“You worship what you do not know… True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” – Jesus the Christ (John 4:21-24)
Recently the church where I am pastor was invited to a worship event featuring a ‘worship artist’ who would help ‘encourage and uplift us.” In digging into who this singer is, as best I can tell, she is part of the heretical Oneness Pentecostal movement that rejects the orthodox teaching of the Trinity. That has prompted me to write the following.
What defines a Christian?
We are introduced to the word Christian in Acts 11:26. While we’re not told who coined the word, we do know why some were called Christians. It was because of doctrine. People who publicly declared they believed the specific, exclusive doctrines taught by Christ’s Apostles by being baptized, and then gathering as a body of believers in Jesus as the Christ, were called Christians.
We know agreeing with the Apostles’ doctrine required rejecting and renouncing other doctrines (I Thessalonians 1:9-10; Acts 13:15; 17:30-31). We also know some appeared to agree with the Apostles but later insisted on changing their exclusive teachings (I John 2:18-23; 4:1-6). Those who did not remain in agreement were labeled by the apostles as ‘antichrist.’ Adulterating the doctrine meant they were not Christians.
What makes Christianity Christian is first the doctrine of the Trinity. It was the Son, the eternal Second Person of the Godhead, who took on flesh in the human person of Jesus and is the Christ. And that spiritual reality does not fade into the sunset in significance. When Jesus commissioned His apostles to go make disciples, the foundation of His command was to immerse people doctrinally and ceremonially in the truth of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20).
Throughout the history of the church creeds and statements have defended the glories of the Trinity revealed in Scripture. Our church has the following simple statement about the Godhead:
We believe in the one and only living and true God; eternally existing in three persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit
We believe that God the Father is an intelligent, spiritual and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver and Ruler of the universe.
We believe that Jesus the Christ is the only begotten Son of God, fully God, fully man. He was born of a virgin, lived a life of sinless perfection, was crucified for our sins, was buried, was resurrected on the third day to a glorified body appearing to his disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He bodily ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of the Father in authority over all things, the head of His church, and the believer’s mediator
We believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity and is present to convict the unbeliever and to comfort, strengthen, and instruct the believer such that Christ will be glorified
To be a Christian is to be a Trinitarian.
To be Christian is to reject other beliefs that deny the Trinity (I Thess. 1:9-10). For example: To be a Christian is to NOT be Muslim. To be a Christian is to NOT be Hindu.
Every false religion and every false teaching that passes itself off as Christian in some way rejects the Trinity.
Mormons should not be called Christians because they believe God was a man who ascended to deity, thus rejecting the truth of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit never having a beginning, or their essence never changing (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; Psalm 102:25-27).
Jehovah Witnesses should not be called Christians because they believe Jesus is a godlike being but not the Second Person of the Trinity – the Word who was with God and was God (John 1:1).
Those who teach that God exists at times as a father, at times as a son and at times as a spirit (modalism) should not be called Christians because they reject the co-eternality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The doctrine of the Trinity is the very marrow that defines and supports and supplies what it is to be Christian.
Two of the most precious truths for every Christian are that God is love, and that God in love saves sinners.
It is the Triune God that is love. Before there was anyone or anything outside of the Godhead to love, there were three eternal persons in unebbing, pure, joyful relationship with one another (I John 4:8; John 5:20).
To praise God for one’s salvation is to praise a Triune God. All three persons of the eternal Godhead are perfectly united in the work of salvation. God the eternal Father chooses. God the eternal Son taking on human flesh purchases. God the eternal Spirit applies and seals, enabling sinners to rightly believe in Christ Jesus alone for their salvation (Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:1-10; John 3:1-20; I Corinthians 1:26-31).
Those who reject the doctrine of the Trinity do not worship God. Pastors and teachers in Christ’s church who ignore heretical views of the Trinity, call into question their understanding of, or commitment to, Christ’s commission to His Church. On the other hand, pastors who teach the glorious mystery of the Triune Godhead and refute those who reject it confirm their love for Truth and love for Christ’s people.
Amidst the present massive satanic effort in our world to blur God-honoring distinctions and deny any standard for truth, the mission of the local church has not changed. As the household of God, we are to be the pillar and support of the truth (I Timothy 3:14-15). And that truth is rooted in and defined wholly by the excellencies of the Triune God (I Peter 2:9-10; John 14:6; I John 5:20; Isaiah 65:16).
As Kevin DeYoung states: “If any doctrine makes Christianity Christian, then surely it is the doctrine of the Trinity.” The faith that has been once for all delivered to the saints is the faith in the Triune God.