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 1999
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 5: Confrontation with the King
Appendix A: The Doctrine of the Trinity
Lesson 117 –Trinity – Supporting New Testament Data
18 Mar 1999
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Last time we worked with the biblical material on the Trinity and went through some texts in the Old Testament. We concluded with two major Old Testament passages, Isaiah 48 and 60. Turn back to Isaiah 48 to recall that the Trinity is indeed present in the Old Testament, not in any complete way but the evidence in the New Testament folds in and links with the Old Testament. The two Testaments are not in conflict. In Isaiah 48:16 we have this classic reference; we really ought to know this and not forget it. “Come near to Me, listen to this,” you have to trace the subject of the verb and the object of the verb. Who’s the subject of the verb “come listen to Me,” in other words, it’s an imperative mood, it’s spoken by whoever is speaking in the context. In the context you have to back up to verse 12, the same speaker in verses 12 and 13 is the same one speaking in verse 16. Who’s speaking in verses 12 and 13? It’s clearly Jehovah, clearly the Lord that’s speaking. Who else [speaks] down to the earth? So if it’s the Lord speaking in verse 12 it must be the Lord speaking in verse 16.
If it’s the Lord speaking in verse 16, now look what happens. “Come near to Me,” which would be the Lord, “and listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, from the time it took place I was there.” Here’s the mystery passage, “And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.” Reading backwards from the New Testament, that’s the advantage we have, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are clearly revealed in the New Testament, can you identify the persons in the Trinity in the nouns and pronouns of verse 16? Obviously “the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit,” and that last clause has the three. The Spirit would be the Holy Spirit, now the question is, “Who’s ‘the Lord God’ and ‘Me?’ ” “Me” would be the Lord Jesus Christ, so that’s the Second Person. So you have the First Person, you have the Second Person and you have the Third Person in verse 16. It’s not like the Old Testament has two, has four, has eight, it has three, and that’s quite a profound thing to say in the Old Testament text.
We saw the other passage, Isaiah 60:22, “The smallest one will become a clan, and the least one a mighty nation, I, the LORD, will hasten it in its time.” In the context of this whole passage of Isaiah it’s clear that the Lord is speaking, and He speaks throughout this whole Isaiah 60. He speaks all the way back in Isaiah 59, this whole passage is filled with this kind of Triune nature of God. One of the things, the Lord will hasten the work of my hands, etc., “I, the LORD, will hasten it in its time,” if you look back further back in the Isaiah 60 passage you’ll see that Isaiah 60 flows out of Isaiah 59. And when chapter 60 starts that concludes from verses 1-22 it’s introduced in the end of Isaiah 59 where it says “And as for me, ‘This is My covenant with them,’ says the LORD: ‘My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth,” and we said how often in the Old Testament the word that comes to the prophet, we think of that retroactively as just kind of inspiration comes to the prophet. But the phraseology is stronger in the original language than just inspiration coming to a prophet. It’s the word comes to the prophet, and we showed that that’s the origin of the word which the Apostle John picks up. So we have these passages in the Old Testament where you see this Triunity, the Spirit, the Word that comes, and the Lord, and then you have this anointing, the anointed one who also appears.
In Luke 4:16 let’s watch how the Lord Jesus Christ picks up and uses these kinds of passages. What He’s going to do is start with a passage that immediately follows Isaiah 60:22, that whole passage that’s kind of pregnant with the Trinity. Here’s where Jesus gets up in the synagogue, verse 16, “And He came to Nazareth,” his home town, a little local church in his hometown now, “where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read.” Standing up to read, men in the synagogue would take the Torah, the ones who could read it, because not all people were literate, and everybody else usually memorized it. So whoever could read would take the Torah and the synagogue would unroll it and they’d start reading it. This is Luke. What’s the Scripture that’s being read? It has to be the Old Testament because the New Testament hasn’t been written yet. So the scroll that he’s unrolling is the Old Testament, and he picks out …, it says in verse 17, “And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him.” In other words, that was the reading. Maybe they didn’t have all the scrolls, maybe they just had an Isaiah scroll, but they handed Him the scroll.
“And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written,” if you wanted to be a dramatist you could dramatize unrolling the scroll, and He had to read it, and He had to look where it was because Isaiah is a long book and He had to unroll the whole book to get to this 60th chapter. Now look what He does. Hold the place here and flip back to Isaiah 60:22, it comes at the end of this passage, we talked about the Word, the Lord, and the Spirit. At the very end of verse 22 it says “I, the LORD, will hasten it [all this] in its time.” Then in Isaiah 61 notice what happens. The speaker of Isaiah 60 is who? God, it’s not man, it’s not Isaiah, it’s the Lord.
Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me—to bring good news to the afflicted,” there’s the word gospel, “He has sent me to …” etc. There are a number of things we want to look at, but notice first, very simply let’s just do an observation. Who’s the speaker? The Lord. Therefore the pronoun “me” in the first clause, the antecedent of the pronoun must be the Lord. The Lord is talking, and He’s talking about “me.” So He is the Me, yet it says “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” Then it says in the next clause, “Because the LORD has anointed me,” and the word anoint, Mashach, is the Hebrew word for Messiah, the anointed one, the Christ. So we would say because the Lord has made Him Christ. In this passage, even more powerful than Isaiah 48, you have the Trinity implicated in the Messiah, and who the Messiah is, because verse 22, the Lord is speaking, but then He is said to be the object of the verb anoint. How else are you going to look at that second clause? The subject of the verb anoint is whom? The Father. So the Father anoints the Son, well then the “Me” is the Son, and the “Me” is the one who’s speaking in verse 22, and has been speaking all through chapter 60.
