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Extract from: An Entree to Christianity

The Doctrine of the Trinity

The full revelation of God as a trinity is only found in the New Testament, but there are indications of the doctrine in the Old. This doctrine is a major stumbling block for Jews and Muslims, and it is not surprising that many attacks have been mounted against this teaching, not only by adherents of those religions. It is clearly a huge problem to Satan and those duped by him. Although many people may not know it, the doctrine of the Trinity stands at the heart of Christianity, and our whole doctrine of God will fall apart without it.

N.B. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not three manifestations of one Person, but one Being eternally existing in three Persons.

We saw earlier that God revealed himself as "elohim" and two prominent facts arising therefrom must be expanded. Firstly, there is the use of the plural. Since the singular form of the noun expresses quite adequately what God wanted to declare, the use of the plural obviously has to carry some extra meaning, and that extra meaning is that God exists in more than one person. The Hebrew "echad" expresses not just singularity but also the unity of a group (Gen 2.24; Ex 36.13). Also, God specifically refers to himself as "us" (Gen 1.26; 11.7). Secondly, that name "elohim" reveals God as one who speaks an oath. If God is a unity, then to whom did he speak before he created, and to whom was he speaking in the two verses quoted above? There is no satisfactory answer to either question without the doctrine of the Trinity. Both Judaism and Islam claim that their god speaks, but being singular that god was forced to create in order to have someone to talk to! That makes him dependent on creation and somewhat inadequate.

Modern man, locked in existentialism and believing in an irrational universe, maintains that real communication is not possible. The doctrine of the Trinity answers man's dilemma, for we have a God who is an eternal communicator. Before creation the Father, Son and Holy Spirit loved one another and communicated with each other. When therefore they made man in the image of God they made man able to love and communicate. Only Christianity has an answer to modern man's belief in the ultimate absurdity of life, and that answer is rooted in the Trinity! Our "elohim" is the basis of all true fellowship and communication.

There are other Old Testament indications of the Trinity. In Ps 110.1 David says, "the LORD says to my Lord", a verse recognised by all Jews to refer to the Messiah and used by the Lord Jesus with devastating effect upon their unbelief (Matt 22.41-45). If the Messiah is David's Son, how can his supposed junior and subordinate be his Lord, sitting at the right hand of God?

Creation is said to be by the Word of God (Ps 33 quoted above), a fact borne out by Genesis saying, "and God said…and it was so" (1.14-15). But Genesis also shows that the Holy Spirit was active in creation, hovering or fluttering (1.2). These facts acquire greater significance in the light of the New Testament revelation of Jesus as the Word who creates (Jn 1.1-3; Heb 1.1-2) and the Holy Spirit who is characterised by a dove (Matt 3.16).
The Holy Spirit is spoken of by God as being distinct from him (Ex 31.3; Num 11.25; Isa 42.1).

There is a person having the attributes of deity and receiving worship due only to God who is called "the angel of the LORD". Again, he is God, yet distinct from God (Gen 16.10-13; 22.11-16; Jos 5.13-15; Jdg 6.11-14; 13.3-23). It is reasonable to assume that he is "the messenger of the covenant" (Mal 3.1), Jesus, the Son of God.

What is only implied in the Old Testament is declared explicitly in the New. All three Persons in the Godhead are named in Matthew's account of the great commission (28.19), and in Paul's benediction (2 Cor 13.14). There are also numerous passages that speak of both the Son and the Holy Spirit as God. These passages will be considered in the following two sections. Furthermore, we must note that as well as being a unity and equal, the three persons of the Godhead are separate. The Son speaks to the Father, The Spirit rests on the Son and the Father sends the Spirit (Jn 1.33; 16.26; 17.1).

The Doctrine of Christ

It is probably true to say that more heresies have grown around this doctrine than anywhere else! Those errors will only be detailed later in Part Two, so that we can concentrate here on the correct presentation of Christ.

We believe that in the person of Jesus Christ the Son of God was made manifest in the flesh, born of a virgin. His incarnation was the perfect union of God and man, so that in his person he was both fully God and fully man.

His two natures

Scripture is very plain that He was fully God and fully man from his incarnation onwards, and any suggestion that either of these natures was not present in full measure is heresy, a deviation from that which has always been accepted by the church. In Christ there is a perfect union of God and man. Just a few examples will suffice to demonstrate that he is both God and man.

His deity is boldly proclaimed, both by his biographers and by himself. He is declared to be co-equal with God, the creator, the author of life; the only one with power to bring both himself and others back from the dead to life. As God he receives the worship due to God alone. He is called "the Son of God".

    "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him: and apart from him nothing came into being that has come into being. In him was life" (Jn 1.1-4).
    "Before Abraham was, I AM" (Jn 8.58).

    "No one takes my life away from me, but I lay it down on my own initiative. I have          authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it up again" (Jn 10.18).
    "I am the resurrection and the life" (Jn 11.25).
    "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20.28).
    "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him all things        were created…and he is before all things" (Col 1.15-17).
    "In him all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form" (Col 2.9).
    "God was manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim 3.16).
    "He is the radiance of his glory, the exact representation of is nature" (Heb 1.3).
    "Let all the angels of God worship him" (Heb 1.6).

