Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 2013
Charles A. Clough
1 John Series
Lesson 3 – Seven Basic Elements of the Trinity; Truth Vocabulary
15 Sep 2013
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
… in our study of 1 John ... So I want to go back to the level where we were on page 2 with the Trinity. I put out the diagrams because I know we’ll repeat those; and the Trinity diagrams are important because there is so much content on there. It’s hard just looking at the PowerPoint to grab a lot of the content. So that’s why I included the handout diagrams. When this gets put on the Biblical Framework website, the PowerPoint’s will be there. You’ll have the PowerPoint slides and they will be able to be printed out.
Let’s open with a word of prayer and ask the Lord show us this rather incomprehensible revelation that He’s given to us in a structure.
Why I’m going into the Trinity here is because you can’t get an appreciation for John’s expressions unless you first have some idea of the Trinity. We’re going to deal—what we’re trying to do here in this introduction is we haven’t even gotten into the text of 1 John yet. We’re just trying to deal with some of the vocabulary issues because it will speed up our understanding, our grasp, of 1 John when we get into 1 John if we’ve already prepared ourselves to understand his way of expressing himself.
The big idea here is that John is the one who emphasizes the Upper Room Discourse in John 13, 14, 15, and 16. He wrote those chapters very comprehensively unlike the other Gospel writers. So, we know immediately that the Upper Room Discourse played a tremendous role in his personal life.
When he wrote 1 John he’s using the expressions that he learned from Jesus Himself in the Upper Room Discourse. Several of those expressions you can see as I’ve tried to outline it on pages 2 and 3—the “know Me” vocabulary, the “keep My commandments” vocabulary, the “loving Christ” vocabulary, the way he uses the word truth, and most problematically the way he uses the word abiding. That is a major issue in understanding 1 John because there are two ways of understanding how he uses abiding. Commentators fall into one of those two camps. The discussion there is hinging on that word abide. So that in turn, to understand abiding, you have to understand “in Me”; but “in Me” is involved in the Trinity. So now we’re back to the Trinity.
I want to go through this. I’m using the Trinity model that was developed in the ’30s by Nathan Wood, who was President of Gordon Seminary at the time. He wrote a book in which he gave an interesting discovery that I don’t think anyone up until Dr. Wood’s time had thought about this. I think this is original thinking on his part. It’s useful because in dealing with Muslims, the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, to some degree most of the cults; you inevitably have to deal with the Trinity because they will come back and say the Trinity is irrational. The Trinity therefore is a way of refuting your Christian faith by saying that you Christians who believe in the Trinity you’re being irrational. God can’t be irrational, so you have an internal problem of your faith.
So we want to look at the Doctrine of the Trinity and we want to see if indeed the Trinity has also been revealed in the creation. So, in looking at the Trinity, this chart …
There are seven elements at least in the Doctrine of the Trinity and any analogy; any illustration of the Trinity needs to come to grips with at least some of these elements. The use of the egg and so on as often used in Christian circles really doesn’t cut it when it comes to displaying the Trinity and understanding it.
So let’s look quickly at these seven elements on slide 2. Then we’re going to go; and we’re going to look at two or three illustrations of the Trinity.
These are not, in other words, modes of revelation though they can be that. They are modes of His being and we see the Father and Son He calls and they are called Father and Son. He calls Himself Father and calls the Son Son because He is using the structure of family.
This starts to open up more doors here. This is why in our present culture when we deal with the collapse of the family and we deal with the arbitrary state definition of marriage as whatever the legislature passed last month or last year or yesterday. It doesn’t matter when. If you believe that the institution of family, the institution of marriage—if you believe those institutions are changeable, that they’re social constructions only; they are only the result of the latest Gallup Poll as to how they are to be defined; then what you’re saying there is there’s no structure in God’s creation. That’s what you’re saying.