You want to get this because of the drama that’s about to unfold in the New Testament. In Isaiah 61 let’s work through verses 1-2 just to get a little background what’s going to happen when the Lord opens the scroll and starts to read. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,” because the LORD has” christened me, or made me Messiah, “To bring the gospel to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners.  To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.  To grant those who mourn in Zion ….” Remember we talked about evil and the fall, and we talked about that the Christian faith is the only faith that has a solution to the problem of evil. Here is a typical prophetic passage in the Old Testament, you can see in this diagram we keep showing that good and evil in the Christian worldview lasts only for a duration. It’s not like the pagan who has to have good and evil forever, in the past and in the future, eternity past and eternity future, there is no stopping of one or the other; they both coexist forever and ever.
In the Christian worldview there was a period of time between creation and the fall when only good prevails. So the physical universe is conceivable in a biblical worldview to be good. But then you have the fall, and now you have to have a resolution to this, because God doesn’t become evil, God remains good forever. He’s immutable. Well if He’s going to remain immutable and He’s holy and just, and you’ve got His creation mixed, it sets up a tension and that tension has to be resolved, and it’s resolved in the final judgment when good and evil are separated forever and ever. That’s why when we studied the prophets last year we kept saying the prophets looked forward; remember we got into eschatology, etc. the Kingdom of God. There had to be a resolution, the Bible doesn’t leave things in a mess, it points to the future.
The prophets would bring that mix, they would talk about God’s blessing, i.e., this blessing here, but they would never talk about that blessing without also talking about the judgment on evil. The two go together. Look at the construction of this passage. In verse 2 what is the Messiah doing? He’s proclaiming “the favorable year of the LORD, and” AND “the day of vengeance,” do you see the two go together? The gospel is the good news, verse 1, but together with the good news the prophets also include the bad news. There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is the blessing, the bad news is that people are going to be judged; not everybody is going to respond to the gospel. Whether they respond or not there’s got to be resolution of evil and there’s got to be a day of vengeance and there’s got to be a day when the mess is cleaned up. That’s a typical prophetic thing, that’s how the prophets would speak, over and over again.
Come back to Luke 4 and watch what Jesus does with this. Here He gets up in the synagogue, He starts to unroll the scroll, He notices Isaiah, He knew full well that that’s what the passage was He wanted to read, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden.  To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD.” STOP! What didn’t He say? He left off the judgment. That’s interesting because you see, we’ll get into this when we get into the life of Christ, He pulled this several times in His ministry, where He would utilize Old Testament imagery, He’d get right up to an edge and then He’d stop. One of the comforting things about that is it shows you that the Lord Jesus Christ was very, very precise in the use of the text of Scripture. He wasn’t flopping all over the place, making things up and saying gee, I think it means this, I think it means that. He said what it did mean; every verse, every verb, every noun and every pronoun has a meaning and a purpose. That’s called exegesis of the text.
Jesus Christ came into that Old Testament text and He knew very well that in the process the good and the evil were put together to show the complete picture. But why do you suppose He doesn’t bring up, “I have come to proclaim the day of judgment?” Because it wasn’t, it was the day of grace. The Lord Jesus Christ came to Israel, He came to His own, and His own received Him not. But John says He came into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. People can get a false image of that if they don’t really know the Old Testament. You can get sort of a meek, sloppy, gooey picture of Jesus out of that by saying well gee, He was a nice guy; the God of the Old Testament is a bad guy. Well, He is the God of the Old Testament. What’s happening is He’s selecting out of the plan of God a particular part of the plan of God which was the offer of the gospel to Israel. This is what He was doing. This is the dispensation of the Lord Jesus Christ coming to Israel and offering the gospel. He’s not coming in judgment.
But that doesn’t mean He’s not going to come in judgment; it means that at that point in His career that wasn’t the issue. That’s why in the Gospels they start off with Him going to the crowds, going to the large groups, and then as He is rejected progressively you’ll notice the Lord retracts. Now He starts talking in code, now it’s the parables, and He doesn’t speak plainly any more. He speaks in this code of all the parables, and it’s directed to the disciples. And it’s though as He contracts His teaching down, the class suddenly gets smaller now, but He’s going deeper, because He’s preparing those guys for what He knows is coming. Now He starts to talk about the cross, now He talks about the judgment, now He talks about an age yet to come, the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. He talks about all these new themes halfway through the Gospels.
But in Luke 4 He’s not halfway through yet; He’s still making this announcement to the people. Look at the context in Luke 4, what happens. Verse 20, He blew them away. Here’s hometown boy, this is the guy that worked in the carpenter shop 800 feet up the road, and He had the audacity to open up the scroll of Isaiah and say…  “And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him.” What a dramatic moment this must have been.  And He began to say to them,” and by the way, this translation I’m following correctly captures the Greek, “He began to say to them,” and the way the Greek language distinguishes between He said to them and He began to say to them, what do you suppose that little structure is doing there? If you were to reconstruct the scene, why do you suppose the text reads “He began to say to them”? Not He said, but He began.
