One God in Three Forms

Athanasian-Tweet_2009

 

“Agnus Day appears with the permission of www.agnusday.org”

 

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

Each of these four scripture readings points to the belief of a majority of Christians, namely that God is present in the world in three forms.

The term Trinity was not used in print until about 200 AD when Tertullian first penned the word. The idea of One God in Three Forms was hotly debated until the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD adopted the Nicene Creed that has been in use since then and is still used at every service in many denominations.  It is a clear statement of the idea of the Trinity.  The Creed:

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in 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; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The debate rages on and whole denominations reject the idea.  How can I believe in it?

The Bible clearly states that there is one God.  I accept that as the starting point.  The Spirit of God is mentioned in the second verse of the Bible and appears throughout the Scriptures, new and old.  While the Spirit is seen in many contexts, it is clear that it is always the Spirit of God; God in a second form, one by which God the Creator is able to do His Work in this world.

The author of the Gospel of John began his work using the format of Genesis, his template.  There can be no doubt that John was writing about Jesus the Messiah.  The image John creates in the first 14 verses is of the Word being spoken by God and being energized by the Holy Spirit to create the universe.  The Word was God, was with God, was in the beginning before creation, and became a human called Jesus.

I understand why the Trinity is a stumbling block.  It is simply not possible in our understanding of the universe.  One is one, not three.  I understand that the idea of God being reduced to a mere 140 pound man who was both man and God is impossible.  I understand that Jesus called himself the Son of Man, not the Son of God.  He also accepted the title of Messiah which includes the title of Son of Man.

For me, Jesus was born of a woman; I will leave the question of DNA to God, but I do not think that would have been much of an obstacle.  At birth Jesus thought about food, sleep, and comfort.  As he grew he became more aware of the world around him, just as the rest of us do.  But he in all that growing time knew God in a way that none of us have.  His knowledge of God grew more quickly than for any of us.  His connection to God was probably constant and unbroken until just before his death.  He could read people in a way that no one else has ever been able to do because his connection to God fed him that awareness.  I do not believe he knew Judas would betray him until the last year, maybe the last few weeks; not until God wanted him to know.  Or if you will, Jesus knew things on a need to know basis.

Does all that mean he was only human?  No.  It means he was human in the way God intended all of us to be human.  If I had stayed focused on God without ever failing, I too could heal the sick and know their thoughts before they know them.  Not by my own power, but because God gave me the power.

Then God said, Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.  God and His Son and His Spirit created the universe.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

1 Corinthians 2-6

file0001688696959

I will be using the work of Kenneth E. Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes, for much of this study on the letter to Corinth

Monday, June 9, Chapter 2

Paul has to make a point with the Greeks especially, but also with the Romans and to some extent the Jews and others.  The Greeks loved philosophies and philosophical speakers.  They loved a good, hard-nosed debate in the classical logical style.  Philosophers were the rock stars of Greece.  Paul wanted the Corinthians to understood that he stayed away from that kind of speaking when he was with him.  He wanted them to see the simplicity of the Cross of Christ.

He had just arrived from Athens where he was invited to speak on Mars Hill, the center of the intellectual world in the Empire.  He gave an impressive speech that juggled the logical Greek with the story style of Jews.  He successfully bridged two worlds.  He did not found a church that day in Athens, but the city was ready and became the home of today’s Orthodox Church.

Paul walked from there to the city of slaves and sailors and assured them he would not use the ivory tower language of Athens with them, only the language of the Cross.

Notice the pattern in verses 7-10.  In 7, God’s Wisdom is hidden, but in 10, it is revealed by the Spirit.  In the second half of 7, God destined His Wisdom for us and in the second half of 9 He prepared it for us.  In both 8 and 9, it is not understood by the people.  They would not have crucified the Lord of glory, is of the Cross, right in the center of these matching statements.  This is a pattern Paul uses throughout his letters.

In verse 11, Paul says we cannot know the thoughts of God.  Only the Holy Spirit can know those thoughts.  If we allow the Spirit to dwell in us, the Spirit will share that knowledge.  Verse 13 is the central statement that we share that knowledge of God with others who do not have the Spirit.

Paul is talking about the three parts of man and the three parts of God.  Humans are body, thoughts, and soul; or physical, mental, and spiritual.  We control all three, but in doing that, we are unable to communicate with God.  Only when we allow the Holy Spirit to replace our personal spirits can we know God.