The problem you have then is you’ve also therefore annihilated the idea that God reveals Himself. Because God reveals Himself to us as creatures and He has designed things in creation with the prescience that He needed those to reveal Himself. When God created man, He created us in His image. He created us in His image so He could incarnate Himself in us, not in an animal, not in a lion like the sphinx, not zoological revelation but anthropological revelation. Man is distinct from animals. See, it goes back to the first slide we showed over and over and over again.
The Eastern Church was not really invited to the Toledo conference. They got angry that they were excluded and claimed that was not a truly an ecumenical council. They were messing with the creed, etc. Down through the corridors of time, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church following from them have traditionally had a very weak Christology. This is why in Eastern Europe you have the czars. Historically it led to the idea. … Russians to this day still gravitate to a very strong state leader—witness Putin, for example. The idea of a strong leader necessary to hold society together is rooted in that Eastern Church because they have a weak idea of Christ.
In the western church you have a strong Christ because the Christ who sends the Holy Spirit is God Himself. He is in that sequence, the subordination idea. So therefore, Jesus Christ and the Father send the Son.
Jesus said, “I will send the Holy Spirit.”
So you have that sequence. In the West it’s no accident that the idea of liberty grew not in the East, but grew in the West. It grew in the West because of a strong Christ. When Christ says, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”; you have a strong limitation on government. That was very flimsy in the Eastern Church. We live with this some 2,000 years later. We’re still living this out. So that’s an important section in the Trinity.
Then we could mention these others but the idea quickly today is these are elements that a thoughtful analysis of the Trinity holds to.
So now what Dr. Wood did in the ’30s was say, “If that’s the structure of God; then has He left analogues of that in His handiwork of creation?”
So we come to the next slide here (slide 3). Here are three areas of physical nature where Dr. Wood carefully looks at and finds that indeed—indeed there is a tri-unity. There are created tri-unities in the physical creation.
This is not some strange thing. The Muslims are wrong. The Mormons are wrong. The Jehovah Witnesses are wrong. The Trinity is not some abstract thing the church theologians just dreamed up in the 3rd and 4th centuries. It’s not an irrational imposition of revelation. In fact, the characteristic of the Trinity is left in the created handiwork all around us. Let’s look for examples.
Let’s look at space. Space has three dimensions—not four, not two. At any point in space can be encapsulated in length, width, or height. Those of you who’ve had geometry know you can take a point x, y, z. Every point can be described by X; every point can be described by Y; every point can be described by Z. So space has three dimensions, not two, not four, not one. It always has to have the same three. Every one of those dimensions includes the others. Three dimensions are what space is. It’s not how space appears to us. It is how space is.
Then he went on he began to look at matter. He organized it in three and only three forms: energy, motion, and phenomenon. Now here’s where sequence begins to be important. With space, the Trinity analogue in space is pretty easy to see; but it doesn’t have some of the finesse of the Doctrine of the Trinity and its other aspects.
But when we move to matter, now as Dr. Wood pointed out, now we begin to see the same kind of sequence, the same kind of subordination, that goes on inside the Trinity. Here we have energy, motion, and phenomenon. Energy is not seen. Energy is only detected in its motion when it moves things, when it changes things. Then the phenomenon which are the distinct motions are what we use to interpret. Things change. We have the spectrum of light for example. We see the difference and we see those differences to interpret. It helps interpret what we’re looking at.
Then he says that each form constitutes the whole because energy is present in motion and phenomenon. Energy doesn’t exist where there is not motion of something at the atomic level if nowhere else. So then we come three forms are what matter is.
Then he goes to the fourth element. Energy is embodied in motion and it issues in phenomenon. There’s sequence there if you think about it. It takes a while to think these things through. That’s why I gave you the handout diagram. The point is that the Trinity the concept of the orthodox Christian Trinity, is not some strange thing that never shows up anywhere else outside theology.
