Monday, August 13, 2007

The Trinity – Sermon Notes - Session One

The Trinity – Sermon Notes - Session One

Thanks for stopping by, I thought I would start by posting my notes from a recent series I did on “The Trinity” This is session One - I hope you enjoy it!

The Trinity – Session One

Within Christianity there rages a fierce debate. This sharp contention rests in the understanding of the Godhead. The question is: “Is God a Trinity?” or “Is God a simple player of roles?” The argument is centralized over the structure of God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The contention sadly is no small one; in fact it divides some factions of Christianity from the rest of the church, in a global manner. These dissenters are know as “Oneness Pentecostals” who contend they are the only true church.

By and large Oneness Pentecostals contend that there division from mainline Christianity is necessary, and is fueled by the belief that the doctrine of the Trinity is a false doctrine, birthed in the bowels of paganism, and is therefore a sin.

Let me briefly background the article with some personal history. As a former Oneness Pentecostal I came into the Trinitarian doctrine with great caution, edging slowly into the doctrine with a very discerning eye, in fact with a great deal of fear and trembling. My wife and I where saved in the Christian movement known as “Oneness Pentecostalism”

Oneness Pentecostals are comprised of several organized groups.

· United Pentecostal Church

·Assemblies of our Lord Jesus Christ

· Apostolic World Christian Fellowship

Oneness Pentecostals by and large for the most part, believe that any who espouse the Trinitarian doctrine are not only wrong, but in fact are going to hell. This the overwhelming dominant thought of Oneness Pentecostals.

The most problematic aspect of my theology when  
I was a Oneness Pentecostal was the
belief that no one other than
Oneness Pentecostals was going to heaven.
Trinitarian Christians simply were not saved!
Gregory A. Boyd a former oneness pastor 

the average denominal Trinitarian is just as saved as a devil is saved.

Oneness Pentecostal Pastor

Today in trinitarian Pentecostal circles there is a concept of the Godhead that implies outright tritheism.

Pastor David Bernard – United Pentecostal Church Inc. Pastor/Author/Leader

….. their Jesus is not my Jesus. Trinitarians are not my brothers or sisters. They have a different God.

Oneness Pentecostal Pastor

Therefore again the predominant view by this group is: Trinitarians can never be saved without renouncing the doctrine of the trinity, among the practice of various other legalities that must be fulfilled, such as: being baptized according to Acts 2:38, which is in “Jesus” name only!

In fact Oneness Pentecostals so demonize the Trinitarians, that just the thought of calling myself a Trinitarian, or considering the “trinity” was a fearful thought, it was sickening to me, in fact it was a fearful premise! I was literally afraid to even consider it! Yet I desired to know the truth. This motivated me to dive into the bible, into history, and to question all the propaganda I had been fed.

There are a variety of groups that are hostile to the trinity, these groups are quite influential over their adherents, not always offering facts for consideration, but instead they motivate by fear, revelation, and twisted truth. Though these groups are relatively small they still exist.

I’d like to simply start off with a couple of doctrinal creeds or statements that verbalize the Trinitarian theology that have been established as early as the 300’s to the 500’s to 1900’s to modern day. The reason I want to do so is to establish a common ground concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, something that we can springboard from to validate the doctrine. Because believe it or not there is a lot of propaganda stating Trinitarians believe certain things, that they don’t! Take a look at the following quotes.

"A lie made and told by Satan for the purpose …..of turning men away from God is that of the "trinity". That doctrine is taught by the religionists of "Christendom" and is in substance this: "That there are three gods …...." (J. F. Rutherford, Riches, 1936, p. 185 – Jehovah’s Witness

a trinity of Gods..." (The Atonement Between God and Man, Studies in the Scriptures, Series V, 1906 ed., p. 244). Jehovah’s Witness

"the doctrine originated from Satan" (Make sure of all things 1953 p.386)

"Trinitarianism is of the devil" William Branham.Famous oneness evangelist

Trinitarians do not believe that JESUS is God…

United Pentecostal Pastor (anonymous)

trinity preachers are like the filthy devil and are deceiving people into hell.

Oneness Pentecostal Pastor

Well now isn’t that sweet! Okay, well all of these statements are false to put it mildly, but yet they are real quotes from people who really teach this! At the onset of our study the best place for us to start is with the doctrinal creeds themselves, these are the most widely accepted statements of the Trinitarian belief, lets allow Trinitarians to speak for themselves on what they believe.

Perhaps the most famous doctrinal creed, established outside of the bible, is one called the Nicene Creed.

