The Bible only allows us to believe that God is a Trinity
We come back to our study of God’s Attributes this summer. Today is part 2 of The Triune God. God is a Triune God, or, a Trinity. Trinity means: 1 God, 3 Persons. We do not believe in 3 Gods, but 1 God. We do not believe in 1 God who changed into 3 different Modes or Persons over time, such as the Father becoming the Son and then the Son becoming the Holy Spirit. Those are heresies called Tritheism and Modalism. No, the Bible does not allow for us to think of God in either of those ways or even the numerous other heresies. The Bible only allows us to believe that God is a Trinity which means that God is 1 God who eternally and simultaneously exists as 3 distinct, equal, divine Persons. Those three Persons are the Father, the Son and the Spirit. All three have always been, there has never been a time when any of them were not. All three are equally God. All three are distinct divine Persons who are the One God.
Now, I have to bring up again like I did last week that the apparent absurdity of this is itself almost an argument against the idea of a Trinity ever being invented by man. Imagine if you will a meeting with all the founders of different world religions. The chairman asks one group:
“So, what is your idea of God? What have you come up with?”
We believe that there is one Supreme Being.
Okay, so you guys are the monotheists, great. Islam, Judaism, JW’s and Christianity?
Yeah, but, we do have a little discomfort about the Christians but we’ll let them explain.
Okay then. And what about you guys? What do you believe God is like?
Well, we believe in their god, but we also believe there are many, many other gods as well.
So you’re polytheists? Great. How about you guys
We believe that everything is God.
So pantheists. Great. Next?
“We don’t believe there is a god.”
Okay, so you guys are atheists. This is a religious meeting – How’d you get in here? Anyway, next up – what do you guys think God is like?
“We believe that God used to be a man, but, he evolved into god”
Okay then, that’d be Mormons and New Agers then. Great. Last up: Christians. What say you about God?
We believe that there is 1 God, but, He is 3 different Persons.
So you’re polytheists, then?
No. One God, 3 Persons.
Hmmm, that make sense to you guys?
Me neither. You sure you guys want to go with that?
Okay, more power to ya.
Do you see how no one would invent the doctrine of the Trinity? It’s not invented. It’s forced on us by God. The Bible is God’s Word, His self-revelation to us so we can know what He is like. What do we see in teh Bible? That God is 1 God, 3 Persons. Our focus last week was the OT and we saw the surprisingly powerful evidence of the Trinity. When we finished last week we were left with a picture from the OT of a God that could be summed up like this:
- God is One God but somehow there are at least two (probably 3) Divine Persons: All are treated equally as God, and have traits of Personhood. All 3 were there at the beginning, causing the beginning, creating everything else, creating man in their image. We learn that One is a Father and the other is His Son, and another is the Spirit. The Son somewhere and at some point will appear “like a son of man”, meaning he will appear human. Then we see the Father is going to make His Son king over the whole earth and His Son will be worshipped by the whole earth.
I’m sorry but the Jewish Scriptures are VERY Christian! We have not even opened up the NT yet. And that is what we are doing today. And you will see the continuity of the Old and the New Testaments in their depiction of God as a Triune God. The OT unlocked and cracked the door for us, the NT is going to kick it wide open.
The NT confirms both the unity and the plurality of God. Just like last week in the OT, lets start by seeing how the NT emphatically affirms the unity of God:
- 1 Cor 8:4, “we know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one”. Paul is talking to the believers on the red-hot issue of the day: eating food that was sacrificed to idols. Can believers eat food that had been ritualistically sacrificed to an idol before being served? The answer is yes, an informed Christian has freedom before God to eat that food. Why? Because an informed Christians knows that there is no other God but God and that the idol that was worshipped when that cow was slaughtered is not a real thing anyway. So, an informed Christian knows he is not participating in any “worship” of that idol because when he cuts into that filet mignon he’s not thanking some fake god. He’s saying, “Thank you Yahweh” and asking for the A1. The doctrine that there is One God is critical in settling this matter. The NT, like the OT, says there is one God.
- Turn to 1 Tim 2:4-5 with me, “For there is one God…” God wants all men to come to the knowledge of the truth Paul says. What is that truth? What is that knowledge? It is this: that there is one God. And the one and only way to that God is through Jesus Christ. Again the NT emphasizes not a plurality of Gods, but, that there is one God.
- Or there is Galatians 3:20 when it says “but God is one”. Similar to the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel, The LORD our God, the LORD is one!”
- You don’t have to turn there but you will find Jesus driving home the point of the unity of God too in John 10:30 when He says, “I and the Father are one”. Here you have that mysterious unity and yet, plurality of God. One God, but, that one God is Jesus and the Father, who are one. Yet they are not each other, because Jesus is saying, He and I, me and him, the two of us are one.
THE NEW TESTAMENT SHOWS THE PLURALITY IN GOD
Over and over the NT continues the teaching of the OT that there is one and only one God. But also like the OT, the NT teaches the plurality within God. But in the NT we find so much more of this Triune God given to us.
WE see the Trinity at
- Jesus’ birth: the Spirit causes Mary to conceive with the Son of God the Father
- Jesus’ baptism: as the Son comes up out of the water the Spirit descends on Him and the Father’s voice is heard saying “This is My Son..”
- Jesus Temptation: The Spirit leads the Son into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil but the Son is obedient to the Father.
- Jesus Resurrection: in Romans 1:4 it says Jesus was declared with power to be the Son of God when the Spirit raised Him from the dead
- The Church’s Baptismal Formula, go make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Now, we’re not going to spend time proving that the Father is God. That is not a contentious point in the least. So, we will spend our time developing what the OT has given us regarding the Son and the Spirit, the other Two in the Trinity, the 2nd and 3rd Persons. It is their Deity, their Personhood, their eternal coexistence with the Father that is attacked.