Then he comes and he shows time. Time is even more interesting—the past, the present, and the future. His argument here is that time has a flow to it. Every moment will be either future, past, or present at some point in time. Each point in time is encapsulated by one of those three dimensions, each of those three dimensions.
But then there’s the flow of time. Time flows out of the future into the present and then into the past. Now there’s where we start to see this strange sequence stuff going on. Each mode is the whole. Time flows from the future through present and into the past. Now here is where we get a little insight into the role of the Holy Spirit and Christ and the Father. If you think of time, the unseen future continually embodies itself and makes itself visible in the present. The present is what we see and know, revealing the future. The past proceeds from the present and the future and is used as the diagram says used to understand the present.
Let’s think about this for a minute. Time flows out of the future. You can’t experience the future. No one has ever experienced the future. The only experience you and I have of time is in the present. That’s why we can see an analogy here. The only way we see God is in the Son. The Father flows and molts and makes Himself known in the Son. That’s what Jesus said to Phillip.
“Don’t you know Me, Phillip? Haven’t you seen the Father in Me?”
The Father is seen in the Son. The Son is the only place where God is seen. The Second Person is the seen-ness of God. But what is seen there is the nature of the Father manifesting Himself in the Son.
Then in time, time flows out of the present so we no longer experience it, and into the past. However, and here’s an interesting thing. We use our experience of time from the past to understand what’s going on in the present.
Now this helps conceptually understand when Jesus said, “I will send the Spirit and the Holy Spirit will make these things known and plain to you.”
It’s no different than ordinary experience of history. We know and remember our past. It’s those memories that allow us to live today because if we had to relearn everything every moment, if you had to relearn from yesterday today you’d never gain anything. The reason you can grow and gain is because you remember the future.
Now this is why it’s so important that in the battle for our culture today, there’s a thing called revisionism—historical revisionism. Historical revisionism is rewriting the past. Why do you think that the Marxists, the Deweyites, the socialists, and the revisionists of history want to rewrite history? What does your memory of the past enable you to do? To understand your present. It’s precisely rewriting history that can alter a society because it alters its perception of itself. This is why there’s a strong movement and has been since the early 1900s in our country to erase the Christian influence from past American history. The God haters don’t want us to understand the present in terms of an analysis structure that includes biblical influence. The way they’ve done that to sabotage that is by altering history and rewriting American history.
To show you how effective this is, let me read to you. Carol and I have this 600-page Christian history that each day we read and it talks about some historical aspect. Listen to this. This is a remarkable history of our nation. We’re thinking now in terms of time. Time flows into the past and it’s our memory, our storage of our past, that we use every single day to live our lives.
On September 12, 1905 approximately 100 people met in a loft over Peck’s Restaurant at 140 Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan The purpose of the meeting was to strategize the overthrow of the Christian worldview that still pervaded much of American culture in 1905 and replace it with the ideas of the then unknown writer by the name of Karl Marx. They called the organization they formed that day the Intercollegiate Socialist Society.
Those of you who are older (50 and above), you will be familiar with these names. You younger people may not be familiar with all the names. The older people here this morning, you will recognize the names. You think—this is one meeting in 1905 in a restaurant in New York City. Now listen to who grew out of this movement.
The godfather of the organization was the 27-year-old author by the name of Upton Sinclair.
The first president chosen was the author Jack London, age 29. Also present was Clarence Darrow. The strategy of the organization was to infiltrate their ideas into academia by organizing chapters in as many colleges and universities as possible. And organize they did. Walter Lippmann, later author director on the Council of Foreign Relations, was the president of the Harvard chapter. Walter Luther the future president of the United Auto Workers headed the Wayne State chapter. Eugene Debs who went on to become the five-time Socialist candidate for president was the leader at Columbia University.
The society grew and the first annual convention was held in 1910. By 1917 as World War is ending, they were active on 61 campuses and a dozen graduate schools. Other early activists included W. E. B. DeWatt who would become the official of the NAACP and later a communist party member. Victor Berger of Wisconsin became the first socialist elected to Congress.
