THE BASF - ITS IMPORTANCE AND TEACHING
About The BASF
BASF stands for Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith, and is a description of the Bible doctrines that Christadelphians believe and preach. Ever seeking to ensure our belief and conduct is in harmony with the Word, the following articles examine each clause and it’s Bible background. This is an ongoing series in The Christadelphian Waymark magazine; most of the Statements to be Received are added, and we are now starting the “Doctrines to be rejected”
“That the only true God is He who was revealed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by angelic visitation and vision, and to Moses at the flaming bush (unconsumed) and at Sinai, and who manifested Himself in the Lord Jesus Christ, as the supreme self-existent Deity, the ONE FATHER, dwelling in unapproachable light, yet everywhere present by His Spirit, which is a unity with His person in heaven. He hath, out of His own underived energy, created heaven and earth, and all that in them is.- Is 40:13-25; 43:10-12; 44:6-8; 46:9,10; Job 38,39 and 40; Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29-32; 1Cor 8:4-6; Eph 4:6; 1Tim 2:5; Neh 9:6; Job 26:13; Ps 124:8; 146:6; 148:5; Is 40:26,27; Jer 10:12,13; 27:5; 32:17-19; 51:15; Acts 14:15; 17:24; 1Chron 29:11-14; Ps 62:11; 145:3; Is 26:4; 40:26; Job 9:4; 36:5; Ps 92:5; 104:24; 147:4-5; Is 28:29; Rom 16:27; 1Tim 1:17; 2Chron 16:9; Job 28:24; 34:21; Ps 33:13,14; 44:21; 94:9; 139:7-12; Prov 15:3; Jer 23:24; 32:19; Amos 9:2,3; Acts 17:27,28; Ps 123:1; 1Kings 8:30,39,43,49; Mat 6:9; 1Tim 6:15-16; 1:17.”
From describing the unique nature of the inspired words of Scripture, as being the “only source of knowledge concerning God and His purposes at present extant or available”, the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith next directs our attention more fully to the God which that Word describes. The order here is important. In the absence of Divine Revelation, man is utterly incapable of arriving at a correct understanding of the only True God (Job 11:7), for He dwells “in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man that seen, nor can see” (1Tim 6:16) – and His ways are infinitely higher than the ways of Man (Is 55:9, 1Cor 2:14). It is true that Creation itself declares the immense power and greatness of a Creator (Rom 1:19,20), but it does not in itself enlighten man as to the nature, and purposes of that Creator. It does not give us a knowledge of the Love and Mercy of the Almighty, who has so Graciously Condescended to grant His Only Begotten Son to die upon the stake for our sins. It does not describe the wrath of God poured out upon those who willingly despise His Ways. And it tells us nothing of the outworking of His Purpose – of which we can have a part, if we learn to please Him. But Revelation does tell us all this – and more. And it is only when we recognise the uniqueness of the written revelation from God to man, that we can learn more of it’s Author. By it’s very nature, it is the only revelation of such things currently available to us – and once we accept the truth of it’s Divine Origin, we are bound to accept the testimony of it’s Author concerning Himself.
The BASF identifies the Eternal Creator with reference to His past revelations to faithful men of old: “the only true God is He who was revealed to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … and to Moses at the burning bush (unconsumed) and at Sinai …”. In this regard, it takes the lead of Scripture itself, which consistently identifies the Great Creator in similar terms, particularly with reference to the progenitors of Israel. So the Lord identified himself to Moses on the occasion so described: “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex 3:6). Each of these men of faith, including Moses himself, all forsook the riches of sin to sojourn as strangers in the desert (Heb 11:9, 24-26) desiring “a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Heb 11:16). Because of their implicit faith and trust in Him, because they forsook all to seek the glories of His Coming Kingdom, the Almighty has no compunction in designating Himself as being their God – despite the fact that they were but mortal, erring creatures.
