I suspect that most of the individuals who have religious faith are content with blind faith. They feel no obligation to understand what they believe. They may even wish not to have their beliefs disturbed by thought. But if God in whom they believe created them with intellectual and rational powers that impose upon them the duty to try to understand the creed of their religion. Not to do so is to verge on superstition.
The spirit of Christmas needs to superseded by the Spirit of Christ. The spirit of Christmas is annual; the Spirit of Christ is eternal. The spirit of Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural. The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ is a divine person. That makes all the difference in the world.
“Just as the light of the sun, while it invigorates a living and animated body, produces effluvia in a carcass; so it is certain that the sacraments where the Spirit of faith is not present, breathes mortiferous [deadly] rather than vital odor.” (Treatises on the Sacraments: Catechism of the Church of Geneva, Forms of Prayer, and Confessions of Faith)
How was the initial work of creation divided among the Trinity? According to these excerpts from Thomas Boston:
Isa. Chapter 45:12, “I have made the earth, and created man on it. My hands; stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded.” Chapter 40:12-13, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, Measured heaven with a span And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as his counselor has taught him?” Job 9:8, “He alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea.”
These are magnificent descriptions of the creating power of God, and exceed everything of the kind that has been attempted by the pens of the greatest sages of antiquity. By this operation God is distinguished from all the false gods and fictitious deities which the blinded nations adored, and shows himself to be the true God. Jer. 10:11 “Thus you shall say to them: ‘The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens. He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens at His discretion.’” Psalm 96:5, ” All the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens.” Isa 37:16, “You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.” None could make the world but God, because creation is a work of infinite power, and could not be produced by any finite cause: For the distance between being and not being is truly infinite, which could not be removed by any finite agent, or the activity of all finite agents united.
This work of creation is common to all the three persons in the adorable Trinity. The Father is described in Scripture as the Creator, 1 Cor. 7:6, “The Father, of whom are all things.” The same claim belongs to the Son, John 1:3, “All things were made by him,” [that is to say] the Word, the Son; John 1:3 “All things were made through Him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” The same honor belongs to the Holy Spirit, as Job 26:13, “By His Spirit He adorned the heavens.” Job 33:4 “The Spirit of God has made me,” says Elihu, “and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” All the three persons are one God; God is the Creator; and therefore all the external works and acts of the one God must be common to the three persons. Hence, when the work of creation is ascribed to the Father, neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit are excluded; but because as the Father is the fountain of the Deity, so he is the fountain of divine works. The Father created from himself by the Son and the Spirit; the Son from the Father by the Spirit; and the Spirit from the Father and the Son; the manner or order of their working being according to the order of their subsisting. The matter may be considered in this way: All the three persons being one God, possessed of the same infinite perfections; the Father, the first in subsistence, willed the work of creation to be done by his authority: “He spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” In respect of immediate operation, it peculiarly belonged to the Son. For, “the Father created all things by Jesus Christ,” Eph. 3:9. And we are told, that “all things were made through him,” John 1:3. This work in regard of settlement and ornament, particularly belongs to the Holy Ghost. So it is said, Gen 1:2, “and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters,” to embellish and adorn the world, after the matter of it was formed. This is why it is also said, Job 26:13 “By His Spirit He adorned the heavens.” (“God Alone Created the World”)
“[Philosophers] are like a traveler passing through a field at night who in a momentary lightning flash sees far and wide, but the sight vanishes so swiftly that he is plunged again into the darkness of night before he can take even a step – let alone be directed on the way by its help.” (Institutes of the Christian Religion)
James M Boice:
“The Reformers, and particularly John Calvin, stressed the way the objective, written Word and the inner, supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit work together, the Holy Spirit illuminating the Word to God’s people. The Word without the illumination of the Holy Spirit remains a closed book.”
