How Jack Miller Became a Trinitarian

Pastor and theologian Jack Miller (1928–1996) is best known for saying, “Cheer up! You are far worse than you think” and “Cheer up! God’s grace is greater than you’ve ever dared hope.” These were lessons that Jack learned repeatedly throughout his life.

When Christian leaders came to Jack for help, he would listen and ask questions. After making little headway with some of the more stubborn ones, he would laugh with self-recognition and asked, “Why did you come to me? I see you don’t believe in the Holy Spirit. Have you ever thought about becoming a Trinitarian? Let God have a chance. Have you ever met God?”[1]

Jack had not always believed in the Holy Spirit in a meaningful way. A significant turning point had come in 1970 when Jack desperately studied the promises of God in Scripture following a personal crisis. As he did, he noted three faulty presuppositions that prepared him to understand a glorious truth.[2]

1. Only a Few Will Be Saved

Reformed people tend to believe they live in a time of increasing apostasy, so they think of their primary role as defending the truth in these last days. They assume that only a few will be saved.

Jack rejected this assumption. Evangelism, he argued, is “God’s first priority for His Word and His Church,” but “‘remnant theology’… makes the idea of aggressive evangelism seem pointless…. We must open our eyes of faith to the wonder of God’s saving purpose, reaching out since Pentecost to embrace the nations.” [3]  Jack argued that many will be saved, rather than just a few—that we live in the age of abundant life ushered in by the Spirit.

2. Calvinists Are Poor Evangelists

Many people think Calvinists are poor evangelists. Jack argued that if the sovereign promises of God in Scripture are true, then Reformed people should be the greatest evangelists of all.

The absolute sovereignty of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ provides the greatest motivation for evangelism. Jack saw “that in our day the full doctrines of omnipotent grace run contrary to the whole temper of our time.”[4]

3. Whatever Will Happen Will Happen Anyway

The first two assumptions lead to prayerlessness, especially in evangelism. On the basis of God’s sovereignty, many Calvinists fatalistically presume that whatever will happen will happen anyway. This provides little motivation for prayer.

Jack argued that Reformed Christians must drop that idea.[5] “Christians … have missed the link between prayer and God’s purposes in the world. It is, simply, that prayer starts the promises of God on their way to fulfillment … Each promise is a hook for pulling our faith into the heavens. There we catch God’s missionary vision of a world filled with His praise.”[6]

The Holy Spirit Changes Everything

As Jack continued studying the promises of God, he was astonished to see how many of the New Testament promises were in the present tense, especially in the gospel of John.[7]  The Greek present tense implies continuation: “come and keep coming,” “drink and keep drinking,” and “believe and keep believing”—right now, at this time.[8] In John 7:39, Jesus ties the present-tense nowness of the gospel promise to Pentecost.

The insight struck a personal chord that explained the prayerlessness in Jack’s own theology and practice. It was a critical turning point: “I believed in the Sovereignty of God, the greatness of the Father, the efficacy of the atonement, the riches of grace, the Son of God. But it all short-circuited because I had left the Holy Spirit out. So, I became a Trinitarian at that point.… It is not just the gospel that brings about the work of God, but it is the gospel as it is applied by the Holy Spirit.”[9]

He realized, “At Pentecost the resurrection life of Jesus Christ was imparted to the church by the Father as permanent and ongoing.”

From that point onward, Jack fully embraced the role that both Christ and the Holy Spirit play in the gospel. He had come to see that, just as we have an advocate with the Father in heaven, so also we have the Holy Spirit in us as the advocate of Jesus to effectually apply the gospel within the hearts of the elect. The Spirit delights to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ; to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment; and then to pour out the love God has shown in Christ into the hearts of those who believe—and keep on believing. This leads to great confidence in evangelism and prayer.

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14 Miller, “My Encounter with the Gospel 2.”

[2] C. John Miller, “Missionary Promises of God Chart Produced by Jack Miller in Spain,” C. John Miller Oral History Interview Collection, Archives and Special Collections at the Library at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC, unpublished (1970).

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid. See also Miller, C. John. “Reformed Evangelism Revisited.” The C. John Miller Manuscript Collection, PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, MO (20 July 1979).

7 Ibid.

[6] C. John Miller, Evangelism & Your Church (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1985), 105.

9 C. John Miller, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1986), 35–58.

10 Ibid.

11 C. John Miller, “My Encounter with the Gospel 2,” CJM and RMM Audio Files (1988), 7133. Online: http://www.newgrowthpress.com.

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