The Necessity of the Trinity: Fact or Fiction: Part I

The necessity of the Trinity: fact or fiction? The term trinity is not a Scriptural term. Because of this fact, some people reject the validity that God is the three-in-one and one-in-three God. Others find that the concept of the Trinity is against all human logic. It is irrational. It does not make sense. Human logic becomes the final determinant for acknowledging or rejecting the three-ness and oneness of God. Moreover, not only is the validity of the Trinity called into question by many, the necessity of the Trinity is often denied.

True theologians appeal to divine revelation to affirm the doctrine and the necessity of the Trinity. There is a Biblical witness to the Trinity both in the Old and New Testaments. Moreover, the Church from the third century on has declared the tri-personality of God as a revealed doctrine. The doctrine of the Trinity is purely a revealed doctrine. It embodies a truth which is undiscoverable by natural reason. With all his searching, man has not been able to determine the deepest things of God (Matthew 11:25-27; 1 Corinthians 2:11-16).

The doctrine of the Trinity is given in Scripture, but not in a formulated definition. In response to the fact that the term trinity is not used in the Bible, theologian B.B. Warfield wrote that it was better to preserve the truth of Scripture as opposed to simply relying on words derived from Scripture. Similarly, Morton Smith wrote that it is not essential to limit oneself to the actual language of Scripture, so long as the doctrines of Scripture are maintained.

Today, the doctrine of the Trinity is misunderstood and under attack. Three non-negotiable truths are essential to the necessity of and doctrine of the Trinity.
• There is but one living and true God Who is eternally indivisible – the oneness/unity of God;
• The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are fully and equally God – the sameness of the Triune God;
• The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each distinct Persons – the diversity of God.
Have you thought through the concept of Trinitarian necessity? Is it necessary that God exist as Tri-personal – the Triune God? Consider several lines of reasoning that support the fact of the necessity of the Triunity and a Tri-personal God.

First, there is the argument from Scripture. How so, you ask. As noted above, the term is not used in Scripture and there is no formulated definition. Yet, if God is not tri-personal, no man could adequately understand the fullness of God as He has revealed Himself. God is the Revealer and created man as a revelation interpreter. Moreover, the Bible is God’s self-revelation. It is His personal, self-witnessing, self-attesting truth of Himself and His work in creation and re-creation including redemption and consummation. Therefore, there is a continuity of the revelation of God contained in both the Old and New Testaments.

The Bible as a whole is a narrative with movement. The narrative begins with God in eternity past and ends with God in eternity future. Who God is and what He has done, is doing, and will do is the topic of all that is “in-between.” There is an Old Testament because there is a New Testament and not vice versa. There is the New Testament because of God’s eternal plan of redemption and life after salvation points to and highlights the fullness of the Godhead: the Triune God saved and sanctified and is sanctifying me and the Church for His own sake – His glory – and the good of believers. He saved me from sin, Satan, and self to God, for God through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit. The refrain to the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit is prominent throughout the Holy Scripture (especially see Ephesians 2:18; 3:4-6, 12). Unless you are Trinitarian you will not, and cannot, know the true God and the beauty of salvation.

Moreover, love underlies God’s motivation as Savior and Father. He is the fountain head of love (1 John 4:7-12). In eternity past, the Triune God was busy loving Himself. God was never alone or remote. He was relational within the Godhead such that there is, was, and will be unity of purpose and function, as well as diversity within the Godhead. God loves because He always loved Himself (1John 4:7-12, 19). These aspects of the Godhead bring comfort and joy to every believer.

The New Testament writers were not trend setters and did not set forth strange gods (Acts 17:18). Rather, they presupposed the continuity of revelation between the two Testaments and envisioned the Triune God whom they worshipped as the God of the Old and New Testaments. The two Testaments proclaim the same God. The authors of the New Testament had no problem applying Old Testament language about God to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the New Testament writers spoke and wrote with simplicity and assurance. They lived on the other side of the cross and the resurrection. The Trinity was no novelty to them. The whole Bible was for them and continues to be Trinitarian to the core. Paraphrasing one author (William Sanday): “There is nothing more wonderful in the history of human thought than the silent and imperceptible ways in which this doctrine (the Trinity), so difficult to us, took its place without struggle – without controversy – among accepted Christian truths.” To be Christian one must be truly and properly Trinitarian. The New Testaments writers were Trinitarians as was Jesus. How about you?

