PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Triune God

10/18 Triune God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151018_triune-god.mp3

We are seeking to know God, to know what he has revealed to us about himself. We desire to worship him as he is. We seek to honor him. We want to worship him in truth.

One of the old creeds, a creed that has been recited and memorized by Christians for centuries, starts out like this:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this:”

Catholic (small ‘c’) simply means universal, the faith that all Christians believe. We could substitute the word ‘universal’. What do you think is so essential to salvation that ‘before all things it is necessary that he hold’? What point of truth is so essential that ‘except we keep it whole and undefiled, without doubt we shall perish everlastingly’? How would you finish the statement ‘the universal faith of the Christian church is this:’?

This is how the historic Athanasian creed begins:

And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence.

Lots of religious groups attack the Christian belief in the trinity. Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, all scoff at the idea of the trinity. Some say that it was a belief pushed on the church by a pagan emperor. Others say it is just plain nonsense.

Where do we get this concept of trinity? What do we mean by it? Should we believe it? Does it really matter?

Let me give you five statements that are clearly taught in the Bible.

  1. There is only one God

  2. The Father is God

  3. The Son is God

  4. The Spirit is God

  5. The Father, Son and Spirit are each someone distinct from the other two

The word ‘trinity’ is an abbreviation of tri-unity; describing that God is a unity, that there is oneness in God, and there is also threeness in God.

There is Only One God

Last time we looked at some of the biblical evidence for monotheism in contrast to polytheism or tritheism. The Bible is clear and emphatic that there is only one true God, not three separate gods. Remember when Jesus was questioned about the greatest commandment:

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

The first and greatest command is that there is only one true God, and he alone is worthy of worship. We are to have no other gods in his presence. “Besides me there is no god. Who is like me?”(Is.44:6-7)

The Father is God

That the one we call Father is God hardly needs to be defended. Ephesians 4:6 refers to the

Ephesians 4: 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Jesus teaches us to address God as Father.

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Matthew 23:9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.

Jesus himself, praying to his Father, says:

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

The Son is God

We see clearly that the Son Jesus is God. In Romans 9, Paul refers to Jesus the Messiah as:

Romans 9:5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

In Titus 2 he refers to him as

Titus 2:13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

2 Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

The author of Hebrews, quoting the Old Testament

Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

The Son is clearly called God. Matthew 3 quotes Isaiah 40 about John, whose role was to prepare the way for Jesus.

Isaiah 40:3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (with Matthew 3:3)

In John 8, Jesus identifies himself with the self-existent one, YHWH, from Exodus 3

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

The Jews understood what he was claiming, and picked up stones to stone him. Then in John 10, Jesus said:

John 10:30 I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.

At the close of John’s gospel, we see the risen Christ appear to doubting Thomas.

John 20:27-31 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Thomas believes in response to the evidence, and calls Jesus ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus commends his belief. John explains the goal of his writing: ‘that you may believe that Jesus is… the Son of God.’ We are encouraged, like Thomas, on the basis of the evidence given, to believe in Jesus as ‘my Lord and my God!’

The Spirit is God

The Scriptures clearly teach that the Spirit is God.

Acts 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

Peter understands that to lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God.

I Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

God is the only one who can rightly dwell in God’s temple, and we are told that God’s Spirit dwells in us.

Psalm 139:7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

To flee from the presence of God’s Spirit is to flee from the presence of God himself.

We see clear evidence in the scripture that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God, and there is only one true God.

The Father, Son and Spirit are Distinct Someones

The Scripture is also clear that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, the Spirit is not the Father or the Son.

In John 3, where Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born of the Spirit, he says:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

God the Father is distinguished from the Son. The Father sends his only Son to save the world. The Son is the one who is sent.

Jesus’ teaching in John 14 about the Holy Spirit brings this out clearly:

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, …26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Notice the personal pronouns. Jesus refers to himself as ‘I’, he refers to the Father as ‘he’ and he refers to the Holy Spirit as ‘another’ and ‘he’.

Jesus continues to speak of the Holy Spirit in chapter 15.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

The Father sent Jesus, Jesus and his Father send the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will be with you forever. The Spirit will testify of Jesus.

