God is a Trinity

Today I’m sharing another of John MacArthur’s “God Is” posts from his Grace to You blog. You can read God Is here, God Is One here, and God Is Spirit here.

God is a Trinity

by John MacArthur

Why does the doctrine of the Trinity matter to us today? And why have so many great Christians throughout church history fought so tenaciously in defending it? The answer is fundamentally rooted in one critical question: Do we know God?

Jesus said that knowing God is synonymous with having eternal life (John 17:3). And if we define Him on any terms other than how He has defined Himself in Scripture, we are nothing more than idolaters. That is why sects like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are regarded as cults. To inherit eternal life, we need to know God as He truly is. And the biblical testimony is clear: There is one God. He eternally exists in three persons. And all three persons are each fully God.

To put it another way, God is three distinct persons in one indivisible substance. In the words of the Athanasian Creed,

The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three Gods but one God. [1]

And in this Trinity none is before or after another; but the whole three persons are co-eternal together and co-equal. So that in all things, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. [2]

The simplest way to comprehend the Trinity is to read the Bible from the beginning to the end. The word for God in Genesis 1 is “Elohim.” It is plural. The im ending on a noun in Hebrew is like s in English. The opening words of Genesis could be translated, “In the beginning, Gods.” The word-form of the noun is plural, and yet the reference is to a singular being. The description of God throughout the Old Testament is clearly to a singular being. The verb that goes with Elohim in Genesis 1:1 is likewise singular.

The benediction God gave Moses for the priests to use seems to allude to the Trinity. Three times they were to invoke the blessing of the Lord. Numbers 6:24–26 records it: “The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.” The threefold appeal to “the Lord” suggests the Trinity. The seraphim Isaiah saw and described in Isaiah 6 cried to one another with this threefold exclamation: “Holy, Holy, Holy” (Isaiah 6:3). Again, it seems to be an allusion to the Trinitarian nature of God.

One of the clearest Old Testament references to the Trinity is Isaiah 48:16, a prophetic verse spoken by Jesus Christ. It puts all three members of the Godhead together in one verse: “And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.”

Repeatedly the New Testament refers to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together in the same passage, on the same level. In Matthew 3 we are told that as Jesus was being baptized, the Holy Spirit descended as a dove, and the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well–pleased” (Matthew 3:17). In John 14:16–17, Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper . . . that is the Spirit of truth.” Jesus told His disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God” (1 Corinthians 12:4–6). The final verse of 2 Corinthians says, “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 13:14). First Peter 1:2 says that believers are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood.”

God is one, yet He is three.

Read the rest here.

God is Spirit

Today I’m sharing another of John MacArthur’s “God Is” posts from his Grace to You blog. You can read God Is here and God Is One here.

God is Spirit

by John MacArthur

Every form of unbelief is just another version of idolatry. Even atheists refute themselves by voicing hatred for the God they deny. Creation is proof of a Creator, but those who do not acknowledge the God of the Bible often imagine it was the work of some nebulous, distant, and uncaring superpower. Like the Deists who picture God as a great clockmaker, who wound up His creation and then left it to itself, unbelievers—some of whom are professing Christians—go through life hoping this impersonal cosmic force will ultimately work in their favor.

But the true and living God isn’t distant, uncaring, or impersonal. Our attributes of emotion, intellect, and will did not just happen—God made us in His image. He has revealed Himself in the Bible to be a person. The Bible uses personal titles to describe Him. He is called Father. He is pictured as a shepherd. He is called a brother, a friend, a counselor. Scripture uses personal pronouns to refer to Him.

We know God is a person because He thinks, acts, feels, speaks, and communicates. All the evidence of creation, all the evidence of the Scriptures, indicates that He is a person.

Yet He is also a spirit. He does not exist in a body that can be touched and seen like our bodies. Jesus said, “A spirit does not have flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). He also pointed out that an understanding of these basic realities is essential to acceptable worship: “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

The spirituality of God means He cannot be reduced either to a physical image or a theological abstract. He is a personal spirit, and He must be worshiped in the fullness of the infinity of His eternal being. Isaiah 40:18–26 explains the concept:

To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him? As for the idol, a craftsman casts it, a goldsmith plates it with gold, and a silversmith fashions chains of silver. He who is too impoverished for such an offering selects a tree that does not rot; he seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman to prepare an idol that will not totter.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown, scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, but He merely blows on them, and they wither, and the storm carries them away like stubble. “To whom then will you liken Me, that I should be his equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.

In other words, if you try to reduce God to something other than a spirit, something that can be seen and touched, what are you going to make to represent Him? 

Read the rest here.

God is One

Today I’m sharing another of John MacArthur’s “God Is” posts from his Grace to You blog. You can read God Is here.

God Is One

by John MacArthur

There is only one true God, and He demands exclusive worship. That is the essence of the first commandment God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. It is also the unshakable and unchanging truth about God from eternity past to eternity future.

Deuteronomy 6:4–5 points to the oneness and exclusivity of God as the essence of His law: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” The truth that there is one God was fundamental to the Hebrew identity and distinctive of the Israelite nation. The Israelites, living in the midst of dozens of polytheistic cultures, were saying, “There is only one God.” Although they had initially become a nation while living among the Egyptians (whose proliferation of false gods was carried to preposterous extremes) they had held to their faith in Yahweh as the one true God. God had revealed Himself to them as one God, and any Israelite who dared to worship another god was put to death.

Jesus affirmed the importance of God’s singularity. In Mark 12, a scribe asked Him what was the greatest of the commandments and Christ, without hesitation, echoed Deuteronomy 6:4–5, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength’” (Mark 12:29–30). Without denying His own deity, and yet at the same time acknowledging that there is only one God, Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to give total allegiance with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength to the one true God.

The Father and the Son Are One

In John 10:30, Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” That is a claim of absolute equality with God; yet at the same time it is a reaffirmation that there is but one God.

Paul emphasized the unity and equality of the Father and the Son in his first epistle to the Corinthians. The Corinthians were living in a typically pagan polytheistic society. Idols were everywhere in the city, and those who worshiped them would bring offerings of food. The priests of the idols’ temples operated food markets, where they sold the uneaten food that had been offered to the idols. Some believers were buying that food, perhaps because they could get it for a much better price than the food at commercial markets.

Christians who had been saved out of pagan worship were troubled over those who were eating food that had been offered to idols. They would go over for dinner and then refuse to eat if they found out the food had come from idol offerings. It was causing serious problems in their fellowship, and Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 8 to resolve the issue. Verse 4 sums up his teaching: “Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4) An idol isn’t anything. If food offered to idols is the best bargain in town, get it. Eat it. It isn’t going to make a bit of difference, spiritually. An idol is nothing. And there is no other God but one.

Read the rest here.

God Is

Today I’m sharing from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

God Is

by John MacArthur

“If God is real, why doesn’t He show Himself to me?” “Where is the evidence of God’s existence?” “I need proof of God—where’s the proof?” We’ve all heard those questions—or perhaps more precisely, objections—before. But we should never be intimidated by them. Rather, we ought to follow the pattern Scripture lays out.

The Bible presupposes, rather than proves, God’s existence. Scripture says this about God in Psalm 90:2: “Before the mountains were born, or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” That is a classic doctrinal affirmation about God. It tells us that God is the only God: “You are God.” It tells us that God is the eternal God: “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” It tells us that God is the Creator God: “You gave birth to the earth and the world.”

As Christians we accept one foundational truth—God. Then everything else makes sense. An atheist denies God and has to accept incredible explanations for everything else. It takes more faith to deny God than to believe in Him.

Theologians give several arguments for the existence of God. Logic can’t prove God’s existence, but it clearly shows us that there is more reason to believe in God than there is not to believe in Him.

External Proof

One logical reason to accept the existence of God is the teleological argument. That comes from the Greek word teleos, which means “perfect result,” “end,” or “finish.” Something that is completed and perfected shows evidence of a maker. Design implies a designer. Take your watch apart and put all the pieces in your pocket. You will shake your leg a long time before you will ever hear the watch tick. When something works, someone made it work. If you see a piano, you don’t assume that an elephant ran into a tree where someone was sitting on a branch playing a harp, and all the ivory, wood, and strings fell together and became a piano. The teleological argument says that the order in the universe is evidence that a supreme intelligence, God, created it.

A second argument for God is the aesthetic argument. It claims that because there is beauty and truth there has to be, somewhere in the universe, a standard on which beauty and truth are based.

The volitional argument says that because the human creature faces a myriad of choices and has the ability to make willful decisions, there must be somewhere an infinite will, and the world must be the expression of that will.

The moral argument says that the very fact we know there is right and wrong suggests the necessity of an absolute standard. If anything is right and anything is wrong, somewhere there is Someone who determines which is which.

The cosmological argument is the argument of cause and effect. It concludes that someone made the universe because every effect must be traceable to a cause. The cause of infinity must be infinite. The cause of endless time must be eternal. The cause of power must be omnipotent. The cause of limitless space must be omnipresent. The cause of knowledge must be omniscient. The cause of personality must be personal. The cause of feeling must be emotional. The cause of will must be volitional. The cause of ethical values must be moral. The cause of spiritual values must be spiritual. The cause of beauty must be aesthetic. The cause of righteousness must be holy. The cause of justice must be just. The cause of love must be loving. The cause of life must be living.

