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The Triune God: The Son and the Holy Spirit in the New Testament
1 Peter 1:3
1 Peter Lesson #017
May 21, 2015
“Father, we’re thankful for this time we can come together to be encouraged by Your Word. Another day to serve You and another day to learn Your Word and another day to grow spiritually. Father, we are particularly mindful of the missionaries we support. We continue to pray for Chafer Seminary and George Meisinger. We also pray for Jim Myers and Igor Smolyar over in Ukraine. We pray for Igor’s wife, Julia, that the medical things that she’s facing will work out pretty smoothly. Father, we pray for all those coming for the conference in June that they will have safe travel. We pray for those who are speaking that they can get their material put together and all their presentations done so they can relax and enjoy the conference and the time of fellowship and study in the Word. Father, we pray for us tonight as we study Your Word. As we reflect upon what Your Word teaches, let us come to a better understanding of Who You are in Your Person and come to a better understanding of what it means that You exist as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and the significance of that in terms of our own spiritual life. Now Father, we pray that You will guide and direct our thinking as we study Your Word. In Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are studying 1 Peter on Thursday nights but during the last few weeks we’ve been looking at the implications of a statement that comes at the beginning of this epistle. (Slide 3) In 1 Peter 1:3 Peter writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is a phrase that’s used three or four times in the New Testament. We have to look to the context to see its significance. The writers of Scripture don’t just cite phrases because they sound good or because it’s some sort of rote statement or phrase that has been handed down, because they’re the ones who are handing things down. They’re not just saying this to say it. It’s not some normal phraseology or title that you might expect.
There’s a reason that Peter would put that in here in terms of what is said in the rest of the epistle. One of these I think is pretty obvious. In the epistle of 1 Peter, Peter is dealing with a group of believers, Jewish-background believers, who are living in different areas, mostly in the area of what we now call Turkey. In the western and northern and north central area of what is now modern Turkey. They are dealing with a certain degree of problems. A lot of people want to identify these problems as persecution but I don’t see any evidence within the text that it is persecution. Historically this is probably too early to be any kind of a widespread persecution in the Roman Empire.
They are not any different from the rest of us in that when you become a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ you become a target in the angelic conflict. There are going to be challenges. There are going to be difficulties in life. There’s going to be a certain amount of adversity. Some may be much more difficult than others. There are always the opportunities that we have where people who we think are our friends or our family turn against us because we are basing our life upon the Bible and we’re basing our thinking upon the Bible and when we start making decisions in our life that are based on Scripture that often has a very irritating effect upon those around us who don’t base their life on the Bible.
Paul and his traveling companions, Silas and Timothy and others, as they were going on their missionary journeys certainly experienced that in a number of different areas. They experienced a lot of hostility from Jewish congregations. Paul’s methodology was always to go to a synagogue first. He would go to a synagogue and they would give him the opportunity to teach. That might go on for a week or two or three or four weeks. Some places it lasted a little longer. Some places it didn’t last so long. Then he would start meeting a tremendous amount of opposition from those within the synagogue who were rejecting the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I can’t imagine things would have been any different from Jewish-background believers scattered throughout this whole area in Bithynia, Pontus, Galatia, and Asia. As they were taking a stand for their belief that Jesus was the Messiah, they would certainly meet a tremendous amount of opposition and persecution from within the synagogues that they had been a part of from other Jews who were living in that area so this would have caused a lot of problems. So I don’t take the standard view that this is some sort of Roman persecution. I think that this fits just the standard opposition, the trouble we all struggle with living in a fallen world. It might have been intensified because coming out of the Jewish context they were facing opposition and conflict from that context.
When we look at what Peter is saying here at the very beginning when he says basically the word “blessed” in this kind of a context. Blessed is the Greek word we studied, EULEGETOS which means to speak well of someone or to praise someone. He’s praising the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He’s emphasizing this relationship of God the Father to the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s emphasizing the deity. If God is the Father then Jesus would, of course, be the Son.
We have traced this through the Old Testament, looking at the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God in the Old Testament, the doctrine of the Sonship of Christ, as well as looking at what the Old Testament taught about God the Holy Spirit. We brought all of that together last time, covering all of those passages. We saw that the Old Testament clearly taught that God existed as a plurality, that He existed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You don’t have a unitarian monotheism in the Old Testament. There were various passages emphasizing the deity of other Persons that were worshipped, the Son and the Spirit.
