Friday, October 28, 2011


Life is precarious, and life is precious. Don’t presume you will have it tomorrow, and don’t waste it today.
John Piper

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Intentional Leadership

I was at the annual LifeLinks International Leadership conference last week.  The theme this year was discipleship and story telling.  The were several break out sessions that addressed the ins and outs of leadership development that were also helpful.  What was extremely refreshing was to hear the pastors in the break out session not come across as experts who have it all together.  Too often I have been at conferences and the speaker comes across as being the expert who 'has arrived.'  Here are my take aways from the conference. 

  •  Move slowly; choose wisely
  • It is much easier to lay hands on people than lay off hands of people
  • DNA matters
  • 1% churches growing by conversion
  • An introvert will influence 10,000 people in their life time (quoted form John Maxwell)
  • Trying to disciple from the pulpit is like trying to feed babies by going to the nursery and spraying them with milk. 
The last one was my personal favorite.  It is a great word picture!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Characteristics of an Effective Coach, Mentor, or Intentional Disciple Maker

I have spent the last several months reading and thinking about discipleship in the local church and have come to see the similarities between an intentional disciple maker and a coach or mentor more clearly than ever before.  I found this list of characteristics of an effective coach from the book, Effect Coaching by Marshall Cook.  It is a list I am going to put in my office and refer to as I seek to influence people!  I hope you find it helpful also. I may comment upon them in the days to come!
Adapted from Effective Coaching by Marshall J. Cook. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Grace is indeed needed to turn a man into a saint, and he who doubts it does not know what a saint or a man is.   -- Blaise Pascal

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


When a house is burning in the dead of night, the first and great concern is not for the house, but for the sleeping dwellers therein. Similarly the missionary's first and great concern is for the soul, to save it from impending wrath. In due time when men and women are truly reconciled to God, a social renovation will be sure to follow. Such an approach to missionary activity remains the good old way, marked with the footsteps of the apostles that brings peace with God and peace with one another.
-American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions; Theory of Missions to the Heathen, 1812

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What Kind of Legacy are you Leaving?

Many people spend their lives trying to create a lasting legacy on earth. They want to be remembered when they're gone. Yet, what ultimately matters most will not be what others say about your life but what GOD says. What people fail to realize is that all achievements are eventually surpassed, records are broken, reputations fade, and tributes are forgotten.  -- Rick Warren

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Battling for the Freedom We Have

Here is a thoughtful article from the July 2, 2011 issue of World magazine.   I found the magazine opened to this article today as I was cleaning off a cluttered area of my desk!  I take it as providence; it encouraged me and thought it would encourage you also!

