— Not long ago, the news reported about a child who had an illness that could have been easily treated with medication, but he died because his parents did not believe in calling doctors or using medication.
— During World War II, Japanese kamikaze pilots flew to their death on suicide missions, because they believed that if they died while fighting the enemy, they would go right to paradise.
— Muslim terrorists today do the same thing, thinking if they die while on “jihad” they’ll earn maidens and servants and pleasures forever in Paradise.
You know what all these have in common? They’re all based on what these people believe. Some people claim that what you believe in your religion really doesn’t matter, as long as you’re sincere — but these kinds of examples, and many others, show us that it DOES matter very much what you believe. Beliefs have consequences.
So this second session of Discovering First Baptist is one of the most important, as it covers what we believe as a Baptist church. And as dramatic as some of those examples I gave just a moment ago are, the consequences of our beliefs in the spiritual realm are even more important. What you believe will make the difference between going to heaven and going to hell. It very much matters what you believe. So we DO take doctrine seriously. Having said that, all doctrine does not carry the same weight of importance:
THE “THEOLOGICAL TRIAGE”
Al Mohler, the president of our Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, has a concept he calls “Theological Triage”. Many of you know what a “triage” is. Whenever there is a tragedy, they separate the patients into groups: those that are most critical and need immediate help, vs. those that are superficial and not as urgent. Dr. Mohler suggests that doctrines are like that. Everything we believe is important. But some teachings are more essential to our faith than others.
For example, the Triune nature of God, and the Deity of Jesus Christ are central doctrines, which a person must believe to even be a Christian. On the other hand, the timing of the Return of Christ or what you are free to do on The Lord’s Day are secondary concerns. What you believe about those things will not affect your eternal salvation.
The point of Mohler’s “theological triage” is that WE MUST AGREE ON THE PRIMARY DOCTRINES. There is no room for compromise on those. But on the other hand, there IS room for differing opinions on secondary/tertiary (or third-level) issues. That’s the attitude we have here at FBCA. We hold strongly to the primary doctrines of the BFM and of the Bible — but we also strongly believe in having a loving spirit towards each other regarding secondary doctrines. We are not going to fight and divide over doctrines that are not essential. It is like the old saying:
“In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, diversity. In all things, charity (love).”
We want to carefully guard the love and unity of our church, which is so sweet. But we must also know that there are also doctrines which we must believe and which we must not compromise. So with that background, let’s look together at some of the important doctrines we believe, in our Baptist Faith & Message:
The Baptist Faith & Message
First Baptist Angleton is a Southern Baptist Church. And The Baptist Faith & Message (2000 ed.) is the statement of faith recognized by most of our churches.
(DISTRIBUTE COPIES of BFM to each participant)
Now as you can see, this is a fairly lengthly little pamphlet (with fine print!) and we don’t have time to teach the entire BFM in detail this morning, but we’ll do a brief review, a “Jet Tour”! If you have more questions after the class, I hope you’ll ask me or one of our staff.
- The Scriptures
This is one of the most essential articles, because everything else that we believe and know about God comes from the Bible. If we can’t believe the Bible, then there is almost nothing we can know about our faith. This is why we place a strong emphasis on our belief in the authority of the scriptures.
II Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is inspired by God, and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” The Bible says it is “inspired” by God — which literally means, “God-breathed.” God breathed the words of the Bible through the men who wrote them.
So we always want the messages and lessons we teach in our church to be based on the word of God. We seek to have a Biblical basis for everything we do, because God’s word is our authority. Some denominations’ authority comes from both the Bible AND tradition. But as Baptists, we believe God’s word is our final authority: (“sola scriptura” — only scripture.) Like Martin Luther told the church officials when he was on trial in the 1500s: “Show me scripture”!
And I love the statement the BFM makes here in the 3rd sentence, that the Bible “has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.” It’s important that we believe everything the Bible says, and that it is without error.
In the Smithsonian Institute there is a copy of the Thomas Jefferson Bible, which he created sometime during the winter of 1819-1820 at Monticello. Using a razor knife, Jefferson cut passages out of six copies of the New Testament, and re-arranged them into chronological order. His “Bible” begins with Luke 2:1-7, Joseph & Mary’s journey to Bethlehem, and ends in Matthew 27:60, where it says that after Jesus was laid to rest, the stone was rolled across the door of the grave! His “Bible” ends there! The passages he left in between include the moral teachings of Jesus but it omits all of the miracles. One museum official said that Jefferson “removed those things that could not be proven by reason.”
