John Calvin on The Trinity and Forgiveness

Wherefore, as during our whole lives we carry about with us the remains of sin, we could not continue in the Church one single moment were we not sustained by the uninterrupted grace of God in forgiving our sins. On the other hand, the Lord has called his people to eternal salvation, and, therefore, they ought to consider that pardon for their sins is always ready. Hence let us surely hold that if we are admitted and ingrafted into the body of the Church, the forgiveness of sins has been bestowed, and is daily bestowed on us, in divine liberality, through the intervention of Christ’s merits and the sanctification of the Spirit.

Institutes, 4.1.21


Willhelmus a Brakel on Why People become Atheists: They deny the Trinity

These are the fruits of dishonoring God and of denying the generation of the Son and the procession of the Holy Ghost. First they propose the existence of three collateral persons—that is, existing side by side—which is followed by the notion of three gods, and eventually this culminates in denying the existence of God. These fruits proceed from a distaste for the old paths which are unknown to them and from a hankering for the promotion of that which is new. Such are the fruits of doubting the existence of God.[1]

It should be noted that Brakel argues that there are no “original” atheists. That is to say, no one comes out of the womb doubting the existence of God. Atheism is an alien condition: but it is one that can be arrived at. How does one become an atheist? First, by denying the orthodox teaching concerning the Trinity. Admittedly, the reasoning is somewhat circular: but if the Trinity is God, then denying the Trinity is atheism. Where does this denial of the Trinity come from? A repudiation of Holy Tradition and a desire for novelty. So Brakel sees the process as: denial of tradition, denial of the Trinity, denial of God. What is the remedy for one caught in such a trap?

“Persevere in reading God’s Word and join yourself to the godly in order to hear them speak about the delight they may have in God.”[2]

[1] Willhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, vol. 1, (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 1992), 12.

[2] Ibid, 22.

Devotions for First week of Advent: Tuesday, The Advent of the Trinity

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples–of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.
Isaiah 11:1-10

In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
Luke 10:21-24[1]

Advent is the season of appearing. In Advent God makes himself known. Today’s passages reveal the deepest aspect of the mystery of God’s appearance: the fact that God is Trinity. Jesus did what he did because of who he was: God. Jesus was able to do what he did because of the power he received from the Holy Spirit. The work of Jesus from beginning to end was the work that the Father willed.

In Isaiah 11 we see that God’s kingdom comes through the Branch who judges righteous judgment. This righteous judgment is empowered by the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. The gospels make the role of the Spirit in the life of Jesus unmistakable. It is by the Holy Spirit that he is conceived;[2] the fills people to worship God because of Jesus;[3] Jesus was announced as the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit;[4] the Holy Spirit rested on Jesus when he was baptized;[5] it was in the power of the Spirit that Jesus entered the wilderness, left the wilderness, and began his teaching ministry;[6] it was in the power of the Spirit that Jesus cast out demons;[7] before he left Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to his disciples;[8] Jesus commanded that new disciples be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit;[9] Jesus kept his promise and sent the Holy Spirit.[10] Advent makes known the inseparable bond between Jesus the Messiah and the Spirit of the Lord.

But the advent of Jesus also makes known the inseparable bond between Jesus the Messiah and God the Father. In Luke we stand upon holy ground. We enter into the communication of the Trinity. In wonder and amazement we hear the Son of God proclaim that he has all of the authority of the Father. The sovereignty of God over salvation is made explicit. The Father hides salvation from some and reveals it to others. The Son chooses whom he will reveal the Father to. We know these hard words are true because who said them: Jesus the Son; and because of how he said them: “in the Holy Spirit.”

At Advent God makes himself known. God reveals that he is Triune: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Three in person, one in essence.

 Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger found Him,
As angel heralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

O Savior, Child of Mary, who felt our human woe,
O Savior, King of glory, who dost our weakness know;
Bring us at length we pray, to the bright courts of Heaven,
And to the endless day!

