The Doctrine of the Trinity

celtic-trinity-knot-by-kristen-fox-300x300These are the notes for my Wednesday night Bible study tonight.  We have been looking at some of the major doctrines of the Bible.  For the past several weeks we have been looking at the Doctrine of God.

The trinity is on of the most important and distinctive teachings of the Christian faith.  Generally, it is considered to be one of the most important tests of orthodoxy.  Any group that denies the trinity is considered to be heretical.  As we study this doctrine it is important to keep the following issues in mind:

  • The word trinity is never used in the Bible, but the concept is taught.
  • The doctrine of the trinity is progressively revealed through the Scripture.  The clearest teachings are in the New Testament but that does not mean that the Old Testament is silent on the subject.
  • This doctrine is not just a matter of debate for theologians; it contains practical teaching that helps us to deepen our worship of God.

The Trinity in the Old Testament

  • Genesis 1:2 “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the fact of the waters.”
  • Genesis 1:26 “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”
    • Plural personal pronouns.
    • Could be a plural of majesty but this would be the only instance in the OT where a monarch used the plural of majesty.
    • Some of have suggested that this could be a reference to angels, however, there is no biblical evidence that angels had anything to do with the creation of man.
    • Seems best to understand this as a reference to the interrelationship of the trinity.
    • Plural terms are used when referencing God
      • Elohim and Adonai (two of the primary words for God) are plural
      • Exodus 33:14  and Deuteronomy  4:37 “presence” is really “presences”
      • Several instances of dialogue between the Godhead
        • Psalm 2
        • Psalm 110:1 “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
          • In Matthew 22:41-46 Jesus interprets this verse as two different people being referred to as Lord, and that this verse actually points to Him.

 

The Trinity in the New Testament

 

  • All three members of the trinity are revealed at Jesus’ baptism – Matthew 3:16-17
  • Church is commanded to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Mattthew 28:19
  •  Trinitarian formula used in :
    • 2 Corinthians 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
    • 1 Peter 1:2 “”according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for the sprinkling with his blood.”
    • Jude 20-21 “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in the your most holy  faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”

 

Summary of the Biblical Teaching

 

1.)  God is three persons–  God exists in three distinct persons.  The Father is not the Son, nor is the Son the Holy Spirit; they are distinct personalities.  It is important to keep this in mind lest we fall into the heresy called modalism,  where God is viewed as simply revealing Himself in certain times as the Father and at others either the Son or Spirit.  God exists in three distinct personalities: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

2.)  Each of the Persons in the Trinity are Fully God– this means that each of the members of the trinity are coequal in terms of majesty, power, and attributes.  They are all equally and fully divine.

  1. Jesus referred to as God:

John 1:1-2 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.”

  1. Holy Spirit referred to as God

Acts 5:3-4 “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Sprit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?…You have not lied to man but to God.”

3.)  There is one God– The doctrine trinity does not teach that there are three God, but instead teaches that there is only one God who exists eternally in three distinct personalities.  The three members of the trinity are one in essence, nature, and purpose.

  1. Deut 6:4-5 “Hear. O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
  2. Isaiah 45:5-6 “I am the Lord, and there is no other besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other.”
  3. 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…”

 

Why is the Trinity Important to You?

 

1)   It is makes the atonement possible-  No mere creature could ever reconciles us to a Holy God, so instead Jesus the divine Son of God died to pay the penalty for our Sin.  (John 3:16)

 

2)   It guarantees your security as a believer-  once again, it was Jesus, the divine Son of God who died on the cross, therefore, we can be confident that all of our sins have been paid for and that our salvation is secure.

