THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY (3); New Testament Revelation

THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY (3)

The Importance of Christian Creeds
In these studies we have examined some of the historic statements defining the doctrine of the Trinity. It is wrong to dismiss these definitions because they are the writings of men. The Christian Creeds are definitive statements on Biblical Truth composed by men of God, with the express approval of the Church. As the Church is custodian of the Truth, and because the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of God’s people, it is wrong to dismiss the  Confessional Creeds. If they were drawn up by individuals, then they are weak, but when they come to us as they do, with the authority of the Church they become vital documents.

In the New Testament where the Apostles write of “the faith” it apparent that it is the Creed, or the Doctrine of the Church that they have in mind. Even in the New Testament times there was a body of beliefs that were necessary and fundamental for the Church to exist. This was the faith. While some departed from the faith (1st Timothy 4:1) Paul testified that he had kept the faith (2nd Timothy 4:7). Peter considered steadfastness in the faith as an important quality (1st Peter 5:9) and Jude exhorted the Church to “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude v3). The Church needs therefore to be clear what this “Faith” is, which we are to contend for and believe.

Early CreedsThe Nicene Creed, the first definitive statement outlining the Biblical position on The Trinity, was the response of the Church to Arianism (discussed in Part 1). After The Reformation the Protestant Churches laid great store in the importance of defining the Faith, the doctrine of the Church. In Presbyterian Churches the most important document is the Westminster Confession of Faith. In Chapter 2 Section 3 The Trinity is defined as follows:

Eggs for Easter“In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.”

The term theologians use to explain how the three can share the one substance and yet be three distinct persons is “subsistence”; one substance subsisting in three distinct persons.

Having examined Old Testament proofs for The Trinity, we shall now look at the New Testament passages which reveal the full orbed glory of this doctrine.

THE TRINTY AND THE NEW TESTAMENT

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are revealed as three distinct persons who have equal power and status within the Godhead:

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19)

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.” (2nd Corinthians 13:14).

In the Old Testament Jehovah is consistently revealed as the Saviour and Redeemer:

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

“But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine…For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour” (Isaiah 43:1,3)

The New Testament reveals the Saviour and Redeemer to be the Son of God:

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:13-14)

This would indicate that Jesus Christ is equal with Jehovah fulfilling the tasks that were assigned to the one, whom the Jews understood as Jehovah. The unity between the Father and the Son in this respect are identified in crucial passages found in John’s Gospel:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58)

“I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30)

“These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.” (John 12:41)

The New Testament also makes it apparent that the Father and the Son, while they are one in glory, are two distinct persons. The Father has sent His Son into the world:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” (Galatians 4:4)

On occasions the Father addressed His Son:

“And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

There were times the Son communicated with His Father:

“At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” (Matthew 11:25-26)

“Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.” (John 11:41)

In relation to the Father and the Son, a picture comes into view of two people being equal, sharing a oneness, while they exercise themselves in different roles and are distinct persons.

What then can we say about the Holy Ghost and His relationship to the other members of the Godhead?

As with the Son of God the Holy Spirit bears a close affinity with Jehovah. In the Old Testament Jehovah is the one of who dwells in the midst of His people:

“Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.” (Psalm 74:2)

“And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee.” (Zechariah 2:11)

The New Testament, however, identifies the one who dwells in the midst of God’s people as being the Holy Spirit:

“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4)

“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. ” (Romans 8:9)

By simple logic, therefore, we deduce that the Holy Spirit has a oneness with Jehovah, and as with the Son can appropriate that particular sacred title. It is also apparent, however, that the Holy Spirit is a person separate from the Father and the Son. The Father has sent the Holy Spirit forth into the world:

“And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:6)

The Son also hath sent the Holy Spirit, after His ascension to the Heavenlies:

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:” (John 15:26)

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” (John 16:7)

Paul, however, when he described the Father as sending the Holy Spirit was in perfect agreement with Christ because our Lord, also in The Upper Room expressed this aspect of truth:

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16)

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26)

Therefore we observe the Father and the Son acting with equal power and authority, sending forth the Holy Spirit into the world to indwell, infill and empower the Church. This is in perfect agreement with the definition composed by the Westminster Divines describing Him as “eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.”

