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Monday, March 20, 2023

Christians Worship the Trinity. Amen!

The Bible is the Word of God and contains everything necessary and sufficient for our salvation. The Bible is primary way Christians understand God and faith and what we teach and how we act. Amen!

Some things the Bible teaches are clear and straight forward and easy to understand.  Exodus 20:13 is pretty clear, "Do not murder."

Other teachings from the Bible require you to think a little bit more.  Among those deeper doctrines the Bible teaches is the Trinity.  So today, I’m gonna do my best to mine the depths of God’s Word to show you that Christians worship the Trinity.

Matthew 3:16-17
After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

These verses may be familiar.  They’re from the story of Jesus’ baptism by his cousin John in the Jordan River.  What I want to point out for you today is how the Trinity is embedded in the story. 
Who is being baptized?  Jesus.
What descends upon Jesus?  A dove. The Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit.
Who speaks from Heaven?  God.  The Father.
So in this story all three persons of the Trinity are revealed.  

Now that word—Trinity—is never written in the Bible. It’s never literally written, but it’s definitely there. It’s embedded throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments.

Genesis 1:26
From the creation story in Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.”  The original Hebrew words were plural, which shows the plural nature of God's character.  That's why English translations use the plural pronouns "us" and "our".  This indicates that God is a plurality (like a trinity).

Isaiah 48:16
In Isaiah, the Messiah speaks to Israel, “And now the Sovereign Lord and his Spirit have sent me with this message.”  So in this Old Testament passage, we see all three person's of the Trinity.

John 10:30
In John 10:30, Jesus said, “The Father and I are one.”

2 Corinthians 13:14
2 Cor. 13:14 reveals the trinitarian greetings use by early Christians like Paul , “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

I won't try to list all the passages in the Bible that reference or allude to the triune nature of God (there are over 100 in the Old Testament alone).  You can search them out yourself.  So thought the word "Trinity" is not there, the Trinity itself is a reality in the Bible.

Initially, no one in the Christian faith questioned or tried to define the trinitarian nature of God.  It was just assumed.  Jesus, the Son of God, taught in terms of his relationship to God the Father and the Holy Spirit.  The 12 Apostles carried on this tradition.  And in the beginning, the early Christians had some very pressing problems to deal with—trying to spread the Good News about Jesus while also facing severe persecution, imprisonment, and death.

But eventually, some people began accusing Christians of worshipping more than one God—
that Jesus was a God, the Father was a God, and the Holy Spirit was a third God.  Others tried to rank the three persons of the Trinity—maybe saying the Father was the supreme God, but then God created Jesus and the Holy Spirit as lesser gods or angelic like figures.  however, 
these ideas are contrary to Scripture.  John 1:1 says, “In the beginning the Word [Jesus the Son] already existed.  The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Eventually, Christians needed to define the Trinitarian nature of God to dispel  misunderstandings and wrong teaching.  They said:

There is only one God.  The Bible is clear there is only one God and His followers must not worship any god but the Lord (Ex. 20:3).  So it cannot be that Christians worship three Gods.  

God is three distinct Persons:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Bible clearly teaches The Father is God and Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God.  Therefore, somehow, mysteriously, There is one God who is revealed as three different persons.  When Jesus prays to His Father, Jesus is not talking to Himself.  He is talking to a distinct Person.

Furthermore, Christians discerned, God is not created. God is eternal.  God has always existed.  And since God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all Three have always existed.  In other words, God did not create the Son or the Holy Spirit.  They were always part of God (Genesis 1, John 1)

All Three at All Times
Undoubtedly, someone will approach me and say they have a simple way to understand the Trinity.   They may say, "There is this example of water.  Water can be ice or liquid water or steam.  It is all three, yet it is still water."  This can be a helpful illustration (I’ve even used it before), but it still doesn’t fully capture the nature of the Trinity.  This is because water is either ice, water, or steam.  It is not all of them at the same time.

There were some Christians who tried to argue that God is one, but appeared in different forms at different times.  This is actually a heresy called “modalism”.  A right and biblical teaching is that God is all three forms at all times.  We know this because there are clearly times in the Bible when God was all three forms all at the same time.  The baptism of Jesus is a perfect example.  In the story, The Son is baptized, The Father speaks from Heaven, and the Spirit descends like a dove.  So all three Persons of the Trinity are present in the story at the same time.  

Reasons The Trinity is Important
Now, this is deep stuff; some people might wonder if this trinitarian stuff really matters.  It does. If a church does not accept the Trinity, they’re not really functioning as a Biblically Christian church.
Let me share some reasons why.

