January 2021

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The Tri-unity of God

The Trinity of God is a concept that is mysterious and difficult to comprehend, yet vitally important on several levels.

If God is not a trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit then how do we deal with the inferences to the reality of the trinity in the bible?
More specifically, how do we understand the Lord Jesus’ references to The Father and the Holy Spirit? If God is not a triune being then Jesus is not divine and nor is the Holy Spirit.

This is not simply an academic exercise. Belief in and a reasonable understanding of the triune nature of God has a strong bearing on our theology, and our theology largely determines how we live as Christians in the world.

I wrote about the Mystery of the Trinity in 2010, but in this article, I want to go into a little more depth and also approach the subject from some different perspectives.

A Real Problem for Some

In the early days of my pastoral ministry, I preached a sermon on the Trinity and the next day received a telephone call from a young man who had been visiting the church that Sunday. He said that he would like to discuss the Trinity with me to clarify some issues he had with it. I assumed that he wanted me to explain the Trinty in greater depth and so when he arrived for the meeting, I launched into a bit of a lecture. About five minutes in, he interrupted me to say that he knew what my position was and that I should rather listen to his rebuttal of the doctrine. It turned out that he was an ardent acolyte of the late William Branham, an Americal bible teacher who espoused a mixture of dispensational end-time and church-denouncing rhetoric that included anti-trinitarianism. He, and the young man, now lecturing me, claimed that the trinity was pagan and that all churches and ministers who taught it were of the devil. The meeting did not end well.

Confusion in the Ranks

Mormonism, Branhamism, and Oneness Pentecostalism hold extreme views, yet while most Christians accept the doctrine of the Trinity, many display obvious confusion regarding it. For instance, I have often heard church members and preachers alike referring to ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’ in one sentence in a way that insinuates that Jesus is not God, for example, “God said that divorce was allowed but Jesus taught that it is not acceptable.”

Also, most Christians accept that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead yet they never pray to Him.

Many years ago I led a Lay Witness mission to a church up-country. We sang a song that had the chorus line of ‘Praise the Father, Praise the Son, Praise the Spirit, three in one’, but the minister of that church rushed forward, stopped the singing, and said that we needed to change the words to, “Praise the Father, praise the Son, in the spirit everyone.”

“This doctrine of the Trinity in Unity seems to be the place of standing or falling with public teachers and private believers.” Charles Spurgeon

Why is the Doctrine Important?

Why be dogmatic on something like this? Even the best theological minds can barely understand the concept let alone explain it! Why not just agree to disagree?

Well, for starters, there is strong biblical evidence for the Holy Trinity. There are several triune formulas in the New Testament such as Matthew 28:19 and 2 Corinthians 13:14. Also, many biblical texts are hard, if not impossible to understand without the concept of trinity. For those of you who would like a reasonably comprehensive biblical exposition of the doctrine then click  HERE.

For me the bottom line on all deliberations on the Trinty is… Jesus.

Not only what he said concerning his relationship with Father and Spirit, but how he presented himself as God. For instance, in his response to Phillip when the disciple asked him to show them the Father, he said:

Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

If Jesus is not God then there is no salvation, no assurance of eternal life, and no comprehensive revelation of the nature, character, and purpose of the Godhead. Moreover, if Jesus is God then the idea of Trinty must be valid or else we would need to embrace the biblically and logically unsustainable view that while the Father was the manifestation of God in Old Testament times, Jesus was that manifestation 2,000 years ago, and the Holy Spirit is the current manifestation of divinity. This misguided belief is called Modalism and if you want a summary of what that is, then go HERE.

An Analogy

It is nigh on impossible for us to adequately conceive of a tri-unity. We are limited beings living in a four-dimensional reality (Length, height, width, and time) so how can we grasp the nature of a multi-dimensional being? To hold that God is three and yet one at the same time seems to us much like saying that circles are square. So we usually default to either/or reasoning and conceive of either three gods or one god only.

  1. God the Father is spirit and directly inaccessible to us (1 Timothy 6:16).
  2. God the Holy Spirit is a being of pure spiritual energy, unseeable and incomparable to us.
  3. God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the physical embodiment of divinity.

They are not separate in being but different in substance. An analogy that I find helpful is Light.

Explanatory Waveform

Light is one ‘thing’ yet it has three parts, each of which interacts with the others in unity.

Light is simultaneously a particle of matter (Quantum) and an energy wave. However, there is a third aspect of light that you will not find in conventional science books, and that is that it is also a vortex. The Vortex Form gives light its direction and motion through space. The Energy Wave provides its power for momentum at a speed of approximately 300,000,000 metres per second. The Particle is its physical presence. In this analogy, we can loosely equate the Vortex Form to God the Father, the Energy Wave to God the Holy Spirit, and the Particle of Matter to God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Revelation

Another way of comprehending something of the complexity and interaction of The Godhead is to understand The Lord Jesus as the revelation of the Godhead to humanity, the Holy Spirit as the revealer, and the Father as the revealed.

The Lord Jesus is the revelation of God (Hebrews 1:3  Colossians 1:15), the one who lived among humans and said: “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” If it were not for Jesus, we would not know what God is truly like. The Holy Spirit is the revealer and Jesus said that he, the Spirit, would guide us into all truth and take what is his and make it known to us (John 16:13-14). The Father is the revealed one in that Jesus embodies him and the Spirit reveals him.

The Practical Application

I said at the get-go that acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity has a profound effect on what we say and do, what we are in this world, and where we go when we die physically.

If we do not believe that Jesus is God (and that God is Jesus) then there is no means of eternal salvation (Romans 10:9 and John 14:6).

If the Holy Spirit is not God then on what basis do we receive his indwelling presence and his empowering? If the Father is not God then who or what is it that Jesus deferred to and honoured?

Let me put things even more bluntly. Belief in ‘God’ without belief in Jesus yields only dead religion. Belief in God without acceptance of the divine person and work of the Holy Spirit yields powerless Christianity. Belief in God without an appreciation of the fundamental nature of God the Father as Love and Light yields legalism.

“There is no subject where error is more dangerous, research more laborious, and discovery more fruitful than the oneness of the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” Augustine of Hippo

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TruthTalks: A Lingering Aroma of Christmas

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In THIS post, Dr Christopher Peppler wrote about the Lingering Aroma of Christmas – the “scent” that was the life of Jesus and how we carry it, or should carry it now too.

He also preached this sermon for The Village Church in Lonehill, so you can choose to either watch (and listen) to it below, or simply listen to it as an MP3 (scroll down and click play below).

I do hope you gain nourishment for your soul and can move forward with the incense of Christ surrounding you.

Please remember that www.truthistheword.com is self-supporting so there are no advertisements on this or the podcast and we ask for no donations but just that you pass the message on.

Until next time, Admin

 

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A Lingering Aroma of Christmas

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There is a lingering aroma of Christmas that endures through Jesus’ life on earth. Scents played an important role in the tabernacle of Exodus, the Christmas Magi presented Jesus with fragrant ingredients, Mary anointed his feet and head with perfume, and Nicodemus embalmed his body with spices.

The Evocative Power of Smell

Scents are evocative and our sense of smell connects to our memories and emotions. The smell of Pine trees brings back peaceful memories and emotions to me and the smell of rain on the dry ground takes me right back to my youth.

In Old Testament times God instructed Moses to build a tabernacle, a place of divine encounter. He specified the exact nature of its furnishings and even presented Moses with the formulas for Holy Anointing Oil and Sacred Incense. These fragrant substances were to be used only for specific purposes and were at all times considered sanctified.

The Incense and the Anointing Oil

The Sacred Incense was made of five ingredients – Gum Resin, Onycha, Galbanum, Pure Frankincense, and Salt (Exodus 30:34). Its main use was as a twice-daily burnt offering in the Tabernacle. A special little golden altar was built for this purpose and positioned in front of the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place where the Ark of Covenant was situated. The smoke from the burning incense symbolised Prayer and worship and filled the whole tabernacle with fragrance. (See Revelation 8:3-4).

The Holy Anointing Oil was also a blend of five ingredients – Liquid Myrrh, Cinnamon, Cane, Cassia, and Olive Oil (Exodus 30:23). This oil was used to anoint the Prophets, Priests, and Kings for their sacred duties and to consecrate the various items in the Tabernacle. I have tried to find out what this oil must have smelled like but the closest I can come is Cinnamon scented Pine Needles.

