Apologetics

Do Wrong Beliefs about Jesus Hinder or Affect Salvation?

Question: “My wife is a believer in Jesus Christ and on fire for the Lord, but she has difficulty believing that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are God. Will this hinder or affect her salvation in any way?”

I do not think it is the absence of knowledge that damns; rather, it is the despising of knowledge that damns.

One of the things that we know for certain as we read through the Scripture is this: there is only one God. The Scripture is very plain and clear about that. Look at the Old Testament, for example. There is the Hebrew Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4 NIV).

Now, if you continue reading the Bible, you recognize that the Father is God. The Bible is explicit about that (see John 17:1–3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3–4; Ephesians 1:3;1 Peter 1:3–5).

You also realize that the Holy Spirit is God. One example in the New Testament is Acts 5, wherein Peter condemns Ananias, who lied about selling a piece of property and donating all the proceeds to the church. The Apostle said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God” (vv. 3–4 NIV). In this case, lying to the Holy Spirit means lying to God.

Another example in which the Holy Spirit is equated with God is 2 Corinthians 3:17–18: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (NIV; cf. Romans 8:9–11). The Holy Spirit is omnipotent (Genesis 1:2; Luke 1:35), omnipresent (Psalm139:7–9), omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10–11), eternal (John 14:16; Hebrews 9:14), and personal (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13–14; Acts 8:29; 15:28; 16:6; Romans 5:5; 8:14–16, 26–27; 15:30; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Corinthians 12:11; 2 Corinthians 13:14).

The Bible is also very clear with respect to Jesus Christ being God—being of one essence with the Father. For example, Colossians 1, which declares Christ to be “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (vv. 15–18 NIV). Another example is Hebrews 1, which declares, “About the Son [the Father] says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy’” (Hebrews 1:8–9 NIV; cf. Hebrews 1:3; Psalm 45:6–7). And, of course, John 1 declares “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (v. 1 NIV). Anyone reading through the Gospel of John with an open mind sees Christ repeatedly identified as God. After Jesus demonstrated the power to lay down his life and to take it up again, the disciple Thomas did not identify him as “a god” but as “my God” (John 20:28). The original Greek language of John 20:28 is unambiguous and definitive. Literally, Thomas said to the risen Christ, “the Lord of me and the God of me.”

Moreover, in Romans 10:13, Paul equates calling on Christ with calling on Yahweh (Joel 2:32). And in his letter to the Philippian Christians, Paul declares that Jesus, “being in very nature God [in the form of God], did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant [the form of a servant], being made in human likeness” (NIV). Paul goes on to conclude by equating bowing to and confessing the name of Jesus with bowing to and confessing the name of Yahweh, further demonstrating that Jesus is Himself Almighty God (see Philippians 2:6–11; Isaiah 45:22–25). I do not know how it could be any clearer.

The Bible is telling us that there is one God, that the Father is God, that the Son is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God. But also the Bible tells us that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally distinct (see Matthew 28:19; John 14:15–21, 26–27; 15:26–27; 16:5–15).

In other words, the Father does not become the Son, and the Son does not morph into the Holy Spirit. You have one God, subsisting in three persons, who are eternally distinct. That is what the Bible teaches.

Now, you say it is hard for your wife to get her head around that; I will tell you, it is hard for me to get my head around that, too. I oftentimes tell people, “If you can get your head around that, your God is too small.” This means that the God we serve can be apprehended but cannot be comprehended. He is beyond our ability to fully comprehend, and that is not only true for this present time but also it is true for all eternity. The Bible is clear that Jesus is God, that the Holy Spirit is God, and that the Father is God, but there is one God with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being eternally distinct.

What I am talking about again is this: it is not the absence of truth that damns; rather, it is the despising of truth that damns. What I am suggesting is that there can be many professing Christians unable to communicate what I just communicated, but I am not looking at them and saying, “Those people are lost.” That is not my province; rather, that is in fact the province of the Holy Spirit. However, as you read about the Lord — doing what the Lord asks us to do, getting into God’s Word, and getting God’s Word into you (Deuteronomy 6:6–9; Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119) — as you learn more and more about God, you have to follow what God says, as opposed to recreating God in your own image.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

Who Is the “Us” in Genesis 1:26?  (Hank Hanegraaff)

If God Is One, Why Does the Bible Refer to Him in the Plural? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Is Oneness Pentecostalism Biblical? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Allah, the Trinity, and Divine Love (Jonah Haddad and Douglas Groothuis)

We also recommend the following book:

Muslim: What You Need to Know about the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion (Hank Hanegraaff)

This blog is adapted from the November 8, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Apprehending the Trinity

cri-blog-hanegraaff-hank-the-trinity-jesus-christ-and-the-crucifixion

When Jesus Christ was on the cross crying out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34)* was He praying to Himself?

