Questions & Answers – Part 4

Q: What does it mean to be holy?

A: The word “holy” means primarily to be “wise”; a holy man is one who is perceptive, one who presumably understands the true nature of reality. Holiness implies the idea of revelation, the understanding of the supernatural that is given to the seeker. The weakness of the Eastern concept of holiness lies in the idea that once it is attained, it is a supreme and static state, an infinite perspective literally possessed by the enlightened (i.e., they become “one with God” in that they think as God). The idea exhibits no necessary moral content. One can be holy and still immoral.

In contrast, the Western understanding of the word “holy” tends to be “good” often with the suggestion of naivete. Someone who is “nice” is probably so because they have been sheltered and are unaware of the real pressures of life. This concept of holiness finds its strength in its emphasis on human responsibility and ethical accountability; one expects a holy man to be good, even though he need not be intelligent. Its weakness lies in the fact that it does not take supernatural help or revelation into account; there is no required dimension of insight, wisdom, nor perception built into it.

The Bible uses “holy” from both perspectives. A holy man or woman is both wise and good; both perceptive and supernaturally aware of the true nature of reality, and responsibly responding by drawing on the power provided to conform his life to that reality despite the pressures of temptation not to.

Q: What does God mean when He says “be ye holy for I am holy”?

A: God calls us to live the same way He is living. This begins when we become His children through His Son by faith; it continues as we trust Him day by day for fresh revelation of His love, grace, and power, and it goes on forever into eternity. It is a state of life that flows from a relaxed love relationship and happy trust in Christ.

Q: What does it mean “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48)

A: God is not only perfect in His being, but because He lives perfectly truthfully, His conduct wholly conforms to reality and is the epitome of love. To be morally perfect then is to conform our lives to moral light; to live up to that which God reveals in His Word and by His Spirit as best for all of us (2Thess.2: 13; in word, by the grace and power of Christ to live intelligently in a universe ruled by Him.

Q: But God is infinite. How can we be perfect like God?

A: Only in the same ways we were created to be like Him: in our character, intentions, and in our moral lives. This perfection cannot be physical. We are never going to be perfect in our physical beings in this life; there are no perfect bodies. We are never going to be immortal in this life; death is still the last enemy to be defeated. This cannot mean infinite perfection. We will never be infinite, neither now nor at any time, as that belongs only to God. Only in one way can we be like Him: to live as He does, as a true child of the Father. The Bible’s call for perfection is a finite, moral perfection of intention; a willful choice to do good.

Q: Doesn’t the Bible say “Nobody’s perfect”?

A: No, but the bumper stickers and buttons do! On the contrary, we are commanded to seek God and to be like Him; to know Christ (Phil.3:8-10) and to make Him known; and promised abundant supernatural provision to do this supernatural task. The biblical word “perfect” does not mean “faultless.” It has three synonyms in Scripture: “blameless” (Phil.2:15) or having selfish intention; “sincere” (Phil.1:10) or honest and transparent, being all you seem to be; and “complete” (Col.2 :10) or mature, to be all we should be at our stage of growth.

Q: Is being holy a state or process?

A: In God, it is a continuous dynamic state of being, an eternal, active conformity to all that is most wise and good; it is complete, ultimate, and unchanging. In His creation, it is and always will be a process. Conformity to a moral light may be real, entire, and sincere, but must by its very nature grow.

Q: Are you saying that no one will ever be perfectly holy in this life?

A: To use an electronics analogy, holiness has both a digital and linear component. A digital circuit is always in one of two states: a high or low, a yes or a no, and on or an off. On the other hand, a linear circuit, like the volume control on your stereo amplifier, has a steady, proportional (or analog) increase. The linear (analog) component of holiness is wisdom- God teaches us step by step, line upon line (Isa.28:9-10). It is progressive, proportionate, and ever increasing.

In contrast, the digital component of holiness is love, or obedience (John 14:23). It is always a “do” or “do not” situation, a “yes” or “no” never a “partially” or a “perhaps.” Part of the tragedy of our time is that we have confused the digital with the linear; we expect instant knowledge of everything and dismiss obedience as impractical, futuristic, or only partially possible. God wants continual learners who do exactly what He says, when He says it.

Q: God calls some people to be perfect in the Bible (Job1:8). Can we think of ourselves or call ourselves perfect?

A: Only God sees what we really know of true moral light, and what we think we know. In our information-rich world it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that religious information is the same as spiritual revelation. Only the Holy Spirit can search out the deep things of the heart and bring to light hidden motives and habit patterns of the past that pose as honest intentions (1Cor. 2:10-11). Because we do not even know ourselves in intimate depth, we ought not to judge or label the heart- motives of others (Matt.7: 1-2).

