30 Oct Why We Believe What We Believe: Jesus Had to Leave to Send His Spirit (Ep 4)
A series on theology: Why We Believe What We Believe about God. Originally given to the students and faculty at Moody Bible Institute.
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EASLEY: God has incredible love for you and me and so to express that love, it required His Son and His Spirit, because apart from His Son there is no relationship, and apart from His Spirit there is no connection. Jesus had to leave to send the Holy Spirit, who this one will keep you awake at night, does a better job than Jesus in a way, not that Jesus wasn’t sufficient in every way, but it was to our benefit he said, “That He would leave and send His Spirit.”
INTRODUCTION: When we think about this doctrine of the Trinity, that there’s three persons in one Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you know even for academics and Theologians, it’s a mind bending subject. It’s complicated. Yet, Scripture has a lot to offer about the relationship not only within the Trinity, but as human beings relate to God. Interestingly, apart from a Trinitarian Godhead, no one could be saved. In other words, if we don’t understand the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the role of those three persons; we don’t understand how a human being could be saved. Now this is really deep stuff, I will admit. But I hope as you listen to the broadcast today, you’ll engage to understand God designed a plan before the foundation of the world. There’s no plan B. And the way God draws people to Himself is a mystery, but what the Bible tells us about the relationship; the way we’re relating to Him is to understand the person and work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Let’s join the program in progress, and see if we can make some sense of this.
Sometimes people talk a lot about baptism and they get upset about the mode and the manner, the names, and is it forward, or is it backwards. We had a discussion in our church one time about, “Is it wrong to go forward instead of backwards?” There are denominational splits over how many times and the form. I was at a church that held to a strict immersion doctrine for a while and I saw at least ten people in my tour, I didn’t baptise them, who didn’t get their head quite head. If we want to strain that, I want to say, “Well are they really baptized if the top of their head didn’t get wet?” You can have all sorts of wonderful denominational dialogue about this.
Is mode the issue? It can be an important issue. I find it fascinating that at Jesus Christ Baptism in Mark chapter 1, as for example, In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Dr. Dyer would say, “It is God’s will for you to see the Jordan some day.” It’s drying up but you should see it anyway. Immediately, coming up out of the water, it sounds like He’s under at some level. He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove, the text says, descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are my beloved Son, and in whom I am well pleased.”
Regardless of the mode, what’s happening is that you have a Trinitarian expression, identification of the Father, with His Spirit, that that’s His Son. So no matter what your mode of baptism may be, the theology is identification. God the Father, has identified His Son with confirmation of His very Spirit, so the believer is sealed. (this is a transliteration of a Greek word, sphragizo, into English). Paul tells us in Ephesians, by the Spirit for the day of redemption. So the Trinitarian action in identifying the Son, as part of the Trinity, and identifying the believer, as a believer in Jesus Christ. I think identification is the key issue.
When I was a pastor, we had baptism classes. In a Bible church you have Methodists who marry Catholics,and Baptists who marry Unitarians, and it’s just real joyful. They come to Christ and they can’t get along in their former churches so they come to a viable church and it’s just like “let’s have all the conflict in one room. Let’s not have immersion conflict, let’s have every form of baptism conflict in the room.” So we had this one hour schpeel we gave on baptism on why we held what we did, and invariably the questions. “Well, I was sprinkled as a child; I was immersed; I was four times; I was three times” and on and on we went. It really is joyful, and I say that tongue and cheek, but it really was because these were adults. They don’t know “why they believe what they believe.” The thought of getting in a tank in front of people scares them to death. So we have to do some good spade work and teach them why if you believe it ‘s important. And I do. They should be identified with Christ.
