A systematic theology must not leave anything out of its system, but in scope take everything captive to Christ (2 Cor 10:5). Thus when it is said in these last days God has revealed Himself by His Son (Heb 1:2), this also accepts with it that in Jesus the fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col 2:9), not some accident or partial, but full revelation, while remaining a divine mystery, eternity being set up in our hearts yet we remain unable to fathom what God has done (Eccl 3:11). There is no further revelation, there is no new promise, no prophet, nothing except the all-surpassing knowledge of Christ and Him crucified (Phil 3:8, 1 Cor 2:2). Christ was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (Matt 5:17), the last days indeed of God’s direct revelation, against the many modes of ancient times by the prophets and dreams (Heb 1:1).
This is Christianity, the faith received once for all (Jude 1:3), knowing from whom you have learned it, familiar with Scripture from a young age – that these Scriptures, being God-breathed, are sufficient to make you wise for salvation (2 Tim 3:14-17). That not every still small voice, not every angel of light, not every divine visitation, but in fact Scripture itself is the fullness of the revelation. If there is a new Christ preached, it is not the Christ of Paul and the Apostles (2 Cor 11:4). Everything thereafter is nonsense. For by the fruits will you identify false teachers (Matt 7:16), and fruits are words – not practices, not works, not attitudes, not family life, but words, for this is the mode of teaching, and we are told fruits are how we identify false teachers, as one who looks like the Lamb, indeed taking on the appearance of Christ, but speaking like the Dragon (Rev 13:11). There is pure doctrine, there is truth, and this truth is normed not by the tradition, but by Scripture rightly understood.
There are traditions of men, yes, there are theologies, but if they do not line up with Scripture, you are doing it wrong. If they add or take away from Scripture, they are in fact dangerous to the eternal soul. Rightly understood is that sola scriptura agrees with the church ancient, the unbroken teaching of the catholic faith received from the Apostles, what it has taught from the beginning is this. Tradition has its place in that it provides us framework for interpreting Scripture. Indeed, these old traditions are what Paul encourages us to follow (2 Thess 2:15) – not new ones made by men – so new traditions and teachings are still taken back to that which we have received from the apostles, which is holy Scripture, which is received even in the New Testament, and is twisted by men (2 Pet 3:14-16).
Those who would contend the Church ancient is without understanding are numerous, and those that would say the true faith is lost as well – from Joseph Smith to Herbert Armstrong to others – would strip the promise of Christ of its power, stating that the Word which created the world indeed could not accomplish by His own true Spirit the full understanding (Jn 16:13). This claim undermines the very power of God, let alone the power of Christ Who is God and speaks with all authority (Matt 28:18). He preserves the true church, which is a mix of believers and unbelievers (2 Tim 2:20) with necessary divisions for the sake of the truth (1 Cor 11:19), and is not as it were perfected theologians (as, indeed, there is not one who understands, none who seek God c.f. Rom 3:11) nor men and women of peculiar morality, as all have sinned (Rom 3:23) and even the regenerate continue to sin against the will of their spirit (Rom 7:22), being bound in weak flesh prone to temptation (Matt 26:41).
And indeed this flesh should be prone to temptation! It is a fallen body, the body of death (Rom 7:23), being inherited from Adam, who begets humanity in his image rather than the image of God (Gen 5:2), and so death entered the world through one man (Rom 5:12), not through woman nor the work of the devil, though indeed the devil tempted the woman, but she was deceived (Gen 3:4,13; 2 Cor 11:3), while Adam the man was with her (Gen 3:6), being undeceived (1 Tim 2:14), tried to conceal his transgression (Job 31:33), hiding and denying his own sin. Adam was made from the dust (Gen 2:7), and through him the whole of creation was cursed and death entered (Gen 3:17-19).
Just as sinful men, though not born of the devil but in fact born of the flesh, this flesh being sinful by nature, not by choice (Ps 51:5) are the spiritual children of the devil (Jn 8:44), they are made children of God by Him who is righteous (Gal 3:26), not by sex or birth of women (Jn 3:5-6), but by the atoning sacrifice of Christ. This righteousness is imputed by the Holy Spirit, through baptism (Acts 2:38, Eph 5:26, Titus 5:26), which is the Word giving us the Spirit (Acts 2:39). And this Word of course is the Spirit! For the Spirit is the breath of God – this is what the Greek word pneuma means – and is sent out of Christ’s own mouth (Jn 20:22). Just then as Eve was formed from the rib of Adam (Gen 2:21-22), by the cup of the eucharist which is Christ’s blood (Lk 22:20) and the waters of baptism does God make His bride, by His own side, where blood and water flowed out (Jn 19:34). The Word made flesh (Jn 1:14) is the root of all salvation.
Those who would demand works of the flesh should be condemned (Phil 3:2-9, Rev 3:9), but also should those who think we have full freedom to keep sinning (Rom 7:7, Rev 2:6). Instead, we recognize as above that the Law has been fulfilled in Christ, that we could not keep the Law perfectly on our own (Gal 2:21), and instead are now empowered to live and be justified by faith (Gal 2:20, Heb 11:2). For though some may say faith without works is dead (Jas 2:17), it is also true that the tax collector is justified, even as the Pharisee lives righteously (Lk 18:14), for our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees (Matt 5:20). And indeed it does, for Christ is our righteousness (Jer 33:16, 1 Cor 1:30)!
