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The One True God (Part 3)

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2017-04-30 PM
  • Anchored Section 2
  • Sermons


Well, we are talking about the one, true God. As we're here in the Anchored series, this semester on Sunday nights, we're looking at God - theology proper, the doctrine of God Himself. Let me just remind you of where we have been so far. We're looking at the nature of God, that is, who He is. We began by considering what God is not. When you think of the nature of God, it's important to understand what He's not. Obviously, these are sort of the major deviations from a proper understanding of God. First of all, anti-theism or atheism, the idea that there is no God. Clearly, God exists; He's made that evident to all. Romans 1 makes that clear. Pantheism, in its most simple expression, and this is an oversimplification I admit to you, but all is God. Polytheism, the idea that there are many gods. And then, of course, the gods of other monotheistic faiths such as Islam and Zoroastrianism. All of those constitute what God is not and we looked at those in some detail the last time, or couple of times ago.

We've also considered what God is, what God is. And this is where we left off last time. We understood and came to grips with the fact, as we worked through each of these, that God is a being, that is, He is not a force. He is a being. He exists. He is a living God. He is infinite in His being and perfections. He is spirit as opposed to matter. God is, Jesus said, God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth God. God doesn't have a body. He doesn't have a physical - permanent physical manifestation, although He can choose to manifest Himself in some physical form. And He is personal, that is, God is, we could say, a person but that gets confusing into what we'll talk about tonight. So, probably better to say He is personal, that is, He relates to others. God is self-aware, self-conscious, of His own being and who He is. And He relates to others. He is personal.

We left off last time with this final word that describes the nature of God and that is the word, Trinity. When you look at who God is or what God is, He is a living being, an infinite spirit. He is personal and He is Trinity. One of the mysteries of the Christian faith is this idea of God's Trinity. Notice I said it is not a contradiction. It is not illogical in what it sets forth. It is a mystery. John MacArthur in "Biblical Doctrine" writes this: "While it may be ultimately incomprehensible, it is not contrary to reason and logic but can be rationally explained, supported, and understood through biblical revelation."

Now I think you understand that the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity is clearly taught in Scripture. However, we need to acknowledge that the word Trinity itself does not occur in Scripture and there is no one verse or passage that precisely states its truths. Still, the doctrine of the Trinity has been almost universally embraced by all who call themselves Christian. In fact, one author writes of a group that denies the Trinity: "Because of its denial of the three distinct persons in God, the denomination should not be considered to be evangelical, and it is doubtful whether it should be considered genuinely Christian at all". I think that's true. If there is not an acknowledgement of the true nature of God for who He has revealed Himself in Scripture, that is, one God eternally existing in three persons, then that sect or that denomination or that group has placed themselves outside the boundaries of historic Christianity.

Now a careful examination of the scriptural data produces seven propositions. Seven propositions. This is what the biblical data teach. We're going to come back and look at some of these but let me just give you an overview. Proposition number one: the Father is God. Secondly, the Son is God. Thirdly, the Holy Spirit is God. Now you understand that but let me just lay out these propositions and it is these together that give us the doctrine of the Trinity. Number four, the fourth proposition that we learn from Scripture, is that the Father is not the Son; they are distinct from each other. We learn, number five, that the Father is not the Holy Spirit. And the six proposition is that the Son is not the Holy Spirit. So, again, you see that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - each of them is God and yet they are not each other. And the seventh sort of puts a capstone on it all: there is only one God. All of those propositions can be clearly and obviously discerned and are taught in Scripture. It is those seven propositions together that lead us to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. Those suppositions form the basis for the biblical doctrine of Trinity.

Now the first six of those are reflected in what has historically been called the Shield of the Trinity or the Shield of Faith which dates to the early third century, in other words, the early 200s AD. Here's a picture of that shield and you can see that the first six of those propositions are reflected there. And, of course, over that Shield of the Trinity would be the statement that God is one; there is one God. So, there are your seven propositions. So, that's the big picture.

Let's go back now and look at this whole issue a little more carefully. First of all, let's define what we mean by Trinity. What is the doctrine of the Trinity defined? Well, as I often do, and I think it's important to do... a couple of us were talking after the service this morning. I often will say to you, let's talk about what this is not or what this does not mean. Why is that? Well because we collect a lot of clutter in our minds in thinking about biblical truth and often it's important to sort of clear the rubble away in order to build on the foundation, what the Scripture itself teaches. That's why I do that. That's why other teachers do that. I think it's important.

So, let's talk about what the Trinity is not and specifically four common deviations. First of all, tritheism. This is not the Trinity. "Tri", you get the idea "three", "theos" gods - three gods. This heresy teaches that the Trinity is composed of three full distinct essences. In other words, three separate gods. This is heresy; this is not what the Trinity means. We're not talking about three separate gods.

