God’s Trinitarian Will

by Abram Germano

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

— Matt 7: 21-23


Equal Authority and Unity in the Godhead


In this famous and fearful passage from Matthew’s Gospel, the Son of God points to the will of his Father. Often these verses are rightly given as warning to professing believers that they ought examine themselves, to make their calling and election sure. The emphasis most always is on bewaring of a works based righteousness, which performing and tallying such supposed signs done in God’s name can surely take, but how often is this warning viewed in light of the Trinitarian weight contained in the immediate context of this and surrounding passages?
First, note the Divinity of the Son. Jesus does not refuse the title these professing believers cry to him. When they say “Lord, Lord,” Jesus readily receives the Divine title and name as one who has the authority to receive it. Contextually, this demonstrates a divinity ascribed to the Son who has every right to execute Divine judgement. Jesus also points to himself as the rightful mediator between his Father and all mankind by showing that not all who come to him saying his name will enter into his Father’s kingdom.
Second, note the Trinitarian relationship between the Father and the Son revealed in how Christ, the Son, places doing the will of his Father as the highest priority. Directly connected to this argument of doing the Father’s will, the Son quickly equates his Word and teaching with that of his Father’s will in the text immediately following:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”[1]
The fact that the Christ is equating himself with the Father here is contextually unavoidable. Note the deliberate parallel —

“…but the one who does
the will of my Father” (v. 21)
“Everyone then who hears
these words of mine and does them…”(v.25)[2]
It was teaching like this that inspired the Jewish leaders to kill him on account of blasphemy.[3]
Yet while the Son establishes his equal authority with the Father, he also demonstrates unity within the Godhead. This isn’t a power-grab on display,[4] nor an overthrow of previous authority, but a new revelation to man, via the Son, of what God’s authority actually looks like —  It’s Trinitarian. And as the verses following Matt 7:24-27 make clear, authority was certainly the issue:
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.[5]
The Divine Will Identified
Since it is “the one who does the will of [Christ’s] Father” who enters heaven, we must ask:
What light does Scripture shine on this divine will?
John chapter 6 has much to say concerning the eternal, Trinitarian will of God:
Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”[6]
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”[7] 
To do the work of God is to have a God-given faith that treasures the Son. Faith, exclusively in the Son, is the message Christ is proclaiming as the only access to the Father, and this is the eternal Divine Will. The Son has come down to earth from where he was before. The Son is eternal. His will is in union with his Father’s will, for they are in perfect fellowship and co-equal in Deity. The Son’s work, or will, is not opposed to the Father’s, but is purposed in and with the Father from all eternity.
The work of God then, is to wholly trust and feed solely upon the Bread that has come down from heaven.[8] It is to believe in the One the Father has sent, to confess the Son’s equal standing with the Father and obey his work and teaching. And this is all brought about by the personal work of the Holy Spirit.
Implications for God’s People
Thus, our gospel proclamation ought to be Trinitarian. When we proclaim Jesus, let us announce the richness of the eternal purpose within the Godhead for an elect people, of which not even one will be lost — the eternal Sonship of Christ, the immense demonstration of love in God’s condescending to his creation, the whole scope of biblical revelation in light of these truths — all while trusting the Holy Spirit to make it effectual for the elect! To miss the sovereign decree of a specific people given to the Son in Eternity past is to miss a beautiful dynamic into the Triune will of God. Speaking in knowingly broad brush strokes, Pentecostals in particular, but also many other denominations highly prioritize and seek after their own concepts of the mighty works referenced in Matt 7:22. These same groups typically are not strong on the doctrine of the Trinity and are in danger of Jesus’s warning that they don’t know him at all. We must know the Son revealed to us through the scriptures, not one created in men’s minds.
The Eternal Son of Scripture is mighty and awesome, and it is he, in Scripture, that has revealed the Trinitarian will of God. That will has always been about redeeming men from their sins through the sinless substitute once promised and now arrived. May our hope be rightly founded upon his Word, and our joy made complete in knowing him who took our place on that tree.


[1] Matt 7:24-27.
[2] Emphasis added for vv. 21 & 25.
[3] cf. Matt 26:63-66; Mark 2:7 & 14:60-64; Luke 5:21; John 5:1-19 & 10:30-33.
[4] cf. Phil 2:5-11.
[5] Matt 7:28-29. (emphasis added)
[6] John 6:28-29.
[7] John 6: 38-40.
[8] John 6:41-59.

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The “Nobody Understands Me!” Fallacy

Chance_go_to_jailDo Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect 200 Dollars

The accusation that one has been misrepresented by another is a very helpful tool in debate. It allows one to turn the tables on his opponent in two respects. Firstly, one’s opponent is not allowed to move any farther. He must now focus his attention on demonstrating that he has not intentionally or unintentionally misrepresented the position he opposes. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly in public debates, one’s opponent is perceived as being ignorant or deceptive or bigoted, or perhaps all three at once. Ironically, the more one’s opponent has to defend himself, the worse he sounds to the casual listener. And this is true regardless of whether or not one’s opponent is telling the truth, properly representing position he opposes, and fully devoted to not misrepresenting the position he opposes.

