The Conservation of Patristic and Medieval Theology

Some people think the church died with John and began again recently with their favorite movement or their favorite denomination…

We are not by far the brightest; we have so much to learn from the great theologians of the past.

Just because we have the greatest exegetical software tools and books, and because we have the “grammatical-historical” method, that does not mean that we can dispense what others have said about the text over more than 2,000 years.

We are so unconsciously unaware how indebted we are to those who outlined the doctrines for us.

If someone claims that he or she got their doctrines just from the Bible, well my hat off to them. I cannot say that.

If we would have to come up with the doctrines we have nowadays, it would take us hundreds or even thousands of years … and none of us have that much time.

For example “The Doctrine of Trinity…” If someone would cast you away on deserted island with just your Bible, it would take you about 400 years to come up with the doctrine of the Trinity- that with the assumption that you possess the compounded theological minds of Athanasius, the Cappadocian fathers, and Augustine. Well, the truth is that we would never come up with the doctrine of Trinity on our own.

The same goes with Christology. Do you know anyone around us that would come up with the language of one person with two natures? That doctrine took another 400 years.

What about the doctrine of substitutionary atonement? It is so easy to preach it, but how long did it take the church to come up with this doctrine which most of conservative Protestants accept today? It took approximately 1,600 years.

Why do we need to study the history of doctrines? To keep us from re-inventing the “wheel,” to keep us from lapsing into heresy, to learn and appreciate good theology, to understand our roots…

Many claim to be conservative. I am wondering if they really understand the meaning. It would be good to understand, to know what is that we are conserving

authored by Cornel P,  M. Div. Biola University

Treatise on the Trinity with a 6-Year-Old

6-year-old Michael: Daddy, are Jesus and God the same person or two different persons?

Daddy: Yes and Yes.

Michael: How is that possible?

Daddy: There is only one God.  The Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three distinct persons, but they are One.  And there is only One God.

Michael: I really don’t get it.

Daddy: Me neither. But we do not have to understand it.  We just have to believe it!



Theology 101: Jesus is Glorified by the Father and the Holy Spirit

I love the doctrines of the Trinity because, as CS Lewis said, the idea of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit existing as Three-in-One essentially proves that Christianity is the one true religion.

CS Lewis points out that the mind of man could not come up with such an idea about God.  All other gods are man-made, except the One Triune God revealed in the Bible.  Many authors of the different books of the Bible, spanning over a thousand years remain consistent in this revelation!

That is amazing!

The Three Persons of God are all over the Bible, and once the believer understands this through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, he will understand how God relates to humans in His redemptive plan.

The relationship within the Godhead is such that the Father shares His glory with the Son.

“And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” John 17:5

Before the foundations of the world were laid down, the Son and the Father shared a perfect glory which we do not understand at this time.

But wait… How is that possible?

The famous verse from Isaiah 42:8 says:

“I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other…”

The only explanation is that the Father and Son are One.  That is, They are One Being, yet distinct.  This glory between the Father and Son is reciprocal:

“glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You.” John 17:1

This is the only way possible that the entire host of Heaven is able to rightfully worship Jesus the Lamb in Revelation 5, as only God Himself is the One able to receive worship.

The Holy Spirit also attests to the divinity of Jesus because the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus.

“He [the Holy Spirit] will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” John 16:14

We see that the Holy Spirit shares in the Son’s divine attributes (“what is mine“) and at the same time He glorifies the Son.

Why is it important that 21st century Christians understand these crucial biblical teachings?

It comes down to the plan of redemption.  We must understand how we are being saved, how the Persons of the Trinity each has a specific role in our redemption.

The Father did not die for us, but the Son did (John 3:16).  The Father’s wrath and justice had to be satisfied (in the substitution made on the cross), not the Son’s.  The Holy Spirit is the One who convinces us of our need for Jesus (John 16:7-10), and the Spirit is the One at work in our regeneration and sanctification (John 3:5, 1 Peter 1:2).  The Father is the One who draws us to believe in the Son (John 6:44).

And the list of complementarian roles of the Godhead for redemption continues…

But it all comes down to the glory of God.  The Father glorifies the Son.  The Spirit glorifies the Son.

Should not we, the redeemed, glorify Jesus every second of our lives?!

CS Lewis photo

Who Raised Jesus from the Dead?

The straight forward answer is that God raised Jesus from the dead as Acts 2:24 states: “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

But I love the trinitarian implications found in Scripture with respect to Christ’s resurrection.