Secondly, is partialism. Partialism - this flawed idea teaches that each of the three persons in the godhead has only a third of the divine essence. Of course, you can think about that for a moment. That really results in none of the three persons being truly divine because none of them possess all of the essence of what it is to be divine. So, that is a flawed idea. The Trinity is not defined by partialism.

Thirdly, the Trinity is not modalism. Modalism. It's also called Sabellianism or Modalistic monarchism. You're probably not going to use that anytime soon in conversation over the water fountain but, just so you know, those are all descriptions of the same reality. Modalism - this heresy teaches that there is only one God who merely assumes three different roles or modes. There are not three persons, they would say. There's one God, one person, who simply assumes three different roles or modes. For example, a man, the same man, can at the same time be a husband, a father, and a son. He's only one person but he is, in that moment, still each of those. They would say that's what the Bible is really teaching when it teaches the Trinity. This heresy is taught today by the United Pentecostals who are also called the Jesus Only Pentecostals or the Oneness Pentecostals. The most famous modalist in our day is right here in Dallas. He's one of the Oneness Pentecostals. His name is T.D. Jakes. T.D. Jakes is a heretic who believes that there is no Trinity. He believes in modalism.

A fourth deviation of what the Trinity is not, is Subordinationism, also called Arianism. Arianism - this heresy denies the deity of Jesus Christ. Arius was the Bishop of Alexandria and He died in the year 336 AD. Arius taught that God the Son was at one point created by God the Father. Arius said, before that time, the Son did not exist nor did the Holy Spirit exist, but the Father only. He went on to say that the Son did exist before the rest of creation and is far greater than the rest of creation, but He is not equal to the Father in all His attributes, and He is a created being. This view is called Subordinationism or Arianism. Arius argued his view in a couple of different ways. First of all, Arius argued from those passages in the New Testament that speak of Christ being the only begotten Son. He took that expression "only begotten" to imply that there must have been a beginning with Christ; there must have been a start. And so, from that, He concludes that Christ is a created being. Now there are several texts, of course, that mention Christ is the only begotten Son. But what does that mean? Well, the word "only begotten" is in one sense not a great translation because the word is monogenes. Originally, the Greek word monogenes described an only child. It was used of a son in certain passages (Luke 7:12, Luke 9:38), was used of an only daughter (in Luke 8:42). But as a result of that, it came to be used of something unique, of which there was only one of its kind. For example, here's a great text to answer modern day Arians, the Jehovah's Witnesses. The Jehovah's Witnesses believe and embrace this. In Hebrews 11:17, the writer of Hebrews refers to Isaac as the monogenes of Abraham. Now think about that for a moment. Did Abraham only have one son? No! In fact, Isaac was not Abraham's only son; Isaac was not Abraham's first son. Ishmael was. But he was the one-of-a-kind son because he was the child of promise and therefore this word monogenes is used of him even though he wasn't first son, he wasn't the only son. So, understand then, that when the New Testament writers use this word for Jesus, they mean He is the only eternal Son. He is the one-of-a-kind son. So, when you read "only begotten" think one of a kind. There's no one else who fits into the same category of Son in the way that He does. He's one of a kind. But Arius used these passages to argue that Christ was created.

Secondly, he used... Arius also used Colossians 1:15 which says, "Christ is the firstborn of all creation". Now, without getting bogged down here, let me just say that this expression, "firstborn", is often used not merely to speak of someone who was the first child, that is, somehow who had a beginning, but it's also used often to refer to the one who has a place of preeminence, the exalted one regardless of birth. And that's how we ought to understand it as well. You can see an example of that in Psalm 89:27. Now Arius' views - this is how he argued - but Arius' views were condemned as heresy at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. We'll come back to that a little later. Today, the Jehovah's Witnesses are the only ones - I should not say the only ones. They are the main category of people who hold to this view of Subordinationism or Arianism, the heresy of Arius. That's what the Trinity is not. So, understand all of those ideas are flawed, wrong, most of them even heresy.

Now let's move on then to consider, as we define the nature of the Trinity, to what we mean when we talk about the Trinity. Let me give you three basic propositions that encompass the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. Number one: God is one in His essential being or constitutional nature. The one true God is one in His essential being. A word that theologians often use is His essence, the essence of who He is. Ousia is a Greek expression that is used to capture this idea of essence. There is only one God - one divine, undivided essence, one God, one essential being who is God. And we're going to come back and look at these issues biblically in just a minute but let me define them for you.

