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Sermon No: 73362-The trinity



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SERMON TOPIC: The trinity

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 24 July 2020

Topic Groups: GOD, TRINITY, COLLEGE

Sermon synopsis: There is one God who is revealed in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These are the three eternal distinctions in one divine Being.
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THE TRINITY

There is one God who is revealed in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These are the three eternal distinctions in one divine Being.

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity teaches the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead. 1 The doctrine states that God is the Triune God, existing as three persons, but one being. 2

Personhood in the Trinity does not match the common Western understanding of ‘person’ as used in the English language—it does not imply an “individual, self-actualized centre of free will and conscious activity.” Each person is understood as having the one identical essence or nature, not merely similar natures. Since the beginning of the 3rd century the doctrine of the Trinity has been stated as “the one God exists in three Persons and one substance, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” 2

1 Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, article Trinity 2 Wikipedia - Trinity

DEFINITION

Christianity is unique in claiming that God is one but that there are three persons in the Godhead (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) who are each understood as God.

Scripture:

Teaches God is one

Indicates there are 3 persons who are God

Hints to three-in-oneness

THE TRINITY

God is one (monotheism)

Deut 6:4 (KJV): Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD.

James 2:19 (NIV) You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

Yet there are 3 persons who are God

No-one will dispute that the Father is God

Eph 4:6 (NASB) one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

THE BIBLICAL BASIS

Jesus is God.

The English word deity is from the Latin deus, meaning ‘god’. There are many scriptures, which directly affirm the deity of Jesus.

Phil 2:5-6 (NIV) … Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage

Acts 20:28 (NIV) Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

Col 2:9 (NIV) For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form

Heb 1:3 (NIV) The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…

THE DEITY OF JESUS

Let us look at one of the most well-known prophecies about the Messiah. Jesus is called ‘God’ in no uncertain terms.

Isaiah 9:6 (NIV) For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God (El Gibbor), Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

JWs claim that Jesus is the “Mighty God” but the Father is the “Almighty God”.

However in the OT “El Gibbor” was exclusively applied to Yahweh (Deut 10:17; Ps 24:8; Jer 32:18).

If “El Gibbor” (Mighty God) means something less than the “Almighty God”, how is it that Yahweh (Jehovah ) is called “El Gibbor” in Isaiah 10:21?

THE DEITY OF JESUS

John 1:1,14 (NIV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

This verse has so troubled JWs that they have resorted to re-translating the verse to “the Word was a god” in their New World Translation. However, there is no indefinite article (‘a’) in Greek. Only the definite article (‘the’) is used. The word ‘a’ is inserted by translators to make sense in English.

The direct translation of the Greek would be: “In beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and God was the Word.”

JOHN 1:1

JWs try to make a case for their translation of “a god” in John 1:1 from the fact that the first usage of “theos” (“the Word was with the God”) is preceded by a definite article (“tou”) while the second usage (“God was the Word”) has no definite article. They then assert that only the Father is “the God”.

THE GOD vs GOD

However Thomas called Jesus “the God” with the definite article. When Jesus appeared to him after His resurrection, we read: Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my GOD!” (John 20:28)

In the Greek, Thomas said to Jesus, “ho kurios mou, kai ho theos mou” i.e. “the Lord of me, and the God of me.”

THE GOD vs GOD

Thomas clearly addresses Jesus as the Lord and “the God”. This verse inescapably affirms that Jesus is “the God” even if this sort of distinction was intended. Note that Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for blasphemy.

JWs then clutch at straws by saying that Thomas was so stunned by Jesus’ appearance, that he swore. This is ridiculous because it would mean that Thomas, a devout man of God, swore in front of Jesus and used the Lord’s name in vain in violation of Exodus 20:7 without even receiving a reprimand from Jesus. In addition Thomas addressed Jesus directly: “Thomas said to Him” (nominative being used for the vocative).

Does John 1:1 teach us of 2 ‘gods’ (a greater and a lesser one) as JWs teach, or 2 facets of the same God. Let’s see how the early Church Fathers addressed this same heresy.

JOHN 1:1

Hippolytus wrote in circa AD 205: “If, then the Word was with God and was also God, what follows? Would one say that I speak of two Gods? I will not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one. I speak of two Persons, however, and of a third Economy-the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

Tertullian of Carthage in North Africa (c. AD 213) wrote: “Now, if He too is God, for according to John, ‘The Word was God,’ then you have two Beings - One who commands that the thing to be made, and the other who creates. In what sense, however, you ought to understand Him to be another. I have already explained: on the ground of personality, not of substance. And in the way of distinction, not of division. I must everywhere hold only one substance, in three coherent and inseparable [persons]”

JOHN 1:1

Q: Why does Jesus address the Father as “my God”?

