Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Isaiah 63:7-17 - The Trinity

Shamrock
The situation seemed hopeless. No one wanted to go there. It was a land of deep spiritual darkness and strong demonic forces. The high priests of witchcraft actually held more power over politics than the tribal kings. But there was one man who knew he was called to this land and this people, a runaway slave. In fact, he had fled enslavement by this very people group.

God had called him to this dark nation in an astonishing vision when he saw a man from that people group bringing him letters. The first one read, “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come home and walk among us.” That was all he could read. He was overcome, and he immediately made plans to take the Gospel to the very people who had enslaved him.

When this pioneer missionary arrived among this violent, rough people in the profound bondage of paganism, the name of Jesus had never been heard among them. Pat brought that message to them, energetically traveling all over the countryside, sharing the Gospel and preaching with courage. Bitter enemies undermined Pat’s message, and he received death threats regularly, especially from the highly educated priestly class who practiced black magic and controlled the kings.
He said, “Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity, but I fear none of these things because of the promise of heaven.” Despite the opposition and his own self-consciousness over his lack of education, this missionary personally baptized over 100,000 believers and planted over 700 churches throughout his life.

One day, Pat was teaching the doctrine of the Trinity. The daughters of the pagan King Laoghaire, Ethne and Fedelm, could not understand how God could be three persons in one God. So Pat reached down to the ground and plucked a leaf from a common weed, a variety of clover with small yellow flowers and leaflets made of a stem and three small green leaves. Pat taught, “See, this plant has three leaves, each separate, like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but it is a single plant, just like our One True God. One Triune God with three distinct persons.”[1] The object lesson worked so well, Patrick used it wherever he went as a pioneer missionary in Ireland, and today the shamrock is a treasured Irish symbol.

The title of this sermon is “Explain to Me the Trinity.” That is kind of a joke. I will do my best to do that for you, but the reality is that I cannot really explain it so that you can understand it. In fact, as it has been said, possibly by the great theologian Augustine,

LISTENING GUIDE: “If you deny the Trinity, you’ll lose your soul. If you try to understand the Trinity, you’ll lose your mind.” – Augustine
If God were so small for me to understand Him, He wouldn’t be big enough for me to worship Him. – J.B. Philips, Bible Translator

Contextual Notes:
The passage before us now is from the Prophet Isaiah who lived roughly 700 years before Jesus was born. Isaiah’s prophecy focuses on one Royal, Priestly, Suffering, Divine Son of David. For 39 chapters He is the King coming to judge sin, then beginning at chapter 40, He is the comforting Servant who through suffering, dying, and rising from the dead (Isaiah 53), fulfills all God’s covenants (Isaiah 54-55), changing our future despite our present sinful condition (Isaiah 56). All we need to do is repent of our sin (Isaiah 57), and he will make us like Himself (Isaiah 58).

Sin destroys our relationships between with God and others (Isaiah 59:1-15a), but the Redeemer intercedes with God for us (Isaiah 59:15b-21). The Redeemer’s work brings us hope, honor, transformation (Isaiah 60). Then in chapter 61, Isaiah says the Messiah Himself will come in royal robes of righteousness proclaiming favor, prosperity, and joy. And in Isaiah 62 we find out that He is dressed for His wedding!

In Isaiah 62, The Bridegroom (Isaiah 61:9-10) turns to his delightful bride, his people, (Isaiah 62:1-5) and urges them to be watchmen in prayer for Messiah’s purpose (Isaiah 62:1-7), people (Isaiah 62:8-10), and proclamation (Isaiah 62:11-12).

Now in Isaiah 63, the watchman sees Someone coming: Who is it, robed in splendor? The Warrior is the Messiah, who has personally defeated the world powers that stood against him and now he has come to save His people (Isaiah 63:1-6). The Messiah Himself, our Savior (Isaiah 63:7-9) speaks for the first time, and describes Himself as righteous and mighty to save (Isaiah 63:1).[2]

And not only the Messiah, but Isaiah shows us with Him the full Godhead, One God (Isaiah 63:7, 17), the Son, but also the Holy Spirit our Guide (Isaiah 63:10-14), and the Father our King (Isaiah 63:15-16).

Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 63:7-17 to teach Judah about the reality of one God in three persons, Son, Holy Spirit, and the Father.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the Trinity.
Pray and Read:  Isaiah 63:7-17

Sermon Points:
1.   The Triune God is a covenant-keeping and praiseworthy LORD (Isaiah 63:7, 17).
2.   God the Son is a compassionate and kind Savior (Isaiah 63:8-9)
3.   God the Holy Spirit is a powerful and faithful Guide (Isaiah 63:10-14)
4.   God the Father is zealous and mighty King (Isaiah 63:15-16)


Exposition:   Note well,

1.   THE TRIUNE GOD IS A COVENANT-KEEPING AND PRAISEWORTHY LORD (Isaiah 63:7, 17)
a.   Beginning at Isaiah 63:7 through Isaiah 64:12, is a prayer for help, the corporate intercession of the watchman of Isaiah 62:6-7. Isaiah reminds the Lord of his covenant faithfulness in the past.[3] Isaiah breaks out in praise to God for His kindness (hesed), his Covenant faithfulness (Isaiah 63:7-9).

b.   Isaiah 63:7, 17: First of all, we need to make sure we see how Isaiah describes God not only as three Persons, but as One God. In Isaiah 63:7, Isaiah says, “I will tell of the kindness (חסד chesed – covenant faithfulness) of the LORD (יהוה YHWH – the personal, covenant Name of God). Then at verse 17, Isaiah uses the same covenant name of God again. Isaiah teaches us that there is One God in Three Persons in this passage.
c.   APPLICATION: We know many things about what God is like. The Bible teaches that He is one true God, who is a personal being yet is invisible to our eyes. The Bible says that He is eternal, holy, and unchanging. It says He is omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (present everywhere), and omniscient (all-knowing). Many people believe God created the heavens and the earth. The Bible teaches that He is sovereign, that is, the lord, master, owner, and that He has the authority to tell us how to live our lives.
d.   ILLUSTRATION: Moses wrote, “So remember this and keep it firmly in mind: The LORD is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is no other (Deut. 4:39). “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One” (Deut. 6:4). Ezra wrote, “There is no one like you, O LORD, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears” (1 Chronicles 17:20). Jeremiah wrote, “Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, O LORD our God. Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this” (Jer. 14:22). In Genesis 18, God visits Abraham as Three Visitors to commune with him and tell him that He must destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. The Apostle Paul in the early church understood the same thing. He wrote to the church at Corinth in Greece, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you” (2 Cor. 13:14).
e.   Some people accuse Christians of believing in three Gods, but the Bible teaches that He is one God in three Persons. This is called the Trinity.
f.    LISTENING GUIDE: The word Trinity means that God is one God in three Persons (Isaiah 63:7, 17).[4]
g.   ILLUSTRATION: There really is no perfect way to illustrate the Trinity. One example, like Patrick’s shamrock, is an apple. It has three parts – peel, flesh, and core, but it is still one apple. Or an egg: Shell, white, and yolk, but still one egg. Another would be a triangle. Three distinct sides, but one triangle. Another would be a pretzel. It has three holes, but it is one whole pretzel. Another would be one river that separates at one point into three waterfalls. All one river, but three separate falls. Another would be a human being: body, soul, and spirit, made in God’s image, a Trinitarian image. These all fall woefully short because creation cannot really describe Creator. The term Trinity was coined by the early Christian father Tertullian in A.D. 155 to try to describe this reality of God as Three-in-One.[5]
h.   Moses knew about the Trinity. The very first word for God in the Bible is plural (Gen. 1:1: In the beginning, God).[6] Elohim is a plural word that means one God. In Gen. 1:26-27, Moses writes, “Then God (Elohim) said, “Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness, . . . So God created man in his (singular) own image.”[7] In Isaiah’s call, Isaiah says he heard the voice (singular) of the Lord (singular) saying, “Whom shall I (singular) send? And who will go for us (plural)?” (Isaiah 6:8). The angels around the throne of the same robed King in Isaiah 6:3 cried, “Holy, Holy, Holy!”[8] Jesus didn’t make a mistake when he commanded us in the Great Commission to be “baptizing them in the name (singular) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). Every chapter of the letter to the Ephesians makes reference to the Trinity.[9] Paul blessed the Corinthians with “the grace of the Lord
Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. (2 Corinthians 13:14).
i.    LISTENING GUIDE: The Father is God. The Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. They dwell and reign together, three in one, in perfect unity, harmony, and community (Gen 1:1, 26-27; Isaiah 6:3, 8).
j.    The doctrine of the Trinity is a foundational, primary doctrine. It is extremely important. The old hymn describes well the way the Trinity gets along among themselves: LISTENING GUIDE: “Holy, Holy, Holy / Perfect in power, in love, and purity.”