Secondly: the second proposition that defines what the Trinity is. In that one divine being, with one essence, there are three persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Notice here, we're not talking about essence. There's one essence. But there are three persons. A word that's used to sort of counteract the word essence in ousia is person or hypostasis. Now these designations, person, are also called modes of subsistence and they simply reveal the properties that distinguish the members of the Trinity. Here's what John MacArthur and Dick Mayhue have written in "Biblical Doctrine": "These distinct modes of relationship (talking about Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) establish a definite order, that is, Latin taxes within the Trinity so that it is proper to say, with respect to their relationship only not with respect to their essence, glory, or majesty, that the Father is first, the Son is second, and the Spirit is third. (That's why we talk about the first member of the Trinity, the second member of the Trinity, and the third member of the Trinity). There is intentionally communicated to us that this one essence, this one being who is God, eternally exists in three persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

By the way, the word "person" was first used in the 2nd century to speak of the distinctions within the Trinity. The word "person" is from the Latin persona - per, meaning through, and sono, meaning to speak. So, the word persona means to speak through. It initially referred to the mask through which the Roman actor spoke. So, it came to refer to the specific character he played or person - persona. Theologically, when we refer to a person and this is really important to understand. When we say there's one God, one being who is God, eternally existing in three persons, when we speak that way, when we use the word theologically (the word person), we mean a distinct center of consciousness, a distinct center of consciousness. Now if I lost you, let me give you an illustration. Okay, there's one God; only one God who exists in three persons. That God, that one being who is God, is omniscient. That means that each of the persons who eternally exists in that one God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - each of them) is omniscient, equally omniscient because there's one God who is omniscient, eternally existing in three persons. But here's where the distinction of persons comes in. Although there's one God with one attribute of omniscience, each of the persons in the godhead therefore knows all things. The Father knows all things. The Son, in His deity, knows all things. The Holy Spirit knows all things. But, when we talk about a distinct center of consciousness, what I mean is this. Each of the persons in the one God knows these things (all things) in a way that is peculiar to His own person. For example, did each member of the Trinity know that Jesus was going to die on the cross? Yes, of course. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all knew, in their omniscience, that the eternal Son, incarnated in flesh, Jesus of Nazareth, would die on the cross. But though the Father and the Spirit knew the objective fact that the Son would die on the cross, the Father never thought, "I will die on the cross". He has His own distinct center of consciousness. You understand what I'm saying? The same thing with the Spirit. The Spirit never thought, "I'm going to die on the cross." No, each of them is completely omniscient. There's one being that is God but in the three persons there are three distinct centers of consciousness.

A third proposition: God is one in His essential being or constitutional nature, his essence. In that one divine being, number two, there are three persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Third proposition: the essence of God belongs equally to each of the three persons. Three persons with the exact same omnipresence would have what? One omnipresence. And that's the same with every attribute. They are absolutely identical in all the attributes of deity. They are also one in purpose and will. It's not that Jesus wants to do one thing and the Father wants to do something else. They are one in purpose and will. These three persons are identical in divine essence and will and are only one God. So, you do understand that? We're ready to move on.

Okay, here's where we come to mystery. This is not contradictory. We're not saying that God is at the same time one person and three persons. That would be contradictory, right? That's not what the doctrine of the Trinity teaches. The doctrine of the Trinity is not illogical. It's not contradictory. But it is a mystery. It's beyond our full and complete human understanding but it can be understood. And here's how it's understood. There is one being who is God, eternally existing in three persons whom He has taught us to know as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; three distinct centers of consciousness in the one divine being that is God.

So, is this what the Scriptures teach? Well, let's look at the Trinity defended, the Trinity defended. It begins with the intimations or hints in the Old Testament. I love the way the Princeton theologian, B.B. Warfield, illustrates the Old Testament evidence for the Trinity. He says, "Imagine you walk into an extremely beautiful room in which the lights have been dimmed almost to darkness. And you look around and you see certain features in that room that you can barely make out. And then someone comes in and turns up the light. Nothing in the room changes. The room is the same as it's always been. Adding light introduces nothing new into the room; it just brings into clearer view everything that was there before. And that's what the New Testament does with what's in the Old Testament. It's like the Old Testament is that dimly lit room and we can just make out some things that lead us to believe the doctrine of the Trinity. And then in the New Testament, Jesus shows up and turns up the light and we see the room. We see the reality. We see the fact." So, the New Testament doesn't change or correct the Old Testament it just brings the truth that is intimated in the Old Testament into fuller view.

So, what evidence for the Trinity exists in the shadows of the Old Testament? Let me give you several of them. First of all, there are plural pronouns and plural verbs used for God. For example in Genesis 1:26. In fact, turn there with me. Genesis 1:26 we read in the creation story: "Then God said [now watch this], 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness..." Now, does that teach unequivocally the Trinity? No! Remember we're looking in a darkened room. They're just little hints of the reality. Why would God express Himself in this way? There is evidence here that begins to point toward the Trinity. Look at chapter 3:22: "Then the Lord God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil...'" You see these plural pronouns and plural verbs that God uses for Himself. Genesis 11, turn over there. Genesis 11:7, at the tower of Babel: "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another's speech.'" In Isaiah 6:8 another example: "Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for [what?] Us?'" Who will go for Us? So, there are these hints in the plural pronouns and plural verbs in the Old Testament.

