Lloyd Jones on our inability to know God completely

Scripture itself, it seems to me—I say it with reverence—does not attempt to give us an adequate conception of the Being of God? Why? Because of the glory of God. Our terms are so inadequate, and our minds are so small and finite, that there is a danger in any attempt at a description of God and His glory. (D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, vol. 1, p. 113)

Exodus 15:11 “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

1Samuel 2:2 “There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.

Psalm 89:6 For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD,

Psalm 113:5-6 Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?

Isaiah 40:18 To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?

Isaiah 40:25 To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.

Isaiah 46:5 “To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike?

Jer 10:6 There is none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might.

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Herman Bavinck on Trusting in a Big God

One of my goals this year is to read through Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics. Not too difficult a task really since it only requires 8 pages a day 6 days a week. (The other day, I am reading a chapter from Gleason’s bio of Bavinck.) This was in yesterday’s reading:

While all virtues can therefore be overdone in relation to creatures, no such exaggeration is possible with respect to God. One can never believe him, trust in him, or love him too much; faith can never expect too much. (vol. 1, p 243)

What a balm to weary souls! You cannot think too highly of God. You cannot trust him too much; love him too deeply; believe him too assuredly. Abandon yourself to the Lord! Leave your troubles with him. He is abundantly able to care for and heal you. O trust in the Lord!

Genesis 18:12-14 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”

Numbers 11:21-23 But Moses said, “The people among whom I am number six hundred thousand on foot, and you have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month!’ Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, and be enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, and be enough for them?” And the LORD said to Moses, “Is the LORD’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”

Psalms 78:19-22 They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness? He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people?” Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob; his anger rose against Israel, because they did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power.

2 Kings 7:1-2 But Elisha said, “Hear the word of the LORD: thus says the LORD, Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.” Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, “If the LORD himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” But he said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”

2 Kings 13:17-19 And he said, “Open the window eastward,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot,” and he shot. And he said, “The LORD’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.” And he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them.” And he struck three times and stopped. Then the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.”

Isa 7:11 “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”

Jeremiah 32:17-19 ‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts, great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds.

Matthew 14:31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Matthew 19:26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Luke 1:37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 20

Acts 20 contains two references to the Trinity.

And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Act 20:22-24)

This is a somewhat important reference for the book of Acts because it lays the foundation for what is to occur in the following chapters. The references to the Trinity have been dense in Acts to this point, occurring in almost every chapter. Yet a reference to the Trinity does not occur again in the book until the final verses of chapter 28. But far from being absent, this passage demonstrates that everything happening in chapters 21-28 is the work of the Trinity.

In Acts 20 Paul is departing Ephesus for Jerusalem. From personal witness of the Holy Spirit and the testimony of Spirit-filled prophets, he knows that trouble awaits him in the holy city. But Paul perseveres and continues with his journey. The Holy Spirit does not give Paul the revelation of trouble to warn him, but to strengthen him. Paul knows that this is the work that the Lord Jesus has determined for him. To carry the message of the grace of God in the power of the Spirit is the task assigned to him by his Lord, and he must not fail in the face of difficulty. Paul is emboldened to complete his work by his confidence in the work the Trinity.

But before he leaves, he wishes to share this confidence with those remaining in Ephesus.

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to car for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Act 20:28-32)

On the Trinitarian side, this passage seems particularly fruitful for proving the deity of Jesus Christ. Everyone agrees that the mention of “his own blood” is referring to Jesus. The English translations make it seem like Paul is saying, “God purchased the church with his own blood.” In which case, this would be a clear statement that Jesus is God–since Jesus is the only member of the Trinity with blood. Yet commentators are in general agreement that the phrase is more accurately translated, “Which God purchased with the blood his own (Son).” While the word “Son” is not in the text, it is supplied as being the understood meaning (cf. Rom. 8:3, 32). So even if this is not a clear statement of the deity of Christ, the passage is certainly Trinitarian.

