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One in Essence

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
December 31, 2022 12:01 am

One in Essence

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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December 31, 2022 12:01 am

From its very first page, the Bible declares that there is one God over all creation. How do we square this truth with the revelation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Today, R.C. Sproul speaks on the essential oneness of our triune God.

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Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

Coming up next on Renewing Your Mind... ... .... ..... ... . of the Shema, which was something that was so deeply rooted in the consciousness of the people, and this was an idea that was recited in their liturgy, and we find it in Deuteronomy chapter 6, beginning at verse 4.

I'm sure you're all familiar with this, as you've heard this on many occasions. It goes like this, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God. The Lord is one, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your strength. Now we're familiar with those words as they contain for us the content of the great commandment. Well, in the context of the Shema here, where the call to assembly is given and the announcement is made, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one. And then what immediately follows the great commandment here are these words, And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your children, shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontless between your eyes, and you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Now the reason I read that admonition is that what the author of Deuteronomy is telling us here is that this announcement of the nature of God, of His unity, of His singularity, of His oneness is so important and so central to the religious life of the people that this point is one that is to be given by way of instruction by way of instruction to the children on a daily basis.

They're supposed to put it on their wrists and on their foreheads and on the doorposts, talk about it when you sit down, talk about it when you get up. In other words, the whole passion of this concept here is that there is a diligence imposed upon the parents in Israel to make sure that the people and the children as they grow up understand the uniqueness of God because the seduction that awaits them is the polytheism in the world's false religions that surround them. And if we read the history of the Old Testament, we see that the greatest threat to Israel was the corruption that was involved in people chasing chasing after other gods and many gods. And we see that the unity of God is also circumscribed in the Old Testament by the very first commandment of the Ten Commandments. Thou shall have no other gods before me. And that before me does not mean ranked ahead of me, meaning that you can have five or six or fifty gods if you want to, as long as I am regarded as the most exalted and number one God.

No, the before me means in my presence, and the presence of Yahweh extends throughout the entire creation. And so when God says, Thou shall have no other gods before me, what He's saying here is thou shall have no other gods because there aren't any other gods because God alone reigns as deity. Now I've taken the time today to look briefly at some of these central statements in the Old Testament to see how strenuously the concept of monotheism is established in the Old Testament. And yet at the same time, one of the most important doctrines that defines the Christian faith is the doctrine of the Trinity, wherein we confess our faith in the triune God, that God is three persons in one essence.

And we'll explore that formula, not in this lecture, but in the next lecture following this one. But for now, we want to look at this question of Trinity because it is one of the most difficult, mysterious, puzzling, and controversial doctrines of the entire Christian faith. And how, the question was raised in the early years of the Christian faith, can Christians be faithful to the religion of the Old Testament, which puts such a major stress on monotheism, and at the same time, talk about Trinity? Because at first blush, at least, when we talk about the triune God, the way that is often understood and heard by people around us is that we believe in three gods, a Father God, a Son God, and a Holy Spirit God.

We may not have as many deities as was found in the religion of Rome or of ancient Greek, but we have two more than was found in Israel, that we have three gods or tritheism, which is a form of polytheism. And so the question immediately arises, why did the Christian church, which saw itself as growing out inseparably from the New Covenant situation of Israel, how could the Christian church make an affirmation such as that found in the Trinity that God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? Well, again, the answer to that question cannot be found merely in a historical analysis of the speculation of the theologians of the early church. The roots by which the doctrine of the Trinity was established was the New Testament itself, and the fact that the New Testament, when it speaks of God, it speaks of God in terms of God in terms of God the Father, in terms of God the Son, and in terms of God the Holy Spirit. And there's no text wherein this concept is expressed more clearly than we find in the opening chapter of John's Gospel, indeed in the prologue of John's Gospel, which sets the stage for the church's confession of faith in the Trinity. So let's take some time to look at this text in John. We read in John chapter 1 these words. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God, and all things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made.