A second sort of hint or intimation in the Old Testament is the plural name for God, Elohim. The word Elohim, that's often translated "God" in the Old Testament, is plural in its form. Now some argue that the plural form of God's name, Elohim, is probably like a plural of intensity or a plural of majesty, not a reference to the Trinity; something like a king might say, "We are pleased to grant your request." But there are no other Old Testament examples of that. In addition, though it is a plural noun... This is interesting - it's a plural noun, it usually gets a singular verb. However, there are exceptions. For example, in Genesis 20:13, it's speaking of God: "God [He] caused him to wander..." And it's plural. So, Elohim (plural), plural verb. Genesis 35:7, speaking of God revealing something, it's also in a plural form. In 2 Samuel 7:23: "God went". God (plural, Elohim's a plural noun) went (plural) to redeem Israel. So, there are these examples of Elohim that lead us to see in the shadows of the Old Testament the beginning of the doctrine of the Trinity.

A third expression or way we see it is in the plural forms of the words "creator" and "maker". God is referred to in the Old Testament often as creator or maker. And in Hebrew, the word creator or maker is plural in a number of contexts - Job 35:10, Psalm 149:2, Ecclesiastes 12:1, and Isaiah 54:5. Again, these plurals - it's important to understand these plurals don't prove that God exists in more than one person, but they are compatible with the doctrine of the Trinity when Jesus turns the light up and we see what's really in the room.

Number four, another intimation in the Old Testament, are those passages that describe distinctions between members of the godhead. For example, Genesis 19:24. It says, "Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord..." Wait a minute! This appears, at first glance, to be redundant. The Lord rained from the Lord. Hosea 1:7 - God is speaking in that text and He said, "But I will have compassion on the house of Judah and deliver them by the Lord their God..." So, God speaking, speaks of delivering them by the Lord their God as if He were not and, clearly, He is. So, you see these intimations. Psalm 2:7. In verse 7 the Lord is speaking: "He said to Me, 'You are My Son...'" You remember that text. Hebrews 1:8 applies Psalm 45:6-7 to Christ and the same thing applies, this idea of distinctions where one is speaking to another. Without question, the most famous of these... Turn over to Psalm 110, Psalm 110:1. David speaks and says, "The Lord says to my Lord [Yahweh says to my Adonai]: / 'Sit at My right hand / Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.'" This is a Messianic passage. Matthew 22, Jesus applies it to Himself. Acts 2, Peter applies it to Jesus. And you see these distinctions in the Trinity, or distinctions in the godhead I should say. Isaiah 48:16. In verse 12, the person speaking calls Himself the first and the last which would be a reference to God. And then He says, "And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit." So, you have again this distinction, these points of distinction, within the godhead. In Genesis 6:3, the Lord said, "Then the Lord said, 'My Spirit shall not strive with man...'" The Lord and His Spirit. So, again, you see these distinctions.

A fifth intimation in the Old Testament of the Trinity is the angel of the Lord - this mysterious character, not called an angel of the Lord, but the angel of the Lord. He is identified with Yahweh and yet is distinguished from Him. Let me just show you one example. Turn to Genesis 16. In interest of time, you can look these up; they'll be on the slide. You can look up these other examples on your own. But look at Genesis 16. And in verses 7 through 13, this character shows up. Notice verse 7: "Now the angel of the Lord [that's the sort of prescription for this person in the Old Testament. The angel of Yahweh] found her [Hagar] by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur." Now notice what happens here in this story. Verse 11 says the angel said: "The angel of the Lord said to her further, 'Behold, you are with child, / And you will bear a son; / And you shall call his name Ishmael, / Because..." So, the angel of the Lord says, "Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction." Now notice in verse 13 what Hagar calls the angel of the Lord who spoke with her: "Then she called the name of the Lord [Yahweh] who spoke to her, 'You are a God who sees'..." So, you've got... The angel of the Lord is Yahweh; that's who she interacted with. And yet Yahweh, the angel of the Lord, speaks of the Lord as a separate person. So, you see this interplay. And with each of these examples I have here on the slide, you'll see the same thing. You'll see there is a distinction between the angel of the Lord who is called God and his referring to God as a separate person. So, you see these again, these distinctions. B.B. Warfield writes... By the way, one other example that's not on the slide that I need to give you, is Zachariah 1:12-13 because there, in that text, the angel of Yahweh and Yahweh speak to each other. So, clearly, you're dealing with two persons. In other contexts, the angel of Yahweh is called Yahweh. So, you have distinctions, but you have unity.