I remember this one school teacher had come to Christ at a very young age and a particular denomination and she wanted to be a member and in our church you had to be baptized to be a member and it’s a different discussion again for another series. She says to me, “Michael, do you really think it’s important that I get baptized in the mode of this church?” I said, “No, I don’t think it’s important. I don’t care what the mode is.” Michael Easley, off record, I don’t’ care what the mode is. I don’t think that’s the issue. I know good people who think the mode is the issue but I don’t think that’s the issue. I said, “When I peel all that I know about baptism back, and I know a lot; the one reason I got baptized is because Jesus said, “Baptize me.” And if Jesus asked me to do something as simple as going under water and saying, “I’ve trusted in Christ and Christ alone for my salvation.” That’s not a big thing to do. He didn’t ask me to sell all I own and live in the desert. He said, “Will you be identified as one of mine?” You may have a different take on it. I pray for you to come to the light. (laughter)
Regardless of mode, what’s happening here is identification. And so in this passage in our doctrinal statement, the doctrinal statement issues; there’s a Trinitarian God had expressed in the Great Commission, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There’s a third passage, we have the Great Shema, the Great Commission, and what I suggest we call the Great Authority. Turn over to I Corinthians chapter 8:6. By the way that phrase, You are my beloved Son in whom I’m well pleased, it occurs one other time in three synoptics. You know when? It occurs at the baptism and occurs at the transfiguration. That’s a fascinating study on your own time, not now. I Corinthians 8, verse 6, Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. So here we have three persons, equal in authority is what we’re stressing from our doctrinal statement. Note that the Father is the source in this passage. All things, we exist for Him, so He’s the source and our purpose and existence is for Him. Second parallel phrase where Jesus Christ, we exist through Him, we might say, is the agent of creation. So on the first point: God is the source; He created us in His image; we’re image bearers, but when it comes to Christ’s ministry, He’s the agent of creation. We saw the same thing in Colossians chapter one, if you remember that part of our series last year. Yes, there was a kenosis, meaning in Philippians two, Jesus empties Himself; He leaves heaven’s glory; He takes on humanity; born of a virgin. Galatians 4:4, At the proper time God sent forth His Son; He interrupts linear time; He sent forth His Son, born of a virgin, born under the law. There’s a context. So He is going to come incarnate to fulfill and complete the law where no one else could have done at a time He comes. Paul tells us, “He’s the agent of creation. We exist through Him.” So again, our doctrinal statement uses these three sort of benchmark verses to talk about the Trinitarian Doctrine.
Let me give you one more and I’m going to call it the Great Unity and Diversity. This is found in I Corinthians 12: 4-6. Just turn over a couple pages, I Corinthians 12: 4-6. You follow, I’ll read. On the section of gifts, and the gifts given for the common good, Paul says, Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord. And there varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. Now,rarely will you see these three verses as a citation for the doctrine of the Trinity and it sort of confuses me why, because it’s a wonderful passage, underscoring a Trinitarian Godhead. You have all three mentioned there. You have the Spirit, the Lord, and God. You also have Paul saying, “It’s the same Spirit, the same Lord, and the same God.” That to me is a very clear Trinitarian reference and even if that wasn’t enough, Paul gives us a little nuance on the different persons; notice the variety of gift but the same Spirit, who enables the believer with Spiritual gifts: the Holy Spirit, the Charismata (translation of a Greek word into English) Charisma, right? So the Spiritual gifts come through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. We have varieties of ministries but the same Lord. Here we are looking at service primarily, I think. Jesus Christ came to serve, right? So He affectually shows us; that’s how you live the Christian life. Then thirdly, the effects which are ascribed to the same God, who works all these things. It’s a beautiful three legged picture of the Trinitarian Godhead: same Lord, same Spirit, same God, but we have different ministries, different gifts, and we have different effects.
