The Trinity – De Trinitas

De Trinitas

Copyright © 2019 by Ray B. May IV, Believe Better Ministries,
Released under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.

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

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Introduction

The Trinity – that is the Triune1 God – is a complex subject. It is something we cannot hope to fully grasp. Our finite imperfect minds will always struggle when attempting to comprehend the eternal, infinite God. Because this subject is something we will never fully understand, it is also something we have argued over for as long as Christianity has been around. Part of these arguments, sadly, have been the result of our inability to fully articulate what we are trying to explain.

To that end, before I go any further in writing this paper – since it is on a core tenet of the Christian faith – I want to make everything abundantly clear: I am a believer in the Triune God (that is the Father, Son, and Spirit), the Trinity. I believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as coequal, coeternal persons (or individuals) who are totally united, inseparable, one, God. I do not profess to understand the eternal, but rather stand on the shoulders of my fellow theologians, those who have come before me. I am not a modalist2 and as such do not follow the teachings of Sabellius, who taught, in the beginning, was the Father (Yahweh), who then became the Son (Yehoshua/Jesus) at the incarnation, who, finally, became the Holy Spirit at the ascension. I am, also, not a polytheist, or more specifically a tritheist, who believes in three Separate gods (Yahweh, Jesus, and Holy Spirit).

There is one huge problem in writing on the subject of the Trinity, which has been universally acknowledged by scholars since, about, the 18th century. This problem is in regard to our language. In writings on the Trinity, brothers and sisters, and Theologians throughout the centuries, have struggled with sounding as if they believed in one of the two heresies I listed above. As I already stated I am from neither of these camps, yet let us clear the air now, my wording in this paper may fall, at times, into one or the other. This is because of the uselessness of our finite languages to explain the eternal God. Clement of Alexandria (c. 155–220) wrote of this in his Stromata Book VI Chapter 18: “For just as far as man is inferior to God in power so much feebler is man’s speech than Him; although he does not declare God, but only speaks about God and the Divine Word. For Human speech is by nature feeble, and incapable of uttering God.”3

In many of the books and papers I have read on the subject of the Trinity, the author’s words seem to drift from one camp to another, and the author must apologize for doing so. It is in this vein I wish to start. I know in my own writing on this subject my words have strayed (and will do so in the future) into areas where I sound as if I believe in a heresy. I assure you, I do not! I believe the orthodox (or traditional) definition of God. That is: One God, three persons, the Triune God.

So, in this paper, I do not expect to be able to explain the Trinity better than the two thousand years’ worth of attempting to do so. I merely wish to move the baton forward by one generation, adding my small voice to the countless others who have already made their attempt to write – or speak – on the subject. I do sincerely hope I will enlighten someone, the way I’ve been enlightened by those who’ve gone before me.

Part 1

I must admit, the Trinity is not an easy subject to write about. My mind can barely comprehend the Trinity, let alone put it into words. I’ve read book after book and listened to sermon after sermon in order to be ready to write this paper. I read through theological writings – books so thick I had a hard time getting through them – all the way through to less technical – which were rather brief. I drew from this abundant well and you can read many of the titles if you turn to my list of sources.

I want to start out with a brief summary of the things I believe which I really have no words to explain better than their titles, or names. This is something like the “Triunity” of God. I believe God is Triune which means “three in one” but I can’t explain it beyond that word. In my study of the Trinity, I discovered scholars have even tried to coin new meanings for words to help explain what the Trinity is and how it works. You read things like “hypostatic union” or “whom dwells hypostatically with the Father.”

I will admit “hypostasis”4 and “hypostatic”5 are words I had to look up. My goal is not to be purely scholarly and write a tome of theology as some have. After looking up these words I do believe God hypostatically exists as three coequal persons indivisibly linked as the one (and only) eternal God. While, there are things in this belief which I still don’t (and no one does or will) understand6. However, I do take the leap of faith in this belief and my experiential evidence of God moves and soothes my soul.

I think the heart of the matter comes down to that: Experience. I think this is why the Triune God is never explained as such but the Doctrine of the Trinity is put forth for us to understand experientially, just as the authors of the New Testament understood this doctrine. For example, Paul gives a wonderful explanation of the Trinity in his letter to Titus:

“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7)

Here, we see Paul telling us about the Trinity. However, he does not say “God is three coeternal, coequal persons, existing in total unity as one God.” This would have been so much easier on all of us followers as we struggle to comprehend these statements. What he does tell us is key to our own understanding of the Trinity. Paul, very clearly, gives us an experiential example of the Trinity. This is where we must start. Our experience of God shows us who He is.

One of the hardest things we have to start with is monotheism. People seem to have the hardest time understanding how God can be one, totally, yet three. One question which is brought up is the math doesn’t make sense7. We have so many verses telling us God is the one and only God. It goes without saying the Bible teaches one God. Yet, we also have the Bible teaching Jesus is God. This is again, accepted by us and our hearts through our experiences. We experience the forgiveness of our sins through the lightening of our load (as Jesus said in Matt 11:28-30). We feel the presence of God through His Spirit. These experiences are inextricable from understanding the Trinity.

However, our experiences are not the only teachings on the Trinity. God, Himself, preached about His nature and His Trinity. First, we know God’s unity. We have outright declarations of His unity: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Deut 6:5) Yet, we have no statement of His three-ness within the one. God says He is the only God, before whom there was no god formed, nor will there be any after Him (Isaiah 43:10).

Curiously, however, from the beginning, we have a plurality within God. He is referred to numerous times throughout the Old Testament with the plural “Elohim”8. In fact, our first introduction to God in the Old Testament in Genesis 1:1 is to a plural Elohim. The discussion of making man is also the plural Elohim. Elohim literally means “gods” in English. This passage would be more literally translated “The Gods said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’” (Genesis 1:26a). God is one, yet the offspring of a virgin birth shall be called Immanuel (God with us, Isaiah 7:14). This child will also be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). To cap it off, this singular God says He has been sent by the LORD with the LORD’s Spirit (Isaiah 48:16).

So, quite clearly in the Old Testament, we have a peculiar plurality within the singular – one – God. In the New Testament, this fad continued. In the Gospels, we have many things spoken about Jesus. The angel Gabriel tells Mary outright that Jesus will be known as the Son of God (Luke 1:35), and Joseph is told Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:20-21). God, Himself, calls down from heaven while the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus pointing out Jesus as the Beloved Son of the Father (Matt 3:16-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22). All this brings us, then, to John 1.

“Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος,” this is the opening phrase to John’s Gospel9. In English, this literally says “In [the] beginning was the word” and equates this phrase to the very first words of the Bible – to the first words of Genesis. In fact, John lifts the first two words of his statement off the page of the Septuagint10 where Genesis 1:1 starts: “Ἐν ἀρχή ἐποίησεν ὁ θεός” (literally “In [the] beginning made God”). John 1:1 doesn’t end there but fully says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

This is something new! While the Old Testament does witness to the Trinity it is definitely harder to see than in the New Testament. Here we have an explicit statement of more than one person within the one God. This is something explicit, however, rather than, merely, implied – as in the Old Testament. We know, from the Old Testament, God is beyond our understanding, even His ways are above our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). God is not a man (1 Samuel 15:29).

This strangeness, difference of God from us, is important. It is what makes us made in the image of God rather than having a god made in our image. This “higherness” of His ways are what allow us to have God being three persons in one substance. It, also, allows us to let mystery exist within God.

Part 3

The mystery of the Trinity is something the Church has considered a mystery from the beginning. Origen wrote in De Principiis Book 1: “We go on to say that, according to strict truth, God is incomprehensible, and incapable of being measured. For whatever be the knowledge which we are able to obtain of God, either by perception or reflection, we must of necessity believe that He is by many degrees far better than what we perceive Him to be.”11 God is beyond our ability to understand!

The reason this is so important is then the math doesn’t have to work out. God being above us and incomprehensible can be three in one. This also makes the experiential evidence more important, and more trustworthy. We experience God, and therefore we know Him. Paul says in Romans “the Spirit himself, bears witness with our spirit” to us having been made children of God. And, John said in his first epistle, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie – just as it has taught you, abide in him.” So, we have the Holy Spirit (which is the anointing written about by John) being experienced through our life.

Even the testimony of the Bible is experiential in nature. I’ve already quoted Paul in his writing to Titus on our experience of the Trinity. In this passage is “God [the Father] our Savior” or is “Jesus Christ our Savior”? Well, Paul in this section says both are our savior. Another question which could be asked of this passage (and the Bible as a whole) is: “Whose grace are we receiving?” Some passages tell of the grace of God (i.e. the Father – Acts 6:8; Rom 3:23-24; Eph 2:1-10; Titus 2:11; Heb 4:16; 1Pet 4:10) while others tell of the grace of Christ (John 1:16-17; Acts 15:11; Rom 5:15; 2Cor 8:9, 13:14; Gal 1:6; 1Tim 1:14; 2Tim 2:1).

We have this amazing paradox in the Bible of the terms for God in His three persons being inextricably linked with the experience of Him. This allows the Apostle Paul, who said “there is one God, the Father… and one Lord, Jesus Christ,” “and one Spirit,” to also say, “Now the Lord is the Spirit.” This is the same Paul who in Romans says, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” We experience all of God through the indwelling of His Spirit.

These experiential circumstances are highly important. It helps us to understand what is happening. We learn about God through the Son’s testimony in the Gospels and through the anointing of the Spirit upon us. It helps us understand how Paul calls Him (Jesus) “our great God and Savior” in Titus 2:1312 and “The Christ, who is God over all,” in Romans 9:513, and still say “there is one God, the Father.” This only comes from experience. This only comes from deeply understanding God is the Trinity, this comes through living out the Christian life.

This experience, also, shines forth the beautiful message of the Gospel. The message of the Gospel is: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and “by works of the law no human being shall be justified in his sight”. However, God made us for love, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,” God bridged the gap no human could, “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Through Jesus, God’s Son, the uncrossable was crossed so we could be with God for all eternity. We are washed “of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” when He comes and lives in us. This is the message of the Gospel.

