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A Holiness Standard or Behavior Modification

In Apologetics on July 29, 2013 at 7:19 am

Class logoLuke 13:10-17 ESV Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. (11) And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. (12) When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” (13) And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. (14) But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” (15) Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? (16) And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (17) As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

Luke described the woman as one who had been crippled by a spirit for 18 years and “bound” by “Satan” (v. 16). Without denying the historicity of the event, it must be pointed out that there is obvious symbolic value in Luke’s placing this miracle at this point in the narrative. It was Jesus’ mission among the people of the nation to loose them from crippling influences and bring them to uprightness. Here was a graphic example of Jesus’ touch, bringing the woman to a position of uprightness. Jesus healed her by His words (Woman, you are set free from your infirmity) and by touching her. Immediately she straightened up and praised God. This act of praising God was the proper response to the work of Jesus (cf. 2:20; 5:25–26; 7:16; 17:15; 18:43; 23:47). It showed that people were understanding His mission.
13:14. In contrast to the proper response which the woman evidenced, the synagogue ruler was indignant because Jesus had not followed the Law as that ruler interpreted it. He appealed to the crowd to reject Jesus’ miracle. This attitude supports what Jesus had already said about religious leaders keeping others from entering the kingdom (11:52).

How does the modern church try to restrain believers by setting up rules that are extra-biblical or worse a culture that attempts “behavior modification? The Scriptures are clear regarding how Christians should behave in our daily walk. Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of that day. This miracle has the primary message Israel is in bondage note the woman was bent over and bound by Satan. Israel was bound by rebellion not in an irreligious way but in a religion that focused on ceremonial observance of the law and outward appearance. Satan had taken God’s children of promise and used their religious and governmental leaders to keep them from being that light on a hill; the witness of the true God to the world. Instead they focused on a closed society, restraining culture to their own selfish demands and gaining the admiration of men. They had rules for every possible situation from proper dress to temple behavior. If you as a practicing Jew lifted anything that weighed more than a feather on the Sabot you had violated the 4th commandment.
Jesus in preforming the miracle of healing on the Sabbath in the temple violated their supposed control and misunderstanding concerning the law and Jesus mission. With their ritual and rules rather than glorifying God and his message of redemption they were interested in adoration of themselves while controlling the masses. This behavior kept people from entering the kingdom!
Luke 11:52 ESV Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

Luk 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

Today the message is clear from scripture don’t hinder but live a spirit filled life. The modern protestant movement in rejecting the works based merit inspired Roman communion pointed to the promise of “justification by faith” not a formula for prescribed behaviors that the church established to help identify the Christians. Many rational arguments are used to justify extra biblical regulations to make people conform to the image of an acceptable church member! The idea of perfection in the flesh was born in the late 1800’s. It first identified as the perfection movement, the ability to live a sinless life by adhering to a set of guidelines that were supposedly born from Leviticus.

The wife of a Methodist preacher and trying to inspire those around her to live a Godly life Phoebe Worrall Palmer (1807-1874) was an evangelist and religious writer involved with the “Holiness” movement. Raised as a Methodist, Palmer became one of the most influential female religious leaders in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Palmer endured a protracted spiritual struggle as she wrestled with the Methodist belief that an individual’s spiritual conversion should be a highly emotional and powerful experience. Such a conversion would lead to an individual’s “Christian Perfection,” a Methodist tenet that referred to purity of heart resulting from a cleansing by the blood of Christ. Yet Palmer felt her own conversion had been more low-key and gradual. In fact, she could point to no single defining moment of conversion, and this caused her to question her standing in the eyes of God and the promise of her salvation. In other words, she feared she was unworthy of heaven. Palmer became a regular contributor to the Guide to Holiness, the leading publication of the perfectionist movement. She also wrote several books including The Way of Holiness (1843), her best-known book and the one that established her as a leader of the perfectionist movement. She also wrote Entire Devotion to God (1845) and Faith and its Effects (1848).

