Monthly Archives: September 2016

God: the Trinity

Read Matthew 3:13-17 and 28:16-20

                                                         God: the Trinity

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.” Westminster Shorter Catechism, 6

This week we come to the doctrine of the Trinity. Below is an excellent devotional on the Trinity by Dr. J. Gresham Machen from The Christian Faith in the Modern World.


The Bible is not afraid of speaking of God in a startlingly tender and human sort of way. It does so just in passages where the majesty of God is set forth. It is He Who sits upon the circle of the Earth, says the fortieth chapter of Isaiah, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers [Isaiah 40:22]. All nations before Him are as nothing; and they are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity [Isaiah 40:17]. But what says that same fortieth chapter of Isaiah about this same terrible God? Here is what it says: He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those who are with young [Isaiah 40:11].

How wonderfully the Bible sets forth the tenderness of God! Is that merely figurative? Are we wrong in thinking of God in such childlike fashion? Many philosophers say so. They will not think of God as a person. Oh, no. That would be dragging Him down too much to our level! So they make of Him a pale abstraction. The Bible seems childish to them in the warm, personal way in which it speaks of God. Are those philosophers right or is the Bible right? Thank God, the Bible is right, my friends. The philosophers despise children who think of God as their heavenly Father. But the philosophers are wrong and the children are right. Did not our Lord Jesus say: I thank You, O Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, because You have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto babies [Matthew 11:25].

No, God is no pale abstraction. He is a person. That simple truth – precious possession of simple souls – is more profound than all the philosophies of all the ages.

But now we come to a great mystery. God, according to the Bible, is not just one person, but He is three persons in one God. That is the great mystery of the Trinity.

The Trinity is revealed to us only in the Bible. We said at the beginning of this little series of talks that God has revealed some things to us through nature and through conscience. But the Trinity is not among them. This He has revealed to us by supernatural revelation and by supernatural revelation alone.

Within the Word of God, it is in the New Testament that the doctrine of the Trinity is taught.There are hints of it in the Old Testament, but they are only hints, and it was left to the New Testament for this precious doctrine to be clearly revealed.

In the New Testament, the doctrine is taught with the utmost clearness; and, as has well been pointed out by Dr. B. B. Warfield, in a splendid article on the Trinity, the doctrine is presupposed even more than it is expressly taught. That is, the New Testament is founded throughout on the doctrine of the Trinity, and the doctrine was really established by the great facts of the incarnation of the Son of God and the work of the Holy Spirit even before it was enunciated in words.

Only the smallest part of the teaching of the New Testament about the Trinity is found in passages where the doctrine is stated as a whole. What the New Testament ordinarily does is to state parts of the doctrine, so that when we put those parts together, and when we summarize them, we have the great doctrine of the three persons and one God.

For example, all passages in the New Testament where the deity of Jesus Christ is set forth are, when taken in connection with passages setting forth the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit, passages supporting the doctrine of the Trinity.

But what needs to be observed now is that although by far the larger part of the Biblical teaching about the Trinity is given in that incidental and partial way – presupposing the doctrine rather than formally enunciating it as a whole – yet there are some passages where the doctrine is definitely presented by the mention, together, of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

The most famous of such passages, I suppose, is found in the Great Commission, given by the risen Lord to His disciples according to the twenty-eighth chapter of Matthew. Go therefore, and disciple all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19]. There we have a mention of all three persons of the Trinity in the most complete coordination and equality – yet all three persons are plainly not three Gods but one. Here, in this solemn Commission by our Lord, the God of all true Christians is forever designated as a triune God.

We think also, for example, of the apostolic benediction at the end of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians; The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all [2 Corinthians 13:14]. Here the terminology is a little different from that in the Great Commission. Paul speaks of the Son as the Lord. But the word Lord in the Pauline Epistles is plainly a designation of deity, like the other Greek word which is translated into English by the word God. It is the Greek word used to translate the holy name of God, Jehovah, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament which Paul used, and Paul does not hesitate to apply to Christ Old Testament passages which speak of Jehovah.

That brings us to something supremely important in the teaching of the whole New Testament about the Trinity. It is this – that the New Testament writers, in presenting God as triune, are never for one moment conscious of saying anything that could by any possibility be regarded as contradicting the Old Testament teaching that there is but one God. That teaching is at the very heart and core of the Old Testament. It is every whit as much at the heart and core of the New Testament. The New Testament is just as much opposed as the Old Testament is to the thought that there are more Gods than one. Yet the New Testament with equal clearness teaches that the Father is God and the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, and that these three are not three aspects of the same person but three persons standing in a truly personal relationship to one another. There we have the great doctrine of the three persons but one God.

