Thanks Be Unto God “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)
There are innumerable things for which we could—and should—give thanks to God. But there are three notable gifts mentioned by Paul in his letters to the Corinthians in which he was led to use this particular exclamation: “Thanks be to God.” We shall do well to look at these great blessings, and then—like Paul—pour out our own thanks to God for them!
The first is in our text above, giving thanks for God’s gift of victory. And what victory is that? “Death is swallowed up in victory” (v. 54), and death has lost its terrible sting for the believer, for Christ conquered death forever when He died for our sins and rose again.
The second is similar yet goes beyond even the first gift: “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14). Not only victory over death but victory in life!
By the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ, we are enabled to triumph over circumstances and “shew forth the praises of him who hath called [us] out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). But the greatest gift of all is Christ Himself! Therefore, we join with the apostle Paul as he exclaims, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15). “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). The value of this gift is beyond language to describe, “unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). The Lord Jesus Christ is both our Creator and Savior, giving us triumphant peace and joy in life, and eternal victory over death. Thanks be unto God! HMM
The common trends in dating today are more likely to prepare you to get divorced than to enjoy and persevere in marriage.
Dating is an intentional pursuit of marriage, not casual preparation for it. Unfortunately, many of us are being told we must date early and often if we ever want to be ready for marriage. For instance, one popular Christian dating book reads, “Dating is an incubator time of discovering the opposite sex, one’s own sexual feelings, moral limits, one’s need for relationship skills, and one’s tastes for people.” Sounds practical and reasonable on the surface. Until you think about putting yourself (or your daughter) into someone else’s “incubator” for a few months, or years, while he or she tries out their “sexual feelings” and “moral limits.” We put too much of ourselves at risk in dating to donate our hearts to someone’s romantic experiment.
The truth is we have given dating far too much credit, and far too much power in our pursuit of marriage. And because we misunderstand and misuse dating, we end up making more and greater mistakes in our search for love.
Wait to Date?
Wait to date until you can marry. That’s my advice for the not-yet-married, reflecting on my personal experience (and failures) in dating and on years of walking with others falling in love (and often falling harder out of love). In short, if we are dating in order to marry, we need to be ready to marry before we begin dating.
“The trends in dating today are more likely to prepare you to get divorced than to enjoy and persevere in marriage.”
I definitely do not expect everyone to agree with me. Godly wisdom is a wide stream, and God’s word often allows us to apply his heart and wisdom in remarkably different ways, even in dating. But one common point of pushback puzzled me. It came in many forms, but it goes something like this:
Dating is indispensable preparation for marriage. How else will young men and women learn how to love their future husband or wife without dating?
I say it puzzles me even though I’m sure I could have preached that verse as a teenager to anyone who would have listened. I bought the message in middle school: If dating is a critical education in relationships and romance, and we want to be married, then we should date early and often. So, I started paying tuition, registered for classes, purchased the textbooks, jumped into relationship after relationship, and never looked back — until I wanted my money back.
My problem was that I subtly treated each new relationship — each potentialmarriage — like a mini-marriage.
Lab Rats in Love
Dating is not eighth-grade marriage. The men or women we date are not a series of lab experiments that prepare us to be a better husband or wife. The relationships are real relationships, and the people are (most likely) someone else’s future husband or wife. A dating relationship is not a marriage covenant, but the spiritual and emotional stakes are still high. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that the liberties many of us take in dating are more likely to harm our future marriage (and our significant other’s future marriage) than they are to prepare us for marriage. We cultivate the “mini-marriages” that subtly undermine any real marriage God might eventually give us.
Again, dating is primarily pursuit, not preparation. Dating well is not mainly looking for how, but for who. Like other experiences in life, dating will prepare and mature us in one way or another, but we don’t date in order to prepare ourselves for someone else. God prepares us for marriage in a thousand other ways that are not spring-loaded with the risks, obstacles, and difficulties of dating.
“Dating is primarily pursuit, not preparation. Dating well is not mainly about looking for how, but for who.”
For example, far better than experimenting with romance and intimacy for ourselves would be to spend lots of time with marriages we respect and admire. Instead of “studying” for marriage by only giving ourselves away to other lovesick single people, we give ourselves to observing real-life, faithful, and happy husbands and wives. Instead of making out in the basement or watching more chick flicks, we could find creative ways to help families we want to learn from.
I am not saying you should not date. The vast majority of us will have to date in order to get married, at least in the West. It’s simply how most people find a spouse today. I’m just not convinced dating is necessarily preparing us — heart, habits, character — for marriage. I’m not discouraging you from dating, but encouraging you to date with clarity and purpose, and not as an experiment. My advice is not necessarily to marry the first person you date, but to date in a way that serves the person you marry one day.
How Dating Prepares Us
If dating did prepare us for marriage, what specifically would those relationships prepare us to do in marriage?
- To relate romantically to someone of the opposite sex?
- To plan better dates — food, places, activities?
- To express affection effectively?
- To buy the right kind of flowers, or candy, or jewelry?
- To carry on meaningful conversations?
Dating indeed may prepare us to do each of these things incrementally better than if we had never dated. Experience almost always teaches us something. The problem is that at the end of each relationship, we have learned how to love someone, but that someone wasn’t our spouse. We prepared ourselves to marry our ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, and then we never got married. We cultivated love emotionally and exclusively, learned specifically how to love each other practically, and then we walked away. And then started the whole process over with someone else.
So, instead of preparing ourselves for marriage, we actually prepared ourselves, practically speaking, to walk away from marriage. Dating really prepared us for divorce.