Application:
1. What is your view of the Trinity?
2. How do you relate the Old and New Testaments especially in regards to the Trinity?
3. Are you a functioning non-Trinitarian, and if so, what is your response?

The Necessity of the Trinity: Fact or Fiction: Part II

A second line of reasoning that testifies to the necessity of the Trinity and a Triune God is His fullness. In view of the tri-personal existence of God, Paul speaks of the infinite fullness of God (Colossians 1:19; 2:9; Ephesians 3:19). The infinite fullness of divine life in God is due only because of His tri-personal existence. It is as if God is incomplete as a uni-personality. The fullness of God is the fullness of the Godhead – the very essence and majestic glory of God. John also spoke of Christ as the fullness of God through the Holy Spirit (John 1:14, 16, 18; 10:30; 14:6-9; 14:26; 15:26). To grow in your understanding of God, you must grow in your understanding of the Godhead. You do that only because you are in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

A third line of reasoning regarding the necessity of the Trinity focuses on the practice of good or bad theology. Without a proper understanding and commitment to Intratrinitarian Theology, individual believers and the Church will not properly understand basic doctrinal truths such as creation (Genesis 1:1-2; John 1:3; Colossians 1:15-16), worship (John 4:20-24; Ephesians 2:18; 3:12), prayer (Romans 8:26-27; John 14:10-17), salvation (John 3:16; 14:6; 16:8-11), sanctification (Romans 13:12-14; Galatians 2:20; 5:16-18), and the Church (Ephesians. 2:19; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 12:27).

These facts are demonstrated by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. Note Paul’s Trinitarian emphasis as highlighted in Ephesians 1:3-14 and 2:14-18. Paul begins his letter after a brief salutation with a Triune litany as he records God’s approach to His people and His Church (1:3-14). Paul begins with the believer’s salvation in eternity past. He begins with the Father but moves to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. The Father chose believers in Christ, predestined and adopted them in Christ, redeemed them in Christ, and lavished them with the riches of His grace in Christ (v.3-11). The Father marked and sealed His saints by and in the Holy Spirit (v.13-14). In these passages Paul describes God’s covenant-making and covenant-keeping activity. God initiated salvation in eternity past and brings it to pass until Christ returns.

A fourth line of reasoning highlighting the necessity of the Trinity focuses the gospel message of salvation (being saved) and growth in Christlikeness. God approaches believers in Christ by the Holy Spirit in order that believers may and will approach Him. The creation mandate is fulfilled through re-creation and redemption. .God’s original design was for a people to be in His divine presence eternally. That design is being fulfilled in salvation and sanctification. Once saved and changed, believers grow in Christlikeness. Growth occurs through the indwelling Holy Spirit who brings about union with Christ and the fruits of that union. Believers are the most changed and changing people in God’s world. The constant refrain for both salvation and sanctification is Intratrinitarian: from or to the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit.

In Ephesians 2:14-18, Paul describes a twofold reconciliation between God and men and between Jew and Gentile. Ephesians 2:18 is the centerpiece of God’s reconciliation of Himself to believers (For through him we both have access to the Father by One Spirit.). It is a vivid example of the Trinitarian foundation for the gospel and the necessity of the Trinity. God’s reconciling Himself to His people was through Him (the Son) which is why believers have access into God’s presence (Romans 5:2). Notice the Triune order: Christians come by the Holy Spirit, through the Son, to the Father. In Ephesians 1:3-14, the order was from God, through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to be in communion (fellowship) with one person of the Godhead and not have communion with all three.

A fifth line of reasoning highlighting the necessity of the Trinity is given in Ephesians 2. In that chapter 2 Paul underlines the basis for the Holy Spirit’s teaching regarding peace and unity of the church. God’s peace is Christ Himself. Christ gives peace but not as the world gives it (John 14:27; 16: 33). All believers have the peace of God in Christ because of the indwelling Holy Spirit who is gives truth and peace through illumination and knowledge of the truth (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:14; 3:16-17). God’s peace is manifested more fully by God who is love and the Lover par excellence and who has poured out His love into the believer by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5; I John 7:7-12, 19). The indwelling Holy Spirit completes and applies Christ’s mediatorial work by indwelling the Church and individual believers.

