Sermon Study Guide

 
 

The Trinity

Answers (Lesson 4) - Oct. 17, 2021 - Rev. Alan Cousins

 

Text: Selected Scriptures from the NASB

 

Introduction: In our last lesson, we discussed how we can prove that God exists.

 

Today, we are going to examine another of God's attributes. However, this one is very difficult to fully wrap our minds around.

 

I.  THE GODHEAD IN CREATION (Gen. 1:1-3; Ps. 33:6; Heb. 11:3; Jn. 1:1-5)

 

Genesis 1:1-3

 

God and the Holy Spirit are the main characters in these verses.

 

We are told that God created and the Spirit hovered.

 

These events took place on Day One of Creation, at the beginning of time as we know it.

 

We gather from the passage that God was responsible for the Creation.

 

Concerning the nature of God, God is the Creator, and He has a Spirit.

 

Psalm 33:6 & Hebrews 11:3

 

These verses connect to Genesis 1:1-3 in this way: In Genesis 1:3, God spoke to create the light. In Psalm 33:6, the heavens were made “by the word of the Lord.” And in Hebrews 11:3, we are told that “the universe was created by the word of God.”

 

John 1:1-5

 

The parallel between John’s words and the previous three passages is that all of them refer to something spoken -- the Word, God said, the word of God, and the word of the Lord. Jesus is called the Word of God; He is the Word incarnate. The Word of God in John 1 is the Son of God who took on flesh. Before that, He existed with the Father and the Spirit. In Genesis 1, we can see the presence of the Father directing the work of creation through His Word, the Son, and accomplished by the working of the Spirit.

 

II.  THE GREAT THREE IN ONE (Isa. 44:23-24; Col. 1:15-17; Ps. 104:30)

 

Isaiah 44:23-24

 

This section of the prophet Isaiah is actually poetry.

 

The reason we know this is because the parts of creation described here in are not actually shouting or singing as they glorify God for His mighty acts of creation. This is a figure of speech called an anthropomorphism where things that are not human are given human attributes. The mountains can’t literally sing, but they offer praise to God just as people do. When we read Biblical poetry, we must read the passage and consider what the author intended to communicate.

 

In these verses God is being praised for His redemption of Israel and His creative acts.

 

According to verse 24, God has formed each person in the womb, made all things, and stretched out the heavens.

 

It also clearly lets us know that God was alone when He did His creative works.

 

Does this mean that this verse contradicts our previous conclusion? No. Since we know that God does not and cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18), either our previous conclusion is wrong, or another explanation can reconcile these two ideas. It is very clear that both the Word and the Spirit were present with God the Father at creation, so there must be another explanation that will harmonize these two apparently contradictory statements.

 

The concept of the Trinity -- that God is one, yet three Persons, reconciles these ideas.

 

Colossians 1:15-17

 

When we trace the pronouns used in these verses back to verse 13, the reference is to Jesus (God’s beloved Son). So here, Jesus is described as the agent of the creation of all things.

 

Psalm 104:30

 

Once again, we must trace the pronoun back to its subject in verse 24, and we find that the agent of creation is the Spirit of God, just as we saw in Genesis 1.

 

When we put all of these passages together, they inform us that the Creator is God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. All three Persons are said to have been involved in the acts of creation and in sustaining life on the earth.

 

The clearest passages of Scripture that show us there are indeed three members of the Godhead are Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, and Luke 3:21-22.

 


III. THE BAPTISM OF JESUS (Mt. 3:13-17)

 

Matthew 3:13-17

 

In this passage, John the Baptizer is baptizing Jesus.

 

All three Persons of the Trinity are present in this passage. The Son is being baptized, the Father is the voice from heaven, and the Spirit appears in the form of a dove.

 

While this passage does NOT support the idea of the Trinity, it does however verify the idea of three Persons in the Godhead.

 

We must exercise caution because taken by itself, this passage could be used to support the idea of tritheism, which is the worship of three distinct gods that are not members of one Godhead.

 

Trinitarian Heresies:

 

Ÿ Sabellianism/Modalism: named for a third-century teacher, Sabellius, this idea suggests that God acts in three different “modes” but is only one Person. God appeared as the “Father” in the Old Testament, as “Jesus” in the earthly ministry, and as the “Spirit” in the present age. (See: Jn. 1:1).

 

Ÿ Arianism: Named for the fourth century teacher Arius who taught that Jesus and the Holy Spirit were created by God the Father. This idea was condemned at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. (See: Jn. 1:1; Col. 1:15-18).

 

Ÿ Subordinationism: Jesus and the Holy Spirit are eternal, divine beings, but they are of a lesser nature than the Father. (See: Jn. 17:5; Heb. 1:3).

 

Ÿ Adoptionism: This view teaches that Jesus was an ordinary man until, at His baptism, when He was adopted by the Father, given supernatural powers, and the status of “Son of God.” (See: Col. 2:8-10).

 

Ÿ Unitarianism: This view holds that there is a single God with no distinct Persons. Whether Jesus or the Father is God varies, but many present-day Unitarians reject the pre-existence of Jesus, insisting that He began to exist at the virgin birth. (See: Mt. 3:16-17).

 

Ÿ Tritheism/Polytheism: says the three Persons described in Scripture are actually three distinct gods. (See: Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10; 44:6-8).

 

The New Testament is abundantly clear that Jesus is God:

 

Ø Jesus claimed to be one with the Father (Jn. 10:30-33).

 

Ø He used the title “I AM” from the Old Testament (Jn. 8:23, 58).

 

Ø He demonstrated His power over nature, disease, demons, and death (Mt. 8).

 

Ø He forgave sins, which is something only God can do (Mk. 2:1-11).

 

It important to believe the Trinitarian doctrine and that Jesus is both God and man, because our very salvation depends on it.

 

     IV.  WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD IN THE WORD

 

The potential error of our three states of water analogy to describe the Trinity is dangerously close to the idea of Modalism since, as presented, the ice must melt to form water and then become vapor -- all three cannot be present at one time. This must be very carefully explained so that the analogy does not lead anyone astray.

 

For clarification, there is a condition in which ice, water, and steam can be present at the same time in the same container. It is called the triple point of water and is possible at a specific temperature and pressure (0.01 oC and 0.006037 atm). If you explain these conditions, then water becomes a reasonable analogy for the Trinity, but one that requires a technical explanation.

 

God Is a Trinity:

 

Ÿ Premise 1: There is only one God (see: Deut. 6:4; Isa. 44:23-24; 46:9).

 

Ÿ Premise 2: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all identified in Scripture as God (see: Gal. 1:1; Jn. 1:1; Acts 5:3-4).

 

Ÿ Premise 3: These three each relate to one another and to the world as distinct Persons (see: Mt. 3:13-17; Jn. 15:26).

 

Ÿ Conclusion: The one true God of the Bible has revealed Himself to exist in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

     V.  GOD’S WORD IN THE REAL WORLD

 

An understanding of the Trinity will help you become a more effective witness. You can also use this understanding to praise God for the way He works through each Person of the Trinity to accomplish His will and bring glory to Himself, especially in providing a way for sinful man to be reconciled to the Holy God.