3)   If Jesus is not God, why would we pray to Him or Worship Him- we are commanded in the Scripture to worship Jesus, this would make no sense if He were not divine (Phil 2:9-11; Rev 5:12-14)

4)   The trinity makes it possible for God to reveal Himself to Us-  (John 1:18; Ex 33:20; 1 Tim 6:16)

5)   The trinity becomes a model for relationships with the body of Christ and marriage(1 Cor 11:3; 12:4-6; Eph 4:4-7)

 

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When Ministry Becomes An Idol: Part 2

English: Icon of Jesus Christ
English: Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ministry becomes an idol when we believe that our success in ministry determines our value before God

If you get around a group of Pastors for any length of time, the subject of numbers will eventually come up.  Statistics are the measuring stick by which we tend to relate to each other.  How many people attend our Sunday morning worship services?  How much money do we collect on average week? How many professions of faith?  How many baptisms?  You know the drill.  Often when a speaker is introduced at a conference he will be given credibility by the recounting of his numbers.  Let’s face it, our analytics form the basis of how we measure up to other Pastors and if we are honest we all want our numbers to be good. If we are not careful, this obsession with numbers can slip over the boundary and become a matter of idolatry in our lives.  This happens when we start to think that our success in ministry, as indicated by our numbers, is a representation of our value before God.  In others words, we start to think that attendance and giving are the keys factors in determining our value before God.  This trap can grind up your life faster than just about anything else in the ministry.

Several years ago, I had a friend in the ministry who lived and died by his weekly statistics. We would get together about once a month to have lunch and it was always the same.  The first question out of his mouth was always, “How did it go this past weekend?”  That was a code for “tell me what your numbers were so that I can measure how well I match up.”  Secretly, I always liked this question because I was pastoring a growing church and I liked to brag.  Both of us had bought into the same lie, but only one of us was enjoying it.  Because my numbers were increasing, I got to gloat while he sat puzzled trying to figure out why God wasn’t blessing his ministry.  A few years later, the tables turned on me and while other churches were growing, mine became plateaued and stagnant.  Suddenly my gloating was over and I was left struggling to find answers about why the “favor” of God had departed from my life.  Over the next several years I ended up running from one ministry fad to the next trying to figure out what was wrong with our church and trying to jump-start our growth. What ended happening was that I ended up making ministry into an idol in my life.  I had drawn my sense of worth and value from the wrong place and like any idol it enslaved me in an endless cycle of works based frustration.

Over the past twenty years of being in the ministry, I have seen this same pattern repeated over and over again.  In fact, I would go as far as to say that every minister at one time or the other falls into the trap of letting ministry become an idol in their lives.  Satan has subtly infiltrated the church and convinced it’s Pastors that success in ministry as measured by nickels and noses is the same as being faithful to God.  But numbers alone never tell the whole story, some of the largest and fastest growing churches are also the most heretical.

Sadly, over the years I have watched a good number of Pastors get ground up and pummeled due to this idolatrous obsession with comparing their numbers with the guy down the street. The simple truth is that the size and scope of our ministry should never be taken as the sole indicator of God’s pleasure.  Our primary goal in the ministry must always be to glorify God not build a bigger and bigger congregation.  I am not saying that church growth is unimportant or that we should ignore it completely but I am saying we need to refuse to believe that it is an sign of God’s favor.

Let’s be clear about this issue — your value before God is not determined by your success or failure in the ministry.  To understand our value before God all we have to do is look to the cross and delve deeper into the truth of the gospel.  The cross is the greatest display of God’s love for His people and the sole basis upon which we are accepted by Him.  It is the definitive display of God’s favor.  All of the success we could ever have in ministry will not add one iota of favor to what God has displayed on our behalf at the cross.  Nor can any ministry failure ever take away from the acceptance and access we have been given to God through the cross of Jesus Christ.  Pastor, please hear me, you are not accepted by God because of what you do for Him through the ministry but by what Christ has already done for you on the cross.  You are absolutely, positively, one hundred percent accepted and loved by God because of the sacrifice Christ made on your behalf at the cross.  It is through the love and mercy of God shown to you in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus that you will find satisfaction and joy in life.  The ministry can be a wonderful place to experience the blessings of God, but it was never meant to be the source of those blessings.  This distinction is a key to maintaining your joy.

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