All believers have a “piece” of the Triune God on earth through the Holy Spirit. Love and peace are linked vertically which is reflected horizontally – toward others. As strange as it may sound, God is at perfect peace with Himself but only as the Triune God. Peace and love are relational and are based on who God is. God must have made peace with you before you can have peace with Him and with others (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). God’s formula for peace is Intratrinitarian: with God, through Christ, and by the Holy Spirit. Peace and unity characterize the Trinity and they are to characterize believers, their homes (Ephesians 5:22-33), and the Church (Ephesians 2:11-15). The great doctrine of reconciliation can be summarized as God voluntarily laying aside His enmity in order to love His former enemies (Romans 5:10-11; 2 Corinthian 5:18-21; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:21-22). And because God makes and keeps promises to Himself and to others, the believer will never be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:35-37). The doctrine of reconciliation is Trinitarian in nature. The tightness of the relationship between God and the Church and God and the believer is as tight as the Intratrinitarian bond.

A sixth line of reasoning that highlights the necessity of the Trinity focuses idolatry. Several theologians emphasize that the Trinity is God’s distinctive mark that distinguishes Him from idols. True worship of God is triune worship (John 4:20-24). The object of divine worship is each person of the Godhead equally. Even the weakest of prayers have immediate access to the Father. Moreover, not only worship but prayers as well are to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit (John 14:14; 15:7; 16:13-15; Rom. 8:26-27). When a person improperly divides the Godhead, the person perceives God and functions as if God is impersonal and simply a dead, impotent idol. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are considered simply as forces or abstractions – let the force be with you. The Creator-creature distinction is functionally reversed. God is made a product of the creature’s imagination and thinking. Rather, the Triune God is to be worshipped as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Worship and prayer are given and directed to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit.

Application:
1. Consider the refrain: to God, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit.
2. How often does it or the concept appear in the New Testament especially the epistles?
3. How does the refrain influence your understanding of creation, redemption, prayer, and worship?

The Necessity of the Trinity: Fact of Fiction: Part III

A seventh line of reasoning underscoring the necessity of the Trinity takes us back to the Garden. God declared that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). What was God’s “reasoning” or perhaps, more properly, His purpose in making this declaration? One possibility is the fact that the eternal God was never alone. His Oneness and Three-ness describe His nature of unity and diversity. He has always been tri-personal and He has never been alone. Man is the image of God. He is not simply made in His image. Since God is not alone, man is not to be alone. Pre-fall, marriage (man and woman in union) was God’s design for mankind. Singularly, man is uni-personal (oneness) but the one-flesh union of marriage introduces the concept of unity and diversity (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:24 – plurality and personal distinctions). There are no solitary Christians on earth or in heaven. The fact of and the necessity of the Trinity compels every person to view marriage as the union between man and woman. Same-sex unions are an attempt to eviscerate the truth and necessity of the Trinity.

An eighth line of reasoning emphasizing the necessity of the Trinity centers on love. God is love (1 John 4:7-12, 16). The Bible makes this statement about no other being. The God of the Bible is a Person and love is bound up in Who He is. This fact rules out impersonal pantheism and the belief that God is an abstraction, inattentive to, or some force distant from His creation and creatures (deism).

The subject of love is filled with potential traps. Too often, the Church imports culture’s terms, labels, and definitions. Since God is love and He is a relational Being, love is relational. Love presupposes a lover and lovee (subject and object). Humanly speaking, love has a vertical (God-ward) and a horizontal (man to man) reference (Matthew 22:37-40). A working definition for love is giving, to meet a need, determined by the correct standard and with the right motive expecting nothing in return (John 3:16; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:1-2, 25). How do we apply this definition to God and His love? We don’t. God is love – He loves but He lacks nothing. He is not a needy Person. Whom does He love? Theologians speak of the love that God has within His Being – by necessity He loves Himself, perfectly. He is the Lover par excellence. He is both the subject and object of His love, the Lover and the Lovee. God’s tri-personal existence helps us understand and appreciate God the Lover and Lovee. There is harmony and functionality within the Godhead. The necessity of the Trinity is underscored by a proper understanding God, love, and the cross.

