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The Bible

The Trinity

The Trinity
Nov 25th, 2006
San Felipe

I have been told that one of the greatest questions you can ask people is: Who do you think Jesus is?

This week I was driving to Orange Walk and a fellow hitched a ride. We talked for a good time about trees and politics but I really wanted to share Jesus with this man. So I prayed that God would give me an opportunity. The hard part is, how do you start that conversation? So I asked him, Who do you think Jesus is

Most people will tell me that he is a good teacher
Some people will tell me that he is a spiritual leader
Some go so far as to say that he is God!

On a different day I met with some Jehovah Witnesses and they told me that they believe that Jesus is not God. I was quite surprised. They went on to say that there was only one God and His name is Jehovah. They told me that the word Trinity never appears in the Bible but was created by a Roman emperor in the fourth century. That would mean that for 300 years the church did not believe Jesus was God and somehow was led astray. They told me that this idea of the Trinity does not make any sense. How can you have three persons all claiming to be God and still only have one God?

[What answer would you give them?]

Before we study this topic I must let you know that this is a very difficult subject to explain. Whenever we speak about God we are speaking about something that is so vast and so incredible. When he appeared in the Old Testament it was as a pillar of fire. Moses could not even look upon his face for anyone who looked at the face of God would die (Ex. 33:20) God was so holy to the people of God that they would not even say his name out-load. He is greater then man, just as a watchmaker is greater than His watch. Shall we a mere creation attempt to fathom completely that which is far greater than us. I can only hope to catch a glimpse of him and have a basic understanding of how he works.

That being said I have not been satisfied to just say, I dont understand it. One of the reasons Jesus came to Earth was to show us the father (Jn 1:18 ) That is the goal of this talk, is that we will see God in a deeper way and worship Him deeper. We dont need to understand all the fancy words like Trinity. For three hundred years the church did not even have a word for it. All they knew was that Jesus was the Son of God and when they were forced to worship the Roman Emperor they refused because Jesus was their Lord not Caesar.

After three hundred years of persecution there was finally a time of peace and the church could now have a meeting with all their key leaders. If they had tried doing that earlier then the entire leadership could have been destroyed in one meeting. And they had a reason to have a meeting. Another teacher named Arius was going around the church claiming that Jesus was not God but something else. The church had to get together to give an answer for their fellow believers.

The question I had to ask was, What did the Church believe before this meeting in the fourth century?

This question bothered me for several years until finally one night I was so disturbed by it I could not ignore it any longer. I had to have an answer. It was as if Jesus himself was saying to me, Who do you say that I am?

Too many people take the easy route to understanding difficult questions like the Trinity. They just hear a few verses that say that Jesus is God, that the Father is God and that the Spirit is God then they think they solved it. This is called proof-texting or giving a verse from the Bible as a proof of what you believe. Sometimes it is good but it makes us blind to other passages. We cannot base our beliefs on one verse but we have to base it on reading the entire Bible. How does one verse that says that Jesus is God fit into another verse that says there is only one God?

The best answer to a question like, Who is Jesus? is not found by quoting a few verses but by starting at the beginning of a book and reading it all the way to the end.

So that night I was struggling with the question Who is Jesus? I poured over the gospel of John. The reason I chose John is because John wrote that Gospel so people would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. (Jn 20:31 ) Every verse that said anything about who Jesus was I would write down. I kept going over the gospel over and over again until I could see Jesus as John wanted me to see him.

Let me give you an example of how to do this kind of study.

Turn with me to John chapter 1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (Jn 1:1 )

Dont jump to any conclusions yet. It has not said that Jesus is the Word yet. It is very important not to make assumptions but to say only what the passage is saying.

Notice the first part, In the beginning. [What is that referring to?] {wait for answer}
Lets turn to Genesis 1:1 then In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, Let there be

So in the beginning we have a picture of God creating. He is represented here as a Spirit hovering over the waters speaking. His words are spoken and things happen.

John 1:1 tells us that these words that came out of Gods mouth were there in the beginning. So imagine in your mind two things: God and His words. Now imagine if all these words could fit into a bag and God could reach in and pull them out. That is kind of what happens when we say something, it was inside us and now it comes out. So now we have a picture of a Spirit hovering over the waters and out of God these words come out.

So the words are with God. Can you see that picture of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters and God saying, Let there be. John goes on to say that not only were these words with God in the beginning but also these words were God. I must warn you now that if you are talking to a Jehovah Witness they will say this verse is translated wrong and it should be the word was a God. In this they are wrong on two accounts, they do not understand Greek and there can only be one God. I cant explain all of this now but if want to talk to me about it after I can explain it to you.

