The Trinity on Thursday – One single verse?

OneVerse

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I keep coming back to Fred Sander’s book Embracing the Trinity (UK title to his book The Deep Things of God). Reading it for the fourth time. It sparkles each time I read it but has yet to become part of my bloodstream (dolt me!).

From his College’s online magazine at Biloa USA here’s an article on the search for the single all emcompassing Trinity verse.

The Trinity is a biblical doctrine, but let’s admit it: There’s something annoying about how hard it is to put your finger on a verse that states the whole doctrine.

The Bible presents the elements of the doctrine in numerous passages, of course: that there is only one God; that the Father is God; that the Son is God; and that the Spirit is God. We can also tell easily enough that the Father, Son and Spirit are really distinct from one another, and are not just three names for one person. If you hold all those clear teachings of Scripture in your mind at one time and think through them together, the doctrine of the Trinity is inevitable. Trinitarianism is a biblical doctrine and all the ingredients are given to us there: Just add thought and you have the classic doctrine.

Like most evangelicals, though, I would prefer to have a doctrine be stated clearly and concisely in one place. I like my doctrines verse-sized. I sometimes wish there were one verse that said, “God is one being in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” The doctrine of the Trinity, though, is simply not verse-sized. Sometimes that feels like a disadvantage, but in fact it’s an advantage. The doctrine of the Trinity is a massive, comprehensive, full-Bible doctrine that serves to expand our minds as readers of Scripture. In Scripture, God is leading his people to understand who he is as Father, Son and Spirit.

For example, set aside for a moment the desire to fit the doctrine into one verse. Look instead at how it shows up in a slightly larger (three verses) passage, Galatians 4:4-6: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son … to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” Paul is describing God’s greatest acts in the history of salvation, and those acts are specifically Trinitarian: The Father sends the Son and the Spirit to save.

Or think even bigger: In a crucial passage of Romans, Paul summarizes his message in five verses, and there is a necessarily Trinitarian cadence to his summary: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. … We rejoice … because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:1–5).

Or try to take in 12 verses at once: Ephesians 1:3-14 is one gigantic sentence (in Greek) that surveys all of God’s plans and intentions from eternity past, through our present salvation, and on to final redemption. Three times it points us to the kind intention of God’s will, and three times it points us to the praise of his glory. The fundamental movement of the passage, though, is from the Father’s choosing and predestining us in love, through the beloved Son’s death for our forgiveness, to the Holy Spirit’s work sealing us for redemption.

Once you learn to see the Trinity shaping these larger stretches of Scripture, you’re ready to notice how entire books of the Bible are structured by the same Trinitarian logic. In Galatians, for example, Paul proves his gospel of faith against salvation by works in a three-part argument: The Galatians received the Spirit by faith, God promised Abraham that he would justify the Gentiles by faith, and Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. The great arc of Romans runs from the Father’s judgment through the Son’s propitiation to the Spirit’s deliverance.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the Trinity as the big story behind the Bible, the best thing to do is to read the Gospel of John fast, in one sitting. Your dominant impression during the first half will be that the Father and the Son love each other, and in the second half the Holy Spirit will burst into your attention as the fulfillment of the revelation.

There are a handful of verses where the three persons are named in one place, such as Matthew 28:19 and 2 Corinthians 13:14. These classic passages have the advantage of being comfortably verse-sized. But when we move on from the partial glimpses of the Trinity we can get from single verses, we are led on to larger stretches of argument, wider vistas of insight, and a more inclusive expanse of God’s self-revelation through Scripture. And that prepares our minds for the biggest Christian thought of all: The whole Bible is one complete book that reveals the Trinity. That fact is what the ancient church fathers meant when they summarized the Christian faith in the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God the Father … and in his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ … and in the Holy Spirit.”

The Trinity is a biblical doctrine, therefore, in a very special sense: not in any one verse, but as the key to the entire book.

Fred Sanders is an associate professor of theology in Biola’s Torrey Honors Institute; Sanders’ latest book, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, was published in August 2010.

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The Table: who’s it for?

CommunionReduxThis question comes out of a recent conversation with our best buds on Communion and when, if ever, one should hesitate to partake. It is something I have been thinking about for some time. A side question of who exactly can participate in communion arises and that will be my main focus in this post. I will be using the phrase ‘the table’ to describe the receiving of and participating in communion. For those wondering what is meant generally by communion within a christian context and what I am meaning by, it will become clear as we go along.

