Friday, September 18, 2009

Stand for the Rule of Faith

Yesterday evening's introductory blog pointed to seven things that Evangelical believers need to stand for. The first item in that list was the core beliefs of the Christian faith found in the Bible and expressed in the Apostles' Creed. Someone might ask, "Why is a Baptist pointing to the Apostles' Creed?" Good question, and one that deserves an answer. Over the next several days I will explore the significance of the theology in the Apostles' Creed as it relates to Evangelical Christianity.

What we know as the Apostles' Creed originated as the Regula Fide, or "Rule of Faith" in the second Christian century. A heretical movement called gnosticism developed within the early Christian movement and claimed to have secret knowledge passed on by oral tradition from the Apostles to select persons. The Church developed three lines of defense against this: (1) the Rule of Faith, (2) Apostolic succession of bishops, and (3) the Canon of the New Testament. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, in Gaul, used the Rule of Faith in his defense of the Gospel in Against All Heresies, which he wrote in the mid second century. A close examination of the Rule of Faith as seen in the Apostles' Creed will serve as a positive step toward a wholesome Christian witness to the world.

First, the Rule of Faith affirms belief in "God the Father Almighty." True Christianity affirms one, and only one God. How this relates to the doctrine of the Trinity will be explored another day. In Scripture there is no place for a multiplicity of gods or of men becoming gods in the proper sense of the word. There certainly is no room for the idea that God was once a man who achieved godhood in some previous life. "Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is one LORD" (Deut 6: 4). "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me" (Isa 46: 9). "From everlasting to everlasting you are God" (Ps 90: 2).

In affirming that God is "Father" the Creed implies the the doctrine of the Trinity, for whatever God is, he is from all eternity. Therefore God is and always has been "Father", even before he created anything, whether spiritual or mundane. Therefore it must be concluded that in the Godhead there has always been the "Son" or, as John calls him, the Word (John 1: 1, 14, 18).

Christians need to stand again for the conviction that God is their Father by virtue of his grace given in Jesus Christ. Believers are born into God's family by the power of his Holy Spirit working through the Gospel (John 3: 8; James 1: 18) and adopted as heirs with Christ Jesus through faith in him according to the gracious plan of the Father (Eph 1: 5). God is Father of the believer by grace, and so those who are his true children are such because he showered them with his grace, mercy, and love in Christ Jesus. Christians need again to remember that this is the good news--the Gospel--that God, as an expression of grace and mercy, calls sinful and undeserving men and women into his family through Jesus Christ. In the most proper sense of the word not every person is a "child of God."

Christians need to stand for God as the Almighty One. Believers give lip service to God as Almighty, but do we live like we believe it? Is God truly omnipotent--able, as one Baptist catechism says, "to do all his holy will" (A Catechism for Boys and Girls, Q. 13)? Or is God's power limited, either by the nature of creation or by voluntary choice, to make room for others? In short, can Satan or humans thwart the will of God? What does the Bible say? In Psalm 2 the psalmist describes God as laughing at the schemes or men seeking to thwart his will. In Daniel 4: 34--35 the King of Babylon, with his sanity restored, must acknowledge that God does whatever he wills with the people he has created. The cure for spineless Evangelicalism is a renewed conviction that our God is unconquered and unconquerable. The point of the book of Revelation is that all the evil that happens and all the suffering that befalls the people of God at the hands of godless humanity is (1) part of a larger plan and (2) cannot stop God's ultimate victory in the end. "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" (Rev 4: 8). That God is "Almighty" means that victory is certain and it is ours. Stand fast in the confidence of Almighty God who has made us "more than conquerors" in Christ Jesus (Rom 8: 37). Go today and boldly stand for the God who gives us victory!

1 comment:

  1. I think many Christians believe that God is going to win in the end but that sort of leaves the now Christian to wonder if I am going to loose, read that suffer, until the end comes. We need to rest in His sovereignty and know trust in the revealed nature of God which is love for His people but this is a mature response that many do not have. Great post.