Luke 3:21-22: The Trinity

Read: Luke 3:21-22

Luke presents Jesus’ baptism in his gospel rather succinctly with only two verses. The other gospels record the same event too (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark:1:9-11, John 1:29-24) Unlike the other gospels. Luke though notes that Jesus was praying while he was baptized. Luke records Jesus praying on a number of other occasions including prior to his transfiguration and while he was at Gethsemane (Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12, Luke 9:18, Luke 9:28, Luke 11:1, Luke 22:41-46). Luke’s special attention to Jesus’ prayer life is important to note, because it shows how Jesus was in tune with the Father and that while he was co-eternal and equal with the Father, he submitted himself to the Father while he was on earth. In doing so, God proclaims that with Jesus he is well pleased.

Jesus’ baptism is one of the most clear depictions of the Trinity in all of the Bible with all members present. The Father is speaking from heaven, the Spirit is descending in bodily form like a dove, and Jesus himself is the one being baptized. Explaining how all three of the members of the Trinity are all God at the same time yet three distinct persons is something that theologians have grappled with for years. The Bible doesn’t have a detailed explanation of the Trinity. In fact, the word “Trinity” doesn’t even appear in the Bible. Analogies are often employed, but as with most all analogies they break down at some point. Reconciling how God can be three district persons where each person is co-equal and uncreated, yet one being at the same time is difficult. Many attempts that try to rationalize the Trinity resulted in heretical view of God . A few include:

  • Modalism: God is manifested in different “modes” rather than having three persons of the Trinity.
  • Tritheism: This suggests that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three different gods.
  • Arianism and Macedonianism: the Father is God and Jesus (in Arianism) and the Holy Spirit (in Macedonianism) are created beings.
  • Partialism: This teaches that the members of the trinity are only “parts” of God and they don’t become God until they all come together.

The Early church fathers, while not having a clear explanation of the Trinity affirmed it as a core doctrine of the Christian faith because the scriptures present all members of the Trinity as divine, co-equal, co-eternal, and uncreated. But while they did not have an explanation, they did express the Trinity as “three persons” and “one essence” to serve as a bright-line to weed out heresy. Any view that either separated God into parts such that there was more than one essence or diminish one or more members of the Trinity to a lower status or thing such that one or more of the persons were excluded from the Trinity would be labelled a heresy. This expression of the Trinity has withstood the test of time and is considered the orthodox view of God by Christians across multiple denominations.

While Jesus was on earth, he didn’t surrender his divinity or become a lesser being. He enjoyed the intimate fellowship with the other members of the Trinity on earth as he did while he was with them in heaven. Nevertheless, Jesus made prayer a priority in his life. He did this not because he needed to pray, rather because the this was an opportunity to have uninterrupted, unbroken, and unfettered fellowship with the ones who loved him and who he loved. The awesome part of this though is that the love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit isn’t exclusive to the Trinity. The Holy Spirit indwells every believer, which draws believers into an intimate relationship with God. And spiritual disciplines like prayer, meditation, and time spent with God draw one into closer relationship with God too. For this reason, Christians ought to make personal time with God a priority so they can be in an intimate relationship with God.

Lord, draw me close to you!

2 Timothy 2:14-26: Vessels of Honor

Read: 2 Timothy 2:14-26

After admonishing Timothy to remember what it means to be one of God concerning how one should live his life according to the salvation promised through Jesus, Paul commands Timothy to avoid the emptiness that comes from idle chatter. What is apparently going on is that there was some strife being stirred up by Hymenaeus and Philetus in the church at Ephesus concerning to heretical teaching. Hymenaeus is listed with Alexander as a blasphemer. In 2 Timothy, Hymenaeus and Philetus are described as living in sin although they had believed in Jesus. This is what Paul is encouraging Timothy not to do. Also, they taught that the resurrection during the last days had already happened, which had “shipwrecked” or destroyed the faith of many (1 Timothy 1:19-20). Their reasoning was perhaps because the resurrection had happened that what had been set to accomplish by God was done, so they were no longer required to live righteously, so they lived lawlessly instead. Paul says there teachings are like gangrene. When a wound becomes infected, the infection spreads to other parts of the body. If the part of the body is not removed, it will ultimately kill the one with the wound.

