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.”

Thoughts on Relationships – 2018

Well, here I am, again, speaking (or writing as the case may be) on relationships. If you haven’t figured it out, yet, I feel relationships are vastly important. This is the whole point behind Believe Better Ministries: To help you – our reader – to come into a full relationship with the Triune God. I want all my readers to move past the religiousness which tears us down and start Believing in Something Better.

So, with this in mind I’ve been meditating on relationships recently. I love verses like 1 John 2:10-11, because they really do show the great importance placed on relationships. Think about what the Lord Jesus Christ said about the greatest commandment, or His stating of a new commandment. Both statements come back to relationships. If I were to condense the Christian life into a phrase it would be a paraphrase of our Lord:

“Have a full, complete relationship with God, and have a relationship with the people around you, especially your fellow believers.”

This is the essence! (While I know without definitions these words do not totally capture the full Christian life, however for the sake of brevity let us lay aside the arguments for the time being.) The Lord brought a verse to me while I was listening to a sermon on the radio, recently. You will soon (hopefully) see a much longer paper on the subject of this verse and its ramifications upon this ministry, but being immersed in my study I wanted to prime the pump, so to speak. This verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:14 “We urge you, brothers, admonish the disorderly, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient toward all” (BOGV). These are the simple directions for our relationships with fellow believers.

This is all about helping those in need, and if there is not a visible need (or there may be a difference of doctrine) being patient. Paul intended this verse (and the whole section of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22) to be applied to the believers and their relationships with each other. I want to go a step further and apply this to the relationships we have with unbelievers, for we are called to evangelize to them. Now, I am a shy person. I have always had a hard time speaking to people on difficult subjects. The Lord, however, is growing me and conforming me to the image of His Son.

Recently, God has placed a call on my heart to share the Good News (the Gospel). This is the relationship which is scariest to me. It is the relationship which God wants me to cultivate. We need to be speaking the Gospel, His Gospel. This Gospel is a message of free, limitless grace. This Gospel presents a God who loves us so much He personally came to Earth in the form of a man so He could sacrifice Himself for us and bridge the gap (the chasm, really) between Him and us. It is a Gospel of total forgiveness from everything and anything we have ever done. Finally, it is a Gospel which brings us into a full, beautiful relationship with God, no strings attached.

This Gospel does not preach a religion, but a relationship! We need to preach the Gospel tenderly and with great care to everyone who will listen. With gentleness, then we bring order to the disordered, encouragement to the discouraged, support to the weak, and are patient with everyone. This will be an effective witness, and a breath of fresh air to those who have been turned off by the arguments they are shown in the media. Having a tender attitude will bring forth a softer response.

Go forth, build relationships with those around you. Have a full, wonderful relationship with our glorious God. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Easter Thought – 2018

We come to the season, again, of celebrating Christ’s resurrection. When I approach this holiday (my favorite by far) in my prayer time with the Lord, I constantly find myself at a loss for words. What can I say? The only thing I have to say is “thank You” to go or His working. The Lord Jesus, the Messiah of the whole world, came here to do what we – humankind – could not. He reached down from heaven in order that we could have a relationship with Him.

I heard a quote a couple years ago and wrote it down so I would never forget it. The quote is:

“Religion is man trying to reach up to God;
The Gospel is God reaching down to man.”

—Unknown

Humankind has been making religions (even the Christian religion) as monuments trying to stand on them to reach God since the time of Babel. It continues today, is a steeple not simply a tower to reach God?

Christianity wasn’t meant to be this. Jesus’ teachings are scarce on the subject of the Church and corporate worship of Him, focusing rather on the day to day lives his followers. We do have the “Upper Room Discourse” in John 13–17. This preaching is familial, relational, and about love. Love for one another (fellow believers) as He (Christ) loves us (the Church/Believers) is laid out as a new commandment. We are to love one another and through this we show our love for the Lord!