And in him was life, and the life was the light of men, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. Now I think most of you are aware that lying behind this English text is the use of the famous Greek word Logos, which is the Greek word for word. And so the text in English is translated, in the beginning was the Word. In the Greek it would say in the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.

Now this is somewhat confusing. Because this concept of the Word of God is expressed here in the first chapter of John in different ways. In the first instance, a distinction is made between God and the Logos.

We're told in the beginning was the Logos, or the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. Now when I say that somebody was with somebody else, I'm making a clear distinction between those two persons who were in some respects closely related to each other, close enough for us to say they were with each other. But when I say a person is with another person, that clearly communicates to your mind, doesn't it, that there are two persons who are with each other, two entities involved here, two distinct persons. And so the first thing we read here is that John is making a distinction between the Logos, or the Word, and God. And that distinction is made with respect to the use of the word with.

Now I want to also take a moment or so to develop this concept of with here. When we did our series on an overview of Scripture called Dust of Glory, I also spent some time on this from a biblical perspective, because this little word with may seem to be somewhat insignificant and hardly carrying any depth of meaning or weight. But in the Greek language there are at least three terms that can be and are translated by the English word with. There is the word sun, S-U-N, which when attached to other words and to roots, for example, in Hebrew, you have the synagogue, the sunogogue, which is the place where people come and assemble together with each other.

By the way, this prefix sun in Greek comes across to the English prefix sin, S-Y-N. When we synchronize our watches, we get them on the same page, as it were. We're gathering together with each other all at the same point of time. And so synchronism and so on refer a together with of more than one person. Now, to make it simple, here we are in this live audience here today, and we are present with each other. That means we're partners in a group of people. That's one way the word with is used in the Greek. Another way is with the word meta.

We get the word metaphysics, which means with in the sense of being alongside of something. If I may ask my favorite student here, Roger, to come up here and help me illustrate this. Roger, where are you going next week? Going to England to see the queen.

All right. And who's going to be with you? My mom and my dad and my grandparents. Your mom and your dad and your grandparents.

That's neat. Well, right now you're standing up here with me, aren't you, Roger? And we're standing side by side. He's alongside of me.

He's with me. You see two people walking down the street, and they're together. And you maybe see a husband and a wife. You say, oh, there's Mr. and Mrs. so-and-so.

They're out walking with each other tonight. And the relationship is side by side, shoulder to shoulder. And that's the way we are in this classroom, isn't it, Roger? All right, pal. Thank you very much.

Okay. So that's another kind of withness. But there's still a third kind of withness that the Greeks use, and it's indicated by the Greek word pros, which incidentally forms the basis of another Greek word, which is the Greek word prosopon. And the Greek word prosopon is the Greek word for face. And what you have here with this pros, definition of with, is a more intimate description of withness, if you will.

It describes a face-to-face relationship, which is the most intimate way in which persons can be with each other in a face-to-face perspective of intimacy. And that's the term John uses here when he says, in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. The Word was pros-God. The logos was in this closest possible relationship to God. But no matter how we strain here at these subtle differences with the use of the term with, no matter how you slice up the word with, it still indicates a distinction between two parties, doesn't it?

And so far so good. First of all, we're learning here that the logos was with God from the beginning in an intimate relationship and now all of a sudden, all consternation comes to our minds when we go to the next clause, and the Word was God. And the logos was God.

Wait a minute. You're telling us on the one hand that the Word is with God. Now you're going the next step and saying the Word was God. And the verb that is used here is a common form of the Greek verb to be.

It is a linking verb, and it is used here in the copula sense in which what is affirmed in the predicate is already found in the subject so that they're reversible. The Word was God, and God was the Word. So here we have a clear ascription of deity to the Word. So on the one hand, the Word is differentiated from God, and in another way, the Word is identified with God. Now it's because not only of this text, but many such texts in the New Testament that the church has been able to read, that the church developed the doctrine of the Trinity. There are many descriptive terms used for Jesus in the New Testament, but in the first 300 years of the church's reflection, the one that absolutely dominated the thinking of the theologians was this concept of the logos because it not only was so difficult, but it gave us such an exalted view of the nature of Christ.

