Puritan Gems

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Few Thoughts on Christian Liberty

"Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." This "knowledge" puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "an idol has no real existence," and that "there is no God but one." For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth--as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"-- 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. However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble." (1 Corinthians 8:1-13).

Legalism. It's a word that is thrown around in churches, rather loosely at times. Just what defines legalism depends on who you ask. Most dispensationalists would define a legalist as anyone who preaches or teaches obedience to God's law, thus making Jesus Christ Himself a "legalist" (Matthew 5:17-18). One of the godfathers of dispensationalism, Charles Ryrie writes, "our Lord... terminated the Law and provided a new and living way to God". I'll deal more with this nonsense in another discourse, but for the present subject, we'll focus in on the need for God's Law as a remedy, rather than a cause, of legalism. As it turns out, some of our more dispensationalist churches are the most legalistic. Having removed God's Law as a standard for righteous living, they are free to create their own laws. These legalistic rules range from forbidding the use of alcoholic beverages (which the Bible allows) to the more left wing "What would Jesus Drive?" condemnation of Sports Utility Vehicles, all without the slightest mention of such regulations in Scripture. The blessed part about being a Christian is that we are free from man-made religious ordinances. We are free to eat what we want, drink what we want, and yes, drive what we want. For "... if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).

In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul was dealing with the issue of eating meats offered to idols. Obviously, this isn't much of an issue today, but we can glean much in the area of Christian liberty from this passage. Of course you can eat the meat, Paul tells the Corinthians, for "Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do" (1 Corinthians 8:8). This is because "an idol has no real existence" (1 Corinthians 8:4). The same can be said for drinking alcoholic beverages, listening to secular music, use of tobacco products, the celebration of holidays (including Halloween1), eating meat, and driving SUVs. The commandments of men to "forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created" is referred to as "seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" (1 Timothy 4:1-2). While everyone has different standards for their own lives concerning these issues, the Bible leaves the final decision up to the individual to decide. “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths” (Colossians 2:16). While the church cannot condone what the Bible forbids (see United Church of Christ backs gay marriage) neither can the church forbid what the Bible allows (See Does Scripture Permit Us to Drink Alcoholic Beverages?). However...

This isn't the end of Paul's answer, and we need to consider the rest of the story in regard to Christian Liberty. Obviously, Christian liberty does not give us the freedom to disobey civil ordinances just because the Bible doesn’t specifically support the ordinance (Romans 13:1-7). Freedom to partake of alcohol requires a certain age, and disobedience to that requirement is a sin against God. Freedom to listen to secular music or go to the movie theatre doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t guard carefully what enters our ears and eyes (See Job 31:1 and Psalm 103:3. David can give you a firsthand testimony about the need to guard one’s eyes.) As we study further in 1 Corinthians 8, Paul exhorts us to "...take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?" (1 Corinthians 8:9-10). As a result, “the weak person is destroyed" (1 Corinthians 8:11). For example, I am free, as a Christian, to partake of alcohol. However, most of my Christian friends abhor the use of alcohol and are offended by it. Should I rub it in their faces as a matter of Christian liberty? Furthermore, several of my Christian friends are former alcoholics. It would not only be foolish to offer them a drink in the name of Christian liberty, but a sin against Christ (1 Corinthians 8:12). As Christians, we have great freedom in Christ. However, with freedom comes the responsibility to exhort and strengthen weaker brethren, even if it means giving up some of our freedom. (We can always have a beer in the privacy of our own homes). "Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble" (1 Corinthians 8:13), (or have a beer).


1.) There has been a lot of, to put it politely, bad information regarding the History of Halloween. Dennis Rupert wrote a good article to sort fact from fiction called
The History of Halloween -- It's Probably Not What You Think. That said, a Christian parent should really consider the kind of costume that his child wears.

The Lost Doctrine of Eternal Hell

“This Doctrine is indeed awful and dreadful yet ‘tis of God” – Jonathan Edwards

"For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Hebrews 10:30-31).

I dare say that there is not a lot of consideration today of the subject matter of which you are about to read. The topic of Hell is truly a lost doctrine today. Arthur Pink laments, "It is sad to find so many professing Christians who appear to regard the wrath of God as something for which they need to make an apology, or at least they wish there were no such thing. While some would not go so far as to openly admit that they consider it a blemish on the Divine character, yet they are far from regarding it with delight, they like not to think about it, and they rarely hear it mentioned without a secret resentment rising up in their hearts against it. Even with those who are more sober in their judgment, not a few seem to imagine that there is a severity about the Divine wrath which is too terrifying to form a theme for profitable contemplation. Others harbor the delusion that God’s wrath is not consistent with His goodness, and so seek to banish it from their thoughts." (The Attributes of God, p. 84).