This is one of the reasons that we believe in the Trinity. We believe Jesus is not talking to Himself. We do not believe that Jesus is Himself the Father. We see that there is a subject-object distinction between the Father and the Son. The Father sends the Son (John 5:36-38; 8:14-18; 12:46). The Son prays to the Father (Matt. 26:39, 42; Luke 23:34; John 11:41-42).

The Trinitarian belief is that there is only one God (Deut. 6:4; Psa. 86:10; Isa. 44:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; Jas. 2:19), but within the Godhead, there are three distinct persons. There is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The reason we believe that is the Bible clearly states that the Father is God (Matt. 6:9; Jas. 1:17; 1 Cor. 8:6), the Bible clearly states that the Son is God, in passages like John 1 or Colossians 1 or Hebrews 1 or Revelation 1, the Bible also clearly and emphatically states that the Holy Spirit is God (2 Cor. 3:17; 2 Pet. 1:21; Acts 5:3-10; 28:25-27). Not only so, but the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally distinct (John 1:1; Col. 1:17; Rev. 1:17, 2:8; cf. Isa. 41:4, 44:6 and 48:12; Heb. 9:14). The Father never becomes the Son or the Son never becomes the Father. We believe in one God, revealed in three persons, who are eternally distinct.

Now because there are subject-object distinctions within the Godhead, we see the Father sending the Son or the Son praying to the Father or in the case in which Jesus is saying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Remember in His incarnation, Jesus voluntarily takes on the limitations of humanity without divesting Himself of a single attribute of deity. He is now asking His Father, “Why have you forsaken me?” And what He is in this case drawing our attention to is Psalm 22. There’s a context there. What does Psalm 22 tell us? In verse 24, it tells us “He has not despised or distained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him, but has listened to His cry for help.” We know that ultimately Jesus is not forsaken. What we have here is what is typical in the Psalms, a contrast between emotional despair and faith in God that is being highlighted.

Which member of the Trinity do I address in prayer?

I think it is perfectly appropriate and biblical to pray to the Father, to pray to Jesus Christ the Son, and to pray to the Holy Spirit. For example, you can thank the Father for sending the Son. You can thank the Son because the Son has saved us from our sins. You can thank the Holy Spirit that He empowers us for service. Because there are personal self-distinctions within the Godhead you can pray to each member as it were of the Godhead, each Person within the Godhead.

We say there is one “what”—one God by nature or essence—and three “whos”—three Persons. Now that is something that I have confessed many times on the Bible Answer Man broadcast that I cannot comprehend; I can only apprehend. Now if the Bible is telling me to believe that there is one God and three Gods that would be an obvious contradiction, but what the Bible is saying is that there is one God by nature or essence and three in person, and that is not a contradiction, though it is beyond our ability to fully comprehend.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study:

Is the Trinity Biblical? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Who Is the “Us” in Genesis 1:26? (Hank Hanegraaff)

If God Is One, Why Does the Bible Refer to Him in the Plural? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Allah, the Trinity, and Divine Love (Jonah Haddad and Douglas Groothuis)

Loving the Trinity (James White)

The Trinity: A Case Study in Implicit Truth (Ron Rhodes)

This blog adapted from “When Jesus was on the cross he wasn’t talking to himself was he?” and “The Trinity

*All Scripture cited from The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), unless noted.

Apologetics

Is Allah the Same as God the Father?

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I have a friend who is Muslim. He was born in Iraq and speaks Arabic. He is very interested in Christianity. I am trying to explain the Trinity. I do not know much about Islam. I told Him that Allah is the same as God the Father. Is that right?

Well perhaps not. I think what is important to realize is that Muslims believe in what is called a Unitarian God. They believe that God is one. They believe that God is a singularity. Christians believe in one God revealed in three persons who are eternally distinct. We believe in a Triune God. They believe in a Unitarian God. That is a very significant distinction.

