Studies in The Baptist Catechism: Section Two – Theology Proper

Table of Contents

Part I – Prolegomena

Part II – What Man Ought to Believe Concerning God

  • Section Two: Theology Proper
  • Section Three: God’s Decrees
  • Section Four: Our First Parents, Sin, and the Fall
  • Section Five: Christ the Mediator
  • Section Six: The Work of the Spirit
  • Section Seven: The Death of the Righteous and the Wicked

Part III – What Duty God Requires of Man

  • Section Eight: Introduction to the Moral Law
  • Section Nine: The First Table of the Moral Law (Part One)
  • Section Ten: The First Table of the Moral Law (Part Two)
  • Section Eleven: The Second Table of the Moral Law (Part One)
  • Section Twelve: The Second Table of the Moral Law (Part Two)
  • Section Thirteen: The Proper Response to Law and Gospel

Part VI – The Communication of God’s Grace

  • Section Fourteen: The Ordinary Means of Grace
  • Section Fifteen: Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer

______________

In writing this humble series, I don’t hope to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the great theologians who have already written on these subjects. What I do hope to accomplish is to make The Baptist Catechism a bit more accessible and clear for my generation. You may read Section One of our study here. Having completed the second series of articles on the Catechism, you may now read it in its entirety below or click on the links to read it section by section.

Q.7: What is God?

A. God is a Spirit,1 infinite,2 eternal,3 and unchangeable,4 in His being,5 wisdom, power,6 holiness,7goodness,8 and truth.9

1John 4:24

2Job 11:7-9;

3Psalm 90:2

4James 1:17

5Exodus 3:14

6Psalm 147:5

7Revelation 4:8

8Revelation 15:4

9Exodus 34:6

It can seem almost improper to ask a question such as What is God? as though we are calling God a thing—an impersonal, inanimate object. Rather, the question seeks to discern two things about the very personal Being we call God. We want to know, generally, what comprises God’s essential nature and, more specifically, what His attributes are.

Answering this question is of prime concern for our study, because heresies are built upon false conceptions of God. There are heresies, like Mormonism, that teach that their god had a body before he became a god and that he still has a body to this day. Mormons also teach that their god is not eternal. He will continue on for eternity, but he came into being at some point. He is everlasting, but he is not from everlasting. Other cults, like Islam, teach that their god does change. He arbitrarily changes from one day to the next, according to his changing desires. The god of Islam is not fixed.

Spirit

Enough about what God’s word does not teach; what does it teach? In order to understand what God is, we must often speak of Him in terms of what He is not. For instance, when we consider the fact that God is Spirit, we are acknowledging the fact that God is incorporeal. That is a fancy way of saying that God does not have a body. “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have,” (Lk. 24:39; NASB). In His essential, eternal being, God does not have a body like ours.

“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth,’” (John 4:24; NASB).

This is the first of many attributes of God that distinguish Him from ourselves. In His very nature, God is Spirit; He is incorporeal. In our nature, we are body and spirit. A distinction is being made here. We are not as God is, nor will we be in eternity. At the resurrection, we will receive new, glorified bodies, and we will have these bodies for all of eternity.

Infinite, Eternal, and Unchangeable

Here, our Catechism teaches us three more of God’s essential attributes. He is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. These attributes are meant to be read as qualifiers of the attributes that follow. So, it could actually be broken down like this:

  • God is infinite in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, goodness, and truth.
  • God is eternal in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, goodness, and truth.
  • God is unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, goodness, and truth.

These attributes also distinguish God from man. They are what have lately been styled the incommunicable attributes of God. That just means that God does not share these attributes with His creatures. It is in these attributes that we find the Creator / creature distinction of Scripture. God is completely other. Sure, we exist, but we do not have infinite, eternal, or unchangeable being. As Christians, we might grow in wisdom, holiness, goodness, and truth, but we will never possess those traits infinitely, eternally, and unchangeably as God does.

In the entirety of His being, God is all of these attributes. God is essentially and exhaustively infinite.

“Can you discover the depths of God?

Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?

They are high as the heavens, what can you do?

Deeper than Sheol, what can you know?

Its measure is longer than the earth

And broader than the sea,” (Job 11:7-9; NASB).

There has never been a time when God did not exist, and exist in all of His essential attributes.

“Before the mountains were born

Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,

Even from everlasting to everlasting,

You are God,” (Ps. 97:9; NASB).

God is unwaveringly trustworthy in the immutability (unchangeability) of His attributes. All of His promises we can expect He will fulfill, because of His supreme and perfect consistency. Thus, we derive great comfort from this doctrine.

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow,” (Jas. 1:17; NASB).

Being, Wisdom, Power, Holiness, Goodness, and Truth

Having observed God’s infinitude, eternality, and immutability, let us examine the attributes of God in which we see these characteristics on display. The following attributes are what might be called the communicable attributes. That is, these are attributes in which the creature might share in a certain measure, albeit in a finite, temporal, and changeable sense. Where we exist and may to a certain measure prove wise, powerful, holy, good, and true, these are things we receive from God, not things that originate in us. God, on the other hand, possesses all of these attributes infinitely, eternally, and unchangeably.

Being. First, let us recognize that God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being. There was never a time when God began to be. He has always existed. In fact, God’s covenant name in the Hebrew Scriptures (YHWH; Yahweh, or Jehovah) was derivative of this idea. The name Yahweh is believed to have been revealed first to Moses at the burning bush:

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you,’’” (Exod. 3:14; NASB).

God did not claim to have come into being. Rather, He declared, “I AM WHO I AM.” That is to say that God exists. From all of eternity past to all of eternity future, God is. He did not create Himself, nor was He created by another. He simply has always been, still is, and always will be. He is the constant, eternal I AM.

Christ evoked this same moniker of Himself in several sayings in the Gospel of John known as the I AM statements. In a very provocative way, Christ used the construction ἐγώ εἰμι repeatedly in reference to Himself. The term ἐγώ in Greek means I in English. It is often used with action verbs to describe events (e.g. I run, I walk, I sit, etc.). When referring to being or existence, one would not typically use the term ἐγώ, but would rather choose εἰμι, which is translated into English as I am. Never would it be necessary, in the Greek, to put these two terms together, unless the person speaking is trying to make a very specific point.

Interestingly, in Exodus 3:14 in the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures (The Septuagint; LXX), God refers to Himself with these two Greek terms. In the English, we read, “I AM WHO I AM.” In the Greek, it reads, “Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν.” This was God coming to Moses as the covenant God of Israel and telling him that He never began to be, but simply is from all of eternity. Thus, the Jews of Jesus’ day would have been very careful not to use this construction to refer to anyone but God Himself. Jesus, however, used it of Himself in multiple statements! In all of the following statements, Jesus refers to Himself using the construction ἐγώ εἰμι.

“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life,’” (John 8:12; NASB).

““I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me,” (vs. 18; NASB).

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins,”(vs. 24; NASB; note: The term He is inserted by most English translations. It does not actually appear in the Greek text.).

“So Jesus said, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me,’” (vs. 28; NASB; note: Again the term He does not appear in the Greek text.).

Jesus’ I AM statements here serve to build a certain tension between Him and the religious leaders with whom He is speaking. He is blatantly claiming to be Yahweh in human flesh. Not only this, but He repeatedly calls their authority into question, even calling them sons of the devil. This interaction culminates with Christ making His claim to deity unmistakable:

“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am,’” (John 8:58; NASB).

Jesus in this statement is not merely claiming to be infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being. He is claiming to be such because He is claiming to be Yahweh Himself! In response to this bold claim, the Jews picked up stones to stone Him, so He hid himself and went out of the temple.

Wisdom. As we mentioned when we began this study, God is the source of all true knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. He searches all things, even Himself, and there is nothing hidden from His sight. The Psalmist spoke well of this attribute of God when he declared the following:

“Great is our Lord and abundant in strength;

His understanding is infinite,” (Ps. 147:5; NASB).

In our knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, we are finite, temporal, and changing. God, on the other hand, is the source of all true knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. In all three, He is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. As we stated in our first study, all proper knowledge of God must have God as its Source. In fact, all proper knowledge, understanding, and wisdom does come down to us from the Lord of Glory.

Power. Psalm 147:5 also speaks to the great power of our God. The psalmist proclaims, “Great is our Lord and abundant in strength.” Surely, our God is omnipotent (all powerful). In fact, His exhaustive power is so prominent an attribute as to be attributed to Him as one of His titles. In Revelation 4:8, we read of the designation given Him by the seraphim who surround His throne:

“And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within, and day and night they do not cease to say,

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come,’” (Rev. 4:8; NASB).

The Lord’s power also speaks to His authority. Sure, as the Catechism for Boys and Girls teaches us, “God can do all His holy will.” Notice though that in Isaiah 6, the Old Testament parallel to Revelation 4:8, the six-winged seraphim refer to God as the Lord of hosts:

“And one called out to another and said,

‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,

The whole earth is full of His glory,’” (Isa. 6:3; NASB).

