LESSON 6c - THE RELATIONAL ASPECT OF THE TRINITY

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1 To Know God and Make Him Known BIBLE SCHOOL FOR THE NATIONS TRINITY LESSON 6c - THE RELATIONAL ASPECT OF THE TRINITY Lecturer: Hank Overeem STUDENT NOTES 1. INTRODUCTION Our Christian worldview and life is centred in the Trinitarian concept of God. Through the biblical revelation, we understand that the one God exists as three persons in dynamic relationship. From the very first verses of the book of Genesis to the very last verses of the book of Revelation, we are confronted with God who is relational. How this relating within the Triune Godhead is experienced remains by and large a great mystery. a. Mystery unveiled slightly It is Jesus who has lifted the veil ever so slightly. He not only revealed the tri-unity of God, but he also showed us the loving relationship existing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, it remains a great mystery. As Paul explained, For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12). b. Mystery is never explained The apostles did not even attempt to explain the Trinitarian God, other than to simply state the facts regarding the divinity of both Christ and the Holy Spirit. The divinity of God the Father was never in question as his self-revelation throughout the Old and New Testament Scriptures bears a comprehensible witness to this fact. c. Church Fathers It is not until we come to the time of the Church Fathers, who, confronted with heretical teaching and philosophies, saw the need to clarify the Churches belief. As we have already discovered this was done by the way of Statements of Faith the Creeds. 1

2 2. THE TRINITY BEFORE CREATION (1) God is self-sufficient Before any and all creation (including the creation of angelic beings), God was (and is) completely self-sufficient. Being self-sufficient means that God is wholly complete and has no need for anything outside of himself. This important to understand as sometimes it is suggested that God needed to create to further extend or complete his joy and fulfilment. That is not so! The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything (Acts 17:24-25). See also Isaiah 66:1-2 (2) If God is self-sufficient why then did he create us? (Psalm 8:3-4) Some possible reasons: His love, goodness and creativity spills over in the creation For his own pleasure all things have been created through Him and for Him (Revelation 4:11) God is personal and relational and desired to extend this by creating human beings (in his image and likeness) so that we would enter into into the existing fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit God is all-wise and has an eternal plan and created us for that purpose Classical Christian response, to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:12-13) (3) God is infinite (Unlimited, Immeasurable, and Boundless) God being infinite simply means that God is not limited by space, time or his own creation. It is through his self-revelation in Scripture and through his Son that we know that God is infinite: There are no limits to God: Infinite in wisdom (all wise) Infinite in power (All-powerful - Omnipotent) Infinite in knowledge (Omniscient) Because he has infinite power, nothing can stop his divine purposes from being fulfilled (Psalm 115:3. Jeremiah 13:17; Luke 1:37) Because God is everywhere-present (omnipresent) and not limited by time, space or created matter, no one can hide from him (Jeremiah 23:24; Psalm 139:7-9) Because God is everywhere-present, he knows everything Because God is everywhere-present, it establishes his eternality. God has always existed and will never cease to exist. He has no beginning nor end Before any and all creation, God existed as a wholly self-sufficient and eternal Triune God 2

3 (4) The Trinity and creation Some facts we should know Unlike God, all created beings are finite whether in heaven or on earth (Satan included!) In creating finite human beings, God remained infinite God He brought the created order into existence out of nothing (Genesis 1:1 bara) although we are created in his image and likeness we are not created out of him we are not of the same essence or substance! He is personally involved and sustains his creation (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3) Yet the creator God is never to be confused with his creation (Isaiah 66:1-2) (Pantheism) 3. GOD IS A RELATIONAL BEING As we have already discovered in our previous lesson, the biblical revelation clearly points to God being a multi-relational (Trinitarian) Being. The fact alone that God refers to himself with the personal plural pronoun Us indicates a plurality of consciousness within the Godhead (Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Psalm 8:4; Isaiah 6:8) It is Jesus however, who reveals his inter-personal relationship between him and the Father. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He himself is doing (John 5:20) He also reveals a more comprehensive understanding as to the Personhood of the Holy Spirit. This in turn opened the door to the Trinitarian belief of the One God, in three Persons. (1) Scriptural evidence of the love relationship between the Father and the Son The relationship of Father and Son is unique Matthew 11:27 All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. See also Luke 10:22; John 6:46;7:28; 8:55; 10:15; 17:25 3

4 The Father loves the Son John 3:35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. See also John 5:20; 10:17; 15:19; 17:24 The Father shares his divine life with the Son Colossians 2:9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form See also John 5:26; 6:57; Colossians 1:19 The Father delegates his authority to the Son John 5:27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man See also John 3:35 5:21-22; 16:15; Revelation 2:26-27 Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Father and Son indwell each other John 14:10-11 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. John 17:21-23 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may [a] believe that You sent Me. See also John 10:38; 14:20 (2) The relationship between the Holy Spirit, and the Father and the Son The Spirit is the Spirit of God [Father] and the Spirit of Christ The Spirit of God Romans 8:9; 1 06:33; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Philippians 3:3; 1 John 4:2 The Spirit of Christ Acts 16:7; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19; 1 Peter 1:11 The Spirit s unique relationship with the Father Matthew 10:20 For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. See also 1 Corinthians 2:

