Friday DIVE – 06October2023

WELCOME and THANKS for joining us.



  • My apology
  • The transition from Thursday DIVE to Friday DIVE
  • The reasons for the change in day
  • The reason for the change in focus for tonight’s study



A.  Everybody has a theology.

B.  That theology is more powerful than many realize … because it determines, in large part, what you believe and the choices you make … and what you end up doing.

C.  If we understand our personal theologies, then that can help us understand why we make some of the choices we make … and why we do some of the things we do.

D.  My purpose, in this study, is to help each of us better understand what his/her personal theology might be … by asking a number of questions (in the first person, because I want us to ask the questions personally).

Before we ask the personal questions, however, let’s address a few general questions:


1. What is theology?

    • According to Google …
      1. the study of the nature of God and religious belief
      2. religious beliefs and theory when systematically developed

2.  What is systematic theology? 

    • It is a discipline of Christian theology that formulates an orderly, rational, and coherent account of the doctrines of the Christian faith

3.  What are some branches of systematic theology?

    • Theology Proper … the study of GOD
    • Christology … the study of Jesus Christ
    • Pneumatology … the study of the Holy Spirit
    • Bibliology … the study of the Bible
    • Anthropology … the study of Man (Humanity)
    • Hamartiology … the study of Sin
    • Soteriology … the study of Salvation
    • Ecclesiology … the study of the Church
    • Eschatology … the study of the end-times

4.  What is personal theology?

    • According to Google … Your theology is simply your “organized beliefs about God.”  Everyone consciously or unconsciously has beliefs about God which they have organized one way or another.  In this sense, everyone is a theologian.
    • In my own words … A personal theology is what a person believes – in his heart – about God and His nature … and about the various branches of systematic theology.

5.  How do people end up with the personal theologies they have … and how does it affect them?

    • Consider the following description of a book,  Varieties of Personal Theology: Charting the Beliefs and Values of American Young Adults, by David T. Gortner …

This book charts the subtle and significant influences of social class, family, school, work, peer relationships, religion, and intrinsic attitudes and dispositions on young adults’ personal theologies, and traces the ways their personal theologies connect with choices they make in their daily lives – in education, jobs, leisure, and relationships.  Intentionally crossing boundaries between religious and social science fields, Gortner combines perspectives from both to demonstrate how theological diversity persists in America despite some clear culturally dominant trends.  This book reveals how American young adults are active theologians forging diverse ways of seeing and being in the world – shaped by their experiences and in turn continuing to shape their choices in life.

6.  Why should theology be important for us?

    • Hebrews 11:6  But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Having said all that … let us now try to answer some questions that relate to various aspects/branches of theology.


  1. Do I believe in God? 
  2. Why do I believe in God?  Why Should anyone Believe in God?   
  3. What do I believe about God?
  4. What is God Like?   What word(s) would I use to describe God?  
  5. Do I believe in the Bible? 
  6. What do I believe about the Bible?  Do I believe the Bible is the word of God?  Do I believe the Bible contains the word of God? 
  7. Why Should I trust in the Bible?   Why should anyone trust the Bible?  
  8. What is “Man” Like? 
  9. What word(s) would I use to describe Man? 
  10. What do I believe is the major difference between God and Man?
  11. Do I believe in life after death?   
  12. Do I believe I will live again if I were to die now?  
  13. Do I believe the dead are conscious now?
  14. Do I believe in Heaven? 
  15. Do I believe in Hell? 
  16. Do I know where I am going after I die? 
  17. Do I know for sure that if I were to die right now, I’ll be going to Heaven? 
  18. What would prevent someone from going to Heaven? 
  19. Have I ever sinned? 
  20. How would I define Sin? 
  21. What do I believe a person has to do to be guilty of sinning? 
  22. Do I believe in Jesus Christ?
  23. Why do I believe in Jesus Christ?
  24. What do I believe about Jesus Christ?
  25. Do I believe Jesus of Nazareth was fully human?
  26. Do I believe Jesus of Nazareth was fully God?
  27. What word(s) would I use to describe Jesus Christ?
  28. What do I believe Jesus Christ accomplished by His death?
  29. What do I believe Jesus Christ accomplished by His resurrection?
  30. Do I believe Jesus Christ died for my sins?
  31. Do I have any idea how Jesus could have died for my sins?
  32. Do I believe I have been reconciled to God?
  33. Do I believe I have been saved?
  34. Do I believe I am in the one true Church?
  35. Do I believe there is a great tribulation coming?
  36. Do I believe the Church will be going through that great tribulation?
  37. Do I believe Christ is coming back?
  38. Do I believe some of my loved ones will be going to Heaven?
  39. Do I believe some of my loved ones are likely to go to Hell?
  40. Do I believe that God loves all my loved ones?




