The Trinity – A.S.K 12

63C5542A-D535-4A36-957B-018635129032It’s been encouraging to hear over the past week of more churches using A.S.K for their youth groups.   This week’s question concerns the Trinity.  I suspect this is a much neglected doctrine – and that there are a suprising number of people who consider themselves Christians who do not understand how important it is.

 

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BIBLE READING: Matthew 28

TEXT: Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ (Matthew 28:18-20).

I have a copy of the Shema Yisreal on my desk – it is a Jewish prayer based upon Deuteronomy 6:4: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ The belief in one God (monotheism) is central to the great monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). Many other religions are polytheistic – they believe in many gods. By definition however there can only be one Almighty, all knowing, all-powerful creator, who made everything. So Christians believe that there is one God.

But we also believe in what is called the Trinity. This is a Latin term that is not found in the Bible. However, what it teaches is: there is one God, who exists in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Don’t worry if you don’t instantly grasp what that means – very clever theologians (and some not so clever!) have been wrestling with that for centuries. We are going to try and think about this, but please don’t be surprised if you think ‘this is way beyond me …’ It is way beyond all of us. However, just because we can’t grasp it all, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t believe what God has told us about himself.

It’s maybe best for us just to say what the Bible actually says. The Father is God (Philippians 1:2 talks of ‘God our Father’ as do many other parts of the Bible). The Son is God (Titus 2:13 speaks of Jesus as ‘our great God and Saviour’). The Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4 talks about lying to the Spirit as being lying to God).

The Bible does not say that talking about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are just different ways of talking about the same person. They are each spoken of as distinct persons. The Father sends the Son. He is not the Son. The Holy Spirit is sent by both the Father and the Son. He is not the Father and the Son. Jesus is God but he is not the Father or the Spirit. The Spirit is God, but he is not the Father or the Son. The Father is God, but he is not the Son or the Spirit. Are you still with me? Let’s go a little deeper.

God has always been trinity. The Father did not become the Son; the Son did not become the Spirit. God has always been three in one.

The Trinity does not mean that God is divided into three different bits. The Father, the Son and the Spirit are each fully God. Colossians 2:9, for example, talks about ‘all the fullness of the deity dwelling in bodily form’ in Jesus. The Godness of God is in all three persons.

So, thus far we have the Bible teaching that the Father, the Son and the Spirit are distinct persons; that each is fully God; that there is only one God; and all three persons are the same God. There is one God who exists as three distinct persons. Our verse for this study teaches all of those things.

What we call the great commission tells us that there are three persons, (the Father, the Son and the Spirit), that they are all God, and that although they are distinct, yet we are baptised into the one name – which means that they share the same essence. Here is where we run up against the problem of language.

St Augustine argued that we speak, only in order not to be silent! We are trying to express in our limited language, the inexpressible God. This is the basic understanding of the Trinity – God is one in essence, but three in person.

This is not a contradiction because essence and person are different. What does essence mean? It’s what you are. But God is not made of ‘stuff ’ – he is spirit. So we are saying that this applies to the three persons. What do we mean by person? – not a distinct individual – like you and I as humans can exist apart from one another. Person in this sense means personal, in that there is an ‘I’ and a ‘you’. Essence is what you are, person is who you are.

Okay. I’m going to stop there, because that is more than enough! But let me leave you with this thought. Because God is Trinity he is love. The Father, the Son and the Spirit are love. The great news is that they invite us to share in that love.

CONSIDER: Do you think we should be able to understand God? Why is the Trinity important? Does it matter that Jesus is God and man?

RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING: Delighting in the Trinity – Michael Reeves

PRAYER: Lord God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You are far beyond our understanding, but we bless and thank you that you have revealed yourself to us. You are our Father – the one who loves and gives. You are the Son, the one who died for us and is risen for us. You are the Spirit, the one who fills us and changes us. Triune God, we bow before you and cry, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty.’

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A.S.K – The Gender of God

7 thoughts on “The Trinity – A.S.K 12

  1. In my book “Great Words of the Faith”, I point out that the English language word “Person” comes from the Latin “Persona”. This word does not refer to an individual, but to the mask that was used by actors in the Roman theatre. There were few actors to represent a number of characters. I might come on to the stage to be met wit boos and jeers. This would have been because I was holding in front of my face the “persona” of the villain of the play. Later, I might return to be met with cheers and hand-clapping: I was holding the ‘persona’ of the hero. Same me; different personae.

    No analogy is, of course, perfect. However, I know that others have found this to be so. I use other suggestions in the book – and ALL royalties on purchases go directly to Release International, to support the persecuted church! Links available on my blog (below!)

    I also point out that while 1+1+1 comes to 3; 1x1x1 = 1 It’s all a matter of relationship!

  2. Hello Pastor David

    I hope your first sermon here in Australia went well.

    Some months ago, I shared with you and your readers a link to a question and answer website by the conservative wing of the French Reformed Church. This conservative group was formed to oppose the blessing of same-sex marriages and seeks to return the French Church to its Biblical, reformed, Huguenot roots.

    The good news is the questions and answers are now available in English in a single PDF document. I think your readers will enjoy it, so here is the link:

    https://we.tl/t-7sgumaovji

    I have found it extremely helpful, so I hope it assists other people too. I think Pastor David will agree with most of the theology expressed in the document as it is conservative and very much Biblically-based. The only issue he (and I) might disagree with them upon is their support for women pastors, and at least they present their case for it Biblically.

    Please feel free to circulate the document yo any people, young or old, you think it might help. There are over 700 questions and answers, so there i sure to be something there to help everyone.

    God bless.

    1. Thanks for the link, Jean. That document is incredibly helpful to someone like me who has had many questions since my faith was shaken a long time ago by the claims of some liberal/progressive theologians. (I am recovering now from the ridiculous claims of groups such as the fringe academics of the Jesus Seminar and Steve Chalke). It is good to see such Biblical, thoughtful answers to questions. It is a far, far better resource than the like of gotquestions.org.

      Pastor David, if you are inclined to do so, I would love to hear your thoughts on the answers in the document and where the Free Church of Scotland agree and disagree with the French Reformed.

      Christ be with you,

      Eric

  3. I should add that, according to the cover page, they converted the document from French to English automatically using Google Translate, so it does read a little rough in places but you can easily gain the gist of each question and answer.

    My one hope is that other people, especially young people, find the answers in the document as helpful as I have done and that it leads some to faith.

    God bless,

    Jean
    Australia

  4. Great recommended reading David. Mike Reeves is great on this, with an extended book form simplicity. He correctly says, my words, that the Trinity is an irreducible hub, from which all central doctrine branches out. It is unique to Christianity central.
    Let’s hear it for the Athanathian Creed was legally required recitation in England.
    As Reeves says, there is no God, waiting to “pop out” as it were from behind Christ.
    Tim Chester. Says that the first step to relating to God is to relate to each person of the Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit
    But we must never think of the Persons without at the same time recognising God is One.
    The unity of God matters, BECAUSE it means that to know one of the persons is to know All three. You never relate to them on their own. – Tim Chester’s book, Enjoying God.

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