On the practical side we see that this strength in the face of opposition is not for a select few, it is for all the church. Satan is not content to merely have God’s children sent in among the lions, he also send wolves into the flock. But the same power of the Trinity that keeps Paul as he travels into enemy territory strengthens all Christians to withstand the foes that seek to sneak among them. The grace of God the emboldened Paul in verse 24, strengthens and protects the church of Jesus Christ in which the Holy Spirit raises up overseers.

On the theological side we also see instruction about the work of the Trinity toward the church. The blood of the Son purchased the church; the Holy Spirit raises up leaders for its protection; the Father strengthens and builds it by his word. Great is our boldness on account of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Augustine on the Impossibility of Speaking Worthily of God

A wonderful word from Augustine regarding the impossible but necessary difficulty of speaking of God:

Have I said anything, solemnly uttered anything that is worthy of God? On the contrary, all I feel I have done is to wish to say something; but if I have said anything, it is not what I wished to say. How do I know this? I know it because God is inexpressible; and if what has been said by me were inexpressible, it would not have been said. And from this it follows that God is not to be called inexpressible, because even when this is said about him, something is being expressed. And we are involved in heaven knows what kind of battle of words, since on the one hand what cannot be said is inexpressible, and on the other what can even be called inexpressible is thereby shown to be not inexpressible. This battle of words should be avoided by keeping silent, rather than resolved by the use of speech.

And yet, while nothing really worthy of God can be said about him, he has accepted the homage of human voices, and has wished us to rejoice in praising him with our words. (De Doctrina Christiana I.6 trans. Edmund Hill)

How can I clutter such thoughts with my own? My best articulation of God is babble; my clearest thought foolishness. I know this because he is God, and were I ever to speak something worthy of him I would cease to be speaking of him. All that is left is for me is to cover my mouth. Bow my head. And worship.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 18(?)

There is a possible reference to the Trinity in Acts 18. The passage under consideration is Acts 18:24-26:

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

The disputed phrase is the description of Apollos in verse 25, “And being fervent in spirit. . .” Is Apollos zealous in his own spirit, or was he zealous in the Spirit (i.e. the Holy Spirit)?

In his Catena on the Acts of the Apostles, Chrysostom takes it as a reference to the Holy Spirit. But this may be due to the established Patristic habit of talking all non-specific occurrences of “the spirit” as referring to the Holy Spirit. Origen details this in On First Principles 1.3.4-8. Even so, this view is also held by Calvin, Henry, and Marshall (though he only says it is “probable” that Luke is referring to the Holy Spirit).

All modern translations (that I could consult) take it as it is given in the ESV cited above—as a reference to Apollos’ own spirit. This seems to be the most common interpretation today. It is adopted by Bruce (NICNT), Munck (Anchor), and Stott (BST). (Although The Jerome Biblical Commentary and The Interpreter’s Bible (1954) both consider it a reference to the Holy Spirit.)

This aspect of uncertainty is not unique to Acts 18. There are several other passages in the New Testament that might be Trinitarian in nature, or might speak of only the Father and the Son. Passages that I know of like this include John 4:21-26; Colossians 1:9-10; 1 Tim. 3:14-16; 1 Peter 3:18; and Rev. 5:6. In the course of this blog-study these texts will be considered on an individual basis.

So for the sake of completeness, I mention Acts 18:24-26. Though I am not yet sure it should be mentioned for the sake of accuracy. Given what we have seen so far in the book of Acts, I am inclined to side with the translations and modern commentators. The text seems to emphasize two things for certain about Apollos: he was very able but not complete. If Apollos was “fervent in spirit” this makes sense of both facts. Given what Luke has shown so far about the work of the Trinity bringing full salvation, it is difficult to see how a man instructed in the way of Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit could be missing essential truths about salvation.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 16

Acts 16 presents another text illustrative of the fluidity in which the New Testament speaks of the Trinity.