The distinctive qualities of the main ingredients of the sacred incense and oil were that they were rare and hard to come by, used exclusively for the service of Almighty God, and fragrant.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King, and as you will see shortly, was anointed for these sacred roles.

The Gifts of the Magi

When Jesus was about 15 months old, a group of wise men (Astronomer-Priests) came from Mesopotamia to present gifts to the new ‘king of Israel’. The timing of their journey was divinely appointed and directed and so too was their choice of gifts – Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. All the furniture in the Tabernacle was made of Gold, Frankincense was the main component of the Sacred Incense, and Myrrh was the key ingredient of the Holy Anointing Oil. In presenting these to Jesus they were proclaiming him as the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King. Perhaps Mary kept those gifts and throughout his childhood showed them to Jesus: “Smell my son and remember who you are, Prophet, Priest, and King”.

From the research I have done, it appears that Jesus was born in September 3 BC and that the Magi arrived in Bethlehem on the 25th December, 2 BC – what we call Christmas Day. So the lingering fragrance in the life of Jesus started on Christmas day.

Mary’s Anointing of Jesus

Jesus was anointed as a baby and again as a man, just before he went to Jerusalem to be crucified – the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega.

Matthew 26:6-16 (Mark 14:3-11), John 12:1-11, and Luke 7:36-50 tell the story. Different scholars have various views as to who, when and where Mary anointed Jesus. Some say there were two different events and two different Marys, but I believe that the evidence points to one event and one Mary. Mary, the previously notorious sister of Martha and Lazareth and one of Jesus’ closest friends, anointed him for burial in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper just before Jesus went to Jerusalem for the last time.

Mary broke open an Alabaster flask of expensive and fragrant Nard and anointed Jesus’ head and feet. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (John 12:3). When Judas Iscariot complained, Jesus responded: “Leave her alone, It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial” (John 12:7).

Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

His prediction was, of course, accurate and just days later he was nailed to a cross on Golgotha to experience the most excruciatingly painful death imaginable. After hours on the cross, Jesus cried out that he was thirsty and so a soldier soaked a sponge with wine vinegar, added a little Myrrh, and offered it, on the end of a stick, to Jesus (Mark 15:23). Jesus refused it, but as it was right up under his nose he must have smelled the scent of Myrrh: The lingering aroma of the first Christmas. There, amid the stench of blood and sweat, came the clean-crisp pine smell of Myrrh; a reminder of his anointing as the ultimate prophet, the great high priest, and the eternal king of kings.

Is it any wonder that Paul later penned the inspired words, ‘Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’ (Ephesians 5:2).

After he died, Nicodemus and  Joseph of Arimathea took his body down from the cross and laid it in a temporary tomb. They packed a large quantity of dry Myrrh and Aloes around the corpse and wrapped it in strips of linen. The tomb must have been full of the fragrance of the expensive ingredients, just as the tabernacle of ancient time must have been.

Just days later, on the day after the Passover Sabbath, a small group of women went to the tomb to properly attend to Jesus’ body. Mary, the same Mary who had anointed Jesus at Bethany, was with them. When they got to the tomb Jesus had already risen from the dead. Only his burial shroud remained, encrusted and permeated with Myrrh. The empty tomb must have been filled with perfume; the lingering aroma of Christmas.

The Tabernacle was a place of the presence of God, as was Jesus’ body, as was the empty tomb… as is the church.

The Fragrant Presence of Christ Jesus in the Church

Paul wrote the following, speaking of himself but also of those other members of the church, the temple/tabernacle of the Living God: ‘Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life’ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).

As the Tabernacle represented the fragrant presence of God on earth, as Jesus’ body was the presence of God on earth, so too is the church a place of his presence.

We carry the fragrance of Christ and the evocative reminder of his birth, death, resurrection, and continuing life among us. We Christians carry the lingering aroma of Christmas into the world of our day.

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TruthTalks: The Great Reset

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Happy New Year! In December, Dr Christopher Peppler wrote THIS post about the current situation in our nations and what it means globally as well as biblically. Think radical socialism for a start! Listen to him expand on this by clicking on the “play” button below. Big things are happening, but do not fear:

‘…God has a third and final Great Reset planned; it goes by several names but is most often referred to as ‘the great and awesome day of the Lord’ (Malachi 4:5).

Please like, comment, share and subscribe to the TruthTalks Podcast. Best, admin

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.