This is important because when we look at these things and study these statements in Scripture, the names of God were applied to the Holy Spirit and the Son, as He’s identified in the Old Testament as the Messenger of Yahweh. They were worshipped in the Old Testament and only God is worshipped in the Bible. No other creature is ever worshipped in the Bible legitimately. You have the Son and the Spirit performing acts that only God can perform and they exhibit attributes that only God has. When you look at their acts and their attributes and the names that are given to them and the fact that they are worshipped, then the conclusion is that you clearly have three distinct Persons in the Old Testament that were worshipped as God.
That’s the doctrine of the Trinity: that God exists in one essence but in three Persons. (Slide 4) We see this develop as I pointed out last time when we get to the end of the opening paragraph. In 1 Peter 1 there’s a focus on the fact that in the future we will be tested by fire. Later on Peter talks about how we will meet fiery trials. We’re tested by fire. That just means there are going to be intense trials, intense situations, and circumstances that we face in life and the only answer is to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is God and He is related to God the Father. He has the resources to sustain us through these fiery trials.
(Slide 5) So we looked at the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God the Father, as well as God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. (Slide 6) Now I drew this diagram because this is really a very ancient diagram to depict the Trinity. At the very center we have God and God exists as three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each one is God. That’s the point of each of these bars going into the center. The Father is God. The Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. Then the outer circle has the statement that “each is not the other”. The Father is not the same as the Son. The Son is not the same as the Holy Spirit.
In the early church there was a heresy that was known as modalism. Modalism taught that you have one God. He shows up or puts on a mask as the Father. Then a couple of weeks later He shows up in another mask as the Son and another time He reveals Himself as the Spirit. Modalism believes you just have one God but sometimes He manifests Himself in one of these three different ways. That’s called modalism. There are a lot of Christians who have some kind of modalistic idea, especially when they’re young or new to the faith, because they haven’t really thought through or been taught what the Trinity really is.
Then you had another heresy in the early church where you have the Father who is really the one God. He is manifested as the Father until He manifests Himself as the Son and then after the Ascension, He manifests Himself as the Spirit. So the Father is essentially the one on the Cross. That was called, if you want a fancy word, patripassionism. Patri, meaning the Latin for Father, and passion, the word for suffering. The Father suffered on the Cross. So these were unitarian ideas. If you go to a Unitarian Church, then you will find people who believe that. That’s their heritage, although most Unitarian Churches today have merged with Universalist churches and their beliefs are all over the board. They’re mostly some kind of New Age, Eastern mysticism, or anything that goes, sort of a relativism today. So this diagram depicts the doctrine of the Trinity and gives some Scripture references there to indicate that the Bible treats them as distinct Persons.
The Son is not the same as the Father. The Son was sent by the Father. The Son is delegated certain responsibilities by the Father. The Son prayed to the Father. He’s not talking to Himself. The Father is not the Holy Spirit. Jesus prays that the Father will send the Holy Spirit as another Comforter. We’ll see that verse as we go through this. The Holy Spirit is a distinct Entity, a distinct Person, from the Father and the Son. Then in Acts 10:38 you have the same kind of statement where the Son is distinguished from the Person of God the Holy Spirit.
What we’re talking about, as I said at the very beginning of this study, that the Bible depicts God as a Person. He is a Person, that is, someone who has the essential elements of personhood so that we are able to have a relationship with God. We, as human beings, are uniquely qualified to have a relationship with God because we were created in God’s image and likeness. [Genesis 1:26–27 states that.] There are elements of our personhood that correspond to something in God. God is omniscient. He has intellect. He knows all things. We come to learn but not in the way God does. We can think so there’s rationality on the part of God and on the part of man. God is completely self-conscious. We become God conscious as we become aware of the evidence of God’s existence in the creation. That’s part of personhood. God makes choices and decisions. We do too on a different basis but that, too, relates to personhood. So we are persons who can relate to God. God is the ultimate Person of the universe and that explains personhood.
Just as a side note, when you get into Eastern mysticism of various views, whether it’s Hinduism or Buddhism or whatever, the ultimate reality in the universe is not a person and it’s not material. The problem here is how do you explain the origin of personhood if the ultimate reality of the universe is not personal? Then you’re left with the question of how this personhood developed. Did it spring out of nothing? Where did it come from?
