Honored Servants

“Nothing short of a religion which subjects us to personal service of Christ, which gives us a new heart and a right spirit, and compels us to feel that we are not our own, but bought with a price—nothing short of this will ever give lasting peace of mind, or bring us to the place where we shall see the face of God with delight.”

(C. H. Spurgeon, “Christ’s Servant—His Duty, and Reward,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 8 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1862), 434).

 

Jesus said,

“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (Jn 12:26). Christian service is filled with responsibilities and blessings.

In order to serve Jesus, we must listen to him. When Jesus said “follow me” in John 12:26, he used a word which root has to do with listening. We have the responsibility of listening to our Lord’s command.

However, as we are listening to His Word, we are also in His presence. Every day we long to be with Jesus. I can think of nothing I want more than to be with Jesus. If we serve, as Jesus was a servant, then we are in His presence.

Furthermore, the servant of God is promised God’s honor. The word for “honor” means “to set a price on, to value.”  How wonderful it is to be valued by God the Father and with God the Son!

Being a servant is a wonderful treasure and opportunity which each Christian is privileged to enjoy every day.

THE TRIUNE GOD: God in three persons, Blessed Trinity

  In the second century, Polycarp prayed, “I glorify you, though the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom to you, with humanoid the Holy Spirit, be glory both now and for the ages to come.” We should not expect to understand the nature of the triune God perfectly. We are creation not the Creator. We are human not divine. However, that limited availability of understanding does not nullify our responsibility and opportunity to try to know God. As we study the nature of God, we force ourselves to grow and better appreciate the indescribable gift of salvation.

Although understanding the nature of God is a life-long pursuit, we must pursue it. God said, “without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing to unto him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him” (Hebrews 11:6 ASV). Jesus said, “Except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). 

Developing and understanding of the unity of the Father, Son, and Spirit will aid in our understanding of the unity God expects among his people.  Understanding the unity God enjoys will help marriages to enjoy being united together as one. The unity of God is reflected in the unity of the church. If we better understand the nature of God’s unity, perhaps we can better understand and practice better unity in our own congregations.

Perhaps we should begin with evidence for facts of the Father, Son, and Spirit being three instead of one. Matthew 3:13-17 records the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan River. It also presents the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in three separate locations. First we see Jesus in the water, the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and the Father speaking from Heaven. There are three. In Matthew 4 we see Jesus distinguished from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is said to have led Jesus out into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1). Furthermore, in John 16:5 Jesus said, “I am going to the one who sent me.” Naturally, the disciples were saddened by this news, but they were encouraged of a better future to come. Jesus said he would send the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-8). Again we have the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit featured as distinct beings. Jesus is described as being he eternal “Word” distinct from the Father in John 1:1-3, 14.  Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:1.

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share in the divine nature. The Holy Spirt is described as God in Acts 5:3-5. The Jews sought to kill Jesus because “not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18). So the three share in divinity. We also see the three joined as one in authority. The Great Commission is to be carried out based upon the name or authority of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). We also see all three joined in the carrying out the work of salvation. Peter wrote how salvation occurs “according to the foreknoweldge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1 :2). Titus 3:4-5 says, “When the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us…by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.” It is the Father’s great mercy which “has caused us to be born again to al giving hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

Now that we have seen that the Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct, how can we understand that they are one? Deuteronomy 6:4, which is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 22:34-48, says, “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Isaiah 45:5 records “I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God.” If he is “one” how do we reconcile the other evidence? How do we understand that the one eternal God exists in three distinct and perfectly equal persons?

Perhaps is it best to begin by understanding God as one against the backdrop of paganism.  The ancient peoples were surrounded by a plethora of supposed deities. This pagan deities were always imagined as fighting against one another, giving birth to one another, and killing one another. Their disunity helps to highlight the perfect unity of the true God.