You may be shocked at that, but the thing is: THIS is where one ends up, once they begin denying the inerrancy of God’s word. When we start “picking & choosing” what we believe about the Bible, then we end up just selecting what WE think makes sense to us — and we basically become our own god and judge! So, are there things that are difficult for us understand and believe about the Bible? YES! But we need to believe them, by faith. Everything else that we believe & practice in the church comes out of this first article: if we don’t believe the Bible, then none of the rest of it will stand: the scriptures are our final authority for our faith & practice.
The Bible teaches that there is ONE God (Dt. 6:4 “hear O Israel, the Lord your God is ONE”)
But it also describes Him as a TRIUNE God. (Tri-Une means “3 in 1″). This is one of those beliefs which sets Christianity apart from every other world religion. NO OTHER RELIGION BELIEVES IN A TRIUNE GOD. Not too long ago, a national figure suggested that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Someone said in response to that: ”Do Muslims worship a Triune God? If the answer is ‘no’ then we do not worship the same God!”
Our BFM statement reads: “The eternal Triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The doctrine of the Trinity means there is ONE GOD who exists ETERNALLY as THREE PERSONS: Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
— not modalism, that He just appeared at different times in different ways. Matthew 3:16-17 shows ALL THREE Persons present at the same occasion, for Jesus’ baptism: Jesus came up from the water, the Holy Spirit descended as a dove, and the voice of the Father came down from heaven. All three Persons were there at once!
— And it’s not just different names for the same Person. Sometimes people say, “The Trinity is just like how I can be called a husband, father, and grandfather, yet I’m still one person.” Well, NO that is NOT like the Trinity! They aren’t just different names; they are different Persons; they speak to each other in the Bible; they relate to each other as individuals; they are present at the same time.
So how do we understand that God is somehow “three,” yet “one”? It’s a difficult teaching to understand, but it is vital that we do believe it. Harold Lindsell wrote: “He who has tried to understand the mystery fully will lose his mind; but he who would deny the Trinity will lose his soul.” (From A Handbook of Christian Truth pp. 51-52)
We don’t always give the doctrine of the Trinity its proper place in our churches, but we need to. Gregory Nazianzen, one of the early church theologians, said: “When I say God, I mean Father, Son & Holy Spirit.” That should be true of US too: when we say “God”, we mean “Father, Son & Holy Spirit.”
God is also a PERSONAL God. Gandhi said, “God is not a person … God is the force.” This is the Eastern religious view, that God is just an impersonal presence and power that permeates everything. But the Bible teaches that God is a PERSON. Jesus prayed in John 17:3 that His disciples might “KNOW THEE”. We can know God personally, and fellowship with Him. The Bible tells us He loves, He gets angry, He communicates with us — He is a Personal God.
We will spend all eternity getting to know, and love God for Who He is, so we sure can’t cover it all right now! So let’s move on to the doctrine of the 2nd Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, God the Son:
B. God the Son
BFM key phrase = “fully God, fully Man”
— He is fully DIVINE: John 1:1 states it very clearly: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and THE WORD WAS GOD”!
— Colossians 2:9 “In Him, all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.”
— John 20:38 Thomas called Him, “My Lord & my God!” and was not rebuked. One of the most important things to believe about Jesus is that He is fully God.
(IN NOTES) C.S. Lewis wrote:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (Mere Christianity, Chap. 3, p. 56)
— He is also fully HUMAN. We call this the doctrine of the Incarnation (“in-flesh-ment”) of Jesus.
John 1:14 “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”
Hebrews 2:17 “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
Christ is “fully God & fully Man“; Not “50/50”, but 100% God and 100% man. He HAD to be, as Hebrews 2 says, to bring about our salvation.
C. God the Holy Spirit
— Is A PERSON, not an “it” Our BFM repeatedly reads: “He”, not “it”!
Eph. 4:30 “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” — a person can be grieved.
— Is GOD: repeatedly the scriptures refer to = “Spirit of GOD”
— He convicts of sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8)
John 6:44 “No one comes to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws Him”
— “He effects regeneration” When John 3 speak of being “born again” it is by the Holy Spirit. People talk about “asking Jesus into your heart” — it’s actually the HOLY SPIRIT who comes in. Ephesians 1:13 says God seals us with His Holy Spirit the moment we believe. But the “3 are 1,” so it is “the Spirit of Jesus who comes in; so we can say that Jesus, through His Holy Spirit, is in us.
