The Truth of God's Word, Christianity, and Apologetics.
The Truth of God's Word, Christianity, and Apologetics.
Basic Theology: The Trinity Part 2 – DTS032
God is a personal God with personal distinctions. The biblical writers have no problem describing Him and interacting with Him in this way. We are the ones who have problems with the idea.
In Genesis 18 describes a meeting between Yaweh and Abraham. Three men appeared near the great trees of Mamre, and Abraham recognizes the Lord. The text shows that it is Yaweh speaking, Yaweh who stays with Abraham as he pleads for Sodom, Yaweh who goes down to Sodom, and Yaweh who rains down burning sulfur from heaven in Genesis 19:24. The man in front of Abraham is addressed as God, speaks as God, and yet it is also God who goes down to the city and it is God who rains down fire from heaven.
Obviously a distinction in persons is being made without extra comment from the biblical author, yet only one God is named. So the personal distinctions of God are not a New Testament novelty. We have many other examples. In Genesis 31:11-13, the angel calls Himself God. Exodus 3:2-4 describes the angel of the Lord appearing to Abraham in the burning bush while the Lord speaks. In Joshua 5:13-15, the commander of the army of Yaweh stands before Joshua, and in Joshua 6:2 that commander’s words are Yaweh’s words. In Zechariah 4:6, the angel of Yaweh again speaks as Yaweh Himself.
Personal distinctions in the Godhead have been a part of Old Testament theology all along. The Jews gave up that theology when Christians used it to defend their faith, and when the Jews rejected that gospel, they were blinded. Early Christians have no problem with the unity of God or the personal distinctions of the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is clear that there is only one God. Isaiah 45:5-6, Isaiah 45:14, and Isaiah 46:9 are clear that there is only one God. In the New Testament this is reflected again. 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, Ephesians 4:3-6, and James 2:19 all affirm the Old Testament teaching of the oneness of God while recognizing personal distinctions.
Ultimately, the problem people have with the Trinity is not God’s oneness or God’s complexity, but the incarnation — God in the flesh. Jews accuse Christians of being polytheistic when Christians argue that Jesus, the man from Nazareth, is part of the Trinity. Jesus is the stumbling block. Yet Jesus did claim to be God in a href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?
Basic Theology: The Trinity Part 1 – DTS031
How can there be three personalities and only one God? The doctrine of the trinity is a part of what it means to be orthodox Christian in your beliefs.
The doctrine of the Trinity is the doctrine that gets people in the most trouble throughout church history. For hundreds of years, people have stumbled over the relationship between Jesus and God the Father. The debates between Arius and Athanasius over the nature of the Trinity brought together the first ever council of bishops, the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. Arius taught that Jesus was derived from God, but not God Himself, while Athanasius defended the traditional view that Jesus and God the Father are of one essence. The council decided in favor of the traditional view, but the arguments within the church continued for several decades. It was finally settled in A.D. 381 at the Council of Constantinople, where the Arian heresy was put to rest.
Two hundred years later, around the time of the Third Synod of Toledo in 589, the Nicene Creed affirming the divinity of Jesus, which had also been expanded at the Council of Constantinople, was changed regarding the place of the Holy Spirit. The phrase, “and the son,” was added so that it now read that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, instead of just from the Father. This change contributed to the break in 1054 between the western church, which became the Roman Catholic Church, and the eastern church, which became the Greek Orthodox Church. The disagreements over the nature of the Trinity contributed to a schism within the church that persists even today.
Modern Christian cults fall at this same point. One of the most characteristic marks of Christian cults is that they deny Jesus is the eternal Son of God. But orthodoxy is not a new interpretation. It is the historic and true teaching of scripture on key, essential issues. Orthodoxy says that Jesus is God in the flesh and that the Holy Spirit is also God Himself. This is the nature of the Trinity.
The doctrine of the Trinity is unique to Christianity. Christianity is not unitarian and it is not polytheistic. How do we reconcile these two things? Does the Christian faith demand a belief that cannot be understood? No. It can be understood, and we do understand it.
We often think we don’t understand the Trinity because we’ve been told we don’t understand it. But how much do we have to know before we can say we understand it? Do we need exhaustive and total knowledge of all details? Do we need exhaustive and total knowledge of how electricity is wired into our homes to understand that electricity is in our homes?
