Sunday, May 5, 2013

In the Beginning was the Word Pt. 2

Here's a link to listen to the sermon.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  John 1:1-2

Last week we started the gospel of John and we looked at the first two verses. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”  This Word that John spoke of is clearly Jesus Christ.  We saw this from v. 14  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   
Our big idea from last week was that this Word is eternal, this Word is personal, and this Word is God Himself.  Under the first point, we said that Jesus Christ is eternal.  Time is a created thing, but Jesus is not.  He was in  the beginning with God, meaning that when time began, Jesus was already there.  Therefore we discovered that Jesus is eternal.  The second point we looked at is that this Word is personal.  v.1 says the Word was with God and v.2 calls this Word a He. This is a Personal Word. Jesus has always and forever shared intimate fellowship with His Father.  The third point that we looked at is that Jesus Christ is God Himself.  He is not a god amongst other gods, and He is not a created being.  He is God!  The end of v. 1 says “the Word was God.”  So John declares unashamedly that Jesus is God.  
But John is not alone in this declaration.  Jesus Himself affirmed over and over again throughout this gospel that He is God.  In John 5:17-18, Jesus said “‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’  This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”  Later in John 10:31-32, we read “The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.’”  So without hesitation or fear of misinterpretation, the Bible declares that Jesus is God!   
So here is the problem.  Our text declares that Jesus is God and that Jesus is with God; and yet the Bible is very clear that there is only one God. 

Isaiah 45:5 says “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God...” 

Isaiah 45:21 “Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.” 

Hosea 13:4 “But I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior.”  

Isaiah 44:6 “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god...”  

And the verses could go on and on.  There is only one God.   
And yet...the Bible says more than that.  It says that the Father is God(John 20:17), the Son is God(Rev. 1:8) and the Holy Spirit is God(Acts 5:3-4).  These three are the persons of God. They are distinct or separate persons, yet each one is fully God.  This is called the Tri-unity of God., or we know it as the Trinity. Tri meaning 3, unity meaning 1.  There is a plurality(3) in the unity(1) of who God is.  If this is confusing to you, what do you expect?  You’re not God!  You’re not infinite.  You’re not eternal.  You are finite and you are a creature of this God.  God doesn’t need your permission or your understanding for Him to be who He is.  He is God. “Who is like me? [asks the Lord] Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me...” Isaiah 44:7  “To whom will you liken me [says the Lord] and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike?” Isaiah 46:5  If anyone dismisses the idea of the Trinity for the reason that they don’t understand it, because isn’t like anything they have ever even thought of, God agrees with you. He just asked “To whom will you liken me?”  There is no one like Him in the heavens above or the earth below. Not in eternity past, nor in the present, nor in the ages to come.  He is uniquely and extravagantly God.  This is part of the delightful mystery that John uncovers for us in these first two verses.  So let’s look at our big idea and then we we hopefully dive into some of this mystery in a way that makes us adore and admire Him more. 

The Big Idea...the Word was with God means that the Father and Son have eternally loved each other through the person of the Holy Spirit. 

Remember I said last week that there is a very intimate flavor to this book.  I believe the big idea reflects this.  This type of loving language is found all over this book. 

In John 3:35, Jesus says “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.”

In John 5:20, Jesus says “...the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.”

In John 14:31, Jesus says “...but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

In John 15:9 Jesus says  “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

So this theme of the Father lavishing His love upon Jesus and His people will continue to come up again and again as we proceed through this gospel.   Our task tonight is to look at the nature of this Triune God.  Or as John says it, this “...Word [who] was with God, and...[this]...Word [who] was God.”   