In 1847, she refined and further developed the concept of “altar theology,” which explained the idea of the “second blessing,” or immediate sanctification. As a basis for this concept, she drew on the Apostle Paul, who had advanced the idea of placing oneself as a “living sacrifice” on the altar of God to represent complete consecration. This “altar theology” simplified sanctification into a three-step process that included consecration, faith, and testimony. This concept, as well as her central theme of holiness of heart and life, gained popularity with Methodists, but it was not widely accepted in the Methodist Episcopal Church. Opponents challenged her, finding her theology less sound than that of church founder John Wesley. Even Bangs, who taught Palmer her catechism when she was a child, disagreed with her. He complained that she was turning sanctification into a simplistic and mechanical process.

Paul preached on freedom and the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer who is to bring the flesh into subjection.

Galatians 5:1-18 ESV For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (2) Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. (3) I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. (4) You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. (5) For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. (6) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (7) You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? (8) This persuasion is not from him who calls you. (9) A little leaven leavens the whole lump. (10) I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. (11) But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. (12) I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! (13) For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (14) For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (15) But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (16) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (17) For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 6:1-10 ESV Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (2) Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (3) For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (4) But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. (5) For each will have to bear his own load. (6) Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. (7) Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows that will he also reap. (8) For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (9) And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (10) So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

The reason Paul spent so much time in my opinion talking about freedom and law, flesh and spirit is to remind us of our freedom in Christ. We as chosen believers are free! No buts, no ands, no ifs we are sons of the Living God through Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We as sons of God live in a constant battle between our nature or flesh and our Spirit that is new because of Jesus work and redemption. This battle will rage till we are called home, and no amount of rules and regulations will change that. We are justified by faith!
Romans 3:28 ESV For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Romans 1:1 ESV Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,

Galatians 2:16 ESV yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Galatians 3:11 ESV Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Galatians 3:24 ESV So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

Our faith gives us the freedom to do the positive because of the work of salvation.

Matthew 22:37-40 ESV And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (38) This is the great and first commandment. (39) And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (40) On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Because of our redemption we are free to Love God with all that we are, this gives us the strength in our daily battle with our nature with the promise of overcoming when we are done on this earth. No church or set of rules will replace the power of the Holy Spirit working the process of sanctification in this life. Typically the next argument that is so we as believers can disobey God with no restrictions or consequences? Paul speaks to that pretty directly.

Romans 6:1-4 ESV What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (2) By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (3) Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (4) We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:15-23 ESV What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (16) Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (17) But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, (18) and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (19) I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (20) For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. (21) But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. (22) But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. (23) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Where in the Scripture are believers set back under bondage? In scripture we are given something precious the Holy Spirit of God through Jesus Christ living in us! Yes there are rules governing behavior they come from scripture and the Holy Spirit keeps them before us. We have the moral law that is a teacher and friend to those under grace. We have Matthew 18 for guidance in proper church discipline. What purpose does a standard of Holiness serve? We are to be conformed to the image of Christ, not the rules of those who pose as religious police.

Romans 12:2 ESV Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Because of the transformation that Jesus has done in the life of the believer our desire is to honor God. If the life of the believer is in Christ then there is no need of arbitrary rules set by the local church in addition to the clear mandates in Holy Scripture. Especially if the rules in question regulate an outward appearance to accommodate the skeptics of the local congregation. The best examples are men are expected to wear suits and ties because God expects us to wear our best clothes. Really? Or worse the demands put on women regarding all types of social peer pressure in regards to hair, makeup, excreta and the condemnation they experience. The Bible is clear in regards to the Christian life.

John 15:1-2 ESV “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. (2) Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Galatians 5:1 ESV For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:13-26 ESV For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (14) For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (15) But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (16) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (17) For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (19) Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, (21) envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (24) And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (25) If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (26) Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

We live our life as slaves to Christ and free from condemnation avoiding the disgrace of living to the flesh or sin nature. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ keep you and bless you.

The 3 Oneness of God

In Apologetics on July 19, 2013 at 4:16 pm


The 3 Oneness of God

In the form of a syllogism.