Most references to God raising Jesus up refer to God the Father.  Even the mockers testified truth when they said in Matthew 27:43: “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” The Father-Son relationship was validated by the resurrection, and God the Father proved to be faithful in resurrecting Jesus.

Scripture also gives us evidence that Christ’s power was involved in the resurrection, as Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity.  In John 11:25 Jesus makes the powerful statement “I am the resurrection and the life,” assuming to Himself the power to life.  Jesus also said in John 10:17-18, “I lay down my life that I may take it up again…  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

The Father has assigned the task of life to the Son.

The Holy Spirit is also closely implicated in the greatest and most important event to ever grace the face of the universe.  Romans 1:4 says that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.”  And Romans 8:11 makes it clear that the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to life is similar to the work of resurrecting Jesus: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit have achieved the greatest and most glorious act in this work of redemption when Jesus was resurrected.

And we rejoice as we look forward to God resurrecting up His saints in a similar fashion!

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And Now, Father, Glorify Me…

We are quickly approaching the Passion Week which is the most important time period in Christendom, culminating with the en-bloc event of death and resurrection of Christ, the greatest event to grace the face of the universe.

Without the death of Christ there is no atonement, there is no substitution, there is no forgiveness of sin.  And without the resurrection of Christ there would not be any Christianity.

This Man left His mark on human history like none other.  Even secular folks will agree with that.

But this Man was infinitely more than just a mere man.  He was divine.  He was God Himself, the Son of God.

We know that Jesus spent long periods of time in prayer communicating with the Father, and in John 17 we are given a glimpse, a revelation, a majestic treat of  the content of one of His prayers.  This special prayer occurred Thursday night of Passion Week, before Jesus went into Gethsemane where His arrest happened, and one day before his death.

He started the prayer with the final motive and outcome of the entire chain of events which would take place, God’s glory: “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.”  John 17:1

The culmination of God’s redemptive plan brings Him the most glory via a most unlikely path, the death of the Son of God followed by His resurrection.  Such a method is contrary to any human approach.  That is why God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and God’s ways are not our ways…

Things that Jesus communicates to the Father in this prayer are incomprehensible for us.  Attesting to His divinity, Jesus says: “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” John 17:5

The same glory that will unfold in His death, resurrection, ascension, and return, the Son already had with the Father before the institution of time and the foundations of this world came to be!  This concept alone, under the revelation of the Holy Spirit, should make every Christian bow down in their spirit and worship God because He left that ultimate glory to come and die in our place!

But this is not the end of the story of glory…

Apostle Paul tells us that we will be glorified with Him, not because of us, but because He is in us: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col 1:27

As we approach Passion Week, meditate on Christ’s unimaginable glory and the fact that He, by His grace will share it with us one day.

Witnessing to the Jehovah’s Witnesses (part 1)

How does a born-again Christian kindly turn the tables and witness to a self-proclaimed Jehovah’s witness (JW)?

Jehovah’s witnesses are the folks who come to your door and proclaim their understanding of the kingdom of God in a way that is not consistent with orthodox Christianity.

One of their most important doctrinal points has to do with denying the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, therefore denying the Trinity.  They believe that Jesus was a created being just like Satan and the archangel Michael, and the Holy Spirit is a mere force.

There are also many other secondary doctrinal heresies involving earning salvation, failed end times predictions (see photo above), and bizarre eschatological and apocalyptic teaching.

When discussing the Bible with JWs, I highly recommend to first and foremost focus on the Person of Jesus and His divinity. That should be the center of your witnessing.  Everything else like deconstructing the failed apocalyptic predictions, and the unbiblical decrees of their society, should be used as plan B. The reason you must focus on Jesus is that you must minister to them almost like to an unbeliever.

It is important to know that they use the New World Translation of the Bible, a specific JW Bible which has key verses like John 1:1 altered to fit their theology.

In this post as well as upcoming posts we will focus on the divinity of Jesus arguments. Your goal will be to show that Jesus is the same as the Jehovah revealed in the Old Testament, part of the Godhead. Anytime we see the name LORD (all caps) in the OT, it comes from the Hebrew word YHWH, and it can also be named Jehovah in English, and we will show that LORD applies to Jesus.

Let us start off with the “first and the last” argument. Here are two powerful verses from Isaiah spoken by the LORD (YHWH):

Isaiah 44:6 “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.”

Isaiah 48:12 “Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last.”