Thoughts and issues:

  1. Anyone can physically go to the table and receive the bread and wine (often grape juice) – that is obvious. That anyone can physically walk into a church worship gathering and go forward to take at the table does not mean that they should. In fact they shouldn’t and they may actually be exposing themselves to trouble in doing this.
  2. Firstly no one gets to the table in the true spiritual sense except by their being an adopted child of God. By this I mean that there are spiritual realities and benefits at the table that can only be accessed if the person is of the faith and is receiving said benefits by faith.
  3. So by a kind of membership and by a kind of remembering coupled with believing in what is remembered, spiritual realities – blessings and graces, are available to them – the believing member who remembers.
  4. And there is a right way for such a christian believer to approach the table. In faith, remembering what it symbolises and in fact is, and remembering what has made it possible. Firstly, what it symbolises and is. It is two things and the interplay between them is necessary to keep in mind and beautiful to behold. The first thing that it is – is drama – a double re-enactment. On the night before Jesus was crucified, he took a cup and took bread and spoke of them as being his body and blood. Body and blood being broken and being poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Spoken and broken.
  5. Hours later he would be nailed to a cross where his body was broken and his blood poured out. Broken and bled. The table re-enacts and captures both these realities – the last supper and the last brutal hours of Jesus’ life.
  6. But another thing the table is is a family gathering. Brothers and sisters together sharing the communion they have together before their heavenly Father who sent his eternal Son to bring others into this family relationship. Jesus is, in a very real sense, our elder brother. The Father and the Son have made family membership available to all  – by invitation only. The invitation is the Gospel. See my posts on the Gospel for clarity on what this actually means.
  7. If there are three components (and there are more) to the table this should help us answer the key question of who should participate in the table and what state this participation demands.
  8. Recapping, there are three components to the table a) the re-enactment of the Last supper of Jesus b) the remembering of the last hours of Jesus c) and it is the family meal for those doing the first two and rembering and receiving the benefits of them both with gladness.
  9. The answer to the question who can participate and receive is clear when we remember all three of these. The family members – the christian believers can and should enjoy the table and its benefits. They should approach the table in faith and in good conscience – being at peace with their God and his people. To approach otherwise is inviting trouble and the scripture speaks of physical implications of demeaning the table by a poor approach.
  10. The non-believer however should not participate at the table at all. The believers should support the non believing visitor in understandiing what is open to them and what is not and why? Actually, something greater than the table is open to them and through it and after it, the table becomes open to them.
  11. If the Gospel is the door to the house, the table is something enjoyed having entered the house by the door.
  12. This is actually the place of great confusion, often emotional confusion for many christians – unnecessarily so. Many christians wish for the table to be accessible to all – christian believers and non christians. They are motivated wonderfully but mistaken woefully. The motivation comes from the true understanding that Jesus is for all, that on the cross as his arms were forcefully kept apart through the nails of execution, he was opening his arms to all mankind to come to him for forgiveness, for restoration, for love and for life.
  13. All true. However they make the simple mistake of treating the table like it is an invitation to Christ. Christ turns away none who would come. Then none should be turned away from the table – Christ’s table. For such a person the wooden table and the wooden cross have become one and the same. No christian would turn away anyone from going close to the fountain of forgiveness – the cross and so it should be with the table. Such a conflation of two wonderful things is highly problematic and is in danger of leaving the seeking, wondering, searching non-christian with a sense of welcome but without reality.
  14. An inappropriate understanding leads to inappropriate guidance. When I say the non christian does not have access to the table, I am not saying he does not have access to Christ and his salvation. I am in fact saying and shouting that he has. And having received Christ’s salvation through repentance and faith, he then has access to a great many things, one of which is the table. First things first. Faith first, then the fruits of the faith. If you invite someone to the fruits without first encountering the gardener whose fruit it is – you are at risk of demeaning the fruit, the gardener, the faith community and the seeker.
  15. Communion is therefore exclusive. It is an insiders meal. Christ is exclusive. Exclusively for all.
  16. All outsiders may come via the wooden cross to the wooden table. But none may come directly to the table. What sense would it make to them. See the scriptures below – see their obvious context and apllication.
  17. Jesus said to his disciples – Do this in memory of me. The outsider, the non disciple is not asked to do this in memory of him. Of course I can hear the ‘proving’ testimony being advanced with haste. It goes something like this “My friend or I came to faith eventually in Christ after receiving or after a season of participation at the table, it is what drew me”.
  18. I delight in and don’t doubt your wonderful arrival in Christ. But the vageries of your journey, like mine with all its quirks should not be seen as normative or necessary or recommendable. That we arrived in Christ, the one who said Come unto me, is the repeatable, necessary, recommendable step.
  19. The table is exclusively for those who profess Christ (as Saviour and LORD). The table is a family meal. For the family of God in Christ – who have made this profession.
  20. Look at the verses – the activiity of partaking, breaking bread, is among the believers. Not among the interested, the seeker, the one who physical can go to the table but the one who has a rightful, blood bought, family space at the table.

1 Corinthians 11:28 ESV

Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

Acts 2:42 ESV

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

1 Corinthians 11:27-29 ESV

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

Acts 20:7 ESV

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.

Acts 20:11 ESV

And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed.

1 Corinthians 11:26 ESV

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Acts 2:42-47 ESV

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,

 

Text Tuesday – Ten problematic red letters

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For source of image – click it

 There is a method of marking out Jesus’ words in Bible publications. They are printed in red. This method is only sometimes used. On the positive side, it makes his words easier to spot and quite convenient when scanning through a page quickly. However it has its downsides. Some chrsitians have begun to elevate these red letter words above the black letter words. We can then lose context and fail to see the rest of scripture as of equal value.