According to most polls, the percentage of Americans who believe in Heaven ranges from 80% to 90%, while the percentage who believe in Hell ranged between 40% and 70%. The saddest part is that these numbers aren't much different among professing Christians. However, I must make it clear from the outset that anyone who would reject this doctrine cannot be called a Christian. Those who reject the doctrine of God's eternal wrath upon the wicked do not love the God of the Bible, but a false god, an idol of their own vain imaginations. Of them it is written, they "will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction." (2 Peter 2:1)

The God of the Bible is not apprehensive concerning His wrath, nor does He shy away in shame at its mention. His own challenge is "See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand. For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live forever, If I whet My glittering sword, and Mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to Mine enemies, and will reward them that hate Me" (Deut. 32:39-41). The Bible knows nothing of a god that is "too nice" to judge wickedness. In fact, a quick study of the Scriptures will show that there are more verses referring to God's anger and vengeance than there are to His love and mercy. Because God is holy, He hates all sin; And because He hates all sin, His anger burns hot against the sinner every day (Psalm 7:11). This is a doctrine that no preacher of righteousness has a right to ignore.

The Doctrine of Judgment in Christian Orthodoxy

The Eternal punishment of the wicked was taught among the earliest Christians. In his Letter to the Ephesians 16:1-2, Ignatius of Antioch (110 AD) writes, "Corrupters of families will not inherit the kingdom of God. And if they who do these things according to the flesh suffer death, how much more if a man corrupt by evil reaching the faith of God for the sake of which Jesus Christ was crucified? A man become so foul will depart into unquenchable fire, and so will anyone who listens to him." Clement of Alexandria (150 AD) writes, "If we do the will of Christ, we shall obtain rest; but if not, if we neglect his commandments, nothing will rescue us from eternal punishment." (Second Clement 5:5). Irenaeus (189 AD), the Second Century Bishop of Lyon, adds in his work "Against Heresies", "The penalty increases for those who do not believe the Word of God and despise his coming. . . . It is not merely temporal, but eternal. To whomsoever the Lord shall say, "Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire," they will be damned forever." (Against Heresies 4:28:2). Similar statements can be found in works by Justin Martyr1, The Martyrdom of Polycarp2, Athenagoras3, Theophilus of Antioch4, Hippolytus5, Minucius Felix6, Cyprian7, and Cyril of Jerusalem8, and many others.

The Doctrine of Eternal Judgment has also been clearly established from the earliest Christian Creeds and Confessions. The Apostles Creed states, “He shall come to judge the living and the dead.” The Nicene Creed adds that Christ will come "to judge the quick and the dead”. The Athanasian Creed expounds even further, stating; “From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies; and shall give account of their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.”

Despite the words of these Church Fathers, and the clear warnings from Scripture, it didn't take long for the strange and perverse musings of wolves to enter in among the sheep. The doctrine known of Annihilationism (the wicked will cease to exist) began in 4th-century with Arnobius. Noted Church Historian Phillip Schaff writes, “Arnobius… seems to have believed in actual annihilation; for he speaks of certain souls that "are engulfed and burned up," or "hurled down and having been reduced to nothing, vanish in the frustration of a perpetual destruction". (History of the Christian Church Vol. II, CHAPTER XII ). This belief is held today by cultists such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and Christadelphians. Annihilationism was condemned as heresy at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 A.D.

The Doctrine of Restorationism (a belief in a temporary, remedial punishment, the basis for the modern belief in Universalism) arose from the Alexandrian school of theology, most notably with Origen. This heresy was combated by Epiphanes, Jerome, and Augustine.

Pope Gregory I was the first to formalize teachings in the Catholic Church surrounding Purgatory, a place of temporal punishment for post-baptismal sins. Unfortunately, this heresy has become a mainstay in the Roman Catholic Church, and was the lead grounds for the Reformation. However, aside these exceptions, the Christian Church has always held the Doctrine of the Eternal Punishment of the Wicked to be the ONLY orthodox Christian position.

The Westminster Confession Chapter 33, Section 2 states, "The end of God’s appointing this day is for the manifestation of the glory of His mercy, in the eternal salvation of the elect (Matthew 25:21; Romans 9:23); and of His justice, in the damnation of the reprobate who are wicked and disobedient (Romans 2:5-6; Romans 9:22; 2 Thess. 1:7-8). For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, and receive that fulness of joy and refreshing, which shall come from the presence of the Lord (Matthew 25:31-34; Acts 3:19; 2 Thess. 1:1-12) but the wicked, who know not God, and obey not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power (Matthew 25:41, Matthew 25:46; 2 Thess. 1:9)."

Since the Reformation, other heresies, such as Universalism (universal salvation) have crept in. Those who hold these beliefs rarely appeal to scripture, but rather emotionalism9. They usually reason that God's punishments are reformatory rather than punitive. This brings us an obvious question. If the unregenerate wicked can still be saved by "the fires of Hell", thus effecting what the Cross of Christ failed to accomplish, then to what purpose was Christ's sacrifice? If Godly discipline were all that was needed to bring about eternal salvation, could God not have spared His only Son? God Himself refers to His judgments as "wrath", "fury", and "vengeance". Nothing about the judgments against the wicked could be mistaken for rehabilitation.