Major premise: Worship belongs exclusively to Jehovah, the only true God;

Minor premise: God commands worship to be given to Jesus Christ;

Conclusion: Therefore Jesus Christ is the true God and Jehovah.[1]

God has most fully revealed Himself in His Son. The Son of God is the Word incarnate, the eternal self-expression of God. No finite mind can ever comprehend what that name signifies about the eternal, Trinitarian relationship of the Son with the Father. We can say, however, that all that God has ever revealed to any creature has been through His eternal Son. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1–2).

This revelation of God in His Son cannot be separated from His revelation in Scripture. God has fully revealed Himself in Christ and Christ is fully revealed in Scripture. He is “the truth” (John 14:6), “the Amen, the faithful and true witness” (Revelation 3:14). Christ is the pinnacle of all divine revelation, the fulness of all that God ever intended to reveal of Himself. Therefore, the Father commands us to “hear him” (Luke 9:35).

What a revelation of God we have in Christ! He gave us the law and the prophets, for He was the mediator under the old dispensation as well as under the new (Galatians 3:19–20).1 Now He has given us the full light of glory: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Grace and truth! We have every cause to fear truth, for by nature we are all falsehood, and truth is divine light that exposes us to the judgment of God. But in Christ God combines grace with truth. The Psalmist foresaw this: “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10). Only in Christ our Redeemer could this take place. In Him alone, and through His merit, can God be just and yet justify the ungodly who believe in Him (Romans 3:26; 4:5).[2]

John 1:18 (John 1:18 ESV) No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

When this scripture is presented to the modern way of thinking it is often seen in the light of an exactness that was unknown to the ancients, while in modernity we tend towards an exact copy. What is missing is the understanding that Jesus is God’s essential nature. God may be seen in a theophany or anthropomorphism but His inner essence or nature is disclosed only in Jesus.

God the only Son is literally “the unique God” or “the only begotten God” (monogenēs theos; cf. monogenous, “the one and only” in v. 14). John was probably ending his prologue by returning to the truth stated in verse 1 that the Word is God. Verse 18 is another statement affirming Christ’s deity: He is unique, the one and only God. The Son is at the Father’s side, thus revealing the intimacy of the Father and the Son (cf. the Word was “with God,” vv. 1–2). Furthermore, the Son has made … known (exēgēsato, whence the Eng. “exegeted”) the Father. The Son is the “exegete” of the Father, and as a result of His work the nature of the invisible Father (cf. 4:24) is displayed in the Son (cf. 6:46[3]

The newer Testament (John 1:14 ESV) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. This verse reveals a term that is used monogenēs theos revealing that God has a unique Son! Who was according to verse 18 at his side and when the time was according to God’s decree Jesus exegetes the Father to the world?

The result of God revealing his only Son shows the progressive nature of the God’s plan and purpose. The Old Testament concealed what the New Testament revealed. The chosen tribe of Israel rejected the concept of God having a Son and preferred their traditions over God’s plan of redemption. The claim is made that the Trinity is not seen in the Old Testament and that is partially true, in that it was concealed till the proper time when the incarnation occurred. How would Isaiah 9:6 make any sense to the people of that day till the incarnation occurred revealing the secret that Abraham and the prophets longed to see? The two fold revelation is a child will born and a son will be given. How can God have a Son or for that matter take on human flesh and nature? The traditional view of Israel would not allow for such a thing and even today the denial is still being proclaimed.

(Isa 9:6 ESV) For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The final thought on this would be (Mat 12:30-32 ESV) Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