There are at least three places in Revelation where we can ascribe the title “the first and the last” to Jesus, as it is ascribed to Jehovah. For example, in Revelation 22 in the setting of the Second Coming, Jesus speaks by the angel:

12“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

16“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

Isaiah 42:8 also tells us “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another,” another powerful statement that the LORD does not share His Name with anyone. In light of fact that Jesus calls Himself “the first and the last,” and in light of the fact that the LORD also gives Himself that name, we must conclude that Jesus is the LORD (YHWH).

to be continued…

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The Father Loves the Son

We know that God has revealed Himself as the  Triune God, three co-eternal Persons who love and defer to each other.  The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are each fully God and there is one God, a mystery too wonderful to understand.

But why has God revealed Himself to us in Scriptures (via the ministry of Jesus) as Father and Son? Why this relationship?

Why are the first and the second Persons of the Trinity (no hierarchy implied) represented in such terms? Why not the brother-brother relationship, or another form of close human relationship that we can grasp?

This revelation is presented as such in order for believers to begin to understand the magnitude of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the Son.  

Even as we meditate on this we will never be able to fully grasp the eternal mystery and the gravity of what God did to redeem us.

A small step in understanding this infinitely costly redemption begins with examining the love between the Father and the Son.

The Father loves the Son so much that He has deferred to the Son sovereign lordship over the entire visible universe, as well as the heavenly unseen domain:

“The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.” (John 3:35).

“…seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet…” (Ephesians 1:20-22)

We love our children and give them the very best we are able to give them.  But this pales in comparison with the fact that the Father gave ALL THINGS to the Son, so much He loves the Son.

The Father loves the Son because Jesus is a perfect reflection of God’s glory:

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” (Hebrews 1:3).

The Son is God in substance, nature, character and every other parameter that can be humanly expressed.

The Father loves the Son because the Son delights in His Father.  Jesus lived a perfect sinless life in supreme obedience to the Father who testifies for the seen and unseen domains to hear:

“And behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”  (Matthew 3:17)

As we begin to see evidence of the GREAT love between Father and Son another element is introduced by Jesus Himself, that is His love for us:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you… These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9,11)

Wow… Could this be possible?

After listing the amazing Scripture above can we say that the Son really loves us the way the Father loves Him?

The grandeur of the precious sacrifice of Christ now begins to take shape.

Can you even begin to image the wrath of the Father being poured on His beloved Son instead of us? Can you imagine a similar scenario between you and your own child?  Can you even begin to imagine what the Father felt (if can use this word) as His beloved was tortured and murdered?

Knowing how much we love our children we now begin to understand why God is revealing Himself as Father and Son in addition to the Holy Spirit.

He does this to help us understand the magnitude of the sacrifice of Christ and eternal impact on believers… to understand how costly His sacrifice was… to understand how much He loves us… to make us turn to Him and love Him… to make Him the center of our universe.

The Holy Spirit Displayed His Work at the Time of Messiah’s Birth

Approximately four hundred years of prophetic silence had passed in Israel since Malachi, the last chronological and canonical prophet, received his revelation from God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Four hundred years had passed since the last filling with the Holy Spirit of any person in the written record.

These were four hundred years of political struggle and spiritual darkness for the people of Israel.

During the inter-testamental period, the religiosity of the Jews grew steadily in empty orthodox Mosaic practice in a way that was not pleasing to God.  Despite this long and dark spiritual age, the prophecy given to Isaiah begins to come to fruition through the work of the Holy Spirit:

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.  For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” Isaiah 9:2

The dark period referenced by Isaiah comes to an end with a series of amazing events under the sovereign control of God through the work of the Holy Spirit.

It was a rare and well noted event in the Old Testament for a person to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but in the period surrounding Jesus’s birth, the Holy Spirit began a special work that eventually culminated in the age of the Church.

First and foremost, the Holy Spirit takes on an active role in the coming of Jesus into our world by conceiving Him in a supernatural way in Mary’s womb.

We then have special prophetic messages being delivered from God via Gabriel to Zechariah and Mary.

Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesies about “my Lord” when she meets Mary who is pregnant with baby Jesus. Baby John is filled with the Holy Spirit while in her womb as foretold by Gabriel.

It is also fascinating to note how an unborn baby “leapt for joy.” Being filled with the Holy Spirit and being able to feel joy are important characteristics of a person. This is one of the reasons why we believe that an unborn baby is a person, and life begins at conception.

Zechariah undergoes the miracle of regaining his speech, is filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophecies about the coming of the Messiah and the work of his son John.

