This is the first in a series of columns on the Trinity.
Would it surprise you to know that six out of 10 U.S. adults say the Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being? Or, more shocking, that 78 percent of Americans with “evangelical beliefs” agree with the statement that Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father?
These views, part of Ligonier Ministries’ 2018 State of Theology survey of 3,000 Americans, expose the soft underbelly of evangelical Christianity in our country.
If Jesus is God’s first and greatest created being, then Arius, the fourth-century heretic, was right after all. On the other hand, if Jesus is the uncreated, eternal Son of God, then the church has made little headway in promoting sound doctrine since the councils of Nicaea and Constantinople pushed back against Arianism.
Fiction writers like Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code) and popular scholars like Bart Ehrman (The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture) have convinced many people the New Testament is unreliable
We are led to believe that Emperor Constantine determined the New Testament canon in the fourth century; that Christian leaders, vying for power, changed the Gospels to suit their personal agendas; and that amateur copyists butchered early New Testament manuscripts.
If these charges are true, the Church today is built on the shifting sands of legend, power, and political expediency.
Fortunately, the case for the reliability of Scripture is stronger today than it has ever been, thanks in part to a 2018 Faithlife film, “Fragments of Truth.” In the film, Craig Evans of Houston Theological Seminary takes us on a global journey through time and texts.
Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet. In fact, they teach Jesus was one of the greatest of the 124,000 prophets Allah sent to mankind – second only to Muhammad, the final prophet of Islam.
The Qur’an mentions Jesus in more than 25 places, always with honor. Jesus is called the son of Mary, the Messiah, a servant of God, a messenger of God, a word from God, and a sign from God.
At the same time, the Qur’an denies the deity of Christ, as well as the elements of His saving work on the cross, including his death, burial, and resurrection.
But if Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet, we may rightly ask if Jesus ever prophesied about Himself. If so, did His prophecies come true? We have to go to the Bible for answers, for the Qur’an offers little in response.
This is the eighth in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
Followers of Jesus take comfort in knowing that the Holy Spirit indwells us. That is, the third person of the Godhead has taken up permanent residence in our human spirits, from which He engages in the lifelong ministry of conforming us to the image of Christ.
While regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings sinners from spiritual death to spiritual life, indwelling is the continuous presence of the Spirit in the temples of believers’ bodies.
Without the Spirit’s continuous abiding in our hearts, we have no assurance of salvation, no soothing balm in times of trouble, no unbroken protection against the Devil’s false claims of ownership, no spiritual growth, and no means by which both the Father and Jesus keep their promise to abide in us forever.
It may be rightly said that the Spirit’s occupancy in our hearts is purchased, not rented. We are bought with a price – the redemptive work of Christ (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23) – and we belong to the One who has promised that the Spirit abides with us forever (John 14:16).
This is the seventh in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
In justification, God declares us righteous. In sanctification and glorification, which we explore in future columns, He makes us so. These interlocking works of God ensure that followers of Jesus are fully conformed to the image of Christ.
The Greek noun dikaiosis, or justification, describes the act of God declaring sinners righteous on the basis of the finished work of Christ. Believing sinners are acquitted – freed of all guilt – as their sins are transferred to the account of Christ and exchanged for Christ’s righteousness.
Theologians often refer to justification as forensic, which means “having to do with legal proceedings.” This legal declaration does not change our internal character. A judge does not make defendants guilty or innocent; he simply declares them to be one or the other.
Regeneration, indwelling, and sanctification are ways God works salvation inus, making us spiritually alive, taking up permanent residence in our spirits, and conforming us to the image of Christ. But justification occurs outsideof us. Put another way, the location of justification is heaven, where God declares believing sinners in right standing before Him.