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Studies in The Baptist Catechism: Section One – Authority, Revelation, and Scripture (Q.2)

William F. Leonhart III

Q.2: Ought everyone to believe there is a God?

A. Everyone ought to believe there is a God;1 and it is their great sin and folly who do not.2

1Hebrews 11:6

2Psalm 14:1

The world is full of art critics. Everywhere we go, we see people standing in awe of great art. They study it, they marvel at it, and they even try to duplicate it. What they will not do, however, is recognize the existence of the great Artist who gave it birth. This great art of which I speak is the art of creation, and the great Artist, of course, is the Creator. God is not merely an Artist, though. He wears many hats. Like the great Leonardo di Vinci, God assumes the titles of Artist, Engineer, Innovator, Inventor, and a great many others. However, unlike Leonardo, God is the Chief among all others in these fields. He far surpasses all His creatures, as we noted in the previous section.

One great difference between God and all others is that His art, His engineering, His innovation and inventiveness pervades all of His creation. Painters place their signatures in the corners of their paintings. The signature of the Divine is pervasive throughout the vast scope of creation and notable in every detail of every element and atom. God is at once immensely God and intimately God. He is both the God of the stars and the planets (Job 38:31-33; Ps. 8:3; 136:7-9) and the God of our grief and our joy (Mt. 6:25-34).

 

 

 

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The Wednesday Word: Jesus is no Robber!

April 22, 2015 1 comment

“Who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God;” Philippians 2:6.

This is a very hard verse to translate and many have given it varied and sometimes colourful renderings. The NIV renders it, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.” The RSV has it, “Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” However, these translations, fall short of the meaning Paul is stating.

Let’s, then, look at this phrase, “thought it not robbery.” If you rob someone, you take something that is not yours. This is the exact opposite of what Christ did. Christ’s Deity was His by right, not by robbery. Christ’s equality with God was at no time considered as theft.

Let me illustrate. The only person who cannot rob the Crown Jewels of Great Britain is the British Monarch. If you ever find yourself in possession of those gems you can be sure that someone somewhere has been guilty of robbery. If the Monarch, however, were found to have them in their possession, no one could object for they are Royal property. Likewise, Christ’s deity was no unusual thing. He did not possess it through robbery. The divine nature was His by right.

In this passage, it should be further noted that Paul is not trying to prove that Christ is God. He takes it for granted that the Philippians already believe this truth. Indeed, one cannot be a Christian and refuse Him as God (John 8:24).

Notice how, in verse 6, he uses the term, “equal with God.” This is a giveaway! The Greek word used for ‘equal’ is ‘isos’ and means having equal measurement! From this word ‘isos’, we get our term the “isometric’ which means, ‘equal in dimension and measurement’. Paul, therefore, by this one word, declares Christ to be equal in every way to God and, therefore, God.

Although this passage confirms the deity of Christ, the point of the passage is to tell the Philippians to have the same mind as Christ. Jesus, although He was the Almighty, had a servant’s heart and the heart of a brother. He was highly exalted yet, in grace, He stooped and made Himself the lowliest of servants, a ‘Doulos’ or quite literally a bond slave.

What a revelation Christ gives us of God! Jesus (God) stripped of His divine prerogatives. This is, as others have called it, “His self-disglorification.”

Consider Him, He is full of power and yet filled with such tenderness that He does not break the bruised reed, nor snuff out the smoking flax (Matthew 12:20).

Consider Him, in Christ Jesus, the omnipotent Yahweh arrived on this earth as a meek man, merciful, lowly and mild.

Consider Him, the divine creator walking among men.

It is to be remembered that this passage was written to emphasize what Christ gave up rather than to emphasize that He was God. Christ, we are told, emptied Himself of one form and took on another. It should be stressed, however, that, by the act of becoming a man, Christ could not possibly give up his Godhead. No act of condescension or humiliation could cause Him to cease to be God. For that to have happened, God would have had to cease to exist. He did not give up the possession of Deity but gave up the outward expressions of Deity! Christ, for the sake of redemption, gave up His rights, reputation and riches.