[1] For more on this text see my post on the Trinitarian aspects of it click here.

[2] Luke 1:35

[3] Luke 1:41; 2:25-27

[4] Luke 3:16

[5] Luke 3:22

[6] Luke 4:1, 14, 18

[7] Matt. 12:28

[8] John 15:26

[9] Matt. 28:19

[10] John 20:22; Acts 2:33


John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God Sermon 7: The Equality and Inequality of the Father and Son & Prayer

Sermon 7 marks a transition to a new area of debate: “whether the Son and the Father have the same power and might, whether they are of the same essence” (7).[1] As mentioned previously, the Anomoeans were Arians so they denied that the Father and Son were consubstantial.[2] Chrysostom has already been laying groundwork for his arguments in previous sermons, but now this subject gets his full attention.

The arguments of Chrysostom are pretty straight-forward; it is the same line of reasoning used by many today. Jesus has the same nature as the Father because he is begotten of the Father (8-10). Things begotten have the same nature as their begetter. Trees beget trees. Dogs beget dogs. Man begets man. God begets God. While Chrysostom will address objections of the Anomoeans, he does not address the problems inherent in our conception of begetting: namely, that something begotten must have a beginning.

The preacher does recognize a somewhat related argument however: Jesus is a son and so are we so there must not be any difference between us. Chrysostom responds that even though we are called sons of God, he is the only begotten Son. We are adopted, but he is begotten (11-12). Because Jesus is the only begotten, he shares in the glory and substance of the Father so Jesus says things like:

  • Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. John 14:9
  • I and the Father are one. John 10:30
  • For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. John 5:21
  • that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. John 5:23
  • My Father is working until now, and I am working. John 5:17

Chrysostom anticipates the Scriptural objection his foes will raise: there are multiple passages that demonstrate the Son is lower than the Father. For example, the fact that the Son prays to the Father shows he does not have the same power (14-15). Chrysostom gives four main reasons for this phenomenon of Scripture.

First, the incarnation (16-17). Jesus had to demonstrate that he was true man. As a man Jesus was completely dependent upon the Father. If Christ did not demonstrate that he was true man, what hope could man have for his salvation?

Second, the inability of his hearers to comprehend the truth (18-26). This idea of Jesus’ condescension to his hearers is a destructive weapon in the hands of liberal critics of the Scripture, but Chrysostom handles it well. Over and over again, the foes and disciples of Jesus responded with wonder, anger, disgust, and revulsion to Jesus’ “more sublime words” (18). Had Christ simply appeared on the scene teaching and only taught the deeper spiritual truths about his identity, he would have quickly lost all hearers.

Third, to teach humility (27). As the preacher states,

If someone is teaching humility of heart, he does this not only by what he says but by what he does. He is moderate in both word and deed. Christ said: “Learn of me because I am meek and humble of heart.”

Fourth, to make clear that God is not a monad (28). The truth of the Trinity is multifaceted and incomprehensible. As has been said, try to understand it and you will lose your mind; deny it and you will lose your soul. Had Jesus only taught his unity with the Father, it would have been even easier to fall into the belief that there is only one person in God. Even with the mixed testimony of Scripture, Sabellius found enough to teach that the Father and Son are not two distinct persons. Without the teaching about Christ’s humility, it would be even easier to fall into this heresy.

The remainder of the sermon is devoted to a fuller explanation of how the incarnation “lowered” the Son to a place of prayer (34-54). For this, Chrysostom devotes his attention to the apostle John’s account of the last supper and Jesus’ prayer in the garden.

The sermon is concluded with another exhortation on prayer (55-64).

Surely, prayer is a harbor for those caught in a storm; it is an anchor for those tossed by the waves; it is a staff for those who stumble. Prayer is a treasure for the poor, security for the rich, a cure for the sick, a safeguard for those in good health. It keeps our blessing inviolable and quickly changes our ills to good. If temptation comes, it is easily repelled. If loss of possessions or any of the other things which cause grief to our souls befall us, prayer is quick to drive them all away. Prayer is a refuge from every sorrow, a basis for cheerfulness, a means for continual pleasure, a mother for our philosophy and way of life. (61)

[1] All paragraph references refer to those in Paul W. Harkins, St John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1984).

