Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Affirming the Apostle's Creed by J. I. Packer #1

packerI am back to reading New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday again. This time I chose J. I. Packer's little book, Affirming the Apostle's Creed. In this book he discusses and explains each assertion of the creed. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

Many churches say this creed, which goes back very early in church history, every Sunday. But my evangelical tradition did not do that and tends to be woefully ignorant of church history, especially pre-reformation. I am hoping this will help a little for us to get back in touch with the rich heritage the work of the Spirit has left for us in the last 2000 years.

The first assertion is "I believe in God." Packer focuses here on what faith is. It is much more than intellectual assent or a feeling. It is a commitment, because of what Jesus has done, to let God manage and rule one's life. God and His kingdom becomes the center motivation for living.

The Creed’s opening words, “I believe in God,” render a Greek phrase coined by the writers of the New Testament, meaning literally: “I am believing into God.” That is to say, over and above believing certain truths about God, I am living in a relation of commitment to God in trust and union. When I say “I believe in God,” I am professing my conviction that God has invited me to this commitment and declaring that I have accepted his invitation. 25–26

Christian faith only begins when we attend to God’s self-disclosure in Christ and in Scripture, where we meet him as the Creator who “commands all people everywhere to repent” and to “believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ … as he has commanded us” (Acts 17:30; 1 John 3:23; cf. John 6:28ff.). Christian faith means hearing, noting, and doing what God says. 27

Packer, in chapter 2, identifies the God of the creed as YHWH in the Old Testament, fully revealed through Jesus in the New. The name YHWH reveals God's character as loving, forgiving, righteous and just and his role as judge and provider. This is the One God, the three-in-one, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In the Bible the great divide is between those who believe in the Christian God and those who serve idols—”gods,” that is, whose images, whether metal or mental, do not square with the self-disclosure of the Creator. 32

The historical foundation-facts of Christian faith—a man who was God, praying to his Father and promising that he and his Father would send “another Helper” (John 14:16) to continue his divine ministry—and equally the universally experienced facts of Christian devotion—worshiping God the Father above you and knowing the fellowship of God the Son beside you, both through the prompting of God the Holy Spirit within you—point inescapably to God’s essential three-in-oneness. 34–35

Chapter 3 discusses "I believe in God the Father Almighty." This focuses in on, not just God as Creator but, God the Provider, the initiator, the adopter of his separated children and the model, within the Trinity, of our own human relationships. We have to be careful not to import all of our human father baggage into this picture, but we can be thankful that the universe is governed by a loving heavenly Father.

God’s loving fatherhood of his eternal Son is both the archetype of his gracious relationship with his own redeemed people and the model from which derives the parenthood that God has created in human families... Human families, by their very constitution, reflect the Father-Son relationship in heaven, and parent-child relationships should express a love that corresponds to the mutual love of Father and Son in the Godhead. 41–42

God the Father is “almighty”—which means that he can and will do all that he intends. What does he intend for his sons? Answer: that they should share all that their elder Brother enjoys now...Suffer we shall, but we shall not miss the glory: the Father almighty will see to that. 43

In chapter 4 Packer focuses in more on the word "almighty." This word means that God can do whatever He purposes according to His character. This does not mean that God coerces His people. Human choice created by God is real. But it does mean that God's purposes will be realized and we can take comfort that we live in a universe run a loving heavenly Father.

Men treat God’s sovereignty as a theme for controversy, but in Scripture it is matter for worship. 45

God has a perfect moral character, and it is not in him to deny it. He cannot be capricious, unloving, random, unjust, or inconsistent. Just as he cannot pardon sin without atonement, because that would not be right, so he cannot fail to be “faithful and just” in forgiving sins that are confessed in faith and in keeping all the other promises he has made. 46

The truth of God’s almightiness in creation, providence, and grace is the basis of all our trust, peace, and joy in God, and the safeguard of all our hopes of answered prayer, present protection, and final salvation. It means that neither fate, nor the stars, nor blind chance, nor man’s folly, nor Satan’s malice controls this world; instead, a morally perfect God runs it, and none can dethrone him or thwart his purposes of love. 49

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