BFM = “at the moment of regeneration, He baptizes every believer into the body of Christ.” “Holy Spirit baptism” is taught by some churches as something that happens after you’re saved, and is accompanied by speaking in tongues, but the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit comes into your life the moment you are saved.(I Cor. 12:13 “for by one Spirit we were ALL baptized into one body.” EVERY Christian is baptized by the Holy Spirit when they are saved.
Now, we can and should seek to be FILLED with the Holy Spirit — in fact, that’s the problem that many Christians have: we are NOT filled and controlled by the Spirit of God, and we need to surrender complete control of our lives to Him. But we do NOT need to be “baptized” again by the Holy Spirit. Significantly, the New Testament NEVER commands a Christian believer to be baptized in the Holy Spirit — because we already ARE! So at FBCA we do NOT teach or practice a second “baptism in the Holy Spirit” accompanied by speaking in tongues.
But the Holy Spirit empowers us for everything that we do in the Christian life, so we need to make sure that we don’t neglect Him the way many do. We need to give Him control of our lives on a daily basis, as He is God’s power in us. One of the biggest problems many of us have, is that we do not recognize Him, and allow Him to work in us, every day.
— “man is the special creation of God …” Genesis 1:26 “Then God said ‘Let us make man in our image …'” We can invent, choose, relate to others — because we are made in God’s image.
— Gender: Gen. 1 says: “male & female He created them.” BFM = “the gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation.” This is important in our cultural and moral climate today: TO reject your gender is to reject how God created you! GOD made us male & female!
— BFM = “By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Gen. 3 describes the fall of man into sin in the Garden of Eden. This has 2 impt. effects:
- We inherit a SIN NATURE. Rom. 5:19 teaches us that Adam passed down to us the nature and inclination to sin. You don’t have to TEACH any of your kids to sin, right? They do it naturally. Because they’ve inherited this sin nature.
2) We CHOOSE personally to sin.
BFM = “as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.” Isaiah 7:15-16 twice uses the phrase: “at the time he knows enough to refuse evil and to choose good …” This indicates that an “age of accountability” is scriptural. We each come to a time in our life when we personally choose to sin.
So one of the important doctrines regarding Man is that we are sinners both by NATURE (inherited) and by CHOICE. So one phrase that we often hear these days, that “Man is basically good” is NOT true. We are NOT basically “good.” We are basically sinners both by nature and by choice. Romans 3 says: “There is none good, not even one …”. That’s why we all need Jesus.
— “EVERY PERSON of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.” Col. 3:10 says that in Christ, “there is no distinction between Greek and Jew … barbarian, Scythian, slave and free man, but Christ is all in all.” God’s Word teaches there is no room in His church for RACIAL PREJUDICE. “God so loved the WORLD.” Both the Bible, & our BFM teach against racial prejudice, and at FBCA we are committed to that. We accept people of every race and background who are willing to repent of their sins and follow Jesus as their Lord & Savior.
One of the most important statements in the BFM: “There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.” Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to Father except through Me.” Many people think of this as “exclusive,” or “bigoted,” or “narrow-minded” but it’s the clear teaching of scripture. The Apostles said in Acts 4:12 “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.”
One of our India mission pastors preached on John 14:6, and afterwards a man came up to him and accused him of having a “cashew heart” towards the millions who are not Christians, because he said that Jesus was the only way. This preacher asked him, “What if I told you that in order to live physically, you must have oxygen and only oxygen to breathe? Would you call me a ‘cashew heart’?” The man didn’t answer!
There are MANY areas of life in which there is only one right answer. We don’t call a school teacher “bigoted” if they teach that there is only one right answer to “2 plus 2”! In the same way, we are not “bigoted” or “narrow-minded” when we teach that there is only one way to heaven. It is the clear teaching of Scripture, and we believe that as a church as well.
Regeneration: “repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.” (Acts 20:32) This is how we are saved through Jesus: we REPENT of our sins; and we put our FAITH in Jesus as our Lord & Savior. Salvation is not just a matter of knowing some facts about Jesus. James 2 says “the demons also believe and shudder.” In Mark 5, when the demoniac came before Jesus, he said, “What have we to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God”? Those demons knew who Jesus was; in a sense they “believed” in Him — but the difference was, they never REPENTED and put their FAITH in Jesus as their LORD & SAVIOR. And that is what we must do to be saved.