(Slide 7) Having gone through the Old Testament, I want to take some time to see what the New Testament teaches. When I began this I quoted from our doctrinal statement as to what we believed about the Trinity. We have a short statement of the doctrinal statement that’s in the bulletin so that people can understand briefly and succinctly what we believe.
We also have a longer doctrinal statement that explains in detail what it is that we believe and why we believe it. That’s important for a number of reasons. One thing that I’ll get into some on Sunday, I had Pam send out an e-mail to folks on the e-mail list saying that every generation has to fight and secure their generation but they also have to decide for themselves what they believe about the Bible and what they believe about God and what they believe about Jesus Christ and what they believe about theology and doctrine.
It seems like every thirty to forty years within Christianity since the early 1900s we have another battle over what we mean when we say the Bible is the Word of God. In the 19th century they said, “Well, the Bible contains the Word of God.” So they started playing with the verbiage. They didn’t believe that everything in the Bible was actually directly revealed by God; it just contained the Word of God. So there are parts of the Bible that aren’t the Word of God. Well, that begs the question, doesn’t it? Who’s going to determine which is the Word of God and which is not the Word of God? Who’s got the razor blade that can go in and divide these verses or phrases and decide who and what really is in the Bible?
There was a liberal group of scholars back in the 90s called The Jesus Seminar. That’s basically what they did. They went through the gospels and they had colored pencils. They had a system of, I think, four or five different categories and only one of them was “We believe Jesus very probably said this.” Very little that’s in the gospel actually fits that category, according to them. There were a lot of things they didn’t believe Jesus actually said because they classified the gospels as the writing down two or three generations later of the legends and myths that had grown up around Jesus of Nazareth as the result of the development of this sect coming out of Judaism.
First of all, we had to define what we mean by the word “God.” You found people talking about inspiration, that God “breathed out the Scriptures”. After that, there was an attempt to say it’s all inspired, but it’s not all right, all infallible. Then you had to add the word infallible. So we believe that the Word of God is inspired, breathed out by God, and infallible. Then you get a couple of generations later and they start to pick apart some words and some details here and there and you begin to have to add in phrases like “verbal and plenary inspiration”. Verbal means every word is breathed out by God. Plenary means every part is equally or fully breathed out or inspired by God. Back around 1800 you could say, “I believe the Bible is the Word of God.” Everyone would say, “Great. We believe that too. Let’s go on.” Everyone meant the same thing. One hundred years later you had to say, “We believe the Bible is verbally and plenarily inspired and breathed out by God and is infallible in everything that it says.”
By the mid-20th century, you had to add the word inerrancy. Not only is it verbally or plenarily inspired or breathed out by God and infallible in everything that it addresses but it is also without error of any form in the original manuscripts. Now in the last thirty years you have this move toward liberalism and among a number of liberal New Testament professors, as well as Old Testament professors, they get around this. They sign the school’s doctrinal statements at places like Dallas Seminary, Denver Seminary, and a number of other seminaries that used to be the bulwarks of Biblical truth. They say, “Well, it’s inspired but let’s take Jonah. Jonah wasn’t really swallowed by a fish. That really didn’t happen. There was a Jonah but those things didn’t happen. That was just a parable.” By calling it a parable they’re able to deny the historicity of it but they can still say that the Bible is inspired. It’s inspired fiction. This is happening today.
There was a very insightful article written by Bob Wilken, who is the head of the Grace Evangelical Society. He wrote in their monthly newsletter a good expose of one of the professors at Denver Seminary. You need to read about this because these issues are very important. We’re fighting these battles all over again, over whether or not the Bible is really the Word of God. Pay attention to those things.
(Slide 8) I wanted to go into our doctrinal statement so you can understand what we have said and what is present in our doctrinal statement in a little more detailed fashion. I’m not going to read everything that’s there, but most of it. “We believe that God the Son is co-equal, co-eternal, and co-infinite with God the Father.” Now that’s a time-honored qualification demonstrating that in as many words as we can that God the Son is equal in essence in every possible dimension with the Father. He’s co-equal in everything. He doesn’t have more or less sovereignty or more or less love. He doesn’t have more or less knowledge or more or less power or more or less presence. He is equal in everything. He is co-eternal. There’s no beginning and no end. And He is co-infinite. That means that in each of His perfections or attributes, He is infinite, just as the Father is infinite.