Read the rest here.

The Heart of God’s Character

Today I’m sharing from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

The Heart of God’s Character

by John MacArthur

God is love.

That statement doesn’t only reflect popular modern sentiment. It is actually a direct quote from God’s Word—1 John 4:8, to be precise. But in what sense is it true?

There are many ways to misunderstand John’s meaning. In fact, 1 John 4:8 seems a particular favorite of cultists. All kinds of false sects from Christian Science to the Children of God have misapplied this verse to support wildly heretical notions—the former using it to portray “God as divine Principle, Love, rather than personality” [1]; and the latter using it to justify sexual promiscuity. [2] It is important that we understand and reject not only those doctrines, but also the false ideas on which they are based, lest we be led astray in our own thinking.

First, the expression “God is love” is not meant to depersonalize God or portray Him as a force, a sensation, a principle, or some sort of cosmic energy. He is a personal being with all the attributes of personality—volition, feeling, and intellect. In fact, what the apostle is saying is that God’s love is the highest expression of His person. Therefore, to use this text to attempt to depersonalize God is to do great violence to the clear meaning of Scripture. Such an interpretation actually turns this text on its head.

Second, this verse by no means identifies God with everything our society labels love. Gordon Clark wrote, “John is not saying that all sorts of emotions called love are from God. The romanticism of Goethe, and much more the present sexual debauchery, are not from God.” [3] In fact, those who cite this verse to attempt to legitimize illicit forms of “love” are about as far from the apostle’s intent as it is possible to get. The love of which he speaks is a pure and holy love, consistent with all the divine attributes.

Third, this is not meant to be a definition of God or a summary of His attributes. Divine love in no way minimizes or nullifies God’s other attributes—His omniscience, His omnipotence, His omnipresence, His immutability, His lordship, His righteousness, His wrath against sin, or any of His glorious perfections. Deny any one of them, and you have denied the God of Scripture.

There is certainly more to God than love. Similar expressions elsewhere in Scripture demonstrate this. For example, the same apostle who penned these words also wrote, “God is spirit” (John 4:24). Scripture also says, “God is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29). And Psalm 7:11 says, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day.” The simple statement “God is love” obviously does not convey everything that can be known about God. We know from Scripture that He is also holy and righteous and true to His Word. God’s love does not contradict His holiness; instead, it complements and magnifies it and gives it its deepest meaning. So we cannot isolate this one phrase from the rest of Scripture and attempt to make love represent the sum of what we know about God.

Notice, by the way, that this phrase “God is love” is not even the only such statement in John’s first epistle.

Read the rest here.

Is God Ever Unjust?

Today I’m sharing from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

Is God Ever Unjust?

by John MacArthur

Have you ever considered the stark contrast between Judas Iscariot and the thief on the cross? One was a close disciple of Jesus Christ and gave three years of his life to the best, most intensive religious instruction available anywhere. But he lost his soul forever. The other was a hardened, lifelong criminal who was still mocking everything holy while being put to death for his crimes. But he went straight to paradise forever.

The difference in the two men could hardly be more pronounced—nor could the endings to their respective life stories be more surprising. Judas was a disciple in Christ’s closest circle of twelve. He preached, evangelized, ministered, and was even given power “over all the demons and to heal diseases” (Luke 9:1). He seemed like a model disciple. When Jesus predicted that one of the twelve would betray Him, no one pointed the finger of suspicion at Judas. He was so thoroughly trusted by the other disciples that they had made him their treasurer (John 13:29). They evidently saw nothing in his character or attitude that seemed questionable, much less diabolical. But he betrayed Christ, ended his own miserable life by suicide, and entered into eternal damnation laden with horrific guilt. Christ’s words about him in Mark 14:21 are chilling: “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

The thief on the cross, on the other hand, was a career criminal—a serious enough villain that he had been sentenced to die by the slowest, most painful form of capital punishment known to man. He’s called a robber in Matthew 27:38—the Greek word there speaks of a brigand or a highwayman. He was crucified with a partner—both had been slated to be executed along with Barabbas, an insurrectionist and killer (Luke 23:18–19). All of that indicates that the thief on the cross was part of a gang of cutthroat ruffians who stole by violence and lived by no law but their own passions. He was clearly vicious, mean-spirited, and aggressive because in the early hours of the crucifixion, both he and his cohort in crime were taunting and reviling Jesus along with the mocking crowd (Matthew 27:44).