The Nicene Creed was established in the year 325 AD in the city of Nicea. The creed was established for the sole purpose of universally setting forth the standard doctrine for the church concerning the deity of Jesus Christ.

The Arians of this time period where heavily debating the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ. The Nicene Creed successfully established as an official doctrine, that Jesus was God. This was the sole purpose and success of the Counsel.

Let’s for a moment talk about what it was not. It was not Emperor Constantine’s attempt to infiltrate Christianity with paganism, as some ignorantly suggest! It was not the attempt to marry the catholic church with the pagan government, it was not the attempt to bring in the false gods of paganism, to a Christian church. Though these scenario’s have been offered by the anti-trinitarian crowd, none are close to true. The counsel of Nicea was for the sole purpose of debating the deity of Jesus Christ. Those in attendance correctly demanded that Jesus was God.

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance [homoousios] with the Father; by whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; he suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost. But those who say: "There was a time when he was not"; and "He was not before he was made"; and "He was made out of nothing," or "He is of another substance" or "essence," or "The Son of God is created," or "changeable," or "alterable"-they are condemned by the holy *catholic and apostolic church.

*the term “catholic” here is not inferring the “Roman Catholic Church” which was developed much later. The word in this context simply means “universal”. That is what the word “catholic” means.

Here are a few excerpts from the Nicene Creed

· We believe in one God

· in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God

I’d also like you to take note of my favorite creed of the “position declarations” which is the Anthanasian Creed – most likely formulated around 373 A.D– Here are a few excerpts

· But this is the universal Christian faith: That we worship one God in trinity, and trinity in unity

· So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet there are not three Gods, but one God.

· So the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Ghost is Lord. And yet there are not three Lords, but one Lord.

Finally I’d like to present The Assemblies of GOD position papers …

· The one true God has revealed Himself as the eternally self-existent "I AM," the Creator of heaven and earth and the Redeemer of mankind. He has further revealed Himself as embodying the principles of relationship and association as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

· The terms "Trinity" and "persons" as related to the Godhead, while not found in the Scriptures, are words in harmony with Scripture, whereby we may convey to others our immediate understanding of the doctrine of Christ respecting the Being of God, as distinguished from "gods many and lords many." We therefore may speak with propriety of the Lord our God who is One Lord, as a trinity or as one Being of three persons, and still be absolutely scriptural.

#1 There is only ONE GOD

- We believe in one God – Nicene Creed

- There are not three Gods, but one God. – Anthanasian Creed

- The one true God has revealed Himself as the eternally self-existent "I AM," the Creator of heaven and earth and the Redeemer of mankind.

AG Fundamentals of Truth

So it is emphatically true that Trinitarians believe in only ONE GOD! The most respected Trinitarian doctrinal statements are clear and concise, Trinitarians boldly proclaim “We believe in one God”

The Anthanasian creed states we do not believe in three gods, the Assemblies of GOD state “The One true GOD”

Therefore to refer to Trinitarians or the Trinitarian doctrine as: three gods, multiple gods, or polytheistic- which is the belief in many gods, is false. It is either a misunderstanding of the doctrine, sheer propaganda by its enemies or in actuality just bold face lies.

It is therefore stated by mainstream notable Trinitarians, and the most accepted creeds and doctrinal statements that Trinitarians believe in one God.This would be harmonious with scripture that states:

(Deuteronomy 6:4) Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

(Mark 12:29) And Jesus answered him, The first of allthe commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our Godis one Lord:

Secondly Trinitarians believe there is a distinction of Persons in the Godhead

GOD is presented biblically as one GOD and within the one true GOD there is presented a distinction of Persons. GOD expressed those persons in specific terms of relationship, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, these distinctions, are inarguable in their biblical existence, and in some manners incomprehensible, because they are never fully explained.

We worship one God, and that GOD in trinity

Not confusing the persons; nor dividing the substance.

For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son; another of the Holy Ghost.

But the Godhead, the whole three persons are co-eternal together, and co-equal. The Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost yet all is one -

Therefore GOD the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have always existed.

Unity of the One Being of Father, Son and Holy Spirit

There is that in the Father which constitutes him the Father and not the Son;

There is that in the Son which constitutes Him the Son and not the Father; and there is that in the Holy Spirit which constitutes Him the Holy Spirit and not either the Father or the Son.

Therefore, there is but one Lord God Almighty and neither Person in the Godhead either exists or works separately or independently of the others.

In short the bible teaches us this about GOD – THERE IS ONE GOD – the eternal composition of that GOD is Father, Son and Holy Spirit

(1 John 5:7) For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Joh 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God.