Some theologians describe this Intratrinitarian love as His own delight and satisfaction with Himself. This is an amazing concept. Within the Godhead, this love is perfect, eternal, relational, personal, and mutual (John 3:35; 5:20; 10:17; 15:9; 17:24; Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; 6:6). God is Love and therefore He has eternal love – He has loved eternally. There has never been a moment that He did not love or stopped loving because He always had Himself! He was/is the subject and object of His own perfect love. God loves Himself as a tri-personal Being. This fact is logical given that God is jealous for His own honor and glory which He shares with no creature (Exodus 20:4-6; Isaiah 42:8; 48:9-11).

Too often, the subject of love starts with God’s love of man (John 3:16). That in itself is a grand topic. God does love the creature. The Psalmist asks: what is man that you are mindful of him (Psalm 8:4) and O Lord, what is man that you care for him (Psalm 144:3). God the Sovereign Creator loves the creature. This is a stupendous realty especially when you remember that the fallen creature was God’s enemy until salvation (Romans 5:6-10). We hear about the amazing love of God for the believer and we should! (John 3:16; Ephesians 3:14-21). That love is only possible because He loves Himself. Love speaks for the necessity of the Trinity!

Since God is love, Lover, and Lovee, and He is, God has been and loves eternally. Scripture tells us that the Father loves the Son (John 3:35; 5:20; 10:17; 15:9) and the Son loves the Father (John 14:31). These passages apply to the Father-Son relationship in eternity past and to Jesus in His earthly ministry as the Messiah. The Father’s love of the Son is Intratrinitarian. It is not redemptive love or common kindness/grace. No, this love is something special. It is from God to God as equal persons. This love is inherent within the Godhead and constitutive of Who God is and how the Trinity works. It extends to and proceeds temporally and logically to the Triune God’s love of creatures and sinners. This love of the creature occurs only because He loves Himself. Amazing! The Triune God loves from and to the Father, through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit. Again the necessity of the Trinity is accentuated!

God alone is absolute perfection and He loves Himself perfectly. The object of His love is Himself and others which is manifested in His goodness. He loves Himself tri-personally. God’s love of Himself is, at least, the infinite and eternal bond of fellowship within the Godhead. It subsists between the three Persons of the Godhead. As the Triune God, God loves His people salvifically and all creatures non-salvifically (Romans 3:21-26; 1 John 4:10-11; John 3:16; Matthew 5:43-48; Acts 14:17).

The believer should be excited, comforted, and relieved that God loves Himself perfectly and tri-personally. Because He is love, He loves His creatures. Yet His creatures are not God. The Canaanite/Syrophoenician woman knew that having the crumbs of God’s love beat any of the “love-masqueraders” (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30). She knew this before the cross and the resurrection. Jesus came first to the house of Israel. The woman understood priorities and she was satisfied with the “crumbs” of God, His love, and His blessings. She had some idea of the goodness of God and therefore she did not demand a full meal. The crumbs were more than enough (Ephesians 3:14-21). She left rejoicing! If God loves Himself, He can and does love ungodly creatures. The cross proves it and the resurrection affirms it (Romans 4:25). This truth should be an encouragement for all believers.

Application:
1. God is love and loves Himself perfectly.
2. How do those truths influence your view of the Triune God and His goodness to you and others?
3. God’s love begins with Himself. What significance does that have for you as His child?

The Necessity of the Trinity: Fact or Fiction: Part IV

Continuing our discussion regarding the necessity of the Trinity and the reality of the tri-personal nature of God, please consider two more lines of reasoning (ninth and tenth reasons). Some use the concepts of personality and personhood to support the necessity of the Trinity. This subject can be tricky when applied to God. Man is not God and man’s reasoning is no match for God’s understanding and revelation. No one knows the mind of God except the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:16). His thoughts are not ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yet God has revealed Himself as Triune. One theologian (Thomas Manton) wrote that believers were made for understanding the mystery of the Trinity.