That doctrine is a mystery. No human mind can fathom it. Yet what a blessed mystery it is! The Christian’s heart melts within him in gratitude and joy when he thinks of the divine love and condescension that has thus lifted the veil and allowed us sinful creatures a look into the very depths of the being of God.

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God: Utterly Unique, Yet Imaged

Read Psalm 102:25-28

God: Utterly Unique, Yet Imaged

“God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” (WSC, #4)

“There is but one [God] only, the living and true God.” (WSC, #5)

Two weeks ago we saw that humanity’s purpose for existence is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever. This requires God instructing us in what pleases Him, but also instructing us in who He is; there is no praising or enjoying of someone until we know them. Last week we thought about the Bible, in which God reveals Himself to us. We will attempt (very briefly) here to consider what it is that God reveals about Himself.

God is Unique

Scripture reveals to us a God who is utterly unique and other than us. His unique attributes include independence, immutability and infinity.

God is independent. He is the only self-existent being. All else only exists because of God, but God existed before time, and apart from anything or anyone else. He is the Cause without a cause. He not only is independent in His existence, but in His continuance. God alone has no need for anyone else, and nothing else, to continue existing. “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself,” John 5:25-26, and “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. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” Colossians 1:16-17. We have our existence only because God created us, and we continue to exist only because He sustains us; we are dependent upon His sovereignty.

God is immutable. That is, He never changes. His very being has no need of improvement and will never deteriorate, (Romans 1:23). He is what He is, and that will never change; this is precisely what He said to Moses at the burning bush, Exodus 3:14; it is the essence of His covenantal name, YHWH. This unchangeableness extends to God’s knowledge, plans, and moral principles. We try to redefine right and wrong, we change allegiances and go back on our word; but God does not and this is good news for us. “For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob,” Malachi 3:6.

God is infinite. He is free from all limitations. By this we do not mean what some modern theologians suggest, that God’s infinity is extending. That is, that God began expanding at the beginning of time (the cause of the big bang), and He continues to expand, causing the cosmos to expand. This view makes God dependent and tied to creation, rather than unique from it. When we say God is infinite we mean absolutely beyond limits, not expanding the limits. He is infinite in absolute perfection, eternity (time) and immensity (space). 1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 139:1-12.

God is Imaged

Although God is utterly unique and other than us, Scripture also reveals that God created humanity in His image. There are certain communicable attributes which we can imitate. These include wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. But it is important to realize that, while we imitate these attributes of God, we cannot separate the way that God is any of these from His uniqueness. In other words, when it comes to each of these attributes, God has that attribute independently, immutably and infinitely. We do not. Let us just consider two of these attributes.

God is wise. When we say God is wise, we confess that He is wise in and of Himself. He did not acquire wisdom from another, nor need to learn it in any way. He always was, and always will be perfectly and infinitely wise. We on the other hand must learn wisdom, and are dependent upon God for this wisdom. In fact, when we seek independence by denying God, we display our foolishness (Psalm 14); when we try to say we have a wiser understanding or approach to God than He has revealed, we display our foolishness (Psalm 115:3-8). Our wisdom is fickle, changing and temporary. We imitate the wisdom of God, but only as we rely on Him for that wisdom.

God is holy. He does not gain this holiness from another, but is holy in His very being. He cannot become more holy, nor earn more holiness. This is why we sing, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was, and is, and is to come.” Adam was created righteous, but in him we have lost that in Paradise. We have no holiness in ourselves, but “all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment,” Isaiah 64:6. We are called to be holy in imitation of Christ, (1 Peter 1:16), but this we can only have as it is imputed to us by faith in Christ and as it is worked in us by the Holy Spirit.

Study the Scriptures and you will find this to be the case with all of the communicable attributes of God. God is always just, He doesn’t shift on right and wrong, and will not allow the guilty to go unpunished. We on the other hand make excuses for those we like and for our own unjust lives, then grow enraged at lesser faults in others. Justice is an attribute in which we must grow. Love too. God’s love never fails. But we are fickle and selfish in our so-called “love.” We only truly love, when we have first experienced God’s love for us (1 John 4:19).

Even where we imitate God, God remains utterly different from us. At best we are reliant and increasingly, yet changeably, display God’s attributes.

