Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Brief Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity, Part 2

A. First, there is only one God.
   1. The Trinity is NOT the teaching that there are three gods.
       a. Is. 43:10; 44:8
      b. What is a Being? Being (or essence or substance) is what makes something what it is, and distinguishes it from everything else.
     c. A human is a being: a human being. Angels are a certain kind of being different from humans. God is the only divine being. He alone possesses the being of God. No creature can share in the being of God. That being is spiritual, personal; transcendent and immanent.

  2. We see the oneness of being in the oneness of name. The Trinity has only one name – shares the one name – in the baptismal formula.
      a. Matt. 28:19, “baptizing in the name (not “names”) of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” All three Persons of the Trinity have the name of God.
     b. The Father is called God, the Son is called God, the Spirit is called God; the Father is called Lord, the Son is called Lord, the Spirit is called Lord. Yet, there is only one God, only one Lord (Deut. 6:4).

B. Second, within the one Being of God are three Persons.
   1. What is a Person?
      a. A person is that which in an individual says, “I.” The person is the subject (the one doing) of all the activity of an individual. From the beginning of your life to the end and into eternity, you will have the same person. Much changes; your person does not. Also, a person is self-conscious and conscious of that which is outside of himself. Thus, human beings are also human persons. You say, “I.”
  2. We are one being and one person, but God is one being and three persons. There are within the being of God three distinct individuals who say, “I;” Three who know themselves and know others; three active, living, willing, thinking individual Persons.
      a. The Father knows Himself, and He knows the Son and the Spirit and He says, “I.”
      b. The Son knows Himself and He knows the Father and the Spirit and He says, “I.”
      c. The Spirit knows Himself and He knows the Son and the Father and He says, “I.”
  3. But, remember, these are THREE distinct persons.
     a. The Father is not the Son, nor the Spirit. The Son is not the Father, nor the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Father, nor the Son.
      b. And yet, they can never be without one another or separated from one another.
      c. This is contra Modalism: Modalism teaches that there is one Person in the Godhead who manifests Himself in different modes at different times. Sometimes, God is Father; sometimes, Son; sometimes, Spirit, but there is only One Person, not three.
   4. How would you prove the Trinity from Scripture?
      a. First, there is no verse that proves the Trinity by itself. Matt. 28:19 and II Cor. 13:14 come close.
      b. Second, prove it along these lines: The Bible ascribes the names, attributes, worship and works of God to each of the three Persons.

All analogies fail. But we know why they fail: God is infinite; we are finite. The body/soul/spirit analogy, or father/son/husband analogies are heretical because they are modalistic.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Brief Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity, Part 1

One of the biggest lies you’ll ever hear about the Trinity is that it was invented at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. This is the Liberal nonsense you’ll hear on the Discovery Networks or from the Dan Brown types. One of the easiest ways to refute this is the fact that the term “Trinity” appears in Christian literature about 150 years before Nicaea.

The term first surfaces in an Apology for Christians written in the 170’s A.D. “Apology” does not mean ‘saying you’re sorry;’ rather it is a reasoned defense of the faith. The 2nd Century was replete with such “apologies” and most of the important Church writers of that era are referred to as the “Apologists.” The earliest written instance of the term Trinity appears in the Apology of Athenagoras of Athens - (died ca. 185). This is incredibly important for a couple of reasons:

(1). The term is simply stated, not lugged in as something novel, meaning it was not an innovation in the 170’s. He refers to something as a “type” of the Trinity, suggesting that he had written on the subject before, or, at least, that others had.

(2). This is an apology, which means it was written to an unbeliever.

Right around the same time, the Carthaginian theologian, Tertullian (155-230), used the term as well. However, Tertullian’s use was not a mere mention of the term. He used the terms Essence and Person, which are the standard terms – in the exact way that Nicaea affirmed their usage – again, nearly 150 years before Nicaea. And by 206, at the latest, he had written a defense of the Trinity against a Modalist named Praxeas.

The doctrine of the Trinity is the heart of the Christian faith. This doctrine has always been seen as a necessary element of Christianity, one that cannot be surrendered without destroying the faith itself. We, of course agree with Luther that the doctrine of Justification by faith alone is the doctrine by which the Church stands or falls. But we should hasten to say that the doctrine of the Trinity, because it deals with the essence of God Himself, precedes all doctrine. It is therefore the safeguard of the faith.