I attended an exciting evening of friendly christian-muslim discussion and debate in London last night. One of the thoughts that came out from the muslim perspective was a general though not complete acceptance of the red letter words of Jesus in the Gospels. Many though not all. This is not too surpirsing because many of the sayings and teachings of Jesus would be happily endorsed by almost every religious group in the world. His teachings on love, justice, sacrifice and service are unparraleled but yet universal. Hence their attractiveness. So I understand that my muslim friends (like Hindus and Buddhists) would be very accepting of much but not all of the actual spoken words of Jesus recorded in the Gospels.

But I took a few minutes today to just scan through one of the gospels – Matthew – and see a few of the things my muslim friends ceratinly could not accept because of a message from 600 years after Jesus that they have an allegiance to. I think I can hear a couple of muslim friends saying “no problem” to one or two of these. But an honest reading and a sense of their meaning in the original context should deflate any such aspirations. But I do accept them because long before an ostensibly good man in a cave brought to those outside the cave, a message so contrary to Christianity, the black letters and the red letters of the Gospels were part of the literature of the world – that’s the parts that the good man in the cave would like and those he wouldn’t. I must accept them all.

10 problematic statements of Jesus (red letter) for our muslim friends:

  1.  “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Matthew 11:27
  2.  Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’[a] you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:5-8
  3. He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here. Matthew 12:39-42
  4. “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. Matthew 13:40-43
  5. Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Matthew 15:10
  6. The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. 23 They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life. Matthew 17:22-23
  7. We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life! Matthew 20:18-19
  8. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:28
  9.  But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee. Matthew 26:32
  10. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:18-20

The hiddenness of God

Hidden in plain sight.

God in Christ.

For all to see.

Yet not seen by all.

God’s parable.

To some it is given.

To those who have eyes and ears to see and hear.

Does God exist?

Where is he?

He does.

He is.

Hidden.

In plain sight.

God in Christ.

What about your beautiful eyes and ears?

Are they to see the Hidden in plain sight?

HiddenValley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Corinthians 5:19

… in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Jesus the Hungry – Ramadan Reflections

Light bulbs incandescent-globesLovely muslims say to me, a christian ….

Jesus could not be God – he hungered, ate – game over!

I say to lovely muslims that I, a christian

expect to see Jesus eating and hungering;

because Jesus on earth was the eternal Word of God – made flesh.

Flesh – real flesh – not fake flesh – not pretend flesh;

real eating – real hungering.

That is what incarnation (Word made flesh) means; what one expects with incarnation.

Jesus – God but not solely God

Jesus – man but not solely man.

Jesus – God and man.

Read the scriptures – all of them – not just the ‘Jesus eats! Game Over’ ones.

So when the lovely muslim person says to me, “Jesus ate, he was hungry”, said muslim undoubtedly has an expectation of a light bulb moment for me. There certainly is one – but not the one he expects.

The lightbulb moment for me is the sudden awareness that although this muslim knows I am a christian, he clearly does not know what christians understand our scriptures to say and what we therefore believe.

The lightbulb moment is seeing that the lovely muslim is putting 6th century islamic requirements on the first century Jesus and our scriptures.

We have work to do to understand one another and have a productive chat, this lovely muslim and me.

Gospel according to John – Chapter 1 – Verses 1 to 5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Gospel according to John – Chapter 1 – Verse 14

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Isaiah 53 – like it was written at the foot of Calvary’s hill

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Quite a few things in this post. Firstly, I want you to think about what you know or have heard about Jesus of Nazareth. Jewish Messiah. Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Laid low, so others can be lifted up. Empty, so others may be full. Left home so others could come home. Momentarily lost to the Father so others could be bound to the Father forever. Without, so others could be with. Lifeless, so others could have nothing less than life. Broken, so others could be restored. Poured out, so others could be gathered up.

Consider Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday as you read this prophecy of one called the Suffering Servant from the Hebrew prophet Isaiah – almost 700 years before the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Starting at end of Chapter 52 & moving into 53

See, my servant will act wisely[b];
    he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him[c]
    his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
    and his form marred beyond human likeness—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations,[d]
    and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
    and what they have not heard, they will understand.

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life[d] and be satisfied[e];
by his knowledge[f] my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,[g]
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,[h]
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Sourced electronically here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%2053&version=NIV

Secondly for the enquirers amongst you here is an academic treatment by a Jewish believer in Christ, Dr. Michael Brown, on how this prophecy refers ultimately and fully to Jesus the Messiah.

Clicking on the pdf button below will download automatically a pdf document written by Dr. Brown. It’s a chapter called Jewish Interpretations of Isaiah 53 from the book The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 – Encountering the Suffering Servant in Jewish and Christian Theology. It’s written at an academic level but is an important piece of work.

Click this PDF button for Chapter download:

pdfOnce downloaded – find it in you your downloads.

Click the book to purchase with free delivery within the UK.

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