A Prayer for Hope, Spiritual Discernment and Peace – Prayer for Peace

A Prayer for Hope, Spiritual Discernment and Peace

A Prayer for Hope, Spiritual Discernment and Peace

Heavenly Father, I thank You greatly for our Lord Jesus Christ, our light of Hope. I, Your humble servant, come before You today in need of hope. There are times when I feel so weak, helpless and uncertain. Sometimes I feel hopeless because I have sinned.

I pray to be strengthened. Fill me with confidence that in You, there is hope for a better future and a better life. Build my faith in You. May I wholly trust in Your unfailing providence and everlasting mercy and love.

1 Peter 1 : 3 – 6 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living Hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Romans 15 : 13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Praying for Discernment

Lord Jesus, I pray to be always filled in Your love and your Holy Spirit. Give me discernment between right and wrong, between good and evil and between what is of You and the world. In you, I will prosper and rejoice. Through you, I can conquer anything that is coming from the world.

I pray for the same hope to continue in my life as i strive to love my neighbour as You have taught me to. Help me follow Your great examples and be better in life so that reflect your light to those around me. Help me, Lord Jesus, to always extend my warmth and kindness.

May I set a good example in Your ways for my young ones. Help me to be the example of what it means to be called a Christian, so that they may be in awe of You, our Lord and Saviour.

John 5 : 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, He asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

Praying for healing

Lord Jesus, I lift up all those who hope to recover from their illnesses. You know their deepest desires and the pain they go through.

May Your light of Hope never grow dim in them, as they hold steadfast to fervent prayer and ask You for healing in all they undergo, to get well in health, mind and soul.

Matthew 12 : 21 In His name the nations will put their hope.

Peace and Unity in my life

I hope for peace and unity around me, in my home, my relationships, my work and my country. May this peace begin with me so that I can contribute wholeheartedly towards a better, long-lasting relationship in my family. May it progress towards to a better society and a better world around me.

Psalm 62 : 5 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone, my hope comes from Him.

Steadfast Daily Prayer

Last but not least, Lord Jesus, I hope that I hold steadfast to prayer everyday of my life. May I rely on the word of God for the eternal nourishment of my soul.

I pray to put on the armor of the word of God, as I give Him all the glory. In Your blessed name, Lord Jesus Christ, Amen!

 

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The Secret Things of God. Secret things belong unto the Lord our God. Jesus Christ About the Real Secret

The Secret Things of God. Secret things belong unto the Lord our God. Jesus Christ About the Real Secret

Seven Truths From Jesus Christ About the Real Secret
The Kingdom of God

Christ said the real secret of the universe, on which all of the past, present and future depends, is the Kingdom of God. Explaining His famous parable of the sower, He called descriptions of the way to enter the Kingdom of God and its principles “mysteries”—secrets or hidden truths most people don’t understand (Matthew 13:11).
hrist said the real secret of the universe, on which all of the past, present and future depends, is the Kingdom of God. Explaining His famous parable of the sower, He called descriptions of the way to enter the Kingdom of God and its principles “mysteries”—secrets or hidden truths most people don’t understand (Matthew 13:11).

What are these great truths, these mysteries so few understand?

1. Human beings can be converted and raised up “at the last day” (John 6:40) to enter the Kingdom of God and eternal life. What Jesus meant was that we will live as children in a divine family with the Father and Son forever. Surprisingly, this will begin right here on earth. To learn more, request or download our free booklet The Gospel of the Kingdom.

2. Christ treated all of Scripture, which at that time consisted of what we call the Old Testament, as the Word of God—revealing the real secret. He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). In other words, the secrets of God are revealed in the Word of God, the Bible, and nowhere else. To learn more, request or download our free booklet Is the Bible True?

3. The law of God holds the key to the Kingdom of God. The law of God, summarized in the Ten Commandments, is the basic law of the universe. The law of God will bring true success. To learn more, request or download our free booklet The Ten Commandments.

4. The goal in life is to develop the character of God by conforming to Christ—not your human heart. Following your own inclinations apart from God will lead to death (Jeremiah 10:23; 17:9; Romans 8:7; Proverbs 16:25). Your greatest goal is not the selfish ambition to attract all the physical wealth and everything else you desire. To learn more, request or download our free booklet What Is Your Destiny?

5. Satan counterfeits and misrepresents spiritual truths and deceives mankind. In the parable of the sower, Jesus said, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart” (Matthew 13:19). Anyone who believes in “ the law of attraction ” will not be able to understand and receive the truth about the Kingdom of God. The apostle Paul said the devil’s teaching and spiritual control of the world would blind most from understanding the Kingdom of God and how man enters it through following Christ’s teachings (2 Corinthians 4:4). To learn more, request or download our free booklet Is There Really a Devil?

6. God has given us the keys of overcoming—the spiritual process of conversion. It starts by giving up the kind of lifestyle of self-absorption laid out in the teaching of The Secret and The Law of Attraction. To enter the Kingdom of God, you have to give up the natural priorities of the self, sacrificing the self to be transformed into a new being with eternal life. Jesus Christ promises good things will come to each of us abundantly if we live a life of giving to others, not getting for ourselves. To learn more, request or download our free booklet Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion.

7. God will give us every good thing—but only in the coming Kingdom of God can we receive the glorious reward that will be greater than anything we can imagine in this life today. Jesus Christ’s teaching is summed up in this: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). God wants you to inherit the Kingdom of God—the greatest secret in the universe that will transform you and all who choose to think, believe and act on it.

The Secret Things of God

“Secret things belong unto the Lord our God.”* A secret is something known only to one or to very few. Many things are known to God which are kept secret from man, but all man’s secrets are known to God. It pleases God, however, to reveal some of His sweet secrets to man. Those who love God and serve Him faithfully have the blessed privilege of knowing many things of God and heaven that others do not know. God “revealeth his secrets to his servants.”* Jesus said that He would make Himself known to us as He would not unto the world. Oh, how blessed to come near to Christ and have Him tell us some of the precious secrets contained in those mysteries hidden for ages! The angels knew that the mystery of salvation contained many precious things, for they desired to look into it. The revelations of Jesus are heaven to the soul. How the heart that has heard the voice of the Lord longs to know more of the secret things hidden in Him! Such a heart will seek after Him; it will cleave to Him; it will rest only when in His presence and learning more of Him, seeing more of His love, and tasting more of the sweetness of His life.

God usually speaks in a “still small voice,”* and hence to hear Him one must necessarily come very near to Him. God has a secret place in which He tells His secrets. It is only those that “[dwell] in the secret place of the most high”* that can know the secrets of the Lord. If you would know much of the secret things of God, you must live near Him. The Lord has a secret tabernacle, and it is down in that secret place with all the world shut out that He tells His secrets. It is a narrow passage that leads to this secret pavilion. Houses and lands must be left behind. Those hearts to whom houses and lands can talk cannot hear the still, sweet voice of Jesus. The voice of the Lord might be saying, “Come to me in a quiet hour of prayer”; but houses and lands would be saying, “You will not have time; we must have your service.” If you would hear God speak, you must leave this world so far behind that you cannot hear it when it speaks.

The way into the Lord’s secret pavilion is so narrow that father and mother, brothers and sisters and friends, must be left behind. Jesus may speak; but if you are not deaf to the voice of father or mother, you may not hear Him. Children also must be left behind. God may be calling you to a secret place where He can tell you secret things. It may be far from home; it may be over the stormy seas; but father, mother, brother, sister, or children may talk so loudly to your heart that you cannot hear God’s voice. “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him.”* To fear God is to keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 5:29).

To enter into the secret chamber of God, your own life must be left behind. Self must be crucified. Oh, how many dear children of God have failed to hear the secrets of the Lord because of the clamorous voice of self! Jesus is talking to your heart, saying, “Here is one of My poor, needy ones to whom you can now give aid, and I will bless you and make you happy”; but that monster self sets up such a din and confusion that you cannot hear the voice of Jesus. So self must be crucified.

There are secret things of God to be learned all along the Christian way. We are to grow not only in the grace but also in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus. It is not in the greatest affairs and concerns of life only that we need to know more of God; but many, I am persuaded, also need to know Him better in the little happenings and circumstances of everyday life. Early in my Christian experience I was taught a precious lesson from the Lord. I had two beautiful young cherry trees growing in my garden. One springtime my little boy climbed into one and to all appearance ruined it; but a voice seemed to say to my soul, “All things are of God; look unto Him and know that all things are for good, and you will see some of His secret things.” I cut off the broken branches and committed the tree into the hands of the Lord. I knew that if He was able to curse a fig tree and cause it to die, he was able to bless a cherry tree and cause it to grow. That tree grew as I never saw a tree grow. In a short time it was more beautiful than the other tree.

When Peter called the Master’s attention to the withered fig tree, he answered, “Have faith in God,”* and then farther said, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”* God will bless the affairs of your everyday life. Do not think anything too hard nor too small for God to do. If you want a mountain removed, ask Him and doubt not, and you shall have what you asked; or if it is only a grain of sand you want removed, ask the Lord and doubt not, and He will remove it. It is more difficult for some to have faith for the small things than for the great things. If you have but two pieces of meat, do not hesitate to give one piece to the needy. God can, and will if you ask, make the remaining piece go farther than the two would have gone without His blessing. This is a secret not known by everyone.

A poor Christian brother awoke early one morning and, calling to his wife, said, “If we should dust the flour barrel well, do you not think we could get enough flour to make bread for breakfast?”

“No,” the wife replied, “I scraped it out clean last evening and barely had enough to make bread for supper.”

The poor preacher lay there for awhile thinking how to get bread for his children. It came into his mind again that if they would dust the flour barrel they could get flour enough for breakfast. He arose and made a fire and then went—no doubt with deep feeling in his heart—to dust the flour barrel. After some dusting and scraping and shaking, he succeeded, to his wife’s astonishment, in getting enough flour to make bread for breakfast. She went to preparing the breakfast, and he sat down to meditate upon the things of God.

Just as she was ready to call her husband and the children to breakfast, she heard a rap on the door. She went to the door, and there stood a poorly-dressed man, who said, “Madam, can you give me something to eat?”

She went and informed her husband of a man’s being at their door begging for food. He said to his wife, “divide out my portion of the bread and give it to the man.”

“No,” she said, “I cannot do that. If you do not eat, I cannot.”

“Do, wife,” the poor preacher said, “as I have told you; give him my portion of the bread, and you and the children eat your breakfast.”

She did as requested. She and the children ate heartily. When they had finished their breakfast, she called to her husband, “Come, eat your breakfast; there is some bread left.”

He went to the table, gave thanks to God, and ate all he desired; and yet there was bread left. Such gracious doings of our blessed Lord are some of His secrets.

The Lord Jesus told a secret thing to Peter one day. He would not have told it to everyone, for some would have scoffed at Him. He told Peter to go to the sea and cast in a hook and to take the first fish that should rise. This fish, the Savior said, would have a coin in its mouth. “Take that,” He continued, “and [pay the tribute] unto them for me and thee.”* Peter had sufficient faith to do as he commanded. What his feelings were as he went on his way to the brook, I will leave you to imagine. No doubt his heart was all expectation and wonder as he waited for a bite at his hook. But it was even as the Lord had told him. I do not know how came the coin in the mouth of the fish, but such doings are among the secrets of the Lord.

I will relate what to me was a most remarkable instance of God’s answering prayer and manifesting Himself to His own as He does not to the world. In the autumn of 1906 the Gospel Trumpet Company, publishers, purchased a large printing press. The cost of this press was something more than fourteen thousand dollars. I spoke of the matter to our home congregation and asked if they did not wish to do what they could in helping to pay for the machine. A poor sister, who is rich in grace, desired to have a part in the matter. She began to ask the Lord to give to her that she might be able to give something to his good work. It was one dollar she was praying for. The Lord gave her in a marvelous way little by little until she had ninety-five cents. She then earnestly sought the Lord for the remaining five cents. After prayer she sent her two little boys away to their work, which was splitting wood. One boy struck his axe into a block, cracking it partly open. In that crack he saw a shiny object. He called to his aid a larger boy, and they succeeded in getting the block of wood open; whereupon they found a silver dime. This had no doubt been placed in the tree many years before; for it had all grown over, leaving no scar. The Lord prepared this coin to answer this woman’s prayer, as He did the coin in the mouth of the fish that Peter caught.

God does not manifest Himself thus to the world, and I sometimes fear that many of His own dear children are not learning as many secrets as they might. How many glorious secret things lie deeper in God than I have gone, I do not know; only, I know there are many. My heart is reaching for them with avidity. Down, down into God; down into His secret pavilion; down where I can see more of His love to me; down where I can feel more of His Spirit’s power; down where His breathings are felt more sensibly upon the soul; down where that still, small voice rhythms more sweetly and can be more distinctly heard—this is the pleading of my soul.

God’s child has nothing to fear. The love of a gracious heavenly parent is over it. Have faith in God, and He will reveal Himself in many wondrous secret ways. Christ fed the multitude from a few loaves. He is the same today, and He will do the same for you literally. Draw near to Him, and He will teach you secret things.

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Mysteries of God. Divine attributes of the God. What means God?

Mysteries of God Secret things of God Gods Nature

What do we really mean by “God”?

Atheism is on the rise. Skeptical thinkers like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris vigorously attack belief in God as irrational or, even worse, dangerous. The so-called New Atheism has attracted millions of young people thanks to bestselling books such as The God Delusion and God Is Not Great.

How should Christians respond? How can we turn the tide of secularism and draw people back to God?

In this new six-part film series and study program, Bishop Robert Barron reaches into our rich intellectual tradition to teach us how. Using the insights of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope Benedict XVI, he uncovers a clear yet sophisticated understanding of what we mean by “God”.

Who is God? And why does he matter? Watch this series and you’ll not only learn the answers yourself, but you’ll discover how to share them with others – especially those who no longer believe.

 


 

Lesson 1 – Atheism and What We Mean by “God”

There are lots of views about God. Some see him as a mythical fairy in the sky, others as the Supreme Being. Some consider him a threat to our freedom. But for Christians, God is not one being among many. He’s not a competitor to our flourishing. God is that than which nothing greater can be thought, the strange and unique source of being itself. Before discussing anything about God we must become clear about one question: who is God?

 

Lesson 2 – St. Thomas Aquinas and the Paths to God

In the thirteenth century, St. Thomas Aquinas composed his famous five paths to God. His proofs don’t depend on the Bible or divine revelation. They simply start from the world around us—trees, birds, buildings, and even ourselves. Thomas noticed that none of these things have to exist. But if that’s the case, there must be some cause behind them, something grounding their existence. For Thomas and all Christians since, we know this source of all being by its ancient name—God.

 

Lesson 3 – The Divine Attributes

Once we understand who God is, we naturally wonder, “What is he like? How does he act?” We can never fully answer those questions. Yet we can know that God is self-sufficient—he doesn’t need the world but creates it out of love. God is omniscient, knowing all things. God is omnipresent, everywhere in existence. Through these attributes we discover a God who presses upon the world, always and everywhere, not aggressively but only with love.

 

LESSON 4 – Providence and the Problem of Evil

Perhaps the most difficult question in theology is this: Why does God allow evil? If God is all-good and all-powerful, then why are our lives marked with pain and suffering? These are not abstract questions. They go right to the heart of our experience. We have each wrestled with misery, wondering when God would intervene. As with Job, God does not give us answers. He instead offers a person: the crucified Jesus, through whom God enters our suffering and makes it his own.

 

Lesson 5 – Exploring the Trinity

The most important event in human history took place when God, infinite and incomprehensible, became a finite and familiar man, Jesus Christ. While some people reduce Jesus to a wise teacher, the testimony of scripture and the early Church makes it clear that Jesus of Nazareth was, and is, God incarnate. He’s the Second Person of the Trinity. And by his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, we too can enter into Trinitarian life.

 

Lesson 6 – The God Who is Love

The book of Genesis reveals that we are made in the image and likeness of God. What does this mean? For St. Augustine it affirmed that our own traits—our minds, our self-knowledge, our self-love–can tell us something about God as a Trinity. What is Christianity finally about? What is the deepest meaning of being and all reality? The Christian answer is this: God is love, a play of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

God Revealing Mysteries
Most Relevant Verses
Daniel 2:28 

“However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed.
Daniel 2:47

The king answered Daniel and said, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.”
Daniel 2:19
Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven;
Job 12:22

“He reveals mysteries from the darkness And brings the deep darkness into light.
Daniel 2:22

“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.
Jeremiah 33:3

‘Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’
Daniel 7:16

“I approached one of those who were standing by and began asking him the exact meaning of all this So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things:
Daniel 2:29

“As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place.
Daniel 2:23

“To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, For You have given me wisdom and power; Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, For You have made known to us the king’s matter.”
Daniel 2:30

“But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.
Ephesians 6:19

and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,
Ephesians 1:9

He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him
Colossians 1:27

to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Matthew 13:11

Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.
Mark 4:11

And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables,
Luke 8:10

And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that SEEING THEY MAY NOT SEE, AND HEARING THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND.
Colossians 1:26

that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints,
Ephesians 3:5

which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;
Ephesians 3:3

that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.

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The Secrets of God in Our Suffering -Trusting Him with Unanswered Questions

The Secrets of God in Our Suffering 2

We, the Google generation, don’t wait for answers. Why should we? Our smartphones and desktops anticipate and complete our questions for us, and with one more tap, ranked answers return to us at the speed of light.

Hyperspeed results in the digital world shape our expectations for all of life. When the check engine light appears, we take our car to a mechanic to diagnose. When our bodies get sick, doctors analyze us and even look into our blood for answers. When it comes to retirement planning, we meet with a strategist who can give us answers on the state of the investment markets. We expect answers everywhere we turn.

How far am I from my next appointment? The GPS app on my phone listens to pinging satellites in order to place me on the planet and predict my arrival time. Will I need a coat tomorrow? The weatherman connects with satellites in space and gets back with a prediction of his own.

We’re increasingly conditioned to expect that every question, problem, or perplexity in this world can be met with answers, or at least intelligent predictions. We have very few unanswered mysteries anymore, and a wealth of mechanisms for finding quick answers and predictable solutions.

Suffering’s Why

 But when suffering hits, and the wounds open, so do the unanswered questions, and in those moments, when the pain is freshest, our closest and wisest friends restrain their interpretations.

Perhaps they’ve learned such self-restraint from those foolish friends of Job. When his life was dismantled piece by piece under God’s sovereign direction, Job’s friends offered all sorts of hypotheses for what brought it on. Now, let’s hope, biblically informed Christians know better. Answers to the mystery of why we suffer, and why now, are questions not answered with human dialog and debate, and then settled in a nicely packaged conclusion to salve the hurting heart.

With all the questions from Job and his friends about his suffering, God graciously breaks in at the end, in Job 38–42. The Lord himself shows up to answer Job’s questions from a whirlwind. And the answer: “I will question you” (Job 38:1–3).

Compounding Riddles

 It’s all so loud and confrontational and abrasive — the question of Job steamrolled by God’s questions, and the voices of Job’s friends overwhelmed now by a hit-list of created wonders in the natural world and animal kingdom. It is a marvelous display of God’s power and sovereignty and an exposé of Job’s ignorance and presumption (Job 42:1–6).

God responds to the pain of Job’s life by laying out a metaphorical and word-picture feast of his natural wonders, culminating in the much-debated mystery duo of Behemoth and Leviathan. “Whatever they are,” Chesterton writes, “they are evidently embodiments of the enormous absurdity of nature.”

Yes, and this is the dramatic moment in Job’s life for God to introduce his special delight in the absurdities of his creation.

The Riddles of God

 Further, “Job is not told that his misfortunes were due to his sins, or a part of any plan for his improvement. But in the prologue we see Job tormented not because he was the worst of men but because he was the best. It is the lesson of the whole work that man is most comforted by paradoxes. Here is the very darkest and strangest of the paradoxes; and it is by all human testimony the most reassuring.”

The book of Job is a prolonged documentation of the human folly of trying to decrypt the riddle of suffering under God’s sovereign care. Those stabs in the dark are vain attempts at decoding eternal mysteries, and after a while God steps into the drama in dramatic fashion to stop the nonsense and speak in a torrent of images to flood Job’s imagination.

“Job was comfortless before the speech of Jehovah and is comforted after it. He has been told nothing [of why he suffers], but he feels the terrible and tingling atmosphere of something which is too good to be told. The refusal of God to explain his design is itself a burning hint of his design.”

Chesterton punctuates the point in one unforgettable line: “The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of men.”

Satisfied by God

Does that seem too trivial, too trite, too superficial? It is none of those. It is the incredible way our Creator grabs our attention and soothes our sorrows.

The God who dried Job’s tears with a tornado answers us with a hundred riddles and with a litany of indecipherable mysteries and a catalogue of natural absurdities and animal wonders to fill our imaginations with awe and wonder that cannot answer our questions, but somehow work together to quiet and humble and satisfy our hearts. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29) — and the riddles he reveals are more than enough to inspire our trust in his sovereign goodness in governing all things, even when the specific why of our suffering remains a mystery.

We can trust as we wait for those answers, for the timeless riddles of God are always more satisfying than the microwaved answers of man.

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The Secret Things of God – Mysteries – Prayers – Nature of God

The Secret Things of God “Secret things belong unto the Lord our God.”* A secret is something known only to one or to very few. Many things are known to God which are kept secret from man, but all man’s secrets are known to God. It pleases God, however, to reveal some of His sweet secrets to man. Those who love God and serve Him faithfully have the blessed privilege of knowing many things of God and heaven that others do not know. God “revealeth his secrets to his servants.”* Jesus said that He would make Himself known to us as He would not unto the world. Oh, how blessed to come near to Christ and have Him tell us some of the precious secrets contained in those mysteries hidden for ages! The angels knew that the mystery of salvation contained many precious things, for they desired to look into it. The revelations of Jesus are heaven to the soul. How the heart that has heard the voice of the Lord longs to know more of the secret things hidden in Him! Such a heart will seek after Him; it will cleave to Him; it will rest only when in His presence and learning more of Him, seeing more of His love, and tasting more of the sweetness of His life. God usually speaks in a “still small voice,”* and hence to hear Him one must necessarily come very near to Him. God has a secret place in which He tells His secrets. It is only those that “[dwell] in the secret place of the most high”* that can know the secrets of the Lord. If you would know much of the secret things of God, you must live near Him. The Lord has a secret tabernacle, and it is down in that secret place with all the world shut out that He tells His secrets. It is a narrow passage that leads to this secret pavilion. Houses and lands must be left behind. Those hearts to whom houses and lands can talk cannot hear the still, sweet voice of Jesus. The voice of the Lord might be saying, “Come to me in a quiet hour of prayer”; but houses and lands would be saying, “You will not have time; we must have your service.” If you would hear God speak, you must leave this world so far behind that you cannot hear it when it speaks. The way into the Lord’s secret pavilion is so narrow that father and mother, brothers and sisters and friends, must be left behind. Jesus may speak; but if you are not deaf to the voice of father or mother, you may not hear Him. Children also must be left behind. God may be calling you to a secret place where He can tell you secret things. It may be far from home; it may be over the stormy seas; but father, mother, brother, sister, or children may talk so loudly to your heart that you cannot hear God’s voice. “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him.”* To fear God is to keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 5:29). To enter into the secret chamber of God, your own life must be left behind. Self must be crucified. Oh, how many dear children of God have failed to hear the secrets of the Lord because of the clamorous voice of self! Jesus is talking to your heart, saying, “Here is one of My poor, needy ones to whom you can now give aid, and I will bless you and make you happy”; but that monster self sets up such a din and confusion that you cannot hear the voice of Jesus. So self must be crucified. There are secret things of God to be learned all along the Christian way. We are to grow not only in the grace but also in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus. It is not in the greatest affairs and concerns of life only that we need to know more of God; but many, I am persuaded, also need to know Him better in the little happenings and circumstances of everyday life. Early in my Christian experience I was taught a precious lesson from the Lord. I had two beautiful young cherry trees growing in my garden. One springtime my little boy climbed into one and to all appearance ruined it; but a voice seemed to say to my soul, “All things are of God; look unto Him and know that all things are for good, and you will see some of His secret things.” I cut off the broken branches and committed the tree into the hands of the Lord. I knew that if He was able to curse a fig tree and cause it to die, he was able to bless a cherry tree and cause it to grow. That tree grew as I never saw a tree grow. In a short time it was more beautiful than the other tree. When Peter called the Master’s attention to the withered fig tree, he answered, “Have faith in God,”* and then farther said, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”* God will bless the affairs of your everyday life. Do not think anything too hard nor too small for God to do. If you want a mountain removed, ask Him and doubt not, and you shall have what you asked; or if it is only a grain of sand you want removed, ask the Lord and doubt not, and He will remove it. It is more difficult for some to have faith for the small things than for the great things. If you have but two pieces of meat, do not hesitate to give one piece to the needy. God can, and will if you ask, make the remaining piece go farther than the two would have gone without His blessing. This is a secret not known by everyone. A poor Christian brother awoke early one morning and, calling to his wife, said, “If we should dust the flour barrel well, do you not think we could get enough flour to make bread for breakfast?” “No,” the wife replied, “I scraped it out clean last evening and barely had enough to make bread for supper.” The poor preacher lay there for awhile thinking how to get bread for his children. It came into his mind again that if they would dust the flour barrel they could get flour enough for breakfast. He arose and made a fire and then went—no doubt with deep feeling in his heart—to dust the flour barrel. After some dusting and scraping and shaking, he succeeded, to his wife’s astonishment, in getting enough flour to make bread for breakfast. She went to preparing the breakfast, and he sat down to meditate upon the things of God. Just as she was ready to call her husband and the children to breakfast, she heard a rap on the door. She went to the door, and there stood a poorly-dressed man, who said, “Madam, can you give me something to eat?” She went and informed her husband of a man’s being at their door begging for food. He said to his wife, “divide out my portion of the bread and give it to the man.” “No,” she said, “I cannot do that. If you do not eat, I cannot.” “Do, wife,” the poor preacher said, “as I have told you; give him my portion of the bread, and you and the children eat your breakfast.” She did as requested. She and the children ate heartily. When they had finished their breakfast, she called to her husband, “Come, eat your breakfast; there is some bread left.” He went to the table, gave thanks to God, and ate all he desired; and yet there was bread left. Such gracious doings of our blessed Lord are some of His secrets. The Lord Jesus told a secret thing to Peter one day. He would not have told it to everyone, for some would have scoffed at Him. He told Peter to go to the sea and cast in a hook and to take the first fish that should rise. This fish, the Savior said, would have a coin in its mouth. “Take that,” He continued, “and [pay the tribute] unto them for me and thee.”* Peter had sufficient faith to do as he commanded. What his feelings were as he went on his way to the brook, I will leave you to imagine. No doubt his heart was all expectation and wonder as he waited for a bite at his hook. But it was even as the Lord had told him. I do not know how came the coin in the mouth of the fish, but such doings are among the secrets of the Lord. I will relate what to me was a most remarkable instance of God’s answering prayer and manifesting Himself to His own as He does not to the world. In the autumn of 1906 the Gospel Trumpet Company, publishers, purchased a large printing press. The cost of this press was something more than fourteen thousand dollars. I spoke of the matter to our home congregation and asked if they did not wish to do what they could in helping to pay for the machine. A poor sister, who is rich in grace, desired to have a part in the matter. She began to ask the Lord to give to her that she might be able to give something to his good work. It was one dollar she was praying for. The Lord gave her in a marvelous way little by little until she had ninety-five cents. She then earnestly sought the Lord for the remaining five cents. After prayer she sent her two little boys away to their work, which was splitting wood. One boy struck his axe into a block, cracking it partly open. In that crack he saw a shiny object. He called to his aid a larger boy, and they succeeded in getting the block of wood open; whereupon they found a silver dime. This had no doubt been placed in the tree many years before; for it had all grown over, leaving no scar. The Lord prepared this coin to answer this woman’s prayer, as He did the coin in the mouth of the fish that Peter caught. God does not manifest Himself thus to the world, and I sometimes fear that many of His own dear children are not learning as many secrets as they might. How many glorious secret things lie deeper in God than I have gone, I do not know; only, I know there are many. My heart is reaching for them with avidity. Down, down into God; down into His secret pavilion; down where I can see more of His love to me; down where I can feel more of His Spirit’s power; down where His breathings are felt more sensibly upon the soul; down where that still, small voice rhythms more sweetly and can be more distinctly heard—this is the pleading of my soul. God’s child has nothing to fear. The love of a gracious heavenly parent is over it. Have faith in God, and He will reveal Himself in many wondrous secret ways. Christ fed the multitude from a few loaves. He is the same today, and He will do the same for you literally. Draw near to Him, and He will teach you secret things.

The Secret Things of God

“Secret things belong unto the Lord our God.”* A secret is something known only to one or to very few. Many things are known to God which are kept secret from man, but all man’s secrets are known to God. It pleases God, however, to reveal some of His sweet secrets to man. Those who love God and serve Him faithfully have the blessed privilege of knowing many things of God and heaven that others do not know. God “revealeth his secrets to his servants.”* Jesus said that He would make Himself known to us as He would not unto the world. Oh, how blessed to come near to Christ and have Him tell us some of the precious secrets contained in those mysteries hidden for ages! The angels knew that the mystery of salvation contained many precious things, for they desired to look into it. The revelations of Jesus are heaven to the soul. How the heart that has heard the voice of the Lord longs to know more of the secret things hidden in Him! Such a heart will seek after Him; it will cleave to Him; it will rest only when in His presence and learning more of Him, seeing more of His love, and tasting more of the sweetness of His life.

God usually speaks in a “still small voice,”* and hence to hear Him one must necessarily come very near to Him. God has a secret place in which He tells His secrets. It is only those that “[dwell] in the secret place of the most high”* that can know the secrets of the Lord. If you would know much of the secret things of God, you must live near Him. The Lord has a secret tabernacle, and it is down in that secret place with all the world shut out that He tells His secrets. It is a narrow passage that leads to this secret pavilion. Houses and lands must be left behind. Those hearts to whom houses and lands can talk cannot hear the still, sweet voice of Jesus. The voice of the Lord might be saying, “Come to me in a quiet hour of prayer”; but houses and lands would be saying, “You will not have time; we must have your service.” If you would hear God speak, you must leave this world so far behind that you cannot hear it when it speaks.

The way into the Lord’s secret pavilion is so narrow that father and mother, brothers and sisters and friends, must be left behind. Jesus may speak; but if you are not deaf to the voice of father or mother, you may not hear Him. Children also must be left behind. God may be calling you to a secret place where He can tell you secret things. It may be far from home; it may be over the stormy seas; but father, mother, brother, sister, or children may talk so loudly to your heart that you cannot hear God’s voice. “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him.”* To fear God is to keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 5:29).

To enter into the secret chamber of God, your own life must be left behind. Self must be crucified. Oh, how many dear children of God have failed to hear the secrets of the Lord because of the clamorous voice of self! Jesus is talking to your heart, saying, “Here is one of My poor, needy ones to whom you can now give aid, and I will bless you and make you happy”; but that monster self sets up such a din and confusion that you cannot hear the voice of Jesus. So self must be crucified.

There are secret things of God to be learned all along the Christian way. We are to grow not only in the grace but also in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus. It is not in the greatest affairs and concerns of life only that we need to know more of God; but many, I am persuaded, also need to know Him better in the little happenings and circumstances of everyday life. Early in my Christian experience I was taught a precious lesson from the Lord. I had two beautiful young cherry trees growing in my garden. One springtime my little boy climbed into one and to all appearance ruined it; but a voice seemed to say to my soul, “All things are of God; look unto Him and know that all things are for good, and you will see some of His secret things.” I cut off the broken branches and committed the tree into the hands of the Lord. I knew that if He was able to curse a fig tree and cause it to die, he was able to bless a cherry tree and cause it to grow. That tree grew as I never saw a tree grow. In a short time it was more beautiful than the other tree.

When Peter called the Master’s attention to the withered fig tree, he answered, “Have faith in God,”* and then farther said, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”* God will bless the affairs of your everyday life. Do not think anything too hard nor too small for God to do. If you want a mountain removed, ask Him and doubt not, and you shall have what you asked; or if it is only a grain of sand you want removed, ask the Lord and doubt not, and He will remove it. It is more difficult for some to have faith for the small things than for the great things. If you have but two pieces of meat, do not hesitate to give one piece to the needy. God can, and will if you ask, make the remaining piece go farther than the two would have gone without His blessing. This is a secret not known by everyone.

A poor Christian brother awoke early one morning and, calling to his wife, said, “If we should dust the flour barrel well, do you not think we could get enough flour to make bread for breakfast?”

“No,” the wife replied, “I scraped it out clean last evening and barely had enough to make bread for supper.”

The poor preacher lay there for awhile thinking how to get bread for his children. It came into his mind again that if they would dust the flour barrel they could get flour enough for breakfast. He arose and made a fire and then went—no doubt with deep feeling in his heart—to dust the flour barrel. After some dusting and scraping and shaking, he succeeded, to his wife’s astonishment, in getting enough flour to make bread for breakfast. She went to preparing the breakfast, and he sat down to meditate upon the things of God.

Just as she was ready to call her husband and the children to breakfast, she heard a rap on the door. She went to the door, and there stood a poorly-dressed man, who said, “Madam, can you give me something to eat?”

She went and informed her husband of a man’s being at their door begging for food. He said to his wife, “divide out my portion of the bread and give it to the man.”

“No,” she said, “I cannot do that. If you do not eat, I cannot.”

“Do, wife,” the poor preacher said, “as I have told you; give him my portion of the bread, and you and the children eat your breakfast.”

She did as requested. She and the children ate heartily. When they had finished their breakfast, she called to her husband, “Come, eat your breakfast; there is some bread left.”

He went to the table, gave thanks to God, and ate all he desired; and yet there was bread left. Such gracious doings of our blessed Lord are some of His secrets.

