an expository sermon on Isaiah 1 preached by Pastor Jordan Atkinson on November 22, 2020
After affirming the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, Friendship’s statement of faith confesses our understanding of God the Father in more detail: “God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.” The Baptist Faith of Message teaches that God the Father reigns with providential care and grace, is perfect, and is Father of all people, especially Christians.
The Father’s Reign with Providential Care and Grace
The Baptist Faith and Message connects God’s Fatherhood to his reign over all things. God reigns over the universe, his creatures, and the flow of human history.
Scripture repeatedly affirms God’s providential reign over the universe. This reign begins with his act of creation but persists throughout history. Even after the Fall, God reigns over the universe with providential care and grace. David praises God’s reign over the daily cycle of the sun, “which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat” (Ps 19:5-6). God makes the sun rise every morning. He daily gives all the earth its heat. Another Psalm similarly teaches, “Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity'” (Ps 96:10). God reigned with care by establishing the earth and sustaining its continued existence. This providential care assures us that one day he will fully judge all the people of the world throughout history. One of the final “Hallelujah” Psalms especially emphasizes God’s ongoing care for the universe as abundant cause to praise him (Ps 147). We should praise God because he created the stars (v. 4), he provides rain (v. 8), he provides food for wild animals (v. 9), he makes the seasons pass one into another (vv. 16-18).
The Bible also teaches that God providentially cares for his creatures. We’ve already considered this from Ps 147:9, but it is taught throughout Scripture. It is a major theme of God’s first speech to Job in Job 38-39. Psalm 146 similarly affirms God’s care for the people he has created. He provides justice for oppressed people, food for hungry people, and freedom for captive people (v. 7). He gives sight to the blind, lifts the heads of those bowed down, and loves righteous people (v. 8). He protects sojourners, widows, and orphans, even as he punishes the wicked (v. 9). Well did Jesus comfort us, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt 10:29-31).
God also providentially reigns over the course of human history. This truth is a major theme of Daniel. Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s troubling dream as a vision of the succession of world empires until the beginning of God’s own eternal kingdom from heaven (Dan 2:36-45). Daniel later reveals the meaning of an even more personally troubling dream to Nebuchadnezzar: he will lose his mind and kingdom until he learns that God “rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Dan 4:25). Daniel’s prophecy is fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar confesses at the end,
At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,Daniel 4:34-35
for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
Paul later makes the same point: God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26). God the Father is sovereign over all things, from the stars in the sky, to the number of hairs on our heads, to the course of human history.
The Father’s Perfections
God’s perfect love is a major theme of the New Testament. It is especially prevalent in the writings of the apostle John. One of the most well-known verses in the Bible teach us about God’s love: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). But the Father’s love for the world is rooted in his love for Jesus Christ: “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand” (John 3:35). Jesus prayed that he wanted the world to “know that you sent me and loved them [Jesus’ disciples] even as you loved me” (John 17:23). And God is constantly answering this prayer: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). John even gives us the most sustained teaching about God’s love in the Bible:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins1 John 4:7-10
We Christians are to love one another because God has loved us by saving us from our sins.
God is also perfectly wise. His wisdom is evident in his creation of all things (Ps 104:24-30; Prov 3:19-20; 8:22-31). God’s wisdom is also manifest throughout salvation history:
Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generationLuke 11:49-51
Jesus taught that God’s wisdom mercifully sent prophets and apostles to Israel to warn them to repent and fear him. And God’s wisdom also determines to avenge himself against those who sinned against him. The glorious salvation and judgment of God regarding both Israel and Gentiles makes Paul exclaim, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom 11:33). God is so wise that Paul elsewhere says, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Cor 1:25).
The Father’s Fatherhood
God the Father is Father not only of Jesus Christ eternally, but he is also the Father spiritually of all who have faith in Jesus Christ. In addition to texts considered regarding this in the last blog post, consider also Romans 8:14-17,
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
We Christians are not slaves but sons.
But by virtue of creation, God is also the Father of everyone on earth, as mentioned in the previous blog post (cf. also Matt 5:44-45).
What can we learn from the Fatherhood of God for our own lives as Christians? The repeated refrain concerning God’s Fatherly reign in the Psalms was to worship him and to give thanks to him. Jesus also teaches us to pray to God as our Father, which is also a point Paul makes in the passage above. Finally, the Fatherhood of God is a truth that should comfort us in the midst of the various trials we face. If God is in providential control over the course of human history, then he is also in providential control over the twists and turns in our own lives.
The Bible not only describes God as eternally powerful and infinite in all perfections, but it also teaches that God has eternally existed as the Trinity. The One God has always existed as three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Because the Bible is Trinitarian, the Baptist Faith and Message is Trinitarian: “The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.” This confession makes the same point as the following diagram, a common visual conception of the Trinity for hundreds of years:
There is one God who exists eternally as three Persons. Each Person is fully God, and each Person is distinct from the others. The rest of Article II discusses each member of the Trinity in greater detail. This blog post will therefore focus on presenting the biblical evidence for how the Bible refers to each member of the Trinity as God and how the Bible describes the distinct personal attributes of each.
Scripture affirms the Fatherhood of God from the beginning. God’s creation of Adam and Eve in his image points to his Fatherly relationship to them (Gen 1:26-27; 5:1-2). Luke explicitly refers to Adam as “the son of God” (Luke 3:38). Later, God refers to Israel as his “firstborn son” (Exod 4:22). God was also father to the Davidic kings (2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:7). God’s Fatherhood is even clearer in the New Testament. Jesus refers to God repeatedly as his Father (Matt 7:21; 10:32–33; 11:27; 12:50; 16:17; 18:10, 14, 19; 20:23; 25:34; 26:29, 39, 42, 53). In the Sermon on the Mount, he reveals that he has come so that his disciples can also call on God as “your Father” (Matt 5:16, 45, 48; 6:1, 4, 6, 8, 14, 15, 18, 26, 32; 7:11). In fact, as Creator, God is the Father of everyone, in a sense (Acts 17:28–29; Heb 12:9).