We see the filling and guidance of the Holy Spirit with respect to Simeon and Anna when they see baby Jesus at the temple.

The Spirit also pours out the gift of knowledge on Jesus as a child when He teaches in the temple, and Jesus becomes “full of the Holy Spirit” in His ministry.

All these aspects of the vast work of the Holy Spirit herald the transition from a dark age into an age of light, the Messianic age, and ultimately the Church age when the Spirit is poured out onto the followers of Christ without measure in the baptism and the filling with the Holy Spirit.

Unlike in the OT era, we now have a special privilege to be able to access an abundance of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. What used to be a rare and very selective event, the filling with the Spirit has now become accessible to all born-again believers. All glory belongs to God-the Holy Spirit for the work He does in us!

The Triune God Revealed in the Old Testament (part 2)

continued from here

The book of Isaiah is considered by many to be the “Gospel” of the Old Testament (OT) because it portrays Jesus in His Messianic role as the servant send by God the Father under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  Isaiah 61:1-2 has strong trinitarian implications because it distinguishes the three persons of the Godhead and it shows their participation in the work of salvation of mankind:

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;”

The narrative here is spoken by Jesus, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and the opening of the passage “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me” encapsulates the Trinity.  The Hebrew word ruah is used to designate the Holy Spirit in the OT and it is used in this passage.  The words Lord God (Adonai and YHWY) represent God the Father, while the person speaking in this passage is Jesus, the messianic servant sent by the Father to accomplish the tasks listed in verses 1-3.

The fact that Jesus is the narrator cannot be contested due to the evidence found in Luke 4:16-30.  Jesus enters the Synagogue on Sabbath and reads aloud from the scroll the passage in Isaiah 61:1-2, and makes the astonishing claim:  “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  Jesus thus claims to be the Messiah, the narrator of Isaiah 61.

Therefore, Isaiah presents the Trinity – God the Father sending Jesus the Messiah, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit –  together doing the work of redemption.

Isaiah also pays special attention to the Holy Spirit and designates personal qualities to Him in Isaiah 63:10 “But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.”  Besides the terrifying claim that God Himself became the enemy of Israel and He fought against them, this verse reveals two important things about the Holy Spirit (ruah).

First, the Holy Spirit is a distinct entity (his Holy Spirit) from God the Father (LORD YHWH), and second, the Holy Spirit can be grieved, a personal and emotional quality.  We now have a clear presentation of two out of three persons in the Trinity, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 63:10.

A biblical demonstration of the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit is beyond the scope of this article, but Isaiah 61:1-2 and 63:10 are clear in revealing the three separate persons of God: LORD YHWH the Father, Jesus the Messiah, and the Holy Spirit.

to be continued…

Which Person of the Trinity Should We Pray to?

Christian believers are required to have a continuous life of prayer, and we pray to God and address Him as Lord in our prayer.  If we are to understand the way God is revealed in Scripture, we must realize that God is revealed in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, each being fully God and all three one God.

A logical question then follows, does it matter which person of the Godhead we pray to?  Or should we mainly pray to God as Lord?

Pastor and theologian John Piper answer as follows:  “the pattern that you find almost uniformly – I say almost uniformly – throughout the New Testament is to pray to the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Reformed believers pray almost exclusively to the Father because the other persons of the Trinity facilitate our access to the Father.  The Holy Spirit glorifies the Son, and the Son, thru His sacrifice brings us to the Father.  Jesus also prays to the Father and this serves as the ultimate example for us.

But I also believe it is biblical to pray to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit.  Consider the following verses about praying to Jesus:

John 14:13-14 “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do… If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

1 Cor 1:2 “in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”

1 Tim 1:12 “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord…”

With respect to the Holy Spirit, we must understand that the Holy Spirit facilitates our worship and prayer.  He points to the Son as the only way to the Father.  But since the Holy Spirit is fully God, we may address the Holy Spirit directly in prayer, for example: “come, Holy Spirit.”

Prayer is essentially communication, and when we have fellowship with someone, we communicate with that person.  Paul tells us in 2 Cor 13:14 that we partake in “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.”  Therefore it is not wrong to communicate in prayer with the Holy Spirit.

Piper, concludes: “So my bottom line answer – and I’ve been asked this a lot – is to follow in general the pattern of the Bible, namely, pray to the Father in the name of Jesus by the power of the Spirit, that is, in reliance upon the help of the Spirit.”