Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Archive for the ‘Doctrine of God’ Category

Being Careful With the Love of God

The love of God is a biblical truth.  I adore the God of the Bible because He has revealed Himself as loving and good.  Psalm 145:8 says that God is abounding in steadfast love.  1 John 4:8 says that God is love.  Some believe that love is an attribute of God.  However, I agree with others such as A.W. Tower who said that love flows from God and is part of His personage.  Love then is not an attribute of God but is freely given by Him toward His creation.  Truth is said to be a part of God but we would not say that truth is an attribute of God nor should we say this about God’s love.  God loves because He chooses to love.  God has demonstrated His love toward us sinners by the giving of His Son (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).

I do think that we can make too much about the love of God.  Of course, I rejoice that God is love.  I rejoice that God has sent His Son to die for our sins and to rise again on the third day where the Son now sits at the Father’s right hand till His enemies be made His footstool (Psalm 110:1).  I rejoice that the Christian message is one of love as we point to the cross as the greatest example of true love (Galatians 2:20).  I rejoice that God has revealed His great love for us sinners (1 John 4:10).  This love should flow from God into our lives and we in turn are to love others (1 John 4:11).  Jesus said that loving others was the second greatest commandment (Matthew 22:39).  Jesus said that His disciples would be marked by loving others (John 13:34-35).  He told His disciples in Matthew 5:43-48 that we were to be perfect in love as our Father is.  John Wesley defined this love as “perfected love that flows from the God of love.”  Wesley said that this type of love can only be found in the grace of God and His Spirit working within us to perfect this love.  Perfect in love then was Wesley’s preferred term for entire sanctification (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

The love of God drips from the pages of the Bible.  We see God’s love demonstrated toward Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:14-15, 21).   We see God’s love in the calling out of the Israelites from Egypt into the promised land.  God Himself even says that it was His love that motivated Him to choose Israel and not because of the Israelites themselves (Deuteronomy 7:6-8).  It was the love of God that called the prophets in the Old Testament to call His people to repentance (see Hosea as an example).  It was the love of God that motivated Him to promise the Messiah and then to send His one and only Son to earth (Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 1:23; John 1:1, 14, 17).  Jesus was God manifested in the flesh (John 1:14) and He fully revealed God to us (John 14:9).  Jesus never said He was the Father nor did He say He was the Spirit but instead He fully revealed the fullness of God to us (Colossians 2:9).  Jesus is the exact representation of God (Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:3).  What do we see when we see Jesus?  We see Him “doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38).  We see Jesus coming not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  We see Jesus coming to call sinners to repentance (Luke 19:10).  We see Jesus telling the Pharisees that God goes looking for the one sheep out of the ninety-nine who turns and is lost (Luke 15:1-7).

There is no doubt that God is love.  There is no doubt that Jesus has revealed the love of God.  There is no doubt that Jesus shows us that God is good and that He desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:5-6; 2 Peter 3:9).  There is no doubt that the love of God flows throughout the Bible.

But I do want to place a warning.  Just a fire across the bow if you will.  Again, I am one of those who gladly preaches the love of God.  I gladly preach Arminianism because I see that the love of God is limited in Calvinism.  In fact, I don’t see a loving God when I study Calvinism but instead I see the overwhelming issue being either the sovereignty of God (in this case the all-power of God in Calvinism) or the glory of God (wherein God must determine all things lest He share His glory).  The love of God is seen as a part of God’s sovereignty either in choosing the elect by arbitrary means rather than love but in some form of love nonetheless or the love of God is seen as part of His glory.  Calvinism diminishes the love of God by failing to proclaim the truth of the unlimited atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Oh yes, His atonement is infinite in value and could atone for the sins of the world but instead the sovereign God has chosen that He will place His love only on the elect.  To me, this doesn’t match either the biblical view of God as loving and good nor does it fit with the parables of Jesus such as found in Luke 10:25-37.

Let me fire this shot though across the bow.  This is a friendly shot to us Arminians.  I do believe in the love of God but let us not exalt the love of God above other truths about God.  For example, God’s wrath or God’s justice or His holiness.  The open theist, in my estimation and I know I have some brothers and sisters who read this blog who are open theists, elevate the love of God above all other truth about God.  The same might could be said about the conditional immortality holders (whom I likewise regard as brethren in the kingdom).  Others want to lift up the transcendence of God.  Some want to exalt the power of God (my charismatic brethren might fall here).