If the text just said, “And He said to them…” that’s fine, we could follow the thing, but there’s a little detail in there, “He began,” He started to say to them. If you were telling a story why would you tell it that way, “He started to say to them.” obviously because He didn’t finish saying. What happened? ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.  And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips, and they were saying, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’ ” This is a continuous thing, so now they’re saying back “Is this not Joseph’s son,” so the idea is that He starts to say, to explain the text, after He sits down. He’s read it; He didn’t explain the text when He was up in front reading. He sat down and then He said this text is fulfilled before you now. The other thing, they were all speaking of the meaning, there was a buzz going on. I mean, this broke up the service here.
There was a lot of discussion going on, they kept going, people talking and leaning over talking to the other person, and all this was going on, “wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’  And He said to them, ‘No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself, whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your home town as well.’  And He said, ‘Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his home town.  But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land,  And yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.  And there were many lepers in Israel…”
By the way, this is a classic passage for why Jesus Christ didn’t heal everybody, and why He doesn’t do miracles for everybody. He’s clearly saying this is not the way God works. “There were many widows in Israel,” there were a lot of poor widows in Israel, and they all didn’t get blessed, that was the “name it and claim it” business that floats around from time to time.  “But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land,  and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.  And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.  And all in the synagogue was filled with rage as they heard these things.”
Talk about a church that had just got busted, can you imagine this. What do you suppose is going on here? He lived with these people; these are His neighbors, Joseph and Mary’s neighbors, so He knew all about them. And they think it’s great when it starts off, but then in verses 23, 24, and 25 it appears that He directed that back against the criticism that was being directed to Him. Clearly it doesn’t make sense that He suddenly lashes out at a group of people in verses 22, 23, 24, and 25 for no reason. There must be a reason why He said what He did here, and apparently what was going on was these people were saying to Him, look fella, if everything’s so great how come you don’t pull off some of your stunts around here. He knew that was on their minds, so in spite of the fact, verse 22 it says these people were making the proper clucking noises, it sounded nice, Jesus read their hearts. You people doubt Me, you don’t believe what I just told you, and let me go ahead and I’ll address the thoughts that you’re not even voicing right now, because it says in verse 21 He started to say to them, and they were all speaking… and the thrust of the text seems to be that He started to explain more fully what that text was saying, and then immediately He watched the response going on. So He stopped that mode of thought and switched, and then He began to address the problem that the people had.
This is what I think so angered people about Jesus, is that instead of going along with the fact of becoming defensive, that they would accuse Him of not being clear, they would accuse Him of not doing a miracle so we too can see, I mean, we’ve heard these things over in Capernaum, but You haven’t done anything lately for us. In other words, instead of accepting that passively, what He in fact did was He went right after the root of unbelief. That’s when the Lord gets annoying, He butts into our business. He doesn’t just stand out in the closet in the cold and we come to Him with all this polite language. Verse 22, everybody’s “speaking well of Him,” ooh, sounds great, and in fact it wasn’t great, it was just a cover for a lot of wreaking unbelief that was going on throughout the whole congregation. He just said okay, I can read your minds, now let Me just tell you about your own hearts, boom, boom, boom.
He got a response, look at verses 28-29, all this because of a text out of Isaiah. But the text in Isaiah, who was speaking the text? Jehovah was speaking the text. These people are Jewish, they clearly caught it, they knew enough about their Old Testament to know this arrogant young man getting up and identifying Himself with the figure of Isaiah 60-61, who they knew clearly that figure, be it Christ the Messiah or not, that figure was clearly Jehovah. So from their perspective that’s blasphemy. This is exactly what C. S. Lewis said over and over again, that in effect Jesus Christ doesn’t permit you to conceive of Him as a good teacher. He is either a blasphemer or He is who He claimed to be. But you can’t come up with what C. S. Lewis called patronizing nonsense, that says he’s a nice, good teacher, like Harry Emerson Fosdick, the guy that we read earlier about the modernists, oh the manhood of the Master. There’s not any manhood of the Master here. This is the God-man and if you don’t like it then call Him a blasphemer but stop goo-ing around with oh He’s a good teacher. The Lord doesn’t permit you to do that.
Verse 29, “And they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and let Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built,” Nazareth is high, it’s high up, “in order to throw Him down the cliff.  But passing through their midst, He went His way.” He went through them, and that’s one of those mystery texts, verse 30, well how did He do that. I don’t know, He walked through them somehow, whether He glared at them and they just kind of backed away of what happened, what exchange went on there. Luke just really doesn’t give us a clue about what happened, just the result of it. So we can sit back and look at these texts theologically and in depth, all the theory, the doctrine and stuff, but just keep in mind here was an example from the street where people who were informed biblically about Isaiah knew very well what this claim was all about.
We want to come to the New Testament, on page 8 of the notes we talk about the New Testament supporting data. In the New Testament we have lots of data about the Trinity but we’re not going to go through all that data tonight, what I want to do on pages 8 and 9 is examine the text only for the Third Person of the Trinity. I think we’ve shown enough so far about the deity of the Father, the deity of the Son, but there’s a problem with the Third Person of the Trinity. Often in church history and in practical Christian life the Spirit kinds of get the short stick here of not being given due honor. The Holy Spirit is sometimes conceived of as a vague impersonal force, rather than a full person. That’s the assertion of the New Testament. The New Testament brings into focus the personality of the Spirit of God, that it’s not just an influence of God; it is a person, with all the attributes of emotion, mind, soul, etc.