B.B. Warfield writes, "The mystery of the Trinity is not revealed in the Old Testament, but the mystery of the Trinity underlies the Old Testament revelation and here and there almost comes into view. Thus, the Old Testament revelation of God is not corrected by the fuller revelation which follows it, but only perfected, extended, and enlarged." So, you see in that darkroom of the Old Testament, you see the intimations of the Trinity. You see hints of it. And then, in the full blazing light of the New Testament glory of Christ, you see it clearly. And then, when we look back, it becomes very clear to us.

So, let's transition then to look at the evidence of three basic propositions. The interesting problem that you have is that the Old Testament, as I just said, intimated the Trinity. But when you come to the New Testament, guess what? It assumes it. So, nowhere is the doctrine of the Trinity, or the reality of the Trinity, proven to us. Why is that? What happened between the close of the Old Testament and the writing of the New Testament that made the concept of Trinity so obvious to the first century church? And the answer is two events. Think about this. Two events made the Trinity obvious.

Event number one: the incarnation. The disciples saw Christ and saw and heard Jesus Christ speak to His Father. Clearly, they knew Christ was the Son of God, that He was God. They worshipped Him as such. And yet, they saw Him and heard Him speak of His Father as a separate person.

The second event that made the Trinity obvious, before the writing in the New Testament, was the sending of the Spirit. Christ promised that when He left, He would send another comforter - John 14, John 16. The Spirit, on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), the Spirit came. They didn't see the Spirit but, like the wind, they saw the effects of His presence.

And so, clearly, think about this, if you're a first century Christian who has believed in Jesus - you have seen the Son (you have seen God the Son), you have heard Him talk about and speak to the Father as God, and you have heard Him refer to the fact that when He leaves, He's going to send the Spirit who is equal to Him in every way, and you experience the reality of the Spirit, what conclusion do you come to? It becomes crystal clear. Because of the incarnation, in the appearance of Christ, and because of the sending of the Spirit, the coming of the Spirit of Pentecost, the New Testament assumes the Trinity as opposed to defending it.

Yet still, there is clear evidence of the doctrine of the Trinity. In fact, the biblical evidence for the deity of Christ and the biblical evidence for the personality of the Spirit together prove the doctrine of the Trinity. Trinitarianism is a deduction from the conviction that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are both divine persons. Once you have concluded that, you have arrived at the Trinity.

And a careful examination of the scriptural data, produces three propositions. There is one God. Two: Christ is God. And three: Christ is distinct from the Father. Look at those propositions again. This is the proof of the Trinity. And, by the way, you can do the same thing with the Holy Spirit. But I'm just taking the second person of the Trinity. There is one God. Number 2: Christ is God. And thirdly, Christ is distinct from the Father. When you have established those three propositions biblically, you have established the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. One God in more than one person and of course three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So, those propositions then form the basis of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. Let's examine each of them and see the biblical support.

Number one: there is one God. This is very clear starting with Deuteronomy 6:4: "Hear, O Israel the Lord [Yahweh] is our God, the Lord [Yahweh] is one!" He is not merely first among the gods as Baal was for the Canaanites, as Ra was in Egypt, or Marduke was in Babylon. He is the one and only God and therefore completely sovereign. This passage, Deuteronomy 6:4, demands monotheism but not some sort of nameless, faceless deity. Here's what we are taught. There is only one God and His name is Yahweh. What is Yahweh mean? I've told you this before, but for those of you who are newer, Yahweh is the Hebrew verb "to be". When God says it, He says "I AM". You see that in Exodus 3 - "I AM". When we say it, when we say Yahweh, that means He is. And in the Old Testament, when you're reading your Old Testament in our translation, most of our translations, certainly in the New American Standard, when you come across the word LORD in all capitals, LORD in all capitals, that is the translators' way of telling you have just encountered the personal name of God, the word Yahweh. He is. He is simply the one who is. So, there is only one God; His name is Yahweh, the eternal "He is"; and He eternally exists in three persons whom Jesus taught us to call Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Now, unfortunately, there is a new push in evangelicalism to allow for the possibility that Mormons, Hindus, Jehovah's Witnesses, Buddhists, others are simply worshipping the true God under another name. That is so not true. Isaiah 42:8: "I am the LORD [Yahweh], that is My name; I will not give my glory to another nor my praise to graven images." Deuteronomy 6:4 however, in affirming there's only one God, still complements the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. How does it do that? Well, the Hebrew word that Moses uses in Deuteronomy 6:4, is "echad", meaning one. It speaks of unity. But there is another word, "yachid", for only one or solitary. That's not the word that Moses uses. He uses a word for one that speaks of unity and not solitariness. For example, that same word in Deuteronomy 6:4 that says the Lord our God is one, is used in Genesis 2:24 for the two becoming one flesh. And so, the word He uses, again, is not antithetical to the doctrine of the Trinity. It is complementary to the doctrine of the Trinity.

Other scriptural support for God's oneness or uniqueness, Deuteronomy 4:39: "Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord [Yahweh], He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other." Deuteronomy 32:39: "See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me..." Isaiah 45:5: "I am the Lord [Yahweh], and there is no other; / Besides Me there is no God..." We come to the New Testament. John 17:3, Jesus says, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, in the middle of that text it says, "...we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one." 1 Timothy 2:5: "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." James 2:19: "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder." Do I need any more proof? There is only one God.

Now that brings us to our second proposition, and that is, that Christ is God. I'm not going to spend a lot of time here because it's a different subject for a different night. But I just want to sort of fly across the top of this. There's a great book, by the way, and the name of the author escapes me right now, but the title of the book is called, "Putting Jesus in His Place". I think it's two authors and if I remember right, one of them is Bowman - "Putting Jesus in His Place". And it's interesting how it proves the deity of Christ. It uses the acronym, H-A-N-D-S. H stands for He enjoys the same honors as God. A stands for He has the same attributes as God. N, He has the same names as God. D, deeds - He has the same deeds as God; He does the same works as God. And then, finally, the S in hands is, He sits in the same seat as God, that is, He sits on the throne of God. It's a great book. If you have any issues or you're talking with someone who is struggling with the deity of Christ, pick up that book "Putting Jesus in His Place".

In the interest of time, let me just share three short arguments with you for the deity of Christ. He is called God in a number of texts. "In the beginning (John 1:1) was the Word... and the Word was God." And clearly, down in verse 14 of John 1, that's talking about Jesus because the Word became flesh. He was God. And verse 18 of John 1... In fact, look there for a moment. John 1:18: "No one has seen God at any time; [monogenes] the only begotten [and notice it doesn't say Son. It says the only begotten] God [It's talking about Jesus. It's the Word who became flesh. The only begotten God] who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him [God]." And so, clearly, He's called God in those texts and in the others that I've placed here on the slide. You can look them up later.

Secondly, a second argument for Christ being God, is there're Old Testament descriptions of Yahweh that are applied to Christ in the New Testament - attributes, they share the same attributes. But think of the work of creation. I love to do this with Jehovah's Witnesses who believe that Jesus was created. Look at Isaiah. Go back to Isaiah and look at chapter 42. Now as... Before you look at this text, I want to remind you of what John 1 says. John 1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." It goes on in verse 3 to say, what? Without the Word, what was created? Everything. There is nothing that wasn't created in and through the Word, in and through the eternal Son. Now look at Isaiah 42:5: "Thus says God the Lord [who is Yahweh]". There's our word LORD in all caps, the one who is. "[Who] He created the heavens and who [He] stretched them out, / Who [He] spread out the earth and its offspring, / Who [He] gives breath to all the people on it / And spirit to those who walk in it." I am Yahweh who has done these things. So, clearly the work of creation, that is assigned in the Old Testament to Yahweh alone, is assigned in the New Testament to Jesus Christ. Worship is ascribed to Christ. He is worshipped and He receives worship.

On Easter we looked at that great text in Mark's gospel and we saw there... I'm sorry, Matthew's gospel... and we saw there that He accepted the worship of the women. They fell on His feet, and they worshipped Him, when only God deserves worship. So, Old Testament descriptions of Jehovah or Yahweh are applied to Christ in the New Testament.

And then I love this - the name of Yahweh is applied to Christ. He's simply called Yahweh. My favorite example, and I think you may have seen this recently in another lesson in Sunday school, but look at John chapter... Let's keep your finger in John 12 but go back to Isaiah. I'm sure Bruce Ware brought this out. Isaiah 6. And notice here that: "In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, 'Holy, Holy, Holy, is [whom?] the Lord [Yahweh] of hosts...'" So, this is a vision of whom? Of Yahweh. This is a vision of Yahweh. And you remember out of that vision, Isaiah is called, and He's told to go to a people (verse 9) who will keep on listening but not perceive, keep on looking but not understand, and so forth. Now go to John 12. John 12 and look at verse 37: "But though He [Jesus] had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: 'Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?' For this reason, they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 'He has blinded [this quote (verse 40) comes from, guess where? Isaiah 6] their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.' [Now watch verse 41] These things Isaiah said [in Isaiah 6] because he saw His glory." Whose glory? The glory of Jesus! He saw His glory and he (Isaiah) spoke of Jesus. And in Isaiah 6, who is it that He sees in his vision? Yahweh. They are one and the same. They are equal. They are one person eternally existing... I'm sorry, one God eternally existing in three persons. There are other passages you can look up at your leisure.