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Act 16:6-10)

In verse 6 we have mention of the “Holy Spirit;” in verse 7 “the Spirit of Jesus;” in verse 10 “God.” In one sense, each of the members of the Trinity is mentioned—in “reverse” order—the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and God (the Father). Yet one has strong reason to assert that all three references in the passage refer to the Holy Spirit.

Grammatically possible meanings of “the Spirit of Jesus” include:

• Jesus’ spirit—as in, Jesus somehow divided his spirit from himself and communicated to the apostle through that spirit. This is problematic because of the violence it does to the person of Jesus. It also seems to introduce a fourth member into the Monarchy. Now we have, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of Jesus.
• Jesus the Spirit—grammatically it could taken as, “the Spirit which is Jesus.” This is problematic because of its obviously modalistic direction. Now Jesus is the Father, now Jesus is the Son, now Jesus is the Spirit. I imagine the modern heretical group of Oneness Pentecostals might embrace this interpretation, but anyone orthodox would shun it.
• The Spirit from Jesus—this is the best interpretation for at least two reasons. First, it maintains the distinction of the persons within the Trinity without introducing even more divisions. Second, it fits with what we already know from the book of Acts about the relationship between Jesus and the Spirit. While the Spirit is often described as sent from the Father, Acts 2:32-33 teaches that this sending to man was mediated by Jesus. Yes, God has poured out the Spirit on believers. But the Spirit was first given to Jesus who in turn “poured out” the blessing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33).

Once we comprehend that the Holy Spirit is the one who forbade the preaching of the gospel in Asia Minor (16:6-7); it is difficult to not attribute the call to Macedonia as the work of the Holy Spirit as well (16:10). If taken this way, the Holy Spirit is referred to in this passage as “the Holy Spirit,” “the Spirit of Jesus,” and “God.” In defense of this understanding, the same phenomenon was seen in Acts 5. Peter asked Ananias why he had lied to the Holy Spirit and then asserted Ananias had lied to God. So in Acts 16 we have mention of all three persons, though we only see the work of the Holy Spirit.

In this passage, as in so many others, the words of Gregory of Nazianzus,

This I give you to share, and to defend all your life, the One Godhead and Power, found in the Three in Unity, and comprising the Three separately, not unequal, in substances or natures, neither increased nor diminished by superiorities or inferiorities; in every respect equal, in every respect the same; just as the beauty and the greatness of the heavens is one; the infinite conjunction of Three Infinite Ones, Each God when considered in Himself; as the Father so the Son, as the Son so the Holy Ghost; the Three One God when contemplated together; Each God because Consubstantial; One God because of the Monarchia. No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the Splendor of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the One. When I think of any One of the Three I think of Him as the Whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking of escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of That One so as to attribute a greater greatness to the Rest. When I contemplate the Three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the Undivided Light.

Tremble at the Mystery. Amen.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 15. The Trinity in Salvation by Grace Through Faith. With an aside about Westboro Baptist Church

In Acts 15 we read of the first church council. As with those that would follow centuries later at Nicaea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon, it was initiated by controversy. While Philip and Peter had begun the work of spreading the gospel to the nations, the labors of Paul and Barnabas had made the church substantially international. Not everyone was ready, or knew how, to accept this massive influx of unclean Gentiles into the church of Jesus Christ. How are Gentiles to be accepted into the church? To certain men, men with some influence according to Galatians 2, the answer was through Moses, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). Because of what Luke says in 15:5, it seems likely these men were Pharisees who had believed in Jesus. The controversy was such that we are told succinctly, “The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider the matter” (15:6).

After much debate, Peter is given the floor and lays the foundation for the eventual decision:

And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” Acts 15:7-11

Surely, once again, we hear from the lips of Peter things that flesh and blood had not revealed to him. Look and behold the wonderful work of the Trinity in saving any and all men by grace, through faith, without the works of the Law. Trace Peter’s argument and see that just as in the ecumenical councils that would eventually come, the Trinity is at the core of settling the dispute. While men disputed, God the Father had already rendered his judgment by giving the same Holy Spirit to the Gentiles as he had to the infant Jewish church. This gift of the Spirit and cleansing from sin were not offered because of any works but solely “by faith.” Peter then makes the cutting observation that the Jews themselves had not been able to keep the customs of Moses, and they expect the Gentiles to? May it never be! The grace of the Lord Jesus that made salvation possible and a reality for the Jews is the same grace alone that makes salvation possible and a reality for the Gentiles.