One of the problems in the text is because it’s translated “it” and the reason it’s translated “it” is because that word is neuter, it’s not male or female gender, it’s just neuter, so it comes across as an impersonal “it.” Why the Holy Spirit is the neuter I don’t know. Obviously there must be a theological reason for it. In the notes on page 8 what I try to do is capture the imagery of “Spirit.” There are two words, one in Hebrew and one in Greek that are translated spirit. In the Old Testament it’s ruach, and in the New Testament it’s pneuma. We get the word pneumonia from this word; it’s a word that means air associated with lungs, we still use it that way, because “spirit” and “breath” are the same, they come out of the same noun, same concept.
If you look at the middle paragraph on the notes, here’s the concept behind the words that are used for the Third Person of the Trinity. “The general term spirit is visualized in the Bible as breath or wind, something that is active but that is never seen directly (John 3:8). Humankind is sometimes seen as a body of water stirred up and blown about by spiritual forces (Daniel 7; Ephesians 4:14).” Remember what the Ephesians passage says, unstable Christians blown about by every wind of doctrine. That’s the image. In Daniel 7 the idea is I saw the beast rise up out of the water, the waters were stirred, and the picture is that the water is an image of the human race, unstable, and whoooo, the wind blows upon it and moves it. The idea in Daniel 7 and in Ephesians is they’re “spirits,” evil, spirits, blowing upon the water, moving it. It’s a biblical view of history that we are the water and we are open at all times to spiritual influences around us. We, in our western mind, like to think of forces in history, economic forces; we like to think of political forces, of geographical resources, this country is great because it has great geographical resources, natural resources; this country is weak because it’s in the middle of a desert.
We think in terms of these processes. Frankly, it’s very shallow because we fail to [can’t understand word] the next reason, what is the cause of those forces? And why is it that they’re so unpredictable. No economist yet has been able to predict anything of significance; if they were they’d be billionaires. Here these guys are teaching in college campuses, making all these pontifical announcements about economic forces, and you can have a simple street test and know they don’t know what they’re talking about. If this guy with his three doctorates knew what he was talking about he’d go to the commodities exchange of the stock market and make a mint because he could predict what’s happening. They don’t do that so it tells you they can’t predict. They have a lot of ideas and they project them, but they’re not predicting. They can’t even do as well as we do in meteorology.
The point is that the Holy Spirit and other spirits are active all the time in history. The picture then is of wind, breath. Remember God said I made man’s body in the Garden of Eden; the picture was He made it out of the dirt of the ground, and what did God do after He finished Adam’s body? He breathed into it. Doesn’t that remind you of first aid, CPR? God breathed into the nostrils of Adam. And it was a picture of breath; it’s not some spooky third dimension type thing. If you were there and had a video camera that’s what he would look like, the manifestation of God, Second Person, took this lump of clay, working with it and goes whooo, and there’s Adam. So the breath, the coming of the breath is a picture of the Spirit.
Associated with this is another picture and you get this in Proverbs 1:23. Here’s a classic passage that gives you this idea, it relates the pneuma with speech. I take you to Proverbs 1:23 because it’s talking about ordinary teaching, but it uses terminology the New Testament later uses for such wondrous events as Pentecost. Because people read the New Testament and they don’t read the Old Testament, they get into Acts and see Pentecost, the pouring out of the Spirit, and they conceive of all this stuff that goes on, mystical spooky stuff, and fail to see and capture the metaphor. The language that is used to describe Pentecost is right here, in Proverbs 1:23. Look how it occurs.
Wisdom is speaking, “Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pout out my spirit on you; I will make my words know to you.” That is called parallelism in Hebrew poetry. Clause #1 is parallel in meaning to clause #2. What does clause #2 say; forget clause #1 for a moment. “I will make my words known to you.” That’s speech. What’s the object of speech? Communication of content, truth goes from mind #1 to mind #2. “I will make my words known to you,” I’m going to talk to you, I’m going to teach you, I’m going to give you content. Parallel to clause #2 is clause #1, and what is clause #1? “I will pour out my spirit on you.” So what is pouring out of the spirit? It’s revelation of the Word of God. So you have the Spirit here and you have the Word. That describes the relationship of the Second and Third Persons of the Trinity, that very metaphor.
Our throats, our lungs and our larynx are built and designed by God to reveal this truth. You can’t speak in a vacuum; you’ve got to have air. Something’s got to go through the vocal cords, you’ve got to make them move, that’s the only way we make sound. So what does God have us do? He has us breathe, we have lungs, and they’re pushing air through the vocal cords, that’s the only way we can speak. Sometimes we have fun in the meteorology group where we use helium gas for weather balloons and guys will breathe in helium (you’re not supposed to do this) and talk funny, and what it is, it’s just a low density gas trying to pass through your vocal cords and the vocal cords are vibrating like they always do, but they don’t have the density, the air density, in there to make the noise, proper acoustic signature. The idea is that the spirit is poured out. That means that in the human heart we think and we have these ideas that we want express. So when we speak and we make our words known, what this text is saying, it’s pouring out your spirit. That’s what pouring the spirit is, there’s nothing spooky about it. The pouring out of the spirit is a synonym for communication, verbal communication.
