an expository sermon on Isaiah 8 preached by Pastor Jordan Atkinson on January 10, 2021
The Baptist Faith and Message has important confessions about both the person of Christ and his work. “Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin.” Friendship’s statement of faith discusses Christ’s person in terms of his incarnation and human nature.
The confession’s discussion of Jesus’ incarnation begins with a re-affirmation of Jesus’ eternal deity: “Christ is the eternal Son of God.” This contention was a major point in a previous blog post on the Trinity. Christ’s incarnation deals with how the eternal Son of God became a human being. God the Son became the God-Man, Christ Jesus. “He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.” Both Matthew and Luke begin their Gospels by teaching that Jesus is the eternal God the Son incarnate.
Matthew teaches that Jesus is Immanuel in fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 (Matt 1:22-23). Jesus was virgin-conceived and virgin-born. The angel affirms Jesus’ conception in the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit to Joseph (Matt 1:20-21). Matthew teaches that Mary was still a virgin when Jesus was born (Matt 1:25). Jesus perfectly fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, which was that not only would the Savior be born of a virgin but that the Savior would in fact be God incarnate.
Luke likewise opens his Gospel with an affirmation of Jesus’ identity as the incarnate Son of God. In perfect agreement with Matthew, Luke teaches that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). Gabriel told Mary that her son “will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33). For his kingdom to be eternal, he must similarly be no mere man but the God-Man, even as prophesied by Daniel, “one like a son of man … was presented before [God]. And to him was given a dominion … an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away” (Dan 7:13-14). Jesus’ incarnation shows that he is the eternal Son of God, but his special conception in no way diminishes from his full humanity. As the second Adam, it is fitting that Jesus, like Adam, would have no human biological father. It is fitting that the offspring of the woman to crush the head of the serpent would be conceived and born of a woman without the biological help of any human man (Gen 3:15).
Christ’s Human Nature
Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man. As a man, he had a full “human nature with its demands and necessities and identif[ied] Himself completely with mankind yet without sin.” Each part of this statement is important. Jesus took on the demands and necessities of human nature. He was fully human physically, intellectually, emotionally, and volitionally.
Fully human, Jesus was in his humanity constrained by space and time, even as God is spirit and omnipresent. As a man, Jesus experienced hunger that Satan strove to exploit (Matt 4:1-3). He got thirsty in the heat of the day (John 4:6-7). Jesus experienced the tragedy of homelessness (Matt 8:20). He needed sleep (Matt 8:24). As a human, Jesus “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom,” and he “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:40, 52). From the excruciating agony of the cross, Jesus thirsted (John 19:28-30).
Jesus as a man also knew the limitations of human knowledge. The most direct statement of the human limitation of Jesus’ knowledge, in addition to Luke’s statements that Jesus grew in wisdom as he grew from a child to an adult, comes late in Jesus’ ministry: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matt 24:36). As a human being, Jesus experienced the reality of Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God.”
Fully human, Jesus had human emotions. He felt pity (Mark 1:41). He marveled at unbelief (Mark 6:6). He had compassion on people (Mark 8:2). He loved people (John 11:5). He got angry (John 11:33). His soul was greatly troubled on the eve of his crucifixion (John 12:27).
Finally, Jesus had a fully human will, as well as a divine will. As a boy, Jesus had to submit to Mary and Joseph as his parents, which he did (Luke 2:51). Even as an adult, his will is subservient to that of Father God (John 5:19, 30). Jesus’ submission of his human will to the divine will is most apparent in Gethsemane:
And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”Mark 14:32-36
As a man, Jesus very naturally did not want to die. As a perfectly righteous man, Jesus very rightly did not want to experience the cup of the wrath of God. But even at this moment of greatest temptation, Jesus submitted his human will to that of God the Father. Donald Macleod describes Jesus’ triumph over temptation most poignantly:
he was not being called upon to mortify a lust. He was being called upon to frustrate the holiest aspiration of which man is capable … We must be careful not to misconstrue the effect of Jesus’s sinless integrity at this point. Far from meaning a shorter, painless struggle with temptation it involved him in protracted resistance. … The very fact that he was invincible meant that he endured the full force of temptation’s ferocity, until hell slunk away, defeated and exhausted.The Person of Christ (Downers Grove: IVP, 1998), pp. 226-228
And Macleod’s quote gets at the truth of the last aspect of the Baptist Faith and Message’s discussion of Jesus’ human nature: his sinlessness. Scripture teaches that Jesus was both without a sin nature and that he never once committed a sin.
Numerous Bible verses affirm that Jesus did not have a sin nature. Paul calls Adam a type of Christ (Rom 5:14). Just as Adam originally did not have a sin nature, so did Christ not have a sin nature. His miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit also miraculously preserved his humanity from receiving a sin nature. Throughout his life, Jesus was in the position that Adam was in the Garden of Eden. But unlike Adam, Jesus never sinned. Both Paul and John explicitly state that Jesus was and is sinless: Jesus “knew no sin” Paul said (2 Cor 5:21), and John says, “in him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5). These statements not only affirm the sinless actions of Christ but also the sinless nature of Christ.
In addition to being sinless, Jesus never committed a sin. He was “like his brothers in every respect” and “suffered when tempted” (Heb 2:17-18). Because he never gave in to temptation, “he learned obedience” and was “perfect” (Heb 5:8-9). Because he was perfect, his sacrifice was acceptable to God (Heb 7:27-28). Peter teaches plainly, “he committed no sin” (1 Pet 2:22). Macleod’s comments are again helpful, “Nowhere in the structures of his being was there any sin. Satan had no foot-hold in him. … There was no affinity with sin. There was no proclivity to sin. There was no possibility of temptation from within. In no respect was he fallen and in no respect was his nature corrupt” (ibid., 222).
We at Friendship Baptist Church are so thankful that God became man in the person of Christ Jesus. We are so thankful that he was perfectly obedient in his full, human life. We are thankful for his sinlessness, which he credits to us through faith in him.
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