Doctrine of God 0003 - Lesson 1

  1. THE NATURE OF GOD
    1. Introduction to the Trinity
      1. The scriptural revelation of God comes in four ways:
        1. The Bible displays the works of God (Psalm 104:24)
        2. The Bible declares the names of God (Exodus 6:1-3; Exodus 33:17-19)
        3. The Bible defines the attributes of God (Psalm 145:3-9)
        4. The Bible discloses the essence of God in the Trinity (1 John 5:7)
      2. The trinity, being a name we give to our best understanding of the inner being of God, must fall far short of the reality. Here are some definitions of the trinity:
        1. “The Trinity of God is His tri-personal existence as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the nature of the one God, there are three eternal distinctions which are represented to us under the figure of persons, and these three are equal. This tri-personality of the Godhead is exclusively a truth of revelation.” –Emery H. Bancroft in Christian Theology (p.71).
        2. “There is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence.” –Benjamin Warfield in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (5:3012).
        3. The unity of the essence of the Godhead is expressed and has real existence in the plurality of the three persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
      3. The doctrine of the trinity is beyond human understanding. “That three beings should be one being, is a proposition which contradicts reason, that is, our reason; but it does not from thence follow, that it cannot be true; for there are many propositions which contradict our reason, and yet they are demonstrably true. One is, that very first principle of all religion, the being of God. For, that any thing should exist without a cause, or that any thing should be the cause of its own existence, are propositions equally contradictory to our reason; yet one of them must be true, or nothing could have existed. All these difficulties arise from our imagining that the mode of existence of all beings must be similar to our own, that is, that they must exist in time and space, and hence proceed our embarrassments on the subject. We know that no two beings, with whose modes of existence we are acquainted, can exist on the same point and space, and that therefore they cannot be one. But how far beings whose mode of existence bears no relation to time and space, may be united we cannot comprehend. And, therefore, the possibility of such a union we cannot positively deny.” –from 50 Years Among the Baptists by David Benedict (p.154-155).
      4. The importance of the study of the Trinity
        1. A true understanding of God and His working cannot be obtained without some understanding of the Trinity. It is one of the two great mysteries of the New Testament (along with Jesus being both God and man). We need to have a basic knowledge of this critical doctrine.
        2. It is a doctrine much taken for granted today. This causes many Bible students to accept its validity on the basis of a couple of simple proof texts without any depth of knowledge of the historical and doctrinal issues involved. This shallow understanding in turn opens many up to the influence of false teachers who know the subject from their standpoint much better than the orthodox believers. Historically within a group, a doctrine is established with much study and depth of understanding. Then, with each proceeding generation the knowledge of that doctrine (though still believed) is more and more shallow. Finally, many are led astray by false teachers who know their doctrine much better than the followers of true doctrine.
        3. It is opposed by the major cults (like the Mormons and the Jehovah Witnesses) and we need to be ready to give an answer to them of what we believe (1 Peter 3:15).
        4. Among major world religions (especially Judaism and Islam), it is one of the most maligned doctrines of Christianity. It can also be taken as permission for more than one god by polytheistic religions (like Hinduism and Buddhism). Therefore, in order to witness to people who follow these religions, we must have a thorough understanding of the trinity.
      5. Problems concerning the doctrine of the trinity
        1. Clearly, the doctrine of the trinity in its fullness is beyond human understanding. Can we believe a doctrine that we cannot understand?
        2. How can one God be found in three persons?
        3. If there are three distinct persons who each are God, are we still polytheists believing in more than one God?
        4. The doctrine of the trinity is not found in any complete statement in the Bible; the word, trinity, is not even used in the Bible. How can we believe such a crucial doctrine that is not directly stated in scripture?
    2. The Basic Proofs of the Trinity
      1. God is one. The oneness of God can be best seen in the three biblical senses of God’s oneness
        1. His numerical oneness; that is, there is only one God.
          1. He is by number one Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29)
          2. He is only one God (Malachi 2:10; Mark 12:32; Galatians 3:20; James 2:19).
        2. His uniqueness; that is, there is none other like Him.
          1. God is the only God; that is, there is none else beside Him (Exodus 20:1-4; Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; 1 Kings 8:60; Psalm 86:10).
          2. God is the only God who is really God; all else are impostors (1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 7:22; Isaiah 44:6-8; Jeremiah 10:10; John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6).
        3. His unity; that is, there is no division within the Godhead
          1. In His works
            1. God is the only source of all creation (2 Kings 19:15; Nehemiah 9:6).
            2. God is the only source of salvation (Isaiah 45:22; Zechariah 14:9; 1 Timothy 2:5).
          2. In the trinity
