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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:God Personally Proves His Tri-Unity!
Text:BC 9 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Trinity
 
Preached:2007-11-25
Added:2009-05-02
Updated:2009-05-21
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


BELGIC CONFESSION OF FAITH IX

(Reading: John 15:18-27; Titus 3:3-11)

 

God Personally Proves His Tri-Unity!

 

 

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ...

 

     You may at first wonder why Article IX is here.

          Hasn’t Article VIII just dealt with the Trinity?

              Aren’t these scripture texts now quotes which we would use to prove that Article?

 

     This is not a new question.

          In fact, the Synod of Dordt of 1618-1619 saw that this Article needed clarification.

              Some fifty years after Guido de Bres wrote this Confession the Reformed Churches made it clearer.

                   That’s why the first sentence of Article IX was added by that Church Synod.

 

     You see, Article VIII is a clear statement regarding the doctrine of the Trinity.

          What we see now in Article IX, however, is how that doctrine developed throughout the course of the Bible right up to the point of personally coming home to you and me today!

              And isn’t that exactly what this first sentence says?

 

     So let’s see how God personally proves His tri-unity.

          This begins in Article IX with verifying that THE TRINITY IS RIGHT THROUGHOUT THE BIBLE.

              Our first aspect this afternoon.

 

     The second sentence begins by saying, “The testimonies of the Holy Scriptures that teach us to believe this Holy Trinity are written in many places of the Old Testament…”.

          Genesis 1 verse 26 and 27 is quoted in support of this.

              But already verse 2 in Genesis 1 has a clear allusion to a plurality within the Godhead.

     You’ll remember how verse 1 begins, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

          And then God’s Word says, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

 

     Notice, not God was hovering over the waters.

          Nor is it God’s presence which is pictured.

              It is “the Spirit of God”!

     Add to this the verses 26 and 27 of the same chapter and there’s a definite reference to the Trinity.

          The word “our” there was not found in the languages of the east.

              It is not a plural of majesty, like “We” spoken by the Queen.

     This is further supported by the quote from Genesis 3 verse 22.

          For again the same concept is described in the word “us”.

 

     There are further allusions in the prophet Isaiah to the Trinity.

          Isaiah 63 is one example of this.

              It says in the verses 9 and 10, “In all their distress God too was distressed, and the angel of his presence (the Son) saved them.

     “In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

          “Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit.”

 

     Now some may say that the doctrine of the Trinity isn’t that well spelled out in the Old Testament.

          They point out that there’s no Matthew 28:19 or 2nd Corinthians 13:14 there which clearly describes it.

              And looking through it, that seems true.

             

     The Confession doesn’t hedge on this, though.

          It openly says that “that which appears to us somewhat obscure in the Old Testament is very plain in the New.”

              Or to use one popular quote, “The new is in the old contained; the old is by the new explained.”

                   And this is what the Confession goes on to show.

 

     But you might still be wondering here.

          Especially since this seems to be the case right throughout the Old Testament.

              So it’s helpful here to realise that God gave the doctrine that was needed at any specific time for the spiritual needs of God’s people.

                   The Bible never reveals doctrine as abstract truth.

 

     Louis Berkhof, the great 20th Century Reformed theologian describes this.

          He said in relation to the developing nature of God’s self-revelation as Trinity, “this revelation increases in clarity in the measure in which the redemptive work of God is more clearly revealed, as in the incarnation of the Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.”

              “And the more the glorious reality of the Trinity stands out in the facts of history, the clearer the statements of the doctrine become.”

 

     We certainly see this in the way Article IX quotes the New Testament.

          In Matthew chapters 3 and 28, in Luke 1, and 2nd Corinthians 13 “we are fully taught that there are three persons in one only divine essence.”

              Those references are quite direct.

 

     And the Confession goes on to say how much more our knowledge of God will be in glory.

          For this doctrine is beyond our understanding.

              But we believe it because of God’s Word.

     This is the Word which saved us.

          This is how the Living Word became known to us.