This message only works if God is, in fact, a Trinity. Only God, Himself, could fulfill the righteous requirements of the law, “No one is good except God alone.” This means it takes the power of God to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law. Christ is the atoning sacrifice for all the sins of all the world: “and he did for all”; “Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Christ died for our sins and rose to give us life.

Part 3

In “Part 1” we introduced two important aspects about our topic – namely our experience of God’s Triune-ness, and some Scriptural support of God being a Trinity. In “Part 2” we focused on the experiential evidence of the Trinity, and its importance. Now, I would like to return to the Scriptural support of the Trinity.

First, we must start with the Father. The Father is the first revealed and, as such, most of the references to “God” in the New Testament (Gr. Θεὸς – Theos) are to Him (this is not universal as we shall see). The Bible, on the very first page, in the very first statement, assumes God is real. In Genesis, it starts with “Bereshit bara Elohim” or in Greek “En archē epoiēsen Theos”. In English, we have it thus, “In the beginning, God created”. Now, this God in verse 1 of Genesis is the Triune God.

However, the interpretation of this God, by the people Jesus came to witness to, turned Him into merely the Father. He was alone for all eternity until he decided to create. Jesus, Himself, testified to the Father being God many times. He explicitly does so in his prayer to close out the “Upper Room Discourse”: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God.” I have yet to discover anyone who calls themselves a Christian and denies the Father is in fact God14. Those who do deny Jesus still believe in God the Father. The Jews believe Yahweh of their Scriptures (our Old Testament) is just the Father. However, we know the God of the Old Testament is the Triune God.

We have Jesus identified as God in the New Testament, though this is argued against strongly by people who do not want to agree. We will start with John 1:1-18. We have some very important things taught about Jesus in this section. We started touching on this at the end of “Part 1”. Let’s pick up the thread and go over this whole section of Scripture.

First, we have an equating statement. In the beginning – without origin – existed this “Word” with God, and it was the very God. If this was the end of the section even Jews would agree with this statement. God’s word is a picture of His character, power, and will. God’s word is who God is, because God does not, will not, and cannot lie (1Sam 15:29; Titus 1:2). However, thankfully John does not end there. “He was in the beginning with God.”

This pronoun refers us back to the previous statement to try to figure out who “He” is. We have two clues to explain to us the subject of this statement. First, in the Greek this pronoun immediately follows “the Word”. Second, we already have the only other referent from the previous statement already mentioned in this statement, namely God. So, “God was in the beginning with God” does not make any sense. So, this must be a repetitive reference, but one important point is made: The Word from v. 1 is not merely God’s voice, it is a person!

This applies an important context to verse 1. We now have two persons within the same God. This is clearly pointed out because the Word is with God and is God. This equative statement at the end of v. 1 is conveying the point of the Word and God being exactly the same in essence and substance. This equative statement following the previous statement equates the Word and the Father in substance and essence without equating the persons15. Now, the question becomes how then do we understand this Word and God?

It is two verses later in the passage which help us understand exactly who the Word is. Verse 9 says “The true light [that is the Word – see vv.4-5], which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” And, v. 14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Now, in these two verses, John doesn’t explicitly say, “And the Word is Jesus.” Sometimes, many of us in our hearts, wish God simply answered in a straight forward way, explicitly telling us in His Scriptures these deep truths. We do have it explicitly stated this Word came into the world and was clothed in flesh.

It is important, now, to see greater context. We have a context within the New Testament at large as well as an historical context. John knew the Synoptic Gospels16 were already written. So, he quotes from John the Baptist to start showing who the Word is. This Word who was with and is God is Jesus. If we then take this section as a whole, we have Jesus being presented in one way: a coeternal person of God, equal in essence and substance. Verse 3 tells us Jesus is the very God of Genesis 1, of creation. This has been put forward and shown from the Genesis passage by others: We have God (who is the Father) in v. 1, the Spirit hovering over the deep in v. 2, and God creates through His Word in vv. 3-27 (“And God said, ‘Let there be light’”).

This starting thesis (this section, John 1:1-18) shapes John’s writing and it causes him to put forward statements of Jesus which show His Deity from His own mouth. John’s whole reason for writing was to show Jesus was fully God and fully man. The biggest reason John wants to convey this to us is because he heard it from Jesus. We’re only going to take a look at a few verses, and we’re going to start with John 5.

In chapter 5, Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath at the Pool of Bethesda. Finally, the Jews confront Jesus about this work on the Sabbath and Jesus responds, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This is a statement which we can only understand if we put on the mindset of first-century Jews. In the culture of Jesus’ day and area (the first-century middle-eastern Jews), a person’s adult son (this can especially be seen when we look at dignitaries) was considered equal in stature, privilege, and power with the father. So, for Jesus to be “calling God his own Father,” meant in the culture of the day, He was “making himself equal with God.”