Something You Never Hear
Still don’t believe me? Have you ever heard a husband openly celebrate his wife’s past dating relationships? Have you ever heard a wife mourn that her husband didn’t date more people?
How would we communicate if you hadn’t spent all those hours on the phone with Rachel? I’m so thankful you learned how to be a better kisser with Greg. Where would our marriage be if you hadn’t bought all those flowers for Susan?
Husbands and wives do not talk that way. If a husband or wife does celebrate their spouse’s past relationships, it’s almost always because of what they didn’t do — not because that other relationship was a “valuable learning experience” on the way to marriage.
Think about that. We might talk freely about how much dating will prepare us for marriage before we are married, and then we almost never talk about our dating relationships after we’re married. Why? Because dating does not really prepare us for marriage, especially if we treat it like a trial run or a test drive.
How God Prepares Us
What does God say about what it looks like to be prepared for marriage, and how do those things map onto what we see and experience in dating today? The clearest picture we have in the Bible comes in Ephesians 5:22–33. If you want to prepare yourself for your future husband or wife, you need to learn how to practice these five graces in marriage:
- To be utterly and fiercely exclusive (Ephesians 5:31).
- To become one spiritually, emotionally, and physically (Ephesians 5:31).
- To submit our desires and preferences totally to someone else (Ephesians 5:21–24).
- To work hard for someone else’s purity (Ephesians 5:26–27).
- To die to ourselves for someone else, even if it costs us everything (Ephesians 5:25).
Does that sound like the dating scene we see today? Does that sound like your dating relationships? It does not sound, look, or smell like most of my dating experience. That’s mainly because Ephesians 5:22–33 was written about marriage, not about dating. We’re not meant to experience those five points with several men or women, and then more with our spouse. God meant for us to experience them with one person, within the safety and intimacy of a promise — within a marriage.
By all means, if we want to be married, we should prepare ourselves to be married. But we don’t prepare ourselves for true, lifelong romance by experimenting with lesser, short-term romance. We prepare ourselves for deeper, fuller, longer-lasting romance by becoming more like Christ. If we want to be as happy as humanly possible in marriage, we practice loving others like he loves us. And the ways we prepare ourselves to love like him will look very different from every other trend in dating.
1. Prepare yourself to love exclusively.
When we say “exclusive” today, we typically mean one person at a time. We immediately think of our mini-marriages. For instance, someone could have been divorced five times and still be “exclusively” dating someone today. I think we can all agree that is a shallow and superficial way to think about exclusivity. Exclusively dating boy after boy, or girl after girl, looks less and less exclusive over time, and robs us of at least some of the exclusivity we might give a spouse one day.
“If we misunderstand and misuse dating, we will end up making more and greater mistakes in our search for love.”
Instead of treating each new relationship like a mini-marriage, cultivate a ferocious and truly exclusive love for your future husband or wife — even though you do not yet know who he or she is. As you relate to your boyfriend or girlfriend, always assume they are not your future husband or wife until he or she is your husband or wife.
2. Prepare yourself to serve others selflessly, and not satisfy yourself.
Prepare yourself to serve, and not be served (Mark 10:45). Marriage requires our gladly dying daily to ourselves for the sake of another, while dating more often looks like stuffing ourselves to death at someone else’s expense. We storm the free all-you-can-eat buffet, but forget someone else is always paying.
If we want to love our future spouse well one day, we must learn to live for someone other than ourselves now. We are all born knowing how to take care of ourselves (Ephesians 5:29). We all need to learn how to set ourselves aside for the sake of others — to postpone our own gratification in order to protect and serve our current boyfriend or girlfriend (as well as our future husband or wife).
3. Prepare yourself to wait patiently.
“Now” might be the defining word in modern dating — love now, titles now, touch now, sex now, marriage now. Every moment of unfulfilled desire pulses with tension in our bodies. Yes, “he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22), but only when he finds her in God’s time and in God’s way.
Impatience drives as many of our missteps in dating as anything else. Romance, marriage, and sex are really good gifts from God, and like every other good and perfect gift we receive, we have to submit to God’s timing and God’s terms to truly enjoy them. If you encourage your cravings for instant gratification in dating, you will be lost in the day-in, day-out, lifelong pursuit of marriage.
4. Prepare yourself to pursue purity fiercely.
The pursuit of purity does not stop when you get married. It’s not a saddle single people are forced to wear. It’s a burden blood-bought men and women love to bear (1 Corinthians 6:18–20).
“If we learn to treasure Jesus more than love, sex, and marriage, we will date, marry, and make love differently.”
The not-yet-married are told over and over again through Bible-pounding law and menacing scare tactics — shame, pregnancy, and STDs — to guard their purity. And the Bible does warn us, in no uncertain terms, about sexual immorality and impurity (Ephesians 5:3, 5). But the greatest and most effective motivation for your personal purity — single or married, young or old, new believer or veteran — is not potential consequences, but potential joy.
Prepare your heart to treasure Jesus more than love, sex, and marriage, and you will date, marry, and make love differently. And the differences will make all the difference for your happiness, and for your future husband or wife.
In this lab, John Piper reminds us that we have a refuge in times of trouble, safety amid life’s storms. Only a fool curses the shelter and runs into the eye of the storm.
Some questions to ask as you read and study Job:
- Do you know people who walked away from God because of suffering? What did they believe about God that led them to reject him?
- Watch the lab. What was Job’s wife’s error? Why were her words so foolish?
- What might you say to someone who is on the verge of walking away from God in response to their suffering?