As Father, God the Father has the distinct personal attribute of being unbegotten. Jesus especially teaches the Father’s distinction in role from him as the Son in John 5:19-27. The Father is the origin of divine works (v. 19). The Father has life in himself and has granted the Son to have life in himself (vv. 21, 26). The Father has ultimate authority to judge and has given that authority to the Son, as well (vv. 22, 27). John Frame helpfully explains, “That the Father has some sort of primacy is implicit in the name Father in distinction from Son and Spirit. … The Son and Spirit become voluntarily subordinate to the commands of the Father, because that kind of subordination is appropriate to their eternal nature as persons” (Systematic Theology, p. 501).
The New Testament repeatedly affirms Jesus’ divinity. John affirms it from the beginning of his Gospel (John 1:1, 14, 18). He refers to Jesus as the “Word of God” who is eternally coexistent with God and identified with God (v. 1). As the Word, he “tabernacled” among people just as God dwelled in the Tabernacle during Israel’s wilderness wanderings (v. 14). He is the only-begotten God at the Father’s side who reveals the Father (v. 18). When he sees the resurrected Jesus, Thomas exclaims and calls him “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
Various epistles also refer to Jesus as God. He refers to Jesus as “Christ, who is God over all” (Rom 9:5). He calls Jesus “our great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13). Peter likewise calls Jesus “our God and Savior” (2 Pet 1:1). Though the New Testament only directly refers to Jesus as God only a few times, Jesus is called “Lord” scores of times. Since “Lord” is the word used for “God” in the Old Testament, affirmations of Jesus as “Lord” actually affirm Jesus as God.
The Son’s distinct personal attribute is his begotten-ness, something that John hinted at even in John 1:14, 18. Though the ESV translates monogenes here as “only,” the word in fact is better translated “only-begotten,” as in the KJV or NASB (cf. also John 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). The word monogenes communicates sonship. The Son is the “begotten” of the Father. But since the Son is God, he is “eternally begotten.” The Nicene Creed affirms that Jesus Christ is “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten from the Father before all time, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not created” (translation in Frame, Systematic Theology, p. 491). The only-begotten-ness of Jesus is also called “eternal generation.” “To say that the Son is eternally generated from the Father is to say that something about his eternal nature makes it appropriate for him to be begotten in time,” rather than the Father or Spirit (ibid., p. 494).
The Holy Spirit
A few important New Testament texts explicitly affirm the deity of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28-29). The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit has generated much debate, but whatever precisely it is, it points to the deity of the Holy Spirit, since blasphemy is directed toward God.
Acts 5 is perhaps even more telling. When Ananias sold his land and lied about the proceeds, Peter confronted him, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God” (Acts 5:3-4). Notice Peter’s logic: Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, and he lied to God. The Holy Spirit is God.
Finally, consider Paul’s statements about Christians being the temple in 1 Corinthians. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Cor 3:16-17). “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Cor 6:19). A temple by definition is a dwelling place of God. For Paul to say that the Holy Spirit dwells within Christians, who are temples, is for Paul to call the Spirit God. Furthermore, Paul refers to Christians’ bodies as the temple of God and as the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God.
The distinct personal attribute of the Holy Spirit is that he proceeds from the Father and the Son. Jesus said, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26). The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, and the Son sends him. John Frame again is helpful: “The Spirit is the member of the Trinity whom the Father and Son send, over and over again, to do their business on earth. Unlike the Son, he is not generated or born into a human body. … So perhaps there is value in defining eternal procession as that quality of the Spirit that makes it appropriate for him to receive these missions from the Father and Son and to proceed as he does into the temporal world” (ibid., 497).
The Unity of the Trinity
In its affirmation of the Trinity, the Baptist Faith and Message concludes by saying that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist “without division of nature, essence, or being.” Jesus taught his disciples that he and the Father were “in” one another (John 14:10-11). He also described his unity with the Spirit to them (John 14:16-18). Paul similarly said, “the Lord [Jesus] is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:17-18). “Each of the three persons is ‘in’ the other two, and therefore each exhausts the divine nature” (ibid., 432-433).
This essential unity of the Persons of the Trinity expresses itself in their great works throughout history. All three members of the Trinity were active in creation (Gen 1:1-2; John 1:3). All three were also integral to the redemption of God’s people (Eph 1:3-14). The Father planned salvation (vv. 3-6, 8-10, 12); the Son accomplished salvation (vv. 7, 11, 13a); and the Spirit applies salvation (vv. 13b-14). Peter describes salvation in this way: “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1 Pet 1:2). Finally, all members of the Trinity mutually glorify one another. Jesus prayed about his and the Father’s glorification of one another (John 17:1, 4-5). He taught his disciples about how he and the Father glorified the Spirit, and vice-versa (John 14:12; 16:7, 13-14).
Some people may complain, “The Trinity’s not a Scriptural term! It’s extrabiblical!” But the above Scriptures show that although the term “Trinity” is not in Scripture, the teaching and concept of the Trinity certainly is. We at Friendship Baptist Church are unapologetically Trinitarian because the Bible teaches that God from eternity past has existed as a Trinity: one God, in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
an expository sermon on Philippians 2:5-11 preached by Pastor Jordan Atkinson on September 16, 2018
an expository sermon preached by Pastor Jordan Atkinson on September 9, 2018
An expository sermon on Philippians 1:1-2 preached by Pastor Jordan Atkinson on Sunday, August 5, 2018