by one’s presuppositions. See Question 136.
Finally, we have a revelation of the Creator–creature distinction and relationship. God is the Creator; man is his creature. Man is not in the process of becoming God, and God must not be humanized. From the opening statement to the closing declaration, the Bible maintains this Creator–creature distinction. Man has always, is now, and forever will be, utterly dependent upon God for his very existence and everything which pertains to it. There is not, nor can there ever be, any actual human autonomy—any actual or perceived independence from God—not in time, not in history, not in a state of sin, not in a state of grace, not on earth, not in heaven and not in hell.
These revealed realities are foundational for all worship, apologetics and for every aspect of the Christian life. As Christians, we are always challenged at the point of our faith, and our faith is always challenged at its point–of–contact with the Word of God. This was true of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1–12). They were tempted at the point their faith was grounded in the Word of God. Every challenge or attack and every temptation comes to believers at this very same and crucial point as it did to our first parents—and for the very same reason—to separate us from the Word of God and seduce us to act autonomously.
Our faith, if it is biblical, is not irrational; it is necessarily intelligent and consistent, as it is God–given and distinct from mere human trust (Acts 18:27; Eph. 2:8–10). This God–engendered faith primarily enables us to believe that the Bible is the very Word of God inscripturated. Everything else flows from this one vital reality—the one basic and essential presupposition—our belief in creation as opposed to evolution, our comprehension of and response to the gospel, our understanding of Bible doctrine, our growth in grace and spiritual maturity, and our service for the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the vital connection between the Scriptures and faith. See Question 9. The Bible is the foundation of our “revelational epistemology,” our sole rule of both faith and practice—and, whatever the challenge or attack, this is the ground which must be held at all costs. See Question 13. To reverently love its Author, to thoroughly study it, to live humbly in obedience to its mandates and to maintain its absolute authority and truthfulness before an unbelieving world, is the primary calling and task of every Christian. It is in this comprehensive context of Scripture that we must consider the Divine creation of the universe, the world and man.
The idea of evolution is neither benign nor neutral, nor yet merely academic. In modern secular science and the modern secular, statist educational system, the necessity of evolution is the predominant issue in the philosophy of Atheism. The belief in evolution enables men to completely exclude God from their world [a “closed universe” with no place for the supernatural]. It allegedly answers the question of ultimate issues [metaphysics] origins, morality and meaning. Man is left as his own “god,” autonomous, and so determining for himself what is right or wrong (Gen. 3:1–7; Rom. 1:18–32; Eph. 4:17–19).
If evolution were true, it would necessarily be true only on atheistic principles. There would be no consistent basis for the spiritual realm, for morality, for ethics, for social order, or hope for the future. All existence would be ultimately meaningless. Any attempt to consistently deal with these necessary realities would be completely arbitrary and at the best based on the relative attempt of human consensus. Social Darwinism [the principles of evolution applied to society] has brought only materialism, relativism, disease, death, destruction, socialism and enforced totalitarianism. It is not without reason that modern philosophies tend to be materialistic, relativistic, pluralistic, existential and nihilistic. See Question 120.
Belief in either creation or evolution is a matter of faith—either faith in God and his infallible Word or faith in the fallen human perception of presupposed “brute” or neutral “facts” (Heb. 11:6). Every fact is interpreted by one’s presuppositions. Thus, no amount of evidence can be completely convincing. A truly consistent scientific approach to the idea of evolution fails when aligned to the modern, scientific [empirical, or experienced–based] method. It is, essentially, a faith–based assumption. Belief in Divine creation rests in an intelligent, God–given faith in God’s inspired and infallible Word.
The triune God created the universe and this world for himself as the theater in which he would demonstrate the manifold glory of his attributes to and through creation (Psa. 19:1–3; Rom. 11:33–36; Rev. 4:11). God was pleased to take six literal days for the creative process. The idea of geological ages in the reference to “evening and morning” is intrusive and illogical in the context of the biblical record (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). Everything in the original creation was “very good,” and this included primeval man, Adam. The defects, sufferings and horrors observed in the present world are the result of man’s sin (Gen. 3:1–19; Rom. 5:12; 8:19–23). The redemptive purpose necessarily includes the complete restoration of the universe to its pristine and sinless state (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:7–13; Rev. 21:1).
A Christian view of creation is one which is inclusively scriptural, embracing such issues as theology, the Creation or Cultural Mandate [This mandate to multiply, replenish and subdue the earth was given man at creation, Gen. 1:26–28, but was to be fulfilled in the context of a given culture, thus, it can be termed the Cultural Mandate], natural science, redemption, a work ethic, the environment and eschatology. We are to “think God’s thoughts after him” in every area and aspect of creation. Do we?
Gen. 1:26. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Gen. 2:7. And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Gen. 5:1–2. 1This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; 2Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.
See also: Gen. 1:1, 26–28; 2:18–25; 3:19; Psa. 8:6–8; Eccl. 7:29; 12:7; Acts 17:23–29; Rom. 2:14–15; 5:12; Eph. 4:22–24; Col. 3:9–10; Jas. 3:8–9.
The Scriptures declare that God created the universe and everything in it, including man (Gen. 1:1; Acts 17:24; Rom. 1:19–20). The Scriptures are very careful to maintain this Creator–creature relation and distinction throughout from Genesis to Revelation. See Question 30.