Principle for Bible Reading
When you see LORD spelled in all caps, it signifies the use of God’s personal name, Yahweh. Revealed in Exodus 3:14 (“I AM”) this name is not a generic title (e.g. king, boss, president) but his personal name (e.g. John, Paul, Peter) given to those in covenant with him.
I am an impatient person. I don’t like waiting. I get annoyed by slow drivers in fast lanes. I audibly sigh when I get into a long checkout line. I am quick to remind wait staff in restaurants that I’m waiting to be seated or served.
“Could it be that what we are waiting for is more important to us than God?”
Those are trivial situations, yet I still find it hard to wait. There are bigger, much more important issues that I’ve waited for as well. I’ve waited an agonizingly long time for healing from my post-polio. For clarity on which path to take in an important decision. For restoration of a difficult relationship. For a dear friend to return to faith. For each, I have waited long past the time when I thought my requests should have been answered. For many serious requests, I’m still waiting.
I take comfort in seeing that people in the Bible, like Abraham, grew impatient too when their prayers and promises didn’t materialize as they’d hoped.
What Only God Could Do
God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. And then there was silence. Nothing happened for eleven long years (imagine where you were eleven years ago). Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was barren and well past her childbearing years.
After more than a decade of waiting, they both assumed that perhaps they needed to act on their own to fulfill the promise of God. So, Abraham took Hagar, Sarah’s servant, and had Ishmael. For a while, they thought the promises would now come true through Ishmael.
Thirteen years later, God told them Sarah would bear a son, Isaac. They had waited so long, neither of them believed God was going to do it now. Abraham was decidedly unenthusiastic at the proclamation. After he audibly laughed and inwardly doubted, Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” (Genesis 17:18).
Abraham had figured out a way to have heirs on his own. The thought of waiting, being wholly dependent on God, wasn’t part of his plan. He wanted God to bless what he had done, rather than wait for what only God could do.
Why We Give Up Waiting
That’s what I often do. I don’t like waiting. I want to act, to figure it out, to know with certainty what’s going to happen. And then I want to move ahead. Abraham wanted God to bless Ishmael so he could have descendants through him. God had something different in mind, something that unfolded to Abraham over time — something impossible in the eyes of man.
“Don’t shortcut what God has for you.”
Honestly, often I want Ishmael too. I want the thing I can figure out, that I have control over, that doesn’t require waiting and trusting.
What do we do when, like Abraham, our waiting for days turns into months, which turns into years, which turns into decades? Do we turn our heart away from God, who seemingly never delivered what we’re waiting for? If that happens, could it be that what we are waiting for is more important to us than God?
What God Denies Us
What is happening in our waiting? Is it just an empty space between our prayers and their fulfillment? No, in our waiting, God does his deepest work.
God is sanctifying us and teaching us to trust him. Sometimes we get what we are waiting for, and we rejoice and are grateful. Other times, we never see that fulfillment on earth, and we are drawn closer to God as we continue to seek him.
God has not forgotten us. It’s not that our requests are unimportant. He will answer them in his own time (which is also always the best time for us). He sees what we cannot see; he knows the potential dangers and snares he is protecting us from. While we’re waiting, God is with us. He aches with us, cries with us, comforts us. He meets us in our pain and uses all our struggles for our good. One day, we will thank him for everything that he gave us, and denied us, on this earth.
Pass on the Humanly Possible
Waiting is good for us. It’s painfully easy, however, to grow weary and take matters into our own hands because it’s taking too long. It’s tempting to look for Ishmael, to provide for ourselves, to meet our desires our own way. It may feel like we’re simply finding another means to an end, but God is in both the means and the end. Don’t shortcut what God has for you. Don’t give in to disillusionment. Don’t settle for Ishmael when God has Isaac for you. Isaac was the son of laughter and promise, the fulfillment of all God had said. Isaac was worth waiting for.
“One day, we will thank him for everything that he gave us, and denied us, on this earth.”
Isaac requires faith. It’s scary to let go of a sure thing and wait for something that may not materialize. We’re afraid we’ll be left with nothing, wondering why we waited at all. We may reason that something is better than nothing, and so we are satisfied with Ishmael. It meets our needs. But Ishmael will never fulfill us because Ishmael is what we do in our own strength. And we have no ability to satisfy our deepest desires. We need God to do that. He may do it through miraculously fulfilling what we asked for, or he may do it by denying what we asked for and giving us more of himself. Either way, we will find joy because we have him.
What is your Ishmael? What are you tired of waiting for and tempted to take into your own hands? What are you afraid to let go of because it seems that something is better than nothing? What are you trusting God for?
Don’t settle for what is humanly possible; wait for what only God can do.
Every marriage is either Christian or idolatrous. And two married Christians can be idolatrous, without even realizing it.
The difference between Christian and idolatrous is giving versus demanding, enjoying versus using, sharing versus manipulating. It’s the difference between humbled gratitude versus undiscerned selfishness. But every marriage, injured by unfair expectations, can be healed through the grace of awakened sensitivity. Every marriage can become honoring to Christ and life-giving to the husband and wife.
Two biblical insights open up new possibilities for every marriage.
Privilege of Marriage
One, the privilege that marriage is: “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
That is the biblical definition of marriage, from all the way back in the garden of Eden. “One flesh” is one man and one woman, walking hand in hand through their life in this world, sharing together an all-encompassing union of total belonging. No other relationship is like this. Healthy friendships have boundaries, but marriage brings a man and woman together in complete vulnerability with no shame (Genesis 2:25).