God exists and He is a real Person with characteristics (so named as attributes and perfections) that distinguish Him as God. Personality or personhood is not present or developed in isolation but in association with other persons. Personhood flows from the tri-personal God, the one and only eternal Being, and not from created beings. Therefore, the argument from personhood postulates that it is impossible to consider the Personhood of God apart from an association with persons. God’s contact with His creatures – man and animals – would not explain His personality/personhood. God is personal and His relationship begins within the Godhead among equal Persons. First and foremost He is in perfect relation to Himself. The Intratrinitarian relationship is one of an association of equal persons. It begins with God and ends with God, and it flows from Him to His creatures. God’s relationship with His creatures is a reflection of His tri-personality.

God’s relational activity begins with Himself and moves to man. Man, as God’s image, has a personal existence. Man is a rational, religious, and moral being. However, man is uni-personal while God is tri-personal. As revealed in Scripture, God’s tri-personal existence is not a result of divine will or choice. It is a necessity of and in the Divine Being. God could not exist in any form except as a Person having personal distinctions. There is plurality in the Godhead.

Moreover, a tenth reasoning relating to the necessity of the Trinity is the fact that God is a self-conscious Being both in His oneness and in His plurality. God’s knowledge of Himself is a fundamental concept of Scripture. God’s knowledge is innate, complete, absolute, original, infinite, inherent, inexhaustible, and immediate. God reveals Himself to His creatures but He does not reveal Himself to Himself. He knows Himself perfectly, comprehensively, totally, and eternally.

God must know Himself both as subject and object. God is self-contemplating and self-communing. If He was not tri-personal it would be impossible for Him to be both subject and object of Himself and a true Self-Revealer. Not only does God have a general self-consciousness as the triune God, but there is a particular, individual self-consciousness of each member of the Godhead. The Father knows Himself, the Son knows Himself, and the Spirit knows Himself. Yet this self-knowledge is within the context of God’s Oneness. God must be triune in order for Him to know Himself in His fullness and to rightly perceive Himself. Of creation and creatures, only man can rightly perceive God. Knowing God as the three-in one and one-in-three God is the key in helping man to understand God’s revelation of Himself and His work in creation and redemption.

An eleventh line of reasoning comes from a redemptive-historical perspective. We know that God is Creator and Redeemer who saved a people to and for Himself, who is saving a people to and for Himself, and who will save a people to and for Himself. To properly understand and respond to the Scriptural teachings regarding creation and redemption, as well as other doctrinal truths, it is imperative that believers think as Trinitarians. Succinctly, the Christian life is one begun or born in the Trinity, is to be continued in the Trinity, and is to be consummated in the Trinity (Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:14-18).

As I have written, the key refrain is: to or from the Father, through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, instead of minimizing or jettisoning the clear teaching of Scripture, the Church and individual believers must embrace the Trinitarian teaching of the Bible. Every believer is to think and desire as Trinitarians and appropriate actions will follow. Salvation and life after salvation are wonderful gifts. They exhort us to look to heaven and fellowship with the Triune God forever and forever in order to grow in Christlikeness in this present earthly life (Colossians 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3).

Application:
1. What are your thoughts regarding a Triune God?
2. How do you functionally exclude one of the persons of the Trinity in your daily life?
3. What must you do to change your view of the necessity of the Trinity?
4. How does knowing that God is tri-personal influence your capacity to pray, to worship, and to pursue sanctification?

The Pleroma: Fullness: Part V

I return to the second line of reasoning previously discussed that testifies to the necessity of a Triune God that being the fullness (pleroma) God. The word pleroma is a Gnostic, Greek philosophical term. It referred to the sum of various supernatural forces that was thought to control the destiny of people. This fullness was an abstract power. The Gnostics contributed and distributed the divine powers to various deities.

The word pleroma is used 17 times in the New Testament. Biblically, it denotes the totality of divine power as opposed to a separation into constitutive parts. It pictures fullness, abundance, or completeness. The term is used to fill up something empty (Matthew 13:48 – a fish net; Mark 8:20: empty baskets) or to complete that which is an incomplete (Matthew 5:17). Therefore, it stands in contrast to its constituent parts, or fullness in contrast to emptiness, or completeness in contrast to incompleteness or deficiency (see Romans 11:12; 2 Corinthians 11:9; Colossians 1:24).