Who Is Jesus Christ?   

God’s PURPOSE & Man’s PROBLEM   


God’s PROMISE & Man’s RESPONSE – Receive/Reject Him   

What Do You Mean “Grace Alone”?   

What Do You Mean “Faith Alone”?   

What Do You Mean “Christ Alone”?     

What is a disciple?

Where did the idea of “making” disciples come from?  

Who can make a disciple? – Unless the Lord builds  …  

Who can become a disciple? – Not for us to decide    

What about baptizing? – should only happen after believing   

What about teaching? – to move from believer to discipler   

What about going? – making friends before making disciples  

Are you ready to share your faith? – answering those who ask     

Do you understand the Gospel?   

Have you learned a Gospel Presentation? – just in case  

How can you Birth a Believer? – by presenting the Gospel and  

How can you Follow-up a New Believer?  





Union of persons does not mean fusion of being

Now we need to note that it is a mistake to think of the union of persons asfusion of being.  In the ontological union of the Trinity, the three Persons are distinct without separation, but they are not fused.  This distinction of Persons is essential to the oneness of being of the Trinity, because without distinction of Persons, there is no real eternal and internal relationships among the Persons.  In the hypostatic union, the divine and human natures in Christ are distinct, but they are not fused.  Likewise, in the spiritual union of believers to Christ, the believer’s person remains distinct and is thus not fused (conflated) with the Person of Christ.

Properly upholding this unity-with-distinction with respect to all three unions, along with upholding the corresponding three moments in salvation, helps us to avoid several common errors that have to do with fusing (conflating or collapsing) together what are distinct aspects of the reality of the three distinct unions (or we might say, three unities):

  • The error of collapsing our person(s) with Christ’s person.
  • The error of collapsing Christ’s two natures (divine and human) into one.
  • The error of collapsing Christ’s Person into his nature(s).
  • The error of collapsing our sanctification into our justification.
  • The error of collapsing our subjective (personal) responses into Christ’s objective responses (work) on our behalf.
  • The error of separating or collapsing the ministry and person of the Holy Spirit into the ministry and Person of the Son.
  • The error of confusing God’s uncreated triune being with created being.

Not only must we avoid these errors of collapsing/confusing different kinds of relationship, we must also avoid the opposite error of entirely separating them.  All these relationships involve a certain kind of unity-with-distinction and also coordination (co-action) in relationship all brought about by God’s grace.

Returning now to the three moments of the Triune God’s saving work, we can see how this is so.  If we collapse the second moment (Christ’s incarnation and redemptive work) with the first moment (the Father’s act of decision and intention within the eternal life of God to will or decide to save), then there would be no need for the Incarnation — no need for the actual, dynamic interaction and relationship of God with his creation or his creatures to bring about his saving purposes.

With salvation without Incarnation, God’s mere thought or idea or intention would be all that was needed to bring about salvation.  In that case, salvation would apply only to that which is internal and eternal to God, namely the Triune Persons who have no need for salvation.  A creation external to God and distinct in being from God would then not experience God’s salvation except perhaps as having an abstract idea in mind.  In that case, there would be no such thing as grace, since no benefit would freely go forth to that which is external to God and dependent upon God.  The grace of God would thus remain locked up in God and establish no real saving relationship with that which is not divine, with what is created and fallen.  Such a salvation would fail to amount to a real restored relationship with God.  It would be personally meaningless to created personal beings.  Furthermore, the death and evil that take place in creation would remain untouched.

Both the revelation of creation and the revelation of salvation through the incarnation of the Person of the Son of God (assuming to himself a created human nature, involving his bodily crucifixion and resurrection in history), unequivocally and undeniably indicate an entirely different relationship of God with creation through Incarnation.

Salvation in Christ, as depicted in biblical revelation, involves unique personal and dynamic interaction between God and creation.  In that story, there was a time when there was no hypostatic union (even if it was anticipated by God from all eternity).  God’s intention towards that which is not God (external to God) had to be actualized — realized by God, in and for God’s fallen creation.  It required the voluntary condescending of the Son of God, “from above,” as Jesus says, taking on the “form of a servant” as Paul puts it.  It required the Father’s willing, deciding and then actually sending of his Son.  It required a real Incarnation, not just the appearance of Jesus looking as if he assumed a human nature when, in actuality, he did not!

