By Dr. John M. Frame
Introducing the Applied Theology Series
In this series, you’ll learn a Trinitarian theology of faith, hope, and love by understanding and applying to your life what the Bible teaches about: 1) Faith found in the Apostles’ Creed, 2) Hope found in the Lord’s Prayer, and 3) Love found in the Ten Commandments. You’ll learn from God’s Word that:
A mind that is renewed by faith and a heart that is aflame with hope results in a life that honors God by loving him and others deeply and well.
Introducing the soon-to-be-released book and course:
You’ll learn how to develop a strong faith rooted in the rich, historic, biblical truths found in the Apostles’ Creed that will help you apply God’s Word to all areas of your life. You’ll be equipped to:
- Understand the purpose and value of creeds
- Worship God the Father as Creator of all things
- Know God the Son as Redeemer in his humiliation
- Honor God the Son as Redeemer in his exaltation
- Experience God the Spirit as Restorer today
- Desire God the Spirit as Restorer in age to come
About the Applied Theology Project
The Applied Theology Series provides you accessible, affordable seminary-level teaching designed to help you learn how to apply theology to your life and ministry in practical ways – with the goal of helping you better know, love, serve, and honor God as LORD in all of life. Seminary professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their almost 90 years of teaching and ministry experience to help you apply theology to life and ministry.
Read the New Introduction by Dr. John Frame below!
Introduction to a Theology of Faith
Dr. John M. Frame
We are summarizing the theology of the Bible in three categories, faith, hope, and love. These have been called “theological virtues,” and in 1 Cor. 13:13, the Apostle Paul describes them as the things that “remain,” when our childhood ignorance passes into complete, godly knowledge.
Following the Enchiridion of St. Augustine, our plan is to examine faith by way of the Apostles’ Creed, hope by way of the Lord’s Prayer, and love by way of the Ten Commandments. In the present volume we begin this threefold series by looking at faith—the Christian faith as an object of our belief and trust—summarized by the Apostles’ Creed.
The Apostles’ Creed is not found in the Bible itself. Some might question how a central focus on an extra-biblical creed agrees with the principle of sola Scriptura, the principle that the Bible alone is the final authority for faith. People have sometimes described my own theological writings as more Bible-centered than Creed-centered.
Some have used that description as a criticism, but I cannot deny that the description is true. In general, I think that Christians in my own Reformed theological community have been preoccupied too much with the History of Doctrine, including Creeds and Confessions, and not enough with the texts of Scripture itself.
Yet here in Applied Theology I have happily agreed with my friend Steve Childers that we ought to focus, in this volume, on the Apostles’ Creed. Why? The answer is that literally everyone who names the name of Christ agrees that the teaching of the Apostles’ Creed is the teaching of Scripture.
I am not aware of any church or theological movement that denies this. Indeed, there is more agreement among Christians about the Apostles’ Creed than there is about any other piece of biblical interpretation. We will, of course, look closely at many texts from the Bible itself in this book. But even though we attempt to focus on simpler matters in Scripture, it is certainly possible that some reader somewhere will find some fault with the very best of our Childers-Frame interpretations.
But I cannot imagine any Christian reader finding fault with the Apostles’ Creed. So, ironically, a focus on the Apostles’ Creed reinforces, rather than detracts, from our adherence to sola Scriptura. By expounding the creed, we are expounding the most respected biblical interpretation that there is, more respected than anything Frame and Childers could produce on their own.
Nevertheless, we urge you to read Scripture for yourself. In fact, we hope this book will motivate you to do that more and more. We hope you will be like the noble Bereans, who “received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts. 17:11).
The Creed is not a substitute for the Scriptures. Rather, it is a means of encouraging you to examine that book in which the doctrines of the Creed are presented at far greater length, with more background, argument, application, illustration, encouragement, and authority. So we will be expounding many biblical texts in this volume, and we hope you will look them up and examine them prayerfully.
I want to stress also the centrality of the Gospel in this volume. The Gospel is the good news of Christ. It is the central message of Scripture; indeed, it is the reason why God gave us Scripture. Everything in Scripture aims at communicating the Gospel to the hearts of its hearers and readers.
Our motive in publishing this book, indeed the whole Applied Theology series, is to help church planters, pastors, and evangelists throughout the world—those who have been called to preach the Gospel. We are not seeking to impress academics or theological theoreticians, but to bring people of every background to saving faith in Jesus Christ as they hear the good news.
Alas, we live in a time in which some people, even learned people, seriously ask “what is the Gospel, after all?” as if it were something hidden somewhere, something scholars need to dig up.
To be sure, there are many levels of deep mystery in the Gospel: why would a perfectly holy God reach down to redeem sinners, people who hated him? But there is no mystery in the content of the Gospel, the fact that God did in fact reach down to redeem, to save, to justify and sanctify those sinners.
That content has been known clearly since the first century (and, in one sense, even before then—see Isa. 52:7). Every part of Scripture serves the Gospel—by defining it, showing its historical background, expounding it, illustrating it, applying it. The Gospel was the life of the early church. And when the church needed a simple formulation to present to the pagans of its day and to teach new believers, they developed—the Apostles’ Creed!
Everything in the Apostles’ Creed, like everything in Scripture, is Gospel. It begins by presenting the source of the good news—”God, the Father Almighty.” God the Father is the one who made all things, and when human beings sinned against him, he was the fountain of love, who drew believers back to himself.
How did he do this? Through “Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son,” who was born of the virgin Mary, suffered, died, and was raised from the dead. How can we know this wonderful Son of God?
Through the Holy Spirit, who unites us into a holy universal church in deep fellowship with one another, experiencing and reciprocating God’s forgiveness of sins, a Spirit who raises us from the dead to eternal life forever with God and one another.
All of that is good news, Gospel. In the modern period, being in a hurry, some have tried to make it more concise: we have sinned, we need to believe in Christ, then we can go to heaven. Nothing wrong with that, as far as it goes.
But it misses the richness of the Father’s love which is the fount of blessing, the Trinitarian doctrine of God which has always been at the heart of the church’s confession, and the blessing of fellowship in the church by the Spirit.
That Trinitarianism deserves much more emphasis today. There has been, to be sure, a recent outpouring of academic theology on the subject, and much of that is good. But we need to be reminded again of the theological coherence between sola Scriptura, Gospel, and Trinity. Each of these presupposes the others. Scripture is the Gospel word of the Triune God; the Gospel is the authoritative Scripture of the Triune God; and the Trinity is the author of the biblical word and the substance of the good news.
In this volume, we will consider the Gospel-work of the Triune God, as set forth in the Scriptures and summarized in the Apostles’ Creed. In the Gospel, Scripture represents the Triune God as the Triune Lord. The message of the Old Testament is, “God is Lord” (Ex. 3:15). The message of the New Testament is “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Rom. 10:9). That Gospel Lordship, appropriately, is itself threefold:
1) The Father’s Supreme Authority as Lord Creator.
2) The Son’s sovereign Control as Lord Redeemer.
3) The Spirit’s transforming presences as Lord Restorer.
I trust we shall see in this volume how the doctrine of the Trinity is not an obscure philosophical concept, but summarizes and illumines the whole meaning of Scripture as Gospel. What good news it is, to know that nobody less than the Triune God has seen our guilt and suffering, has dealt with it in Jesus, and told us about it in the sure, clear word of Scripture.
John M. Frame
Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy
Reformed Theological Seminary
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