Doug Batchelor - The Mystery of the Trinity
In our message today we're going to be talking about the mystery of the Trinity. The Trinity is probably one of the deepest and most sublime, profound subjects that we could explore. In our prayer, preparing for the service, our brother just said 'We're looking forward to Pastor Doug explaining this mystery.' I want to tell you right now, it will still be a mystery when the sermon is over. So I’m not going to presume that I’m going to be able to unlock all the mysteries of God for you. This is a mystery that we will delve into a little bit together and there'll be many things that are still very mysterious about it. It's like you and I trying to look at the cosmos through a magnifying glass. We're not going to be able to take it all in.
So in the Bible, when we try to understand the mystery of the Trinity, we're venturing on holy ground. It probably wouldn't be inappropriate for me to take my shoes off during this sermon. The carpet would feel pretty good, I know, but it might be a distraction for you. But it is holy ground and the Bible's pretty clear: we cannot understand God.
Let me just give you a few verses. In fact, you might want to have a pencil handy, we'll be looking at a lot of scripture today and I’ll be reading them quickly so as to cover as much as possible. "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord, 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" God is so much bigger than we can comprehend. Psalm 145, verse 3, "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable."
Now, you know, if we're saved - and I pray I am - I pray you are - that's why we're all here, right? You'll live for how long? Forever and ever and ever. Will you ever say I understand God? So if through eternity we know that we will never be able to fully comprehend God - you have to be God to understand God - then how much can we know in this life? But the Lord does want us to know what He's revealed. But keep in mind that this is a big subject and we're not claiming that we can unpack it for you.
Again, Romans 11:33, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out?" Past finding out. Job 26:14, "indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?" Here in this world we just get a fragment of a whisper of what there is to know about God but who can comprehend the thunder? 'What's thunder compared to a whisper?' - is what Job is saying. Who can understand? John Wesley said, 'Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man and I’ll show you a man that can comprehend the triune God.
So I just wanted to lay the groundwork here that I’m not pretending that I’m now going to reveal the mystery of God or the Trinity, but let's look at some things that are revealed in the Bible and understand this as well as we can. Now this is an important subject for a number of reasons. Do you know wars have been fought over this subject? It's been - nations have been eradicated because of disagreements over the belief of the subject. Now someone's going to say, 'Doug, you're teaching a doctrine that's not even in the Bible. You don't find the word Trinity in the Bible.'
That's true. You do not find the word 'Trinity' in the Bible. The word 'Trinity' simply means 'tri' - like a tricycle has how many wheels? Three. Tri-'entity' - three entities. It's talking - it's a word that we use to describe the doctrine of the three entities in the Godhead. The Bible does use the word 'Godhead'. There's nothing wrong with the word Trinity. You don't find the word ‘rapture’ in the Bible. You don't find the word 'Bible' in the Bible. So we can't talk about the Bible because the word 'Bible' is not in the Bible?
There's a lot of words that we don't find, per se – ‘millennium’ is not in the Bible but if we talk about the doctrine of the millennium it talks about the thousand-year period that you see there in Revelation chapter 20. And so there's a lot of terms that we use - theological terms to discuss various doctrines and this is called the doctrine of the Trinity - the three entities that compose the Bible God. And so that's really what we're discussing. There's no conflict in that.
Let me give you some examples in the Bible. Matthew 28 - some of the last words of Jesus. After He sends the disciples into the world He says, in Matthew 28:19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Now, it is true, in the New Testament, in the book of Acts, when the disciples went out it says they went and they baptized in the name of the Lord or in the name of the Lord, Jesus or in the name of Jesus. But Jesus definitely said, 'The name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.' That tells me, sometimes, that the exact wording in the baptism is not the big issue; it's that you're getting baptized into the name of the God of the Bible. And Jesus said, 'Father, Son, Holy Spirit' and that's good enough for me, amen?