“Every marriage is either Christian or idolatrous. And two married Christians can be idolatrous, without even realizing it.”
I want you to see the glorious privilege of marriage — your marriage. When God expelled us from the garden after Adam sinned, he didn’t take his gift of marriage back. He let us keep it. And even though a long time has elapsed since then, our marriages today are not ninety-ninth-hand, at best. Jesus saw our imperfect marriages as sacred and inviolate, at the same level as the perfect marriage of Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:3–6).
So, your marriage is your little remnant of the garden of Eden. Inside the circle of your one-flesh union, where only you and your spouse completely belong, God wants you to cultivate your own personal outpost of Eden into something beautifully Christian in the world today.
But how can we do that, especially long term over the years? That leads us to the second insight.
Resource of Christ
Two, the resource that Christ is: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Life is not in you. Life is not in your spouse. The life we all long for is in Christ alone.
His life is our light, illuminating our otherwise dreary existence. His life is more than a bare power surge; his life awakens us to purpose, hope, wisdom. In Christ, we stop dying so much and start living more. In Christ, we stop being so clueless and start growing in awareness. This is just who he is and what he does.
If we believe he is our life, and open ourselves up, our marriages will change. We will stop loving our spouse too much — which, in reality, isn’t too muchbut rather wrongly, like an idol — and we will start loving Christ more. When that happens, we actually start loving our spouse better.
His Love Through Hers
The reason your spouse is not your life and your light is that he or she cannotbe those things. That wonderful person you married is, and can only be, secondary, derived, contingent, dependent, and easily exhausted — like you.
Only Christ is, and always will be, primary, original, free, powerful, and eager — unlike you both. When two sinners step inside the circle of the one-flesh union and cultivate there an even deeper union with Christ, they become relaxed about themselves and each other, they become happy about Christ, and Eden reappears in the world today — a Christian marriage.
Here is one way this insight opens my eyes. When I take my precious wife in my arms, the love I experience from her is not from her alone. It is also the love of God through her. The fact that the love of God is coming down to me through her doesn’t mean that that love stops being divine. It is still the love of God — which makes my wife all the more wondrous in my eyes.
Her love is the moment-by-moment gift of his life, and his life is the light that floods each moment with meaning I never would have grasped if the experience were limited to and defined by the human only. Realizing this, I am moved toward gratitude for her and worship of him, and I find myself on holy ground — Eden today.
First Things Put First
Not only does Christ himself make a marriage truly Christian, as we look to him, but he also guards a marriage against idolatrous instincts and impulses.
As I remember that it is Christ alone who gives my wife and me all our life and light, I don’t need my wife to be more than she can be. I can receive our life together as the glorious miracle it is, and marvel at how present Christ is with us. Our imperfections are the very place where he dwells the most meaningfully.
“Every marriage can become honoring to Christ and life-giving to the husband and wife.”
A marriage is not Christian because two Christians get married. A marriage becomes truly Christian as two Christians keep looking to Christ for the wherewithal each needs moment by moment. It isn’t a matter of practical tips, though I suppose there is a place for that — like training wheels on a child’s bike. But far more, it’s a matter of seeing him, with the eyes of faith, real-time as a husband and wife walk together through each day. It’s a matter of rejoicing that he is present with you, he is sharing his life with you, his light is banishing the darkness from the sacred circle he has given the two of you.
I’ll let C.S. Lewis have the last word: “When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. . . . When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.”
CORE CHRISTIAN BELIEFS
Understanding the Trinity
The doctrine of the Trinity is foundational to the Christian faith. It is crucial for properly understanding what God is like, how He relates to us, and how we should relate to Him. But it also raises many difficult questions. How can God be both one and three? Is the Trinity a contradiction? If Jesus is God, why do the Gospels record instances where He prayed to God? While we cannot fully understand everything about the Trinity (or anything else), it is possible to answer questions like these and come to a solid grasp of what it means for God to be three in one.
What Does it Mean That God is a Trinity?
The doctrine of the Trinity means that there is one God who eternally exists as three distinct Persons–the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Stated differently, God is one in essence and three in person. These definitions express three crucial truths: (1) The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons, (2) each Person is fully God, (3) there is only one God.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons.
The Bible speaks of the Father as God (Phil. 1:2), Jesus as God (Titus 2:13), and the Holy Spirit as God (Acts 5:3-4). Are these just three different ways of looking at God, or simply ways of referring to three different roles that God plays?
The answer must be no, because the Bible also indicates that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons. For example, since the Father sent the Son into the world (John 3:16), He cannot be the same person as the Son. Likewise, after the Son returned to the Father (John 16:10), the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit into the world (John 14:26; Acts 2:33). Therefore, the Holy Spirit must be distinct from the Father and the Son.
In the baptism of Jesus, we see the Father speaking from heaven and the Spirit descending from heaven in the form of a dove as Jesus comes out of the water (Mark 1:10-11). In John 1:1 it is affirmed that Jesus is God and, at the same time, that He was “with God”- thereby indicating that Jesus is a distinct Person from God the Father (cf. also 1:18). And in John 16:13-15 we see that although there is a close unity between them all, the Holy Spirit is also distinct from the Father and the Son.
The fact that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons means, in other words, that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. Jesus is God, but He is not the Father or the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, but He is not the Son or the Father. They are different Persons, not three different ways of looking at God.
The personhood of each member of the Trinity means that each Person has a distinct center of consciousness. Thus, they relate to each other personally — the Father regards Himself as “I,” while He regards the Son and Holy Spirit as “You.” Likewise the Son regards Himself as “I,” but the Father and the Holy Spirit as “You.”