The Lord Jesus told a secret thing to Peter one day. He would not have told it to everyone, for some would have scoffed at Him. He told Peter to go to the sea and cast in a hook and to take the first fish that should rise. This fish, the Savior said, would have a coin in its mouth. “Take that,” He continued, “and [pay the tribute] unto them for me and thee.”* Peter had sufficient faith to do as he commanded. What his feelings were as he went on his way to the brook, I will leave you to imagine. No doubt his heart was all expectation and wonder as he waited for a bite at his hook. But it was even as the Lord had told him. I do not know how came the coin in the mouth of the fish, but such doings are among the secrets of the Lord.

I will relate what to me was a most remarkable instance of God’s answering prayer and manifesting Himself to His own as He does not to the world. In the autumn of 1906 the Gospel Trumpet Company, publishers, purchased a large printing press. The cost of this press was something more than fourteen thousand dollars. I spoke of the matter to our home congregation and asked if they did not wish to do what they could in helping to pay for the machine. A poor sister, who is rich in grace, desired to have a part in the matter. She began to ask the Lord to give to her that she might be able to give something to his good work. It was one dollar she was praying for. The Lord gave her in a marvelous way little by little until she had ninety-five cents. She then earnestly sought the Lord for the remaining five cents. After prayer she sent her two little boys away to their work, which was splitting wood. One boy struck his axe into a block, cracking it partly open. In that crack he saw a shiny object. He called to his aid a larger boy, and they succeeded in getting the block of wood open; whereupon they found a silver dime. This had no doubt been placed in the tree many years before; for it had all grown over, leaving no scar. The Lord prepared this coin to answer this woman’s prayer, as He did the coin in the mouth of the fish that Peter caught.

God does not manifest Himself thus to the world, and I sometimes fear that many of His own dear children are not learning as many secrets as they might. How many glorious secret things lie deeper in God than I have gone, I do not know; only, I know there are many. My heart is reaching for them with avidity. Down, down into God; down into His secret pavilion; down where I can see more of His love to me; down where I can feel more of His Spirit’s power; down where His breathings are felt more sensibly upon the soul; down where that still, small voice rhythms more sweetly and can be more distinctly heard—this is the pleading of my soul.

God’s child has nothing to fear. The love of a gracious heavenly parent is over it. Have faith in God, and He will reveal Himself in many wondrous secret ways. Christ fed the multitude from a few loaves. He is the same today, and He will do the same for you literally. Draw near to Him, and He will teach you secret things.

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The Nature of God – What do you mean by God’s nature – Bible Study – FATHER ,JESUS – often referred to as the Son or “the Word of God” -THE HOLY SPIRIT

The Nature of God - What do you mean by God's nature - Bible Study - FATHER ,JESUS - often referred to as the Son or "the Word of God" -THE HOLY SPIRIT

“What do you mean by God’s ‘nature’?”

God’s ‘nature’ means His characteristics, His attributes, His qualities.
 

“I read somewhere that man can’t really know anything about the nature of God.”

Among others, Smith, George H. Atheism: The Case Against God. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books 1989 correctly points out that man can never truly understand the essential nature of a god.  However, we can have an approximate understanding of God’s nature, a “working definition”, and that is all we really need.  God tells us about Himself in the Bible and He came in person and showed us what He is like in the person of Jesus Christ.
 

“What is the nature of the God Christians believe in?  What are His characteristics, His attributes, His qualities?  What is He like?”

Christianity claims that the God of all things is unique in that He alone has the following divine characteristics (in no particular order):

  1. SUPREMACY  The God of Judaism and Christianity is the Supreme Being.  He is not merely a different type of being or a superior being but the Supreme Being.

  2. UNIQUENESS  God is unique.  The Bible describes Him in Greek as monogenesis, i.e., “one of a kind”, “having a unique nature.”

  3. ETERNALNESS He always has existed and always will exist.  He had no beginning and will never cease to exist.  (Also see IMMORTAL below.)

  4. OMNISCIENCE He knows all things.

  5. OMNIPOTENCE He is all powerful.

  6. OMNIPRESENCE He is everywhere at the same time.

  7. SELF-EXISTENT God is the only thing that had no beginning, that was not created by something else.

  8. HOLINESS  Holy means pure, undefiled.

  9. TRIUNE NATURE The one God is a single “trinity” consisting of three distinct “persons”:

    1. FATHER
    2. JESUS – often referred to as the Son or “the Word of God”
    3. THE HOLY SPIRIT

    Don’t get hung up on the “how can one be three?” issue! Remember–we are imperfect, natural human beings with physical bodies trying to understand a perfect, supernatural spiritual being that does not have a physical body. (Jesus’ physical body was created; He did not always have a physical body.) The best we can possibly hope for is just a “working definition”. Trying to understand the “triune” nature of God intellectually is like trying to understand intellectually why some things smell nice and some things don’t, without actually smelling anything.

    Also see Another Look at the Trinity at http://www.carm.org/doctrine/trinitylook.htm

  10. THEISTIC  Deistic and theistic are adjectives from the field of comparative religion. They describe the relationship between a god and that which it creates.  A deistic god is one that would distance itself from that which it creates, one the would not get involved in the activities of the things it created.  A deistic god would essentially be an “absentee father” god — it would create a universe and then sit back and says “I made you, but I don’t want to get involved.  You’re on your own!”  The God of the Bible is theistic. He does not distance Himself from that which He creates. He gets actively involved in the activities of the things He created.  In fact, the God of the Bible ‘micromanages’ things.

  11. TRANSCENDENT  God transcends that which He created, i.e., He “goes beyond” that which He created, He is not limited to, He is not bound by that which He created.  For example, in the physical universe it is impossible for a single being to consist of three distinct persons, but God is not limited by physical laws, so He can be one God and yet consist of three distinct persons.

 
Christianity claims that, in addition, this unique God shares the following characteristics with certain other things:

  1. ALIVE The one God is a living being.

  2. PERSONAL God is a living person with thoughts, reactions, etc., not an impersonal thing.

  3. SPIRIT  A spirit is a living being that is incorporeal, i.e., it does not possess a physical body. Note that Jesus took on a physical human body.  It is not an inherent part of His nature. By comparison, our bodies are part of our human nature but we put on clothes.

  4. INTELLIGENCE
  5. SENTIENCE  A sentient being has intelligence, and also is aware of its own existence, and aware that there is a ‘big picture’.  For instance, cats, dogs, and horses have intelligence but probably are not sentient.

  6. IMMORTAL  God is a being that will live forever.

    Note the technical difference between eternalness and immortality: God is eternal because had He had no beginning.  He also is immortal because He will live forever. Humans, angels, demons, etc., are immortal because we will never cease to exist, but not eternal because we did not always exist.

    It is important to realize that in practice eternal and immortal are often used interchangeably and the technical difference is not always maintained.

  7. SEPARATE  God is separate from that which He created.  The universe itself is not God. (The opposite is pantheism.  Some “nature” religions believe that the universe itself is god.)

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Nature of God – How to Pass God’s Tests (Genesis 22) – Bible Scriptures – Existence of God – Trinity

Nature of God - How to Pass God’s Tests (Genesis 22) - Bible Scriptures - Existence of God - TrinityGod is Love God is Wrathful God is Immutable God is Omniscient God is Omnipotent God is Holy God is Sovereign1

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide… (Genesis 22)

Interpretation Question: What is the difference between a test (or a trial) and a temptation?

What are characteristics of God’s tests and how can we faithfully pass them?

As we study Abraham’s life, it is clear God brought him through many tests. In Genesis 12, he was called to leave his home and family to go to a land that God would show him. He was challenged with the family test. For many of us, leaving our family to do what God has called us to do, or doing what God has called us to do in spite of family is a difficult test.

Abraham arrived at the promised land only to find a famine. He lacked resources and had to decide whether to trust God or not. He had the famine test. In Genesis 13, Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen had a conflict in the promised land. There he encountered the conflict test. In Genesis 14, he went to fight against the four armies of the east with his 300 men and a few alliances. Abraham had the warfare test.

While Abraham followed God, he faced many tests, and we will as well. James 1:2–3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

God takes us through tests to try our faith and discern its composition. Is it genuine or false? Is it weak or strong? Furthermore, since God has great plans for each of his children, tests are preparation for greater works, just as tests in school. Believers go through tests to build and strengthen their faith. Without believing in God, nothing is possible. Therefore, tests are the lot of God’s children because they must be prepared for the things God desires them to accomplish.

In this narrative, Abraham encountered a very difficult test primarily because of the great call on his life. Abraham was called to be a great nation and through his seed all nations would be blessed. Essentially, the gospel was to come through Abraham and his family. In order to fulfill this, Abraham needed to be tested and built up, and so do we.

How do we pass God’s tests? In considering this, let’s clarify that God never tempts believers to sin. James 1:13–14 says,

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.

God does not tempt anyone because he is holy and perfect; however, he does test believers. God tests his children to make their faith strong, and Satan tempts them to make it weak. In fact, I would add that whenever God tests believers, Satan always comes behind to tempt them. God tested Adam and Eve in the garden. He said, “Do not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and if you do, you will surely die.” Then Satan came and tempted them to fail the test.

In every trial God brings, we can be sure that Satan comes behind to tempt us with our own natural desires (cf. James 1:14). Maybe, he tempts us with our desire for safety, for pleasure, or to be known and esteemed. But, he tempts us to fail God’s tests by using our natural desires within us.

How can we pass God’s tests? In Genesis 22, we learn a great deal from Abraham about passing God’s tests.

Big Question: What can we learn about passing God’s tests from the Genesis 22 narrative?

To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Expect Them

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. (Genesis 22:1–3)

After God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Abraham did not question God or respond with shock or anger, he just went to bed and the next day obeyed. In contrast with previous narratives, Abraham often dialogued with God.

In Genesis 15:1, God showed up to Abraham and said, “I am your shield, your very great reward.” Abraham replied, “‘O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ … ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir’” (v. 2–3). This is not a man who is afraid to converse with God, especially when he doesn’t understand or agree.

In Genesis 17:18, when God told Abraham that he was going to have a son in his old age with Sarah, he responded by requesting a blessing over Ishmael. He said, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” Abraham essentially said, “What about Ishmael?”

In Genesis 18, when God told Abraham he was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, where Lot lived, Abraham immediately responded by questioning and petitioning God. Genesis 18:23–25 says,

Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

The word “approached” in Genesis 18:23 was used of a lawyer about to plead his case. Abraham went before God and pleaded Sodom and Gomorrah’s case. He, in humility, challenged the Lord’s righteousness. He essentially said, “Lord, you are righteous, you will not do such a thing.” However, when God called Abraham to sacrifice his own son, he said nothing.

I think he had learned to expect tests from God and also to trust him. Since Abraham began following God, he experienced many tests and for each one God showed himself faithful, even when Abraham wasn’t faithful. When Abraham lied to Pharaoh and Abimelech about his wife, each time God protected him and his wife. Abraham knew God was faithful, and he had learned to trust him.

With that said, one of things that we must learn if we are going to pass God’s tests is to expect them. As a general rule, if we take a test without knowing about it, we typically fail.

And, to be honest, many believers fail God’s tests, in part, by not expecting them. They get mad at God. They are shocked by the difficulty they encountered. Some even fall away from God when tests come.

In Matthew 13:20–21, the Parable of the Sower, Jesus describes people who receive the Word of God on stony ground. They receive it with joy, but when trouble or persecution comes they quickly fall away. The implication is that these people weren’t expecting it and, therefore, weren’t prepared.

Peter said this to Christians suffering for their faith in the Roman Empire: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet 4:12). He said don’t be surprised and don’t think it’s strange. Essentially, he says, “Expect it.”

James 1:2 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” James doesn’t say “if” you face trials of many kinds but “whenever” you face trials of many kinds. We should expect them.

The Christian life is a series of trials and tests because these reveal and strengthen our faith. If we are going to pass God’s tests, we must expect them. They are part of life.

Application Question: What is your typical response to a trial? How can you respond better?

To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Understand God Already Prepared Us

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” (Genesis 22:1–2)

The next thing we must understand about passing God’s test is that God has already prepared us. Now, as we read this narrative on Abraham, we cannot but notice the similarity to what happened in the previous chapter. In Genesis 21, Isaac was a toddler, and the family celebrated his weaning. During this celebration, Abraham’s other son, Ishmael, stood at a distance and mocked Isaac. In Galatians 4:29, Paul actually says he “persecuted” him.

When Sarah saw this, she became angry and told Abraham to throw Hagar and Ishmael out, for the son of the slave woman would not share the inheritance of her son, Isaac. The text said this greatly distressed Abraham (Gen 21:11). He loved his son. However, God spoke to Abraham and comforted him. He told Abraham to let him go, that God’s presence would be with Ishmael, and that Ishmael would become a nation (v. 12–13). Therefore, Abraham let his son go.

Now only a chapter later, God asks for Abraham’s other son. With Ishmael, Abraham could send him away because he knew that God was faithful and that he would provide for him. And now, in this narrative, probably well over ten years later, Abraham had watched God’s faithfulness with his son Ishmael. He married and God was prospering him, which only further confirmed Abraham’s faith. Abraham had been trained, not only because of that test, but because of many previous tests.

This is true for us, as well. God never takes us through a test that he has not prepared us for. That wouldn’t be fair. Why give his children tests they couldn’t pass? He only gives what we can handle by his grace. Consider 1 Corinthians 10:13,

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

God is faithful; he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear and with the temptation he always provides away to “stand up” or bear it. I cannot but think of the disciples right before Christ went to the cross. John 18:7–9 describes the events:

Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” “I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” (John 18:7–9)

Why did Christ ask the soldiers who they wanted? It was because he was protecting his disciples. They were not yet ready to be martyrs, and he was making sure none of them would ultimately turn away from him. He was keeping their faith.

God does the same with us. He only puts us into trials he has prepared us for. Now, we still have to make use of that preparation. We must use the resources God gave us in the church—godly counsel and mentors. We must continually discipline ourselves unto godliness by studying Scripture, prayer, and serving (cf. 1 Tim 4:7). We must also flee from all appearance of evil as he has taught us (1 Thess 5:22). In doing this, we put on the armor of God to stand against spiritual attacks (Eph 6:10–13). If we fail the test, it is not for lack of preparation or resources. God has given us everything needed for life and godliness (cf. 2 Pet 1:3).

The trial may seem like too much, but if we look back over previous tests encountered and teachings received, he has prepared us to faithfully stand. We must take comfort in this, as we go through tests. He is a loving father who never allows us to encounter something we are unprepared for.

Application Question: As you consider the various tests you’ve encountered, how can you see God’s faithful preparation for these tests?

To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Understand They Will Often Seem Illogical

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” (Genesis 22:1–2)

As we consider the Lord’s command, it must have seemed illogical to Abraham, as it may to us. God promised Abraham that Isaac would become a great nation and all nations would be blessed through him (cf. Gen 12:1–3, 21:12). How could this happen if Abraham sacrificed Isaac?

Interestingly, “to an ancient Middle Easterner, ‘burnt offering’ suggested a process: first cutting the offering’s throat, then dismemberment, and then a sacrifice by fire in which the body parts were completely consumed on the altar.”1 How could Abraham even bare this image? And, how could this fit with the Lord’s previous promises? It must have clearly sounded illogical to Abraham.

No doubt, many times in our lives, the tests God allowed us to go through, at least at first, didn’t make any sense. We asked ourselves these types of questions, “Why would God allow me to go through this?” “Why did this happen to my friend or my family member?” God’s tests often are confusing.

For Abraham, sacrificing one’s son to a deity was not foreign to his worldview. This was common to the Canaanite religions. The people sacrificed children to appease their gods (cf. Lev 18:21, 24). Maybe, Abraham reasoned to himself, “If the pagan gods are worthy of such affection, then most certainly it must be true of my God.” We can only speculate.

Abraham did not have the benefit of the progressive revelation that God has given us in Scripture. In the Mosaic law, human sacrifice was clearly forbidden. Again, this must have been very confusing and difficult for Abraham, as it is for us to understand. I’m not sure one can give a fully satisfying answer to the morality of God’s command. However, with that said, we can say that God is all wise and all just. Therefore, his will is always perfect. Secondly, we can also, unequivocally, say that this is nothing God would ever require today. It is clearly forbidden throughout Scripture.

But the point remains the same; many times God’s tests will be a logical struggle for us. We must take comfort in the fact that God is infinite and that we are finite. He knows all things and our insight is limited at best. Consider what God said in Isaiah 55:8–10:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. His thoughts and ways are higher than ours, and we must take great comfort in this. And for that reason, we must, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

We must trust him with all our heart because our understanding is flawed and there is no better guide or leader than him. Unless we do that, God’s tests and trials will lead us to bitterness, anger, frustration, and confusion, instead of a deeper trust in his faithfulness. Lord, we trust you.

Application Question: Have you ever experienced or witnessed a test that seemed illogical, at least at first? How can we trust God at those times?

To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Understand They Often Involve Our Greatest Treasures

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” (Genesis 22:1–2)

Next, we must notice that God’s test potentially involved Abraham’s greatest treasure—his only son. As a father, I can say that the most sensitive and vulnerable area in my life is my daughter. I remember when she was a toddler, I would often go to bed at night praying over her feet, toes, and head. I wanted God to protect every part of her body. I got scared when seeing doors. Just the reality that her finger could get caught in a door frightened me. It is very common for children to take this special place in a parent’s heart.

In fact, I cannot but wonder if Abraham’s affection for his son took a dangerous place in his heart. He wanted a child with Sarah, probably, ever since he was married. His previous name, Abram, meant “exalted father.” As he started to age, the snickers around him probably increased. His name meant exalted father, but he had no children. And for a time, after God named him “Abraham,” meaning “father of a nation,” at ninety-nine years old, maybe the snickers turned into roars. People probably said, “You’re changing your name to what? Why? Sarah, your wife is barren!”

Therefore, when God gave him a miracle child at the age of 100, maybe his affection grew too deep, bordering on idolatry. And the depth of his affection, no doubt, grew as he dealt with the pain of Ishmael’s leaving. Quite possibly, he dealt with his hurt by loving Isaac even more.

This is the reason that when we start following Christ, he calls us to hate our father, mother, wife, children, brother, sister, and even our own life to be his disciple (Luke 14:26). Our love for anything else, including family, must look like hate in comparison to our love for God. The greatest command is to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. God will not have any rivals for our love.

Perhaps, this is why God asked for his son. Maybe, his love progressed to the brink of idolatry. But, we must hear and understand that this is common for God’s test. God often tests us where our affections are strongest.

Do you find your identity in work, studies, hobbies, friends, family, or a significant other? Then have no doubt that is where God will test you. Where ever our heart is, God will test us.

When God tests our most vulnerable areas, the tests are meant to help loosen our grip on these things and make our hearts cling more to God.

Application Question: How should we respond to this reality of God testing us in the areas of our greatest treasures?

  1. It should deliver us from surprise when encountering such tests.
  2. It should warn us against idolizing anything.
  3. It should challenge us to make God our focus.

Are you guarding and protecting your heart (Prov 4:23)? God must always be first.

Application Question: What areas of your life are you most prone to idolize? How have you experienced God’s tests in your most sensitive areas, your treasures? How can we protect our hearts from loving gifts over the Giver?

To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Practice Immediate Obedience

Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. (Genesis 22:3)

Interpretation Question: What can we discern from the fact that in the morning Abraham got up, saddled the donkey, took two servants and Isaac, cut the wood, and then set out for the place God called him to?

After God spoke to Abraham, presumably at night, the narrator tells us that the next morning Abraham saddled the donkey, gathered two servants and Isaac, cut the wood, and set out for the place God called him to go. He immediately obeyed.

Now certainly this wasn’t easy. In fact, some commentators have noted the fact that Abraham saddled his donkey before he cut the wood, which doesn’t make any sense.2 Normally, one would cut the wood and then saddle the donkey. Maybe, he was a little disoriented after a night without sleep. However, he still immediately obeyed God. This must be true of us as well. We must practice immediate obedience when we encounter God’s tests.

Application Question: What happens if we practice delayed obedience or rebellion in response to God’s test?

When we do not practice immediate obedience, it opens the door for the enemy to tempt us. He will try to draw us into questioning God. He will lead us to depression, discouragement, and ultimately sin. To sin in God’s test only leads to repeating the test. Like Israel, we end up spending years going around the same mountain in the wilderness. To practice disobedience, only brings God’s discipline and a repetition of the test. In addition, the repeated test only gets harder because our hearts become even more attached to whatever sin we struggle with.

Application Question: What happens when we practice immediate obedience?

When practicing immediate obedience to God’s tests, instead of receiving his discipline, we experience God’s blessing. James 1:25 says, “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.”

The doer of God’s Word receives his blessings. God’s blessing may manifest as joy in the trial. While being disobedient in God’s tests, we often experience discouragement and depression (cf. Ps 32), but while being faithful, God enables us to find joy even in hard times. God’s blessing also gives us strength to persevere and be faithful. No doubt, Abraham experienced many of these blessings as he immediately obeyed God. If he had stayed at home and delayed obedience, the enemy of our souls and his would have tempted and tormented him.

Are you practicing immediate obedience in your trial? Or are you practicing procrastination and disobedience?

Application Question: Why is immediate obedience in trials so important? What are some of the consequences of delayed obedience or disobedience to God in trials?

To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Have the Right Attitude

On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” (Genesis 22:4–5)

The trip took about three days to get to the region of Moriah (v. 4), which is where Jerusalem is today.3 Many believe Abraham, his servants, and his son ascended Golgotha, the same mountain Christ was crucified on, outside the gate of Jerusalem.

When they saw the place in the distance, Abraham told his servants to stay while he and the boy went up the mountain to “worship.” What stands out about this is Abraham’s view of this test. He called the sacrifice of his son worship to God.

I don’t think Abraham was lying or being deceptive. It was indeed worship to God. He was on his way to sacrifice to the Lord, and he saw it as worship.

This must be true of us as well when going through God’s tests. We must see them as our reasonable worship. Romans 12:1 says: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Paul said that we should offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God, as an act of worship. Sacrifice is never easy. Sacrifice has the connotation of pain, and pain is not enjoyable. However, sacrifice can be worship to God if offered and given with the right attitude. And that is how Abraham saw his life and sacrifice, as worship to God.

The very reason many of us get angry at God, when going through trials, is because we see our life as worship to us. If a trial brings pain or discomfort, we get upset, because our lives are often more about ourselves than God. Our lives are about our success and happiness and anything that hinders those goals creates anger or animosity in us.

However, when we see our lives as sacrificial worship to God, it will change our response to tests and trials. Romans 5:3–4 says, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

We rejoice in trials because they ultimately lead us to hope in God. Trials take our hopes off our jobs, hobbies, family, friends, and dreams, and help us place our hopes, where they belong—with God. That is why going through tests and trials can cause rejoicing. It can only cause rejoicing when the purpose of our life is really God. We rejoice because trials help us ultimately know and trust God more.

Our attitude is very important in trials. If we have the wrong attitude, if we are complainers and whiners, then we will fail the test and bring God’s discipline on our lives. Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without complaining and arguing.” First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances because this is God’s will for our lives.”

When Israel complained while being tested in the wilderness, God disciplined them (1 Cor 10:10). The wilderness was not worship to them, because it took away their comfort. But if their true desire was to know and trust God more, the wilderness could have become their greatest joy.

Paul said this in 2 Corinthians 12:9–10:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul’s trials became the subject of his boast because it was when he was weak that Christ’s power rested on him. For Paul the tests were worship, as it was with Abraham. Tests drew them both closer to God which was their ultimate desire. This should be true for us as well.

What is your attitude while going through tests?

Application Question: What is your typical attitude when God’s tests you? How can we learn to be thankful instead of bitter in our tests?

To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Have Faith

On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. (Genesis 22:4–8)

Interpretation Question: Why did Abraham tell his servants that he and Isaac would go up the mountain and then come back? What was his reasoning?

We also must notice how Abraham not only shares that he and his son were going to worship but also that he said, “we will come back to you.” Now, was Abraham lying? We know Abraham had a tendency to stretch the truth. However, it seems Abraham was responding in faith. Hebrews 11:17–19 says:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.

The author of Hebrews says the reason Abraham offered his son was because he reasoned that God could raise the dead. When Abraham said, “we will come back to you,” it was because he believed that if he sacrificed his son, God would raise him from the dead. This was great faith, especially since up to this point in biblical history there were no previous resurrections.

Abraham throughout his journey learned that God was trustworthy and that he could not tell a lie. If God said it was through Isaac that his offspring would be reckoned, then it made sense that God would indeed raise him from the dead.

We also see his faith in how he responded to Isaac when asked about the lamb. Abraham responded, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (v. 8). Abraham didn’t exactly know how, but he knew that God would provide.

This must be true of us as well, when going through God’s test. We must have faith. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” In order to please God in a test, we must believe in him. We must believe in his goodness and his faithfulness to his people. We may not fully understand why or how, but we must trust him. The writer of Hebrews says that God rewards those who come to him with faith.

Are you trusting God in your trial? Faith is necessary to please God and to pass the test.

Application Question: Why should we trust God when going through trials? How can we increase our faith as we go through them?

To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Depend on Others

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. (Genesis 22:9–10)

When they reached the place God told Abraham to go, Abraham built an altar, arranged the wood on it, and then bound Isaac and placed him on the altar. The narrator mentions nothing about a struggle. Abraham was probably at least 116 years old at this time. We can guess this by the fact that the same Hebrew word for “boy” used of Isaac in this text was used of Ishmael in Genesis 21, who was sixteen at the time.4 Abraham was an old man. Isaac was stronger and faster at sixteen years old, and therefore, it would have been very difficult for Abraham to bind and place him on the altar without his cooperation.

The implication is that Isaac cooperated with Abraham. Maybe, while on top of the mountain, Abraham shared God’s command to sacrifice him and, at the same time, assured him of God’s faithfulness. No doubt, Abraham taught Isaac many times that a great nation would come through him, and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. It is clear that not only did Abraham have great faith, but so did his son.

With that said, one of the principles we can learn from this about passing God’s tests is that we will also commonly need the cooperation and support of other believers to pass God’s tests. The Christian life was never meant to be walked alone. We need brothers and sisters supporting us and helping us get through.

In fact, if God calls us to any great work or to go through any great test, one of the right answers to the test will be, “Phone a friend”—get help. Scripture teaches that as Christians we are part of the body of Christ. One person is the hand, another is an eye, another is the liver, and another is a leg. In order for me to accomplish anything with my body, I need the cooperation of other parts. My leg cannot function without my hip, knees, and muscles doing their part.

Is it any surprise that this reality also applies to us when going through tests? We need the wisdom, the insight, the prayers, and support of others to be faithful in tests. Consider what Paul said about him being a prisoner in Rome and his eventual deliverance in Philippians 1:19: “for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.”

Paul was convinced that the prayers of a tiny congregation in Philippi were enough to thwart the plans of the Roman Empire. That is how confident he was in their prayers. It also showed his dependence upon them to receive deliverance.

What are you seeking deliverance from? Is it unforgiveness, anger, discord, depression, or some other sin? You can be confident that much of the grace of God needed to pass that test will come through the body of Christ. If you neglect the body of Christ, if you are not integrated into the life of a church, you will find yourself spiritually impoverished and failing most tests you go through.

We need one another. In order for Abraham to offer his son in obedience to God, he needed his son’s cooperation and faith as well.

Application Question: In what ways have you received grace through God’s body to pass tests or trials? How has God revealed your need to depend on brothers and sisters in Christ?

To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Understand His Purpose of Revealing What Is in Our Hearts

Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:11–12)

As Abraham was about to slay his son, the angel of the Lord commanded him to not lay a hand on the boy. The angel of the Lord was a theophany—a temporary appearance of God in order to reveal himself to his people. Many believe this was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. The angel of the Lord said, “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (v. 12).

We can discern from the angel’s words one of God’s purposes in Abraham’s trial. It revealed what was in Abraham’s heart. He said, “Now I know that you fear God.” The test revealed that Abraham feared God even more than losing his son. He truly did hate his mother, father, wife, children, brother, sister and even his own life for the Lord’s sake (cf. Luke 14:26–27), as we each are called to do.

In the same way, one of God’s purposes in trials is to reveal what is in our hearts. Consider what Peter said to the Christians suffering in the Roman Empire in 1 Peter 1:6–7:

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Peter said the trials these Christians were encountering were to prove their faith genuine. The Greek word for “proved” was used of a metallurgist purifying or testing a metal to see if it was genuine.

Now the reality is that God doesn’t need to know what is in our hearts; we need to know what is in our hearts. God already knows everything.

For some professing Christians, trials essentially prove if God is their Lord at all. Remember in Matthew 13:21, the stony ground received the seed of the Word of God, but when trials came, the plant withered because it lacked deep roots. For many going through various trials with church, work, or family instead of drawing them to God, the trials push them away—never to return. They fall away proving that their faith was shallow and not genuine, as Christ taught. Maybe, it was more centered on the church rather than God, and therefore when the church failed them, they fell away. Or, following Christ was more focused on their prosperity, and therefore, when they experienced sickness or difficulty, they left God.

Trials come to reveal what is in our hearts. God said this to the Israelites while they were in the wilderness in Deuteronomy 8:2: “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”

God took them through the desert (or the wilderness) to test them and see what was in their hearts. As you know, while the Israelites were in the wilderness, trials revealed complaining, idol worship, sexual immorality, and rebellion. It revealed that “Egypt” was still in their hearts.

This is how many Christians are. When God brings them into a trial, it reveals that the world really rules their hearts. They complain, get drunk, commit sexual immorality, and rebel against authority, just like the Israelites did.

Sometimes people blame their actions on a certain situation or relationship; however, the blame is misdirected. They may say, “I only act this way when I’m around this person.” They say this to relieve blame from themselves. However, the situation or difficult person is really like a fire that brings all the impurities to the surface. It brings anger, lust, bitterness, and lack of faith; it shows what is already in the heart. The person or situation is not the cause—our heart is. The person or situation only revealed the sin already in our heart, which needed to be removed.

I remember stepping down from my pastoral ministry in Chicago and moving back to Texas with my parents, as I applied for new ministry positions. While waiting, I started struggling with my identity. I stepped down from my job in December and wasn’t hired to a new position until June. During that time, I realized that at some point while in ministry, I stopped seeing myself as, “God’s child.” I had become, “Pastor Greg, God’s child.” My identity started to come from my ministry position and not simply my identity in Christ. The trial of waiting revealed what was in my heart.

During that season of waiting, I really drew near God by being in his Word and prayer—to restore my identity as his child. Trials reveal what is in our hearts. That is part of the reason God allows them.

Again, for Abraham, the trial revealed that he feared God, even more than the loss of his son. What do your trials and tests reveal about your heart? Does it reveal anger, pride, lack of faith, or worldliness? Does “Egypt” come out of your heart, as it did with the Israelites while in the wilderness?

One of the reasons God allows tests and trials is to help us know our hearts, so we can repent and be transformed. In the midst of a test, it is good to pray, “Lord, what are you trying to show me about my heart, and how can I change?”

Application Question: What has God revealed about your heart through tests and trials? How has God called you to work on those issues?

To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Depend on God

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:13–14)

After the Lord stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son, God provided a ram to sacrifice instead. In response to this, Abraham named the place, “The LORD Will Provide,” Jehovah Jireh. Literally, it can be translated, “The Lord Will See to It.”5

To pass God’s tests not only do we need others’ cooperation and support, but we need God’s. God is the one who provides us with grace to make it through trials or to escape them. Remember 1 Corinthians 10:13 says,

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

With every trial or temptation, God always provides a way out or the ability to persevere through the trial.

It is for this reason that we must draw near God in trials (James 4:8). God provides wisdom, strength, and endurance for us to be faithful in it. James said that in every trial we should ask God for wisdom since he provides liberally (James 1:5). Again, Paul said this in Philippians 1:19, “for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.”

Not only was Paul confident of deliverance because of the saint’s prayers but the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Paul knew Christ was faithful. He would carry him through. And, Christ will do the same for us during trials. In fact, it is during trials that we will find his grace abundant. Paul said in his weakness, God’s power was made perfect (cf. 2 Cor 12:9).

One of the ways we depend on God and experience his grace in the trials is by abiding in him. Jesus said: “‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Whatever fruit needed to pass God’s test grows as we make our home in him. We abide in him through worship, prayer, time in the Word, and fellowship with saints. It was in the midst of Abraham’s worship that God provided a ram, and he will often do the same for us as well.

Are you bearing God’s fruit through abiding in him during trials? God is Jehovah Jireh—our Provider.

He will see to it. He will make sure we have everything needed.

Application Question: In what ways have you seen God miraculously meet your needs or provide grace for you in a trial? What do we have to do in order to receive his grace and provisions?

To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Understand His Purpose of Revealing More of Himself to Us

So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:14)

Not only must we notice that God met Abraham’s needs, but also that Abraham came to know God in a new and deeper way. This is the first time Abraham called God, Jehovah Jireh. As we walked through Abraham’s story, we saw God reveal himself in special ways through each test or trial. When God called Abraham to leave his family and home, he was YAHWEH the covenant God, in Genesis 12:1. When God empowered Abraham to defeat the four armies from the east, God revealed himself as his shield—his very great reward—in Genesis 15:1. In Genesis 17:1, when God told Abraham he was going to have a child in his old age through Sarah, he revealed himself as God Almighty, El Shaddai.

In each trial, we get to know God’s character and person more deeply. In many ways, it is like any close relationship. Our deepest and most intimate relationships typically are formed by going through hard times together. It is in those hard times, we learn to trust them more, and we learn more about their character. That is just what God desires to do with us through trials. He wants to reveal himself in a deeper and more intimate way.

How has God revealed himself to you in the past? Has he shown himself as YAHWEH—the God you are in covenant with? Has he revealed himself as El Shaddai—the God who does miracles? Has he revealed himself as Jehovah Jireh—the one who provides all your needs?