One need not be a genius to realize that something that is never taught or preached about is either not important or not true. How are millions of professing Christians supposed to believe that the Trinity is true, and that even if it is true, that it makes a difference anyway, if they never hear the doctrine explained? The simple fact is: they won’t. That’s what we’re here to do, and the leadership of CtK is to be highly commended for placing emphasis on Christian education.

Why, though, we might ask is the Trinity, generally speaking, such a neglected doctrine?  It is my considered opinion that the explanation for this neglect lies in our sinful nature’s proclivity to self-righteousness. Like Cain, we are always trying to commend ourselves to God with our works. Hence, the only doctrines we care for are those from which we can derive a moral application. Every time we read the Bible, instead of seeing what God has done for us in Christ, we ask, “What do I have to do?” If we can’t take something home with us to DO, then we don’t value it.  This is Law, not Gospel. The Law says, “Do this and live.” Whereas the Gospel says, “Live, because Christ has done this for you.”

Let’s consider this: If it the doctrine of the Trinity be true, because it is a truth about God, then it is of infinite importance. There are two simple yet important reasons why the Church must hold fast to the doctrine of the Trinity.

1. For the sake of God’s glory. God must be distinguished from false gods. God must be worshipped as He has revealed Himself. He has revealed Himself as Triune. Worship of anything less is idolatry. Anyone who denies the Trinity is, ipso facto, an idolater.

2. For the sake of our salvation. No one is saved without knowledge of the Father. But the Father is not known without the Son. Scripture says, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). And, “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father” (1 John 2:23). Further, no one is saved without faith in the Son: “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed, and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard” (Rom. 10:14). Similarly, no one is saved without knowledge of the Spirit. Scripture says, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9). No one receives the Spirit without knowing Him; for Christ says, “Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him” (John 17:17). It is necessary then, that for anyone to be saved, he must know the Triune God.

Therefore, the doctrine of the Trinity is not so much a point among many as the very essence and compendium of Christianity itself.

1. Remember that God is personal: He is not abstract but He is a living, thinking, willing, conscious Being.
2. God is personal but He is also a plurality of persons.
3. We confess with the orthodox church of all ages the doctrine of the Trinity, that God is one in Being, and three in Persons.

Key Point: LORD in OT is YHWH = Kurios in LXX. Kurios means Lord. In the English versions of the OT YHWH is rendered LORD in what is called ‘small caps.’ This is where the whole word is capitalized but the first letter is a couple of font points larger. The LXX is what the Apostles read. Now think what it implies when we realize that in no NT book do the authors ever bat an eye at calling Jesus ‘Lord.’ Hence every occurrence of Kurios in the NT in reference to Christ is tantamount to calling Him YHWH. Sometimes the references are more blatant than others:

Joel 2:32 / Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13
Isaiah 8:13 / 1 Peter 3:14-15
Jeremiah 23:5-6 / Luke 1:32-33; 1 Cor. 1:30

The same point can also be applied in reference to the Holy Spirit: calling Him “Lord” is tantamount to calling Him “YHWH.” (2 Cor. 3:17-18) Verse 17 as much as says that the expression “Spirit of the Lord” is synonymous with calling the Spirit “Kurios, i.e., YHWH.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thomas Bradwardine: Merit Don't Merit

The following two paragraphs come from Part I, Chapter VII of Samuel Rutherford's "The Covenant of Life Opened," which was published in 1655.

Rutherford is demonstrating the flaw in the Roman Catholic notion of merit. In doing so, he appeals to the late great Thomas Bradwardine (1290-1349), whose De Causa Dei influenced the theology of John Wycliffe on grace and predestination.

Bradwardine's criticism of merit is that it is too late for it to have any value. For man to have the ability to merit anything with God, man must be the first actor. We know this is false, hence merit is an impossibility.

Rutherford writes:

"The proper work of merit (saith great Bradwardine) and of him that works must go before the wages, in time, or in order of nature. And if the worker receive its operation, and working for wages from God first, and by his virtue and help continue in operation and working, he cannot condignly merit at the hand of God, but is rather more in Gods debt, after his working, then before his working, because he bountifully receives more good from God, then before, especially, because he gives nothing proper of his own to God, but gives to God his own good; But no man first acts for God, for God is the first actor and mover in every action, and motion. As that saith, Who gave first to the Lord, and it shall be recompensed him?