Now, here's the question: can God be biblically accurate saying - could the Bible be accurate - can Christians be right saying, 'There's one God and yet saying, 'One doesn't always mean one.' Now that's the thing to understand. Now this isn't double talk, this is good scripture. Again, I’m just giving you a few verses. For instance, right in the beginning - Genesis 1:26 - God says, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." Now, do you hear more than one in that? Do you know the word that's used there in Hebrew for God is Elohim. That word 'Elohim' is plural. It's like 'we' - 'us' - whenever I say that then - if I say, 'We are going to the store.' Karen would say, 'Who are you going with?' I would say, 'I’m talking about myself.' You would say, 'What's wrong? Doug's talking about 'we' - has he become schizophrenic? Has he got split personality problems?'
So when God says this it's not because God is confused, the primary word used for 'God’ over 2,700 times in the Bible is 'Elohim' - it's the plural. There's the other word 'el' which is singular, but the inspired writers chose to use 'Elohim' ten times more than 'el'. This is all through the - mostly Old Testament. It's a plural. God has communicated Himself to us as a plural God because he is composed of these three persons. Now this is a mystery and it may still be a mystery when we're done. And then, of course, - and some people challenge this verse but it's in the Bible. I believe it. 1 John 5:7, "For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father," - that's Father - God the Father - "the Word," - Jesus is the Word become flesh - "and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one." That's hard to misunderstand. The three are one.
John 17:20 - Now this is, I think, the best example. This is in the special intercessory prayer of Jesus - John 17:20 - I’ll read also verse 21. Christ said, I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;" - what's He praying? - "that they all may be one." - now He's praying for the twelve apostles and He's praying that they can be one. How? - "as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You." - notice, God is in Jesus and Jesus is in God. That's going to come up later. - "That they also may be one" - there it is again - "in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me."
So you've got a nation that's one. You've got the apostles are one. You've got a couple that's one, but we know that there's many persons involved in those. So it's not inconsistent for us to say that there's one God, but in the Christian - one God - it is composed of three persons.
Now, I’m going to talk a little more about 'Is Jesus God and is the Holy Spirit God? You're not going to hear me talk a lot about 'Is God the Father God. You know why? I've never run into anybody that has that problem. Most Christians agree that God the Father is God - that He gets to be the supreme God and He's always been. Though, you know, there are, actually, some who believe that the God who made our universe once was a lower God but He's worked His way up to being a bigger God and there are other gods above Him - if you could go far enough into space you'd find them. The problem with that is that would imply that God is learning and how could you know everything and still learn? Ask a teenager in high school.
So God obviously, if He knows everything, and if He is almighty, how can He be mightier than Almighty? But most people agree that God is supreme, but they struggle with 'What is the role of Jesus and what is the role of the Spirit?' By the way, another view of Arianism is that the Holy Spirit is not a person - not only that He was created by Jesus - but that He's not a person but He's 'The Force' - kind of an impersonal force that God works through. And so, let's take a look at some of those concepts.
First of all, is Jesus fully God? Well, let's find out what the Bible says. Matthew 1:23, "'They shall call His name Immanuel,' which is translated, 'God with us.'" The incarnation is God - fully a hundred percent God becoming a man - that's a mystery. You've got a mystery of godliness in the Bible and that's how God became a man. You have a mystery of iniquity in the Bible and that's how a creature - the devil - wanted to be God.
How could the creature think, I can overthrow the creator'? That's a crazy thought. That's a mystery to me - how the devil thinks that he can somehow launch a war - he's a creation - against his creator. How something that had a limited existence could launch a war and say, I am going to take over the place of the one who is self-existent and eternal. Does that make sense? But that's what he did.
So there's the mystery of God - God lowering Himself and becoming a man - and there's the mystery of iniquity - the creature trying to exalt himself and become God. What did the devil say to Adam and Eve? 'Listen to Me, you'll be like God. Why did he say that? That's what he wanted. People often superimpose on others their desires. Hebrews 1:8, Is Jesus God? "But unto the Son he saith, 'Thy throne, O God” now wait a second - Hebrews 1:8, "but unto the Son" - God the Father - "unto the Son he saith, 'Thy throne, O God to the Son, the Father says, 'Thy throne, O God is forever and ever.' So what does the Father call the Son? 'O God "for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom."
When Jesus arose from the dead - remember, the first week He appeared Thomas missed it - He said, I won't believe until I see the print in His hands and the scar in His side.' And then Jesus appeared that next week and He said, 'Thomas, you believe because you've seen.' Thomas falls down and you know what he says? "My Lord and my God” - by the way, that's John 20, verse 26 and on through verse 29. And did Jesus say, 'No, no, no, no, no, don't say that. Let's not get carried away.' or did He accept that? 'My Lord and my God’ he called Jesus because it's true.