Muslims, in fact, think that Christians are polytheistic. They think that we believe in three Gods. Often times they get this idea from their own teachings that the three polytheistic1 Gods that we believe in are the Father, the Son, and the Mother—Mary (Sura 5:72-73). They have confusion with respect to the Trinity. What we have to explain to them is that Christians are not polytheistic at all. We are fiercely monotheistic.2 We believe only in one God.

Think about this. The Muslim God, by definition, has to be morally defective, because independent of the universe—a universe being out of the picture—you have a Muslim God who cannot manifest the attribute of love, since there is no object for his love. This is very, very different with the Trinitarian God. Even independent of the universe, a Trinitarian God can experience love within the Godhead. The Father loves the Son. The Son loves the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit loves the Father and the Son. There are love relationships within the Godhead.

This is a very important point: The Muslim God is morally defective. The Christian God is precisely as we would suppose Him to be—a God of infinite love. A God who in fact allows us as human beings to be brought into the relationships within the Trinity. Put it another way, we can experience life in the Trinity, and that is the apex of the Christian experience. This is not just some kind of theoretical idea. This has a real practical implication on how you live and how you can love, not just human beings but the one who created all things.

When a Muslims leans about the monotheism of the Christian faith and the true idea of a Trinitarian God, not being three different Gods, but on God revealed in three different persons, it helps them to understand how they can have a God of love, a God with whom they can identify. A Muslim cannot identify with the Muslim God. They cannot relate to the Muslim God. The Muslim is ineffable. He is unknowable. He is even capricious in the truest sense of the word. The Christian God is at once ineffable and also knowable in incarnation. This makes all the difference in the world.

Now there are many other things that Muslims misunderstand. When the Bible says that the Son is the only begotten of the Father (John 1:10), the Muslim says God begets not nor is He begotten (Surah 112:3). In fact, they believe to say that God begets is an unforgivable sin. Why is that? When they think about begotten, in their mind there is the idea of sexual procreation. But this is not the biblical understanding of begotten. Begotten does not have to do with sexual procreation, but it has to do with special relationship.

All of these things are wonderful to be able to communicate to Muslim friends. I was just talking to a friend of mind, who is working in the Middle East, and he was talking about all the Muslims who are coming to faith in Christ and one of the things that he does is to explain the very thing that I have just explained. Good for you for making friends with your Muslim neighbors. We are called to reach not repel, and always give an answer for the reason of the hope that lies within us with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15).

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following equip.org resources:

Is the Trinity Biblical? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Is the Allah of Islam the God of the Bible? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Allah Does Not Belong to Islam (Helen Louise Herndon)

Allah, the Trinity, and Divine Love (Jonah Haddad and Douglas Groothuis)

Facing the Islamic Challenge (David Wood)

Loving the Trinity (James White)


Notes:

  1. Polytheism is the belief in many gods.
  2. Monotheism is the belief in one god.

This blog adapted from the September 29, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Who do we address in prayer Yahweh, Jesus or the Holy Spirit?

It’s important to recognize the model prayer—the prayer of Jesus, the prayer that Jesus taught his followers to pray—does start: “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name” (Matt. 6:9). And I think that the recognition here is that, first and foremost, our desire, what we really care about, is that God’s Name be made holy. Our daily lives should radiate a Prayer3Sfar greater commitment to God’s nature and His holiness than to our own needs.

So to pray, “hallowed be Your Name,” is to pray that God be given the unique reverence that His holiness demands, that God’s Word be preached without corruption, that our churches be led by faithful pastors and preserved from false prophets, that we’d be kept from language that profanes the name of God, and that our thought lives remain holy, that we cease from seeking honor for ourselves but ask instead that God’s Name be magnified.

In saying this there’s nothing wrong with using the names of God as opposed to the titles for God. There’s nothing wrong with addressing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and thanking Him for His sacrificial death on our behalf. There’s nothing wrong with thanking the Holy Spirit for empowering us as we pray, as we witness, as we provide for our families. So the standard is we pray to the Father, in the Name of the Son (or through the Son), by the power of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus Himself invites us to pray to Him in John 14:14.

So there is no set formula. We pray to one God revealed in three persons, who are eternally distinct.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

What Are Some Secrets to Effective Prayer? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Prayer of Jabez or the Prayer of Jesus (Hank Hanegraaff

Prayer of Jesus: A Discussion Between Hank Hanegraaff and Lee Strobel

Is the Trinity Biblical? (Hank Hanegraaff)

[Answer taken from: “How Should Christians Start Their Prayers? Can We Pray to Jesus and the Holy Spirit?”]