Home Life & FaithBible study New to the MB Confession of Faith: Article 1 Explanatory Notes (Part 2)

New to the MB Confession of Faith: Article 1 Explanatory Notes (Part 2)

0 comment


The National Faith & Life Team (NFLT) is tasked with the provision of resources related to the MB Confession of Faith. They have taken on the task of updating the existing resources (viz., Commentary, Pastoral Application) that have been in use for over twenty years. In 2020, the NFLT began the long-term project of rewriting and updating the resources for each of the 18 articles int he MB Confession of Faith. The new resources will include Explanatory Notes and FAQ responses for each article.

The following is an excerpt of Article 1: Explanatory Notes. For the complete document see here.

If you have feedback and/or questions related to these Article 1: Explanatory Notes, please send them to listeningwell@mbchurches.ca. Thank you for your participation in this project.

Ken Esau
CCMBC National Faith & Life Director

Article 1

God the Father

God the Father is the source of all life. In Him we live and move and have our being.1 The Father seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth, and hears the prayers of all who call on Him.2 In the fullness of time, the Father sent the Son for the salvation of the world. Through Jesus Christ, the Father adopts all who respond in faith to the gospel, forgiving those who repent of their sin and entering into a new covenant with them. God gives the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, to all His children.4 God’s creative and redemptive love sustains this world until the end of the age.5 

God the Son

The Son, through whom all things were created and who holds all things together, is the image of the invisible God. Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, Jesus took on human nature to redeem this fallen world.6 He revealed the fullness of God through His obedient and sinless life.7 Through word and deed, Jesus proclaimed the reign of God, bringing good news to the poor, release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind.8 Christ triumphed over sin through His death and resurrection, and was exalted as Lord of creation and the church.9 The Saviour of the world invites all to be reconciled to God, offering peace to those far and near, and calling them to follow Him in the way of the cross.10 Until the Lord Jesus returns in glory, He intercedes for believers, acts as their advocate, and calls them to be His witnesses.11 

God the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit, the Counsellor, is the creative power, presence, and wisdom of God.12 The Spirit convicts people of sin, gives them new life, and guides them into all truth.13 By the Spirit, believers are baptized into one body.14 The indwelling Spirit testifies that they are God’s children, distributes gifts for ministry, empowers for witness, and produces the fruit of righteousness.15 As Comforter, the Holy Spirit helps God’s children in their weakness, intercedes for them according to God’s will, and assures them of eternal life.16

Genesis 1; Exodus 15:2-3; 34:6-7; Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Psalm 8; 23; 139; Isaiah 55:8-9; 66:12-13; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hosea 11:1-4; Matthew 1:18-25; 5-7; 28:18-20; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 4:18-19; John 1:1-18; 14:26; 15:26; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4; Romans 8:1-17; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 13; 15:3-8; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:16-21; 13:14; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 1:15-2:22; 3:14-21; Philippians 2:6-11; Colossians 1:15-20; 1 Timothy 6:15-16; 2 Timothy 2:11-13; Hebrews 12:7-11; 1 Peter 2:21-25; 1 John 2:2; Revelation 5:5-6, 9-10. 

Explanatory Notes

1. The New Testament sometimes refers to God the Father as simply God. Paul declared to the Athenian crowd that God “gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25) and it is from him that “we live and move and have our being” (17:28). At other times, the NT writers use the expression “God the Father” especially when they are also making statements that involve Jesus. God the Father has “placed his seal of approval” on the Son of Man (John 6:27) and given Jesus “honor and glory” (2 Peter 1:17). God the Father will receive the kingdom from the Son “after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24). God the Father raised Jesus from the dead and together with Jesus “sent” Paul (Galatians 1:1). God the Father will be glorified when every knee bows and tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:11). God the Father together with Jesus are called upon to send “grace, mercy, and peace” (2 John 1:3; 1: Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2), “grace and peace” (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; Titus 1:4), or “peace…and love” (Ephesians 6:23). God the Father is active in the New Testament, just as Jesus and the Spirit are active.

2. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that the Father seeks “true worshipers” who “will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23). This kind of worship is a “must” because God is spirit (John 4:24). Paul declares that “there is no difference between Jew and Gentile” since God “richly blesses all who call on him” for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:12-13). The Psalmist writes that the “LORD is near to all who call on him” (145:18). God the Father is actively seeking worshipers and hearing (viz. responding) to the prayers of those who call on him. 

3. The Father sends the Son for the salvation of the world (John 3:16; 6:44-45). The Father adopts into his family all who respond in faith to the gospel (Galatians 4:4-5); Ephesians 1:5). The Father forgives (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 8:12; 1 John 1:9) and welcomes the forgiven into a new covenant (Hebrews 8:7-12; Luke 22:20). The New Testament is not simply the story of Jesus but the story of God the Father actively working in the world, sending Jesus, adopting believers, forgiving sinners, and covenanting himself to this group. This story of salvation is described more fully in Articles 4 and 5. 