Often it is objected that “If Jesus is God, then he must have prayed to himself while he was on earth.” But the answer to this objection lies in simply applying what we have already seen. While Jesus and the Father are both God, they are different Persons. Thus, Jesus prayed to God the Father without praying to Himself. In fact, it is precisely the continuing dialog between the Father and the Son (Matthew 3:17; 17:5; John 5:19; 11:41-42; 17:1ff ) which furnishes the best evidence that they are distinct Persons with distinct centers of consciousness.
Sometimes the Personhood of the Father and Son is appreciated, but the Personhood of the Holy Spirit is neglected. Sometimes the Spirit is treated more like a “force” than a Person. But the Holy Spirit is not an it, but a He (see John 14:26; 16:7-15; Acts 8:16). The fact that the Holy Spirit is a Person, not an impersonal force (like gravity), is also shown by the fact that He speaks (Hebrews 3:7), reasons (Acts 15:28), thinks and understands (1 Corinthians 2:10-11), wills (1 Corinthians 12:11), feels (Ephesians 4:30), and gives personal fellowship (2 Corinthians 13:14). These are all qualities of personhood. In addition to these texts, the others we mentioned above make clear that the Personhood of the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Personhood of the Son and the Father. They are three real persons, not three roles God plays.
Another serious error people have made is to think that the Father became the Son, who then became the Holy Spirit. Contrary to this, the passages we have seen imply that God always was and always will be three Persons. There was never a time when one of the Persons of the Godhead did not exist. They are all eternal.
While the three members of the Trinity are distinct, this does not mean that any is inferior to the other. Instead, they are all identical in attributes. They are equal in power, love, mercy, justice, holiness, knowledge, and all other qualities.
Each Person is fully God.
If God is three Persons, does this mean that each Person is “one-third” of God? Does the Trinity mean that God is divided into three parts?
The Trinity does not divide God into three parts. The Bible is clear that all three Persons are each one hundred percent God. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all fully God. For example, it says of Christ that “in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). We should not think of God as like a “pie” cut into three pieces, each piece representing a Person. This would make each Person less than fully God and thus not God at all. Rather, “the being of each Person is equal to the whole being of God.” The divine essence is not something that is divided between the three persons, but is fully in all three persons without being divided into “parts.”
Thus, the Son is not one-third of the being of God, He is all of the being of God. The Father is not one-third of the being of God, He is all of the being of God. And likewise with the Holy Spirit. Thus, as Wayne Grudem writes, “When we speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together we are not speaking of any greater being than when we speak of the Father alone, the Son alone, or the Holy Spirit alone.”
There is only one God.
If each Person of the Trinity is distinct and yet fully God, then should we conclude that there is more than one God? Obviously we cannot, for Scripture is clear that there is only one God: “There is no other God besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:21-22; see also 44:6-8; Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 4:35; 6:4-5; 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:2; 1 Kings 8:60).
Having seen that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct Persons, that they are each fully God, and that there is nonetheless only one God, we must conclude that all three Persons are the same God. In other words, there is one God who exists as three distinct Persons.
If there is one passage which most clearly brings all of this together, it is Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” First, notice that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinguished as distinct Persons. We baptize into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Second, notice that each Person must be deity because they are all placed on the same level. In fact, would Jesus have us baptize in the name of a mere creature? Surely not. Therefore each of the Persons into whose name we are to be baptized must be deity. Third, notice that although the three divine Persons are distinct, we are baptized into their name (singular), not names (plural). The three Persons are distinct, yet only constitute one name. This can only be if they share one essence.
Is the Trinity Contradictory?
This leads us to investigate more closely a very helpful definition of the Trinity which I mentioned earlier: God is one in essence, but three in Person. This formulation can show us why there are not three Gods, and why the Trinity is not a contradiction.
In order for something to be contradictory, it must violate the law of noncontradiction. This law states that A cannot be both A (what it is) and non-A (what it is not) at the same time and in the same relationship. In other words, you have contradicted yourself if you affirm and deny the same statement. For example, if I say that the moon is made entirely of cheese but then also say that the moon is not made entirely of cheese, I have contradicted myself.
Other statements may at first seem contradictory but are really not. Theologian R.C. Sproul cites as an example Dickens’ famous line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Obviously this is a contradiction if Dickens means that it was the best of times in the same way that it was the worst of times. But he avoids contradiction with this statement because he means that in one sense it was the best of times, but in another sense it was the worst of times.
Carrying this concept over to the Trinity, it is not a contradiction for God to be both three and one because He is not three and one in the same way. He is three in a different way than He is one. Thus, we are not speaking with a forked tongue–we are not saying that God is one and then denying that He is one by saying that He is three. This is very important: God is one and three at the same time, but not in the same way.
How is God one? He is one in essence. How is God three? He is three in Person. Essence and person are not the same thing. God is one in a certain way (essence) and three in a different way (person). Since God is one in a different way than He is three, the Trinity is not a contradiction. There would only be a contradiction if we said that God is three in the same way that He is one.
So a closer look at the fact that God is one in essence but three in person has helped to show why the Trinity is not a contradiction. But how does it show us why there is only one God instead of three? It is very simple:
All three Persons are one God because, as we saw above, they are all the same essence. Essence means the same thing as “being.” Thus, since God is only one essence, He is only one being-not three. This should make it clear why it is so important to understand that all three Persons are the same essence. For if we deny this, we have denied God’s unity and affirmed that there is more than one being of God (i.e., that there is more than one God).