Some modern day universalists bolster their beliefs on the vain use of Near Death Experiences (NDE's). Many alleged "visions of heaven" and "light" have occurred within NDE's among individuals of various faiths, or even no faith at all. While I am skeptical of NDE's being anything more than hallucinations for the ill or dreams for the sleeping, we must also remember that "even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." (2 Cor. 11:14). Any theology that exalts NDE's over the clear teachings of Scripture is a folly of fools (Proverbs 15:14).

Hell Defined by Scripture

The Hebrew word (she'ôl she'ôl שׁאל ׁאול), Greek Hades - literally "unseen" ( ᾅδης), has multiple meanings, including the grave, hell, and pit. Despite these various definitions, there can be no doubt that multiple instance of she'ôl and Hades refer to the abode of the damned, as it is taken in Luke 16:23. Various synonyms of it occur in the Scriptures, such as ('ăbaddôn אבדּון, see Proverbs 15:11) or perdition (see Proverbs 27:20). Consider these passages:The wicked "in a moment they go down to Sheol." (Job 21:13). "The wicked shall be turned back unto Sheol." (Psalm 9:17). If these references were taken to be the grave, than why single out the wicked, since the righteous will also face the grave? "Thou shalt beat him with the rod, And shalt deliver his soul from Sheol." (Proverbs 23:14). Can anyone rightly suggest that parental discipline can rescue a child from the grave? "Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied" (Proverbs 27:20). Here Sheol is used along with Abaddon (destruction), the name of the angel from the bottomless pit (Rev. 9:11).

The word Gehenna (γέεννα - see Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:29), is a word derived from the valley of Hinnom, in which the wicked Israelites were accustomed to practice horrible idolatries to Moloch, the idol of the Ammonites. It is synonymous with "everlasting punishment" Jesus identifies Gehenna with Isaiah 66:23-24 by speaking of it as the place of "The gnawing worm" and "unquenchable fire" (Mark 9:44). In its context, Jesus is adamant that Hell is worse than bodily mutilation and is to be avoided at all costs.

The word Tartarus (ταρταρόω) is only used once (2 Peter 2:4). It is derived from the lowest compartment of the pagan Greek Hades, recognized by mythology (Homer's Odyssey 11:575 and Plato's Gorgias) as a place for eternal judgment. For Peter to have chosen this word for a place of temporal punishment would have been most deceptive. Jesus will tell the wicked to "Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). Therefore, a consistent universalist must believe in the eventual salvation of the Devil himself, a most foolish doctrine.

William G.T. Shedd writes, "The strongest support of the doctrine of Endless Punishment is the teaching of Christ, the Redeemer of man...To threaten with “everlasting punishment” a class of persons described as “goats upon the left hand” of the Eternal Judge, while knowing at the same time that this class would ultimately have the same holiness and happiness with those described as “sheep upon the right hand” of the judge, would have been both falsehood and folly." (The Doctrine of Endless Punishment, pp. 14-15).

According to the Scriptures, Hell is "…to be feared" (Luke 12:4-5); "…to be avoided at all costs" (Matthew 5:29-30), "…a fiery furnace" (Matthew 13:42), "…a lake of burning sulfur" (Rev. 20:10). "…everlasting" (2 Thess. 1:9), "…unquenchable" (Matthew 2:12), "…eternal" (Jude 1:7). In Hell, there "…will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 8:12), for it is a place where the "…worm does not die and the fire is not quenched." (Mark 9:44-48). For those who go there, "…it would be better to have never been born" (Matthew 26:24). It was universally accepted by the ancient Jews and Greeks that there would be a place of eternal torment. If Jesus or His Disciples actually believed Hell to be a place of temporal punishment or annihilation, they would have been purposely misleading their listeners. No modern reader of the above scriptures, much less an ancient one, could have ever guessed that all men without exception would eventually be holy and happy in heaven.

Unfortunately, the treatment of the Doctrine of Hell in modern churches isn't much better. Today's Seeker Sensitive preachers tell us that "the worst part of Hell is the eternal separation from the presence of God". Really? If that is true, then Hell is really no threat at all to the unrepentant sinner, who has already lived most of his life outside of God. Hell would be the ideal place for the ACLU attorney, who not only wants to live outside the presence of God, but wants to make sure that everyone else does as well.

However, those in Hell are NOT physically separated from the presence of God. That is a myth, mere wishful thinking. Rev. 14:10 tells us that the wicked "shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb". No my friend, it is not the absence of God that is the true horror of Hell, but rather His presence. In Hell, God will be there to personally pour out the fire of His Divine wrath upon the damned. It is there that He will "hate" and "abhor" you (Psalm 5:5-6). Your cries for mercy will fall on His deaf ears as He "will laugh at you calamity and mock at your terror" (Proverbs 1:26). Hebrews 10:31, a scripture that you won't find on many bumper stickers and T-shirts, states this quite accurately. Indeed, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

Hell will be the destination for…The Devil (Rev. 20:10) and His Angels. (Matthew 25:41); whoever’s name is not found written in the book of life (Rev. 20:15); dogs, sorcerers, sexually immoral, murderers, idolaters, liars. (Rev. 22:15); the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers (1 Cor. 6:9-10); and Hypocrites (known by today's terminology as “Carnal” Christians). i.e., professing Christians who practice lawlessness (Matthew 7:21-23), who attempt to come to the feast without the proper garments (Matthew 22:12-14).