When writing to the Romans Paul described the Holy Spirit as praying to God with and for the Lord’s people:

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)

Therefore the Holy Spirit in the New Testament emerges as a distinct person, with specific roles, who is also at one with the Father and the Son.

The Three Persons and the Plan of Salvation

The great scheme of redemption depends upon The Trinity acting in unison, each exercising their own roles in order that humanity might be redeemed. The opening section of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians sets forth the three fold role of The Holy Trinity in the salvation of mankind, quite beautifully.

The Father chooses or predestines the people God:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” (Ephesians 1:3-4)

The Father, however, chooses the elect “in him” (Christ) because the means whereby those chosen are brought to

God, is through the work that Christ accomplishes. Therefore Paul descibes the work of the Son of God, our Redeemer:

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Ephesians 1:7).

Finally the Apostle brings us to the Holy Spirit and His personal work of bringing the elect to a place of assurance

and peace:

“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

The word “earnest” relates to the deposit. The Holy Spirit in regenerating and indwelling the child of God becomes the guarantee of eternal life, in the same way that a deposit secures an item.

The fact that the three persons, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost act in individual ways to bring about the final  redemption of the Church argues for a Trinity. It is a most humbling fact, to acknowledge, that God, in His three persons has accomplished the salvation, which is the ground of our eternal hope.

Previous Blogs on this subject

THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY (1) – THE HISTORY OF THE DOCTRINE AND A SHORT LESSON IN UNBELIEF

The Doctrine of the Trinity (2): Defining The Being of God From Old Testament Revelation

6 thoughts on “THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY (3); New Testament Revelation

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  1. While I have never been an atheist, if I had not come across the unique concepts of theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, I would have rejected all official systems of belief. I certainly would have rejected, and still do, all ideas by the traditional Christian Church that faith trumps enlightenment.

    There is something wrong when millions upon millions of hungry and curious neurons occupying the human brain are asked to have “faith” and “belief” at the expense of knowledge and rationality.

    What really makes my neurons cringe is the doctrinal idea that God is “three Persons” and that Jesus ransomed His life to appease the wrath of His Father. Such doctrinal notions implore us to suspend all reasoning and blindly believe that by some kind of divine hocus-pocus (called a divine mystery) Jesus magically took all our sins and guilt to the cross with Him, and by dying on the cross, put the Father into the right mood and loving frame of mind to again be interested in human salvation.

    Besides this scenario making Jehovah God look temperamental and subject to moods, I am at a loss as to how anyone’s bad behavior can be transferred and credited to Jesus, or how the Father can then credit us back with righteousness. This is “voodoo” redemption and implies that Christians are spared from living a life according to the Commandments.

    It also suggests that God is glorified in the same way men wish to be glorified—by being served rather than serving, since good works play no part in our redemption.

    Jesus was not a ransom for an angry Father-God. If this were so, then Jesus would not have started a ministry and gone to great lengths to share new teachings. While on earth, what Jesus did ransom was His human inclination to exercise command and dominate others. Instead, He choose to wash the feet of the seemingly unworthy. This self-induced humbling action is how God was glorified. The Lord attained greatness through humility rather than through a show of force or might.

    “It shall not be so among you; but whosoever would be great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:26-28, Mark 10:44,45)

    The Lord took human sin upon Himself by coming into the world and acquiring an imperfect physical body through a human female and real human ovum. In this way, He acquired humankind’s defects and hereditary inclinations towards evil. During the Lord’s life on earth He was given the medium through which He could be influenced by and defeat evil, until He succeeded in perfecting His human nature and uniting it with His divine nature (which was Jehovah). Jesus was Jehovah, and became the Alpha and Omega.

    This process of the Lord uniting his human nature with His divine spirit, or Jehovah, was one of perfect humility (exinanition) that reached its ultimate intensity on the cross where the human flesh cried out to be spared from this indignity and be treated specially. Instead of coming down from the cross and showing His true power, he fought to stay on the cross. He brought His flesh under the complete control of the divine will. He showed His ultimate power that divine truth ruled over the selfish and anxious impulses of human flesh.

    There is nothing more contrary to heavenly love than the love of self. Therefore, what was ransomed by the Lord’s life on earth was the human compulsion to be served by others for the sake of self and demand obedience.