The accusation is a rhetorical “GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL” chance card (pictured above), which restrains any real dialogical and/or dialectical progress as one’s opponent is left playing a perpetual “catch up” game. It’s an easy card to deal to one’s opponent, as it takes very little intellectual legwork and, therefore, allows one to direct his mental energies elsewhere. Hence the popularity of it in our own age. We live in an age defined (ironically) by postmodernist philosophers who so localized language, ideas, beliefs, and the significance of human behavior in general – finding the origin of these things not in the mind and will of God but in ephemeral and geographically constrained intersubjective collectives/communities – that unless one was repeating those languages, ideas, beliefs, and human behaviors verbatim he was thought to be misrepresenting them.

yup

Though postmodernism is an academic corpse at this point, our culture is still dealing with that corpse’s posthumous muscle twitches. Specifically, we have seen the rise of a youth culture that thinks there are no objective points of reference which may allow someone else to use another set of words when describing them. A Christian may, for instance, say that John – who is endowed with male genitalia – is a man, and yet become the subject of vitriolic shaming for “assuming his gender!” Whether or not there is an explicitly stated reason for identifying John as a male – i.e. he has male genitalia – there is, in the eyes of many in our era, no justification for speaking to the issue of John’s gender as if there is an objective standard which allows us to use a variety of terms that, much to the consternation of social justice warriors and radical feminist theorists the world over, may expose John for what he is…a dude.

Nobody Understands Me!

Sadly, the same attitude can be found among many professing Christians. Rather than doing the hard work of examining another’s criticism of their position/s, they almost immediately deal the “Go Directly to Jail” chance card to their detractors. And by so doing, they disallow the use of differing terms when discussing their position/s. Additionally, they disallow the use of logic when examining their position/s, claiming that if they themselves don’t explicitly state that they believe in that which has been soundly inferred from their position/s then this is adequate grounds for suspending any criticism related to the logical fruit of their position/s. Perhaps more than any other, the “strawman fallacy” is constantly found on the lips and pixels of professing Christians – who simultaneously decry the postmodernist culture that claims there are 9,050 genders just because people feel like they are a different gender that cannot be encapsulated by the existing terminology of the biological orthodoxy of our day, or any day of the week for that matter –  when no instance of the fallacy can actually be found.

So I’ve come to call the tendency of some to say they are always being misrepresented the “Nobody Understands Me Fallacy,” or NUMF for brevity’s sake. Here is how the fallacy works in a one on one conversational context.

John: I believe that God will give some people in hell a second chance to go to heaven.

Bob: Really? You believe that God will present some people in hell with another opportunity to repent and believe the gospel and be saved?

John: I never said that.

Bob: Isn’t what I said logically identical to what you said? I’m confused.

John: I just don’t know if I can agree to how you’re representing my belief.

Bob: Okay. Why?

John: I just wouldn’t use that kind of language.

Bob: Fair enough. Maybe I’m not getting it. What, then, would you say?

John: Well, just what I said earlier. I believe that God will give some people in hell a second chance to go to heaven.

Bob: [Confusedly chortling] Like, on a field trip?

John: There’s no need for sarcasm, brother.

Bob: [Downcast, apologetic, and pensive] Sorry, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with that assertion if I can’t draw out logical inferences from it. What do you mean when you say that God will grant some people another opportunity to enter the heaven of God?

John: Brother, I think you mean well. But you seem to be misunderstanding me. [Gesticulating] I never said that God will “grant” some people “another opportunity to enter the heaven of God.” Please don’t misrepresent my view. I have tried my best to be as charitable toward your position as possible. You could at least try to return the favor.

Bob: I am honestly confused, John. I’m just trying to understand what you mean by the particular set of words you’ve chosen to express your belief. You stated your belief that some people will be given a second chance, by God, at some point in time during their being in hell, to go to heav –

John: [Sighingly] Numf. I never said any of that, brother. This is very disappointing. I thought we could discuss our theological differences in a civil manner. But how can we even begin to talk about these issues if you keep misrepresenting what I believe? I don’t want to believe that are you doing this on purpose…so, I don’t know, maybe we’ll just have to chalk it up to you being unfamiliar with my beliefs. Maybe we can revisit the subject once you have a better handle on it. But for now, I just don’t think this will be a fruitful exchange, seeing as you continue to misrepresent my belief and put words in my mouth.

Have a blessed day.

[Floats past Bob, carried on crease-less silver cloud.]

And here is precisely how the NUMF works in a larger social context.

Billy Radio Guy [BRG]: [Radio Intro music fades out] Thanks for joining me on my podcast, John! Ever since learning about your belief that God gives some sinners in hell a second chance, we here at WLUVHRTICS Radio have been anxious to get you on to discuss second chancism.