Within reach

Christ has given us the means to take back our minds and gain freedom in Him | Andrée Seu
Illustration by Krieg Barrie
Jesus called us to be free: "For freedom Christ has set us free." From Paul's writing in Romans 7 I see that the freedom Jesus means is freedom in the mind—where the real battle is. Francis Schaeffer wrote, "This is where true spirituality in the Christian life rests: in the realm of my thought life" (True Spirituality).
What a favor we can render a brother in Christ when we know this freedom firsthand, and exactly how to walk in it! The knitted brows in the pews are not generally over globalization or polar ice melt. Someone around you is quietly sinking in addiction or despair. If there is a way to fight the demons in his head (James 3:15; Galatians 5:17; 1 Peter 5:9; 1 John 2:14), he needs equipping. He needs to bridge the gap between theology and reality.
Most of us are "good" on the positional gifts in Christ: imputed righteousness, forgiveness, adoption by His perfect Atonement. Is there any concrete help for the time between conversion and rapture? Our conversion was an important date but now it's over. "Let us . . . go on to maturity" (Hebrews 6:1). What is that "fullness" of which the Word says we have all received, the "grace upon grace" (John 1:16)?
Is it not the potential to be free in our minds? Potential, because not all Christians are free. As Schaeffer put it: "A man may lack in sanctification all that God means him to have in the present life because even though Christ has purchased it for him upon the cross he fails to believe God at this place and raise the empty hands of faith moment by moment."
My friend Leslie, extremely devout, said she wanted to hear from God, and refused to budge from her sundeck all day (except to go to the bathroom) until she got a message: "You don't believe me." Leslie later told me: "It was the Lord, so I had to receive it." The Spirit instructed her to start reading at Matthew chapter 1, and to stop when she got to a verse she didn't believe. She was distressed by how soon she had to stop.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), and it is a progressive dismantling that begins now. In heaven we will not have the chance to put Satan to rout by faith; all that will be finished. Christ gave us the means of conquest in Ephesians 6 and elsewhere, so that we could take back our minds.
Once we believe, the sky is the limit. The confidence that we can get out of the darkest pit, and the vise grip of emotional bondage, is key. The means are there (prayer, the Word, the Spirit). All that's needed is a shift in our spirits to believe that overcomings are possible—that ours is not only the hope of heaven but the riches of His glorious inheritance, and the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe (Ephesians 1:18-19).
I was in the attic sorting clothes, and suddenly letters beckoned to me from a box I was storing for someone. I got the idea that I would like to read those letters; no one would be the wiser. It didn't feel right, but an oily, unctuous voice said it was of no consequence, and that the Lord would forgive me because He knows I'm just a sinner. (The 19th-century poet Heinrich Heine said, "Dieu me pardonnera; c'est son métier": God will forgive me; it's His job.)
It seemed like a mild desire until I decided to put up slight resistance. Even with the weapons of prayer and stern reasoning with myself from the Word, it was all I could do to get out of the attic intact.
But you are never the same person after you say no to the devil. It is hard to describe, but you are stronger. And you have something else too—a testimony. Some person you know who has normally rolled over to every suggestion dropped into his brain from the Enemy will be encouraged. People want to be free. They just need to hear it can be done.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why Should I give 10% of my PFD to The Gond Project?

As followers of Christ, God calls each of us to commit ourselves to His mission, making disciples, whether that is across the street or across the world.  We are currently making disciples in Homer, around Alaska, in Brazil, the Philippines, Peru, and India.  For the last few years we have used the PFD drive to raise money for furthering God’s mission across town and across the world. 
This year we are raising money for one particular missionary, Paul Wiig, who has been making disciples in India since 1985 by working with orphans, in bible training, and planting churches across India.  One people group he has been unable to penetrate is the 220,000 Gond people of the Adilabad District in the state of Andhra Pradesh in south central India.  The Gonds are classified as an Unreached People Group (UPG) with less than 200 Christians.  Having established a fund for an UPG of $40,000 we asked Paul to give us a proposal for reaching an UPG in India.  He came back to us with the Gond Project, a three phase project to establish reproducing churches among the Gond people.
Phase One, with a budget of $32,000, founded adult literacy programs, established sewing centers in villages in order to equip women with skills to help them support their families, and shared the gospel with three thousand children through evangelistic sports programs.  This phase has been fully funded by us.
Phase Two is currently in process and has a budget of $15,500.  Paul has produced an evangelistic movie, Hope Giver, in the Gond language to present the gospel through media programs and Vacation Bible Schools.  His goal is to expose five thousand Gonds to the gospel with this film.  We have contributed $7500 for this phase to date.  Our goal is to raise the $8000 still needed through the 2011 PFD drive.
Phase Three will focus on church planting and has a budget of $16,500.  From those who have come to Christ, Paul’s team will identify and train leaders to be church planters among the Gond people.  This will include both residential training and supervised field work through 2012.  Paul expects to train fifty church planters and plant over twenty churches among the Gond people.  We also hope to begin funding phase three through additional fund raising in the next several months.  By giving 10% or more of your PFD, you will be helping to establish both a gospel presence and reproducing churches among a group of people who face a Christless eternity.  Prayerfully remember the Gond Project when you receive your PFD this month.
For the sake of the Mission,

