MAJOR BIBLE THEMES
Louis Sperry Chafer
"Bible doctrines are the bones of
revelation and the attentive Bible student must be
impressed with the New Testament emphasis on sound
doctrine (Matt. 7:28; John 7:16, 17; Acts 2:42; Rom.
6:17; Eph. 4:14; 1 Tim. 1:3; 4:6, 16; 6:1; 2 Tim.
3:10, 16; 4:2, 3; 2 John 1:9, 10)."
~ Dr. Louis Sperry Chafer ~
The studies presented
herein are a continuation
of Major Bible Themes which, Lord willing, will
eventually be presented
in its entirety. Major Bible Themes may serve as a wonderful outline for personal or group
Links to previous studies in the series may be found in our
TRINITY: HIS PERSON AND DEITY
"There is one God who
subsists in a threefold personality."
Man recognizes the
existence of God by intuition or innate knowledge. This means
that the fact of God's existence is self-evident to a degree
that attempted proofs are unnatural to the mind, and therefore
uncalled for. Those facts which are received by intuition are
more evident than others. Men do not ask for proofs of their own
existence nor of the existence of material things which they
recognize by their senses. Though God is unseen as to His
person, His existence and immanence are so evident that men
generally require no proofs of the fact of His being. However,
man's innate conceptions of God are greatly strengthened by the
contemplation of His works in creation, preservation, and
providence. So, also, man's thoughts of God are enlarged by
tradition, or those accumulated impressions which are passed
from father to son; but the knowledge of God is perfected when
due consideration is given to that complete revelation which He
has given of Himself in the Scriptures of Truth.
The ancient philosophers were deprived of any knowledge of the
Bible revelation, and there are those, also, who through
prejudice or unbelief will not receive the testimony of God.
Both of these classes of men are of necessity left to mere
speculation regarding the person of God and His creation. The
theorizings of men throughout the ages have resulted in certain
systems of philosophy: (1) Polytheism, with its many gods; (2)
Hylozoism, which suggests that God Himself is that life
principle which is found in all creation; (3) Materialism, which
contends that matter is self-functioning, and toward this theory
all modern evolution tends; and (4) Pantheism with its claim
that matter is God and God is matter, that God is impersonal and
therefore coeternal with matter.
The arguments of men by which they have attempted to prove the
existence of God apart from the Scriptures are also in four
classes: (1) Ontological, which contends that God must exist
because men universally believe that He exists; (2)
Cosmological, which contends that every effect must have its sufﬁcient
cause and therefore the universe must have a Creator; (3)
Teleological, which contends that every design must have its
designer, and therefore the whole creation must have a designer;
and (4) Anthropological, which contends that the very existence
of man as a living person is assurance that there is a living
The child of God turns from these human arguments to the divine
revelation with a sense of relief; for in the Word of God he
discovers complete and satisfying revelations concerning God and
His creation. In the Scriptures there are, however, certain
distinctions to be noted:
UNITY OF GOD AND THE TRINITY
The Old Testament emphasizes
the unity of God in particular (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 44:6; Exod.
20:3), with intimations as to the Trinity (.Gen.. 1:26; 3:22;
11:7; Isa. 7:14; 9:6, 7; Psa. 2:7; Gen. 1:2; Isa. 48:12-16;
63:9, 10). The New Testament emphasizes the Trinity -- the
Father, Son, and Spirit -- in particular (note Matt. 28:19; John
14:16), with intimations as to the unity of God (John 14:9;
10:30; 2 Cor. 5:19; Col. 1:15; 2:9). The Old Testament
references to Deity by various names are not references to the
Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit unless so speciﬁed, but
to these Three in One.
The fact that there are three Persons in One is a revelation
which belongs to the sphere of Heaven's perfect understanding (1
Cor. 13:12), and while we can now believe and receive all that
God has said to us, these truths cannot be compressed into the
limited sphere of human understanding. There is one God who
subsists in a threefold personality. The Father says "I,"
the Son says "I," and the
Spirit, also, is in every sense a person; yet these Three are
not three Persons, but they are One. They are equal, and to them
should be ascribed the same attributes, titles, adoration,
worship, and conﬁdence; yet they are not three Gods, but they
are one God. In this divine relationship, three Persons are seen
to be One; yet without blending or confounding the separateness
of their inﬁnite Beings. And in like manner, One Person is seen
to be Three without a dividing of substance. The Trinity
consists in three essential distinctions in the substance of the
one God; yet these distinctions are presented as separate
persons to the extent that the Father sends the Son into the
world (John 17:18), and the Son sends the Spirit into the world
(John 16:7). This procession or exercise of authority, it should
be observed, is never reversed. If all this seems
incomprehensible, it is only because the ﬁnite mind is unable to
grasp inﬁnite truth.