I. Who is God?
Let me ask you this: how do you approach God?  What I mean is, how do you primarily define Him?  Creator?  Ruler?  The Almighty?  One Christian author says that’s a big mistake.  He says  “...if I start there, with that as my basic view of God, I will find every inch of my Christianity covered and wasted by the nastiest toxic fallout.”
   Hmm... those are strong words.  Are they called for?  Well consider. “Josh, who is your wife?” you ask.  If I answer “dishwasher,” or “baker,” or maybe something more dignified like “educator,” we know that something is wrong.  That  response would be tragic on so many levels.  Defining her by what she does rather than who she is reduces her to a tool.  She is not defined by what she does, but  rather by who she is.  The same mistake can be made with God.  God does create.  He does rule.  He is almighty, but does that mean he is primarily some sort of cosmic police officer?  To define God like that, primarily, is to approach Him in very alien terms than what is found in Scripture.  
Who is God?  Maybe a question that will help illuminate His essence is to ask:  What was God doing before creation?  That question was asked to Martin Luther once and he responded by saying “Making hell for those cheeky enough to ask such questions.”
 As funny as that is, I think in this case his witty comeback has done the church a disfavor. It’s actually a good question, and the reason why we know it’s a good question is because Jesus Himself addresses it.  He pulls back the eternal curtain, as it were, and lets us see what the triune God was doing from all eternity.  In John 17:24 Jesus says “Father...You loved Me before the creation of the world.” (NIV) Father.   God is essentially or primarily Father.  God’s identity is Father.  He doesn’t do fatherhood, His being is wrapped up in fatherhood.  This is how Jesus, who is the Word of God, defines who God is.  Father.  What is a father?  Well a father necessarily has a child.  In this case, a Son.  His only begotten Son.  And this Father Loves His Son.  And that is the Trinity.  That has to be our starting point in approaching God.  The Trinity ought not to be something we are embarrassed about, nor shy away from because we don’t understand it, it should be the very heart of our Christian faith, because it is the very heart of THE Christian faith.  
II. Who is the Son?
Consider this picture of the Trinity. Now this is an attempt to understand some of the Scriptures in the Bible.  But remember that the Trinity is the most profound of all Divine mysteries and even after a billion millennia of ages we will still not perfectly understand fully who He is.  But we do have some great clues now.  Let’s consider these facts. (This is largely adapted from Jonathan Edwards conception of the Trinity found in his essay on the Trinity)
God is infinitely perfect.  Contained in that infinite perfection is an infinite beauty, an infinite love, and an infinite holiness.  That is a sight to behold!  There is nothing more stunning than to gaze upon infinite beauty, and love, and holiness in that one Being.  Not only it is stunning to gaze upon that sight, but it also results in an unimaginable happiness.  So God   has gazed upon His own perfections for all eternity. And He perfectly enjoys this view or this image of His own excellencies.  Furthermore God has always had this perfect image of Himself, because He is eternal.  Therefore this perfect image of Himself has been an eternally perfect image of Himself.   That eternally perfect image of Himself is the Son.
  Consider these Scriptures and listen for Jesus being called an image. 

2 Corinthians 4:4 speaks about “...the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Colossians 1:15 says that “He is the image of the invisible God...”

Hebrews 1:3 “He[Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature...”  

It’s clear from these Scriptures that Jesus is the exact image that God has of Himself.  The Son is the infinite beauty, and love, and holiness that God views in Himself as His image.  That image stands outside of Himself as His own person in the Son.  
Another way to say this is that Jesus is the perfect idea that the Father has of Himself.  So follow me here from the last point:  if Jesus is the image that God has of Himself, then that is the same as saying that Jesus is the idea that God has of Himself.  Certainly God has a perfect idea of who He is.   This  “...idea which God has of Himself is absolutely Himself.” So much so that God’s idea of Himself stands outside of Himself as His own person with all the same attributes or characteristics of God Himself. Consider these Scriptures and listen for Jesus being called the idea that the Father has of Himself.   

1 Cor. 1:24 says that  “...Christ [is] the wisdom of God.”
What is the wisdom of God except the very thoughts of God Himself?  This verse says that Jesus is the thoughts of God.  Or the perfect idea that God has of Himself. He’s more than that, because He is an eternal distinct person. But He is not less than that.

Colossians 2:2-3  says that “God’s Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” This verse is acknowledging that this is mysterious.  Christ is God’s mystery!  “God’s Christ...”  Then this verse goes on to say that in Christ  is all wisdom and knowledge.  Meaning that Christ, who is the eternal Son, and second person in the Trinity, is the very thoughts begotten by the Father Himself.

Proverbs 8:12 speaks about the wisdom of God.  In this place wisdom is personified.  That means that wisdom is given personal traits or characteristics.   12“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,and I find knowledge and discretion. 22The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up,at the first, before the beginning of the earth.  When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, 30then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.” [Proverbs 8:12; 22-25; 30-31]  There are three important things to notice here.  1) This wisdom is a person.  It is the Son of God.  The Word of God.  Jesus Christ. 2)  This person was brought forth.  Twice the text says that He was “brought forth.”  This is the language of being begotten.  The Son was begotten of the Father.  The N.T. in several places records the Father saying “‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’” [Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; Heb. 5:5]  The difference between a human father begetting a human son and the Divine Father begetting the Divine Son is that the Divine begetting is an eternal begetting.  Jesus was eternally begotten of the Father.  He never began to exist.  3) This begotten Son was the delight of Father, and He always overflowed with joy in the Father’s presence.  v. 30 says “...then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always...” The Son is here exclaiming that He has eternally been the Father’s delight.  The Father has always admired His Son.  He has always taken perfect pleasure in His company.  The Son returns this love by saying that He was always rejoicing before Father. The Son loved being the Son. He has forever been full of joy because of His relationship with the Father.  Being close to the Father was the foundation of the Son’s eternal happiness.   They shared an all-powerful and unimaginable love from all eternity.  

