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The Trinity 三位一体

Our theme for this year is ‘in Christ’. To be in Christ, is to belong to Christ, to know Him, to love Him, to worship Him and to follow Him.

To be able to satisfy these things, we must know who Christ is – both factually and personally – and to know who Christ is we must know and understand the Trinity and Jesus’ role in the Trinity. That’s what we’re going to look at today.

Just curious, does anybody here fully understand the Trinity?
Does anybody here believe that they will fully understand the Trinity by the end of this sermon?
Historically speaking, some of the greatest errors in understanding the Trinity come when people have thought that they have finally fully understood the Trinity. We have been taught enough in the Bible to have a basic, solid understanding of the Trinity so that we can know God, yet there will always be an element of mystery to the nature of God and we would do well to accept that, to marvel at God’s infinite nature and to worship Him in this way, too.

The Trinity

There are three basic statements that accurately sum up the Trinity:
God is three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)
Each person is fully God
There is one God
If you stick to these three basic statements, you can’t go far wrong in understanding the nature of the godhead.

Let me briefly explain these and give some supporting scripture.
God is three persons
This means that the Father is not the Son, nor is the Father the Holy Spirit. The Son is not the Holy Spirit. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three distinct entities.
John 1:1,2: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
初めに言があった。言は神と共にあった。言は神であった。 この言は初めに神と共にあった。ヨハネによる福音書1:1,2
“With God” shows distinction from God. They are not the same. They are separate but together.
2. Each person is fully God.
Obviously God the Father is God. But Jesus is also God (and this is where many groups like the Jehovah’s witnesses get it wrong).
Again John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 20:28,29 Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
トマスはイエスに答えて言った、「わが主よ、わが神よ」。 イエスは彼に言われた、「あなたはわたしを見たので信じたのか。見ないで信ずる者は、さいわいである」。
3. There is one God.
Scripture is clear that there is only one God. The three persons of the Trinity do not make three Gods. They make one God. One in purpose and agreement, but also one in essence and nature.
Deuteronomy 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

B. Analogies 例え

We often make analogies to help explain the Trinity. None of them are terribly good. They’re good for explaining the Trinity to kids or newcomers to the faith but when we really get into the true nature of the Trinity, they all have shortcomings.

I really love it when new people come to the Bible studies. People who don’t have a clue about the Christian faith. They refer to Jesus as simply ‘that guy on the mountain’ or John the Baptist as ‘that hairy man’. It’s great stuff! And I know who they mean. For a newbie, ‘that guy on the mountain’ is just fine, but as we get to know ‘that guy on the mountain’ we understand that simply recognising him as ‘that guy on the mountain’ falls very short of who he really is.

It’s the same with analogies of the Trinity.
The Trinity is like a tree. [image] God the Father is the roots, Jesus is the trunk and the Holy Spirit is the leaves and fruit. The shortcoming here is that the roots, the trunk and the leaves are just parts of the one tree and none of the parts on their own can be a tree.
The Trinity is like H2O. [image] God is the water, Jesus is the ice and the Holy Spirit is steam. Three different things but of the same essence. The problem here is that H2O can never be in all three forms at the same time. And there’s nothing in this analogy that suggests personality.
Any analogy we use for the Trinity will fall short. This might be why Jesus never seemed to give a parable or analogy for the Trinity. The closest we get is the relationship between a father and a son. So I would encourage you to go light on the analogies and heavy on the teachings of scripture when it comes to the Trinity.

C. Distinctions in the Trinity

If we say that each member of the Trinity is fully God, and that each member of the Trinity fully shares in the attributes of God, then how can there be any difference (or distinction) between the three persons? Aren’t they all the same?

This is key:
The persons of the Trinity have different primary functions in relating to the world.

In creation, for example, God spoke the Word to bring the universe into being. But it was God the Son, the eternal Word of God, who carried out the Father’s will for creation. The Holy Spirit was active in “moving” or “hovering” over the surface of the waters, bringing God’s presence to the earth.

Another example is in redemption. God the Father planned the redemption of all people and sent His Son into the world for that purpose. The Son obeyed the Father and accomplished redemption for us. God the Father didn’t die on the cross for our sins. That was the distinct work of the Son. Then after the Son was taken back to heaven, the Holy Spirit began His distinct work of effecting redemption and bringing new life to those who are ‘in Christ’.

D. Application in our lives

Understanding the distinctions between the members of the Trinity is important and helpful for knowing who God is, as well as for knowing His purposes in family structure, in the church body and worship, in prayer and other ways.

I. Family 家族
Scripture encourages us to apply the truths of the Trinity to our family relationships. By understanding the Trinity better we can better understand how our marriages and family units are intended to function. In the unity of marriage we have two people, both created in the image of God, become one in body, mind and spirit. Yet at the same time they remain two distinct individuals.

But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 1 Corinthians 11:3

And just as the Father has authority over the Son in the Trinity (though they are equally God), so the husband has authority over the wife (though they are equal in humanity, importance and personhood). And although it’s not explicit in the Bible, there is a parallel where children coming forth from the couple and being under their authority is not unlike the Holy Spirit coming forth from the Father and the Son and being under their authority.

Ii. Church 教会
The diversity and unity that we see in the Trinity is also represented in the church body where we have “many members” but “one body”. Our many members have different gifts and talents and roles but we function as one with a common purpose, with authority structures paralleled in the Trinity.

Iii. Worship and prayer 礼拝と祈り

Some people ask, who in the Trinity should we pray to? Do we pray to God the Father through the Holy Spirit in the name of the Jesus? Yes, we can and that is fine. But I believe prayer is more than that sort of formula. This topic is worthy of a whole sermon on it’s own and I just might get to that.
But as God the Father and Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit are all God, we can and should worship them all and pray to any of them, but according to their roles as we understand them in the Trinity.
In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus encourages us to pray to our Father in heaven. But in praise, for example, we can thank and praise Jesus directly for his redemptive work on the cross because that’s what He did. We can pray directly to the Holy Spirit for His filling because that’s what He does.

Does anyone know what a demarcation dispute is? It’s an industrial dispute where one group of workers gets upset and goes on strike because another group of workers has started doing some of their work.

There are no demarcation disputes in the Trinity. God the Father is not going to be upset if we pray to Him regarding a matter of sanctification. (“Hold the line please, I’ll put you through to the Holy Spirit”.) It’s simply not a matter that we need to tread carefully with. But knowing the roles and functions of the Trinity can help us to pray in ways that are righteous and in accordance with the relationship we have with the one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Let me conclude with the three basic statements I began with that accurately sum up the Trinity:
God is three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)
Each person is fully God
There is one God
If you stick to these three basic statements, you can’t go far wrong in understanding the nature of the godhead.