We should also understand that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share in perfect equality. They are perfectly equal in every facet of the divine nature. This truth is represented in passages, such as the Great Commission, which mentions the three together on the same level. Hence we are told to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). If there was not a divine equality, this would not be possible. We are not baptized into the name of Paul or any other man (1 Corinthians 1:13) because they are not the same quality as the triune God. The Bible continues to equate the members of the Trinity in various ways. Frequently, passages group the members of Deity together. In Revelation 1:4-5 – “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you, and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before the throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” 2 Corinthians 13:14 says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”

So how do we understand the triunity of the Godhead? Augustine described it as the psychological unity of one’s memory, affections, and will. Perhaps we could look at the Trinity in terms of a tree having a root, a trunk, and branches while yet being one tree. However, that description divides too much the unity of the Trinity. All our illustrations will ultimately break down because our physical minds are inadequate in understanding the full nature of God. This should be expected since we are the creature rather than the Creator.

Perhaps it would be helpful to understand what the Trinity is not. Arianism is the belief that Jesus emanated from the Father. He, therefore, is regarded as being between God and man in nature or essence. Arianism teaches that Jesus is not consubstantial with the Father. In the early church Jesus was described as being homoousios (of the same nature or essence) as the Father. Arianism teaches that Jesus is a lesser deity.

The battle over Arianism is one of the main issues discussed in the famed Council of Nicea in 325 AD. In 325 the men decided on the following description of Jesus:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ , the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (homoousion) with the Father; by whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth]; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; he suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

However, this was updated in the 381 “Constantinopolitan Creed” to say:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ , the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

These are given only for descriptive purposes. It helps us to see the discussion which has been before us so that we may better understand the Sacred Text in our hands.

The doctrine of the Trinity is one most difficult to understand. Perhaps it is best to accept it and continue striving for understanding. Roger Olson rightly said,

“While it is true that no passage of Scripture spells out the doctrine of the Trinity, it is also true that the whole of Scripture’s witness to who God is and who Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are makes no sense at all without the model of the Trinity and that all alternative concepts end up doing violence to some essential aspect of revelation, Christian experience and possibly even reason itself,” ( The Mosaic of Christian Belief, p. 139).

When studying the nature of the Trinity, we should exercise caution and great humility while refusing to dishonor any member of the Godhead by lessening their inherent essence.

While it is difficult, the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be avoided.

“To illustrate the significance of the Trinity of our faith, consider just briefly the relation of the doctrine of the Trinity to the Christian understanding of salvation. In order for us sinners to be saved, one must see God at one and the same time as the one judging our sin (the Father), the one making payment of infinite value for our sin (the divine Son), and the one empowering and directing the incarnate—human—Son so that he lives and obeys the Father, going to the cross as a substitute for us (the Holy Spirit). The Christian God, to be savior, must then be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is, our salvation comes as the Father judges our sin in his Son, who became incarnate and lived his life in the power of the Spirit as the perfect and sinless God-man, and accomplished his perfect obedience to the Father through the power of the Spirit. Disregard the Trinity and you necessarily undermine salvation.”

If the doctrine of the Triune God is neglected, then one will never appreciate the great work of salvation accomplished by the cooperative efforts of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The doctrine of the Triune God also helps to drive the church (local and universal) to unity. The nature of the Triune God also helps us to understand the importance of marriage as we are to model the same unity enjoyed by the Godhead in our marriages.

APPLICATIONS:

  1. Why is important to study and know what can be known about the Trinity?
  2. What are some false doctrines concerning the nature of Jesus and the Holy Spirit?
  3. How does the unity of the Godhead compel us to be unified with Christians?
  4. How does the unity of the Godhead shape your marriage?