Tuesday, June 10, Chapter 3

Go back and look at verse 1:4 where Paul is thankful for the gifts given.  Now, in 3:1-3 Paul is saying that they failed to take in the gifts.  The divisions and infighting are sure signs that the Holy Spirit has not taken over the worldly spirits.

Had they been filled with the spirit they would be showing love to one another, not jealousy.  Let me quote from Kenneth E. Bailey.  As children of the Enlightenment we have largely come to see the acquiring of truth as a head trip, and that a good mind and a willingness to work hard is all that is required to understand any form of truth, including theological truth.  Paul disagrees.  He was not willing to feed the Corinthians the “solid food” of theology because of broken relationships in their community….

The ancient Eastern churches did not have scholars or theologians, but rather “Fathers of the church.”  The assumption behind that language is:  Only when we see the authenticity of your piety, and your commitment to the church, will we take your scholarship seriously.

Read Isaiah 28:9 and apply it to Paul as a father feeding the Corinthians milk.

Paul tells them it does not matter who plants the seed, it comes from God.  He uses images that come from Isaiah 41:19; 44:3-4; 60:20; and 61:3.  You Corinthians need to grow and fill out the image of that which was planted within you.

Paul calls himself a diakonos, a minister/servant.  He uses the same term for Apollos, Phoebe, and Timothy.  He has no ownership of the people or the church, he is their servant.

In verse 5, Paul uses the image of farming and the farm, changing in verse 9 to buildings.  What we add to the foundation will be shown on the day of Christ’s return, be it gold or straw (verse 13).

Verses 16-17 make up the central thought of this section.  We, you and I, are the Third Temple.  God dwells within us.

Theodore of Mopsuestia (410 AD) writes:  The one who believes in Christ receives the Holy Spirit, who dwells in him by the washing of rebirth, and thus he is spiritual.  But if such people then turn around and serve worldly passions, in that respect they are carnal.  Paul says that those who have become spiritual according to their confession of faith may nevertheless still live as though they were carnal so as to become an insult to the Holy Spirit who dwells in them.

Ambrosiaster adds (370 AD):  Paul says this in order to prick the consciences of those who have corrupted their bodies through evil living, especially the man who was having an affair with his father’s wife.

Paul ends the chapter and begins the next with one parallelism.  It was the style of much of the Old and New Testaments.  Jesus used parallelism in his parables and Paul uses it throughout his letters.  This particular one is called an inverted parallelism because the lines that match one another end up looking like the March Madness bracket

 

A  18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this            age,he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise.  19 For the wisdom of this          world is foolishness in God’s sight.

 

B  As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord                       knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”  21 So then, no more boasting about               men!

 

C  All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or                           death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and                             Christ is of God.

 

D1  4:1 So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those                                              entrusted with the secret things of God.  2 Now it is required that those                                            who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

 

D2  3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I                                          do not even judge myself.  4 My conscience is clear, but that does not                                                make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

 

D3  5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord                                           comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose                                           the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise                                               from God.

 

C’  6 Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your                                   benefit,

 

B’  so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what                   is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.

 

A’  7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not               receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

 

Notice how A’ is a part of A or built on A.  That is parallelism.  The center three statements are of equal value, matching ideas rather than a building of ideas.  In parables, the center is often the central point, even the climax of the story.  With Paul in this letter, it is the Cross several times.

Wednesday, June 11, Chapter 4

Paul’s whole argument for the Corinthians is that they assumed only Paul knew the truth, or only Apollos, just as we often believe that only Baptists or Methodists or Lutherans or Catholics have the truth.  Either we belong to Paul or to God, not both.

Starting in verse 8, Paul cranks out the sarcasm.  It is a small parallelism with 8 and 10 matching and 9 the center.  It is all sarcasm.

Yet the center contains an image of Christ.  When a Roman general returned to Rome from a successful battle, the parade would always end with the captives in chains who would then be executed for the public’s enjoyment.  That is what Paul is referring to, and it is what happened to Jesus, marched through the streets to a public execution.

Paul reminds us, backhandedly, that we should suffer with God.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it in a letter from prison:  Christians stand by God in God’s suffering, and that distinguishes Christians from Pagans.  Could you not keep awake with me one hour? Jesus asks in Gethsemane.  This is the reversal of everything a religious person expects from God.  Human beings are called to suffer with God’s own suffering caused by the godless world.

In Philippians 3:10, expresses the idea more strongly.

