The Trinity ~ 20200420 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
04/20 Foundations: What Is God?; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200420_trinity.mp3
Welcome to our foundations study, looking at the basics of Christian belief. Last time we looked at the being of God, what kind of being he is, utterly unique and distinct from every other order of created thing; the biblical word for this is ‘holy’. He is in a class by himself, the Creator in distinction with everything he has created. Tonight we are going to look at something that sets him apart from all the rest of his creation; what historically has been referred to as the doctrine of the trinity.
The Trinity Illogical?
I’ve often heard the accusation that the idea of the trinity is absurd and illogical. It is like saying 1+1+1=1. Is God three or is he one? He can’t be both. Here is where it is essential that we define our terms carefully. We are not saying there is one God and there are three Gods. That would be contradictory. We are not saying there is one person and there are three persons. That is nonsense. A thing cannot be both one and three in the same way at the same time.
Christians believe that God is one in essence or being; there is exactly one God that exists, one being who is called God; there are not three Gods, three divine natures or existences.
But this one God exists as three distinct persons. God is not one in person or personality, but three.
This is where it is essential to define our terms as carefully as we can. Nature or being or essence refers to the existence of God, the divine nature. There is exactly one divine nature.
A person is defined as an individual with the capacity to think, feel and act; a person consists of mind, emotions, and will. When we say ‘person’, don’t think physical, don’t think human. Angels are spirit beings, who have individuality, personality; although immaterial, they can think, feel, and act.
Here’s a visual to help understand what we are saying. The Father, Son and Spirit are by nature or essence fully God; but the Father is not the Son or the Spirit.
Let’s look at the biblical data to see how God describes himself.
1. There is Exactly One God
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
I Kings 8:60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other.
Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. 8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”
45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me
there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, 6 that
people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that
there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no
Isaiah 45:21 Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. 22 “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.
I Corinthians 8:4-6 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so–called gods in heaven or on earth––as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”–– 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
Romans 3:30 since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
James 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe––and shudder!
2. Three Persons Claim to Be God
A. God the Father is clearly God
John 6:27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
Ephesians 4:6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
I Peter 1:2 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.
B. The Son is fully God
John 1:1-4 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. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
John 20:27 ...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?… 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.
Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
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.
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:
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.
Colossians 2:9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,
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)
C. The Holy Spirit is fully God (see also references under point 1 – God is three persons)
Acts 5:3-4 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.”
I Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
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!
3. There is No Confusion of Persons
A. The Father and Son are distinct persons:
John 1:1-2 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.
John 17:24 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.
1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
B. The Holy Spirit is a distinct person from the Father and the Son
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.
John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
Romans 8:27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
The Holy Spirit is a person:
a. Masculine pronoun 'He' is used with neuter word 'Spirit' against rules of grammar: ekeinov to pneuma
-John 14:26; 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.
-John 16:13-14 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
b. Personal activities are ascribed to the Holy Spirit:
Teaching (John 14:26); bearing witness (John 15:26; Romans 8:16); interceding or praying on behalf of others (Romans 8:26-27); searching the depths of God (I Corinthians 2:10); knowing the thoughts of God (I Corinthians 2:11); willing to distribute some gifts to some and other gifts to others (I Corinthians 12:11); forbidding certain activities (Acts 16:6-7); speaking (Acts 8:29; 13:2); evaluating and approving a wise course of action (Acts 15:28); being grieved by sin (Ephesians 4:30).
c. The Holy Spirit cannot be merely the power of God – that would make nonsense of the language:
Luke 4:14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit; Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you ... so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope; I Corinthians 2:4 ... in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
God exists in three persons; the Father is not the Son; the Father is not the Holy Spirit; the Son is not the Holy Spirit; they are distinct persons. A person is defined as an individual with the capacity to think, feel and act; a person consists of mind, emotions, and will. When we say ‘person’, don’t think physical, don’t think human. Angels are spirit beings, who have individuality, personality; although immaterial, they can think, feel, and act.
Trinitarian Verses: The word ‘trinity’ does not occur in the Scriptures. But we do see frequently the three persons mentioned together as one God.
Matthew 28:19 … baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
[‘Name’ is singular with three objects; (think about the inappropriateness of plugging in the name of a created being to any of these verses; it would be grossly inappropriate to baptize in the name of God the Father and Michael the Archangel and the Apostle Paul. This verse places these three persons on an equal level.)]
Romans 8:16-17 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, …
1 Corinthians 12:4-6 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.
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.
Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Ephesians 4:4-6 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.
1 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 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.
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.
Hebrews 10:29-31 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.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 …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.
The goal of a study of the trinity is not to solve all the mysteries of deity or to prove ourselves smarter that the other guys... it is simply to see what God has said about himself in the bible so that we can honor him as he reveals himself to us, to worship him in truth, and to guard against errors that dishonor him in any way.
There is one God
Three Persons claim to be God
Each person is distinct from the others
Thank God For Heretics
We can be thankful for heretics in the history of the church. The word ‘heretic’ literally means ‘divisive’; to take for oneself; someone who gather followers for themselves. Why should we be thankful for heretics? Because heretics in the history of the church have forced the church to define more carefully and clearly what is orthodox. Ortho-dox simply means ‘straight worship’ or ‘right worship’. 2 Timothy 2:15 says that we should labor to rightly handle God’s word; [ὀρθοτομοῦντα] literally to make a straight cut, to cut it straight. One of the clearest ways to define something, especially something that is extraordinarily difficult to define, is negatively, to say what it is not. Through the history of the church, we have been forced to define more carefully what we believe when our belief has been challenged by someone teaching something different. Early in the church, the letters and writings we now know as the New Testament were being collected and used in the churches. Marcion (85-160), a heretic who believed that the Father who sent Jesus was a different and higher deity than the creator God of the Old Testament, made his own edited version of Luke’s gospel, the gospel of Marcion, and who encouraged his followers to only read 10 of Paul’s letters. It was in response to this that the church was pushed to define more carefully which of the writings should be accepted as Scripture.
The story is the same for our understanding of who God is. There has always been general consensus among the churches on the right way to think about who God is, until someone began to challenge that consensus with a different teaching. Then the church had to define more carefully what we believe. So I want to introduce you to some heretics, so that we can steer clear of their errors and rightly handle God’s word.
The Heresy of Sabellius
Sabellius (c. 215) taught that there is only one God; and that he appears at different times in different modes (or with different masks); first as the Father, then as the Son, finally as the Spirit. There God is not three persons; rather there is one person who appears to us in three different forms (or modes); Sabellianism is also called Modalism. Sabellius emphasized the fact that there is only one God but he denied the fact that the Father, Son and Spirit are distinct persons who relate to one another.
The Heresy of Arius
Arius (256-336) taught that the Father and Son are distinct; they are not the same person, but that God was not always the Father; that the Son was begotten by the Father at a point in time, created out of nothing; there was a time before the Son existed. He taught that Jesus is like God but not the same substance or essence, not the same nature as God, and not co-eternal with God.
Arianism was condemned at the council of Nicea in A.D. 325
“we believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance (homoousion) with the Father...” (Nicene Creed, A.D. 325) [homoousion (of the same nature) not homoiousion (of a similar nature)]
[But those who say: 'There was a time when he was not;' and 'He was not before he was made;' and 'He was made out of nothing,' or 'He is of another substance' or 'essence,' or 'The Son of God is created,' or 'changeable,' or 'alterable' — they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org