an expository sermon on Isaiah 6 preached by Pastor Jordan Atkinson on December 20, 2020
After grounding all matters of doctrine and practice in Scripture and setting forth what Scripture teaches about God, The Baptist Faith and Message next summarizes what the Bible teaches about humanity. Article III first describes man’s original created state: “Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation.” As this paragraph affirms, all people are created in God’s image, as male or female.
The Image of God
According to Scripture, on the sixth day of Creation Week, God resolved to “make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1:26). Furthermore, God’s purpose in creating man in His image and likeness was “so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Gen 1:26 NIV). Being made in God’s image speaks to man being His representative ruler over the rest of earthly creation. As God rules beneficently over all creation, so should mankind rule beneficently over the other earthly creatures (Ps 8:5-8). Even in relationships with other people, those in authority should not be authoritarian (Lev 25:43, 46; Mark 10:42-45). Being made after God’s likeness shows that mankind relates to God as a son relates to his father (Gen 5:1-3). Luke calls Adam the “son of God” (Luke 3:38). Paul proclaims that all people are God’s “offspring” (Acts 17:26-28).
God’s blessing of Adam and Eve shows how they are to exercise their God-given rule over the rest of creation and expand their dominion over it: by populating the earth and spreading out over it (Gen 1:28). As they do so, they are to steward the earth’s resources well (Gen 1:29-30; 9:3).
The Baptist Faith and Message rightly affirms, “man is the special creation of God.” Genesis 1, as well as the Bible as a whole, is incompatible with modern theories of macro-evolution. According to Scripture, humanity is not the product of millions of years of macro-evolution; rather, God specially created Adam and Eve as the first people on the sixth day of creation week. Indeed, the special creation of Adam and Eve is “the crowning work of His creation.” God’s creation of man is the climax of creation week. In Genesis 1, God’s creation of man takes more ink than His creation of anything else. The next chapter gives even more details about God’s creation of Adam and Eve (Gen 2:4-25). The gendered creation of man is also noted in that God created man “male and female” (Gen 1:26, 27).
The Goodness of Gender
God’s resolution to “make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1:26) is Trinitarian; God says that He (one) will make man in our (plural) image. Genesis has already shown the Holy Spirit to be active from the beginning of creation (Gen 1:2). Even from the first chapter of the Bible, we have a subtle hint to the plurality within the unity of God. And John would begin his Gospel by saying that Jesus, God the Son (“Word”), was also instrumental to creation (John 1:1-4, 14). The triune God created all the universe, including man, by the word of His power. And the Trinity (one God eternally existent as three Persons) appropriately creates man (singular) as both male and female (plural) from the beginning (Gen 1:27).
The gendered creation of humanity, then, is part of God’s original good creation. In fact, it is only after creating man, specifically as male and female, that God calls creation “very good” because it is complete (Gen 1:31). Being male or female is good, even from the beginning of creation, for at least two reasons:
- Being male or female is good because whether a person is male or female, he or she is fully an image-bearer of God (Gen 1:27).1
- Being male or female is good because God’s design for man to subdue and rule the earth depends in part on humanity being fruitful, multiplying, and filling the earth, which is possible only through the cooperation between both sexes (Gen 1:28).2
Gender distinctions are not the result of the fall. Abuses of these distinctions result from the fall of mankind (Gen 3:16), but gender distinctions themselves existed prior to the fall of mankind. God created Adam before Eve. When God gave Adam the command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve had not yet been created (Gen 2:16-18, 21-22). So Adam would have been responsible to pass this command along to Eve. God even refers to Eve as Adam’s “helper” (Gen 2:18), which points to Adam’s responsibility to lead her well in their relationship.
As gender distinctions are increasingly maligned in our culture and as gender confusion becomes increasingly prevalent, it is increasingly important for us Christians to stand on the truth of God’s word that God from the beginning created man as male and female. Both genders bear equal dignity and worth as divine image bearers. Both genders have distinct roles in together fulfilling God’s mandate in creation.
We at Friendship Baptist Church gladly affirm The Baptist Faith and Message‘s summary of God’s original creation fo man as faithful to Scripture. The Bible is our final authority for all matters of faith and practice, and we are thankful for God’s clarity on the original good creation of humanity in His image, as both male and female. May we as men and women redeemed by the blood of Jesus strive to glorify Him as men and women in all we think, say, and do!
Living in the United States in the 21st century, we are blessed with a plethora of theological resources. The Bible, the gospel, and the things of God have never been so accessible as they are now in our society. Below are some of the books and articles that have been most helpful to me both to know God better and to love God better, the focus of Article II of Friendship’s statement of faith.
Resources on the Attributes of God
All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism by James E. Dolezal
God’s Greater Glory: The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith by Bruce Ware
Knowing God by J. I. Packer
The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul
Resources on the Trinity
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance by Bruce Ware
Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John M. Frame
Resources on God the Son
God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen J. Wellum
The Person of Christ by Donald MacLeod
Resources on the Holy Spirit
God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments by James M. Hamilton Jr.
Spiritual Gifts: What They Are and Why They Matter by Thomas R. Schreiner
The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson
“The Witness of the Spirit in Romans 8:16: Interpretation and Applications” by Daniel B. Wallace. Pp. 37-52 in Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit? An Investigation into the Ministry of the Spirit of God Today, edited by Daniel B. Wallace and M. James Sawyer. (He has published an online version of this essay at bible.org.)
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.