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!

Hebrews 1:1-3: Jesus is God

Read: Hebrews 1:1-3

Hebrews opens talking about the continuous revelation of God through fathers and prophets and in these “last days” has spoken to the world through his son. In a way, the author of Hebrews was talking about how God was revealed entirety of the Old Testament, which is called the “Tanakh” in the Hebrew language. “Tanakh” is a sort of acronym that stands for The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. The fathers and prophets are uncovered all these portions of scripture. The Law is the first five books of the Old Testament. The Prophets includes Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, and 1 & 2 Kings, and Isaiah through Malachi. Lastly, the Writings include the rest of the Old Testament. The Old Testament revelation stopped with Malachi, but the author of Hebrews effectively asserts that the latest revelation on par with the Old Testament that had come into the world came through God’s Son himself, namely Jesus.

The opening verses of Hebrews also offer one of the most unequivocal statements about the deity of Jesus in all of the New Testament. Not only is God being revealed through Jesus, Jesus himself is on par with God. Hebrews asserts many things about Jesus in these verses:

  • He is “heir to all things”. Ultimately, everything will belong to Jesus in the end (Ephesians 1:20-23, Philippians 2:9-11).
  • Through him the “worlds” (The word is plural in the Greek) were made. This indicates not just the earth, but the entirety of the cosmos. For this to be possible, Jesus would have had to been present in Genesis 1:1 when God created the heavens and the earth. John makes a similar statement in his prologue, saying he is the originator of all things that came into being (John 1:3). Paul asserts that all things were made through Jesus too (Colossians 1:16).
  • Jesus is the “radiance of his glory”. The word translated “radiance” is difficult to translate because there is not a word in English correlates with it, but a literal translation would be an “out shining” in the manner the sun radiates sunlight. In a manner of speaking Jesus radiates the glory of God.
  • Jesus is “exact imprint of his nature”. The word here for imprint is a figurative form of a tool engravers used to make precise imprints on objects. Jesus is said to be an exact representation of God’s nature, substance, or essence. In classical Greek thought, earthly objects were seen as cheap copies of some sort of perfect, transcendent form. Jesus was not some sort of cheap copy, rather a perfect representation of that form. Colossians 1:15 asserts that Jesus is the very “image” of God. John says that Jesus he who has seen Jesus also sees the Father (John 14:8-11). Jesus is not merely a projection of God – he is so much more than that.
  • He upholds the world by his power. Not only was Jesus at the creation of the cosmos, it through him that the world is held together. In Colossians 1, Paul also asserts that Jesus holds the cosmos together (Colossians 1:17).
  • He made purification for sin. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice that satisfied the requirement of the law so that those who believe don’t have to. For man to be reunited to God, a perfect sacrifice had to be made. The only one qualified as a perfect sacrifice was God himself.
  • He sat down at God’s right hand. The right hand of a God is the ultimate place of authority, and Jesus claims it. The imagery of Jesus taking the right hand is seen a number of times in the New Testament, drawing from Psalm 110:1. (Matthew 22:41-46, Mark 12:35-37, Acts 2:34-35, Hebrews 1:13, Hebrews 10:12-13) and elsewhere in Mark 16:9, Mark 14:62 (paraphrasing from Daniel 7:13-14) Acts 5:31, Acts 7:56, Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1, 1 Peter 3:22, and Revelation 5:7. By taking the right hand seat, Jesus has all the same authority of God.

Jesus has all the glory, power, authority, and qualities that are recognized in God. These powerful descriptors of Jesus can only point to one thing: Jesus is God. These statements alone are enough to establish the supremacy of Christ, but the author of Hebrews does not stop there. He continues in the book to show how the Old Testament vindicates the qualities.

When God spoke through the fathers and prophets, he was pointing to what would come. When Jesus came, he was fulfilled what the fathers and prophets yearned for. As this study of Hebrews continues, this will be unfolded. But right off the bat, Jesus divinity is established to assure the reader that Jesus was not merely another prophet, rather that Jesus himself is God revealed.

Lord, what words can express glory, power, and authority revealed in Jesus? You truly are amazing!