What is blasphemy? Blasphemy is speaking against the Lord, and the worst form of it is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost—which may be defined from the context in Matthew 12 as the deliberate attribution of the works of the Holy Spirit to the devil. The distinction is apparent between Son and Spirit, while united in nature or essence, distinct in person! If I make a distinction between person and spirit I point out the differences. If I separate a nature or being from person that is death. The fact that the Son is in operation with the Spirit simultaneously and not in separate appearances or modes is foundational to the 3 oneness of God. This was the very denial of the Pharisees that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God! Then they accuse Jesus of being in league with Satan by attributing the miracles of the Spirit working through the Son to belong to Beelzebub. The truth of revelation in Jesus is the being of God they share while distinct in persona. Some people think that the doctrine of the Trinity means that Christians believe in three gods. This is the idea of tritheism, which the church has categorically rejected throughout its history. Others see the Trinity as the church’s retreat into contradiction. A man who had a PhD in philosophy, objected to Christianity on the grounds that the doctrine of the Trinity represented a manifest contradiction—the idea that one can also be three—at the heart of the Christian faith. The law of non-contradiction. That law states, “A cannot be A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship.” When we confess our faith in the Trinity, we affirm that God is one in essence and three in person. Thus, God is one in A and three in B. If we said that He is one in essence and three in essence, that would be a contradiction. If we said He is one in person and three in person that also would be a contradiction. But as mysterious as the Trinity is, perhaps even above and beyond our capacity to understand it in its fullness, the historic formula is not a contradiction.

How, then, can we maintain the Old Testament doctrine of monotheism in light of the clear New Testament affirmation of the triune character of the biblical God? Augustine once wrote, “The New [Testament] is in the Old [Testament] concealed; the Old is in the New revealed.” To understand how the doctrine of the Trinity came to be such an important article of the Christian faith, we need to see that there was a development of the church’s understanding of the nature of God based on the Scriptures. When we look into the Scriptures, we see what we call in theology “progressive revelation.” This is the idea that, as time goes by, God unfolds more and more of His plan of redemption. He gives more and more of His self-disclosure by means of revelation. The fact that there is this progress in revelation does not mean that what God reveals in the Old Testament He then contradicts in the New Testament. Progressive revelation is not a corrective, whereby the latest unveiling from God rectifies a previous mistaken revelation. The new element here is that Paul ascribes deity to Christ. He distinguishes between the Father and the Son, and he notes that all things are “from” the Father and “through” Christ, and that we exist “for” the Father and “through” the Son. Clearly, Paul is equating the Father and the Son in terms of Their divinity. Jesus told the Jewish leaders that Abraham had rejoiced to see His day (v. 56). When the leaders asked how Jesus could possibly have seen Abraham, He replied, “Before Abraham was, I am” (v. 58). He did not say, “Before Abraham was, I was.” Rather, He said, “I am.” In doing so, He made a claim to eternality and deity. What many people miss in our day, the first-century contemporaries of Jesus caught rather quickly. They were filled with fury against Jesus because He, a mere man in their eyes, made Himself equal with God. “In the beginning was the Word [that is, the Logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1). In that first sentence, we see the mystery of the Trinity, because the Logos is said to have been with God from the beginning. There are different terms in the Greek language that can be translated by the English word with, but the word that is used here suggests the closest possible relationship, virtually a face-to-face relationship. Nevertheless, John makes a distinction between the Logos and God. God and the Logos are together, but they are not the same. Then John declares that the Logos not only was with God, He was God. So in one sense, the Word must be distinguished from God, and in another sense, the Word must be identified with God. Here we see eternality, creative power, and self-existence attributed to the Logos, who is Jesus. When considered together with the Bible’s clear teaching as to the oneness of God, the only conclusion is that there is one God in three persons—the doctrine of the Trinity.

Heresy historically has forced the church to be precise, to define its doctrines and differentiate truth from falsehood. The early years of the church produced numerous heresies with regard to the persons of the Godhead, and those errors pushed the church to refine its understanding of the Trinity. So-called ecumenical councils of church history, the two chief of which were the Council of Nicea in the fourth century and the Council of Chalcedon in the fifth century. It is worthwhile to familiarize ourselves with the controversies that provoked those councils, for they were intimately concerned with the nature of the persons of the Godhead. The overriding question had to do with how the biblical concept of monotheism could be reconciled with the biblical affirmations of the deity of Christ particularly, but also of the Holy Spirit.