Turn with me to John 1:1-2. Can you hear the opening of Genesis echoing through? In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Remember how there was “Someone Else” that God kept talking too?
Here John tells us it was “the Word”. The Word was with God in the beginning – not created mind you. With God. Already pre-existing everything else. Eternal, in other words. But did you catch what John said? He said not only was the Word with God, but, “the Word WAS God.” Whoa! Here we have a plurality again.
And remember last week we saw in the OT that that “Other Someone” that God kept talking to was also involved in creating? God said “Let us make man in our image” and then “they” made man in “their” image? Well, what does John say in verse 3? “Through Him [the Word] all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” The parallel with Genesis is mind-blowing.
If you’re new to this you’re asking, “Okay, that’s profound, but, what does this have to do with Jesus?” Look at verse 14. John is still talking about this eternal, creating, divine Word and says, “And the Word became flesh…” What does that mean “became flesh”? It means he became a human being. Oh wow. The NT shows us that without question this Divine Word became human:
- Turn to 1 John 1:1-2….Look at the sensory language John uses: see, hear, touch. Jesus came in the flesh. Or, The Word became flesh
- Paul tells us in Php 2:6-7 the same thing. He’s probably quoting an early early hymn in the Church. Notice the clear declaration of the deity of Jesus, “who being in very nature God” followed in verse 7 with His becoming a human being, “taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness”.
The very nature of God and the very nature of man. This is called the hypostatic union, which is a big theological term that means Jesus is 1 Person but has two natures: the divine and the human. No other human being has ever had this. Jesus is absolutely, utterly unique in this. Don’t treat anyone like they’re on par with Him. They are not.
Actually, you might be seeing in this Philippians passage a summary of everything the OT told us about God’s Son: He would be both divine and human, a King who would have absolute rule over everything and be worshipped. Look at verses 9-11, read “…” That is the same absolute Kingship that we saw in Daniel 7, in Psalm 2 and 110 and other OT passages.
Philippians says that this Divine Son-King was crucified. That wasn’t in our OT picture was it? Well, we didn’t cover it, but, yes, the crucifixion of this Son of God was prophesied in the OT. Seven hundred years before Jesus in Isaiah 53 it says, “He was pierced for our transgressions”. Psalm 22 said 1,000 years before Jesus came “They have pierced my hands and my feet”. In Zechariah 12:10 God says, “The Jews will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him…” God says the Jews pierced Him. They pierced someone divine. But God doesn’t say they will “mourn for me”. He says, “they will mourn for Him…” Who is the Him? The one they have pierced. Piercing that Someone was like piercing God, it was piercing God, but, it wasn’t God the Father – it was God the Son who would come in the flesh to be crucified.
- This is also why the very beginning of the NT, Matthew chapter 1, opens up with the genealogy of Jesus. It details his human ancestry. He was the Divine Son of God, but, He was also human.
Stepping out of the NT we see that the Church Fathers in the first several hundred years of the Church had to draw up CREEDS that would articulate this important theological point: that Jesus was both God and man.
- The NICENE CREED (325) says: And I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man…
- The CHALCEDONIAN CREED (451) says: perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man….one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence…
What is all this saying? That Jesus is the eternal, coexisting, co-glorious, co-creating, divine personal Word, which is the Son of God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, who became flesh without giving up His divinity in the process, and who existed and exists forevermore as the God-Man.
More explicitly Jesus is called God in the NT.
- Titus 2:13 says, “While we wait for the glorious appearing of our great GOD and Savior, Jesus Christ” See how he’s called God?
- Or turn to Hebrews 1 with me. Verses 1-2…. See how God’s Son was co-Creator? Same thing we’ve been seeing. Then verse 3 where did He sit down? The Right Hand of God! Remember Psalm 110:1 said that God said to God “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” God invites God to sit at His right hand. Where is Jesus? At the Right Hand of God. Who is Jesus? God. And man.
- Then in John 20:28 there’s Thomas, you know him by his misnomer: “Doubting” Thomas. How sad that we the Church would so mistakenly remember such a hero of our faith. It says more about us than Thomas. How could we so screw up a guys reputation like that? I will be a matchstick flame to his sunlight in the Kingdom. Thomas doubted, yes, but so did the other 10 disciples. But when Thomas saw the evidence that he demanded he fell on his knees and confessed “My Lord and my God!” “Doubting” Thomas became “Believing” Thomas and “Worshipping” Thomas. Then he became the Apostle Thomas and spent the rest of his life proclaiming Jesus is God in the flesh and saves sinners. He went to India where he became “Martyr” Thomas. To pay him back for preaching Jesus to them, the enraged pagan priests in India ran a spear through his chest. “Doubting” Thomas? If Thomas is a doubter we’re all in trouble because none of us measures up to Thomas.
The OT left the world in anticipation of this coming Son of God, the one who would be divine and human, who would be the king-ruler of all existence and the crucified Savior. We even saw that Proverbs 30:4 left us with a burning question that we don’t get answered in the OT: What is the name of this Son?
Now, because of the NT, we know. His name is Jesus. Do you know His name?
The 3rd Person points you to the 2nd Person so that the 2nd Person can give you access the 1st Person. Or said another way: the Spirit points you to Christ and Christ can bring you to the Father.
- Jesus is your defense before the Father (1 John 2)
- Jesus gives you access to the Father (Jn 14:6)
- Jesus mediates between you and the Father (1 Tim 2:5)
2 Cor. 13:14, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.