Thursday, May 6, 2010

THE TRIUNE NATURE OF GOD

The doctrine of the trinity is not some later creation of Constantine or the Catholic Church. It is based on scriptural revelation and interpretation. The New Testament clearly teaches the triune nature of God, (Jesus was not called “Son of God” for nothing). However, in the first years of the Church, believers were focused on extending the work and surviving Roman persecution. It was common to refer to Father, Son and Spirit as divine, but apparently nobody really thought about the implications. It was not until the second and third century that thinkers had leisure to begin connecting the dots. That is why the official pronouncements of the doctrine appear relatively late. Clearly, even if you reject the authority of scripture, you can see that the triune nature of God is a well-established New Testament concept.

BIBLICAL MATERIALS:

1. In the creation account, God reveals himself as plural: “Let us make man in our image.” When God created “man,” it took two—male and female—to image God. From the beginning God is seen not just as a plurality, but as community.
2. The Hebrew word for Spirit—Ruach—is female, and the Spirit of God is shown doing distinctly feminine things: “And the Spirit of God brooded on the surface of the waters.” Genesis 1:2. The word brooded is the same as for a bird on its nest. “God breathed into his nostrils the breath (Ruach) of life and man became a living creature.” Genesis 2:7. The Spirit gives life, nurtures and comforts.
3. In the Jewish creed, found in Deuteronomy 6:4, God’s unity is proclaimed. “Hear o Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Out of reverence, the word Lord is substituted for the name of God which is actually found in the text.)
4. In the New Testament, God’s unity is proclaimed. The NT also reveals that the God we know from the Old Testament has chosen to reveal himself as a TRI-unity: Three-in-one. Not three beings, but one God as a community of Father, Son and Spirit.
5. The questions are, does the New Testament call Father, Son and Spirit God? Does the New Testament proclaim that there is one God? AND is the New Testament systematic and consistent in these usages, or confused and inconsistent?
IF there are three persons in the Bible, each called God;
& IF there is only One God according to the Bible;
& IF the Bible is God’s infallible word; ____________
Therefore: The three persons are the one God.
A. One God: 1 Timothy 2:5 (revealed at Horeb)
B. Father: 2 Peter 1:17 (revealed at Haran)
C. Son: Hebrews 1:6-8 (revealed at Bethlehem)
D. Spirit: Acts 5:1-4 (revealed at Pentecost)
6. A few New Testament claims of Jesus’ divinity:
Matthew 1:23 the name Immanuel means “God with us.”
John 1:1 “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.”
Colossians 1:15-16 He is the image of the invisible God and creator of all things.
Colossians 2:9 “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”
Hebrews 1:3 “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being.”
Hebrews 1:6 “when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him.”” (This is relevant because; “Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only."” Matthew 4:10)
Hebrews 1:8 “But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever.”
Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Revelation 22:12-16 "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. … 16 "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."
7. One of Jesus’ own claims of divinity:
In John 8:56-58 Jesus is in conflict with some Jewish leaders. They ask his authority. He tells them, “before Abraham was born, I am,” using the divine title from Exodus three. That got them mad and they were going to stone him. Later, in chapter 10:33, Jesus asked why they wanted to stone him. They answered, “…for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” Jesus, a good Jew, did not deny this. They understood him perfectly well.
8. The Holy Spirit is recognized as God: In Acts chapters four and five you have two events; at the end of chapter four, a man sells some property and gives the proceeds for the support of the Jerusalem congregation. In chapter five, a couple decides to do the same thing. However, this couple keeps some of the proceeds but make a show of giving it all to the congregation. Peter confronts the couple saying; “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? You have not lied to men, but to God.”

Again, clearly, even if you reject the authority of scripture, you can see that the triune nature of God is a well-established New Testament concept.

Theological Concepts:

That the New Testament reveals the triune concept is one thing, what it means, and how to explain it is another. I think the Bible spends very little time EXPALNING the HOW of spiritual concepts. I pretty much stick with the obvious: God has chosen to reveal himself to us as Father, Son and Spirit. That may be all there is to know, or there may be more that God has chosen not to reveal. The Bible tells us what God wants us to know, not what we need to satisfy our curiosity.

There have been several historical pictures given to explain how God can be three in one:

Saint Patrick used the shamrock’s three leaves as a picture.

Some people like the picture of a pie, cut into three pieces. One, semi-liquid, pie–filling on the inside, three visible pieces on the outside.

Personally, I like the picture of the triple point of water; water at its triple point exists as vapor, liquid, and ice at the same time and space.

The important thing to remember is that these are pictures, mere similes, not the reality. If they do not help, they do no harm. Bottom line for me is two-fold: 1. That’s what I find in scripture, and 2. Why should I expect to grasp the nature of a being great enough to create the universe? If I could understand him, he wouldn’t be much of a God.

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