This title of God teaches us that God has all authority to dispatch hosts of heavenly beings to accomplish His will in creation. For this reason, we can have confidence when we pray, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,” (Mt. 6:10b; KJV). At a moment’s notice, were it God’s will, God can exercise His infinite power and execute His divine authority to set all things right on earth, just as it is in the very presence of God. Surely, God has it in His power and in His authority to accomplish His will in all things.

This is a comfort for us as Christians who know that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,” (Rom. 8:28; NASB). God not only promises good things to those who love Him and called, He not only knows of the good things that will come to us, but He actually causes all such things to come to pass. The God who promises to work all things out for the good of His saints actually has all power and authority to ensure that His promises will be kept.

Holiness. God is not only referenced as the Almighty in these refrains. He is also called holy. Not only is He called holy, but He is thrice holy: “‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,” (Isa. 6:3b). In antiquity, when an author wanted to emphasize a particular word or phrase, he would repeat it. Holiness is the only attribute of God repeated thrice. This repetition is meant to highlight its preeminence. Of the holiness of God, the Westminster divines wrote:

“Q. 2. Is God necessarily holy?

A. Holiness is as necessary to him as his being: he is as necessarily holy as he is necessarily God: ‘Who shall not fear thee, O Lord?—for thou only art holy,’ Rev. xv. 4” (Westminster Assembly, The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism Explained. Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh. 1765, pg. 31).

All of God’s attributes could be said to be dependent upon this over-arching attribute of holiness. God’s acts are just, because God is holy. God’s love is pure, because God is holy. God’s glory is matchless, because God is holy. God’s transcendence is unattainable, because God is holy. God’s ways are not our ways, because God is holy.

Everything that God does is holy. All of His works, His decrees, His provisions, and His dealings with mankind are absolutely holy. For all the efforts of the anti-theists, there is absolutely no charge that can be laid against God on account of His works.

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways,

And holy in all his works,” (Ps. 145:17; KJV).

God’s covenant promises are also holy: “For He remembered His holy promise, and Abraham His servant,” (Ps. 105:42; NKJV). All that God has determined shall come to pass work toward His ultimate holy ends. We have the security and the assurance of knowing that God has promised good to all His saints, and His promises will surely come to pass.

All that God ordains and all that He designates as His own is to be reckoned as holy. God’s apostles and prophets were deemed holy (Eph. 3:5) insofar as they were His apostles and prophets. God’s elect are holy (Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2), even the elect of otherwise corrupt churches (1Cor. 1:2; 2Cor. 1:1). Even the day that God has set aside for His worship is to be considered holy by His people:

“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,

From doing your pleasure on My holy day,

And call the Sabbath a delight,

The holy day of the LORD honorable,

And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,

Nor finding your own pleasure,

Nor speaking your own words,” (Isa. 58:13; NKJV).

Above all, let us not forget that God’s holiness is revealed to us so that we might respond in praise, and awe, and wonder.

“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?

For You alone are holy;

For all the nations will come and worship before you,

For Your righteous acts have been revealed,” (Revelation 4:8; NASB).

Goodness and truth. Finally, let us consider the fact that God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His goodness and truth. We often keep our motives and justifications secret from our children in the hopes that they will learn to trust us. We do not explain to them every reason for every command we give them. Rather, we say things like, “…because I told you so.” In these moments, do we mean to be harsh and uncaring? Not necessarily. It can be proper to respond to our kids in this way if our desire is for them to grow in their trust of us.

Yet, for as much as we know what’s best for our children, we do not know as much as God. For as much as we might treat our children with kindness, love, and sympathy, we are not as good as God. God’s goodness and truth are far above our own, and we have the privilege of being called His children. Consider the declaration made to Moses as the Lord passed by him:

“Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth,” (Exodus 34:6; NASB).

What comfort is there in knowing that, though we do not know all things and though we are mired in sin and misery, God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His goodness and truth. We have the privilege of serving this God. We have the privilege of calling Him Father. What a blessing! What security! What great and glorious assurance!

Q.8: Are there more Gods than one.

A. There is but one only, the living and true God.1

1Deuteronomy 6:4; Jeremiah 10:10

Besides monergism, monotheism is the doctrine that most distinguishes Christianity from myriad other world religions. While it could be argued that all religions besides Christianity promote a works-based view of salvation, there are admittedly other religions that hold to monotheism. Judaism and Islam are just two such religions. Other religions, like many pagan religions, teach a view known as polytheism. This view teaches that there are many gods. Mormonism and many Hindu sects teach henotheism, a brand of polytheism in which only one of the many gods is to be worshipped.