Pastor David

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee" (Job 22:21). "Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty glory in his might, let not the rich glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth, and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord" (Jer 9:23,24). A spiritual and saving knowledge of God is the greatest need of every human creature.
The foundation of all true knowledge of God must be a clear mental apprehension of His perfections as revealed in Holy Scripture. An unknown God can neither be trusted, served, nor worshipped. In this booklet an effort has been made to set forth some of the principal perfections of the Divine character. If the reader is to truly profit from his perusal of the pages that follow, he needs to definitely and earnestly beseech God to bless them to him, to apply His Truth to the conscience and heart, so that his life will be transformed thereby.
Something more than a theoretical knowledge of God is needed by us. God is only truly known in the soul as we yield ourselves to Him, submit to His authority, and regulate all the details of our lives by His holy precepts and commandments. "Then shall we know, if we follow on (in the path of obedience) to know the Lord" (Hosea 6:3). "If any man will do His will, he shall know" (John 7:17). "The people that do know their God shall be strong" (Dan. 11:32).  - from The Attributes of God by AW Pink.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.  The greatest tragedy is not death, but life without purpose.  -- Rick Warren


Do not think that as you grow in grace your path will become smoother and the sky calmer and clearer. Quite the contrary. As God gives you greater skill as a solider of the cross, He will send you on more difficult missions. As He more fully equips your ship to sail in storms, He will send you on longer voyages to more boisterous seas, so that you may honor Him and increase in holy confidence. - Charles Spurgeon

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Our New And Exalted Identity

This article displays the freedom that comes from finding our identity in Christ rather than in our performance from Tullian Tchividjian. The link is here, Our New And Exalted Identity – Tullian Tchividjian

Our New And Exalted Identity

When most of us stop long enough to consider what establishes our identity, what really makes us who we are, many of us act as if the answer to this consideration is “our performance.” In Who Will Deliver Us, Paul Zahl expands on this:

If I can do enough of the right things, I will have established my worth. Identity is the sum of my achievements. Hence, if I can satisfy the boss, meet the needs of my spouse and children, and still do justice to my inner aspirations, then I will have proven my worth. There are infinite ways to prove our worth along these lines. The basic equation is this: I am what I do. It is a religious position in life because it tries to answer in practical terms the question, Who am I and what is my niche in the universe? On this reading, my niche is in proportion to my deeds. In Christian theology, such a position is called justification by works. It assumes that my worth is measured by my performance. Conversely, it conceals, thinly, a dark and ghastly fear: If I do not perform, I will be judged unworthy. To myself I will cease to exist.

The gospel frees us from this obsessive pressure to perform, this slavish demand to “become.” The gospel liberatingly declares that in Christ “we already are.” While the world, the flesh, and the Devil constantly tempt us to locate our identity in something or someone smaller than Jesus, the gospel liberates us by revealing that our true identity is locked in Christ. Our connection in and with Christ is the truest definition of who we are.

If you’re a Christian, here’s the good news: Who you really are has nothing to do with you—how much you can accomplish, who you can become, your behavior (good or bad), your strengths, your weaknesses, your sordid past, your family background, your education, your looks, and so on. Your identity is firmly anchored in Christ’s accomplishment, not yours; his strength, not yours; his performance, not yours; his victory, not yours. Your identity is steadfastly established in his substitution, not your sin. As my friend Justin Buzzard recently wrote, “The gospel doesn’t just free you from what other people think about you, it frees you from what you think about yourself.”

You’re free!

As I said in my previous post, now you can spend your life giving up your place for others instead of guarding it from others—because your identity is in Christ, not your place.

Now you can spend your life going to the back instead of getting to the front—because your identity is in Christ, not your position.

Now you can spend your life giving, not taking—because your identity is in Christ, not your possessions.

Paul speaks of our “having been buried with him [with Christ] in baptism,” in which we “were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). Our old identity—the things that previously “made us”—has been put to death. Our new identity is “in Christ.” We’ve been raised with Christ to walk “in newness of life”—no longer needing to depend on the “old things” to make us who we are.

All this is our new identity—all because of Christ’s finished work declared to us in the gospel.

When we truly see and understand all these aspects of what we’ve become in Jesus Christ, what more could we possibly ever want or need when it comes to our self-identity? Here in Christ we have worth and purpose and security and significance that makes utterly laughable all the transient things of this world that we’re so frequently tempted to identify ourselves by.