"...God did more to Adam in giving to him being, faculties, mind, will, affections, power, habits, his blessed-Image, then Adam can never be in a condition, in which he can recompense God, or give him more annual and usury, in his acting of obedience, then the stock was he received in proportion. As the Son can never give the Father, in recompense, so much or the captive ransomed from death, can never give to his ransom- payer, who bought him, so much, as the one and the other shall no more be under an obligation, and debt of love and service to father and ransomer, then to a stranger that they never knew: Nor could Adam thus be freed of God, so as he should be owing nothing to him. If any say, God may freely forgive all this obligation and debt: To which Bradwardine answers well: 1. The forgiving of the debt, when the debtor hath nothing to pay is a greater debt taken on. 2. God (saith he) may forgive so in regard of actual obligation, that he is not obliged ad aliquid faciendum sub poena peccati, to do anything under the pain or punishment of sin, as the hireling is obliged to work, when he hath made a Covenant to work, and so we are not obliged to do, as much as we can for God. But in regard of habitual obligation, God cannot forgive the debt, that the reasonable creature owes to God, for so he might dispense with this, that the reasonable creature owe no obedience to God, suppose he should command it, which is impossible."

Samuel Rutherford, The Covenant of Life Opened

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Doctrine of Death, Part 3

3. The CONQUEST of Death

2 Samuel 14:14 – We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.
Job 30:23 – For I know that you will bring me to death and to the house appointed for all living.
Proverbs 14:32 – The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing, but the righteous finds refuge in his death.  Adam Clarke writes, “He rejoiceth to depart and be with Christ: to him death is gain; he is not reluctant to go - he flies at the call of God.”

Same Hebrew verb as found in Ruth 2:12 & Psalm 2:12
…the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!
…Blessed are all who take refuge in him.


Question 42. Since then Christ died for us, why must we also die?

Answer. Our death is not a satisfaction for our sins, but only an abolishing of sin, and a passage into eternal life.


This answer is an explanation to the objection which we frequently hear made in the following form: He for whom another has died ought not himself to die, else God would seem to demand a double satisfaction for one offence. Christ now has died for us. Therefore, we ought not to die.

Answer: It is conceded that we ought not to die for the sake of making satisfaction; but there are other causes why it becomes necessary for us to die. We do not die for the purpose of satisfying the justice of God, but that we may truly receive the benefits purchased by the death of another, that sin may be abolished, and a passage or transition be made unto eternal life. Our temporal death is then not a satisfaction for sin; but it is,
1.  An admonition of the remains of sin in us.
2. An admonition of the greatness of the evil of sin.
3. An abolishing of the remains of sin; and, lastly, a passage into eternal life; for the transition of the faithful to eternal life is effected by temporal death.

Reply: Where the cause is removed, the effect can no longer remain in force. But the cause of death in us, which is sin, is taken away. Therefore the effect, which is death, ought also to be taken away.

Answer: The effect is, indeed, taken away when the cause is wholly removed; but in us the cause of death, which has respect to the abolishing of sin, is not entirely removed; although it be taken away as it respects the remission of sin. Or, we may reply, that sin, as far as it respects the guilt thereof, is taken away, but not as it respects the matter of sin which is not yet entirely abolished, but remains in us, to be removed gradually, that we may be required to exercise repentance, and be fervent in prayer, until, in the life to come, we be perfectly freed from all the remains of sin.

John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

Philippians 1:23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 – But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.

“Asleep” could be viewed simply as a euphemism for death, and in the general, secular culture it was. But Scripture gives us reason to not take it as a simple euphemism for death for the monumental reason that Jesus used it and treated it as mere sleep over which he has full authority. So in Luke 8:52 we read, “And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, ‘Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.’” Then again, in John 11:11, referring to Lazarus, we read, “After saying these things, he said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.’”

Bengel on this passage, "Sleep is the death of the saints, in the language of heaven; but this language the disciples here understood not; incomparable is the generosity of the divine manner of discoursing, but such is the slowness of men's apprehension that Scripture often has to descend to the more miserable style of human discourse."

Christians die in order to share in Christ’s victory over it. Jesus died as a satisfaction for our sins. He rose from the dead proving both the efficacy of His satisfaction for our sins and His triumph over the claims of death on dying sinners. When believers die, they are sharing in Christ’s triumph over death. This is truly part of our life of faith. In faith, we believe that, just as Christ triumphed over the grave, we, being implanted into Him, will also triumph over the grave and live eternally with Him. Unbelievers have no such hope. 

John Bunyan depicts Christian’s death as a ‘crossing the river” into the Celestial City, He does so in these words, which show how believers have both no fear of death, but also have fear of dying:

“Then they addressed themselves to the water, and entering, Christian began to sink, and crying out to his good friend Hopeful, he said, I sink in deep waters; the billows go over my head; all his waves go over me. Selah.