Christianity and Arianism:
Arianism is a Christian heresy that was first advocated early in the 4th century by the Alexandrian presbyter Arius. It taught that Christ is not truly divine but is instead a created being. His basic assertion was the uniqueness of God. Arius believed that God alone is self-existent and immutable. Arius taught that Jesus was not self-existent and therefore cannot be God. The Godhead is unique and cannot be shared or communicated. Therefore, Jesus cannot be God. Arius also believed that Jesus was mutable because the Gospels portrayed Him as subject to growth and change. Because of this mutability, Arius believed that Jesus could not be God. He mistakenly believed that Jesus was only a creature.
The Bible teaches us:
“I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30 ESV)
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58 ESV)
“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily. . . .” (Colossians 2:9 ESV)
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20 ESV)
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” (John 14:10 ESV)
“But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31 ESV)
Adoption is taking someone outside the natural family into the relationship of a son and heir. Moses was the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter. We, who were strangers and aliens (Ephesians 2:12), God has taken and made sons and heirs with Christ Jesus. According to L.R. Shelton, Jr., God does three things in adoption:
(1) He gives us His name. He who is adopted bears the name of Him who adopts Him—“I will write upon him the name of my God” (Rev 3:12).
(2) He sanctifies us by His Spirit. When He adopts, He anoints; when He makes sons, He makes saints. When a man adopts another for his son and heir, he may put his name upon him, but he cannot put his disposition into him; if he be of a sullen, gloomy, sulky nature, he cannot alter it; but whom God adopts He sanctifies. He not only gives a new name, but a new nature. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4). He infuses into us His Spirit of holiness. He turns the wolf into a lamb; He makes the heart humble and gracious; He works such a change as if another soul dwelt in the same body (2 Cor 5:17).
(3) Where the Holy Spirit enters, there is a cry: “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Gal 4:6). It is the Spirit of God that cries. Romans 8:15 tells us that it is our cry, but a cry prompted and inspired by the Holy Spirit because He is the Spirit of adoption. He anoints us in some manner so that we are able to pray aright. He puts His divine energy into us so that we cry, Abba, Father, in an acceptable manner. There are times when we cannot cry at all, and then He cries in us. There are seasons when doubts and fears abound, and so suffocate us with their fumes that we cannot even raise a cry, and then the indwelling Spirit represents us, crying in our name, and making intercession for us according to the will of God (Rom 8:26,27). Thus does the cry, “Abba, Father,” rise up in our hearts even when we feel as if we could not pray, and dare not think ourselves children. Then we may each say: “I live, yet not I, but the Spirit of Christ that dwelleth in me.” On the other hand, at times our soul gives such a sweet assent to the Spirit’s cry that it becomes ours also, but then we more than ever own the work of the Spirit, and still ascribe to Him the blessed cry, “Abba, Father.” It is literally the cry of the Son. God hath sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, and that Spirit cries in us exactly according to the cry of the Son. (“Adoption”)
God was manifest in the flesh. When Paul calls Jesus Christ God, he acknowledges the nature which Christ had before the world was made. It is true, there is but one God, but in this one essence we must comprehend the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. John Calvin writes:
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)
We know that there is nothing at all in our nature but wretchedness and misery; nothing but a bottomless pit of stench and infection; and yet in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, we see the glory of God who is worshipped by angels, and likewise the weakness of man; and that He is God and man. Is not this a secret and hidden thing, worthy to be set out with words, and likewise enough to ravish our hearts! The very angels could never have thought upon it, as here observed by St. Paul. Seeing it pleased the Holy Ghost to set forth the goodness of God, and show us for how precious a jewel we ought to esteem it, let us beware on our part that we be not unthankful, and have our minds so shut up, that we will not taste of it, if we cannot thoroughly and perfectly understand it.
It is enough for us to have some little knowledge of this subject; each one ought to be content with what light is given him, considering the weakness of our judgment; and looking for the day wherein that which we now see in part, shall be wholly and perfectly revealed to us. Yet notwithstanding, we must employ our minds and studies this way. Why doth St. Paul call this a mystery of faith, that Jesus Christ, who is God everlasting, was manifest in the flesh? It is as much as if he should say, when we are gathered to God, and made one body with the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall behold the end for which we were made; to wit, that we might know that God is joined and made one with us in the person of His Son.
Thus, we must conclude that no man can be a Christian, unless he knows this secret which is spoken of by St. Paul. Should we now examine, and ask both men and women whether they know what these words mean, that God was manifest in the flesh, scarcely one in ten could make so good an answer as would be looked for from a child. And yet we need not marvel at it; for we see what negligence and contempt there is in the greatest part of mankind. We show and teach daily in our sermons, that God took upon Him our nature; but how do men hear them? Who is there that troubles himself much to read the Scripture? There are very few that attend to these things; every man is occupied with his own business. (“The Mystery of Godliness”)
“It is a promise which eminently deserves our observation that all who are united to Christ and acknowledge Him to be Christ and Mediator will remain to the end safe from all danger, for what is said of the body of the Church belongs to each of its members since they are one in Christ.”
With the utmost confidence let us go forward into the unknown future, linked eternally with Jesus. Charles H. Spurgeon writes:
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ESV)
[God] has gone so far in blessing us that it is not possible for Him to run back. Paul reminds us that He has “called us into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ.” Has he called us? Then the call cannot be reversed; for, “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” From the effectual call of His grace the Lord never turns. “Whom he called them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified:” this is the invariable rule of the divine procedure. There is a common call, of which it is said, “Many are called, but few are chosen,” but this of which we are now thinking is another kind of call, which betokens special love, and necessitates the possession of that to which we are called. In such a case it is with the called one even as with Abraham’s seed, of whom the Lord said, “I have called thee from the ends of the earth, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.” In what the Lord has done, we see strong reasons for our preservation and future glory, because the Lord has called us into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ. It means into partnership with Jesus Christ, and I would have you carefully consider what this means.
If you are indeed called by divine grace, you have come into fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, so as to be joint-owner with Him in all things. Henceforth you are one with Him in the sight of the Most High. The Lord Jesus bare your sins in His own body on the tree, being made a curse for you; and at the same time He has become your righteousness, so that you are justified in Him. You are Christ’s and Christ is yours. As Adam stood for his descendants, so does Jesus stand for all who are in Him. As husband and wife are one, so is Jesus one with all those who are united to Him by faith; one by a conjugal union which can never be broken. More than this, believers are members of the Body of Christ, and so are one with Him by a loving, living, lasting union. God has called us into this union, this fellowship, this partnership, and by this very fact He has given us the token and pledge of our being confirmed to the end. If we were considered apart from Christ we should be poor perishable units, soon dissolved and borne away to destruction; but as one with Jesus we are made partakers of His nature, and are endowed with His immortal life. Our destiny is linked with that of our Lord, and until He can be destroyed it is not possible that we should perish.
Dwell much upon this partnership with the Son of God, unto which you have been called: for all your hope lies there. You can never be poor while Jesus is rich, since you are in one firm with Him. Want can never assail you, since you are joint-proprietor with Him who is Possessor of Heaven and earth. You can never fail; for though one of the partners in the firm is as poor as a church mouse, and in himself an utter bankrupt, who could not pay even a small amount of his heavy debts, yet the other partner is inconceivably, inexhaustibly rich. In such partnership you are raised above the depression of the times, the changes of the future, and the shock of the end of all things. The Lord has called you into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ, and by that act and deed He has put you into the place of infallible safeguard.
If you are indeed a believer you are one with Jesus, and therefore you are secure. Do you not see that it must be so? You must be confirmed to the end until the day of His appearing, if you have indeed been made one with Jesus by the irrevocable act of God. Christ and the believing sinner are in the same boat: unless Jesus sinks, the believer will never drown. Jesus has taken His redeemed into such connection with himself, that He must first be smitten, overcome, and dishonoured, ere the least of His purchased ones can be injured. His name is at the head of the firm, and until it can be dishonoured we are secure against all dread of failure. (All of Grace)
Montanism and the Church:
Around 160 A.D. a believer named Montanus came onto the scene. He claimed that he had experienced a visitation of the Holy Spirit and had the ability to deliver prophetic messages from God. The Montanist message consisted of the promise of the immanent return of Jesus and the apocalyptic end of the world. He also preached a new outpouring of the Spirit and encouraged Christians to embrace martyrdom. Montanism had an over-zealous approach to martyrdom. The biggest problem with the Montanists was their view that their new prophecies carried the authority of the gospels. In the end, Montanism was rejected for its fanaticism and excesses of the new prophecy.
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. . . .” (Revelation 22:18 ESV)
Ralph Erskine explains below how it is that all things given by God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit still belong to God:
“The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.” (John 3:35)
[God] is the giver of all things, and the possessor of all things; insomuch that, when he gives all things, he cannot lose thereby the possession of any thing he gives; for, the Father’s giving all things into Christ’s hand doth not imply that he alienates his own right. It is true, when we give a thing to another, we lose a right to it; but it is not so with God; for when he gives all things to Christ, and when he gives Christ, and all things in him to us, he still keeps his right to all that he gives; “All things are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s,” 1 Cor. 3:22, 23. Thus, what the Father gives into Christ’s hand, remains still in the Father’s hand; “And I give unto them eternal life, and none shall pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one,” John 10:28. . . .
This donative (gifting) right that he hath, as Mediator, as it is well adapted to him, who, as God, hath the same essential right and title to all things with the Father and the Holy Ghost. For, as to his eternal Godhead, he is the everlasting Father, Isaiah 9:6, whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting, Micah 5:2. “By whom are all things, and we by him,” 1 Cor. 8:6. And, as Mediator, his donative right is attended with an acquisitive right, by his purchase, by which he hath merited and obtained a name above every name, and a being head over all things to the church, Phil. 2:97 Eph. 5:23. A bellical [martial] right, by conquest, making the people to fall under him, Psalm 110:4; making them willing in a day of his power, Psalm 110:3; and overcoming those that make war with him, Rev. 17:14. He is able to subdue all things to himself,” Heb. 2:8. An hereditary right, being the heir of all things, Heb. 1:2, and being the first-born, higher than the kings of the earth, Psalm 89:27; the first born from the dead, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence, Col. 1:18. (Heaven’s Grand Repository)
Bishop J. C. Ryle:
If we would hold fast that which is good, we must not tolerate any doctrine that is not the pure doctrine of Christ’s Gospel. There is a hatred that is downright charity: that is the hatred of erroneous doctrine. There is an intolerance which is downright praiseworthy: that is the intolerance of false teaching in the pulpit. Who would ever think of tolerating a little poison given to him day by day? If men come among you who do not preach “all the counsel of God,” who do not preach of Christ, sin, holiness, of ruin, and redemption, and regeneration, – or do not preach of these things in a Scriptural way, you ought to cease to hear them. You ought to carry out the spirit shown by the Apostle Paul, in Gal.1:8: “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed.” (Tract: “Hold Fast”)
“From the beginning, Christianity was certainly a way of life; the salvation that it offered was a salvation from sin, and salvation from sin appeared not merely in a blessed hope but also in an immediate moral change. The early Christians, to the astonishment of their neighbors, lived a strange new kind of life—a life of honesty, of purity and of unselfishness. And from the Christian community all other types of life were excluded in the strictest way. From the beginning Christianity was certainly a life.
But how was the life produced? It might conceivably have been produced by exhortation. That method had often been tried in the ancient world; in the Hellenistic age there were many wandering preachers who told men how they ought to live. But such exhortation proved to be powerless. Although the ideals of the Cynic and Stoic preachers were high, these preachers never succeeded in transforming society. The strange thing about Christianity was that it adopted an entirely different method. It transformed the lives of men not by appealing to the human will, but by telling a story; not by exhortation, but by the narration of an event. It is no wonder that such a method seemed strange. Could anything be more impractical than the attempt to influence conduct by rehearsing events concerning the death of a religious teacher? That is what Paul called “the foolishness of the message.” It seemed foolish to the ancient world, and it seems foolish to liberal preachers today. But the strange thing is that it works. The effects of it appear even in this world. Where the most eloquent exhortation fails, the simple story of an event succeeds; the lives of men are transformed by a piece of news.” (“Christianity and Liberalism“)