Quotes, Studies and WOW

In Apologetics on February 19, 2011 at 9:58 am

The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything

by Fred Sanders

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“But why did you come to Jesus in the first place?” and answer, “Because you were drawn by God the Holy Spirit.”   Jesus saved me; the Father forgave me. But the Holy Spirit convicted me, brought me to my knees, and showed me God.

Trinitarian theology is not primarily a matter of carrying out a successful thought project. Christians are never in the beggarly position of gathering up a few concepts about God and then constructing a grand Trinitarian synthesis out of them. Christians are also not in the position of pulling together a few passages of Scripture, here a verse and there a verse, and cobbling them together into a brilliant doctrine that improves on Scripture’s messiness. Instead, Christians should recognize that when we start thinking about the Trinity, we do so because we find ourselves already deeply involved…the essentially Trinitarian character of evangelicalism is Gerald Bray, who says that “the belief that a Christian is seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6), sharing with Him in the inner life of the Godhead, is the distinctive teaching of Evangelical Christianity.” No matter how much the doctrine may have become nonfunctional in the self-understanding of contemporary evangelicals, a robustly Trinitarian view of salvation has been the core, “the distinctive teaching” of the historic evangelical faith, according to Bray.

Without pride in our own tradition or prejudice against other forms of Christianity, we must surely proclaim that the experience of a personal relationship with God, sealed by the Spirit in the finished work of the Son from Whom He proceeds, is a deeper and more satisfying faith than any other known to man. . . . Evangelical Protestants are not wrong in insisting that theirs is a deeper, more vital experience of Christ than that enjoyed by Christians of other traditions. We have not received the grace of God in vain and we must not be ashamed to own the Christ we know as the only Lord and Saviour of men.4

The evangelical movement is booming, but it often seems to be ten miles wide and half an inch deep. This shallowness is not only how things look from the outside, to the cultured despisers of evangelical religion. It also describes the way many evangelicals feel about their own churches and spiritual lives. Many evangelicals seem haunted by a sense of not being about anything except the moment of conversion. When they stop to ask themselves where they are taking their converts, they fear that when they get there, there will be no there there. When they sense that God is calling them to a deeper communion with him, they are unable to say what that would be. After all, you can’t get any more saved than saved. When serious-minded evangelical Christians feel the desire to go deeper into doctrine or spirituality, they typically turn to any resources except for their own properly evangelical resources. A strange alienation of affections sets in. They cast about for something beyond what they already have, which leads them to look for something beyond the gospel. What sounded like such glad, good news at the outset (free forgiveness in Christ!) begins to sound like elementary lessons that should have been left behind on the way to advanced studies.

These two problems, our forgetfulness of the Trinity and our feeling of shallowness, are directly related. The solutions to both problems converge in the gospel, the evangel which evangelicalism is named after, and which is always deeper than we can fathom. Our great need is to be led further in to what we already have. The gospel is so deep that it not only meets our deepest needs but comes from God’s deepest self.

If the two problems of weak Trinitarianism and shallowness are related, there is also a single solution: we must dig deeper into the gospel itself. Instead of staying on the surface of it, satisfied with its immediate benefits to us and its promises of future blessedness, we can look into the essence of the gospel and find much more contained within it. Inevitably, what we will find in the depths of the good news is the character of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we call to mind how the gospel is inherently Trinitarian, we will find that we are being called back to the depths of the encounter with God that brought about the movement called evangelicalism.

When evangelicalism wanes into an anemic condition, as it sadly has in recent decades, it happens in this way: the points of emphasis are isolated from the main body of Christian truth and handled as if they are the whole story rather than the key points. Instead of teaching the full counsel of God (incarnation, ministry of healing and teaching, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and second coming), anemic evangelicalism simply shouts its one point of emphasis louder and louder (the cross! the cross! the cross!). But in isolation from the total matrix of Christian truth, the cross doesn’t make the right kind of sense. A message about nothing but the cross is not emphatic. It is reductionist. The rest of the matrix matters: the death of Jesus is salvation partly because of the life he lived before it, and certainly because of the new life he lived after it, and above all because of the eternal background in which he is the eternal Son of the eternal Father.

God is a magnificent Father. God is a magnificent Saviour, Jesus Christ. But if it were not for the magnificent Holy Spirit, I would still be a wretched, hateful sinner! It is not enough to have a Father- God who loves and provides for me. It is not enough even to have a Saviour who died for my sins. For any of those blessings to make a difference in our lives, there must also be present in this world that Third Person of God, the Holy Spirit.

In what sense is the ministry of the third person necessary? The Spirit’s work is necessary because he is the one who actually brings us into contact with the Son and the Father. It does not take away from the Father and the Son to say that their work depends on the work of the Spirit.


Whosoever Will (Steve Lemke and David L. Allen)

“For God so loved the world . . .” The load-bearing verb here is “loved.” The English word “love” can be used to express very different sentiments: “I love peanut butter. I love my wife. I love football.” The Greek language has several words for “love”: eros, philos, and agape. Eros, from which we get the word “erotic,” suggests a love that desires only to take. It is a sensual love. So odious is this word that it is not one time planted in the sweet soil of New Testament Scripture. Then, there is philos, which forms part of the word “Philadelphia,” the city of brotherly love. It conveys a give-and-take kind of love, a social love of mutual friendship and affection. The word here in John 3:16 is agape, spiritual love. This love is a love that desires to give. It is a love not based on the worthiness of the object but on the character of the one loving. It is a love to the highest degree. John uses agape 36 times in his Gospel. Whosoever Will (Steve Lemke and David L. Allen)

We would say even more so, God’s love is “out of this world!” The overflow of this love is expressed by “so loved” (houtos egapesen). The verb is a first aorist, active, indicative verb. More specifically, the verb is not an ingressive aorist, which would suggest a time when God began to love. The verb is also not a cumulative aorist, which would indicate a time when God will decide to love. The verb is, however, a constantive aorist, which emphasizes God’s eternal, constant, total love. It means God’s love in its entirety.

There was a time when you began to love your mate or your children, but there was never a time when God began to love you. God’s love reaches to eternity past, before you were born. Before the earth was created and before the sun, the moon, and stars existed, God loved you. God’s love reaches to eternity; there will never be a time when God will cease to love you. When the heavens roll away like a scroll and the stars fall from their sockets like chunks of coal, God will still love you.

John 3:16 addresses a number of “isms.” The phrase “For God” responds to atheism, which claims there is no God. The phrase “so loved” responds to fatalism, which asserts God is an impersonal force. The phrase “the world” responds to nationalism, which says God loves only one group of people. The phrase “that He gave” responds to materialism, which says it is more blessed to receive than to give. The phrase “His only begotten Son” responds to Mohammedism, which says God has no Son. The phrase “that whosoever believes” responds to five-point Calvinism, which says Christ died only for the elect. The phrase “in Him” responds to pluralism, which says all religions are equal. The phrase “should not perish” responds to annihilationism, which says there is no hell. The phrase “but have everlasting life” responds to Arminianism, which says God only gives life conditionally. John 3:16 is a simple biblicism which reveals the mind, the heart, and the will of God.



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