God has many names/character traits he wants to reveal to you. He wants to reveal that he is Jehovah Sabaoth, “The LORD of Hosts.” He is the Lord of the armies of heaven who fights your battles. He wants to reveal that he is Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals you. He wants to reveal that he is Jehovah Roi, the Shepherd who leads you. He wants to reveal that he is Jehovah Shalom, the Lord who gives you peace, even in the midst of storms.

That is one of the greatest things that God does in our lives through tests. He reveals more of who he is to us. Lord, make yourself known. We want to see your glory.

Application Question: What characteristic of God is he revealing to you at this stage of your life?

To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Focus on God’s Reward

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:15–18)

Observation Question: What blessings did God give Abraham after he passed the test?

After God provided the ram for Abraham to sacrifice, he pronounced a blessing on Abraham. He reassured Abraham of his promise to make his descendants like the stars in the sky and the sand of the seashore. But he also gave a further promise of the messiah coming through Abraham’s lineage. He said, “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me” (v. 18). In Galatians 3:16, Paul teaches that the word “offspring” is singular—referring to Christ.

The reward for being faithful in the test was reassurance and the privilege of the messiah coming through his lineage. It is no different for us. Faithfully navigating the trials of life opens the door for greater rewards from God. Understanding this, helps encourage us to be faithful.

After Job faithfully persevered through his trials, God rewarded him with a double blessing. Paul said this in 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 about the trials God allowed him and his associates to go through:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

God comforted them in their trials so that they could comfort those in “any trouble” with the comfort they received. When God comforts a believer in a trial, he enables them to comfort others going through various trials, not just the same one. Through trials God equips believers for ministry and expands their outreach.

Have you experienced this before? Sometimes God equips and expands our ministry through trials by giving us not only comfort but compassion. This happened to me. Before going through a battle with depression in college, I had problems crying. I had been hardened by life. But when God took me through a season of struggle, I began to weep—not only for myself, but for others. I began to develop empathy—I could feel the pain of others. He prepared me for ministry through struggle. He enabled me not just to feel but to comfort others with the comfort he gave me.

One of the greatest encouragements to pass God’s test is looking at his reward. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” There is reward on earth, as God matures us and opens doors for further ministry, but there is also great reward in heaven (cf. 2 Cor 4:17–18).

Application Question: In what ways have you experienced God’s reward by faithfully going through his tests? In what ways has he expanded your ministry and your ability to minister?

To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Seek to Magnify Christ

Observation Question: How does Isaac resemble Christ in this text?

As we consider this text, it is almost impossible to miss Isaac’s resemblance to Christ. We see this in many ways:

  1. Like Isaac, Jesus was the only begotten of the Father, whom the Father loved.
  2. Like Isaac, Jesus carried his cross up the hill to the place he would be sacrificed.
  3. Like Isaac, Jesus offered himself willingly. He said, “Father, take this cup from me, nevertheless your will be done.”
  4. Like Isaac, Jesus was crucified on a hill in Jerusalem.
  5. Like Isaac, Jesus was delivered from death on the third day.

The parallels are impossible to miss.

But the reality is this is God’s purpose in every trial and circumstance we encounter in life. Romans 8:28–29 says,

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

God works everything for the purpose of conforming us to Christ’s image and that includes both blessings and trials. They all are for the purpose of making us like Jesus. Therefore, our primary purpose in trials must be becoming like Christ. If we had this mindset in the midst of difficulty, instead of primarily seeking to lessen pain or embarrassment, then we would pass our tests.

It’s a lot easier to pass an exam or a paper if we know what the professor is looking for. God’s purpose in trials is to make us look just like himself. In this text, Abraham looks just like God the Father, and Isaac looks like Jesus the Son. Paul said this about his imprisonment and possible death sentence in Rome:

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20–21)

What was his expectation, his hope in his trial? It wasn’t to be delivered from death. That was not Paul’s focus. His focus was Christ being exalted in his body whether by life or death. If he lived, he wanted Christ exalted, and if he died, he wanted Christ exalted. That was all that mattered.

The word “exalted” can also be translated “magnified.” He wanted to display the magnificence of Christ in his trial. In the midst of his test, he wanted his body to be a theater where all could clearly see Christ.

Is that your desire when going through a trial or test? Is it that Christ be magnified, both so you could see him more clearly and others as well? Or is it simply to escape the trial? Resembling and glorifying Christ must be our goal in every aspect of life, including our trials.

And for that reason, while going through tests, we must ask ourselves and God, “How can I glorify Christ best?” This is something we must ask because that question leads us to the right answers to pass God’s test.

Application Question: How can we develop a mindset of seeking to glorify Christ in every test or trial? Why is this mindset so difficult to maintain?

Conclusion

How can we pass God’s tests?

  1. To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Expect Them
  2. To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Understand God Already Prepared Us
  3. To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Understand They Often Seem Illogical
  4. To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Understand They Often Involve Our Greatest Treasures
  5. To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Practice Immediate Obedience
  6. To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Have the Right Attitude
  7. To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Have Faith
  8. To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Depend on Others
  9. To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Understand His Purpose of Revealing What Is in Our Hearts
  10. To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Depend on God
  11. To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Understand His Purpose of Revealing More of Himself to Us
  12. To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Focus on God’s Reward
  13. To Pass God’s Tests, We Must Seek to Magnify Christ

Copyright © 2017 Gregory Brown

The primary Scriptures used are New International Version (1984) unless otherwise noted. Other versions include English Standard Version, New Living Translation, New American Standard Bible, and King James Version.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.


1 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (p. 301). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

2 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (p. 302). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

3 Guzik, David (2012-12-08). Genesis (Kindle Locations 3563–3564). Enduring Word Media. Kindle Edition.

4 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (p. 301). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

5 Wiersbe, W. W. (1991). Be Obedient (p. 110). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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Nature Of God Nature of God – Discovering His Presence

God is Love God is Wrathful God is Immutable God is Omniscient God is Omnipotent God is Holy God is Sovereign2

Nature Of God

Nature of God – Discovering His Presence
What’s the nature of God? Here’s my story…

It’s Friday morning and the sun is up. While others are rushing to their respective workplaces, I decide to go to a nearby park to unwind a little since my own job doesn’t starts until 10:00 P.M. (the graveyard shift in a call center).

As I sit, surrounded by green grass, shaded by the leaves of the trees, and look up at the wide blue sky, my heart smiles and I feel the joy of sensing the presence of an awesome God. Yes, an awesome God. I consider God awesome when I ponder the way He created all things visible and invisible, and especially the way He made us — humans. God created us in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26) and we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

Nature of God – Praising His Name
In nature, I sense the nature of God! With the chirping of birds, I am urged to sing songs of praise and worship for the Lord. As I worship God, He touches my heart and reveals Himself to me in a very special way – that is, in nature, our environment. Besides this pleasant park, that includes the forests and beaches, the sun that rises and sets everyday, the shining moon and twinkling stars at night, the rain — and a lot more. I realize now why I feel a different kind of intensity inside every time I gaze on those things.

Furthermore, I am also reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness in my life. “God is good, all the time. He puts a song of praise in this heart of mine. God is good all the time!” Ever heard of that song?

Nature of God – Understanding His Love
This is the very nature of God. He is so good that He cares for us and loves us unconditionally. How? What do you think? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is one of the most familiar Bible verses known to man, but do we really understand what it implies in our own life? Imagine if you yourself had only one son, a son you cared for and loved so much. Would you be willing to sacrifice your son’s life in order to save someone? Could you afford to risk his life for the sake of others? God could; that is why we have Jesus Christ. The book of John, chapter 14, verse 6, says that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.

In order for us to have an eternal life, all we have to do is receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, repent, and ask for forgiveness. It’s our choice. It’s the nature of God!

Praise Him More Now!

 WHAT DO YOU THINK? – We have all sinned and deserve God’s judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Bible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, “Jesus is Lord,” you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven.
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The Nature of God – The Absolute God – God is Love – God is Wrathful – God is Immutable – God is Omniscient – God is Omnipotent – God is Holy – God is Sovereign

God is Love God is Wrathful God is Immutable God is Omniscient God is Omnipotent God is Holy God is Sovereign

The Nature of God

 

The Absolute God

In writing this chapter, I stand on the shoulders of giants indeed. I gratefully acknowledge the tremendous help and influence that the writings of A. W. Pink, J. I. Packer, and Stephen Charnock have been over the years in helping me come to know and understand the Absolute God.

The deacon shifted uneasily in his seat–this interview was not going well at all. He eyed the gentle, but (as far as the deacon was concerned) obstinate middle-aged man seated across from him. He’d been all for Reverend Dodd coming here as pastor two years ago, and the church had nearly doubled in size since his arrival, but he could not stand the preacher’s teachings about the nature of God. Bro. Dodd’s version of God was even a bit scary to Deacon Smith! “Now look here, Reverend, I just can’t believe what you are saying! You are telling me that God’s plans cannot be thwarted, and that He controls all of the events of human history for His own purposes–is that fair? I’ve always thought of God as a gentleman, the kind of fellow that presents His case to you, and lets you work things out. He lets human beings work out the world their own way, except when He decides to intervene in some special case.”

The preacher removed his glasses, rubbed his eyes, and sighed deeply. “Where do you find that in the Bible, Smitty? God never claims to be fair–only just. Fairness is a human standard that changes as often as our perceptions change–God never changes, and His decrees are never altered. God is not, and cannot be, judged by any standard manufactured by men!” The preacher opened his Bible and read several verses out loud that spoke of God’s ruling the affairs of nations, and of His plan for redemption through the sacrifice of the Cross. “Smitty, was it fair for God to send His Son to die for us? Did God ever promise anywhere to take our thoughts, whims, and petty human pride into account in His eternal councils? No! Smitty, God is either absolute, or He is not God!”

The deacon closed his own Bible nervously. “Reverend, I’ve got to go. I, uh, have a business appointment across town.” Without any hesitation, before the pastor could suggest they pray, Deacon Smith got up to leave. At the door, he hesitated, turned, and said, “I’ll say this–you and I don’t worship the same God.” Pastor Dodd never saw Deacon Smith in church again; Smith would not return his calls. He heard some time later that the Smiths had moved their membership to a liberal Protestant church across town.

The story above is true, though the characters are composites. Some of the circumstances, and of course the names, have been changed, but that interview really happened to a preacher in the southern United States in the late 1970s. A prominent layman in an evangelical Baptist church, who had been in the church for many years, had a concept of God which was far removed from the Bible’s picture of Him. This man thought of God as a kind of cosmic grandfather, a good Joe, a fair businessman who minded his own affairs unless some extraordinary circumstance came along. Why, “Smitty’s” God would have felt right at home at the businessman’s luncheon club and on the links at Smitty’s country club. In short, Smitty’s God was a lot like Smitty!

Psalm 50:16-23 But to the wicked, God says: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you. When you see a thief, you join with him; you throw in your lot with adulterers. You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. You speak continually against your brother and slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face. “Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue: He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.” (NIV) (Emphasis Added)

What kind of God do you worship? Are you like “Smitty” in our story? Are you like Israel in the passage in Psalms–do you think God is like you? Do you think of God as an errand boy, a cosmic, doddering doting old Grandpa, a gentleman who wouldn’t hurt a flea. Does your God dismiss sin? Is your God at the mercy of Man or Nature? Is your God too small? Is he “Itsy-bitsy, teensy-weensy?”

Or do you worship the God of the Bible? Is your God the God of Joseph, Who turns the evil intent of wicked men to His own use? (Gen. 50:20) Do you worship the God of Job, Whose greatness caused that patriarch to abhor himself and be silent? (Job 42:1-6) Do you fall down in worship of the Holy, Holy, Holy, God of Isaiah? (Isa. 6:1-5) Do you realize that your life is ruled by the Sovereign Ruler and Omniscient God of Daniel? (Dan. 2:20-23, 27-28; 4:34-35) Do you trust in the God of the Psalms, who does as He pleases? (Psa 115:3; 135:6) Do you pray to the God of Abraham, who calls those things that are not as though they were? (Rom 4:17) Have you met the God of Paul, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords? (1 Tim. 6:14-16).

In this chapter, we look briefly at seven of the many attributes of God. They are certainly not His only attributes, but they are the ones this decadent age disregards the most. Not only are these attributes of God ignored in this era, they are hated and despised by many because of the vaunted independence and self-worship of modern man. The attributes of Sovereignty, Holiness, Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Immutability, Wrath, and Love, set God apart from the false Gods of pagans, and from the false Gods of “Christians” who as A.W. Pink has said, make up their own God out of their imaginations.

Attribute #1–God is Sovereign

God is Sovereign, that is, He is THE BOSS, period. God is subject to no one–no one can tell God what to do or judge His actions. (Rom 9:1-25; Psa 115:3; 135:6) The concept of a sovereign, that is, a ruler with absolute authority who answers to no one, is unfamiliar to most Americans. We may hear of a dictator or “strongman” who has sovereign-like powers, but that is a far cry from the classic definition of a sovereign. In history, a sovereign was a ruler who had absolute authority and who had the right to that authority, usually by heredity or conquest, but even the true sovereigns of history were only a pale reflection of the Sovereign Lord God.

A knife, a bullet, poison, a fever, or at last, time, unseated every sovereign that ever lived–except the eternal Sovereign who lives forever. Omnipotence, which we look at a few pages later, talks about God’s Power and Ability–Sovereignty expresses His authority by right. If we study in detail passages such as Isaiah 40 and Job 38-42, we find that God claims the right to rule based on His creatorship, His eternality, and His solitariness–there is no one like Him.

God defines what is right. If we do not like an action by God, or if we think God is not “fair,” that is irrelevant–whatever God says is right, is right–”Let God be true and every man a liar . . .” (Rom 3:4). Whatever God does, is, by definition, right. We do not have any basis upon which to challenge any action of His, because His is the only viewpoint that counts (Rom 9:11-21; Dan. 4:34-35).

God’s rulership is universal. It is not confined by time or place. God sovereignly rules the affairs of nations. He is not waiting to see what the latest political developments are going to be–he is arranging the circumstances of the universe to fit His purposes. He does not cause the sinful actions of men and nations in this, nor does He make people act like robots. Just how He rules is mysterious, but we know that He does it by intervention in history (Acts 17:26-27; Isa 46:9-11).

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. (NIV)

Psalm 135:6 The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. (NIV)

Attribute #2–God is Holy

Holy is a Bible term that means “set apart.” God is separate from all other things, and is 100% pure in everything. He is set apart because of who He is. His very nature and attributes set Him apart as unique from all else, and Holiness is, in a sense, His central attribute. Like the hub of a giant wheel, His Holiness defines the infinite degree of His other perfections. Is God sovereign? Yes, and He is perfectly so, infinitely so–He is set apart in the perfection of His sovereignty. Is God loving? Yes, and His love is perfect and completely surpasses any other love by any other creature. Is God omnipotent and omniscient? Yes, and His power and knowledge are infinite, again, setting Him apart from all His creatures. Revelation 15:4 says of God “. . . You alone are Holy.” Moses, in his song says “. . . Who among the ‘gods’ is like you, O LORD. . . majestic in Holiness.” Eternity will be a joyous celebration of the Holy God. We get a glimpse of the scene in heaven by the visions of Isaiah and the aged apostle John, as well as those of the book of Psalms:

Revelation 4:8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” (NIV)

Isaiah 6:1-3 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. (Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (NIV)

Psalm 99:9 Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy. (NIV)

Psalm 33:21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. (NIV)

Psalm 77:13 Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? (NIV)

Psalm 89:18 Indeed, our shield belongs to the LORD, our king to the Holy One of Israel. (NIV)

Psalm 105:3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. (NIV)

Psalm 145:21 My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever. (NIV)

Attribute #3–God is Omnipotent

God is all-powerful. The wags and lovers of arguments have much fun with this one, asking ridiculous questions like “If God is Omnipotent, can he make a mountain so big that He can’t lift it? If He can, then He isn’t all powerful, because He can’t lift it, and if He can’t, then He isn’t all-powerful because He can’t make the mountain so big He can’t lift it.” Of course, the answer is that the all-powerful God is infinite, and there is no limit to His infinity! The armchair “philosopher’s” question tries to impose on God a set of circumstances based on human logic and reason, like the false human standard of “fairness.” The fact is, whatever God wants to accomplish, He can accomplish! There is no limit to His might! Divine Sovereignty expresses God’s RIGHT to do whatever He pleases, Omnipotence expresses His ABILITY.

Isaiah 43:13 Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” (NIV)

Job 42:2 I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. (NIV)

Attribute #4–God is Omniscient

God knows everything. Again, our little minds have difficulty even fathoming the breadth and depth of that statement. God knows things that we cannot even conceive–He knows our thoughts, our sins, our innermost desires (Heb 4:13), and He knows our destiny. God is, says the Psalmist, of “infinite understanding” (Psalm 147:4-5) Nothing can be hidden from Him (Job 34:21-23).

God also has foreknowledge, which is a concept with two aspects, prescience and preaquaintanceship. Prescience refers to God’s knowledge of events, situations, and persons in general, before they happen or come into being.

Isaiah 42:9 See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you. (NIV)

Daniel 2:19-23, 27-28 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. (NIV)

Preacquaintanceship refers to God’s personal foreknowledge of His People. He knows them in an intimate, personal sense–He does not just know about them He knows them.

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. (NIV)

Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (NIV)

Romans 11:2-5 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah– how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. (NIV)

1 Peter 1:1-2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (NIV)

Attribute #5–God is Immutable

It is a constant with life–things change, people change. A man leaves the woman who has been his companion for many years–”people change,” he says. An executive who has worked faithfully for a company for 20 years is let go for no apparent reason, “times have changed,” says the person who fires her. Fashion changes, music changes, politics change–everything and everyone changes, except God. God does not change. He may differentiate His manifestations to men; He may reveal mysteries previously concealed (Eph 3:7-11); He may even speak anthropomorphically (that $100-dollar word means, “as if He were human,” when He speaks anthropomorphically, God uses human terms in order to be understood), but God does not change in His essence–He is eternally the same.

This also applies to the Son of God, the God-man Christ Jesus, and to the Spirit as well. But what about Christ becoming a man (see chapter 5)? Is this not a change? Not in the way that God defines a change (and His definition is the only one that counts). He did not change in His essence, only in the way He manifested Himself to mankind–He was the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” Job called God “my Redeemer,” many years before His incarnation (coming in the flesh).

Malachi 3:6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. (NIV)

James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (NIV)

Hebrews 1:10-12 He also says, “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” (NIV)

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (NIV)

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you, saying, `Destroy him!’ (NIV)

Attribute #6–God is Wrathful

This is a solemn topic for discussion, but one which we cannot avoid. The idea of an all-powerful Being Who gets mad is scary. We know that we are fallible; we know that we do things that are contrary to righteousness. The notion that we may have to answer for those faults, and worse, for specific sins, to a God Who possesses wrath is the stuff of which nightmares are made. On this topic, the author can think of no better commentary on the Wrath of God than that written by A. W. Pink:

“. . . that the wrath of God is a Divine perfection is plainly demonstrated by what we read in Psa 95:11 ‘unto whom I swear in My wrath.’ There are two occasions of God’s ‘swearing’: in making promises (Gen 22:16); and in pronouncing judgments (Deut 1:34 ff.) In the former, He swears in mercy to His children; in the latter, He swears to deprive a wicked generation of its murmuring and unbelief. An oath is for solemn confirmation (Heb 6:16). In Gen 22:16, God says, ‘By myself have I sworn. . . .’ In Psa 89:35, He declares, ‘Once have I sworn by my holiness.’ While in Psa 95:11, He affirms ‘I swear in my wrath.” Thus the great Jehovah Himself appeals to His ‘wrath’ as a perfection equal to His ‘holiness’; He swears by the one as much as by the other! Again, as in Christ ‘dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily’ (Col. 2:9), and as all the Divine perfections are illustriously displayed by Him (John 1:18), therefore do we read of ‘the wrath of the Lamb.’ (Rev 6:19).” (The Attributes of God)

The people who populate Modern Western civilization hate the concept of a God who possesses wrath. All people want to know about God (if, indeed they want to know anything at all) is about His love. Men create in their minds the concept of a God who is all love and nothing else–they make an idol in their heads. The Bible, however, is absolute about the fact that God is a God of wrath. As we will see in chapters 4 and 6, God’s wrath is the reason for the necessity of the Gospel (Rom 1:16-18)–atonement and salvation by grace are required because of God’s righteous wrath against sin. For the believer, deliverance from wrath is our great hope (1 Thess. 1:10), and God’s wrath is turned aside (propitiated) for believers by the Blood of Christ (Rom 3:25-26; 5:8-9). God’s wrath against sin and sinners is so great that He sent His Son to die in the place of those who were to be redeemed–no lesser sacrifice would do. If we deny wrath, we essentially deny the gospel.

Attribute #7–God is Love

Having just written that God is a God of wrath, we turn to the other side of the coin, and speak of His love. For many, it is contradictory to speak of God being wrathful and yet being a God of love, but the Bible is full of both concepts about Him. Again, A.W. Pink:

There are many today who talk about the love of God, who are total strangers to the God of love. The Divine love is commonly regarded as a species of amiable weakness, a sort of good-natured indulgence; it is reduced to a mere sickly sentiment, patterned after human emotion. Now the truth is that on this, as on everything else, our thoughts need to be formed and regulated by what is revealed thereon in Holy Scripture. (The Attributes of God)

The love of God is really more than just an attribute; it is part of His essence. In a general sense, God loves everyone (and everything) He has created. In John 3:16 “for God so loved the world,” the word for “world” is the Greek word, kosmos, which in a general sense, refers to the whole universe. For instance, God sends His rain upon the just and the unjust (Matt 5:45). Some measure of caring and protection extends to the race, except where God chooses not to mollify and restrain the natural effects of our sin and rebellion. But there is a distinction between His universal care for all creation and His special love for His People.

1 Timothy 4:10 (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. (NIV)

Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad–in order that God’s purpose in election might stand, not by works but by him who calls–she was told,

Romans 9:11-13 “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (NIV)

We do not deserve the love of God–it is unmerited and “uninfluenced”(Pink)–we cannot earn it. God exercises the expression of His love according to His sovereign will, not according to our actions, for as members of a rebel race, we really deserve nothing.

Deuteronomy 7:7-8 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (NIV)

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. (NIV)

The love of God is Eternal, like His immutability, it never wavers, changes, or dies. The supreme act of God’s great love was in sending His own Son to die in the place of condemned sinners. We cannot imagine the horror of Christ, the Son of God and God the Son, as He faced the cross–not the physical sufferings so much as the fact that He, the perfect, Holy, unblemished Son of God, would take the guilt of our sins upon His own shoulders and face the wrath of His own Father. Such love is unspeakable (see Chapter 5). Given this great sacrifice, this great love, this great condescension, nothing can separate a redeemed person from the love of God.

Jeremiah 31:3 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with lovingkindness. (NIV)

Ephesians 1:4-5 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– (NIV)

This is the doctrine of God’s Love–but there is more to it. I am not, by nature, an emotional man, but there is something about the love of God that raises passions from deep within my soul that defy description. I cannot conceive of One so loving that He would leave the glories of heaven, walk in my shoes for 30 years, and then die for me. I cannot imagine a Being so merciful that He would as the song says, “look beyond my fault and see my need.” The love of God is not some sickly sentimental thing that is like the cotton-candy love humans express to one another–it is not here today and gone tomorrow. If you grasp the scope and power of God’s Love, and know the eternal significance of His grace and mercy through the Cross (see Chapters 5 and 6), there is no force on earth, no tragedy of human life, and no sin in your own past that can take away the sweetness of His love or the joy of His fellowship. The love of God is a treasure beyond price for those who know Him. Many years ago, as a young believer, I wrote a lyric which describes the eternal, powerful Love of God;

Before the world was made, Jesus loved me.
Before creation’s day, He cared.
He knew my sin, He knew it all,
He knew that I would reject His call,
But He loved me, He saved me, He cared.

When I was lost in Sin, Jesus loved me.
When I profaned His name, He cared.
He bore my sin, He took my blame,
Wicked men brought him to shame (including me),
He loved me, He saved me, He cared.

When I refused to hear, Jesus loved me.
When I closed my ear, He cared.
He gently broke my wicked will,
His Spirit strove with me until
He found me He saved me, He cared.

These sentiments still pale beside the burning, passionate Light of His Presence–when the world has dealt us a blow, when all seems dark and we can see no light, it is then that the Lord Himself will impress on our minds and hearts the depth of His love. It is when we feel the utter joy of knowing that we are a soul set free by His sacrifice, and that nothing can keep us from His love that we can understand the utter awesome power of the words of Paul.

Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV)

Summary

This is the Absolute God of the Bible–He does as He pleases, he accomplishes what He sets out to do, no plan of His is thwarted by the whims and decisions of mankind. He is wrathful against our rebellion, yet loving beyond our imagination. In one of the most concise and profound statements ever written on the subject of The Absolute God, A W. Pink said:

“The ‘god’ of this twentieth century no more resembles the Supreme Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun. The ‘god’ who is now talked about in the average pulpit, spoken of in the ordinary Sunday School, mentioned in much of the religious literature of the day, and preached in most of the so-called Bible conferences, is the figment of human imagination, an invention of maudlin sentimentality. The heathen outside of the pale of Christendom form ‘gods’ out of wood and stone, while the millions of heathen inside Christendom manufacture a ‘god’ out of their own carnal mind. In reality, they are but atheists, for there is no other possible alternative between an absolutely supreme God, and no God at all. a ‘god’ whose will is resisted, whose designs are frustrated, whose purpose is checkmated, possesses no title to Deity, and so far from being a fit object of worship, merits naught but contempt.” (Attributes of God)

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The Trinity – STUDY OF THE TRINITY – JESUS IS LORD (YAHWEH) – EXTRA VERSES ON THE TRINITY IN PAUL’S WRITINGS – Trinity Defined

pray that today we would all know God better; in a way that is more robust and meaningful than at anytime in our lives. God is three co-equal and co-eternal persons; the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, known as the Trinity. May the eyes of our hearts be opened so we can understand His nature and character. Through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit I pray we would know the Farther.


Ephesians 1:1-2, “1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”


STUDY OF THE TRINITY

THE TRINITY DEFINED: The term itself simply means, “tri-unity or three-in-one,” God’s nature is composed of three separate co-eternal persons that share the same divine substance known as the Trinity. God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There are not three separate gods coming together to form one god (like multiple parts making one car) or three individual persons of god each having 1/3 of divinity and together making one god (like a three sliced pie).

There is only one being which is called God and He is triune in His nature. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are each fully divine and one in nature, yet separate in personality and function. Think of there being only one “what” and three “who’s.” For example, What is God? One divine all-powerful, all-knowing and ever-present being. Who is God? Three separate yet equal persons sharing the divine nature; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

THE THREE BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS FOR THE TRINITY:

  1. Foundation One: There is only one God worthy of worship who is all knowing, all powerful, and ever present, Isaiah 43:10.
  2. Foundation Two: Three divine persons claim to be God and act as one God- the Father, the Son (also known as the “Word” and “Jesus”), and the Holy Spirit, 2 Corinthians 13:14.
  3. Foundation Three: The three divine persons are equal in their nature as God, Matthew 28:19.

PAUL’S UNDERSTANDING OF THE TRINITY

(1) THE JEWISH SHEMA: Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Paul’s mind was impacted by the Jewish prophets but his heart was led by the Holy Spirit to interpret them in the New Covenant.

(2) GOD AND LORD: Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to separate the two terms “Lord/Yahweh” and “God/Elohim” in the Shema to describe the Father (God) and Son (Lord) both as divine.

  1. Ephesians 1:2, “2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
  2. 1 Corinthians 8:5-6, “5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”

(3) FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT: Notice in the following four passages from Ephesians Paul’s description of the Trinity working together in the believer’s life.

  1. Ephesians 1:17, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”
  2. Ephesians 2:18-22, “18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
  3. Ephesians 3:14-17, “14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love.”
  4. Ephesians 4:4-6, “4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

JESUS IS LORD (YAHWEH)

(1) Philippians 2:9-11, “9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

From, Isaiah 45:22-24, “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. 23 By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. 24 They will say of me, ‘In the LORD (Yahweh) alone are deliverance and strength.’” All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.”

(2) Romans 10:13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

From, Joel 2:32, “And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD (Yahweh) will be saved.”


JESUS IS GOD (ELOHIM)

Titus 2:13, “While we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Colossians 1:15-20, “15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Hebrews 1:8-9 (Psalm 45:6), “8 But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”


THE HOLY SPIRIT IS LORD

2 Corinthians 3:16-18, “16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”


EXTRA VERSES ON THE TRINITY IN PAUL’S WRITINGS

1 Corinthians 12:4-6, “4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”

Galatians 4:6, “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”


I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better! (Ephesians 1:17)

“Humanity was made to know divinity through the Trinity!”

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The Surprising Origins of the Trinity Doctrine

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

Most people assume that everything that bears the label “Christian” must have originated with Jesus Christ and His early followers. But this is definitely not the case. All we have to do is look at the words of Jesus Christ and His apostles to see that this is clearly not true.

The historical record shows that, just as Jesus and the New Testament writers foretold, various heretical ideas and teachers rose up from within the early Church and infiltrated it from without. Christ Himself warned His followers: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name . . . and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5).

You can read many similar warnings in other passages (such as Matthew 24:11; Acts 20:29-30; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; 2 Timothy 4:2-4; 2 Peter 2:1-2; 1 John 2:18-26; 1 John 4:1-3).

Barely two decades after Christ’s death and resurrection, the apostle Paul wrote that many believers were already “turning away . . . to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). He wrote that he was forced to contend with “false apostles, deceitful workers” who were fraudulently “transforming themselves into apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13). One of the major problems he had to deal with was “false brethren” (2 Corinthians 11:26).

By late in the first century, as we see from 3 John 9-10, conditions had grown so dire that false ministers openly refused to receive representatives of the apostle John and were excommunicating true Christians from the Church!

Of this troubling period Edward Gibbon, the famed historian, wrote in his classic work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire of a “dark cloud that hangs over the first age of the church” (1821, Vol. 2, p. 111).

It wasn’t long before true servants of God became a marginalized and scattered minority among those calling themselves Christian. A very different religion, now compromised with many concepts and practices rooted in ancient paganism (such mixing of religious beliefs being known as syncretism, common in the Roman Empire at the time), took hold and transformed the faith founded by Jesus Christ.

Historian Jesse Hurlbut says of this time of transformation: “We name the last generation of the first century, from 68 to 100 A.D., ‘The Age of Shadows,’ partly because the gloom of persecution was over the church, but more especially because of all the periods in the [church’s] history, it is the one about which we know the least. We have no longer the clear light of the Book of Acts to guide us; and no author of that age has filled the blank in the history . . .

“For fifty years after St. Paul’s life a curtain hangs over the church, through which we strive vainly to look; and when at last it rises, about 120 A.D. with the writings of the earliest church fathers, we find a church in many aspects very different from that in the days of St. Peter and St. Paul” ( The Story of the Christian Church, 1970, p. 33).

This “very different” church would grow in power and influence, and within a few short centuries would come to dominate even the mighty Roman Empire!

By the second century, faithful members of the Church, Christ’s “little flock” (Luke 12:32), had largely been scattered by waves of deadly persecution. They held firmly to the biblical truth about Jesus Christ and God the Father, though they were persecuted by the Roman authorities as well as those who professed Christianity but were in reality teaching “another Jesus” and a “different gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6-9).

Different ideas about Christ’s divinity lead to conflict

This was the setting in which the doctrine of the Trinity emerged. In those early decades after Jesus Christ’s ministry, death and resurrection, and spanning the next few centuries, various ideas sprang up as to His exact nature. Was He man? Was He God? Was He God appearing as a man? Was He an illusion? Was He a mere man who became God? Was He created by God the Father, or did He exist eternally with the Father?

All of these ideas had their proponents. The unity of belief of the original Church was lost as new beliefs, many borrowed or adapted from pagan religions, replaced the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.

Let us be clear that when it comes to the intellectual and theological debates in those early centuries that led to the formulation of the Trinity, the true Church was largely absent from the scene, having been driven underground.

For this reason, in that stormy period we often see debates not between truth and error, but between one error and a different error— a fact seldom recognized by many modern scholars yet critical for our understanding.

A classic example of this was the dispute over the nature of Christ that led the Roman emperor Constantine the Great to convene the Council of Nicaea (in modern-day western Turkey) in A.D. 325.

Constantine, although held by many to be the first “Christian” Roman Emperor, was actually a sun-worshiper who was only baptized on his deathbed. During his reign he had his eldest son and his wife murdered. He was also vehemently anti-Semitic, referring in one of his edicts to “the detestable Jewish crowd” and “the customs of these most wicked men”—customs that were in fact rooted in the Bible and practiced by Jesus and the apostles.

As emperor in a period of great tumult within the Roman Empire, Constantine was challenged with keeping the empire unified. He recognized the value of religion in uniting his empire. This was, in fact, one of his primary motivations in accepting and sanctioning the “Christian” religion (which, by this time, had drifted far from the teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles and was Christian in name only).

But now Constantine faced a new challenge. Religion researcher Karen Armstrong explains in A History of God that “one of the first problems that had to be solved was the doctrine of God . . . a new danger arose from within which split Christians into bitterly warring camps” (1993, p. 106).

Debate over the nature of God at the Council of Nicaea

Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea in the year 325 as much for political reasons—for unity in the empire—as religious ones. The primary issue at that time came to be known as the Arian controversy.

“In the hope of securing for his throne the support of the growing body of Christians he had shown them considerable favor and it was to his interest to have the church vigorous and united. The Arian controversy was threatening its unity and menacing its strength. He therefore undertook to put an end to the trouble. It was suggested to him, perhaps by the Spanish bishop Hosius, who was influential at court, that if a synod were to meet representing the whole church both east and west, it might be possible to restore harmony.

“Constantine himself of course neither knew nor cared anything about the matter in dispute but he was eager to bring the controversy to a close, and Hosius’ advice appealed to him as sound” (Arthur Cushman McGiffert, A History of Christian Thought, 1954, Vol. 1, p. 258).