What we have seen so far provides a good basic understanding of the Trinity. But it is possible to go deeper. If we can understand more precisely what is meant by essence and person, how these two terms differ, and how they relate, we will then have a more complete understanding of the Trinity.
Essence and Person
What does essence mean? As I said earlier, it means the same thing as being. God’s essence is His being. To be even more precise, essence is what you are. At the risk of sounding too physical, essence can be understood as the “stuff ” that you “consist of.” Of course we are speaking by analogy here, for we cannot understand this in a physical way about God. “God is spirit” (John 4:24). Further, we clearly should not think of God as “consisting of ” anything other than divinity. The “substance” of God is God, not a bunch of “ingredients” that taken together yield deity.
In regards to the Trinity, we use the term “Person” differently than we generally use it in everyday life. Therefore it is often difficult to have a concrete definition of Person as we use it in regards to the Trinity. What we do not mean by Person is an “independent individual” in the sense that both I and another human are separate, independent individuals who can exist apart from one another.
What we do mean by Person is something that regards himself as “I” and others as “You.” So the Father, for example, is a different Person from the Son because He regards the Son as a “You,” even though He regards Himself as “I.” Thus, in regards to the Trinity, we can say that “Person” means a distinct subject which regards Himself as an “I” and the other two as a “You.” These distinct subjects are not a division within the being of God, but “a form of personal existence other than a difference in being.”
How do they relate? The relationship between essence and Person, then, is as follows. Within God’s one, undivided being is an “unfolding” into three personal distinctions. These personal distinctions are modes of existence within the divine being, but are not divisions of the divine being. They are personal forms of existence other than a difference in being. The late theologian Herman Bavinck has stated something very helpful at this point: “The persons are modes of existence within the being; accordingly, the Persons differ among themselves as the one mode of existence differs from the other, and-using a common illustration-as the open palm differs from a closed fist.”
Because each of these “forms of existence” are relational (and thus are Persons), they are each a distinct center of consciousness, with each center of consciousness regarding Himself as “I” and the others as “You.” Nonetheless, these three Persons all “consist of ” the same “stuff ” (that is, the same “what,” or essence). As theologian and apologist Norman Geisler has explained it, while essence is what you are, person is who you are. So God is one “what” but three “whos.”
The divine essence is thus not something that exists “above” or “separate from” the three Persons, but the divine essence is the being of the three Persons. Neither should we think of the Persons as being defined by attributes added on to the being of God. Wayne Grudem explains:
But if each person is fully God and has all of God’s being, then we also should not think that the personal distinctions are any kind of additional attributes added on to the being of God . . . Rather, each person of the Trinity has all of the attributes of God, and no one Person has any attributes that are not possessed by the others. On the other hand, we must say that the Persons are real, that they are not just different ways of looking at the one being of God…the only way it seems possible to do this is to say that the distinction between the persons is not a difference of `being’ but a difference of `relationships.’ This is something far removed from our human experience, where every different human `person’ is a different being as well. Somehow God’s being is so much greater than ours that within his one undivided being there can be an unfolding into interpersonal relationships, so that there can be three distinct persons.
There are many illustrations which have been offered to help us understand the Trinity. While there are some illustrations which are helpful, we should recognize that no illustration is perfect. Unfortunately, there are many illustrations which are not simply imperfect, but in error. One illustration to beware of is the one which says “I am one person, but I am a student, son, and brother. This explains how God can be both one and three.” The problem with this is that it reflects a heresy called modalism. God is not one person who plays three different roles, as this illustration suggests. He is one Being in three Persons (centers of consciousness), not merely three roles. This analogy ignores the personal distinctions within God and mitigates them to mere roles.
Let us quickly review what we have seen.
- The Trinity is not belief in three gods. There is only one God, and we must never stray from this.
- This one God exists as three Persons.
- The three Persons are not each part of God, but are each fully God and equally God. Within God’s one undivided being there is an unfolding into three interpersonal relationships such that there are three Persons. The distinctions within the Godhead are not distinctions of His essence and neither are they something added on to His essence, but they are the unfolding of God’s one, undivided being into three interpersonal relationships such that there are three real Persons.
- God is not one person who took three consecutive roles. That is the heresy of modalism. The Father did not become the Son and then the Holy Spirit. Instead, there have always been and always will be three distinct persons in the Godhead.
- The Trinity is not a contradiction because God is not three in the same way that He is one. God is one in essence, three in Person.
The Trinity is first of all important because God is important. To understand more fully what God is like is a way of honoring God. Further, we should allow the fact that God is triune to deepen our worship. We exist to worship God. And God seeks people to worship Him in “spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Therefore we must always endeavor to deepen our worship of God–in truth as well as in our hearts.
The Trinity has a very significant application to prayer. The general pattern of prayer in the Bible is to pray to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18). Our fellowship with God should be enhanced by consciously knowing that we are relating to a tri-personal God!
Awareness of the distinct role that each Person of the Trinity has in our salvation can especially serve to give us greater comfort and appreciation for God in our prayers, as well as helping us to be specific in directing our prayers. Nonetheless, while recognizing the distinct roles that each Person has, we should never think of their roles as so separate that the other Persons are not involved. Rather, everything that one Person is involved in, the other two are also involved in, one way or another.
1.Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine , (InterVarsity Press and Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), p. 255, emphasis added. 2. Ibid, 252. 3. Ibid, p. 255. While I believe that this is a helpful definition, it should be recognized that Grudem himself is offering this as more of an explanation than definition of Person. 4. Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God , (Great Britain: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1991 edition), p. 303. 5. Grudem, pp. 253-254.
