Tuesday, 25 October 2016 13:39

The One Blessed Trinity

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The Christian faith in God, the one blessed Trinity! That is our theme for today’s broadcast. To be truthful with you, I feel both most inadequate to preach on this subject and yet also most enthused to speak on this theme. I mean, when thinking of and considering the theme of God being One God in Three Persons and Three Persons yet One God, it is a matter of unfathomable mystery and infinite depths and heights way beyond our finite comprehension.  Still, inasmuch as you and I can understand it and grow in believing and adoring and serving God as Triune God, how much foundation, and blessing and confidence and joy this doctrine may give us! God being the Triune God is a key doctrine of the Christian faith, never to lose sight of if it is well with our soul. The aim today is that you and I truly appreciate and adore and advance this gospel doctrine of God being Triune.

For sure, any true and growing worship and praise to God in our lives is very related to confessing Him as Triune God.  One God, yes, clearly and definitely only one God, yet in Three Persons, with the Persons being God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All three persons are equal also in every way, with no person of the three less than another, at any time, in any way.  However,  while maintaining this, we also must say God the Father is always first, and God the Son always second, and God the Holy Spirit always third in the works and ways of God. Each divine Person of the Trinity has their own specific rank and work but all the Trinity is always mutually involved in and with everything God ever does, whether in regards to creation, or redemption, or re-creation.  Again, there is so much mystery and marvel in and with God Triune that we never can get to the bottom of it, but yet enough can be understood to realize and rejoice in God Triune as just so infinitely wonderful and most perfect one only true God indeed!

For true Christians, the teaching of God being the Triune God is essential to the Christian faith and gospel message, something also taught in the three Christian ecumenical creeds, the so-called Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed. The Athanasian Creed states: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. Then at the very end of this lengthy detailed creed you have these final lines: This is the catholic faith [meaning universal Christian faith], which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved. 

Yes, dear friends, this is orthodox Christian teaching bringing out how important and crucial this doctrine of the Trinity truly is for us.  The power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it is the gospel of salvation from the one Triune God over all! To proclaim this gospel of the Triune God of salvation more concretely, in the remainder of our time let us consider the following three points about the Trinity.

 1. The sure basis of God being Triune God

 2. The supreme beauty of God being Triune God

 3. The special benefits of God being Triune God.

When we speak of the sure basis of God being Triune God, immediately we have to say, the revelation of this truth about God is not of ourselves. No human being could ever have come up with it, not even in our highly advanced technical and computer world of today. The teaching of God being Triune God is of divine origin and no one in all the world could ever have thought up this gospel truth and glorious reality about God being Triune God. This also explains how in every false religion and sect and cult from man’s own making, there is no belief in the Triune God, and in fact, always denial and disbelief of this glorious unfathomable gospel reality. 

The doctrine of the Trinity comes from the Bible alone, God’s holy, inspired, infallible word. That is the sure basis, and it is sure because it is in God’s Word and God’s Word is clear and God’s Word is the absolute truth. There are absolutely no lies about the one true God in the Holy Bible, none whatsoever, but only the astounding gospel truth.  From the Bible, both in the Old Testament and New Testament, we learn emphatically and repeatedly there is only one true God. Christians are monotheists.  We don’t believe in many gods, but only one God.  At the same time we learn though God is ONE essentially, and totally, and unchangeably, sovereignly so, from eternity to eternity, yet He is One God in Three Persons.  Three divine Persons in one Godhead, each co-equal and co-eternal with no inferiority nor inequality between them but Three in one in perfect harmony in their essence altogether and in perfect diversity too in all their wondrous works and ways. 

This Christian conviction about this one only true God is not a development from philosophical reasoning but more a matter of sound reflection from the facts of God’s holy Word in all the Bible. While the Old Testament gives many hints of the truth about God being Triune, it emphasizes more that God is One God, and the New Testament with Jesus the Saviour brings out this one God is clearly and essentially and always and wonderfully Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As one put it: The doctrine of the Trinity was not revealed as a series of [man-made] sentences or propositions, [but] it was God’s work of salvation which finally made it clear.