The same with God the Holy Spirit. He possesses the same divine attributes as the Father and the Holy Spirit. “We believe that the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son, agreed to the incarnation in order to glorify the Father and redeem mankind from the slave market of sin.” So He has a different role. He’s one in essence but He’s a distinct person and He has a distinct role within the Trinity. Now this is what is really important. Within the Trinity you have three Persons who are equal in their being but they are distinct in their function. They have different roles.
It’s like having a football team where everyone on the football team weighs the same, has the same ability, and has the same capabilities but one person is still going to be the quarterback. One person is going to be the running back. One person is going to be a center. One person is going to be an end and there’s no distinction in their abilities but they have distinct roles and they have to stick within their roles. That’s what’s true about the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
What’s important about that is that it relates to understanding society. That is a metaphysical or ontological concept that undergirds the whole philosophy of politics and society in western civilization. It means that every person is equal before the law. Every person is equally human and fully human before the law. But every person has distinct functions. What happens in the gender wars over the last hundred years or so is that, because they’ve left their Biblical background, they don’t understand that when they hear a distinction of roles between men and women and parents and children, what they hear is that the person who is the leader and the person who is the subordinate are not equal in person. If you say that one person should not perform in one area and another person should perform in that area, they say you’re being biased and prejudiced against the person who doesn’t get to lead.
That’s not how the Bible looks at it. The Bible says we’re all equal but God assigned different roles for men and for women, different roles for leaders, different roles for those who are members of the church, and different roles in many different areas of society. You recognize those role distinctions but everyone is understood to be equal. If you’re a Moslem and you believe in the basic metaphysics and ontology of Islamic philosophy embedded in the Koran, then you have a unitarian, solitary god in eternity past, then there’s no basis for any kind of equality of person. All you have is an authoritarian or tyrannical deity who orders things according to his arbitrary will. So that in Islam whenever anything happens, then that was just the will of Allah. There’s no basis for equality among the creatures. They are all just supposed to be completely subordinate to this arbitrary deity.
Islam can never, ever produce a culture that has respect for all individuals as individuals. It’s impossible. This is why, and I said it back in 2000 and after 9-11 when the Bush administration was going to bring democracy to the Middle East, it will never, ever, never happen until you retrain those people to think outside their Moslem philosophical system. It is impossible. But if you’ve rejected Biblical truth as the framework for your own thinking, then you can’t critically evaluate what’s going on in different religions. You’re left to think that these are just preferences that people have chosen but that they’re all the same. As long as you operate on that fantasy, you’re going to consistently have problems.
What we believe makes a difference in how we live and how we do things. This is why it’s important to understand the essence of the Trinity that all three Members are equal in essence but they are subordinate in authority and they have distinct roles. That doesn’t diminish their equality at all. (Slide 9) When we look at God the Holy Spirit we say, “We believe that the Holy Spirit is co-equal and co-eternal and co-infinite with the Father and the Son. As God He possesses the same divine attributes as the Father and the Son.”
Later on we see His distinction of role. “The Spirit is the Agent of regeneration, sanctification, and comfort to those who believe in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is a Person just as the Father and Son are Persons.” The distinction in roles is all played out and there are Scripture references in each of these sections that talk about their specific roles and how they relate to the Christian life.
Now let’s look at what the Bible teaches about the plurality in God in the New Testament. (Slide 11) Probably the most important passage is the last statement that Matthew records of Jesus making before the ascension. In Matthew 28:18–20 Jesus comes to His disciples. This is after the crucifixion and after the resurrection. He gives them their marching orders for the Church Age. This is generally known as the Great Commission. A form of it is found in each of the gospels and the 1st chapter of Acts. “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’ ”
He is making a statement of authority there, that He has the same authority as God the Father. That implies the equality of the Son to the Father. He’s making a claim to be identical to the Father in authority and that the Father has delegated this authority to Him. Then He says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” A lot of people have taught the grammar of this verse in different ways. I’ve taught it in different ways. You have an imperative there, which is “to make disciples”. That’s the command for everyone, to make disciples.
It’s surrounded by three participles. It’s usually translated as a command to go. It could be translated, “while you’re going”, “when you’re going” “as you’re going”, which is assuming that you’re going to be going and living out your life in some way. As you’re doing that you are to make disciples. The more I come to understand the idioms of Greek the more I recognize that when you have a participle preceding an imperative, that participle that precedes the imperative often picks up the thrust or the mood of the imperative verb. So it’s correctly translated to go. Jesus is stating that in Acts 1:8 when He talks to the disciples when He says to wait here in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes and then go to Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. It is clearly a statement there that they are to go. They are to take the gospel throughout the world. That’s the missionary endeavor of the Church. That’s the mandate to personal evangelism for every believer. We’re to make disciples. That’s someone who is a student of the Word, not just getting them to believe and trust in the gospel so they quit having an eternal destiny in the Lake of Fire and their destiny becomes Heaven, but to be trained.