In 1921 the Intercollegiate Socialist Society took its next organizational step changing its name to the League for Industrial Democracy. Its purpose was education for a new social order based on production for use and not for profit. Norman Thomas another perennial socialist candidate for president was a leader behind the scenes. The renamed organization’s first president was none other than Robert Lovett, editor of The New Republic. The field secretary was Paul Blanchard who later became an author.
The college chapters of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society now became the student League for Industrial Democracy. As members graduated from college …
Watch the movement.
… some entered the pulpit, others the classroom. Some wrote textbooks while others entered the labor movement and both political parties.
When the New Deal began in 1933, they were prepared. At the time the league had 5,652 members; but they were in positions of leadership everywhere. By 1941 John Dewey the founder of progressive education and the league vice president all through the 1930s was its honorary president. Lionel Nebor, the theologian, was treasurer.
Lionel Nebor was one of the most leading orthodox theologians of the ’30s and ’40s. So he was the treasurer of this group.
Dewey had already organized the Progressive Education Association and the Association of University Professors (AAUP) to which most faculty members belonged. The League for Industrial Democracy was so successful that those who held leadership in the movement or were cooperating with it could have been a list of who’s who in America.
Robert N. Baldwin founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, Charles Bier the historian, Carol Binder editor of the Minneapolis Tribune, Helen Gallagher Douglas, the congresswoman who was defeated by Richard Nixon for the U.S. Senate. Felix Frankfurter Supreme Court Justice, Sidney Hook the educational social philosopher, Edgar St. Vincent Malee, the poet Henry Morgenthal, Jr. one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s most trusted economic advisors. Walter and Victor Luther United Auto Workers, Will Rogers the humorist, Franklin Roosevelt, Jr. the president’s son, and Arthur Schlesinger, the historian.
The obscure loft in Manhattan where they organized has long since been forgotten, but what began there that night permeates America’s institution and culture having replaced Bible-based values of the 19th century with the liberalism based on Marxism.
This is why college campuses are important in evangelizing. This is why Bill Bright started Campus Crusade for Christ. This is why we have InterVarsity. It’s the ideological generation of the next generation’s leadership—very, very important. Campuses are where tomorrow’s leaders are born and indoctrinated.
So getting back to Dr. Wood; here’s the importance of the fact that in time the past is important to interpret the present. Rewrite the past and you change the present.
Oh, yes. In fact, in all the news stories you’re listening about the Palestinian thing today, how many times have you personally heard the Jews are occupying Arab lands? You hear it all the time, don’t you? That’s not true. The Arabs are occupying Jewish lands. It’s exactly reversed. Who has the first claim—Ishmael or Isaac? So here we have … But it’s repeated. It’s constantly repeated news story after news story after news story, magazine article, magazine article, blog after blog after blog.
Finally, if you repeat something long enough, everybody goes along with it whether it’s true or false by shear repetition. This is one of the things about Bible teaching. That’s why I don’t apologize to review, review, go over it and over it and over it again because that’s how we learn. We have to be reviewing constantly the Word of God because the society around us, the world around us; they’re constantly bombarding us over and over with the same fantasies. There is a war here for our minds.
Then what Wood does is he deals with people. That third slide of the Trinity dealt with physical nature.
But now Wood says, “Let’s look at us. Let’s look at the structure of people.”
He divides people into nature, person, and personality. This comes closer to the Trinity and how John uses this “abiding” and his prepositional structures. There are no more nor less than three. In back of a person is a nature merging into the lives of others personality. One is not a personal being unless all three elements are present. Each one of the three factors in man is so distinct that no one of the three can be either of the others. Each of the three factors is inevitable to the others. Without the person, there is no nature or personality. Without the nature there is no person, no personality; and there is no person, no nature without personality as a consequence.