First of all, Christianity believe in only one God. 
Some religions, like Hinduism and Buddhism that believe in many gods, express appreciation for Jesus.  They will say he was a great teacher or they may even say Jesus is one of the gods (one among many).  But Christians cannot accept this.  We believe Jesus is God and the only God.  Jesus said in John 14:5, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”  So true Christian teaching says, Jesus isn’t just one of the ways; no, Jesus is the only way, the only truth, the only life.

Christians believe in only one God. There are other “one-god-only” religions, and it is sometimes said if there is only one god then we must all worship the same one-god.  However, Christians are different from the other monotheistic religions like—Judaism and Islam.  Jewish and Muslim people also believe there is only one God and those religions will sometimes express admiration for Jesus.  However, they reject the idea that Jesus is God.  For them, Jesus is a good man or a prophet.  But Christians believe Jesus is God.  Furthermore, we also believe the Holy Spirit is God.  And yet we also contend that the Trinity is One God.  The Trinity sets Christianity apart as distinct from other monotheistic religions.

There is a second reason for acknowledging the Trinity, one that is even more important.  The Trinity shows how God really is love.  You have to understand, God is and was and will always be fully complete without us.  Some people have this notion that God created people because He was lonely.  However, God wasn’t lonely.  God was already in a full and complete relationship before humanity.  In God’s trinitarian unity, He was already whole.  He lacked nothing.  He didn’t need anything.  He was already in a perfect relationship.  So, God created humanity (and all creation), not as a means to fulfill some longing within Himself, but rather as an overflowing expression of His deep, eternal love.

We struggle to understand God's kind of love because we often think of love as a longing within us.  We “love” someone or something and we need (them or it) to complete us, to fulfill us.  God love doesn’t work that way.  God is self-giving love, not a longing, consuming love.  God didn’t created the universe for his own benefit, He created us out of an overflowing love.  We are an expression of His self-giving love.  Because God was already a trinity in relationship, He was not lonely.  Your life is a gift—free and clear—no strings attached.  Your existence is an expression of God’s grace.  Thus, we learn the true nature of love from God’s trinitarian nature; and we are made in God's image.  We are made for love and by love.  Love is giving, not consuming.

Third, the trinitarian nature of God means we can truly be saved.  Jesus is not a creation of God.  Jesus is not an angel (or a created being). The Trinity reveals Jesus is fully God and fully human.  

Why is that important?  Well if Jesus wasn’t fully man, then He couldn’t truly understand our situation.  (How can a perfect, infinite, all powerful diety understand anything about living as broken mortals in a broken world?)  Thankfully, in Jesus, God became fully human.  The all-knowing, all-powerful God of the universe compressed Himself into the limited time and space and perception of a human body.  As Philippians 2:7-8 says, “He gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave, and was born as a human being.  When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”  Hebrews 2:17 says, “It was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God.”  Jesus knows what it’s like to be you.

Yet if Jesus was only a man, He wouldn’t have the power to save us.  Our problems are too big.  Thankfully, Jesus is also fully God.  That means He has the power to save you.  No matter how terribly lost you are.  No matter how sin sick is you soul.  No matter how awful your problems, nothing is beyond the control of the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present glory of our God in Jesus Christ. 

Jesus’ ressurection from the grave is the ultimate sign of God's ability to save you.  If Jesus can rise from the dead, He can raise you out of any deadly problem you face.  And He will if you will trust Him.

Maybe, I’ve given you a lot to think about today.  The Trinity is a very deep subject.  Yet, we can be thankful the Trinity is so hard to understand,
because it shows that our God is a Big God.  If God were easy to understand, He wouldn’t be much of a God.  (Listen, I can’t even understand myself a lot of times.  Why do I do the things do?  Why do I get upset or respond the way I do?  I don’t know.)  
If I can’t even fully understand myself, how can ever expect I will understand
the infinite nature of an eternal God who has always existed, and always will
who made stars and planets that are so far away from us
it has taken trillions of years for their light to reach us;
who made all the animals and plants and river and mountains we can see,
but also made microorganisms so small we don’t even o they are there.
(There were 10X more microbes in the breathe of air you just inhaled
than there are people in County where you live--and you inhaled another breathe, and another…)  Our God made all of this.

Let us take a moment to try and wrap our heads around the infinite nature of God.
And also to marvel that this Great God gave up the glory of heaven
to come to our broken world to die on a cross to save you and me.

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