The great Henry Law said,

“Wonder of wonders! The mighty God, without ceasing to be God, becomes man to redeem us! Let the greatest king become the lowest beggar; let the richest prince leave his palace for the vilest cell of a loathsome prison; it is as nothing compared to the act of Jesus, when He left heaven to put on the rags of our mortality! The Creator of all things becomes a creature! The Almighty is a weak babe! The Eternal is a child of time! The Infinite is contracted into the limits of poor flesh! Is not this the wonder of wonders? Is not this grace which has no bounds?”

(Henry Law: Christ is All)

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com 

A form of sound words must be one that exalts God and puts down man

January 26, 2015 2 comments

CharlesSpurgeonThis morning I shall first attempt to tell you what I conceive to be a “form of sound words,” which we are to hold fast. In the second place, I shall endeavor to urge upon you the strong necessity of holding fast that form. In the third place, I shall warn you of some dangers to which you will be exposed, tempting you to give up the form of sound words. Then, in the last place I shall mention the two great holdfasts, faith and love in Christ Jesus, which are the great means of “holding fast the form of sound words.”

What is a “FORM OF SOUND WORDS?” Ten thousand persons will quarrel upon this. One will say, “MY creed is a form of sound words;” another will declare that his creed also is sound if not infallible. We will not, therefore, enter into all the minute, which distinguish creeds from each other, but just simply say, that no system can be a form of sound words unless it is perfectly scriptural. We receive no doctrines as the doctrines of men; whatever authority come to us which is not the authority of the Holy Spirit, and inspired by God, is no authority at all to us.

We laugh to scorn all the dogmatism of men, we care for nothing they assert however strongly they declare it, or however eloquently they plead for it; we utterly reject and discard it; we hold it a sin to “take for doctrines the commandments of men;” we give no heed to the traditions that are handed down to us. If our opponent cannot quote text or verse for anything he advances, we hold no argument with him. Scripture is the only weapon we can acknowledge.

But since it is said that texts may be found to prove almost everything, we must remark, that a form of sound words must be one that exalts God and puts down man. We dare not for a moment think that any doctrine is sound that does not put the crown upon the head of Jesus, and does not exalt the Almighty. If we see a doctrine which exalts the creature, we do not care one fig about what arguments may be brought to support it, we know that it is a lie, unless it lays the creature in the very dust of abasement, and exalts the Creator. If it does not do this, it is nothing but a rotten doctrine of pride; it may dazzle us with the brilliant malaria rising from its marshes, but it never can shed a true and healthful light into the soul, it is a rotten doctrine, not fit to be builded on the gospel, unless it exalts Jehovah Jesus, Jehovah the Father, and Jehovah the Holy Spirit.

Charles H. Spurgeon-The Form of Sound Words-Delivered on Sabbath, May 11, 1856

Summary of the true doctrine concerning the unity of Essence and the Three Persons.

January 7, 2015 1 comment

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Conclusion of this part of the chapter, and summary of the true doctrine concerning the unity of Essence and the Three Persons.

20. Let those, then, who love soberness, and are contented with the measure of faith, briefly receive what is useful to be known. It is as follows: — When we profess to believe in one God, by the name God is understood the one simple essence, comprehending three persons or hypostases; and, accordingly, whenever the name of God is used indefinitely, the Son and Spirit, not less than the Father, is meant. But when the Son is joined with the Father, relation comes into view, and so we distinguish between the Persons. But as the Personal subsistence carry an order with them, the principle and origin being in the Father, whenever mention is made of the Father and Son, or of the Father and Spirit together, the name of God is specially given to the Father. In this way the unity of essence is retained, and respect is had to the order, which, however derogates in no respect from the divinity of the Son and Spirit. And surely since we have already seen how the apostles declare the Son of God to have been He whom Moses and the prophets declared to be Jehovah, we must always arrive at a unity of essence. We, therefore, hold it detestable blasphemy to call the Son a different God from the Father, because the simple name God admits not of relation, nor can God, considered in himself, be said to be this or that. Then, that the name Jehovah, taken indefinitely, may be applied to Christ, is clear from the words of Paul, “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice.” After giving the answer, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” he subjoins, “that the power of Christ may rest upon me,” (2 Corinthians 12:8, 9.) For it is certain that the name of Lord (Kuriou) is there put for Jehovah, and, therefore, to restrict it to the person of the Mediator were puerile and frivolous, the words being used absolutely, and not with the view of comparing the Father and the Son. And we know that, in accordance with the received usage of the Greeks, the apostles uniformly substitute the word Kurios for Jehovah. Not to go far for an example, Paul besought the Lord in the same sense in which Peter quotes the passage of Joel, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” (Acts 2:21; Joel 2:28.) Where this name is specially applied to the Son, there is a different ground for it, as will be seen in its own place; at present it is sufficient to remember, that Paul, after praying to God absolutely, immediately subjoins the name of Christ. Thus, too, the Spirit is called God absolutely by Christ himself. For nothing prevents us from holding that he is the entire spiritual essence of God, in which are comprehended Father, Son, and Spirit. This is plain from Scripture. For as God is there called a Spirit, so the Holy Spirit also, in so far as he is a hypostasis of the whole essence, is said to be both of God and from God.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 13-Henry Beveridge Translation

