The Glory of God, the Gospel and Christian Justice, 2: The Trinity
Yesterday we began our effort at crafting a statement that combines theology and ethics for our day. We feel compelled to offer these thoughts primarily because our generation is awash in injustices requiring Christians both think and act faithfully. We offer these thoughts also because historically evangelical thinkers seem to divide theology and ethics into separate disciplines that rarely converge.
We began with some reflection on the doctrine of revelation and our obligation to obey God (see here). We continue with theology proper, which in Christian terms means reflection on the Trinity and the obligations put upon us by each Person in the Trinity.
God the Father
We believe the central, supreme and inexhaustible subject of revelation is God. We believe God exists eternally in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—each being fully God and playing particular roles in creation and redemption (). We believe accurate knowledge of God depends upon His revelation of Himself in the Bible, where we learn that God is one, unchanging and unending; Creator and sustainer of life; supreme in glory, power and might; perfectly holy, faithful and true; full of goodness, love and patience; sovereign above all earthly powers and sovereign in man’s redemption; just, righteous and merciful; deserving of all creation’s love, adoration and worship. God does all things well, only does right, establishes His throne in righteousness, judges all the earth, brings a kingdom without sin, banishes Satan and the wicked to eternal hell, through the sacrifice of His Son saves men from damnation, by the sealing of His Spirit preserves the saints until redemption is complete, freely gives to those who believe on Christ eternal life in the fellowship of His glory and love.
Therefore, we resolve to be imitators of God like dearly loved children (). We resolve to forgive others just as our Father in heaven has forgiven us (; ). We resolve to offer to God worship worthy of His name in accord with His word (; ; ; ). We insist that such worship, if it is true, involves caring for widows and orphans (), the poor (Exod. 23:6; ; ), aliens and immigrants (Exod. 22:21; ), and the oppressed (; ; ) just as God himself does. We resolve to live for the honor, glory, praise and adoration of God (; ). We aspire to delight in God as our supreme pleasure (; ).
God the Son
We believe God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ the righteous, exists eternally as the Son. We believe the Son of God took on human nature in the Incarnation, yet was without sin (). We believe the Son of God is fully human and fully God (; ), without mixture. We believe the Son shares with the Father all the attributes of deity and shares with the Father divine glory from before the foundation of the world ().
We believe the Son is the only Mediator between God and man (). We believe the Son accomplishes the salvation of the elect by offering himself to God in our place both as our righteousness, holiness and redemption () and as our sin-bearer suffering punishment for our guilt to satisfy the righteous judgment of God (; ; ). We believe Christ died a literal, physical death on the cross, was buried, and three days later raised from the grave, proving the Father accepted His sacrifice on our behalf and for our justification (). We believe Christ’s righteousness and sacrifice counts only for those who repent of their sin and trust in Him as their Lord and Savior.
We believe this Gospel remains the greatest need and hope of the world. We believe it profits a person nothing to gain the whole world and lose their soul (). We contend that man can give nothing in exchange for His soul (). We, therefore, believe the soul is inestimably priceless and precious, designed for unending fellowship with the Triune God. No earthly, temporal justice will ever suffice in exchange for eternal justice and justification before God.
We believe the Incarnation, teaching, crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord has abiding implications for the life and witness of all who claim faith in Him. We believe His Incarnation as an ethnic Jew under Roman occupation, not only fulfills the centuries old promise of a Messiah to Israel and the promise to bless all nations through Israel (; ), but also expresses God’s identification with oppressed and marginalized people (; ). We believe our Lord’s birth to poor parents () indicates the Lord’s concern and empathy for the poor. We believe that he who oppresses the poor insults His Maker (). We believe the ethical teaching of the Lord requires His followers to eliminate worldly distinctions and prejudices based on ethnicity, class and gender (; ; ) and to do everything in the church to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (). We believe the ethical principles taught by our Lord, summarized most fully in His command to love one another (), may only find limited expression beyond the Church among the unbelieving world. Nevertheless, the Lord calls Christian disciples to do good to all men () and to let our good deeds be shown () so that our Father in heaven may be praised (). We believe living as Christ taught us requires we die daily to ourselves (), selfish ambition (; ), indifference (), willful blindness and all other habits of heart and corruptions of mind contrary to love and justice.