4. The Father gives the Counselor (or Advocate who comes alongside believers; cf. John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7; Luke 11:13; Acts 5:32). John 14:26 describes the Holy Spirit using the word Paracletos which is most often translated as “Counselor” (RSV), “Helper” (ESV), “Comforter” (KJV), or “Advocate” (NIV; NRSV). In this verse, Jesus states that the role of the Holy Spirit is to “teach you all things and [will] remind you of everything I [Jesus] have said to you.” Whatever word we choose to use as a translation for Paracletos must be understood within this role of active teaching and reminding. 

Article 1 highlights how the Father gives the Paracletos (John 14:16) to every believer (Acts 2:38-39; Galatians 4:6). 

5. Describing God’s creative and redemptive love as what sustains this world is a reminder of his transcendent governance over creation (Genesis 2:1-3; Job 38:19-30; John 5:17) and his imminent presence with believers (Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 41:12; 54:4; 55:22; 1 John 4:12). It is also evidence of the unified work of the Godhead, as Father, Son, and Spirit sustain the world (Matthew 28:20b; John 16:5-15; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3). All of creation and all of God’s ongoing work comes out of his love. 

6. This section of Article 1 needs to be read in light of the earlier confession that God is “eternal Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” and in light of the heading of this section—”God the Son.” These make it clear that Jesus has existed eternally as the Son within the Triune God (John 1:1; 17:5; Colossians 1:17) and thus did not become the divine Son at some point during or after his earthly life—even though his resurrection led to him being “declared to be the Son of God in power…by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4 ESV). Jesus, incarnated with human flesh, as the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15, 19; Hebrews 1:3) was, in a mysterious way, also the pre-incarnate Son of God “in [whom] all things were created” (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:3). Article 1 affirms this divine-human union without providing clarity about how the eternal divine Son could take on the fullness of human flesh and human nature without diminishment of either the divine or the human. (For a discussion of “human nature,” see Article 3.)

Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit and birth to the virgin Mary demonstrates that the origin of the incarnate Jesus is from God (Luke 1:35) and is the very Immanuel presence of God (Matthew 1:22-23). From birth, Jesus is the “Son of God.” At twelve, he explains to Joseph and Mary that he stayed back at the temple because he “needed to be in [his] Father’s house” (Luke 2:49). 

Although Jesus’ origin is from God, he took on the fullness of human nature/flesh (John 1:14; Romans 8:3; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 John 4:2; Philippians 2:6-8). Jesus’ taking on human nature/flesh means that he accepted human weakness (Hebrews 4:15; 5:2). Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52), became hungry (Matthew 21:18), needed to sleep (Mark 4:38), did not know certain things (Matthew 24:36), and suffered when he was tempted (Hebrews 2:18). The author of Hebrews insists that Jesus had to be made “fully human in every way” in order to “make atonement for the sins of the people” (2:17).

7. Colossians 1:19 records the astounding claim that “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Jesus]” while Colossians 2:9 goes even further to says that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Jesus was both the “fullness” of God (viz. character, essence, intention, will) and a reflection of this fullness in his life, ministry, teaching, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. Jesus revealed God in everything he did (John 1:1-18; 14:9-11). From birth to death, Jesus lived a fully obedient and sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:21-25; 1 John 3:5). 

8. What Jesus preached and embodied was all about the inaugurating of the “reign of God” or the “Kingdom of God” in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. The New Testament writers explain that what Jesus proclaimed was the “gospel” or “good news” of the Kingdom (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; Mark 1:15; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 16:16; Acts 8:12; cf. Luke 4:18-19). (See Article 5 for more about the nature of the “gospel.”) 

9. Jesus’ sacrificial death and victorious resurrection conquered sin, death, and Satan (Romans 5:18-21; 1 Corinthians 15:54-47; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:14-16; 1 John 2:2; Revelation 5:5-10) and made fully true the statement: “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:17; cf. Philippians 2:9-11; Acts 2:32-36). Jesus is now also “head” of the Church (Colossians 1:15-20; Ephesians 1:20-23; 5:23). (For more detail about the various aspects of Jesus atoning work, see Article 5.)

10. Jesus invites every person in the world, both Gentiles who were “far” and Jews who were “near” (Ephesians 2:11-18; cf. Matthew 11:28; John 6:35-38), to reconciliation/peace with God (Romans 5:1; 2 John 1:3; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Jesus calls all those who respond to follow him in the “way of the cross” (Matthew 10:38; Mark 1:16-20; 8:34-38; Luke 9:23; 14:27).