The next thing that’s mentioned is baptizing. That’s important. It’s talking about water baptism because in water baptism you teach you meaning of water baptism which is that at our salvation, at faith alone in Christ alone, we were identified with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. That becomes the foundation for our spiritual life. Water baptism for a believer is important because it’s just like when you go to a wedding. You go to a wedding and someone is getting married. The bride and the groom are rehearsing their vows before each other. As you sit there as a married man or woman, most people think, “I remember doing that. I remember making those vows or similar vows to my spouse.” It’s a reminder and a reaffirmation of the vows that we made when we got married. Every time when a congregation sees new believers baptized, if it’s properly explained, they are reminded over and over again of how in their experience, they trusted Christ as Savior. At that moment they were identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. [Romans 6:3–5] That means they are now free from the power of the sin nature, so they can live to serve God and they should no longer live to serve the dictates of their own sin nature. That’s the purpose.
They’re baptized how? In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Now you have this emphasis on the three Persons of the Trinity: the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. In English we tend to think of the name as simply being a label, like Peter Pan Peanut Butter or Post Toasties or Kellogg. It’s just a label. In the Bible when you talk about the name of someone, you’re talking about their essence, their being, who they are, all that they are. So the phrase here, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit” has to do with the fact that all that we are in our new identity is related to the work of the Triune God in salvation. God the Father’s plan for salvation, God the Son’s execution of that salvation and God the Holy Spirit’s application of that to us at the instant of our salvation. That emphasizes that we are to go and the role of baptism and that of the Trinity.
(Slide 12) Then Jesus says, “Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” In these three verses the attributes of deity for Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are essential to understanding the significance of baptism. We don’t have three Gods. We have One God who exists as three Persons with three distinct roles. Then we have another verse in 2 Corinthians 13:14 which mentions the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That verse says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” There we have three distinct things with reference to each Person in the Trinity, again treating them as three distinct Persons.
When we come to understand Jesus in the New Testament at the time of the Incarnation He clearly understood that He, Himself, was God. He believed that He was God. He presented Himself as God. He functioned and operated as God, although He was in the flesh. He knew who He was. He had an accurate self-identity. We’re taught throughout the New Testament that Jesus was fully God. This wasn’t just some idea that came along later.
There’s a very famous book written by Albert Schweitzer back about a hundred ten to a hundred twenty years ago called, “Seeking the Historical Jesus”. [The Quest of the Historical Jesus]. They haven’t found Him yet. Everyone makes little cracks about these things of looking for Jesus. Not too long ago, CNN had this special called Looking for Jesus. Maybe some of you thought you could put up with that. I didn’t know He was lost. But that’s what they’re looking for ever since Albert Schweitzer was trying to find the historical Jesus. What they mean by that is that the Jesus we see in the Bible isn’t the Jesus of flesh and blood who walked in the paths of Galilee. They say that was the human Jesus, but over the decades all this other stuff, mythology and legends, built up around Him and that got put into the Bible.
So we have to, as Rudolf Bultmann put it, demythologize Scripture. In other words, we have to peel off all these layers. One of the reasons this is important is that this kind of thinking has so embedded itself in our culture that no one really believes Jesus is who He is. Even as evangelical Christians even though we say we believe Jesus is who the Bible says He is, our faith has been so eroded by the liberalism and everything in our culture that we don’t really believe that in the radical way they believed it in the New Testament. He is God! He has all the capabilities of God.
Jesus understood that. The writers of the New Testament understood that. We have to understand as Jews in the New Testament period, they were all monotheists. They’re not trying to create some sort of new deity. They’re not coming along and saying that Jesus is a second God. They are dyed-in-the-wool monotheists. They’re not changing. They continue to affirm that they are monotheists.
That’s important because the writers of Scripture clearly affirm monotheism and they believe the Father is God and the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. Either they have a new perspective on the unity and the diversity of the Trinity and the Godhead or they’re nuts. They’re absolutely crazy. They’ve lost touch with all forms of rationality. We ought to think about that because the writings of the New Testament do not reflect the writings of someone who has lost touch with reality and is irrational. If they are rational and they are writing in a manner that is consistent within themselves then they are teaching something that is profound about the deity of Christ.