5 The Spirit s unique relationship with the Son John 1:33 I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit. See also Isaiah 61:1; John 14:16-17, 26; Acts 10:38 4. MAN IS A RELATIONAL BEING (1) God is personal and relational therefore, we are too From Scripture we know that that human personhood is based on the nature of the Creator (contrary to the atheist and pantheist). In Genesis 1:26-27 we read that we are made in the image and likeness of God therefore it should not surprise us that in our basic make-up we are in a small way like God. (2) Divine personhood includes the capacity of thought, volition (will) and emotion: God thinks and reasons Let us reason together (Isaiah 1:18) God makes decisions and possesses absolute freedom of will The God of the Bible manifests emotions e.g. Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) So, we too must, to some extent, have similar capacities. (3) Human personhood has similar characteristics as God Modern-day science cannot explain how the human brain can express: Self-consciousness, intelligence, self-direction and an abundance of emotions Creativity, aesthetic appreciation, dominion, moral motions and a sense of eternality All these are aspects reflect the divine image in which man is created (4) The consequences of the Fall and the image of God in man (imago dei 1 ) Although human beings have fallen into sin and suffer the scars of the fall (Romans 3:23) that does not mean that the imago dei has altogether been lost in humankind. Salvation and the reconciliation of Man with God, inaugurates the process of sanctification being re-made in the image of God (5) The redeemed Christian and the image of God in man Christians find true meaning and purpose in human activities and functions. Such as: Through various acts of creativity Displaying acts of kindness and justice In his thoughts, language, scientific activities and study of objective history The ability to make a distinction between fantasy and reality The ability to enter into spiritual communion with God The ability to worship in spirit and in truth To enter into fulfilling, God-honouring human relationships To be an instrument in the hand of God in redeeming society at-large 1 Imago Dei is the Latin term for "Image of God." 5

6 We are truly persons with eternal value because the Creator of the universe is also personal and has made us for relationship with himself and to have loving relationships with others 5. CHURCH AS A RELATIONAL ENTITY The restored relational aspect of man with God and God with man has a direct and tangible application to the collective (family of God) life of Christians. As members of his body we have been baptised [emerged] by one Spirit into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13) Just like human family members are joined by blood, so are the members of the family of God joined together through the blood of Jesus and by his Spirit. A family is a relational entity (parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces etc.) The Church is also a relational entity the household of God (Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 2:19; 1 Peter 4:17) (1) One Church One Body One Head Just as there is only one God there is also only one Church with Jesus Christ as the head of his Church His Body. Ephesians 1:22-23 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (2) The Church is a singular body made up of many members There is no such thing as a solitary Christian. Some, by personality, may be less social than others, but we do belong to a family made-up of many members who are interdependent of each other. 1 Corinthians 12:12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. Romans 12:5 So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6

7 (3) The Church as an interpersonal relational entity Like the Trinity, the church, with its many members, are but one body in unity Just as the communal relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share in Perichoresis (a mutual indwelling), so the Church ought to be a loving and caring community. Christ gives us a new command to love one another. John 13:34 A new commandment I give too you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another The three persons of the Trinity have perfect love for one another in their perichoretical relationship. God calls us to be: Devoted to and honour one another (Romans 12:10) Serve one another (Galatians 5:13) Bearing with one another (Ephesians 4:2) Live in harmony, being sympathetic, compassionate, and humble to one another (1 Peter 3:8) Scripture is bursting with exhortations and admonitions to treat one another in the same way that God treats us. God Is Love Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8) 7

8 6. THE CHURCH AS A LOVING COMMUNITY Three scriptural passages about Church relationships (1) Relationship model The relationships he desires us to model to the world ought to be similar to that which exists between him and his Father First passage: John 17 Jesus' "high priestly" prayer for his disciples and his future church on the eve of his crucifixion. In this prayer Christ links himself to the Father as many times as he links us to either the Father or Son: Forty-two times the Father and Son and linked together - you/me, I/you, us Forty-two times we are linked to either the Father and or Son - I/you/those, they/yours, you/them/me, I/them, they/you/me 2 John 17:20-21 I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. (2) Similar relationship passion The relationship between his followers is to become of the same intensity and passion, as his relationship with his Father. He has provided all the resources that his Father had given him to his followers, in order that they may experience this same passion and oneness. John 17:22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. (3) The relationship between the Father and Son is the standard for all relationships This is the standard, it is the yardstick, and anything else is second-rate. It is the model for Christian marriage and family It is the model for relationships within and between local congregations It is the model for home-groups, church committees, youth ministry and leadership teams It is the model for mission and parachurch agencies It is the example for the world-wide Body of Christ 2 Brian Hathaway 8

9 This is the maturity that God has in store for his people (Ephesians 4:13) A oneness exemplified by that between Father and Son - "that they may be one as we are one" (John 17:22). (4) The Christian Community pictured as a Temple There are passages where the Spirit is said to dwell in the Christian community, pictured as a temple, rather than just the individual (e.g. 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:20-22). (5) Warnings about causing disunity A severe warning is given to any who would cause division in the fellowship: "If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him: for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple" (1 Corinthians 3:17). Such is God's concern for oneness. Second passage: 1 Corinthians 12 This significant passage about spiritual gifts points to the relationships within the Trinity as the basis for our own unity: (1) Unity involves the whole Triune Godhead "There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve the same Lord, and we can each do different things. Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do" (1 Corinthians 12:4-6) Same Spirit Same Lord Same God (2) Diversity and unity within the Trinity Just as the members of the Godhead are wholly united and cooperate together in loving relationships, so should we, as his Body, use whatever gifts we have to the benefit of the whole community. Third passage: Ephesians 4:1-16 (1) Unity and growth within the body "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2). "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). (2) The trinity is the basis for this unity "There is one body and one Spirit...one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:4). "one Spirit...one Lord...one God and Father of all". 9

10 It is within the context of the grace we have each received from this one Trinity (verse 7), and in mutual service to one another (verse 12), that we are to grow together into the maturity of Christ (verse 13). By loving one another the way God loves, the church reflects the loving, self-giving relationship of the triune God Summing up New Testament unity is forged out of loving relationships, and it is always the Trinity that presented as the model for these relationships. It is the desire and function of the members of the Trinity, working in and through God's people, to produce this unity. 10

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