(Mark 1:9) And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.

(Mark 1:10) And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:

(Mark 1:11) And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

(Mark 1:12) And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.

Now then that in a nutshell is the Trinitarian doctrine –

One GOD who eternally exists as Father, Son and Holy Spirit

In particular keep close the AG Fundamental of truths statement and the Anthanasian Creed – Study those and know them – the AG statement is particularly useful because of the scripture references included.

We have a basic idea of the belief structure present in the early church – There is a lot of biblical text I am going to present to you about two things

A) That GOD is one

B) That he is presented in a biblical manner existing

as a trinity

And as important as that is – I’d like to detour for a moment to a point of interest to me, and I hope that it will be for you as well

Point Two

One of the first questions I had was – what did the early church believe?

Now then why would this matter – Well because as I told you I was spiritually raised in a movement that was hostile towards the Trinitarian doctrine – one of the items used to validate their view was

A) The Trinitarian doctrine did not exist until the Counsel of Nicea, and was forced onto the church by Constantine (Emperor)

B)It was not the general belief system of the early church…

One of the assailants of the Trinitarian doctrine David Bernard, a modern icon of the United Pentecostal Church, his books are hot sellers among that group and of them all his book the Oneness of GOD is a staple for the modern oneness congregant – in that book it states:

"The Scriptures do not teach the doctrine of the trinity, but trinitarianism has its roots in paganism" (David Bernard/ Oneness of God)

I’d like to give you a bit of a history lesson

“The development, and history of the Trinity along with those who ascribe to it, is a testament to its validity.”

My point is simply to entice and solidify the doctrine for you, and others, who are questioning its validity.

One of the extremely attractive attributes of the Trinity is its rich history. From the development of the doctrine, to those who have claimed it as truth.

“The development, and history of the Trinity along with those who ascribe to it, is a testament to its validity.”

So before we dive into further biblical precepts and proof texts of the trinity from the bible, which we will do with overwhelming persuasion–I want to deal with what I term “the historical qualities” of this doctrine. Because they are extremely impressive…..

I am going to give a very brief overview of the Trinitarian history, development and adherents

· Development

The truth of the matter is the doctrine was evident biblically among the first church in a scriptural manner. By scriptural I mean, Paul, Peter, and John all spoke in terms of distinction regarding the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and the GOD who is one. This language was then inherited and used by their successors and so on, in fact you’ll find incredible historical documentation supporting the doctrine of the Trinity.

From the apostles to the church fathers, and to modern day – this history is very helpful in aiding us to understand the thought process alive in the early church. – and the doctrine it espoused….

When I say early church I mean times as early as 50 AD to 70 AD to 200 AD. Very early Christianity –

Lets start with the church fathers first – Who are the church fathers - These where post apostolic leaders of the church- The church fathers are demonized by some as being pagan, and corrupt, and so on, there is little documentation to show that – it is worthy however to note that if every bible in the world was destroyed totally – we could reconstruct the entire word of GOD from the letters and writings of the Church Fathers – that’s how much they used and respected the WORD of GOD – lets look at a few of their words

Polycarp (70-155). Bishop of Smyrna. Disciple of John the Apostle.
"O Lord God almighty...I bless you and glorify you through the eternal and heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom be glory to you, with Him and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever" (n. 14, ed. Funk; PG 5.1040).

Notice the distinction of present tense “beloved Son, and Holy Spirt and other very evident verbage of distinctions Polycarp makes here - Next is some early instruction on baptism

The Didachethe date is a guess most scholars date this document at (35-60AD) that would put it around the time of the apostles

: "baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Justin Martyr (100?-165?). He was a Christian apologist and martyr.
"For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water" (First Apol., LXI).

Irenaeus (115-190). As a boy he listened to Polycarp, the disciple of John. He became Bishop of Lyons.
"The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, ……. (Against Heresies X.l)

Note the eternal title of JESUS as “The Son of GOD” who became incarnate – his sonship preceeded his incarnation… interesting distinction is made here

Tertullian (160-215). A major apologist and theologian. Very influential. He wrote much in defense of Christianity. Very respected/
"We define that there are two, the Father and the Son, and three with the Holy Spirit, and this number is made by the pattern of salvation...[which] brings about unity in trinity, interrelating the three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are three, not in dignity, but in degree, not in substance but in form, not in power but in kind. They are of one substance and power, because there is one God from whom these degrees, forms and kinds devolve in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit." (Adv. Prax. 23; PL 2.156-7).