Q: Then how can we know if we are really like God?

A: We can’t! Only God knows the heart, and only God is ultimately qualified to judge our motives. All we can judge of our own lives is our own intentions and actual conduct in the light of a redeemed, clean conscience. We are to concentrate on loving and trusting God and leave the evaluations to Him. We are however, commanded to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that called you, who also will do it” (1Thess.5: 21-24).

Q: What is the safest way of thinking of yourself as a Christian?

A: We are “forgiven children of God” Forgiven so we remember the pit from which we came, children of God so we will never be tempted to dwell there again.

Q: What does it mean that Jesus was “made perfect”? If He was God, how could He be “made perfect”? (Heb. 5:9).

A: The perfection spoken of here is the same kind of perfection we are called to: the perfection of obedience in the fear of the Lord. The Lord Jesus did the will of His Father, and in a deliberate committal of trust and love, despite the cost and the suffering, He accomplished His task to provide a way back to God. His death was voluntary and deliberate. A major threat to His mission of atonement was premature death at the hands of His enemies. But He was “heard in that he feared” (Heb. 5:7), He learned obedience by the things that He suffered (5:8), and now is the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him”(Heb.5:9).

Q:The Bible does not use the words “Trinity” or Triunity.” How can you call something an absolute when the Bible does not even mention it?

A: These terms are only convenient labels for a teaching that runs through all Scripture and even nature. Through “triunity” or “trinity” are not used in the Bible, “three” and “one” are, and the teaching of three persons in one substance is the most accepted understanding of Scriptural teaching.

Q: This doctrine does not make sense at all, Even a child knows that 1+1+1 does not equal 1! If this is universally true, why is it so contrary to mathematics, a universal language?

A: The truth of trinity makes perfect sense and is fundamentally demonstrated in mathematics. The unity of the Godhead is not a simple unity but an interdependent unity. Expressed mathematically it would never be 1+1+1=1, for independent unity never gives true equality; but 1x1x1=1, for interdependent unity gives an exact correspondence of equality, and the omission of one part of such an interdependent unity leads to the loss of the entire product (1x1x0=0).

Q: Aren’t these different “persons” of the Trinity just different names for the same God? And if different names are proof of different persons, why not ten or twenty persons?

A: This is a good argument; nevertheless, it is not the names alone that denote the Church’s historical view of the Trinity but the unique characteristics consistent with these names. As for the numbers, when we study the texts that describe interaction in deity, there are never more than three persons involved.

Q: There are plural words in Hebrew for comprehensive qualities like shamayim (heaven) or matim (water of life). Why couldn’t the use of a plural word for God merely signify the comprehensiveness of God’s power and attributes?

A:The plural form of Hebrew word such as water point to a unity in diversity-water can have the form of either individual raindrops or an entire ocean. The word Elohim (gods) is such a word. So certainly the idea of “unity and diversity” may include the idea of His comprehensive power and attributes. But there are also passages where God speaks of Himself in the plural: “Let us make man…” (Gen. 1:26) and “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? (Isa.6:8). It is these passages that lead us to believe that there is personal interaction and communication, not just plurality of power, in God’s nature.

Q: The pope, presidents, kings and even editors sometimes sat “we” when they mean “me and the work I stand for.” When the Bible uses plural terms to describe God, why couldn’t we consider these as mere editorial plurals of royalty or honor?

A: Good idea, but too modern to match what we really find in Hebrew Scripture. There were no kings, presidents, or editors when God first said “us”. Klaas Runia says, “In view of Old Testament emphasis on the unity of God, the plural form for God ‘Elohim’ is remarkable. It cannot be explained as a ‘plural of majesty’; this was entirely unknown to the Hebrews.”

Gleason Archer declares, “This first person plural can hardly be a mere editorial or royal plural that refers to the speaker alone, for no such usage is demonstrable anywhere else in biblical Hebrew.”

Q: Couldn’t God have been referring to the angels when He said “Let us make man in our image?

A: Nowhere in Scripture is it stated that God either consulted the angels in the creation or made us in angelic image. He needs no help in making anything.

Q: How many spirits are there? If God’s essential nature differs because He is spoken of in the plural, then the essential nature of spirits must differ because they likewise are spoken of in the plural (Rev. 3:1).