Paul’s clear mission for the Church was unity and love as well. (Paul refers to this in Colossians 2:1–2 by hoping our hearts might be knit together in one heart through love.) This is the theme repeated time and time again through the Bible – let alone the New Testament. This is the call: Not to a religious experience, but to a relationship. Let us dwell on our relationship as we go through our day. Jesus’ resurrection provides for this relationship. This is the whole point.

Praise the Lord!

I hope you all have a happy Easter.

The Majors and the Minors

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The Majors and the Minors

by Ray B. May IV ~ March, 2018

It has been brought to my attention, that with some recent statements I have made, I may have made some subjects confusing, especially regarding my stance on those subjects. So, first I want to state, for the record, I whole heartedly believe every point listed out on the Believe Better Ministries’ Statement of Faith. I wrote this statement and each word describes my personal beliefs. This is where Believe Better Ministries started. I wrote a paper about feelings I had about Christendom (the special word I use to describe the religion of Christianity as it differs from the Bible and from the people who actually follow Christ).

I wrote this first paper over the course of one night and made this new blog to house it. I wrote it early, early in the morning (between midnight and three in the morning), I remember it vividly as a Thursday night/Friday morning. I had just had a long conversation with a close friend and I was angry, so, I wrote this paper out of anger (not the best frame of mind to be in when writing). This was not when Believe Better Ministries started, but it was when the seed was planted. Believe Better Ministries didn’t really start until the summer, about two years later. This is when things started to coalesce into what is now Believe Better Ministries. This is when I sat down and wrote out my beliefs in order to make sure I would not deviate from them.

I feel pretty secure in not having ever deviated from them over the last three and a half years. However, recently I have written some things which have made some of my brothers and sisters in Christ question whether I was already deviating, or was going to deviate, from them in the future. I must apologize profusely for this. I have never, I repeat never, meant to make anyone feel as if I was moving on ahead (or passed) the Christian Faith. This was not my intent, nor my goal. I was deeply shocked when I received e-mails on this subject.

I want to use this paper to explore contending for the Faith, and, so, I have to ask the question: What parts of the Christian Faith should we earnestly contend for? I had a long chat with two of the Elders of the assembly I attend, recently, and one of them gave me five points of the Christian Faith which he said (and I agree) must be agreed upon to even call one’s self a Christian. (Being nondenominational having these major doctrines to agree upon is so important for it allows us to meet together in love even if we disagree on pet doctrines or other minor points.) This made me think about the Statement of Faith I had written for Believe Better Ministries. I sat down and went through it and most of the points on Believe Better Ministries’ Statement of Faith do correspond to these five points, there are a few (exactly four) which don’t but I still believe them and they are important to me, I digress.

The five beliefs we must share in common are these: The Bible, God, Christ, the Work of Christ, and Our Common Salvation. These are the five which there must be no disagreement on. Confusion? Yes, of course, there will be confusion. Some of these points (as we will see) are pretty confusing. A lack of understanding is rather different from outright denial. (We can – for example – be confused – as I am – on how the Father and the Son are completely one, yet, the Father could turn His back on the Son, or how the Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit being one, could separate the Son from themselves (themself?) in order to send the Son to Earth.)

Let’s look at each one of the points now:

1. The Bible: It all starts with the Bible, because everything we know about all the other subjects comes from the Bible. The Bible is the inspired word of God (2 Peter 1:21), which He breathed out (2 Tim 3:16). As I said, everything we know about all the other topics comes from the Bible, so if we cannot believe the Bible, what can we believe about any of the other parts of our faith?

2. God: The Bible takes for granted its readers believe in a deity. Being the Word of God, the expectation is you believe in at least a deity. But, as far as the Bible is concerned the God, who is revealed, is the uniquely one, triune God. We are told time and time, again, our God is one (Deut 4:35; Ps 86:10; 1 Cor 8:4; Gal 3:20; Eph 4:6; 1 Tim 2:15), but He is also triune, which means three in one. He, God, is made up of three distinct persons – Father, Son, and the Spirit – but He is not three gods, but one God. God being three is made clear if we read the Bible and the language it uses to refer to God. (See Matt 3:16-17, 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14; Eph 2:18, 3:14-17; Titus 3:4-7; Rev 1:4-6.) This triuneness is vastly important for two reasons: It is the very thing which sets God apart from other gods, and it is the crux of the matter, for with the Triune God being in a relationship (love) with each other (Himself) for all eternity-past (before the creation) He wants more relationships and so created us (See John 17:5, 10-11, 22-26). People can believe in any god they wish to, but they cannot call him/her/it the God of the Bible, unless He is the Triune God of the Bible.