Of course not, and it is the same principle in play with the doctrine of the Trinity. We may not know every detail or understand everything there is to know about the Trinity, but we do know something. As we come to understand scripture, we come to understand the Trinity. If we can understand what Peter, Paul, and James wrote, then we can understand what they say about the Trinity.
If you don’t understand the Trinity, then you don’t understand Christianity. The Trinity is the essence of Christianity. It is not the greatest burden of our theology, but what makes it true and understandable. Look not to all the controversies surrounding the Trinity, but instead look to what the Bible says about the Trinity.
First, Who is God? God is the source of all things.
Basic Theology: The Holy Spirit and His Gifts Part 2 – DTS030
As discussed in Part 1, God is a unity, but not a simple unity. He is a complex being. The Holy Spirit is not a separate God, but a member of a unified trinity who has a unique personality and intellect while still being unified with God.
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit lived with the people of God and indwelling only a chosen few. In the New Testament, after Pentecost in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit lives in all believers. He is the seal of our redemption.
The Holy Spirit accomplished the work of creating the incarnation. In Luke 1:35, the angel told Mary that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and so her child would be the Son of God. In Matthew 1:20, the angel told Joseph that Mary’s child was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ entire life was intimately related to the Holy Spirit. Matthew 12:28 says that He was empowered by the Holy Spirit to cast out demons. After His time of fasting in the wilderness, Luke 4:15 says that Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee. In Luke 4:17-22, Jesus reads from Isaiah to demonstrate that He had been anointed by the Holy Spirit to preach good news. In Acts 10:37-38, Peter is preaching in the home of Cornelius and reminds them of Jesus’ ministry, and how He was anointed by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is also intimately related to our salvation. Jesus teaches Nicodemus in John 3 that each person must be born of water and spirit to see the kingdom of God, and it is Spirit that gives birth to spirit. The Holy Spirit accomplishes our salvation, working in us to produce our new birth. Paul teaches in Titus 3:4-6 that we are saved by the washing and renewal of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit cleanses us and washes us. He is poured out on us by Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit Himself is a gift to believers. Jesus taught this in John 7:37-39 as he spoke of rivers of living water for those that come to him. In Acts 11:15-17, Peter tells the church in Jerusalem of what occurred at the home of Cornelius. He tells of being reminded of Jesus teaching that they would be baptized by the Holy Spirit and testified that the Holy Spirit had come onto the Gentiles just as it had on the Apostles at Pentecost. Because of their salvation, the Holy Spirit indwells all believers. Paul also teaches in Romans 5:5 that...
Basic Theology: The Holy Spirit and His Gifts Part 1 – DTS029
God exists as a unity. There is only one God. As Ephesians 4:4-6 says, there is one Spirit and there is one faith in one Lord who is our one God. The Bible never teaches that there is more than one God.
But God is not a simple unity like one rock or one grain of sand. He is a complex being, and He is presented that way. He is revealed as having three centers of unique personality, but in essence is one God. John 1:1-3 gives a description of this unity of Jesus and the Father. The Word was with God and, at the same time, the Word was God. When we speak of the essential nature of the Word, He is God. The Word was also with God. The Word can leave that relationship to become man: to become Jesus. Jesus is God’s Word that became flesh. Yet the Word is still God. This is a mystery that we don’t understand to its fullest extent, but scripture is clear that there is one God.
So the Holy Spirit is not a separate God, not a third God, but He is a unique personality. The Holy Spirit is not an “it,” but a Somebody. He is not an impersonal force or just an expression of power, but a person of the Trinity.
The Holy Spirit has intellect. In 1 Corinthians 2:9-16, we see that God reveals things through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the thoughts of God. He knows God’s thoughts. If the Holy Spirit knows something, He must have intellect.
The Holy Spirit has emotions and sensibility. The Holy spirit can be grieved and He can love. Ephesians 4:30 warns us not to grieve the Holy Spirit. In Romans 15:30, Paul appeals to us by Jesus and the love of the Holy Spirit separately.
The Holy Spirit has a will. He can choose to give as He wills. In 1 Corinthians 12:11 the Holy Spirit apportions His gifts as He determines. He is able to make a determination and choose.
The Holy Spirit is able to teach, remind and bear witness. In John 14:25-26, Jesus tells His disciples that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will teach them all things and remind them of what Jesus taught while He was with them. In John 15:26, Jesus teaches that the Holy Spirit will bear a true witness about Him. He will teach, explain, and testify about the truth of Jesus Christ and God’s Word.