John 20:17 (NIV) Jesus said, “… Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

A: The Father also addresses Jesus as God:

Heb 1:5,8 (NIV) For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father” … But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever…

THE BIBLICAL BASIS

The Holy Spirit is God

Mary conceived through the Holy Spirit, but Jesus was called the Son of God.

Acts 5:3-4 (NIV) But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit … You have not lied to man but to God.”

DEITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Some claim that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force but 6 things are contained within the realm of personality and these are found in the Holy Spirit:

Will (1 Cor 12:11)

Intelligence (Romans 8:27)

Knowledge (1 Cor 2: 10-12)

Bestowment of power (Acts 1:8)

Capacity for love (Romans 15:30)

Capacity for speech (Acts 8:29, 13:2)

DEITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Hints to three-in-oneness

Although ‘Elohim’ is a plural, it is consistently used with singular verb forms and with adjectives and pronouns in the singular. In this case it is translated ‘God’.

Consider Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Now look at the Hebrew, which reads right to left. The plural “gods” (elohim) is accompanied by a singular verb (bara).

HINTS TO 3-IN-ONENESS

Every time the word ‘God’ is used in the OT it is almost always ‘Elohim’ (plural) in the Hebrew, but used with a singular verb.

This was obviously intentional as it is used with a plural verb when referring to heathen ‘gods’.

If the plural form ‘Elohim’ was the only form available for a reference to God, then the argument might be made that the writers had no other alternative but to use the word ‘Elohim’ for both the one true God and the many false gods. However, the singular form for ‘Elohim’ (Eloah or El) exists and is used in such passages as Deuteronomy 32:15-17 and Habakkuk 3:3… The far greater use of the plural form again turns the argument in favour of plurality in the Godhead. 1

1 “JEWISHNESS AND THE TRINITY” by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum

HINTS TO 3-IN-ONENESS

The literal translation of Deut 6:4 is “Hear Israel, Yahweh our gods; Yahweh is one”. Despite using the plural ‘gods’ we are told that Yahweh is ‘one’.

However, when we examine the word ‘echad’ translated ‘one’, comes from a Hebrew root ‘achad’ which means “to unify” or “to collect together”, a “united one”. 2 It is used in preference to ‘yachid’ when a composite unity is indicated.

1 Elohenu comes from ‘Elohim’ (Gods) with ‘enu’ being the plural possessive pronoun-suffix denoting things which belong to us. 2 http:// www.blueletterbible.org/ Comm/ mark_eastman/ messiah

DEUT 6:4

Gen 2:24 (NASB) For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one (echad) flesh.

We see the idea of separate persons viewed as a unified ‘one’. The man and woman become “one flesh”. The word ‘one’ here implies a compound unity.

It is in this sense that we can understand the “God is one” in Deut 6:4 - He is clearly one God, yet he manifests himself in more than one distinct personage.

DEUT 6:4

Before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, God appeared to Abraham in person with 2 angels. After Abraham has interceded on Sodom’s behalf, we read in Genesis 19:24:

Gen 19:24 (NIV) Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven.

World English Bible: Then Yahweh rained on Sodom and on Gomorrah sulfur and fire from Yahweh out of the sky.

Thus we simultaneously see Yahweh both on earth in physical manifestation (Jesus) and in heaven (the Father).

HINTS TO 3-IN-ONENESS

While the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible the idea is implicit in the Scripture where the 3 persons of the Godhead are linked in equality.

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

2 Cor 13:14 (NKJV) The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

HINTS TO 3-IN-ONENESS

The attributes exclusive to God are applied to Jesus and the Holy Spirit e.g.

Omnipotence: Matt 28:18 (NKJV) And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

Omnipresence: Matt 28:20 (NIV) “And surely I (Jesus) am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Omniscience: John 21:17 (NIV) … Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; You know that I love you.”

Immutability: Heb 13:8 (NIV) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

HINTS TO 3-IN-ONENESS

Eternal: Isaiah 9:6 (NIV) For to us a child is born… And he will be called … everlasting Father…

Creator: Col 1:15-16 (NIV) … all things were created by him [Jesus] and for him.

Holy and Sinless: Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin.” (Heb 4:15, NIV)

Rightly worshipped: only God is entitled to worship (Luke 4:8) yet in Hebrews 1:6 the Father commands the angels to worship Jesus. Jesus also consistently accepted worship.

