Category: Columns

Article IV-B of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000: Justification

“Blind Lady Justice”

Following is another in a series of columns on The Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

In justification, God declares us righteous. In sanctification and glorification, God makes us so.

Article IV-B of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:

“Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer into a relationship of peace and favor with God.”

In justification, God declares us righteous. In sanctification and glorification, which we explore in future columns, God makes us so. These interlocking works of God ensure that, one day, we are fully conformed to the image of Christ.

The Greek noun dikaiosis, or justification, describes the act of God declaring sinners righteous on the basis of the finished work of Christ. Believing sinners are acquitted – freed of all guilt – as their sins are transferred to the account of Christ and exchanged for Christ’s righteousness.

Theologians often refer to justification as forensic, which means “having to do with legal proceedings.” This legal declaration does not change our internal character. A judge does not make defendants guilty or innocent; he simply declares them to be one or the other. 

Regeneration, indwelling, and sanctification are ways God works salvation in us, making us spiritually alive, taking up permanent residence in our spirits, and conforming us to the image of Christ. But justification occurs outside of us. Put another way, the location of justification is heaven, where God declares believing sinners in right standing before Him. 

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Article IV-A of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000: Regeneration

Following is another in a series of posts on the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings a sinner from spiritual death into spiritual life.

Article IV-A of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:

“Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

“Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him and Lord and Saviour.”

Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings a sinner from spiritual death into spiritual life. While Christians may disagree about such issues as the relationship between regeneration and baptism, or whether regeneration precedes faith, it is biblically faithful for a follower of Jesus to say, “I am regenerated.”

While the Greek noun palingenesia appears only twice in the New Testament (Matt. 19:28; Tit. 3:5), the concept of regeneration, or new birth, is a consistent theme of Jesus and the New Testament writers. Jesus makes it clear that people must be “born again,” or “born of the Spirit,” if they are to see the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3, 5). 

The work of the Holy Spirit, making an individual a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15), prepares that person for the future work of Christ as he creates “new heavens and a new earth” (2 Pet. 3:13). All those the Spirit regenerates are assured a place with Christ when he refurbishes the cosmos, purging it completely of sin and its stain.

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Article IV of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000: Salvation

Salvation is God’s remedy for the sin that has ruined everything and alienated everyone from him.

Article IV of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:

“Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.”

People use the words salvation and saved in a variety of settings, from sporting events to political campaigns to natural disasters. Even within Christian circles, there is disagreement as to what it means to be saved and how salvation is acquired. So, it’s critical for us to begin with a definition.

Stated simply, salvation is God’s remedy for the sin that has ruined everything and alienated everyone from him. The Lord reveals this remedy as soon as Adam and Eve rebel against him. He promises a future redeemer who crushes the head of Satan (Gen. 3:15). Then, he provides additional promises throughout the Old Testament, granting us more than 400 prophecies, appearances, or foreshadows of the Messiah. 

Jesus of Nazareth bursts onto the scene at just the right time (Gal. 4:4). He lives a sinless life and dies on a Roman cross, taking upon himself our sins and paying the penalty of death for them (2 Cor. 5:21). Then, he rises physically from the dead on the third day, conquering Satan, sin, and death, and freely offering forgiveness of sins and everlasting life by grace through faith in him. 

Before ascending into heaven, Jesus promises to return one day to fulfill all things – that  is, to complete his work of salvation, judge every person, and set everything right. 

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Article III of The Baptist Faith & Message: Man

Human beings are God’s crowning act of creation. By making us in his image, God sets humanity apart from the rest of creation. Therefore, his work of redemption is directed specifically to men and women whose “imago dei” has been tarnished by sin.

Article III of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:

“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. In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation. Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God. The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.”

God’s crowning act of creation occurred when “the LORD God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). 

The Bible is a story about God and human beings: Adam and Eve’s creation in innocence, their rebellion and fall, and God’s work of restoring both sinful mankind and a cursed creation to their Edenic innocence. God’s redemptive role in human history may be summarized in several key biblical truths.

1. God has created every human being in his image. All people possess the imago dei, or image of God. This doesn’t mean we look like God, for God is spirit. It means, however, that all people possess a spiritual capacity that makes us moral creatures who can know God and enjoy intimate fellowship with him. 

Every person, regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, abilities, socioeconomic class, or even behavior retains God-given worth and dignity. The imago dei extends to every human being without exception. Therefore, every person is to be treated with the utmost respect.

By making human beings in his image, God sets humanity apart from the rest of creation. His work of redemption is directed specifically to the salvation of men and women whose imago dei has been tarnished by sin.

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Article II-C of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000: God the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is both divine and personal, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son, and he is a full partner within the Godhead in creation, redemption, and the revealing of Scripture.

Article II-C of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:

“The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. Through illumination He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Saviour, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service.”

In some ways, the Holy Spirit is the neglected, if not forgotten, member of the Trinity. 

The biblical doctrines of foreknowledge, election, predestination, and adoption awaken us to the eternal love of God the Father. 

Through the Incarnation, the second person of the triune Godhead becomes flesh and pitches his tent with us (John 1:14). He experiences in full measure what it means to be human, including facing temptation – yet without sinning so that he may clothe us in God’s righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). 

Christians are said to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to be the adopted sons and daughters of God the Father. 

But where is the Holy Spirit in all of this? As we know from Scripture, none of the persons of the Godhead acts alone. As such, the Holy Spirit is a co-equal and co-eternal partner in all of the Trinity’s work. 

So, it’s important for us to understand how thoroughly the Bible depicts both the personhood and deity of the Holy Spirit. 

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