Moreover, Paul uses the word to indicate the fullness and perfection of God. God and all that He is, is fullness and perfection. Paul uses the term in Colossians 1:19 and Colossians 2:9 to indicate that all of what the Godhead is (the pleroma) dwells in Christ and in bodily form (For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him and For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives/dwells in bodily form). Unlike Greek philosophy and paganism, Paul gathers together that which God is as if in one “lump sum” it is placed in Christ. John expressed this same truth in John 10:30 (the Father and I are one). The fullness of the Godhead was in Christ (but also in the Holy Spirit and the Father) before the Incarnation (John 1:1, 18; Philippians 2:9) and during the Incarnation (John 1:14, 18; Philippians 2:9-11; 1 John 1:1-3). Christ came in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7) but also as the exact representation of His Father (John 14:6-9; Hebrews 1:1-3).

How does the pleroma or fullness of God refer to the Holy Spirit? How is the Holy Spirit the fullness of the Godhead? The Holy Spirit functions in His fullest on this side of the cross. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit occurred officially to the Church in Acts 2 (Pentecost). However He was present in the Old Testament long before the Incarnation and the cross. Believers were saved in the same way in both Testaments – by regeneration through the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; Ezekiel 36:24-27). In Isaiah He was promised to the Messiah (Isaiah 9:1-7; 11:1-9). The Holy Spirit came upon Christ at His baptism and so indwelt Him enabling Christ to complete His Messianic work (Matthew 3:17). Part of Christ’s Messianic work was to send another Paraclete – one just like Himself (John 14:25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15). Without the Holy Spirit Christ mediatorial work would be incomplete. He would not, could not, have functioned as God’s Prophet, Priest, and King. Salvation is an Intratrinitarian activity.

In view of the tri-personal existence of God, Scripture can and does speak of the infinite fullness of God. Paul emphasizes this truth in his prayers recorded in Ephesians 1:15-23 and 3:14-21. In Ephesian 1:17-18, Paul’s emphasis is on knowledge and truth. Paul described his continual intercession for the brothers to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, that He may give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that the eyes of their hearts may be enlightened in order to know the hope to which they were called, their inheritance, and the power of the Triune God. Paul knew the “light” had to be turned on and continue to shine brightly in the hearts of believers and the Church.

In Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul changes his emphasis to the love of God. He prays that the people would be strengthened with power by the Holy Spirit in the inner man so that Christ may dwell in the fullness of the Godhead. It is then that believers will begin to grasp the width, depth, breadth, and height of the Triune’s God’s love. Love and light are linked.

The infinite fullness of divine life in God is due only to His tri-personal existence. The fullness of God is the fullness of the Godhead – the very essence and majestic glory of God. Paul, as described above and John spoke of Christ as the fullness of God through the Holy Spirit (John 1:14, 16, 18; 10:30; 14:6-9; 14:26; 15:26). The fullness of God is part of God’s gift to the Church and the believer. The believer is perfect in Christ and grows in that perfection. This is one antidote against pride and self-pleasing. To grow in your understanding of God and in Christlikeness, you must grow in your understanding of the Godhead and its fullness.

Application:
1. How do you understand the fullness of God? It is beyond human comprehension. It requires the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).
2. Are you satisfied with God, with Christ, and with the Holy Spirit? Write out your reasons.
3. Satisfaction and contentment with God comes from the Father, through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit. Completeness in Christ comes in and by the work of the Spirit. Write out your understanding of these facts and its influence on your daily living.

Previously I presented the simple fact that God is love as one of the factors that point to the necessity of the Trinity – the Triune God

God is Light, Love, and Life: Part VI

The Father is love (1 John 4:8), the Son is love (John 14:30-31), and the Holy Spirit is love (Romans 5:5; 15:30). The object of God’s love is Himself. From love of Himself flows love to others which completes the full circle of life (1 John 4:7-12).

Let’s revisit the truth that God is love. God is love is one of the God is statements found in the New Testament. The statement God is love is found in 1 John 4:8, 16. John, the apostle of love and the last living apostle, was writing as a shepherd to his sheep. The letter of 1 John was written for the purpose of giving assurance – that one can know if he is saved (1 John 5:13). In order to accomplish that task, John, under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit, gives concrete guidelines that help distinguish between believers and unbelievers. His emphasis is on the “positive” – assurance for the believer.