Now to point out their monotheism. They were all raised as Jews. The Old Testament clearly taught monotheism, that there’s one God. (Slide 13) Psalm 96:5, “For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens.” See, the Lord is in contrast to all the gods of the peoples. The Lord is a singular entity and He made the heavens.
(Slide 14) Isaiah 44:6 and 44:8, “Thus says the Lord [Yahweh], the king of Israel, and His Redeemer, the Lord of hosts…” How many people are there? Two. You have Yahweh, the King of Israel and His Redeemer. “Yahweh Sabaoth [the Lord of the Armies]: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.’ ” So the two of them say “Besides Me there is” which is a singular verb, “there is no God.” Interesting. Look at Isaiah 44:8, “ ‘Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.’ ” See, there’s only one God. Strict monotheism.
On Tuesday nights we’re going to come to this phraseology because Hannah uses it in her psalm of praise in 1 Samuel 2:1–10. What we see in a lot of passages is that they talk about God, You are a rock. But what happens in some passages is Rock is a nickname for God. Where else have we run across that recently? In Matthew. We’ll come across it in a little while in Matthew. I’ve already been studying past it so I’m ahead. Jesus says, “On this rock, I’ll build my church.” Everybody talks about the wordplay between PETRA and PETROS, the name of Peter and the Big Rock and the Little Rock. Jesus says, “On this rock, I’ll build my Church”.
People want to ask if that means He was building His Church on Peter. That’s the Roman Catholic answer. “Is this building it on the rock of faith?” That’s a lot of evangelicals’ answer. I think what Jesus does is this, “On this Rock...” Why? Because it’s a claim of deity. He’s God; He is talking about Himself. A name, a nickname, for Yahweh, the Lord of Hosts, in the Old Testament is Rock. So we see that evidence here. God is speaking and says, “Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.’” Rock becomes a synonym for the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
(Slide 15) Then in Isaiah 45:5 and Isaiah 45:22, God says, “I am the Lord. There is no other.” See, again and again, this strict monotheism pervades the Old Testament and the disciples have all grown up in this. They’re not shifting gears and saying, “Oh, we’ve become polytheists.” They’re not like a lot of Jews today who’ve become enamored with Buddhism and Hinduism and all these other things which are out there. “I am the Lord, and there is no other; There is no God besides me.” Then Isaiah 45:22, “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other.” This is embedded in their thinking. They believe in one distinct God. Jesus was a monotheist.
(Slide 16) When the rich young ruler came to Him and said He was a good teacher. Jesus said, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but one, that is, God.” Again Jesus is affirming monotheism. Other places He claims to be God. So either Jesus is really confused in His thinking and His whole self-identity. He is just all fractured which isn’t played out by the evidence. Or He clearly understands a dimension to the existence of God that goes beyond the simple minds that can only come to understand a strict monotheism. The Jews of His day understood that. In John 5:18 after Jesus had made another claim to deity it says, “Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.”
They clearly understood that Jesus was claiming to be God. It didn’t get past them. They knew exactly what He was saying when He made those kinds of statements. The Old Testament teaches monotheism, that there’s only one God. Jesus and the disciples had all been trained in Torah and they all believed there was only one God. There’s evidence everywhere that they were monotheists. When Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium in Acts 14 and the people there thought they were Zeus and Mercury, then they started to worship them. They started to bring offerings to them. Paul and Barnabas were so upset they began to rip their clothes and make a big issue that they couldn’t be worshipped because there was only one God. You don’t see a shift in Christianity from a monotheism to a polytheism at all.
(Slide 17) Furthermore when you look at Scripture it’s clearly understood that angels are monotheists and in passages in Revelation where an angel appears to John, John starts to fall down and worship the angel and gets corrected by the angel to not worship him because he’s just a servant of believers. You see a contrast between two verses in Revelation. In Revelation 1:17 John is on the Isle of Patmos and the ascended, glorified Lord Jesus Christ appears to him in the garb of a judging priest. When He does that, John writes, “When I saw Him [the Lord Jesus Christ] I fell at His feet as dead.” That’s prostrate in worship. “But He laid His right hand on me saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.’ ” Jesus didn’t tell him to quit worshipping Him because He was a creature. He told Him He was the First and the Last, which is a title given to God in several places in the Old Testament. God was called the First and the Last. Here Jesus is appearing to John. John falls down to worship Him. Jesus doesn’t tell him to get up and not worship Him, which an angel says in Revelation 19:10. Jesus says, “I am the First and the Last,” making another claim to deity.
