Transcript: We are beginning a new series called What We Believe, where we will be going through eleven different sections of the Baptist Faith & Message, the confession we ascribe to as a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. Last week we explained why we are a Southern Baptist Church and gave a brief history on the use of confessions in church history and specifically the Baptist Faith and Message.
By way of review, confessions are written statements of faith that seek to clearly state what the Scriptures teach. Most confessions have sections on Scripture, God, Salvation, The Church, and so on. They are very useful because they summarize what the Bible teaches on a given topic in a clear and concise manner. These summaries can foster unity and provide doctrinal fidelity among church members, church associations, mission organizations, seminaries, etc. But they can also serve as teaching material. That is why we are using our confession of faith as the basis for a series on what we believe.
Why should we study what we believe? Because there is no graduating beyond the foundational truths of Christianity. We need to be constantly reminded and nourished by the tenets of our theology. They encourage us, enliven us, and give us confident assurance in every season. Without knowing what we believe, we will be like a ship without a rudder, tossed around by every faddish trend or belief system. In fact, one such trend in the church is to downplay the importance of doctrine and theology and focus on the practice of Christianity. Such a trend leaves its church members like cut flowers in a vase- they may look alive for a while, but they will wither and die for lack of roots.
We also need to know what we believe so that we can communicate those beliefs with others. It is very difficult to teach someone something that you don’t know much about. ‘Others’ may include your children, family members, other church members, your neighbors, and even strangers. Our task is to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that Christ taught us. How can we do that without knowing what He has taught us?
I could go on, but for the sake of time, I am going to assume we’re in agreement on the necessity of studying What We Believe. Tonight we are going to begin with the foundation of all our beliefs, including the foundation of confessions like these: the Word of God.
As we expound this article of the BFM, I want you to consider these questions: What is it that I believe about the Bible? Do my beliefs match our confession? And then: Does my life reflect my beliefs? That is where the rubber meets the road. Let’s begin.
Article 1 of the BFM 2000 is titled, “The Scriptures.” It reads,
“The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.”
The Scriptures are God’s revelation of Himself.
Let’s begin with the first phrase, “The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man.”
First, we confess that the Bible was “written by men divinely inspired.” It is composed by over forty authors who wrote sixty-six books in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). Theythemselves wrote, with their own distinct backgrounds, personalities, and literary styles, but what they wrote was inspired by divinity- by God Himself.
Two verses help us understand this point. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that “all scripture is inspired by God.” The Greek word behind “inspired” is theopnuestos, literally, “God-breathed.” The Word of God is His very breath. But His breath is recorded by men! 2 Peter 1:21 says that they “spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”Here’s our claim: that though the authors of scripture were real people with real sins, when they wrote the books in our Bibles, their words were the very words intended by the Holy Spirit. God “carried them along” as they wrote. In other words, they wrote as “men divinely inspired.”
Second, we confess that the Scriptures are God’s “revelation of Himself to man”.God reveals Himself in a general way in creation, but in a specific way in His Word. In it, He gives testimony to Himself. The human authors are not simply recording their experience or God or surmising what He is like. God is the active speaker, revealing to His creatures who He is, what He is like, what He has done, is doing, and will do. As such, “it is a perfect treasure of divine instruction.”
Do you believe this? Do you believe that the Bible you hold in your hand is the literal Word of God? Do you believe it is His revelation of Himself to you? When you read it, do you believe you’re reading His words? If we believe this, shouldn’t our lives reveal a love for God’s Word? A zeal to know it, study it, memorize it? Does that explain your life?
The Scriptures are true and trustworthy.
The confession continues, “It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.”
God’s Word is not mixed with error. Why? Because it has God for its author. The Word is authored by The Truth Himself. Thus, we confess that it is infallible and inerrant. By infallible we mean that it is reliable and unable to fail. By inerrant we mean that it is free from all falsehoods, fraud, or deceit. There are no errors in it. Everything in God’s Word is accurate. Everything in it is true. And it will accomplish all that God intends for it to.
Let me ask you this. When you read the Bible, do you believe everything you read? Do you believe it to be completely true? Do you ever judge the Bible or believe it to be out-dated, culturally insensitive, or pretty much irrelevant? My brothers and sisters, we do so at our peril! The Scriptures are the storehouse of the Truth that upholds the fabric of the universe. Without knowing it, studying it, searching it, we will search for truth all of our lives- and everywhere else we look will leave us empty and wanting.
The Scriptures are the center of Christian union.