This shows us exactly why the Jewish leaders, here, are so angered. When this is realized, it also makes sense of the leaders wanting to put Christ to death over this, and then they finally succeed in their goal. For Jesus to be the personal Son of God means He is equal with God. This is the cultural context of the Gospels. Another context is also working in the Gospels, and this is the specific Jewish one. In this context, God’s unutterable name is a synonym for the Hebrew word for “I am”17. No one could refer to themselves in certain formulaic ways or they risk referring to themselves as God.

This all plays out to its greatest extent in chapter 8. Here, we have Jesus having a debate with the Jews. This all climaxes in Jesus giving a statement which brings Exodus to mind. “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’” The grammar of this statement is awkward, to say the least. He is saying before Abraham ever existed (in the past) I am (which is a present continual verb meaning, “I have always been existing”). This brings to mind Exodus 3:14, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: “I AM has sent me to you.” ’ ” The grammar of both of those statements link them together.

This link is hefty and it is not merely Christian interpreters who see Jesus as making this parallel, for the Jews made the same connection. This is evident by this climactic statement ending the debate, and stirring up the Jews so much they immediately jump to murderous action. They were so overwhelmed by the connection between Jesus’ words and God’s revelation of His name in Exodus they attempt to stone Him.

These things affected John so much as to him understanding Isaiah’s vision of the glory of God (of the Lord in Isaiah 6:1) is a vision of Jesus. This comes from chapter 12 of John’s Gospel. The word for “Lord” in Isaiah 6:1 is not the name of God, but “Adonay”. However, the angelic beings (seraphim) call out to the Lord: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” This is an immense statement of the Bible interpreting itself. This tells us Isaiah seeing the “LORD of hosts” is Isaiah seeing Jesus. And Old Testament prophet not only saw Jesus as the Messiah, but as the very God of Israel.

Finally, I will end my proving of Jesus being fully God by pointing to Him being fully man. For this, I’m going to move over to John’s first epistle. 1 John 4:2, in telling us how to test spirits, says, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” The question becomes why? Well, when John was writing people didn’t deny Jesus existed, but they didn’t believe he truly came in the flesh, but only came as spirit. So, John wants to make sure we understand that “the Word became flesh.”

This was not an exhaustive support of Jesus being fully man and fully God. We already believe the Father is God, but what about the Holy Spirit? God the Spirit is the member most often left out. Unitarian Christians believe Jesus exists – even though they remove His glory and power – but deny the Spirit. The few Binitarian sects believe in the Father and the Son but deny the Spirit. Some forms of Modalism deny the Spirit. Sadly, the very personal Spirit, who is the very revelator of God, is denied His place. We’re going to show from the Scripture quite a few things about Him.

The first thing we need to do is establish the personhood of the Spirit. This is because, those who deny the Spirit is God, deny His personhood. For this, we have to turn to the Scriptures as they are the measuring rod by which we test all things. We use the Scripture to know whether our experiences are giving us true insight or are twisting our point of view. The question is: What does the Scripture say about the Spirits personhood?

To start off, to be a person the Spirit has to have a mind, will, and emotions of His own. We can see He does in the Scripture. In Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul tells us God revealed the deep things Paul had written “through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” This points out the Spirit has a mind of His own. He is not just some force from God, but searches out the depths of God. Later, in the same letter, in speaking of the gifts of the Spirit, Paul writes, “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” The Spirit has a will of His own18. Finally, in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in a section of teaching Paul exhorts, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

These three passages point out the Spirit has a mind, will, and emotions of His own meaning He is, in fact, a person. Now, the Holy Spirit is a person, but is He God? This is easily answered, first and foremost, He is God’s Spirit (1Cor 2:11, 3:16; 2Cor 3:3; Phil 3:3). Second, the Apostle Peter outright calls Him God in dealing with Ananias and Sapphira: “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”

Here, Peter says lying to the Holy Spirit is not lying to man, but to God. So, the Spirit is a person and He is God. In the Bible, we have one eternal God (Deut 6:5; Isaiah 43:10). Then we have three persons labeled as God: The Father is God (John 6:27; Rom 1:7; 1Pet 1:2); the Son is God (John 1:1, 14; Rom 9:5; Col 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb 1:8; 2 Pet 2:1; 1 John 5:20); and the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4; 1Cor 3:16). So, the Bible has one eternal God revealed in three coeternal persons, namely the Triune God.

Conclusion

Much, much more could be written on this topic. I would urge you to go to my list of sources and read more on the topic. I’ve merely touched on the topic, however, I do hope, even with my brief treatise, you can see the truth of the topic, as well as the importance of the subject in our experience. When we approach the message of the Gospel, if Jesus was not God, He is merely Hercules. Do you really want to put your hope in another fallen man?

I do not! God, alone, is my hope. The beauty of the Gospel is God performed what we (not a single one of us) could not. Removing this from the Bible – from the Gospel – removes the very beauty – the very love – being portrayed in the Gospel. It removes the meaning of John 3:16 (and following). If Jesus was just some herculean character, then God could have simply made another one – or made all like him without his needing to die. This is a hugely important doctrine, then, and it is this importance which caused me to write.