Arius, a priest from Alexandria, Egypt, taught that Christ, because He was the Son of God, must have had a beginning and therefore was a special creation of God. Further, if Jesus was the Son, the Father of necessity must be older.

Opposing the teachings of Arius was Athanasius, a deacon also from Alexandria. His view was an early form of Trinitarianism wherein the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were one but at the same time distinct from each other.

The decision as to which view the church council would accept was to a large extent arbitrary. Karen Armstrong explains in A History of God: “When the bishops gathered at Nicaea on May 20, 325, to resolve the crisis, very few would have shared Athanasius’s view of Christ. Most held a position midway between Athanasius and Arius” (p. 110).

As emperor, Constantine was in the unusual position of deciding church doctrine even though he was not really a Christian. (The following year is when he had both his wife and son murdered, as previously mentioned).

Historian Henry Chadwick attests, “Constantine, like his father, worshipped the Unconquered Sun” ( The Early Church, 1993, p. 122). As to the emperor’s embrace of Christianity, Chadwick admits, “His conversion should not be interpreted as an inward experience of grace . . . It was a military matter. His comprehension of Christian doctrine was never very clear” (p. 125).

Chadwick does say that Constantine’s deathbed baptism itself “implies no doubt about his Christian belief,” it being common for rulers to put off baptism to avoid accountability for things like torture and executing criminals (p. 127). But this justification doesn’t really help the case for the emperor’s conversion being genuine.

Norbert Brox, a professor of church history, confirms that Constantine was never actually a converted Christian: “Constantine did not experience any conversion; there are no signs of a change of faith in him. He never said of himself that he had turned to another god . . . At the time when he turned to Christianity, for him this was Sol Invictus (the victorious sun god)” ( A Concise History of the Early Church, 1996, p. 48).

When it came to the Nicene Council, The Encyclopaedia Britannica states: “Constantine himself presided, actively guiding the discussions, and personally proposed . . . the crucial formula expressing the relation of Christ to God in the creed issued by the council . . . Overawed by the emperor, the bishops, with two exceptions only, signed the creed, many of them much against their inclination” (1971 edition, Vol. 6, “Constantine,” p. 386).

With the emperor’s approval, the Council rejected the minority view of Arius and, having nothing definitive with which to replace it, approved the view of Athanasius—also a minority view. The church was left in the odd position of officially supporting, from that point forward, the decision made at Nicaea to endorse a belief held by only a minority of those attending.

The groundwork for official acceptance of the Trinity was now laid—but it took more than three centuries after Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for this unbiblical teaching to emerge!

Nicene decision didn’t end the debate

The Council of Nicaea did not end the controversy. Karen Armstrong explains: “Athanasius managed to impose his theology on the delegates . . . with the emperor breathing down their necks . . .

“The show of agreement pleased Constantine, who had no understanding of the theological issues, but in fact there was no unanimity at Nicaea. After the council, the bishops went on teaching as they had before, and the Arian crisis continued for another sixty years. Arius and his followers fought back and managed to regain imperial favor. Athanasius was exiled no fewer than five times. It was very difficult to make his creed stick” (pp. 110-111).

The ongoing disagreements were at times violent and bloody. Of the aftermath of the Council of Nicaea, noted historian Will Durant writes, “Probably more Christians were slaughtered by Christians in these two years (342-3) than by all the persecutions of Christians by pagans in the history of Rome” ( The Story of Civilization, Vol. 4: The Age of Faith, 1950, p. 8). Atrociously, while claiming to be Christian many believers fought and slaughtered one another over their differing views of God!

Of the following decades, Professor Harold Brown, cited earlier, writes: “During the middle decades of this century, from 340 to 380, the history of doctrine looks more like the history of court and church intrigues and social unrest . . . The central doctrines hammered out in this period often appear to have been put through by intrigue or mob violence rather than by the common consent of Christendom led by the Holy Spirit” (p. 119).

Debate shifts to the nature of the Holy Spirit

Disagreements soon centered around another issue, the nature of the Holy Spirit. In that regard, the statement issued at the Council of Nicaea said simply, “We believe in the Holy Spirit.” This “seemed to have been added to Athanasius’s creed almost as an afterthought,” writes Karen Armstrong. “People were confused about the Holy Spirit. Was it simply a synonym for God or was it something more?” (p. 115).

Professor Ryrie, also cited earlier,writes, “In the second half of the fourth century, three theologians from the province of Cappadocia in eastern Asia Minor [today central Turkey] gave definitive shape to the doctrine of the Trinity” (p. 65). They proposed an idea that was a step beyond Athanasius’ view—that God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit were coequal and together in one being, yet also distinct from one another.

These men—Basil, bishop of Caesarea, his brother Gregory, bishop of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus—were all “trained in Greek philosophy” (Armstrong, p. 113), which no doubt affected their outlook and beliefs (see “Greek Philosophy’s Influence on the Trinity Doctrine,” beginning on page 14).

In their view, as Karen Armstrong explains, “the Trinity only made sense as a mystical or spiritual experience . . . It was not a logical or intellectual formulation but an imaginative paradigm that confounded reason. Gregory of Nazianzus made this clear when he explained that contemplation of the Three in One induced a profound and overwhelming emotion that confounded thought and intellectual clarity.

“ ‘No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the splendor of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish Three than I am carried back into the One. When I think of any of the Three, I think of him as the whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking escapes me’ ” (p. 117). Little wonder that, as Armstrong concludes, “For many Western Christians . . . the Trinity is simply baffling” (ibid.).

Ongoing disputes lead to the Council of Constantinople

In the year 381, 44 years after Constantine’s death, Emperor Theodosius the Great convened the Council of Constantinople (today Istanbul, Turkey) to resolve these disputes. Gregory of Nazianzus, recently appointed as archbishop of Constantinople, presided over the council and urged the adoption of his view of the Holy Spirit.

Historian Charles Freeman states: “Virtually nothing is known of the theological debates of the council of 381, but Gregory was certainly hoping to get some acceptance of his belief that the Spirit was consubstantial with the Father [meaning that the persons are of the same being, as substance in this context denotes individual quality].

“Whether he dealt with the matter clumsily or whether there was simply no chance of consensus, the ‘Macedonians,’ bishops who refused to accept the full divinity of the Holy Spirit, left the council . . . Typically, Gregory berated the bishops for preferring to have a majority rather than simply accepting ‘the Divine Word’ of the Trinity on his authority” ( A.D. 381: Heretics, Pagans and the Dawn of the Monotheistic State, 2008, p. 96).

Gregory soon became ill and had to withdraw from the council. Who would preside now? “So it was that one Nectarius, an elderly city senator who had been a popular prefect in the city as a result of his patronage of the games, but who was still not a baptized Christian, was selected . . . Nectarius appeared to know no theology, and he had to be initiated into the required faith before being baptized and consecrated” (Freeman, pp. 97-98).

Bizarrely, a man who up to this point wasn’t a Christian was appointed to preside over a major church council tasked with determining what it would teach regarding the nature of God!

The Trinity becomes official doctrine

The teaching of the three Cappadocian theologians “made it possible for the Council of Constantinople (381) to affirm the divinity of the Holy Spirit, which up to that point had nowhere been clearly stated, not even in Scripture” ( The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, “God,” p. 568).

The council adopted a statement that translates into English as, in part: “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages . . . And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets . . .” The statement also affirmed belief “in one holy, catholic [meaning in this context universal, whole or complete] and apostolic Church . . .”

With this declaration in 381, which would become known as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Trinity as generally understood today became the official belief and teaching concerning the nature of God.

Theology professor Richard Hanson observes that a result of the council’s decision “was to reduce the meanings of the word ‘God’ from a very large selection of alternatives to one only,” such that “when Western man today says ‘God’ he means the one, sole exclusive [Trinitarian] God and nothing else” ( Studies in Christian Antiquity, 1985,pp. 243-244).

Thus, Emperor Theodosius—who himself had been baptized only a year before convening the council—was, like Constantine nearly six decades earlier, instrumental in establishing major church doctrine. As historian Charles Freeman notes: “It is important to remember that Theodosius had no theological background of his own and that he put in place as dogma a formula containing intractable philosophical problems of which he would have been unaware. In effect, the emperor’s laws had silenced the debate when it was still unresolved” (p. 103).

Other beliefs about the nature of God banned

Now that a decision had been reached, Theodosius would tolerate no dissenting views. He issued his own edict that read: “We now order that all churches are to be handed over to the bishops who profess Father, Son and Holy Spirit of a single majesty, of the same glory, of one splendor, who establish no difference by sacrilegious separation, but (who affirm) the order of the Trinity by recognizing the Persons and uniting the Godhead” (quoted by Richard Rubenstein, When Jesus Became God, 1999, p. 223).

Another edict from Theodosius went further in demanding adherence to the new teaching: “Let us believe the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title of Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since, in our judgement, they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give their conventicles [assemblies] the name of churches.

“They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of the divine condemnation, and the second the punishment which our authority, in accordance with the will of Heaven, shall decide to inflict” (reproduced in Documents of the Christian Church, Henry Bettenson, editor, 1967, p. 22).

Thus we see that a teaching that was foreign to Jesus Christ, never taught by the apostles and unknown to the other biblical writers, was locked into place and the true biblical revelation about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit was locked out. Any who disagreed were, in accordance with the edicts of the emperor and church authorities, branded heretics and dealt with accordingly.

Trinity doctrine decided by trial and error

This unusual chain of events is why theology professors Anthony and Richard Hanson would summarize the story in their book Reasonable Belief: A Survey of the Christian Faith by noting that the adoption of the Trinity doctrine came as a result of “a process of theological exploration which lasted at least three hundred years . . . In fact it was a process of trial and error (almost of hit and miss), in which the error was by no means all confined to the unorthodox . . . It would be foolish to represent the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as having been achieved by any other way” (1980, p. 172).

They then conclude: “This was a long, confused, process whereby different schools of thought in the Church worked out for themselves, and then tried to impose on others, their answer to the question, ‘How divine is Jesus Christ?’ . . . If ever there was a controversy decided by the method of trial and error, it was this one” (p. 175).

Anglican churchman and Oxford University lecturer K.E. Kirk revealingly writes of the adoption of the doctrine of the Trinity: “The theological and philosophical vindication of the divinity of the Spirit begins in the fourth century; we naturally turn to the writers of that period to discover what grounds they have for their belief. To our surprise, we are forced to admit that they have none . . .

“This failure of Christian theology .   .   . to produce logical justification of the cardinal point in its trinitarian doctrine is of the greatest possible significance. We are forced, even before turning to the question of the vindication of the doctrine by experience, to ask ourselves whether theology or philosophy has ever produced any reasons why its belief should be Trinitarian” (“The Evolution of the Doctrine of the Trinity,” published in Essays on the Trinity and the Incarnation, A.E.J. Rawlinson, editor, 1928, pp. 221-222).

Why believe a teaching that isn’t biblical?

This, in brief, is the amazing story of how the doctrine of the Trinity came to be introduced—and how those who refused to accept it came to be branded as heretics or unbelievers.

But should we really base our view of God on a doctrine that isn’t spelled out in the Bible, that wasn’t formalized until three centuries after the time of Jesus Christ and the apostles, that was debated and argued for decades (not to mention for centuries since), that was imposed by religious councils presided over by novices or nonbelievers and that was “decided by the method of trial and error”?

Of course not. We should instead look to the Word of God—not to ideas of men—to see how our Creator reveals Himself!

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What Does Christianity Say About the Nature of God? Two Important Truths

The first year I decided to take a group of students to Utah to share the Gospel with Mormons, a parent of one of the students asked me why I would take such a trip: “Why would you want to strip someone of their faith in God and Jesus?” This question came at a pivotal time for me as a pastor. It caused me to ask myself the question: What is the difference between the Mormon God and the Christian God? Is the difference significant? Does it separate who is a Christian from who isn’t? As it turns out, the nature of Jesus, God the Father and Salvation are the core essentials distinguishing Christianity from other theistic faith systems. If you want to call yourself a Christian, you’ll need to embrace the definitions offered by Christianity. If you don’t you may still be a theist, but you won’t be a Christian theist.

While early Christians may have sometimes struggled to understand exactly what the scriptures taught about the nature of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, they eventually recognized something distinctive about the God described in the New Testament. The God of Christianity has a triune nature, and His character is reflected in His creation. The Bible teaches two truths: there is only one God, and God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are all that same God:

1. There Is Only One God
Both the New and Old Testament declare there is only one God. Not just one God for this universe, or many gods united in one purpose, but one God. Both Judaism and Christianity are clearly monotheistic.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Isaiah 43:10
“You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, In order that you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me.”

James 2:19
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

1 Corinthians 8:4, 6
Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one…yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

1 Timothy 2:5-6
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.

From these few verses, it is clear there is only one God according to Jewish and Christian theology. This is our starting point; this is where we begin. God is ONE.

2. Yet the Father, Son and Holy Ghost Are All God
But there is something else we see in the Scripture. The Bible teaches God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are all God. In fact, the Bible teaches all three of these divine persons are equally Divine. Let’s look at some of the ways the three persons share the exact same nature:

All Three Are the All-Powerful Creator (Omnipotent)
The first characteristic of deity (omnipotence) is possessed by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All three are described in the Bible as being the all-powerful Creator:

Father:
But now, O LORD, Thou art our Father, We are the clay, and Thou our potter; And all of us are the work of Thy hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

Son:
All things came into being by Him (Jesus, the Word), and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:3)

Holy Spirit:
“The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4)

All Three Are All-Knowing (Omniscient)
In addition to possessing the power to create, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all observed to be all-knowing according to Bible:

Father:
…in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. (1 John 3:20)

Son:
“Now we know that You (Jesus) know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.” (John 16:30)

Holy Spirit:
For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10)

All Three Are All-Present (Omnipresent)
While we assume this of the Father and the Holy Spirit, most people don’t realize the Scripture also describes the Son as having the ability to be everywhere at the same time (omnipresence):

Father:
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27)

Son:
“…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthews 28:20)

Holy Spirit:
Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Thy hand will lead me, And Thy right hand will lay hold of me. (Psalm 139:7-10)

All Three Are All-Loving (Omnibenevolent)
Another aspect of Godhood, the all-encompassing love of God, is also demonstrated equally by the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit:

Father:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Son:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25)

Holy Spirit:
Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me… (Romans 15:30-31)

All Three Are Called “God”
Now you are starting to see why we must conclude God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are all God. In fact, the Bible explicitly calls all three of them God:

Father:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:2)

Son:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Holy Spirit:
But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land? “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4)

To Deny the Trinity is to Deny Christianity
Even the earliest believers understood the importance of this truth (and apparent tension) in the nature of God. There is one God, and the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all God. This is clear in the Scripture, and while it may be mysterious to us, it is the objective claim of the Bible. The first Christians understood the importance of retaining this truth about God in order to retain the true identity of Jesus. When early Christians tried to maintain the oneness of God without regard to the Divine description of Jesus and the Holy Spirit as we’ve just described, they usually redefined (and mischaracterized) Jesus as a human, limited, or finite creature. But, if Jesus is not God in every sense of the word (as the Bible claims), then He does not have the power to save us on the Cross. If Jesus is not God Incarnate, then he simply cannot take our place and bestow upon us the righteousness of God. For this reason, the earliest leaders were very careful to describe the triune nature of God as seen in the Bible. They eventually described God as one in substance, essence or nature, while being distinctly but undividedly three in person. This was reflected in the early creeds, including the Athanasian Creed of the 4th Century:

“…we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal… And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.”

It’s interesting this creed (widely accepted and used in Western Christianity) affirms that without a proper understanding of the nature of the Trinity, one cannot even be saved. Augustine (the well respected and influential philosopher and theologian who became bishop of the North African City of Hippo Regius) agreed a proper understanding of the Trinity was critical to understanding Christianity and grasping the power and Salvation of God:

“And I would make this pious and safe agreement, in the presence of our Lord God, with all who read my writings, as well in all other cases as, above all, in the case of those which inquire into the unity of the Trinity, of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; because in no other subject is error more dangerous, or inquiry more laborious, or the discovery of truth more profitable.”(Augustine, On the Trinity 1:3:5)

Why is a proper understanding of the Trinity so important? Because all deviations from historical Trinitarianism have compromised the eternal, divine nature of Jesus. It’s that simple. Over the course of history, several groups have mischaracterized the Trinity and, therefore, mischaracterized the true nature of Jesus. The Early Church Councils corrected the errors of Adoptionism (2nd Century), Docetism (2nd Century), Monarchianism (2nd and 3rd Century), Sabellianism (3rd Century), Arianism (4th Century), and Socinianism (16th and 17th Century). In addition to these historic mischaracterizations of the triune nature of God, there are several current mischaracterizations, including the polytheism of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the denial of the Trinity present in many Unitarian groups, including the Christadelphians.

Christianity emphatically claims that God is TRIUNE in nature. Not polytheistic, but triune. It’s not about three gods (1+1+1=3); it’s about three distinct persons within the Godhead (1x1x1=1). Once someone moves from this description of God (one in substance but three in person, distinct but undivided), he or she has simply moved away from Orthodox Christianity. This belief may find a home in some other worldview, but is no longer a reflection of the Christian Worldview.

Is The Triune Nature of God Reflected In His Creation?
The concept of the Trinity is incredibly difficult to grasp. In large part, it is completely mysterious and impossible for us to understand or communicate thoroughly. But would you really expect anything less? Would you really think  God could be so easily grasped or described? Is it reasonable to expect limited creatures such as humans to be able to completely understand and render the nature of an incredibly vast and powerful Being? Perhaps this is why the triune nature of God is difficult to understand and a challenge to communicate to others. Many metaphors have been attempted over the years, but most are simply a poor reflection of the truth of God’s nature.

But there is some evidence for the triune nature of God in the world around us. If we look at the nature of our universe and our own bodies, we do see the fingerprints of a triune God. And that really should come as no surprise to us, given the fact God is the creator of everything, and His creation reflects His Nature:

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:27
And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

If God’s creation reflects His nature, we might expect to see this in the nature of the universe and the nature of human beings:

The Triune Nature of the Universe
Science tells us the universe in which we live is finite and had a single point of origin. Science continues to confirm the fact there was a point of Cosmological Singularity (often called the “Big Bang”). Scientists describe this event as the beginning of all space, time and matter. Science continues to divide and describe the physical universe in this triune manner. Is this simply evidence of the triune nature of its Creator? It’s interesting to note that each of these three properties of the universe are also triune within their own natures:

Space
Dimensions in space are typically measured in degrees of height, width and depth (spacially three dimensional)

Time
Time is typically understood as it relates to the past, present or the future (temporally three dimensional)

Matter
Matter is typically measured and divided into categories of solid, liquid and gas (categorically three dimensional)

The Triune Nature of Human Beings
In addition to God’s creation of space, time and manner, we need look no further than our own lives to see the nature of the Triune God evident within us. Each of us is comprised of a body, spirit and soul:

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 4:12-13
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Even though the concept of the Trinity is difficult to grasp in relationship to the Divine Nature of God, it appears to be clearly evident in the nature of God’s creation.

All worldviews have distinctive beliefs characterizing and distinguishing them from other ways of viewing the world. Christianity is no different. When it comes to the nature of God, trinitarianism is a Christian distinctive. It has been affirmed by believers over the centuries, not as a random construct, but as a true reflection of the Biblical teaching. The best and most reasonable way to interpret what the Bible teaches about the nature of God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is to conclude that God is one in essence and three in persons. As mysterious as this may be, it is the claim of Scripture. As exclusive as this claim may seem, it is the defining and distinctive teaching of the Bible. To reject the Trinity is to reject the clear teaching of the Scriptures. To deny the triune nature of God is to deny the claim of Christianity and to redefine oneself as something other than Christian.

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The Secret Things of God and the Revealed Things

Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

In this chapter God is reminding the people that they are in covenant with him. He is their God and they are his people, and that knowledge brings in its wake tremendous responsibilities. For example, he warns them about worshipping the gods of the other nations (v.18) and about persisting in doing things their own way (v.19). Such behaviour will bring disaster upon them. He tells them, ‘All the curses of God will fall upon you because you have received such blessings, and yet you’ve disdained the Lord. The whole land will become like Sodom and Gomorrah’ (v.23). There will be occasions when the people will cry out ‘Why? Why has the Lord done this?’ (v.24). The answer is plain; it is their disobedience. They have sowed a wind and hence they’ve reaped this whirlwind. The judgments of God are not a secret; they are no mystery. The warnings have been made spectacularly clear. In the great Day of Judgment lying before all of us no one will be perplexed. No one will say, ‘But we didn’t know.’ God has written the things of his law on the hearts of every man. But mysteries do abound. Why should this person fall away? Why should he or she embrace error? Why should this church collapse? Why should the Puritan movement become Unitarian? Why should suffering enter this life but not that life? We don’t know. Those questions have secret answers that belong today to the Lord our God.

However, we may not collapse in sorrow that God keeps things to himself. There is much glorious truth plainly revealed to us. The Lord Jesus has told us that it is life eternal to know the true God, and Jesus Christ whom God has sent. This knowledge of God is ours because God has chosen to reveal himself to us. God had drawn aside the veil which obscures his own glory. He has let us know something of the deepest intentions of his own heart and the innermost purposes of his mind. Not only is heaven a world of knowledge but the kingdom of God here below is a kingdom of knowledge. Now we know – through the prophets and through Jesus Christ the Son of God – that God has graciously given us a rich revelation, an unveiling and a disclosure of his character and nature, his achievements, his redemptive love to men and women, and his own purposes for this cosmos.

The revelation we have is in the Bible and it is one which is full of profundities. It plumbs the depths, and it reaches the heavens. It stretches the human intellect and in many ways it informs fully the human mind, and it informs it to the utmost of its capacity. Yet it is also possible to stand before that revelation and ask it questions which it is not in a position to answer. It is, on the one hand, a comprehensive revelation, adequate for all God’s purposes, adequate for our salvation and adequate for our being conformed to the image of Christ, and yet it is not an exhaustive revelation. It doesn’t tell us everything about God. It doesn’t answer even all those questions which we are able to formulate. And even as we say that we know that there must be many questions which we cannot even formulate. Now a great lesson stands behind this text. It tells us above all that we men and women possess a true and reliable divine revelation, and that it is an adequate revelation for all we need during our lives. We know that the wages of sin is death. We know that the Bible can fully equip us for all the good works we are required to do during our lives. Yet Moses also tells us that that revelation from God has its limitations; there are secret things that God chooses not to reveal to us now, either temporarily, until the new heavens and earth or perhaps for eternity. Let me remind you of the secret things which belong to the Lord. Knowing about them will save us from worry, frustration and needless speculation.

1. HOW EVIL COULD HAVE ORIGINATED IS HIDDEN FROM US

i] No answer is given in Scripture to the question of how sin originated. It began in heaven, in the heart of Satan, and he was an angel created by God, of superhuman moral and spiritual strength. Yet, at the heart of that perfection sin began. The Lord Christ was there. He was a witness of the rebellion; he was the Judge that condemned the rebel angels to be cast out of heaven and reserved in everlasting darkness for the day of judgment, but he said nothing about it when he was on earth. In none of the four gospel does he make any reference to the event.

Yet every metaphysician, and every amateur theologian, and every thinking Christian student is going to ask, ‘Why?’ How was it possible for such an angel to sin? How could sin begin in heaven? How could it begin among the sons of God – those great and glorious beings? How? It is utterly irrational; it is anomalous; there is no coherence in this fact at all. It came from nowhere. It has no logic. It makes no sense. It is a black hole, and the Lord Jesus was silent about it. We do not know how it could happen. Certainly it was not because of anything God did or failed to do. Elihu says, ‘Far be it from God that he should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that he should do wrong’ (Job 34:10).

ii] Or again, how did sin come into the human race? It came into the Garden of Eden. It began in the heart of Eve and then speedily in the heart of Adam also. They were perfectly upright; they were made in the image of God, temptation-proof in theory. Everyone seeing them on that fateful day when Satan came in the form of a serpent and began to speak to Eve would have said, ‘It’s O.K. they will never sin.’ We all would have said that. The angels looking down from heaven would have said that. They were so pure, godly, biased in favour of holiness, contented, blessed, deeply in love with God. They were a pure and blessed couple. When God looked at them he saw a flawless image of himself. ‘They will never listen to a talking Serpent and defy the glorious loving God.’

But he came and began to talk to Eve, asking her a few direct questions, and in less than five minutes her resistance and the resistance of her husband was broken, and sin began in our world, in the Garden of Eden, in the heart of spotless purity which God had created in that context. How could it have happened? Certainly it was not because of God. Moses says, ‘His work is perfect; for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he’ (Deut. 32:4).

iii] Or again, why do you, a justified, pardoned, adopted child of God, living your life in union with Jesus Christ, sin? You are a new creation; you have a new heart; you have limitless access to an indwelling Saviour; greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world and you sin. Here is something equally astonishing; it defies logic; it defies explanation, but isn’t it the case than everyone thinks that sin in the Christian is the most understandable, explicable action, that we all do it, and we shrug . . . Yet the whole thing is monstrous. Remember how John starts the second chapter of his letter, ‘My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.’ He is writing to men full of the Holy Spirit, indwelt by God, seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, partakers of the divine nature, and they could be sinning people! It is utterly unthinkable. What is fornication? Paul tells the Corinthian congregation that it is to take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot. How shocking! And we need in moments of temptation to bring this fact powerfully to our own consciences – as Joseph did in Potiphar’s house: ‘How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?’ (Gen. 39:9). This is written for us, so that we will not sin. We would be doing the unimaginable, the absurd, the impossible, the thing that cannot be when we sin. There is no explanation for the origin of sin in heaven, or sin in Eden, or sin in my life. We often bear testimony to our sense of shock at such sin as we say to one another, ‘he’s the last person we’d imagine sinning like that . . .’ Let us vow to be the very last person to sin.

2. WHY OUR LIVES SHOULD EXPERIENCE GRIEF IS HIDDEN FROM US

There are Christians here who are asking ‘Why?’ They have been walking through a dark valley. They have fallen into a fearful pit. They are being overwhelmed with trials and tribulations and they are not coping very well with them, but they are coping much better than I would if I were experiencing the pain of their providences. I am thinking of child abduction, a car accident, cancer, a genetic illness, a birth deformity, the violence of wicked men, war and religious persecution, the death of our loved ones. Months of anguish, years of crippling weakness, long times of crushing, loneliness and despondency. We have read of the difficulties that some eminent servants of God have passed through. Consider the two major traumas that Horatio Spafford passed through. The first was the great Chicago fire of October 1871 which ruined him financially, and shortly after, when crossing the Atlantic, all four of his daughters died when the ship they were sailing on collided with another ship. His wife Anna survived and sent him a telegram with two words on it, ‘Saved alone.’ Several weeks later he sailed across the Atlantic and on that voyage wrote his famous hymn,

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
and sorrows like sea-billows roll,
Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Most of us have heard of that grief, and other similar difficulties that eminent servants of God have passed through. We have listened to older Christians mentioning the trials they have known, the struggles and falls, and we have wondered whether the Christian life could possibly be all that arduous.

There is another side to this, of course. There are great days and years, there are highs; there are mountain tops; there is joy unspeakable and full of glory. There is the possibility of being content always and in all things. There is melody in our hearts. We can say, ‘Every day will I bless Thee and I will praise Thy name for ever and ever.’ There is the promise God makes that his grace is sufficient for us, that his strength is most perfectly experienced when we have no strength ourselves and simply fall onto his outstretched arms.

I may not tell you from the day you become a Christian, ‘From now on everything’s coming up roses.’ I may not hide from you sober realities. Many a day the road is rough, and I know the paradox that it is rough by God’s own ordering: ‘For he commands and forth in haste the stormy tempest flies;’ that is how the psalmist saw it. We have known some stormy tempests in our congregations, and in our families and in our own personal lives. There are days when the church cries out (as the Old Testament church cried), ‘Can there be knowledge in God of things below?’ Does God know what he is doing? Is he aware of the pain of all this? Does he know of the shame that is being brought on the name of Christ? Where is there light in this darkness? There are humble believers today who are close to God and they are perplexed. They are holy men and women and their hearts are broken; their hopes are shattered, their worst fears realised; they are bruised and broken. They don’t know why God has done it this way, and we don’t know. It is a secret matter known only to God; it is past finding out, and we have to live our lives within the framework of that limitation. Often the Lord has to say to us what he said to Peter, ‘You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand’ (John 13:7). John Flavel famously said, ‘God’s providences, like the Hebrew letters, are to be read backwards.’ Certainly from the perspective of glory we shall understand our griefs. All things will become clear when we pass into the region of light.

Heaven is a world of knowledge. It is not a place of eternal perplexity. Now we see through a glass darkly but there we shall know to our eternal satisfaction why God has been dealing with us as he has. The voice of trust says, ‘Later I will understand.’

Blind unbelief is sure to err
and scan God’s work in vain.
God is his own interpreter
and he will make it plain.
(William Cowper)

This world is not in the grip of chance and fate or under the control of the devil. God has the whole wide world in his hands. When the tower of Siloam fell on 18 people and killed them some people were thinking that they were worse than the men in the tower who’d been spared. Some thought that that is why they had been killed, because they were particularly wicked. It was their karma. But Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you no! But unless you repent you too will all perish’ (Luke13:4). We do not know why some are struck down and others spared, but we do know this – that unless we show repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ we are all going to perish. Why particular Christians experience particular suffering we do not know. It is a secret thing belonging to the Lord.

I was listening to the testimony of Joni Eareckson Tada speaking of her initial suicidal despair when she realised as an 18 year old that she was paralyzed from the neck down for life. She longed for a friend to help her commit suicide, and then one day a fellow teenager came and sat with her. His name was Steve and later he went to the same theological seminary that I went to. She asked him why God had done this to her if God were all powerful and all loving. Imagine as a 19 year old being asked by a paralyzed, beautiful, despairing girl that question. But God helped Steve to answer her. He spoke to her of the cross of Calvary where the Son of God was nailed. He also couldn’t move. God allowed wicked men to do that to his Son, and out of it God brought deliverance and eternal life to billions. Steve planted those seeds in Joni’s anguished mind and said no more. God gave him that wisdom. We know, many years later, that out of Joni’s life multitudes have received hope and blessing. Her example and teaching have been life-transforming. But why her in particular? . . . why you in particular? . . . is a secret thing.

3. THE DATE OF THE SECOND COMING IS HIDDEN FROM US

We cannot know the time of the end of the world. It is a secret thing. It is not that our minds couldn’t cope with it. It is that God has deliberately kept that information to himself. The Lord Jesus himself has said, ‘No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’ (Mark 13:32). He has kept the knowledge of the times and seasons in his own power, and yet time and again the mind of the church, and the curiosity of God’s people has had the audacity to pit itself against that declared limit on the part of God’s revelation.

This year the peace of the evangelical church was shattered by the pronouncement of a 90 year old Californian named Harold Camping that on Saturday May 21st 2011 believers would be raptured to heaven and a giant earthquake would bring destruction to those left behind. Millions would die. Harold Camping is a well-known figure in America, the president of Family Radio International. He grew up in the Christian Reformed Church of Louis Berkhof. For years he has had a daily radio broadcast in which he answers listeners’ questions, and most of the time he gives good advice, but now for the second time he’d announced a date for the end of the world. Millions were spent on the publicity. One man, Robert Fitzpatrick, gave his life savings of $140,000 paying for adverts all over America. When I was travelling on the New York subway at the end of May, a week after the predicted event, I happened to sit under one of the adverts and saw people coming in looking at it and smiling at one another. People did not get married; they gave up their jobs, they did not have children, stopped paying their mortgages, went around the country driving vehicles announcing the end of the world on May 21, and the day came and went and life went on. Now Harold Camping announces that it is going to happen on October 21 – incidentally my mother’s birthday.

The Lord says, ‘nobody knows.’ It is past finding out. It is absolutely impossible for any sinner to announce that this date is the day of the return of the Lord of glory. We have to live with that limitation. We have to submit to it. The great argument of the New Testament with regard to that fact is that ‘in such an hour as you think not the Son of Man comes.’ Our preparedness and alertness is not a response to any definite knowledge of the time of his return; it is in fact a response to the total uncertainty of his return. You don’t know when he’s going to come, and because of that the church must keep itself in a state of constant preparedness. Our loins are girt about and our lamps are lit. We are ready for the appearing of the Bridegroom by being good and faithful servants regarding our families and children. Be wise and truthful with what God has entrusted to you. Our Lord desires fruitfulness and increase; this brings glory to God. Stay faithful to the Lord as your first love. Never be ashamed of his gospel. Stay devoted to him.

4. WHETHER GOD HAS CHOSEN US IN ETERNITY TO BE HIS CHILDREN IS HIDDEN FROM US UNTIL WE TRUST IN HIM

Some people get so perplexed over the question, ‘Am I elect? Has God chosen me? Am I numbered amongst that great company which is as vast as the grains of sand on a beach?’ Sometimes people have become very interested in the gospel and are on the threshold of faith pondering whether to follow Jesus and then they start to say, ‘But what if God has not chosen me? Have I got any right to come to Christ?’ They get tormented by this question, ‘Am I elect?’

There is no way before you put your trust in Jesus Christ that you or any single person can know whether he’s a believer, or that he’d been numbered amongst the elect. We cannot look into the Lamb’s Book of Life and see if our names are recorded there. It is a totally inaccessible list. We cannot look into the depths of the divine heart and see whether our names are written there in marks of indelible grace. To try to look for it is a futile undertaking. We don’t know if it is there before we come to Jesus Christ, and put our trust in him. We know in saving faith, because our faith in Christ alone is the sign of our election. Or we can say it like this, that Christ is a sign of our election. If I have Christ as my Lord and Saviour, if he is my teacher, my great High Priest and my Shepherd King then and only then will I know that I am elect. If I can say from my heart, ‘I am trusting Thee Lord Jesus, trusting only Thee,’ then I can know that God chose me from before the foundation of the world. That is the order you get at the opening of the letter to the Ephesians; first, ‘Paul to the faithful in Christ Jesus’ (v.1), that is, to those whose faith is in Christ Jesus: ‘he chose us in him before the creation of the world’ (v.4), that is, to the chosen ones. You trust and then you know that, wonder of wonders, he chose you in Christ before the creation of the world.