Now this passage, one writer, Jamieson Fausset Brown says, “The term gifts administrations and operations respectively correspond to the divine three.” I like that. “The divine three.” I heard J.I. Packer speak a few months back over in the western suburbs in a church out there and he stood up and was talking about the Trinitarian Doctrine, and he said, “I’d like for you to think about the Trinity as the Divine Team.” And he said, “Think about that for a while.” So I’ve been thinking about that ever since Dr. Packer; The Divine Team. That sounds pretty good. You know any illustration about the Holy Spirit stands on three or four legs at best, right? But I would say Packer’s wobbles less than most. That’s a pretty good picture: the Divine Team; the Divine Three. You have the same idea taught in Ephesians 4: 4-6. Now think about these four points: the Great Shema, monotheism, One God, The Great Commission. You have the Triune Godhead sending us to make disciples of all nations. So you have monotheism; you have identification; thirdly, you have the Great Authority. And here we have the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all God. It’s amazing how many people will resist the notion that Jesus is God. Jesus Christ is God; He’s not a little God; He’s not a chip off the old God. He’s God. He’s God and fully man. And, oh by the way, the Holy Spirit is also God. Fourth, we have this unity and diversity, what I would call the same God, but diverse ministries. Now, we don’t have the word Trinity in our Bible. That’s a fact that we have to acknowledge. There are many pastors, scores of them, that will teach about a Trinitarian Doctrine and how we got there. It is clear we don’t have it. An exceptional illustration I came across last week was from Ravi Zacharias.If you ever heard Ravi, you need a Thesaurus and a Dictionary when the man talks. His vocabulary makes mine sound like a third grader. It’s amazing but this illustration, even I can understand. Listen to what he writes. This is from Can a Man Live Without God. “You know that in space, you can move three ways; to the left, to the right, backwards, forwards, up or down. Every direction is one of these three or a compromise between them. We call them three dimensions.” Now notice: “If you’re using only one dimension,” he writes, “you could draw a straight line; if you’re using two dimensions, you could draw say a square made up of four straight lines. And if you add the third dimension, you could have what we call a solid body; a cube, or a box; think of it like a lump of sugar and it would be made of six squares and three dimensions.” Then he writes, “do you see the point? A world of one dimension would be a world of straight lines; a world of two dimensions you would still see straight lines, but it takes many lines to make one figure. In a three dimensional world, you still get the same lines, but you get an advanced level of dimensions. They are more real and more complicated in their levels. You still have them. They’re combined in many different ways and you couldn’t imagine having them unless you knew the simpler dimensions.”
Now I don’t know what those fracturals were called on your windows program when you set your window to go to those gyrating color schemes. Some of you use a media player or maybe itunes and you um, um. (laughter) Just to see if you’re awake. And you have those little geometric things you can pull in with two hundred and fifty six thousand point six million color iderations. They just almost make you dizzy watching some of them, right? There so fantastic, and instead of reading theology you watch those geo things go on your computer. (laughter) Those require three dimensions essentially, correct? A kad, but you have to have a straight line to get there. You have to have a box to get to the three dimensions. If you want to measure some place in space you’ve got to have three points, so there’s a lot of traction to this type of philosophical thinking about this.
Well, why is the Trinitarian Doctrine important? Number one: I would say that God had a perfect community in the Father, Son, and Spirit and He wants that community in the body of Christ. Secondly: God has incredible love for you and me; so to express that love, it required His love and His Spirit because apart from His Son, there is no relationship; and apart from His Spirit there is no connection. Jesus had to leave to send the Holy Spirit, who, this one will keep you awake at night, does a better job than Jesus in a way. Not that Jesus wasn’t sufficient in every way, “but it was to our benefit,” He said, “that He would leave and send His Spirit.” Of course, that fulfills the new covenant, oh by the way. We worship the God that has made a perfect way through His Son’s obedient and through sending His Spirit. “Why we believe what we believe” is not important, it’s crucial. We don’t just believe the Bible because it’s the Bible; we don’t believe the Bible because it’s true. We believe the Bible because God has revealed Himself in His Word. You are believing the God of the Word, not just words on paper that talk about God. The only reason this book is true is because of the Author, not because we’ve proven it to be true. The Bible isn’t reliable, the Bible is true. The Bible is true because God is true.
Three very practical implications. Number one: salvation and redemption require the Trinitarian Godhead. For you to be saved, for me to be saved, for us to be redeemed, it requires the Father, Son, and Spirit. You cannot be saved according to the New Testament or Old Testament Biblical Theology, apart from the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Son pays for your sins and mine, but it is the Spirit who indwells us, who fulfills the New Covenant, the other piece of this to show that we are saved and redeemed.
Second practical implication is fellowship. We talk a lot about this; I don’t think they can say five sentences without using the word community in their language. It’s such a funny word to me; they’re all talking about community, community, community. I’m going to go, “ I don’t see any community.” Where is the community? We talk about it a lot. Are we really in community as believers? You perhaps have more community in this context then you’re ever going to have again in your life, unless you’re a leader, and you lead in community: you can pull people together and you go out of your way; and you get messy with some people that are just downright messy; and you have a small group or a Bible study or you reach out to a friend who’s not a believer; or if you’re going to have community it take’s someone who has a heart for community. I think there is a very serious parallel in John 14, 15 and following: That the Father desires fellowship with His own,” and that’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. It’s a community of believers. You have to believe that a community of believers are going to make you a better follower of Jesus Christ than not having a community of believers. That’s where the body comes in so we can talk a lot about it. Show it to me; show it to me. Let’s do it as the body of Christ.