The reality of the Trinity is in scripture and there is so much more I could say, but I will leave you with this: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Notes:

1 Triune is a complex word which comes from the English “tri” (itself from the Latin “tres”) meaning “three” and the Latin “unus” meaning “one”. Triune then means “Three in one”.
2 Modalists follow a doctrine called “Modalism” which was first recorded as being taught by a man named Sabellius who lived sometime around the beginning of the third century A.D. Modalism can be best understood as one God in three different “modes” (or “moods”). In the past He (that is God) was the Father (or Yahweh of the OT), in the incarnation He became Jesus, and finally at His ascension He became the Holy Spirit. One God three modes.
3 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Vol. II, p. 519.
4 Hypostasis, noun, 1. one of the three real and distinct substances in the one undivided substance or essence of God. 2. a person of the Trinity. 3. the one personality of Christ in which His two natures, human and divine, are united. – via Dictionary.com
5 Hypostatic, adjective, pertaining to or constituting a distinct personal being or substance. – via Dictionary.com
6 For example: How did the Triune God send a third of Himself to earth forming a new hypostatic union in the God-man, Jesus?
7 i.e. 1+1+1≠1, that is one plus one plus one does not equal one.
8 It is interesting to note in relation to God the plural “Elohim” always has singular verbs.
9 According to the Nestle-Aland apparatus, there is not a textual variance for John 1:1.
10 The Septuagint is the pre-Christian, Jewish translation of the Old Testament out of Hebrew into Greek. It is commonly referred to as the LXX.
11 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Vol. IV, p. 243.
12 “The terms “God and Savior” both refer to the same person, Jesus Christ. This is one of the clearest statements in the NT concerning the deity of Christ. The construction in Greek is known as the Granville Sharp rule, named after the English philanthropist-linguist who first clearly articulated the rule in 1798. Sharp pointed out that in the construction article-noun-καί-noun (where καί [kai] = “and”), when two nouns are singular, personal, and common (i.e., not proper names), they always had the same referent. Illustrations such as “the friend and brother,” “the God and Father,” etc. abound in the NT to prove Sharp’s point. The only issue is whether terms such as “God” and “Savior” could be considered common nouns as opposed to proper names. Sharp and others who followed (such as T. F. Middleton in his masterful The Doctrine of the Greek Article) demonstrated that a proper name in Greek was one that could not be pluralized. Since both “God” (θεός, theos) and “savior” (σωτήρ, sōtēr) were occasionally found in the plural, they did not constitute proper names, and hence, do fit Sharp’s rule. Although there have been 200 years of attempts to dislodge Sharp’s rule, all attempts have been futile. Sharp’s rule stands vindicated after all the dust has settled. For more information on Sharp’s rule see ExSyn 270-78, esp. 276. See also 2 Pet 1:1 and Jude 4.” – Translators’ Note on Titus 2:13 from the NET Bible, 1996 – 2007 by Biblical Studies Press, LLC.
13 “Or “the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever,” or “the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed forever!” or “the Messiah who is over all. God be blessed forever!” The translational difficulty here is not text-critical in nature, but is a problem of punctuation. Since the genre of these opening verses of Romans 9 is a lament, it is probably best to take this as an affirmation of Christ’s deity (as the text renders it). Although the other renderings are possible, to see a note of praise to God at the end of this section seems strangely out of place. But for Paul to bring his lament to a crescendo (that is to say, his kinsmen had rejected God come in the flesh), thereby deepening his anguish, is wholly appropriate. This is also supported grammatically and stylistically: The phrase ὁ ὢν (ho ōn, “the one who is”) is most naturally taken as a phrase which modifies something in the preceding context, and Paul’s doxologies are always closely tied to the preceding context. For a detailed examination of this verse, see B. M. Metzger, “The Punctuation of Rom. 9:5,” Christ and the Spirit in the New Testament, 95-112; and M. J. Harris, Jesus as God, 144-72.” – Translators’ Note on Romans 9:5 from the NET Bible, 1996 – 2007 by Biblical Studies Press, LLC.
14 Modalists do in fact believe the Father is God. In classic modalism they simply believe Jesus was the Father before His incarnation. More neo-modalism (like Oneness-Pentecostalism) also believe God (the one God) chose (or chooses) to reveal Himself as the Father in the past (or even present).
15 For a greater discussion of this see the note from the NET Bible on this part of John 1:1.
16 That is Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These three are considered the Synoptics as they treat similar subject matter (or follow the same events) in the life of Jesus.
17 God’s personal name “YHVH” (יהוה) is related to the Hebrew word for “I am” (אהיה – “Ehyeh”).
18 This is one of the mysteries of the Trinity: How They have separate wills, and yet He has the one will.

