8/30/15

The Trinity : God's Nature

Challenging topic.  This has perplexed and challenged theologians and Christians from the very beginning. 

Semantics!   

Tozer said, “To meditate on the three Persons of the Godhead is to walk in thought through the garden eastward in Eden and to tread on holy ground. Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption.”

Today our Goal is for us all to walk away from here with is this: 

God is Vast… and yet present

God is Mysterious… and yet Knowable. 

God is Holy and set apart… yet is Relational

God is One…. And yet three persons.

We want to think deeply about the nature of God, knowing that we are thinking from a finite perspective about an infinite God.  Some of what we discuss will be challenging, and some questions are unanswerable on this side of eternity.  And yet, pressing on to know the LORD is what we are called to do, so that hopefully our growing knowledge of Him helps us in our worship and sharing of the Gospel.

Genesis 1:1-3

Elohim Bara (God created)

Tohu wa bohu (formless and void)

Spirit hovered over the surface of the deep

Spoke and there was light

In verse 1 God is some sort of Creator

In verse 2 God is some sort of Spirit

In verse 3 God is some sort of Word

This God is one and yet God is several.  Some sort of community of creativity. From the very beginning, we get a glimpse into the magnitude of God

The biblical and orthodox teaching on the Trinity embodies four essential affirmations:

1.    There is ONE and ONLY ONE true and living God

2.    This one God eternally exists in three persons- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit

3.    These three persons are completely equal, each with the same divine nature

4.    While each person is fully God, the persons are not identical.

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY “TRINITY”?

God as “three Persons in One” expresses the distinctive Christian understanding of God, and reflects our view at Redeemer Church.  The Bible speaks of one God, but attributes the characteristics of God to three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  God the Father created all things and planned the redemption of his people from all eternity (Genesis 3:14-15; Ephesians 1:3-12)  God the Son accomplished that redemption on the cross (Romans 3:21-24; Galatians 3:13-14); and God the Spirit applies the benefits of that eternal redemption to all believers (John 3:5-8; Titus 3:4-7).  The doctrine of the Trinity is a way of describing this biblical revelation of the nature of God.  It states that God is one in es­sence, but that he exists in three Persons who are equal, eternal, inseparable and interdependent.  We must note that our English word, “Persons,” falls short as a way to describe God because it can give the impression of three separate individuals; rather, a more accurate view is that God is one being with three personal self-distinctions.

WHY SHOULD WE USE THE WORD “TRINITY”?

We might wonder why we should accept the word “Trin­ity” as a way to describe God when it isn’t in the Bible.  Heretical groups came on the early Church scene and denied either the deity of Christ or that of the Holy Spirit. This drove Christians to search the Scriptures to come up with a formal way to describe the Bible’s teaching on the nature of God, and the doctrine of the “Tri-unity” was the result. Tertullian, an early Church father, was the first to use the term “Trinity” in 215 AD.  Like the word “Trinity,” there are many words such as “omniscient,” “ineffable,” “omnipresent,” “self-existent” and “uncreated,” none of which is found in the Bible, but nevertheless, each of which can be extremely helpful for us in summarizing what the Bible clearly teaches about the character of our amazing God.  We often act as if the concept of the Trinity is something negative since it is difficult for us to grasp; rather, we should view it as something wonderful because it means not only that we have a God who is greater and more mysterious than our imagination, but also that we have a God who seeks a personal relationship with us through the redemption of the Son and the presence of the Spirit.  If God were not a Trinity, he would be like the perspective of god held by Deism or Islam, both impersonal and unknowable.

Because he is Triune, God himself exists in community: three persons of one essence, who love each other with a perfect love and whose love overflowed in the creation and redemption of humanity. When God created humanity in his image, he created us as relational beings, created to love each other and our Creator.  (Tertullian said… if God isn’t Triune, then He isn’t God)

BIBLICAL EVIDENCE FOR CONCEIVING OF GOD AS A TRINITY

The Bible teaches that we have One God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 43:10; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; Ephesians 4:4-6) At the same time, that One God is revealed progressively throughout Scripture as three Persons:

·      God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are active in Creation (Genesis 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16-17)

·      Isaiah prophesies that the one born of the virgin would also be called Immanuel, God with us(Isaiah 7:14) and later calls the Messiah “Mighty God” and “Eternal Father” (Isaiah 9:6)

·      The NT calls the Father God (John 6:27; 20:17; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 4:6; Philippians 2:11; 1 Peter 1:2). 

·      The NT explicitly declares Jesus Christ to be God (John 1:1; 20:28; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8); they also apply the name Yahweh, the Lord God who created the universe, to Jesus (Philippians 2:8-11; Hebrews 1:10)

·      The NT writers recognize the Holy Spirit as God (Acts 5:3-4; 1 Corinthians 2:10-11; 1 Corinthians 6:19; john 3:5-6, 8; Titus 3:5)

·      The NT writers speak of the presence and work of the Father, Son and Spirit in one breath (Matthew 28:19; Mark 1:10-11; Luke 10:21; 2 Corinthians 13:14; 1 Peter 1:2) 

JESUS: FULLY GOD AND FULLY MAN

Crucial to our understanding of the Trinity is the Bible’s presentation of Jesus Christ as fully man (Matthew 8:23–24; 21:18; John 11:32–36) and fully God (John 1:1–3; John 10:30; 17:4–5; Titus _2:13), in possession of both divine and human natures, unified in one person. The two natures coexisted in union without confusion or change, separation or division. Jesus Christ had to possess both natures in order to be our Lord and Savior. Because he was fully divine, Jesus is able to be the perfect and eternal sacrifice for the complete atonement of our sins, as well as our permanent high priest, allowing us to be eternally reconciled to God (Hebrews _7:23–28).Because he was fully human, Jesus was able to be our proper substitute on the cross to experience the wrath of God, and he is able to be a comfort and example for our daily living (Hebrews_2:14–18).

Being divine, Jesus could not sin, because God can’t change his nature (John 5:19, 30).  We might wonder then how he can truly identify with us in our struggles and temptations as Hebrews 2:18 promises.  Because he was human, Jesus couldn’t conquer temptation without a struggle.  We struggle with temptation, and when the struggle overcomes us we eventually give in.  Unlike us, Jesus had to keep resisting temptation until he had overcome it, and so his temptations were more terrible than we can ever experience.  The promise of Hebrews 2:18 sould then bring us comfort: “because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Heb 4:15-1

The very logic of the gospel- the declaration that God enables believers to relate to God the Father in Jesus Christ through the Spirit – implies the divinity of the Son and Spirit as well.  Hence evangelicals concur with the Trinitarian formula produced by the church fathers in 325 AD – the Nicene Creed – Professing belief in one God: Father, Son, and Spirit. 

CLOSING

“Flatland”  1800 British headmaster Edwin Abbot

proposed a group of people trapped in 2 dimensions

I love what Tertullian, an early Church father, said, “This is definitely not humanly constructed, because nobody would be so crazy as to construct this kind of doctrine.” He said this is “divinely revealed.” This is what Scripture shows us from cover to cover about these truths.

Our approach to God is that He is HOLY, and Mysterious

We CAN approach God because He has first approached us. 

We can know God, because he has progressively, divinely and biblically made himself known. 

This should push us to worship (God is “other”) and praise (God has come!)

"So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth."        Hosea 6:3