We continue reading, “It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.”
The Scriptures tell us what God requires of us. What is that? To repent of our sin and to believe in the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ. On this basis we will be judged. We will discuss the Bible’s testimony to this message in our last point. However, it is on this basis that we can have Christian unity.
We can unite around the Word. That is precisely what we are doing through this series. We are setting forth the truths that we believe the Scriptures to teach as a basis for fostering unity together as the body. The standard for this unity is The Word. It is not politics, sports, or anything else. Our unity is rooted in a common desire to know Christ through His Word and make Him known throughout the world.
I don’t have to convince you thatthis is true. You know it instinctively. You experience it in daily life. You unite with the people who think like you and you disassociate with people who don’t. I have high-fived and hugged total strangers at sporting events. Have you? Even scientific studies demonstrate that we unite with those who think like us. One such study asked participants to guess the amount of M&M’s in a jar. Those who guessed high were put into one group. Those who guessed low were put into another group. They did several other tasks and determined this: the members of each group formed bonds and worked together against the other group. Why? Because they had a basis of unity: whether they guessed high or low on the amount of M&M’s in the jar!
If this is true in worldly things, how much more is it true in the spiritual realm? How much more should those who have a common Savior, who have been filled with the same Spirit, and who believe the same Word have unity with one another?
Consider this. What if our unity is only as strong as our knowledge of God’s Word and what it teaches? If the Word is the basis of our unity, and it is, wouldn’t a limited understanding of or commitment to God’s Word limit our unity as a body? I believe it would. Therefore, let us be challenged tonight to renew our commitment to read, to study, know, and apply God’s Word, for the sake of Christian unity. The world is shooting its flaming arrows of lies against us. We must rally together and unite on the basis of truth if we are to extinguish their arrows and fight back.
The Scriptures are our supreme standard.
Lets look again at the phrase we just read. The Scriptures are…“the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.”This is also why the Word is the basis of our unity: because it is our supreme standard. This was the primary issue of the Reformation. By the 16th century, the church and her leaders had set themselves as authorities who could speak on equal authority to Scripture, whether in church councils, creeds, or statements by the pope. And they were saying things directly contrary to scripture- such as, “if you give enough
The Reformation was an attempt to reform the church based on the authority of Scripture alone, sola scriptura. This belief, that Scripture is our supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried, is what ultimately led to Protestantism and the explosion of Baptist ecclesiology and theology. As Southern Baptists, we are heirs of the reformation. We do not look to church tradition, hierarchical structures, or a pope to speak on an equal playing field with Scripture. As the supreme standard, we believe that the Scriptures are sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness. In them we find everything we need to be saved, know God, and live for Him.
This is why, as a church, we are committed to expository preaching and teaching. This is why the majority of our Sunday mornings will consist of preaching through books of the Bible. Even in series like this, our aim is to teach what the Bible teaches. If we confess that the Scriptures are our supreme standard, and if we believe that it is spiritual food for God’s sheep, we would be neglecting our call as pastors if the Word was not the primary diet of our preaching and teaching.
However, this point goes far beyond church teaching. It should be applied to each of our lives, and all of it! Scripture is our supreme standard. It teaches us who God is and how to know Him. It teaches us how to live for Him. It teaches us how to repent of sin and pursue righteousness. It teaches us how to be wise, how to love, and how to live well. We do not look to celebrities, professors, or politicians to set the standard for how we should live. We look to God’s Word, and we build our lives on what we find in it. This is our only safe and solid foundation for living.
If someone were to look at your life, would they find you to pe a person of the Word, who builds their life on the Word, and who seeks to know God through the Word? Would they find you to be someone who looks to the Scriptures for wisdom, guidance, and direction- or as someone who looks for those things somewhere else? Would they find you to be a person who daily feeds on the Word and submits themselves to the teach of it? Or would they find you to be a person who says you believe it, but shows little interest in reading, studying, or meditating on it? “Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.”
All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, the focus of divine revelation.
We come to the final and perhaps most important statement of the confession. “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.” Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, is the focal point of the entire Bible. God’s Word is a narrative about God’s plan to redeem the world through the Person and work of His Son.
What is that narrative? It begins in the Garden of Eden, where God made Adam & Eve in His own image. They had communion with God and walked with Him in a world without sin. However, they rebelled against God by taking and eating the only thing that God had forbidden them. Their sin ushered in brokenness, decay, and death, for all creation. But God promised that He would remove the barrier that their sin had created between them by raising up an offspring from the woman who would defeat the serpent that had deceived them.