[2] See post on sermon 4


John Chrysostom On The Incomprehensible Nature of God Sermon 5: Only the Trinity knows the Trinity

Sermon 5 is the longest sermon in the series of 12 sermons On the Incomprehensible Nature of God, but like the previous two sermons Chrysostom has lengthy conclusion that has little to do with the stated thesis of the series as the final third of the sermon deals with the subject of prayer (43-62). [1]

Chrysostom deals intricately with the texts of John 1:18 and 6:46, “No one has ever seen God. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, himself declared him. Not that anyone has seen the Father except him who is from God, he has seen the Father.” The fact that “no one” has seen the Father except the Son is not meant to exclude the Holy Spirit, but all created beings (5-6). For support, Chrysostom turns to Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 2:11, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (7). This is certainly delicate reasoning, but it is sound. “No one” cannot exclude the Spirit in John or the Son in 1 Corinthians. Because we know God’s word is true and his testimony concerning himself is trustworthy, John 1:18; 6:46; and 1 Cor. 2:11 must all be true. So “no one” must indeed refer to all creatures outside of the Trinitarian communion.

Chrysostom then enters into a discussion that is, frankly, an amazing display of exegesis. The preacher turns his attention to 1 Corinthians 8:6, “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” As “no one” separates the Trinity from all creation, so “one” separates the Trinity to itself. To prove the equality of the Son and Father Chrysostom demonstrates that “God” and “Lord” are used interchangeably of the Father and Son. Paragraph 12 offers a concise summary,

 Some names are common to several; others are proper to one. There are common names to show that the essence is exactly the same; there are proper names to characterize what is proper to the personal realities. The names “Father” and “Son” characterize what is proper to the personal realities; the names “God” and “Lord” show what is common. Therefore, after Paul set down the common name of “one God,” he had to use the proper name so that you might know of whom he was speaking. He did this to prevent us from falling into the madness of Sabellius.

The preacher then goes through Old and New Testament Scriptures demonstrating that the Father and Son are each called Lord and God (13-24). Returning to his main text, Chrysostom again asserts that knowledge necessitates identity. As men do not know the essence of angels, so neither angels nor men know the essence of God. The preacher goes even further in an amusing fashion. Not only are men incapable of knowing the essence of angels or God, they are incapable of knowing their own essence:

 And why should I speak of what kind of essence the soul has? It is not even possible to say how it exists in the body. What answer could anyone give to this question? That it is extended throughout the bulk of the body? But that is absurd. To exist that way is proper only to bodies. That this is not the way that the soul exists in the body is clear from this example. If a man’s hands and feet are amputated, the soul remains whole and entire and is in no way mutilated by the maiming of the body.
Then it does not exist in the whole body but has it been gathered together in some part of the body? If that is true, the rest of the parts must be dead, because whatever lacks a soul is altogether dead. But we cannot say that. What we must say is that we know not that the soul is in our bodies but that we do not know how it is there. God has shut us off from this knowledge of the soul for a reason. So that, out of his great superiority, he might curb our tongues, hold us in check, and persuade us to remain on earth and not to meddle out of curiosity with matters which are beyond us. (28-29)

This also points to an important conclusion to be made plain before Chrysostom turns his attention to prayer. There is something inherently off-putting to the statement that a person cannot comprehend God. Even when time is taken to explain weight of “comprehend”; even when it is acknowledged that things can be truly known of God; for some it is hard to hear that God cannot be known in his essence. Chrysostom has a helpful analogy:

 Tell me this. Suppose that two men are obstinately arguing with each other about whether they can know how large the sky is. Suppose that one of them says that it is impossible for the human eye to encompass it, and the other would contend that it was possible for a man to measure the entire sky by using the span of his hand. Which of these two would we say would know the size of the sky? Would it be the one who argues how many spans wide the sky is? Or would it be the one who admits that he does not know? Surely the man who admits he does not know the size of the sky when he sees its magnitude will have a better understanding of how large the sky is. When it is a question of God, will we not use the same discretion? Would it not be the ultimate madness if we failed to do so? (39)

Underlying the sermons of Chrysostom is a trust in the word of Scripture. This trust underlies his philosophy and epistemology too. It is not adventurous, brave, or noble, to go beyond the bounds of Scripture. It is folly and madness. Neither is it weak or ignoble to rest content in the knowledge that Scripture does provide. To stay within the bounds of Scripture is true security, it is full sanity.







[1] All paragraph references refer to those in Paul W. Harkins, St John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1984).


The Trinity in Scritpure: The Comfort of God

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter [παρακλητον] , that he may abide with you for ever… But the Comforter [παρακλητος] , which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:16,26)

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate [παρακλητον] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous… (1John 2:1)

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort [παρακλησεως]… (2Corintihians1:3)

If you have been long in the faith you have probably heard the explanation about “another” in John 14:16. Greek has two words to express the idea of another: another of the same kind and another of a different kind. It is something like the difference between “another” and “an other.” Jesus uses the first type of word: the word that indicates that the Holy Spirit is the same kind of comforter that Jesus is. The apostles have no reason to worry or fear. The Holy Spirit stands in the place of Christ and offers the comfort that the physical presence of Jesus would no longer provide. The Holy Spirit mediates between the Son and his disciples. He is sent to the disciples to draw them closer to Christ.

While John 14 is based on the assumption that Jesus is a comforter, the apostle John goes ahead and makes it clear in 1 John 2:1. Jesus is our comforter in our relationship to the Father. Jesus has borne the wrath of God against sin and presents us faultless before the throne of God. Jesus mediates between his disciples and the Father. He was sent into the world to rescue a people from sin, drawing them into fellowship with God.

The Father is the God of all comfort. A slightly different, but obviously related word is used here. Whereas the Son and Spirit are both a comforter (personal noun); the Father is the source of all comfort (impersonal noun). The Father is the source of all comfort. He eternally begets the Son who is our comforter before the Father. The Father is the source of all comfort: the Sprit eternally proceeds from him comforting God’s people with the presence of Christ.

This is yet another way we see the illumination of two truths that seem to be in tension. We are told by the more careful theologians that the Trinity acts in concert: what One does the Three does. Yet we also see individual “actions” each member performs. Most notably, it is only the Son who died for the salvation of humanity. But the death of the Son was a death to the Father in the Spirit. These passages remind us that the Trinity is a God of comfort. The comfort the Trinity offers to man is the comfort that the Three offer as One. The Spirit comforts us with Christ who comforts us with the Father who comforts us with the Son and Spirit.


John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God Sermon 4: with thoughts on the Trinitarian significance of the phrase “only begotten Son.”

As with the third sermon, Chrysostom offers little new in the form of argument in the fourth sermon in his series On the Incomprehensible Nature of God.  In the first 10 paragraphs Chrysostom recapitulates the argument of the previous sermon.[1] The final 19 paragraphs are a pastoral exhortation to attend carefully and reverently the service of the church. In the intervening paragraphs Chrysostom again attempts to advance the argument that the angels cannot comprehend God.

In sermon 4, Chrysostom returns from the speculative arguments in his previous sermon to more exegetically sound footing. He begins with thoughts on Ephesians 3:8-10:

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

Again we see that an aspect of God is described as unknowable: his riches in Christ. And again the argument is pressed, “If the riches are unfathomable, how could he who gave the gift of the riches fail himself to be unfathomable?” (15). Beyond this, we see that God is using the church to teach the angels about his own wisdom. Therefore the same type of argument pursued so effectively in sermon 1 applies to angels as well: if they do not know the wisdom of God they “do not have a perfect comprehension of God’s essence” (13).

Unfortunately, this treatment is all too brief (11-16) for in the remaining chapters the preacher falls into the same errors as he did in the previous sermon. Paragraphs 17-31 are an exposition of John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Chrysostom offers the standard explanation to harmonize this verse with those passages that speak of individuals “seeing” God: namely, that God manifested himself in an act of condescension without revealing his eternal essence. As in the previous sermon, when Chrysostom sticks to the intended referent of the text (i.e. man) he does well, but when he attempts to apply it to angels he goes off-track. In trying to argue so strongly for his position, he actually weakens it. The preacher would have been better served devoting more time to passages the clearly speak of the ignorance of angels (Eph. 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12); or on passages that speak of the exclusivity of God’s knowledge of himself.

Nevertheless, Chrysostom does offer some thought worthy commentary on the title, “only begotten Son.”

The name son belongs to men and it belongs to the Christ. But it belongs to us by analogy; it belongs to Christ in its proper sense. The title only begotten is his alone and belongs to no one else, even by analogy. Therefore, from the title which belongs to no one but to him alone you must understand that the title Son, which belongs to many, is his in its proper sense and meaning. This is why John first said, “only begotten,” and then, “Son.” (26)

While this series of sermons is identified as On the Incomprehensible Nature of God, the Anomoeans had more problems than the belief they could know God as God knows himself. They were Arians and so regarded Christ as less than God. Chrysostom will address this aspect of their heresy in later sermons, but he is already laying the groundwork for that.

Speaking of the Trinity is inherently dangerous, yet it is even more dangerous not to speak of it. Almost everything that can be said rightly about the Trinity can be taken the wrong way, or understood incorrectly. The most biblically accurate way we can speak of the Trinity is in the terms, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Yet there are potential pitfalls even here. If there is “Father” and “Son” there must be a time when the Son was not. If there is “Father” and “Son”,  and “Holy Spirit” can we really consider the Spirit a person? Chrysostom begins to address this difficulty by reminding us of the true nature of the analogical language used of the Trinity.

When we speak of a son of a father we naturally understand that there was a time during which the father existed and the son did not. Until 1974, my father existed and I did not. The Arians took this analogically and applied it to the Trinitarian relationship of the Father and the Son: there was a time when the Son was not. But Chrysostom reminds us that they are reversing the analogy. Jesus is not the Son to the Father in all the ways that I am son to my father. Rather, I am son to my father in ways that Jesus is Son to his Father. I love my father, I trust my father, I seek to please my father, I have my father’s nature. These, and not procreation, are essential to the nature of “sonship.” If procreation were essential to sonship, we would not have adoption.

The use of “only begotten” simply reinforces this. “From this title you may believe that the common title of son is not common but is peculiar to him and belongs to no other as it does to him. Mysteriously, “only begotten” and “son” combine to teach us to put aside as untrue one of our certainties when consider the relation of the Father and the Son. If Jesus is the only Son of the Father, the Father and Son must both be eternal. If God is Father of only one Son, and if he is eternal, he must be eternally a Father of that Son. If the Son did not exist, neither would the Father. How is he Son? Because he is begotten. How is he without beginning? Because he is only begotten.


[1] All paragraph references refer to those in Paul W. Harkins, St John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1984).


Can a Christian lose his salvation: Trinitarian Ungodliness and the question of Apostasy in Jude

In verses 5-7 Jude describes three classes of people who experienced “a punishment of eternal fire.” First, the Lord destroyed those Israelites who were exodused from Egypt but did not believe. Second, there is a group of angels who left their proper dwelling and are confined until the final judgment. Third, the immoral cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were overthrown for their sexual immorality and unnatural desire.

The third example is not too surprising. This is the sort of thing we expect a holy God to do. But the first two examples of God’s judgment give Christians reason to pause. In the first two examples we have members of the people of God and holy angels. By these examples should we understand that loosing salvation is possible? If people who were “saved” out of Egypt can fall away; if angels can fall away; can Christians fall away and face the eternal judgment of God?

There are several indications that Jude does not believe this is a possibility.

First, Jude repeatedly indicates that the appearance of these false Christians who face God’s judgment is not a surprise. In fact, these people “long ago were designated for this condemnation” (4). The word “designated” means “written before.” Their story has already been written. Because of their sin “the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever” (13). Their spot in hell is marked “reserved.” Jude says their appearance was predicted as far back as Enoch (14) and as recently as the apostles (17-18).

This is contrasted with the fate of the righteous. Jude instructs believers to contend for the faith (3) and to build themselves up in the faith (20). But does their security depend upon these things? Does their entrance into heaven depend on their own contending and their own building? Jude does not leave them with such a treacherous foundation. Jude closes his book with the encouraging reminder that God alone is the source of the eternal security of the believer. It is only God who is ultimately “able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (23). We contend, but God gives the victory. We build, but God holds together.

Secondly, Jude emphatically describes the true nature of those who seemingly depart from the faith. The most important and most repeated description of these people is that they are “ungodly people” (4). They are ruled by “ungodly passions” (18). Jude goes out of his way to drive this point home in verses 14-15: Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him. Such people are ungodly in the fullest sense of the term. They pervert the grace of God the Father, deny the Lordship of Jesus the Son (4), and are “devoid of the Spirit” (19). They are completely without God. They live in full denial of the Triune Lord.

This is in complete opposition to the source of life and strength for the believer. As mentioned above, the believer is commanded to build himself up in the faith. How does this building up occur? According to verses 20-21, by living a life in communion with the Trinity:

pray in the Holy Spirit;
keep yourselves in the love of God,
waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The life of the believer is life in the Trinity. The life of the unbeliever is un-Trinity.

People are going to fall away. There are and will be imposters in the church. This should come as no surprise. Their falling away is not due to any weakness on God’s part or overwhelming strength on sin’s part. People creep in and hinder the life of the church; people cause divisions; people speak against the leadership; people seek their own way; people live a life of sensuality; because they do not know God. More importantly, because God does not know them.



Why is Church Important? Or, The Trinitarian heresy of not going to church

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

We began this series with a post on the importance of the church: a number of quotations from early fathers and apologists proclaiming those outside of the church are not and cannot be saved. Then we began seeking Scriptural support for this idea. We saw that Christians must be involved with the church because the church is the body of Christ. Christians must be involved with the church because the church is the building of God. Today we see that Christians must be involved with the church because of the blessing of the Holy Spirit.

Salvation is impossible without the Trinity. While it is true that God is one and wills and accomplishes everything as one, the Bible does present Trinitarian distinctions in the accomplishment of salvation. It is impossible to adequately summarize this in one sentence, but this sentence comes as close as any: “Salvation is thought by the Father, bought by the Son, and wrought by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit actualizes contemporaneously everything the Father has planned eternally and the Son accomplished historically.

It is the Holy Spirit who immerses believers into the body of Christ and the benefits of his death and resurrection (1 Cor. 12:13; Rom 6:3-6). It is the Holy Spirit who builds believers up into the building of God (Eph. 2:22). But the Bible teaches that this building process is not something that happens apart from the efforts and service of believers themselves.

The church is a building- teaching us that in some sense we are passive and totally under the control of the Builder. But the church is also a body- teaching us in another sense that we must make a personal effort to care, nourish, and provide for it. In 1 Corinthians 12, however, Paul teaches us that even this process of self-care is made possible by God: the Father (12:6); the Son (12:5); and particularly the Spirit (12:4, 7-11). Those abilities we call spiritual gifts must be recognized as Spiritual gifts.

When a person is saved, he is sealed by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30); and he is gifted by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4-13). The purpose of these gifts of the Spirit is plain: to serve other Christians.

 1 Cor. 12:7: To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
1 Peter 4:10: As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…

So when a person is saved he receives the Holy Spirit. When he receives the Holy Spirit he is gifted by the Holy Spirit. When he is gifted by the Holy Spirit he is gifted in order to serve the church. It seems obvious that if he is gifted to serve the church he must be “in the church” to exercise that gift. The Spirit does not gift you for your benefit, but for the benefit of others. If you are not fellowshipping with others, they are not benefitting from your gift. The Bible clearly teaches what the Spirit does (gifts believers) and why he does it (to benefit other believers); so if you are not allowing other believers to benefit from your gift you are not walking in the Spirit.

Taking a step back and considering all these things, the serious nature of not attending church must be recognized for what it is: an attack on the doctrine of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit engrafts believers into the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit builds believers into the building of God. The Holy Spirit gifts believers to serve other believers. For a person to say he is a Christian but to have no interest in faithful, active, church membership is an attack on God himself. Specifically, it is an attack on the Holy Spirit and the unity of the Trinity.

The “stay-at-home” Christian proclaims that the Holy Spirit is in rebellion against the Father and Son. The Father has made complete provision for a holy temple, with all the stones perfectly joined and fit together. But the Holy Spirit is content to leave the rocks in a field. Covered by moss. Surrounded by weeds. The Son has done everything to become the Head of a body fearfully and wonderfully made to accomplish the will of God. The Spirit is content with severed ears and dismembered fingers. The Spirit is a disinterested Dr. Frankenstein with a freakish laboratory with formaldehyde-filled jars of parts. Rather than accomplishing his role of gifting believers to serve, the Spirit has become a stingy Scrooge.

The New Testament presents the actual building up of the church as the work of the Holy Spirit. So if you are able to go to church, but regularly chose not to I can see only two options:

  1. Either you do not have the Holy Spirit. In which case you are not a Christian (Rom. 8:9).
  2. Or, the Holy Spirit has decided to do his own thing. In which case the Trinity is undone.















The Trinity in Scripture: Hebrews 2:1-4 The Final Word of the Trinity

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:1-4)

The first chapter break in Hebrews is somewhat unfortunate. As we have it numbered, the first four verses of chapter 2 serve to summarize all of chapter 1. Perhaps more people would see this if they were labeled 1:15-18 rather than 2:1-4!

Hebrews 1:1-2:4 begins the book as many modern systematic theologies do: with a discussion of revelation. The first three verses make it clear that Jesus Christ is the supreme and unsurpassable Word of God. There is no clearer communication possible. In verse 4 the author transitions into a discussion of the Son’s superiority to angels. This seems a little strange: what does the Son’s superiority to angels have to do with him being God’s ultimate revelation?

The first four verses of chapter two answer that question by returning to the subject of revelation. One of the “many ways” in which God gave his word to the Old Testament prophets was through the mediation of angels (2:2; cf. Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19). This word was considered God’s word and disobedience was punishable by death. So if a word from God given by angels is so dreadfully binding, what can be said of a word that is given by God’s only Son who is himself the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature?

If death was the punishment for breaking the Old Testament law given through angels, how much more severe is the punishment for breaking the New Testament law given through the Son?

Yet, just when you think the author of Hebrews cannot impress upon us any more clearly the danger of rejecting God’s word of salvation: he does just that. This great salvation was not something that the Son just dreamed up on his own. This word of salvation was declared by the Son who preached “Repent…”; “Come unto me…”; “I am…” It was validated by the Father who proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son…” He who blackened earth at the Son’s crucifixion. He who gave new light at the Son’s rising. It is propagated by the generosity of the Holy Spirit who gives gracious gifts for the building of the church.

The Son is God’s supreme Word to mankind. But his voice is not alone. The Father testifies by wondrous works. The Spirit testifies by gracious gifts.

The Trinity has spoken.

What more can he say?