The “B — C — D” points under “Salvation” in the BFM teach that salvation has 3 aspects:
— Justification = past salvation from all the guilt of sin
— Sanctification = present holiness from the power of sin. We need to understand that sanctification is a gradual PROCESS — someone likened it to a “tan”: you don’t get it all at once! It happens gradually as we walk with the Lord in His word & prayer day by day, and He changes us, and gives us power to gradually turn more and more from sin.
— Glorification = future freedom from the very presence of sin) in heaven.
So in a very real sense we can say: “We WERE saved; We are BEING saved; We WILL be saved.” Understanding these three aspects of salvation can really help people, who sometimes ask: “If I’m really a Christian, why do I still sin?” Well, you have BEEN saved from the penalty of all your sin (justification), but you are still gradually BEING saved from the power of sin — you don’t stop sinning all at once. That’s sanctification. You’ll be in that process all your life. And only when you get to heaven will you BE totally saved from the presence of sin in Glorification.
V. God’s Purpose of Grace
The first part of this article talks about God’s eternal plan of salvation, and who will be saved. Importantly, it says “it is consistent with the free agency of man,” which means that we have a real choice in our salvation. Some Southern Baptists, often called “Calvinists,” believe that God selects in advance those who will be saved and lost; other Baptists believe that the ultimate choice is ours. It’s important to note that there’s always been both Calvinists and non-Calvinists in the Baptist family, and it’s NOT something we should divide over (though sadly that’s not always been the case).
But the second paragraph of this point has one of the most important doctrines of the BFM, that of ETERNAL SECURITY: “All true believers endure to the end.” This doctrine is often referred to as “once saved, always saved”, or perhaps better, the doctrine of “The Perseverance of the Saints.” It teaches that those who are genuinely saved, are secure, and cannot be lost again.
— this does NOT mean that everyone who ever makes a “profession of faith” is genuinely saved. People make public decisions in churches for all kinds of wrong reasons. I read where one guy said he went forward to be baptized, and when he came out of the water, and he was heard to mutter: “Now maybe my mom will get off my back!” I wouldn’t bet much on that man’s salvation!
So eternal security does not mean that everyone who ever goes forward in a church, or signs a card, or gets baptized, is saved. Perhaps it would be better to say: “IF saved, always saved.” IF a person genuinely trusts Jesus as their Savior, and IF the Holy Spirit really came into their life and sealed them — THEN that person cannot be ever be lost again.
Jesus said in John 10:27-29 that no one can snatch you out of His hand. So you can be confident: IF you are genuinely saved, God will never let go of you. The important thing is to make sure that you really are saved!
VI. The Church
Baptists view the church as “an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers.” “Autonomous” means no other group or denominational headquarters gives us direction. We prayerfully decide for ourselves what God is leading us to do.
This section covers the 2 ordinances, which we’ll cover in the next article, and the 2 scriptural officers of the church: pastors and deacons. The Bible uses several words to describe the pastors: “pastor,” “elder,” and “overseer,” but all 3 describe the same office. Herschel Hobbs, the great pastor-theologian from FBC Oklahoma City in the 1900s, pointed out that these 3 terms are all used interchangeably in Acts 20, of the same people: speaking to the “elders” (in :17), Paul told them (in :28) that the Holy Spirit had made them “overseers”, to “shepherd” (pastor) the church of God. So all of these words refer to the same person: what we would call a pastor.
And the article goes on to affirm that although both men and women are gifted for service in the church, “the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by scripture.” I Timothy 3 says that the pastor is to be “the husband of one wife” etc. Thus Mrs. Tina can be a “ministry director” for children, and women may serve in many other very important ministry positions at FBCA, but scripturally, they will not hold the office of “pastor.”
VII. Baptism & The Lord’s Supper
This is an important article, because the Baptist understanding of the ordinances is one of the main differences between us and many other churches:
— First, we do believe that there are TWO ordinances of the church, baptism & the Lord’s Supper. (Catholics, for example, believe in 7)
— Second, Baptists do NOT believe there’s any saving power in baptism or the Lord’s Supper. As it says later in this article: “it is an act of obedience SYMBOLIZING the believer’s faith …”; Jesus said, “Do this in REMEMBRANCE of Me.” (I Cor. 11:24-25) We do it to remember what He did for our salvation, not in order to bring us salvation. This is one of our key Baptist distinctives, that sets us apart from many other denominations.