In verses 11-13, Paul speaks of the Apostles as traveling preachers in the language of Isaiah 58:7.  And then in verse 16 he says to imitate him.  Imitate the way he follows Christ.  Imitate his willingness to suffer for Christ, even to die for him.

Verse 17 actually begins the new essay, this on sexual immorality.  He tells them he is sending Timothy, and they would understand that Timothy carried a stick and a carrot.  They could choose which it would be.  Timothy is to lead them back into the way that Paul first taught them.

But he also tells them he is coming soon to deal with the arrogant people and he will bring the whip.  Take care of the problem now, before I get there.  That is a threat and a promise.

Thursday, June 12, Chapter 5

Given the nature of the City of Corinth, it should surprise no one that sexual immorality was so common, even in the church.  This chapter will give us a description of the problems they faced and chapters 6-7 will get into some solutions.

Paul opens verse 1 with a strong statement: Everyone is reporting to me.  The Old Testament penalty for immorality is stoning.  It is one of the BIG sins and Paul wants it taken care of NOW!

People in the church were saying, I am saved, so I am free.  If I am free, then nothing I do is a sin.

Paul has heard that a man is having sex with his father’s wife.  Even Paul cannot come up with strong enough words to express his disbelief at this action.  AND the man is proud.  No wonder Paul called some arrogant.

In verses 3-5, Paul is saying the man must be excommunicated, kicked out of the church.  He is not a follower of Christ.  Perhaps living with the Devil again will remind him he needs to repent.

In verse 9, Paul mentions a letter already sent to the church.  That letter has been lost.  There seems also to have been a letter written between what we call the first and second letters.  This church was so troubled that Paul sent a stream of letters to help them.  We should also note that church leaders of the late first century and early second century wrote letters to struggling churches and many of them are preserved, but not considered scripture.

Paul does not tell us to avoid non-Christians; that would go against the Great Commission.  Rather, we are to avoid people within the church who are arrogantly sinning.

Friday, June 13, Chapter 6

Remember that Paul had an unfortunate experience with the court system while he was in Corinth, even though he was released.  It may be because Sosthenes is co-author that Paul is so upset that people in the church are going to court to resolve disagreements.  Instead of acting in a considerate, loving relationship, these people are acting like street thugs.

In verses 7-8, Paul tells them to throw in the towel, it is over for them.  Salvation will not be theirs because they take pride in their sins.  Verse 9 leaves no wiggle room.  And that is what you are.

Verse 12 is a powerful statement for the Corinthians, and for us; not everything is beneficial.  Sometimes Americans forget that freedom cannot be absolute.  I should not do anything that harms another person or anything that harms me.  I cannot harm the body of Jesus, for that is what I am.  I belong to my Master.  WWJD?

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Pentecost

file9751274951741

Numbers 11:24-30
Acts 2:1-21
John 7:37-39
Psalm 104:25-35, 37

Haiti is famous for Voodoo.  It is real and affects everyone there to some degree.  Hollywood has distorted it as black magic.  To briefly describe Voodoo is difficult but I will give it a go.

Each person has a number of spirits who communicate with the several gods.  If I have a goat, I may ask a god to make sure she gives me healthy twins.  I go to my local Voodoo priest and pay for the proper ceremony to entice the spirit to deliver the message.

However, the spirits tend to be independent and do not always deliver the message or may change the message.  And there is the problem of the gods who are not always inclined to listen.

Our God has given us a Spirit that works for us all the time.  The Holy Spirit surrounds us and answers our calls.  God always hears and always responds.  We are the weak links in the communication.

We are the Hebrews in the desert crying for meat.  “Why did we ever follow this crazy Moses?  We had fish and good things to eat every day.  Now we eat manna, nothing but manna.  God let us go back to Egypt.”

We do not understand what God is doing, but worse, we do not believe in what He is doing.  “Let me go back to my old life, it was comfortable.”

Even Moses complained to God.  “I am sick and tired of listening to these people whine.  You have to do something.”   So God had Moses gather 70 trusted elders around him.  God took some of the Spirit out of Moses and gave it to the elders.  They told great things about God, but only that day.  From then on the Holy Spirit supported the elders and helped them deal with the problems facing the Hebrews.

That same Spirit, that Wind, entered the 120 disciples on Pentecost and they also told great things about God and his Messiah.  That same Spirit surrounds each of us and helps us understand those great things and share them with the people we meet.

May the Ruach Hakodesh, the Holy Spirit be with you.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence