Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Work of the Holy Spirit...

Here's a summation of the wonderful work of the Holy Spirit:

The Old Testament reveals much about the Spirit’s activity in creation (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 33:6), revelation (Is. 61:1–3; Mic. 3:8), empowerment (Ex. 31:2–6; Judg. 15:14, 15; Is. 11:2), and inward renewal (Ps. 51:10–12; Ezek. 36:25–27). 

In the New Testament we clearly see the Spirit’s role  as a distinct divine Person, coequal with the Father and the Son. The Spirit’s full ministry began on Pentecost, after Jesus ascended to heaven (Acts 2:1–4). John the Baptist foretold that Jesus would baptize in the Spirit (Mark 1:8; John 1:33) as the fulfillment of a promise made in the Old Testament and repeated by Jesus (Jer. 31:31–34; Joel 2:28–32; Acts 1:4, 5). Pentecost marked the opening of the last era of world history, which will end when Christ returns.

The work of the Spirit is to glorify Jesus Christ by showing His disciples who He is (John 16:7–15) and what He means to them (Rom. 8:15–17; Gal. 4:6). The Spirit enlightens (Eph. 1:17, 18), regenerates (John 3:5–8), sanctifies (Gal. 5:16–18), and transforms (2 Cor. 3:17-18; Gal. 5:22, 23). He gives God’s people what they need to worship God & serve others – the Spirit empowers us (1 Cor. 12:4–11; Eph. 5:18).

At the time they are born again, Christians, believers in Jesus, receive the Spirit and are "baptized" in the Spirit (Acts 2:38; Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 12:13). All the gifts for life service that appear subsequently in a Christian’s life flow from this initial baptism in the Spirit, because in this baptism the sinner is united to the risen Christ. 

So, the Spirit is the dynamic power behind all of the Christian life. Gordon Fee points out this broad work of the Spirit:
“...the Spirit's major role in Paul's view of things lies with his being the absolutely essential constituent of the whole of Christian life, from beginning to end. The Spirit thus empowers ethical life in all of its dimensions — personal, corporate, and in the world. Believers in Christ, who for Paul are "Spirit people" first and foremost, are variously described as living by the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, and sowing to the Spirit ... the Spirit conforms the believer into the likeness of Christ to the glory of God. The Spirit is therefore the empowering presence of God for living the life of God in the present.” 
~ Gordon Fee, God's Empowering Presence

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Doctrine of the Trinity

As we are working through the doctrine of the Holy Spirit this January, we, rightfully so, will also be spending some time addressing and looking at the doctrine of the Trinity.

Ah yes, the Trinity. It's one the foundational beliefs of Christianity; and yet it is also one of the most difficult doctrines to understand. And man oh man, can we really botch this one up! (Here's a helpful article on the erroneous views concerning the Trinity.) Here are some ideas concerning what orthodox Christianity has historically affirmed about the doctrine of the Trinity:

The Doctrine of the Trinity:
The Trinity: God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God.
~ Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

…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.
~ excerpt from The Athanasian Creed
This creed is named after Athanasius (A.D. 293-373),
the champion of orthodoxy against Arian attacks on the doctrine of the trinity.

The basic assertion of this doctrine is that the unity of the one God is complex. The three personal “subsistences” (as they are called) are coequal and coeternal centers of self-awareness, each being “I” in relation to two who are “you” and each partaking of the full divine essence (the “stuff” of deity, if we may dare to call it that) along with the other two. They are not three roles played by one person (that is modalism), nor are they three gods in a cluster (that is tritheism); the one God (“he”) is also, and equally, “they,” and “they” are always together and always cooperating, with the Father initiating, the Son complying, and the Spirit executing the will of both, which is his will also.
~ JI Packer, Concise Theology

Orthodox Christianity is Monotheistic:
The Shema  (Deut. 6) “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

The Lord alone is Israel's God, “the only one.” Though often used to defend the internal unity of God, the Shema is mainly a statement of exclusivity. This point arises from the argument of Duet. 4:35 and the first commandment (have no other gods before me).  Deuteronomy requires Israel to observe a practical monotheism. This stands in sharp contrast to their polytheistic peer group, the Canaanites (as well as Egyptians, Moabites, etc.).

(The following are excerpts from the ESV Study Bible)

The Diversity + Unity:
As the nature of God is progressively revealed in Scripture, the one God is seen to exist eternally in three persons. These three persons share the same divine nature yet are different in role and relationship. The basic principle at the heart of God's triune being is unity and distinction, both coexisting without either being compromised. Anything that is necessarily true of God is true of Father, Son, and Spirit. They are equal in essence yet distinct in function.

Some O.T Passages on the Unity + Diversity of the Trinity:
In the beginning of the Bible, the Spirit of God is “hovering over the face of the waters” at creation (Gen. 1:2) and is elsewhere described as a personal being, possessing the attributes of God and yet distinct from Yahweh (Isa. 48:16; 61:1; 63:10).

The plurality within God is seen in the Hebrew word for God, ’Elohim, which is plural in form (though others disagree that this is significant; the word is used with singular verbs and all agree that it has a singular meaning in the OT). In addition, the use of plural pronouns when God refers to himself hints at a plurality of persons: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image’” (Gen. 1:27; cf. Gen. 3:22; 11:7; Isa. 6:8).

There are also passages in the OT that call two persons God or Lord: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your companions” (Ps. 45:6–7). David says, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool’” (Ps. 110:1). The God who is set above his companions (Ps. 45:6) and the Lord of Psalm 110:1 are recognized as Christ in the NT (Heb. 1:8, 13). Christ himself applies Psalm 110:1 to himself (Matt. 22:41–46).

Some NT Passages on the Unity & Diversity of the Trinity:
The OT glimpses of God's plurality blossom into the full picture of the Trinity in the NT, where the deity and distinct personalities of Father, Son, and Spirit function together in perfect unity and equality.

One of the clearest picture of this distinction and unity is Jesus' baptism, where the Son is anointed for his public ministry by the Spirit, descending as a dove, with the Father declaring from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:13–17). All three persons of the Trinity are present, and each one is doing something different.

The NT authors often employ a Trinitarian cadence as they write about the work of God. Prayers of blessing and descriptions of gifts within the body of Christ are Trinitarian in nature, e.g., “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14).

The persons of the Trinity are also linked in the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19–20, “baptizing them in [or into] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

There are many other passages that reveal the Trinitarian, or at least the plural, nature of God (e.g., John 14:16, 26; 16:13–15; 20:21–22; Rom. 8:9; 15:16, 30; 2 Cor. 1:21–22; Gal. 4:4–6; Eph. 2:18; 4:4–6; 1 Pet. 1:1–2; 1 John 4:2, 13–14; Jude 20–21).

Differences in roles also appear consistently in biblical testimonies concerning the relationships between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The uniform pattern of Scripture is that the Father plans, directs, and sends; the Son is sent by the Father and is subject to the Father's authority and obedient to the Father's will; and both Father and Son direct and send the Spirit, who carries out the will of both. Yet this is somehow consistent with equality in being and in attributes. The Father created through the Son (John 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16;Heb. 1:2), and the Father planned redemption and sent the Son into the world (John 3:16; Rom. 8:29; Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:3–5).  The Son obeyed the Father and accomplished redemption for us (John 4:34; 5:19; 6:38; Heb. 10:5–7; cf. Matt. 26:64; Acts 2:33; 1 Cor. 15:28; Heb. 1:3). The Father did not come to die for our sins, nor did the Holy Spirit, but that was the role of the Son. The Father and Son both send the Holy Spirit in a new way after Pentecost (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7).  These relationships existed eternally (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4; Rev. 13:8), and they provide the basis for simultaneous equality and differences in various human relationships.

Within God there is both unity and diversity: unity without uniformity, and diversity without division. The early church saw this Trinitarian balance clearly. Once again, the Athanasian Creed says:
We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity; we distinguish among the persons, but we do not divide the substance. . . . The entire three persons are co-eternal and co-equal with one another, so that . . . we worship complete unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.

This unity and diversity is at the heart of the great mystery of the Trinity. Unity without uniformity is baffling to finite minds, but the world shows different types of reflections of this principle of oneness and distinction at every turn. What is the source of the transcendent beauty in a symphony, the human body, marriage, ecosystems, the church, the human race, a delicious meal, or a perfectly executed fast break in basketball? Is it not, in large part, due to the distinct parts coming together to form a unified whole, leading to a unified result? Unity and distinction—the principle at the heart of the Trinity—can be seen in much of what makes life so rich and beautiful. Woven into the fabric of the world are multiple reflections of the One who made it with unity and distinction as the parallel qualities of its existence.

The Mystery:
God to his people will always be allusive yet intimate, mysterious yet accessible.  We see in the Scriptures how The Father, Son, and Spirit work together as one in creation, redemption, and restoration for harmony and intimacy and connectedness; but his complexity (’Elohim) will always be wondrous and mysteries leaving us in full awe of his glory and, at the same time, ever drawing us in.

Here are some recommended (and FREE) resources on the doctrine of the Trinity:

Also, here some free video teachings by RC Sproul entitled, The Mystery of the Holy Spirit:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Jesus and the Sea: A Narratological Understanding of Evil and it's Evaporation (Inside Shalom)

The Bible teaches that evil is a terrible and horrible thing, yet its time in Gods world is temporary. It is defeated by Jesus, Romans 1:4, and it is doomed to evaporation, "the sea was no more".

Grace and peace.

Jesus and the Sea

Inside Shalom is the ministry and blog site of our own John Howell.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


This creed is called the Apostles' Creed not because it was produced by the apostles themselves but because it contains a brief summary of their teachings. It sets forth their doctrine "in sublime simplicity, in unsurpassable brevity, in beautiful order, and with liturgical solemnity." In its present form it is dated no later than the fourth century. More than any other Christian creed, it may justly be called an ecumenical symbol of faith. 

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
      and born of the virgin Mary.
      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried;
      he descended to hell.
      The third day he rose again from the dead.
      He ascended to heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
      From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy catholic* (universal) church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting. Amen.
*that is, the true Christian church of all times and all places


The Nicene Creed, also called the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed, is a statement of the orthodox faith of the early Christian church in opposition to certain heresies, especially Arianism. These heresies, which disturbed the church during the fourth century, concerned the doctrine of the trinity and of the person of Christ. In its present form this creed goes back partially to the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) with additions by the Council of Constantinople (A.D. 381). It was accepted in its present form at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, but the "filioque" phrase was not added until 589. However, the creed is in substance an accurate and majestic formulation of the Nicene faith. 

We believe in one God,
      the Father almighty,
      maker of heaven and earth,
      of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
      the only Son of God,
      begotten from the Father before all ages,
           God from God,
           Light from Light,
           true God from true God,
      begotten, not made;
      of the same essence as the Father.
      Through him all things were made.
      For us and for our salvation
           he came down from heaven;
           he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
           and was made human.
           He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
           he suffered and was buried.
           The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
           He ascended to heaven
           and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
           He will come again with glory
           to judge the living and the dead.
           His kingdom will never end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the Lord, the giver of life.
      He proceeds from the Father and the Son,
      and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
      He spoke through the prophets.
      We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
      We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
      We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
      and to life in the world to come. Amen.


This creed is named after Athanasius (A.D. 293-373), the champion of orthodoxy against Arian attacks on the doctrine of the trinity. Although Athanasius did not write this creed and it is improperly named after him, the name persists because until the seventeenth century it was commonly ascribed to him.  Apart from the opening and closing sentences, this creed consists of two parts, the first setting forth the orthodox doctrine of the trinity, and the second dealing chiefly with the incarnation and the two-natures doctrine.

Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic (universal) faith.
Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.
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.
    What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has.
        The Father is uncreated,
        the Son is uncreated,
        the Holy Spirit is uncreated.
        The Father is immeasurable,
        the Son is immeasurable,
        the Holy Spirit is immeasurable.
        The Father is eternal,
        the Son is eternal,
        the Holy Spirit is eternal.
            And yet there are not three eternal beings;
            there is but one eternal being.
            So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings;
            there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being.
    Similarly, the Father is almighty,
        the Son is almighty,
        the Holy Spirit is almighty.
            Yet there are not three almighty beings;
            there is but one almighty being.
        Thus the Father is God,
        the Son is God,
        the Holy Spirit is God.
            Yet there are not three gods;
            there is but one God.
        Thus the Father is Lord,
        the Son is Lord,
        the Holy Spirit is Lord.
            Yet there are not three lords;
            there is but one Lord.
    Just as Christian truth compels us
    to confess each person individually
    as both God and Lord,
    so catholic religion forbids us
    to say that there are three gods or lords.
    The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten from anyone.
    The Son was neither made nor created;
    he was begotten from the Father alone.
    The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten;
    he proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    Accordingly there is one Father, not three fathers;
    there is one Son, not three sons;
    there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.
    Nothing in this trinity is before or after,
    nothing is greater or smaller;
    in their entirety the three persons
    are coeternal and coequal with each other.
    So in everything, as was said earlier,
    we must worship their trinity in their unity
    and their unity in their trinity.
Anyone then who desires to be saved
should think thus about the trinity.
But it is necessary for eternal salvation
that one also believe in the incarnation
of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully.
Now this is the true faith:
    That we believe and confess
    that our Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son,
    is both God and human, equally.
     He is God from the essence of the Father,
    begotten before time;
    and he is human from the essence of his mother,
    born in time;
    completely God, completely human,
    with a rational soul and human flesh;
    equal to the Father as regards divinity,
    less than the Father as regards humanity.
    Although he is God and human,
    yet Christ is not two, but one.
    He is one, however,
    not by his divinity being turned into flesh,
    but by God's taking humanity to himself.
    He is one,
    certainly not by the blending of his essence,
    but by the unity of his person.
    For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh,
    so too the one Christ is both God and human.
    He suffered for our salvation;
    he descended to hell;
    he arose from the dead;
    he ascended to heaven;
    he is seated at the Father's right hand;
    from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
    At his coming all people will arise bodily
    and give an accounting of their own deeds.
    Those who have done good will enter eternal life,
    and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.
This is the catholic (universal) faith:
one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

CREED: You Are What You Believe 2015

The Latin word, credo (from which we get our English word creed), simply means I believe. It's the first word of he Apostles' Creed - an ancient articulation of central Christian beliefs. Throughout the history of church, and in particular, throughout the early history of the church, the Christians formed and embraced creedal statements to clarify the Christian faith and to distinguish true content from error or false representations (e.g., The Apostle's Creed, The Nicene Creed, and The Athanasian Creed).

Though the creeds serve a great purpose in summarizing central Christian truth, they are not Scripture; rather, as with all good theology and sound beliefs, the ancient Christian creeds were shaped by Scripture.

What do you believe?

Everyone believes something about God, therefore everyone, in one way or another, is a theologian. The question is not whether you do theology or not, but whether or not you are good at it! And it’s not whether or not your beliefs are developing and being shaped, but whether or not your beliefs are being shaped by the right resources!

So where do you look for truth? What has and is shaping your beliefs and understanding about God?

Each January, we take some time to look into an aspect of historic Christian doctrine. And this Janaury (2015), we'll be learning about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.