Indeed, this great condescension on the part of the Almighty to continue His association with these men – even after their death – was used by Moses as evidence for the resurrection: “Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him” (Luke 20:37-38). Being called upon by God to assemble the elders of Israel together, Moses brought them to the bush (cp Luke 30:37 with Ex 3:16), and “shewed” them hope in deliverance by speaking of their God in such a manner. The fact that the Lord was declared to be the God of those who were yet dead, spoke of the certainty of their future resurrection, for in His Purpose, “all live unto him”. And the fact of the bush, bathed in fire, yet preserved from destruction taught them of the Lord’s protection through persecution and oppression (cp Is 43:2, Jer 30:11). So it was, that in identifying himself both to Moses and the People in such a manner, the Almighty taught them the faith of the Patriarchs – faith in resurrection (Rom 4:17, Heb 11:19) and hope of deliverance (Gen 15:13,14).
MANY IDOLS, BUT ONE TRUE GOD
The position of Israel under the Egyptian yoke parallels our circumstance in several respects (some of which were considered in the February issue), and one of these is seen in the religious environment in which they sojourned. In Egypt, the people worshipped a multiplicity of gods (Josh 24:14, Ezek 20:7,8), and for Moses to have simply declared that “God” had sent him, would immediately have provoked the question, “Which one? What is his Name?” This situation was anticipated by Moses: “Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say unto me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them?” The answer was very specific; “Thus shalt thou say unto the Children of Israel, YAHWEH, God of your Fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you” (Ex 3:14). The God of covenant promise, the God of the Living had sent Moses to them. “Although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth – as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords” – yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist” (1Cor 8:5,6 RSV). And that “one God” – the only true God is set apart from all others by His Great Name (being expressive of His future Intentions), and by His being called the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Identification with the Fathers of Israel then, and the purpose which was being worked out through them, was a feature which distinguished the God of Israel, from the pagan vanities of Egypt. And in our day, the situation is no different. The semi-heathen religious systems around us profess to believe in a Creator (even if they deny the literality of the Creation Record). So do we. What then marks their god as being different to our Lord? They define their god to be a “mystery”, unknowable and unknown, three in one, and one in three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, co-equal, and co-eternal. They do not believe in the God Who was revealed to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – He not an unknown God (cp Acts 17:23,24), not to be “ignorantly worshipped”, but rather worshipped in recognition of His Character, and Purposes. It is our understanding of the purposes of Abraham’s God, as revealed in Scripture, which distinguishes us from them, our God from their god. The question remains for us, therefore, as to how we identify our God to the idol-worshippers around us. Do we follow the manner of Scripture, in declaring to them our unbelief of the trinitarian idol, rather professing allegiance to the God of Abraham, or do we seek to “conform” to the ways of the heathen, by saying we “go to church”, and that we simply “believe in God” – that we simply have a “different perspective” on things?
KNOWING “THE ONLY TRUE GOD”
In marked contrast to the idolaters around us, who themselves confess their trinitarian myth to be an unknowable “mystery”, the Lord Jesus taught that a knowledge of the Only True God is a vital prerequisite to Salvation: “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (Jno 16:3). And again, John taught that to “know” the only True God requires an understanding of Him, and His Ways: “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the True God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols …” (1Jno 5:2-,21). To understand Scripture teaching concerning the God of Abraham then, is absolutely vital to our salvation, for in the Son of God, such an understanding is given, that we might “know” Him, and through faith, and obedience, be granted Eternal Life.
THE LORD GOD REVEALED TO ABRAHAM AND MOSES
In His Appearances to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Great Creator revealed Himself in terms of His Purposes. Thus it was, that from the time that Abraham obeyed His Voice, in departing for the land of Canaan, the Lord spoke of His future intentions concerning him: “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen 12:2,3). And again, when he was actually in the land, “Yahweh appeared unto him, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land” (Gen 12:7). And again, following his separation from Lot, the Lord spake unto him: “lift up now thine eyes, and look up from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever” (Gen 13:15). This, then is the prominent feature of Yahweh’s appearances to Abraham; each were accompanied with further revelations of His Purposes both with Abraham himself, and also his Greater seed – even our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal 3:16). And from each of these revelations, we learn certain fundamental points about the God we serve. In making a promise of possessing land for ever, the Lord speaks of the bestowal of Immortality – for the maximum time a man can possess something, is until the day of his death. And the fact that it was Land which was promised, demonstrates that the Lord’s purpose is with the earth, to fill the earth with an immortal family.. And the reference to Abraham’s “seed” describes how these things could come about through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ (i.e. a Seed cannot bear fruit until it is first buried – see Jno 12:24, 1Cor 15:36) Truly it was, that “the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham … ” (Gal 3:8).
But despite the wonder of these glorious promises made to Abraham, styled “the friend of God”, they were not as great as God’s revelation to Moses. This man experienced a unique relationship with His Maker, for of him alone is it testified that “Yahweh spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Ex 34:11). Moses, it appears, was uniquely privileged to experience open discourse with the Lord God, as the Lord Himself declared to Aaron and Miriam in their time of rebellion, “Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I Yahweh will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of Yahweh shall he behold …” (Num 12:8). Moses then, beheld “the similitude of Yahweh” through His Angelic ambassador (cp Acts 7:30, 38), experiencing open communication with His Maker.
THE LIMITATIONS OF DIVINE REVELATION TO MOSES
Thus it is, that the prominent feature of the Lord’s manifestation to Moses, was the revelation of His likeness, or attributes. So Moses besought the Lord, “If I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee … I beseech thee, shew me thy glory” (Ex 33:13,18). And the Divine response to this is most instructive, not least because it illustrates the limitations of Revelation to men of old, and as we shall see, emphasises the fulness of revelation in Jesus Christ. Moses was not permitted to behold the full extent of Divine Glory: “thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live … It shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen” (Ex 33:22,23). Even Moses then, could not behold the Face of unrestrained Divine Glory, even through angelic manifestation. Mortal man cannot stand in the face of the fullness of the Glory of God and live. But what Moses did witness, was the declaration of the varied facets of Divine Character: “Yahweh passed by before him, and proclaimed, Yahweh, Yahweh El, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin …” (Ex 34:6,7).
The “glory” which Moses requested to see, was made manifest in the attributes declared before Him, expressive of the nature and Character of the God of Abraham. Yet he could not actually see those Attributes – he heard them proclaimed. Moreover, he could not actually see the face of the Angel of Yahweh’s presence – it was hidden from him. And all this pointed forward to a future manifestation of God – even greater than this, when the Glory of God would be manifested in all its fulness perfectly, yet veiled in Human Flesh.
THE MANIFESTATION OF THE FATHER IN JESUS CHRIST
The apostolic testimony, in contrasting the fading glory of the Mosaic Law (2Cor 3:7-16) with the glory made manifest in the Lord Jesus Christ, is that: “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Cor 4:6). In the Lord Jesus Christ, as the greater Seed of Abraham, through whom all the promises are to be fulfilled, we can see the face of Glory, for we see “God manifest in the flesh” (1Tim 3:16) – the fulness of Divine Character revealed in a Son who perfectly mirrored his Father’s Image (interestingly, although Moses could not see the face of Glory in Exodus, when he was present at the Transfiguration of the Lord, it is testified of Christ that “his face did shine as the sun” (Mat 17:2) – so Moses, at the last, did see the full extent of the Glory as he requested). So it was, that as a faithful Son, the Lord Jesus shared the likeness of His Father, to such an extent that he could say to Phillip, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father, and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father” (Jno 14:9). All the glorious Attributes which were declared to Moses, were to be seen in the Son; even as it is written, “No man hath seen God at anytime; the only begotten of the Father, he hath declared him” (Jno 1:18).
This then, is the Greatest Revelation of all- the Revelation of the Father in Jesus Christ. But in turn, the greater the revelation, the greater the responsibility of those who behold it. “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding …” (1Jno 5:20). And Speaking of the word of understanding which proceeded from him, in comparison with the ordinances of the Mosaic Law, the writer to the Hebrews exhorts: “if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Heb 2:2,3). Let us, therefore heed this exhortation, by striving to behold more fully the Glory of the God we serve, as made manifest in the pages of Scripture – by remaining distinct from the idols of the heathen, and faithful to the Father of our Lord Jesus. Indeed, our very salvation depends on it, for “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (Jno 17:3).