Still others, like Buddhism, are ultimately atheistic or agnostic at their root, teaching no particular view of God or the gods. Other religions teach pantheism (all things are god) or even panentheism (god is all things and more). Others, like African Traditional religions, have adopted animism teaching that all things (plant, animal, and mineral) have a soul and are animated by a supernatural force in the world.

Christianity affirms the Shema of the ancient Hebrews: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4; NASB). God is not many. He certainly is not three gods, as Christians are slanderously charged as teaching in the Quran. As has been attested by Christians throughout the history of the church, going all the way back to creation itself, there is only one God.

“The unity of the world shows there is only one Maker. The voice of conscience testifies that there is only one Lord and Master. Reason teaches that there can be but one infinite and absolute Sovereign. This one God is called the living and true God, to distinguish his name from those of the false gods the heathens worship, who are false and dead,” (A.A. Hodge, The System of Theology Contained in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene, OR. 2004, pg. 16).

Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, God is recognized to be only One, though subtle hints to His triunity are peppered here and there throughout. The term most commonly translated God in the Hebrew text is the word אֱלֹהִים (transliteration:Elohim; cf. Deut. 4:35; 39; 7:9; 1Kgs. 8:60; Isa. 45:18), which is notably a plural noun. The term is used 2,570 times in the Hebrew Scriptures the first of which is the first verse of the Bible in which it is the fourth word written. God is also notably designated plural pronouns in several passages of the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g. Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isa. 6:8).

What does all of this mean? Is God one or is He not? God certainly is but one true and living God. Yet, God has also revealed Himself in three infinitely eternally distinct Subsistences: the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For this reason, Christians honestly confess that we are neither Unitarian monotheists nor Tri-theists. We believe, as Scripture teaches, in the triunity of God. He is one God, and the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Spirit is God. These three are different Persons, and yet they are one God.

“To apply arithmetical notions to God is as unphilosophical as profane…. He is not One in the way in which created things are severally units; for one, as applied to ourselves, is used in contrast to two or three or a whole series of numbers. But God has not even such a relation to His creatures as to allow, philosophically speaking, of our contrasting Him with them’ (Newman),” (Alexander Whyte, An Exposition of the Shorter Catechism. Christian Focus Publications, Ross-shire, Great Britain. 2004, pg. 29).

God is one, but we dare not assign to him an anthropomorphic (human-like) oneness. God is otherly one. He is one in the sense that only God may be one. Thus, it should not baffle us when cultists like Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Oneness Pentecostals mistaken Christian theism with Tri-theism and deny on its face the oneness of the Christian expression of monotheism. They forget that we are not talking about their false gods. We are talking about the God of Scripture. Even in our agreement on the term monotheism, we find no neutral ground on which to stand with Unitarian monotheists.

Decidedly less of a temptation for Christians is to affirm any form of polytheism. Polytheists cannot goad us into engaging the accusation that we do not truly believe in “three.” We do not believe in “three.” At least, we do not believe in a plurality in the way that they would affirm a plurality. There is a plurality of Subsistences in the Godhead, but these Subsistences are not three gods. They are each God, and there is only one God. Again, God is divinely other in His oneness. He is neither like us in His oneness, nor is He like the gods we fabricate in their supposed oneness.

“But the Lord is the true God;

He is the living God and the everlasting King.

At His wrath the earth quakes,

And the nations cannot endure His indignation,” (Jeremiah 10:10; NASB).

God, then, is distinguished in His oneness both from any oneness that may be found in His creatures and from any conception of oneness His creatures may venture to fathom or fabricate. To say that human beings can wrap our minds around such a oneness as is found in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is to say that we are the judge of all sound reason and revelation. Consider the testimony of our Confession:

“The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of Himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but Himself,” (The Baptist Confession, 2.1; emphasis added).

God’s oneness is essential to all that we confess as orthodox Christians. It is a necessary confession for all who would claim to believe in the one true God of the Holy Scriptures. To say that we are monotheists is to distinguish ourselves from all non-monotheistic world religions. However, this affirmation does not serve to link us with Unitarian monotheists. Rather, Christians hold to the Triune monotheism of Scripture, a monotheism that accords with sound reason, but a Triunity that stretches our finite minds beyond the third heaven.

Q.9: How many persons are there in the Godhead.

A. There are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one God, the same in essence, equal in power and glory.1

11 John 5:7; Matthew 28:19

As we move from the question of how many Gods to the question of how many Persons, we must keep in mind that our subject has not changed. We are still speaking with reference to triune monotheism. We have simply moved from our focus on the monotheism part of the construction to a focus on the triune part.

To put it another way, we are speaking with reference to the fact that God is one God eternally existing in three distinct Persons. In answer to the last question, we focused on the oneness of God. In answer to this question, we shall focus on the tri-unity of the Godhead. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.