HINTS TO 3-IN-ONENESS

Consider the tri-unity in the universe.

Our universe comprises of (1) MATTER, (2) SPACE and (3) TIME

Each of these are also tri-unities.

MATTER exists in 3 STATES:

SOLID, LIQUID, GAS

SPACE has 3 DIMENSIONS:

LENGTH, BREADTH, HEIGHT

TIME has 3 TENSES:

PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE

THE DOCTRINE ILLUSTRATED

God said “Let us make man in our image” (Gen 1:26). But man is a tripartite being.

1 Thess 5:23 (NKJV) … may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless …

BODY: makes us conscious of the world

SOUL: makes us conscious of self

SPIRIT: makes us conscious of God

THE DOCTRINE ILLUSTRATED

The doctrine is difficult to understand. C.S. Lewis says:

If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.”

Regarding the Trinity, Lewis writes:

If you have three dimensions, you can then build what we call a solid body: say a cube – a thing like a dice or a lump of sugar. A cube is made up of six squares.

Do you see the point? A world of one dimension would be a straight line. In a two-dimensional world, you still get straight lines, but many lines make one figure. In a three-dimensional world, you still get figures but many figures make one solid body. In other words, as you advance to more real and more complicated levels, you do not leave behind you the things you found on the simpler levels: you still have them, but combined in new ways – in ways you could not imagine if you knew only the simpler levels.

Now the Christian account of God involves just the same principle. The human level is a simple and rather empty level. On the human level one person is one being, and any two persons are two separate persons – just as, in two dimensions (say on a flat sheet of paper) one square is one figure, and any two squares are two separate figures. On the Divine level you still find personalities; but up there you find them combined in new ways, which we, who do not live on that level, cannot imagine. In God’s dimension, so to speak, you find a being who is three persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube. Of course we cannot fully conceive a being like that: just as, if we were so made that we perceived only two dimensions in space we could never properly imagine a cube.

HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT

Anti-Trinitarians claim that the deity of Jesus was a late development originating in the 4th century. The writings of the Pre-Nicean church Fathers should dispel this myth.

Early 2nd cent, Polycarp (disciple of John): “… who shall believe on our Lord and God Jesus Christ and on His Father that raised him from the dead.” (The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians 12:2)

150 AD, Justin Martyr: “The Father of the universe has a Son, who also being the first begotten Word of God, is even God.” (First Apology, ch 63)

c. 165-175 AD, Tatian the Syrian: “We are not playing the fool, you Greeks, nor do we talk nonsense, when we report that God was born in the form of a man.” (Address to the Greeks)

In the early 200’s Tertullian (Carthage – Tunisia) coined the word Trinity:

… a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons— the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. 1

… I must everywhere hold only one substance, in three coherent and inseparable [persons] 2

1 Against Praxeas ch. 2 2 Ibid. ch. 12

Monarchianism: opposed the doctrine of an independent, personal subsistence of the Logos and affirmed the sole deity of God the Father.

Modalism (taught by Sabellius) is the belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three different modes or aspects of God)

Arianism: Arius (256–336) in Libya asserted that Christ is not of one substance with the Father.

Athanasius (c. 296 – 373) in Egypt opposed Arius resulting in Arianism being declared a heresy.

The doctrine of the Trinity was formally defined in the Nicene Creed (325 AD).

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 with the Father… And in the Holy Ghost

Belief in the Trinity is a mark of all mainstream Christianity including Protestantism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy. As such, the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church describes the Trinity as “the central dogma of Christian theology”.

In contrast, heretical Non-Trinitarian positions are held by many cults including the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Unitarians and Christadelphians.

Mormons view the Godhead as three separate beings who are one in purpose rather than essence.

Unitarians believe in one deity/one person

Less common knowledge is that although most Pentecostals are Trinitarian, as early as 1914 there was a split in the Pentecostal movement along doctrinal lines regarding the Trinity.

Contrasted with the orthodox doctrine of three distinct and eternal Persons in one divine essence Oneness Pentecostals teach that there is only one being, revealing himself in different ways.

As a result, Oneness Pentecostals are regarded by orthodox Christians as subscribing to the heresy of Modalism which teaches that God displayed himself in 3 different ‘modes’ throughout the course of history (in the Old Testament as Father, in the Gospels as the Son, and after the Ascension as the Holy Spirit).

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV: THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (http:// www.lockman.org)

Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV: Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.




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