Friday, July 25, 2014

A Brief Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity, Part 1

One of the biggest lies you’ll ever hear about the Trinity is that it was invented at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. This is the Liberal nonsense you’ll hear on the Discovery Networks or from the Dan Brown types. One of the easiest ways to refute this is the fact that the term “Trinity” appears in Christian literature about 150 years before Nicaea.

The term first surfaces in an Apology for Christians written in the 170’s A.D. “Apology” does not mean ‘saying you’re sorry;’ rather it is a reasoned defense of the faith. The 2nd Century was replete with such “apologies” and most of the important Church writers of that era are referred to as the “Apologists.” The earliest written instance of the term Trinity appears in the Apology of Athenagoras of Athens - (died ca. 185). This is incredibly important for a couple of reasons:

(1). The term is simply stated, not lugged in as something novel, meaning it was not an innovation in the 170’s. He refers to something as a “type” of the Trinity, suggesting that he had written on the subject before, or, at least, that others had.

(2). This is an apology, which means it was written to an unbeliever.

Right around the same time, the Carthaginian theologian, Tertullian (155-230), used the term as well. However, Tertullian’s use was not a mere mention of the term. He used the terms Essence and Person, which are the standard terms – in the exact way that Nicaea affirmed their usage – again, nearly 150 years before Nicaea. And by 206, at the latest, he had written a defense of the Trinity against a Modalist named Praxeas.

The doctrine of the Trinity is the heart of the Christian faith. This doctrine has always been seen as a necessary element of Christianity, one that cannot be surrendered without destroying the faith itself. We, of course agree with Luther that the doctrine of Justification by faith alone is the doctrine by which the Church stands or falls. But we should hasten to say that the doctrine of the Trinity, because it deals with the essence of God Himself, precedes all doctrine. It is therefore the safeguard of the faith.

One need not be a genius to realize that something that is never taught or preached about is either not important or not true. How are millions of professing Christians supposed to believe that the Trinity is true, and that even if it is true, that it makes a difference anyway, if they never hear the doctrine explained? The simple fact is: they won’t. That’s what we’re here to do, and the leadership of CtK is to be highly commended for placing emphasis on Christian education.

Why, though, we might ask is the Trinity, generally speaking, such a neglected doctrine?  It is my considered opinion that the explanation for this neglect lies in our sinful nature’s proclivity to self-righteousness. Like Cain, we are always trying to commend ourselves to God with our works. Hence, the only doctrines we care for are those from which we can derive a moral application. Every time we read the Bible, instead of seeing what God has done for us in Christ, we ask, “What do I have to do?” If we can’t take something home with us to DO, then we don’t value it.  This is Law, not Gospel. The Law says, “Do this and live.” Whereas the Gospel says, “Live, because Christ has done this for you.”

Let’s consider this: If it the doctrine of the Trinity be true, because it is a truth about God, then it is of infinite importance. There are two simple yet important reasons why the Church must hold fast to the doctrine of the Trinity.

1. For the sake of God’s glory. God must be distinguished from false gods. God must be worshipped as He has revealed Himself. He has revealed Himself as Triune. Worship of anything less is idolatry. Anyone who denies the Trinity is, ipso facto, an idolater.

2. For the sake of our salvation. No one is saved without knowledge of the Father. But the Father is not known without the Son. Scripture says, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). And, “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father” (1 John 2:23). Further, no one is saved without faith in the Son: “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed, and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard” (Rom. 10:14). Similarly, no one is saved without knowledge of the Spirit. Scripture says, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9). No one receives the Spirit without knowing Him; for Christ says, “Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him” (John 17:17). It is necessary then, that for anyone to be saved, he must know the Triune God.

Therefore, the doctrine of the Trinity is not so much a point among many as the very essence and compendium of Christianity itself.

1. Remember that God is personal: He is not abstract but He is a living, thinking, willing, conscious Being.
2. God is personal but He is also a plurality of persons.
3. We confess with the orthodox church of all ages the doctrine of the Trinity, that God is one in Being, and three in Persons.

Key Point: LORD in OT is YHWH = Kurios in LXX. Kurios means Lord. In the English versions of the OT YHWH is rendered LORD in what is called ‘small caps.’ This is where the whole word is capitalized but the first letter is a couple of font points larger. The LXX is what the Apostles read. Now think what it implies when we realize that in no NT book do the authors ever bat an eye at calling Jesus ‘Lord.’ Hence every occurrence of Kurios in the NT in reference to Christ is tantamount to calling Him YHWH. Sometimes the references are more blatant than others:

Joel 2:32 / Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13
Isaiah 8:13 / 1 Peter 3:14-15
Jeremiah 23:5-6 / Luke 1:32-33; 1 Cor. 1:30

The same point can also be applied in reference to the Holy Spirit: calling Him “Lord” is tantamount to calling Him “YHWH.” (2 Cor. 3:17-18) Verse 17 as much as says that the expression “Spirit of the Lord” is synonymous with calling the Spirit “Kurios, i.e., YHWH.”

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