...and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Ephesians 4:23).

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31 July 2011

God's Divinity in Creation

For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse (Romans 1:20).

Paul's declaration that the Creation testifies to the Creator is very encouraging to our faith. Many times we will discuss how God's eternal power is evident in the creation. From the fixed properties of the universe that facilitate life down to the functioning of DNA, we can see the hand of God in how things exist.

But how does the creation testify to God's divinity--His "divine nature," as translated in the ESV?

What is God's divine nature, anyway? We know that God is One (Deuteronomy 6:4), and yet we see in Scripture that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God (John 1:1, 10:30, Colossians 2:9, 1 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 1:21). The best understanding of this mystery is to declare that God is One Being in Three Persons, for all other alternatives run into Biblical challenges. If the Three are just different manifestations of one person, how can all three testify at the baptism of the Son, or how can both the Father and the Son witness to the Son (Matthew 3:16-17, John 8:17-18)? If God the Father is really God, and the Son and the Spirit are divine but not fully God, how could Paul say that in Jesus the Godhead dwelt fully in bodily form (Colossians 2:9)?

God as the Three in One does make some sense. John declares that God is love in 1 John 4:8; by definition, love is seeking the best interest of the object of the love (cf. John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 13:1-12, etc.). If God is but one person, that would make Him the ultimate narcissist; this cannot be. God is love because of the love that exists among the Three.

God's divine nature, then, features the Three in One: God as one, not in person, but in nature, being, character, will (John 1:1, Colossians 2:9, Hebrews 1:3). In short, God is one in relational unity. The relationship amongst the Three is so deep and intimate that we can speak of God as one Being, using the singular "He" or "Him."

So how is God's divine nature as the Three in One evident in the creation? Look no further than yourself!

And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Genesis 1:27).

This is not declaring that we are somehow divine or gods; far from it. Nor is it declaring that God is a man; He is spirit (John 4:24), and we are made in His image in our metaphysical properties-- we have consciousness and a soul.

Nevertheless, what do we humans seek after in life? Different answers might be given: money, stuff, fame, power, and so on and so forth. While people might be motivated by different desires, what is at the heart of many of them? People want a comfortable lifestyle and many of the things listed above, but who wants to have them alone? People might want to be as wealthy as Ebenezer Scrooge, but who wants to be Ebenezer Scrooge?

When it comes down to it, people want to be loved, known, and appreciated. In short, people are seeking relationships. Psychologists are discovering that we are wired for relationships-- it is one of our most fundamental needs in our existence!

When people think of relationship, the relationship between a husband and wife often comes to mind. What happens in that situation? A man and a woman, unrelated, somehow meet each other. They get to know each other and they fall in love with each other. They commit to one another. The two become one; they are still two different humans, but it's about "us" more than it is about "me". Such is a wonderful time, full of creativity; after all, how many songs, books, and plays have been written, or paintings or sculptures or other pieces of art made, on account of the desires of love? There is a natural desire to share in love, and often there are offspring that come on the basis of that love.

Is this not God's divine nature manifest in His creation?

As we have seen, He is the Triune God, the Three in One. A man and his wife becoming one is analogous to the unity within God (Genesis 2:24). And just as the love between the man and the woman leads to creativity and various creative acts, not the least of which being offspring, what else motivated God to create all things but love? He wanted to share the love within Himself with the beautiful creation which He made, particularly with His "offspring," man made in His image (Genesis 1:1-2:3, Acts 17:26-28).

There is a reason why the metaphors in the Bible all "work." The metaphors are effective because the God who created the universe intended for us to understand our need for relationship with Him and with one another within the way the creation functions. We can understand marriage between a man and a woman; we can therefore understand Israel's relationship with God, and our relationship with Christ, in a similar way (cf. Hosea 1-3, Ephesians 5:22-33). We can understand the bond between parent and child; we can therefore understand our relationship with our heavenly Father in a similar way (Luke 15:11-32, Romans 8:15-17). None of these are coincidental.

It is not good for man to be alone; how can it be when he is made in the image of the Three in One, the God who is one in relationship? We are made to seek a relationship with our Creator who loved us and, in so doing, to maintain relationships with one another as well. The Bible testifies to it. The creation testifies to it. Let us praise and thank God that His divine nature is evident in the creation. Let us seek to maintain a relationship with the Triune God, seeking to be conformed to the image of the Son. Let us seek to be one with one another as the Father and Son are one (John 17:20-23), and let us thus honor and glorify God!

Ethan R. Longhenry
August 2011

01 April 2011


Jargon-- it is something that you hear all of the time. When you understand it, everything is well and good. When you are not "in the know," however, it can be quite frustrating!