Scripture displays this astounding God. It reveals Him not only in these (and other) attributes, but through His names and actions. The Bible reveals to us a God who is infinitely above us, infinitely worthy of our obedience, adoration and praise. And in our sin, the Bible reveals to us the God who Redeems, bringing all the perfections of His attributes to the talk of pardoning us and calling us His children.

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What is Truth?

Read Revelation 22:18-19 and Micah 6:1-8

What is Truth?

“The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, #2)

“The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, #3)

Divine Truth

If God is to set the standard for right and wrong, for our purpose in life, and how to pursue it, then it should be clear that we need God to reveal Himself in some way.

Many humans would argue that God speaks to them through feelings: God moving them, something just seeming right, etc… But again, we come to the place we found ourselves in last study, what you feel moved to believe may be different from what I feel. And this leaves us with a dilemma: if God reveals Himself through our gut feelings, then He is inconsistent, for we do not all agree on morals and life. But if God is inconsistent, then He is changeable like the Greek gods, and that never ends well for mortals.

Alternatively, God must reveal Himself outside of you and I. The Christian faith has understood that God does this in two ways: in general revelation (that is, the creation around us) and in special revelation (that is, the Bible). This is the central theme of Psalm 19.

Creation itself informs us that there is a God, but of itself cannot show us the way of redemption in the gospel. Therefore, the Shorter Catechism rightly says, “the Word of God…is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him.”

But what reason do we have for believing this is God’s Word? The Westminster Larger Catechism lists several evidences:

  1. The Bible is Majestic! As Psalm 119 declares, “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your Law…Your testimonies are wonderful.” (vv. 18, 129)

  2. The Bible is Pure! Again in Psalm 119:140, “Your word is very pure, therefore Your servant loves it.” And in Psalm 12:6, David declares, “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”

  3. The Bible is consistent! Acts 10:43, “To [Christ] all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” Later, in Acts 26:22-23, Paul declares that Moses and the prophets were all testifying to Christ’s sufferings, work and resurrection. The Scriptures are all united in their message of salvation, even though written over thousands of years!

  4. The Bible is powerful! Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit…” and James 1:18, “Of [Christ’s] own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits     of His creation.” John draws to the close of his gospel with the comment, “these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Do you notice what these reasons given have in common? The evidence of them is found entirely in looking into the Scriptures themselves. The world could debate each one of these facts, or claim that the judgment of them is subjective to the reader – as Tolstoy or Shakespeare move some people and not others. So the central why we find the Word of God to be divine truth is it’s own testimony, its own claims about itself.* This is what we call self-attesting;“the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very word of God.” (WLC, Q&A 4)

The Holy Spirit alone can convince us that the Bible is absolutely true, the Word of God and not simply the words of men compiled over millennia. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him. Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) The Spirit testifies by and with the Word in the heart, resulting in a full certainty that the Bible is the Word of God.

Directive Truth

Very well, God speaks in His Word, but what does this Word direct us to learn and believe? Primarily two things: the truth about God and how we are to respond to that truth.

The truth about God is vast and deep, and is to be a constant study for the believer. Scripture teaches us about the being of God, the persons of the Trinity, God’s decrees and His working out those decrees. The Bible nowhere tries to argue the existence of God because His existence is revealed in nature and in the human heart (Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20). But it is full of teaching about who God is and what He does, including that He is Redeemer, which is not naturally revealed in nature or the heart.

As the Bible teaches us about God, it continually adds application: what obedience does this knowledge of God require? Our God doesn’t leave us to guess. Sometimes we do, don’t we? We know (or have been) the one who, when asked, “what do you want for your birthday,” replied, “oh, whatever.” Only to be disappointed with what we were given. But this is not something God does. He is very direct with what He desires us to do. (Micah 6:8) And when we really consider just who God is, we ought to long to obey, after all, in obedience we are not only glorifying God, but experience the greatest enjoyment of a close walk with Him.

*Does this seem circular to you? That is the obvious claim. But in the end of the day all claims are circular, that is, all worldviews have some “assumed” presupposition behind them. The Christian worldview has as its foundational presupposition that there is a God and that He has testified about Himself in the Bible – a claim the unbeliever will never accept no matter how many evidences you present, unless the Spirit works regeneration in his heart.

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Why am I here?

Read Revelation chapter 4.

Why am I here?

Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, #1)

Ending in God

It is increasingly important in our society to think each person’s goal, purpose and “end” in life is up to that person – and that person alone. The idea is that whatever I desire most, whatever makes me feel best, that is my purpose. There may be a few exceptions to this – most popular: as long as what makes you happiest doesn’t get in the way of anyone else’s happiness.

