Loved By the Triune God
Video presentation of this lesson
(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q:5-6)
by Bob Burridge ©2014
One of the most comforting things God tells us in his word, is that he not only made and rules over all things, but also that he dearly loves those he gathers to himself as his eternal family. In contrast with that, the most troubling fact in God’s word is that some in the world he made became his enemies. There was a very ancient rebellion in heaven, and it moved to earth were humanity was infected.
Since that time man’s ideas about God have been horribly confused and distorted. Pagan deities range from vague cosmic forces to comic book super-hero gods. In Ancient Greece and Rome, new god’s were conceived by adulterous super-gods. There were battles for supremacy, jealousies, and divine deceit. They were modeled after the image of fallen humanity.
The God revealed in the Bible is totally different. Since the Creator is obviously totally different from his creation, and since he is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in all his attributes as a Triune being, we should expect that our Heavenly Father would be difficult to describe. We are finite, temporal, and changeable in all our attributes. There is nothing in all of creation that is by its nature just like God.
One of the hardest concepts to grasp,
is that God exists eternally as a Trinity.
This is one of the teachings of the Bible that is admittedly not easy to understand. Attempts to compare the Trinity with things we’re familiar with will always confuse the issue. The Bible never gives us a direct comparison of the Trinity with created things. We should not do that either. We should not expect God’s basic nature to fit into our limited minds and human experience.
It s not that the truth of the Trinity is unclear in Scripture. It is one of the most universal doctrines of Christianity. Virtually all who call themselves Christian believe there is One God in Three Persons. It is the central issue in the Creeds that came from early church councils. There can’t be any doubt that the Bible teaches this basic fact. Not all understand it the same way though. Our fallen nature is inclined to confuse what God is by mixing it with non-biblical assumptions.
The idea of the Trinity was not invented by the early church councils. They met to correct serious errors about God’ nature, and to replace them with what the Bible actually teaches. The realty of the Trinity is drawn from Scripture only.
The Redeemed are saved by the work of Jesus Christ who is God the Son, and are indwelt by God the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught us to pray to God our Father who lives eternally in heaven. We pray through Jesus to the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. We call upon God the Son to save us, and to intercede for us to the Father. We ask the Holy Spirit to fill us to make us able to do what God calls us to do. These are daily concerns so we ought to know the nature of the One to whom we’re praying, and in whom we are placing our trust.
Knowing what God is, is important not only to theologians, Elders and Pastors, but to every believer who prays, and rests in his faithfulness, forgiveness and promises. What’s more, it is exciting to learn about the One who made us and everything else, and to be assured that we are loved by this Triune Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it in very simple and plain language.
Question 5. Are there more Gods than one?
Answer. There is but one only, the living and true God.
Question 6. How many persons are there in the Godhead?
Answer. There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.
First, it’s clear that there is only one God.
One of the oldest and most basic creeds of the Bible is found in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!”
Sometimes this verse is called the Shma’ because that’s the Hebrew word that begins this verse. Shma’ (שׁמע) means “hear what comes next”. It is like our modern expression, “Listen up!” This word draws our attention to what follows. It marks it as a very important fact. The word LORD in this verse is the Hebrew word for “Jehovah”, YHVH (יהוה) It says, “Jehovah is One”. He is singular, the only God who ever could be.
The First Commandment is found in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
There are many other places where this is directly stated in the Bible. It is hardly a truth that needs defense. No matter what people might personally believe, the Scriptures are clear that there is only one God. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all that is. He is the living and true God. Nothing could be more clear.
The idea of the Trinity does not teach that there are “three gods”.
Second, it’s clear that God eternally exists as three persons.
This doesn’t mean that God is three different people as if they meet as a committee. The word “person” has a very technical meaning here.
Also, it’s not that God just shows himself in three different ways at times, as if sometimes he acts like a Father, sometimes as a Son and other times as a Spirit. There is a separation that is different than anything else in the whole created universe.
There is no single verse in the Bible that states this fact of the Trinity. Some uninformed defenders of this doctrine sadly point to 1 John 5:7 as a proof text for the Trinity. The old King James Version has, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”
This verse was never used as a proof text of the Trinity by the early church councils. The Trinitarian part of that verse was added much later when a note in the margin of a Latin Bible was copied and translated into the later Greek text. It is not there in any of our ancient Greek texts.
If the Bible is taken as one unified word of God, it becomes very plain and obvious. There is One God only, but the one called the Father, the one called the Son, and the one called the Holy Spirit are each described as having all the attributes of this one true God.
First, God eternally exists as the Father.
Not many have questioned that the title of “Father” is appropriate for God. The Bible often uses this word to describe his care for his children. God oversees all of his creation as a father does over his own household. God is Father over all as the Creator and as Sovereign Head, but he’s specially the Spiritual Father to all who are redeemed in Christ. We’re called his children because, by grace, he made us part of his covenant family. Jesus prayed to him as his Father in the prayers recorded for us in Scripture.
God also exists eternally as the Son.