God came in Christ, in our place and on our behalf, to actually undo what we had done (Eph. 1:10).  In that undoing, a real relationship (via the hypostatic union) between God and mankind was forged in the Son of God’s own person.

How does this hypostatic union and the second moment of salvation fit into the overall story of our salvation?

The union of the two natures in the one Person of Jesus does not create a oneness of being where the human and divine natures are fused into one nature — the divine ceasing to be divine, and the human ceasing to be human, thus turning into a third kind of thing, neither divine nor human.  Nor do the two natures via this union turn into one another — one swallowing up the other.

The union of the two natures in Christ (via the hypostatic union) is a dynamic communion in personal relationship — a dynamic unity where the love of God for humanity and the love of humanity for God meet.  The salvation worked out in Christ is the work of the Person of the Son of God bringing his human nature into right relationship with the divine nature, and so into reconciliation with the Father, thus making the human nature ready to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit in a new way — often referred to in the New Testament as being baptized by the Spirit.

Created humans are not God and they do not become God through Jesus.  God is not a creature.  But that does not mean there can be no real, dynamic and relational interaction between these two very different kinds of being (created and uncreated).  However, in this relationship there is no fusion, confusion or conflation, instead there is gracious and saving relationship, which we see clearly in the earthly life of Jesus.

As one of us, Jesus was born, grew in wisdom and stature, learned obedience, overcame temptation, rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, suffered and submitted to the cleansing judgments of God on the cross.  Jesus then died, was raised and ascended bodily.  Especially in the Garden, we see the resistant human will of his assumed nature brought step-by-step into conformity with the will of God, finally exhibiting a perfect trust and love for God.  We see this in Jesus words following a torturous internal battle: “Nevertheless, thy will be done” and, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

The human and divine natures were united in the one eternal Person of the Son of God IncarnateBut in that union there is no fusion, confusion or conflation of the natures.  Had the natures been fused, there either would be no God to save humanity, or no humanity to be saved, since the one nature would have turned into the other, or both would have turned into a third that is neither divine nor human.  Were the two natures fused, there would be no grace, no redemption of created human persons and thus no real ongoing saving relationship between God and humanity.

But the idea of a fusion of natures is not the gospel story of God’s grace.  Being faithful to the gospel requires that we distinguish between the ontological union (the moment of the Father’s decision with the Son to bring about our salvation), and the hypostatic union (the moment of incarnation that united God with human nature in the Person of the eternal Son of God).  It also requires that we distinguish between God and God’s creation of human creatures, even in the hypostatic union.  The gospel declares that we were created for real relationship — a relationship that, as Calvin said, was healed, not only by Christ, but in Christ — in his Person.

But how are we personally involved in all this?  To answer, we must (on the basis of revelation) distinguish between the second and third moments and so between the hypostatic and spiritual unions that correspond to these two moments.  If we fail to do so, we get an erroneous result that similar to the fusion/confusion we examined above (except in this case, there is no need for the ministry of the Holy Spirit, rather than no need for the Incarnation).  If fusion is the case here, once again the story of our salvation, as depicted in biblical revelation, makes no sense.

The essence of the Holy Spirit’s special ministry following Christ’s ascension, is to bring about personal participation (sharing) in Christ’s perfect relationship (as one of us) with the Father and the Spirit.  If we think of moments two and three as being fused, we miss the importance of the Spirit’s gracious ministry, thus eliminating the third moment, which brings about the spiritual union. Envisioning the fusion of moments two and three means viewing the hypostatic union as accomplishing all that is involved in our salvation. But that can’t be the case, for the biblical story places great emphasis on the ministry of the Holy Spirit as being essential to our salvation.

The Bible shows that the Holy Spirit works deeply within us to free and enable us to respond personally and grow up into Christ—a transformation that clearly is an essential part of God’s plan of salvation for us. This is made clear in Jesus’ directives (before and after his resurrection) that his disciples must wait for and receive the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ view, this third moment (the Holy Spirit’s post-ascension ministry) is not optional—a view supported by the rest of the biblical story, beginning with the book of Acts.

By (wrongly) concluding that the hypostatic union fully accomplishes our salvation, one also concludes that there is no need for the participation brought about by the post-ascension ministry of the Spirit who indwells believers. There is not a real living, acting, responding, receiving relationship of saving grace. Instead, our relationship to God, through Christ, is fixed, automatic, impersonal and mechanical—an abstract fact that is generally and generically true—like a natural law, a forensic fact, or a universal principle that is accomplished by the mere fact of the hypostatic union.