Of course, we run into trouble with this. Whose happiness matters the most? If one’s purpose negates the freedom of someone else’s goals – who matters most? The majority?

Man’s chief end,” that is, humankind’s main purpose for existence, that which supersedes all other goals, enjoyments or purpose, “is to glorify God.” Who should get the end opinion, the Creator or the creature?

Isaiah the prophet declared firmly that the Creator alone is to determine our purpose; “But now, O Lord,
You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8) Jesus Christ, by whom all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible (Colossians 1:16), calls upon us to find our purpose in what He desires: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)

Our reason for being here is God’s glory – and He is glorified, not when we follow whatever makes us happiest, but when we follow that which makes Him most happy. His pleasure, not our own, is why we are here. But this does not mean that life is to be a depressing, burdensome slavery, for our purpose also includes enjoyment!

Exalting God

How then do I exalt, or glorify God? Thomas Watson suggests four key areas.

(1) Appreciation. “We glorify God when we are God-admirers; admire His attributes, which are the glistering beams by which the divine nature shines forth; His promises which are the charter of free grace… the noble effects of His power and wisdom in making the world, which is called ‘the work of His fingers.’ Ps. 8:3. To glorify God is to have God-admiring thoughts; to esteem Him most excellent, and search for diamonds in this rock only.” (Watson, A Body of Divinity, Banner of Truth, 1982, p. 7)

(2) Adoration. “This divine worship God is very jealous of; it is the apple of His eye… Divine worship must be such as God Himself has appointed, else it is offering a strange fire (Lev. 10:1). The Lord would have Moses make the tabernacle, ‘according to the pattern…’ He must not leave out anything in the pattern, nor add to it. If God was so exact and curious about the place of worship, how exact will He be about the matter of His worship! Surely here everything must be according to the pattern prescribed in His Word.”
(Watson, 8)

(3) Affection. Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” We prefer self-love, making ourselves feel best. But exalting God means turning our affections away from ourselves and toward God. “This love is exuberant, not a few drops, but a stream. It is superlative; we give God the best of our love.” (Watson, 8) If the young lover goes to any length to bring happiness to the one they adore, how much more should the Christian life be filled with great striving of affection toward the Lover of our souls – our Creator and Redeemer?

(4) Subjection. “This is when we dedicate ourselves to God, and stand ready dressed for His service… We glorify God when we stick at no service, when we fight under the banner of His gospel against an enemy.” If we would glorify God, we must serve faithfully in His army and move “vigorously in the sphere of obedience.” (Watson, 9)

These are the key areas in which we glorify God. They call us to consider God’s glory above our own glory, our wealth, and earthly security. They call us to pick up our cross and follow Him daily (Mark 8:34). We glorify God in contentment; “when we are content to be outshined by others in gifts and esteem.” (Watson, 11) We glorify God in the sincere confession of sin and in believing whole-heartedly in Christ’s redemption alone. We glorify God in trusting His good providence and in pursuing a fruitful life of service unto holiness. We glorify God in standing boldly for the truth contra mundum (against the world) and in walking cheerfully in the wilderness of this life.

Enjoying God

Our natures would call upon us to enjoy ourselves, or whatever pleasure comes our way. So 2 Peter 3 warns us what of what Watson calls “the Trinity [the world] worships,” (Watson, 21): to indulge in “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life.” We are tempted to think that the enjoyment of God in this life is not enjoyment at all! Our hearts are all too often far from that expressed by David, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and weary land, where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.” (Psalm 63:1-3) David in the wilderness of Judah sees what we so often ignore, that this life holds no pleasure greater than entering into the place of worship and knowing the intimate and personal fellowship that we have with God in Christ. And not only is that the greatest enjoyment we might have in this life, but it is part of our very purpose in living! In a world where so many of us do seemingly pointless tasks each day, we are given a purpose that brings us the best enjoyment!

And this purpose does not end with our earthly life. When encouraging the Thessalonian believers, the greatest thing that Paul can say regarding heaven is, ‘then we shall ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:17) And those who are with the Lord, never cease to engage in this wonderful dual task of glorifying and enjoying Him, as we see so clearly in Revelation 4. There the singing is continuous, for the One glorified and enjoyed is seen, with the veil removed from our eyes, and He is worthy to receive all glory, honor and power.

This is why we are here.

For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”

Romans 11:36

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