“Then said the other, Be of good cheer, my brother: I feel the bottom, and it is good. Then said Christian, Ah! my friend, the sorrows of death have compassed me about, I shall not see the land that flows with milk and honey. And with that a great darkness and horror fell upon Christian, so that he could not see before him. Also here he in a great measure lost his senses, so that he could neither remember nor orderly talk of any of those sweet refreshments that he had met with in the way of his pilgrimage. But all the words that he spoke still tended to discover that he had horror of mind, and heart-fears that he should die in that river, and never obtain entrance in at the gate. Here also, as they that stood by perceived, he was much in the troublesome thoughts of the sins that he had committed, both since and before he began to be a pilgrim. It was also observed that he was troubled with apparitions of hobgoblins and evil spirits; for ever and anon he would intimate so much by words.

“Hopeful therefore here had much ado to keep his brother’s head above water; yea, sometimes he would be quite gone down, and then, ere a while, he would rise up again half dead. Hopeful did also endeavor to comfort him, saying, Brother, I see the gate, and men standing by to receive us; but Christian would answer, It is you, it is you they wait for; for you have been hopeful ever since I knew you. And so have you, said he to Christian. Ah, brother, (said he,) surely if I was right he would now arise to help me; but for my sins he hath brought me into the snare, and hath left me. Then said Hopeful, My brother, you have quite forgot the text where it is said of the wicked, “There are no bands in their death, but their strength is firm; they are not troubled as other men, neither are they plagued like other men.” Psa. 73:4,5. These troubles and distresses that you go through in these waters, are no sign that God hath forsaken you; but are sent to try you, whether you will call to mind that which heretofore you have received of his goodness, and live upon him in your distresses.

“Then I saw in my dream, that Christian was in a muse a while. To whom also Hopeful added these words, Be of good cheer, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole. And with that Christian brake out with a loud voice, Oh, I see him again; and he tells me, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.” Isa. 43:2. Then they both took courage, and the enemy was after that as still as a stone, until they were gone over. Christian, therefore, presently found ground to stand upon, and so it followed that the rest of the river was but shallow. Thus they got over.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Doctrine of Death, Part 2

2. The DECISIVENESS of Death

Job 14:5 – Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass
Ecclesiastes 3:2 – a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
Hebrews 9:27 – And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment

"My uncle Billy lived for 75 years. How can it be just or fair for God to punish him eternally in Hell for the sins of only 75 years?"

This is perhaps one of the most common objections to the doctrine of Hell. The heart of this objection lies in the comparison of eternity to time and the apparent severity of eternal punishment for sin that was confined to what is an infinitesimal speck by comparison.

Though there are several flaws in this objection, we shall attempt to answer them as succinctly as possible.

First of all, we should deal with the mistaken assumption that Hell is full of repentant souls. It is frequently asserted and almost always simply assumed that the souls in Hell now "get it." Only now it is too late for them to be sorry about what they've done. I defy anyone to prove that notion from Scripture. If the Bible gives us any indication of the attitude of the damned souls in Hell, it is that they continue to be sinful and unrepentant. This is in the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Even though the rich man was suffering the fires of hell, he still though he was too good to speak to Lazarus directly. He even wants Abraham to command Lazarus to wait on his needs. I have been in countries where there still exists the strata of classes dividing servants from their bosses and it is common practice for the "help" to be spoken about, even in a derogatory manner, right in his or her presence and if he or she weren't present. I recognize this immediately in the rich man. We do not see him begging for forgiveness from Lazarus for his former contempt and mistreatment of him. No! He still feels that he is better than Lazarus and that it is not unreasonable that even in Hell he should have Lazarus wait on him.

It seems to be quite an unwarranted assumption that once people get to Hell they finally wake up and realize the error of their ways and that their torment consists in being too late to rectify things or to make amends. If we take this story as any kind of indication about the attitudes of the damned, then the objection evaporates instantly. Why is it unfair to eternally punish people who are going to continue eternally to shake their fists at God and refuse to admit their wrong?

But secondly, this objection belittles both God and sin. It belittles sin because it belittles God. A small view of sin is a direct result of a small view of God. God is infinite. God is the ultimate Good. Any action made against His prescribed will is, in its very essence, an affront to the infinite God, maker of heaven and earth. But the real kicker is this: God sees all men in one of two ways - either in Christ or in sin. If your sins are not covered by Christ, then God, since He is eternal and infinite, must necessarily continue infinitely and eternally to see you in sin.

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