The sure basis then of the doctrine is simply God’s holy Word in all its 66 books, the Old and New Testament together. Q&A 25 of the 16th century Heidelberg Catechism brings this out faithfully and profoundly when it teaches in regards to the Trinity: Since there is but one only divine essence, why do you speak of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? ANSWER: Because God has so revealed Himself in His Word, that these three distinct persons are the one only true and eternal God.  What a powerful child-like faith answer is here given to us. 

And now to show indeed some of the Biblical basis further for the Trinity let me simply read to you Article 9 of the 1561 Belgic Confession which gives the Scriptural basis for this key Christian doctrine. The article says then in defense of God being one God in three Persons:      

All this we know, as well from the testimonies of holy writ, as from their operations, and chiefly by those we feel in ourselves. The testimonies of the Holy Scriptures, that teach us to believe this Holy Trinity are written in many places of the Old Testament, which are not so necessary to enumerate, as to choose them out with discretion and judgment. In Genesis, chap. 1:26, 27, God says: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, etc. So God created man in his own image, male and female created he them. And Gen. 3:22. Behold the man is become as one of us. From this saying, let us make man in our image, it appears that there are more persons than one in the Godhead; and when he says, God created, he signifies the unity. It is true he does not say how many persons there are, but that, which appears to us somewhat obscure in the Old Testament, is very plain in the New. For when our Lord was baptized in Jordan, the voice of the Father was heard, saying, This is my beloved Son: the Son was seen in the water, and the Holy Ghost appeared in the shape of a dove. This form is also instituted by Christ in the baptism of all believers. Baptize all nations, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. In the Gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel thus addressed Mary, the mother of our Lord, the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, therefore also that holy thing, which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God: likewise, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you. And there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one. In all which places we are fully taught, that there are three persons in one only divine essence. And although this doctrine far surpasses all human understanding, nevertheless, we now believe it by means of the Word of God, but expect hereafter to enjoy the perfect knowledge and benefit thereof in Heaven. Moreover, we must observe the particular offices and operations of these three persons towards us. The Father is called our Creator, by his power; the Son is our Saviour and Redeemer, by his blood; the Holy Ghost is our Sanctifier, by his dwelling in our hearts. This doctrine of the Holy Trinity, has always been defended and maintained by the true Church, since the time of the apostles, to this very day, against the Jews, Mohammedans, and some false christians and heretics, as Marcion, Manes, Praxeas, Sabellius, Samosatenus, Arius, and such like, who have been justly condemned by the orthodox fathers. Therefore, in this point, we do willingly receive the three creeds, namely, that of the Apostles, of Nice, and of Athanasius: likewise that, which, conformable thereunto, is agreed upon by the ancient fathers.

This article of Christian teaching is part of the Reformation heritage from the faithful, back to the Bible preachers and teachers of the 16th century. Articles 11 and 12 of the Belgic Confession go on to show from Scripture how both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are each definitely true and eternal God together with the Father. The Scriptures ascribe very clearly in different places divine names, and divine characteristics, and divine worship, and divine works  to not only God the Father but to Jesus, God the Son too, and to the Holy Spirit as well.  You can’t carefully and prayerfully read the Bible without learning there is only one true God and that one true God is God Triune, God in Three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And to see now further how important and glorious it is to maintain and hold on to this amazing wonderful truth about the God of the Bible, the only true God that exists, let us go now to our second point, moving from the sure basis of this doctrine to the supreme beauty of this doctrine that God is Triune God. 

Again with this second point about the supreme beauty of the Triune God, the challenge is to limit what is said now. But consider with me how because of the indisputable fact that God is Triune God, we can know for certain the following beautiful gospel truths.

1. How endlessly independent is God truly. Exactly because God is Triune God, one God in Three Persons, we can be most certain of Him never needing anything or anyone outside of Himself.  God can be eternal love and goodness and everlasting wisdom and justice and joy all within His Triune Being.  From eternity to eternity the one only God, revealed to us in the Bible, needs no one or nothing outside of His infinite, delightful, everlasting Triune Being.  How different this is from the gods of man’s own making.  When you deny that God is Triune you, in fact, make a god somehow in some way dependent on others.  For example, a single God of one Person only can’t be loving without an object of love. So that God has to find an object of love, and becomes dependent on people like us to show love and to be loved. But the God of the Bible is not like this.  In His Triune Being there is endless eternal self-sufficiency and it all makes so much sense when we understand and believe what the Bible teaches that God is Triune God, one only God in Three distinct Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