The Christian can know he is a believer (1 John 1:5-10). However, John presents more than a simple checklist. He begins vertically (Godward) with another God is statement: God is Light (Psalm 27:1; 119:18; Isaiah 58:8; 60:1-3, 19-20; 2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 John 1:5). John, as he did in his gospel, emphasized that Christ is Light (1 John 5:20-21; see John 1:3-5, 9; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36; 2 Timothy 1:10). As a result, man is exposed to light and believers become children of light through regeneration which is the work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8). Moreover, they become light (Ephesians 5:8-14). Exposure to light is exposure to the Triune God.

Moreover, the Truth will set you free (John 8:31-32). Truth is the written Word and the living Word – Jesus Christ (John 17:17; 14:6). Since Jesus is the way, the truth, and light, light, life, and truth are linked for the believer (1 John 1:6, 8). But truth (sometimes considered faithfulness) is Trinitarian in nature. God is truth (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 31:5; Isaiah 65:16); Romans 15:8. Because He is truth, God speaks the truth which is a constant and pervasive biblical refrain. The Holy Spirit is truth (and leads believers into truth (John 15:26; 16:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 John 2:20, 27; 4:6; 5:6).

In 1 John 2 and 3, John expounds the ethical implications of the fact that God is Light. His children are enlightened and light bearers. The light has been turned on as the believer has been rescued and transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13-14). John continues his push toward clarifying and solidifying the truth that a believer can know he is saved. He begins the fourth chapter of 1 John with the call to test the spirits – or one’s standard for truth as well as the truth claim (1 John 4:1).

Doctrinal truth is one element in the test of truth and error and light and darkness. It is possible to test the spirits only if the believer is in the light. Light and life are continually linked. John then moves to love. He focuses on the horizontal (let us love one another because love comes from God: 4:7). He next focuses on the Being of God: Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love (1 John 4:8). The believer’s capacity to love one another is founded in the very Triune Being of God.

What does the Being of God have to do with the believer’s assurance, loving one another, and loving God (4:9-12, 13-16)? John clarifies his position in v.16: And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him. John brings together light, life, and love. Knowingly or unknowingly, he under the influence of the Holy Spirit emphasized the Triune nature of God.

To summarize, John taught that there is one God and He is the fountainhead of light and love. The ethical activity of believers flows from the non-negotiable truth that God is love. His very Being is love. Since He is the one and only eternal Being, He is love and light eternally. He is a light to others because He is Light. He is more than the Light-giver. He is the Light-giver because He is Light. That fact gives clarity to Genesis 1:3: let there be light. It is His light, His glory, Himself, as only He gives Light by giving Himself.

We are ready to answer several questions. Is there an Intratrinitarian light? Emphatically, the answer is Yes because God is Light, the Son is Light and gives light, and the Holy Spirit is Light and gives it. Is there an Intratrinitarian love? God is Love and as the Lover He loves eternally. Generally we speak of love as relational. As the tri-personal God, God is Love. He focuses on Himself as only He can. God must love Himself for His own glory. He does not share His own glory with anyone other than Himself (Isaiah 42:6; 48:9-11). He is the three-in-one God! moreover, protecting and maximizing His own glory is best for His people (Romans 8:28-29; Hebrews 10:26-31).

John was excited about God the Lover as expressed in 1 John 3:1-3. In verse one, John writes about the greatness of God in terms of adoption. Believers are His children. Love was lavished on them so that previous membership in Satan’s family and kingdom was abolished. The believer was now a child of God. In Ephesians 5:8-14 Paul wrote that believers are children of light because of the Spirit’s regenerating and illuminating work in them. Notice, Paul did not say they were in the light but they were light (see Matthew 5:14-16). This light is not inherent but derived from the Triune God. Believers were loved into the light and they became light. None of this is possible unless the very Being of God is tri-personal and God is Love, Light, and Truth.

Application:
1. What difference does it make to you that God is Love?
2. When considering God is Love, do you begin with Him as a Person or what He gives?
3. Explain your answers.
4. Do you think it is God’s job to love?

God is Light, Love, and Life and One-Anothering: Part VII

One last reason (twelfth) concerning the necessity of the Trinity is the subject of one-anothering. One-anothering in its many forms (such as welcoming, exhorting, encouraging, comforting, hospitality, and counseling) is commanded in Scripture and is vital for individual and church growth that is God-pleasing. More than fifty New Testament passages command various sorts of one-anothering activities.