Hell is eternal. It is a place of “everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46). If it were just for a million years, then one could have hope in Hell. But there is no such fortune for the wicked. There is no parole from Hell. There will never be a moment when the lost man can say, “Release me, I’ve served my time”. After he has spent 1 Billion years suffering Hell’s eternal torments, he will be no closer to the end of his punishment then he was at the beginning. A damned sinner will be released from Hell on the very day that God stops hating sin, never. It is the height of foolishness to think that the worst thing we have to fear is annihilation or separation from the presence of God. As the sign above Dante’s inferno reads: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

The Purpose of this Doctrine

The Doctrine of Eternal Damnation is essential both for proper self-examination and for Revival. Historically, Hell was the focus of the preaching surrounding The Great Awakening. Let one peruse the sermons of George Whitefield, who preached the judgment of God with Puritan fire. Glance at the words of Jonathan Edward's famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of and Angry God. This is the kind of preaching that brings about true revival. The modern church, on the other hand, attempts to remove the fear of God (Proverbs 1:7; Matthew 10:28) rather than promote it. Gary North laments, "“Is it any wonder that the doctrine of eternal damnation is de-emphasized in preaching today? Is it any wonder that God is spoken of mostly as a God of love, and seldom as the God of indescribable eternal wrath? D. L. Moody, the turn-of-the-century American evangelist, set the pattern by refusing to preach about hell. He made the preposterous statement that "Terror never brought a man in yet." That a major evangelist could make such a theologically unsupported statement and expect anyone to take him seriously testifies to the theologically debased state of modern evangelicalism. It has gotten no better since he said it.” While we certainly should never ignore God's love, we also cannot ignore the fact the God is ANGRY. In fact, "God is angry with the wicked every day. (Psalm 7:11). "A fire is kindled in mine anger". (Jer. 15:14). Since the Bible itself speaks more about God's wrath and anger than about His love and mercy, the church should at least give equal attention to it. Proper, biblical evangelism requires, even demands that we bring the unregenerate sinner to the sobering reality that he is in terrible danger. His very next breath could be a scream of agony as he is cast into the winepress of God's wrath while his blood splatters the garments of the Most High. (Isaiah 63:3). With due respect to Rev. Moody's ridiculous comment; we can take our theology of evangelism from the greatest evangelist the world has ever known. The Apostle Paul made no apologies whatsoever for God's wrath, nor did he shy away from this doctrine in his ministry. "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men". (2 Cor. 5:11).

It is a dangerous thing to be ignorant or careless concerning one's eternal path, for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. (Matthew 7:13). Indeed, many of these poor souls have already gone before, who never imagined that they would ever end up in Hell, yet suddenly and without warning find themselves there. Hear them cry out, "Let him dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame." (Luke 16:24). Listen to them plead, "Send out from the dead to my fathers house, For I have five brothers, so he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment." (Luke 16:27-28). May these pitiful sighs from the voices of the damned pierce our flinty hearts, so that we may run to Christ and not suffer the same judgment.


1.) Justin Martyr: "No more is it possible for the evildoer, the avaricious, and the treacherous to hide from God than it is for the virtuous. Every man will receive the eternal punishment or reward which his actions deserve. Indeed, if all men recognized this, no one would choose evil even for a short time, knowing that he would incur the eternal sentence of fire. On the contrary, he would take every means to control himself and to adorn himself in virtue, so that he might obtain the good gifts of God and escape the punishments" (First Apology 12).

2.) The Martyrdom of Polycarp "Fixing their minds on the grace of Christ, [the martyrs] despised worldly tortures and purchased eternal life with but a single hour. To them, the fire of their cruel torturers was cold. They kept before their eyes their escape from the eternal and unquenchable fire" (Martyrdom of Polycarp 2:3).

3.) Athenagoras "[W]e [Christians] are persuaded that when we are removed from this present life we shall live another life, better than the present one . . . Then we shall abide near God and with God, changeless and free from suffering in the soul . . . or if we fall with the rest [of mankind], a worse one and in fire; for God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, a mere incidental work, that we should perish and be annihilated" (Plea for the Christians 31).

4.) Theophilus of Antioch "Give studious attention to the prophetic writings [the Bible] and they will lead you on a clearer path to escape the eternal punishments and to obtain the eternal good things of God.. [God] will examine everything and will judge justly, granting recompense to each according to merit. To those who seek immortality by the patient exercise of good works, he will give everlasting life, joy, peace, rest, and all good things.. For the unbelievers and for the contemptuous, and for those who do not submit to the truth but assent to iniquity, when they have been involved in adulteries, and fornications, and homosexualities, and avarice, and in lawless idolatries, there will be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish; and in the end, such men as these will be detained in everlasting fire" (To Autolycus 1:14).