Now, quickly, some definitions: the Bible says we should only worship God Is that one of the commandments? Even Jesus cited that back to Satan. Matthew 28 - Should we worship Jesus? "And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying 'All hail.'" - hail means 'worship' - "and they came and held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him." and He received the worship. But the Bible says only worship God Hebrews 1:6 - it says we're only supposed to worship God but all the angels worship Jesus - that's in Hebrews 1:6. Revelation 7:11 - you can remember that - that's the convenient verse in Revelation - "And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God. So the angels worshipped God and, yet, it says the angels worshipped Jesus. Well, if Jesus is God it's not a problem. You can only worship Him - you can only worship God - but if they worshipped Jesus He must be God.
The Bible says God created. You've read the first verse in the Bible before - 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.' Alright, who is that God that created? 1 John - not 1 John, sorry - John chapter 1, verse 1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God - who is that Word? The Word became flesh and dwelt among us - that's Jesus, right? - "The same was in the beginning with God. All things" - and this is very clear in the Greek - "All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made." Nothing was made that was made, without Jesus. That means that Jesus was not made. He has always existed. He says, I am the Alpha and the Omega.' That means as far as you can go - the beginning and the end - as far as you can go in that direction - as far as you can go - 'Eternity to eternity I am God - He's always been there.
Hebrews 1, verses 1 and 2, "God who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;". In the beginning God created. Jesus is God Ephesians 3:9, "and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;" Jesus is God and God made all things.
The Bible tells us that there's only one Savior - that God is our Savior. Isaiah 43 - one Savior - 43, verse 11 - Isaiah, “I even I am the Lord, and besides me there is no Savior." But what does the Bible say? Jude 25, "To God our Savior" - so only one Savior - God is our Savior. In Jude 25 and there are many verses in the New Testament, including this one, 1 John 4:14, that say Jesus is our Savior - "and we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world." Now, am I making sense? There's only one Savior - God is our Savior - and the Bible says Jesus is our Savior. The only way you can reconcile those is to say Jesus is God. See what I’m saying?
So did Jesus claim equality with God Wouldn't that settle it? Notice - John 5:17 and verse 18, "But Jesus answered them, 'My father has been working until now, and I have been working.' Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath," - or at least they accused Him of that - "but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. I mean, Jesus knew what He was saying and the Jews knew why they wanted to kill Him.
Again, John 10:30, “I and My Father are one." So there, again, you have the idea of, can God be one and still be more than one person? Then the Jews took up stones to stone Him again because they knew what He meant by that. John 14:9, "Jesus said to him, 'Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father, so how can you say, 'Show us the Father?'" It says, 'We're the same.' Now, what everyone gets stumped on - if you talk to an atheist about God or an agnostic and they say, ‘Alright, I can tell you where the universe came from. Where did God come from?' I’ll say, 'Well, I don't know where God came from but you can't tell me where the universe came from because what you'll do is you'll say, 'Our world came from our solar system when it formed and the sun exploded and sent these planets spiraling out into space.' 'Where'd the sun come from?' 'Well,' - they'll say - 'The sun came from, you know, a supernova out there when there was an explosion and all these suns were sent whirling off into space.' I’ll say, 'Okay, where'd that come from?' 'Well, these nebulous gas particles collided and exploded and there was a big bang.' I’d say, 'Alright, where'd the stuff come from - that combustible material that caused the big bang?' And, eventually, evolutionists, atheists, agnostics will all say, 'Well, there's a mystery. Something always existed.' So they're at the same place you're at.
The difference is our something that always existed was intelligent and powerful. Theirs is all a big accident. So you can describe everything you see around you as the result of an intelligence with purpose or just a big accident. We can all go home now and there is no purpose to life. So I choose to believe there is a purpose. I see too many things that seem to reflect intelligence.
So Jesus has always existed. John 17:5, "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." See, Jesus laid aside the glory - the perfect equality He shared with the Father before the world was - He came and He lived among us. He was then received back up into glory. He is, again, glorified at the right hand of the Father. He is a hundred percent God. So, hopefully you can see that Jesus is God - and I didn't cover all the evidence.