The three persons of the Triune God are distinct, but not divided

December 17, 2014 1 comment

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Of the distinction of Persons. They are distinct, but not divided. This proved.

17. On the other hand, the Scriptures demonstrate that there is some distinction between the Father and the Word, the Word and the Spirit; but the magnitude of the mystery reminds us of the great reverence and soberness which ought to he employed in discussing it. It seems to me, that nothing can be more admirable than the words of Gregory Nanzianzen: “Ou ftano to ei noesai, kai tois trisi perilampomai; ou ftavo ta tria dielein kai eis to hen anaferomai”, (Greg. Nanzian. in Serm. de Sacro Baptis.) “I cannot think of the unity without being irradiated by the Trinity: I cannot distinguish between the Trinity without being carried up to the unity.” Therefore, let us beware of imagining such a Trinity of persons as will distract our thoughts, instead of bringing them instantly back to the unity. The words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, certainly indicate a real distinction, not allowing us to suppose that they are merely epithets by which God is variously designated from his works. Still they indicate distinction only, not division. The passages we have already quoted show that the Son has a distinct subsistence from the Father, because the Word could not have been with God unless he were distinct from the Father; nor but for this could he have had his glory with the Father. In like manner, Christ distinguishes the Father from himself when he says that there is another who bears witness of him, (John 5:32; 8:16.) To the same effect is it elsewhere said, that the Father made all things by the Word. This could not be, if he were not in some respect distinct from him. Besides, it was not the Father that descended to the earth, but he who came forth from the Father; nor was it the Father that died and rose again, but he whom the Father had sent. This distinction did not take its beginning at the incarnation: for it is clear that the only begotten Son previously existed in the bosom of the Father, (John 1:18.) For who will dare to affirm that the Son entered his Father’s bosom for the first time, when he came down from heaven to assume human nature? Therefore, he was previously in the bosom of the Father, and had his glory with the Father. Christ intimates the distinction between the Holy Spirit and the Father, when he says that the Spirit proceedeth from the Father, and between the Holy Spirit and himself, when he speaks of him as another as he does when he declares that he will send another Comforter; and in many other passages besides, (John 14:6; 15:26; 14:16.)

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 13-Henry Beveridge Translation

The Divinity of the Spirit continued

December 3, 2014 1 comment

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015The Divinity of the Spirit continued.
VII. He is called God.
VIII.Blasphemy against him is not forgiven.