The Holy Spirit calls people, directs them, and gives them a special purpose. In Acts 13:2-4, the Holy Spirit calls Barnabas and Paul, and He gives them a special work to perform. When people are called to the mission field or service, it is done by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit directed Philip in Acts 8:2...
Basic Theology: Redemption Part 2 – Election and Atonement – DTS028
Part 1 of this focus on Redemption looked at sections of scripture where God has revealed that he chooses those who come to Him. This choice is not arbitrary or capricious, but it is done in love and with wisdom purpose.
Jesus teaches about the doctrine of election throughout the Gospels, as well. The parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 11:1-14 ends with Jesus saying, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” In Matthew 24, Jesus refers to believers as “the elect” in verses 22, 24, and 31. Romans 8:33, 1 Peter 1:1, and 2 Timothy 2:10 also refer to believers as the “elect.”
God chooses by His own reasons and by His own character, which necessarily means that it is done in love. This is not always obvious to us. But scripture also teaches that God has hidden many of his reasons for acting from mankind. Matthew 11:25-30 and Luke 10:21-22 reveal that God has hidden some things that relate to salvation from those who consider themselves wise, and Jesus praises Him for doing so. Then in the same line of thought speaks of choosing to whom the Son will reveal the Father.
Election is specifically taught in both Paul’s and Peter’s New Testament letters. Romans 11 talks at length about God’s remnant that was chosen by grace and how that choice is irrevocable. Even the Jews who are now enemies of the gospel will one day be saved. They are chosen and God’s promises will be honored. 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 reveals that Paul knew those he was writing to were chosen because He had witnessed their conviction by the Holy Spirit. Their salvation was accomplished by God, not by Paul’s fancy preaching. Peter writes in 2 Peter 1 that our obedient response to God gives us assurance of our election.
We should be grateful for our opportunity to serve God because we can only come to Him if He calls us. Not everyone gets the opportunity to serve others on behalf of our creator God, and so we should treat our election as a privilege, not a burden. In John 6:41-48 Jesus emphasizes that no one can come to Him unless the Father first grants it and again in John 6:63-65. This should not give us doubt about our salvation, but give us assurance of its permanence. In verse 37 of the same chapter Jesus tells us that all who are given to Him do come and that Jesus will never cast them out.
Basic Theology: Redemption Part 1 – Election – DTS027
The doctrine of redemption has two parts: the doctrine of election and the doctrine of the atonement. This first part will deal with what the Bible teaches about the doctrine of election.
Love is the characteristic motive for God’s actions. It was because God so loved the world that He sent his only Son. In 1 John 4:9-12, John tells us that it was because God loved us that he sent Jesus to provide our atonement, not because we loved Him. The Apostle Paul writes something similar in Romans 5:6-11. God acted and demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus Christ while we were still His enemies.
Therefore, God’s motive in election is love. He chooses us because He loves us. This motive is characteristic of God as He is understood in all three manifestations of the Trinity. 1 John 3:1 says that the Father has shown us His love in making us His children. Galatians 2:20 says that it was Jesus who showed His love for us in giving Himself up for us. Romans 5:5 teaches that God’s love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
God chose and predestined us in love to be adopted as His children. In Ephesians 1:4-5, the phrase “in love” is sometimes translated as belonging with the earlier sentence in verse 4 and sometimes as introducing the words in verse 5, but either way, whether the verses teach we were chosen in love or predestined in love, we can know that God acted for our redemption in this manner out of His love.
Election is God’s sovereign choice in eternity past to bring some lost men to salvation. His choosing is not arbitrary, but is based in His love. It seems arbitrary to us because it is not based on human merit. It is not just good people, wealthy people, educated people, or any other reason we can understand. But God’s choice is based on His wisdom, His righteousness, and His love. Romans 8:28-37 reveals that we are called according to His purpose, not according to capriciousness or random draw. In love He did these things, therefore nothing can separate us from Him and no one can bring any charge against us. Election is clearly taught in scripture, but it is not arbitrary.
Many examples of Old Testament illustration of God’s sovereign choosing can be found. In Genesis 6 we see that God’s heart was grieved over the sin of mankind and He was ready to destroy everyone and everything, but Noah found favor with God. Verse 9 says that Noah was blameless among the people, but scripture teaches that our righteousness is like filthy rags before God. Yet God fines Noah righteous in his generation and shows him grace and mercy.
In Genesis 22:17-18,