Excerpted from my forthcoming book Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Christianity Is The End Of Religion – Tullian Tchividjian

Another helpful article that shows the difference between the gospel and religion from Tullian Tchvidjian. His blog is almost always about this issue. The link is here, Christianity Is The End Of Religion – Tullian Tchividjian

Christianity Is The End Of Religion

From the time God saved me at 21 years old, I’ve always been fascinated by the parables of Jesus. Three of the very first books I bought as a brand new Christian were Simon Kistemaker’s book The Parables: Understanding the Stories Jesus Told, James Boice’s book The Parables of Jesus, and Interpreting the Parables by Craig Blomberg. Not knowing anything about Reformed theology at that point in my life, these three books are what God used to develop my initial Reformed theological sensitivities. I highly recommend them all.

But a couple years ago when I was considering preaching through the parables (which I never ended up doing, by the way) one of my former professors suggested that I pick up Robert Farrar Capon’s thick book Kingdom, Grace, Judgement: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus. He warned me that I would not agree with some of what Capon wrote but insisted that it would nevertheless benefit my study of the parables greatly. It sat on my shelf for a while until my friend Mark Miller asked me if I owned the book. I didn’t think I did and so I ordered it. After I ordered it and went to stock it on my bookshelf, I realized I already had it (You ever done that? That’s the downside of having a large library).

Well, I picked it up and started reading. And while there were some sections that left me scratching my head (just as my prof told me), I discovered some deeply insightful nuggets of gospel truth. My friends over at Mockingbird (if you don’t read that blog, you’re probably not a Christian) posted one of my favorite sections from Capon’s book a couple days ago. This is good stuff.


What role have I left for religion? None. And I have left none because the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ leaves none. Christianity is not a religion; it is the announcement of the end of religion.

Religion consists of all the things (believing, behaving, worshiping, sacrificing) the human race has ever thought it had to do to get right with God. About those things, Christianity has only two comments to make. The first is that none of them ever had the least chance of doing the trick: the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins (see the Epistle to the Hebrews) and no effort of ours to keep the law of God can ever finally succeed (see the Epistle to the Romans). The second is that everything religion tried (and failed) to do has been perfectly done, once and for all, by Jesus in his death and resurrection. For Christians, therefore, the entire religion shop has been closed, boarded up, and forgotten. The church is not in the religion business. It never has been and it never will be, in spite of all the ecclesiastical turkeys through two thousand years who have acted as if religion was their stock in trade. The church, instead, is in the Gospel-proclaiming business. It is not here to bring the world the bad news that God will think kindly about us only after we have gone through certain creedal, liturgical and ethical wickets; it is here to bring the world the Good News that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” It is here, in short, for no religious purpose at all, only to announce the Gospel of free grace.

Pg. 252-253

The End Of Control Is The Beginning Of Freedom

Another thoughtful article that dilineates between the gospel and religion. The link is here, The End Of Control Is The Beginning Of Freedom – Tullian Tchividjian

The End Of Control Is The Beginning Of Freedom

There’s nothing more difficult for us to get our minds around than the unconditional grace of God; it offends our deepest sensibilities. Conditionality is much safer than unconditionality because conditionality keeps us in control, it’s formulaic-do certain things and certain things are guaranteed to happen (this is why parents and preachers have such a hard time with grace–trust me, I know. I’m both a parent and a preacher). We understand conditions. Conditionality makes sense. Unconditionality on the other hand is incomprehensible to us. We are so conditioned against unconditionality because we are told in a thousand different ways that accomplishment precedes acceptance; that achievement precedes approval.

Everything in our world demands two way love. Everything’s conditional: if you achieve only then will you receive meaning, security, respect, love and so on. But grace is otherworldly because it’s unconditional–it is one way love: “Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable” (Paul Zahl).

Like Job’s friends, we naturally conclude that good people get good stuff and bad people get bad stuff (we preach and parent this way). The idea that bad people get good stuff is thickly counter-intuitive. It seems terribly unfair. It offends our sense of justice (we so quickly forget that the Bible is not a record of good people earning God’s blessings, but a record of bad people receiving God’s blessings because Jesus earned them for us).