The first great heresy that the church had to confront with respect to monarchianism was called “modalistic monarchianism” or simply “modalism.” The idea behind modalism was that all three persons of the Trinity are the same person, but that they behave in unique “modes” at different times. Modalists held that God was initially the Creator, then became the Redeemer, then became the Spirit at Pentecost. The divine person who came to earth as the incarnate Jesus was the same person who had created all things. When He returned to heaven, He took up His role as the Father again, but then returned to earth as the Holy Spirit. As you can see, the idea here was that there is only one God, but that He acts in different modes, or different expressions, from time to time.

He is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God . . . being of one substance with the Father.” With these affirmations, the church said that scriptural terms such as firstborn and begotten have to do with Christ’s place of honor, not with His biological origin. The church declared that Christ is of the same substance, being, and essence as the Father. Thus, the idea was put forth that God, though three in person, is one in essence.

Jesus has two natures, a divine nature and a human nature, and at times He reveals His human side, while at other times He reveals His divine side. We can distinguish the two without separating them. But when the human nature perspires, it is still united to a divine nature that does not perspire. This truth of the separation of Christ’s natures was very important at the cross. The human nature died, but the divine nature did not die. Of course, at death, the divine nature was united to a human corpse. The unity was still there, but the change that had taken place was within the human nature, not the divine nature. There is a perfect unity between the divine and human natures in Christ, it said they are united in such a way as to be “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” In other words, the council said that we cannot mix up the two natures of Christ; that was the heresy of the monophysites. Neither can we separate them; that was the error of the Nestorians. No, Jesus’ two natures are perfectly united. We can distinguish them, but we cannot mix or divide them. We cannot conceive of the human and divine natures in Him as being confused or changed, so that we end up with a deified human nature or a humanized divine nature.