Let me ask you what is a sinner’s warrant to come right up to Jesus Christ and trust in him as Lord and Saviour? What right do we have to receive him as our God? Do we come because we know we are elect? Did any single soul come because he knew before his conversion that he was an elect person? No. He came because he was invited to come and commanded to come. He came because there is an universal offer of God in the gospel. We came because to every sinner of mankind ““ to every such soul – God says ‘Come!’ All of you labouring and heavy laden, all of you stand within the orbit of God’s offer of his Son to become your Saviour. It doesn’t matter who you are. We all have all kinds of disabilities and disadvantages. We all possess all kinds of excuses. We are so sinful. We are so hypocritical. We have all left it too late. We are so unconvinced and unprepared. We are different from other people. We are unusual people. We are all willing to find some point at which by our own uniqueness we are disqualified from coming to Christ.

We have no right before God to do that. We don’t know whether we are elect. No one knows whether he is elect, but we do know that we are bidden. We do know that God is beseeching us to come to Jesus Christ. The Lord has given all men a warrant to come to him. It’s in the invitation he makes to all who labour and are heavy laden. If today you are able to understand the most elementary invitation then you respond to it. When Daddy or Mummy says to you, ‘Come here for a moment my lovely girl,’ then you can understand what they are saying, and you should honour them by obeying. You go to them. You are only 3 years of age but you know what your parents are saying and you respond to that invitation. When you start to walk to them, then they don’t say, ‘What are you doing? Who gave you the right to come to me?’ They’d never say that would they? You’d rightly be so hurt if they said that, and you’d cry and protest, ‘. . . but you asked me to come to you. I am only obeying your invitation.’ So it is when Jesus says to you, ‘Come to me,’ then he is giving you the right to come, and he is urging on you the response of obedience. So if you are so old that you know that you are a sinner, then you need a Saviour from your sins, and that Saviour says to you, ‘Come to me and I will give you rest from your convicted conscience, and rest from the burden of your guilt, and rest from having to walk through life alone. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly of heart, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’

Maybe you have lived for long years right to old age without God, often hearing the gospel, and always saying no. I am saying that you still have the right to come to him. He has not taken it away. It is still a day of grace. His mandate, his invitation is still sincere. Come to him, just as you are. If you tarry till you’re better you will never come at all, not the righteous, sinners Jesus came to call.

I find it useful to distinguish between two great words, a Christ who is offered to all, and a salvation that is promised to believers. The two words are ‘offer’ and ‘promise.’ I do not promise salvation to everyone in this distinguished congregation today. I don’t say to every one of you, ‘I promise each one of you heaven and the fulness of joy at God’s right hand for evermore. I want to guarantee this for everyone here.’ I cannot preach that. I can say to every single one who trusts in Christ, ‘I promise you salvation. I guarantee you salvation. If you have mustard seed faith . . . if it is as fine as a spider’s thread, if it is lodged in Jesus, then I promise you that Jesus Christ keeps his word and that every one who believes in him will not perish but will have everlasting life. That is the guarantee of the gospel, no matter how immature, and how hesitant and how backslidden and inconsistent your faith might be. If it is there, and if it is in the Lord Jesus . . . if you say I shall live and die trusting in Jesus . . . then I promise you salvation.

But I don’t promise salvation to all. I offer salvation to all. I have good news for every sinner. I can go to the worst man in the town and I can say to him, ‘I have a Saviour here for you; I have a teacher who will tell you what you must do to be saved and how you should live; I have a great high priest whose atoning blood can make the foulest clean, who ever lives to make intercession for us; I have a Shepherd here who will guide and provide for you all through your life and will not leave you when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and he is for you. I offer this full salvation to you, from condemnation to glory, an infallible and effectual salvation, an utterly free salvation to be taken without money and without price, the free offer of this divine salvation accomplished by Jesus Christ, and it is here and it is being offered to you now and to every one here. I don’t know if you’re elect, and you don’t know if you’re elect, but you know that you are called by Jesus Christ to come to him. So often you’ve had the invitations of God’s gospel and that it is a sincere and unembarrassed divine offer to every single soul. God desires you to hear and believe it and come to his Son. In that offer there is no more to find out. There is no small print that says only for those who have the tingle factor, only those who know they are elect. No. There is nothing at all like that. Then don’t let’s trifle with our soul’s salvation over the decree of election. Such a decree exists but you may not wrest it to your own destruction by demanding from God that you know first of all that he has chosen you before you will trust in his Son, because no one has ever known whether or not they are elect before they trust in Christ. Not one. What we know is this, that at this moment God’s desire is that you become his child, that you become saved from sin through the cross of his Son.

We know that we are called by God to come to Jesus, and we know that God is calling us to him now. There is nothing secret about that; it is revealed to us and to our children that we come to the Saviour as he pleads with us to come. We drop every argument now for our refusal to come, and we come just as we are. You come to him now. Every one here who is not a Christian (and you know who you are) and you come to Jesus Christ and be saved.

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God’s Word Declared and Preached with Fire

God’s Word Declared

“What I have spoken does not come from myself; no, what I was to say, what I had to speak, was commanded by the Father who sent me,
and I know that his commands mean eternal life.
And therefore what the Father has told me is what I speak.”
Jn.12:48-50

_____________

When given the option, the Jews clung to the Bible and rejected the Gospel. So that Christians would not do the same, the Apostles rescinded the Torah, releasing us from every rule in the Old Testament. (Acts 15: 5-29).

They did this so that we would understand that Jesus was greater than the Bible. Seemingly a paradox, this truth is so fundamental to our understanding of God that it should be headlined in the largest print.

We say that the Bible is the word of God, and it is. But, as the Apostles have borne witness, not all the words in this sacred book share the same divinity or authority. Jesus Christ is greater by far than the Old Testament which predicted Him.

Most of the Bible is made up of words inspired by God, not His own personal Testimony. There is an enormous difference between the two, because one has power to save us from death and the other does not.

The fundamental difference separating Jesus Christ from the rest of scripture is the supreme authority of Christ’s Gospel. The words He spoke come directly from the mouth of God (Jn.12:48-50).

Jesus is God’s voice on earth. His words come straight from the throne of heaven. Jesus in fact, is God — a fact proved by the Trinity. This revelation is unique. Nothing like it has ever happened in the history of religion.

The Gospel He preached not only tells us in clear detail what God expects of us, it is the key that opens the door to the hidden secrets that lie buried behind every mysterious word written in the Bible.

Without His words (without the Gospel of Christ) scripture would lead nowhere. It would remain divinely and impenetrably sealed — it’s buried truths hidden in God’s concealed language.

The Bible was sealed in divine metaphore. The Torah’s didactic statements all had deeper meanings — meanings that revolved not around themselves, but around the divine righteousness of the Gospel Jesus was sent to preach. “I want mercy, not sacrifice.”

His revelation of scripture’s symbolism put Jesus in direct conflict with those who held that the teachings of the Old Testament were absolute and needed to be accepted literally and followed exactly as they were written.

Because obsession with these rules was so pervasive and so compelling (even among early Christians), reforming the ritual of the Old Testament became one of the earliest priorities of God.

When the Apostles gathered in Jerusalem to decide this matter, there was much disagreement among them as to how much of the Torah should be retained and how much discarded.

Moved by the Holy Spirit, Peter stood up before the assembly and argued, “God, who can read everyone’s heart, showed his approval of the pagans by giving them the same Holy Spirit he gave to us. It would only provoke God’s anger now, if we were to impose on them the very burden of the Law that neither we nor our ancestors were strong enough to support. Remember, we believe that we are saved in the same way as they are: through the grace of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 15:8-11).

This statement silenced the discord.

In one of the most momentous decisions in the history of the Christian Church, the Jerusalem assembly then decreed: “It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right.” (Acts 15:29).

With this decree, the Apostles in Jerusalem severed the Church from its bondage to the rules of the Torah so that Christians could live their lives in the mercy and justice of Jesus without having to struggle with the voluminous decrees of the Law of Moses.

When this meeting ended, only the template of the Torah and the symbolism it advertised remained in place. The Laws and rituals of the Old Testament were all discarded. These were replaced almost entirely by the commandments of the Gospel and the directives of a ‘new’ Testament which had begun to be penned around the letters of Paul.

Despite authorizing this freedom, Jesus predicted that obsession with the Law would continue long after he was gone. “Beware of men…” (Mt.10:17). The ministers, he said, would keep trying to promote their own traditions despite everything He warned about.

This we have seen for ourselves. There has been no end to the stream of religious potentates and prophets who have tried to tie us back in one way or another to the old rules and regulations of the Mosaic Law.

The importance of what happened that day in Jerusalem cannot be overstated. The religious freedom of the entire Christian Church occurred instantly the moment those council directives were approved. Who has power ever to overturn their decree?

The entire Apostolic body was there. All the elders of the Church were in attendance, the great and the small. In addition to Christ’s original twelve Apostles, Paul, Silas and Barnabus were present as well.

Of the council members, those who were of the Pharisitic party and had converted to Jesus, argued that the Laws of Moses should be incorporated into the rules of Christian doctrine.

There was a long discussion on the matter (Acts 15:6-7). When all the members of the gathered assembly had presented their views on the subject, and after Peter had made his own statement, James, the head of the Jerusalem church arose and said:

“My brothers, listen to me. Simeon has described how God first arranged to enlist a people for his name out of the pagans. This is entirely in harmony with the words of the prophets…I rule then, that instead of making things more difficult for the pagans who turn to God, we send them a letter telling them merely to abstain from anything polluted by idols, from fornication, and from the meat of strangled animals…” (Acts 15:13-20).

This directive immediately separated the Christian Church for all time from the rules and regulations of the Old Testament, and the body of believers who made this decree were so prestigious that no one could ever come later and overrule their decision.

While they kept intact the framework of the Law — all the prophecies and symbolism– the laws and traditions themselves were instantly erased. The freedom that resulted allowed the Church to build itself only in the directives of Christ.

While many of the commandments Jesus gave were pre-announced in the Old Testament through prophecy, they lay there among the myriad directions of a ritualistic Law, and so they remained undiscovered.

Because their eyes had been blinded by the elaborate rituals set up by the priests of Moses, no one knew what God really wanted in the way of worship.

The lords of the flock who had been chosen to lead the people of Israel to God, had led them away from the Ten Commandments — God’s own personal word — and toward solar pillars and animal sacrifices instead.

These leaders scoffed at the idea of loving enemies and fixed, instead, on a worldly morality which taught a harsh philosophy of revenge — an ‘eye for an eye’ and a ‘tooth for a tooth’ — in which forgiveness was seen as weakness, and the pursuit of money one of the highest virtues.

They taught a morality that ‘worked’ in this wicked world, and which therefore seemed right. But they were wrong. And so, according to Jesus, were parts of their sacred scrolls. These had been contaminated, said scripture, by ‘wormwood’.

Satan’s corruption, Jesus explained, had reached even into the Bible itself; bringing into it errors which He had to correct throughout His Gospel.

“You have learnt how it was said
(in the Bible)to our ancestors : You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man hurls an insult at his brother, he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man says to his brother, ‘You Fool!’ he will answer for it in hell fire…” (Mt.5:21:22-48).

“It has been said (by the Torah of Moses) ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal.’ But I say this to you…

“Again, you have learnt how it was said to our ancestors (in the Book of the Law): ‘You must not break your oath…’ But I say this to you…”

“You have learnt how it was said (in the Bible): ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth’ But I say this to you…

“You have learnt how it was said: ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say this to you…” (Mt.5:21:22-48).

Over and over again, Jesus altered the teachings of the Hebrew Old Testament. The Torah was not a book that could be taken literally. It was a book with flaws so serious that it thwarted all chance for eternal life.

Without the corrections and instruction of Jesus Christ, the bread offered in the name of Moses was useless as far as heavenly life was concerned. Of those who ate it, almost all died. (Jn.6:32-49).

Despite the fact that it had been built on divine inspiration, it only served to blind those who read it outside the instruction of the Gospel.

“Now I will give them wormwood for their food, and poisoned water to drink, since from the prophets of Jerusalem godlessness has spread throughout the land.” (Jer.23:15).

A bible with errors in it, though unthinkable to the scribes and priests of Jerusalem was foreseen by the prophets of ancient Israel. Jeremiah had predicted it over 2500 years ago: “How dare you say: ‘We are wise, and we possess the Law of God’ But look how it has been falsified by the lying pen of the scribes!” (Jer.8:8).

Because it is a blemished book, the Old Testament has no power of redemption. That is why the Book of Hebrews tells us that in the end, it will disappear entirely. (Heb.8:13).

The template of Moses has specified that redemption requires perfection. Since scripture assures us that God considered Jesus a perfect unblemished lamb, his words carry the same flawless nature.

His single purpose in coming to the earth was to give us God’s own words, infallible and pure from heaven.

If He came from the earth, his words would be blemished. “…Man cannot redeem himself or pay his ransom to God…it is beyond him.” (Ps.49:7-8).

But since He came down from heaven, His words carry heaven’s faultless perfection. “The word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).

We have already seen that salvation comes not from the Torah, but from Jesus Christ. Only the words which Jesus came down from heaven to say — the words revealed to us by the Holy Spirit in the Gospel — have the kind of power necessary to carry us alive through the fire into God’s heavenly kingdom.

This is why Jesus said that it is not the Bible that saves us, but only the words that He spoke. “You study the scriptures thinking that in them you have eternal life; now these same scriptures testify to me, and yet you refuse to come to me for life!” (Jn.5:39-40).

There is something in the Bible which is greater than the Bible.

“In the beginning was the Word
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.”
(Jn. 1:1).

Because God is word, the Gospel of Jesus — the truth of heaven — is an essential aspect of the Godhead itself and is therefore identical with God.

The opening words of John’s Gospel show that there is no way to separate the Gospel from the Godhead. It is synonymous with the Holy Spirit. This is verified by the fact that scripture reveals the Gospel and the Temple to be one and the same.

John saw in his vision that Jesus was himself both ‘Word’ and ‘Temple’. (Jn.1:1, Rv.21:22).

Correlating the design of God’s temple with the blueprint of the Gospel, Ezekiel said that the design of this temple was to be given to us, not just in words, but in writing as well — a writing that God expected us to put into practice:

“Son of man, describe this temple to the House of Israel to shame them out of their filthy practices. Let them draw up the plan, and, if they are ashamed of their behavior, show them the design and plan of the temple, its exits, and entrances, its shape, how all of it is arranged, the entire design and all its principles. ”

“Give them all this in writing so that they can see and take note of its design and the way it is all arranged and carry it out.” (Ez.43:10-12).

Ezekiel was not speaking on his own. Nor was he speaking about the Bible in general. The Spirit of God empowered Ezekiel to speak in the person of the ‘son of man’ — a designation signifying that he was previewing in Old Testament times, the coming of Jesus Christ.

In order to rebuild ourselves in Christ’s image — to rebuild the Temple — we must rebuild ourselves in the image of His word — we must remake ourselves according to the Gospel He preached.

The blueprint for rebuilding the ruins of Jerusalem, then, is the Word that Jesus taught. (Jn.12:47-50). The temple Ezekiel describes is God, and the blueprint for its design is the Gospel — the word in which all creation has its genesis.

A ‘Word’ that was written down just as Ezekiel foresaw.

“Now go and inscribe this on a tablet, write it in a book, that it may serve in the time to come as a witness forever.” (Is.30:8).

The voice we hear in this book is the voice of Jesus Christ. It is the same voice that spoke to Moses from the midst of the fire at Sinai. (Dt. 4:12). And it is the same voice that we can hear whenever we pick up the Gospel and read it’s words:

“The deaf that day will hear the words of a book and, after shadow and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see.” (Is.29:18). The eyes of the blind see and the ears of the deaf hear because they can read, and in that reading hear the words of God’s voice.

“You heard the sound of words but saw no shape, there was only a voice. And God revealed his covenant to you and commanded you to observe it…” (Dt.4:12-13).

These words were obviously meant for us, because, just as Moses declared, we see no shape or form either. None of us know what He really looked like. But the voice is there so clear that we are able to walk the earth with Him and listen to Him preach whenever we open the book and read what He said.

The Gospel that the Holy Spirit has placed in our scriptures is Divinity itself, and we must build our lives according to its holy design.

When we do, we create in heaven a spiritual structure — a holy Jerusalem built, not with bricks and stones, but with repentance and conversion into the righteousness of God’s holy Word.

Because it is the very substance of our salvation, Satan has launched an all-out assault on the Gospel’s credibility. And he has spread the seeds of this spiritual doubt deep into the framework of the Church.

This attack is why it is essential that we understand clearly the divine nature of the Gospel Jesus preached. It was for this purpose that God wrapped His word in the symbolism of bread.

Divine food was a central theme in the sacrificial rituals of Hebrew worship. It was to promote the image of Christ as divine food that the earliest liturgy of the Christian Church revolved around the meal of communion. Jesus commanded this liturgy and demanded its perpetuation. He did this to sustain for all time the image of a spiritual food that imparted eternal life.

Some see God’s meal as the bread of communion. Others see it as the Bible.

Yet the Gospel Jesus preached is greater than both.

Neither the Eucharist nor the Bible can, of themselves, produce everlasting life. Only the Gospel, when internalized into action, can produce the eternal life Jesus offered to the world.(John 8:51). It was to perpetuate this fact that Jesus initiated the communion meal. Symbolically, it united bread and word. The spiritual food of heaven is God’s word.

“My teaching is not from myself: it comes from the One who sent me; and if anyone is prepared to do his will, he will know whether my teaching is from God or whether my doctrine is my own.” (John 7:16-17).

“He who comes from heaven bears witness to the things he has seen and heard, even if his testimony is not accepted…since he whom God has sent speaks God’s own words…” (John 3:31-34). “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63).

“For what I have spoken does not come from myself; no, what I was to say, what I had to speak, was commanded by the Father who sent me, and I know that his commands mean eternal life.” (John 12:49-50).

Despite Christ’s forceful words to the contrary, many Christians today preach a faith independent of the Gospel’s commands.

Others claim that the church wrote the Gospel. They see an instrument formed by inspiration rather than a document containing God’s own commandments. It is in this line of thought that a spurious group called the ‘Jesus Seminar’ recently argued that Jesus actually spoke almost nothing the Gospel teaches.

These views only serve to denigrate the Gospel and to muddy the waters which Jesus made clear.

God could not depend on inspiration to get the job done correctly, so He eliminated the middlemen. Paul proved this when he said that even Christian inspiration could see into the world of God only dimly. Much of it, too, he predicted, would be proved wrong when Christ returns in his glory:

“If there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue forever; and knowledge — for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. For knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear.” (1 Cor.13:8-10).

Paul’s words prove that there is nothing in the Bible that is perfect except the words Jesus spoke. And that is the way it should be. Christ overpowers all things. All philosophies, all visions, all temples, all religions, and even all scripture.

In bringing to the world heaven’s perfect word, Jesus changed forever the way mankind worships God. Out went the inspirations of the past and in came the Testimony of God, sent from heaven and brought down to the earth by the One who was with God from the beginning.

Revealing that heavenly morality has little to do with the philosophies of men no matter how inspired or holy their words may appear to be, Jesus defined a new set of ground-rules for faith. One in which all ministers, all religions, all theologies, and even scripture itself, must take a back seat.

“Trust no more in man…” (Is. 2:22). “Do not put your trust in men in power, or in any mortal man — he cannot save, he yields his breath and goes back to the earth he came from…” (Ps.146:3-4).

“Alas for you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who are like whitewashed tombs tht look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption. In the same way you appear to people from the outside like good honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Mat.23:27-28).

“The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach…everything they do is done to attract attention…long tassels and robes…taking the place of honor at banquets…the front seats in the synagogues…being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.” (Mat.23:1-7).

With declarations like this, scripture testified both to the fallibility of the ministers and to the perfection of Christ. “It was neither messenger nor angel but his Presence that saved them.” (Is.63:9).

Jesus was more than a mortal man. He was God on earth in person. (Jn.14:9).

This is why the words of Jesus are different. “The fact is brothers, and I want you to realize this, the Good News I preached is not a human message that I was given by men, it is something I learnt only through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal.1:11-12).

There are thousands of human philosophies on earth, many of which seem quite inspired, but all of these are just opinions that have come swirling up from the dust.

They have no power to create a world or end a world, or to impart life or to tell us the truth about heaven — because God gave only one man on earth that power — the One who came down from heaven specifically for that purpose.

“He who is born of the earth is earthly himself and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven bears witness to the things he has seen and heard, even if his testimony is not accepted…since he whom God has sent speaks God’s own words…” (Jn.3:31-34).

“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.” (Jn.6:35).

The bread of Moses was not a bread of life. It did not come from heaven. “I tell you most solemnly, it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (Jn.6:26-27).

By referring to the Torah — the first five books of the Bible which Moses had authored — as bread, Jesus proved that in God’s eyes, religious teaching is spiritual food. Because it did not come from heaven, the food of Moses in scripture had no lasting value because it had no power over death.

“Do not work for food that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life, the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you, for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.” (Jn. 6:27).

Jesus defined the bread that lasts forever: “I have food to eat that you do not know about…my food is to do the will of the one who sent me, and to complete his work.” (Jn.4:32).

That same food will give us eternal life as well. “I tell you most solemnly, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” (Jn.8:51).

 

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Evolution and the Atonement of Jesus Christ

by Tim Chaffey

Recently, the BioLogos website hosted two articles from guest blogger Dr. Joseph Bankard as part of a series on “how to understand the atoning work of Christ in light of evolutionary science.” This series features writers who hold different opinions on the relationship between evolution and the atonement. Critiques of some of these posts are forthcoming. This article will summarize the main points in Dr. Bankard’s posts and then offer a critique of these points.

Bankard’s Claims

In his first post, Bankard explains his objections to the orthodox understanding of the atonement, known as the penal substitutionary atonement. This view states that Jesus died as our substitute on the Cross, appeasing the wrath of God against sin and satisfying the demands of God’s perfect justice.

Bankard argues that if the substitutionary atonement view is true then “God is either severely limited in power or unnecessarily cruel.”1 What is his rationale for this claim? If God can only forgive sin through blood and sacrifice, then He must be limited in power, and if God could forgive humanity in other ways but chooses the torture and death of His Son, then He seems to be quite cruel. Bankard goes one step further and states that he doesn’t think God willed the Cross because then God would have willed sinful actions. Instead, he says, Christ’s “crucifixion was the result of human sin.”

His second objection to the substitutionary atonement view is based squarely on his acceptance of molecules-to-man evolution. If humans evolved from primates, then the historicity of Adam and Eve is unlikely, meaning that they never brought humanity into a state of sin, which ultimately would be resolved by Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross. Bankard’s statement about evolution’s impact on the Cross perfectly illustrates what Answers in Genesis has constantly told Christian leaders.

Substitutionary atonement sees original sin as a major reason for Christ’s death. But macroevolution calls the Fall and the doctrine of original sin into question. Thus, evolution poses a significant challenge to substitutionary atonement.2

Bankard’s second article focuses on his view of the atonement, or rather the Incarnation. His view of the Cross is more about Jesus experiencing what it’s like to be human so that He can really connect with us. As such, his view of the Cross has little, if anything, to do with atoning for man’s sin. Instead of focusing on the Cross, Bankard focuses on Christ’s life, arguing that the primary reason Jesus came was to show us how to truly be human—to show us what kingdom living really looks like. This functional view of salvation is consistent with recent articles on the BioLogos website that redefine the image of God to fit with evolutionary ideas. See “Evolution and What the Image of God Is Not” and “What Is the Image of God?” for an evaluation of this notion.

Critique

Bankard’s posts contain numerous theological errors and logical fallacies. His belief in evolution has clouded his reading of Scripture. For example, he claims that problems with a literal reading of Genesis led him away from interpreting the Bible’s earliest chapters in a straightforward manner. However, these “problems” are easily addressed.

Problems in Genesis?

He stated that as a young adult he was “deeply troubled by the divergent creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2.” These chapters do not contradict each other; they complement one another. Genesis 1–2:4 provides a broad overview of the Creation Week, while Genesis 2 zooms in on events that occurred on Day Six.

Bankard wondered how the word day could really refer to a 24-hour time period. “How could there be a day before the sun was created?” However, the sun is not required to mark the passing of a 24-hour time period on Earth. We use the sun today to recognize the start and end of a day, but it certainly is not required for timekeeping. God created light on Day One, and it seems that the Earth was rotating as well since there was a period of darkness and a period of light—the first day.

The account of Cain is said to be even more problematic. Cain moved to the land of Nod after killing Abel. But this troubled Bankard, and he asked, “Where on earth did all the people in Nod come from?” The Bible does not say that there were already people in the land of Nod when Cain traveled there. He brought his wife with him, and then he built a city. Obviously, the original inhabitants of Nod and the city of Enoch were Cain’s descendants.

Evolution Drives Theology

The theological rationale in these articles leaves much to be desired. It does not follow that if God only forgives sin through blood and sacrifice that He must be limited in power. The truth is that Scripture plainly states that death is the penalty for sin. God told Adam that if he ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that he would surely die (Genesis 2:17). Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death.” This is why the solution to the problem of sin and death is the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Adam’s sin did not bring physical death into this world, then the physical death of Christ on the Cross and His physical, bodily Resurrection from the dead have no connection with sin. Far from being limited in power, God demonstrates His power over sin and death by raising His Son from the dead.

Yet Bankard, based on his understanding of the evolutionary origin of man, does not believe Adam and Eve ever existed,3 so death cannot be the penalty for sin. Death must have existed for hundreds of millions of years before the first humans evolved.

Through the death of the perfect Man, God’s perfect justice is satisfied since sin requires death.

It also does not follow that since He chose to send His Son to die for our sins that He must be unnecessarily cruel. This might be the case if God sent an unwilling and unqualified person to die on the Cross. We must remember that God is triune, that the Son is also God. God became a man, and He willingly chose to lay down His life for our sins. Our Creator and Judge became one of us and took upon Himself the sins of the world so that we could be reconciled to Him. Through the death of the perfect Man, God’s perfect justice is satisfied since sin requires death. “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21–22).

The penal substitutionary atonement view of Christ’s death has been widely accepted by Bible-believing Christians for centuries. As such, many may be surprised that numerous views of the atonement have existed throughout church history. For example, Irenaeus (c. 125–202) proposed the recapitulation theory, Augustine (354–430) held to the ransom theory, and Anselm (1033–1109) developed the necessary-satisfaction theory.

Space does not allow for an evaluation of each of these other positions, but two points can be made. First, while each of these views can find some support in Scripture, they are at odds with other portions of the text, and as such, they are insufficient explanations of the atonement. Second, these views were developed in an attempt to explain certain ideas found in the Bible.

Bankard’s position is different than these other views of the atonement in that he bases it on a concept found nowhere in Scripture (evolution) and uses that foreign concept to reinterpret the words of the Bible. Consider his own words describing his rationale in searching for an alternate view of the atonement.

In my estimation, substitutionary atonement does not fit well with the theory of evolution.4

If evolution is true, then the universe is very old, humans evolved from primates, and the historical accuracy (but not the truth) of the Genesis narratives is called into question.5

The substitutionary view argues that Jesus’ death redeems the sin committed by Adam and Eve in the garden. To adopt this view, one must read Genesis 1–3 more literally. At times, this kind of biblical hermeneutic may run counter to evolutionary theory. The view sketched above does not require a historical Adam and Eve or a traditional concept of original sin, making it more compatible with evolution.6

Commentary is hardly needed on these points since Bankard rightly states that evolution contradicts the historical accuracy of Genesis. He argues that if one interprets Genesis metaphorically or allegorically then one can still hold to the truth of the Genesis narratives. This would be accurate if Genesis were intended to be taken allegorically, but the biblical evidence against this notion is overwhelming. Jesus treated these early chapters as literal history, as did any author of Scripture who referred to them. For example, Paul built entire arguments on the truth that Adam’s sin brought death into the world (Romans 5:12–21; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22). Furthermore, Luke 3 lists the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam. But if Adam was not a real person, then how could Jesus be descended from him?

Denying God’s Plan

Throughout the articles, Bankard seems to conflate the atonement with the Incarnation. When he starts to speak of the atonement, he changes gears to discuss Christ’s life rather than His death. This is because he believes that we are saved by Christ’s life and the example He set—not by His atoning work at the Cross.

The most troubling aspect of Bankard’s article is his outright denial of Christ’s substitutionary atonement. In his second article, he attempts to explain that Jesus came not to die for man, but to experience life as a man. Throughout his post, he sets up the two ideas as though one must choose one view over another. He states that according to the substitutionary view, “God becomes human in the person of Jesus of Nazareth with the sole purpose of dying for humanity’s sin. But I argue that this view of the incarnation is somewhat limited. Jesus doesn’t become human to die. Jesus takes on flesh and bone to show us how to really live, how to be fully human.”7

By setting up the argument in this way, Bankard commits the logical fallacy of bifurcation (the either/or fallacy). He gives the reader the choice of only two options when at least one more is available. He misrepresents the substitutionary view by claiming that Christ’s death was the “sole purpose” for the incarnation. This is absolutely false, and it would be wrong for us to think that Jesus became a man for only one purpose. He came because God so loved the world (John 3:16). He came so that He could experience humanity and become our high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). He came to fulfill prophecy (Matthew 1:22–23). He came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). And yes, He most certainly came to die on the Cross (John 19:28–30).

Christ’s death was absolutely part of God’s divine plan.

Sadly, Bankard apparently denies the last statement above. He states that “Christ’s death was not part of God’s divine plan. It was the tragic result of human sin.” Besides another obvious bifurcation fallacy (Christ’s death was both part of God’s divine plan and the result of human sin), the Bible explicitly teaches in a number of ways that Christ’s death was absolutely part of God’s divine plan.

We are told in Revelation 13:8 that Jesus is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Messiah were part of God’s plan before He ever created us. He knew man would rebel, and He already knew how man would be redeemed. The Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would be killed, but not for Himself (Daniel 9:26; Isaiah 53:8–9). The psalmist even gave us a glimpse of the form of execution by which the Messiah would die (Psalm 22:14–18). Jesus told people several times that He was going to die (Matthew 12:39–40, 20:17–19; John 2:19, 12:32–33).

If these clear statements about the Messiah’s death were not enough, the Bible teaches us that the death of Jesus Christ was the only way for sinners to be saved. On the night that He was arrested, Jesus pleaded with the Father, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). Knowing all that was about to happen to Him, Jesus asked the Father to find a way other than the Cross to save sinners. Yet the fact that He still endured the Cross demonstrated that there could be no other way to save sinners.

Ironically, it is Bankard’s view that makes God unnecessarily cruel. If evolution were true, then God willed the deaths of trillions of creatures for millions of years. He also sent His Son to live on earth to show us the perfect example of humanity. But if the cross was not required to save sinners, then why did God permit Jesus to face such torture if it wasn’t even necessary? Was He powerless to stop it?

Finally, the Apostle Paul summarized the gospel message he preached.

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: the Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3–4, emphasis added)

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The message that saves souls is the message about the substitutionary death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

Answers in Genesis has repeatedly stated that salvation is not contingent upon one’s acceptance of the straightforward reading of the Creation account, since salvation is based on the atoning death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). However, we have also warned the church for over 20 years that the acceptance of the billions of years necessarily undermines crucial Christian doctrines, including the gospel message itself.

Dr. Bankard’s articles seek to find a new understanding of the Lord’s death in an evolutionary worldview, and this new understanding demonstrates the accuracy of our warnings. By elevating evolutionary beliefs about the past above the truth of Scripture, Dr. Bankard strays into error by denying key elements of Christ’s sacrifice and its purpose that are clearly spelled out in Scripture.

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What Is God’s Name in the Old Testament?

God was known by several names in the Old Testament. Which one is accurate?

Bodie Hodge, AiG–U.S., examines many of the different names referring to God in the Old Testament.

I am sometimes surprised at how easy it is to answer some alleged Bible contradictions. And this one is rather easy. Imagine if someone came up to me and said, “What is your name? Is it Bodie or Mr. Hodge?” Well the answer is simple: it is both.

Should we assume that God has only one name and all others are contradictions in Scripture? That would be absurd. God often gave new names to people, such as Jacob becoming Israel or Abram becoming Abraham and so on. The names have meaning too. For example, Abram means “exalted father” and Abraham means “the father of a multitude.” The latter name obviously reflected the promise God made to Abraham about having countless offspring. So having more than one name is no contradiction at all.

