Archive for September, 2010

“The ancient covenant is in pieces.  Man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he has emerged only by chance.”[1]

“What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?  Yet You have made him a little lower than God and You have crowned him with glory and majesty.  You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the sea”( Psalm 8:4-8).

[1] Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity (London: Collins Press, 1972), 167.


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Scripture frequently writes of “God” or “LORD” and when it does, we ought to think about the entire Godhead when we see those words.

This speaks to the Oneness and yet uniqueness of each Person of the Trinity, and accordingly, Calvin wisely points out that “whenever the name of God is used indefinitely, the Son and Spirit, not less than the Father, is meant.  But when the Son is joined with the Father, relation comes into view, and so we distinguish between the Persons.”[1]

[1] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 1.13.20, 127.

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The Holy Trinity, or the Triune God, is “three-in-one” or “one God in three Persons.”

It is important to keep the historical context of the biblical world in mind when considering the Trinity: Israel was surrounded by nations who worshiped a variety of gods, while Israel’s religion was monotheistic (Deut. 4:39; 6:4).

Likewise, Jesus upheld this belief of monotheism – the idea of one God (Mk. 12:29; John 17:3). The remainder of the NT upholds this view as well (e.g. 1 Cor. 8:6; Gal. 3:20; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 1:17).

From such a foundation, however, we also see three distinct Persons within the Godhead, beginning with Genesis 1:1 and the name Elohim, which is a plural noun for God and substantiated with 1:26; 3:22; 11:7 (cf. also Ps. 45:6-7; [cf. Heb. 1:8]; 110:1; Is. 48:16; 61:1).

It is true that the Trinity is not explicitly stated in the OT (indeed, it was the theologian Tertullian who coined this term, which is Latin for three), but keep in mind the progressive nature of Scripture, wherein the revelation of God and His nature and character continues through to the completion of the NT, which unfolds things formerly hidden.

Indeed, the passages above from Psalms and Isaiah become much clearer in light of Mk. 1:10-11, and Jesus Himself taught on the personal nature of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; cf. Mt. 28:19).

Still, the basis for the concept of God as One, though with three equal, yet distinct Persons, can clearly be seen even in the OT through Israel’s primary creed (Deut. 6:4). The Hebrew word translated “one” is echad.

This word is highly significant in interpreting one of the most important verses in the entire OT: in contrast to the other Hebrew word for “one” (yachid, or one in isolation), this word is echad, which refers to one in unity.

For example, echad is never used in the OT of a stark singularity. Instead, it is used to describe Israel going out to battle as “one,” or when Adam and Eve became “one.” It is also used to refer to one bunch of grapes.

In later Church history when the heretic Arius taught that Jesus was inferior to God the Father, theologians at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. used the perfect Greek word to describe how the Father and the Son were equal (John 10:30): they used the word homoousios, or one essence.

All human analogies to attempt to describe the Trinity ultimately fall short, because we search for finite, created things to describe the infinite, uncreated God. But for me, the best example to describe the triune God is to consider the egg.

The egg consists of three distinct parts, yet each part (the shell, the white and the yolk) are perfectly connected and one cannot subsist without the other and still be called an egg. Note that we do not refer to three eggs because the egg has three distinct parts or properties to it.

In addition, we may consider both space and matter: with space, height is distinct from width, which is not the same as depth, which is also not the same as height. Yet, they are not three “spaces,” but one. That is, they all share the same nature: space.

With matter, solid is not the same as liquid, which is not the same as gas, which is also not the same as solid. Yet, they are not three “matters,” but one. That is, they all share the same nature: matter.

Thus, a critic that charges that the Trinity is illogical must be able to demonstrate that this concept is indeed illogical.

Likewise, there is such a supra-natural unity within the Godhead that Jesus – as God – could be on this earth and as Man be fully dependent upon the Father (e.g. John 5:19-20; 8:29) and yet declare that He is also equal to God the Father (John 14:9-11).

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“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)

 The Greek word translated “good” means “good, beautiful, pleasing, attractive” and the good works are done not to earn favor with God, but in response to the new nature that He has given us in Christ – and done out of a heart of gratitude to Him.

In some research I’m doing to teach a course on Apologetics, I came across this quote from John Calvin:

“For how can the idea of God enter your mind without instantly giving rise to the thought, that since you are his      workmanship, you are bound, by the very law of creation, to submit to his authority? – that your life is due to him? – that whatever you do ought to have reference to him?

“If so, it undoubtedly follows that your life is sadly corrupted, if it is not framed in obedience to him, since his will ought to be the law of our lives. 

“On the other hand, your idea of his nature is not clear unless you acknowledge him to be the origin and fountain of all goodness.  Hence would arise both confidence in him, and a desire of cleaving to him, did not the depravity of the human mind lead it away from the proper course of investigation.[1]

[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 1.2.3, 41.

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The reason that true, sincere faith in God is so important is that whatever we believe (or do not believe) about Him is what we’ll manifest to others.  It’s what we’ll carry with us. 

 And unless we’re in His presence – unless we can say, like Elijah could confidently say, “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand” (1 Kings 17:1) – then we cannot extend His influence to others.

This is exactly what Jesus tells us in John 15:1-8.  You and I were born to first be in God’s presence; David tells us that very thing when he writes, “in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).

 Having been in His presence, we then carry His presence with us for others to see and to be influenced by (Mt. 5:16).  I have never found greater fulfillment than in these two things: being in God’s presence and then carrying that presence – His life – to others.

 This is what advancing His kingdom (His reign in heaven and on earth) is all about: living by faith and in relationship with Him advancing His plan and purpose in the lives of others. 

 This is what Jesus lived for: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34).

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For the past few days I’ve been thinking about – and thanking God for – the most important thing in life – by far – and that is the assurance of the forgiveness of my sins and the eternal life that comes with it – all through the most extraordinary relationship in existence: a relationship with Jesus Christ.

 If you have that relationship, do you still stand in awe that the Lord would come to you with such love, grace and mercy – and enable you to recognize your utter and desperate need of Him to forgive you of your sins and to give you the brand-new life that can only come from Him?

 Are you deeply thankful to Him for what He’s done for you?  The only way I know of to maintain that gratitude is to be daily steeped in His Word, in prayer, in worship and in connection with other believers in Jesus through the most important “organization” on earth – His beautiful Church.

But what if you don’t know Jesus as your Lord, Savior and Friend?  Do you realize how easy it is to start? 

All you have to do is recognize your complete need of Him, get on your knees and tell Him you want to give Him your sin and your life and invite Him to come and live His life in and through you and it will be done!

 The following two passages from The Message translation of the Bible will help you.  The first comes from Ephesians 2:1-10 and the second from Romans 10:9-10:

 1-6It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat.

It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

 7-10Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing!

No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

 Here is the passage from Romans:

The word that saves is right here,
      as near as the tongue in your mouth,
      as close as the heart in your chest.

It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—”Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you.

That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!”

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