            1. The oneness of the Son with the Father (John 10:30)
            2. The oneness of the Spirit with the Son (John 16:13)
            3. Note: this will be dealt with in the section on the relationships within the trinity.
      2. God is three persons.
        1. The plurality of God in the Old Testament
          1. The plurality of God in pronoun usage
            1. The plurality of God in creation
              1. “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26-27)
              2. Note: as God is a three in one being, so is man (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
            2. The plurality of God at the time of the fall: “Behold, the man is become as one of us” (Genesis 3:22)
            3. The plurality of God at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:5-8)
            4. The plurality of God at the call of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:8)
          2. Other instances of the plurality of God
            1. “The LORD said unto my Lord” (Psalm 110:1)
            2. God to save them by the LORD their God (Hosea 1:6-7)
            3. The Lord as messenger and the LORD of hosts (Malachi 3:1)
        2. The suggestions of trinity in the Old Testament
          1. God, the Spirit, and the Word (Genesis 1:1-3)
          2. The threefold priestly blessing (Numbers 6:24-26); compare with the threefold blessing of 2 Corinthians 13:14.
          3. The LORD, His Word, and the breath of His mouth (Psalm 33:6)
          4. O God, thy God, and the oil (Psalm 45:6-7)
          5. God as judge, lawgiver, and king (Isaiah 33:22).
          6. The Lord GOD, his Spirit, and the Sent One (Isaiah 48:16).
          7. Threefold references to the LORD (Jeremiah 33:2; Daniel 9:19)
          8. The Spirit, the LORD, and the Prophet (Isaiah 61:1)
          9. The Lord, the Angel of His Presence, and His Holy Spirit (Isaiah 63:7-10)
          10. The threefold declarations of holiness (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8)
          11. The LORD, the Spirit remaining with them, and the Desire of all nations (Messiah) coming to the Temple (Haggai 2:5-7).
        3. The identification of the three distinct persons of the Godhead in the Old Testament.
          1. Father (Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8)
          2. Spirit (Job 33:4; Isaiah 48:16; Isaiah 61:1)
          3. Son
            1. As the Son (Psalm 2:7; Proverbs 30:4; Isaiah 9:6)
            2. As the Word (Genesis 1:3; Psalm 147:18)
            3. As Wisdom (Proverbs 8:22-30)
            4. As the Angel of the Lord (Genesis 24:40; Genesis 48:16; Exodus 3:1-6; Exodus 23:20-23; Isaiah 63:9)
        4. The manifestations of trinity in the New Testament
          1. Benjamin Warfield, in his Biblical Doctrines (p.141-142), summarizes the revelation of the Trinity in the two testaments: “The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted; the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what is in it but was only dimly or even not at all perceived before. The mystery of the Trinity is not revealed in the Old Testament; but the mystery of the Trinity underlies the Old Testament revelation, and here and there almost comes into view. Thus the Old Testament revelation is not corrected by the fuller revelation which follows it, but only perfected, extended and enlarged.”
          2. In the creation of the world
            1. The Father, of whom are all things (1 Corinthians 8:6)
            2. Jesus Christ, by whom are all things (1 Corinthians 8:6; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2)
            3. The Spirit, who moved in creation (Genesis 1:2; Psalm 104:30)
          3. In the birth of Christ (Luke 1:35)
            1. The Holy Ghost
            2. The Highest
            3. The Son of God
          4. At the baptism of Christ (Matthew 3:16-17)
            1. Jesus baptized
            2. Spirit like a dove
            3. Voice of the Father from heaven
          5. In the resurrection of Christ
            1. The power of Christ to give His life and to take it again (John 10:17-18)
            2. Raised up by God (Acts 2:24, 32; Acts 3:15, 26; Acts 4:10; Acts 5:30)
            3. Quickened by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18)
          6. In the exaltation of Christ (Acts 2:33).
          7. In the salvation of the lost (1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 9:14).
        5. The statements of trinity in the New Testament
          1. In the formula for baptism (Matthew 28:19)
          2. The Father, the Son, and the Comforter (John 14:16, 26; John 15:26)
          3. In the work of the ministry (Romans 15:16, 30).
          4. In the working of the gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-6); Note: in the epistles of Paul, he normally (as here) uses “God” to refer to the Father, “Lord” to refer to the Son, and “Spirit” to refer to the Holy Ghost.
          5. In the blessing of Paul (2 Corinthians 13:14)
          6. In the adoption of the believer (Galatians 4:6)
          7. In our access to God (Ephesians 2:18)
          8. In the oneness of the Godhead (Ephesians 4:4-6)
          9. In the election of the believer (1 Peter 1:2)
          10. In our faith in the incarnation (1 John 4:2)
          11. In the formula of John (1 John 5:7)
          12. In the life of the believer (Jude 1:20-21)
          13. In the introduction of Revelation (Revelation 1:4-6)
      3. Each of the three persons is fully God.
        1. The deity of the Father (John 8:41; John 20:17; Romans 15:6; James 3:9)
        2. The deity of the Son (Matthew 1:23; John 1:1-3; John 20:28; Acts 20:28; Romans 9:5; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 1 John 5:20)
        3. The deity of the Spirit (Acts 5:3-4; Hebrews 2:4)
David Reagan

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 25:2

It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.