Sources:

1. Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith – Michael Reeves
2. The Eternal Sonship of Christ – George W. Zeller, Renald E. Showers
3. The Forgotten Trinity – James R. White
4. The Testimony of Church History Regarding the Mystery of the Triune God – Bill Freeman
5. The Ante-Nicene Fathers – Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson
6. When God Became Man – J. Vernon McGee
7. Reexamining the Eternal Sonship of Christ – John MacArthur
8. The Word – Only Born – Firstborn – Chuck Schiedler
9. Through the Bible, Bible Commentaries – J. Vernon McGee
10. Harper’s Bible Dictionary – HarperCollins
11. The NET Bible – Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C.
12. ESV Study Bible – Crossway
13. NIV Study Bible – Zondervan
14. MacArthur Study Bible – Thomas Nelson
15. Recovery Version New Testament – Living Stream Ministry

The Purpose of Creation

What is the Purpose of Creation? This is an oft-debated question by some of the most brilliant minds in Christendom throughout the ages and, before Christendom, also in Judaism for Millennia before Christ. We have received only a couple reasons for the purpose of creation. The most common answer given by scholars throughout the ages is to glorify God (or some synonymic phrase thereof). I think this particular answer is not entirely accurate. I’ve hinted before at this thought and now wish to fully put it forward.

One important fact, before heading further into this subject, is the Triune God is the only form of a monotheistic god which would create as we have seen it. A unitarian god either has no reason to create, or is simply a creator god and therefore cannot stop creating. Dr. Michael Reeves in his short book Delighting in the Trinity has the best argument for this and rather than taking up valuable space to rehash his argument I will simply direct you to his book. Suffice it to say we can take solace in the fact of creation as one proof of the Trinity, and we will return to this fact later.

To return to our main purpose in writing: Catholic and Orthodox minds have provided the main answer to this question. The Catholic Church in their catechism gives the answer to this question as “Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: ‘The world was made for the glory of God.’ ” The Orthodox Church is more complicated than the Catholic as there is not one leader, but it is a confraternity of different churches. In its American version besides calling this a mystery, it goes on to say “The first purpose of man is the glory of God.”

This has been the working premise since very early on in the history of Christendom. However, the problem is, is there is a deeper meaning. If we take a look at the whole witness of Scripture, we have something else being presented. While, yes, the creation does bring glory to God (see Gen 1:1–2:3; Ps 19:1; Is 6:3, 43:6-7 among others). However, this is not the main purpose of the creation. I would say Christendom historically and in the present age has missed the boat on the purpose of creation. Now, I have seen some try to rectify this problem by explaining the how of bringing glory to God, but even this tends to fall flat. If glory – which is defined as 1. very great praise, honor, or distinction bestowed by common consent; renown; 2. something that is a source of honor, fame, or admiration; a distinguished ornament or an object of pride; or 3. adoring praise or worshipful thanksgiving – is the purpose then we leave ourselves open to arguments which are impossible to rectify.

If we define glorifying God as the New City Catechism does in their sixth question “We glorify God by enjoying him, loving him, trusting him, and by obeying his will, commands, and law” then not only do we fall flat but we also define the word glory in a way which is outside the definition of the word itself. And the only supporting verse which is quoted is from the Old Testament law (Deut 11:1) something which we know we are unable to actually keep. However, I wish to point out to you the most important thing in this creation is the purpose of this creation. That is relationships, as far as creation is concerned this would be the all-important relationship with the Lord God. We can see the witness of this in God’s creating them in Genesis 1 and the expansion of this in Genesis 2. God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” God is not alone but in the perfect relationship of all eternity as the Trinity. So, God made us for a relational reason then as well. I would say God exists eternally in the Trinity, in perfect unity and eternally as love (1 John 4:8). If God exists as such then He does not need anything. He created out of a desire to spread this love further and to have others participate in this love.

This is the purpose of creation! This is the whole reason for Christ’s incarnation, to bring about this relationship. A relationship which was lost at the fall. Humankind was created to be in a full relationship with God. If we see this, it changes everything about how we look at the Scriptures. Key passages start coming forth as a clue for us. First and foremost: What are the greatest commandments? The greatest commandment was not Deuteronomy 11:1 “You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always,” which is used to support how we are to bring glory to God by the New City Catechism. But the first and greatest commandment is Deuteronomy 6:4–5: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” And the second is from Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus says the whole of the Old Testament depends on these two commandments and Paul says all of the law is summed up and fulfilled in the second one (Rom 3:9-10; Gal 5:14). There is nothing in these two commandments about obedience, or glory. It is about love.

In one step further the Apostle John – the only one to record the upper room discourse – gives us the one and only commandment Christ gave us during his earthly ministry: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” This is not really anything new, however, it is a narrowing down of the second greatest commandment. We go from neighbor to specifically our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This commandment is so important John tells us “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.” (Stumbling here being sin.) And “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (So, our expression of the second commandment confirms the first.)

We were not put here to bring more glory to God. How much more glory can the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal God receive from the impotent, ignorant, singular, finite creation? We were created to take part in a wonderful relationship with God. To add one final point. God also wants a mature relationship. This is the purpose of our growing and maturing in this physical life. If He didn’t want such a relationship, we would merely be robots preprogrammed for whatever will God desires. This, in many ways, is the reason Believe Better Ministries was named such, and we use the phrase “Believe in Something Better.” This is better than all the religious dogma available to us. I truly do hope you can come to believe in something better, and have a wonderful, beautiful relationship with God. I’ll leave you with the words of John Piper on the purpose of creation: “God created us to know him and love him and show him.”