Hidden Treasures to Hide Away (תִּצְפֹּ֥ן)

“The discovery of gold nuggets in the Sacramento Valley in early 1848 sparked the Gold Rush, arguably one of the most significant events to shape American history during the first half of the 19th century. As news spread of the discovery, thousands of prospective gold miners traveled by sea or over land to San Francisco and the surrounding area; by the end of 1849, the non-native population of the California territory was some 100,000 (compared with the pre-1848 figure of less than 1,000). A total of $2 billion worth of precious metal was extracted from the area during the Gold Rush, which peaked in 1852” (http://www.history.com/topics/gold-rush-of-1849).

I am always amazed by the treasures available in God’s Word. God help us to rush to His Word to find the better than gold treasures waiting for excavation. God exhorts us to “treasure” (תִּצְפֹּ֥ן) his Word. To “treasure” (תִּצְפֹּ֥ן) is to hide something away. Proverbs 7:1 says, “My son, keep my words and treasure up (תִּצְפֹּ֥ן) my commandments with you.” The word is used again in Proverbs 10:14, “the wise treasure up ((תִּצְפֹּ֥ן) wisdom.”

This concept and word are repeated in Proverbs 2.

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up (תִּצְפֹּ֥ן) my commandments with you,  making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright the is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints” Proverbs 2:1–8.

We must value the treasures in God’s Word. Clement of Alexandria wrote:

But words are the progeny of the soul. Hence we call those who have instructed us, fathers. Wisdom is a communicative and philanthropic thing. Accordingly, Solomon says, “My son, if thou receive the saying of my commandment, and hide it with thee, thine ear shall hear wisdom.” He points out that the word that is sown is hidden in the soul of the learner, as in the earth, and this is spiritual planting.

(Clement of Alexandria, “The Stromata, or Miscellanies,” in Fathers of the Second Century: vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 299.

As we have this “spiritual planting” of Gods Word, we also rejoice in spiritual fruit bearing in our lives and in the lives of others.

God has treasured up wisdom for us. It is there for the taking. We must run to the Word and then treasure up that wisdom in our own hearts, so that we may live the life blessed with the richness of wisdom.

The Shack?

One of the more popular religious books and movies to be released lately has been “The Shack.” The Shack is a theodicy (an attempt to explain why God allows evil and pain) in novel form. We are thankful for a renewed interest in films with spiritual backgrounds, but we hope to have accurate representations of Biblical theology in these films.

Mack, the main character, meets a representation of God the Father in “Papa,” an African-American woman; Jesus, a Jewish carpenter; and Sarayu, who is the representation of the Holy Spirit. These individuals, representing the triune God, speak to Mack and try to explain why God’s character. However, the Shack’s representation of God is different than the Bible’s presentation of God.

Dr. Albert Mohler presents a summary of the theological problems given to us in The Shack.

“While the literary device of an unconventional “trinity” of divine persons is itself sub-biblical and dangerous, the theological explanations are worse. “Papa” tells Mack of the time when the three persons of the Trinity “spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God.” Nowhere in the Bible is the Father or the Spirit described as taking on human existence. The Christology of the book is likewise confused. “Papa” tells Mack that, though Jesus is fully God, “he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being.” When Jesus healed the blind, “He did so only as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power to be at work within him and through him. Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone….Jesus tells Mack that he is “the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu.” Not the only way, but merely the best way.In another chapter, “Papa” corrects Mack’s theology by asserting, “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” Without doubt, God’s joy is in the atonement accomplished by the Son. Nevertheless, the Bible consistently reveals God to be the holy and righteous Judge, who will indeed punish sinners. The idea that sin is merely “its own punishment” fits the Eastern concept of karma, but not the Christian Gospel.” (http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/01/27/the-shack-the-missing-art-of-evangelical-discernment).

The basic theology of “The Shack” is built upon the foundation of liberal theology. The foundation of the book rests on the foundation of universal reconciliation.

The Bible presents the triune God as being perfectly equal, eternal, and all-powerful–Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-3, 14; & Matthew 3:13-17. The triune God works together in harmony (1 Peter 1:2-5) to defeat the real power and influence of sin (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23). Jesus is the only way to the Father (Acts 4:12). Those who reject Christianity will be lost forever (Matthew 7:21-23).