    If the Lord had come off the cross and taken full control, He would have compelled humankind to worship Him. Only humans compel others and force them into submission.

    But coercion is not the strategy of God’s Infinite wisdom.

    Love is God’s strategy. This includes His first Advent and Second Coming.

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    1. Allow me to respond to some of your criticisms:
      1: The Christian Faith is erected upon facts not philosophy. We may not understand the facts but what we can be clear about is that they took place. Is the Bible an authentic record? Can we trust it’s contents? Are the eye witnesses credible? If so then faith becomes reasonable because it rests upon factual evidence even though we do not understand the power which accomplished the miracle.

      https://spiritualfood.blog/2016/03/30/a-book-we-can-trust-part-1/:

      God is Just. Justice is a basic concept necessary for society to exist. As a Just judge God requires, his law demands punishment. Yet His Son took the guilt of our sin and suffered accordingly. This was the price for our redemption. Redemption by the payment of blood was rooted in Old Testament theology. Atonement by blood shedding is a vital component of God’s revealed Revelation as the following blogs demonstrate:

      https://spiritualfood.blog/2016/01/30/the-feasts-and-offerings-11-the-day-of-atonement/

      https://spiritualfood.blog/2016/05/10/righteousness-without-the-law-romans-part-15/

      Nor is it true that the doctrine of imputed righteousness gives one a license to sin, rather if grace is at work there will be a hatred and repudiation of the same

      https://spiritualfood.blog/2016/06/09/the-old-nature-and-the-battle-with-sin-romans-part-32/

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      1. Time would fail me to quote the passages in which he plainly declares that He came to reveal the Divine truth to men, to bring the Divine life down to them, and to open their eyes to see it. He says nothing about satisfaction, about the payment of debt. He is the good Shepherd, the great Physician, the perfect Teacher, the faithful Exemplar in every work. He did come to make an atonement, to make us at one with Him and the Father who dwells within Him. He assumed a human Nature because He could not come to man in any other way. He did what a just, wise, and loving father would do. If one of your children had wandered from home, had spent all his living, was sick and dying, would you not do all in your power to save him? Would you not spend time, money, labor; would you not provide yourself with all the instrumentalities in your power that were necessary to reach him? And do you suppose that infinite love, compared with which your love is not so much as a drop of water to ,the ocean, would refuse to be reconciled to His lost and dying children until he had received full compensation for their sin; until there had been measured to Him, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe,” or an exact equivalent? It cannot be. Reason, Scripture, the perceptions of justice and mercy which the Lord has given us, and the deep, spontaneous yearnings of our own hearts, declare it to be impossible. No, the Lord did not come into the world to satisfy the demands of an inflexible and arbitrary justice. He came rather to satisfy the demands of infinite love; not to pay a debt, but to reach the dying soul, to cleanse it from its impurities; to heal its diseases; to mould it into His own image and likeness, and fill it with His own peace and blessedness.

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      2. God could not be God if He loved at the expense of justice. He cannot deny His Law. John 3:16 are the words of Christ Himself. He came to die, the death of the Cross, to give His life a ransom for the many.

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      3. ATONEMENT

        When a man eats too much of any food, however wholesome it may be, he eats forbidden fruit; when he violates any law of health he eats fruit forbidden by those laws, which are Divine laws, written in his organization; and he cannot violate them without dying to the exact extent of their violation. Man’s sin consisted in departing from the laws of spiritual life, and consequently he began to die. Death followed as an inevitable consequence, and not from an arbitrary infliction of the Divine vengeance. The Lord did not change. His love did not turn to hatred. Man changed, and because he began to suffer pain, he attributed it to the Lord. He knew he had received all his joys from the Lord, and he could not be made to understand that he did not receive the pain which was caused by his sins, from Him also. This is the reason the Lord is represented as angry, in the Bible. It was an apparent truth, and is the highest man could then be made to understand. But the real truth is, that the Lord did not change from love to hate; the only change was in man.Our doctrines teach us that the Lord came to take away our sins. They direct us to fasten our whole thought and attention upon the sin, and never confound it with the punishment. They teach us to shun all evils, as sins against God, and not because they entail punishment; to pray to be saved from the penalty while we cherish the sin is hypocrisy, and can have no avail with the Lord.

        On the contrary, the doctrine of the Christian Church looks primarily to the penalty; when it says sin it means punishment. This is the legitimate result of the whole theory; and it is a most fatal mistake, for it leads men to believe that they can be saved from mere mercy, and that salvation consists, essentially, in the Lord’s consent to remit the penalty of sin; that repentance consists really in being sorry that we are going to be damned, rather than that we have acted against so much goodness….You will observe that this places the necessity for our Lord’s sufferings upon an entirely different ground from the common theology. That declares that they were the penalty demanded by the Father and suffered by the Son; this affirms that they were the necessary consequence of the work He performed. The one declares that the Father punished the Son instead of the sinners; the other that He Himself came to save the sinner, regardless of the suffering that must attend the assumption and glorification of the nature He assumed; one doctrine declares, that punishment is the end of His coming, as the only means of saving men, the other that it was entirely incidental. One doctrine primarily regards the penalty of sin, the other the sin itself.
        The question, then, naturally arises, What did His sufferings effect? if they did not pay the debt due to a violated justice, what did they contribute to human Salvation? I answer, Much, in Many ways, but nothing in the way commonly supposed.
        They set forth in the clearest and most forcible manner the nature and extent of the Divine love. There are innumerable ways in which love can manifest itself. The whole universe manifests the love of the Lord. Our friends declare their love for us by speech and deed, but never so forcibly and clearly as by suffering for us. “Greater love bath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” If we have an abundance, it is easy enough to give. When the heart is full of love, it is painful not to show it by word and deed……. But when we forego our own delights, suffer ignominy and pain and the most cruel torments, and even death itself, for others, without any expectation of return, we give the highest test of our love. We prove that it is pure, unselfish, and the strongest principle within us, and it would seem impossible for any human being to be unaffected by it.
        Suppose it was now made known to you for the first time, that some one, from pure love to you, had watched over you with the most untiring assiduity; had omitted no occasion to do you a service; had suffered privation, pain, ignominy; had labored for your good; had fought and overcome your enemies; had denied himself in everything, and taken upon himself every suffering that he might save you from sorrow; could you remain entirely unmoved by it? And if, at the same time, you should discover that you had been acting contrary to his will, and doing all in your power to oppose him; would not your heart be filled with shame and sorrow? How, then, can we fail to be affected by the Lord’s love for us, when we see what He has suffered for us from pure mercy? Bring it home to yourself as a distinct fact, that God Himself loves you with such an unselfish, infinite love; that He has voluntarily suffered what no merely human being could suffer, that He might save you from your sins, from the cause of all your sufferings, and bestow upon you eternal and perfect blessedness! Can you remain unaffected by such a view of the Divine character?……This is one of those important central points on which great principles turn, and become great truths or great errors. It is, therefore, worthy of our careful consideration. The point is this: While suffering is necessary to our salvation, it contributes nothing essential to it. It was what our Lord did for us that saved us, and not what He suffered. Suppose He could have assumed a human nature and glorified it, without suffering, He could have brought His life and power down to us in the same way, and with the same saving efficacy that He has now; for it would have been the same life, and would have operated in the same way. His sufferings make it no more powerful, and no less. They do not affect the result in any way. If His sufferings and death were a penalty which He paid for sin, in man’s stead, as is commonly supposed, then they were the important and only essential thing in the work of man’s salvation. But if He came to remove our sins, to heal our spiritual diseases, to open our eyes, to give strength to our palsied limbs, to raise us up from spiritual death by infusing His own life into us, it was the life we received that saved us, and not the pain it caused Him to do the work.

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      4. In historic Reformed Theology there are two aspects to Christ!s imputed righteousness. There is the positive – the life that he lived for us. He spent 33 years weaving a robe of righteousness by living a perfect life in a human. body. The second part is the negative – In that Human body he then died having experienced the transfer of our guilt. Essential to our understanding of the Gospel is the transfer of the guilt of sin. Our guilt was imputed or charged to His account in order that His righteousness might be imputed or credited to our account. He is the anti type of the Levitical Scapegoat which had the sins of Israel placed upon it’s head. The crowning piece of Christ’s redemptive work s not the blood shedding but the Resurrection. In Paul’s words He was delivered for our offences and raised for our justification. The acceptance of Christ’s work by the Father was manifested in His Resurrection. Therefore because He lives we live also.

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