"Moreover, nothing in the Trinity can be called greater or less, since the fountain of divinity alone contains all things by His word and reason, and by the Spirit of His mouth sanctifies all things which are worthy of sanctification..." (Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4, p. 255, de Principii., I. iii. 7).

Of great interest is this – because anti-trinitarians attest that the doctrine of the trinity was the molding of Emperor Constantine’s pagan theologies, with a politically motivated Catholicism, and that my friends is a lie – Constantines Nicean Counsel was in 325 AD - these quotes date some 200 plus years before this counsel.

Anti-Trinitarians maintain, the Trinity is not a biblical doctrine and was never taught until the council of Nicea in 325.

However history vehemently disagrees.

Anti – Trinitarians such as author David Bernard assess that the doctrine developed in the bowels of paganism – History shows that the doctrine was common place discussion and teaching in the early church, by church leaders, early AD 70, early AD 100 through to the 200’s and beyond!

This history is very convincing - not supposition and propaganda but credible, scholarly accepted documentation, of early church view. What does this mean?

The answer is simple: the Trinity is a biblical doctrine, and its teachings where passed from apostles to post apostolic churches from the years 33 AD to 70 AD, to 100 AD to 200 to 300AD up to and in including the 325 AD Council of Nicea.

Historically speaking it was the most generally accepted doctrine in the church, and we are overwhelmed with tangible quotes from credible leaders who even use the word “Trinity”

This was long before the rise of the Roman Catholic Church, long before Constantine, and the Counsel of Nicea.

The Counsel of Nicea by the way – on a theological level fought the Arians who sought to state that JESUS was not GOD, the members of Nicea’s soul purpose was to establish within the church at that time – That JESUS was most certainly GOD – So they did a good thing!

So despite the twisting of history by some – we find the Trinitarian doctrine is a doctrine of great historical quality, rich in historical documentation, rich in development of doctrine, and general acceptance in the church.

• Scripture shows the distinctions and one GOD, doctrine of the Trinity, is common place with the disciples, in their greetings, writings and doctrinal dissertations.

It is the dominant doctrinal position and I would suggest to you based on the writings available, it always has been. It was not formed in paganism, it was not the invention of Constantine, nor the theology of the Roman Catholic Church which was not formed until much later than the writings I shared with you.

Church history and church fathers while not inspired word, make for great reading and establish some insight to church thought

Credible men, accepted as viable church leaders, their writings validate the development of the doctrine as prominent, common place and well established in early Christian literature. If you look hard enough and long enough you will find the Arians who where discarded for heresy, and of particular interest is a man name Sabbelius – he espoused modalism which is modern day oneness theology! He was so quickly labeled a heretic – your lucky to find him in a history book and if you do – he’s blurb in passing.

The Trinitarian doctrine may be a debated in some senses on a scriptural level although I don’t think so

But it is not on a historical level

let us further consider some great Trinitarians that I think you will know:

I want to start with some contemporary names we might recognize. We could compile a huge list but let me just name a few: Joel Osteen, John Hagee, Joyce Meyer, Ravi Zacharias, DL Moody, Max Lucado, how about some organizations like: Assemblies of GOD, Church of GOD, Southern Baptist Convention, The Methodist Church, those at Azusa Street revival –

But lets go back further and make mention of some real icons in church history, some heavy hitters: Those who fostered no real company line – but instead challenged their view of GOD, and salvation without bias

Listen to these names, influential, historic, and Trinitarian:

John Wesley

Charles Spurgeon

George Whitfield

Martin Luther

Charles Finney

Smith Wigglesworth

Billy Graham

Wow! How impressive is the pedigree of this doctrine!

Powerful validation

- Scripturally

- Historically

- Socially

These are esteemed men of GOD, esteemed organizations, are we to assume that all of these collectively have failed and been mislead, and are falsely holding to pagan theology?

- Trinitarians are not polytheistic – we believe in ONE GOD

- Trinitarians recognize the biblical distinctions of GOD in the “persons” Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

- Historical documentation shows the Trinitarian view was early church doctrine that appears to have been generally accepted by the church

- The doctrine is shown in the biblical writings of Paul, Peter and John, as well as extrabiblical writings by church fathers.

- The most notable of post apostolic figures such as Luther, Wesley and a variety of credible organizations generally accept the doctrine of the trinity without question.

- The doctrine remains the most generally accepted doctrine of Christian faith without fail in a world that holds little value for tradition, and has for nearly 2000 years

– This is enough for those of you involved in this study, those outside of those present in the sanctuary…. Who have discredited the doctrine to reconsider

Pastor Craig