If people would just get this out of Proverbs 1:23 when they get over in Acts and they start seeing the pouring out of the Spirit, what was that? The pouring out of the Spirit was the beginning of the New Testament coming through the apostles and the prophets. It was Peter’s speech, the preaching of the gospel in the different languages, etc. Again, pay attention to Old Testament text and that sets you up to go into the New Testament.
A little more about the personality. Acts 5:3, this is a classic text, used for years by theologians to emphasize the personality of the Trinity, in particular the full personhood of the Holy Spirit. Remember the incident, Ananias and his wife wanted to impress everyone how great they were giving and went through all this stuff. “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why hast Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit….” Can you lie to an “it?” You lie to people, not an “it,” not an influence. So this is one of the classic New Testament passages where you see the Holy Spirit presented as a full person. Moreover, in verse 4, [small blank spot] “…You have not lied to men, but to God.” So not only is the full personality of the Holy Spirit given, but the full deity of the Holy Spirit is given in this text.
You’ll notice at the bottom of page 8 I’ve given a whole bunch of verses. If you look at those, they all support the personality of the Holy Spirit. Also on the top of page 9 you’ll see the reference to Isaiah 6, you want to look that up because that’s similar to what we just covered where the Holy Spirit says and it quotes the Isaiahic text of Isaiah 6, yet if you look in the Old Testament context, who’s doing the speaking? The Lord is doing the speaking; Jehovah is doing the speaking in Isaiah, but in the New Testament when it’s cited it says the Holy Spirit is doing the speaking. [Verses: Acts 5:3-4; 2 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13; cf. Romans 5:5; Acts 28:25-27; Isaiah 6:9-10; Hebrews 10:15-17; cf., Jeremiah 31:31-34].
In Matthew 28:19 the baptismal formula is another powerful reference of God’s threeness and His triunity. What we want to point out in Matthew 28:19 is that the “name” is singular. That’s very significant. For a Jewish mind, what is the name of Yahweh? It’s very sacred. The name of Yahweh is so sacred that they lost how to pronounce it. Nobody to this day knows how the Tetragrammaton is to be pronounced. We guess it must be Yahweh, but we don’t know because in the Hebrew text that’s all we have, no vowels in there. The vowels have to all be supplied, so we wind up with this thing called the Tetragrammaton, and that’s considered so sacred nobody would pronounce it for centuries. Because nobody did pronounce it for centuries they forgot how to pronounce it and the vowels dropped out and were lost.
In light of all that, now let’s look at verse 19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name,” what you have to think about here in verse 19 is that everything that follows that noun, “name,” in the rest of that clause, “of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” all that is a new revelation of what the name of God is. It’s not just as simple, straightforward as it would seem to the casual reader. To someone who knew his Old Testament well, this is an expositing the name of Jehovah. The name of Jehovah is now the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a tremendous, powerful revelation of the Trinity here, in the baptismal formula.
There’s one other passage, 2 Corinthians 13:14 that we often use in our church services, and it is a third classic reference where the Trinity in the New Testament occurs in a mature way. You’ve all heard this dozens and dozens of times at the end of church services. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” There the tri-unity of God is distinguished by what they do. Here is where the role comes in and in the history of the doctrine of the Trinity there are two terms that are used by students of this doctrine, one is called the ontological Trinity, and the other is called the economic Trinity. That’s not talking about Alan Greenspan. That’s talking about the difference between God in His existence and being. The ontological Trinity is conceived of as the Trinity before creation, no plan of salvation being executed, no fall visible, just God. In that situation you have the ontological Trinity.
The economic Trinity is the description of how the Trinity work [singular] in the plan of salvation. In 2 Corinthians 13 the qualifications that are introduced in that benediction refer to the economic Trinity, watching the Trinity doing things, particularly doing things in the plan of salvation. Notice what is ascribed to each of the three persons. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” grace comes to central focus in the person of the Son, “the love of God,” for “God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son, so the Father is grace too but the idea is that the love motivates, is behind the plan, “and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,” He’s the one that brings it to us as individuals, always glorifying Jesus Christ, never drawing attention to Himself. That’s why the Holy Spirit doctrine is so difficult, because He doesn’t ever make Himself an issue; He makes the Lord the issue. It’s a model of what we should be doing. There’s the Trinity, there’s the Old Testament and New Testament evidences.
What we want to do in conclusion, if you’ll follow in the notes on pages 9-10 I’m going to show you how the Trinity [blank spot] … centuries of thought and they’re not casual. These words are not casual. “The Nicene Creed as usually recited in Western churches says,” look at the titles; we’re not focusing so much on the deity of Christ as the whole Trinity itself. “I believe in one God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.” See, there’s the First Person, the First Person is put first. “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God: Begotten of His father before all words [God of God], Light of Light, [Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made,]” and there’s the strong deity, they’re using every way… those poor people that wrote that Nicene Creed, they’re trying to get away from Arianism, so they’re doing everything they can.
I want to draw your attention to one phrase, underline the phrase “ Begotten, not made,” because every heretic in church history camps on the word “Begotten,” and what do you suppose heretics do with that word? Make Jesus created, He’s begotten. We’ll get to that in just a moment, why did the fathers put “begotten” in the Creed then if it caused so many problems. They had a reason. “Begotten, not made,” they had to put that “not made” on there so that it would knock out the false idea that begetting means He was made. So they had to put that in there to correct it. “… Being of one substance [essence] with the Father; by whom all things were made ….” So that last clause elevates the Lord Jesus Christ to what role? It makes Him the Creator of the universe.
