God in 3 Persons
I want to invite you this evening to turn with your Bibles to . (Have it say Amen?)
A little context about this text: Jesus is right about to begin the tough road to the cross, and this is probably the most important prayer He will make in his entire ministry. In this prayer He has his current disciples in mind, his future disciples in mind, and right at the beginning he prays for himself.
And it’s when he begins to pray for himself that he reveals something very important:
Read with me
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
This phrase in verse three is extremely important, because in it Jesus gives us the key that unlocks the door to eternal life.
According to Jesus, eternal life is to know God.
Which means that to attain knowledge of God is the single most important thing anyone of us can do. For you and for me, living in 2018, we cannot be saved without knowing God. We cannot be saved without getting closer to God.
Simply put: The first step to eternal life is to know God more.
Commenting on this, the Spirit of Prophecy also puts an emphasis on getting to know God more:
“Having received the faith of the gospel, the next work of the believer is to add to his character virtue, and thus cleanse the heart and prepare the mind for the reception of the knowledge of God. This knowledge is the foundation of all true education and of all true service. It is the only real safeguard against temptation; and it is this alone that can make one like God in character.”
Now the reason I begin with emphasizing the importance of the knowledge of God is because out in the world, there are many varying ideas about God. For example…
Regarding his character, some see God as being hate, others see God as being love. Regarding his creation, some see God as the force that began the evolutionary process, while others see God creating the world in 6 days. Regarding his actions, some see God as being absent in our lives, timeless and transcendent, while others see God providentially involved in human life, even every day.
The point is that there are many things that are said about God. And often times, these difference end up in controversies.
And one of these controversies, specifically among Christians, has to do with the ontological make up of God, in particular, the concept of Trinity.
So tonight we want to explore, briefly, what does the Bible say about the nature and being of God? Does the Bible support the idea of a Trinity? Or does the Bible teach us something else?
And to answer these questions, we will do this in three lessons:
The First Lesson: (Monotheism) God is one
So to begin answering these questions, we want to go to the time when the people of Israel were delivered from slavery. According to the Bible, the people of Israel lived in Egypt for over 400 years, some of these years in slavery.
Now you can imagine what happens when you live among a people for over 400 years. Eventually, the culture of the people, and even the religious practices of the people, begin to have influence over the way you live your life. (Example: Think about most of our parents. Many of our parents came from different cultures and were born in different countries. But in just one generation, some of us are more American than Mexican, or more American then Salvadoran.)
And the big challenge with Egyptian culture was that Egyptian culture was intricately connected with their religion. Egyptian religion was polytheistic, meaning it worshipped many gods. At one point or another, the Egyptian pantheon had over 2,000 deities or gods.
So one of the first things God had to do with his people, straight out of Egypt, was to purge them from any polytheistic way of life. The first and probably most important lesson was that there are not many gods, there is only One God.
Monotheism: The Belief in one God
Monotheism in the 10 commandments (the first 2):
1 And God spoke all these words, saying: 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
39 Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.
Monotheism in the teachings of Moses: Monotheism in the shema:
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!
Monotheism in the shema:
All these verses show very clearly that worship should only be directed to one God. There are is no such thing as many gods, there is one only One. And this is so important that you see this teaching in the rest of the Old Testament.
22 Therefore You are great, O Lord God. For there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.
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 And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, Let them show these to them. 8 Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.’ ”
29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Monotheism in David: Monotheism in Isaiah: (44:6-8)
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—
7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
1 The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.” 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”
29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
14 for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth.
1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
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And if that were not enough, Jesus himself believed in the worship of One God.
When he was asked what is the first commandment of all, you remember the beginning of his popular answer:
“29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
So the Bible is clear that worship can only be directed to one God. You cannot worship many gods, because many gods do not exist. There is only one God, and that God deserves all your attention.
The Second Lesson: Plurality within the Oneness
19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
But although God is one, the Bible teaches us something else as well. The bible teaches us, from the very beginning, that within the oneness of God there is a plurality.
1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.
The best way to understand this is to see this in scripture, at the very beginning, when God is first introduced:
Creation of man: Fall of man: Confusion at the tower of Babel:
7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
You even see this later on as well:
9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.
Now this sometimes is very difficult for people to understand. How can God be one, but can also be more than one? How can we speak of God as one, but also speak of God plurally?
28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
The truth is we don’t know, the Bible doesn’t reveal that to us. In fact, we see this oneness and plurality as a mystery, something that we cannot explain. And although many have tried to give explanations, the Bible really doesn’t reveal the science behind this composition of God.
There are two verses that help me make with peace with the
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Not all things are revealed - There is no other like God.
16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—
All we can confidently say is that God is one, but within that oneness, there is also unity of beings.
The Third Lesson: The Plurality is Limited to 3
24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. 25 But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’ 26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.
Now, before we enter into our last point of tonight, there is an important verse that sets the stage for our point number 3. And that is found in
The reason I point to this verse is for two reasons:
19 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,
The greatest revelation of who God is, is found in Jesus Christ. God has spoken to us through the prophets, those who wrote the Old Testament, but now we have received truth through what Jesus taught us.
21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
In other words, we learn a lot from the Old Testament. But it is with the arrival of Jesus that we learn so much more. God spoke to us through the writers of the Bible, but has spoken to us even more through the teachings of Jesus.
In other words, Jesus not only fulfills the Old Testament. He answers the questions that were left unanswered in the Old Testament.
14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
But to our discussion of the plurality of God, it is with the arrival of Jesus that we begin to see a clearer picture of the plurality of God.
The first thing we see is that Jesus himself is God:
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And after everything Jesus did in his life, his own apostles declared him God: \
So we have God the Father, and we have God the Son, Jesus Christ.
But Jesus does one more thing. He reveals to us the truth of the Holy Spirit, something that had not been fully understood before. And he does this in the most interesting way:
- Talks about another counselor.
And then he eventually puts the Holy Spirit at the same level
“19 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,”
From this point on, the New Testament writers see the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit working together, all for the salvation and the transformation of man.
Our Belief in the Trinity:
“The Trinity There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three coeternal Persons. God is immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing, above all, and ever present. He is infinite and beyond human comprehension, yet known through His self-revelation. God, who is love, is forever worthy of worship, adoration, and service by the whole creation.”
23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.
I want to conclude by saying two things:
First of all, it is impossible for finite minds to understand a being that infinite. Are minds are limited, God’s is not. And humanly speaking, we dont fully understand how the Trinity works, except that they are united, they are one, and they are three.
But the second thing I want to say to conclude is this: Although we may not understand the ontological make up of God, we do know what God has done for us.
The Father, Son, and HOly Spirit, have developed this incredible plan for our redemption, and they are working, even to the day, to make sure we all are saved and enter into heaven.
Knowing this, perhaps we should remember the words of the Prophet Jeremiah.
23 Thus says the Lord:
“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
24 But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the Lord.