“Q.1. Whence is it that this article of our holy religion has been much opposed by adversaries, in every period of the church?

A. The devil and his instruments have warmly opposed it, because they know it is the primary object of our faith and worship; it not being enough for us to know what God is, as to his essential attributes, without knowing who he is, as to his personality, according as he has revealed himself in his word, to be Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, 1 John ii. 23, ‘Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father,’” (Westminster Assembly, The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism Explained, pg. 40).

Even to our day, there is no shortage of heretics who deny this essential doctrine of our faith. We need not think long to recall a handful of these groups: Islam, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormonism), The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses), Oneness Pentecostals, Unitarian Universalists, etc. The mere existence of these heretics demands that we study our faith.

Apologetics (the defense of the faith) ought to be an essential motivation for learning the catechism. As we learn the catechism, we are learning the essential elements of the Christian faith and thus tearing down strongholds erected in our own minds against it.

4For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled,” (2Cor. 10:4-6; NKJV).

Catechetical instruction (discipleship) is of utmost importance. The lack of it has led to a tremendous deficiency in the church’s ability to defend the faith. For this reason, Jehovah’s Witnesses are notorious for being able to twist Christians in doctrinal pretzels. Jehovah’s Witnesses hold up to four meetings a week in order to indoctrinate their followers in the teachings of the Watchtower. Conversely, imagine if Christian parents committed themselves four or five nights a week to reading the Bible with, and catechizing, their families. Christians would be as immersed in the truth of God as Jehovah’s Witnesses are immersed in the lies of the devil.

The first article of this faith, the foundational principle of the Christian religion, is the triune God of Holy Scripture. God is one God, and He is three Persons. As the Westminster Assembly cited in the above quotation: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also,” (1Jn. 2:23; NASB). To deny the deity of the Son of God is to deny God Himself.

There are several passages that demand our affirmation of the triune nature of God.

22Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. 24As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father,” (1Jn.2:22-23; NASB).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. . . with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will. . . In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory,” (Eph. 1:3, 10-11, 13-14; NASB).

“for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father,” (Eph. 2:18; NASB).

14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,” (Eph. 3:14-17; NASB).

4There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all,” (Eph. 4:4-6; NASB).

The above passages from Ephesians demonstrate what has commonly come to be known as the economic Trinity. When we talk about the economic Trinity, we mean God as He acts with respect to redemption. Insofar as God’s Covenant of Redemption is eternal, it could be said that God’s roles in accomplishing redemption are eternal. That is not, however, to say that God’s eternal roles impact His eternal nature. Regarding His nature, the Catechism affirms that He is “the same in essence, equal in power and glory.”

In regard to God’s acts of redemption, there is a subordination of roles. The Father elects us from eternity past and sends His Son, the Son condescends in time, obeys the Father perfectly, and atones for our sins, the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit applies to us the redemption accomplished by Christ. The Baptist Confession explains it in this manner:

“…the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son,” (LBC 2.3).

When we speak of roles within the Trinity, and especially when we speak of these rolls in relation to the fact that human beings are created in His image (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:23; 1Cor. 11:3, 7-11), we must recognize that we are speaking in regard to the economic Trinity, the Godhead in relation to God’s work of redemption, not the ontological Trinity. However, we must simultaneously recognize that, when we speak of the economic Trinity, we are not to divorce the redemptive work of God from His eternality. Though much of God’s work of redemption occurs in time and space, it is rooted in His eternal decree, which we shall consider in our examination of questions 10 and 11.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each fully God in all that entails. Whatsoever we affirm of God in is infinitude, eternality, and immutability is true of the Father. The same is true of the Son, and the same is true of the Holy Spirit. As we affirm the Godhead’s unity of essence, glory, and power, we will guard ourselves from moving from a biblical affirmation of triune monotheism into a heretical affirmation of tri-theism.

Again, affirmation of the triune nature of the Godhead is essential to the Christian faith. It is so essential, in fact, that affirmation of it was included in the earliest recorded baptismal formula. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” (Mt. 28:19; NASB). The saints followed in the example of our Lord in their adopting of future baptismal formulas, requiring of baptismal candidates that they affirm the redemptive work of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Let us testify, along with the saints throughout all of church history, the triune nature of the God we serve.

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2 thoughts on “Studies in The Baptist Catechism: Section Two – Theology Proper

  1. Pingback: Studies in The Baptist Catechism: Section One – Authority, Revelation, and Scripture | CredoCovenant

  2. Pingback: Studies in The Baptist Catechism: Section Three – The Decrees of God | CredoCovenant

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