Now look what they do with the Holy Spirit. “And [I believe] in the Holy Ghost,” the Holy Spirit, “the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified.” The key word to underline there that has caused problems down through history is “proceedeth.” And you’ll note in brackets “[and the Son]”, that’s that [can’t understand word] clause that we spoke of earlier. That’s the clause that separated the Eastern Church from the Western Church. That’s the clause that made Russian Orthodox Church the forerunner of communism, because what it did was it demeaned, “and the Son,” now you have the Holy Spirit sent from the Father, the Son has nothing to do with it, the Son is sort of a minor person of the Trinity, and wherever Jesus Christ was small, what expands to fill His place? The state. So in societies where you have a weak Christology, and the Russian Orthodox Church has always had a weak Christology, the Greek Orthodox has had a weak Christology, because they’ve all dropped out this [can’t understand word] clause. So these little brackets, this really has a lot of implications.
Article 1 of the Episcopalian Creed, the Anglican Church. The Anglican Church shows Reformation thinking because Henry, while he was trying to mess around with all of his wives, he did one good thing, he decided that he didn’t know what he was doing in the church so he sent down to Geneva and got some people to come from Geneva up there and give some theology to the Church of England. “There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in the unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” So there’s another great creed trying to come to grips with the doctrine of the Trinity.
The Westminster Confession of Faith is probably one of the most debated and refined creeds. We wouldn’t agree with everything in the Westminster Confession of Faith, particularly its eschatology, but on the other hand it’s a very powerful thing. You remember that when you hear Tom Brokaw on NBC, at Princess Diana’s funeral, looking down the corridors of Westminster Cathedral and saying, ah, there’s never been something like this in Westminster Cathedral before Princess Diana’s funeral. Excuse me! This was what was great at Westminster, not Princess Diana. This was ironed out by the Puritans, this was ironed out by people were biblically illiterate, and it was a grand, high level of Westminster that this came out of.
“There is but one only, living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, host holy, most free, most absolute … In the unity of the God head there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: The Father is of none,” notice what they’ve done here in the Westminster Confession of Faith, here they’re trying to get at those words, proceedeth and begotten, “The Father is of none, neither begotten, not proceeding;” what they’re trying to say there is “neither begotten” distinguishes Him from the Son, so neither begotten distinguishes the Father from the Son, “not proceeding distinguishes Him from the Spirit, “the Son is eternally begotten of the Father;” there they qualify themselves, now watch it. See, begotten in context is not talking about a point event that Jesus originated at a certain point, it’s He’s eternally begotten, it’s always going on, whatever this is, “the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.”
In other words, the structure, are they referring to the economic Trinity or are they referring to the ontological Trinity here when they use the word “eternal?” They’re using the ontological Trinity. In other words, what they’re attempting to do here is to attribute the triune distinguishing aspects of the Trinity that existed forever and ever and are immutable. They don’t change in the Old Testament; they don’t change in the New Testament, if we could take a time machine before creation they’d still be true there. The Father, the Son and the Spirit have never changed their relationship and their structure. What we observe in the plan of salvation is but an instant of this eternally abiding character.
What I’ve tried to do is take five propositions, on pages 10-11, we don’t have time to go through all these tonight so I’ll just start with one. “1. God is Absolutely One.” What I’ve tried to do is show …, remember in Q&A one night the question about the egg came up and I said something about theologians laid an egg when they came up with that illustration. It’s not that it’s a super bad illustration; it’s just that that illustration doesn’t really illustrate these five propositions. We’re going to get into an illustration that does do it in the notes, but what we want to see is… whatever illustration you come up with for the Trinity, you’re free to come up with…there’s many analogies out there, but just be sure that your thinking in terms of these five truths because if you don’t you’re going to get it imbalanced here when you start to get into the Trinity.
The first one is “God is Absolutely One. God cannot be divided into parts. He is not a divine being who can be described (as pagan thought tries inevitably to do) by prior categories or attributes.” Underline the word “prior,” “prior categories or attributes.” What I’m getting at there is the idea that you have this idea of goodness, this idea of eternity, the idea of holiness, and then God fits into that category. The category is kind of there like a yardstick and then God comes along and we measure Him with it. You can’t do that, that’s a pagan way of thinking. What we have to do, what we’re challenged to do by Scripture is to reverse the process and say it’s God’s character that establishes the yardstick. Righteousness in the final analysis is not an “it” or a category, some Aristotelian category. Righteousness is what God is like, that’s the highest, that’s the most complete, that’s the most deep exposition of righteousness, what He’s like. Love is not a quality or an attribute like Aristotle conceived of it, and then God happens to have that quality. It’s rather that God’s character sets up the category. The categories follow God, not God following the categories.
I make that point because now we’re going to get into the Trinity we’re going to deal with oneness and threeness, and see what happens. The pagan thinks of a oneness and a threeness in mathematical terms, he’s got his number system, and then he says how do we explain God in terms of the number system, whereas what we should do is turn this whole thing around and say the reason we have numbers is because God’s character is that way, He’s the ground of the number, not trying to understand Him in terms of numbers that are abstract and we fit dogs, cats, rocks, atoms, pounds of force, and then also God, they all happen to be clustered under this category. That’s not the way to think. That’s the Continuity of Being view, that’s pagan thought. The Bible says that God sets up the qualities; He radiates those qualities, just like the rainbow. Where does red come from? Red comes to us from the rainbow.