Even those of us who have tasted the radical saving grace of God find it intuitively difficult not to put conditions on grace- “don’t take it too far; keep it balanced.” The truth is, however, that a “yes grace but” posture is the kind of posture that perpetuates slavery in our lives and in the church. Grace is radically unbalanced. It has no “but”: it’s unconditional, uncontrollable, unpredictable, and undomesticated. As Doug Wilson put it recently, “Grace is wild. Grace unsettles everything. Grace overflows the banks. Grace messes up your hair. Grace is not tame. In fact, unless we are making the devout nervous, we are not preaching grace as we ought.” Grace scares us to death because in every way it wrestles control out of our hands. However much we hate law, we are more afraid of grace.

I’ve posted these explosive words from Gerhard Forde before, but they’re worth posting again because he so aptly puts his finger on why we so naturally react the way we do when the gospel of God’s unconditional grace is considered:

The gospel of justification by faith is such a shocker, such an explosion, because it is an absolutely unconditional promise. It is not an “if-then” kind of statement, but a “because-therefore” pronouncement: because Jesus died and rose, your sins are forgiven and you are righteous in the sight of God! It bursts in upon our little world all shut up and barricaded behind our accustomed conditional thinking as some strange comet from goodness-knows-where, something we can’t really seem to wrap our minds around, the logic of which appears closed to us. How can it be entirely unconditional? Isn’t it terribly dangerous? How can anyone say flat out, “You are righteous for Jesus’ sake? Is there not some price to be paid, some-thing (however minuscule) to be done? After all, there can’t be such thing as a free lunch, can there?”

You see, we really are sealed up in the prison of our conditional thinking. It is terribly difficult for us to get out, and even if someone batters down the door and shatters the bars, chances are we will stay in the prison anyway! We seem always to want to hold out for something somehow, that little bit of something, and we do it with a passion and an anxiety that betrays its true source-the Old Adam that just does not want to lose control (Justification by Faith: A Matter of Death and Life, pg. 24).

Contrary to what we conclude naturally, the gospel is not too good to be true. It is true! No strings attached. No but’s. No conditions. No need for balance. If you’re a Christian, you are right now under the completely sufficient imputed righteousness of Christ. Your pardon is full and final. In Christ, you’re forgiven. You’re clean. It is finished.

As scary as it it may be, giving up on the facade of control is the beginning of freedom for you.

How the Gospel Does What Religion Cannot

I have been thinking a lot about the gospel versus works or religion as I have been preaching through Galatians. This is a helpful article on the subject from the Resurgence site.

How the Gospel Does What Religion Cannot | The Resurgence

How the Gospel Does What Religion Cannot

JD Greear » God Church Gospel Sanctification Justification

For many years Christianity was wearisome to me.

That’s a confession you won’t often hear from the pastor of a growing, evangelical church, but for many years it was true of me.

The List Goes On

It seems that the list of what "good Christians" should be doing never ended. Evangelism. Missions. Adoption. Radical generosity. Bold prayers. Audacious faith. Every time I turned around someone else was telling me something I should be doing that I wasn’t. So I’d get busy with whatever new program made you a “good Christian.”

My service for God was fervent, but my passions for Him were cold.

But things were not right in my heart. My marriage kept revealing how selfish and petty I was. Seeing others more successful than me in ministry made me jealous to the point that I delighted in the thought of them falling into sin and being disqualified from ministry. I still seemed captive to the lusts of my flesh. My service for God was fervent, but my passions for Him were cold. I certainly didn’t desire to know Him more.

Like Honey

While I would never admit it, I was starting to resent God. Instead of a merciful father, He was the merciless taskmaster, always standing over me yelling, “Not enough! I want more!” Recently I discovered something, or should I say, “rediscovered something,” that has changed everything. The gospel.

I don’t mean that I didn’t really know it before. I did. I have a Ph.D. in systematic theology from a reputable, conservative seminary. I could have explained in great detail how Jesus paid for our sin, and I could preach for hours about the worthiness of Christ. But if my head knew the truth of those things, my heart didn’t feel them.

The gospel is able to do produce in our hearts what religion never could: a desire for God.

The Puritan Jonathan Edwards likened his re-awakening to the Gospel to a man who had known, in his head, that honey was sweet, but for the first time had that sweetness burst alive in his mouth. Over the last few years, that is what has happened to me with the gospel.

