This is the first small group study for the Christianity series (By Dave Miles).
Theme: God is pure love
1) In groups of 2-3... (5-10 minutes)
‘God is obsessed with his own glory’ – T/F?
‘God exists to achieve an agenda, and we exist merely to deliver God’s agenda’ – T/F?
‘God is oppressive’ – why do people think that?
Then give some input:
(To research read Cornelius Plantinga, Engaging God’s World, pages 19-22a)
2) Tell the story of God revealing himself
(Look up bracketed passages on the worksheets as you go)
- From the beginning of the Old Testament we get glimpses of complexity within God (Genesis 1:1-3, 26)
- Yet we are told that there is only one God and only he is to be worshipped (Deuteronomy 6:4)
- In the New Testament, when Christ comes we discover he is God and worshipped as God (Matthew 28:16)
- Yet, Jesus talked about his Father in heaven
- Jesus also talks about sending his Spirit to indwell us as his church
- And Jesus says the love he has for us flows out of the love that has always existed between he and his Father. And that we are drawn up into this love by the Spirit. (John 17:20-26) The Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father back. The Father glorifies the Son, and the Son glorifies the Father back. And the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit upon us so that we are drawn into this love and glory. Check out these verses...
‘...that they may be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they be in us’ (John 17:21)
‘My teaching is not mine but belongs to the one who sent me’ (John 7:16)
‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9-10)
‘The Father is in me and I am in him’ (John 10:38)
‘On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you’ (John 14:20)
‘I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them’ (John 17:26)
‘God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them’ (1 John 4:16)
3) In the early years of church history...
- We alternated between too much emphasis on the 3-ness of God, and too much emphasis on the one-ness of God
- Then the church got it sorted with some cool ways of talking about God
- God is ‘Trinity’ (Tertullion) – the one God exists in three persons and one substance - Father, Son and Holy Spirit
- The being of God is ‘communion’ - God is love (The Cappadocian Revolution). It’s easy to pass over this and miss what it’s saying. Modern scholar Colin Gunton puts it this way - ‘God is no more than what Father, Son and Spirit give to and receive from each other in the inseparable communion that is the outcome of their love. Communion is the meaning of the word - there is no ‘being’ of God other than this dynamic of persons in relation.’ This means that self-giving love in community is the bedrock of all reality - the transcendental of all transcendentals. Wow! There are so many implications of this for how we understand everything in the universe!!!
- ‘Perichoresis’ (Cyril) - peri means ‘around’ - choresis means ‘movement’ (it’s the word we get choreography from - as in choreographing a dance). The Trinity is a dynamic plurality of persons moving together. You could almost say... dancing around each other.
- Co-inherence - mutual indwelling. Each member of the Trinity is not that person only, but includes the other persons in himself. He is what he is only through the indwelling of the others.
- ‘2 arms of God’ (Irenaeus). The Son and the Spirit are the 2 arms of God reaching out to the world.
4) Putting it all together
The apostle John put it so well – ‘God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.’ (1 John 4:16)
Father, Son and Spirit – eternally...
Defer to each other
Make room for each other
Glorify each other
Serve each other
Send each other
Give to and receive from each other Love each other
This is a life we are graciously invited into – God’s makes room for us – his love bursts out and extends to us through Christ and in the Spirit. ‘Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you.’ (Romans 15:7)
Contrast other ideas of God
For example, Islam (God is pure will – Islam means ‘to submit’) Trinity (God is pure love)...
God is love in his essential being – this is his glory – his glory is his other-person- centredness. God wants this glory to be known throughout the universe. Not in an ego- maniacal way. It’s a glory we share in and bask in and that radiates out from us if we abide in him. In other words, God is the opposite of selfish. God’s glory is his self-giving love and community.
5) Back into groups... (5-10 minutes, then report back to large group)
- What’s changed in your thinking?
- How do we live knowing this knowledge?