Posts Tagged With: trinity

Special Revelation II: God in Christ and Christ in Us

Throughout the ages, God revealed Himself by speaking through prophets and manifesting His power in the lives of the Israelite people. Eventually, He gave the ultimate revelation of Himself by becoming a man like us:

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (Hebrews 1:1–4; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

Picture by Banksy98 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Throughout the Old Testament, the writers recorded God’s revelation of Himself to the Israelite people. Moses recorded the earliest encounters of men with God and the revelation of God’s laws in the first five books of the Bible. The writers of the historical books (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings, First and Second Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther) recorded how God displayed His sovereignty, love, and power to the Israelite people. Prophets spoke for God, revealing His will to the people in various times of crisis.

In the fullness of time (as St. Paul put it in Galatians 4:4), God sent His Son Jesus into the world. Jesus is God in human flesh. He is the most perfect revelation of what God is like. If you want to know what God is really like, look at Jesus. If you want to know what it means to be a man of God, look to Jesus—for He is both God and man. If you want to know how you can be like God, look at Jesus and imitate Him—because He is God who became a man. If you want to see the radiance of the glory of God, look at Jesus as He suffers and dies while hanging on a cross. If you want to see the exact imprint of God’s nature, behold Jesus as He refuses to avenge Himself while He is whipped, scourged, and abused. If you want to see the full power of God, watch Jesus as He rises from the dead and ascends to the right hand of the Father. If you want to experience the full power of that revelation in your life, invite Jesus into your heart and allow His Holy Spirit to empower you.

Jesus Himself tells us that He is God:

“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:7–9).

Many people view Jesus as a great moral teacher, but as C. S. Lewis observes, claims like this prohibit this option. The entire Jewish religion hinged on a simple truth: “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4, NASB). The worship or acknowledgment of any other deities was a violation against the very first of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3). If Jesus was not God, His bold claim in John 14:7–9 would be punishable by death under the Old Testament law. Jesus did not give us the option of thinking of Him as a great moral teacher or a mere prophet. As C. S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Jesus did not give us the option of admiring Him as a great moral teacher, a prophet, or even as a good man. Others who believed they were God usually proved that they were among the most wicked men on Earth. If we believe Jesus is even a good man, we must accept His claims. To see Jesus is the same as seeing God. If we want to know anything about God, we can simply look at Jesus or learn about Him.

The entire secret of the Christian life is to participate in the unity of the Triune God. Jesus speaks of His connection with the Father as a relationship where they are “in” each other:

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves” (John 14:10–11).

Then, He tells us that this unity extends to our relationship with Him and with other Christians:

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:22–23).

Genesis 1:26 tells us that God made mankind in His image. Like us, God is a personal being, not merely a force or an abstract ideal concept. While He is a personal being Who is far greater than anything we can imagine, the most appropriate way to reveal Himself was in a personal form. That form was the man, Jesus Christ. Today, Jesus continues to reveal Himself—not merely through His written Word, but through the people in whom He has chosen to dwell: all who call upon His name for salvation.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Revelation and Scripture | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Few Thoughts About the Trinity

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

—Matthew 28:16–20, NASB

Shamrock

Legend claims that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Happy Trinity Sunday! Sorry I did not buy anybody a card.

On the liturgical calendars of several denominations, Trinity Sunday occurs one week after Pentecost. Having celebrated the resurrection of the Son of God and His ascension to the right hand of the Father over the past few weeks, the church commemorates its birthday on Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit filled the earliest believers. One week later, it devotes a day to reflect on the Triune nature of God.

Falling on the heels of such an active time on the church calendar, Trinity Sunday can easily be lost in the mix. Many denominations, even those that believe in the Trinity, do not observe the day. Perhaps the biggest reason for this oversight may be the nature of the doctrine. How many pastors want to devote a Sunday to teaching a doctrine they have a hard time explaining? It is tempting to avoid what we do not fully understand.

So, with that in mind, I will not try to prove the Trinity. I merely seek to affirm my belief that this is true: there is one God who eternally exists in three persons—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. Just for the record, I think that term “persons” may create some of the confusion: it does not precisely describe their nature, but we really do not have a better word to use in its place.

We see the Trinity mentioned in the Great Commission, in Matthew 28:16–20. First, Jesus told His disciples that “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” Who else could have all authority in heaven except God?

They are mentioned together in Jesus’ last instruction in Matthew; they also appeared together at the beginning of His ministry, when He was baptized:

After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

—Matthew 3:16–17

The Son had been baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, and the Father proclaimed His approval of Jesus. Three persons were present, yet it was the one God worshiped by the Jewish people. Jesus Himself, who (as we saw earlier) claimed to be God, reaffirmed the Jewish belief in monotheism by referring to Judaism’s statement of faith, the “Shema,” as the greatest commandment: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:29–30).

Since the earliest centuries of Christianity, believers have wrestled to explain how one God can be three persons. Tertullian wrote the following:

“We define that there are two, the Father and the Son, and three with the Holy Spirit, and this number is made by the pattern of salvation . . . [which] brings about unity in trinity, interrelating the three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are three, not in dignity, but in degree, not in substance but in form, not in power but in kind. They are of one substance and power, because there is one God from whom these degrees, forms and kinds devolve in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (from Early Trinitarian Quotes).

Perhaps nobody can explain the mystery of how one God can be three persons. Some have attempted to illustrate it by pointing to three-in-one objects in nature. For example, an egg contains a yolk, a white, and a shell. Legend claims that St. Patrick used a three-leafed clover, a shamrock, to illustrate the Trinity (one clover, three leaves).

This is part of walking by faith: We trust God and believe Him to be Who He says He is, even when we do not fully understand it. When I was a small child, I had faith that my mother and father were my parents, long before I learned what that meant or how we all ended up in that relationship. Likewise, I can trust and worship God even though He is beyond my comprehension, trusting that someday I shall see Him as He is and understand more fully than I can in this life.

Some doubt the truth about the Trinity because it defies our understanding. They claim it is irrational or illogical. I believe it would be more appropriate to call it super-rational or super-logical: It exceeds our ability to comprehend.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

We serve a God who is beyond our comprehension, and that gives us even more reason to worship and praise Him with awe.

 

The doctrine of the Trinity...is truth for the heart. The fact that it can not be satisfactorily explained, instead of being against it, is in its favor. Such a truth had to be revealed; no one could imagine it. - Aiden Wilson Tozer
Quote by A. W. Tozer. Image from http://www.azquotes.com.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Scripture Sabbath | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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