Study 3. God: Father, Son and Holy SpiritIntroduction
God reveals himself as a unified being in three persons. In this study we will examine the character and work of the three persons of the Trinity.
God the Father
The nature of God's fatherhood is revealed to us in the scriptures, reaching its fullest expression in the New Testament. The Old Testament reveals his fatherhood in two ways:
i] As Creator - He made us. "Have we not one Father, hath not one God made us?" Matt.2:10. "But now, O Lord, Thou art our Father: we are the clay and Thou our potter, and we are the work of Thy hand" Isaiah 64:8.
ii] In relationship to his people Israel. The Nation was a child of God, cared for by him.
In the New Testament we find our deepest understanding of the fatherhood of God. The full truth of this concept lies in the relationship Jesus has with the Father. Jesus has a unique Father-Son relationship which has existed for eternity. This relationship extends to the believer who becomes a Son of God, in a secondary sense, through their relationship with Christ.
God's Fatherhood is revealed to us in the tender aspects of his character - love, care, bounty, faithfulness.....
God the Son
i] Pre-existent. "He was before all things", "Without Him was not anything made that was made".
ii] God. Although Jesus never claims this of himself, it is implied. eg., he allowed himself to be worshipped (Matt.26:63) - cf. John 1:1, Col.2:9. Even though Jesus was a human being, just like us, he was still completely God, equal to the Father whose person and glory he mirrors.
iii] Son of God. The words "Father" and "Son" are the best words available to describe the close relationship between the first two persons of the trinity. So, when Jesus uses the title "Son of God" he means he is of the same substance as the Father, intimately related to him. This relationship has always existed and did not just commence at Bethlehem. Luke 1:76, 22:70.
iv] Human. Our Lord had a truly human body and rational faculties. All that was characteristic of the unfallen human nature that was found in him; he was as human as we are: he grew tired and needed rest; he was hungry and needed food. eg. Mark 1:35. Unlike us Jesus was without sin. In his miraculous birth, God the Father interrupted the normal transmission of sin that plagues the human race. Only a sinless person could stand in our place taking the punishment our sins deserved.
v] One person. Although both God and man, Jesus is not two persons; neither is he a mixture of both; he is truly man and truly God. The wonder of this truth is seen in the fact that Jesus has taken a human form and personality to the throne of God, although it is a resurrected and glorified body. We await the day when in our resurrected body we will be "partakers of the divine nature" and thus become like him.
i] Prophet. Jesus followed in the line of all the messengers of God who came before. The words of these prophets are recorded in the Old Testament section of the Bible. Yet, Jesus was unlike them in two respects:
a) He spoke with authority. They would announce their words by saying "Thus saith the Lord", but Jesus said "I say unto you".
b) He declared the complete word of God for mankind. eg. the ten commandments say "You shall not commit murder" but I say unto you "Whoever hates his brother is in danger of judgment".
ii] Priest. The priest in the Old Testament offered blood sacrifices on behalf of people who wished their sins forgiven. The priest also prayed on behalf of the people who, because of their sin, were unable to come before God themselves. Jesus is our Great High Priest in two particular ways:
a) He offered himself as a sacrifice for sin on our behalf. Because he died for us, we are accepted as God's friend, i.e., justified - we are considered perfectly and eternally righteous in God's sight, it's just-if-ied never sinned.
b) He now prays to the Father on our behalf, Heb.7:25. He ensures the right of access into the presence of God for the humblest Christian, John 14:6.
iii] King. At the present moment he sits at the right hand of the Father as a reigning king. As such he is our Lord and Master. Consider the following aspects of his reign:
a) He has the right to direct our lives.
b) He is "Head of the Church". As a group of Christians we represent Jesus to the world, i.e., we are his Body. As such he asks us to serve as h served.
c) At the moment he is bringing all things into subjection to himself. At the last day he will rule over all - "Every knee will bow".
God the Holy Spirit
When Jesus was about to leave the disciples, He promised them He wouldn't leave them alone, but after his ascension to heaven he would send them "The Comforter", "The Counsellor", "The Spirit of God", to be with each of them individually as he had been with them. The Holy Spirit is the same God they would relate to, not a stranger, but an old friend. This is why he is also called "The Spirit of Christ". God is one, if you know Jesus, then you also know the Spirit.
i] The Spirit is God. The Bible gives Him divine names (Acts 5:3-4) and divine characteristics, such as being all-powerful and all-knowing. As well, he does things that only God can do. eg., Spiritual rebirth, John 3:5,6. Titus 3:5.
ii] The Spirit is a Person. He is a person not an "it". John 16:14, Eph.1:14. The Bible describes Him as having the characteristics of a person such as, intelligence, feelings etc. The Holy Spirit acts like a person, especially as a friend, Acts 15:28.
2. Relation to the Father and the Son
The Holy Spirit has the closest possible relationship to the other persons of the "God-Head" (Trinity), 1 Cor.2:10-11, John 16:14-15.
i] His work of blessing.
When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior, God the Holy Spirit comes into our life (Acts 2:38-39, Luke 11:5-13) and makes us a new person acceptable to God (rebirth, regeneration.... cf. Titus 3:5, John 3, 7:37-39, 1 John 4:13-21.) This is God's great blessing to those who through Jesus seek after him. In our lives we experience the blessing of being a new person (born again) in the following ways:
a) Fellowship with God. Through the presence of the Spirit in our lives we can now relate to God our maker, 1 John 4:13, cf.John 14-18. This is particularly made real through the power of prayer. We can communicate to God, and experience the closest fellowship bond between him and ourselves, through the presence of his Spirit within us, Gal.4:4-7, Rom.8:12-17.
b) A new life-style. God the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives reorienting us from self to Christ. The Bible describes this process as 'sanctification", ie, the work of the Spirit shaping the holiness in us that we already possess in Christ - Christ-like, 2Cor.3:17-18.
c) Freedom. Freedom from guilt, self and fear through the indwelling of God's Spirit.
d) Fellowship with one another. Through the presence of the Spirit in our life, we are now able to relate in a deep and meaningful way to other believers (regenerated people, ie., Christians), 1John 1, 3:23-24.
e) A new hope. The Spirit of God at work in our lives assures us of a place in God's New World.
ii] His work of caring.
The Holy Spirit guides and protects us in our earthly journey as we await the day of Christ's return. Consider the following ways he cares for us.
a) Edifies - Builds up spiritually. We see this in three ways:
First, he leads us into all truth. Through the study of the scriptures, which are the Spirit-inspired word of God (John 14:26, 1Cor.2:13) and through which the Spirit speaks (Heb.3:7, 2Peter 2:21), the Christian gains an understanding of the will of God, 2Tim.3:15-16. This applies to the Christian group as well.
Second, he personally reveals himself to us. Other than the rare and miraculous revelation of the will of God to the Christian, the Spirit reveals God's will in the following two ways: First, in assuring us that we are His children through, for example, inspired prayer, Rom.8:16. Second, through our conscience which is renewed and re-taught through the study of the scriptures and which thus produces the fruits of the new life in the Spirit, Gal.5:22-24.
Third, he unifies. He has a special work within the Christian congregation. He moulds the group, makes it one in Christ, by being present at the meeting as the spirit of the Risen Christ, and by equipping different members with abilities/talents (spiritual gifts) so that they might serve the needs of the group.
b) Protects - The Holy Spirit protects the Christian from the attack of the evil one and gives us strength to withstand temptations. This strengthening comes especially through the scriptures and prayer, Eph.6:10-20. Thus,he enables us to persevere to the end, Rom.8.
Consider the different ways the three persons of the Trinity relate to you.