God often revealed things by the name He gave for Himself. For example, Jehovah-Jireh means “the Lord provides.” In fact, the name Jehovah is derived from YHWH, the name God revealed to Moses. It is from a root word translated as “I AM” in the title “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). This helps us understand that God is the ultimate authority in all matters at all times and existence is predicated upon Him. In fact, there are a number of names that God reveals to us in Scripture. Here are some from the Old Testament:

Some Old Testament Names of God (Not exhaustive)1

Name Brief meaning Reference
Elohim God (Majestic plural yet used with singular verbs for God) Genesis 1:1
El God (singular) Genesis 7:1
El Shaddai God is sufficient/almighty Genesis 17:1
El Elyon God Most High Deuteronomy 26:19
El Roi God sees Genesis 16:13
El Olam God everlasting Genesis 21:33
El Gibbor Mighty God Isaiah 9:6
Jehovah “I AM WHO I AM” or Yahweh or “to be”; In English Bibles translated as “Lord Genesis 2:4 (Jehovah Elohim specifically here)
Jehovah-Magen The Lord my shield Psalm 3:3
Jehovah-Tsaddiq The Lord is righteous 2 Chronicles 12:6
Jehovah-Jireh The Lord provides or the Lord sees Genesis 22:14
Jehovah-Rapha The Lord heals Exodus 15:26
Jehovah-Nissi The Lord is our banner Exodus 17:15
Jehovah-M’Kaddesh The Lord sanctifies Leviticus 20:7
Jehovah-Shalom The Lord is our peace Judges 6:24
Jehovah-Rohi The Lord is our shepherd Psalm 23:1
Jehovah-Shammah The Lord is there Ezekiel 48:35
Jehovah-Sabaoth Lord of hosts Isaiah 1:24
Jehovah-Tsidkenu The Lord is our righteousness Jeremiah 23:5
Jehovah-Hoseenu (Asah) The Lord our Maker Psalm 95:6
Judge (Shaphat) The Judge Genesis 18:25
Mighty One (Abir) Mighty One Genesis 49:24
Branch (Tsemach) The Branch Jeremiah 23:5
Holy One (Kadosh) Holy One 2 Kings 19:22
Jealous (Kanna) Jealous Exodus 34:14
Deliverer (Palet) or (Rhuomai Greek) Deliverer 2 Samuel 22:2 and Romans 11:26
Savior (Yeshua) Savior Isaiah 43:3
Redeemer (Ga’al) Redeemer Job 19:25
Shepherd (Ra’ah) The Shepherd, overseer Genesis 49:24
Stone (Eben) of Israel Stone Genesis 49:24
Strength (Eyaluwth) Strength Psalm 22:19
Adonai Master or Lord (as plural); in English Bibles translated as “Lord” Genesis 15:2
Rock (Tsur) of Israel Rock Isaiah 30:29
King (Melekh) King Isaiah 41:21 [of Israel]; Psalm 74:12
Father (Ab) or (Abba Greek) Father Malachi 1:6 and Galatians 4:6
First (Ri’shon) and Last (Acharon) or (Protos and Eschatos in Greek) First and Last Isaiah 48:12 and Revelation 1:11
Immanuel God with us Isaiah 7:14
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Is Jesus the Creator God? The deity of Christ

A Look at John 1:1–3

by Bodie Hodge

Abstract

Truly, the identity of Christ is of utmost importance. And yet, in today’s culture there are people teaching that Jesus was a created being.

Keywords: Jesus Christ, Creator, God, created being, atone, sin, faith, deity, Jehovah’s Witness, Kingdom Interlinear, Emphatic Diaglott, Islam, Ignatius

Is this even an important question? Absolutely! If Jesus is not God, and therefore the Creator, then He is a created being. If Jesus is created, then how could He have been an adequate sacrifice to atone for sins committed against an infinite God? Jesus must have been God to adequately atone for our sins, which bring upon us unlimited guilt and cause us to deserve an eternal hell.

But does it really matter whether or not we believe that Jesus is God? Yes! If one places faith in a false Christ, one that is not described in Scripture, then can this false Christ save them? Truly, the identity of Christ is of utmost importance. And yet, in today’s culture there are people teaching that Jesus was a created being. They are leading people astray.

What sets biblical Christianity apart from cults and other world religions? It is the person of Jesus Christ—who He is. In Islam, Jesus was a messenger of God, but not the Son of God. In many cults, the deity of Jesus Christ is negated, and in many world religions and personal views, Jesus is just another wise teacher. But the Bible says that all things were created by Him and for Him:

For by Him [Jesus] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16).1

Hebrews indicates that God calls Jesus, the Son, God:

But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions” (Hebrews 1:8–9).

We should expect Satan, the adversary of God and the father of lies, to advance many variants of the person of Jesus Christ. Satan would want all the false views to succeed in some measure to lead people away from the true Jesus.

One may recall the temptations of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11). The great deceiver even attempted to use Scripture to trick Jesus into sinning (Matthew 4:6). The tactic of the serpent in the garden was to deceive the woman by distorting the plain meaning of the Word of God (Genesis 3:1–6). Satan, through the serpent, quoted the words of God and abused their meaning. We must be aware of the devil’s devices (1 Corinthians 2:11).

John 1:1-3 and the deity of Christ

Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus Christ is not the Creator God but a lesser created angel (Michael2) who was termed “a god” by John in the New World Translation (the Jehovah’s Witnesses translation of the Bible). The NWT says:

In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in [the] beginning with God. All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence (John 1:1–3 NWT).

According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ theology, Jesus is a being that came into existence. But even their own translation says that apart from Jesus not even one thing came into existence. So then, did Jesus create himself? Of course that is a ridiculous proposition, but you see how Watchtower theology contradicts the Bible, even their New World Translation.

Another contradiction surfaces in such a theology: Jehovah’s Witnesses are firm that there is only one God.3 But they also admit that there is at least one other god, though not as powerful as Jehovah. Jehovah’s Witness literature states:

Jesus is spoken of in the Scriptures as “a god,” even as “Mighty God” (John 1:1; Isaiah 9:6). But nowhere is he spoken of as being Almighty, as Jehovah is.4

So even though Jehovah’s Witnesses say they believe in one God, they really can’t be called monotheists. If Jesus is not God himself, then there is a plurality of gods, assuming Jesus is to be considered “a god.”

Now let’s compare the New World Translation of John 1:1–3 to other translations:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (NKJV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (KJV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (NASB)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (ESV)

These translations show that the Word was God, not “a god.” Why such blatantly different translations and, accordingly, different theologies? One starts with the Bible; the other starts from a false theology and takes that view to the Bible.

The original passage was written in Koine Greek. Following is the Westcott and Hort Greek text (1881) for John 1:1-2:

1 εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος
2 ουτος ην εν αρχη προς τον θεον5

Elzevir’s Textus Receptus (1624) is identical:

1 εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος
2 ουτος ην εν αρχη προς τον θεον6

Even non-Greek scholars can use lexicons and other tools to show without much difficulty that an exact English translation is:

1. In beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and God was the Word
2. He was in beginning with God

The Latin Vulgate of Jerome in the 5th Century correctly translates John 1:1–2 into Latin:

1 in principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum
2 hoc erat in principio apud Deum7

Word-for-word translation:
1 in (in) principio (beginning) erat (was) Verbum (Word) et (And) Verbum (Word) erat (was) apud (with) Deum (God) et (and) Deus (God) erat (was) Verbum (Word)
2 hoc (He) erat (was) in (in) principio (Beginning) apud (with) Deum (God)

If God was the Word, as John 1:1 is literally translated, then it is no problem for the Word to have created all things. As God, He created. How could the Word be with God and God be the Word at the same time? The doctrine of the Trinity (One God, three Persons) is the solution here. The Word was with God (the Father) and God (the Son) was the Word. This understanding, consistent with the rest of Scripture, eliminates any contradiction of multiple gods. There is only one God, revealed in a plurality of Persons. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have a solution to that alleged contradiction.

The primary reason Jehovah’s Witnesses do not want John 1:1 translated accurately is due to influences outside the Bible. As the theological descendents of their founder Charles Russell, they arrive at the Bible with the preconceived notion that Jesus the Christ is not God. Therefore, when a passage that clearly contradicts their theology comes up, there are two options: change their belief to coincide with what the Bible teaches or change God’s Word to fit with their current theology. Sadly, they have opted to exalt their theology above Jehovah’s Word. So, who is really the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ final authority? It is no longer a perfect God and His Word but fallible, sinful men and their ideas about God.

Kingdom Interlinear and John 1:1

It is very interesting to see how the Jehovah’s Witnesses Greek-English Interlinear translation compares with the NWT and with more accurate translations. One Jehovah’s Witness said that their translation comes from an interlinear translation of the Westcott and Hort text and that the NWT is a good translation of it. But let’s check into the two primary interlinear translations appealed to by Jehovah’s Witnesses: the Kingdom Interlinear and the Emphatic Diaglott.

The Kingdom Interlinear8 says:

Kingdom Interlinear

Look carefully at John 1:1. The Interlinear doesn’t translate Theos (θεος) as “a god,” which is an unjustifiable change in the NWT (to the right of the interlinear above). Strangely the interlinear does not capitalize God the second time it occurs, though it does the first.

One possible reason they tried distinguishing this particular word for God is due to the spellings of Theos (God) in this passage (θεον, θεος) is due to variant endings. Another variant ending is commonly θεου.

In one case, all three variants for God are in one passage and translated as God:

2 Thessalonians 2:4
who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God (θεον) or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God (θεου) in the temple of God (θεον), showing himself that he is God (θεος).

There is really no obvious reason for the change to “a god” or a lower case “god” by the NWT or Kingdom Interlinear.

Emphatic Diaglott and John 1:1–3

The next interlinear to be checked was the Diaglott.9 It translates John 1:1–3 as:

Emphatic Diaglott

The interlinear this time incorrectly states that theos is “a god”, but the side translation disagrees and says the Logos was God, instead of “a god.” So again, there are mismatches that make no sense.

The Context of the Passage

Interestingly, in defending their translation of John 1:1, Jehovah’s Witnesses say:

Which translation of John 1:1, 2 agrees with the context? John 1:18 says: “No one has ever seen God.” Verse 14 clearly says that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…we have beheld his glory.” Also, verses 1, 2 say that in the beginning he was “with God.” Can one be with someone and at the same time be that person?10

Trying to appeal to context, the Jehovah’s Witnesses quote part of John 1:18 and John 1:14 while ignoring the teaching of verse 3 which shows Jesus made all things—no exceptions! We have already shown how Jesus can be with God and be God—it is through the concept of the Trinity.

Regardless, the context of the chapter should not be neglected. John 1:18 is referring to God the Father as the one no one has seen. Thus, in keeping with the context, we can interpret John 1:18 this way: No one has seen God the Father at any time; the only-begotten God, Jesus—He has revealed the Father. Anytime anyone has ever seen God, he has seen the Logos, the Son, since the Son is the Word—the revealer.

Expositor Dr. John Gill explains the reference to God:

That is, God the Father, whose voice was never heard, nor his shape seen by angels or men; for though Jacob, Moses, the elders of Israel, Manoah, and his wife, are said to see God, and Job expected to see him with his bodily eyes, and the saints will see him as he is, in which will lie their great happiness; yet all seems to be understood of the second person, who frequently appeared to the Old Testament saints, in an human form, and will be seen by the saints in heaven, in his real human nature; or of God in and by him: for the essence of God is invisible, and not to be seen with the eyes of the body; nor indeed with the eyes of the understanding, so as to comprehend it; nor immediately, but through, and by certain means: God is seen in the works of creation and providence, in the promises, and in his ordinances; but above all, in Christ the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person: this may chiefly intend here, man’s not knowing any thing of God in a spiritual and saving way, but in and by Christ11

So we understand that Jesus reveals God and exists as God at the same time. There is not a contradiction between John 1:1 and John 1:18. In fact, they are amazingly consistent!

Islamic Appeal to the NWT

Muslims also deny the deity of Christ, so John 1:1–3 is also a problem to Islam if taken as written. Muslim apologists have appealed to the NWT in an effort to reduce the deity of Jesus Christ:

“The Word” is only described as being “ton theos” (divine/a god) and not as being “ho theos” (The Divine/The God). A more faithful and correct translation of this verse would thus read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was divine” (If you read the New World Translation of the Bible you will find exactly this wording).12

Christian apologists have responded:

It should first be noted that all of known manuscripts and fragments of John’s gospel contains this passage without any variation. It should also be noted that John 1:1 was quoted on several occasions by early Christian theologians and Church Fathers. . . . Clearly, there is no “ton theos”, [sic] in this text as Al-Kadhi and Deedat claim. Both sentences have the phrase “ton theon”. “Ton theon” is used because it is the accusative case (the nominative case is “ho theos” = “the God”) In this [instance] we must use the accusative case, since the text uses the preposition “pros” which means “with” in this context.

Al-Kadhi and Deedat should know that the article “ho” (nominative case) and “ton” (accusative case) both translate as “the”. Incidentally, the Greek word for “divine” is “theios, theia, theion”, depending on the gender.13

But this lets us know how influential the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the NWT are. The NWT is being used in Islam to take people away from Jesus Christ.

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Defense of the Word Being “a god”

Leading Jehovah’s Witness apologist Rolf Furuli writes extensively about John 1:1 and how theos should be translated in reference to the Word. He argues for the NWT’s rendering of the Word being “a god” as opposed to “God”. Several of his claims will be discussed here.

Mr. Furuli has a chart comparing the NWT with a couple of lesser known translations as well as the Greek text with his understanding of the word meanings. It is shown below14:

Rolf Furuli’s Table

Let’s evaluate Mr. Furuli’s comments concerning the term theos (notice above how he defines theos as meaning either “god” or “a god”). He says:

. . . in the Bible the word theos is also used for persons other than the creator, and therefore neither “creator” nor “YHWH” could be a part of its semantic meaning. . . . The word theos is a count noun, and John uses it in one of two ways: either in a generic sense or as a “singular noun.” We might illustrate this point by use of the OT. Here we find that elohim, the Hebrew equivalent to theos, is used in the generic sense.15

Mr Furuli takes about two pages to compare theos to the contextual uses of the Hebrew word elohim. But it would have been better to compare the uses of theos throughout the Greek New Testament and see how it was used in Greek context.16

Perhaps the reason such was not done is that it would destroy the point Mr. Furuli was trying to make. A search of theos in the New Testament shows that theos is overwhelmingly translated as “God” (even when not preceded by an article) unless context warrants otherwise (only about six times). The NT context for John 1:1 overwhelming supports the idea that the Word is God the Creator, as John 1:3 indicates.

Mr. Furuli goes on to say:

There are 322 examples of theos without the article. Because there is no inherent semantic contrast between the articular and the anarthrous theos, the question about the meaning of theos in some passages is pragmatic, and thus the context becomes essential.17

Furuli argues that John 1:1b can be translated: “And a god was the Word,” since there is no article in front of theos, and thus, the context must determine the meaning of theos. In response we can first appreciate the concession that Furuli is making: the lack of the article in front of theos does not mean that the word theos is to be translated as an adjective (divine) or with an indefinite article (a god) rather than simply “God.” (Even if it should be translated as an adjective, the verse would still teach the same thing—the Word is of the same essence as the Father.) It is obvious that there are many times that theos is translated as “God,” referring to Jehovah, even when not preceded by an article. Furuli evidently concedes that. So now it is a matter of context, says Furuli. We agree that context is crucial. But if context is so important, then why not look carefully at John 1:2–18? Furuli mentions only John 1:14, “with God” from John 1:2, and John 1:18. Why did he not refer to the other verses, including verse 3, which makes it clear that the Word made all things?

Furuli then attacked the eternality of the Word, Jesus Christ. In an attempt to downgrade that “in the beginning was the Word,” Mr. Furuli tries to show that Jesus was not eternal, thus not God.

Regarding the expression “in the beginning was the Word,” all we can say with reasonable certainty is that at the particular point in time called “the beginning” the Word existed. This is a far cry from saying “the Word is eternal”. [sic]18

But again, look at the context. If the Word made everything that was made (verse 3), then he must be eternal. If everything that was made (that is, everything that had a beginning) had its beginning through Christ, then it must be the case that the Word never had a beginning; thus, he is eternal.

Ignatius (John’s Disciple) and the Deity of Christ

Let’s go one further step in this study. John, the author of the Gospel, did not simply write the account and disappear. On the contrary, he was the only disciple of Christ to live out his life and die of old age. He, like Christ, had disciples of his own, and the two most noted were Polycarp and Ignatius. It makes sense that John would teach his disciples the truth about Jesus Christ and who He was.

Polycarp wrote very little that has survived. Ignatius had quite a bit more. In Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians, it was clear that he viewed Jesus and the Father as the one true God. He said:

and elected through the true passion by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ, our God19

God existing in the flesh20

Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God21

For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God22

God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life.23

God being manifested as man24

We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began.25

After reading the words of a disciple of John who learned extensively from John, there should be no question what John was trying to say. So, it is interesting that the founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Charles Taze Russell, said with regards to John 1:1 and the Word being God:

except that where the word Theos is used twice in the same clause the Greek Prepositive Article is sometimes used, so as to give the effect of the God in contrast with a God. An illustration of this is found in John 1:1 — “the Word was with the God [ho Theos] and the Word was a God [Theos].” But the careful student (freed from Prejudice) will generally have no difficulty in determining the thought of the Apostle. Indeed, the language is so explicit that the wonder is that we were heedless of it so long.”26

His interpretation of Theos as “a god,” he claims is so explicit that he wonders why it took so long for people to realize it. Pastor Russell wrote this in 1899 and yet John’s own disciple Ignatius allegedly missed it? This makes little sense. The reason the early Church knew John was speaking of Jesus being God is not just from the Scriptures, which confirm it, but they were taught this by John who was their pastor for many years.

So really, what Mr. Russell was saying is that John’s disciples, the early church, and the church for about 1800 years were wrong and that he [Pastor Russell] was right. This should be a red flag to anyone. Adam Clarke sums up the argument regarding John 1:1 with excellent comments:

Should it be objected that Christ created officially or by delegation, I answer: This is impossible; for, as creation requires absolute and unlimited power, or omnipotence, there can be but one Creator; because it is impossible that there can be two or more Omnipotents, Infinites, or Eternals. It is therefore evident that creation cannot be effected officially, or by delegation, for this would imply a Being conferring the office, and delegating such power; and that the Being to whom it was delegated was a dependent Being; consequently not unoriginated and eternal; but this the nature of creation proves to be absurd. 1. The thing being impossible in itself, because no limited being could produce a work that necessarily requires omnipotence. 2. It is impossible, because, if omnipotence be delegated, he to whom it is delegated had it not before, and he who delegates it ceases to have it, and consequently ceases to be GOD; and the other to whom it was delegated becomes God, because such attributes as those with which he is supposed to be invested are essential to the nature of God. On this supposition God ceases to exist, though infinite and eternal, and another not naturally infinite and eternal becomes such; and thus an infinite and eternal Being ceases to exist, and another infinite and eternal Being is produced in time, and has a beginning, which is absurd. Therefore, as Christ is the Creator, he did not create by delegation, or in any official way.

Again, if he had created by delegation or officially, it would have been for that Being who gave him that office, and delegated to him the requisite power; but the text says that all things were made BY him and FOR him, which is a demonstration that the apostle understood Jesus Christ to be truly and essentially God.27

Conclusion

The reality is that John 1:1–3 clearly reveals the deity of Jesus Christ, the Word, being the Creator God. As such it confirms many other passages in Scripture that teach that Christ is God. Early church fathers such as Ignatius, who was a disciple of John the Apostle, also recognized Jesus as God. The significance of this is a matter of salvation. Without the true Jesus, can one really be saved?

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Is There a God? Does God exist?

Does God exist? Here are six straightforward reasons to believe that God is really there.

Just once wouldn’t you love for someone to simply show you the evidence for God’s existence? No arm-twisting. No statements of, “You just have to believe.” Well, here is an attempt to candidly offer some of the reasons which suggest that God exists.

But first consider this. When it comes to the possibility of God’s existence, the Bible says that there are people who have seen sufficient evidence, but they have suppressed the truth about God.1 On the other hand, for those who want to know God if he is there, he says, “You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you.”2 Before you look at the facts surrounding God’s existence, ask yourself, If God does exist, would I want to know him? Here then, are some reasons to consider…

1. Does God exist? The complexity of our planet points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today.

Many examples showing God’s design could be given, possibly with no end. But here are a few:

The Earth…its size is perfect. The Earth’s size and corresponding gravity holds a thin layer of mostly nitrogen and oxygen gases, only extending about 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. If Earth were smaller, an atmosphere would be impossible, like the planet Mercury. If Earth were larger, its atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, like Jupiter.3 Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.

The Earth is located the right distance from the sun. Consider the temperature swings we encounter, roughly -30 degrees to +120 degrees. If the Earth were any further away from the sun, we would all freeze. Any closer and we would burn up. Even a fractional variance in the Earth’s position to the sun would make life on Earth impossible. The Earth remains this perfect distance from the sun while it rotates around the sun at a speed of nearly 67,000 mph. It is also rotating on its axis, allowing the entire surface of the Earth to be properly warmed and cooled every day.

And our moon is the perfect size and distance from the Earth for its gravitational pull. The moon creates important ocean tides and movement so ocean waters do not stagnate, and yet our massive oceans are restrained from spilling over across the continents.4

Water…colorless, odorless and without taste, and yet no living thing can survive without it. Plants, animals and human beings consist mostly of water (about two-thirds of the human body is water). You’ll see why the characteristics of water are uniquely suited to life:

It has wide margin between its boiling point and freezing point. Water allows us to live in an environment of fluctuating temperature changes, while keeping our bodies a steady 98.6 degrees.

Water is a universal solvent. This property of water means that various chemicals, minerals and nutrients can be carried throughout our bodies and into the smallest blood vessels.5

Water is also chemically neutral. Without affecting the makeup of the substances it carries, water enables food, medicines and minerals to be absorbed and used by the body.

Water has a unique surface tension. Water in plants can therefore flow upward against gravity, bringing life-giving water and nutrients to the top of even the tallest trees.

Water freezes from the top down and floats, so fish can live in the winter.

Ninety-seven percent of the Earth’s water is in the oceans. But on our Earth, there is a system designed which removes salt from the water and then distributes that water throughout the globe. Evaporation takes the ocean waters, leaving the salt, and forms clouds which are easily moved by the wind to disperse water over the land, for vegetation, animals and people. It is a system of purification and supply that sustains life on this planet, a system of recycled and reused water.6

The human brain…simultaneously processes an amazing amount of information. Your brain takes in all the colors and objects you see, the temperature around you, the pressure of your feet against the floor, the sounds around you, the dryness of your mouth, even the texture of your keyboard. Your brain holds and processes all your emotions, thoughts and memories. At the same time your brain keeps track of the ongoing functions of your body like your breathing pattern, eyelid movement, hunger and movement of the muscles in your hands.

The human brain processes more than a million messages a second.7 Your brain weighs the importance of all this data, filtering out the relatively unimportant. This screening function is what allows you to focus and operate effectively in your world. The brain functions differently than other organs. There is an intelligence to it, the ability to reason, to produce feelings, to dream and plan, to take action, and relate to other people.

The eye…can distinguish among seven million colors. It has automatic focusing and handles an astounding 1.5 million messages — simultaneously.8 Evolution focuses on mutations and changes from and within existing organisms. Yet evolution alone does not fully explain the initial source of the eye or the brain — the start of living organisms from nonliving matter.

2. Does God exist? The universe had a start – what caused it?

Scientists are convinced that our universe began with one enormous explosion of energy and light, which we now call the Big Bang. This was the singular start to everything that exists: the beginning of the universe, the start of space, and even the initial start of time itself.

Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow, a self-described agnostic, stated, “The seed of everything that has happened in the Universe was planted in that first instant; every star, every planet and every living creature in the Universe came into being as a result of events that were set in motion in the moment of the cosmic explosion…The Universe flashed into being, and we cannot find out what caused that to happen.”9

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in Physics, said at the moment of this explosion, “the universe was about a hundred thousands million degrees Centigrade…and the universe was filled with light.”10

The universe has not always existed. It had a start…what caused that? Scientists have no explanation for the sudden explosion of light and matter.

3. Does God exist? The universe operates by uniform laws of nature. Why does it?

Much of life may seem uncertain, but look at what we can count on day after day: gravity remains consistent, a hot cup of coffee left on a counter will get cold, the earth rotates in the same 24 hours, and the speed of light doesn’t change — on earth or in galaxies far from us.

How is it that we can identify laws of nature that never change? Why is the universe so orderly, so reliable?

“The greatest scientists have been struck by how strange this is. There is no logical necessity for a universe that obeys rules, let alone one that abides by the rules of mathematics. This astonishment springs from the recognition that the universe doesn’t have to behave this way. It is easy to imagine a universe in which conditions change unpredictably from instant to instant, or even a universe in which things pop in and out of existence.”11

Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner for quantum electrodynamics, said, “Why nature is mathematical is a mystery…The fact that there are rules at all is a kind of miracle.”12

4. Does God exist? The DNA code informs, programs a cell’s behavior.

All instruction, all teaching, all training comes with intent. Someone who writes an instruction manual does so with purpose. Did you know that in every cell of our bodies there exists a very detailed instruction code, much like a miniature computer program? As you may know, a computer program is made up of ones and zeros, like this: 110010101011000. The way they are arranged tell the computer program what to do. The DNA code in each of our cells is very similar. It’s made up of four chemicals that scientists abbreviate as A, T, G, and C. These are arranged in the human cell like this: CGTGTGACTCGCTCCTGAT and so on. There are three billion of these letters in every human cell!!

Well, just like you can program your phone to beep for specific reasons, DNA instructs the cell. DNA is a three-billion-lettered program telling the cell to act in a certain way. It is a full instruction manual.13

Why is this so amazing? One has to ask….how did this information program wind up in each human cell? These are not just chemicals. These are chemicals that instruct, that code in a very detailed way exactly how the person’s body should develop.

Natural, biological causes are completely lacking as an explanation when programmed information is involved. You cannot find instruction, precise information like this, without someone intentionally constructing it.

5. Does God exist? We know God exists because he pursues us. He is constantly initiating and seeking for us to come to him.

I was an atheist at one time. And like many atheists, the issue of people believing in God bothered me greatly. What is it about atheists that we would spend so much time, attention, and energy refuting something that we don’t believe even exists?! What causes us to do that? When I was an atheist, I attributed my intentions as caring for those poor, delusional people…to help them realize their hope was completely ill-founded. To be honest, I also had another motive. As I challenged those who believed in God, I was deeply curious to see if they could convince me otherwise. Part of my quest was to become free from the question of God. If I could conclusively prove to believers that they were wrong, then the issue is off the table, and I would be free to go about my life.

I didn’t realize that the reason the topic of God weighed so heavily on my mind, was because God was pressing the issue. I have come to find out that God wants to be known. He created us with the intention that we would know him. He has surrounded us with evidence of himself and he keeps the question of his existence squarely before us. It was as if I couldn’t escape thinking about the possibility of God. In fact, the day I chose to acknowledge God’s existence, my prayer began with, “Ok, you win…” It might be that the underlying reason atheists are bothered by people believing in God is because God is actively pursuing them.

I am not the only one who has experienced this. Malcolm Muggeridge, socialist and philosophical author, wrote, “I had a notion that somehow, besides questing, I was being pursued.” C.S. Lewis said he remembered, “…night after night, feeling whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.”

Lewis went on to write a book titled, “Surprised by Joy” as a result of knowing God. I too had no expectations other than rightfully admitting God’s existence. Yet over the following several months, I became amazed by his love for me.

6. Does God exist? Unlike any other revelation of God, Jesus Christ is the clearest, most specific picture of God revealing himself to us.

Why Jesus? Look throughout the major world religions and you’ll find that Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius and Moses all identified themselves as teachers or prophets. None of them ever claimed to be equal to God. Surprisingly, Jesus did. That is what sets Jesus apart from all the others. He said God exists and you’re looking at him. Though he talked about his Father in heaven, it was not from the position of separation, but of very close union, unique to all humankind. Jesus said that anyone who had seen Him had seen the Father, anyone who believed in him, believed in the Father.

He said, “I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”14 He claimed attributes belonging only to God: to be able to forgive people of their sin, free them from habits of sin, give people a more abundant life and give them eternal life in heaven. Unlike other teachers who focused people on their words, Jesus pointed people to himself. He did not say, “follow my words and you will find truth.” He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.”15

What proof did Jesus give for claiming to be divine? He did what people can’t do. Jesus performed miracles. He healed people…blind, crippled, deaf, even raised a couple of people from the dead. He had power over objects…created food out of thin air, enough to feed crowds of several thousand people. He performed miracles over nature…walked on top of a lake, commanding a raging storm to stop for some friends. People everywhere followed Jesus, because he constantly met their needs, doing the miraculous. He said if you do not want to believe what I’m telling you, you should at least believe in me based on the miracles you’re seeing.16

Jesus Christ showed God to be gentle, loving, aware of our self-centeredness and shortcomings, yet deeply wanting a relationship with us. Jesus revealed that although God views us as sinners, worthy of his punishment, his love for us ruled and God came up with a different plan. God himself took on the form of man and accepted the punishment for our sin on our behalf. Sounds ludicrous? Perhaps, but many loving fathers would gladly trade places with their child in a cancer ward if they could. The Bible says that the reason we would love God is because he first loved us.

Jesus died in our place so we could be forgiven. Of all the religions known to humanity, only through Jesus will you see God reaching toward humanity, providing a way for us to have a relationship with him. Jesus proves a divine heart of love, meeting our needs, drawing us to himself. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, he offers us a new life today. We can be forgiven, fully accepted by God and genuinely loved by God. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”17 This is God, in action.

Does God exist? If you want to know, investigate Jesus Christ. We’re told that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”18

God does not force us to believe in him, though he could. Instead, he has provided sufficient proof of his existence for us to willingly respond to him. The earth’s perfect distance from the sun, the unique chemical properties of water, the human brain, DNA, the number of people who attest to knowing God, the gnawing in our hearts and minds to determine if God is there, the willingness for God to be known through Jesus Christ. If you need to know more about Jesus and reasons to believe in him, please see: Beyond Blind Faith.

If you want to begin a relationship with God now, you can.

This is your decision, no coercion here. But if you want to be forgiven by God and come into a relationship with him, you can do so right now by asking him to forgive you and come into your life. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door [of your heart] and knock. He who hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him [or her].”19 If you want to do this, but aren’t sure how to put it into words, this may help: “Jesus, thank you for dying for my sins. You know my life and that I need to be forgiven. I ask you to forgive me right now and come into my life. I want to know you in a real way. Come into my life now. Thank you that you wanted a relationship with me. Amen.”

God views your relationship with him as permanent. Referring to all those who believe in him, Jesus Christ said of us, “I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”20

Looking at all these facts, one can conclude that a loving God does exist and can be known in an intimate, personal way.

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Is the Trinity Three Different Gods? Apologetics Existence of God Nature of God

by Dr. Jobe Martin on July 19, 2011

Have you ever wondered about the doctrine of the Trinity? How could the God of the Bible be one God, but at the same time three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

Introduction

Have you ever wondered about the doctrine of the Trinity? How could the God of the Bible be one God, but at the same time three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Doesn’t the Bible emphatically state that God is one? These queries are common discussions among Christians and non-Christians alike.

The Bible should be accepted as the final authority for the believer. Therefore, we must look to Scripture to learn what God has revealed about Himself in His inspired Word. The famous passage known as the Shema (Hebrew: “hear”) starts by stating, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5). The Bible is quite clear: God is one!

The Bible is also clear that there are three Persons who are each called God. This plurality of God is presented in 2 Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [the Son], and the love of God [the Father], and the communion of the Holy Spirit [the Holy Spirit] be with you all. Amen” (bracketed information added). With our finite minds it is impossible to fully comprehend the infinite God. It is also difficult for us to apprehend the concept that God is one Being in three Persons.

The Doctrine of the Trinity in the New Testament

The New Testament portrays each member of the Godhead as distinct Persons in passages such as the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18–20 Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Believers are to go into the world and make disciples and baptize them in the name (singular, not “names”) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus placed Himself and the Holy Spirit on the same level as the Father.

Matthew also portrays all three members of the Trinity as involved in the baptism of Jesus. “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16–17). In this passage the Father spoke from heaven and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove while Jesus was on the earth.

The Bible Names Each of the Three Persons of the Trinity as “God”

Virtually no one questions that the Father is described as God in the Bible. Paul wrote, “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24). Paul addressed the epistle of Romans to “all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7).

Jesus identified Himself as God in John 10:30 when He stated, “I and My Father are one.” He also declared His divinity during His temptation by the devil when He said, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (Matthew 4:7). This concept will be given more attention later in this chapter. Jesus is also called God by others.

Matthew claimed that the events surrounding the birth of Christ fulfilled Old Testament prophecies.

Matthew claimed that the events surrounding the birth of Christ fulfilled Old Testament prophecies, including Isaiah 7:14, which states, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Matthew adds that Immanuel means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). The writer of Hebrews wrote that the Father said to the Son, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8).The Holy Spirit is also recognized as God. He is not merely an impersonal force similar to electricity, as some cults would like us to believe. When Peter condemned Ananias for lying, he said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God” (Acts 5:3–4, emphasis added).

In the gospel of John, the Bible intimately links the Holy Spirit to both the Father and the Son: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). In the next chapter Jesus added, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26).

All Three Persons of the Trinity Are Eternal

The Scriptures listed above are just a few of many used to demonstrate that the God of the Bible is one God in three Persons. Not only are each of the three Persons of the Trinity identified as God, but each is said to possess eternality. Deuteronomy 33:27 explains to us that God the Father is eternal. “The eternal God is your refuge.” In Micah’s prophecy, which named Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah, the Son is also shown to be eternal. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). The eternality of the Holy Spirit is described when the author of Hebrews asked rhetorically, “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14).

The triune God of the Bible is utterly distinct from the false gods of this world. Jeremiah proclaimed Him as the only true Creator God.

But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God, and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, and the nations will not be able to endure His indignation. Thus you shall say to them: ‘The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens.’ He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens at His discretion (Jeremiah 10:10–12).

Does the Old Testament Support the Doctrine of the Trinity?

A Grammatical Mistake in Genesis 1:1?

The very first sentence in the Bible appears to have a grammatical mistake in the original language. “In the beginning God created …” The word translated as “God” is the word elohim, which is a plural noun.1 But now we have a problem—the verb created is a third person singular verb. So, it seems that in the first sentence of the Bible there is a grammatical mistake of using a plural noun with a singular verb. This would be like someone saying in English, “they was,” which is not proper in English, nor is it proper in Hebrew.