Isaiah 40:25 is a passage in the Old Testament that says “To whom then will you liken Me” to, God challenges us, He says name a category that will measure me. So it’s a very important verse, it clearly denies that there is any such prior category to which God can be likened or classified. “Any such categories comprehended by man are (q)ualities that themselves derive from the Creator. Our sense of geometry and space derive from His Omnipresence. Our sense of time derives from His eternality. His attributes, therefore, are not impersonal Ideals thought by man; they are (Q)ualities of His personal character. God is each one of these characteristics entirely. All of God is involved in righteousness, all of God is involved in justice, and so on.”
What I’m trying to say there is avoid the pie chart concept, you look at a pie chart and it’s all slices, and here’s love, here’s …. No, no, wrong picture, because that would imply there are parts of God that aren’t righteous. Then over here He’s righteous, here He’s love, but here He’s… it gets too fouled up to do it that way. The only way we can handle this is to make all of Him righteous, all of Him is love, all of Him is holy, there’s no conflict between them. So however we define holiness and love, for example, we’ve got to remember that they eternally coexist in the character of God without conflict. We don’t understand how all that happens, but we know that it happens, as a matter of fact.
So when we come to God He is absolutely one, He is not divided into parts; the very idea of unity comes out of God. We’re going to get into the threeness. I want to go through all of those five propositions, and if you’ll look ahead in the notes, if you have a moment read on pages 12-13 I’ve taken Dr. Nathan R. Wood’s example of the Trinity and it’s very challenging to work through that, but if you can grasp it, it will help you understand these five propositions and keeping them in balance, because later on we’ll deal with how this comes out in the issue of prayer. When we pray, who do we pray to? I’ll show you that if you pray to the Lord Jesus Christ, obviously people talked to Jesus when He was incarnate but when you back up prayer so that it’s not directed to the Father, in the name of the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit, and you move it out one so now it’s to the Son, now you’ve got an intercessory allocated has moved from the Son over to the Spirit and you need something else out here, and historically you know what the something else was? It was Mary. So you’ve got to watch it, there were certain things that fall out of this. Mary becomes the fourth person of the Trinity. Why is that? Because we’ve made Christ so unapproachable that He is the One now to which we’re going, not the Father, and if we go to Him, now who’s the intercessor? But if we go to the Father in the name of the Son, the Son is the intercessor, so I don’t need Mary, I’ve got the Son. So there are some practical things, even what we would think of as just simple, normal, every day pray that flows out of this Trinity.
That’s why these guys were so concerned when they did the Nicene Creed and they did the Westminster Confession, these guys put a lot of time into it. They weren’t just playing theological games, because they realized if they didn’t get it right, this house wasn’t going to stand on the foundation, it was wobbly.
Question asked, something about why did Jesus have to be baptized: Clough replies: Baptism was actually almost like a surrogate anointing in the Old Testament, I mean Christ’s name is “The Anointed One.” Who did the baptizing? It was John, and it was very significant because in the Old Testament the kings, the legitimate kings were picked out by the prophets, and anointed. So you have a tradition of Samuel anointing Saul; Samuel anointing David; several of the other prophets anointed their kings. The prophetic king-makers were a powerful force because the king wasn’t… he had to have popular background in the Old Testament, he had to be a candidate, a viable candidate so to speak so that he had credibility with the people. But that really wasn’t the source. And the Bible argues, all during the books like 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, not so much Chronicles, but the Kings and Samuel are statement to control the structure of the monarchy and make it very clear that there had to be an anointing, chosen by God.
So that’s why, at the baptism of Jesus there’s a context of things going on there. First, John is doing it, it’s John’s baptism, then upon the baptism of Jesus the Father speaks from heaven, and the dove appears, so there’s your Trinity again. The baptism of Jesus is not for sin, there are six or seven baptisms in the Scripture, some dry, some wet. The word baptizo doesn’t mean dump in water, necessarily. There’s the baptism of Noah that’s mentioned, there’s a baptism of fire, that’s very dry, there’s the water baptism of the church, John’s baptism, Jesus’ modification of John’s baptism that you’re talking about, a whole bunch of things.
Question asked: Clough replies: John’s baptism was a baptism of cleansing. Jews used baptism for cleansing and it was the idea that I confess my sin in anticipation of the coming of the Kingdom of God. So it’s preparatory to the Kingdom. But when Jesus came, He sort of … what’s the word I’m trying to think of, what is it when you capture something and take it over … He grabbed hold of John’s baptism. [someone says appropriated] Clough says: Yeah, Jesus appropriated John’s baptism for a purpose higher than what John was used to. It was a special act, never to be repeated again, a unique event, and it was a way the New Testament has of showing patterns. The New Testament has a pattern structure to it that you only appreciate if you’ve read the Old Testament. That’s why all four Gospels … all four of the Gospels start with John the Baptist. Jesus’ genealogies are spoken of, but there’s that sequence, John’s always there. Well why does it start with John? Because he’s the prophet, he’s the bridge prophet between the Old and the New Testament. So the baptism of Jesus has all this. It’s basically for His humanity, it’s to emphasize His Messiahship and it’s His official calling and inauguration.