Divine creation was a definitive act, i.e., God not only created everything out of nothing [ex nihilo]. He defined everything in this creation—gave it his meaning. Every fact in the universe is therefore a created fact with its own distinct God–given meaning and significance. There are no arbitrary or “brute” facts that exist or have meaning apart from God. For a person to truly know God, reality and truth, he must give the same meaning to everything that God has given to it—he must “think God’s thoughts after him”—interpret everything in terms of God’s Law–Word. This has been called a “revelational epistemology,” i.e., holding Divine revelation [Scripture] as our source of truth and knowledge. [Epistemology, from the Gk. epistamai is the science of knowledge and truth–claims]. Because the source of truth and knowledge was and is external to man, he is necessarily a creature of faith. He is also a presuppositionalist by necessity, i.e., as the image–bearer of God man naturally and axiomatically interprets all facts by his presuppositions or assumptions [axioms, first–principles]. See Question 30.
Man was created in the image of God. Thus, the image of God is the essential and primary definition of man. This image of God is ontological, i.e., it expresses the essence of man’s being. It is being the image–bearer of God that makes man a rational, morally–responsible, self–determining being. When man sinned and fell, the image of God was not destroyed; he did not become an animal. The image of God was distorted, but not erased. His intellectual, spiritual and moral nature, devastated in the Fall, is restored in principle at regeneration (Jn. 3:3; Eph. 4:22–24; Col. 3:9–10). See Questions 83, 94 and 95. The very fact that man is now a sinner, and in need of redemption, is a testimony to the retention of the image of God (Gen. 9:6; Acts 17:28–29; Jas. 3:9). Further, because redemption extends to man alone, and neither to brute beasts nor fallen angels, it is evident that God focuses the redemptive purpose on redeeming his image in man through Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:17–18; 1 Jn. 3:1–3).
Because man is the image–bearer of God, God instilled within him the principles of law, morality, logic, mathematics and the ability of speech or communication on both the vertical [Divine–human] and horizontal [human–human] planes. Such are necessary for man as a rational being in God’s ordered universe and also for the fulfillment of the Cultural Mandate (Gen. 1:26–28).
God created man as both male and female. Thus, the individual, either male or female, is incomplete in and of himself or herself. Society becomes fragmented when the basic element is the individual rather than the married couple and the family. Marriage is the natural and normal state for mankind. Marriage and family are necessities for the fulfillment of the Cultural Mandate. It is primarily in the context of the family and the church that the truth of God is to be both retained and promulgated to future generations. See Question 52.
Man cannot be considered as the Divine image–bearer apart from his calling to multiply, subdue the earth and have dominion over it—the Cultural Mandate (Gen. 1:26–28; Psa. 8). Spiritual responsibility, a biblical world–and–life view, a godly work ethic, and the God–ordained institution of marriage and the family, necessarily characterize the truly godly man.
Because man was created and remains in essence the image–bearer of God, the believer’s attitude toward others is to be one of understanding and compassion, viewing his fallen, sinful fellow human beings as objects of evangelism. Have we come to terms with our being created in God’s image and its implications?
1 Cor. 10:31. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
Rev. 4:11. Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are [exist] and were created.
Rom. 11:33–36. 33O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? 35Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? 36For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
See also: Gen. 1:26–28; 2:15–24; Psa. 8:1, 3–9; Eccl. 7:29; Eph. 1:3–11.
God created this universe and everything in it for his own good pleasure according to his sovereign will (Rev. 4:11). He was motivated solely and wholly from within himself and his own self–consistency. He positively ordained whatsoever comes to pass from within himself and did not merely foresee persons and events in a fatalistic [relativistic] fashion. Why did he ordain that evil should enter this universe and that man should fall? Why did he purpose, even before the creation of this universe, to save a number of human beings and redeem them to himself (Eph. 1:3–5)? From Divine revelation, it can be stated that God created this universe and everything in it, ordained the existence of evil and the subsequent fall and redemption of man to manifest to this creation the fullness of his attributes or Divine perfections for the praise of his own glory. This will be done in consummate glory or judgment. See Question 27 and “The Problem of Evil.”
God created man for his own glory. All that pertains to creation and subsequent redemption, from election to glorification, will find its realization and ultimate fulfillment in the glory of God (Rom. 8:28–39; 11:33–36; Eph. 1:3–14). Christians, understanding this from the Scriptures, should seek to live for God and do all for his glory now (1 Cor. 10:31). “…ye are not your own…For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Cor. 6:19–20).
Eccl. 7:29. Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.
See also: Gen. 1:31; Eph. 4:24.
As the image–bearer of God, man was created in a state of original righteousness. As reflecting the Divine moral character and therefore being inescapably moral himself, man could not have been created merely innocent, i.e., morally neutral. No true human moral neutrality could or can exist in a universe created and governed by a morally self–consistent [absolutely righteous] God. Romanists, Pelagians and Arminians maintain that Adam was created in a state of original innocence because they maintain the idea of “free will” [the power of contrary choice—that man can consistently choose contrary to his nature] for both unfallen and fallen humanity. Adam was only “innocent” in that, before his fall, he had not yet personally experienced sin. This original righteousness was not moral perfection, and was evidently fragile. In the temptation, the devil only had to tempt Adam and Eve according to their natural [and as yet unfallen] tendencies (Gen. 3:1–14).