In opposition to this though, Paul encourages Timothy to properly handle the word of truth and avoid godless chatter and ignorant speculations. These sort of things spark debate and quarrels among the church. Also, as mentioned, Paul encourages Timothy to live rightly. He says that the ones who call on the name of the Lord should abstain from wickedness and flee the lusts of youth. He illustrates this with an analogy concerning common vessels and vessels of a special purpose. The vessels of honor are used by the master for good works. Rather than being quarrelsome, Timothy is encouraged to be patient when wronged and correct with gentleness. He is to be filled with faith, love, and peace that come from a pure heart. These things are the antithesis of people looking to lead others astray through idle chatter and ignorant speculations that start fights. The sort of patients Paul is encouraging Timothy to have is so that Timothy can help people escape the snare of the devil – that is the devil’s attempt to sow dissention among believers to keep them from accomplishing the task of making disciples (2 Timothy 2:2).

Advocates of doctrines different from those taught by Jesus and that do not conform to godliness are those that are to be rejected. Paul calls such doctrines conceited and without understanding (1 Timothy 6:4). Some common heresies today are things such as:

  • Prosperity theology that suggests that if one does pious deeds, one will receive material blessings and/or good health as a result. Paul corrected this theology 2000 years ago because it apparently cropped up then too (1 Timothy 6:4-12). Right living is an act of obedience on the part of the Christian in response to Jesus love. He says that those who love him will obey his commandments (John 14:15).
  • Theologies that deny that Jesus was God. The gospel of John makes the deity of Jesus abundantly clears in the opening verse (John 1:1) Jesus also claims oneness with the Father They wanted to stone him because they understood him to be claiming equality by God (John 10:30-33). He also claims to be present at Abrahams birth and to be the great “I AM” of the Old Testament for which they wanted to stone him too (John 8:57-59).
  • Theologies that deny that Jesus bodily rose from the dead, and rather than think of Jesus is the sacrifice for sin, think of him as an example of how to live one’s life. Paul says that without the resurrection, people are still in sin and without hope (1 Corinthians 15:1-19).
  • Theologies that teach there is some other way to God other than by faith in Jesus. Jesus himself said that he is the only way to God (John 14:6, John 3:36) and Peter affirms this (Acts 4:12). Paul also feels a sense of urgency to spread the gospel to the Gentile world because of this (Romans 15:20).
  • Theologies that teach works can save someone. These claims are patently false according to scripture. Ephesians 2:8-9 says it by faith that one is saved, not by works. Works, as mentioned, are an act of obedience in response to Jesus’ love, not the means to salvation.

This list is by no means exhaustive, as these are just a few. Paul gives Timothy a number of little reminders because of the plethora of heresies that even he was dealing with. Christians today are broad spoken to by different media that want them to think a certain way about religions, the person of Jesus, how deeds relate to salvation, among many other things. For this reason, Christians should be as Paul encourages Timothy to be: grounded in the word of truth. This requires one to know what the Bible teaches, which comes through careful study of the Bible, not looking to prove theology from the Bible by selecting verses, but trying to understand the Bible and rightly apply the Bible to one’s life. Only through this can one recognize a heresy when one sees it. At the same time, Christians are not to be jerks for Jesus. Going on witch-hunts to root out heresy is the improper way. Rather Paul encourages patience, love, and gentleness for the purpose of restoration rather than looking to pick a fight. Like Timothy, Christians should be vessels of honor useful for the master’s purpose!

Lord, help me to be a vessel of honor by knowing your truth and living according to it!