One-anothering is part of a full-orbed ministry of the Word. By ministry of the Word I mean the presentation of biblical truth no matter the venue (pulpit, podium, or kitchen table), in such a manner that it is understood and applied. As a result, there is growth in Christlikeness. Problems are solved God’s way and relationships, both vertical and horizontal, are restored and strengthened. As a result, the church and individuals live in a manner that pleases God and is worthy of their calling. Corporately and individually the church and believers as they live as God-pleasers as opposed to self-pleasers (Ephesians 4:1; Philippians. 1:27-28; Colossians 1:10-11; 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12). Corporate and individual growth in Christlikeness is a major function of the church:

v.11: It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers
v.12: to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
v.13: until we all reach unity in the faith and in knowledge of the Son of God and become mature attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
v.14: Then there will no longer be infants tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning an craftiness of men in their deceitful schemes. Ephesians 4:11-14

All Christians are disciples of Christ. They are in His school as learners and eventually teachers. Every learner is to teach by word and deed in some venue thereby imitating Christ (Matthew 5:14-16; John 13:33-34). Every believer matriculates through the school of discipleship but never graduates until death or at the second coming.

One-anothering in its many forms is an expression of wisdom and fear of the Lord. Specific, individual ministry of the Word is directed to helping people learn and live out God’s wisdom. The wisdom itself and the grace to use it are Intratrinitarian in nature. Knowledge, wisdom, and grace for one-anothering is from the Father (John 5:19-30); it is imparted in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30), by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2; Ephesians 1:15ff), through the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3: 15-17). One-anothering in the Church must be modeled after the Trinity.

Notice the Triune activity of Light-giving which is required for the ministry of one-anothering. As we have discussed, Scripture teaches that God is Light (John 8:12; 9:5; 1 John 1:5). Where there is light there is no darkness. The two are mutually exclusive. The Light is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (1 John 1:5; John 8:12; 9;5; 12:35-36; Acts 2:3, 38). The Holy Spirit penetrates the very depths of the believer’s once dark heart and gives light. He enlightens the Church and individual believers (Ephesians1:15-19; 3:14-19). Moreover, God rescued His people from the kingdom of darkness and placed them in the kingdom of light (Ephesians 5:8-14; Colossians 1:13). Believers are children of light because the Triune God is Light and the Holy Spirit is the Enlightener.

One-anothering is inherent in the Trinity. Without a Triune God, discipleship and one-anothering would be stunted. Each person of the Trinity is fully and intimately known by each Person of the Godhead. The knowledge is mutual, perfect, and complete. There is no Intratrinitarian competition! Intimacy and fellowship within the Godhead are fruits of knowledge, truth, love, and light. The knowledge of God may be defined as that perfection in which God knows Himself innately, inherently, perfectly, inclusively, absolutely, entirely, and uniquely. Some theologians use the term necessary knowledge defined as that knowledge that God has of Himself and all things. Without complete and perfect knowledge of Himself and its application, God would not have perfect and complete knowledge of His creation. He would not be God.

The wisdom of God is a particular aspect of knowledge. Some define wisdom as applied knowledge. God’s knowledge and wisdom are displayed in creation (Psalms 19:17; 104:1-34; 136:5; 147:5; Proverbs 3:19; Jeremiah 10:12; 50:15); in His decrees and His providence (Psalms 33:10-11; 145:3; 147:5; Romans 8:28-29; 11:33-36; Isaiah 40:28-31); in redemption (Romans 11:33; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:10); and one-anothering (Ephesians 1:15-19; 3:17-21). God’s Triune nature helps explain the Bible’s call to disciple within and outside the Church (Matthew 28:18-20). In one sense, the believer’s and the church’s goal is to one-anothering fellow believers as the Triune God does to Himself!

Application
1. The three-in one God calls, equips, and expects His people and Church to disciple by following the pattern inherent in the Trinity. What is your response?
2. How do you define one-anothering?
3. Once again consider the refrain: to and for God (Father), through (or in) the Son, and by the Holy Spirit. How does the refrain motivate you to a one-anothering ministry?