My point is that we must seek balance.  There is no doubt that God is love.  There is no doubt also that God is holy.  There is no doubt that God is sovereign.  There is no doubt that God is powerful and He does hear our cries and can demonstrate His power.  Yet we tend to uplift the truth about God that we love the most.  Arminians might be guilty of doing this with God’s love.  Calvinists might be guilty of exalting the sovereignty of God (or actually the omnipotence of God).  I pray that we would simply make sure that when we preach that we don’t make a god in our image.  This is what cults do.  Their gods are figured out but our God is beyond our understanding.  God has revealed Himself in the Bible but not exhaustively.

I pray that we preach to sinners both the love of God (that He has demonstrated His love toward sinners through the cross) and the wrath of God against sin (Romans 1:18).  Both are true.  God loves but God also hates.  God cannot tolerate sin in His presence so let us preach the truth of His holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Let us preach that God desires the sinner to come to repentance but let us also preach that all who reject His love remain under His just wrath (John 3:36).

I rejoice in the love of God, the goodness of God, the grace of God.  I also preach the biblical truths of His holiness, His justice, His sovereignty, His transcendence, His wrath.  May we be balanced in our preaching.

Short Thoughts on Helping Others Understand the Doctrine of the Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity is not an easy doctrine to grasp.  For one, we are limited as human beings to understand God.  His ways are beyond our ways and His thoughts are beyond our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).  God has made Himself known to us in His Word but even there we are limited in what we know about God.  We know enough about God to fear Him and to be saved by His grace (John 17:3) but we are still limited in what we know about God.

This should not cause fear nor doubts to arise.  If you can figure out your God, He is not the true and living God who has revealed Himself to us by His Word.  The true and living God is simply a mystery to us.  He is not a man (Numbers 23:19) nor has He ever been a man (Isaiah 43:10).  God has always been God and will always be God.  God never changes (James 1:17).  God remains the same and His years will never end (Psalm 102:27).  The immutability of God is a doctrine that we should rest in (Hebrews 13:8) knowing that God will keep His promises since He is forever faithful (1 Kings 8:56; Romans 4:21).

When it comes to understanding the doctrine of the Trinity, it helps to think this way: there is only one what (God) and yet there are three who’s (Divine Persons).  One God eternally existent in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Each of the divine persons is a person in that they are co-equal, co-eternal with the other members of the Triune God so that the Father is not the Son nor is He the Holy Spirit nor is the Son the Father nor is He the Holy Spirit nor is the Holy Spirit the Father nor is He the Son.  The Father is God.  The Son is God.  The Holy Spirit is God.  Yet again, there is not three manifestations of the one true God (modalism) nor is the Father greater than the Son and the Spirit (Arianism).  Instead, the Bible teaches us that there is one God (Deuteronomy 4:35; 6:4; 32:39; 2 Samuel 7:22; 1 Chronicles 17:20; Psalm 83:18; 86:10; Isaiah 44:6; 45:18; Mark 12:29; 1 Corinthians 8:4; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:5).  Yet the New Testament is clear that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God yet there is only one God.

How then do we reconcile these facts?  Those who deny the Trinity run into error.  If you deny the doctrine of the Trinity, you must do something with the one true God.  You then must turn to answering who is God?  Is the Father then God and yet not the Son or the Spirit?  Or are there now three gods which means you must deny the fact that there is only one God?  Cults often attack the Lord Jesus and deny His full deity or they make Him less than the Father.  Oneness Pentecostals claim to exalt Jesus but they deny the full deity and persons of the Father and Spirit (though they would claim to embrace their deity while denying their personhood).  Most cults exalt the Father as above the Son in some way (although the Bible does teach the willful submission of the Son to the Father in His mediating role; see 1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

It is simply easier to come to the mystery of the Trinity and admit I don’t fully understand it but I accept it by faith because it is what the Bible teaches.  God is beyond me.  Again, I point to Isaiah 55:8-9.  God’s ways are not my ways.  He is God and I humble myself before Him.  I confess that there is only one God and yet three persons in the one Godhead.  I confess that the Father is not the Son nor is He the Spirit.  I confess that truth to all three persons.  There is only one God but three persons in the one Godhead.  I know not how this is nor does it completely make sense to me but it is what Scripture teaches and I humble myself before the one true and living God.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/10/2015 at 5:45 PM

Denials of the Trinity & Attacks on Christ

Almost every denial of the doctrine of the Trinity will lead to an attack upon the Lord Jesus Christ or a gross application thereof.  For example, in Jehovah Witness theology, Jesus is Michael the angel.  Jesus is created by the Father and He is not eternal nor equal with the Father.  Jesus is not even worshiped among the JW’s (although they did worship Jesus until 1954 when the Watchtower banned JW’s from worshiping Jesus).  In the case of the JW’s, they are simply replaying the old heresy of Arianism and making Jesus simply a part of God’s creation instead of being God.