But as that thief watched Jesus die silently—“oppressed . . . afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7)—the hardened criminal had a remarkable last-minute change of heart. Literally in the dying moments of his wretched earthly life, he confessed his sin (Luke 23:41), uttered a simple prayer: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42)—and was ushered that very day into paradise (Luke 23:43), clothed in perfect righteousness, all his guilt borne and paid for in full by Christ.

Apparent Injustice

Those who think heaven is a reward for doing good might protest that this was throwing justice out the window. The thief had done nothing whatsoever to merit heaven. If it’s possible to forgive such a man so completely in the dying moments of a wretched life filled with gross sin, wouldn’t it also be proper for Judas’s one act of treachery to be canceled (or mitigated) on the basis of whatever good works he had done while following Christ for three years? People do occasionally raise questions like that. The Internet is dotted with comments and articles suggesting Judas was dealt with unfairly or judged too harshly.

Judas himself seemed to be the type of person who kept score on such matters. He protested, for example, when Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with a costly fragrance. He knew the precise value of the ointment (equal to a year’s wages), and he complained, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” (John 12:5). He no doubt would have thought that the grace Jesus showed the thief was inappropriately extravagant as well.

People who have devoted their lives to religion do sometimes seem to resent it when God reaches out and graciously redeems someone whom they deem unworthy of divine favor.

Justice vs. Grace?

What we have to bear in mind is that all people are totally unworthy. No one deserves God’s favor. We are all guilty sinners who deserve nothing less than damnation. No one who has sinned has any rightful claim on the kindness of God.

Read the rest here.

Rekindling Your Love for Christ

Thank you all for bearing with me during my short hiatus. I am feeling a lot better now and will share more about that in a future post. Today I’m sharing an excellent post from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

Rekindling Your Love for Christ

by John MacArthur

As we begin this new year, before we get back into our study of the gospel of Luke, which we will commence again next Sunday, along with our series on doctrine next Sunday night, I want to talk to you just personally and pastorally a little bit. Last Sunday I spoke on 1 Corinthians chapter 10, on the danger of spiritual privilege, from the verse, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” How that those who are singularly blessed can become smug about that blessing and thinking they’re firm in their stand can be headed for a serious collapse. I want to follow up on that same perspective today, because I feel like part of the ministry that I must discharge before the Lord, and you, is a ministry of warning about danger.

Our church is not in particular danger from some dominating iniquity. It is not in particular danger from some infiltrating heresy. It is not in danger from some loss of resources financially or human. Everything you can see on the surface looks to be good. And we would have every reason to think that we stand, and still be on the brink of a fall. And following that idea up a little bit, we have to go to the real core of what it means to be a Christian. And I, from my perspective, believe that the church in our day is completely losing this simple perspective. I think the Christian life is essentially a simple thing to understand. It is a life of loving Jesus Christ. I know that sounds probably pretty basic, and indeed it is, but just that simple statement has been lost to us.

The Christian life is best defined as an ongoing relationship of love between the believer and Christ. We don’t need to talk about His love for us. That’s fixed. The issue is our love for Christ. Evangelical Christianity has all but lost this perspective on the Christian life. Most people have the idea that the Christian life is about how much God loves me and wants to fulfill my dreams and my desires and my ambitions and my goals and my objectives. And what He wants to do is make something wonderful out of me and life me up and elevate me and fulfill all the hopes of my heart. It’s more about God loving me so much that He wants to do all of this than it is about me loving Him.

But in reality, the Christian life is about loving Christ. It is about loving Him singularly. It is about loving Him totally. It is about loving Him sacrificially. It is about loving Him obediently. It is about loving Him worshipfully. It is about loving Him in terms of service. It really is about loving Jesus Christ. That’s what it means to be a Christian. It’s that you now commit your life to loving Him.

Now if you understand the Old Testament, the great commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the sum of all that God requires, and your neighbor as yourself. But it starts with loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, which is just a way of saying loving God comprehensively, totally, completely. Now if that’s the sum of the Law, then that has to be the sum of the relationship. That can’t be altered when it comes to being a Christian. It is still the purpose of God that we would love the Lord Jesus Christ with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Being a Christian is about loving Christ so much that you want to know Him, so much that you want to exalt Him, so much that you want to please Him, so much that you want to serve Him, so much that you want to be with Him, so much that you want to tell others about Him. It’s about this overwhelming, consuming affection for Christ. This is at the core of what it means to be a Christian.

And so, the real question to ask people when you talk about their spiritual growth or their spiritual condition or where they are in terms of their life is, how much do you love Jesus Christ? How much do you love Christ? Are you growing in your love for Christ? Do you love Him more now than you have in the past? Do you desire Him more now than you did in the past? 

Read the rest here.