Jesus frequently prayed to his Father. He did not pray to himself. Jesus is someone distinct from the Father, who can refer to himself as ‘I’ and address the Father as ‘you’. In his prayer in John 17, he says:

John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. …24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

[God is Love]

This is a stunningly beautiful truth. Don’t miss the significance of this! We are told in 1 John 4:8 and 16 that God is love. Not only that God loves, but that God is love. Not that God began to love or became love. The eternal essence of God is love. Before God created anything, before anything existed outside of God alone, God is love. For God to be love there must be an object for him to love. Love is a relationship word. It requires a subject that loves and an object that is loved. Jesus is conversing with his Father in John 17. He says that he was with his Father before the world existed. He says ‘you loved me before the foundation of the world.’ Before anything existed, there was a you and a me who loved. Notice also that John does not say ‘the gods are love’. Belief in the triune God who eternally exists as Father, Son and Spirit is the only thing that makes sense of the absolute statement that ‘God is love’.

When we are told that God loves us, we understand this as the overflow of the love of an inherently relational God. God eternally exists in relationship, and he invites us in to enjoy that relationship!

God With God

John launched his gospel with this statement:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. …18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

The Son, the Word, existed in the beginning. The Son was with his Father. The Son and the Father are one essence or one divine existence. The Son is God at the Father’s side. A distinct someone, who can be said to be ‘with’ the Father enjoying relationship with the Father, yet who shares with the Father the divine essence.

Three In One

We see throughout the New Testament statements that make sense only if there is one God who eternally exists in three distinct persons.

Matthew 3:16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

At the baptism we see the beloved Son Jesus, the voice of the Father, and the Spirit of God

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

We are told by Jesus to make disciples and to baptize them in the one singular name of the three equal and distinct persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs––heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, …

The Spirit, God and Christ are each separately mentioned.

I Corinthians 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

In these verses, the varieties of gifts, service and activities are parallel statements that are said to come from the same Spirit, the same Lord and the same God.

At the end of 2 Corinthians we find this trinitarian benediction:

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

This may be a conscious echo of the threefold name of the LORD in the Old Testament benediction in Numbers 6.

Numbers 6:24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

Ephesians 2, speaking of Jesus, says:

Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit––just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

One Spirit, One Lord, One God and Father of all.

2 Thessalonians shows the three persons at work in the gospel.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 …because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the work of salvation in Hebrews 9 we see three divine actors.

Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

In Hebrews 10 we are warned of the danger of offending the three who are one.

Hebrews 10:29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Peter begins his first letter pointing to our salvation that is the collaborative effort of the triune God.

I Peter 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Jude challenges us to walk the Christian life in conscious communion with the triune God.

Jude :20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

The Revelation given to John begins with a greeting from the three persons.

Revelation 1:4 … Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. …

The eternal Father, and in the numerical symbolism the fullness of the Spirit and Jesus Christ. In Revelation 4 – 5 we see worship in the heavenly throne room directed toward the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb and the sevenfold Spirit of God.

Nonsense?

There is only one God, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God, and each one is someone distinct from the other two. This is the clear teaching of Scripture.

It is often said that this is nonsense and contradictory. We are saying that 1+1+1=1 when everyone knows that it equals 3. It would be contradictory if we were saying that there is one God and there are three gods, or if we were saying that there are three persons but there is only one person. But it is not contradictory to say that God is one divine existence, and he eternally exists in three distinct persons. God is one as to his essence or divine nature; God is three as to his centers of consciousness or personalities in relationship with each other. The Athanasian creed puts it this way:

That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

This is practical. This is worship. We worship a God who is in his own very being a relational God. We worship the Father in spirit and in truth. We honor the Son just as we honor the Father. We give praise to the Spirit who is himself fully and truly God. We are loved by a God who is himself love.

Men cannot and do not love, pray to, and adore a mere abstract infinite nature. They love, address, and worship certain persons in that nature.” (W.G.T.Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, vol.1, p.495)

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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October 18, 2015 - Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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