Third and last, we have access to God, through the Trinitarian Doctrine. Ephesians 2:18 is a passage to jot down. The only way I understand the Bible; the only way I have intercessory ability with God the Father is because His Holy Spirit indwells, and I don’t understand that at all, men and women. I don’t get it. Maybe you can explain it to me; that the moment you trusted Jesus Christ, His Holy Spirit became your permanent roommate. His job is to make you more like Christ, to make me more like Christ than before. So I have the permanent issuance with the Holy Spirit, indwelling in you, indwelling in me, to enable us to relate to Jesus Christ, who lives to make constant intercession before the Father for you. So the way we understand the Trinitarian Doctrine, is not just academic, it’s our salvation and redemption; it’s our fellowship one with another; and it’s the way I have access to God, is through a Trinitarian relationship, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
John Galvin has done us a favor taking much of Martin Luther’s writing and putting them in different forms and devotions and with this issue from his December 11 entry, I close. Galvin writing Luther in a lucid way for us to read: “You must simply believe this. No matter how clever, sharp or intelligent a person might be, the human mind will never be able to fully comprehend it. If you as a human wisdom were able to grasp this, then God wouldn’t need it to reveal it from heaven or announce it in His Holy Scripture.” So you should say, “Even though I cannot completely comprehend it, I believe it and I confess it. That there is one eternal God who is also three distinct persons: the Holy Scripture is God’s Word, and says that is the way it is. I will live by what it says.” “Why you believe what you believe isn’t important.” It’s crucial.
You know as you and I drive on a daily basis, there are signs along the road; there are no lights; there are signal lights; there are crosswalks; all kinds of laws that we can choose to obey as motorists. We might cheat a little bit on the speed; we might not come to a complete stop; maybe we don’t use our signals when we’re turning left and right; but all those laws are there for a reason. They’re there to keep us safe; to keep other people from running into us, so forth and so on. I don’t like some of those laws. I mean frankly, I don’t like driving fifty-five miles an hour when there’s no one in front of me on the highway. I’d much prefer driving, well let’s just say a lot faster. I don’t always like coming to a complete stop; I mean I kind of spilled my coffee. Laws are there for a reason. I may not like them. I have a choice to either follow the law and let’s say stay out of trouble, or not follow the law and get in trouble. When it comes to Scripture, it’s not simply, “Ok, I’ll obey the stop signs and stoplights and I yield and I use my signal.” When we read the Scripture, we make a decision is this the very Word of God? If it’s the very Word of God, then you and I have to make a decision: Do I believe all of it, piecemeal it, do I believe those parts I accept, the parts that are too difficult? You don’t really take that literally do you? This is why the concept of “Why we believe what we believe” is critical. Because if you are choosing to believe something and your eternal destiny hangs in the balance, wouldn’t it be good to know you’re believing the right thing? When you read the Scripture about salvation, then you and I are trusting in Christ to do for us, what we cannot do for ourselves? Let’s be sure of what we’re doing. I mean after all if you say you believe in Jesus, are you following Him at His Word? Have you trusted Him at His Word? And if His Word is sufficient to give you and me eternal life, would I not follow His Word is more than sufficient to help us live this life? “Why you believe what you believe is very important.” The Doctrine of the Trinity? It’s complicated; I’ll admit it. It’s also rich and wonderful and fascinating to think that when you trusted Christ, when I trusted Christ, the Person of God’s Spirit indwelt you; when He indwelt you He forgave you of your sins; He enabled you and me to have a relationship with Him, that was made for, that was accomplished by Jesus work. The Father sends the Son; the Son sends the Spirit; the Spirit indwells you and me; Christ redeems us; He saves us; He gives us a relationship. Or to say it very simply, you can know God. So if you trusted Christ already remind yourself of the richness of your relationship. If you don’t know Christ, that’s my hope; that’s my prayer; that’s my earnest desire; that you would know that you know, that you would know what you believe; because why you believe isn’t just important; it’s critical; it’s crucial and it has eternal consequences. This is Michael Easley inContext. Hope you’ll join us on the broadcast tomorrow.