Joshua 10:28-43: The God of Israel

Read: Joshua 10:28-43

Joshua and Israel wasted no time after they put the 5 Amorite kings under their feet. They proceeded to conquer seven cities in the southern part of what is now modern day Israel. The book of Joshua does not go into great detail as to how these cities were conquered as it did for Jericho and Ai, because these cities served as the prototype for how Israel was to conquer the rest of the cities in Canaan. The cities were utterly destroyed under “the ban” because of the sinfulness of the people in these cities. The book makes a special note in verse 42 concerning the campaign in the south: the cities were conquered because the Lord fought for Israel. This is the second time in the chapter that the book notes that God fought for Israel (the first is Joshua 10:14). The verse and also in verse 40 place a special emphasis on the fact that the Lord was the God of Israel. In a matter of summary, the verses gives credit to God for the astounding victories Israel had.

Israel by themselves were a people without a land who had been living under the bondage of the Egyptians. The story of deliverance and the story of conquering the land of Canaan make God out to be the hero in the story. The might of kings and armies were no match for God, and the beneficiaries were the people of Israel. When the book of Joshua calls the “Lord” (that is “יהוה” the unspoken name of God) the God of Israel, he is using the word “god” in the general since of the word. The book is in a manner of speaking lifting God above the gods of the other peoples they conquered. The gods of the other people were unable to deliver them even in part from the God of Israel. Without fail, God proved yet again that he was supreme above all others.

The supremacy of God cannot be question. What can be question is whether or not the God of Israel is one’s personal God. When Jesus came to earth, he claimed to have oneness with the Father – that is oneness with God (John 1:1-2, John 10:30, John 8:58). While not everyone accepted this fact, there were many that did. Thomas, who is often noted for his doubt, makes a bold statement of Jesus in John 20:28, call Jesus his “Lord” and his “God”. Thomas was acknowledging Jesus was Yahweh the God of Israel, but even more so that Jesus was his God. Jesus is God, and when one believing this fact. At the same time, one also knows that he or she has faith in the God above all others and that this God can fight on one’s behalf in all things. He is the hero – the one who is mighty and can save one from all things!

Lord, you are the God of Israel and the God of me!

John 17:22-26: God’s Glory and Love Revealed

Read: John 17:22-26

Jesus while praying for the disciple prays that the Father would be glorified in them just as the Father had been glorified in Jesus and so that the disciples would know the oneness that Jesus has with the Father. They would know the love of the Father for Jesus and have the same sort of “perfect unity” that Jesus had with the Father. Because of the oneness the disciples will have with the Father, the world will know that Jesus sent them.

The manifestation of God in one’s life is the Holy Spirit living in one’s life (John 14:16-18). The disciple were not be left as orphans, but were to receive the Holy Spirit who would guide and teach them in the way they should go so that the world would know that Jesus was sent. The Book of Acts records the progression of the Holy Spirit coming into the lives of believers and directing them where to go next, what to say, how to say it, among many things as the gospel went out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. But before they started this mission, they went to Jerusalem to wait on the Spirit (Acts 1:4). The Spirit came and they were filled with power and this started the movement that Jesus was promising even here.

Jesus also asks the Father that the disciples get to see the glory where Jesus was and how the Father loved even before the foundation of the world. Seeing the glory of God revealed was not something that anyone could do and live (Exodus 33:20-23). God’s glory could certainly overwhelm a person as it did with Isaiah when he was in the presence of God (Isaiah 6:1-8) because one realizes his or her sin and cannot stand before God because of this. Up to this point, the disciples had seen some manifestations of God’s glory and had accessed the Father principally through God in human form, Jesus. Jesus was asking God to fully reveal himself to them so they could know the glory of not as in a mirror or with veiled faces as Paul describes (1 Corinthians 13:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18), but rather in the fullest sense of what can be known. He asks this so they can know the love of the Father for the Son, the love of God for them, and so Jesus may be with them in this love.

God did not stop revealing his glory and love with the disciples. Everyone who believes in the name of Jesus can know the love of the Father in the same way and have the oneness with the Father in the same manner the disciples did. In doing so, they will too receive the power of God and will be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can then help guide and direct the Christian as he goes into the world and speaks about the truth of Jesus.

Lord, I have seen your glory and love! Compel me to show it to others!

John 17:1-21: In the World, Not of It

Read: John 17:1-21

Jesus glorified the Father while he was on earth. His mission in part was to make known the name of the Father to all who would hear. Jesus had every opportunity to claim the glory that was given him for himself. Rather than take the glory for himself, he gives it back to God. In John 12, Jesus has many things that could have glorified him, but instead he asks the Father to glorify himself. A voice comes from heaven and speaks in the midst of Greeks and Jews. Jesus could have genuinely have done this because of his oneness with the Father, but he laid this right aside to bring glory to the Father even more so by dying on the cross. In doing so, he would not only glorify the Father all the more, the Father would glorify him (Philippians 2:5-11).

Because Jesus poured into the men out of the world, they were no longer a part of the world. They were granted eternal life and now belonged to the Father. Jesus was not praying for them so that the Father would “keep” them. Jesus says that he had taught them all they needed to know and that he was about to return to the Father. In a way, Jesus was handing off their care to the Father because Jesus was no longer going to be with them. The reason Jesus had chosen these men out of the world was so that he could send them out to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 3:14). The word of God, which is truth, had been given to them. Jesus prays for them and those who would come to believe in Jesus through the words of the disciples and ultimately have oneness with the Father in the same manner that Jesus did by means of the Holy Spirit.

The word of truth went out from the apostles. Many received it and many believed, and they imparted this message to others until even today. The pattern of teaching some and sending them out to preach is seen in Paul with Timothy, when he encourages Timothy to teach faithful men who will teach others (2 Timothy 2:2). This pattern of training up people to send them out to make disciples is well established as the method that God wanted to use to draw men out of the world and to himself. Not every person though receives the gospel with joy. Rather they hate those who believe it because part of the gospel requires that one deal with sin. But in any case, Christians are to be in the world nevertheless making disciples so that more can be made one with God and Jesus will receive praise and worship from every tribe, tongue and nation.

Lord, we are in the world, not of it. Help others to come out of the world into your truth!

John 5:16-24

Read John 5:16-24

The Jews wanted to kill Jesus not only because he was working on the Sabbath, but that he claimed equality with God (John 5:16-18). In spite of this, Jesus launches into a dialogue about himself concerning his oneness with the Father. Jesus claimed among other things that he did the work of the Father. When Jesus says that he is doing the work of the Father, he sees God working and works in the same manner, not of himself. In a manner of speaking, Jesus says that he is working harmoniously with the father as two professional dancers work together as one. It is apparent that the Father is leading the Son and the Son is completely in step with the Father because the Father is showing him everything.

Because Jesus is in step with the Father and in response to the action that Jesus performed, Jesus says that he gives life as the Father gives life, and should the Father heal, The Son heals also. The term translated “judge” and its kin “judgment” are translated from the Greek words “κρινω “ and “κρισις” respectively (John 5:22, also in John 5:29). These words not only carry a legal meaning, but also a carry common usage as well in terms of discernment, approval and opinion. In manner of speaking, the Father and the Son share a common opinion about matter on how they act – there is no deliberation or disagreement. God does this for Jesus so the people will regard Jesus in the same way that they regard the Father. Jesus chose to heal the man at the Pool of Bethesda, and the Father was at work right alongside him and in complete agreement with the actions Jesus was taking.

Jesus makes a peculiar remark that on face would seem contradictory to the statements concerning salvation in John 3:16 and John 3:36 – that is salvation comes by faith in Son. Jesus says in John 5:24 that the ones who hear Jesus’ word and believes “he that sent him”, namely the Father, have eternal life. It would stand to reason that Jesus was contradicting himself unless to believe the Father is not different than to believe in Jesus, which is only possible if Jesus and God are one and the same. John 1:1 declares that Jesus was God and Jesus himself says in John 10:30 that he and the Father are one. For this reason, one cannot affirm just any god for salvation, but have faith in the God who is Jesus. Even more so, this underscores the oneness of Jesus as God.

The oneness with the Father that Jesus had can never fully be understood by human minds, but this relationship is reflected in the relationship God has with his people when he indwells them with the Holy Spirit. John 14:16-26 describes this relationship. The Father loves the Son, and the two are harmonious in all they do. Likewise, Jesus loves his people and his people should love him, and for this reason his people too should be harmonious in all that they do. Jesus says that he would be with them in the form of the Holy Spirit and that one of the Spirit’s roles was to teach and remind people of what Jesus said. The ones who love Jesus will act in accordance with his will by obeying his commandments (John 14:15) and the Spirit will be there to teach and guide believers along the way.

Jesus is still sending his Helper into the lives of believers today. The ones who have the Spirit today are the ones who have life. While Christians have righteousness by faith, Christians still sin and these two competing wills causes disharmony between God and believers, disrupting the oneness. Paul commands believers to consider themselves dead to sin because Jesus died to sin (Romans 6:10-18). Because believers are dead to sin, they should not obey the passions of the mortal body but be instruments of righteousness.

Lord, live in me and help me put off sin so that I may have oneness with you!