When we regard the hypostatic union (rather than the spiritual union) as the final moment of our salvation, we are left with a salvation that is accomplished in Christ, but remains external to the individual human person, with no personal and transforming indwelling of the Holy Spirit that, according to the biblical revelation, is essential to our salvation.

Some might insist that the hypostatic union itself accomplishes everything needed at the ontological depths of our very being, and therefore is not merely external. However, without the personal, personalizing, and subsequent ministry of the Holy Spirit, such an ontological and objective union would amount to a mechanical, automatic and impersonal connection, not a relationship of personal participation, communion, fellowship and sharing that is brought about by the Holy Spirit. Without the spiritual union (which includes the ministry of the Holy Spirit), the dynamic, transforming personal relationship and responsive interaction of salvation is eliminated, replaced by an automatic, impersonal ontological effect that emanates to all from the hypostatic union.

Some might counter by arguing that the hypostatic union was personal because we are united to the Person of Christ. But without the ministry and moment of the Holy Spirit, who brings about personal participation and responsiveness in relationship, such a union with the Person of Jesus entirely effected by the hypostatic union takes us back to the problem of being ontologically fused in our persons to the Person of the Son. We would thus become Christ, and Christ would become us. As a result, real relationship would be eliminated and once again there would be a confusion of human persons with Christ’s person, making us identical in being with Jesus Christ and potentially members ourselves of the Holy Trinity. Union with Christ would thus be turned into fusion with Christ, and personal, dynamic relationship and communion would become optional to salvation.

Some may insist that the hypostatic union alone is sufficient to accomplish our objective salvation in a way that does not eliminate the ministry of the Holy Spirit who is needed to bring us to conceptually know or agree to the fact of the hypostatic union. However, this line of argumentation truncates the view of the Holy Spirit and his ministry that is presented in the biblical story of our salvation. This truncated view reduces the Spirit’s ministry to bringing about a mere cognitive change, rather than the fully human-relational change (a whole transforming and personal change by uniting us to Christ and incorporating us into the body of Christ) presented in Scripture. Such a reduced ministry of the Spirit would not bring about the participation—the dynamic fellowship that is a true sharing in the life of Christ with all we are and all we have—a participation that involves the receptivity and responsiveness of our whole persons to the Spirit—one expressed in confession of sin and the birth of faith, hope and love along with a life of growing up in Christ, being transformed from one degree of glory to another.

Were it true that the objective fact of the hypostatic union accounts for the entire work of salvation, our subjective participation would be swallowed up and disappear in a radically objective hypostatic union with Christ. In that case, our subjectivity would all but be lost in the objective work of Jesus Christ, rather than (as the gospel declares) being fully enlivened by the Holy Spirit who brings about our growing and transforming participation through a fully personal and personalizing relationship with God through Christ and by the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

A truncated view of salvation, does not align with what the Bible tells us about the ministry of the Holy Spirit and its fruits in the lives of those who belong to Jesus Christ and “have the Spirit of Christ.” It does not align with the personal, relational dynamic of relationship with God that the Holy Spirit brings about by enabling us who are distinct in person from Christ, to share in his sanctified and glorified human nature in right relationship with God.

When we fail to distinguish between the hypostatic union and the spiritual union, and the moment of the Son’s work from the moment of the Holy Spirit’s work, we lose the full understanding of the nature of our salvation, including the meaning of Christ’s vicarious humanity, which becomes, at most, something fused with our persons—his subjectivity fused with our subjectivity—the result being that the distinction of persons as subjects and agents is all but erased.

The ministry of the Holy Spirit

When we fail to make these critical biblical distinctions, the gospel of Jesus Christ is reduced to believing in the sending work of the Father and the hypostatic work of the Son, leaving out any vital, saving and relational work of the Holy Spirit on the basis of the completed work of Christ. Unfortunately, this is what some formulations of Trinitarian theology have done—they overlook (or at least deemphasize) the Person and ministry of the Holy Spirit by locating the saving union almost exclusively in the vicarious humanity of Jesus (the hypostatic union). But as noted above, our salvation is the work of the whole Trinity, and that includes the work of the Holy Spirit.

What Christ in Person and work accomplished for us in our human form (nature) was worked out in him in perfect fellowship and communion with the Holy Spirit. And now, what Christ accomplished for us in the power of the Spirit is being worked out for us and in us by the same Spirit who by indwelling us, unites us to the Person and saving work of Christ.