2. Not only does the teaching of the Trinity help us understand how God can be and is endlessly independent, but it helps us understand too how endlessly wonderful God is in Himself and by Himself. The Bible teaches us God is so infinitely kind and good, just and pure, righteous and loving, and happy in all His works and ways. And just remembering how the Godhead in the Three Persons thereof enjoy this everlasting intimate divine life together in perfect unity and harmony, in the midst of immeasurable perfect diversity too, helps make it so much clearer what a great and glorious God is the LORD our God, the Triune God of the Bible.  The God fully revealed to us in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners. Who can tell and describe the eternal bond of infinite love and trust and joy within the Godhead between the three distinct Persons of the Trinity?

Honestly, because God is Triune as the Bible teaches us, you and I have every reason to believe in the one only true God, in His eternal existence and everlasting goodness and glory.  Any god who is less than Triune is by virtue of that fact not a wonderful god nor a self-sufficient or believable god really. It is always most unreasonable and foolhardy to believe in the idol gods of man’s making while forever most reasonable to believe in the one Triune God of the Bible.  Dear friends, don’t let the doctrine of the Trinity be for you just a meaningless mystery but rather a meaningful marvel, for truly it is most marvelous, proving God to be, indeed, eternally independent God and eternally wonderful God. 

3. Surely, thinking of God Triune, don’t we have to say also, He is superbly exceptional?  Again here it is important to state the Christian God is not like any god of this world.  The Triune God of the Bible is unique and incomparable to all else and even the many attempts to illustrate the Trinity from things in this world and our lives just utterly fail fully to describe Him! When people then compare the God of the Bible to the idol gods of man’s own wicked devising, how sad and wrong they are in insisting all religions really worship the same god. Recently when in a place in Canada a church building was bought by a Muslim group to change it into a mosque, a so called Christian minister then stated: I am delighted it will remain as a place of worship. I believe we only have one God.....some see it as the Prophet Mohammed and others as Jesus, thereby implying that is all fine and well.

But this is in total contradiction and denial of the one true God of the Holy Bible. What an offense and blasphemous evil to compare the Christian God to the monotheist unfeeling idol god of the Jews or the Muslims, or to the polytheist gods of Buddhism and Hinduism, or to the false monotheist god of the Mormons and the Jehovah Witnesses. Our God, the Christian’s Triune God, is the God forever infinitely incomparable and incomprehensible, and that makes Him not less desirable but more desirable, not less believable but more believable.  What? Will you serve a god little different than yourself, or rather believe in the one true God, God Triune, so superbly exceptional and exceptionally superb, uniquely so, that always He is greater than you or I can ever imagine Him to be? How utterly foolish and wicked to turn from Him, the one only Triune God, to the false and lifeless, useless, senseless idol gods of man’s own making. 

How important in this regard to take care to have and to maintain the belief and understanding of God being Triune God and seeing something of the sure basis for this gospel truth, and the supreme beauty thereof.  How many and various, and subtle and sly, are the relentless attacks against the doctrine of God being Triune God.  The early church wrestled through this key doctrine for us against many heresies, and we have their prayerful, carefully constructed, Biblically balanced confessional statements about the Trinity in the ecumenical and 16th &17th century Reformation Creeds which we do well to treasure much and not to waver from. New books about the Trinity that are faithful and edifying are only those which are wholly in submission to Scripture and the faithful Reformed confessions. It is so easy to err in one way or another about the precise, marvelous, unfathomable doctrine of the Triune God. But may God keep you and me faithful in truly believing and loving and defending the precious doctrine of God being Triune God as taught to us in the Holy Bible.

Yes, not only because of its sure basis and supreme beauty, but notice yet this.

4. Its special benefits or splendid blessings. And again, I can only be so very brief now. But because God is Triune God, therefore everything in the Bible can make so much more sense, and being cared for by the God of the Bible becomes so much more awesome. I’m created by the one true God who is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, all in one Godhead but three distinct Persons. I’m cared for by this same Triune God in the daily providences of life day and night. And most wonderful of all, when by grace through faith I am a Christian, I have God Triune as my precious Father, and my blessed Saviour, and my wonderful Comforter altogether, and also in and with and each Person in a special way.