ARTICLE VII CONCLUDES what I would call THE VITAL DOCTRINES section of the BFM; there are several others which are not “first rank” doctrines, and I’ll touch briefly on one or two points from them:
VIII. The Lord’s Day
“The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day.” Acts 20:7, I Cor. 16:1-2, and other passages, show that the disciples met regularly on the first day of the week for worship. Our BFM statement (which some of us looked at in Sunday School this morning, says:
“Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.” There is a lot of variation in Christians’ practices regarding the Lord’s Day. Some see Sunday as a “Sabbath” day of rest from work and secular entertainment; others view it as a day when you worship, then are free to do as God leads the rest of the day. Each Christian should act regarding the Lord’s Day do as they feel convicted by the Lord — “commensurate with the Christian’s conscience” as the article says — this is what Al Mohler would call one of those “non-essential” areas in his “triage,” in which we act with understanding & love towards each other. It’s not something we argue, or separate about.
IX. The Kingdom
X. Last Things
Good Christians have strong feelings one way or another about “eschatology” — the doctrine of last things. I personally LOVE the BFM statement here: “God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end.” That statement leaves a lot of leeway for different beliefs. As a Southern Baptist, you can believe in premillenialism, a-millenialism, pre-tribulation rapture, post-tribulation rapture, or like one of my friends you can be a “pan millenialist” (who believe it will all “pan” out in the end! 🙂 and you can still be a good Baptist, we’ll still love each other, and we’re not going to fight about it.
What’s important to believe is in the next sentence: “Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth …”. We may disagree on the timing, but we all agree that He WILL return, in His physical body, visibly to earth, one day. And as the article indicates, there is a real heaven and a real hell to which people will be consigned forever.
There’s not too much to highlight or that is controversial in most of the next articles:
XI. Evangelism & Missions
XIII. Stewardship (we’ll address this in one of our next sessions)
XIV. Cooperation (which we’ll address when we talk about missions in the next class session)
XV. The Christian & the Social Order
XVI. Peace & War
XVII. Religious Liberty
XVIII. The Family
This is a new article, added in the year 2000 in response to the moral and social upheaval in our society. Highlights of this article include:
— “Marriage is the unity of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.”
— “Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord.” This addresses abortion, which is prohibited by scripture, as God treasures the unborn child; and we should too.
The Bible teaching behind that statement of marriage being between “one man and one woman in covenant commitment” is important at First Baptist Angleton. If you sign the membership commitment it should mean that you agree with the Bible’s teachings about marriage, and you affirm that you are not living contrary to it: that you are not engaged in homosexual practice, or living together in a heterosexual relationship outside of marriage.
As we talked about last week, everyone is welcome to attend worship services and classes here at First Baptist Church who will do so with an open heart and a willingness to learn. But church membership, and church leadership positions, are for those who are willing to commit to our church’s beliefs and practices in these important areas.
So that’s a “jet tour” of the BFM — our church’s statement of faith. The things that we teach in our classes and ministries should be taught in accordance with, and not contrary to, the BFM 2000.
But as we close, let’s remember: just believing the “right” things is not everything. Someone once said that “you can be straight as a 2 x 4 theologically — and still be just as dead as one spiritually!” Merely saying you “believe” all the right things doesn’t make you right with God. The Pharisees we looked at in our Sunday School lesson today were like that. We want to make sure we are NOT like them!
But on the other hand, there ARE things you DO need to believe in order to be saved. And there are things you need to believe to be a Baptist, and there are things you need to believe to be a member of First Baptist Angleton. We’ve tried to set at least our major beliefs for you today — if you have a question about any of these, ask me, or one of our staff, or talk to one of our deacons or teachers. And I especially hope you’ll take some more time to read through and study “The Baptist Faith & Message” for yourself: look up the Bible verses, and make sure this is what YOU believe as well.
We hit on a lot of different things this morning; I know it was kind of like “trying to get a drink from a fire hydrant”! But what stuck out to YOU?
- Maybe God’s showing you that you have been argumentative about doctrines that are not “first rank,” and that you need to be more charitable towards people who are genuine Christians, but believe differently from you on relatively minor issues.
- Maybe you’ve been discouraged and wonder why you still have tendencies to sin, when you are supposed to be a Christian, and the doctrine of gradual sanctification should be a comfort to you: if you are seeing some improvement — even very gradually — and if you’re genuinely struggling against sin — you can be confident that God is indeed working in you.
- Are you committed to God’s plan for morality: one man, committed to one woman, in a married relationship?
- Have you been scripturally baptized like the Bible teaches
- And most importantly, do you know for sure that you are on the ONE WAY to heaven that the Bible teaches about, through Jesus Christ? If not, why don’t you “nail that down” right now?