3. Christ: The Lord Jesus Christ was the very God in eternity (John 1:1; Phil 2:6) who became a man in time (John 1:9, 14; Phil 2:7-8; 1 John 4:2). Because of the two natures – God (John 1:1; Phil 2:6) and man (John 1:14; Phil 2:7; 1 John 4:2) – He is complete in His divinity and perfect in His humanity. In his humanity He was anointed by God with the Spirit (Matt 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34) to accomplish God’s purpose. Therefore, He is the Christ (from the Greek Χριστός – Christos which is the Greek translation for the Hebrew Messiah (מָשִׁ֫יחַ – Meshiach) which both mean “Anointed One”), the Anointed of God (John 20:31, 1 John 2:21-22).

He is the Son of God (Matt 3:17; John 1:14, 3:16-18; 1 John 4:10), as such He is the image of the invisible God (John 14:9; Col 1:15), the effulgence of God’s glory (John 1:14) and the very image of God’s substance (Heb 1:3), subsisting in the form of God (Phil 2:6) and was equal with God (John 5:17-18), and all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily (Col 2:9).

As the Son of God, He came in the flesh with the Father (John 6:46 – Greek παρά – para loses a lot of its meaning in translation, it means “from the very presence of” or “beside, in the presence of” or “alongside, of, with”), and in the name of the Father.

As the eternal God, He is the Creator of all things (Heb 1:2; John 1:3; Col 1:16), and as a man who came in the flesh (1 John 4:2), with physical blood, bone, and flesh, He is a creature, the first born of all creation (Col 1:15). Therefore, Jesus is both Creator and creature.

4. The Work of Christ: Christ first became a man in the incarnation (John 1:14; Phil 2:6-8), lived a genuine human life (as recorded in the Gospels), and died on the cross for our redemption (Phil 2:8; 1 Peter 2:24; Rev 5:9). Then, He rose from the dead for our regeneration (John 3:6; Rom 6:11; 2 Cor 5:17; Titus 3:5), ascended to the heavens to be Lord of all (Heb 1:3-4), and will come back (John 14:3; Rev 2:20) as the Bridegroom to the Church (2 Cor 11:2-4; Eph 5:22-33; Rev 21:2, 9-10) and the King of kings to all nations (Rev 5:9-10). No genuine Christian has any argument about these aspects of the work of Christ.

5. Our Common Salvation: A sinner must repent to God (Acts 2:38, 26:20; 1 John 1:5-10; This word repent is a very important, while misunderstood, word, most believe it means feeling sorry for what I’ve done, and so they repent many times – every time they sin – while really it is a changing of who we are to agree with God about our sin (and sin nature), and so it is really only a one-time thing) and believe in Christ (John 3:16; Acts 16:31) for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:43; 1 John 1:7), for redemption (Rom 3:24), for justification (John 3:18; Acts 13:39; Rom 8:1), and for regeneration (John 3:6; Rom 6:11; 2 Cor 5:17; Titus 3:5) in order to receive eternal life (John 3:36; Titus 1:2; Titus 3:7; 1 John 5:11) to become a child of God (John 1:21; 1 John 3:1-2) and a member of Christ (1 Cor 12:27). This is our salvation by God through faith (Eph 2:4-9).

Okay, all of this to say what? This is all to show what we should defend, or contend for. I wrote a commentary on the Epistle of Jude, and Jude’s whole point is for us to earnestly contend for our faith (Jude 3). These five points make up a consistent set of beliefs which all Christians – regardless of denomination, ideology, or creed – should agree upon, we could label them the Faith. These, then, are what Jude exhorts us to earnestly contend for.

The word in Jude 3 is ἐπαγωνίζομαι (epagōnízomai) and Jude’s use constitutes the only use of this compound word in all of the New Testament. Jude here is actually putting two other Greek words together: ἐπί (epi) which is a preposition meaning “on, to, against, on the basis of, at”; and ἀγωνίζομαι (agōnízomai) which is a verb meaning “to struggle, strive (as in an athletic contest or warfare), to contend with an adversary”. Those two words when put together bring the meaning “to earnestly contend for”. The editors and translators of the NET Bible have this to say on the word: “the verb ἐπαγωνίζομαι (epagōnízomai) is an intensive form of ἀγωνίζομαι (agōnízomai). As such, the notion of struggling, fighting, contending, etc. is heightened.”

A heightened contention for the faith, then, against those “who crept in secretly” to teach falsities about the faith. The New Testament, again and again, tells us to defend the faith. Peter, the Apostle on whom Jesus built His congregation (Matt 16:18), put in his first epistle: “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you for a reason concerning the hope that is in you: (1 Peter 3:15). Always be ready! Why? Because in Peter’s own words: “Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Paul tells us to take no part in the works of darkness, but instead expose and/or rebuke them (Eph 5:11). (The Greek word ἐλέγχω – elegchō means both to expose and to rebuke, it is an expose as in a courtroom exposing something as being wrong, or someone as being guilty.) Paul, in his pastoral epistles (1-2 Timothy and Titus) is very harsh on false teaching, telling Titus to make sure all Elders/Overseers/Bishops must hold firm to the faithful word which they’ve been taught so they “may be able to exhort in sound doctrine, and to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

I think one of the strongest passages about defending the faith comes out of Paul’s strong defense of the Gospel he preached to the Galatians (of which in Galatians 1:7 he says there is not actually another Gospel besides it). Paul says here in Galatians 1:8-9 this person – whether they be Paul, himself, or an angel from heaven – let a curse be on him! He is so emphatic here he says this statement twice. How much more emphatic can Paul be? He even calls a curse upon himself if he were to come to them preaching a Gospel other than the one he already preached. Can we mince words with Paul? I don’t think so, for Paul is the man who said of a brother in Corinth: “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Cor 5:5, read 5:1-5 to see full context and the extent of Paul’s words). Of those who are divisive Paul said to warn them once, then twice, then have nothing more to do with them (Titus 3:10).

To Finally circle back to where I started all of this I want it known I will earnestly contend (epagōnízomai) for these five points, for the Faith. This is part of the reason for Believe Better Ministries, and why it was named such. I want to help the people of the world to Believe in Something Better. This is where this whole journey of blogging started. I have learned so much along the way, and I consider myself to still be learning. I will put forth those doctrines of the Faith and cleave to my Lord Jesus Christ.

I will try to help you believe in something better.

Sources:

  1. “Majoring on the Majors”, Zuber, John, 2018
  2. ESV Study Bible, Crossway, 2008
  3. NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 2002
  4. Recovery Version New Testament, Living Stream Ministry, 1991
  5. NET Bible®, Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C., 1996-2018,
  6. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Bible Hub, 2004–2018

To read the first article I wrote click here. I have since removed the article which gave me so many e-mails to wade through about whether I was changing my beliefs or not. As always if you would like to chat, feel free to e-mail me.

New Year’s Thought – 2018

Well, this year went by in a blaze of speed I had not yet felt. I can’t believe it is now 2018. I’ve been through a lot this year for it to be over so soon. I’ve finished some projects and had to reevaluate others. I’ve missed out on some goals while pursuing others. I didn’t quite complete my goal of getting the commentaries on 1 – 3 John finished in order to get them to print, but I see a bright future in 2018 for the Believe Something Better Bible Commentary Series. I also feel excited for the possibility of a newsletter for Believe Better Ministries. We will see what the Lord permits me to do this year.