In Revelation 19:10 an angel appears to John towards the end, right at the time of the Battle of Armageddon. John falls at his feet to worship him, but he [the angel] says, “See that you do not do that!” Basically what he says is, “Stop doing that. Get up.” He says, “I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” He’s saying to worship God, not him, because He’s a creature. So again, the worship of Jesus is profound because it’s never talked about as being wrong.
(Slide 18) Thomas was one of the apostles, Doubting Thomas, and had earlier expressed the fact that he would only believe Jesus had been raised from the dead when he could put his hand in the nail prints of His hand and in the spear hole in His side. When Jesus appeared to him he didn’t do either one. John 20:28, “And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ ” Jesus didn’t correct him. He was accurate. He understood at that point in a way he had never understood before that Jesus Christ was God.
There were also a number of statements that Jesus made throughout His teaching time during the Incarnation where He claimed to be the Messiah. By claiming to be the Messiah, He clearly understood Isaiah 9:6, that He would be Mighty God. We went over Isaiah 9:6 last time. By claiming to be the Messiah He was making the claim to be God. Secondly, He understood and made a claim to that by using the phrase, “I AM”. (Slide 20) In John 8:58 He was involved in a debate. This is such an important passage you ought to have it underlined. Jesus is in this confrontation, a big blow-up with the Pharisees, and they believe that they have it made. They’re going to Heaven because they’re descendants of Abraham. They’re accusing Jesus, like in Matthew 12, of having a demon, and as they go through this conflict Jesus concludes what He is saying in verse 56 by saying, “Your father, Abraham, rejoiced to see My day.”
Notice the present tense. He’s treating Abraham as alive and Abraham as a living witness to the Incarnation, seeing Jesus alive. He said their father Abraham rejoiced to see His day and he saw it and was glad. Immediately the Jewish religious leaders were all upset. They told him He wasn’t even fifty years old so how could He have seen Abraham who died thousands of years ago? “How could You see him?”
“Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’ ” The Greek there is EGO EIMI which is an expression of the meaning of the name of God in the Old Testament, Yahweh, which comes from the Hebrew verb meaning “to be”. When God explained it to Moses, He said, “I AM that I AM.” So I AM is a name of God. When Jesus said “Before Abraham was, I AM”, He was making a claim to deity. You may think that seems a little bit obscure, but it wasn’t to the Jews. Look at what they did in the next verse. Then they took up stones to throw at Him. They immediately started to stone Him because He had committed blasphemy in their view. He was claiming to be God.
We have other places that come up where there’s an emphasis on this as well. (Slide 19) In John 4:26 when Jesus was talking to the woman at the well, she is talking about the Messiah. She says, “We know that the Messiah is going to come.” Jesus said to her [and you lose it the way they translate it in the English because they put the parenthetical phrase between the I and the AM]. They say: “I, the one who speaks to you, am He,” but in the Greek it’s EGO EIMI. “I AM He.” I am the Messiah. The Messiah is the one who is God.
(Slide 21) The Scriptures also make these various claims of Jesus’ deity through the titles that they gave Him. In John 1:1 He is said to be identical with God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” He is the LOGOS; He is God.
Titus 2:13, “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” The blessed hope is the Rapture. We’re not looking for the rise of the Moslem antichrist, like Joel Richardson. We’re not looking for the rise of the ten-nation confederacy. We’re not looking for signs of the times because the next sign is the Rapture, the blessed hope. We’re not looking for the Antichrist because we’re looking for Jesus Christ. “The blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
In the Greek this uses that construction I mentioned several weeks ago when we first started this study, called the Granville Sharp Rule. It’s where you have two proper nouns, God and Savior, joined together by a conjunction [and] but there’s only one article and it comes before God. And by using that kind of construction the writer is saying those two nouns are equivalent. Jesus is God and Jesus is the Savior. That’s what he is saying. He is the God and Savior, so that’s a clear statement of the deity of Christ.
Then in Hebrews 1:8 we read, “But to the Son, He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.’ ” This is a quote from the Old Testament. Who is being addressed? The Son? What is the Son called? God. So you see the Scriptures clearly teach in the New Testament that Jesus is God.