When we push through to recognize the Trinity, we find that all the work of Salvation is done by the Three. Because the Trinity has done all the work of salvation, it is ours to receive that salvation through faith knowing the grace of the glorious Trinity will make it so. To place any requirements, any prerequisites, upon salvation is to drive the sinner away from the God who saves. On this, the church has spoken. In this, the church must believe.
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In Sunday school this past week talk somehow turned to the lunacy that is known as Westboro Baptist church. A question along the lines of, “Why doesn’t the church do something about them?” was asked. The simple answer is, it can’t. “The Church” as a single physical organization does not exist anymore. Meetings like the Council of Jerusalem (50) and the Councils of Nicaea (325, 787), Constantinople (381, 553, 680), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon (451) are an impossibility today because the church, as such, ceased to exist in 1054 when Rome departed from the ancient communion of the five patriarchates. Five hundred years later Rome began to dis-integrate, and Christianity in the New World has only continued to atomize.

One could say, the Church, if it still existed, wouldn’t say anything about Westboro Baptist, because it is not a problem that infects any outside of this nation. Westboro Baptist is an infection that should be cured on the “regional” level. But because there is no such thing as “the church” in America, there is no such church to condemn it. We are left with the muffled oppositions of denominations and congregations.

Ideas have consequences. Once you say you have the right to believe anything you want to believe, it becomes somewhat difficult to deny that right to the person next to you. In our Protestant-minded individualism we have gained much. But we have also lost much. The trade-off was not entirely beneficial.

Proverbs 11: Are the Righteous Delivered by their own Righteousness?

The first nine chapters and last 2 chapters of the book of Proverbs are more or less “outlineable.” The author of those chapters, whether Solomon, Agur, or Lemuel, spends time developing a thought over several verses. Chapters 10-29 are—brace yourself for this stunning theological insight—proverbial in nature. Often there is seemingly no connection at all between consecutive verses. Yet even in the Proverbial chapters there are blocks of material that do dwell on a common theme. In Proverbs 11:4-9, we find one of those blocks.

4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.
5 The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.
6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.
7 When the wicked dies, his hope will perish,
and the expectation of wealth perishes too.
8 The righteous is delivered from trouble,
and the wicked walks into it instead.
9 With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor,
but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.

Verses 4, 6, 8, and 9 all speak of the deliverance of the righteous. (Those literate in Hebrew may want to pursue the fact that in verses 4&6 the noun צדקה is paired with נצל while in verses 8&9 צדּיק is paired with חלץ.) I am interested in these verses because of their adaptability to teaching a salvation based on good works.

This is most apparent in verse 6: “The righteousness of the upright delivers them.” A fair paraphrase of the verse would be, “The good deeds of good people save them.” Verse 4 says basically the same thing: righteousness, good deeds, delivers from death. Verse 9 is similar, but perhaps more appealing to an intellectual. In verse 9 we seem to be told that if a person knows enough, he will be saved: “by knowledge the righteous are delivered.”

So were righteousness (good deeds) and knowledge enough to save a person in the Old Testament economy? Are righteousness and knowledge enough to save a person in the New Testament economy? The perhaps surprising answer is, “Yes.”

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 1 Corinthians 1:30

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

Righteousness and knowledge are exactly how a person is delivered from sin and death—the righteousness and wisdom from God that come from God choosing to reckon Christ’s righteousness to a hopeless sinner. The righteousness of the upright man is not his own, but the alien righteousness of Christ imputed to him by God’s sovereign, righteous declaration. Seen in the light of the New Testament teaching on the imputed righteousness of Christ, Proverbs 11 poses no problem at all to those who believe in salvation by grace alone.

