Recently I was asked a question about my belief in the Word of God. The question, given in three parts, went like this: Do you agree that the Holy Scriptures are the sure and certain, inspired revelation of God? Do you believe that they are the infallible, inerrant, fixed truth which can be known by man? Do you see the Scriptures as the standard by which our faith, ministries and actions will be measured?
My answer to that question, given in writing, reveals why I believe the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message is a better statement about the Word of God than the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. My answer is as follows:
"I believe the Bible is the sure and certain, inspired, infallible and inerrant fixed truth which can be known by man. But, there are a couple of points for clarification to help one better understand my high view of Scripture. All Scripture is God-breathed, but it cannot be said all Scripture is of equal importance in terms of application for the New Covenant believer and Christ’s church. For instance, God’s covenant with Israel forbad the eating of pork, demanded the remembrance of the Sabbath, required the offering of sacrifices, etc… These commands, and others similar in nature, are part of the “infallible, inerrant, fixed truth” of God’s word—yet they are not commands given to a New Covenant follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ fulfilled and abolished the Old Covenant, and as a result, all the laws and commands associated with the Old Covenant are forever gone. Believers in Jesus Christ have been given “a new commandment” (John 13:34) to “love one another just as Christ has loved us.” It is this command to love others, which is the distinguishing mark of the follower of Jesus Christ, that differentiates Christianity from all other religions. Of course, it is impossible to love others as Christ has loved us unless we have a clear and comprehensive understanding of the eternal, unconditional, and personal love of God for us—thus the gospel (good news) is the preeminent message of the New Testament.
For one to understand the differences between the Old Covenant commands to Israel and what Paul calls “the law of Christ” (to love others), one simply needs to look at the differences between the nature of the two types of law. An Old Covenant command says, “If you will…then God will.” The blessings of God were conditional upon the obedience of God’s people, the Jews. If Israel obeyed, God blessed them. If Israel disobeyed, then God brought judgments upon them. The reason God’s chosen people were taken into Babylonian captivity in the 6th century B.C. was due to their disobedience to God’s Sabbath command. The reason God ultimately divorced Himself from His covenant with Israel and established “everlasting righteousness” through His Son (Daniel 9:24), was due to Israel’s complete disobedience to their covenant with God. Again, had Israel obeyed, they were promised blessings. Because Israel disobeyed, they received God’s wrath. Of course, the Old Covenant was given in order to show us the extent of man’s sin. It never had the power to deliver or save anyone from God’s wrath because all men and women (even the Jews), by nature, are sinful and disobedient—this is Paul’s argument in Romans. The commands of the Old Covenant were used by God as a school master to drive us to faith in Christ. Therefore, in the covenant with sinners that God seals through the blood of His Son (Hebrews 8), all the blessings of God are received through faith in the person, performance and obedience of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We have been blessed with all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ our Lord. The legalists, the prosperity gospel advocates, and others who misunderstand the gospel, will often take conditional promises of the Old Testament (particularly the material blessings promised to Israel if they obeyed God), and misapply them to Christians today.
This is why when we talk about “the infallible, inerrant, fixed truth” of God’s Word, we must be careful to add the phrase "when properly interpreted." Further, when we talk about God’s Word being the standard by which our faith, ministries and actions will be measured, we must realize that the Bible is our standard when properly interpreted. We don’t stone kids in rebellion as they were commanded to do in the Old Covenant; we love our children through their disobedience. We don’t abstain from certain meats or foods as Israel was commanded to do by God; we now, like Peter, call all meats “clean” to eat (Acts 10:15). We don’t set aside holy days, new moons and Sabbaths as “special days,” but we consider every day a sabbath rest in Christ (Col. 2:14-16). We don’t kill our enemies, we love them as Christ has loved us.
I believe the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message committee did a marvelous job with the following sentence under Article 1: The Scriptures: “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.” This statement, tragically, is left out of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. One of the dangers of not recognizing that all scripture must be interpreted through an understanding of the person and work of Christ is that one will end up not realizing how the Old Covenant has been abolished through the ministry of our Lord.
It should be evident--with the clarifications given--that I have a very high view of Scripture and rejoice in affirming that the Bible is “the infallible, inerrant, fixed truth which can be known by man.” The struggle we all face is our fallibility in interpreting the sacred text, so it is especially important to see the written word of the Old Covenant through the filter of the Living Word Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Covenant. Of course, if one really wishes to know whether or not a pastor has a high view of the sacred text, one should listen to him preach. It is incongruous for a pastor to say he believes the Bible should be our standard for faith and practice if it does not serve as the basis for teaching at one’s church. Over the course of the past twenty five years I have preached through multiple books of the bible, verse by verse, including Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Psalms, Jonah, Daniel, Habakkuk, Matthew, Mark, Acts, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, I and II Thessalonians, Hebrews, Jude, and The Apocolypse of Yeshua the Anointed One, that is, Revelation (thanks M.H.)—and other textual series.
I evidence my belief in that the Bible is the inspired Word of God by teaching and preaching (proclaiming) His Word instead every Sunday. For a comparison between the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message and the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, go here. It is possible for a conservative with a high view of Scripture to prefer the 1963 Confession over the 2000 Confession. "
In His Grace,