Category Archives: Salvation

Timothy George On The Trinity: From A Theology For The Church

tftcI have been reading A Theology For The Church edited by Daniel Akin and came across something that I had to share. I always find it odd the way we talk (or neglect to talk)about the Trinity. It is often treated as the black sheep of the family of essential theological beliefs. We would rather not bring it up and hope nobody else does either. So you can imagine how refreshing it was for me to come across the passage below in Timothy George’s section on the nature of God..

“Though followed by many orthodox theologians, there is a subtle danger in the former pattern (de uno deo). The danger is that it can lead to a low-grade unitarianism that reduces the doctrine of the Trinity to an afterthought. If we begin by treating the essence and attributes of God in the abstract and then come along and say, “Oh yes, this God is also a triune reality,” the latter affirmation can easily become a secondary or even dispensable element in one’s theological system…

We should introduce one further distinction before turning to some key biblical texts. The economic Trinity refers to God’s works ad extra, that is, what God has done outside himself in creation and redemption while the immanent Trinity denotes God’s relations ad intra, that is, his eternal intratrinitarian communion as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The immanent Trinity is also called the “ontological” Trinity…

The doctrine of the Trinity is the necessary theological framework for understanding the biblical account of Jesus as the true story of God-and if what the Bible says about Jesus is anything other than that, we have no gospel.”

Here George discusses the tendency to discuss the one God as opposed to discussing the Trinity. On the surface this comes off like a simply error but the constant habit of doing this tends to cause one to think theologically in terms of God as a single modality instead of the Triune God that He is. For God to be a single solitary modality would mean the loss of Godlike qualities the biggest of which is his self-contained fullness, that fact that God requires nothing outside of himself for His own existence.

George also introduces the distinction between economic and immanent or ontological Trinity. The economic Trinity explains such things as how the Father creates, the Son saves, and the Holy Spirit sustains us. It’s what he means when he says that the doctrine of the Tinity is the necessary theological framework for understanding the Gospel. Foundational to everything is the ontological Trinity. The idea that from all eternity existed a personal God who loved, had volition, and created all things including us in His image.

I really appreciated the way George handles the doctrine Trinity in this section. As I read through A Theology For The Church I find many of the sections to be like this brief, to the point, and without the complexities common in other theology texts. I would recommend this volume for any level of Christian. All that the book requires is that you have an interest in the study of God.

From the publisher:

A Theology for the Church, an immense 992-page work edited by Daniel Akin, with contributions from leading Baptist thinkers Albert Mohler, Jr., Paige Patterson, Timothy George, and many others, addresses four major issues in regard to eight Christian doctrines.

What does the Bible say? Each Christian doctrine is rooted in the Bible’s own teaching in both the Old and New Testaments.

What has the Church believed? Christians have interpreted these doctrines in somewhat different ways through the centuries.

How do the doctrines fit together? Each Christian doctrine must cohere with the other doctrines.

How does each doctrine impact the church today? Each Christian doctrine must be meaningful for today’s church. It’s sure to become a widely-used resource in systematic theology study.

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Filed under Book Review, Christianity, God, Gospel, Ontology, Review, Salvation, Theism, Theology, Trinity

Quote: John Chrysostom On The Law

chrysostom_louvre

“For our sins,” says the Apostle; we had pierced ourselves with ten thousand evils, and had deserved the gravest punishment; and the Law not only did not deliver us, but it even condemned us, making sin more manifest, without the power to release us from it, or to stay the anger of God. But the Son of God made this impossibility possible for he remitted our sins, He restored us from enmity to the condition of friends, He freely bestowed on us numberless other blessings.

John Chrysostom, Commentary of St. John Chrysostom, On the Epsitle of St. Paul to the Galatians 1:4.

 

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Hagar And The Covenant Of Works

Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.

These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. (Galatians 4:21-26 NIV)

The law-simply stated-can communicate different ideas to different people. Sometimes the term is used in reference to the Old Testament as a way of distinguishing it from the New Testament. The term law can also be used to refer to a certain collection of laws within the first five books of the Old Testament often referred to as the Pentateuch. Sometimes it is in reference to the Ten Commandments or the decalog. When we come to the New Testament we find Paul using law to contrast works (Col. 3:15, ref. Lev. 13:5) from faith (Gal. 3:11, ref. Hab. 2:4). So it goes without saying that any study of Scripture would require a good understanding of the law if for no other reason than its repeated occurance throughout Scripture and its relationship to the Gospel.