 

     You see, Jesus Christ is the key to properly understanding the Old Testament.

          Remember how He opened this up to those disciples on the road to Emmaus?

              As Luke 24 verse 27 records, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

 

     Think about it.

          They were strict, orthodox Jews, amongst whom were Pharisees and Priests, like Paul.

              Their first and last lesson in religion was that God is one.

     And yet they were moved to recognise Christ’s divinity.

          They believed He was God.

              And after Pentecost they witnessed unmistakeably to the Holy Spirit, and thus to the Trinity.

 

     So how much more wonderful won’t our knowledge be when the Lord returns?

          That will be the perfect understanding.

             

     But we have enough for what we need now, don’t we?

          The Scriptures are clear about God being Three-in-One.

              In fact, don’t some of those who are anti-trinitarian  inevitably end up denying the authority of the Scriptures – like the Unitarians?

     Or others badly mistranslate God’s Word in their own versions – like the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

          And then there are others again who insist on only using one particular translation – with language that has been largely superseded.

 

     THE TRINITY IS RIGHT THROUGH THE BIBLE.

          And then, we see secondly, THE TRINITY IS KNOWN WITHIN EACH BELIEVER.

 

     Paragraph 4 begins by saying, “Moreover, we must observe the particular offices and operations of these persons towards us.

          By the phrase “offices” the Confession is speaking of the task or work the Bible assigns specially to each of the divine persons.

              The word “operations” tells us about the actual accomplishment of the work.               

                   This is why Article IX goes on to state, “The Father is called our Creator, by His power; the Son is our Saviour and Redeemer, by His blood; the Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier, by His dwelling in our hearts.”

 

     Now, this is might sound like a different description of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit than what’s in Article VIII.

          But look again.

 

     God the Father in Article VIII is described as being “the cause, origin, and beginning of all things visible and invisible.”

          Here He’s said to be “our Creator, by His power.”

 

     They’re actually very similar aren’t they?

          The difference is that we’re moving from a general picture to a very personal encounter.

 

     For you know this Father.

          You speak of Him as Paul expressed in 1 Corinthians 8.

              For there in verse 6 we read, “there is but one God, the Father, from all things came and for whom we live…”.

 

     You know this Father as the One who by His power created everything.

          He’s the One you know also sustains all things.

              He’s looking after you!

 

     And you know God the Son.

          He is your “Saviour and Redeemer, by His blood,” to quote further Article IX.

              Jesus is the One who came down and died on the cross for you.

     We read that in Ephesians 1.

          There in verse 7 it says that in Christ “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace…”.

              He’s your Saviour!

 

     And then you have God the Spirit right in you!

          He is your “Sanctifier, by His dwelling in our hearts.”

 

     You see, in communion and co-operation with the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit applies the work of grace to our lives.

          As Jesus said in John 3 the verses 5 and 6, “unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

              “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

                   He is God’s temple in you.

 

     Now, there may be some questions here.

          You might raise that in John 1 verse 3 it speaks of the Son creating this world.

              Or you could quote Psalm 104 verse 30 which tells of the Holy Spirit’s work in creation.

     And you would be quiet right.

          These distinctions we make between the three Persons of the Godhead cannot be allowed to cloud or threaten the unity in that Godhead.              

 

     We have to be careful not to reduce God to a formula.

          What is given us in Scripture is for us to be able to draw near to God and enjoy fellowship with Him.

             

     Remember the amazement Article VIII ended with?

          You must be humble knowing how much beyond and above us this God is.

              You know so little about Him.

                   And the more You know the more you realise how much you don’t know!

             

     But what you do know is the work of each of those Persons in the Godhead.

          Your life’s a testimony to that!

             

     This is why Article IX’s first sentence spoke of what we feel in ourselves.

          Because it’s not an emotional response to a particular situation but what you know of God’s working in you.

              Oh, that more and more believers would be full of that!

 

     This is truly the dwelling of the Holy Spirit on our hearts.

          And don’t we learn this from Paul in Galatians 4 verse 6?

              For there he writes to those believers, and to us too, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.””

