Today, in the church calendar, we celebrate Trinity Sunday. The trinity is perhaps the most distinctive doctrine of the Christian faith. One theologian has said that the Trinity is unquestionably one of the most perplexing aspects of Christian theology.
While it is true that the WORD trinity never appears in the Bible and was first used in the 3rd century by the theologian Tertullian; the claim that the doctrine of the Trinity is only CREATED in the 3rd century, as some such as Dan Brown have claimed, is utterly ridiculous.
I am going to quote something and I want you to think when this was written: ‘The Lord is my shepherd, and I shall lack nothing’ (Ps. xxii (xxiii). 1). This psalm should be rehearsed by every lover of God, and in an especial sense by the universe. For like a flock, earth and water and air and fire and all plants and animals in them…are led according to right and law by God the Shepherd and King, who has set over them His true Logos and first-begotten Son, who takes over the care of this sacred flock like the vicegerent of a great king.
Now this quote is from Philo and he wrote this possibly just before Jesus was born, or when Jesus was a just a child.
But we don’t have to rely on Philo to show us the Trinity was thought of and known before the 3rd Century. If our God is Trinitarian then it should be evident throughout the scriptures – and it is.
Now, there is a distinction we must make before we go on – and I think it is an important distinction. It is this: The scriptures do not so much contain a doctrine of the trinity but rather the scriptures bear witness to a God who demands to be understood and can only be fully known in a Trinitarian manner.
And while we do not have the time to go through all the passages of scripture such Isaiah 48:16 and Zechariah 13:10 which clearly reveal the trinitarian God, we can see it in Genesis 1. And that’s where we will focus for a moment.
It is not surprising that the beginning of the Bible should be Trinitarian in nature because Genesis 1 introduces us to the Trinitarian God of the universe. In the Beginning God created. The word God is the hebrew is Elohim. Elohim is a plural word that has a singular verb. In other words, Elohim is one God who is multiple. So right there we have a hint to the nature of God – the trinitarian God.
But that’s not all! The phrase In the Beginning is very significant.
Now we have often got into trouble with Genesis 1 because we naturally assume that the beginning is in fact the beginning of time or history. But what if Moses had another beginning in mind as he was inspired to write this.
In Hebrew beginning is b’resheet. It could mean beginning but that is not it’s normal use. It is usually used to mean supreme, first, king, ruler,head or chief. So Psalm 118:2 says The stone the builders rejected has become the b’resheet [chief or head ]cornerstone.
What is very interesting is that 300 years before Christ the Old Testament was written into Greek – called the Septuagint. The legend has it that 70 jewish scholars all translated the Old Testament and when they came together they found that they all had the same translation – hence septuagint which means 70. Regardless of whether you believe this legend what is interesting is that Jesus often quoted from the Septuagint when he quotes the Old Testament. Mark 7:6-7 is one example whereby Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 and it is almost word for word from the Septuagint.
So, the septuagint was a Jewish Translation of the Hebrew scriptures into greek – and it is the Bible many Jews in the first Century would have used.
Now the word in Genesis 1:1 for beginning in the septuagint is arche. This is a word we still use today – ARCHbishop = first bishop. ARCHangel – chief angel. MONarch – King. In fact the word ARCH, which means something that rules over a space. is arche.
So the more literal translation of Genesis 1:1 is In the ruler / chief or King the God who is multiple created the heavens and the earth.
So the question Moses was wanting readers to ask would not be WHEN was the beginning but WHO is the beginning. Who is the ruler or king?
The gospel of John helps to answer this because John was clearly pointing to Genesis 1:1 when he wrote the opening verses of his gospel. He writes: In the beginning was the WORD. John tells us who Moses is referring to in Genesis 1:1 – the word, the logos who was with God and was God and who became flesh and whom John knew – Jesus.
What is remarkable is that Paul confirms all this in his words from Colossians 1:15-18. Listen to how he describes Jesus – The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
Where does Paul get the idea that Jesus is the beginning – from Jesus himself.
Jesus himself says he is the beginning and the end – Revelation 22 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
1 John 2:13 says I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is the beginning.
Of course, we should not be at all surprised that the Scriptures which point towards the Trinitarian God should begin in the very first words with the Trinitarian God himself. The whole point of the Bible is to reveal to us the trinitarian God who created all things, who created us in his image and who has acted in history in order to rescue us from our rebellion against Him and to tell us what kind of nature He has, what he has promised to do.
In our epistle reading this morning from 2 Corinthians 13:14 we have a wonderful summary of what the Trinitarian God is like. Paul writes these words which should be so familiar: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of[a] the Holy Spirit be with you all.
We learn here that God the Son is grace. It is through grace that we saved. The life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ is what has broken down the barrier of sin which had separated us from God. But this grace could not have happened without love. God the Father is love. The Father’s love for us sends the Son as our rescuer. And the result of the rescue is what? Fellowship with the Trinitarian God! God the Holy Spirit brings fellowship to us by residing in us.
How wonderful is this! The very character and mission of God is summed up by Paul in these words.
And we learn from this very simple verse a very important truth. Only a Trinitarian God can save us. Unless you have a Trinitarian God, there can be no salvation; without a Trinitarian God there is no atonement for sins. How could God take our sins upon him and remain pure, even when he has not sinned. How could the judgment of the Father be upon the Son and our sins if our God was not three persons but one God? How could we be filled with the Holy Spirit and be adopted as his sons and daughters unless God was trinity? How could God have been born as a human being, emptying himself of his divinity, and still remain sovereign over the universe? How could God know what love is and how to love if he has spent eternity alone before creating the world? Only a God who has been in a perfect eternal relationship in the trinity can know and then create in his image beings who can love.
God has to be Trinitarian to be the God who loves us and who has rescued us from sin. No other God is able to save.
And here is the bottom line of all of this. As the Bible begins with, points to and concludes with the trinitarian God of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, our response to it is to go and make disciples of all nations – baptizing them INTO the trinitarian God. This is why our proclamation, our witness of God is in aTrinitarian pattern: The Father Sends the Son to the earth; then the father and the Son send the Holy Spirit; and now, in Matthew 28, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit send the CHURCH into the world to make disciples in the Trinitarian formula, in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit. We declare not just GOD – but the Trinitarian God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit who is able to save all who call upon his name.
To Him who is able to keep us from falling and is able to present us before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy. To the only God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be ascribed all the glory, majesty, power and authority from now and through all the ages, AMEN!