The story continues, and God makes clear to a man named Abraham this offspring- the Savior-would come through Him. Then God calls a people to be a nation before Him, Israel, and reveals that the Savior would come through them. In fact, their entire existence as a people pointed forward to Him- including the priests and the sacrifices they made for sin, the prophets that spoke the Word of God to them, and the Kings that ruled over them. God promised to one such king, King David, that the Savior would come through Him and would reign forever.
The entirety of the Old Testament points forward to Christ and longs for Him to come as the Savior of God’s people. This object of Israel’s hope, the seed of the woman, the offspring of Abraham, the Davidic heir, came in the form of an infant who was born in a manger. He lived a perfect life of obedience to the Father, died a substitutionary death on a cross where He bore the penalty of all of our sins, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and now reigns forever on His throne.
It is as if the entire Old Testament is declaring “Christ is coming!” and the New Testament declares, “Christ has come, and is coming again!” Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all record the events and teaching of Jesus’ life. Then letters are written to churches by various apostles to instruct them in how to live for Christ. Finally, John writes a revelation that declares what will happen when Jesus returns. I hope you can see the point: from Genesis to Revelation, the focus of divine revelation is Christ!
Is this how you view the Bible? Do you view it as a book about you- how you are to live, what you are to do, lessons for you, stories for you, wisdom for you? Or do you view it as a book about Him? Do you view it as a declaration about what God has done, is doing, and will do in Christ?
One of the supporting verses given in the list after Article 1 is Hebrews 1:1-2, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world.”
Before Christ came, God spoke to His people at many times and in many ways: through prophets, kings, judges, even animals . Now, however, he has spoken to us in His Son. All of God’s Word is a testimony to Christ, who is The Word. John 1:18, “No one has seen God at any time; God the only Son, who is in the arms of the Father, He has explained Him.” How has he explained Him? Because “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself. And how has God revealed Himself? In the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Thus, Christ is the focal point of divine revelation; he is the great, final, and complete revelation of God. He “has made God known.”
Here we want to distinguish between the finality and the completion of God’s Word. God has spoken to us in His Son and in the Scriptures’ testimony about Him, completely. God’s Word is complete. However, it is not finished. God continues to speak through His completed Word- through His Son, as we read, study, apply, preach, teach, and share it. The question is: are we listening?
Here are three questions I want us to consider in closing:
- How do I view the Bible?
- How does my life reflect what I view about the Bible?
- If there is a disconnect between the two, what can I do?
Consider how you view the Word and your actions toward it in the different spheres of your life: when you come to church, when you speak to your families, friends, or co-workers, when you make decisions, etc.!
Look also to your daily life. If you’re not reading the Bible regularly, you need to be. The Bible is spiritual food for the believer. If we go without it, we will be malnourished spiritually. On the positive side, every time you read it, it will be a spiritual meal for you. Even if you don’t feel it- God changes His people by the knowledge and application of His Word.
If you’re not reading the Bible regularly, here is my recommendation to you. Begin reading the book of John. Read a chapter a day, every day. Don’t miss a day. Ask God to reveal Himself to you and to give you a love for His Word. When you finish, read another gospel. After that, read a letter like Romans. After that, commit to some sort of reading plan that will take you through the Bible. I follow Robert M’Cheyne’s plan including two chapters from the Old Testament and two chapters from the New Testament a day. If you’re struggling to interpret/apply what you’re reading, buy the little book How Can I Get More Out of My Bible Reading? and read it!
Second, my challenge to you is to take the preaching of the Word seriously. Pray that your heart would be opened to the Word every time you hear it. Pray that God would speak to you through the preaching of His Word. Pray that God would help you, by the power of the Spirit, to apply what you have learned through the preaching of His Word. Write your takeaway from sermon down or talk about it with your friend, spouse, etc. Hearing the Word preached and applying it is one of the primary avenues of spiritual growth in a believer’s life. Don’t overlook the treasure of Bible-preaching!
You may be thinking, “that sounds like a lot of work!” It may be. But its worth it. Is anything easy worth doing? Moreover,if we confess and believe that we hold the very words of God, shouldn’t we expend some effort to read, study, memorize, meditate on, and live by them? May God grant us the grace to put our confession into action!
 Daniel Scheiderer, Still Confessing: An Exposition of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, (Founders Press: Cape Coral, 2020), 3.
 Ibid, 9.