The problem with John’s baptism that you get into in church history has been that the heretics said that was when the Spirit of Christ came upon the man Jesus. That’s not true; Jesus was as much God when He was an eleven-year-old boy as He was when He was twenty-one.
Someone says something: Clough says: Obviously as Jesus grew He learned. Someone else comments: Clough says: It’s the unfolding. There are just a lot of things, every one of these events, it’s like that Luke synagogue passage that we went through, you could take any one of those tiny events in Scripture and make a three hour drama of all the details that went into it. In fact, that’s the problem, I haven’t mentioned it but one of the books that was written a number of years ago by a Christian art professor and The Free University of Amsterdam, it’s called Modern Art and the Death of a Culture and it’s a Christian artist, a professor of art history actually, and he’s dealing with the meaning of paintings and the different artistic styles, etc. and he’s showing how artist classically had great difficulty in painting the Lord Jesus Christ, and there have been segments of the church that prohibited it. You could not have a picture of Jesus in a church in some Protestant churches. It would be considered absolutely idolatrous.
The problem was that the artist had the dilemma, as Rookmaaker says in his book, how do you paint God? You paint Jesus as a man, and you’ve distorted it, because He didn’t look … I mean He looked like a man but as an artist are you going to define in your painting the meaning of the object that you’re painting so it becomes a poster, and that’s what the Medieval artists tried to do, remember Medieval art always has this big halo thing around, and it wasn’t that they believed necessarily that people had glow in the dark, it was rather that what they were doing is they were painting posters explaining theologically what’s going on. That’s why you have these paintings, Mary’s this tall and everybody else is this tall, it was their attempt to try to picture meaning.
Then you come to the Protestant Reformation the good thing was that the artist realized, hey, I can paint nature, everything out there is God’s design, I don’t have to sit here and paint theological posters, I can go out in the landscape. And that’s the rise of more realism in art. The problem with that was, when they started in the realism, now we’ve got a problem, how do we paint Jesus realistically. It’s like when you know someone … when someone’s a stranger to you and then you get to know them better and better and better, at first you only conceive of them like a camera would think of them, you think of them, you photograph them in your mind. But then as you get to know them better, you find yourself in a point where you almost can’t describe them in visual form because you know them. That’s the dilemma an artist has about Jesus. If we know who He is we have all this theology of who this man is, then how do you paint that? You can’t, ultimately.
This is very difficult stuff but what I am trying to do is show you points to be careful about when you start talking and thinking about the Trinity, because you really want to get … you never can comprehend it, but you can at least know what is in error when you see it.
Question asked: Clough replies: Because in the sequence, it’s not that everybody does this, it’s just there are tendencies to do this. If you make Jesus the end point of the prayer, then He becomes the focal point, He becomes the end object of it. Well if that is so, now how do we have access to Jesus, would be the question. If He’s holy, He’s righteous, and He’s the glorious Judge, He tends to take on the role of this unapproachable Judge, and in the classic prayer it’s to the Father through the Son, and I can come to the Father because I’ve got a high priest who makes intercession for me. Therefore, looking at the Father and His righteousness and holiness, how do we have confidence of walking into His presence?
Think of Isaiah and what happened. How do you have the audacity to walk into the throne of God without a Savior, without an intercessor? So it’s more like the focus is on the Father but here is my intercessor, I’m coming to Him through the Person of Christ, motivated through the Holy Spirit. But now if you back it up one step, keep the Father out of it, and then you terminate the attention on Christ, now the question is you either come to Christ as He’s a good ole boy, a friendly guy, and now righteousness and holiness doesn’t play a role because now I’m talking to my friend, Jesus. What tends to do, it tends to run in two directions, either Christ now becomes so much of a friend that He’s less than God in His righteousness and holiness, or in the Catholic tradition, they so elevated the righteousness and holiness of Christ that now how do I have access to Him. Then they started looking around for a mediator, and they found the mediatrix. So the incorporation of Mary kind of comes in because she has access to her son, it’s the Italian family model I call it, that if you want to talk to daddy, you talk to mommy first, and she talks to dad.
Someone comments: Clough replies: Oh, I don’t think they consciously think in those terms, and I’m not saying that’s the only reason why Mary was brought into the picture. I think there’s dozens of other reasons involved here. All I’m suggesting is that when the simplicity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is received and you get too focused on details and forget that it’s just a simple progression; that things begin to go haywire. And if nothing else, if it doesn’t lead to Mariolatry, it supports it. This is not to say that Jesus is unapproachable. Clearly when He was on earth He was approachable. Clearly Stephen, in Acts 7 when he’s about to be killed he looks up and the picture in the Greek is so magnificent, Jesus is standing, and the idea is that He’s usually sitting, but to receive Stephen He gets up. This is the cosmos; the God-man Savior is getting off the throne to receive Stephen. And the people around …, that’s one of the reasons why they got more incensed. So Jesus is approachable, He comes for us, we’re not at all trying to diminish that aspect, all we’re trying to say is the Father has to be kept solidly in place here.
Someone comments: Clough replies: What happens there by over emphasizing, that everything terminates in the Son, the Father just goes away, and that’s not the way the Trinity is.