It is tragic that many focus so much on the human side of Jesus that they lose the wonder of his eternal deity. Our Savior was fully a human, but he is always also fully God.
John 1 tells us that he is not a created being. He is the Creator, the one who made all things. He tells us that the Son is eternal, and has been with the Father forever. This means his sonship has nothing to do with his being fathered by God in the sense of having a beginning. It has to do only with the mysterious relationship the persons of the Trinity share. Colossians 1:16 says this about Jesus, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”
Jesus showed submission to the Father’s will, which was never different than his own desires. Submission doesn’t mean he’s inferior to the Father. This is true even in human families as God set them up. The wife may be subject to her husband, but is never said to be inferior to him. Husbands, wives and all Christians are to be in subjection one to another (Ephesians 5:21). And the children are to be in subjection to their parents, but they’re never inferior to them. Jesus as a human child was subject to his parents as Luke 2:51 tells us, but he was never inferior to them.
We sometimes get the distorted idea that just because someone is given the responsibility of leadership, he is better than those he leads. Nothing could be further from the Biblical picture of headship, even within the Trinity.
Not only is God the Son the eternal Creator, who is in every way truly and fully God, he is also directly identified with the covenant name of God, Jehovah ( יְהוָ֥ה ). Joel 2:32 tells us that whoever calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved. Acts 2:21 applies this verse directly to Jesus, and in Acts 4:12 it says that there is no other name by which we’re saved but Jesus.
In Isaiah 43:10 we’re told ” ‘you are my witnesses,’ declares Jehovah”, and in Acts 1:8 it says that we are to be witnesses of Jesus to all the world.
John the baptist is said in John 1:23 to fulfill Isaiah 40:3 as he prepared the way for Jesus. In that verse in Isaiah it says he (John) would prepare the way for Jehovah.
Isaiah 43:11 says there is no Savior besides Jehovah. In Acts 4:12 it says that salvation only comes by Jesus Christ who is often called our Savior.
There are many other references just like these. What is represented by the name Jehovah is also represented by the name Jesus. He is revealed in the Bible as the eternal God, the Creator, and the only Savior.
Jesus does things that only God can do. Many times during his earthly ministry, Jesus forgave individuals for their sins. He performed miracles and cast out demons by his own authority. We are told to pray to him and through him to God the Father.
Many verses directly tell us that Jesus Christ is the one true God. Jesus was called “Immanuel” in Matthew 1:23. The quote is from Isaiah 7:14. “Immanu-El” (עמנו אל) is a Hebrew expression which means, “God with us”.
John 1 refers to Jesus as the Word, and tells us that “the word was God.”
Jesus made it clear too, that he is nothing less than the Eternal God who made all things. Just before his arrest, He prayed to the Father in John 17:5 saying, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
There can be no doubt. The one we love as our Savior and Good Shepherd, is the one eternal God, the Sovereign Creator of all that is.
The Holy Spirit is also fully God.
Genesis 1 tells us that the Spirit of God moved upon the waters during the world’s creation. Several places in the New Testament refer to God the Holy Spirit having been active all through time.
When the Apostle Paul explained his mission in Rome, he quoted Isaiah 6 and said in Acts 28:25, “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers.” Since it was God who spoke through the prophets, the Holy Spirit is obviously God.
Lying to the Holy Spirit was called lying to God in Acts 5:3-4.
Titus 3:5 calls our regeneration to life the “renewing by the Holy Spirit.” In other passages he is also clearly the one who renews the fallen human heart.
Since the Holy Spirit does what only God can do, he is part of the eternal Trinity, and He lives within the heart of every believer as the eternal Creator and Lord.
There are many passages that bring all three persons
of the Trinity together as the One God.
In John 15:26 Jesus our great Savior promised, “… when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”
Together the three persons share in: creation, preservation, regeneration, judgment, revelation, ancient miracles, and the divine ministry to the saints. They all receive worship, honor and glory. Individually they each communicate with one another and reveal one another to man. They all play an important part in restoring us to eternal life in the home of the Lord, and in encouraging us while we live here on the earth.
This high mystery of the Doctrine of the Trinity is a living encouragement
to all creation, and to us who are his children by grace.
The Savior who redeemed us, who intercedes for us, is actually God. The Holy Spirit who is sent to live in our hearts and to guide us in our beliefs and choices is not just a powerful angel or comforting concept. He is fully God. And of course we can each speak directly to God as our own Father.
In the vanity of human religion confused since Eden, God is little more than some far off ethereal concept, or a super-human deity confined to struggles on some Mount Olympus. But to we who are redeemed he is the Living God, Creator and Lord over all things. By his unfathomable love and grace, we are his children.
There’s no desire so strong in the heart of any creature, material or spiritual, that can hinder or change in any way the will of the Father. There’s no evil that can attack us which isn’t already conquered by the victory of Christ. There is no trouble, lie, or doubt that can infest our souls that isn’t overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts.
No power on all the earth or in the space of the universe around us is greater than or even equal with the infinite power of our Triune God.
(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)
“There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.” (WSC 6)