  1. The Christology that we find in the book of Hebrews is exceedingly high; in fact, it is one of the chief reasons why the early church was inclined to affirm the deity of Christ. Here we see Christ again described as the Son of God and as the agent of creation, who presents a vastly superior revelation than did the prophets of the Old Testament. The Son of God is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” This is a clear reference to Jesus’ deity, but the author is also distinguishing the Son of God from the Father in terms of the idea of personhood. The Father’s person is expressed in the person of the Son. So even though both the Father and Son are divine, the author of Hebrews here sets forth the idea of a personal distinction in the Godhead. The use of the word person to distinguish the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost from one another can be problematic. The early church used the word person in a somewhat different manner than it is used today. That’s a common problem with language—it is dynamic. Its nuances change from one generation to the next. The church father Tertullian, who had a background not only in theology but in law, introduced the Latin term persona in an attempt to express the Logos Christology of the early years of the church era. In the Latin language, this word was primarily used in relation to two concepts.Each role was a persona and collectively they were personae. So the early church came to see God as one being with three personae: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Greek philosophers were looking for ultimate reality, that which does not manifest change. They were looking for the essence of things. They called it the ousios, which is the present participle of the Greek verb “to be.” We would translate ousios into English by the word being. we can make a distinction between the three persons of the Trinity, because each member of the Godhead has unique attributes. We say the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, but we don’t say that the Father is the Son, the Son is the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Spirit is the Father. There are distinctions between them, but the distinctions are not essential, not of the essence. They are real, but they do not disturb the essence of deity. The distinctions within the Godhead are, if you will, sub-distinctions within the essence of God. He is one essence, three subsistences. That is about as close as we can get to articulating the historic doctrine of the Trinity. Calling the Trinity a contradiction is a misapplication of the law of non-contradiction. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches that God is one in essence and three in person, so He is one in one sense and three in another sense, and that does not violate the categories of rational thought or the law of non-contradiction. Nevertheless, people continue to charge that the Trinity is irrational. Why do people so consistently make this accusation? A paradox, then, is something that seems contradictory when we first encounter it; however, with further scrutiny, the tension is resolved. The Bible has many paradoxical statements. For instance, Jesus said, “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matt. 23:11). At first glance, that sounds contradictory, but on closer examination we see that Jesus is saying that to be great in one sense you have to be a servant in another sense, so there is no violation here of the rules of logic. We use the term mystery to refer to things we do not yet understand. We may believe a mystery is true, but we do not understand why it is true. We have seen real progress in knowledge in the history of science and other disciplines. But even if we increase our knowledge to the maximum point in human experience, we will always remain finite creatures who will not have the ability to comprehend all reality. So, something is a mystery to us if we lack understanding of it; this is quite different from a contradiction. Yet, no one understands a contradiction either. It is this similarity that leads to the idea that the Trinity is a contradiction. We can rush to judgment and say, “If we don’t understand something, it must be irrational, it must be a contradiction.” But that’s not necessarily the case. It is true that contradictions cannot be understood because they are inherently unintelligible, but not everything that seems to be a contradiction is a contradiction. Some apparent contradictions are mysteries. Some people actually say that the difference between God and man is that whereas our minds are limited by the laws of logic, God’s mind transcends the laws of logic, so He can understand something as A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship. I suppose they believe they are exalting God by saying that He is so wonderful in His intelligence and so transcendent in His wisdom as to be able to understand contradictions. Actually, those who say this kind of thing slander Him, because they are saying that nonsense and chaos reside in the mind of God, which is not the case. When we come to the doctrine of the Trinity, we say, based on the revelation of Scripture, that there is a sense in which God is one and another sense in which He is three. We must be careful to point out that those two senses are not the same. If they were the same, we would be espousing a contradiction unworthy of our faith. But they are different, and so the doctrine of the Trinity is not a contradiction but a mystery, for we cannot fully understand how one God can exist in three persons. But the question we must ask is this: Does the concept that is represented by the word Trinity appear in the Bible? All that the word Trinity does is capture linguistically the scriptural teaching on the unity of God and the tri-personality of God. Seeing these concepts in Scripture, we search for a word that accurately communicates them. We come up with the idea of “tri-unity,” three in oneness, and so we coin this term Trinity. It really is naive to object that the word itself is not found in Scripture if the concept is found in Scripture and is taught by Scripture. Theological terms such as Trinity have arisen in church history principally because of the church’s commitment to theological precision. The basic issue of the Reformation concerned the grounds of our justification. Is our justification grounded in a righteousness that inheres within us or in a righteousness that is imputed to us? That is, is our righteousness from within us or from Christ? The controversy came down to one word: imputation as used the term Trinity to stop the mouths of the heretics, those who teach tritheism (the idea that there are three Gods) and those who deny the tri-personality of God by insisting on some view of unitarianism. We might say that the word Trinity is a “shibboleth.” The book of Judges tells of the conflict between the men of Gilead, led by Jephthah, and the men of Ephraim. To identify their enemies, the soldiers of Gilead required strangers to say “Shibboleth.” The Ephraimites could not pronounce that word, and that inability gave them away (Judg. 12:5–6). That password has become a term for a test word by which someone’s true identity can be ascertained.

Thanks for being patient enough to hear me out, my “shibboleth” I am a born again Christian who worships with other believers at a gathering and I represent at 20 generations in my family of the same faith. I stand on the orthodox doctrines of the faith and I have all eternity to ponder. I am Trinitarian, I hold to the inspiration of scripture and its inerrancy as well as infallibility. The 5 solas guide my thinking and guard my faith. May God reveal his truth and we can be about the business of gathering the elect? (2Co 13:14 ESV) The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

[1] Alan Cairns, Chariots of God: God’s Law in Relation to the Cross and the Christian (Greenville, SC: Ambassador-Emerald International, 2000), 158–159.

1 This text has occasioned more proposed interpretations than almost any other in the New Testament. Its use here as a proof text rests on the following translation of verse 20: “The Mediator [Christ] is not a mediator of one [of these, namely of either the law or the promise, but of both], but God is one [and the same under both].”

[2] Alan Cairns, Chariots of God: God’s Law in Relation to the Cross and the Christian (Greenville, SC: Ambassador-Emerald International, 2000), 181–182.

[3] Edwin A. Blum, John, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 273.

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