John: [Half bowingly] Thanks, brother. It’s an honor to be on WLUVHRTICS Radio! Just at the start, though, I want to clear things up a bit. If I may. May I?

[BRG]: [Starry-eyed] SURE! Hey man, it’s your show! Let’s hear it!

John: Well, it’s your show. [winks] But I do appreciate the sentiment. That’s why I have to say it’s hard for me to correct you so early on in the interview. I’m a big fan of WLUVHRTICS Radio. It’s just, well, you know….um, my belief is frequently misrepresented by Christians who, bless their hearts, have held to a traditional belief in non-second-chancism for so long that they have a hard time understanding my position.

[BRG]: Oh. My bad! I can see where you’re coming from.

John: I’m assuming you hold to the non-second-chancist position?

[BRG]: Yes. [Jokingly] Guilty as charged!

John: I thought so. It’s a common enough error, you know, so I’m not like singling you out as dumb or anything. Just, uh, trying to clarify. The second-chancist position is actually defined as “the belief that God will give some people in hell a second chance to go to heaven.”

[BRG]: [Confusedly] I. Oh. I thought that’s what I said.

John: Well, sadly, no. You actually said that second chancism is my belief, and that isn’t strictly the case. I know, I know, it’s a small point to some. However, contrary to popular opinion, it’s actually quite significant since it’s not just my belief. Second-chancism has been held by quite a few prominent people in church history. So it’s not just my belief, but a belief held by many godly leaders whose orthodoxy has been recognized throughout church history.

[BRG]: Ah, I understand now. I repent in sackcloth a –

John: Sorry, I wasn’t finished explaining myself. You also said that second-chancism is the belief that “God will give some sinners in hell a second chance.” But neither I nor any other known advocates of second-chancism have or presently do believe that God gives some sinners in hell a second chance. Like I stated earlier, we have always held to the belief that “God will give some people in hell a second chance to go to heaven.”

And I understand the confusion. I used to be a non-second-chancist, too. Most people don’t really understand our position, unfortunately.

[BRG]: Hm. Really? I’ve read some pretty decent papers by a Diram Hiaz – I don’t know if you’re familiar with his work in this area – and they seem to have at least a rudimentary grasp of your position.

John: [Chortlingly] Numf! Well, I hate to have to say it, brother of mine in glory, but he’s just one of the many people who continually misrepresents the second-chancist position. We, myself and other second-chancists, have been very charitable toward all of our critics. Sadly, unfortunately, depressingly, regrettably, however, they haven’t returned the favor. Instead, it’s mostly been misrepresentation from their camp. It’s hard to have a fruitful dialogue when your critics can’t even get your position right….

And so on.

How Then Shall We Pass Go and Collect $200?

The solution to the NUMF’s in popularity is simple: Embrace the Christian worldview and its standards of reason, argumentation, etc and not that which is embraced by the secular world. Throughout the Scriptures, God “misrepresents” the “gods” of the other peoples by calling them not only “demons” but also by distorted versions of their names. For instance, scholars believe that “Molech” was originally the name “Melek,” but changed by biblical authors. Why? In order to better represent the objective truth about the supposed deity, viz. these were shameful entities whose worship was abominable to God. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia explains –

Molech is obtained from melekh by the substitution of the vowel points of Hebrew bosheth, signifying “shame.”
(Source)

The same can be said of Beelzebub, a name used for Satan in Scripture. The name originally was Baalzebub, meaning “Lord of the house.” But it is likely that God purposefully changed the name to Beelzebub, which means “Lord of the flies” (or Lord of the dung). (Source)

Now, of course, God does not actually misrepresent these false gods. Rather, he represents them truthfully by bringing to light their despicable natures. And this, it must be said, is not wrong. In fact, the Lord Jesus did the same. He even identified the successful proselytization attempts of the Pharisees as being successful in making men twice as hellbound and inspired by hell as the Pharisees were. In our day, would this not be identified as “misrepresentation?” After all, I’m sure the Pharisees would not have represented what they were doing in that way.

The fact of the matter is that there is nothing logically or ethically wrong with using a different set of words to refer to an idea expressed by one’s opponent (originally expressed with a completely different set of words). There is nothing logically or ethically wrong with identifying another’s belief as heretical, or idolatrous, or wicked, or heinous. If the description accords with Scripture’s evaluation of such a belief, then it is actually wrong to not respond in such a manner. And there is nothing wrong with attributing the logical implications of a belief to the belief itself, that is, after all, the source of the implications! If one’s belief leads to a contradiction of orthodox Christianity, the criticism that such a belief leads to a contradiction of orthodox Christianity is not only allowable, it is necessary.

Let us stop dealing out the NUMF card. And let’s stop accepting it as a legitimate reason for dialogue/discussion to come to a screeching halt.
Let us do the hard work of dealing with criticisms leveled against our beliefs.
Let us behave like the prophets, apostles, and even our Lord Jesus did and simply call a spade a spade –

Regardless of whether or not our opponents would have used that kind of language to describe their beliefs.

Soli Deo Gloria
-h.