5.) Hippolytus "Standing before [Christ's] judgment, all of them, men, angels, and demons, crying out in one voice, shall say: 'Just if your judgment!' And the righteousness of that cry will be apparent in the recompense made to each. To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appeal of interceding friends will profit them" (Against the Greeks 3)

6.) Minucius Felix "I am not ignorant of the fact that many, in the consciousness of what they deserve, would rather hope than actually believe that there is nothing for them after death. They would prefer to be annihilated rather than be restored for punishment. . . . Nor is there either measure nor end to these torments. That clever fire burns the limbs and restores them, wears them away and yet sustains them, just as fiery thunderbolts strike bodies but do not consume them" (Octavius 34:12-5:3).

7.) Cyprian of Carthage "An ever-burning Gehenna and the punishment of being devoured by living flames will consume the condemned; nor will thee be any way in which the tormented can ever have respite or be at an end. Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies. . . . The grief at punishment will then be without the fruit of repentance; weeping will be useless, and prayer ineffectual. Too late will they believe in eternal punishment, who would not believe in eternal life" (To Demetrian 24).

8.) Cyril of Jerusalem "We shall be raised therefore, all with our bodies eternal, but not all with bodies alike: for if a man is righteous, he will receive a heavenly body, that he may be able worthily to hold converse with Angels; but if a man is a sinner, he shall receive an eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins, that he may burn eternally in fire, nor ever be consumed. And righteously will God assign this portion to either company; for we do nothing without the body. We blaspheme with the mouth, and with the mouth we pray. With the body we commit fornication, and with the body we keep chastity. With the hand we rob, and by the hand we bestow alms; and the rest in like manner. Since then the body has been our minister in all things, it shall also share with us in the future the fruits of the past" (Catechetical Lectures 18:19).

9.) One scripture verse that is commonly appealed to is Romans 5:18, where the universal aspect is refuted in the very next verse.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Orthodox Doctrine of the Trinity

"Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."" (Matthew 16:13-19)


When author Dan Brown exhibited his historical and theological ignorance in his fictional novel "The DaVinci Code", the mainstream evangelical church was thrown a curveball. Christians were sent scrambling in order to find answers to the charges Brown had brought against the true faith. Many pastors tried to ignore Brown's work, but his voice had grown to be too loud and haughty, soaring to the top of the lists of Best Sellers.

Brown's success and the church's response are a sad testimony to the theological ineptness of fundamentalism. The fact is that, as little as 200 years ago, Dan Brown would have been ashamed to print his folly. The church, knowing their theology and God's Word, would have exposed Brown's foolish heresies for what they were. For this is hardly the first attempt by the gates of Hell to ascend upon the Rock on which Christ's Church was built, namely that He is "the Christ, the Son of the living God".

The Trinity Defined

Before the Trinity is defended, it must first be defined. Dr. John Owen, in my opinion, offers the quintessential work on this doctrine, entitled "A Brief Declaration and Vindication of The Doctrine of the Trinity". He gives, as the substance of the Trinity, "that God is one; — that this one God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; — that the Father is the Father of the Son; and the Son, the Son of the Father; and the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of the Father and the Son; and that, in respect of this their mutual relation, they are distinct from each other."1 (I highly recommend this work by Owen. If the Christian Church ever commits to a full-fledged study of Owen, cults such as the Jehovah's Witnesses would disappear, or at least think twice before knocking on our doors.) Alan Morrison gives the simple, straightforward definition of the Trinity that the least child among us can understand: "One God, consisting of three persons, co-equal in diety".2

The Trinity in Christian Orthodoxy

Brown reiterates the tired old myth that pervades the cultists such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, claiming that the Doctrine of the Trinity was invented by the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. The fact is that the essence of the Trinity Doctrine has always been held by true believers. This is apparent, even from secular sources. In his letter to the Emperor Trajan in 110 AD, Pliny the Younger wrote that the early Christian church was "accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god".3 A recent archaeological discovery of a 3rd Century church in Megiddo shows an inscription in the tile floor that reads, "Akeptous, the God-loving, offered this table for (the) god Jesus Christ, as a remembrance."4

The earliest known Christian writing outside of the Bible is the Didache, The Teaching of The Twelve Apostles. In it, Jesus was addressed a multitude of times as "Lord" (kurios κύριος) a Greek word denoting Divinity. While the date of the Didache is hotly debated, no reputable scholar would place its writing after the Second Century (in fact, I hold it to be at least partially written before 70 AD.) The Jewish Historian Josephus hints of Jesus' Divinity, writing "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."5 Justin Martyr baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Ignatius of Antioch refers to Jesus Christ directly as God no less than a dozen times. These and similar statements made by the Ante-Nicene fathers occurs far too many times to document here.