III. Who is the Spirit? 
Who is the Holy Spirit?  We don’t see the Holy Spirit explicitly in John 1:1-2, but He is there implicitly and He is very present in the rest of the Scriptures.   Where does He fit into this relationship between the Father and the Son?  Quite simply, He is that all-powerful and unimaginable love that flows from the Father to the Son, and from the Son from the Father.  The Scriptures tells us that the Son proceeds forth or is begotten from the Father, which is why we call Him the Second Person of the Trinity.  The Holy Spirit is called the Third Person of the Trinity because He proceeds forth from both from the Father and Son.
  He is the Divine love that proceeds from the Father to the Son; and the Divine love that proceeds from the Son to the Father.  This Divine love is so identical to the Father and the Son that it also stands forth as His own person with all the same attributes or characteristics of God Himself.
Consider these Scriptures and listen for the Holy Spirit being the very love of God.

John 3:34-35 says “For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.”  John here is telling us that Jesus can speak God’s words because the Father sent Him the Holy Spirit.  The Father and has given Him the Holy Spirit without measure.  Then John declares that the Father loves the Son.  How do we know that?  Because the verse says that He has given all things into His hand.  But what is the highest token of the Father’s love for the Son?  The previous verse says it is the Holy Spirit who was given to the Son without measure.  That is how we know the Father loves the Son.  Because the Divine love, the Holy Spirit, proceeds from the Father and rests upon the Son. 

1 John 4:12-13 says “...if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.  By this we we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit”  Here we see the same argument in both verses.  In v.12 He says that if we have love in us, it is because God is dwelling in us.  In v.13 He says that this love is God’s Spirit.  In other words, the love that God sends His people is His Holy Spirit.  That is the Third Person of the Trinity.  That Divine love that is ever flowing between the Father and the Son. 

Romans 5:5 says “...hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  This verse says that two things have been given to us, God’s love and the Holy Spirit.  But as we read the verse we find that God loves us by giving us the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is God’s love sent to us.  “...hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

The Trinity is an infinite ecstasy of love.  Jesus excitedly proclaimed to the Father  “Father...You loved Me before the creation of the world.” [John 17:24]  The Father loved His own image, which was eternally His Son. And that love that they mutually shared together was the eternal person of the Holy Spirit.  The Word was with God. 

One author has said this about the Trinity:  “The Triunity of God is the secret of His beauty.” (Michael Reeves Delighting in the Trinity)  When we press into the Trinity we will discover a beauty that transcends all the world. When we press into the Trinity we will sing with David when he said “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” [Psalm 27:4]  The Triunity of God is the secret of His beauty.  The Triunity of God is the secret of all satisfaction.  What does it mean to be satisfied? To be satisfied means to have your desires fully gratified.

The Trinity can satisfy your soul.  The Trinity can gratify your soul. The deepest parts.  The most hungry and thirsty parts.  The Trinity is the true object of all enjoyment.  There is no higher delight, no greater enjoyment, no superior satisfaction than that of the grace of the Father, the beauty of the Son, and the love of the Spirit.  How can there be a higher delight than the Trinity?  The Father with all His infinite strength, power, and wisdom did not create something in order to make Him happy in His eternal state; He already possessed infinite happiness.  He had perfect joy in the person of His Son, and He lavished upon Him the love of His Spirit. “He did not need to create the world in order to satisfy himself...The divine majesty of this God is not dependent on the world.  The Father, Son and Spirit ‘were happy in themselves, and enjoyed one another before the world was.’  But the Father so enjoyed his fellowship with his Son that he wanted to have the goodness of it spread out and..shared with others.  The creation was a free choice borne out of nothing but love.”

The Trinity is not some useless appendage added on to the Christian faith.  It is the very heart of the Christian faith.  The Athanasian Creed says this “Whosoever will be is necessary that he hold the [orthodox] faith; which faith [if not kept] whole and undefiled [by the individual] without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.  And the [orthodox] faith is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.”  Now why is this the case?  Because the Trinity is who God is!  If you don’t worship the Trinity, you worship a different god, which is no god at all but rather a demon.   The Trinity is the identity of God Himself.  Even if God were to allow wrong ideas about the Trinity to be accepted, the fact of the matter is, if He is not Trinity He cannot save us.  In order for God to remain righteous, He must punish all sin.  Every sin will be punished.  No exception.  The problem is, if all sin is punished on all humans, then all humans will suffer everlastingly in hell.  The only way that the Father can save some humans, like you and I is if He punishes a substitute in our place. He chose to punish His Son, who took on human flesh and suffered on behalf of all those who would believe on His name and ever repent of their sin. Now that cannot happen if God is not Trinity.  If the Son is not equally God, the cross counts for nothing. Other religions who have a Jesus on a cross whom they do not believe is God cannot save them.  Jesus said in John 8:24 “...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”  That is unless you believe that He is God, you will die in your sins.  God must be Trinity in order for any sinners to be saved.  The way to that salvation is to repent of your sins.  That means to be grieved and hate your sins and turn towards God.  Then you must believe in Christ, which means you receive forgiveness for your sins, because of His sacrifice on the cross.   Believing in Christ means that you receive Him as a treasure.  Matthew 13:44 says “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”  Christ is the treasure in that field.  Saving faith is receiving Him as a Treasure.  When that happens we are promised to enter into eternal life with this Trinitarian treasure for all eternity.  

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