Newsletter for Jan 2011
Recently one of our Grace Ministries Bible College students was discussing the issue of the Trinity with a friend. Some questions arose during the discussion and we received a letter from our student asking if I had a teaching about the Trinity. Though I have taught briefly on the subject in past sermons that dealt with other matters, I have never had anything specifically addressing the Trinity…until this letter I am now writing.
There are prominent religious groups which dismiss the concept of the Trinity. These groups say that speaking of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as being God is teaching there are three Gods instead of just one, especially since Deuteronomy 6:4 declares, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.. I will not take the time to identify the specifics of their reasoning, preferring instead to focus only on what God has said in the Bible.
There is one point on which I will agree with these groups: the word ‘trinity” does not appear anywhere in the Bible. But then, neither does the word “dinosaur.” Why do we accept the teaching that dinosaurs existed? It is because we have natural, scientific proof that they lived thousands of years ago. If we are so willing to accept what natural science teaches as proof that dinosaurs once roamed the earth, why would we not be even more willing to accept God’s very own words from scripture as irrefutable proof that the Trinity exists?
Before we go any further, we must make a decision: are we willing to accept what the Bible has to say? Or, are we going to cling to the teachings of man?
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)
The phrase “given by inspiration of God” literally means, “Divinely breathed forth by God’s Holy Spirit.” Thus, the entire Bible from Genesis through Revelation has been given to man by a miraculous, supernatural operation of God. In other words, the source of scripture is God and God alone.
In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began (Titus 1:2)
That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us (Hebrews 6:18)
Our minds cannot comprehend the inability to lie. Even if we do not lie, we still know that we could easily choose to tell a lie. But with God, this is not so. He cannot lie because the capacity to lie does not exist anywhere in Him. Since it is impossible for God to lie, and since He alone is the source of scripture, then everything we see in His word is truth. Jesus even confirmed this in John 17:17. This is a very critical point; it means we are bound, or literally shackled, to look at only one point of reference when studying the concept of the Trinity: that point of reference is the Bible.
Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: Mercy unto you, and peace and love, be multiplied. Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 1:1-3)
Very briefly, Jude had intended on writing a letter on one subject, but then realized there was a more pressing matter which needed to be addressed. Toward the end of this passage he wrote “earnestly contend for.” This phrase comes from the Greek word
epagonizomai, which gives the image of a person striving with an enemy in intense battle. He then tells them they are to contend for “the faith.” This is rather interesting because in the context of the verses it means “the teachings of the faith.”
Next, Jude makes one of the most significant and critical statements recorded in the entire Bible: “which was once delivered.” I won’t take the time to give you a list of the Greek words, but what this literally means is, “which was once and for all finally and conclusively to the end given and supplied.” In plain English it means, “what has been given is the end of all that will ever be given, there is no more.” Therefore, if we use these definitions to paraphrase the last portion of those verses from Jude, it would read like this:
You should engage in intense battle in defense of the integrity and continuity of the teachings of the faith (scripture), the fullness and completeness of which has been given to us from God with all conclusive finality, for there is no more (scripture) He will ever give.
What all this means is that God spoke to Jude, divinely inspiring him by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16) to write that no more scripture would ever be given beyond what has been given and recorded in the Bible. In other words, anyone – and I mean anyone – who says they have received additional revelation from God that is to be added to the Bible in subsequent writings or books did not receive that revelation from God!
Some people have claimed that they were visited by an angel who gave them more teachings from God that were to be written and given to mankind. Not only does what Jude wrote indisputably refute such a claim, but God, through the Apostle Paul, gives us an alarming warning about such people:
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)
The word “accursed” is from the Greek word “anathema” and it means “estranged (removed from) salvation.” So what God is telling us is that anyone who says they have received supplemental teaching or revelation from Him that should either be added to or used as a replacement for what has been recorded in the Bible is facing eternity in Hell! With this in mind, a person would have to be horribly and unspeakably deceived by Satan to go so far as to write “more scripture.”