Now what does it mean that the Word was God? It means that the words that came out of God came from something inside of God. God did not grab the waters and make his words out of water, instead he reached down inside of himself and brought the words forth. Gods words are part of Him.

The ancient church used to describe it with the illustration of light. Every piece of light has three parts. It has the source which is the sun. It has the beam that carries the light. And it has the part of the light that touches the eye.

Likewise, they would say, God consists of the Father who is the source, the son who came from the Father, and the Spirit who touches our lives today.

So in creation we have the Father who spoke, Jesus who came forth when the Father spoke and the Spirit of God hovering over the waters making it happen.

In the baptism of Jesus we have the Father speaking blessing over the Son, the Son being baptized and the Spirit descending as a dove.

In salvation we have the Father whose will Jesus was fulfilling, Jesus who died for us and the Spirit who applies it to our life.

As in the illustration of light you cannot separate one part from another. If you took away the source the beam and the part that touches would stop as well. So when we speak about God we do not speak about three different Gods because you cannot separate one part from another. What we can say is that there are three parts: There is the One who speaks, there is the Words that came out and there is the Spirit hovering over the waters. When we say God created we are referring to all of God, the one speaking, the words spoken and the Spirit hovering. They are all connected. That is why in Genesis 1:26 God says, Let us make man When God created he used all three parts of Himself.

And through this Word that came out of God everything was created for God said Let there be light and there was light. There is nothing in all creation that exists that was not created by God and His Word. So everything including the fish in the sea, the wind and the waves, and every person was created by this Word.

Verse 14. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us So now imagine all that power of Gods word where God just speaks and things come into existence. Imagine God rolling all that power into a ball and placing it in the womb of Mary.

It would be no surprise if the very thing that created the wind and waves can say to the wind and the waves to be still and calm the storm. It could command the deaf to hear, the blind to see, and the dead to come back to life because through it all things were created. And all this incredible power was wrapped up and placed in the womb. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And just as the Word did exactly what God wanted it to do so on earth this Word will testify that he has come to do the will of his father and that he can only do the fathers will for they are one.

Amazingly verse 18 says No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the fathers side, has made him known. So everytime we read about Jesus doing a miracle or speaking about love we are actually seeing the same power that God used to create the universe. This part of God was glorified with God before creation, was humbled by coming to earth and was glorified again in his resurrection and ascention (Phil 2:6-11 )

So what is the difference between the Father and the Son? The early church would tell you that the Father is the part that sent the Son and the Son is the part that is sent. In the fourth century when they met to discuss this question they asked What does it mean to be the only begotten son of God. Notice the question was not What does it mean to be an adopted son but what does it mean to be a begotten son because God has many adopted sons but Jn 3:16 makes it clear that He has only one begotten son. They concluded that dogs give birth to dogs and people give birth to people and if God were to have a son then it would be God. The difference however is that the Father and the Son are not actually completely separated. Like the beam of light the Father is still connected to the Son and then to the Holy Spirit as they interact with the world. So it is like one beam of light, one God but three distinct parts each performing a role. And one can tell the difference between the different parts based on the roles they perform.

Now lets walk with Jesus through this gospel.

The story begins with John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus. John calls him The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world He says, A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me (Jn 1:30 & 15) This is because Jesus did not begin his life in the womb of Mary but his existence goes all the way back to the beginning of time.
John tells about how he saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him This was a sign to John that Jesus was the one who would baptize by the Holy Spirit. . In the other gospels we also know that the Father spoke, This is my son. This story is very important because it shows us that there are three different persons: The father, who is speaking, the Spirit who is descending, and the Son who is baptized.

Now we know already that the Father is God, that one is easy.

We also know that the Spirit is somehow part of God because he is called Gods Spirit. (Mt 3:16 ; 1 Cor 2:10). Moreover Jesus says, God is Spirit and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24 ). Obviously if God is Spirit then Gods Spirit must be God. We also know that Gods Spirit is a person with emotions because he can be grieved (Eph 4:30 ). And at the Baptism of Jesus we see that it is possible for God and His Spirit to be in two different places because the Father is speaking and the Spirit of God is descending.

So now we have three people, we have the Son, we have the Father and we have the Spirit. Moreover we have all three persons show up in the same place and yet we only have one God. Like the beam of light we see all three parts working together but it is only one thing light.

Now what makes us think that Jesus is God?