In fact, There in no record of anyone denying the deity of Christ until late second century, when Theodotus, a Byzantine leather merchant, said in reference to Christ, ''I have not denied God but a man... ". Aside from musings of this poor soul, the rock of Christ's deity was never seriously challenged until the 4th century.

The first of the three major heresies to deny Christ as God was Arianism, named after its founder Arius (250-336 AD). Arius held that Christ was the first being to be created by God. This belief was followed closely by Modalism, a heresy created by Sabellius. He held that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were not three persons, but were 3 "modes" of God. Macedonianism, similar to Arianism, denied the deity of the Holy Spirit. All three were condemned as heresies by the Council of Nicea, which upheld the traditional view of the Trinity, while not yet called such.

All Christian Creeds and Confession, without exception, hold to the Trinity. The Apostle's Creed states, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord". The Nicene Creed says, "one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made." The Athanasian Creed states, "And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity", and reaffirms the Deity of each member of the Godhead. "But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal." The Westminster Confession of Faith states, "In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son." Any who would remove Christ from His throne must deal with those great Divines who worshipped Him "in Spirit and in Truth" of Divine Orthodoxy. (John 4:24).

The Trinity in Scripture

The Trinity, using Morrison's definition, can be easily supported by Scripture. "One God, consisting of three persons, co-equal in deity". Using such we can establish that each part of the Trinity Doctrine, the Oneness of God, as well as the Deity of the three separate persons of the Godhead.

No other God

It is clear from the very first Commandment that there is only one God, and we are to worship no other (Exodus 20:2-3). "To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, driving out before you nations greater and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other" (Deut. 4:35-39)..."that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other. (1 Kings 8:60). (See also Isaiah 44:6-8, Isaiah 45:5, Isaiah 45:21, 1 Cor. 8:4-6, Eph. 4:6). Thus, the first truth of the Doctrine of the Trinity, that there is one God, is firmly established.

"Before Abraham Was, I AM"

Throughout the Scriptures, the pre-existence of Christ is well established. Those who insist on worshipping a mere man cannot be saved. John tells us that "he who denies that Jesus is the Christ" is "a liar" (1 John 2:22). Furthermore, "No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also" (1 John 2:23). While this was John's polemic against first Century Judaism in particular, it certainly can be applied to anyone who makes Christ anything other than the "sent one". What was the error of the Pharisees, but the denial of Christ's Deity and eternal pre-existence? "Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.'" (John 8:58). As a result of this statement, the Pharisees "picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple." (John 8:59). On another occasion, Jesus proclaimed "I and the Father are one." Again, "The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus inquired of them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?" The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God." (John 10:30-33). Let the cultists rage over the alleged "mistranslation", or misunderstanding concerning Jesus' words. The Pharisees understood quite well what Jesus was claiming.

We already know that Christ's "goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2). Therefore Paul can encourage us to "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:5-7). This clearly shows that Jesus Christ existed well before His earthly incarnation, willingly taking on the likeness of man. "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things..." (Hebrews 2:14). "Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; (Hebrews 10:5). He could then, during His earthly ministry, pray for the Father to "glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed." (John 17:5). This would, of course, be impossible for a mere man. But we know that He, the Word, was "in the beginning" and "was God" (John 1:1), and that "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). The plurality of the Godhead is established at creation, when we are told that "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth". (Genesis 1:1). Interestingly, the word for God ('ĕlôhîym אלהים) is simply the plural form of ('ĕlôahh אלוהּ). Therefore the triune Godhead could, in full agreement, say "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." (Genesis 1:26). The Creation of the universe and all things in it are attributed to the Father (Genesis 1:1; Malachi 2:10), to the Son (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16), and to the Holy Spirit (Job 26:13; Psalms 104:30). Likewise, the resurrection of Christ is said to be the work of the Father (Acts 2:32), to the Son (John 10:17-18), and to the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:4). Therefore, those who would deny Christ's pre-existence or His equality with the Father cannot be saved, for they do not worship the God of the Scriptures. Paul warns all true believers concerning the vain philosophy of cultists. "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority." (Colossians 2:8-10).

Christ in the Old Testament

“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)

At this point, it will be profitable to show that Christ was the major focus of Old Testament worship, and furthermore, is recognized as Divine. Volumes have been written concerning theophanies in the Old Testament, so I'll only briefly touch on some here.

There are several places in the Old Testament where "the Angel of the Lord" appears. In Genesis 16, this Angel appears to Hagar, and Hagar acknowledges the Angel to be Lord and God (Genesis 16:13). In Genesis 31:11-13, the angel proclaimed himself to be God. In Numbers 21:6, we see that "the LORD (yehôvâh יהוה - the self-existing One) sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. Paul, the inspired Apostle, attributes this work to Christ (1 Cor. 10:9). In Daniel 3:25, Nebuchadnezzar was astonished to see a fourth man in the fiery furnace, "and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God". These are but a few of many Old Testament appearances of Christ. In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah saw the Lord ('ădônây אדני), which was Christ (Compare Isaiah 6:1-10 comp. John 12:37-44). There are other, more indirect theophanies, such as Jacob's Ladder (See Genesis 28:12 and John 1:51). I won't, at this time, deal with the debate over whether or not Michael the Archangel was indeed a theophany. The point of emphasis here is that Christ existed from everlasting, made appearances in the Old Testament, and is said to be God.