Jargon is language specific to a particular group of people, generally understood in terms of specialties. There is medical jargon--CPT codes, the many long terms from Latin and Greek for various conditions and illnesses that always sound scary, pharmaceutical names, and so on. There is also legal jargon--that legalese in contracts that is very difficult to understand. There is also plenty of jargon in the tech community--apps, HTML, CSS, PHP, Java, and all other kinds of terms that you either understand or you do not! Jargon can be found among almost every group of people, and in many cases, it serves necessary functions for those who understand it. It would be much more difficult for a lot of groups to function if they could not use terminology specific to their groups!

There is also a lot of jargon in religion, especially in the Church. Think about it for a moment: how many terms do you use among Christians that you would probably not use in any other circumstance? Baptism, gospel meetings, faith, repentance, justification, sanctification, hermeneutics-- all these are examples of jargon. Even whole phrases like "guide, guard, and direct us," "separate and apart," "watery grave of baptism," and so forth are examples of jargon.

Is it wrong or sinful to use jargon? No, not at all! Nevertheless, jargon can become a barrier hindering understanding for those who are not in Christ or who are not familiar with the terms. This can become a particularly acute problem when we assume that everyone else understands what we mean when we use this jargon and, in reality, they do not!

For a long time it was believed that the whole New Testament was its own form of jargon-- some suggested that "Holy Spirit Greek" was its own dialect of the language. Yet papyri discoveries over the past two hundred years have painted a very different picture for us. The New Testament was not written in some special form of language that was not understood; it was written using the common language of the people. God's message was communicated to the world in a form that was designed to be understood!

We see this push toward understanding throughout the book of Acts. When preaching to Jews, the Apostles used language and stories familiar to the Jews (cf. Acts 2:14-36, 3:12-26, 13:16-41). When preaching to Gentiles, they used language and even quotations familiar to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 17:22-31)! Paul provides the general principle in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23:

To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak: I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. And I do all things for the gospel's sake, that I may be a joint partaker thereof.
If we are to become all things to all men so that some may be saved, should that also not mean that we should communicate to our fellow man in ways that he understands?

The New Testament is clear: the message is to be taken to all men so that all men may understand and come to the knowledge of the truth (Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Timothy 2:4). For them to understand, the message must be presented in a way that is understandable. Yet how can the message of the Gospel be understandable if the people with whom we speak do not understand the terms that we use to describe the message of Jesus?We should give some thought to the version of the Bible we use in order to teach others. How effective will our teaching be if those whom we teach must first decipher the English in order to get to God's message?

Our main concern must be with the language we use in presenting God's message. We must come to grips with the fact that we live among a generation of people to whom Biblical terms and concepts might as well be a foreign language. On the whole, people do not know the Bible or the terms used in its pages. For example, what do people think of when they hear "gospel"? They might think of it in terms of a genre of music as much or more as "the good news of Jesus Christ." What is "baptism" to them beyond a religious ritual that many experienced as a baby (or not at all)? For too many, "faith" is nothing more than the opposite of "science." People might know what "sin" is, but what actions are defined as sin and the consequences of sin are not as well understood. Terms like repentance, sanctification, justification, Trinity, and the like are almost entirely unknown to many of those in the world.

But how can we present the message of God without using some of these terms? We really cannot, just like people in technical fields cannot describe their work without using some of their jargon. The issue is not the use of jargon in and of itself; the issue is making sure that people understand the message that is being communicated!

In terms of evangelism, therefore, we should give some thought as to how to explain the terms that we use, and, whenever possible, get away from jargon and use terms people understand. For example, if one of the main evangelistic events is a "gospel meeting," let us ask ourselves: do people know what a "gospel meeting" is? Would they know what to expect at a "gospel meeting"? How can we expect anyone to attend a "gospel meeting" if they do not know what it is?

Another example of this is the phrase, "the watery grave of baptism." For believers "in the know," it is a way of speaking of baptism in terms of Romans 6:3-7, making clear that it indicates immersion and what its purpose is. But if someone is entirely ignorant of Scripture and Christianity, what does "the watery grave of baptism" sound like? Does it sound like anything in which they would want to participate, or does it sound more like an event in a horror movie and therefore something to avoid?

We could go on and on, but the point ought to be clear. We are supposed to take the message of Jesus Christ to all people and help them to understand who Jesus is, what He has done, and why it should be of the greatest importance to them (Matthew 28:18-20, Romans 10:13-17, 1 Timothy 2:4). Would we ever dream of going out and trying to teach the message of Jesus in Greek to Americans who speak English? Of course not! Therefore, why would we try to teach the message of Jesus to people today in terms that people do not know or understand without any sort of explanation?

Jargon is a part of life. It is not wrong, but we must be careful to make sure that we "make the message plain" and make sure that people understand the ideas and concepts behind the message of the good news of Jesus Christ. We cannot assume that people automatically understand the words we use, and therefore we should give consideration how to best present the Gospel of Christ to all men. Let us do so, becoming the servant of all, so that some might be saved!

