The Enduring Value of the Participatory Lord’s Supper

CommunionI grew up in a Bible-believing church that celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ once each week in a meeting called “The Lord’s Supper.” It was also know in our family as “The Breaking of Bread” or the “First Meeting.” The meeting is unlike communion services in mainline evangelical churches in that it is a service where men who have trusted in Jesus Christ can stand up sporadically and share something about their Savior from their heart. I heard a lot about the importance of that meeting growing up, often from within the meeting itself. Many people over the years have testified about its’ significance in their life. Some have identified it as the main reason they choose to fellowship at a particular local church. Others qualify that service as the most important hour of their week.

Many have written about the biblical foundation for the participatory Lord’s Supper. That is not the purpose of this article, though it is an area of continued need. Neither do I intend to make sweeping generalizations about the churches that employ this kind of a service, as seems to be popular among some today. In what follows, I simply want to offer seven reasons why I value the Lord’s Supper. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, as if I could in a few words encompass the immeasurable worth of remembering the Savior in this way. While these reasons are very close to my heart, they are in no way exclusive to myself alone. I hope in reading them you also will be moved to marvel at the manifold wisdom of our Lord Jesus Christ for instituting this remembrance meal. Continue reading

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Eternal Relational Subordination and the History of the Church (Pt. 2)

57KRVGK2H9In the first part of this article I argued that evangelicalism is engaged in a civil war on the theological battlefield of Trinitarianism in regard to the heated and divisive issue of the eternal relational subordination of the Son. For an elaboration of this statement, see Part 1.  One common argument against the eternal subordination of the Son (ESS) is that it is a modern invention created in the 20th century by those who were looking for added theological support for discussions of gender and church roles. Opponents of ESS claim that using the eternal subordination of the Son  as a way to support gender distinctions within the church and marital relationships is heretical because it goes against the orthodox teaching of the church.

Is this accusation valid? In the previous article we saw that among church fathers of the patristic period there was no harmonious agreement either rejecting or accepting the eternal relational subordination of the Son from 1 Corinthians 15:27-28. But what about during the medieval, Reformation, and post-Reformation periods? The following is an examination of 1 Cor. 15:27-28 in post-patristic church history. At the close of this article I will offer some concluding thoughts and the implications of this study on the current Trinitarian debate. Continue reading

Eternal Relational Subordination and the History of the Church (Pt. 1)

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Evangelicalism is engaged in a civil war on the theological battlefield of Trinitarianism in regard to the heated and divisive issue of the eternal relational subordination of the Son. In short, there are those who assert God the Father and Jesus the Son are fully equal in every way within the immanent Trinity (God as he exists in eternity, apart from creation), and only in his humanity does the Son willingly subject himself to the Father (the economic Trinity, God in his interactions in this created world).[1] Others say that the Son’s submission to his Father in his humanity is an accurate reflection of their eternal relationship: the Son is eternally “subordinate” to the Father in terms of their roles.[2] Advocates of this second position make clear that the Father and Son are equally God ontologically in eternity, but in their relationship with one another there is an ordering where the Son always voluntarily submits to the Father. Since we are talking about the inner workings of God, tempers quickly flare and discussions quickly turn to arguments in this debate.

One common argument against the eternal subordination of the Son (ESS) is that it is a modern invention created in the 20th century by those who were looking for added theological support for discussions of gender and church roles. Opponents of ESS have sought to show that in the history of Trinitarian development within the early church, the church fathers do not speak about the Son as subordinate or submissive to the Father eternally but only in relation to redemptive history.[3] They claim that using the eternal subordination of the Son  as a way to support gender distinctions within the church and marital relationships is heretical because it goes against the orthodox teaching of the church.

So who is right? Did the early church fathers accept or reject the idea of the eternal subordination of the Son as it relates to his relationship with the Father? What about during the Reformation and post-Reformation periods? Contrary to what many are saying the in evangelical community today, there was no general consensus on the topic of the eternal relational submission of the Son to the Father in the history of the church. While some voices seem to oppose ESS, others appear to embrace it. Here are just a few brief examples from one relevant passage: 1 Corinthians 15:27-28. Continue reading

What Can Only Be Known Through the Cross

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In John 17:1 Jesus prays to the Father and asks that He would glorify the Son. The reason Jesus asks this is spelled out in the following verses: 1. Jesus wanted to be glorified so that He could in turn glorify the Father (v. 1). 2. Jesus would accomplish this by completing the work He had been given to do, defined in v. 2 as giving eternal life to all whom the Father would give to Him. 3. Eternal life is defined as knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom God had sent (v. 3). To summarize, Jesus asks the Father to glorify Him so that He could glorify the Father by giving the knowledge of the Triune God (eternal life) to all whom the Father had given Him. Continue reading

Does the Shamrock Picture the Trinity?

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The shamrock is commonly used to picture the Trinity, and at first glance it’s easy to see why. There are three leaves that are united in one plant and join at one stem. This gives us a picture of the Triune God of the Bible, does it not? The God who is one, and yet at the same time eternally exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So where is the problem? Why don’t all Christians just use this picture to explain the Trinity?

What the Shamrock Does Well

The shamrock gives us a good picture of the distinction of the Trinitarian persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) while showing they are united. We can see this come out clearly in God’s word. In Matthew 28:19, for example, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Interestingly the Greek word for name in that verse is singular. In other words, Jesus says that His disciples are to baptize in the one name of the Father, the Son, the Spirit. The name of God here is “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” There are three persons, but there is one being, one essence.

The shamrock has three leaves that come together as one plant. This can be a helpful reminder to Christians that God is three persons who eternally exists as one God. The three persons share one common divine nature. The three leaves are distinct from one another, just as Father, Son, and Spirit are eternally distinct. At the same time, the leaves are united, just as Father, Son, and Spirit are eternally united.

Where the Shamrock Picture Fails

Where the shamrock does not succeed in picturing the Trinity is in the fact that each of the divine persons is fully God. The Father is fully God, the Son is fully God, the Spirit is fully God. The Father is not a part of God, but is fully God in Himself. The same is true with the Son and the Spirit. This is brought out in regards to Jesus the Son in Colossians 2:9, “For in Him [Christ] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” Jesus is fully God in His incarnation while at the same time being fully man. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is fully God (a fact that should give tremendous comfort and courage to the believer in Christ on a daily basis).

In the shamrock, each individual leaf is not the entirety of the plant. For the picture to be biblically and theologically accurate, each leaf would have to somehow be the entirety of the plant. To our minds this seems impossible, and at this point the right response is to pause in wonder and praise in worship the greatness of our Triune God who is three in one and one in three and is so eternally and infinitely.

The shamrock can be a helpful picture, but the picture shouldn’t be taken as a perfect illustration of what God is like. It can only help us understand God in a limited sense. While the shamrock is a convenient metaphor, it remains (as all pictures and analogies of God ultimately are) imperfect.