More compelling, however, are the direct references to Christ when comparing the Old and New Testaments. For example, the name for God (Elohiym) in Psalms 45:6 "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;" is applied to Christ (Hebrews 1:8). The same is true with Psalms 68:17-18 (see Eph. 4:8-10). The name ('âdôn אדון) in Psalms 110:1 is applied as (κύριος) to Christ (Matthew 22:44). Jehovah of Hosts, the "stumbling block" of Isaiah 8:13-14 is Christ (1 Peter 2:7-8). The Hebrew title of Divinity ('êl - אל) (Greek - κύριος) in Psalms 102:25-27 also speaks of Christ the Creator (Hebrews 1:10-12). The voice from the wilderness in Isaiah 40:3 prepared the way for the Lord (Jehovah)...our God (Elohiym), who is none other than Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:3). If the New Testament is to have any credibility whatsoever, the pre-existence and Divinity of Christ cannot be denied.

In Isaiah 43:11, God tells us that "I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior." Of necessity, therefore, Christ our Savior (Luke 2:11) is God. Thus when Isaiah prophesied the birth of that Savior, he referred to Him as "Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14), which means "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). He is the "Mighty God" and "Everlasting Father" (Isaiah 9:6), and "Jehovah Our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:6). Surely this is enough to establish the Divinity of Christ without even opening the New Testament.

God made manifest in the flesh

Christ full membership in the triune godhead is more firmly established in the New Testament. "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Colossians 2:9). Christ is identified as "God over all, blessed forever" (Romans 9:5). Thus Paul could encourage Titus in "waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ," (Titus 2:13). Thomas recognized Christ as ""My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). Christ's words in John 10:30 were recognized by the Pharisees as a claim to deity, thus their reaction in John 10:31-33.

1 Timothy 3:16 has been a much debated Scripture in recent times, but wrongly so. Cultists who make a claim of "textual criticism" have attempted to replace the word "God" (theos θεός) with "who" (ός). However, no reputable Greek writer would contrive such a grammatical monstrosity. Along with creating a sentence with no subject (thus having to invent the word "He" out of thin air), the cultist is faced with the fact that there is no historical evidence to support such a rendering. Aside from the fact that eyewitnesses of original manuscripts have all but unanimously verified θεός, the ancients have added their support as well. No less than a dozen early church fathers have either paraphrased 1 Timothy 3:16, or have directly quoted it using θεός.6 Thus the statement, that "God was manifest in the flesh" is the correct statement, and is clearly supported elsewhere in Scripture (see John 1:1, John 1:14)

Acts 20:28 tells us to "feed the church of God (θεός) which he has purchased with his own blood". Can there be about doubt about the blood of θεός being that of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, who "by his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12)?

The Distinct Personhood of Jesus Christ

"And Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway from the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him; and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17).

In this passage, the other two members of the triune godhead introduce us to God the Son. The Son is clearly the Son of God, and God Himself addresses His Son as a person. While the Father and Son are One (John 10:30) in essence, they are clearly separate persons in substance. This distinction of personhood is clearly shown throughout the Scriptures. In Isaiah 53:1-12, we see that He (the Son) was "smitten of God" (Isaiah 53:4), thus requiring the Son to be different in substance from the Father. "Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all....Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him; he hath put him to grief... and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand." (Isaiah 53:6; Isaiah 53:10) Who can deny the clear separation of the persons of our one God? Christ, the Son of the Father, clarified the distinction between the He and the Father in John 14:6-13. He prayed to the Father on many occasions, addressing Him as a distinct person (Matthew 11:25; John 17:1; John 15:24) and having His own will (Luke 22:42; John 6:38; Hebrews 10:9). In turn, the Father addresses His Son as a distinct person (Psalms 2:7-12; Psalms 110:1-2; Matthew 3:16-17). Away with the idea that Christ is a mere "mode of God", lest we insult His humanity and His personhood.