11. Between Jesus’ ascension and his second coming when he will return in glory (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Hebrews 9:28: Revelation 1:7), he sits at the right hand of God (Luke 22:69-70; Hebrews 10:12-14; 1 Peter 3:22), interceding and advocating for believers before the Father (Romans 8:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:25; 8:24; 1 John 2:1) and calling them to be his witnesses in the world (Acts 1:8; Matthew 10:18; 2 Corinthians 5:20).

12. This section of Article 1 also needs to be read in light of the earlier confession that God is “eternal Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” and in light of the heading of this section—”God the Holy Spirit.” This makes it clear that the Holy Spirit has existed eternally within the Triune God. The Holy Spirit is fully the presence of God – God is One – not some secondary offshoot of God. The Holy Spirit fully represents the power, presence, and wisdom of God (Matthew 10:20; 12:28; Mark 3:29; Luke 1:35; Ephesians 2:18). 

As mentioned in Note 12, John 14:26 describes the Holy Spirit using the word Paracletos which is most often translated as “Counselor” (RSV), “Helper” (ESV), “Comforter” (KJV), or “Advocate” (NIV; NRSV). 

There are some differences between how the Spirit is described as working in the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the OT, the Spirit only came upon certain people like prophets (Numbers 11:29; 2 Chronicles 24:20); leaders (Deuteronomy 34:9); judges (Judges 3:10; 6:24); anointed kings (1 Samuel 16:13); and skilled artists appointed to build the Tabernacle (Exodus 31:1-5). The Spirit provided physical power (Judges 11:29; 14:6, 19; 15:14), leadership ability (Numbers 11:24-25), wisdom (Deuteronomy 34:9), or prophetic ability (Micah 3:7-8; Ezekiel 11:5) to achieve God’s purposes. The Spirit could also come and go from a person as in the case of Saul (1 Samuel 16:14). David was also fearful of God’s Spirit leaving him (Psalm 51:11). 

The New Testament connects the Holy Spirit directly with Jesus. The Holy Spirit “testifies about” Jesus (John 15:26), “glorifies” Jesus (John 16:14), and is identified as the “Spirit of his Son” (Galatians 4:6). The wonderful news is that with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, he is now given to every disciple of Jesus (Acts 2:1-4, 16-18; cf. Joel 2:28-29) and will not leave us but “be with [us] forever” (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit gives each believer “gifts of the Spirit” for the “common good” (1 Corinthians 12:1-7). 

Believers, whose bodies are “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 16:19), are to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16) “live by the Spirit” (5:25), “keep in step with the Spirit” (5:15), be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), and demonstrate the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit transforms character (2 Corinthians 3:17-18) so that believers can reflect God’s “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). This Spirit, also called the “Advocate” or “Comforter” (John 14:26), will “teach you all things” (v.26), “be in you” (v.17), “guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13), and give you “life (John 6:63; Romans 8:10). If “anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9). 

We do not understand the Triune God, and especially Jesus, if we fail to appreciate the essential role of the Holy Spirit in the lives and mission of God’s people in the world. The Holy Spirit is also not an “it” but a divine person within the three persons of the Trinity. Among many other activities, the Holy Spirit speaks (Acts 13:2), gives out Spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11), intercedes for believers (Romans 8:26-27), and glorifies Jesus (John 16:14). These actions demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is a person not simply an impersonal force.

13. The Holy Spirit is involved in working in the hearts and minds of humans convicting them of sin (John 16:8-11). The work of convicting is motivated by God’s love with the goal of prompting confession, repentance, and restoration (Revelation 3:19). This should not be understood in the legal sense of “condemnation” which produces a separation from God’s love (cf. John 3:17-18; Romans 8:31-39) but in the sense of God’s convicting love prompting people’s consciences, revealing truth about the human condition, and creating the desire to respond to this saving love. 

Romans 8:2 declares that believers “are now controlled by the law of the Holy Spirit who gives [them] life.” Finally, John 16:13 confidently asserts that when the “Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”  

14. The Holy Spirit is active as believers are cleansed and baptized into one body (viz., the Church; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13; 6:11; Ephesians 4:4). Because of this truth, we are to make “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). The Spirit unifies the Church.

15. The Holy Spirit indwells every believer (Acts 2:1-4, 38; 10:45; Ephesians 1:13; 5:18), gifts and empowers each one for ministries and witness (Mark 13:11; Acts 1:8; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12, 14; Ephesians 4:12-13; 1 Peter 4:10-11) and produces “fruit” demonstrated in speech and action (Galatians 5:16-23). The Holy Spirit “testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 4:6-7).

16. The Holy Spirit also comforts, intercedes, and reassures God’s children in their weakness (John 14:6-17, 26; Romans 8:23-27; 15:13; Ephesians 3:14-21; Galatians 5:5). The testimony of the Spirit assures us of eternal life (1 John 3:24; 5:6-13). God gives his Spirit as a seal, a guarantee, that he will accomplish our salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 5:5).

Leave a Comment