Ethan R. Longhenry
April 2011

04 February 2011


Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one (Colossians 4:5-6).
Perhaps some of the most important people who rarely receive much recognition from society are diplomats. These individuals learn all about the culture and ideas of the people with whom they speak and they try to advance their nation's causes and purposes and to defuse any crises that might arise. Many wars have been avoided because of the skilled work of diplomats; sadly, bad diplomacy is probably one of the reasons that many wars have taken place.

Diplomacy requires a lot of sensitivity and skill. It requires a good knowledge of people and how to most effectively communicate with different people. And while diplomacy has great value among nation-states, those who believe in and follow Christ should also be working diligently on diplomacy amongst themselves and toward those who are without.

Much of the Gospel involves interpersonal relations. The message of the Gospel is to be taught to others (Romans 10:14-17). The proclamation of the Gospel, by necessity, is an attempt to persuade others to accept the message and obey it (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:11). When believers make their defense for the hope that is in them, they are to do so in a respectful and gentle way (1 Peter 3:15). Believers are to soberly consider how they conduct themselves among those who are outside, having speech seasoned as with salt (Colossians 4:8-9).

Paul's image there of speech seasoned as with salt is very important, for it shows the balance that we all must maintain. Food with too little salt is bland, tasteless, and not very valuable; food with too much salt cannot be stomached and is expelled. So it is with our speech. If our words have too little salt-- are entirely bland, provide no challenge and no distinctiveness from the world and its attitudes-- they have no value. They cannot persuade anyone to change their ways. But if our words have too much salt-- intentionally rough, demeaning, overwhelming, vindictive, harsh, or even just overly blunt-- they get rejected without due consideration. People are left with a bad taste in their mouths, and we have become a hindrance toward them coming to a knowledge of Jesus the Christ!

While we must make sure that we do not compromise the message and that we focus on the message and not fancy rhetoric (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:4-5), we must speak and act diplomatically among those who are without. Our defense must be robust but done with respect and gentleness (1 Peter 3:15). We must understand that sinners sin and that God wants them to come to the knowledge of the truth so that they can change their ways (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). What good does it do us to lecture sinners about their sin if they do not yet understand how Jesus is the Lord and Christ? How can we show them the love of Christ if the first thing they experience is cold judgment? And if our speech is disrespectful, harsh, and unloving, how will they perceive Jesus' mercy and compassion?

We must act diplomatically because of the Lord whom we serve and of whom we are representatives, and in a sense, ambassadors (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 5:20). If we speak in the name of Christ, we represent Christ, and how well are we really reflecting and properly representing Christ as we speak toward others?

Diplomacy is not merely a concern when we are around outsiders. There are going to be times when we are going to be called upon to confront one another about weaknesses and sins (cf. Galatians 6:1-3). There will be times of immature actions, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings among fellow brothers and sisters in Christ just as in any other family (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-28, 1 Timothy 3:15). In these circumstances, diplomacy among believers is critical.

We must always remember that everything we do should be done for edification-- for building up (1 Corinthians 14:26). Our words must work toward that end. We must be careful to make sure, however, that how we speak with one another matches our motivations. It is entirely possible to have the intent to encourage but speak in such a blunt, sharp, harsh, or arrogant way so as to really discourage and tear down. The more we get to know one another, the easier it is to speak more casually and with less thought, and then things tend to go wrong quickly.

How can we speak diplomatically? We must remember what our Lord said-- do unto others as we would like them to do to us (Luke 6:31). How would we want to be approached? We must also remember that we must remain humble servants of Jesus, knowing how we have often been tempted and have proven to be weak, and knowing how unworthy we are of the grace and mercy shown to us (Galatians 6:1-6). We are no better than they-- just different. We must make sure, above all, that we are not just motivated by love but are acting and speaking in love (Ephesians 4:15-16).

Diplomacy does not mean that we just do not address problems and let them fester or cause division or apostasy. Diplomacy does not mean that we lose any spine or backbone and just let people do or say whatever they want to do or say. Diplomacy does not mean that we must become weak about matters of sin. Instead, diplomacy demands that we are as concerned about how we communicate to others as much as we are concerned about what it is we are communicating. We must understand that how we say things-- our choice of words, our tone of voice, our mannerisms-- communicate just as much as what we say, if not more so! The best of intentions are quickly undermined by poor communication and a lack of concern about speaking diplomatically.

Diplomacy, in the end, is the recognition that we must communicate in ways that win people over even when hard truths must be expressed. We must be aware of the power that exists in words and speaking, as James makes clear in James 3:1-12, and that we can repel people from Jesus as quickly as we can win them over for Him by how we speak. We have never been given license to speak harshly and sharply merely because we are commissioned to preach messages that ought to convict people of sin and encourage them toward righteousness and truth. Instead, we are to speak with others in the same manner as we would like to be addressed. Let us therefore give thought to how we speak with one another, in humility considering how our speech can be properly seasoned so as to persuade our fellow man to serve Christ the Lord!

Ethan R. Longhenry
February 2011