Begin Again

“Rediscovering” the Gospel has given me a joy in God I never experienced in all my years of fervent religion. Now I sense, almost daily, a love for God replacing my love for myself. The jealously that once consumed my heart is being replaced by a desire to see others prosper. I feel selfishness giving way to tenderness and generosity. My cravings for the lusts of the flesh are being replaced by a craving for righteousness, and my self-centered dreams are being replaced by God-glorifying ambitions. A power is surging in me that is changing me and pushing me out into the world to leverage my life for the Kingdom of God.

Growth in Christ is the process of going deeper into the gospel, not in going beyond the gospel. As Martin Luther loved to say, “To progress is always to begin again.” The gospel is able to do produce in our hearts what religion never could: a desire for God. Those who crave righteousness will act righteously; those who love God will keep his commandments. This is the revolutionary power of the gospel: we do what we ought for God as we are captivated by the news of what he has done for us.

J.D. Greear is the pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. This article is adapted from his newly released book, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary. Find out more info on the book here.

No Christianity without the Trinity

Here a good article on the necessity of the trinity by Kevin Deyoung.   The link is here, The Doctrine of the Trinity: No Christianity Without It – Kevin DeYoung

The Doctrine of the Trinity: No Christianity Without It

If any doctrine makes Christianity Christian, then surely it is the doctrine of the Trinity. The three great ecumenical creeds—the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed—are all structured around our three in one God, underlying the essential importance of Trinitarian theology. Augustine once commented about the Trinity that “in no other subject is error more dangerous, or inquiry more laborious, or the discovery of truth more profitable.” More recently, Sinclair Ferguson has reflected on “the rather obvious thought that when his disciples were about to have the world collapse in on them, our Lord spent so much time in the Upper Room speaking to them about the mystery of the Trinity. If anything could underline the necessity of Trinitarianism for practical Christianity, that must surely be it!”
Yet, when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity, most Christians are poor in their understanding, poorer in their articulation, and poorest of all in seeing any way in which the doctrine matters in real life. One theologian said, tongue in cheek, “The trinity is a matter of five notions or properties, four relations, three persons, two processions, one substance or nature, and no understanding.” All the talk of essence and persons and co-this and co-that seem like theological gobbledy-gook reserved for philosophers and scholars-maybe for thinky bookish types, but certainly not for moms and mechanics and middle-class college students.
So in a few hundred words let me try to explain what the doctrine of the Trinity means, where it is found in the Bible, and why it matters.
First, what does the doctrine mean? The doctrine of the Trinity can be summarized in seven statements. (1) There is only one God. (2) The Father is God. (3) The Son is God. (4) The Holy Spirit is God. (5) The Father is not the Son. (6) The Son is the not the Holy Spirit. (7) The Holy Spirit is not the Father. All of the creedal formulations and theological jargon and philosophical apologetics have to do with safeguarding each one of these statements and doing so without denying any of the other six. When the ancient creeds employ extra-biblical terminology and demand careful theological nuance they do so not to clear up what the Bible leaves cloudy, but to defend, define, and delimit essential biblical propositions. The Athanasian Creed puts it this way: “Now this is the catholic faith: That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons, nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit, still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.”
The two key words here are essence and persons. When you read “essence”, think “Godness.” All three Persons of the Trinity share the same “Godness.” One is not more God than another. None is more essentially divine than the rest. When you read “persons”, think “a particular individual distinct from the others.” Theologians use these terms because they are trying to find a way to express the relationship of three beings that are equally and uniquely God, but not three Gods. That’s why we get the tricky (but learnable) language of essence and persons. We want to be true to the biblical witness that there is an indivisibility and unity of God, even though Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can all be rightly called God. The Persons are not three gods; rather, they dwell in communion with each other as they subsist in the divine nature without being compounded or confused.
Sometimes it’s easier to understand what we believe by stating what we don’t believe.