It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever that more scripture would be given by God. The entire New Testament was written by the different authors of its books over a period of roughly 50 years. Why in the world would God wait for hundreds of years to give us the rest? That would mean Christians lived century after century having no way of knowing all of what God desired of them. Look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
If God waited eons before sharing the remainder of what was on His heart, then all the Christians living during those ages would never have been able to become perfect (spiritually mature) and thoroughly furnished (spiritually equipped) unto all good works (the fullness of God’s will)! Even plain, old human logic can recognize the absurdity of such a notion.
One reason it is so important to accept the Bible as the final word from God for all scripture is this: Many people who refute the existence of the Trinity are using sources extraneous from the Bible to try and prove their point. They will cite the writings of a certain apostle or prophet or teacher associated with their organization, completely ignoring the fact that much of those writings are not in any way consistent with the Bible. Consequently, any discussion about the reality of the Trinity can never include such testaments or manuscripts.
Taking all of this another step, let’s consider what God said in Isaiah chapter 28:
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little (Isaiah 28:9-10)
Through the prophet Isaiah, God is revealing how He teaches and explains His word. All scripture must be left in context, line upon line and precept upon precept. The full meaning of a verse is understood by leaving it in the setting of the passage.
A good example of how these instructions from God are ignored is when preachers quote Romans 3:10 to a congregation full of Christians and in a thundering voice with fire in their eyes declare, “There is NONE righteous, NO NOT ONE!” Yet those well-meaning preachers have somehow forgotten that 2 Corinthians 5:21 indisputably reveals that the moment we accept Jesus as Savior, we are made the righteousness of God.
What these preachers have failed to do is leave Romans 3:10 in the context of the entire chapter. If they were to do so, they would discover that Romans 3:10 is explaining that no one can attain unto righteousness without putting faith in Jesus for salvation; that not even the works of the Law could cause a person to become righteous because all, both Jew and Gentile, had sinned and fallen far short of the glory of God. As such, it is impossible to correctly use Romans 3:10 to teach that Christians are not righteous.
The reason I am stressing the crucial importance of leaving scripture in context is because all of the teachings I have ever heard or read that contest and deny the existence of the Trinity have taken scripture out of context. I want to emphasize this: In all my years of serving the Lord, I have never – not one time ever – heard or read any teaching opposing the existence of the Trinity that left scripture in context!
Taking scripture out of context to establish doctrine is exactly how cults are birthed. Then, this abuse of scripture – often coupled with extraneous writings mentioned above – is used to maintain control over people.
Now I ask you, with eternity in Heaven or Hell at stake, who would you rather believe: (1) the person who leaves scripture in context, or (2) the person who “reassembles” verses for their own doctrine, maybe even including extra-biblical writings in their beliefs?
I realize I have spent a fair amount of time addressing the issue of looking to the Bible as the only source for spiritual truth, and that we must adhere to contextual accuracy when teaching scripture. But it has been my experience that most people – including most Christians I have met - are content with believing what they want to believe, and they don’t want their convictions challenged in any way. This includes those who adamantly deny the Trinity.
Therefore, as we go further in this study, we are going to focus on the Bible and the contextual use of scripture. Since what I write each month is a letter and not a book, there will be times I will reference a passage instead of printing it in its entirety, leaving to those who are diligent to search the scriptures and study what is referenced. All of that being said, let’s look at the very first time the concept of the Trinity is revealed in scripture:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
The word “God” has been interpreted from the Hebrew word “Elohim.” This Hebrew word is used 2,248 times in the Bible. Though the word “God” is singular in the English, when the word Elohim is used in reference to the one, eternal God, it is one of the most incredible words you will ever find in scripture. A simple definition of it is: a plural singularity. Yes, that is confusing: How can anything living be both plural and singular at the same time? But that is exactly what is being said: God is singular, yet plural in His existence.
Keeping in mind that all scripture has been given to us directly from God, what I find very interesting is that God said this about Himself in the very first verse of the very first book of the Bible. To put it in my own words, it’s as though He is saying, “Look, before we go any further, I want you to know right here at the beginning that I exist in a way your mind simply cannot grasp: I am Elohim – One God and One God only, Who exists in a manner that you would call plural. Make no mistake about it; there are no other gods beside me, but I am a plural singularity in my existence.”
I can see now that I will be unable to complete this teaching in this letter. Next month I will review a little from this letter and then continue with more from the Bible about how God has revealed Himself to us as the Trinity.
May His presence flood your life!