OLD TESTAMENT NAMES
In the Old Testament, when
referring to Deity, three primary names are used. This fact
alone suggests the Trinity. These names as translated in the
Authorized Version of the Bible are: God,
The name LORD when printed in capital letters means Jehovah, and
the name Lord when printed in small letters means Master. These
primary names are often combined as LORD God, and Lord God. (The
meaning of these names and all other divine titles will be found
in the notes of the Scoﬁeld Reference Bible, or in any good
ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
From the Scriptures it is
revealed that there are certain qualities belonging to God. In
no sense has He acquired these attributes; they are what He is,
and ever has been, and ever will be, and He is the beginning or
fountain source of each and all of them. God is a spirit (John
4:24), God is life (Jer. 10:10), God is self-existent (Exod.
3:14), God is inﬁnite (Psa. 145:3), God is immutable (Psa.
102:27; Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17), God is truth (Deut. 32:4; John
17:3), God is love (1 John 4:8), God is eternal, (Psa. 90:2),
God is holy (1 Pet. 1:16; 1 John 1:5), God is omnipresent (Psa.
139:8; Jer. 23:23, 24), God is omniscient (Psa. 147:4, 5), and
God is omnipotent (Matt. 19:26).
The greatness of God cannot be fully comprehended by man, but it
can at least be said that God is greater than the universe to
the extent that the Creator is greater than the thing which He
creates; yet His very greatness includes His ability and desire
to care for the smallest detail of His creation. Not a sparrow
falleth without His knowledge and by Him every hair of the head
is numbered. His greatest undertaking is seen in the provisions
He has made for the eternal salvation of sinners whom His inﬁnite
holiness must otherwise condemn for ever.
SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
God is supreme over all. He
yields to no power, authority, or glory. He represents
perfection to an inﬁnite degree in every aspect of His being. He
could never be surprised, defeated, or uncertain. However,
without sacriﬁcing His authority or jeopardizing the ﬁnal
realization of His will, it has pleased Him to release some
measure of freedom of choice to men in the limited sphere of
their own experience, and for its exercise He holds them
responsible. The Bible states that men do not turn to God apart
from the moving of His Spirit in their hearts (John 6:44;
16:7-11); yet it is declared that, on the human side, they must
believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved. Likewise,
it is written that it is God who works in the believer both to
will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13); yet He appeals
to them to yield themselves to Him (Rom. 12:1, 2). Since God is
supreme and since He controls the hearts and wills of men, it is
necessary to believe that, when the history of the universe is
completed, God's purpose and plan will have been wrought out
according to His will even to the last degree.
He doeth all things well.
DECREES OF GOD
There are certain divine
decrees, or undertakings, in which no other being can share;
being wrought by God alone in His sovereign wisdom and power.
The major decrees are: His creation, His preservation, His
providence, His unconditional covenants, the dispensations, and
1. What things do we
recognize by intuition?
2. Is God, even though unseen, so recognized?
3. Name various ways by which we learn more about God.
4. Compare what men know apart from the Bible revelation with
that which is known through that revelation.
5. Name and describe each of the four systems of philosophy
regarding the Person of God.
6. Name four general arguments by which men have sought to prove
the existence of God.
7. Regarding the Unity of God and the Trinity, where in the
Scriptures are these two aspects of truth especially emphasized?
8. To what conception of God do His Old Testament names
9. Why cannot man understand the doctrine of the Trinity?
10. Give a general statement of what may be known of the Unity
of God and the Trinity.
11. Give the three primary names of God found in the Old
12. Name the attributes of God.
13. Has God acquired His attributes or are they an essential
part of His Eternal Person?
14. Why is it reasonable to believe that God is greater than the
sum total of all that He has created?
15. What is divine sovereignty? How is it exercised in the
saving of men?
16. Name the decrees of God. Why are they termed decrees?
Themes herein presented is its first edition
(copyright 1926), is in the public domain, and may be
freely downloaded in its entirety or chapter by chapter
Information for purchase
of the revised edition by John F. Walvoord (copyright
1974) may be found at the same address.
Dr. Louis Sperry Chafer (1871-1952)
was the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, and from
1924 until his death, served as the its first President
and Professor of Systematic Theology. His
ground-breaking eight volume Systematic Theology,
first published in 1947-1948,
was the first systematization of a premillennial,
dispensational interpretation of the Scriptures.
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