My thoughts this time of year are typically very reflective. Christmas is over, things are winding down it is time to sit down and read my journal and see what happened this year. (Most of the time what I really mean is see how I messed up this year.) This year has been different. I am not saying I am different, but the time is different. I still feel reflective, I just haven’t had the time to sit down and read my journal or really put any effort into self-doubt (I will admit I am not suffering from the symptoms of seasonal depression as badly this year.

This has brought to mind a truth which I seem to remember about January 12th and forget again on February 1st. We are not meant to wallow in our past mistakes! We need to forget them and move on. I am not saying we need to ignore them, I’m saying we need to learn from them but then move passed them. There is a verse which is commonly used as a new year’s verse (so you will forgive me for doing it now) and it is appropriate.

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:13-14 ESV

This is not just something I want to remember during the first and last weeks of each year, but rather it is something I want to remember for this whole year. I am going to put it on my book marks, in my notebooks, on a card in my wallet, simply it is going to be everywhere for me this year. I am going to make it my verses of the year.

Maybe we can do it together. Let’s make these two verses the verses of 2018, and let’s treat those around us with the same courtesy. The friend whom you’ve had an argument with and you can’t remember how it started? End it, forget it. The estranged family member? Reach out to them, you make the steps for mending your relationship. How we treat the people in our lives should be a reflection of how we love God (see 1 John), so, treat your loved ones with full unconditional love (agape love).

This is my major goal for 2018: Unconditional, godlike, love through forgetting what lies behind and striving to what lies before. Happy New Year, everyone!

Christmas Thought – 2017

Christmas is here again. My thoughts this year have been on relationships and the application of love in our Christian lives. I’ve been going over the passages of the “Greatest Commandment” in consideration of John’s teaching in 1 John. Writing about 1 John as I am, right now, I’ve been touched by John’s continued use of love. One verse really touched me as I went through 1 John:

“He who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.”

(1 John 2:10 BOGV)

This verse impressed on me something I knew already, but had forgotten – or hadn’t gotten in my bones yet (as one of the Elders of the Willamette Bible Chapel says) – along the way. It brings to mind the conversation Jesus had about the “Greatest Commandment”. Jesus said the whole of the Old Testament (the Law and Prophets) depends on the love of God and love of our neighbors. In a clarifying parable we see in loving his neighbor the Samaritan took care of a person in need. At Christmas we are told it is better to give than receive and numerous other aphorisms of taking care of those around us.

What is one of the greatest ways we can take care of our neighbors? Taking care of their needs? Yes, of course, but what is, arguably, everyone’s biggest need? Eternal Salvation? So often, we get so caught up in Christmas we forget what makes it important and it’s not Jesus’ birth. (Muslims even believe in the virgin birth (Qur’an 3:47; 66:12) and yet miss the purpose of the miracle.) The importance of Christmas, and the virgin birth, comes from it being the first sign about Jesus.

We should be using it as a means of pointing our friends, family, and neighbors to Jesus, and His work on the cross. Through this we show love for others and are able to show we remain in the light. Keep this in mind through your celebrations this year. Celebrate Jesus, not just for the miraculous conception and birth, but for Him setting us free from sin and condemnation.

Merry Christmas!

I hope you have a blessed and wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!

A Conversation with a Martyr

Download the Story A Conversation with a Martyr here →

OK, that could be a very misleading title!

I want to make it clear I have not personally contacted a martyr for the faith. Rather this is a work of fiction. I have always been – at least when it comes to writing – a fiction writer. I love to write fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy. You in fact can read my fiction online as it is currently being serialized. Well I was sitting in my chair reading Voice of the Martyrs and the Lord smacked me on the head with an idea I just couldn’t shake. Well… I think it was the Lord anyway. As I said I just couldn’t shake it I had a visceral need to write it and finish it.

I thought I’d give you all a chance to read it. I’ve been holding it back as it is different from anything else I’ve ever written. The idea is I’ve been praying to God about being the kind of person who is willing to lay their life down for Him. I’ve never thought I was this person. I want to be this person, but never felt like I had the courage to be. This part is not fiction, this part is absolutely true. I have prayed this question many times in my life. Wondered for many years if a great persecution happened here in the USA would I be the person hiding his beliefs to get by or would I stand up and shout God’s good news from the roof tops?

