Ans: The Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, co–equal and co–eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
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;
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?
Ans: The Scriptures teach that there is one God who eternally exists in Three Persons.
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.
Quest. 22: What are the attributes of God?
Ans: The attributes of God are those perfections inherent in the Divine nature which the Bible reveals concerning God.
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 Considered as Spirit, Infinite
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).
God Considered as the Source, Support
and End of All Things
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).
Quest. 21: What are the names of God?
Ans: The names of God are those titles or designations by which God has revealed himself to man.
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).
Quest. 19: What does God require in his Word of every believer?
Ans: God in his Word requires that every believer is to live in loving obedience and humble submission to his revealed will.
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.
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: 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?
Quest. 18: Why is it vital for every believer to study the Scriptures?
Ans: The Scriptures are the only and all–sufficient rule of both faith and practice. The Holy Spirit never leads the believer apart from or contrary to this inscripturated Word.
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?
Quest. 17: What is the central message of the Bible?
Ans: The central message of the Bible is the redemption of sinners through the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ for the glory of God.
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?
Quest. 16: In what form did God give us his Word?
Ans: God has given us his Word in the form of redemptive history [the story or record of salvation].
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:
The 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.
Quest. 15: What is meant by “illumination”?
Ans: Illumination is the spiritual insight into the Scriptures given to the believer by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
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?
Quest. 14: What is meant by the “canonicity” of Scripture?
Ans: The “canonicity” of Scripture has reference to the various books that together make up the Bible [the scriptural canon] and the process by which they alone are recognized as Scripture [canonization].
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?
By Dr. W.R. Downing