Then you have this flow. Nature is first, the source of all that you are. The person is the second embodying that nature. Personality is the third proceeding from the nature through the person.
Here we have a tri-unity of people as well as a tri-unity in nature. Maybe it will help as we go into John and he treats the Holy Spirit to think about the fact the Holy Spirit’s work relative to Jesus is like the personality impact we have as people among others. The way he’s using personality is the impact, the person that you leave, what people think about you from the projection that you are making from yourself. So nature, person, personality … He goes on and he describes that sort of thing.
So these are helps perhaps in comprehending the Trinity a little bit better and more accurately. Then we want to go on to page 3 to loving Christ and truth vocabulary.
We’re not going to because of time get to “abiding” today. We’ll have to take that next time.
But let’s look at, in that time frame, loving Christ. Loving Christ is a term that the apostle uses as we would use “being loyal to.” It’s picked up from the Old Testament. You can go into treaties in the ancient Near East and when pharaoh would make a treaty with a lesser nation—he was a superpower at the time when he would make a treaty. You can actually read in the treaty text that pharaoh expects so-and-so king to love him—to love him. Now he’s not talking about a homosexual relationship. He’s talking about political allegiance. That’s how the word love is used.
This is why in Deuteronomy we have:
NKJ Deuteronomy 6:5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
It’s not a romantic use of the word l-o-v-e. It’s something else. This is the way l-o-v-e is used by John. That’s why he can use l-o-v-e, that verb when he talks about love not the world. It’s not a romantic attachment to the world. It’s something else. Loving the world is to go along with it. So that’s the sense of love there.
Then the next word that he’s using that we want to look at and we’ll finish with this one today is truth. So let’s turn to John 14:26. Again we’re turning to that Upper Room Discourse section of the Gospel. From John’s point of view, this was the most intimate conversation Jesus had. We know from comments here that John was physically very close to Jesus when the discourse was going on.
He says, “I was the guy that was right next to Him.”
So the other guys may have been paying attention—maybe not paying attention frankly. They could have been arguing about who should be the greatest in the kingdom for all we know. That’s as they sat at the table.
But John, John was sitting right there next to Him. So John—his eyes and his ears were glued on what Jesus was saying. It so affected him that when you read John 13, 14, and 15 and you get a sense of his vocabulary—lo and behold when you come over to 1 John it’s the same vocabulary. This is years later. As an old man he hasn’t changed. That colored his way of speech so powerfully that as an old man he was still talking that way. So in John 14, this is one of the verses where he’s mentioning the Spirit.
NKJ John 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.
26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
So there’s the Son. The Son is going to leave so He physically is in absentia. The Son is in absentia. If the Son isn’t physically here, what contact do we have with Him? It’s the Holy Spirit.
“I will send the Spirit and He will remind you of these things.”
The Holy Spirit is a Person just as much as Son and Father. But He stays in the background, so to speak. John cleverly talks around using the words Holy Spirit. You’ll see it in the epistles. It’s kind of neat. He talks about the Holy Spirit but he doesn’t mention the Holy Spirit. He mentions Him indirectly, that kind of thing. He keeps the Holy Spirit in the background.
“and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
If you look at later on—while we’re here by the way in John 16—let me get the verse because Mike and I were talking about this after class last time when we were talking about who sent the Holy Spirit. In John 16:7—that’s the verse where it directly says the Son sends the Spirit. We have this giving of the Spirit. But the Spirit is called the Spirit of Truth, which introduces the Greek word aletheia. This word truth is used in a very particular fashion throughout the Scriptures actually.
I showed you this last time, but we want to deal with it again. When we’re talking about the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth, this is what we’re talking about. We are not talking about truth as it’s normally understood in a non-biblical society or non-biblical classroom type situation.
For example let’s take:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
How can it be that Jesus could say, “I am the truth,” when if we conceive of truth as just the result of a rational proof or we consider truth the result of a scientific observation or experiment? How is Jesus truth in that sense? What we really mean here it’s a powerful, powerful and comprehensive way. Jesus when He says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” He means to include every aspect of truth. Yes, we come to the idea that something is true because it’s logically consistent.
