This is one of the longest and certainly one of the most important and central chapters of the Confession. Paragraph 2 speaks of the Incarnation of the Mediator. It is a wonderfully rich paragraph with roots deep in the creedal tradition of the church. His Specific Personality; His Unqualified Deity; His True Humanity; and His Sinless Integrity are taught here.
Consider first the specific personality of the Mediator. Who is the person who became incarnate in the historical person Jesus of Nazareth? We are not asking the question, What is He? That question (about His being) is answered in the next sections. We are asking rather about His person or personality: Who is He? The keywords are: “The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory…” (1689 8:2) These words speak, first, of His primary relationship. “He is the Son of God.” A historical sonship is ascribed to Christ in Scripture, but it is the revelation of a previous and eternal sonship that the Scriptures also ascribe to Him. This is the sonship in view here and in Chapter 2, paragraph 3 of the Confession. He was sent as Son and not be to become the Son. Many passages teach this. Here are three of the main ones:
- John 3:16 God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
- John 3:17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
- John 10:36, do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, You are blaspheming,’ because I said, I am the Son of God?
Confirming all of this is the assertion of the Scripture, the Confession, and the Nicene Creed that the as eternal Son He is eternally begotten. Despite uncertainty on the part of some modern scholars, this is the clear assertion of Scripture. He is God’s only begotten Son—John 1:18; 3:16; 3:18; 1 John 4:9 and John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The eternal Son is not only described in terms of His primary relationship as the Son of the Father but also in terms of His exalted status: The exalted status of the Lord Jesus Christ is described here in two closely related and mutually defining phrases: “the second person in the Holy Trinity being very and eternal God.” These two phrases speak of that exalted status in terms of His person and place in the eternal order of the Trinity and His essence.
As to His person, He is the second person of the Trinity. This, of course, implies that the Father is the first person and the Spirit the third person. The Confession here teaches that there is an eternal order in the Trinity. It is the eternal order that is reflected in the economy of creation and redemption. In both the Father authors, the Son accomplishes, and the Spirit applies.
As to His essence, He is very and eternal God. We will look at the evidence for this later. It is crucial to note that the Confession can speak of the person and essence of the Son in different ways. As to His person, He is second. As to His essence, He is not second, but very and eternal God. His second-ness is not a second-ness in time. Absolutely not! His being the begotten Son as to His person does not detract from His being eternal as to His essence or nature. Listen to Calvin:
“It is not fitting to suppress the distinction that we observe to be expressed in Scripture. It is this: to the Father is attributed the beginning of activity, and the fountain and wellspring of all things; to the Son, wisdom, counsel, and the ordered disposition of all things; but to the Spirit is assigned the power and efficacy of that activity …The observance of an order is not meaningless or superfluous, when the Father is thought of first, then from him the Son, and finally from both the Spirit.”
Who is Jesus? He is the glorious and eternal Son of God! “The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory …” (1689 8:2). This is the specific person who became incarnate for us and our salvation. He is this person that the Father wants us to love with the same tenderness, affection, and exaltation which He does. Find glory, blessedness, and splendor in this person! Let Him capture your heart for worship & move your hands to service!
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.