We deny that the pursuit of biblical justice necessarily corrupts the gospel of Jesus Christ. We deny the idea that doing justice is merely a partisan principle held by or belonging to some. It is rather the necessary and natural outworking of Christ’s life in the Church and the world by His Spirit. There is no way to follow Jesus Christ as Lord while leaving off justice for our neighbors (; ; ).
God the Holy Spirit
We believe the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, is fully God. We believe the Holy Spirit’s primary ministry is to exalt Christ, to draw humanity to the Lord, and to convict the world of righteousness, of sin, and of judgment (). We believe that apart from the Holy Spirit, no person can truly confess Jesus as Lord and no person speaking by the Spirit can deny Jesus is Lord (; ). We believe the Holy Spirit inspired the writing of the sacred scriptures and illumines the mind in the reading of scripture. We believe the Holy Spirit gives humanity the new birth () and seals the elect until the Day of God’s redemption (). We believe the Holy Spirit comforts the believer in the absence of Christ on earth (), fills or controls the believer submitted to Him (), and sovereignly equips the believer with spiritual gifts for the edification of the Church (). We believe God the Holy Spirit remains essential to the Christian life and apart from his gracious aid the believer can bear no lasting fruit in Christ (; )
Since God the Holy Spirit convicts the world of righteousness and produces righteousness in the life of the believer, we declare the Holy Spirit essential to any discussion of justice. We deny that the Holy Spirit would ever motivate any action contrary to justice as defined by the written word of God He inspired. We deny that a Christian can seek justice with any consistency or integrity by complying with the world, the flesh or the Devil, who war against the Spirit (; ; ) and remain hostile to God (). We deny that our weapons in this spiritual warfare are carnal (), so reject sinful means of protest. We believe resistance to the powers of darkness and the advance of evil—of which all injustice is a part—requires the Holy Spirit’s power and action in the Christian life. Justice seeking, then, is an important part of spiritual warfare. We believe the main means of “keeping in step with the Spirit” () include the ordinary means of grace: preaching and teaching, the fellowship of the saints, the ordinances, church discipline and prayer. We believe all other methods for seeking justice depend upon these means for their effectiveness, righteousness, and integrity.
1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (ESV)
5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (ESV)
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (ESV)
13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (ESV)
4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, (ESV)
27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, (ESV)
10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (ESV)
12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (ESV)
27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (ESV)
2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice! (ESV)
10:1 Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees,
and the writers who keep writing oppression,
2 to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be their spoil,
and that they may make the fatherless their prey! (ESV)
9 The Lord watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. (ESV)
17 O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed. (ESV)
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause. (ESV)
9 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, 10 do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” (ESV)
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (ESV)
23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, (ESV)
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. (ESV)
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (ESV)
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (ESV)
5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (ESV)
9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, (ESV)
5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (ESV)
5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (ESV)
30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, (ESV)
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (ESV)
7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. (ESV)
2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (ESV)
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (ESV)
25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? (ESV)
26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (ESV)
12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (ESV)
8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” (ESV)
17 When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them;
I the God of Israel will not forsake them. (ESV)
5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? (ESV)
24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” (ESV)
31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
but he who is generous to the needy honors him. (ESV)
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (ESV)
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (ESV)
2:1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (ESV)
3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (ESV)
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV)
10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (ESV)
12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (ESV)
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (ESV)
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (ESV)
13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (ESV)
14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. (ESV)
16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (ESV)
9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. (ESV)
8 The Lord God has sworn by himself, declares the Lord, the God of hosts:
“I abhor the pride of Jacob
and hate his strongholds,
and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.” (ESV)
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (ESV)
8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; (ESV)
3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. (ESV)
2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. (ESV)
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (ESV)
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (ESV)
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, (ESV)
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, (ESV)
12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way. (ESV)
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (ESV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (ESV)
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (ESV)
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (ESV)
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (ESV)
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (ESV)
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (ESV)
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (ESV)