The Sacred Text Message–The Doctrine of Inspiration

John Locke said:

“The Bible is one of the greatest blessings bestowed by God on the children of men. It has God for its author; salvation for its end; and truth without any mixture for its matter. It is all pure.”

The importance of the inspired text is seen in Moses’ words:

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

The Bible was to be central for their lives, worship, and the foundation of their hope.

In order for mankind to have the Bible today, men cooperated with God’s sovereign control. Every word of the Bible is the product of divine “out-breathing.” Paul wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASBU). Our English word “inspiration” which we are accustomed to seeing is translated “God breathed” by the ESV.

The inspired Word differs from what we call general revelation. In “general revelation” God speaks through his created world to mankind. The Psalmist described it this way, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). From creation we can reason that there must be a God (Hebrews 3:4), but there are some things we can only learn about God from his inspired Word. Paul described the necessity of special revelation in the Scriptures when he wrote:  

These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (2 Corinthians 2:10-12).

Our need for the inspired Scriptures to know and understand the ways of God should help us appreciate the value of the sacred Text.

We understand that the Bible is both divine and human in its production. 2 Peter 1:21 tells us that “men spoke from God.” This human agency is seen in passages such as Jeremiah 1:9, “The Lord said to me, behold I have put my words in your mouth.” Acts 4:25, “God said through the mouth of our father David.” Hebrews 3:7, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says.” Luke 1:1-4 describes the writing of the Gospel according to Luke, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us,  just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,  that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

When we understand that God utilized human authors in the writing of his words, we are better able to understand some things present in the Scriptures. We understand the stylistic differences in writing between various authors. We better understand the use of secular sources recorded in the Scriptures. We are better able to understand Luke’s use of research confirmed in Luke 1:1-4. We also are able to better grapple with the inspired record of Paul’s own self-described “lack of memory.”

While the Bible does have a human side, the Bible is ultimately a divine work. How are we to understand the cooperation between men and God in the Bible? This synergy between God and man is best described as God exercising total, absolute, sovereignty in conjunction with human freedom. This system is described as verbal plenary inspiration. Perhaps we can best learn about the process of revelation and inspiration from 2 Peter 1:20-21. Peter wrote, “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

The Bible tells us that Scripture does not originate with man—“no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.” Scripture does originate with God—“men spoke from God.” How is it that God utilized mankind in this endeavor? “Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” What does it mean to be “carried along”?

The word translated “carried along” (φερόμενοι) is defined as “to cause to follow a certain course in direction or conduct.”  Another said the word means “to so influence others as to cause them to follow a recommended course of action—‘to guide, to direct, to lead.” The same concept is seen in Acts 27:15, 17 describing the ship which was “driven along” by the wind.  Simon of Cyrene “carried” the cross as he followed Jesus (Luke 23:26). Peter used the word to describe the writer who was “driven along” by the Holy Spirit. “They were but men; prophets they became only by the (Spirit of God) πνεῦμα Θεοῦ”.

God is the ultimate source of the Scriptures. This is the way the Bible describes itself. In Acts 4:25 we see it the “Sovereign Lord…who through the mouth of our father David your servant, said by the Holy Spirit” the quotation from Psalm 2.

Since this is God’s Book, we must treat it as God’s Book. We should love it. We should know it. We should share it. We should obey it. We should serve it. As the apostles did so we should “devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4).

APPLICATIONS:

1. How does the doctrine of inspiration affect your daily Bible reading habits?

2. How does the doctrine of inspiration affect your submission to the Bible’s teaching?

3. How does the doctrine of inspiration affect your desire to know the Bible?

4. How does the doctrine of inspiration affect your worldview and decision making?

5. How does the doctrine of inspiration affect your future?



http://library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/ICBI_1.pdf