A: The essential distinction (hypostasis) is assumed between the persons of the Trinity not only because the “most satisfactory solution seem to be that within God himself there is some kind of discussion, some interchange of views.” In a finite way, man mirrors this when he adopts points of view considering a question in which each point of view is a consideration from a different point of conscienceness.

Q: What does the Bible mean by the phrase “the seven Spirits of God” (Rev.3:1)?

A:The Hebrew significance of seven suggest, according to Lockyer, “to become satisfied, satiated or filled….The divine significance of seven carries the similar thought of perfection, whether of good or evil….Seven [thus] speaks of plenitude of the Holy Spirit’s power and diversified activity. Seven was the expression of the highest power the greatest conceivable fullness of force, and therefore was early pressed into the service of religion.”

Q: Aren’t the words “wisdom,” “word,” and “breath” of God merely poetic descriptions of how God acts or moves? If we infer a Trinity from these, what about the other persons implied by God’s hands, eyes, or arms?

A: All these expressions, poetic or otherwise, do indicate that God is personal, and personally active. He himself is present in His world; they are extensions of His personality, by which He, the Transcendent One, is personally involved in the history of the world….Nevertheless this idea of the extension of God’s personality is very important in itself. It shows there is movement in the living God. His being is not rigid or motionless, but as the living God, constantly reaches out towards others. And it is no wonder that later on in the New Testament this very same idea serves as a starting-point for the further development. Both Paul and John take up the idea of the word and wisdom of God and apply it to Jesus Christ, while the idea of the spirit of God develops into purely personal understanding of spirit: the Holy Spirit.”

Q: I still don’t see why the spirit couldn’t be considered the creative breath or life of one God. His action would be perceived as God’s without the need for a hypothetical third person. Why can’t we think of it merely as God’s actions in His creation?

A: When Paul wrote concerning Jesus, “In him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily” (Col.2:9), he was introducing an entirely new element into the Jewish doctrine of God, a communion of persons within the Godhead. “For this is not a matter simply of an extension of God’s personality. But the idea of interaction within the extended personality is not Hebrew or Hellenstic but definitely Christian.”

Q: So there seem to be different persons. Why not just call it Trithesim instead of Trinity? What is so important about keeping the idea of one God when it seems so obvious there are more than one?

A: Because the Bible also states that God is one. The early Christians, and Jesus himself, were orthodox Jews. They would never have considered rejecting or redefining Scripture to arrive at some polytheistic picture of deity.

Q: Jesus prayed, “that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:22). When we say that God is “one,” aren’t we talking about this singleness of purpose or harmony of personal unity?

A: The Godhead indeed enjoy perfect unity and harmony of purpose in personal relationship that is to be a model for the Church. But the substantial unity of the Godhead is based on other considerations that are metaphysical, not merely moral-that since each member is uncreated, they are thus essentially one in ‘substance. nature, and essence.”

Q: But what if Jesus were only God’s creation and the Holy Spirit just God’s influence or power?

A: Then Jesus would have commanded us to baptize people into the “name of the Father,” and of an exalted man, and of a certain influence of the Father,” and the benediction of 2Cor.13: 14 would read, “The grace of a creature and the love of the Creator and the communion of the creative energy be with you all. Amen.”

Q: Not all those who deny the Trinity deny the deity of God, Christ or the Holy Spirit. A number of otherwise evangelical groups along with other intelligent Christian men in history (Locke, Newton, Milton, and Isaac Watts) did not seem to support the traditional view of the Trinity. While they retained a full belief in the deity of Christ, of God the Father, and of the Holy Spirit, they held these to be different names of the one God or various descriptions of His personal relationships with his creation. What is wrong with this?

A: We must be kind here as well as true. The doctrine of the Trinity has been one of the most discussed and debated of all issues in Church history. Each facet of the various arguments over the centuries has had its own powerful and intellectual defenders.

The view adopted here is certainly not the only orthodox viewpoint from Church history, but this seems, on the whole, view which does the least violence to Scripture, normal language, and early Church thought; it also answers more questions philosophically, theologically, and practically than either the simple monadic or tritheistic views, as well as having the greatest historical support by the evangelical Christian church.

Q: I’m confused, If I pray, who am I talking to?

A: Technically your prayer goes by the Holy Spirit through the Son to the Father, and the answer comes from the Father via the Son by the Holy Spirit to your heart. Specifically, you can address requests for power, zeal, communication, and relationships to the Spirit; as the Son for wisdom, leadership, creativity, and authority; and the Father for comfort, counsel, care, and security. Practically, just pray. It will work out fine.

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