Easter Thought – 2019

A song has struck me. The title of the song is “Reckless Love”. The chorus of it really explains exactly what God’s love is. His love isn’t reckless, but from our finite point of view it seems that way. The chorus says:

“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
“Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
“I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God,”

This is so powerful! This is God’s love. We can’t earn it and will never deserve it. Yet, God still loves us eternally. This is what we are supposed to be celebrating every day. Moreover, this is what we celebrate today, on Easter. We celebrate the culmination of this love in a specific series of events.

Jesus, the Christ, the very Son of God, came to Earth, clothed in human flesh. He lived a life, perfect, before the law of Moses. Finally, at the appointed time, He went to the cross and died for us, as the atoning sacrifice for all the sins of all the world. That wasn’t the end. All other prophets, and religious leaders died, and remained dead; Jesus, on the other hand, rose from the dead on the third day. He rose from the dead so we might have eternal life with Him.

This is what we are celebrating, today. This is the message of the Gospel. This is the point on which we stand. I continue to be awed by this, year after year. I read the book Prodigal God by Timothy Keller and love how much his words line up with this. I recommend the book to you. He will reinvigorate your faith!

This reinvigorated faith has enlivened me to want to share the Gospel. Today, as you celebrate the Lord’s resurrection. Love your neighbor as your self and share with them this Gospel. The message is simple and easy. All we have to do is share it.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowships of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

Happy Easter.

New Year’s Thought – 2019

2019, who would have thought it would be 2019 already? Certainly not me. This is a big year for me, I turn thirty this year! With the looming approach of my third decade, I’ve had a verse be brought to my mind by the Holy Spirit. This verse is going to walk me through this new stage of life.

The verse is 2 Corinthians 5:17 which says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (ESV) This is a wonderful statement for this time of year. For me, some really hard, and downright terrible things happened this year. But, does that mean the year itself (2018) was terrible? Does it mean 2019 is going to be terrible? The genuine answer to both of these questions is, of course, “no”. There is so much positive to look at, so much to learn, and so many ways I have grown.

I am a new creation in Christ and the Lord is growing me into this new creation. In the new year, I need to set my heart on the things of this new creation. I need to set my heart in the good times and the bad times on this. This is hugely important because “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ESV).

This is the promise which we need to hold onto in every situation. Our good God does not allow us to have purely negative – or bad – things, but in the end of every situation, there is good. This good is not happiness, riches, or necessarily physical goodness of any kind, but spiritual goodness does come in every situation and is almost more important than physical goodness. We may find the Lord, then, has been teaching us to lean on Him more, teaching us patience, or bringing the fruit of the Spirit to greater prominence in our lives.

Follow God this year. Because the new creation God has made you. Look to Him and how He has worked all things together for good. Let’s check our attitude and follow God and look to Him to take care of us. The Lord does and will always take of us, for He will never leave us nor forsake us. Let’s make 2019 centered around how He takes care of us!

Christmas Thought – 2018

My thoughts at this year consistently turn to my Lord and Savior, Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. This is common for many, but my thoughts turn not to His birth, but to His death, resurrection, and ascension. This mixed with the celebrations is where my heart stands. This is, now, my fourth “Christmas Thought” since I started this blog (which I did in March of 2012) and each time I’ve put effort into a Thought on Christmas the same truth comes back to me: Christmas is worthless without the end result!

I want to be clear: I am not saying His birth is worthless. What I am saying is the end result is what brings the value to His birth. This is where my mind sits. It also brings the important Gospel message out in my heart. I have come to understand something, regardless of its origin Christmas is important as it is a time in which the Gospel message is put forth by even secular media. It is a time when people are more receptive and open to the message of the Gospel.

It is a time for being with family and friends, yes of course, but let’s not forget to give His message during this time. Bring your family together. Call on His name, pray for your loved ones. Don’t forget we’ve all sinned (Romans 8:28) and no one is good (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19; Romans 3:10). So, lift those closest to you to the Lord, and during this time of year, when so many are so receptive to the Gospel, bring it to the them. Tenderly, softly, give it to them just the way our Savior would.

The old, beautiful hymn “Softly and Tenderly” is how we want to call our families and friends to Jesus! Give them the beautiful message of the Gospel and pray. Remember the Lord will give you the words to say. Celebrate His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, and the eternal life He has give us freely. This Christmas season make the time about more then just presents and food, make it about Him!

Merry Christmas everyone!

I truly hope your Christmas is merry and you have a blessed new year!

Kalytero Volume 1, Issue 2

Hey everyone, we are so excited to have the second issue of Kalytero™. Kalytero is the premier publication from Believe Better Ministries. It is a quarterly journal furthering the goals of Believe Better Ministries; that is to help everyone Believe Something Better™.

There are two ways you can read Kalytero.

First, you can download and read it for free. We’re putting it out in PDF format so you can read the whole journal when it comes out. Click here to download the PDF.

Secondly, you can purchase a print copy each issue. You can access the print copies only through us. Click here to see and purchase a print copy.

We hope you enjoy this first issue and if you would like subscribe so you can get each issue in your e-mail please sign up over on the sidebar, or simply click here.