- In chapter one we learnt that he is the Word that came out of the Father and created the world

- That God took that incredible power that he created the universe with and wrapped it up in flesh and when we see Jesus do miracles we see God

- That Jesus is called the only begotten Son of God

- Now in chapter 2 Jesus performs his first miracle. Remember that the water Jesus used was created by Him in the beginning. John 2:11 says he revealed his glory in doing this so when he changed the water into wine he was just showing who he was, the one who created the water and the one who has power to change it again. The most interesting part is that when the prophets of God do miracles we expect them to give God the glory. Yet only time we see Jesus turning the glory back to the Father is his continual insistence that the miracles he does are from his father and testify that the father is in him and he is in the father (Jn 10:32-38 ; Jn 14:11-14 ).

- Then he clears the temple and insists that the temple is His Fathers house.

- This term Father gets him in more trouble in Jn 5:17 where people try to to kill him because by calling God his Father he was making himself equal with God. The amazing part is that every time they want to kill him for claiming to be the Son of God he does not deny that Son of God is the same as saying, I am God he just says things like Well look at my actions, if I do the same things as my Father then I must be his son. (Jn 10:36-38 )

- Then he really gets people mad and try to stone him when he says, before Abraham was born, I am! (Jn 8:58 ) In this statement he was claiming two things. He existed before Abraham was born. He may even be suggesting that he is outside time and exists right now at the same time he exists back then. Finally, he used the same phrase I am as God did when God told Moses his name. I am is translated as Jehovah or Yahway. We are not sure which way to pronounce it because the name of God was so sacred to the Jews that they would never say it out loud. But Jesus said it out-loud in reference to himself.

- Finally when Jesus dies and rises again from the dead he appears to Thomas and the other disciples. Until that time Thomas had struggled, he had not really got it and was full of doubts. When he finally saw Jesus risen from the dead he makes one of the clearest statements about who Jesus is by addressing Jesus as, My Lord and my God!

- That is how the early church understood Jesus. They did not have any fancy words to describe it. All they knew was that Jesus was the Son of God and even though they were dragged before the Roman emperor and throw to lions or burnt at the stake they would not deny Christ. They had met someone who had radically changed their lives and like Thomas they looked at Jesus and said, My Lord and my God.

But that still leaves one question. How can we have three persons but only have one God. Now it is very important that we believe that there is only one God. Deut 6:4 says, Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.

What is really interesting is that the same word in Hebrew used to say the LORD is one is the same word in Genesis 2:24 , a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

So the word one can actually mean one team, one group, one family. In a marriage there is a husband and there is a wife. The two are two separate people each with their own personalities, names, and emotions. And yet we refer to them as one couple and God says the two have become one flesh.

The unity in marriage is very important to God. In a way it is picture of what the unity in the Trinity is like. For in God we have three different persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each of them has their own name, their own personality and their own emotions. They each can make their own choices but they dont, instead Jesus prays, Not my will but yours be done He is completely submitted to his father. In fact they are so united that when we sees Jesus we have seen the Father. If you were to picture the best marriage you have ever seen and magnify the unity between those two a million times you will begin to understand the unity in the Trinity.

So let me review and then Ill give you your homework.

- The early church used the illustration of light. Light has three parts, the sun which is the source, the beam that travels through space, and the point where it meets our life. You cannot break light apart, it has three parts but is one thing.
- Likewise God has three parts. There is the Father who spoke at creation, the words that came out of the Father and there is the Spirit hovering over the waters.
- You can tell the difference between the parts of God based on what they do. The Father is always the one in charge, the Son is the one sent from the father to do his will and the Spirit is the one who touches our lives today now that the Son has gone back to the Father.
- Even though they have different roles they are still completely united. They always do exactly what the Father wants and when Jesus performs a miracle it is the power of the Father and the Spirit working through him. They are one and in complete unity.
- The Bible gives the illustration of marriage and the church. The husband and wife are called to be one. Also the church is called to be one just as God is one. We too should be living in unity with each other.

How should we respond to this knowledge?

- We should have a deeper understanding of God that makes us stand in amazement at how incredible He is.
- We should know that when we have seen Jesus we have seen the Father.
- We should know that the Holy Spirit that fills us is not some casual thing but it is the very Spirit of God living within our bodies.
- We are the temple of God and should live Holy Lives because God himself lives in us
- We should be united to each other because the same God unites us together and unity is part of what makes God what he is.

- Now here is your homework. Read the gospel of John and ask the question, Who is this Jesus? When you do you will find yourself walking with him and your life transformed.


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