But this is not the only text by far or the only writer. John, of course, is the one who gives us the record of the response of Thomas in the upper room when Thomas was skeptical about the reports he received from the women and from his friends of the resurrection of Christ. And he said, unless I can put my fingers into the nail holes in his hands or in his arms or in his side, I won't believe. We remember the dramatic record where Christ appears to the disciples, and he shows his wounded hands to Thomas and invites Thomas to put his hand into the wounds of Christ or into his side. And it's interesting to me that the Scriptures never tell us whether Thomas did it. All we know is that he saw the risen Christ before him, and Christ made the offer to Thomas to touch him.

And the next thing the Scriptures tell us is that Thomas is on his knees, crying out, my Lord and my God. Now again, the New Testament Jewish writers, particularly, were acutely conscious not only of the first commandment of the Old Testament, but also of the second commandment, the making of graven images and the prohibition that was deeply rooted in the Old Testament against all forms of idolatry. And idolatry is committed when any creature is given worship, so that the understanding of the New Testament writers was this, that to worship Christ can only be justified if indeed in some way He is divine. Because if He's not, then He is at best a creature, and the worship of the creature is a violation of true religion.

It is the essence of idolatry. And that Jesus himself accepted the worship of Thomas is very significant. Jesus, on other occasions in the New Testament, when He heals on the Sabbath day, when He forgives sins, and the Pharisees object to that, say, you know, who do you think you are? This man is making himself equal with God. They understood the implication of what Jesus was saying, because Jesus said, I do this, that you may know that I am Lord of the Sabbath. Now every Jew understood that the only one who was Lord of the Sabbath was God, who instituted the Sabbath day. And Jesus said, I do these things that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on the earth to forgive sins.

And again, the Jews reacted in anger because they said He was arrogating to Himself the rights and privileges and authorities that belong to God alone. And again, back to the prologue of John, where it follows from the statement, and the Word was God, that He was in the beginning with God, all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. Here the Logos is identified with the Creator, and finally, in Him was life.

Remember what Paul says in Acts, that it's in God that we live, and move, and have our being. To say that life is in the Logos, that that's the source of light, the power supply of life, is clearly to attribute deity to this one who is called the Word. And so we see that if we're going to deal with the biblical concept of Christ and of the Father and of the Son, we have to have a formula that on the one hand makes a clear distinction among the persons of the Godhead, and a distinction that does not destroy the deity of each. And we'll look at how that occurred in our next lesson.

But it can be understood, and he covers it extensively in his overview of systematic theology. It's a series we call Foundations. We'd like to send you this 60-part series.

You'll learn what theology is, why we should study it, and how there is a common thread that runs through the entire Bible. When you contact us today with a donation of any amount, we will be glad to send you the 8-DVD set. Our phone number is 800-435-4343, or if you prefer, you can give your gift and make your request online at renewingyourmind.org.

Having heard today's message, I think you can readily see how this would be an important study in a Sunday school class at your church, or even a small group in your home. So I hope you'll contact us and request this series with your gift of any amount. Again, our web address is renewingyourmind.org. Our phone number is 800-435-4343. We recently heard from a busy mom who just downloaded the Ligonier app, and she told us how much she appreciates the fact that she can pause the program when those inevitable interruptions come along. Anytime during the day, she can hit play again and pick up where she left off. So let me invite you to download the app as well.

It is free, and you can find it by searching for Ligonier in your app store. And I hope you'll join us again next Saturday as Dr. Sproul continues this look at the Trinity. It may seem to be contradictory because we're saying God is one essence and three persons, and we are accustomed in our vantage point as human beings to see one being is one person. Now, to that extent, the doctrine of the Trinity in this formulation is mysterious.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-31 03:22:47 / 2022-12-31 03:30:24 / 8

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