Others attack the person and work of Christ outright.  The Hebraic Roots movement is gaining speed in the West (due in large part to a reaction to the shallow seeker churches).  This movement at first seems to affirm the Lord Jesus but the more you get to studying under “rabbis” the more you’ll come to “learn” that Jesus is not God.  In fact, they deny that salvation is accomplished by the finish work of the Messiah but instead they believe one must keep the law of Moses to be saved.  This is nothing more than the old heresy of the Judaizers of Acts 15 all over again.

Paul the Apostle was so protective of the gospel and the Person and Work of Christ Jesus that he issued a curse upon anyone who did not preach the truth (Galatians 1:6-9).  Paul warned the Corinthians against the lies of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:2-4).  He wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:5 what he was passionate about preaching: Christ as Lord!  Paul used the Greek word kurious as he did also in Romans 10:9 and Philippians 2:11.  Jesus is Lord was his cry!  This same word was used by the Jews in the Greek Old Testament about God.

In Isaiah 40:3 we find that Jesus is both Yahweh and Elohim.  Mormonism teaches, for example, that Yahweh and Elohim are different persons.  Elohim is said to be the Father of the Lord Jesus who is Jehovah or Yahweh.  Yet Isaiah wrote:

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD (Yahweh);
make straight in the desert a highway for our God (Elohim).

This verse is applied to John the Baptist in Matthew 3:3 about the Lord Jesus.  The Lord Jesus is both Yahweh and Elohim!

The biblical doctrine of the Trinity is not easy to grasp and is unique among Christians.  No other religion compares to Christianity in this regard.  Islam and Judaism both claim monotheism along with Christianity but Islam and Judaism are both unitarian monotheism or that God is absolutely one.  Christianity is unique in that we believe in one God (monotheism) but in three persons in the one God.  In this way, Christianity is trinitarian monotheistic.  Three who’s and one what.  One what and three who’s.  This is how I teach my children the doctrine of the Trinity.  All three persons in the Godhead are called God in the Bible.  Yet the Bible affirms one God.  The answer is not to deny monotheism nor to deny Trinitarianism but to embrace both as true.  There is one God and three persons in the one God.

Denials of the Trinity bring many problems.  What do we do with the divine persons being mentioned together such as in Matthew 28:19 or 2 Corinthians 13:14?  What do we do with the baptism of Jesus where all three persons are manifest (Matthew 3:13-17)?  What do we do with Jesus’ clear affirmation of both His own deity and yet His submission to the Father?  What do we do with the Spirit of God raising Jesus from the dead?  What do we do with the clear affirmation of Deuteronomy 6:4 in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 yet Paul’s clear understanding that Jesus is equal with God?

The bottom line is not to try to deny the person and work of the Lord Jesus but to affirm His work and His glory and His deity and to bow down and worship Him.  We are to praise God through the Lord Jesus Christ who gave Himself our sins and sits at the right hand of God to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25) as our mediator before God the Father (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  We must pray to the Father in the name of Jesus (John 14:13-14) giving Him the glory that is due to Him.  We must worship God in the Holy Spirit (John 4:23-24; Philippians 3:3).  To deny the Trinity only leads to chaos and various attacks on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/05/2015 at 4:04 PM

Trinitarian Praying

While listening to some podcasts on the doctrine of the Trinity, I begin to consider how we pray.  People often pray without thinking about the theology behind their prayers.  For example, I have heard people pray, “Father thank You for saving me.  Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins.  Father, thank you for loving me enough to sacrifice Yourself for me.”  Yet this is not biblical.  The Father did not give Himself for our sins but instead He gave His Son for our sins (John 3:16).  The Father no doubt has poured out His love upon us in His Son (1 John 3:1-3) yet the Father did not die on the cross.  The Son died for our sins on the cross.

Biblically speaking, we are to pray to the Father in the name of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is Trinitarian praying.  The entire Trinity was involved in our salvation.  The Father sent the Son to die for the sins of humanity.  The Son obeyed the Father perfectly (John 8:29; Philippians 2:5-11).  The Son shed His blood to save us from the wrath of a holy but loving God (Romans 5:8-9).  The Spirit raised the Son from the dead (Romans 8:11).  Acts 2:24 says that God raised Jesus from the dead.  True!  God the Spirit!  All of this, the incarnation of Jesus (Luke 1:35) to the perfect life of Jesus in obedience to His Father (Hebrews 5:8-9) and Jesus’ death on the cross and His being raised from the dead was for our salvation!  The entire Trinity was involved in this saving process!

This is also true for prayer.  Jesus is our faithful high priest (Hebrews 4:14) who mediates for us before the Father (1 Timothy 2:5).  The Lord Jesus prays for us (Hebrews 7:25).  The Spirit also prays for us (Romans 8:26-27).  We come before the Father in the name of Jesus (John 14:13-14).  Jesus taught us to pray to the Father (Matthew 6:9).  This doesn’t mean that we cannot pray to the Lord Jesus since even Stephen prayed to the Lord Jesus when he was being killed for his faith in Jesus (Acts 7:59).  However, prayer should normally be addressed to the Father in the name of Jesus who is our high priest before the holy Father.  We find Paul praying to the Father in Ephesians 3:14.

As we begin to think through our praying and realize that we are speaking to a trinitarian God, we begin to see the beauty not only of our redemption unfold but also the New Testament comes alive as we see the deity of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.  We see their work in the New Testament and we see how precious the doctrine of the Trinity would have been to the Apostles.  We see a faithful Jew such as Paul the Apostle taking the great doctrine of God from Deuteronomy 6:4 and showing God in His fulness in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 with the Father and the Son being declared the one true and living God.

The doctrine of the Trinity helps our prayer lives explode with praise as we ponder the deep things of God.  I confess that I don’t understand the Trinity fully.  It is beyond my understanding.  I do confess to my faith in its truth.  There are simply too many passages that affirm the doctrine of one God (monotheism) while yet at the same time the Father is called God, the Son is called God, and the Spirit is called God.  We either can deny monotheism and embrace tritheism or polytheism or form heretical views about Christ (almost all heretical views attack Christ).  We can deny Christ His full deity or that He was a created being (Arianism).  We can teach that Christ is fully God but He takes on three modes (modalism).  We can teach that Christ was not eternal but rather that He had a beginning and was adopted as the Son of God at His baptism by John (adoptionism).  We can deny the full deity or full humanity of Christ and created a sort of half God, half man doctrine (see Bill Johnson and Bethel for this heretical view revised).  Either way, the person of Christ is the One who gets attack by those who want to deny the Trinity.

In the end, I choose to pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I rejoice that Jesus died for my sins, that He rose again, and that He sits at the right hand of God till His enemies be made His footstool (Psalm 110:1).  I rejoice in Pentecost, the glorious truth that the gift of the Spirit was poured out as promised by God the Father (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-4).  I praise God that all three person of the holy Godhead were fully involved in saving a wretch like me.  It humbles me.  It makes me want to worship Him who is true.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/30/2014 at 10:26 PM

Do Arminians Hate the Sovereignty of God?

Here is a link to an excellent post over at the Society of Evangelical Arminians by my good brother William Birch on the issue of Arminianism and the sovereignty of God.  This issue rises up every few years as Calvinists will claim yet again that we Arminians deny the sovereignty of God.  I would agree that we don’t hold to the same view of sovereignty as the Calvinists do but we do believe in the sovereignty of God.

You can find the post here.

The Most Difficult Christian Doctrine

I have spent some time pondering what is the most difficult Christian doctrine.  For some it would be hell.  For others it would be end times.  Others would debate perhaps election and predestination or God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.  Others would say that it is the hypostatic union in the Person of the Lord Jesus.

For me, the most difficult doctrine is the Trinity.  It’s not that I am going to confess here that I am abandoning this doctrine.  I am not.  I affirm along with 2000 years of Christian history that the Bible teaches the Trinity.  I affirm this truth but that doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with it.

Theopedia defines the Trinity as follows:

The Trinity is the Christian doctrine that deals with and describes the nature of God. The doctrine asserts the following:

There is one and only one God.
God eternally exists in three distinct persons.
The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.
The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, the Father is not the Spirit, etc.

I affirm that there is but one God (Deut. 4:39; 6:4; 32:39; 2 Samuel 7:22; 1 Chronicles 17:20; Psalm 83:18; 86:10; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6; 45:18; Mark 12:29; 1 Corinthians 8:4; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:5) yet I affirm that the Father is God (Psalm 68:5; Isaiah 63:16; 64:8; Matthew 6:9; 7:11; Romans 8:15; 1 Peter 1:17).  I affirm that the Son is God (John 1:1, 14, 18; 10:30; 12:45; 16:15; Romans 9:5; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:3; Revelation 19:16).  Even the Father bore witness to the divinity of the Son (Matthew 3:17; 17:5; John 8:18; 1 John 5:9).  I also affirm the divinity of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20; John 14:26; Acts 5:3-4; 7:51; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19).  The Holy Spirit can be sinned against (Isaiah 63:10; Matthew 12:31; Mark 3:29) and He can depart from people (Genesis 6:3; 1 Samuel 16:14; Psalm 51:11).  This does not happen to a mist or a force but to a Person.  Further, the Spirit speaks (Acts 13:2) and He forbids to speak (Acts 16:6).

I could go on and on giving you Scripture after Scripture that affirms the full deity of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I affirm the Trinity.

But my mind still can’t grasp this God.  I love that.  You see the cults bring God down to their level.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses can explain their god to me.  They can give me verse after verse to prove their belief in their god, their belief in Jesus as Michael the archangel, their belief that the “faithful” will inherit the earth and only 144,000 will be sealed in eternity (and those alone are “born again”) and so forth.  They have no mystery to their god.  Their god can be understood and explained.

Not so with Yahweh.  I can’t explain how the Trinity can be understood.  I have heard all the analogies to try to explain Him.  I have heard the egg analogy.  I have heard the water analogy.  I have heard the trichotomy analogy from humanity.  I have seen the Trinity involved in the work of redemption.  I have read how our own salvation experience demonstrates the Trinity (and it does!).

Yet I still don’t fully grasp the Trinity.  There are passages that make me ponder this such as the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17) where all three persons of the Trinity are present but separate.  There are the passages of Jesus such as John 17:3 or passages that speak of His role as our redeemer and subjection before the Father which will end (1 Corinthians 15:26-28).  I read in Revelation 4:2 that there is one on the throne.  And yet in the book of Revelation we read that the Lamb is there (Revelation 7:10; 21:22-23).  We also read that the Holy Spirit is there (Revelation 22:17).

I am not doubting the Word of God here at all.  I am affirming what I read.  I love God.  I love that He is a mystery to me.  I love that I can’t put my finite mind around His infiniteness.  I love that He is bigger than I am.  I suppose that even in eternity I will always wonder about this God, about His rule and reign.  I will though fall down and worship Him and declare that He alone is God and that there is no other god (or gods).  All of humanity will declare this same truth (Philippians 2:5-11).  We must all stand before the judgment seat of God Almighty (Hebrews 9:27-28).  I praise the Lord that He has saved me by His grace and that I stand before Him even now forgiven and bound for glory.

I do know that when we reject the doctrine of the Trinity, this leads to many unanswered questions and to troubling ends.  Typically the Lord Jesus takes the biggest hit.  He is rejected as God and this leads to people not praising Him nor worshiping Him nor declaring how we can read about His preexistence, His miracles, His virgin birth, His authority, His sinlessness, His vicarious atonement, His resurrection, His ascension and His role as our high priest and yet deny His full deity.  The Holy Spirit likewise is reduced to a force (in JW theology) or a strange mist.  Passage after passage must be explained away in the New Testament regarding the Trinity such as the baptism of Jesus, Jesus speaking about the Father and also His affirmation of His equality with the Father, the role Jesus plays now in heaven or even in our salvation.

Simply put, I affirm the Trinity though I do not fully understand it and yet to reject it would lead to more problems than affirming it.  I am fully monotheistic while rejecting strict monotheism (like Islam for example).  However, to reject the Trinity would only lead to modalism (oneness Pentecostals) or Arianism (Jehovah’s Witness again).  Therefore, I praise this God whom I cannot grasp and I trust the Word of God that affirms that there is one God and three persons in the one Godhead or as I say to my sons, “One What and three Who’s.”

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/26/2014 at 12:31 PM

%d bloggers like this: