Do Oneness Pentecostals Worship the God of the Bible?

Have you ever met someone who identifies themselves as Christian, yet they reject Trinitarianism outright? Many of these individuals embrace what is known as “Oneness” instead of Trinitarianism. First, I should elucidate what I mean by “Trinity.” To say that God is triune is to say that there are three persons who are unified in the one being of God. God is one and God is three. He is not one in the same way that He is three, so this is not a contradiction. There are two things we need to understand the doctrine of the Trinity. 

One God, Three Persons

First, Christians believe the Trinity because the Bible teaches that there is one God and one God only. Passages such as Deuteronomy 6:4, Psalm 96:5 and Isaiah 43:10 teach this truth unapologetically. 

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 
– Deuteronomy 6:4

Secondly, the Bible teaches that there are three distinct persons who share in the one being who is God. Dr. James White does well to define “person” in the biblical sense. According to Dr. White, a distinct person has the “ability to have emotion, will, to express oneself.” Scripture shows that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have the capacity to express themselves. 

They each also have a will and the ability to have emotion. Each of the persons of the Trinity is referred to as God (Ephesians 1:2, Romans 9:6, Acts 5:1-4). The Bible emphatically declares that there is one God and there are three distinct persons within that one God. Trinitarianism is not some illogical fabrication of men, but it is purely biblical.

Oneness Theology Defined

In an effort to let the proponents of Oneness define their own position, I listened to Roger Perkins, one of their leading apologists, debate Dr. James White. Perkins argues,

Oneness people understand the New Testament distinctions between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which we readily concede, as arising in the incarnation [of Jesus]. This explains why we never see Father and Son distinctions in the Old Testament.

We see that they deny that Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit were distinct in any way from the Father prior to New Testament events. Keep in mind that Oneness theology is not teaching there are three distinct persons as Trinitarians do, but rather, one divine person working in three distinct roles. 

Believers of Oneness theology think Jesus is the Father, Jesus is the Spirit, and the Father is the Spirit. Note that Perkins believes these distinctions arose in the incarnation of Christ and not before. Boldly, he also asserts the Old Testament writings do not distinguish between the Father and the Son. This makes sense considering Perkins does not believe God assumed roles as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit before events detailed in the New Testament. 

Oneness beliefs can be described as a form of Modalism which teaches that God is both one in being and person as opposed to three persons. They believe one person takes on three different forms or modes (Father, Son, or Spirit). In his article, The Son Had His Beginning By His Begetting, Oneness apologist Steven Ritchie makes the two following statements, 

Oneness theologians agree that the true identity of the Son is the Spirit of Yahweh [,] God the Creator [,] before the Holy Spirit became incarnate as the human child born and Son given.

Hence, the Father’s own Name (Yahweh) was given to the Son at a specific point in time because the angel gave the Son’s name to Joseph (“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus [Jesus means ‘Yahweh Saves’], for He will save His people from their sins”) Therefore the Holy Spirit of the only true God miraculously became a man at a specific point in time as the child born and son given within the virgin in order to “save His people from their sins.”

What’s the Difference?

Trinitarians believe that in eternity past, God was one being shared by three coequal, coeternal persons. None of the persons ever came into existence, as they have always existed. None of the persons plays the role of any of the other persons. The Father has always been the Father, the Son has always been the Son who obeys the Father (John 5:19), and the Holy Spirit has always been the Holy Spirit who is sent by the Father (John 14:15-17). They all share fully in the one, infinite being that is God. That is why each of them can accurately be called God.

In contrast, Oneness believers do not believe Jesus and the Holy Spirit have always existed. They would say that there is only one person in the infinite being of God (instead of three persons). Oneness advocates would argue that this one person took the form of the Father in the Old Testament, the Son in the New Testament, and the Holy Spirit after Jesus’ ascension to Heaven. Some will contend that He places some of these roles simultaneously. A discussion of these claims will take place below, along with a brief argument for the Trinity.

Old Testament: Allusions to the Trinity

Two of the clearest passages which reveal the Trinity in the Old Testament are Psalm 110:1 and Isaiah 48:16-17. Let’s look at the first verse of Psalm 110:

The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
– Psalm 110:1

In this verse, we have a clear demonstration of “the Lord,” who can only be identified as God in this passage, conversing with another whom David refers to as His personal Lord. The context, which we cannot explore here, grants us every reason to believe the second “Lord” here is God too. As I mentioned before, a distinct person has “emotion, will, [and the ability] to express oneself.” We see that the first Lord has a will (to make the other Lord’s enemies His footstool), and the ability to express Himself (He is expressing Himself to the other Lord). Please note that the Lord asks the Lord to sit at His right hand. How can the Lord ask the Lord to take a different position in relation to Himself if they are not different persons? 

After reading this passage, we can only conclude that these “Lord[s]” are two distinct persons. The only alternative is to believe God is talking to Himself about how He is going to defeat His enemies for Himself. They must also unreasonably believe He is telling Himself to sit beside Himself. Believers of Oneness theology must impose their theology onto the text here instead of reading it for what it really says. It is also important that Christ quotes this verse in Matthew 22:41-45 while conversing with the Pharisees. Quoting the verse, Christ points out His existence, before His incarnation, as David’s Lord when Psalm 110 was written, and now He has entered creation as David’s descendant, or “son.”

New Testament: The Trinity Revealed

Passages that show Christ’s eternal existence refute the Oneness theological position. Such verses prove that, before the incarnation, there is a distinction in the Godhead between the Father and the Son. Not only does this rebut the Oneness position, but it also provides evidence for the Trinity. Clearer evidence can be found in John 1:1-3, 14. John writes,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The first thing we should notice here is the “Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Since the Word is identified as God and is said to be with God, the reader should infer that the verse is communicating that God was with God. “With” is used to explain how things relate to one another, and never how something relates to itself. This implies two different persons. Next, we see that the Word was in the beginning with God. From this, we should understand that the Word (who is identified as God) is eternal and has always been distinct from God (identified as the Father later in this same chapter). The Word is in the beginning with God also means the Word existed prior to the incarnation. Verse 14 identifies Jesus as the Word, saying “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” We must believe all the attributes of the Word belong to Jesus, because we know Jesus is the Word.

According to this passage, He is God and He is a distinct person from the Father, and He existed before the incarnation. The distinction between Him and the Father did not arise in the incarnation as believers of Oneness argue. This passage also refutes the idea that God is playing different roles as Father, Son, and Spirit. We see clearly in John 1:1-3, 14 that God is with the Word (who is God), not that He is taking on the role of the Word. Finally, I must explain that this passage is not teaching polytheism, but the fact that God is more than one in person. Many scriptures affirm monotheism and John 1:1-3, 14 does not contradict them.

Christ’s interactions with the Father and the Holy Spirit are further proof of the Trinity. One of the clearest depictions of them interacting and thus, being distinct persons is in John 14.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
– John 14:16-17

In this passage, Jesus announces that He will ask the Father to send His disciples another Helper who is the Holy Spirit. Christ making a request of the Father shows that there is a distinction between the two as Christ is expressing His desire to another person. There is no reason to believe He is asking Himself in a different role as Oneness advocates might say. Also, Christ refers to the Holy Spirit as, “another Helper.” 

By using the term, “another”, Christ distinguishes Himself from the Spirit. When the term “another” is used, it means a different person than the first. The Spirit is like Jesus in that He is a Helper, but He is not Jesus. The last verse here refers to the Spirit as a Helper, which implies He is a person. An impersonal force cannot help, but a divine person who has emotions, a will, and the ability to express Himself is capable of being a “Helper.”

Conclusion

I must say, respectfully, Oneness theology is heresy. Obviously, rejecting the triune God of Scripture in favor of the unbiblical Oneness conception of God is idolatry. God demands that we worship Him as He has revealed Himself and not as we imagine Him to be (Exodus 20:3-17). One cannot deny Jesus is a divine person distinct from God the Father and still be worshiping Christ. We cannot dispense with Christ’s distinctness from the Father anymore than we can dispense with His divinity and incarnation as a man. These attributes are essential to understanding Christ’s true identity and the nature of the Godhead. I encourage all people, not just those who believe in Oneness, to repent of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation from God’s wrath. By faith in Him alone, not any actions on your behalf, you will be forgiven for your sins and reconciled to God for eternity in Heaven.

Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 
– 1 John 2:22-23

May we worship Jesus Christ as He has revealed Himself and not how we desire Him to be.

Why Should We Memorize Scripture?

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
-Hebrews 4:12

The Battle

In Ephesians 6, Paul exhorts believers to put on the full armor of God, which includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and shoes that bring the gospel of peace. Today, there is only one piece of the armor of God that is offensive: the sword of the Spirit. I believe that one of the primary reasons that the church in America seems to have become so helpless against our three greatest enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, is that we have not taken up our swords. 

Imagine a battalion of soldiers charging valiantly towards the enemy without any weapons. They could have bulletproof jackets, helmets of steel, and every intention of destroying the enemy, yet without their guns, they will be mowed down with ease. It is absurd to imagine such a sight, but we do the same thing when we try to stand against the world, the flesh, and the devil, without the word of God.

Faithful Examples

A mentor of mine, Stephen Trafton, used to perform on Broadway before deciding to use his performing arts skills to memorize and passionately proclaim entire books of the Bible in front of live audiences through a ministry called Living Letters. Stephen’s passion and love for the Word surprised me. When I saw his love for the Word of God demonstrated through memorization and delivery, I was inspired to take Scripture memorization more seriously.

John Piper recounted that he had never heard Scripture recited in Church until he was 31 years old, and when he did, it simply blew him away. He has since intentionally memorized many passages which have served him in countless ways. When we hear the Word of God recited, it lead us to a new love for the Word. 

Throughout his life, the great preacher George Whitefield spent countless hours on his knees, devouring the Word of God, which he unleashed with unprecedented force in the colonies and in Great Britain. I can imagine that Jesus Christ spent countless hours Himself before the Word, memorizing it and savoring it, meditating on it day and night. He loved it to the point that when He was in the wilderness, even after days of hunger and thirst, He was able to fight off the devil with His weapon: the Word of God. 

Throughout Paul’s letters, we see him constantly referencing and quoting, word for word, verses from the Old Testament. When I started reading Charles Spurgeon’s writings and sermons, I was shocked to see all of the verses that were simply woven into his works without any citation… it seemed like the Word of God was so ingrained in his mind that it just flowed out as he preached the Gospel.

Love the Lord with your Mind

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
-Mark 12:30

Our Lord proclaimed this as the greatest commandment. In many evangelical churches today, it is far too common that all of the focus is directed towards loving God with the emotion at the expense of everything else, especially the mind. It is easy to find yourself in a community that cares deeply about feeling God’s love, or a community that cares deeply about doing good things and obeying God’s law, however, it is rare to find young believers that are resolutely seeking to love God with their minds as well as their emotions and actions. God cares deeply about what we think, and our minds are a very important part of us that we must fully submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. A way in which we can use our minds to honor God, is to fill them with His Word. In Psalm 119:11, the Psalmist writes:

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 

The Psalmist stores up the word of God in his heart for what reason? In order that he “might not sin against God.” How could the Psalmist get the written word of God into his heart any other way than through the mind? R.C. Sproul stated that “The word of God can be in the mind without being in the heart, but it cannot be in the heart without first having been in the mind.”  This verse is a perfect example of how we can love God with our minds through the memorization of His Word which, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can enter our hearts and then bear God-glorifying fruit in our lives. 

Earlier this year, I had a friend at Wheaton who spent hours locked away in his room and memorized ten chapters of First Corinthians. God used this in part to convict me of my lack of seriousness about the Word of God, and I dove into trying to memorize Romans 6 and 7. Romans 6 contains the verse “how can we who died to sin still live in it?” which God brought to my mind many times later on to keep me from sin. I would be on the verge of giving in to some temptation or other, yet this question, “how can we who died to sin still live in it?” kept popping into my head. Unable to give an answer, I turned to Christ and was protected.

In times of fearing man, which is sinful, God has brought to mind Psalm 23:4, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are with me,” or Psalm 27:3, “Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.” I would even quietly recite parts of Psalm 27 to myself to combat fear during my high school basketball games, and now God brings it to my mind to combat fear before preaching the Gospel. What was once a verse I skimmed over now is a precious diamond to me. These verses have become trusted weapons that I have used by God’s grace to fight away the lies of the devil time and time again. Therefore, memorize the Word to fight against your flesh, for

if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
-Romans 8:13 

Scripture Memorization, Evangelism, and Discipleship

While the memorized, locked, loaded, and deadly Word of God is helpful in the fight for your own soul, it is also helpful in the fight for the souls of others. God’s Word honors Him, and He will honor the Word. In Isaiah 55:11, God states that His Word 

shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

While I think you should bring along your physical Bible to evangelize for a variety of reasons, there will always be circumstances in which you need to have a verse locked and loaded. After I finished memorizing my favorite chapter, Romans 8, I was able to swiftly respond with Romans 8:18-23 while sharing the Gospel with a man in Chicago, who had a seemingly random question about the brokenness of the Creation. I have had many other instances on the street where the memorized Word of God has been brought to mind by the Spirit and had a powerful impact on my audience, by God’s grace. 

When you only have a couple minutes to share the Gospel with someone, you do not want to be unprepared and resort to whatever you happen to remember. Wheaton’s Chicago Evangelism Team doesn’t take the train to Chicago every Friday just to share our opinions or our thoughts with people. They don’t need our speculation. They need the truth, the truth of God’s Word. We need to give the lost the infallible word of God, not our opinions. The Apostles didn’t get slaughtered for softly sharing some of their thoughts of Jesus, they didn’t get slaughtered for earning the right to be heard, establishing a relationship, and then sneakily weaving their opinion about Jesus into a conversation, no! They were slaughtered for boldly proclaiming the word of Christ.

Refuting Today’s Lies

Now, the memorized Word will not just help with evangelism, but it will help in important debates and arguments against serious theological error, which are crucial. American society and churches have been contaminated with pretty much every heresy under the sun. I’m not talking about whether or not it’s wrong to get a tattoo or even whether or not Calvinism is true. I am talking about the majority of your youth group thinking that eternal life is a result of sincerity, no matter what you believe. I am talking about youth pastors denying Hell and students who think evangelism is wrong. I am talking about your friend who watches a few YouTube videos and concludes that Jesus was not God and that the only thing that matters in Christianity and every other religion is love. If you don’t think these heresies should be lovingly refuted, so that unity can be maintained, you need to read the New Testament. 

Heresy is like poison, and often we will not have time to google the verse we are vaguely thinking of in a conversation. We need to have God’s Word locked and loaded, in season and out of season, in order to powerfully fight against the lies of Satan which have been steadily creeping their way into the worldview of young believers across America for as long as we have been alive. 

Encouraging Believers

For a moment, forget nonbelievers, forget those in error, what about a brother or sister in Christ who just lost a family member and calls you at three in the morning in tears? What about a younger student you are mentoring at summer camp who is struggling in his faith at public school and needs hope in the face of persecution? God opens doors for precious intimacy with struggling believers where we do not want to have to waste precious time googling some verse you heard one time in a sermon or flipping through your prayer journal. There will be desperate moments where time is of the essence and you have a golden opportunity to comfort or encourage a brother or sister. May you not damage them by neglecting the memorization of the Word. 

Parting Words

Memorize Scripture, and may God give you the power to use it wisely in the battle for the souls of your friends. May He give you a deep love for the memorization of His Word, and may you arm yourself more and more for the rest of your life with weapons that will prove themselves over and over, weapons that you will be able to fend off the devil with, weapons that, by the Spirit can pierce and soften the hearts of the most angry atheists, weapons that you will defend your children and maybe even your grandchildren with, weapons that you will use to valiantly protect God’s bride until the day you die.

I pray that this article would be a spiritual call to arms for our generation to memorize the Word of God with the goal of more deeply loving our neighbors, and more devastatingly waging war against the world, the flesh, and the devil. 

Is Lying Always A Sin?

We cannot get around the obvious truth that lying is always a sin. Regardless of the circumstance, the Bible does not shy away from teaching us that lying is a sin. The commands given by the Lord are absolute and unchanging and are given for our good and His glory. Though we face pressing and difficult situations, we cannot compromise or normalize lying. In order to examine this further, I would like to look at this question from several different angles: biblical, historical, and practical.

However, before I begin to make my case, I want to make one thing clear. I am not asking if you would be able to resist the temptation to lie in certain situations, nor am I trying to shame you. I will not tell you that it is easy to resist the temptation to lie. Humans, when given the opportunity of ease and comfort, will lie rather than follow the commands of God.

Surprisingly, when I asked a group of professing Christian students the question, “Is lying always a sin?” they replied, “Of course not, I think that if I lie to save someone, then God will think I’m clever,” or “No, if I lied during World War II to save the Jewish people, that wouldn’t be a sin because I did the right thing.” Unfortunately, the Bible, the one source of truth, does not sway.

Biblical View

Topic, for utmost confidence, we must first look to the Word Himself for our example. Jesus Christ, truly God and truly man, lived on the earth for more than three decades and encountered trials of all kinds. Yet, in these situations He never stumbled, sinned, or lied even though he might have had good reason (Hebrews 4:15).

For example, Jesus knew exactly who would betray him, but did not lie to Judas about where He would be to avoid being arrested, nor did He lie when the Pharisees and Sadducees asked him difficult questions that could have caused him to be stoned. In addition, while on trial in Luke 22, the council of elders asked Jesus if He claimed to be the Son of God, and He replied in the affirmative when it would have been just as easy to lie in order to preserve His life.

Often, I witness people attempting to debate this topic by using the story of the gentile prostitute, Rahab, and her act of lying in order to hide the spies of Israel and keep them safe.

But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.
-Joshua 2:4-7)

They say that she is commended for lying in “the right circumstance” by God, but Hebrews 11:31 easily puts this to rest,
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
It is easy to observe that Rahab was commended not for her act of lying, but for her faith in God. She was recognized for her faith, which we know was instantaneously followed by salvation. God took her sinful actions and used them for His glory without praising her for wrongdoing. The Bible will not praise sin because it is divinely inspired and the Godhead never approves of any wrongdoing that contradicts his character. God is holy and just and cannot approve of unholiness.

Historical View

Our secondary examination of this topic is a historical view. First, I wanted to begin with a quote by one of my favorite theologians of the nineteenth century,

Truth has no degrees or shades. A half truth is a whole lie, and a white lie is really black.
– Charles Spurgeon

Doesn’t this quote only substantiate what we already know the Bible says? Our culture constantly tries to make the claim that truth is relative, that it is always changing, and that it is dependent on situations and the opinions of human beings. Christians must not take this to heart, but rather uncompromisingly refuse to conform to the patterns of the world (Romans 12:12).
We are called to rise above temptation, to glorify God even in the midst of a great conundrum, and to obey His word in response to our saving faith. The church in America has a desperate need for bold-hearted men and women who are willing to take a stand for the truth, and a horrific abundance of cowards who will compromise on pretty much any part of the Christian faith that could offend people.

A more extreme example from church history comes from the ten Boom family, a Christian family who was involved with hiding jews during the Holocaust. One member of the family felt particularly strong about honoring the law of the Lord at all costs, even at the potential cost of her family’s lives or the lives of those whom they had protected from the Nazis. When the police came to her house and asked her point-blank if her family was being unloyal to the Nazi regime, she too answered in the affirmative but her life was spared because of Divine Sovereignty.

Furthermore, the examples of Rahab and the ten Boom family are rare and exceptional situations that cannot supercede God’s explicitly revealed commandments in both the Old and New Testaments. We must also believe that in addition to those situations arising rarely, there must also be a way to answer those questions in a way that would honor the Lord and not cause one to stumble.

Practical View

Life is not always this simple. We are not guaranteed a happy life free from suffering and hardship. We are, however, guaranteed to encounter many trials paired with the promise of entering into eternal life with the Father. We also have the promise of having the Spirit in us always as a helper, constantly interceding on our behalf, giving us all needed wisdom, discernment, energy, and boldness to honor the Lord in all our actions.

Reminder of God’s Character

The Scriptures teach us that God is immutable, which means that he does not change (James 1:17, Isaiah 40:8). This attribute of God should be taken into account whenever we are looking at this question. Due to the fact that we have already examined a biblical, historical, and practical view, I want to shift our focus to the immutability of God and its implications in this argument.
The Triune God, the Creator of the universe, exists as three distinct persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In John 1:1, John makes the bold yet accurate statement that Jesus is the embodiment of the Word. If God says in Exodus that lying is a sin, and Jesus corroborates that statement in the New Testament, than God has not changed and neither has the Word. In His immutability, God does not allow room for wrongdoing, nor does He see anything as gray.

My Prayer for You

I pray that as you and I continue to wrestle with this topic as well as the other deep truths of the Lord, that we would first and foremost seek Scripture and dive into prayer for wisdom and guidance. May we never stray from biblical orthodoxy to satisfy our culture, and may we always desire to see Him glorified.

How Should the Church Combat Sex Trafficking?

Modern day slavery is a sad reality, but, nonetheless, it is a reality. The International Labor Organization has estimated there are 20.9 million human trafficking victims globally, with sex trafficking accounting for roughly 58% of the cases reported. They have also estimated approximately 500,000 to 600,000 new victims of sex trafficking every year. To be clear, these are conservative estimates when compared with others.

I believe that it is the Church’s job to shine God’s light where there is darkness and bring God’s kingdom where there is brokenness by helping those in need. Surely, this is an issue full of darkness and brokenness that the Church must address.

There are four actions the Church can take to combat this global tragedy of sex trafficking: advocate, support, address, and pray.

Advocate

Advocacy does not fix a problem like this, but it is the first step. After all, how can anyone help prevent sex trafficking if they don’t know about it?

People realize that sex trafficking is a horrendous evil, and many also know that it is extraordinarily prevalent. What they may not know is what God, through His church, is doing and should be doing about it.

There is a great deal of complacency and apathy in the American Church regarding the atrocities in our world. Just the other day in class, my friend, who I know to be an active christian, noticed a sticker on my laptop which reads “End Slavery in Our Lifetime.” She commented that it’s a nice thought, but that slavery will always be around. I reminded her that it’s our job to do something about that.

“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’”
-Deuteronomy 15:11

Advocacy that gives hope and points to an even brighter future hope is the type of advocacy the Church needs to participate in. This drives people out of their complacency to truly be a part of what God is doing. We need to be telling our congregations and community groups: “Sex Trafficking is a major problem, but you can help do something about it.”

Support

There is no need for every church community to launch their own ministry to fight sex trafficking; rather, every church should be open and willing to support and partner with existing effective ministries.

Reputable ministries such as International Justice Mission and Agape International Missions have been effective in the fight against sex trafficking. There are additionally countless smaller local ministries which are leading the fight in our own communities. Churches and individuals supporting and giving to such ministries will go a long way. Besides just donating, Christians should consider going on mission trips or even employing these ministries.

The Church’s vocal activism can help support programs which hinder sex trafficking. 2017’s “Speak Up,” a day dedicated to tweeting, emailing, and calling members of congress, was utilized for several questionable social issues. However, it also proved determinate in the US government continuing to allocate funds to “The Program to End Modern Slavery,” a federal program allocated with $75 million which is used to give grants to non-government organizations and conduct research into methodologies to further impede human trafficking.

When examining the results of the “Speak Up” campaign, it is evident that contacting legislators can make a difference. So, the Church needs to continue to be a voice in her communities. Reaching out to federal and local government leaders is a practice that too few churches undertake, but one that can have even more fruitful effects for bringing justice to the oppressed.

Being voices and influencers in our communities as well as donating and partnering with effective programs and organizations may seem to be insignificant efforts. However, it is often small gestures which spark greater involvement and thus significant change.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works”
-Hebrews 10:24

Address

While it is encouraging to that this conversation is increasingly common in church settings, there is still too much timidity amongst Christians to talk about our sexual struggles. However, in order to combat sex trafficking, the pornography industry must be addressed by the Church.

It is likely not surprising to read that three out of every ten men between the ages of eighteen and thirty admit to viewing pornography daily, or that $3,075.64 is spent on internet pornography every second. However, what may be surprising to read, is the intimate link the pornography industry has to sex trafficking. The 2018 Federal Human Trafficking Report shows pornography was utilized in 87.7% of sex trafficking cases active in 2018. With the legal leniency pornography websites are given, experts have concluded that the pornography industry and the sex trafficking industry are closely connected.

Therefore, fighting sex trafficking should entail helping our brothers and sisters with their pornography problems and fighting against the pornography industry in America. However, preaching “pull your pants up and be a man,” as has been the trend previously, has proven ineffectual. This approach places too much emphasis on the agency of the individual who only God has the power to sanctify.

We need to implement real accountability groups. Safe places where Christians of the same gender can share openly about their struggles in order to help free them from the snare of pornograpy. There are a number of programs and curriculum that have been seen to have positive results which churches and small groups can utilize. A few of these being Covenant Eyes, the 3x Church, and Conquer Series. Using these resources in order to have real accountability are strategies in waging war against the flesh. Means by which we allow the Holy Spirit to further work in our hearts.

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
-1 Peter 2:11

This abstaining from pornography will not only change the possible devalued mental or subconscious attitude towards the opposite sex that often occupancies pornography consumption, but it will genuinely affect the supply and demand of the sex trafficking industry. Which will significantly hinder the enormity.

Pray

I recently attended the Gospel Coalition National Conference where I had the privilege of listening to a panel discussion with some of the leading pastors in China. When asked what the number one thing Christians in America can do to help them, one of the men said, “three things: pray, pray, pray.” When asked how the Church should fight human trafficking, I echo the plea of the Chinese pastor.

Pray, pray, pray.

Pray that people will understand that they can do something about the problem. Pray for the organizations and programs that are leading the fight against human trafficking. Pray for Christians to crucify their flesh and to throw off the pornography which so easily entangles them. Pray for the hearts of the traffickers who are exploiting their victims. Pray that God would show justice. Pray for God to move. Pray.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.”
-Psalm 107:13

Do all Religions Lead to God?

The belief that all religions lead to God has become popular in our culture. This idea is known as pluralism. Pluralism teaches that multiple religions are equally truthful and acceptable because the core of any religion is to worship a god. This makes any form of worship directed toward any god of any religion just as valid as another.

For example, pluralism would suggest that Buddhists worship the same god as Christians, Muslims, and Hindus because there is a greater deity that accepts all forms of worship, not caring what beliefs you hold to as long as it leads to you worshiping the deity you believe to be correct. Pluralism has found its way into the churches of America and if Christians are unable to give a Biblical response to this growing trend, then Biblical doctrine will be diminished and may cause non-believers to hold a wrong view of God.

Why is Pluralism Incorrect?

Before noting the incompatibility of different religions, it is important to note the core issue of pluralistic thinking–relative truth. Relative truth is the denial of an absolute and ultimate truth. There is much to write about regarding relative truth; however, I will not go into much depth. The key principle to understanding relativism is that it is an endless cycle of contradiction. To state, “All truth is relative” is making an absolute claim that there are no absolutes.

Moral relativism simply offers a way out of reckoning absolute truth with reality, allowing all religions to be equally true. Moral relativism not only contradicts Scripture’s teaching, but logically does not make sense because it claims that all religions are equally true. From the Christian standpoint, there are key doctrines that other religions do not adhere to. This means that other religions are lacking the knowledge of God as He has revealed Himself through Scripture.

For example, Buddhists deny a personal god while Hindus believe in many gods. Mormons also believe in many different gods and only worship a few of those gods. The belief that the God of the Bible is triune in person while singular in being, has sent His only Son for the forgiveness of sin through His death, and was raised on the third day is a truth that cannot be sacrificed at the price of being loving, tolerant, and accepting of other religions. It is the key doctrinal element of Christianity that makes it unique.

In comparison to other monotheistic religions such as Islam and Judaism, there are fundamental doctrinal differences that separate them from Christianity, such as God’s attributes, character, and nature. It is simply illogical to state that all religions can lead to God when nearly every religion in history contradicts another one. Even from the perspective of a moral relativist, it is impossible for all religions to be equally true simply due to the numerous contradictions between them.

Why is the God of the Bible the only God?

The differences between Biblical Christianity and other religions are vast. Christianity is the only religion that gives a realistic view of who we are as humans (sinful), while other religions talk about salvation coming by human effort and inward goodness. Christianity is the only religion to teach that man is totally depraved and wicked from birth, yet has a Savior who offers grace freely based upon faith in Christ and not works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Christianity is the only religion that teaches that the deity figure offered Himself up to bear the punishment of human sin and rose again so that we may be a new creation through Christ.

Biblically speaking, two verses give the explicit mention of Jesus being the only way. John 14:6 states, “Jesus said to [Thomas], I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Acts 4:12 states, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved (Jesus).” The pinnacle of the gospel is that God, being rich in mercy, provided what He demanded of us so that we can stand forgiven–the shed blood of Christ for sin. Christianity is based entirely upon the idea that everything needed for salvation has already been done for those who will believe and trust in Christ. Christianity says done while other religions say do. This is what distinguishes Christianity from any other religion.

Do all people who claim to be Christians worship Christ?

A final recognition still remains–one that I believe is more dangerous than believing in another religion. A rather harsh reality is that there are some people who claim to be Christians who do not worship God. Instead, they worship an idol. I cannot express enough that you are not a born-again believer simply because you claim the name of Christ. There are many people and denominations we consider under the umbrella of Christianity who do not know God. We share meals with these people. We have conversations with these people. We do life with these people. And all the while, we offer them false assurance of their relationship with Christ while they are on their way to eternal damnation because we neglected to tell them the truth of the gospel and of God.

This much is true–Christ, the second person of trinity, equal with the Father and the Spirit, was with the Father in creation (Col. 1:16-17), became the incarnate God-man, being fully God yet fully man, living a sinless and perfect life (Heb. 4:15), dying on a cross for the sins of those who believe (John 3:16), and raising on the third day to secure eternal salvation for those the Father had chosen before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1: 4). Christianity is not about claiming a christ. Christianity is about knowing the Christ and His gospel. Friends, we must make Christ and the gospel clear.

Know Christ. Worship Christ. Follow Christ.

Pray that the Father, through the working of the Holy Spirit, will grant you the boldness and confidence to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for in him “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14).

In Christ,

Nicolas Olson

Is Church Membership a Requirement?

There is no Bible verse that says, “join a local church.” Many object to the idea of church membership for that reason alone. But is this argument even reasonable?

What is church membership?

In Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever, a leading advocate of church membership, wrote that the five following responsibilities of church membership includes:

  1. Regular attendance at services
  2. Regular attendance at communion
  3. Consistent attendance at members’ meetings
  4. Regularly praying for the church at which you are a member
  5. Giving to the church regularly

Dever is not alone in believing this. John Piper, D.A. Carson, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler, Ligon Duncan, and Timothy George all endorsed Dever’s teachings in this book. To be clear, listing big names does not prove that anything is biblical, but it is important to establish that Dever’s understanding of biblical church membership is supported by many well-respected Christian leaders. Let’s look at why they believe these things.

What did the Epistle Writers Assume?

Here are some introductions to the New Testament Epistles:

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.
1 Corinthians 1:2

Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
-Galatians 1:1-3

Notice that Paul addresses these letters directly to churches which are assemblies of believers. He could address his audience in this manner because of their habit of regularly gathering together. He writes under the assumption that the church itself would be meeting together in a context where the letter would be read aloud.The concept of a Christian who did not belong to a church would have been foreign to Paul.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
-Colossians 1:1-2

And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.
-Colossians 4:16

The introduction and closing statement above assume that the believers will be gathered together to read the letter, and they confirm that there were specific churches receiving letters. Being part of a church, not a wanderer who comes and goes as he or she pleases, was the norm in the earliest churches and ought to be the norm in ours as well.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
-Hebrews 10:24-25

The writer of Hebrews commands believers to assemble regularly. Neglecting to meet prevents believers from encouraging one another to obey Christ as they eagerly wait for His return.

Biblical Commands for Church Leadership and Discipline

1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 teach the qualifications of church leaders. How would Paul appoint leaders if they were not going to preside over an assembly of Christians? Appointing leaders suggests that there is a group that needs to be led, and these leaders cannot fulfill their callings to teach, care for, and lead a group unless the members of the group are committed and submissive to the leaders’ authority. The apostle Peter explicitly commands elders (church leaders/pastors) to lead the congregation and the congregants to submit to leaders.

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
-1 Peter 5:1-2, 5

Is it possible to obey God’s commands without Church membership?

1 Corinthians 12:7-26 is one of the clearest passages on how the members of Christ’s Body should function. We will examine chapter 12 verses 7-26 in two parts.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 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. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. -1 Corinthians 12:7-11

Verses 7-11 begin with Paul saying that the Spirit gives to each believer a gift for the “common good” of other Christians. The last verse here, teaches that the Spirit freely chooses to distribute gifts to Christians so that they may serve other Christians. How can we be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s will without pledging to serve a community of believers with our gifts? It is incredibly difficult to devote one’s gifts to serving Christians if they do not commit to a church by means of membership. One who refuses to consistently serve with their gifts in a community of believers is not adequately caring for their fellow Christians. We should rejoice that we can serve in a way that pleases the Triune God, and that we can be blessed by the gifts of God directly through our Christian siblings.

If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
-1 Corinthians 12:17-20

Continuing with his discussion of spiritual gifts, Paul parallels the Spirit’s giving of different gifts to Christians with the various functions of the human body. Each person with particular gifts within the Body of Christ is represented by a body part. In verses 17-20 he explains that no Christian is truly separated from the others even if they claim to be, and that the body is made whole by all the parts being unified.  

But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
1 Corinthians 12:24-26

Since the body parts represent Christians, one of the points that Paul is making here is that Christians have need of each other. If one does not commit to serving the other through church membership, how can the body be complete and how can the eye receive the benefits of what only the hand can do. Committing to church membership is part of submitting to the Holy Spirit’s purpose in giving gifts. All Christians are bought with a price, born again for good works, and commanded to sacrificially serve the Body of Christ at all times (Philippians 2:1-11, Ephesians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Next Steps

Be mindful that you bring both problems and gifts into whichever church you join. Remember that your love toward other believers is proof that you love God (1 John 4:20) and that you are commanded to lay aside your own privileges for the sake of your fellow Christians (Philippians 2:1-11). Look diligently for a church that preaches the truth about God and the gospel. The gospel is that Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, took on human flesh died for the sins of all who recognize themselves as having fallen short of God’s standard (which is perfection) and trust in His sacrifice. All who repent and believe the gospel will be forgiven and adopted as God’s children. The sinner must trust in Christ and not his or her own works, since they cannot bring about forgiveness by their own deeds (baptism, church attendance, etc.).

Whoever trusts in Him will worship God in Heaven for eternity. The church you join should practice the sacraments of baptism and communion as the Bible commands. Do not blindly rush to join a church, but if you are not a member anywhere you need to be looking. Also, college students, do not be deceived, you must join a church. You may only be in your college town for a few years, but God has still called you to submit under a body of elders and be committed to serve in your local church. God has died for us to enjoy Him through serving other Christians and being served. We should be obedient to this call at all times.

Is Jesus God?

In this article, my aim is to provide a Biblical foundation for the full deity of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity. This article is a mere introduction to the doctrine and further study is recommended.

John 1

John 1:1-14 is one of the clearest passages in Scripture that testifies to Christ’s full divinity. Let’s take a look at verses 1-3 and verse 14:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
-John 1:1-3, 14

The author of the Gospel of John, John the Apostle, wrote to inform readers of Jesus Christ’s true identity. Jesus is the Word according to John 1:14, which speaks of His incarnation through the Virgin Mary. Jesus, who is the Word, is also referred to as the Son later in this chapter. Verse 14 says that He, “the only Son from the Father,” was made flesh and dwelt among mankind. This can only be said of Christ Jesus. I want to make clear that as we walk through these first few verses I am talking about Jesus Christ. John starts in verse 1 by saying that the Word was in the beginning with God and “the Word was God.”

Aside from alluding to the Trinity, these verses explicitly state that the Word is God and He is equal to God. Following this in verse 2, John makes it clear that the Word (Jesus Christ) existed alongside God in the beginning before creation. The third verse clearly explains that not only is Jesus Christ God, but He is also the Creator of all things. Verse 3 says that the Word made all things that were made. This precludes Him from being a supernatural being that God made. Jesus is the creator of all things and He existed before “any thing that was made was made” (John 1:3). This passage clearly testifies to Christ’s full deity.

Hebrews 1

But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
-Hebrews 1:8-12

God the Father is actually the one credited with making this statement according to verses 1 and 2 (follow the pronouns all the way to verse 8 to see this) so we know it is Him addressing the Son (Jesus) . He credits the Son with being the one who “laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,” and He says of the Son, “the heavens are the work of your hands.” According to God the Father, the Son, who we know is Christ, is God the Creator, and His “years will have no end.”

Christ, according to the Father, existed before all of creation alongside Him (the Father) and He (Christ) will continue to exist forever after creation passes away. Christ is eternal. This means He has no beginning and no end. This is an attribute only God possesses (Psalm 90:2, 96:5, Isaiah 43:10-11). Anyone who denies the truth presented in these verses is also denying that the omniscient Father has accurate information regarding the Son. It is worth mentioning that Hebrews 2:10 and Colossians 1:16 explicitly state that all created things are created for Jesus Christ. God the Father is identifying Jesus, who is God the Son, as God.

Perspectives of Human Witnesses

We can also gain insight from analyzing the claims Jesus made. I want us to look specifically at two of Jesus’ encounters with the Pharisees.

The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
-John 5:15-18

Jesus is healing people on the Sabbath as indicated by verses 15-16. The Jews were angry about this because it was a violation of the Law (Deuteronomy 5:14). In response to the Pharisees’ accusations, Jesus says His Father (who is God according to Luke 10:21-22) has been working until now, and that He (Jesus) is working as well. In other words, Jesus is telling them that they are accusing God, who is actively working all things together according to His purpose, including working on the Sabbath (Ephesians 1:11), of breaking the law. Obviously, God is above the Sabbath and perfect (Psalm 18:30), thus incapable of breaking the law. Jesus is basically saying that to accuse Him of breaking the Sabbath is to say that God the Father has broken it too. The Father is above the Sabbath. Christ teaches in Mark 2:27-28 that He also is above the Sabbath. In this passage we have a clear statement from Jesus saying He is God.

In verse 18, John, the author of this Gospel, says that the Jews understood Christ to be calling Himself God. Not only that, but John Himself asserts that Christ “was even calling God his own Father, making Himself equal with God.” The witness here is three-fold. The Pharisees understood Jesus was equating Himself with God. Jesus said that He is divine, and John, the writer, understood from Jesus’ statement that Jesus is equal with God. Neither John, nor the Pharisees was confused by Jesus’ words when He revealed Himself as God in the flesh.

Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
-John 8:56

In John 8, we see that Jesus claims to have existed before Abraham. This fact refutes the idea that Jesus was simply human like you and I. No ordinary human who lived during the first century, like Jesus, could claim to have existed before Abraham (who lived over 1,000 years before). I must note, however, that the Jews would probably not have been angry enough to kill Christ if He were only claiming preexistence.

I think we can grasp the situation better when we know what Christ means when He says, “I am”? Christ is saying here that He is without beginning or end. To say, “I am” means He not only existed before Abraham, but that He did so eternally. Also note that the text says Abraham “was” which indicates Abraham came into being, but “I am” is used for Christ. This signifies He was never brought into being just as John says in John 1:1-14. Chrysostom, an early church Father, says this:

As the Father used this expression, ‘I Am,’ so also doth Christ; for it signifieth continuous Being, irrespective of time. On which account the expression seemed to them to be blasphemous.

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
-John 20:26

There are many who will try saying, “Thomas is calling Jesus his Lord, and then crying out to a second being, God”. Is that what the text says? The key words to understanding this passage, which describes an event after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, are, “Thomas answered him”. Thomas is speaking directly to Jesus. Every single word in the statement that follows is to Jesus Christ. Jesus, according to Thomas, is both Lord and God. Jesus does not rebuke him as others do (especially others who were acquainted with Christ) when they are referred to as God or receive praise (Acts 20:26, Rev 19:9-10, Rev 22:8-9). Once again, we have indisputable scriptural evidence that Jesus is God.

Christ is Explicitly Called God

Jesus is identified as God by the apostles in numerous places. Below are some of the times Jesus is plainly addressed as God.

  • Romans 9:5- To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
  • 2 Peter 1:1- Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • Colossians 2:9- For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily
  • John 9:36- He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?”

It is important to note that Jesus does not correct the man that worships Him. If the man did not believe Jesus was Lord, he would be guilty of idolatry. The man believed that Jesus was truly God.

Many more passages can be used to substantiate the deity of Christ that I do not have space to share here. He had the authority to forgive sins which only God can do (Luke 5:20-21). Scripture also teaches that He is Life and the giver of Eternal Life (John 14:6, John 10:28). Please notice that only God gives life. Mere prophets do not claim this. God works through them to resurrect the dead, but Jesus is claiming to be the source of resurrection power (John 11:25).

There are many great theologians who have preached sermons (many of which are on Youtube for free) and/or written books on this topic. I encourage you to continue this study with resources provided by people like James R. White, R.C. Sproul, Voddie Baucham, John Piper, and Conrad Mbewe.

What is Presuppositional Apologetics?

Everyone has Presuppositions

Christians who obey the Great Commission and go out to share the Gospel are bound to come across people who demand a logical defense of our faith, yet many Christians either feel unequipped to answer these questions or possibly don’t even believe that it is possible. After all, we can’t prove that God exists, can we?

Before Christians can respond to this, they have to understand the question of whether or not God can be proven holds within itself certain assumptions. These previously held assumptions are called presuppositions. They are what people assume before an argument, question, or other line of thought begins. The presuppositions that people hold will impact their final conclusion on a matter, even if they don’t consciously think about them. This explains why an atheist, for example, can look at the complexity of the eye and determine that it was a result of evolution, while a Christian will look at the same eye and conclude it was a result of God’s intelligent design. In this case, the atheist’s prior assumption is that God does not exist, whereas the Christian’s is that He does and has revealed himself through the Bible.

The problem here is that the atheist and the Christian live in the same world and experience the same reality. Concepts like truth, morality, and logic are all wrapped up in the human experience. When someone asks a question about proving something, like the one above, they are presupposing certain fundamental things:

  1. Truth exists: the question, by nature, demands an absolutely true answer.
  2. Morality exists: the unbeliever expects the person answering the question to have integrity when conversing by not lying about their claims.
  3. Logic exists: the question, by nature, demands a logical response.

What is presupposed by the unbeliever here are three fundamental standards that are universal, unchanging, and eternal. Truth, logic, and morality all existed before humans, apply to all humans, and do not change. It is impossible for the atheist to avoid appealing to these three fundamental standards because they live in God’s world and because God is the standard of all truth (John 14:6), all logic (Col. 2:3), and all morality (Luke 18:19). Therefore, when we argue with the unbeliever, we aren’t claiming that they don’t appeal to truth, morality, or logic, but rather we are claiming that they cannot account for these things, given their perspective. This will be better understood when we examine what the atheistic, or unbelieving, worldview has to offer.

Cosmic Stardust and Worldview Theft

The atheist’s worldview is impossible to consistently live out because they live in God’s world. They presuppose His existence in everything they do. For starters, every atheist appeals to truth to attempt to justify their beliefs. Absolute truth is unavoidable and the claim that it isn’t can be easily self-refuted. If someone claims there is no absolute truth, that in itself is an absolute truth.

It is clear that their worldview is epistemologically bankrupt when it comes to their appeal to truth at all. They have no foundation for making truthful claims, because in their worldview, we all evolved from primordial soup and are all essentially just cosmic stardust. Where does anybody get truth out of stardust? If evolution were true, then we couldn’t know anything to be true. The atheist cannot account for truth, let alone try and account for logic and morality since they are universal, unchanging, and immaterial.

When we converse with unbelievers that raise objections to Christianity, all we have to do to dismantle their worldview is to expose their presuppositions about what they believe and show how they cannot consistently live it out. In essence, we are showing them that they must borrow from the Christian worldview in order to make sense of their own. This is because they can only account for truth, logic, and morality from within the Christian worldview. The Christian worldview provides this account of truth, morality, and logic because we presuppose God, which is the necessary precondition to have and make sense of any truth, morality, or logic. Without God we cannot know anything to be true, so in actuality, any question about God presupposes God.

The Biblical Case for Defending the Faith Presuppositionally

When we defend the faith in such a way as this, we are staying faithful to our Lord and what He says about the unbelieving mind, rather than attempting to begin from a neutral standpoint and argue our way up to God. The Bible even tells us in Colossians 2:8,

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

This verse is commanding Christians to put Christ as the foundation of all things, which includes apologetics. When Christians defend the faith evidentially, we actually give the unbeliever the authority as ultimate judge over the evidence for God. Christians should not merely be concerned with arguing over the evidence to prove God’s existence since it is evident that each side will interpret the evidence through the lens of their presuppositions. The Christian, in fact, does not even need to prove God’s existence to the unbeliever, because the unbeliever already knows Him, as Paul tells us in Romans 1:18-23,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Since God has already made Himself known to every person (v.19), we don’t need to prove His existence. When we contend for the faith, we need to trust in God’s word, and if we do, then we know that our focus needs to be on exposing the unbeliever to the fact that they do know the God who created them and that they are actively holding down and denying that truth (v.18). Paul tells us elsewhere the reason for the unbeliever’s failure to receive Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says,

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

As scripture indicates, the problem isn’t a lack of evidence for God. God’s word clearly tells us that it is because the unbeliever stands morally opposed to God in their unrighteous natural state that they claim they don’t believe in Him. One of the best Christian apologists of our time, Dr. James R. White, puts it nicely when he says that “our theology determines our apologetic, not the other way around.” Consistent Biblical theology paves the way for us to defend the faith presuppositionally, rather than evidentially, because according to what the Bible says, the atheist’s problem isn’t a lack of evidence, but a lack of spiritual discernment. This is only possible through the work of God in their heart (John 6:44).

It is important to understand and have this foundation when arguing with unbelievers because it not only leads us to discuss the fundamental assumptions about each person’s perspective, but more importantly, causes our apologetic to be intimately wrapped up into the proclamation of the Gospel. When we expose the failure of the atheistic worldview and explain to the unbeliever that they are denying the truth of God because of their love for sin (John 3:19), we are then to provide the truth of God’s justice and judgment against sin and the glorious news of Christ who came to save us from that judgment. Ultimately, no matter how “good” we become at defending the faith, the Gospel is what holds the power to turn hearts to Christ, which should be our ultimate goal in apologetics.

The Reason for Apologetics

God has given Christians the capability to defend the faith in such a way that brings glory to Him, but if all we are seeking to do in apologetics is to win an argument, then we have utterly failed. Our goal needs to be proclaiming the Gospel to the lost soul that we are engaged in argumentation with, because ultimately, we aren’t the ones that can save them. When having conversations with unbelievers, we shouldn’t come to them preaching with lofty speech or human wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:1-2), but the beauty of the presuppositional approach is that it doesn’t depend on human wisdom or lofty speech because its foundation is the wisdom and word of God. This apologetic method must be conjoined with the Gospel.

We know that the proclamation of Christ and Him crucified is what brings the hope of salvation. So, when we are successful in exposing folly of the unbeliever’s worldview, we need to provide them the hope that is in Christ, or else all we have done is left them without excuse before their Creator, with their only hope being an eternity under God’s wrath. If we aren’t seeking the lost in our apologetic, then we are failing at apologetics, no matter which method we use. With our constant desire to see people come to Christ, our first priority should be to seek out a gospel conversation as the result of an apologetic encounter. Our apologetic should be so intertwined with sharing the Gospel that when we hear of a Christian doing apologetics, we assume it’s synonymous with evangelism. Although both apologetics and evangelism have different purposes, we should seek the same result: sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What is Baptism? (A Credobaptist View)

The discussion of baptism is one that has been prominent in Christianity since the second century of the Church. Even saying the word “baptism” will draw many people into a debate as they plant their flags and defend their respective position. It is important to note that both the paedobaptist (infant baptism) view and the credobaptist (believer’s baptism) view believe that baptism is a command from God. When we engage in either practice without the utmost conviction that it is what God has commanded in Scripture, we put words in God’s mouth which is blasphemous. We must derive all teachings from Scripture and study them earnestly rather than haphazardly holding to a teaching because it is the tradition of our denomination or family. Regardless of where you fall on this issue, I pray that this article leads a greater understanding and more importantly a greater love for one another. We must recognize that despite our slight difference in teaching, we are both children of God.

I believe that the best way to begin explaining why I affirm believer’s baptism is to show why I do not affirm infant baptism. Before I begin, I want to state something that both sides of this argument can agree on: baptism does not save you. This is a clear teaching in Scripture that is fundamental to understanding salvation and baptism.

Baptism = Circumcision

Paedobaptists will often equate baptism to circumcision in the Old Testament and propose that, like circumcision, baptism is a sign of God’s covenant. We see in Romans 4:11 that Abraham “received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith.” Scripture is clear that circumcision was a sign of the Old Covenant, while baptism is never called a sign of the New Covenant. Scripture tells us what God’s sign of the New Covenant is in Ephesians 1:13-14: “In Him you also – when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you also believed – were sealed in Him with the promised Holy Spirit.” God seals His people with the Holy Spirit after their belief in Christ (also see Eph 4:30 and 2 Cor. 1:22). To say that baptism is the sign or seal of God’s covenant is to contradict Scripture. Circumcision and baptism are mentioned many times in Scripture, but no verse ever makes a one-to-one comparison between the two. The Israelites’ sign was circumcision but as those under the New Covenant, ours is the Holy Spirit.

Household Baptisms

Household baptisms are another prominent argument for infant baptism. The book of Acts is most referred to when speaking of household baptisms because it accounts for the household baptisms of Cornelius (Acts 10:24-48), Lydia (Acts 16:11-15), and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:25-34). Many people who hold to infant baptism will say that they cannot prove that there were infants in these household baptisms. Nonetheless, they argue, based upon the silence of Scripture, that “household” includes infants. In each of the accounts of household baptisms, Luke emphasizes that God’s word was taught. This indicates that people heard and comprehended the gospel message. In the stories of both Cornelius and Lydia, there is mention of the Holy Spirit moving among the people and drawing them to God.

Finally, in every passage mentioned above there is an account of baptism. This is not an uncommon procession throughout Scripture. In most occasions of salvation recorded in Scripture, it is noted that people heard the word of God preached, understood it, repented of their sins, and rejoiced over their baptism. An infant is incapable to do any of those. We must remember that Scripture teaches that belief must precede baptism (Mk. 16:16, Acts 8:37, Rom. 10:10-11, 1 Cor. 1:21, and Eph. 1:21).

Jesus’ Baptism

One of the greatest arguments for believer’s baptism is the story of Jesus’ own baptism. It is mentioned in all four of the Gospel’s and is detailed in Matthew 3. Matthew 3:14-15 says,

But John tried to stop Him [from being baptized] saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and yet you come to me?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John allowed him to be baptized.

What is the significance of Jesus being baptized? There are many significant parts to the baptism of Jesus, but Jesus only mentioned one – to show the way we are to fulfill righteousness. Christ, at that moment, identified with sinners. His own baptism symbolized the sinner’s own baptism into the fulfillment of righteousness. Acts 2:37-38;41 says,

Now when they [the crowds] heard this [the Gospel], they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do now?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.’ … So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

These verses reveal a brief look at Pentecost. In these three verses, we see some very essential truths regarding salvation. First, we see that after hearing the Gospel, people were pierced to the heart. Peter responded by telling them to repent of their sins so that they may have forgiveness of their sins. After they repented, he baptized them. Secondly, we see that the promise of salvation is offered to them and their children. This does not mean that their children had to be baptized for this promise to be fulfilled. Peter is stating that the Gospel is open to everyone. It is not just reserved for certain people but it is a promise given to all if they repent. Thirdly, after Peter had told them to repent, Scripture tells us that those who had received his word were baptized. Here we see that the act of baptism is reserved only for those who were pierced to the heart, repented, and received the Holy Spirit. Luke, the writer of Acts, was very clear about this. Believers are expected to, by the power of the Spirit, rid themselves of their old nature and put on their new found identity in Christ. Baptism is a public declaration of this new identity. In order words, it is a outer expression of an inward reality. Through baptism, we publicly declare that we are a new creation in Christ and that we have passed from death to life, just as Christ has done.

In Christ,
Nicolas Olson

What is Baptism? (A Paedobaptist View)

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)

The practice of infant baptism (paedobaptism) has been both administered and present throughout the history of the church as opposed to believer’s baptism (credobaptism). This topic is highly controversial because infant baptism is not explicitly commanded in scripture and therefore reprimanded by many Christians. However, it is important to realize that it is not explicitly admonished in Scripture either and is given an account in several places in Scripture (Acts 16).  Infant baptism is practiced because it is believed to be the New Covenant fulfillment of circumcision in the Old Covenant. Therefore, in order to fully understand the practice, it is necessary to understand the relationship between circumcision and infant baptism and the view of Scripture through the lens of covenant theology.

What is covenant theology? Covenant theology is the view of Scripture through the various covenants established between God and His people. It is where God establishes that “I will be their God and they will be my people.” It is the belief that covenants are the way God has established His kingdom expansion here on earth, and this is clearly displayed throughout Scripture. Covenant theology links both the Old Testament and the New Testament together in order to see a unified view of God throughout Scripture. Most importantly, covenant theology displays how the Old Testament points to the coming Messiah and how the New Testament shows the fulfillment of the covenant relationship with God and His people through Christ.

If infant baptism is not explicitly commanded in scripture, why is it practiced?  Covenant theology views the modern-day church as the fulfillment of Israel in the Old Testament. Covenant theology replaces the sacraments of the bloody signs of God’s covenant in the Old Testament with the bloodless signs of the new covenant in Christ. For example, the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament is a replacement of the Passover in the Old Testament. Both sacraments are similar, as they occur more than once and the partakers of the sacrament are active participants. However, the Lord’s Supper does not require  a sacrifice because Christ’s death and resurrection are a fulfillment of that necessary sacrifice. Likewise, the sacrament of infant baptism, like circumcision in the Old Testament, is similar, as it is administered once to believers and their households.

Infant baptism, like circumcision, is a promise of the covenant. The purpose of infant baptism is to demonstrate the sign of a covenant establishment from God through Christ on a family and the seal of that promise. Infant baptism does not save a person, but is a promise given to a child and signifies them becoming apart of the Church and being accepted and committed to the Church. After infants are baptized, they become a non-communicant  member of the Church. A non-communicant member of the church has become a member of the church, but because they have yet to put their faith in Christ can not participate in the Lord’s supper. The Church promises to raise, support, and nurture the faith of the children who are administered infant baptism. This ceremony is a beautiful picture of covenant theology and a charge to the parents and the church to raise their children in truth in hopes that the child will one day put their trust in Christ.

A better understanding of baptism as an established seal of the covenant might better take place once paralleled with an account of circumcision in the Old Testament. In Genesis 17, God gives the sign and seal of the Abrahamic Covenant to Abraham, which is circumcision. God commands Abraham to be circumcised along with his whole family, slaves, and any male older than eight days old. This is an establishment and a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant between God and Abraham as God says, “This is my covenant which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you.” Romans 4 continues to talk about Abraham’s circumcision as a seal of the Covenant, as it says,  Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. Abraham circumcised Isaac when he was eight days old as God commanded Him to. Isaac received circumcision as a seal of the righteousness through the covenant given to Abraham’s family by God.  Similarly, in the New Testament, under the New Covenant of grace in Christ, the Philippian jailer and his family are brought to faith and he and his family are baptized as a representation of God’s covenant with the whole family it says “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household. And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God” (Acts 16:31-33).

Both of these passages, through the lens of covenant theology show how God works the same way in both the Old and New Testament. However, in the New Testament, the covenant is fulfilled in Christ and the bloody sign of circumcision is no longer needed and replaced with the bloodless sign of baptism. Abraham’s household and the Philippian jailer’s household are both given the sign and seal of the covenant: circumcision being one and baptism the other. Colossians 2 continues to show the connection between circumcision and baptism. Paul writes,

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. -Colossians 2:11-12

Through these passages, we can clearly see the established relationship of baptism in the New Testament with circumcision in the Old Testament.

Infant baptism displays the sovereignty of God and His grace towards His people through salvation in a new light. While believer’s baptism focuses specifically on the individual’s decision to choose and follow Jesus, infant baptism represents God’s sovereign hand over His chosen people. When an infant is baptized, it demonstrates the sovereignty of God over the individual’s life. Infant baptism shows the extent of God’s grace to a believer and shows the very extent of our depravity and helplessness in salvation. Just as we were dead in our sin and helpless, much like an infant, God so graciously pulled us out of our depravity and gave us new life. This is what infant baptism hopes to picture, as it is a sign and seal to the child of his/her salvation under the covenant of grace.  It represents how the salvation of a believer is an act of mercy and was in no way contributed by the individual. Infant baptism displays this truth in a new light as God promises to extend His grace towards the believer and their children. (Acts 2:39) Infant baptism, unlike credobaptism, places the focus on the work of God in His people’s hearts, instead of putting the focus on the individual and their decision.

In the end, if anything, I hope this article gave you a Biblical defense of infant baptism through the lens of covenant theology. I understand that this topic is highly controversial and not without its immense depth and complexities. I hope that I was able to give you a little clarity on the topic and insight to the reasoning behind infant baptism. I would love to discuss any further questions or comments you have.

In Christ,
Julia