God told us about Himself in the first sentence of the Bible. He is one Being with a plurality of Persons. Genesis 1:1 does not directly explain that God is a triunity, but it is consistent with this truth. Genesis 1:26 states, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.’” Who is the “Us” and the “Our” in the passage? The next verse goes on to state, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). While verse 26 uses the pronouns “Us” and “Our,” verse 27 uses the singular pronouns “His” and “He” to refer to the same God. As in Genesis 1:1 the word “God” in Genesis 1:26 is a plural noun, and the verb “said” is a third person singular verb. The God of the Bible reveals Himself as plural in Persons but single in Being.

The Trinity in Isaiah

The prophet Isaiah made a statement that supports the doctrine of the Trinity: “Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God [the Father] and His Spirit [the Holy Spirit] have sent Me [the Son]. Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit” (Isaiah 48:16–17, bracketed information added). All three Persons of the Trinity are explicitly mentioned in this passage.

Jesus is not God the Son?

Nearly every cult and false religion denies the doctrine of the Trinity. Two of the major cults that do this are Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is not Jehovah God. Instead, they believe that He is a god but not the one and only true God. Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own version of the Bible called the New World Translation. This version translates John 1:1 erroneously. While the inerrant Word of God states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1), the New World Translation presents the last phrase of the verse this way: “and the Word was a god” (emphasis added). The article “a” is not in the original Greek. A rule in Greek grammar states that when an anarthrous (no article) predicate nominative is present it is for emphasis. The noun is “Word” and the predicate nominative is “God.” Since no article is present before the predicate nominative, “God,” the verse is testifying that the Word (Jesus) is God. By denying the Trinity and teaching that Jehovah God is supreme and Jesus is an inferior god on the order of Michael the Archangel, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are actually polytheistic—they believe in multiple gods.

Mormonism is a religious system that believes in many gods and denies the Trinity. Here are some statements from Mormon writings.

[T]here is an infinite number of holy personages, drawn from worlds without number, who have passed on to exultation and are thus gods.2

Abraham … Isaac … and Jacob … have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.3

“But both the scriptures and the prophets affirm that Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers.”4

The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, believed in many gods. Smith said, “I will preach on the plurality of Gods … I wish to declare that I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods.”5 “Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God. I say that is a strange God anyhow—three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization.”6

Contrary to the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, the Bible refers to Jesus as fully God. “For in Him [Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9, bracketed information added). Paul wrote that we should live in a godly manner, “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Even “doubting Thomas,” upon seeing the resurrected Lord, said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). The fact is that Jesus is unequivocally called God in multiple passages.

Furthermore, Jesus identified Himself as God several times. Three times in John 8, Jesus declared that He was Almighty God. “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). The pronoun He is in italics in the New King James Version, meaning that it is not found in the Greek text but was added to the text by the translators to make it read better in English. Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the I Am who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). He does the same thing in John 8:28 and John 8:58. The Jewish leaders understood exactly what He claimed, and they attempted to stone Him for claiming to be God (John 8:59).

The Jews tried to do the same thing in John 10 after Jesus declared, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus asked why they wanted to stone Him, and they replied, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (John 10:33).

Conclusion

The Bible is quite clear—there is one true God, and He exists in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. There is salvation in no other God. This Trinitarian God is eternal as stated in Isaiah.

“You are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “And My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, and there was no foreign god among you; therefore you are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “that I am God. Indeed before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:10–13)

God the Father, in the power of God the Holy Spirit, through the agency of God the Son—Jesus Christ—created everything that exists. John 1, Colossians 1, and Hebrews 1 teach that the Lord Jesus is the Creator. Since He is our Creator, He has the right and the authority to be our Redeemer. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:6–7).

The doctrine of the Trinity is not derived from pagan beliefs but was developed from the plain teaching of Scripture. God is one Being in three Persons. The following chart was developed by Bodie Hodge, Answers in Genesis and provides numerous passages concerning the various attributes and works of each member of the Trinity.7

God . . . The Father The Son The Holy Spirit
is the Creator Genesis 1:1, 2:4, 14:19–22; Deuteronomy 32:6; Psalm 102:25; Isaiah 42:5, 45:18; Mark 13:19; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:9; Hebrews 2:10; Revelation 4:11 John 1:1–3; Colossians 1:16–17; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 1:2, 1:8–12 Genesis 1:2; Job 33:4; Psalm 104:30
is unchanging and eternal Psalm 90:2, 102:25–27; Isaiah 43:10; Malachi 3:6 Micah 5:2; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:8–12, 13:8; John 8:58 Hebrews 9:14
has a distinct will Luke 22:42 Luke 22:42 Acts 13:2; 1 Corinthians 12:11
accepts worship Too many to list Matthew 14:33; Hebrews 1:6
accepts prayer Too many to list John 14:14; Romans 10:9–13; 2 Corinthians 12:8–9
is the only Savior Isaiah 43:11, 45:21; Hosea 13:4; 1 Timothy 1:1 John 4:42; Acts 4:12, 13:23; Philippians 3:20; 2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:4, 2:13, 3:6; 2 Peter 1:11, 2:20, 3:18; 1 John 4:14 John 3:5; 1 Corinthians 12:3
has the power to resurrect 1 Thessalonians 1:8–10 John 2:19, 10:17 Romans 8:11
is called God John 1:18, 6:27; Philippians 1:2, 2:11; Ephesians 4:6; 2 Thessalonians 1:2 John 1:1–5, 1:14, 1:18, 20:28; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:8; Titus 2:13 Acts 5:3–4; 2 Corinthians 3:15–17
is called Mighty God Isaiah 10:21; Luke 22:69 Isaiah 9:6
is omnipresent/everywhere 1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 46:10 Matthew 28:18–20 Psalm 139:7–10
is omnipotent/has power and authority 2 Chronicles 20:6, 25:8; Job 12:13; Romans 1:20; 1 Corinthians 6:14; Jude 1:25 John 3:31, 3:35, 14:6, 16:15; Philippians 2:9–11 1 Samuel 11:6; Luke 1:35
is omniscient/all-knowing Psalm 139:2; Isaiah 46:10; 1 John 3:20; Acts 15:8 John 16:3, 21:17 1 Corinthians 2:10–11
has the fullness of God in Him (not just “a part of God”) N/A Colossians 2:9
gives life Genesis 1:21, 1:24, 2:7; Psalm 49:15; John 3:16, 5:21; 1 Timothy 6:13 John 5:21, 14:6, 20:31; Romans 5:21 2 Corinthians 3:6; Romans 8:11
loves John 3:16; Romans 8:39; Ephesians 6:23; 1 John 4:6, 4:16 Mark 10:21; John 15:9; Ephesians 5:25, 6:23 Romans 15:30
has ownership of believers Psalm 24:1; John 8:47 Romans 7:4, 8:9
is distinct Matthew 3:16–17, 28:19; John 17:1 Matthew 3:16–17, 4:1, 28:19; John 17:1 1 Samuel 19:20; Matthew 3:16–17, 4:1, 28:19
is Judge Genesis 18:25; Psalm 7:11, 50:6, 94:1–2, 96:13, 98:9; John 8:50; Romans 2:16 John 5:21–27; Acts 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:1
forgives sin Micah 7:18 Luke 7:47–50
claimed divinity Exodus 20:2 Matthew 26:63–64
is uncreated, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End Isaiah 44:6 Revelation 1:17–18, 22:13
lives in the believer John 14:23; 2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 John 3:24 John 14:20–23; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27 John 14:16–17; Romans 8:11; 1 Peter 1:11
has the title of deity, “I Am,” pointing to the eternality of God Exodus 3:14 John 8:58
is personal and has fellowship with other persons 1 John 1:3 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:3 Acts 13:2; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 4:30; Philippians 2:1
makes believers holy (sanctifies them) 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Colossians 1:22 1 Peter 1:2
knows the future Isaiah 46:10; Jeremiah 29:11 Matthew 24:1–51, 26:64; John 16:32, 18:4 1 Samuel 10:10, 19:20; Luke 1:67; 2 Peter 1:21
is called “Lord of lords” Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalm 136:3 Revelation 17:14, 19:16
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God’s Patience

by  Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

Some people picture God as akin to a miserly dictator Who is eager to find a cause to crush the vile human race He created. Is that the way the Bible portrays God? Romans 2:4 reads: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 15:5 emphasizes God’s patience: “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be likeminded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus.” Peter wrote: “the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation” (2 Peter 3:15).

God is patient because He does not want anyone to be eternally lost. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). One meaning of “patience,” according to the Illustrated Oxford Dictionary, is “the capacity for calm, self-possessed waiting.” God has promised that there will be a day when sinners will receive their final condemnation (2 Peter 2:9; 3:7), but God is waiting in order that more sinners might accept and obey the Gospel. Wayne Jackson noted biblical examples of this patience:

The Lord’s wrath is not inflicted impulsively. Rather, history repeatedly has demonstrated that God exercises “much long-suffering” toward those deserving of punishment (Romans 9:22). His patience was demonstrated to the generation of Noah’s day (Genesis 6:3). He longed to spare corrupt Sodom (Genesis 18:26ff). Jehovah revealed himself to Moses as a God who is “slow to anger” (Exodus 34:6; cf. Psalms 103:8). The Lord was even long-suffering with a wretch as vile as Ahab (1 Kings 21:29). For centuries He was tolerant with the arrogant and stiff-necked nation of Israel (Nehemiah 9:17) [2000].

We desperately need God’s patience, just as the apostle Paul did. Paul was given the opportunity to be saved, despite the fact that he was “the chief ” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15-16; see Nicks, 1981, p. 190). Potential for salvation rests in God’s patience. Rather than instantly destroying people when they sin, He providentially gives people opportunities and encouragement that should lead to repentance (Titus 2:11). God expects us to request His continued patience as we make mistakes (1 John 1:9; Luke 11:4), and He shows His patience by continually forgiving us of our sins when we do (based on the sacrifice of Christ’s blood and our sincere obedience to His will; see 1 John 1:7).

We should emulate the patience of God. Romans 2:6-7 emphasizes the necessity of patience in the lives of Christians: “[God] will render to each one according to his deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality” (emp. added). Paul instructed Christians to be patient: “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14, emp. added; cf. Christ’s parable of the impatient servant in Matthew 18:23-35). People cannot be saved unless they have patience, because without patience, the Christian’s work is impossible (see Ecclesiastes 7:8; Ephesians 4:2; 2 Timothy 2:24; James 1:4). Patience also is necessary because other essential Christian virtues, including faith, hope, and joy, are dependent on it (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3; 15:4; Colossians 1:11; see Nicks, 1981, pp. 191-192). William Barclay observed:

If God had been a man, He would have taken His hand and wiped out this world long ago; but God has that patience which bears with all our sinning and which will not cast us off. In our lives, in our attitude to and dealings with our fellow men, we must reproduce this loving, forbearing, forgiving, patient attitude of God toward ourselves (1958, p. 56).

God’s patience is balanced by His perfect justice. Unforgiven sin will be punished, but God’s patience allows time for repentance (Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:9; see Colley, 2004). Isaiah 30:18 makes it clear: “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is God of justice; blessed are those who wait for Him.” God’s generous patience should motivate us to obey Him.

REFERENCES

Barclay, William (1958), The Daily Study Bible: Letters to Galatians and Ephesians (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster).

Colley, Caleb (2004), “God’s Mercy and Justice,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1860.

Illustrated Oxford Dictionary (2003), (New York: Oxford), revised edition.

Jackson, Wayne (2000), “The Righteousness of God Revealed,” [On-line], URL: http://www.christiancourier.com/feature/february2000.htm.

Nicks, Bill (1981), “Patience,” Continuing in the Doctrine, ed. Bill Nicks, M.H. Tucker, John Waddey (Knoxville, TN: East Tennessee School of Preaching and Missions).

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Does the Holy Spirit Know When Jesus Will Return?

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

One question that various individuals have submitted to Apologetics Press in recent years involves the Second Coming of Christ and the omniscience of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4) and thus omniscient (Psalm 139), why did Jesus say about His return, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32, emp. added)? Why would the “Father alone” (Matthew 24:36, NASB) be aware of the time of Jesus’ Second Coming? Does this awareness exclude the Holy Spirit?

When Jesus came to Earth in the flesh, He willingly “made Himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7; He “emptied Himself”—NASB). He moved from the spiritual realm to put on flesh (John 1:14) and voluntarily became subject to such burdens as hunger, thirst, weariness, and pain. Our omnipotent, omniscient, holy God chose to come into this world as a helpless babe Who, for the first time in His eternal existence, “increased in wisdom” (Luke 2:52). While on Earth in the flesh, Jesus was voluntarily in a subordinate position to the Father (cf. Jackson, 1995).

It has been suggested that, similar to how Jesus chose not to know certain information while on Earth, including the date of His return, perhaps the Holy Spirit also willingly restricted Himself to some degree during the first century (see Holding, 2012). Perhaps the special role of the Holy Spirit in the first century in regards to spiritual and miraculous gifts (Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 12:7), special revelation (John 14:26; 16:13), divine inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16), intercession (Romans 8:26), etc., is somewhat similar to the role that Christ played. That is, could it be that both God the Son and God the Spirit voluntarily restricted their knowledge on Earth in the first century? And thus, could that be why Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32, emp. added)? Considering that a number of Christians and scholars believe that even God the Father may freely choose to limit His own knowledge of certain things (cf. Brents, 1874, pp. 74-87; Camp, n.d.), many would likely explain Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36 by contending that the Holy Spirit freely limited His knowledge for a time regarding Christ’s return.

Given especially the indisputable fact that the Son of God voluntarily chose not to know certain things for a time, it may be possible that the Holy Spirit could choose the same. However, the Holy Spirit Himself revealed through the apostle Paul that He, the Spirit, “searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). Furthermore, there are no explicit statements in Scripture about the Holy Spirit’s willful unawareness of certain things as there are about Jesus (Mark 13:32; cf. Luke 2:52). All one can cite is Jesus’ statement about “only the Father” knowing the date of the Son’s return and conclude that this declaration implies the Spirit of God was unaware of that day. What’s more, in context, Jesus placed much more emphasis on the words “no one knows” than the qualifying statements “not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son.” Jesus wanted His hearers to understand that just as those in Noah’s day “did not know” the day of the Flood (Matthew 24:39, emp. added) and just as the servants in the parable of the servants “do not know when the master of the house is coming” (Mark 13:35, emp. added; Matthew 24:50), so “you do not know what hour the Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42, emp. added; Mark 13:33). Thus, Jesus taught the all-important central message in these chapters of “watching” and being “ready” for the unknown time of Christ’s return (Matthew 24:36-25:46; Mark 13:32-37). Even though we may learn something of the Messiah’s voluntary, self-imposed emptying of some of His omniscience (Mark 13:32), Jesus’ “purpose was not to define the limits of his theological knowledge, but to indicate that vigilance, not calculation, is required” (Lane, 1974, p. 482)—a lesson that all “end-of-time” false prophets need to learn.

Rather than quickly dismiss the omniscience of the Holy Spirit during a particular period of time in human history, a better explanation exists: expressions such as “no one,” “only,” “except,” “all,” etc. are oftentimes used in a limited sense. Consider what Paul revealed in Romans 3: “Jews and Greeks…are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one…. They have all turned aside… there is none who does good, no, not one” (vss. 9,10,12, emp. added). In this passage, Paul was stressing the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), but he was using these inclusive and exclusive terms (e.g., “all,” “none”) in a somewhat limited sense. Paul was obviously not including Jesus in this passage, as elsewhere he wrote that Jesus “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21; cf. Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 1:19). Neither was he including infants (see Butt, 2003), the mentally challenged, or angels. Who then has sinned? All humans of an accountable mind and age (see Miller, 2003), with the obvious exception being the sinless Son of God.

In John 17:3, Jesus prayed to the Father, saying, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3, emp. added). Are we to believe, as some do (cf. “Is There Only…?” 2009), that Jesus was implying neither He nor the Holy Spirit is divine? Not at all. Rather, when the Bible reveals that there is only one God, one Savior, one Lord, one Creator (Isaiah 44:24; John 1:3), etc., reason and revelation demand that we understand the inspired writers to be excluding everyone and everything—other than the members of the Godhead (see Lyons, 2008). Throughout the Gospel of John, the writer repeatedly referred to Jesus’ deity (1:1,3,23; 4:25; 9:38; 10:30-33; 20:28)—Jesus most certainly was not denying it in John 17:3. Unless the biblical text specifically mentions what a member of the Godhead does not know or do, we should be careful alleging ignorance, limited power, etc.

In Matthew 11:27, Jesus stated: “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (emp. added). Are we to believe that the Spirit of God does not fully comprehend the Son of God or God the Father? After all, Jesus said, “[N]o one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son.” Once again, the terms “no one,” “anyone,” and “except” must be understood in a limited sense. Jesus was in no way suggesting that the Spirit of God, Who “searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10), does not fully understand the Father as Jesus does. The Son of God was revealing that aside from the “one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27), “no man or angel clearly and fully comprehends the character of the infinite God…. None but God fully knows Him” (Barnes, 1997, emp. in orig.). Once again, Jesus was alluding to His deity. Mere humans cannot truthfully speak in this manner. “The full comprehension and acknowledgment of the Godhead, and the mystery of the Trinity, belong to God alone” (Clarke, 1996). Jesus was and is God. We should no more exclude the Holy Spirit from Jesus’ statement about Himself and God the Father in Matthew 11:27 than we should exclude the Father or the Son from Paul’s statement about the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11.

CONCLUSION

It is unnecessary to conclude that the Holy Spirit must at one time have given up some of His omniscience because Jesus stated of His return. “[N]o one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” In light of the way in which God and the Bible writers oftentimes used exclusive terms in limited senses, especially as those terms relate to the Godhead, it cannot be proven that Jesus was excluding the Spirit of God in this statement. If we should not exclude Jesus and the Holy Spirit from the God that Jesus praised in John 17:3, and we should not exclude the Holy Spirit from the Divine that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 11:27, it seems entirely unnecessary to infer that in Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36 Christ was implying that the Holy Spirit was unaware of the day of His return.

REFERENCES

Barnes, Albert (1997), Barnes’ Notes (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).

Brents, T.W. (1874), The Gospel Plan of Salvation (Bowling Green, KY: Guardian of Truth Foundation, 1987 reprint).

Butt, Kyle (2003), “Do Babies Go to Hell When They Die?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=1201.

Camp, Franklin (no date) “1 Peter 1:1-2,” Redemption Through the Bible (Adamsville, AL: Brother’s).

Clarke, Adam (1996), Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).

Holding, James (2012), “Mark 13:32 and the Holy Spirit,” Tekton, http://www.tektonics.org/lp/mk1332.html.

“Is There Only One True God?” (2009), Jehovah’s Witnesses Official Web Site, http://www.watchtower.org/e/200602b/article_01.htm.

Jackson, Wayne (1995), “Did Jesus Exist in the Form of God While on Earth?” Reason & Revelation, 15[3]:21-22, March, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=354.

Lane, William (1974), The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Lyons, Eric (2008), “The Only True God,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=983#.

Miller, Dave (2003), “The Age of Accountability,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1202.

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What is Bigger and More Incomprehensible than the God of Christians?

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

In a recent TIME magazine article, wherein senior staff writer David Van Biema interviewed renowned atheist Richard Dawkins and theist Francis Collins, Dawkins made a comment about the existence of God that revealed a serious flaw in his case against Creation and Christianity. Although he believes the idea of “a supernatural intelligent designer” is “refutable,” he speculated, saying, “If there is a God, it’s going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed” (quoted in Van Biema, 2006, 168[20]:55). Thus, every “God” ever conceptualized by mankind is simply too small and too comprehensible for Dawkins.

It certainly is the case that gods of various religious groups of the past and present have lacked size and intelligence. The gods of ancient Egypt were exposed as counterfeit when the God of Israel demonstrated His superiority over them. He brought 10 plagues on Egypt, executing judgment “against all the gods of Egypt” (Exodus 12:12; Numbers 33:4), that (among other things) man might “know that Jehovah is greater than all gods” (Exodus 18:11, ASV). In Elijah’s day, Jehovah God revealed His supremacy over Baal on Mount Carmel when He sent fire down from heaven, totally consuming Elijah’s sacrifice (1 Kings 18:20-38), while the sacrifices of Baal’s prophets lay quiescent. Then, “[w]hen all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God’” (1 Kings 18:39). Furthermore, the millions of Hindu gods of the past and present also lack sufficient magnitude and intelligence. They are lifeless, powerless, man-made idols that both atheists and theists rightly refuse to acknowledge.

To conclude, however, that no one from any religion has ever proposed a God that is of adequate size and mystery is simply untrue. What about the God of the Bible? Considering that approximately two billion people on Earth claim to believe in this God (see “Major Religions…,” 2005), Dawkins no doubt had the God of Christians in mind when he said, “If there is a God, it’s going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.” What (or Who) could be larger, mightier, and more incomprehensible than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God that Christians worship and serve?

The God of the Bible is omnipresent. The psalmist proclaimed: “Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Thy hand will lead me, and Thy right hand will lay hold of me (139:7-10, NASB). Try as he might, no one can hide from God (Jeremiah 23:23-24). He is everywhere. His eyes “are in every place” (Proverbs 15:3). “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13, emp. added).

God not only is omnipresent, He also knows everything. Numerous passages of Scripture clearly teach that God is omniscient. The psalmist declared that God “knows the secrets of the heart” (44:21) and that “His understanding is infinite” (147:5). Of Jehovah, the psalmist also wrote:

O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether (139:1-4).

God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 John 3:20, emp. added). Not only does He know the past and the present, but the future as well (Acts 15:18; cf. Isaiah 46:10). There is nothing outside of the awareness of God. What’s more, at the end of time, He “will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14, emp. added).

Perhaps the most awesome attribute of Jehovah is His unlimited power. He is “God Almighty” (Genesis 17:1). Nothing is too hard for Him (Genesis 18:14). As Job confessed to God, “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You” (42:2, emp. added). By simply speaking, God can create that which is visible from that which is invisible (Hebrews 11:3; cf. Genesis 1), and can turn the physical into the celestial (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). He can turn water into wine simply by desiring it to happen (John 2:1-10). He can miraculously heal a paralytic by merely willing it to “be done” (Matthew 8:13). He can raise a man from the dead simply by commanding him to “come forth” (John 11:43). The God of Christians is omnipotent.

What more does Dawkins need from a god? By definition, the God of the Bible could not be any bigger, more powerful, or more intelligent than He already is. Jehovah is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere present. In addition, He is eternal (cf. Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 102:27; Revelation 1:8). He is from “everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2). What could be “bigger” and “more incomprehensible” for finite humans to grasp?

Nothing is bigger than God. Nothing is more powerful than God. And no one can rationally fathom a being more intelligent than God. As far as being “a whole lot more incomprehensible,” the psalmist addressed God’s unfathomable intelligence, confessing that “[s]uch knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (139:6, emp. added). God said: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways…. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Centuries later Paul praised the “depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God,” exclaiming “[h]ow unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33, emp. added). Indeed, there are “the secret things” that “belong to the Lord our God,” which we will never know this side of eternity, and perhaps not even on the other side (Deuteronomy 29:29). Thankfully, the one true and living God did reveal a substantial amount of information about Himself through nature, and much more through the Scriptures (Romans 1:20; Deuteronomy 29:29), that we might “have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

The God that the prominent, militant atheist Richard Dawkins said would exist, “if there is a God,” actually does exist. Sadly, Dawkins and millions of others simply have “refused to have God in their knowledge” (Romans 1:28, ASV), for which “they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

REFERENCES

“Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents” (2005), [On-line], URL: http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html.

Van Biema, David (2006), “God vs. Science,” TIME, 168[20]:48-55, November 13.

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The Omnipotence of God

by  Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

God is the only being Who possesses omnipotence. In the Oxford English Dictionary, “omnipotence” is defined as “all-powerfulness,” or “almightiness.” In other words, when God wants something to be done, it is done. God has all power in heaven and on Earth (Matthew 28:18), so unlike the limited power of humans, which is constrained by time, space, and force, God’s capabilities are limited only by His own character (see Miller, 2003). Paul wrote of God’s omnipotence in the sense that He is “above all, and through all, and in you all,” (Ephesians 4:6). God is preeminent for many reasons, not the least of which is His great power.

God has complete power over the Earth. The very first chapter of the Bible (Genesis 1) is full of references to God’s power. The words of His mouth brought the Universe into existence; He spoke the Cosmos into existence with only a word (Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 11:3). In order to create the Universe, God needed no pre-existing matter with which to work; rather, He Himself spoke the very first matter into existence (see Thompson, et al., 2003a, 2003b). After He created “the heavens and the Earth,” He spoke “light” into existence on Earth (Genesis 1:3). After creating light, He created the firmament, and much more, all by the power of His word.

God has complete power over the spiritual realm. Just as the first chapter in the Bible reveals that God created light on Earth, the last chapter in the Bible reminds us that God’s power will be responsible for the eternal light in heaven (Revelation 22:5). Christ repeatedly cast out devils during His earthly ministry (Matthew 8:16; 9:32-33; 12:22), and James revealed that the demons believe in the one God of the Bible, and that because they are aware of God’s omnipotence, they tremble (Luke 8:31; James 2:19). God now limits Satan himself, keeping him from directly inhabiting people or causing people physical pain (Zechariah 13:1-2).

Only God can perform “wonders,” and only God can furnish that capability to others (Job 5:9; Psalm 72:18; John 3:2). Christ again revealed His power over the spiritual realm when He brought Lazarus’ soul back from the realm of departed spirits, and returned it to Lazarus’ body (John 11:43). Similarly, God will resurrect all the dead one day, having already determined the fate of their souls (Mark 12:26-27; Romans 6:4; 1 Corinthians 15:15,32; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Peter 1:3-5).

God has complete power over the affairs of men. John Waddey observed: “God was known to the patriarchs as El-Shaddai, God Almighty (Exodus 6:2-3). The term Shaddai, when connected with the Hebrew word El (God) means, ‘the mighty One to nourish, satisfy and supply.’ Thus we see His power to send forth blessings for He is the all-bountiful One” (1987, p. 1). It makes sense, then, that when Moses spoke to the entire assembly of the children of Israel the lyrics of a lengthy song, he included this line: “Nor is there any that can deliver out of My [God’s] hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39). Of course, just as God has the power to bless us and deliver the righteous from spiritual harm, He also has the uncontainable power to destroy the wicked, as can be seen in His utter destruction of the world through the global Flood of Noah’s time (except eight souls; see Thompson, 1999a).

The plural form of El, Elohim, brings to light the fullness of God’s power, in that it highlights the Trinity (Psalm 38:75). Still another Old Testament expression used to denote omnipotence is Abhir, or “strong One” (Genesis 49:24; see Vos, 1994, 3:2188-2190). Jesus said that God is Spirit, emphasizing that God is not limited by impotence of flesh, as are humans (Isaiah 2:22; 31:3; John 4:24).

God’s power over the nations of the Earth is evident. Though God used the children of Israel as His means for bringing Christ to Earth, God’s power over large groups of people has never been limited to Israel. God has authority over all nations, and frequently has used them to accomplish His purposes (Isaiah 10:5; Jeremiah 25:9; Amos 1). Job said: “He makes nations great and destroys them” (Job 12:23). Kings have their dominion only because God allows it (see Custance, 1977, p. 134). Vos observed: “The prophets ascribe to Jehovah not merely relatively greater power than to the gods of the nations, but His power extends into the sphere of the nations, and the heathen gods are ignored in the estimate put upon His might (Isaiah 31:3)” [1994, 3:2189]. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar was warned:

This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men…. This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses (Daniel 4:17,24-25, emp. added).

God has complete power over the devil, whom He created (though the devil was not evil at the time of his creation; see Colley, 2004). While the devil has certain powers that humans do not possess (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; see Thompson, 1999b, pp. 11-12), Satan is not omnipotent. During his temptation of Christ, Satan admitted that whatever power he possessed had been “delivered to him” (Luke 4:6). Satan had to ask for God’s permission to harm Job (Job 1:7-12). Jesus said that Satan had desired to sift Peter as wheat; that is, Satan sought the express permission of God. Without it, Satan would be powerless to tempt Peter. While God never had a beginning, Satan was created (Colossians 1:16). For this, and other reasons, Satan is not omnipotent, and his power is far less potent than the power of God. John wrote: “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He Who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

If we were to try to imagine someone whose power approached God’s might, we might think of Satan. Yet, the Bible reveals that nothing is too hard for the Lord—even defeating Satan (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17). In fact, Christ already conquered the devil, and eventually will punish him everlastingly in hell (Matthew 25:41; see Thompson, 1999b, pp. 12-13). Hebrews 2:14 reads: “He [Christ] Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Milton, in Paradise Lost, wrote of Satan: “Him the Almighty Power hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky…Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent to arms” (1.49).

God’s complete power is unending. Because God would not be God if He were not omnipotent, and because we know that God will never end, we can know that God’s power will never cease or diminish (see Colley, 2004). Furthermore, Isaiah plainly stated: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable” (40:28).

CONCLUSION

God’s omnipotence reassures us, because it is through the Divine power that His servants know that “nothing will be impossible” to those who faithfully serve Him (Matthew 17:20; Mark 9:23; Philippians 4:13). Those who are not faithful to the Lord should be terror-stricken by God’s omnipotence, because, in the Day of Judgment, the very force that created the Universe will condemn them to an everlasting punishment. Vos commented that omnipotence

evokes a specific religious response. This is true, not only of the Old Testament, where the element of the fear of God stands comparatively in the foreground, but remains true also in the New Testament. Even in our Lord’s teaching the prominence given to the fatherhood and love of God does not preclude that the transcendent majesty of the Divine nature, including omnipotence, is kept in full view and made a potent factor in the cultivation of the religious mind (Matthew 6:9). The beauty of Jesus’ teaching on the nature of God consists in this, that He keeps the exaltation of God above every creature and His loving condescension toward the creature in perfect equilibrium and makes them mutually fructified by each other. Religion is more than the inclusion of God in the general altruistic movement of the human mind; it is a devotion at every point colored by the consciousness of that Divine uniqueness in which God’s omnipotence occupies a foremost place (1994, 3:2190).

Little wonder that the multitude of Revelation 19:6 cried: “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” The fact that God so willingly uses His omnipotent capacity for the ultimate benefit of His servants should motivate everyone to obey the Gospel (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). We will not escape the vengeance of God if we neglect the great salvation offered us (Hebrews 2:3).

REFERENCES

Colley, Caleb (2004), “The Eternality of God,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2565.

Custance, Arthur C. (1977), Time and Eternity and Other Biblical Studies (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

Miller, Dave (2003), “Things God Cannot Do,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2292.

Lockyer, Herbert (1997), All the 3s of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Thompson, Bert (1999a), The Global Flood of Noah (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), second edition.

Thompson, Bert (1999b), Satan—His Origin and Mission (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press, 2001 reprint).

Thompson, Bert, Brad Harrub, and Branyon May (2003a), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique [Part I],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/22.

Thompson, Bert, Brad Harrub, and Branyon May (2003b), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique [Part II],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/26.

Vos, Geerhardus (1994), “Omnipotence,” The International Bible Encyclopaedia, ed. James Orr, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).

Waddey, John (1987), “The Omnipotence of God,” Firm Foundation, 104[18]:1,4, September 22.

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The Trinity – Father Son and Holy Spirit – Water Blood and Word of God

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.
Throughout the centuries, the nature of God has been at the center of many heated debates. Entire counsels have assembled to discuss whether God is composed of three personalities having one nature, whether Jesus is a part of the Godhead, how the Holy Spirit factors into the equation, and a host of similar questions. The answers to these questions can have far reaching theological and practical consequences. It is the purpose of this article to prove the thesis that the Bible teaches that the Godhead is three personalities—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in one nature.

Definitions

As in all discussions dealing with a proper understanding of truth, an agreed upon and acceptable, sufficiently precise definition of the major terms must be set out in the beginning.

  • Godhead or Divinity: A description of the totality, both of nature and personality, of the supernatural Creator of the world (see Lenski, 1961, p. 98).
  • Nature: “The inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing; essence” (“Nature,” 2015).
  • Personality: A recognizable, distinct entity that has mind and desire. As described by Merriam-Webster: “The complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual….The totality of an individual’s behavioral and emotional characteristics; a set of distinctive traits and characteristics” (“Personality,” 2015).

While most words that will be discussed concerning the Trinity, such as “personality,” “nature,” and even “divinity” or “Godhead,” are fairly easy to define, that does not mean the aspects of God that they describe are easy to understand. In fact, the Godhead is so complex and beyond human capability to fully understand, that any attempt to discuss God quickly reveals the limitations of the human mind. We can never fully understand the Godhead. As the apostle Paul so eloquently wrote about God’s revelation of the Gospel: “Oh, the depth and the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out” (Romans 11:33). We should not conclude, however, that nothing can be known of God. Were that the case, to have any discussion about Him, say His name, or even to identify the concept of God, would be impossible for us. On the contrary, while we may not be able to understand fully all that the term “nature” of God entails, and while we may not be able to define the concept of a “personality” so that we comprehend everything about it, we can know enough about the terms “Godhead,” “nature,” and “personality” to say that the Godhead is three personalities in one nature.

The Basic Argument For The Trinity

The basic argument for the Trinity proceeds as follows:

  • Premise one: the Bible teaches that the Godhead is one in nature.
  • Premise two: the Bible teaches that God the Father is one personality of the Godhead.
  • Premise three: the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is one personality of the Godhead.
  • Premise four: the Bible teaches that Jesus the Son is one personality of the Godhead.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, God is composed of three personalities in one nature.

The Godhead is One in Nature

Various Scriptures demonstrate that the Godhead is one in nature. One of the most well-known passages that relates this truth is Deuteronomy 6:4, which states: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” A similar passage is found in Ephesians 4:4-6, which reads, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” In addition, Malachi 2:10 says, “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?” The fact that God is one is clearly stated in the Bible.