From the text above (Gal. 4:21-26) there is a significant amount that we can glean about the law. Dr. James P. Boyce has written, The two covenants of works and grace are spoken of in Gal.4:22-31, and are called “the two covenants” in verse 24… That of works, is the covenant of the law entered into between God and all mankind through the first Adam, their natural head and appropriate and appointed representative… A covenant is an agreement between two or more parties by which any one or more things are to be done under the sanction of reward or penalties (Abstract Of Systematic Theology P.235). Covenant is a term that we are not as familure with but one of vital importance if we are to understand the law and Gospel. For this we will now look at our text.

For this explanation Paul takes his readers back to Genesis 16. His reason for doing this was probably to properly explain the proof-texts used by the Judaizers who argued that obedience to the law brought about fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. Paul explains that Sara and Hagar are two covenants. Sarah is the free woman who represents those who are united to Christ through faith. Hagar represents the law and the covenant that was given on Mt. Sinai. In this covenant Moses and the elders swore the oath of ratification and obedience to the law. Under this oath the sanction of reward was life and the penalty was death. Thus Hagar’s children are born in bondage because they were born under the law.

The principle here is one of blessing or curse in the covenant of works. If God’s people are obedient to the law given on Mt. Sinai coventat blessings will fall upon them. However if God’s people are not obedient to the law covenant curses will fall upon them. Paul believes this is the case of present Jerusalem and this would also apply to anyone who envokes the law over grace. That is why Paul says, For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:10-11 ESV). According to the covenant of works you must obey it perfectly both inwardly and out in order to recieve the blessings of life. But as Paul says “it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law.”

Having said all this it is important to keep in mind that someone did keep the law perfectly inwardly and outwardly and received the blessings of life. If it wasn’t for Jesus’ active obedience to the law their would be no righteousness for us to receive under grace. Using Paul’s figurative interpretation we are of the free woman (Col.4:28) because we are born of the promise (Col. 4:24). It is important to realize that the covenant on Sinai doesn’t simply go away, with any covenant there is a promise that is made, and if Israel doesn’t keep their end of the promise God must keep His. This reaches back to Adam our covenant head who was the first to break the covenant with God (Rom. 5:12-21).

There are a number of ways to simplify this. One scholar put it this way, Adam was offered life on the condition of his obedience, he could but didn’t. Israel was offered life on the condition of obedience, the couldn’t because they were fallen so they didn’t. Christ takes that same promise of life offered to Adam and Israel and not only could he but He did. Jesus in other words met all the demands of the law and executed them perfectly. Under the covenant of works He merited life and that life was passed on to all who have faith and believe.

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God’s Promise of Eternal Life

God’s Promise of Eternal Life

LifeWay Bible Studies for Life

Week of September 13, 2015
Bible Verses: 1 John 5:6-15.
The Point: You were created for eternal life in Christ.
Life Only in the Son: 1 John 5:6-15.

[6] This is he who came by water and blood–Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. [7] For there are three that testify: [8] the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. [9] If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. [10] Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. [11] And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. [12] Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. [13] I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. [14] And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. [15] And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

The Three Witnesses 6-9

Water and blood are to be seen as the means by which Jesus came into the world to accomplish His mission of salvation. There have been different ideas of what this might mean: Some say the “water” refers to his punctured side that released “water” and the blood that was shed while on the cross. Others teach that “water” of Baptism and the “blood” or wine that was consumed during the Last Supper and what we now call the “Lord’s Supper”. The most common is the “water” of our Lord’s Baptism (Mark 1:9-11) and the “blood” that He shed on the cross which atoned for our sin.

The last option was the the public beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and it was a witness to His identity. The Holy Spirit came down upon Him like a dove, and Gods voice could be heard saying that Jesus was His beloved Son with whom He was well pleased. And here we have the Trinity in full view. The water points to and testifies to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the shed blood also points to and testifies to His death so that we can have life, and the Holy Spirit who testifies of the truthfulness, reality, and validity of who Jesus is. All three are witness to the Son of God who gives us eternal life.

Eternal Life Is Belief In The Son Of God 10-12.

Here John explains that the Son’s testimony is in the individual believing Christian because he or she is believing in the Son of God. The opposite of belief is unbelief which rejects what God has said making Him into a liar. Thus who ever has the Son has eternal life and who ever doesn’t have the Son doesn’t have eternal life.

You Can know That We Have Eternal Life 13-15.

Verse 13 is the main point that the previous chapters have been moving toward. In the beginning of this letter John said his purpose in writing is so that our joy may be complete [1:4]. Here John says that he writes so that we can know that we have eternal life. There is joy that comes from knowing that we have eternal life.

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