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The Biblical Witness

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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March 9, 2024 12:01 am

The Biblical Witness

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 9, 2024 12:01 am

"Trinity" is a Latin word not found anywhere in the Bible. So, why do Christians insist that Scripture teaches this doctrine? Today, R.C. Sproul shows how God reveals His Trinitarian nature throughout His Word.

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In the beginning was the Word, that is the Logos, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In that first sentence, you see the mystery of the Trinity. As we read the New Testament, we see even more clearly the triune nature of our God, one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But does this New Testament witness go against what we read in the Old Testament?

Welcome to the Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind, as we spend several weeks in R.C. Sproul's series, The Mystery of the Trinity. Today, Dr. Sproul will survey not only the New Testament, but also the Old Testament to help us see the unified revelation in Scripture of our triune God. To deny the Trinity is to deny an essential doctrine of Christianity. So today, for your donation of any amount at, we'll send you this series on DVD, provide you digital access to the messages, and send you Dr. Sproul's short book, What is the Trinity? Here's Dr. Sproul with the biblical witness to the doctrine of the Trinity. We continue now with our study of the doctrine of the Trinity. We recall that in our first session, we looked briefly at the Old Testament concept of monotheism, that is the affirmation of the oneness of God, and showed that there has been controversy over the period in redemptive history when monotheism was developed.

Was it there at the beginning in creation as orthodoxy maintains, or was it a later development? But today, we want to look at the connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament. And let me begin, first of all, by saying that even though we don't have a explicit definition of Trinity in the Old Testament, nevertheless, we do have hints from time to time of Trinity throughout the pages of Old Testament history. One of those important hints is one we've already looked at from a different angle, namely the plural use of the name for God Elohim, where the critics see the use of that name as a crass form of polytheism. Nevertheless, others have seen in that plural name, particularly as it is accompanied by a singular verb, a sort of cryptic reference to the plural character of God.

Now let me say a couple of things about that. First of all, I don't think it necessarily indicates the Trinity, because it could simply be a literary form similar to what we call the editorial plural or the editorial we when a writer will assume the plural form to communicate a point, or we see the plural of majesty where kings or popes or people in high office preface their comments by saying we decree or we declare and so on, and it could be that, but more to the point is a Hebrew literary device called the plural of intensity, and that plural of intensity calls attention to the depth dimension of the very character of God in whom resides all elements of deity and of majesty. And so I would say at the very minimum the name Elohim is compatible with the doctrine of Trinity and may in fact be hinting in that direction, but the word itself doesn't demand that we infer from it the doctrine of the Trinity. One aside parenthetically for those of you who have some interest in philosophical speculation and particularly in the division of philosophy dedicated to metaphysics and the questions of being, you may recall that in ancient Greek philosophy one of the central issues that the Greek philosophers were trying to solve was the problem of the so-called the one and the many. So much of early Greek philosophy was dedicated to that difficulty. How do we make sense out of so many diverse things that are part of our experience? Do we live in a universe that ultimately is coherent, or do we live in a universe that is ultimately chaotic? And the assumptions of science, for example, are such that for us to have knowledge there has to be coherency. There has to be some kind of order to things, or knowledge would be impossible.

And so our whole enterprise of scientific investigation presupposes what even Carl Sagan says is cosmos, not chaos. And so that means there must be something that gives unity to all of the diversity that we experience in the world. And in the Greek thought there was an attempt to try to find unity and diversity in a coherent way. In fact, the very word universe comes from the concept of unity and diversity jammed together, that we live in a place of great diversity that nevertheless has unity.

And the Greek philosophers sought, and I would say in vain, to find the source of both unity and diversity. And yet in the Christian faith and in the Christian worldview, all diversity finds its ultimate unity in God Himself. And it is significant that even in God's own being we find both unity and diversity.

In fact, the ultimate ground for unity and diversity. But as I say, that's at best I think hinted at in the opening words of the Old Testament and with the concept of the name Elohim. But in addition to that, also in the creation account, we encounter already the Spirit of God who is active in creation and who is bringing something out of nothing and who is meeting the criteria for deity that is set forth, for example, in the New Testament. And so that's another hint towards the multi-personal character of God early on in that work. And again, throughout the Old Testament and in its views of the coming servant of the Lord and so on, there are other references that indicate the triune character of God.