The gospel tidings of God seeking and saving sinners, sending His only begotten Son for this otherwise hopeless mission, is so great! And the gospel of Jesus, God’s beloved Son from eternity, so willingly coming here and going to the cross of Calvary and giving His life a ransom for many is so wonderful! And then too the gospel of God the Holy Spirit being sent forth both from the Father and the Son to minister in divine might and grace this rich gospel of salvation in the minds and hearts of His people, for whoever repents and believes, is just so powerful and most awesome, and incredible!  It shows us something of the infinite wisdom and love, goodness and justice, holiness and grace, and power of the one only true God as could otherwise never be known or shown to us!

The Triune God of salvation is the God who is out to save sinners and have them, each of His redeemed ones, to know and participate in the divine wonder and joy and glory of the Triune God Himself! The salvation of totally depraved sinners becomes so much more grand and sure and gracious and glorious when thinking of it involving the electing, drawing love of God the Father towards us, and of the saving, redeeming love of God the Son for us, and of the almighty patient loving ministry of God the Holy Spirit in us. It is amazing and astounding Who the God of salvation is for us as Triune God and what He has done and does do and yet will do for us as Triune God of Salvation, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thinking too of the pursuit of perfect unity and perfect diversity in our fallen world, where can it be really and wonderfully discovered and embraced and reflected but from our Triune God of creation and redemption and re-creation? This fallen blind world is awash in terrible imbalance and chaos on every front because of not knowing and rejecting the one only God, the Triune God of the Bible. Oh, that the Christian church would proclaim and prize once again the God of the Bible in His triune being and grace and glory!  Isn’t this something to pray and care about also in our perilous times? Don’t let the doctrine of the Trinity become a matter of outdated formulas but rather living, loving, throbbing, Christian gospel for you and me! For that is what it truly is and why God reveals Himself so to us in His Word.  Here just think of the God-inspired exhortation we find in vs.20-21 in the book of Jude encouraging all true Christians in distinction from all unbelievers and heathen: “But ye beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”  You see all three Persons of the Trinity mentioned there as essential and necessary in becoming and remaining true Christians focused on God and His love! 

Are you, by God’s grace, so living in spirit and truth, believing in and relying upon the one true God, God Triune? In Jesus’ name I call and invite all of you truly to know and believe in the one only true God and that He is the Triune God.  If you won’t believe this teaching, it means disowning Scripture, and denying God, and remaining unsaved.  May the glory of the faithful Christian doctrine of the Trinity so attract you and me and bless us and strengthen us in the Christian faith and testimony while we live our brief earthly journey now.

In this regard I can’t help but mention yet the beautiful closing lines of 20th century Reformed theologian, Herman Bavinck, when after writing almost 80 full pages on God as Triune God he concluded with saying the following: The doctrine of the Trinity is of incalculable importance for the Christian religion…It is the core of the Christian faith, the root of all its dogmas, the basic content of the new covenant. ….In the doctrine of the Trinity we feel the heartbeat of God’s entire revelation for the redemption of humanity. Though foreshadowed in the Old Testament, it only comes to light fully in Christ.  [When we are Christians by God’s grace], we know ourselves to be children of the Father, redeemed by the Son, and in communion with both through the Holy Spirit. Every blessing, both spiritual and material, comes to us from the triune God. In that name we are baptized; that name sums up our confession; that name is the source of all the blessings that come down to us; to that name [of God Triune], we will forever bring thanksgiving and honor; in that name we find rest for our souls and peace for our conscience. Christians have a God above them, before them, and within them. Our salvation, both in this life and in the life to come, is bound up with the doctrine of the Trinity…..

Are you in agreement with such glowing Christian testimony concerning the one only God, the blessed Trinity? Even so, I close now then with the words of the poet who wrote in praise to God Triune:

To the great One in Three

Eternal praises be

Hence evermore.

His sovereign majesty

May we in glory see,

And to eternity—

Love and adore!

In Jesus Name, yes, now and forevermore Amen!

Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor

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