Likewise his humanity is plainly declared, even after the resurrection. During the time of his humiliation he suffered normal human pain and emotion, hunger and thirst, weariness and grief. He is called both "son of David" and "son of man".

    "Jesus wept" (Jn 11.35).
    "He was asleep" (Mk 4.38).
    "I am thirsty" (Jn 19.28).
    "God was manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim 3.16).
    "In him all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form" (Col 2.9).
    "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; touch me and see, for a spirit does not         have flesh and bones as you see that I have" (Lk 24.39).
    "Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God" (1 Jn         4.2).
    "We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathise with our weaknesses, but one         who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Heb 4.15).
    "In the days of his flesh, when he offered up both prayers and supplications with loud        crying and tears" (Heb 5.7).


Kenosis

This Greek word is translated in Phil 2.7 as "emptied". It means, "to divest one's self of one prerogatives, abase oneself" (Bagster's Lexicon). This is the word Paul used to describe what the Son of God did when he became man, "taking the form of a slave". Some have gone too far by saying that Christ ceased to be God when he became man, that he walked this earth only as a man. That is not correct. He never ceased to be God. At no time did he lay aside any of his divine attributes (such as omnipotence or omniscience). But of what did he empty himself, or of what prerogatives did he divest himself? He denied himself the glory and privilege of life in heaven; he left the throne to become a servant of those he had created - even unto death. Those who saw him did not realise he was God, for as Isaiah said, "he had no stately form or majesty that we should look upon him" (Isa 53.2). In Matt 20.28 he said that he came to serve. In Jn 13.13, after washing the disciples' feet he said, "you call me teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am". In Jn 17.5, just before the crucifixion, he asks the Father to restore him to the glory he had before his incarnation. In Mark 9.2-8 he manifested that glory to the disciples for just a brief moment, a moment that stayed in Peter's mind ever after (2 Pet 1.16-18).

Paul says that those days of humiliation and servanthood are over; we know Jesus after the flesh no longer; we only know him now as the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5.16). The writer of Hebrews also points out that he was subject for "a little while" but is now "crowned with glory and honour" (Heb 2.9). Many Christians still refer to him simply as Jesus, but that is incorrect and dishonouring. That was his name ONLY in the time of his humiliation. He is now the Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian should be alert to errors in this regard, especially those promoted by the Word-Faith movement. See the discussion on this point in Part Two.

The Virgin Birth

This doctrine is plainly stated in the Gospels (Matt 1.18-25; Lk 1.26-35) and is of utmost importance to the Christian standpoint, for without it there is no good news. Simply stated, it is that Mary was with child, not by human intercourse, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. Before we examine it, we must first state what it is not. After a few centuries, as the church moved away from the apostolic truth and reality into superstition, many myths grew up around Mary, so that eventually she came to be venerated even more than God and Christ. This doctrine is not in honour of the mother, but the Son. It certainly does not teach that Mary remained a virgin, for the Scriptures plainly teach otherwise (Matt 1.25; Mk 6.3; Jn 7.3).

The Biblical doctrine of sin is that because of Adam's transgression sin entered and polluted the whole human race. We were all latently in Adam when he sinned, so we became partakers of both his act and its consequences. Adam was our federal head, so that what he did is imputed to us all (Rom 5.12-21; 1 Cor 15.22; cf. Heb 7.9-10). This has great implications for redemption, and those implications are spelled out below in the section on that subject. Consequently, no man could redeem us, for we are all tainted with the same sin. We are all descended from Adam, heirs of his fallen nature. Another Adam was required. He had to be man, yet he had to be free from Adam's transgression. This the Son of God accomplished via the virgin birth (Heb 2.14; Gal 4.4; cf. also the typological story in the book of Ruth). Christ entered the human race without being descended from Adam, thus avoiding the stain of original sin. He was legally, but not physically, the son of Joseph (Lk 3.23). Also, he lived a sinless life under the Law, fulfilling it in every detail, thus being able to claim the promise that he who keeps the Law shall live (Gal 3.12).

Without the doctrine of the virgin birth we would be stranded; hopelessly lost in our sin. Either Jesus would be just a man like us, unable to redeem because he would have been in the same bondage, or he would have been some non-human, sinless but not related, and again therefore, unable to redeem. It is here that so many false religions fall down, for they acknowledge the historical Jesus (in a manner of speaking), but downgrade his special status. The term "false religions" here includes more than just Hinduism and Buddhism. Islam has a debased view of Jesus, for they only acknowledge him as a prophet, not as Messiah and Son of God. We must also include the cults, for all of them, from Jehovah's Witnesses to Mormons to the Word-Faith movement, all depart from Scripture and downgrade the Lord Jesus Christ. Further, we must add to this list modernist liberal "Christianity" with its quest for the "historical Jesus" that seeks to remove every reference to the supernatural. All of these aberrations are discussed more fully in Part Two.

His Heavenly Ministry

Scripture teaches that Christ's service to us is not confined to his earthly ministry, but continues in heaven. He is our High Priest who appears in the presence of God to intercede and advocate for us (Heb 7.25; 1 Jn 2.1) and to function as mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2.5). He also poured out the Holy Spirit on the church (Acts 2.33-36) and rules the nations (Rev 2.27). Finally, he went to heaven to prepare a place for us (Jn 14.2).


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