One that I'll just mention in passing rather than to get bogged down in this is the most often quoted Old Testament text in the New Testament. That is, the Old Testament text that is quoted in the New Testament more often than any other text is Psalm 110, which has this very strange beginning to it when the psalmist says, O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name. I'm sorry, that's Psalm 8. Psalm 110 says, the Lord said to my Lord, sit thou at my right hand. Now, characteristically, when you see the conjunction of the name of God, Yahweh, with the form of the title Adon Adonai in the Old Testament, you see the personal name of God, Yahweh, and His chief or supreme title, Adonai, associated with it. As I got confused a moment ago and talked about Psalm 8 where Psalm 8 begins, what, O Lord, our Lord, O Yahweh, our Adonai, how excellent is thy name in all the earth, where there is a clear identification between Adonai and Yahweh. And yet what you have in this startling text of Psalm 110 is that God is having a conversation with David's Lord.

The Lord, Yahweh, said to my Lord, Adonai, sit thou at my right hand. Of course, this is where the New Testament picks up on it and talks about Jesus as being David's Son and David's Lord. And so we see another hint of the multiple dimension of the being of God in this conversation in Psalm 110.

It also is the same Psalm that declares that God's Son will be a priest forever, an eternal priest after the order of Melchizedek. When we come to the New Testament, it's not as though the New Testament repudiates the Old Testament affirmation of monotheism. The concepts of monotheism that are so firmly established in the Old Testament are not only assumed but repeated over and over again in the New Testament.

Let me just give one illustration or a couple of illustrations of that. Let's look, first of all, the famous passage in the book of Acts, in Acts verse 17, beginning at verse 22. When Paul comes to the center of Greek culture in antiquity, we read, then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus, or Mars Hill, and said, men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious, for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription, to the unknown God.

Now let me just again give us another little dangling parenthesis, if you will. Paul notices, first of all, when he comes to Athens, his spirit is moved within him. He's depressed because he sees that the city is given to idolatry. Everywhere he turns around, he sees false religion. And if he was going to the Areopagus, which is where the temple of Mars was, or of Aries in Athens, he had passed by all the other temples, and he saw this religious activity everywhere, and he noticed, as if the Greeks were afraid that they left one out, they had this altar inscribed to the unknown God.

Now, we'll come back in a moment to what Paul says about that, but let me just pick up on it, as I said, as a parenthesis for a second. One of the most striking things that I encountered in my graduate work in the sixties of the 1860s, not the 1860s, was the evidence that was emerging from theological anthropology and sociologists who were examining the religious views of various primitive tribes in the world, and finding that despite the outward animism that was prevalent in their culture, that every one of these primitive cultures, if they were probed with the wise old generation, you know, they would speak about the God over the other side of the mountain, or the God who was distantly removed from them, who even though he was not center to their daily practice of religion, nevertheless was deeply rooted in their tribal consciousness of a great high God. So, rather than these primitive tribes proving the thesis of animism, on the contrary, people like Macerius Iliade and Heinrich Kramer and others discovered this element of tradition within these animistic tribes of a God who was like the unknown God that they were not in touch with, but they somehow knew He was there, which of course conforms to Paul's declaration in the first chapter of Romans that the God of all the universe has manifested Himself to everybody, and that everybody gets that message, that every human being knows the existence of the most high God.

But, the sinful character of humanity is to do what? In every case, a hundred times out of a hundred, we repress and bury that knowledge and exchange that knowledge that God has given us into idolatry, and that's why we are all held guilty before God, but that's another story. But in the meantime, back at Acts and Athens, Paul mentions seeing this altar to the unknown God, and he says, Therefore, the one whom you worship in ignorance, or without knowing, or agnostically, agnosis, him I proclaim to you, God who made the world and everything in it, since he is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands, nor is he worshipped with men's hands as though he needed anything, since he gives to all life, breath, and all things, and he is made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord in the hope that they may grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being, as some of your own poets have said, for we also are His offspring. Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising. But truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent because He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom He has ordained, and He has given assurance to all this by raising Him from the dead.

So here, though, Paul is again affirming clearly classical Jewish monotheism, the one God who has made all things and from whom everything derives. Let's look at one more text at 1 Corinthians chapter 8, if we could, verse 4, when Paul's in the discussion about eating things that had been offered to idols, a practical pastoral problem that came up in the Corinthian church. He says in chapter 8, verse 1, Now concerning things offered to idols, we know that we all have knowledge, and that knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing, yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by him.

Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world. We know that there's no substance, there's no meaning, there's no significance, there's no power, there's no being in any idol, and that there's no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, as there are as many gods and many lords, yet there is one God the Father, of whom are all things we for him and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we live. And so, in the very same sentence that Paul is ascribing clearly deity to Christ, he is at that same moment reaffirming the unity of God and the oneness of God. Alright, well why is it that the New Testament then speaks of one God and yet at the same time affirms the deity of the Holy Spirit and the deity of Christ?

The reason why the church does that, as I said earlier, is because the Bible does it. And we see it throughout the pages of the New Testament. It would be a separate set of lectures to look at every passage in the New Testament that ascribes deity to Christ and still another separate message to look at every passage or even selectively passages where deity and personality is ascribed to the Holy Ghost. But let's just look at a couple of those passages wherein the deity of Christ is so firmly manifested.

We see it especially in John's gospel, and I'll come to John 1 in a moment because that's the most significant passage of all. But remember in the I am's of Jesus where Jesus said, I am the door and I am the way, the truth, and the life and all that sort of thing. Among those, and particularly in John 8, our Lord says, before Abraham was, I am. And throughout the I am's, Jesus uses that form of language that was used to translate the essential name of God, Yahweh.

The formula ego-imi, I am, I am, is the formula by which the name of God is translated from the Hebrew to the Greek. And several times in John's gospel, he uses this construction for himself. And we see it perhaps most dramatically with reference to Abraham. Abraham, who is the patriarch, the father of the faithful, and who is so venerated by the contemporary community of Jesus' day, said, do you want to use Abraham against me? Let me tell you, before Abraham was, I was.

No. Before Abraham was, I am, in which there is a claim to eternality and a claim for deity. What many people miss in our day, the first century contemporaries of Jesus caught rather quickly. The furor of his opponents was launched against him because the charge was that he, being a man, made himself equal with God.

Even the claim to sonship was considered blasphemous by his contemporaries. And so all of those texts where Jesus claims to be the Son who was sent by the Father and who was with the Father in heaven and so on bear witness to this. Also in John's gospel, we have the intriguing narrative of the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus when some of the disciples had seen him and Thomas was absent. And remember, doubting Thomas, he says, unless I can see him with my eyes and put my hand in his side and my fingers into the nail prints, I'm not going to believe. And in the midst of this skepticism, Jesus appears to him and offers his hands and his side. The Bible doesn't say whether Thomas ever did actually probe him tactically, but what was his response? He falls on his knees and says to Jesus, my Lord and my God. Now notice in the book of Acts when people are so amazed at Paul and Silas that they fall down and worship them, and they have rebuked them immediately.

Even when people see the manifestation of angels and begin to worship the angels, the angels rebuke them that they are not to be worshipped because they are creatures. And here is Jesus accepting the worship of Thomas without rebuke and recognizing Thomas' confession as valid, my Lord and my God. We also see many references in the New Testament to the triune benediction, the triune formula for baptism, that the command of Christ, that people are to be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and so on. But clearly the most pregnant text of all in the New Testament is that opening verse of the Gospel according to Saint John where we read in John chapter 1, in the beginning was the Word, that is the Logos, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In that first sentence you see the mystery of the Trinity because in the first portion of the sentence the Logos who is with God from the beginning is eternal, but he's distinguished from God because he's described as being with God. I might add the word that is there is that word that describes withness in the closest possible proximity. There are different ways in which the Greek language can be translated by the English word with, but the word that is used here suggests the closest of virtually a face-to-face relationship. But nevertheless there's a distinction made in the first part of the text between the Logos and God.

And then in the next breath, what? And the Word that was not only with God was God. So you see in one sense the Word must be distinguished from God, and in the other sense the Word must be identified with God. That's why this concept of the Logos dominated Christian philosophical and theological reflection for the first 300 years of church history. So rich and so important was this concept that John introduces in his gospel because he goes on to say about the Logos, he was in the beginning with God.

He's not a creature. In fact, all things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men, and so on. And so divine characteristics and attributes are ascribed to the eternal Logos in the gospel according to St. John.

And so that's one of the main reasons why the church developed its doctrine of the Trinity. You'll receive the series The Mystery of the Trinity on DVD, and What is the Trinity? from R.C. Sproul's Crucial Questions series. Your support keeps Renewing Your Mind on hundreds of radio signals around the world and in countless pockets as people listen to the podcast edition. So please give your gift today to further fuel this daily outreach and to add this Trinity collection to your library. Give your gift at before this offer ends at midnight. The doctrine of the Trinity is not without controversy, and next Saturday R.C. Sproul will consider some of those controversies from Church History here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-09 03:53:09 / 2024-03-09 04:01:24 / 8

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