 

     We also know this through what has happened to believers since the time of the New Testament Church.

          In the words of the third aspect to Article IX, THE TRINITY IS SPELLED OUT IN HISTORY.

 

     We need to note something here first of all, though.

          For this is only proof because it is based on Scripture’s teaching.

             

     Guido de Bres in this last paragraph proves that the Reformation was completely in line with the Church of old.

          When he talks about the “ancient fathers” this is what he means.

              He also uses the phrases, “the true Church,” and the “orthodox fathers.”

 

     These expressions refer to the early Church synods.

          Because invariably those councils met to respond to yet another threat to orthodoxy, particularly the Scriptural teaching regarding the Trinity.

             

     What we learn here, congregation, is that there’s no hesitation naming the religions and the sects which stand against the doctrine of the Trinity.

          You will find the Jews and Muslims still quite strong today in trying to point out how nonsensical the idea of a Trinity is.

              Muslim teachers especially become very sharp at this point.

     And it’s no surprise is it?

          Because for the same reason the Jehovah’s Witness cannot accept it they aren’t able to see it either.

              In fact, for all these religions and sects to exist means they have to deny the triune God.

     For they have to have a god they can manage.

          Each of them teaches a completely different gospel – the gospel of salvation by works.

             

     The false teachers de Bres names here have their counter-parts amongst us today.

          The difficulty is that the Church today isn’t so rigorous in naming and shaming them.

              John MacArthur writes, “our era mirrors exactly what was happening in Athanasius’s time.

                   “Multitudes have blithely declared all conflict and strife over doctrine in the church a things of the past – as if all the serious threat to the truth had already been vanquished and the church could now ignore the threat of ungodly false teachers who creep in unnoticed.”

 

     MacArthur goes on to say that the apostasy we are experiencing now is what was foretold in 2nd Thessalonians 2 verse 3 where the final cataclysmic earthly judgment, the Day of the Lord, is preceded by an era of apostasy.

          While he is quite accurate about what’s happening now, to tie in the end times may be a bit much.

              There have been a number of times just like what we are experiencing now.

     Our reading from Titus 3 already indicated such a  situation in the first century.

          The verses 9 till 11 are quite clear about this danger then.

             

     This is also what the list in the last paragraph of Article IX shows us.

          For these false teachers have appeared at different times in church history and there have been numerous others teaching the same after them.

              There was Servetus and Socinus at the time of the Reformation.

     There was the Unitarian church formed at the time of the Enlightenment.

          And in the 19th century there arose the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

              In the 20th century there came the Oneness Pentecostal movement.

 

     These false teachers, and the liberal teachers in many mainline churches, attack the fundamentals of the faith.

          They fail to do justice to the biblical teaching, whether to the personal distinctions in the Godhead or by teaching that Christ is less than God.

              And that means that in some way each of them denies that salvation is of God alone.

 

     The Church in the past responded with the Creeds which all orthodox Christian churches accept today.

          These are the Creeds which form the basis for our Confessions of Faith.

              And our Statements of Faith are what the office-bearers in our church promise “to teach diligently and defend faithfully.”

 

     Do doctrines matter?

          Yes, they do!

              In fact, the very time they don’t matter any more in the life of the Church is the time when you no longer have a true Church.

 

     Dear believer, think about this: Do you thank God that you can hear about this?

          When you’re down on your knees in prayer, do You praise Him for what you’ve been taught?

             

     Actually, how would you truly find yourself humbled before God if you didn’t know how wonderful He is?

          Let’s pray for that.

              And let’s live like that.

                   Amen.

 

 

PRAYER:

Let’s pray…

     O Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit - we lay ourselves down in all humility before You now.

          You who created us, You who saved us, and You who sanctifies us, is the One alone to whom all praise belongs.

              Help us to keep learning about the wonder of who You are and what You do.

     Keep working in us so that we live lives that show who You are.

          Through Christ our Lord, we pray, Amen.

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.rcnz.org.nz

(c) Copyright 2007, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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