But what about the Old Testament reader of Proverbs 11? Would he have reason to depend on his own good deeds to commend himself to God? No, because even in the Old Testament there is clear teaching about the righteousness that truly saves. The apostle Paul was not the first biblical writer to speak of the blessing that came from union with Christ. In Jeremiah 23:5-6 the prophet looked forward to the coming Redeemer and gives him the name “The LORD is our Righteousness.”

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ Jeremiah 23:5-6

Several chapters later, the same name is given to those people the coming Redeemer saves:

In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ Jeremiah 33:15-16

The company of the redeemed is identified wholly with their redeemer. In this shadowy way, the prophet Jeremiah pointed to what has been identified as the heartbeat of Paul’s theology—union with Christ. It is the believer’s union with Christ that provides him all his wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

So Proverbs 11 is a gospel text. All those who would be saved are called upon to seek the only salvation available: the righteousness of Christ.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 13. The Jealousy of the Trinity

There are several similarities between Acts 8 and Acts 13. Both passages speak of magicians, or sorcerers: Simon and Bar-Jesus/Elymas. Both of the magicians are influential: Simon with the population and Elymas with the leadership. Both of the magicians are confronted with the gospel and both men are confronted with Trinitarian rebukes. But whereas Peter seems to leave Simon with some hope of restoration, Paul offers no such hope to Elymas.

When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord. Acts 13:6-12

We see in this passage a vivid demonstration of the jealousy of the Trinity. Sergius Paulus summoned Barnabas and Saul to hear the word of God (the Father) that they were preaching. That word from the Father was the gospel of Jesus Christ, his Son. Elymas sought to turn Sergius “away from the faith” in the Messiah Saul and Barnabas preached. This aroused the righteous anger of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit moved Paul to proclaim that the Lord (Jesus) would judge Elymas for his sin by blinding him. Sergius, like Paul himself, responded to Jesus’ judgment of blindness by opening his eyes to the truth of the gospel.

God is a jealous God. He is jealous for his own glory. When Elymas tried to pervert God’s word; tried to keep another person from seeing the truth about Jesus; the Holy Spirit gave Paul the boldness to proclaim the Trinity’s declaration of war against such rebellion. Those who attempt to hinder the spread of the gospel face the same wrath today—and eternally.

It is important for Christians to realize, especially Christians today, that hell exists because of the love of God. God sent forth his Son into the world to bear the sins of all who would believe. At the request of his Son, God sent the Holy Spirit into the world to convict it of sin and righteousness and judgment. What else is the Father to do with a soul that rejects the eternal blood of Christ and counts it a common thing to be trampled upon? What else is the Son to do to that sinner who constantly resists and rejects the work of the Holy Spirit? Hell exists because God loves his son. Hell exists because it is the only place worthy of those who refuse such love. Our God is a jealous God.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 11

Acts 11 repeats and continues Trinitarian themes already seen in the book. In Acts 11:15-18, Peter recounts the events of Acts chapter 10 and the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles:

As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God‘s way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

In giving his apologia in Jerusalem, Peter maintains the Trinitarian emphasis seen in Acts 10:38. The spread of the gospel to the Gentiles is the work of the Trinity and must be embraced as such by God’s people. We also see repeated the truth that the Holy Spirit is given as the gift of God.

Beginning in Acts 11:19 Luke backtracks in the narrative a somewhat and returns to the scattering that resulted from Saul and the Sanhedrin’s persecution of Stephen. Most of the believers sought to spread the gospel among Jews and the Jews alone (11:19); but some of the believers crossed the religious-ethnic boundary and proclaimed the Lord to Hellenists, or Greeks, as well. The Trinity blessed this effort:

But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. Acts 11:20-24

Once again the Trinity is seen as actively involved in the spread of the gospel. The Trinity is inherently missionary.