Third argument, third proposition: Christ is distinct from the Father. There is a distinction in them, in their persons. Psalm 2:7: "I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord [this is the Son speaking, I will surely tell of the decree of Yahweh]: / He said to Me, 'You are My Son, / Today I have begotten You.'" Psalm 110:1: "The Lord says to my Lord: / 'Sit at My right hand / Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.'" You have David speaking of Yahweh and David's Lord; and they are separate persons. And that's described... In fact, look at Acts 2 because Peter comes to this very issue. In Acts 2:34 he says, "For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself [David] says [and he quotes Psalm 110:1]: "The Lord said to my Lord, / 'Sit at My right hand, / Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.' Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ [Messiah] - this Jesus whom you crucified." Two persons distinct from one another. Matthew 27:46: "About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'" Here you have Jesus on the cross, crying out to the Father, "My God, my God". He's distinct from the Father. John 5:32 says He will send... He is from the Father. Verse 37 says He is from the Father. Galatians 4:4: "...God sent forth His Son..." Revelation 1:1: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him..." Christ is distinct from the Father. So, clearly then, there is one God, Christ is God (we could say that the Spirit is God as well), and Christ and the Spirit are distinct from the Father. We could follow the same path in each case. That leads us to the Trinity.

There's one last line of argument in the defense of the Trinity, actually, there may be one other. The Trinity defended, the intimations of the Old Testament, the scriptural evidence of the three propositions. A third line of defense is the New Testament passages that link the members of the Trinity. Let's look at them.

First of all, Matthew 3:16-17: "After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water [so there's Jesus]; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.'" So at one event, at one moment in time, you have Jesus, you have the Spirit, and you have the Father - all separate persons. This passage presents a real problem for modalists because all three are present at the very same time.

Another passage that links the Trinity together is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). Jesus says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit..." Now again, like I said this morning, you got to pay careful attention to the language of Scripture. Notice what He does not say. He does not say, "Baptize them into the names" (plural), or what would be the equivalent, "into the name of the Father, into the name of the Son, into the name of the Spirit" because, as Warfield says, "If that were true, we'd be dealing with three separate beings." He also does not say, "Into the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" – omitting the recurring articles." Warfield says, "If that were true, it would be as if the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost might be taken as merely three designations of a single person. What He does say is, "into the name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Warfield writes, "The unity of the three by combining them all within the bounds of the single name and then emphasizing the distinctness of each by the repeated article. In other words, there are three persons." Here's how Warfield concludes, speaking of what our Lord said in Matthew 28:19: "He could not have been understood otherwise then as substituting for the name of Jehovah or Yahweh - his other name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And this could not possibly have meant to His disciples anything else than that Jehovah was now to be known to them by the new name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The only alternative would have been that Jesus was supplanting Jehovah by a new God. There is not an alternative therefore to understanding Jesus here to be giving for His community a new name to Yahweh, and that new name is to be the threefold name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

There are other passages in the New Testament that link the Trinity, and I won't go through them, but let me give you just the first example there. 1 Corinthians 1:3 speaks of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. It puts them on equal footing - God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 13:14 speaks of the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Spirit. These passages give us this clear intimation. Galatians 1:3: "...God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ..." 1 Peter 1:2: "...the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ..." So, these passages link the Trinity.

In addition, the three persons - another argument for the defense of the Trinity, argument number four: the three persons work in harmonious unity, harmonious unity. The same attributes are applied to each of the members of the Trinity. The Father is said to be all powerful in 1 Peter 1:5, the Son and 2 Corinthians 12:9, and the Spirit in Romans 15:19. That's just one example. They have the same works. They are all active in creation. If you look up these references that I put on the slide, you will find that the Father is said to be the one who creates, the Son is said to be the one who creates, and the Spirit is said to be the one who creates. Same thing is true in the incarnation. In Luke 1:35 all three persons of the Trinity are involved in the incarnation. In the atonement, Hebrews 9:14 says, "... Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God..." Again, you have all three persons involved in the atonement. In the resurrection, in different places we're told that the Father raised the Son, that the Son raised Himself, and that the Spirit raised the Son. In salvation, we read just a moment ago in 1 Peter 1:2, all three members of the Trinity are involved in the process of salvation. And even the indwelling of the Christian, you understand this, if you read John 14, you will find (and also John 16, John 17) you will find that we are in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit (yes), but we also have the constant abiding presence of the Father, and we have the constant abiding presence of the Son. The triune God dwells and indwells us.

