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Archive for October, 2007

Guidance

39. Partake – The Christian disciple and Guidance

Solomon writing in Proverbs 3v5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

The Prophet Isaiah speaking in Isaiah 6v8: “Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”

Perhaps the most common question all Christian disciples ask at some point is: “How can I know God’s will for my life and His guidance?” There are at least three main parts about being guided, as a Christian disciple, into what is God’s will for them. These involve being controlled by the Holy Spirit, through counsel and circumstances and through making wise decisions. Of course being active in prayer and studying the Bible also play major roles, but we have already discussed those previously.

1. The Christian disciple is guided by being controlled by the Holy Spirit

So firstly, the Christian disciple is guided by being controlled by the Holy Spirit. Another way to say this is by submitting to the Spirit’s leading. Fundamental to being guided by the Spirit, is for the Christian disciple to be filled with the Spirit, or controlled by the Spirit. When the Spirit is quenched (1 Thessalonians 5v19) or grieved (Ephesians 4v30), then the Spirit no long has control of the Christian disciple. In order to allow the Spirit control, the Christian disciple needs to resubmit them self to God and do the following daily:

· The Christian disciple confesses all known sin (1 John 1v9) and accepts the assurance of being forgiven for quenching or grieving the Holy Spirit.

· The Christian disciple devotes themself to being a living sacrifice (Romans 12v1-2)

· The Christian disciple enable the Holy Spirit to convict them of sin (Psalm 139v23-24)

· The Christian disciple seeks the Holy Spirit’s divine power in order to serve Jesus Christ (Galatians 5v16; Ephesians 3v16)

Part of being controlled by the Holy Spirit, the Christian disciple is to yield to Him. Romans 6v13 and James 4v7 command this. In yielding to the Holy Spirit, the body (1 Corinthians 6v20) and mind (Romans 12v1-2) are given to Him sacrificially for the glory of Jesus Christ. Both the body and the mind are yielded, because the body activates what is conceived in the mind. It is a total dedication of all thoughts, plans and actions into God’s hands and the seeking of His divine wisdom.

 

2. The Christian disciple is guided through Counsel and Circumstances

 

Additionally to submitting to the Holy Spirit, other people and circumstances are also great helps in regards to guidance. Proverbs 24 reminds us that: “The wise are mightier than the strong, and those with knowledge grow stronger and stronger. So don’t go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers. Wisdom is too lofty for fools. Among leaders at the city gate, they have nothing to say.”

 

We may not go to war, but seeking the advice of others in trying to understand God’s guidance, plays an important role in deciding God’s will in the life of the Christian disciple. When seeking the advice of others bear in mind that the person should be a reliable, godly and faithful servant of God. As Proverbs 25v19 says “Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot”. However, the Christian disciple must also be aware that even the godliest of people make mistakes, such as Nathan the prophet when he exhorted David to construct the temple (2 Samuel 7). In the end, each Christian disciple is responsible for his or her own actions and for knowing God’s guidance for themselves.

 

Then we have circumstances, which are a great learning tool. Circumstances surround us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, Christian disciples are to live above all circumstances, yet be aware of them. Through circumstances, God often discloses his perfect will. As Paul writes in Romans 8v28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

 

Some examples of where God’s will was discovered through circumstances include:

· Abraham being asked to substitute a ram caught in a thicket for his son, Isaac (Genesis 22).

· God arranging for Pharaoh’s daughter to be bathing in the River Nile as the baby Moses floated by (Exodus 2).

· Paul’s nephew over hearing a plot to murder Paul, and then reporting it to the authorities and therefore saving Paul’s life (Acts 23).

 

Now some may sceptically claim that these are purely coincidental, but if they are, and all others like these are, its an awful lot of coincidence!

3. The Christian disciple is guided by making wise Decisions:

A great way to make wise decisions is by endeavouring to maintain a right attitude, and asking yourself the following questions:

· Have I prayed and meditating on God’s Word regarding the decision?

· Have I given every area of my life to Christ?

· Am I prepared to be obedient to God? (Proverbs 3v5-7)

· Am I willing to sacrifice my desires for God’s Will?

· Am I loving towards the other person?

· It should not control me habitually (1 Corinthians 6v12)

· Will it cause another person to sin/stumble? (1 Corinthians 8v9-13)

· Does it build Christian character? (1 Corinthians 10v23)

· Does it bring glory to God? (1 Corinthians 10v31)

· Can I thank God for this activity – could Jesus accompany me?

· If in doubt, throw it out! (Romans 14v22-23)

· Abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5v22)

For more to think about please do read Isaiah 6. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

 

Q1. Am I willing to do whatever God commands me to do?

Q2. Am I willing to be humble enough to ask other people’s advice?

Q3. Am I willing to sacrifice my desires so that God’s Will is achieved and His glory acclaimed?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. I would love to hear from you and if these are making any difference at all to your continual Christian discipleship! Thank you.

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Spiritual Gifts

38. Partake – The Christian Disciple and Spiritual Gifts

Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 12v1, 4-7 “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

When Jesus said to His apostles “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14v12), it was through the promised Holy Spirit (John 14v17), and impartment of Spiritual Gifts, that His words were fulfilled.

1. What are spiritual gifts?

Spiritual Gifts derives from the Greek word Charismata. They are also called grace gifts, which may refer to any gift God gives out of the abundance of His grace and are given to all Christians as God sees fit (1 Corinthians 12v11). There are four main passages in the New Testament regarding Spiritual Gifts. These are Romans 12v3-8; 1 Corinthians 12v1-10, 28-31; Ephesians 4v11-12 and 1 Peter 4v10-11. The lists of gifts, given in the New Testament are representative of spiritual gifts and are not to be taken as a conclusive listing. The gifts quoted in various passages of the New Testament are: “administration, apostle, discernment, evangelism, exhortation giving, faith, healing, helps, knowledge, leadership, mercy, miracles, pastor, prophecy, service, teaching, tongues, tongues interpretation, wisdom.” As Christian disciples however, Paul commands that “try to excel in gifts that build up the church.” (1 Corinthians 14v12). When the church is built up, unity will inevitably prevail. The diversity of Spiritual gifts within each local church, helps build unity.

 

2. Who has spiritual gifts?

All Christian Disciples have Spiritual Gifts, for “in his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.” (Romans 12v6). God the Holy Spirit, through His infinite wisdom, mercy and grace bestows these gifts that belong to Him, upon His servants, Christian disciples, and these gifts are to be used primarily to bring glory to Him! (1 Peter 4v11). They are opportunities for Christian disciples to serve other people. Some gifts like teaching, helping or leadership quite possibly are enhancements of natural abilities whilst others like faith, healing and miracles are from the Spirit’s empowerment alone.

 

3. The purpose of spiritual gifts?

The reason that the Holy Spirit imparts spiritual gifts to Christian disciples is so that the body of Christ is built up (Ephesians 4v12), for the common good of the church (1 Corinthians 12v7, 14v12) and “so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4v12). These three reasons signify that God wants Christian disciples to be active in service and not still like stagnant water. That is why we have been given gifts. If these gifts are not used for God’s purposes, then they are meaningless. So, what is an appropriate response by Christian disciples in relation to these gifts?

 

4. How does a Christian disciple discover their Spiritual Gifts?

As the Bible is primary to spiritual growth and understanding, the Christian disciple needs to study God’s word diligently, enhancing the relationship and building bonds. Then the Christian disciple needs to pray and ask in deep prayer and cogitation. Thirdly by asking the advice and wisdom of the leaders in the church we attend or from friends who know you well. Lastly, it is also through asking questions of your self. What do I enjoy? What am I good at? If God blesses what you are doing and it is fruitful, you may have discovered an area where your gifting lies!

 

5. Christian Disciple’s Response to Spiritual Gifts

As Christian disciples, we are dependent upon each other, just as one part of the human body has dependence on another part. That is why we serve each other and use the gifts generously given by God. As all Christian disciples have gifts, we have a responsibility to discover and develop them (1 Timothy 4v14)! God has called Christian disciples and equipped them with spiritual gifts, and they are not to be neglected! We are to discover, discern, develop and put into effect our spiritual gifts, so that God can be glorified and His church built up!

As we are not to neglect our gifts, or let other Christian disciples neglect their gifts, we are to fan the gift into flame (2 Timothy1v6). Much like blowing on embers and stirring them up will restart the flames of a fire! To do this Christian disciples are to employ the gift faithfully and by asking God to continue their development, strengthening and opportunities to use them! Seek gifts that build up others, commands Paul (1 Corinthians 14v1-12). Ask God faithfully for gifts that give opportunity for service to God and others!

For more to think about please do read Romans 12v3-8. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. What are my spiritual gifts and how did I discern what they are?

Q2. What relationship does God’s grace have to do with my spiritual gifts?

Q3. Have I ever thanked God for the spiritual gifts He gave me and asked Him to help me develop them and for opportunities to use them?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. Thank you.

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God the Holy Spirit

37. Partake – The Christian disciple and The Holy Spirit

“When the Counsellor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.” (John 15v26)

 

The Holy Spirit is God, and a member of the Trinitarian Godhead. He is spoken of as God (Acts 5v3-4; 1 Corinthians 3v16). The attributes of God are ascribed to the Holy Spirit life (Romans 8v2), truth (John 16v13) and love (Romans 15v30). It was He who spoke through the Old Testament prophets and induced godliness (Ezekiel 36), and equipped God’s leaders for service (Judges 13v25; Zechariah 4v6).

The Holy Spirit is also a Person: Some people refer to the Holy Spirit as “It”, but they are clearly wrong and in error! The Holy Spirit is always referred to as ‘He’ in the New Testament (John 16v14). He relates to us as a person for He is comforter, guide and teacher (John 14). He can be blasphemed against and be grieved (Ephesians 4v30), and wherever the Holy Spirit is, the Father and Son are also present because they are one. (John 14v18-23).

The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

What is the ministry of the Holy Spirit and what does He have to do with Christian Disciples?

1. Glorify Christ: He will glorify God the Son, Jesus Christ (John 16v13-14) He will testify for Jesus Christ (John 15v26). He will witness for Jesus Christ (Acts 1v8). This is the Spirit’s prime role, that Jesus Christ the Son of God is praised and glorified. This would intimate that the Holy Spirit is inordinately self-effacing. When Jesus was baptized and the Spirit descended upon Him, it signified that Jesus was only filled with the Spirit but was also the Spirit-giver (Luke 4v1-18). It was by the eternal Holy Spirit, that Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice (Hebrews 9v14).

2. The Paraclete – Comforter: He is one called to stand alongside (John 14v16). Jesus said it would be better for Him to go away and send the Holy Spirit to live in us (John 16v7). The Holy Spirit ministers to us all that Jesus would be to us if He were here in person.

Declares God’s Word:

The Holy Spirit has a prime role in revelation. It was he that spoke through the prophets (Ezekiel 2v2) and it was He who inspired the Bible, God’s Word (2 Peter 1v21). Further to this, the Holy Spirit interprets and illuminates God’s Word (John 16v12-15; 1 Corinthians 2v10-16) to people! Without the role of the Holy Spirit, the Bible would simply be another book.

4. Conviction: The Holy Spirit is sent to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16v8)

5. Salvation: Christian disciples are born of the Holy Spirit and are known as regenerated (John 3v3-8)

6. Indwelling: God lives inside each Christian disciple through the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, a person cannot be a Christian disciple (Romans 8v9; Gal 2v20; Colossians 1v25-27)

7. Sealing / Ownership: The Holy Spirit indwelling the Christian disciple is assured proof of being God’s possession (2 Corinthians 1v22; Ephesians 1v3)

8. Security: The Holy Spirit is a deposit, guaranteeing our future redemption, salvation and inheritance (Ephesians 1v13; 2 Corinthians 1v22).

9. Filling: This speaks of the Holy Spirit’s control or domination of our lives. We cannot have more or less of the Holy Spirit, because He is a person. The imperative thing is rather how much the Holy Spirit has of the Christian disciple! As Christian disciples, we are to be continually filled (Ephesians 5v18), and this is meant to be our normal state. He gives power to enable Christian disciples to evangelise (Acts 1v8; 4v8, 31)

10. Sanctification: The Holy Spirit transforms us into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 7-18). As we walk and live in the Spirit, led by the Spirit (Galatians. 5v16; Romans 8v13), the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”, is produced in the life of the Christian disciple (Galatians. 5v22-23).

11. Baptism: This expression occurs 7 times in the New Testament.

· 4 times in the gospels, referring to Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Acts 1v5 referring to Jesus baptism with Holy Spirit and fire. Acts 11v16 shows that Cornelius was an example of being baptized with Holy Spirit, just like the Disciples at Pentecost.

1 Corinthians 12v13 states that we are all baptized with the Holy Spirit into one body. This takes place at conversion.

Some suggest however, that this is a secondary experience to gain power for service, and based on John 20v20 ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ records the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 Pentecost is baptism of spiritual power. ; Acts 19v4-7 records the receiving of Holy Spirit for believers.

However, we should consider the following –

· Jesus’ words in John 16v7 makes it clear that the Holy Spirit would not come to dwell in believers until Jesus Christ returned to the Father. Pentecost is therefore the arrival of the Holy Spirit for the first time, not a secondary experience.

· Gift of the Spirit = Baptism of the Spirit (Acts 1v4-5). “Repent… and you will receive the gift (or baptism) of the Spirit, and it is therefore not conditional (Acts 2v38).

· The Samaritans (Acts 8v14-17): this instance seems to suggest believers can receive the Holy Spirit after conversion. However, they received the person of the Holy Spirit, as a Samaritan ‘Pentecost’, proving to the Jews that God would indwell the Samaritan’s. There were no Samaritans at Pentecost.

· Cornelius (Acts 11): His ‘baptism of the Spirit’, was at his conversion.

· Ephesians (Acts 19v1-7): The ‘disciples’ were disciples of John the Baptist, not Jesus. They were corrected, converted and received the Holy Spirit.

God may still give signs for those who need them, but God prefers faith to signs. (John 14v11, 20, 29). Needless to say, that God still uses people on both sides of the debate – but then He can also use donkeys to do His bidding as well.

12. Service: The Holy Spirit equips us for service. God is working in you to will and to act accordingly to his purpose (Phil. 2v13), to be my witnesses (Acts 1v8).

How is the Spirit seen? For all the supposed miracles and healings, these are not the prima facie evidence for the work of the Holy Spirit. All those things can be counterfeited by satan (2 Thessalonians 2v9; Colossians 2v18). That is not to say that miracles and healings by God don’t occur, just that its not the main evidence of His work. The best and most assured signs are that Jesus is glorified, acknowledged, trusted and served. The Spirit’s work is in evidence, where people’s lives become more holy and more like Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12v3; 2 Corinthians 13v7).

How does the Holy Spirit equip Christian Disciples for Service? Through the giving of spiritual gifts, and that is what I hope to discuss next time.

For more to think about please do read 1 Corinthians 12v1-10. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

 

Q1. What are my spiritual gifts and am I using them for God’s glory or my own?

Q2. How do I give more of myself to the Holy Spirit?

Q3. How can I as a Christian disciple make the Holy Spirit more active and visible to others?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. Thank you.

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Graduated at last!

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Graduation, originally uploaded by emptybelly.

Graduation 2007
BA Theology (Honours)


For anybody interested in perusing my dissertation, here are two links. If it isnt available on one, it will be on the other. It is in Adobe PDF format only, unless you request another format…:


Is Virtual Church Part of the historical Church – An analysis of the Virtual Church

Is Virtual Church Part of the historical Church – An analysis of the Virtual Church

God the Son

36. Partake – The Christian disciple and God the Son

Speaking about Jesus Christ, the Apostle John writes: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning… No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (John 1v1, 18)

· By becoming a man, He humbled Himself (Philippians 2v8)

· To confirm God’s promises (Genesis 3v15).

· To reveal the Father (John 1v18, 14v9)

· To become our high priest (Hebrews 8v1).

· To become our representative before God (1 John 2v1).

· To destroy all the works of satan (1 John 3v8, Hebrews 2v14)

· To give an example of a holy life (1 Peter 2v21, 1 John 1v6)

· To prepare for the redemption of all creation (1 John 2v2)

In this way, God himself has taken on the responsibility for our sins. Jesus, the Son of God, bore our sins on the cross, becoming sin for us, even though he was himself, sinless. By doing this, we are drawn to him in a personal way. God has shown that he loves us and wants us in a relationship with himself. Through Jesus, God has bridged the gap between the supernatural and the natural, the infinite and the finite, to show us what He is like. Jesus as God in person gives humanity a focal point to respond to. God does not compel us to love Him, but invites all to a dynamic relationship with Him. If Jesus were not God, then he would be part of the problem and therefore need to be redeemed himself! This is an untenable proposition. Jesus whilst being fully God, didn’t lose any of that divinity when he became human. Instead of losing anything, Jesus gained humanity. This divine and human nature unity is called ‘hypostatic union‘.

1. The Incarnate Of God

His full glory was hidden (John 17v6). He lived on the resources of his Father (John 5v19-20 & 30, 14v10). He emptied Himself (Philippians 2v5-7) and this process is called ‘kenosis’.

· Surrendered the relative divine attributes (e.g. omnipotence) –>> tends to deny Jesus’ deity.

· He gave up all of the divine attributes. —>> Rejects outright Jesus’ deity.

He was made like us (Philippians 2v7). God the Son, The Word, Jesus Christ became flesh (John 1v4).

2. The Humanity of Christ

He was fully human and explicitly called a man (John 8v40; 1 Timothy 2v5). He was born of a woman (Galatians 4v4), so at least in a prenatal state he was nurtured and formed as any other male baby was and is. With his humanity, he exhibited normal human emotions such as love, weeping, sadness, anger and anguish. Jesus ate and drank. He had a body and a soul (Matthew 26v26-38). Jesus grew tired. He slept and perspired. He had human experiences – temptations (Hebrews 2v18); hunger (Matthew 4v12). Jesus died just as all mortal people do. Religiously, he worshipped as a Jew. He was human in every way that we are – physically, mentally and emotionally.

The only exception to this is that He was sinless (2 Corinthians 5v21; Hebrews 2v26). He was the Son of Man and Son of God and did not inherit the carnal nature that all humans have.

But why did Jesus need to fully human? Firstly, so Jesus death could appease God’s anger with us. Secondly so that Jesus can empathize and pray for us. Thirdly, Jesus exhibited true and perfect humanity. Fourthly, due to his perfect humanity, Jesus is to be our example to follow. Fifthly, while God is both above and beyond, the incarnation He is not so far removed from us, that He cannot interact with his creation.

One of the church father’s, Anselm, wrote that God’s salvation plan for humanity involved triumphant victory over sin, death and the grave. However no person could be found that was eligible or capable to do this. Because of this, God stepped into the human history, so that this victory could be achieved. This God-man would be fully human, so as to live every feature of humanity, including suffering and death. This God-man would also need to remain fully God, so as to defeat sin, death and the grave. Jesus, being sinless, was this God-man, consisting as he did of two complete natures, the God nature and the human nature.

3. The Deity Of Christ

·Jesus is expressly called God – (John 1v1) The Word was God; (John 1v14) The Word became flesh; (John 1v18) The only begotten God; (John 20v28) My Lord and my God as declared by Thomas; (Titus 2v13) Our great God and Saviour, Jesus; (Romans 9v 5) Christ who is God overall; (Hebrews 1v 8) About the Son, He says ‘Your throne O God is forever and ever…’; (1 John 5v20) Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

·Old Testament description of God was applied to Jesus. (Matthew 3v3) ‘Prepare ye the way of Jehovah’

·He possessed the attributes of God – (John 14v6) Life; (John 8v58) Eternal; (John 14v6) Truth

·The works of God were ascribed to Him – (Col 1v16) Creation; (John 20v28; 5v23) Receives honour worship and glory belonging to God.

· Jesus had equality with God – (John 10v30, 33) I and the Father are One; John 5v18) Making Himself equal with God; (Philippians 2v6) In His very nature God; (1 Timothy 6v15) King of Kings and Lord of Lords – God; (Revelations 19v16) King of Kings and Lord of Lords – Christ; (Isaiah 44v6; Revelations 1v8) – Alpha and Omega – God; (Revelations 22v13-16) – Alpha and Omega – Christ; (John 8v58) Before Abraham was I AM

4. Major Historical Heresies Concerning The Person of Christ

· Ebionite – Jewish heresy. Jesus was a man who received divine power at His baptism.

· Docetist – believed that the material world was evil (Common Greek & Eastern idea). So Jesus could not have had a real body, He only appeared to be human, denying His deity.

· Arian – 4th Century. Arius taught that Christ was a created being, trying to explain the idea of Christ being the ‘firstborn’ or ‘begotten’. Denied the deity of Christ

· Apollinarian – taught that Christ had a human body and soul, but that His spirit was divine. Denies the humanity of Christ.

· Nestorian – 5th Century. Denied the union of the divine and human natures in Christ. Christ became 2 people (man and God) in one body.

· Eutychian – 5th Century. Mixed divine and human natures to create a third type of person. The human nature was absorbed into the divine.

For more to think about please do read John 14v5-14. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. How does Jesus’ relationship with the Father, reflect my relationship with God?

Q2. How as a Christian disciple, do I explain to others about how to get to know God the Father?

Q3. How did Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, reflect the Trinitarian relationship between Father and Son?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. Thank you.

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God the Father

35. Partake – The Christian disciple and God the Father

“Are we not all children of the same Father? Are we not all created by the same God?” (Malachi 2v10)

The defining function of the Father is that He is the Almighty who intervenes, sustains and provides. This Father God is the God of Israel who did new things in His own timing for them, that they themselves could not do. At just the right time, He gave His only begotten Son. This Almighty Father can and will do all that He intends.

In the Old Testament, there was a concept whereby the King of Israel was thought of as a son of God, and therefore God was a Father (Psalm 2). This however was more as a national identity rather than a personal relationship between the individual and God. Hosea 11v1 states that “when Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt”, shows that the concept of God as Father was not entirely new by the time Jesus said to call God as Father.

The Father of All Creation

As all of humanity is made in the image of God, the Fatherhood of God must apply to all humanity. God is the Father of our Spirits (Hebrews 12v9). God as Father is also the one who maintain life and He cares for each of person (Matthew 18v10) and wants everyone to be in His kingdom (Luke18v16). Even when people reject Him, He still cares for them, not wanting any to perish. Jesus when teaching on prayer, said to call God, Father! By calling him Father that means that God is a personal God! He loves all of His creation and He sustains it! He wants them in a relationship with Him!

From when Jesus as a twelve year old proclaimed he was about His Father’s business, to the agonising prayer of John 17 and on to the last words uttered during extreme agony on the cross, Jesus recognised God as Father when he cried out “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23v46). Whatever Jesus did, who He is and what He does now, is based on the relationship with His Father. He is the Son, the Word of God who God the Father spoke, creates and bears (John 1). The words Jesus spoke were those He heard from the Father. The actions Jesus did were those He saw the Father doing (John 5v19). It is the Father that will decide when time will end!

The Father of Christian disciples

God is a Father of all Christian disciples in a way different from those who have maintained a rejection of Him. God is Father only because Jesus Christ was the Son of God (Romans 8v17; Hebrews 2v17). Because of this, Christian disciples have new life (John 3v3) and a new family (Hebrews 13v1)! Christian disciples have been adopted as heirs and as children (John 1v12). Paul in Galatians 4 states that is why God sent His son Jesus Christ – so that Christian disciples could no longer be slaves to sin, but children of righteousness an have God the Spirit dwell within them! This new life means Christian disciples have available to them the partaking of the Father’s nature! 2 Peter 1v3-4 states “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvellous glory and excellence. And because of His glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” When was the last time you as a Christian disciple asked God to keep His promises made concerning you? As well as this, the Father both cares for His children (Matthew 6v32) and disciplines His children (Hebrews 12v6-8). God disciplines His children and “It is painful.” (Hebrews 12v11) Therefore if we are Christians, and we have non-repented and habitual sin, God will discipline (Hebrews 12v10). If we sin and are not disciplined, then we are not His children (Hebrews 12v8).

Christian disciples have this new and new family because we have a new standing before Him, through our belief in His Son, Jesus Christ! While all humanity are His offspring (Acts 17v28-29), Christian disciples are more! Christian disciples are sons and daughters of the living God, and His heirs (Romans 8v17)! Whereas those of humanity, who continue to reject Him, are still under His condemnation before Him as Judge (Revelation 20v11), the Christian disciple is free from condemnation and has the legal status and privilege of being called His sons and daughters! That is one reason we are to tell others about this God we serve! Christian disciples are no longer separated from the love of God, and never can be (Romans 8v39). We may forsake Him, but the Father never forsakes us.

That we are call God, Father when we pray, signifies that the God we serve as Christian disciples, calls us into relationship and that He is personal. When we pray, we are to be intimate with Him, as a child with their earthly father.

For more to think about please do read Romans 8v12-25. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

 

Q1. Why can only Christian disciples call God, “Father”?

Q2. How as co-heirs with Christ, are we to react to sufferings?

Q3. How can we as Christian disciples, “wait patiently”?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. I would love to hear from you and if these are making any difference at all to your continual Christian discipleship! Thank you.

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Trinity

34. Partake – The Christian disciple and the Trinity

Jesus speaking: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” John 14v15-17

What kind of God offers salvation? A personal God! Now a God who is personal, must be capable of having and sustaining relationships. A God who sustains relationships will also want to be known! We know that God is spirit, yet also a personal and infinite being (John 4v24). He is one in substance or nature and incapable of being divided “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.(Deuteronomy 6v4) yet also as we shall see, three co-equal and eternally existing persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We can say for certain however, that the inter-Trinitarian life of God is a mystery beyond our mortal comprehension, experience and language.

Having said that, the word that the Church historically has come to define the God-head is ‘Trinity’. The actual word “Trinity” does not exist in the Bible! Does that surprise you? The word “Trinity” or “Tri-unity” actually derives from the Latin word “Trinitas,” which is defined, as “three are one “or” the property of occurring three at once”. Whilst the word doesn’t appear, the principal behind it, most assuredly does! The Trinity is God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Opponents of this doctrine say that it is actually 3 gods, but that would be to say the Trinity is one plus one plus one and therefore equalling three… However the Trinity is 3 persons in one God, which is one multiplied by one multiplied by one equalling one.

There are principally two main errors when thinking about the Trinity. One is that the three names, Father, Son and Spirit are simply three different designations of the one God. The other is that God the Father is the true God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are somehow inferior, and therefore not strictly God.

Whilst there are no explicit Scripture texts using the word trinity, the concept is explicit throughout Scripture. In the Old Testament “God said, Let us create…” (Genesis 1v26) and “Sovereign Lord, Spirit and Redeemer” (Isaiah 48v16). In the New Testament, at Jesus’ baptism the three persons of the Godhead were represented (Matthew 3v13-17); also in the Great commission “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28v19). Elsewhere baptism is to be in ‘the singular name, of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and not ‘the names (plural). God is One “and there is no other but Him” (Mark 12v32); and it is also in the Paul-ine Grace “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13v14). The Lord Jesus also impressed upon the Twelve Apostles the distinction between the Father and Himself, and clearly taught about the Holy Spirit as being distinct yet again.

Indivisible – There is in God, one indivisible essence or substance of which God is made. God is expressed in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In each of these belongs the whole undivided essence of God. The totality of God exists in the Father, also in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. Each member of the Trinity is self-conscious and self-directing. The three members never act in opposition to any other member, but always in union and harmony.

Precession – This endeavours to describe the relationship within the Godhead. The members of the Godhead are co-equal and co-eternal. However, there is an order of succession in their relationship but this does not imply superiority & inferiority. The Son is begotten of the Father (John 3v16) and does the Fathers Will. Both the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.” (John 15v26).

Relationship – There is a communal honour between the Trinity Persons (John 15v26; 16v13-15; 17v1, 8,18,23). In the work of redemption or salvation, there is a co-ordination in the Triune Godhead (Hebrews 10v7-17; Ephesians 4v4-6; 1 Corinthians 12v4-6). The Father ‘elects’ (Ephesians 1v4); The Son ‘redeems (Ephesians 1v7); and the Holy Spirit ‘seals’ (Ephesians 1v13-14). Between the three Persons, there is an eternal unison in active purpose and yet seemingly external distinctive between the Three members of the Triune Godhead.

This Godhead Trinity, with its inherent qualities of relationship shows that God is indeed love, and the work of salvation is an act of love from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. If God was not a Trinity, then how could love possibly be shown, as love requires more than one Person for it to be active? As a Trinitarian being, love is an endemic quality of the Godhead. The Father loves the Son and the Spirit. The Son loves the Father and the Spirit. The Spirit loves the Father and the Son. The God we serve as Christian disciples exhibits love and this God commands us, to love one another so that He will be seen (John 13v34-25). By showing love, we reflect the Trinitarian God, in whose image we are made.

For more to think about please do read Ephesians 1v3-14. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. How can the inter-relational aspects seen in the Trinity, be an encouragement to me?

Q2. How does each member of the Trinity individually help me?

Q3. How can I be thankful that I serve a God who is love, and knows love intimately?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. I would love to hear from you and if these are making any difference at all to your continual Christian discipleship! Thank you.

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