Do not then rely on the works of men, for many will have done mighty works in the Lord’s name but be not justified (Matt 7:21-23), nor on the revelation of angels, for even the devil appears as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), but instead on the sufficiency of Scripture. Do not be blown about by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14), the words of men who learn – indeed, keep teaching new revelation – but do not arrive at the truth (2 Tim 3:7).
Be comfortable with the paradox of revelation, this God we cannot fully understand though He has laid it in our hearts, the Christ who is the fullness of deity yet is also emptied of his deity to become man (Phil 2:6-8), and being one with the Father (Jn 10:30) is yet distinct from the Father (Jn 14:28). Indeed the Father sends Him, even as Himself God who takes on flesh (Rom 8:3) is not the Son, being that God could forsake Him upon the cross (Matt 27:46, Mk 15:34), yet also distinct from the Spirit who is His breath, the Helper being “another” (Jn 14:16, 15:26) but inseparable from the Word, for the Word by breath is made (have you not vocal cords?), and yet the breath also proceeds from the Word being spoken. Also, then, that the Spirit testifies by the Word, not by works, as the author says to the Hebrews that the Holy Spirit testifies by the words of the prophet Jeremiah (these words being written, not heard, by the Jews of the day) (Heb 10:15-16). Indeed, this same Spirit fulfilled the promise of prophecy at Pentecost (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:14-21), which is not mere prediction of the future, but right declaration of the truth of God.
Why then do we understand the ancient confession?
I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth and of all things visible and invisible
Because we receive the truths of one God by the testimony of the Scripture (Mk 12:29, 12:32, Eph 4:6, Deut 6:4), and that He is indeed Father (Mal 2:10, Matt 23:9, Ps 28:6) and the creator of all things (Gen 1:1, Rev 4:11), both visible and invisible (Col 1:16, Heb 11:3).
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all worlds – God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made
Because once more Scripture illuminates Christ as Lord (1 Cor 8:6, Eph 4:5), who was begotten of the Father (Jn 3:16)*, being eternal from the Father before all creation (Col 1:15-17, Jn 8:58), being in very nature and form God (Phil 2:6, Jn 1:1-2), the very light to illuminate all mankind (Jn 1:4,9; 2 Cor 4:6; Heb 1:3), being the true God who has come (1 Jn 5:20) – His glory being not made in man, but in the Father (Jn 1:14), and this light is the light of God, the substance coming from the Father (1 Jn 1:5, Jn 8:12) and thus God with us (Is 7:14, Matt 1:23), being the method by which God created the world (Jn 1:3, 10; Gen 1:1; Col 1:16; Rom 11:36).
[Jesus] for us man and our salvation came down from Heaven was incarnate of the Holy Spirit by the virgin Mary, and became man. He was crucified also for us under under Pontius Pilate, suffering death and buried and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures. He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead. And His kingdom will have no end.
The motivation of Christ was divine compassion for the salvation of His own people (Matt 1:21, 1 Thess 5:9), being descended from Heaven to the flesh by Mary (Jn 3:13, 6:38), being born God of the virgin by the work of the Holy Spirit who is distinct from Him (Lk 1:34-35, Matt 1:18-25), becoming not just the likeness but indeed man while still God (Heb 2:14). Likewise also at the end of His earthly ministry He was crucified (1 Pet 2:24, Mk 15:15) and indeed died (Lk 23:46, 1 Pet 3:18) but rose according to the Scriptures – not just being received in the New Testament, but also the Old, His life conforming to and fulfilling the Law and Prophets, but these being written so you may believe (1 Cor 15:3-4, Lk 24:45-46), and ascended to Heaven (Acts 1:9) where he rules with the full authority as the Father’s right hand (Mk 16:19, Acts 7:56), whence He will return with full majesty not as his humble incarnation (Mk 13:26, 1 Thess 4:17) to judge the living and the dead (2 Cor 5:10, 1 Peter 4:5), and establish an everlasting Kingdom (Heb 1:8, 2 Pet 1:11).
And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.
This God who is Three persons and yet One God, one God yet Three Persons, reigns eternal and sovereign (2 Cor 3:17) giving life to all (Jn 6:63; 2 Cor 3:6), proceeding from the eternal perfect union of the Father (Jn 15:26) and the Son (Jn 16:7), being worshiped with the Father and the Son (2 Cor 3:8), who spoke by those whom He used (1 Pet 1:10-11, Eph 3:5, Heb 1:2).
I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
The Church is set apart for the purposes of God (Eph 1:4, 5:27), being in unity of the body (Eph 4:4, 1 Cor 10:17), being a body of all people, complete and universal (Matt 28:19, Gal 3:27-29), built on the teaching of the apostles (Eph 2:20, Matt 10:1, Acts 1:2, 2:42, etc), receiving the baptism of Christ which indeed cleanses us (Matt 28:20, Acts 2:38-39), and by this power of sin being cleaned death is wiped away (Rom 6:4-5, Col 2:12), which grants resurrection (1 Thess 4:16, 1 Cor 15:12), to live with Christ forever in a new Heaven and Earth (2 Pet 3:13, Rev 21:1).
*In fact, the Greek word monogenes is very fascinating. It is sometimes used to say “only” in reference to children, but in fact has in it mono – as in one, singular – genes, as in genesis, beginning, so Christ has beginning, but it is rooted in one, and that One being the Father must have the nature of the Father, which is eternal, glorious, all-powerful, et cetera, and yet distinct from the Father per the revelation of Scripture.