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org
John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John’s degrees are from from Fuller Theological Seminary (B.D.) and the University of Munich (D.theol.). He is the author of more than 30 books, including “Let the Nations Be Glad.”
Today we will inaugurate a man to the presidency of the United States who is morally unqualified to be there. This is important to say just now because not to see it and feel it will add to the collapsing vision of leadership that enabled him to be nominated and elected.
Not only that, but if we do not see and feel the nature and weight of this sorrow, we will not know how to pray for his presidency or speak as sojourners and exiles whose pattern of life is defined in heaven, not by the mood of the culture.
Why Trump Is Unqualified
Donald Trump’s immoral behavior in the past, and his ongoing unwillingness to renounce it as evil, show that he is morally unfit to lead our nation. So was Hillary Clinton because she approves of killing unborn children.
As of last April, Andy Naselli provided some of the facts about Trump’s immoral conduct:
- Trump has publicly bragged about committing adultery.
- Trump has mocked and disrespected women, the disabled, and even prisoners of war.
- Trump has acted like a con artist (for example, Trump University).
- Trump has acted like a demagogue, appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than rational arguments — notably in the debates.
- Trump has acted like one who is shamelessly proud. He has boasted, “Nobody reads the Bible more than me.” Yet he said that he has never asked God or others to forgive him for anything.
- “My main problem,” said Randy Alcorn, “is not that Donald Trump says what he thinks. . . . My problem is with what he actually thinks: especially his obsession with outward appearance, sexiness, superficiality, wealth, his own status and accomplishments, and his quickness to berate and insult people and seek revenge on his critics.”
Wayne Grudem, who finally advocated voting for Trump, wrote in October,
There is no morally good presidential candidate in this election. I previously called Donald Trump a “good candidate with flaws” and a “flawed candidate,” but I now regret that I did not more strongly condemn his moral character. I cannot commend Trump’s moral character, and I strongly urge him to withdraw from the election.
Then, in words that are almost beyond belief in a presidential candidate, the New York Times provided a transcript of Trump’s 2005 vile behaviors toward women (the shock value of which may be lost if you have not read his actual words). Note well: Trump has not, as far as I am aware, publicly renounced these behaviors as evil, but deflected the issue by talking only about the “language,” calling it “locker-room talk.” However, the main issue was not his talk. It was his immoral action asserted in the talk.
What Is Leadership?
As I understand the role of leadership in high public office, these impenitent and boasted acts of immorality disqualify a person from office. Here’s why.
1. A leader should lead. That is, he should set the pace, define the path, embody the vision, and inspire emulation. He himself should be what he is calling others to be. That is what it means to lead. Donald Trump is not such an embodiment of what we want the citizens of America to be. In important ways, he is the opposite.
“Few parents would say to their young people: strive to be like President Trump. That is a great sadness.”
2. A leader should be dependable, trustworthy, reliable. To invest someone with leadership is a trust. But Donald Trump treats language — the medium of truth — as a wax nose to be bent and molded to create a desired outcome, whether it corresponds to the truth or not. But where truth is treated with such indifference or contempt, the foundations of justice are crumbling. There is no recourse for the poor, if the powerful say that truth is what they say it is.
3. A leader should be a good example for our young people in matters of character and moral uprightness and civility. Few parents would say to their young people: strive to be like Donald Trump. That is a great sadness.
4. A leader should not model the success of immoral behavior, and thus further destigmatize and normalize evils which, if spread, will bring discredit and ruin to our nation. To reward Donald Trump’s immoral behavior with the presidency does just that — it says to our children, and to the world, that these evils are not that bad, and can be embraced with no great negative consequences.
5. A leader should be known for the virtues that make a republican form of government possible. Virtually all the founding fathers agreed that without a virtuous people, the rule of law and of representative self-government will not survive. Donald Trump’s character is not what they had in mind by “virtue.” It is, in significant ways, the opposite, and therefore his example contributes to the undermining of the republic.
Christians Don’t Need Qualified Government
Because I regard these as qualifying marks of leadership in public office, I regard Donald Trump as not qualified for the presidency.
But today he will become president.
This is not surprising from a Christian point of view. The Christian faith was born, and has flourished, under regimes less qualified to lead than Donald Trump. The murderous Herod (Matthew 2:16) and the Christian-killing Nero (Tacitus, Annals XV.44) did not thwart the spread of a faith whose King and power and charter are not from this world (John 18:36). The movement that Jesus Christ unleashed in the world, when he died and rose again, does not depend on qualified human government for its existence or power.
“The linking of the Christian church with the ruling political regime has more often proven to corrupt the essential spirit of Christ.”
The linking of the Christian church with the ruling political regime is not essential to the life and fruitfulness of Christian faith. On the contrary, such linking has more often proven to corrupt the essential spirit of Christ, who typically uses the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27), and whose life-saving weapons do not consist in media monopolies, commanding wealth, or civil laws.
Followers of Christ are not Americans first. Our first allegiance is to Jesus, and then to the God-inspired word of Scripture, the Bible. This is our charter, not the U.S. Constitution.
How Then, Under This President, Shall We Live?
2. Until God answers that prayer, recognize that God’s providence rules over the unrepentant kings of the earth (Daniel 2:37–38, 4:35; Psalms 47:9; 135:6). “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). Therefore, God can restrain the pride and folly of secular leaders (Genesis 20:6). Just as with the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 25:9), and the Persian Cyrus, God makes the rulers of the earth “fulfill all [his] purpose” (Isaiah 44:28).
