doctrine

On Wednesday evening, November 19 at Mud Creek Baptist Church , we will ordain two men into the gospel ministry—Nathan Byrd and Brian Gordner. I have had the privilege of serving with them on multiple occasions. Most notably, we were in Kenya together earlier this year building homes, sharing the gospel, and experiencing God in powerful ways. I’m nearly as convinced of God’s call on their lives as I am of his call on my life.

In thinking about their ordination service, I was reminded of my own. My uncle, James Hefner preached and Todd Edmiston gave the charge. I’ll never forget being admonished by them both to take my calling seriously and to fulfill it faithfully. I’ve never forgotten the encouragement, challenge, and benefit of my ordination experience.

In some ways, being ordained, called, and set apart for the gospel ministry can be boiled down to Paul’s demand of Timothy in his first letter to the young pastor: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). In this clarified command Paul warns that ministry failing occurs with regard to one’s character or his doctrine. In the final part of the verse, Paul is not talking about spiritual salvation in the sense that good ministry will save ourselves or others, but rather he is making the point that preaching the saving gospel message is intricately connected to the minister’s life and message. A failure in character can result in a diminished gospel influence in our ministry. A serious flaw in our doctrine can dilute or distract from the message of the gospel.

Paul’s admonition is important. Character counts. Doctrine is vital. The basis for both is found in the Bible. As ministers, we should dissect our doctrine by the Word of God, but not just allow the Bible to be an academic or theological text. God also intended (and maybe more importantly), the Bible to reform and correct us. God’s Word is our guidebook, our manual for living that shows us our sin and the gospel solution to our sin.

 

UnknownRecently, I finished a teaching series on the Trinity in my Sunday School Class. I must say that it was a challenging and rewarding series to teach. Trinitarian theology is an important distinctive of Christianity. Trinitarian theology is also significantly practical to our understanding of salvation, prayer, and relationships.

For example, in Ephesians 1 Paul describes salvation in light of the Trinity. God the Father planned our salvation. God the Son accomplished our salvation. And God the Holy Spirit sealed our salvation. Relating to our prayer lives, we pray to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Jesus in Matthew 6:9 taught us to pray “to” the Father. In Hebrews 4:14-16, Jesus is described as our High Priest or access to the Father’s throne room, and in 1 John 2:1, he is our advocate with the Father. In Romans 8:26, Paul teaches that the Spirit prays for us, and Paul also admonishes us in Ephesians 6:18 to pray “in” the Spirit.

But our salvation and prayer lives are not the only aspects of Christian living affected by Trinitarian Christianity. The way in which we relate to one another is modeled after the relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit within the Trinity. 1 John 4:7 affirms that “God is love.” Love here is the Greek agape which means a selfless, other-centered love. This verse is an implicit evidence of the Trinity. The Father doesn’t love the Father with agape. Rather, the Father loves the Son and the Spirit with agape, as the Son loves the Father and the Spirit with agape, as the Spirit loves the Father and the Son with agape. So, the relationship within the Trinity pictures for us the love we are to have for one another.

Not only does the Trinity provide for us a picture of selfless love, but it also offers to us a model for submission in relationships. Within the Trinity (as the picture above highlights), the Father, Son, and Spirit are equally God, but each person within the Trinity is distinct. Interestingly, Scripture teaches that Jesus submits to the Father’s will and was sent by the Father (John 5:19-23; as well as numerous other times throughout the gospels). Scripture also teaches that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit who comes from the Father (John 15:26). In other words, Jesus is fully God, yet submissive to the Father’s will; the Holy Spirit is fully God, yet submissive to the Son and the Father. Thus the concept of structural submission is necessary to the biblical testimony concerning the Trinity. And yet the submission of the Son and Spirit in no way makes them less God than the Father. As a result, when we are commanded to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21) or to specifically submit within relationships (wives to husbands in Ephesians 5:22 or children to parents in Ephesians 6:1 or slaves to masters in Ephesians 6:3) it is not a reflection that the submissive person is less than in dignity, honor, or nature than the one being submitted to. Rather, the pattern of submission creates a relationship of structure and order. As Jesus is our model in all things, so must we adopt his submissive attitude to those in structural authority over us. I’m convinced that if we practice the Trinitarian model of submission, our relationships would be much more healthy and fruitful.

I realize there is much more to be said concerning the Trinity. I hope these few examples remind us to wonder in awe at the beauty and glory of One God in three persons. Moreover, I hope these examples remind us that the doctrine of the Trinity is more than just a theological conundrum to be debated and studied, but also a practical influence on our understanding of salvation, how we pray, and how we relate to one another.