15. Nor does the Scripture, in speaking of him, withhold the name of God. Paul infers that we are the temple of God, from the fact that “the Spirit of God dwelleth in us,” (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; and 2 Corinthians 6:16.) Now it ought not to be slightly overlooked, that all the promises which God makes of choosing us to himself as a temple, receive their only fulfillment by his Spirit dwelling in us. Surely, as it is admirably expressed by Augustine, (Ad Maximinum, Ep. 66,) “were we ordered to make a temple of wood and stone to the Spirit, inasmuch as such worship is due to God alone, it would be a clear proof of the Spirit’s divinity; how much clearer a proof in that we are not to make a temple to him, but to be ourselves that temple.” And the Apostle says at one time that we are the temple of God, and at another time, in the same sense, that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Peter, when he rebuked Ananias for having lied to the Holy Spirit, said, that he had not lied unto men, but unto God. And when Isaiah had introduced the Lord of Hosts as speaking, Paul says, it was the Holy Spirit that spoke, (Acts 28:25, 26.) Nay, words uniformly said by the prophets to have been spoken by the Lord of Hosts, are by Christ and his apostles ascribed to the Holy Spirit. Hence it follows that the Spirit is the true Jehovah who dictated the prophecies. Again, when God complains that he was provoked to anger by the stubbornness of the people, in place of Him, Isaiah says that his Holy Spirit was grieved, (Isaiah 63:10.) Lastly, while blasphemy against the Spirit is not forgiven, either in the present life or that which is to come, whereas he who has blasphemed against the Son may obtain pardon, that majesty must certainly be divine which it is an inexpiable crime to offend or impair. I designedly omit several passages which the ancient fathers adduced. They thought it plausible to quote from David, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath (Spirit) of his mouth,” (Psalm 33:6,) in order to prove that the world was not less the work of the Holy Spirit than of the Son. But seeing it is usual in the Psalms to repeat the same thing twice, and in Isaiah the “spirit” (breath) of the mouth is equivalent to “word”, that proof was weak; and, accordingly, my wish has been to advert briefly to those proofs on which pious minds may securely rest.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 13-Henry Beveridge Translation

The Divinity of the Spirit proved

November 26, 2014 1 comment

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015The Divinity of the Spirit proved.
I. He is the Creator and Preserver of the world.
II. He sent the Prophets.
III. He quickeneth all things.
IV. He is everywhere present.
V. He renews the saints, and fits them for eternal life.
VI. All the offices of Deity belong to him.

14. In asserting the divinity of the Spirit, the proof must be derived from the same sources. And it is by no means an obscure testimony which Moses bears in the history of the creation, when he says that the Spirit of God was expanded over the abyss or shapeless matter; for it shows not only that the beauty which the world displays is maintained by the invigorating power of the Spirit, but that even before this beauty existed the Spirit was at work cherishing the confused mass. 96 Again, no cavils can explain away the force of what Isaiah says, “And now the Lord God, and his Spirit, has sent me,” (Isaiah 48:16,) thus ascribing a share in the sovereign power of sending the prophets to the Holy Spirit. (Calvin in Acts 20:28.) In this his divine majesty is clear.

But, as I observed, the best proof to us is our familiar experience. For nothing can be more alien from a creature, than the office which the Scriptures ascribe to him, and which the pious actually feel him discharging, — his being diffused over all space, sustaining, invigorating, and quickening all things, both in heaven and on the earth. The mere fact of his not being circumscribed by any limits raises him above the rank of creatures, while his transfusing vigor into all things, breathing into them being, life, and motion, is plainly divine. Again, if regeneration to incorruptible life is higher, and much more excellent than any present quickening, what must be thought of him by whose energy it is produced? Now, many passages of Scripture show that he is the author of regeneration, not by a borrowed, but by an intrinsic energy; and not only so, but that he is also the author of future immortality. In short, all the peculiar attributes of the Godhead are ascribed to him in the same way as to the Son. He searches the deep things of Gods and has no counselor among the creatures; he bestows wisdom and the faculty of speech, though God declares to Moses (Exodus 4:11) that this is his own peculiar province. In like manner, by means of him we become partakers of the divine nature, so as in a manner to feel his quickening energy within us. Our justification is his work; from him is power, sanctification, truth, grace, and every good thought, since it is from the Spirit alone that all good gifts proceed. Particular attention is due to Paul’s expression, that though there are diversities of gifts, “all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit,” (1 Corinthians 12:11,) he being not only the beginning or origin, but also the author; as is even more clearly expressed immediately after in these words “dividing to every man severally as he will.” For were he not something subsisting in God, will and arbitrary disposal would never be ascribed to him. Most clearly, therefore does Paul ascribe divine power to the Spirit, and demonstrate that he dwells hypostatically in God.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 13-Henry Beveridge Translation