The Divinity and Personhood of the Holy Spirit

Having now established that 1. There is One God, 2. That the Father is that One God, 3. That the Son is that One God; and 4. That the Father and Son are distinct persons of the godhead, we turn our attention to the Holy Spirit. Strange and perverse things have been uttered in regard to this most precious entity, whose work is most crucial in obtaining eternal life (John 3:5), such that the denial of which can never be forgiven (Matthew 12:31). Modern cultists not only want to remove Christ from His rightful throne, but limit the Holy Spirit as being some abstract, impersonal power from God. It is abundantly clear that the Holy Spirit is the One and Only God. The Bible declares the Lord (κύριος) to be the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). Peter accused Ananias and his wife of lying "to the Holy Spirit" (Acts 5:3), and as a result, they died because they had "not lied to men but to God." (Acts 5:4). It is the Holy Spirit who is given glory for the sanctification of the elect, along with the foreknowledge of God and the obedience of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1-2). The Son of God - θεός - (Luke 1:35) is said to have been "conceived... from the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:20). The Spirit, along with the Father and Son, was present at Creation (Genesis 1:2), made Job (Job 33:4). The Holy Spirit is completely Sovereign, as no one shows Him Counsel (Isaiah 40:13). The Holy Spirit is a person of the godhead, and has the ability to teach (Luke 12:12), and to judge what is good (Acts 15:28). He is a helper, and dwells in God's People (John 14:26). The Word of God itself was the result of the Holy Spirit speaking through the prophets (Numbers 24:2 comp. Numbers 24:12-13; Acts 1:16). He speaks to the church (Rev. 2:7). He commanded the Apostles to "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (Acts 13:2), and later Paul was "forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia." (Acts 16:6).

The children of Israel suffered in the wilderness at the hands of God for trying the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 3:7-9). The God (yehôvâh) who promised a new covenant to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34) was none other than the God the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 10:15-17). When Isaiah saw the glory of yehôvâh (Isaiah 6:5), which was the glory of Christ (John 12:41), the words instructing him (Isaiah 6:10) from the very throne of God are attributed to the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:25-26). Therefore, since "Jehovah our God is one Jehovah" (Deut. 6:4), both the Son and the Holy Spirit are that one Jehovah.


The first and most offensive heresies to be introduced into the Church have surrounded the nature of our Triune God.7 The Scriptures tell is that "without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he is and that he rewards those who seek him." (Hebrews 11:6). If one does not believe that the Son is Divine, that person cannot be saved. For "who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also." (1 John 2:22-23). Thus, my dear reader, I'll part from this subject with Paul's benediction direct from the mouth of Our Triune God. "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).


1.) Dr. John Owen, "A Brief Declaration and Vindication of The Doctrine of the Trinity"; p. 12

2.) Alan Morrison, "The Blessed Three-In-One: The Christian Doctrine of the Trinity Proven from Scripture"; p.1, Diakrisis 2003. (Note: Alan Morrison has since left the church, and has adopted some strange conspiracy doctrines.)

3.) Pliny the Younger; Letters 10.96-97

Excavation of an early christian building in Megiddo, with floor mosaics (fish) and three inscriptions

5.) Flavius Josephus; Antiquities of the Jews xviii 3.3

6.) One such example is Ignatius of Antioch (100 AD) in his Letter to the Ephesians. Under Chapter 7, Beware of False Teachers, he writes, "There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible, even Jesus Christ our Lord." The Greek rendering of "God existing in flesh" is a word for word agreement of 1 Tim. 3:16 in the Textus Receptus.

7.) Other early church heresies included the following:

Adoptionism - God granted Jesus powers and then adopted him as a Son.
Albigenses - Reincarnation and two gods: one good and other evil.
Apollinarianism - Jesus divine will overshadowed and replaced the human.
Arianism - Jesus was a lesser, created being.
Docetism - Jesus was divine, but only seemed to be human.
Kenosis - Jesus gave up some divine attributes while on earth.
Modalism - God is one person in three modes. Two forms of modalism:
a.) Noetus – Son and Spirit are roles the Father assumes
b.) Sabellius – All three are masks which God assumes (persona)
Patrapassianism - The Father suffered on the cross
Monarchianism - God is one person.
Monophysitism - Jesus had only one nature: divine.
Nestorianism - Jesus was two persons.
Socinianism - Denial of the Trinity. Jesus is a deified man.
Tritheism - The Trinity is really three separate gods.
Dynamic Monarchianism - No personal distinctions (Jesus not fully God, but given a portion of the divine nature.)

All modern pseudo-Christian cults deviate on doctrine of the Trinity (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, etc.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It's a priviledge

Good day from my side too.

I have been very blessed and fortunate to be asked to also contribute here from time to time. The relationship between Purtian Lad and myself go back a couple of years, and I have the greatest of respect for his insights and hard work to portray only what is Biblical.

May God bless his endeavours here.



Welcome to the Covenant Theology Blog, where we, the most unworthy of servants, put forth our best efforts to glorify God in the following ways.

1.) By posting personal studies with an emphasis on theological accuracy, worshipping in Spirit AND TRUTH (John 4:23). You cannot have one without the other.

2.) By addressing apologetical issues, not in an attempt to "convert" (for that is something only the Holy Spirit can do), but to "destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5).

3.) By applying the clear teachings of the Bible to all areas of life (yes, that includes politics as well - See Mark 6:18).

Feel free to comment, but try to be civil and respectful to others who may disagree here. Comments that contain profanity or excessive ad hominems will be deleted.

I hope you will visit often.

God bless.

Puritan Lad