Throughout the New Testament, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to unite us to Jesus in a dynamic, personal and personalizing way. By the Spirit we are set free to receive from and respond to Christ with all that we have and are able. It is the Holy Spirit who incorporates us into the body of Christ, with Christ as head, and those so incorporated are made to be members one of another in unity and distinction.

In the biblical revelation, union and communion with Christ (the spiritual union) is not located primarily in the Incarnation, but in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. However, this union is, indeed, dependent upon the completed work of Christ—his life, death and resurrection and ascension as the Incarnate one, on the basis of his vicarious humanity. That is why Jesus promises, then sends the Holy Spirit—a glorious event we celebrate each year on Pentecost Sunday.

The Holy Spirit comes to humankind in this new, unique way on the basis of the finished earthly ministry of Jesus. On that basis, the Spirit brings about the moment of our response, our receptivity—our first and ongoing repentance, faith, hope and love.

In over one hundred mentions of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, the Spirit’s ministry is directly connected to our responses to God (to Christ, to God’s word). The Holy Spirit reveals, teaches, enables us to hear, to speak and proclaim, to love, to obey, to pray, worship, love, minister, rejoice, to confess Jesus as Lord, and confess Jesus has come in the flesh. He also leads, sends, guides, sanctifies, unifies and harmonizes the body of Christ, gives gifts of ministry and fruits of Christ-like character to the members of the body of Christ. In sum, he gives us new life in Christ so that we live in the Spirit (Rom. 7:68:252 Cor. 3:6).

What Christ has done for us, the Holy Spirit works out in us on the basis of what Christ has done for us. This “outworking” involves relationship between Christ and us, through a relationship between us and the Holy Spirit. This coordination of the ministry of the Holy Spirit with the finished work of Christ is so close that believing persons can be said to be both in Christ and in the Spirit, and sometimes in the same breath (see Phil. 2:13:3). But our survey of the particular ministry of the Holy Spirit demonstrates that participation and our union with Christ depend upon the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who brings about our spiritual union with Jesus Christ.

The hypostatic union of the Incarnation does not establish this spiritual union, which pertains to our participation and fellowship with Christ. That is the distinct ministry of the Holy Spirit. The ontological basis of that spiritual union and participation by the Spirit in Christ is the saving and reconciling work of Christ in the flesh as one of us, in our place and on our behalf. Without the hypostatic union and the vicarious mediatorship of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit alone could not bring about our union and communion with Christ. Because the work of the Holy Spirit is distinct, it should not be conflated with the Incarnation, though it is not separable from it.

Thus we understand that the Holy Spirit, who is united to the Father and the Son in the ontological union of the Trinity, has a ministry distinct from the Son, yet inseparable from the Person and work of the Son. On this side of Christ’s earthly ministry (post-ascension), the Spirit, who is sent by the Father and the Son, interacts with humans in new ways and at new depths. Why? Because of what Christ accomplished in his earthly ministry, which includes his life, death, resurrection and ascension.

This ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit is essential for our participation in relationship with God on the basis of Christ’s ministry. The Spirit is the one who, in the proclamation and our hearing of the Word, gives us freedom to respond, who delivers to us the desire and willingness to repent, believe and trust Christ, and thus to receive the forgiveness God has, in Christ, already extended to us, and to receive the power to become and live as the adopted children of God that believers are.

The Spirit opens us up to receive all these benefits of Christ, which reach down to the roots of who we are and who we are becoming. Once again, all this saving work comes to fruition through relationship (participation, interaction, involvement). The work of the Person of the Holy Spirit results in our spiritual union with God, in Christ—a union that is manifested as we participate in the gift of reconciled relationship to God brought about by Jesus Christ through the hypostatic union and thus brings about an atoning union of God with all humanity.

Thus, as noted earlier, the saving union is distinct from, yet reliant upon the hypostatic union, and so upon the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ. The distinction and proper ordering of the spiritual union to the hypostatic union no more denigrates the hypostatic union than the hypostatic union ought to diminish or dismiss the spiritual union.


With these thoughts in mind, we can now make this summary statement:

Without the distinct and inseparable gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit, we could not and we would not participate — we would and could not share in Christ’s own (vicarious) responses of repentance, faith, hope and love for God and receive his grace given to us.  Our salvation requires the ministry of all three Persons of the Trinity and all three moments of God’s saving action towards us, each contributing to the one whole will, purpose and accomplishment of our salvation.




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