3. Accordingly, let us go on to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and holy in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:2–4).
4. And as we pray, let us recognize that, even in unbelieving leaders who cannot do God-pleasing works of faith, there is the possibility of promoting “good” conduct, which is “good” in the sense of having the outward form of what genuine trust in Christ would do.
“The movement Jesus unleashed in the world doesn’t depend on qualified governors for its existence or power.”
To be sure, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6), and “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23), because when human conduct is not rooted in reliance on God, it is part of the very rebellion that ruins the world. Nevertheless, the apostle Peter teaches that even unbelieving rulers are sent by God “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:14). So, even though this “good” is not from faith, and therefore does not please God as the fruit of faith, yet it has the form of the conduct that would come from faith.
5. Therefore, even though it is not the main concern of the Christian church, and may not lead to salvation and eternal life, let us also pray and work this lesser “good,” as well as the ultimate good of faith in Jesus Christ, and the genuine love for people that glorifies our Father in heaven (1 Peter 2:12), who called us “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
6. Above all, let us commend to everyone, with every sacrifice necessary, “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4), and, if God wills, let us gather with more and more people, from every ethnicity and every class, into healthy, holy, humble, biblically faithful churches.
Let us worship together in beautiful diversity and harmony with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28) the one true and living triune God. And let us love each other “earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22), and keep ourselves “unstained from the world” (James 1:27), so that the church becomes a beautiful alternative to “the corruption that is in the world” (2 Peter 1:4).
7. And let us work with all our might (1 Corinthians 15:10) and with overflowing joy (2 Corinthians 8:2) to take the greatest news to the peoples of the world, who have no access to the saving truth that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners from eternal death (1 Timothy 1:15), and give them everlasting joy with God (1 Peter 3:18; Psalm 16:11).
Let us not exhaust ourselves bemoaning a Trump presidency. There are peoples whose privileges of prosperity and possibility are vastly inferior to ours. Having been so loved by God to receive the gospel, we are debtors to them (Romans 1:14). Do not think of the molehill of moral and social disadvantages of a Trump presidency. Think of the Himalayan mountain range of blessings we have in Christ. Let this put fire in our bones for what matters most: the salvation of the world.
Pope Francis changes Lord’s Prayer: Head of Catholic church changes ‘lead us not into temptation’ line
The translation of a line in the Lord’s Prayer has been changed by The Pope after he signalled he was frustrated that it implies God might lead people into temptation.
Pope Francis approved altering the translation of the line “and lead us not into temptation” to “do not let us fall into temptation.”
The revised line will appear in the third edition of the Messale Ramano after it was approved on May 22nd during the General Assembly of the Episcopal Conference of Italy, UCatholic reports.
The Pope has previously told Italian TV that the new translation was already being used by the Catholic Church because the original translation implies God leads humans to sin.
“Do not let me fall into temptation because it is I who fall, it is not God who throws me into temptation and then sees how I fell,” he told TV2000, an Italian Catholic TV channel in 2017.
“A father does not do that, a father helps you to get up immediately.”
A line in The Gloria will also change in the third edition from “Peace on earth to people of good will” to “Peace on Earth to people beloved by God.”
GHANA: Prophet Bishop Daniel Angel Obinim pulls shocker with woman live in church
Surely performing a miracle for a woman to get a husband is not an easy job, the Founder of International God’s Way Church, Bishop Daniel Obinim had to sleep with his female congregant on a sofa while other congregants cheered with excitement.
A video of the church leader known as Angel Bishop Obinim performing the get your husband miracle has gone viral on social media.
The video begins with Obinim calling the woman in front of the whole congregation to sleep on a sofa. He then climbs the sofa and sleeps beside her holding her in a romantic position.
The woman starts kissing the Pastor’s hand and Obinim begins to pray.
Because nothing says Christian love like murder for hire: Megachurch Pastor James MacDonald, founder of Harvest Bible Chapel, is under investigation for trying to hire a hitman to kill his former son-in-law.
MacDonald, a former member of President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board, is under investigation for allegedly trying to hire a hitman to murder his former son-in-law.
The Christian Post reports:
Police in Illinois are currently investigating allegations that Harvest Bible Chapel founder James MacDonald sought to find a hitman to commit murder.
“A subject came in and filed a report and we are doing an investigation based on that report,” Wilmette Deputy Police Chief Pat Collins confirmed with The Christian Post Monday.
According to a report first filed by independent journalist Julie Roys, MacDonald is being accused by his former bodyguard Emmanuel “Manny” Bucur and Chicago radio personality Mancow Muller of trying to hire a hitman to kill former son-in-law Tony Groves.
The Christian Post notes:
Muller alleges that MacDonald asked him at least twice in 2018 if he knew a hitman he could hire. Initially, he thought that the HBC founder was joking but it became clear to him during a conversation in December that MacDonald was “really serious”… Bucur alleged that about three years before that, in 2015, MacDonald asked him to kill his former son-in-law, Tony Groves, and offered to help dispose of the body…
Bucur alleges that MacDonald asked him to kill Groves while they were on a motorcycle trip to the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, from July 31, 2015, to August 2, 2015.
If found guilty of solicitation to commit murder, MacDonald could face a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
Bottom line: According to multiple reports megachurch founder and Trump evangelical advisor James MacDonald tried to find a hitman to murder his former son-in-law while on a trip to the Creationist Museum.