The clear statements of God’s oneness lead some to deny that God is composed of three personalities. They suggest that if God is one, then He cannot be three in any way; so His oneness excludes the possibility that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God. As M. Davies wrote: “We have seen how that, throughout the Bible God is only described as being one being…. So it is to the Bible we must turn, and when we do, we do not find any evidence to suggest that God is made up of three beings” (2009). Thus, the critics of the doctrine of the Trinity do not differentiate between the concept of nature and that of personality. This idea will be expanded upon in the section dealing with common objections. It is included here simply to set up the argument for God’s oneness being in nature, and not personality.

The Bible says that “one God” created us (Malachi 2:10). A closer look, however, at the Creation of man shows that some type of multiplicity was involved. Genesis 1:26-27 states, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.… So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” The Hebrew language used in this passage cannot be definitively used to prove a multiplicity, but it is written in such a way that certainly allows for the one God to have some aspect of multiplicity or plurality. A better understanding of this plurality is gained by looking at the verses in the Bible that discuss the Creation. John 1:1 explains, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” Later in the first chapter of John we learn that the Word “became flesh and dwelt among us.” Thus, the Word refers to Jesus, who was with God and was God and created all things along with the Father (John 1:14). We can see, then, that the oneness of the Creator must allow for at least some aspect of God to have a multiplicity of something.

In logical form, we could arrange the argument as follows. There is one God who created man. The concept of oneness either means that nothing about God can have any type of plurality, or that some aspect of God is completely unified but at least one other aspect of God can have multiplicity to it. It cannot be the case that nothing about God can have any multiplicity since the Bible gives at least one aspect of God (the Father and the Son) that has multiplicity. Therefore, some aspect of God is completely unified, but at least one aspect of God can have, and has, multiplicity.

Once we determine logically that at least one aspect of God has to be “one” and completely unified without multiplicity, we need to identify what that concept is. We see several ideas that are applied to God in His entirety. God is eternal, from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:2; Deuteronomy 33:27). God’s eternality applies to the Father, as well as to God the Son, as is evidenced from the fact that Isaiah 9:6 describes the Messiah (Who is recognized in the New Testament as Jesus) as being called “Everlasting Father.” The concept of eternality equally applies to the Spirit, as the Hebrews writer stated, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God” (Hebrews 9:14, emp. added). Since the concept of eternality equally applies to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, then we have successfully determined at least one aspect of God that is completely unified and applies equally to every aspect of God. Such qualities compose the nature or essence of the being of God. And while it is true that we cannot know or understand all of the aspects of God’s essence, we can compile a list of ideas or attributes that make-up this unified whole that applies equally to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

  • God’s essence is immutable, or unchangeable (Psalm 103:17; Hebrews 13:8).
  • God’s essence is morally perfect (Habakkuk 1:13; 1 Peter 2:22).
  • God’s essence is founded on justice (Psalm 89:14; Matthew 23:23).
  • God’s essence is love (1 John 4:8).
  • God’s essence is eternal (Psalm 90:2; Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 9:6).

The Bible provides a much more exhaustive list of the attributes of God’s nature or essence. This short list is provided to make the point that all three personalities of God (i.e., the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), share one unified nature that applies equally to all of them.

The three personalities of God

Having established the fact that God is one in essence or nature, we can now move to dealing with the idea that God is three personalities. The burden of this portion of the article will be to establish that the three personalities of God are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

God the Father

The premise that one personality of the Godhead is the Father is one of the least disputed and easily proven concepts in this discussion. In fact, many people and religious groups consider the Father to be the only personality of God (which we will show is not the case), but very few who accept the Bible as the Word of God argue that God the Father is not God. This is the case because there are so many verses in the Bible that identify God in the personality of the Father. Let us examine a few of those. In 2 Peter 1:17, the text states that Jesus “received from God the Father honor and glory.” Jude 1 is written to those “who are called, sanctified by God the Father.” When Jesus was instructing His disciples to pray, He taught them to say, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you” (1 Thessalonians 3:11). As with other aspects of the argument, a much longer list could be compiled showing that the Bible refers to God the Father as being part of the Godhead. Thus, as our argument proceeds, we have now established that the Godhead has one unified nature, and has at least one personality, namely, God the Father.

God the Holy Spirit

Because of the way many people view the term “spirit,” it has often been the case that the Holy Spirit is misidentified. He is often referred to as an “it,” and some do not recognize the fact that He is a personality of the Godhead. The Scriptures, however, are clear that the Holy Spirit is a personality of the Godhead in the same way as the Father and the Son. First, recall that the Bible explains that the Spirit is eternal (Hebrews 9:14). That means that He is not a created being, but has always existed. In argument form we would say, God is the only being that is eternal. The Holy Spirit is eternal. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is God. In addition, we read that just as God knows all things, the Spirit does as well. First Corinthians 2:10-11 states, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God…. Even so, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.”

The book of Acts contains a memorable story about two early Christians named Ananias and Sapphira. These two sold a piece of property, gave the money to the church, but lied about the price of the land. When the apostle Peter rebuked them for their sin, he said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit…. You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:3-4). Notice that Peter stated that by lying to the Holy Spirit, Ananias had lied to God, equating God and the Holy Spirit. In addition, 1 Peter 1:2 says that the Christians there had participated in the “sanctification of the Spirit.” In 2 Thessalonians 5:23, the Bible says, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely.” Again, we see that the work of sanctifying the Christian is accomplished by God, but is attributed to the Holy Spirit. This line of reasoning can be extended to other aspects of God’s action. In 2 Timothy, Paul states that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (3:16). Peter explains that the Scriptures were produced when “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). We then can reason that God inspired the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures, thus the Holy Spirit is God.

Once we establish that the Holy Spirit is God, we next need to show that He is a person, not simply a nebulous force. We have defined the word “person” as a recognizable, distinct entity that has mind and desire. The Bible paints a consistent picture that the Holy Spirit, like the Father, is a person. First, the Scriptures state that the Holy Spirit can, and has, talked to people using language that those people can understand. In Acts 8:29, we read that “the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go near and overtake this chariot.’” This was not a nebulous, impersonal force, but a recognizable voice used by a person to communicate His desire to a man named Philip. The apostle Paul explained that “the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1). Once again, the Spirit speaks in understandable language. In Revelation, the text says that “the Spirit and the bride say ‘Come!’” (22:17). Only a person with a will and identity could offer such an invitation. In addition, consider that the Holy Spirit can be blasphemed (Matthew 12:31-32), lied to (Acts 5:3), insulted or despised (Hebrews 10:29), and grieved (Ephesians 4:30) (Olbright, 1999, p. 25). The Holy Spirit is God, and has all the traits of a person. We therefore conclude that the Father is one personality of God, and the Holy Spirit is another personality of God, proving that the one God has a multiplicity of personalities.

God the Son

In addition to the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Bible mentions another person Who composes the Godhead—Jesus Christ the Son. In fact, the Bible mentions these three together. Matthew 28:19 quotes Jesus as saying that His followers should baptize disciples in the name of the “Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Peter wrote that Christians were “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus” (1 Peter 1:2). A straightforward reading of these passages seems to put the three on equal footing. Some have contended, however, that even though Jesus is the Son of God (which the Scriptures teach in numerous places; see Matthew 14:33; 16:16; Mark 1:1; Luke 8:28; John 3:16-18; 2 Corinthians 1:19), that does not mean He was equal to God or had/has the same nature as God. Fred Pearce, who denies that Jesus is God, wrote: “But he is God’s Son, because he has been ‘begotten.’ The ruler is not God; he is the Son of God; and he began to exist on the day he was ‘begotten.’ Like all sons, he is preceded by his Father” (n.d.). Some have contended that God created Jesus first, and then Jesus created everything else. Thus, they would argue that Jesus is not God, but only the Son of God, a creation of God, or an elevated angel. Others would argue that Jesus was only a man and never claimed to be God or even an angel. The Bible, however, denies both of these positions, and presents a thorough and consistent picture of Jesus Christ the Son of God as God in nature and as a third personality of the Godhead. Consider the following three affirmations:

I. Jesus the Son is Referred to as God

The prophet Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would come in the form of a Child. That Messiah was going to be known as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Notice specifically that the coming Child would be called Mighty God. In the New Testament, we see that Jesus was that Child, the anointed Messiah, the Son of David described in Isaiah 9:6. In John 4:25, the woman with whom Jesus talked at the well stated, “I know the Messiah is coming” to which Jesus responded, “I who speak to you am He” (John 4:26). When we put the premises together, the argument looks like this: The Messiah is Mighty God. Jesus Christ the Son of God is the Messiah. Therefore, Jesus Christ is Mighty God.

In the first chapter of John, the text says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Again, notice that the Word is called God. Just a few verses later, the text explains that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us” and that John “testified of Him” (John 1:14-15). In John 3:22-36, the person John testified about is Jesus Christ the Son of God. Putting the pieces together, we arrive at the following argument: The Word is God. Jesus Christ the Son is the Word. Therefore, Jesus Christ the Son is God. The apostle Thomas added his voice to this conclusion when he saw the wounds in Jesus’ body and proclaimed to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

II. Jesus the Son is Worthy of and Accepted Worship

Matthew wrote a detailed account of Jesus being tempted by the devil in the wilderness. During that temptation, the devil enticed Jesus to fall down and worship him. Jesus responded by saying, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 4:1). Jesus’ argument went as follows: All people are morally bound to worship only one being, that is, God. The devil is not God. Therefore, no one should ever worship the devil. From this line of reasoning, it is clear that anyone who is faithful to God will not encourage the worship of any being other than God. We see this truth played out in a number of episodes in the Bible. In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas were in the city of Lystra when they healed a crippled man. The residents of the city were so enamored with the two, they began to worship them. Paul and Barnabas rushed in among the crowd and tried to stop their worship, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men with the same nature as you” (Acts 14:15). Their argument was similar to the one Jesus made. All people are morally bound to worship only one Being, that is, God. Paul and Barnabas are not God. Therefore, no people should ever worship Paul and Barnabas. The same thought process is used in Revelation 22:6-9. In that passage, the apostle John is introduced to an angel. The apostle “fell down to worship before the feet of the angel” (Revelation 22:8), but the angel said to him, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant…. Worship God” (Revelation 22:9). The angel’s argument can be laid out in the following way. God is the only Being any person should worship. I, an angel, am not God. Therefore, no person should ever worship me.

When we consider how Jesus responded to being worshiped, we can see that He readily accepted it as a proper response to His personality and power.  On numerous occasions, the Bible records that people worshiped Jesus Christ. Matthew 14:33 says that his disciples “came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’” Jesus accepted the worship and did not rebuke them. In John 9:38, Jesus healed a man who had been born blind. Jesus then instructed the man to believe in the Son of God. The man responded by saying, “Lord, I believe!” then the text says, “And he worshiped Him” (see also Matthew 2:11; 28:9; John 20:28). As we analyze this argument, we see that Jesus said all people are morally bound to worship only God, and Jesus accepted worship as the proper attitude of people toward Him. Either Jesus violated Scripture and accepted worship contrary to the Bible’s teaching, or Jesus is God. Jesus never violated Scripture (Hebrews 4:15; John 8:46). Therefore, Jesus is God.

III. Jesus the Son is Equated with Jehovah

In the Hebrew Bible the special name for God is called the Tetragrammaton. It is composed of four Hebrew letters and is transliterated Jehovah or Yahweh. The actual pronunciation of the name has been lost since the original Hebrew did not have vowels. This name is used only to describe the eternal Creator God of the Universe. In Isaiah 6, the prophet records a time when he saw God in a vision. The angelic beings who stood around God’s throne addressed God as “Jehovah” of hosts in Isaiah 6:3 and used the same name (the Tetragrammaton) in verse five. There is no doubt that Isaiah was describing a vision of the eternal God. When we turn to the New Testament, we see the apostle John describing this scene from Isaiah. John writes that although He (Jesus) “had done so many signs before them, they did not believe” (John 12:38). He then references Isaiah 6:9-10, and says, “These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him” (John 12:41). The fact that the pronoun “Him” in verse 41 is referring to Jesus is verified by the use of the pronoun to describe Jesus in verse 37 and verse 42. Thus, the argument can then be made as follows: Isaiah saw the glory of Jehovah God in Isaiah 6. John says that Isaiah saw the glory of Jesus and references the episode in Isaiah 6. Thus, John equates Jesus with Jehovah.

Additionally, other passages reference Jesus as being Jehovah. Isaiah 40:3 explains that a messenger would be sent as the forerunner of the Messiah. This messenger would be “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” who would “prepare the way of the Lord (Jehovah); make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). The New Testament applies this prophecy to John the Baptizer (John 1:11) and declares that John prepared the way for Jesus, thus equating Jesus with Jehovah. Again, the argument is as follows: Isaiah said the messenger would prepare the way for Jehovah. John was the messenger Isaiah predicted. He prepared the way for Jesus. Thus, Jesus is equated with Jehovah.

From these passages and the arguments they present, the Bible student is drawn to a concrete conclusion about Jesus the Son. Not only is Jesus directly called God, He accepted worship that is reserved only for God, and the holy name of Jehovah is applied to Jesus; thus Jesus is God. The idea that Jesus is a person who has a personality is undisputed. Therefore, Jesus is one personality of the Godhead [NOTE: For more information on the deity of Christ, see Miller, 2005 and the entire section of the Apologetics Press Web site dedicated to that topic under the heading “Deity of Christ” at http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10.] We have now established that the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son are three personalities of the Godhead, and they are composed of one nature. Let us turn to some common objections to this conclusion.

Objections Considered

As with any subject pertaining to God and the Bible, an exhaustive list of objections and responses to them would be so extensive it would take hundreds or thousands of pages to complete. With that in mind, we will have to content ourselves with responses to a few of the more common objections to the thesis we have presented.

Objection 1:
       The Word Trinity is Not in the Bible

The concept that the Godhead is three personalities—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in one nature is often summarized as presenting a triune God. The term triune denotes a trinity of personalities in one unified nature. The noun form of the adjective is Trinity. The term Trinity is used by the vast majority of Christians, and others who accept the thesis of this article, to describe the nature and personalities of God. One primary objection to the use of this word, and the conclusion that it is used to describe, is that the term is not even used in the Bible. For example, one critic of the idea of the Trinity wrote:

But did you realize that, even though it is a common assumption among many sincere religious people, the word Trinity does not appear anywhere in the Bible? In fact, the word Trinity did not come into common use as a religious term until centuries after the last books of the Bible were completed—long after the apostles of Christ were gone from the scene! (“Is the Trinity…?” 2011, italics in orig.).

Supposedly, because the Bible does not use the term Trinity to describe God, then the idea of a Trinity is an extrabiblical idea that was forced into the text.

In truth, the objection that the term Trinity is not used in the Bible can be refuted by showing that there certainly are words used today that describe concepts in the Bible, but those words or terms are not in the text. For instance, the Bible never uses the term “atheist” or “atheism.” Can we argue from that fact that the Bible does not deal with the concept of a person who does not believe in God? No, since we can see that Psalm 14:1 states, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Our modern term “atheism” accurately describes a person who says, “There is no God,” even though the term is not used in the text. In addition, the Bible never uses the word “Sunday,” yet we use that word today to accurately describe the day the Bible calls “the first day of the week,” which came after the Sabbath. Incidentally, we use the word “Saturday” to describe the Sabbath, even though “Saturday” is never used in the Bible. These examples show the logical inconsistency of claiming that a concept is not taught in the Bible if the word we currently use to describe the concept is not in the Bible.

Objection 2:
       If God is One, He Cannot Be Three

Another often heard objection to the thesis is the idea that if God is one, there is no way that He can be three. Those who use this argument quote verses such as Deuteronomy 6:4, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” and Ephesians 4:6 which says there is “one God and Father of all.” They argue that if God is one, as these verses say, then He cannot be three at the same time, because this would be a violation of the law of logic known as the Law of Contradiction.

In responding to this argument, it is helpful to review what the Law of Contradiction actually says. Warren states the law as: “Nothing can both have and not have a given characteristic (or property) in precisely the same respect” (1982, p. 23). Another way to state the law is that nothing can both be something, and not be that same thing at the same time, in the same way. The pertinent aspect of the Law of Contradiction as it relates to the Trinity discussion is the idea of a person or thing having a certain characteristic “in precisely the same respect” or “in the same way.” For instance, we could say that a person named Bob is very rich and very poor. While it seems contradictory at first, we could mean that he is physically and financially prosperous, but he is very shallow and spiritually poor. So, in one sense he is rich (monetarily) and in another sense he is poor (spiritually). Therefore, it can be true that he is both rich and poor at one and the same time. In the same way, God can both be one and be three at the same time precisely because the terms “one” and “three” apply to different aspects of God. When we use the word “one” we are discussing God’s eternal nature or essence. When we use the word “three” we are describing the personalities of God, not His nature. Thus, it is important to understand that the Godhead is three personalities in one nature. This statement does not violate the Law of Contradiction and accords with what the Bible says.

Objection 3:
       Jesus Denied That He is God

Some who argue against the Trinity claim that Jesus did not view Himself as God, and on several occasions denied His deity. One of the passages most often used to bolster this claim is Mark 10:17. In this passage, a wealthy young man ran to see Jesus and asked Him, “Good teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded by saying, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” According to the skeptical view, Jesus is denying that He is God. But a closer look at Jesus’ comment reveals just the opposite to be the case. Notice that Jesus never denies that He is the “good teacher.” He simply makes the comment that there is only one Who is truly good, and that is God. Thus, if the young man’s statement is true that Jesus is the “good teacher” (and it is), and there is only one Who is “good,” and that is God, then Jesus is acknowledging His deity, not denying it. As with all discussion of Scripture, it is important to look at what the text actually says and not what other people claim the text says [NOTE: For a more complete list of answers to objections to Christ’s deity see Lyons, 2006; in addition, for a thorough case for the deity of Christ, see Butt and Lyons, 2006.]

Conclusion

A discussion of the nature and personalities of God is important for several reasons. First, if God includes information about Him in the Bible, then He must want humans to study and learn that information. Second, a misunderstanding of God’s personalities could result in a spiritually catastrophic conclusion that is at odds with God’s Word. If a person misunderstands that Jesus is the eternal God on par with the Father and Spirit, that person may never grasp the significance of the fact that God in the flesh came to Earth to die for his or her sins. Such a misunderstanding may also cause that person to fail to honor Christ as the Bible commands. Jesus stated “that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23). Only if a person understands that the Son is God just as the Father is God can that person honor the Son “just as” he or she honors the Father. Thus, a discussion of the Trinity is necessary to sound Christian doctrine and practice.

If a person approaches the sum of Scripture motivated by an earnest desire to know the truth about the Godhead, that person can, with complete confidence, infer from the biblical premises and implications that the Godhead is three personalities—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in one nature.

References

Butt, Kyle and Eric Lyons (2006), Behold! The Lamb of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Davies, Matt (2009), “God—A Single Entity and Not a Trinity,” The Gospel Truth, http://www.the-gospel-truth.info/bible-teachings/god-unity-or-trinity/.

“Is the Trinity Biblical?” (2011), United Church of God, http://www.ucg.org/bible-study-tools/booklets/is-god-a-trinity/is-the-trinity-biblical.

Lenski, R.C.H. (1961 reprint), The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).

Lyons, Eric (2006), “Answering Christ’s Critics,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=6&article=578&topic=71.

Miller, Dave (2005), “Jesus’ Claims to Deity,” Apologetics Press, https://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=10&article=2465.

“Nature” (2015), Merriam-Webster,  http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nature.

Olbright, Owen (1999), The Holy Spirit: Person and Work (Delight, AR: Gospel Light).

Pearce, Fred (no date),“Jesus: God the Son or the Son of God? Does the Bible Teach the Trinity?” http://www.christadelphia.org/pamphlet/jesus.htm.

“Personality” (2015), Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/personality.

Warren, Thomas B. (1982), Logic and the Bible (Ramer, TN: National Christian Press).

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God’s Love – Love of God

by  Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded empires, but upon what do these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love: and to this very day millions would die for Him” (as quoted in Ankerberg and Weldon, 1997, p. 29). If every one of God’s characteristics was to be summarized in a single English word, only one word could suffice: love. Of course, the idea of love does not encompass all of God’s characteristics, but it is a fitting summation of God’s personality. In fact, John wrote simply that “God is love” (1 John 4:8-9,16)—perhaps the most powerful statement ever made about God’s love (we do not, as some do, charge that God’s justice is inconsistent with his love and mercy [see Colley, 2004a]).

When Paul listed the fruits of the Spirit—characteristics that appear in the lives of Christ’s followers (Galatians 5:22-23)—the first fruit he mentioned was love. Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hang upon love (Matthew 22:40; Mark 12:28). God is not merely a loving God, but God is love, and love defines His very essence. Every action of God has been carried out, ultimately, because of His magnificent love.

God loves His Son. The relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ is one of great love. God’s eternal love has an eternal object, and that eternal object is Christ. Consider a sampling of the passages that bear the special relationship the Father and Son share:

  • Isaiah 42:1: “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, my Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry out, nor raise His voice.”
  • Matthew 3:17: “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ ” (cf. Matthew 17:5).
  • John 1:18: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
  • John 5:20: “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does” (cf. John 3:30).
  • John 17:24: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.”

God loves His Son’s followers. Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome: “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). The Greek verb translated “poured out” in Romans 5:5, ekcheo, is the same verb used to describe the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17ff.). This suggests that, through Christ, God has blessed His spiritual children with an abundant amount of love. The tense of the verb is perfect, indicating a settled state or a completed action. The idea, then, is that the love of God has filled our hearts, and, like a valley remains full of flood water, our hearts remain full of Christ’s love (see Packer, 1975, pp. 129-130). Those who are in Christ (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27) are in a covenant relationship with God, a relationship in which both God and the Christian are pledged to each other.

Again, Paul wrote: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Although Christians can (and, sadly, sometimes do) cease to love Christ (Acts 8:12-13; Galatians 5:4; James 5:19-20; see Jackson, 2003), Christ will never cease to love them, for God is unchanging (James 1:17; see Colley, 2004b). Packer wrote concerning the unchanging quality of God’s love:

…[T]his does not mean that He is unfeeling (impassive), or that there is nothing in Him that corresponds to emotions and affections in us, but that whereas human passions—specifically the painful ones, fear, grief, regret, despair—are in a sense passive and involuntary, being called forth and constrained by circumstances not under our control, the corresponding attitudes in God have the nature of deliberate voluntary choices, and therefore are not of the same order as human passions at all. So the love of the God who is spirit is no fitful, fluctuating thing, as the love of man is, nor is it a mere impotent longing for things that may never be…. There are no inconstancies or vicissitudes in the love of the almighty God who is spirit (1975, pp. 133-134, parenthetical item in orig.).

God loves the world. That is, God cares even for people who disregard Him. Paul wrote: “But God demonstrates His own love toward use, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, emp. added). The Greek word translated love in Romans 5:8 is agape, which appears abundantly (82 times) in the Greek New Testament. Agape is a selfless love that motivates one to sacrifice on the behalf of others, so it has come to be known by many as “Christian” love. This purest form of love is the agape under consideration when Paul wrote: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). It was that love that made Christ willing to “taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).

God despises sin, but loves sinners. He does not approve or overlook sin; rather, He wants each sinner to repent of his wrongdoing and change his life (Acts 17:30). Peter wrote: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emp. added). God delays the Second Coming of Christ, not because He is undependable or incapable of fulfilling the promise of judgment (1 Peter 4:17; 2 Peter 3:7-9; 1 John 4:17; Jude 6,15; Revelation 14:7), but because His love motivates Him to give sinners more opportunities to repent. Instead of admiring or imitating the wrong actions of sinners, we should abhor sin (Romans 12:9), and share God’s concern for lost souls—a concern that should motivate us to share the Gospel (Mark 16:15-16; John 14:6).

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34, emp. added). In stating that the commandment was new, Jesus obviously intended to draw a distinction between His commandment and everything else that would have been familiar to His disciples concerning the topic they were discussing. Though the command to love one’s neighbor was not new (Leviticus 19:18), Christ’s command was new in that it demanded that we love, not as we love ourselves, but as God loves us. This would be the sign to non-Christians that the first-century disciples really were followers of Christ (John 13:35; see Pack, 1977, 5:54-55), and it serves the same purpose today.

William Evans wrote: “As love is the highest expression of God and His relation to mankind, so it must be the highest expression of man’s relation to his Maker and to his fellow-man” (1994, 3:1932). God’s love should motivate us to express our love for Him by obeying His commands. Jesus could not have put it any clearer than He did when He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Let us pray that as we obey Christ, we will be able to “comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height” of His love, which “passes knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

REFERENCES

Ankerberg, John, and John Weldon (1997), Ready With an Answer (Eugene, OR: Harvest House).

Colley, Caleb (2004a), “God’s Mercy and Justice,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1860.

Colley, Caleb (2004b), “The Immutability of God,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2567.

Evans, William (1994), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).

Jackson, Wayne (2003), “Galatians 5:4—Fallen from Grace,” [On-line], URL: http://www.christiancourier.com/notes/fallenFromGrace.htm.

Pack, Frank (1977), The Living Word Commentary, ed. Everett Ferguson (Austin, TX: Sweet).

Packer, J.I. (1975), Knowing God (London: Hodder and Stoughton), second edition.

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Consider God’s Creation—Think About God’s Greatness

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Christians in the 21st century think too little about God’s creation; consequently, we think too little about God. We are so enamored with ourselves—our schedules, our work, our technology, our extracurricular activities, etc., that we often fail to see the stars and smell the roses. Today, perhaps more than any time in history, man misses the apparently simple things in life that should cause us to meditate continually upon the greatness of the Creator. Of course, nothing is more important for Christians to meditate on than God’s Word (Psalm 1:2; see Lyons, 2011), but in conjunction with God’s special revelation (His Word), we ought to ponder about how God’s amazing natural revelation testifies to His infinite power, intelligence, and care.

Time and again, Holy Writ points to God’s creation as proof of His greatness. Since the time of Job, Noah, and going as far back as Adam, man has learned some wonderful things about God by considering His amazing creation. Paul wrote: “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20, emp. added).

Perhaps no other book of the Bible leads man to deeper meditation on God’s greatness than the book of Psalms. Yet, interestingly, oftentimes this same inspired book turns man’s attention to God’s creation. In Psalm 8, for example, the psalmist praised the excellent name of the Lord Who set His “glory above the heavens,” Who made the Moon, stars, man, and even “the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas.” What did the psalmist conclude? “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:9). In Psalm 19:1, we are reminded that “[t]he heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” In Psalm 33, we learn of one of the reasons that humanity is to fear and stand in awe of the Lord (33:8)—because “by the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth…. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (33:6,9).

Consider the climax of the book of Job, when God spoke to the patriarch out of a whirlwind. Instead of informing Job of the exact reasons for his serious suffering, God spoke to him about His creation. Beginning in Job 38:39 and going through chapters 39, 40, and 41, God spoke to Job about several different animals, including the lion, the hawk, Behemoth, and Leviathan. Of all of the things God could have said to Job, He spent some 77 verses talking about some of His animal creation. He chose to teach Job about His all-powerful, all-knowing, supreme nature by describing some of His magnificent animal creation.

The prophet Isaiah once wrote about being allowed to see a vision of the throne of God. In the Lord’s presence were angelic beings crying out one to another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:3). What is the basis of this praise? What is one reason we should be driven to worship God? Isaiah revealed one of the pillars of God’s praise in the very next line: “The whole earth is full of His glory” (6:3).

Indeed, the beauty, splendor, and design of God’s creation should drive us closer to the Creator. His “fingerprints” should make us stand in awe of Him. They should drive us to our knees in worship of Him. And they should compel us to tell others about Him. As the psalmist sang, we should “declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised” (96:3-4).

REFERENCE

Lyons, Eric (2011), “Take Time with the Text,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/article/1130.

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God with us in our pain

A very thoughtful sermon this morning from David Whillis who began a summer series on the Old Testament Book of Job which raises fundamental questions about why bad things happen to good people, and how faith responds to tragedy.

David began with a wee bit of background. He reminded us that Job is one of the books of ‘Wisdom literature’ in the Bible, books which probe the meaning of human existence. Unlike literature of other cultures of their time, the thinking of the Wisdom books is centred on God.

The book of Job was probably written down about 500BC, but it is set much earlier – possibly around 2,000 BC, the time of Abraham. We deduce this from Job’s circumstances, and from the fact that he offers sacrifices which was forbidden in the law given to Moses. We assume the story was passed down orally from generation to generation until it was finally written down.

The book begins with 2 chapters in prose, describing Job’s situation and the problems he faced. The bulk of the book is in poetry, with many chapters is which Job dialogues with friends, and ultimately meets God. The final section, describing Job’s ‘after story’ reverts to prose.

The question for us, David said is

‘What is God saying to us through this ancient book?’

David talked us through today’s passage.

A good man enjoying the good life

Job is described as ‘blameless and upright’, a mean who ‘feared God and shunned evil.’ (v1) No one else in the Old Testament, said David, is described in such positive terms.

We’re told that Job’s life was complete and fulfilled, as v2 demonstrates what David called Job’s ‘family shalom.’ The numbers – 7 sons and 3 daughters; 7000 sheep and 3000 camels – are numbers which, in Jewish tradition, signified ‘completeness’.

Job’s life, said David, was ‘the good life.’

And so the stage is set to demonstrate that, as David put it, ‘the man who has everything has everything to lose.’ And the book raises the fundamental question: Does Job believe only because of what belief brings him? If all he has is taken away, will his faith remain?

Job’s motives (and ours) questioned

The scene changes in v6 – as this fundamental question is raised by ‘The Accuser’ (which is what ‘Satan’ means here), the one who questions human motives. This accuser puts the book’s fundamental question in these words:

‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ (v9)

The book of Job asks what is the basis of our relationship with God. Is God inherently worthy of our worship, or does God as it were buy our allegiance by the stuff God gives us?

So the book of Job is not about one man – it’s about all of us.

And it challenges each of us. Is my faith focused on God for God’s sake, or is it conditional on what I receive from God?

And when calamities strike – how does our faith respond?

A tsunami of catastrophe

Job’s life is disrupted by dreadful tragedy (vv13-19) But his response to it in this chapter is one of worship (v20-21)  As the book goes on, and Job’s troubles increase he will react differently, but for the moment all we see is this astonishing profession of faith (v21):

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.

How true to life this book is! The innocent suffer.

It begs the question ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’

But the book of Job doesn’t answer this questions.

Instead it focuses on what our faith means to us when bad stuff happens. How do we react when our faith is tested?

The suffering of Job – and the suffering of Jesus

David shared his conviction that the book of Job makes no sense apart from the cross of Christ, which it anticipates in a couple of ways.

Firstly, Job never doubts throughout the book that he will have a personal encounter with God as he does in its closing chapters. Old Testament believers considered this wasn’t possible – to catch a glimpse of God was to die. Christians, blessed with God’s further revelation, believe that God came among us in Jesus; that in Jesus we meet God face to face – and live.

Secondly, David pointed out that Job had a glimpse of the reality of life after death. Most Old Testament believers thought only of Sheol, the shadowy place of the dead. In contrast Job saw in moments of clarity that his relationship with God will survive death – and this is precisely our conviction as Christians, that beyond death, we will live.

And there’s more, David said.

Job suffered – but so did Jesus.  And because of, and through the suffering of Jesus we, in our times of suffering, can find hope for the future. Jesus who died for us, who suffered on our behalf brings us comfort strength and healing.

God – present in our pain

Job is a sad story of suffering. And yet God remains present with Job throughout his long days of pain.

Being Christian does not protect us from bad stuff. But God is with us, and we can therefore be strong and courageous, for God holds us safe, wrapped in God’s everlasting love.

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Does God Alone Possess Immortality?

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

The Bible repeatedly testifies to the fact that this life is not all there is. For the faithful, the best is yet to come (Luke 16:22; 23:43; 2 Timothy 4:8). For the unfaithful, the worst is yet to come (Luke 16:23-24). The unrighteous “will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46, emp. added; cf. Lyons and Butt, 2005). At death, “the dust will return to the earth as it was,” but “the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7; cf. Genesis 2:7). Jesus taught: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26, emp. added). In short, the soul of man is immortal (Romans 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:10; 1 Corinthians 15:53-54).

If the soul of man is immortal, however, some wonder how Paul could truthfully write to Timothy that God “alone has immortality” (1 Timothy 6:16, emp. added)? If God alone has immortality, then how can man also be immortal?

Indeed, both God and man are immortal. God, by His very nature, is eternal (Psalm 90:2), and thus He is not subject to death (Greek thanatos). Only when God, the Word, put on flesh and physically inhabited His natural world did He willingly subject Himself to death (John 1:1-5,14; 19:30; Philippians 2:5-8). Yet, even then, death had no power over Him (Acts 2:22-36; 1 Corinthians 15:21). He defeated thanatos; He is athanatos (immortal). He not only physically rose from the dead, but His Spirit never ceased to exist.

Still, how can God “alone” have immortality (Greek athanasia; 1 Timothy 6:16), if the soul of man is also immortal (1 Corinthians 15:53-54; cf. Matthew 25:46)? The answer is really quite simple: The only reason man is immortal is because God gives man immortality. God created man differently than plants and animals; He chose to make man “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27). Among other things, one of the great blessings of being an image-bearer of God is that humans have an immortal soul (see Lyons and Thompson, 2002). However, in the sense that God’s everlasting nature is immortal, God alone possesses immortality.

Consider a parallel. According to Scripture, both God and His faithful children are pure and holy (1 John 3:3; Matthew 5:8; 1 Peter 1:16). They are pure and holy, however, on different levels. Whereas God is innately perfect (Isaiah 6:3; James 1:13), man can only become pure and holy through the grace of God and the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:22; Ephesians 1:3-14). God is holy; man becomes holy. Likewise, God “alone [inherently] has immortality” (1 Timothy 6:16), but He has given it to man.

REFERENCES

Lyons, Eric and Bert Thompson (2002), “In the ‘Image and Likeness of God’: Parts 1 & 2,” Reason & Revelation, 22:17-32, March and April.

Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2005), “The Eternality of Hell: Parts 1 & 2,” Reason & Revelation, 25:1-15, January and February.

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