But think—what was the Greek word John used to describe the Second Person of the Trinity? The logos. So Jesus encompasses logical consistencies. There is no inconsistency in God. So, the truth we’re talking about; yes it does meet the lower created elements of truth. Something has to be consistent in order to be true. That’s a truth test. That’s Deuteronomy 13. That’s how a capital case was tried in Israel.
How do we know that capital punishment should be exercised against a false prophet? It was a truth test. What’s the truth test? Does his teaching meet logically the teaching of Moses? Is it logically consistent? It’s not like the Quran which says we can abrogate previously revealed truth because Allah says. “I said that before but now I’m abrogating that telling you something else.” That’s not the way it works. Moses—Deuteronomy 13 is what the prophet is saying logically consistent with what I have said?
Logical consistency is a legitimate test. But it works only because God thinks logically. If you don’t have God underlying your logic, you have no support for your logic. After all, where do the laws of logic come from? Do you smell them, taste them, detect them? They can’t be seen. They can’t be smelled. They can’t be touched. They are just hypothesized. On an unbelieving basis I just have to assume that logic exists. We as Christians don’t have to assume logic exists. We worship a God who thinks logically. So why shouldn’t His creation work logically? We don’t have a problem with logic because our God is logical and consistent. Furthermore, not only is He logical and consistent, He’s the interpreter of created reality and the determiner of ethical norms.
Truth in John also refers to truthful ethical norms and standards. Truth in ethical norms and standards is not a result of a poll. That’s what our society thinks. Something is right or wrong based on the latest Gallup Poll; or worse than that, thinking of Gallup Poll again, what is right and what is wrong is what Johnny thinks, what Jane thinks, what Mrs. Lewis thinks, what Mr. So-and-So thinks. In other words, what we’ve got here is four opinions and somehow we’re going to take the four opinions of what is right and wrong and mix them together and come up with a statistic and say that’s what we should use for our legislation.
That’s where we are folks. You either believe in a subjective ethic, which is nothing more than your opinion or my opinion, or we believe that there’s an objective ethic that’s rooted somewhere in what the powers-that-be made to be right or wrong. But, that’s not truth biblically. Truth biblically is that God is the determiner of ethical norms. And He’s not the arbitrary determiner. It’s not because He wants to be a meanie that He decides, “I’m going to make you guys do that.”
That’s not the way God creates ethics. God creates ethics because it says:
NKJ 1 John 1:5 “…God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”
“It’s My character that determines what is true and what is false and what is good and what is evil.”
And that character doesn’t change.
“I am the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
So the standards of God don’t change with time with the latest Gallup Poll.
The humanist idea here is that somebody—a lot of the Greeks thought they could get away from this. This is relativism. Reality is composed of an infinite number of physical pieces; people walking around. That’s where we are today as a culture.
The Greeks tried to get around this, tried to avoid ethical anarchy by arguing for a dualism that somehow off in the great ideal world there is law, there is ethics, there’s that which is beautiful. Somehow we participate in dualistic existence. Plato never could define—where does it exist Plato? Where’s this abstract world?
Then the amusing thing is Plato was dealing at one point in his writings with sewage in the city. He was challenged. Where is the ethical standard for sewage (poop)? He couldn’t come up with it. He didn’t want to deal with it. Well, why not? If there is a dual category up there, why wouldn’t it include poop? That was one of the objections to Plato. What he was concerned with was only the good in the ideal. That’s good, but how do you define what is good and what’s natural?
So anyway that’s where we stand and I hope next week we’ll finally finish this with abiding. All of this to make you appreciate start reading John just reading the first few verses of his Gospel you are face to face with the Trinity and we’ll be face to face with it again in the first few verses of 1 John.