(Slide 22) 1 John 5:20, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” So the way this is stated, Jesus Christ is the true God and Jesus Christ is eternal life. How much more plain can you be that the Bible is clearly teaching that Jesus is fully God? He has all the attributes of God and He’s given the titles of God. Not only that, we have numerous places in John where He uses this phrase EGO EIMI, emphasizing that He is Yahweh, that He is the I AM.
(Slide 23) In John 4:26, I just mentioned with the Samaritan woman. In John 6:35, 41, 48, and 51 He says, “I AM the bread of life.” He is the source of life. That’s what He is saying there. Then in John 8:12 and John 9:5 He says, “I AM the light of the world.” I AM again. In John 10:7 and 9 He says, “I AM the door of the sheep. In John 10:11, “I AM the good shepherd.” In John 10:36, “I AM the Son of God.” In John 11:25, “I AM the resurrection and the life.” In John 14:6, “I AM the way, the truth, and the life.” In John 15:6, “I AM the vine.” Each time He says this, He’s making a claim to deity. He is applying the name of God, I AM that I AM, to Himself each and every time. So the Bible is clearly making these statements across the board from all the writers of the New Testament that Jesus Christ is fully God.
(Slide 24) Further, in John 10:30 Jesus made the profound statement, “I and the Father are one.” We are equivalent. We are equal in all things. We are both fully divine. We’ll close with this tonight but one of the evidences of the deity of Christ that I think is a little more sophisticated and most people don’t get into it that much is the way certain Old Testament passages that clearly talk about God are then applied to Jesus in the New Testament. This shows that the New Testament writers clearly understood that Jesus was God. (Slide 25) For example, in Psalm 68:18, which is an Ascension psalm, which would be sung as the priests would walk up to the Temple, they would sing this. They would say, “You have ascended on high…” They were talking about God the Father ascending the Temple Mount giving victory over Jerusalem to David, and He has ascended on high and led captivity captive. That is then applied to Jesus in Ephesians 4:8 “when He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” So in Psalm 68:18 they’re singing it to God, Yahweh, and in Ephesians 4:8, Paul says that this is what Psalm 68:18 is talking about. It’s talking about Jesus. He’s applying it to Jesus’ ascension.
(Slide 26) In Psalm 102:25–27 we have the psalmist praising God for creating the heavens and the earth. He says, “Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.” Then in Hebrews 1:8 there’s an introduction to several quotes in the Old Testament. It’s introduced by the phrase, “But to the Son He says…” Then there’s a quote from Psalm 102:25, “And You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth.” To the Son He said, “You Lord.” The Son is called the Lord in that passage. The Son is identified as God by the quote in Hebrews 1:10.
(Slide 27) In Isaiah 45:23 God makes a statement, “That to me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.” But in Philippians 2:10, Paul says “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and of those under the earth.” The next verse goes on to say that Jesus Christ is God. So Isaiah 45:23 is applied directly to Jesus.
(Slide 28) In Isaiah 44:6 we read, “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and His Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts: [the verse we started with so it’s a good place to end] I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.” Verse 12, “Listen to Me, O Jacob, and Israel, I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last.” So a title for Yahweh in the Old Testament is the First and the Last. Then when we get to Revelation at the end in Revelation 1:17, Jesus is appearing to John and says, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.” Then in Revelation 2:8 again He is speaking to the messenger of the church in Smyrna, “These things says the First and the Last…” In Revelation 22:13 Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” So again these titles of deity are applied to Jesus.
If the titles of deity are given to Jesus, the acts of deity are given to Jesus, the worship of deity is given to Jesus, and the power of deity is given to Jesus then our only conclusion is that Jesus is fully God. If Jesus is fully God then Jesus is able to sustain us in whatever problem we face when we understand what the plan and purpose of God is. That’s going to be the message in Peter. Next time I’ll quickly wrap up just a few more points on Jesus’ deity and then we’ll look at God the Holy Spirit before we go forward in 1 Peter.
“Father, thank you for this opportunity to be reminded of the tremendous Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is fully God and fully capable to handle any and every problem that we have and that you’ve delegated to Him all authority and that He is the One who empowers and strengthens us through God the Holy Spirit during this Church Age. Father, we pray that our appreciation and understanding of who He is and the power He provides for us will be expanded and developed because of what we study this evening. In Christ’s name. Amen.”