  • Orthodox Trinitarianism rejects monarchianism which believes in only one person (mono) and maintains that the Son and the Spirit subsists in the divine essence as impersonal attributes not distinct and divine Persons.
  • Orthodox Trinitarianism rejects modalism which believes that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are different names for the same God acting in different roles or manifestations (like the well-intentioned but misguided “water, vapor, ice” analogy).
  • Orthodox Trinitarianism rejects Arianism which denies the full deity of Christ.
  • And finally, orthodox Trinitarianism rejects all forms of tri-theism, which teach that the three members of the Godhead are, to quote a leading Mormon apologist, “three distinct Beings, three separate Gods.”
Second, where is the doctrine of the Trinity found in the Bible? Although the word “Trinity” is famously absent from Scripture, the theology behind the word can be found in a surprising number of verses. For starters there are verses that speak of God’s oneness (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 44:6; 1 Tim. 1:17). Then there are the myriad of passages which demonstrate that God is Father (e.g., John 6:27, Titus 1:4). Next, we have the scores of texts which prove the deity of Jesus Christ, the Son—passages like John 1 (“the word was God”), John 8:58 (“before Abraham was born, I am”), Col. 2:9 (“in Christ all the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form”), Heb. 1:3 (“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of his being”), Tit. 2:13 (“our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”)-not to mention the explicit worship Christ willingly received from his disciples (Luke 24:52; John 20:28) and the charges of blasphemy leveled against him for making himself equal with God (Mark 2:7). Then we have similar texts which assume the deity of the Holy Spirit, calling Him an “eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14) and using “God” interchangeably with the “Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 3:16 and 1 Cor. 6:19; Acts 5:3-4) without a second thought.
The shape of Trinitarian orthodoxy is finally rounded off by texts that hint at the plurality of persons in the Godhead (Gen. 1:1-3, 26; Psalm 2:7; Dan. 7), texts like 1 Cor. 8:6 which place Jesus Christ as Lord right in the middle of Jewish Shema, and dozens of texts that speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the same breath, equating the three in rank, while assuming distinction of personhood (Matt. 28:19; Gal. 4:6; 1 Cor.12:4-6; 1 Peter 1:1-2; 2 Cor. 2:21-22; 13:14; Eph. 1:13-14; 2:18, 20-22; 3:14-17; 4:4-6; 5:18-20; 6:10-18).
The doctrine of the Trinity, as summarized in the seven statements earlier, is not a philosophical concoction by some over-zealous and over-intelligent early theologians, but one of the central planks of orthodoxy which can shown, explicitly or implicitly, from a multitude of biblical texts.
Third, why does any of this matter? There are lots of reasons, but borrowing from Robert Letham’s work, and in Trinitarian fashion, let me mention just three.
One, the Trinity matters for creation. God, unlike the gods in other ancient creation stories, did not need to go outside himself to create the universe. Instead, the Word and the Spirit were like his own two hands (to use Irenaeus’ famous phrase) in fashioning the cosmos. God created by speaking (the Word) as the Spirit hovered over the chaos. Creation, like regeneration, is a Trinitarian act, with God working by the agency of the Word spoken and the mysterious movement of the Holy Spirit.
Two, the Trinity matters for evangelism and cultural engagement. I’ve heard it said that the two main rivals to a Christian worldview at present are Islam and Postmodernism. Islam emphasizes unity—unity of language, culture, and expression—without allowing much variance for diversity. Postmodernism, on the other hand, emphasizes diversity—diversity of opinion, belief, and background—without attempting to see things in any kind of meta-unity. Christianity, with its understanding of God as three in one, allows for diversity and unity. If God exists in three distinct Persons who all share the same essence, then it is possible to hope that God’s creation may exhibit stunning variety and individuality while still holding together in a genuine oneness.
Three, the Trinity matters for relationships. We worship a God who is in constant and eternal relationship with himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Community is a buzz word in American culture, but it is only in a Christian framework that communion and interpersonal community are seen as expressions of the eternal nature of God. Likewise, it is only with a Trinitarian God that love can be an eternal attribute of God. Without a plurality of persons in the Godhead, we would be forced to think that God created humans so that he might show love and know love, thereby making love a created thing (and God a needy deity). But with a biblical understanding of the Trinity we can say that God did not create in order to be loved, but rather, created out of the overflow of the perfect love that had always existed among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who ever live in perfect and mutual relationship and delight.