Also, don’t forget submissions are open!

Thanks, everyone!
RB

Where are All the Articles?

Hey everyone,

So, we received an e-mail the other day asking where all our articles have gone. First of all, we are working on getting articles ready to be put up here on our website. That mission has never changed! We are going to have new articles, thoughts, and just plain info coming out here in the near future. But, and secondly, we are also working on building more of a presence. To that end, we have been putting out more videos on our YouTube Channel.

So, what that means is we are putting material out, it may just be in a format different from here. We may try embedding the videos and putting them here, but we’re not promising anything. I do hope you will go check out our YouTube Channel and watch our videos. Please like and subscribe so we can continue to build our reach. We truly appreciate all the support our readers have given us over the years and hope you will continue!

I hope you will enjoy the upcoming videos and articles. I also hope you will enjoy the upcoming issues of KalyteroTM. We are still working on this project and will be putting forth the new issue at the end of this month. I am looking forward to it and submissions are still open!

We will be seeing more of me later. Again, visit our YouTube Channel like and subscribe. And I truly pray we are helping you to Believe in Something Better.

RB

New Miniseries

Okay everyone,
While we wait for new things to happen I am have been working on a new series. I was inspired by Jason Mayfield of Grace for Life as he spoke on the Bibles he has in his life so I am doing a similar series. I hope you enjoy it. It is up on Believe Better Ministries’ Youtube Page and you can see the first video in the series below. I apologize this first video is rather long. I am a rambler. It happens. Anyway, this is the start of this journey and fittingly so it is the Bibles which started me on my journey. Hope you enjoy!

Oh, if you are looking for an NIV Study Bible, the 2011 edition is a good update to the ones presented in this video. I totally would suggest you go check them out. And, if you want to find those highlighters, Click Here.

The Key in Philippians 2:5-8

Phil 2:5-8 BOGV
5 Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross.

This passage is a key to Jesus’ divinity. Jesus is the very eternal God a single member of the Triune Godhead. It is a passage which has been disputed as verse six is rather vague in both the Greek (which is the same in the NU, Majority, and Textus Receptus: “ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων, οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἴναι ἴσα θεῷ,”). Paul, here, is not being vague, however. He is rather clearly stating Jesus innate deity.

The first thing to notice is in verse six Jesus in His preexistence was in the form of God. Now this God is one member of the Trinity, God the Father. Typically, in the Bible (and specifically the New Testament) the word God refers to God the Father. Jesus in His preexistence was in the form of God. It is important to see this verse as Jesus’ preexistence as He has not been incarnated. If we continue to read on we see Jesus has not yet been made in the likeness of men (the end of verse 7 and beginning of verse 8).

So, before Jesus existed on the Earth as a man He existed in the form of God (that is the Father), but – and this is a big stopping point – He didn’t consider equality with God as a thing to be grasped. This is where a little of the debate happens. “a thing to be grasped” is hard to interpret. There are two main ways this is interpreted:

1. Something Jesus did not have but was reaching for
– or –
2. Something Jesus did have but not holding on to

Well, this doesn’t really make the debate easier, it merely shows the two sides. Was Jesus God and wasn’t worried about holding onto His godhood? or, Was Jesus merely a man who didn’t consider it right to reach for godhood? If this text ended there or Paul changed the subject at this point we could debate each other round and round without really giving a statement other than what lines up with our own doctrines. Thankfully, however, Paul didn’t stop there! The sentence continues in verse seven and we are given the linchpin which opens the whole statement and it really only allows this statement to be interpreted one way: “but emptied himself” (Greek “ἀλλ’ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν”).

If we interpreted the previous phrase the first way above, then what did Jesus have to empty Himself of? How could Jesus possibly empty Himself? He is merely a man and equality with God is not something He is going to reach for anyway. However, if we interpret it the second way then emptying Himself makes sense. First, Jesus has something to empty Himself of. Second, He has the ability (or power if you will) to empty Himself. This is the key which the whole argument stands on. Both sides must reckon with.

This one little logical flow then can open our eyes in this passage to who Jesus is. We have part of the passage speaking on Jesus’ preexistence, another part speaking on his existence and in the middle a wonderful section which tells us what happened in the incarnation of God the Son.


Note: This is the first in a series around the Doctrine of the Trinity. You will be seeing more writings coming out over the next year. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments feel free to get in touch, via e-mail. Thank you!

Kalytero Volume 1, Issue 1

We are excited to announce the release of the first issue of Kalytero. Kalytero is the premier publication from Believe Better Ministries. It is a quarterly journal furthering the goals of Believe Better Ministries; that is to help everyone Believe Something Better™.

There are two ways you can read Kalytero.

First, you can read download and read it for free. We’re putting it out in PDF format so you can read the whole journal when it comes out. Click here to download the PDF.

Secondly, you can purchase a print copy each issue. You can access the print copies only through us. Click here to see and purchase a print copy.

We hope you enjoy this first issue and if you would like subscribe so you can get each issue in your e-mail please sign up over on the sidebar.

Also, don’t forget submissions are open!

Thanks, everyone!
RB