What did the early creeds say about the Trinity? Again, this isn't our ultimate defense, but what did the early creeds say? Here's the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, / maker of heaven and earth; / And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord... I believe in the Holy Ghost - all three persons. Tertullian, by the way, who lived and ministered from 160 to 225, first coined the term "Trinitos" and used the concept of persons. But you can see the concept was there. The Nicene Creed, in the Council of Nicaea in AD 325: "We believe in one God, / the Father almighty, / maker of heaven and earth, / of all things visible and invisible. / And in one Lord Jesus Christ, / the only Son of God, / begotten from the Father [the only begotten (the monogenes), that is of the essence of the Father] / God of God, / Light of light, / true [very] God of true [very] God, / begotten, not made [being of one substance with the Father]." This was done under the influence of Athanasius, the future Bishop of Alexandria. And at the Council of Constantinople in 381, this Nicene Creed was reasserted and expanded. The Father, Augustine, wrote on this issue extensively in the late... or in the early 400s, rather. Then you have the Athanasian Creed. The Athanasian Creed says, "we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons, nor separating the Substance." John MacArthur, in his book "Biblical Doctrine" says, "The classic Christian doctrine of the Trinity is well summarized by what is known as the Athanasian Creed. Though it bears his name, Athanasius did not write it. Rather, it seems to have been penned in the fifth or six century A.D. at the earliest. The key defining statements are captured in this phrase, 'We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.' The doctrine of the Trinity, simply put, is that God is absolutely and eternally one essence, subsisting in three distinct and ordered persons, without division and without replication of the essence."

Now, what are the implications of the doctrine of the Trinity? Well, very quickly, there are three of them. Two of them are doctrinal; the other is practical. First of all, consider the doctrinal ones. If there is no Trinity, consider the implications on the doctrine of salvation. Think about this. If the Son is less than God, how can He serve as an atoning sacrifice for all? If the Spirit is not fully God, how can we be sure that He can fully regenerate believers and indwell them? And what guarantees that the three persons recognize each other's actions, if we're not talking about one God eternally existing in three persons. Salvation, as we know it, fails. Think of revelation. How can we know, if there isn't a Trinity, if there's not one God eternally existing in three persons, how can we know that the Scripture is an accurate revelation of the mind of God if the Spirit is not of the same essence of God? That's the very argument Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 2. The Spirit knows the deep things of God because He is God. If He's not, then how do we know the Scripture can be trusted? And how do we know that what Christ taught about the Father is accurate, if He is not as He claimed of the same essence with Him; if He didn't as John 1:18 says, exegete God because He was the only begotten God? How can we trust the Bible in what it says about salvation, if it's wrong about the person of God? This is not a little issue. It's the heart of salvation. Who is God? And the Scriptures teach Trinity in unity and unity in Trinity.

On a practical side, the Trinity teaches us something about ourselves created in God's image. One aspect of being created in God's image, it's not the fullness of what that means, but one aspect of it is the desire for relationship. You understand that there has, before anything else existed, there has always been a relationship among the three persons of the Trinity? You were created in the image of God. You were created for relationship. This has two major implications. We were made for relationship with God and others. You, you, were made for relationship with God and others. There's so many Christians, particularly males, who tend to think, "I don't need relationship." Listen, every time you think that, every time you speak that, you are slandering the one living and true God, because He has eternally enjoyed relationship. If you want an interesting exercise, read the four gospels and look at the interaction between the three persons of the Trinity in the gospels. There is love. There is love expressed. There are gifts given. There is communion, and talk, and fellowship - all the things that constitute relationship.

Secondly, another implication, is that our lives must center on relationships. Think about this. Two commands summarize our entire moral duty: love the Lord your God with all your heart and love others as you love yourself. In other words, the greatest command God gave you was relationship. And if that's not your priority in life, then you are not obeying God because that's what it means to be like God. The most important things in life are relationships. You cannot (let me put it bluntly), you cannot be a mature Christian without being committed to God and to other people. You cannot be a mature Christian without that. And the priority of relationships starts at home. Let me ask you: are relationships just for needy persons? "Ha! I don't that, you know, I'm good!" No! That is a slur on the character of God.

Ephesians 5:1, and I end here. Ephesians 5:1 says, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children." Read the gospels and you will see that God exists eternally in relationship. And if we would be like Him, so must we with Him and with others. God is Trinity!

Let's pray together.

Father we love you. We worship You for what You have revealed Yourself to be and who You have revealed Yourself to be. We worship You as the one true and living God, one God of one essence eternally existing in three completely equal persons. Your name, oh God, is Yahweh and our Lord taught us to refer to You as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Lord, as we finish this tonight, we confess that You and You alone are God, and You are our God. We love You and we long to live out our lives in worship and love and obedience and service and praise. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen!

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