The story is essentially God giving me an answer. Whether this answer is real or fake, I cannot tell. I’ve pondered it and handed the story to wiser men than I. I have nothing more really to say about the story.

I hope you enjoy it.

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Easter Thought – 2017

Well, here, we are in 2017 and standing again before the Lord in worship of His sacrifice for us on the cross. As far as holidays go, Easter really is my favorite. I’m brought to my knees, with tears in my eyes, as I think about how worthless my righteousness is, and yet God thought a relationship with me worth it enough to pay the price to have that relationship. Relationships have been the big-ticket item in my thoughts and Bible stud recently. I recently posted a thought here, and gave a short word on it at the Willamette Bible Chapel, where I spoke on Colossians 1:24–27.

Relationships are important! They are really in a lot of ways, the most important thing. We see this even in the law as the Pharisees ask the Lord Jesus what the greatest commandment was. His responses to this question are both completely relational (Matthew 22:34–40; Mark 12:28–34; Luke 10:25–28). Furthermore, the verse which is singular best known verse in the Bible: John 3:16 gives us a relational statement about why Jesus came to the Earth. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV) For God so loved the world!

Christianity, for some reason has almost become more like an achievement or badge to wear rather than what it’s supposed to be. Christianity should be more like the relationship status we post on Facebook:

“RB is in a relationship with the Eternal Creator of All — God”

This is what Christianity should be. This is what Easter celebrates. We are celebrating God bridging the gap for us so we can have a relationship with Him. If God hadn’t done this we would only be able to view God as one mighty lawgiver. Instead, however, we get to enjoy the benefits of a personal relationship with the most powerful Being which exist. A Being whose very word says He is love (1 John 4:8).

This is what I am remembering this Easter.

Hope you all have a happy Easter.

Thoughts on Friendship – 2017

Willamette Bible Chapel just had their annual Men’s Retreat. I attended and was truly blessed. The subject this year was friendship. I really appreciated this subject as relationships are a strong call in my life. I think everyone has a huge call in their lives toward relationships. I personally feel they are the most important thing in our lives. Jesus said the greatest commandments are to “Love the Lord your God” and “Love your neighbor”. This tells us, even from the time of the law, relationships were primary in the heart of God.

Relationships are our primary view and shining forth of God. John states in his first epistle that we cannot say we love God and hate our brother (fellow believer whether man or woman). So, it is our relationships in which we show how much we love God. Through loving our brothers and sisters (fellow believers) and our other neighbors (those who are not believers as well) we show how much we love God. Through this – loving the people around us (believers or not), and loving God – we fulfill the whole law.

One of my other thoughts on relationships, well friendships really, is our intimate friendships affect our views, attitudes, and everyday choices. If I make intimate friends with a non-believer I need to be careful with this friendship so it does not drag me away from God. Rather, I need to shine the light of God into their lives. If I allow it to pull me away from God, I allow, also, my witness for God to be torn down. So, I need to guard my heart from such things. I need to strive toward God and shine His light.

I’m not trying to say we should cut ties with the world, and those who are unsaved. This would not be loving our neighbor as our own selves. Cutting ties with those who are unsaved, also, tears down our witness. For to whom are we witnessing? Ourselves? No, we are witnessing to non-believers! So, it would be terribly inappropriate to cut ties with the unsaved. Did Jesus do this? No, of course not, He was a friend to sinners.

The difference is Christ is God, perfect, omnipotent; able to not let the world tear Him down and destroy His witness. We are impotent and must depend on the LORD for our strength. So, through all our friendships we need to cleave into God. Our intimate friendships should, however, be with believers. This is because our intimate friendships when with other believers, shall build us up in the Lord. Have friendships, evangelize, shine the light of the Lord as a city on a hill! Relationships are one of the greatest ways to evangelize. Be honest, be loving, be Christ to everyone.