What about the Holy Spirit? Now, most people will say, 'Well, if Jesus is God we don't have a problem believing the Holy Spirit is God but He's not a person, He's the force of God that God uses' - I think the Holy Spirit is God. He's not just an impersonal vehicle, because God says so. First of all, is the Holy Spirit God? Acts 5:3 and 4 - Peter said to Ananias - remember when Ananias and Sapphira lied? - "But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit...you've not lied to men but to God. When you lie to the Holy Spirit you've lied to God. God said, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man." Genesis 6, verse 3 - God the spirit. And I've talked to you about the seven spirits around the throne of God. It says that the Spirit leads us or guides us. It's not an impersonal force that leads us or guides us.
I've got a GPS in my car - have you - how many of you have a GPS on your phone or in your car? Let me just see. Because they're making their way around. Alright, how many of you have ridden with somebody that has a GPS? I've set a destination before, in my car, maybe I’ll go visit somebody - on the way I’ll see a store or I’ll think of something else - an errand I need to do - and I’ll say, 'Oh, I didn't know that store was here.' I’ll turn off and my GPS says, 'Turn, make correction, re-routing, turn left here.' And I’m thinking, 'Oh, I’m sorry, did I offend you?' Mine's a lady voice, you know, and I just always think of my mother, 'Turn here.' 'Okay.' And I don't want to hurt her feelings so I’ll turn. I was going to go to the store but you told me to turn.'
Is that what I say? I don't care what she says, it's a computer. It's just a force, right? I’m not going to hurt its feelings. I never hear it say to me, 'Oh, come on, please turn here. You're going to hurt my feelings if you don't - I’m going to weep little transistor tears out of my circuits if you don't turn here.' Does it care? No. But does the Holy Spirit care? If He's just a computer - if He's just an impersonal force - He cannot be grieved. But the Bible says you can grieve the Spirit. Matter of fact, Jesus says - John 16:13, "When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth."
You know, I understand that years ago, before GPS, when the Arabs were going across some of these vast deserts in Saudi Arabia, sometimes they'd have sandstorms - they couldn't even see the sun to determine East from West. In many of those caravans they kept a dove with them - a homing pigeon - they kept a thread tied on its leg and they would release it and it would always fly towards home. It would make a beeline towards home and they would hold it in their hand to find out which way. And the Holy Spirit will lead us and He'll guide us. You'll feel, sometimes, that tugging in your heart. He'll never lead you contrary to the word because the Holy Spirit is one with Jesus who is the Word. They'll never conflict with each other.
I've met people before that say, ‘I know the Bible says this, but the spirit is telling me...' - as though it's different or fresh information. The Spirit of God will never conflict with the Word of God because it is the Holy Spirit that inspired men to write the things that they wrote. Isn't that right? Holy men wrote as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. It says the Holy Spirit guides them. You know that - I think there's 15 times Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as 'He'. He could have said 'It'. Why did He say 'He'? That was His chosen word.
The Bible tells us the Holy Spirit comforts. Now if the Holy Spirit is just a power, who gets comfort from, you know, hugging an electric pole? That's not going to give you comfort - if He's just a power with no personality. You find comfort from a person. The Bible says He convicts. Now I remember the greatest conviction I felt was sometimes from my Grandmother's look. And she'd just look at me - that comes from a person. John 16:8, "And when He has come," - notice, 'He' - "He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment."
And if the Holy Spirit is just a force, you notice what the greatest sin is? What's the sin that cannot be pardoned? Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Matthew 12:31 and 32, "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men." - even if you sin against the Son it said it'll be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven - in this life or in the next. He's grieved. I mentioned that already. Ephesians 4:30, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed." He's a real force.
So the Bible's really clear that there is a Trinity. There's a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It's not one God that changes masks. It's not one God that decided to create lesser gods in Jesus and the Spirit. There are three divine equal eternal persons that are involved in your creation and in your redemption.
It's not just that Jesus loves me. Jesus said the Father, Himself, loves you. God the Father so loved the world He sent God the Son. And it was a sacrifice for all three to save you. And that should just tell us something about what we are worth.