2.   GOD THE SON IS A COMPASSIONATE AND KIND SAVIOR (Isaiah 63:8-9)
a.   Isaiah 63:8-9: In the first six verses, Isaiah reveals our Warrior Messiah. Notice that next to each reference to YHWH (Isaiah 63:7) is a reference to the “Redeemer/Savior/Angel of His Presence” (Isaiah 63:8-9, 16b), indicating that the Savior/Redeemer is YHWH.
b.   You and I are adopted children of God, but the Bible calls Jesus the “only begotten Son” of God (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9), translated from a word that means “only” monos and “birth” gennesis. Jesus was born as a human child made from the very essence of God, so that He is the only Son of God by nature. As the one and only Son of God, during his time on earth he was able to reveal the Father to us like no other person before or since. Jesus is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, equal with God the Father. Unlike you and me, Jesus was not created. He is like God the Father, eternal, having no beginning or end. He is Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matt. 1:23) and the living Word who has always existed.
c.    ILLUSTRATION: The Apostle John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1-3).
d.   The Bible tells us that God the Son did not think that being equal with God was something to be held onto, and He gave up his place with God in heaven and made himself nothing for the purpose of being a perfect sacrifice to pay the sin debt of sinners like you and me (Phil. 2:6-11). He allowed himself to be born as a human to a poor family, raised in an insignificant village of Nazareth, worked, studied, played, laughed, served his earthly parents.
e.   About the age of thirty he began his ministry of teaching and discipling twelve men, serving others (Mark 10:45). As the ultimate expression of God’s love for us, he allowed himself to be executed on a pole as the worst of criminals are treated. He died, was buried, sealed in a tomb, but praise God it could not hold Him! He defeated hell, death, and the grave by rising from the dead.
f.    Paul writes, “So God raised Christ to the highest place and given him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). Peter writes, “Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers have been made subject to his authority” (1 Peter 3:22).
g.   APPLICATION: John writes that Jesus “came to the world that was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But some people did accept him. They placed their trust in Him. To them he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:11-12). Have you trusted Him? Have you become a child of God. I know we say that all the people on earth are all God’s children, but that is not exactly right. The Bible says that those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ alone are God’s children. Are you one of them? If not, why not?

3.   GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A POWERFUL AND FAITHFUL GUIDE (Isaiah 63:10-14)
a.   Isaiah 63:10 is a confession of sin. Isaiah 63:11-14 is praise for God’s faithfulness, highlighting the work of the Holy Spirit in the deliverance of Israel in the time of Moses (Isaiah 63:11-14). From the time of Moses and the children in the wilderness, Israel was familiar with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a thing or an it. He is a Person, a He. We see here that the Holy Spirit has emotions. He can be grieved (Isaiah 63:10 and lied to Acts 5:3-4). He is powerful. He overrules nature, and He guides God’s people (Isaiah 63:11-12). He gives comfort and rest and makes God’s name great (Isaiah 63:14).
b.   Some still refer Him by the King James term “Holy Ghost.” That word ghost worked just fine in 1611. But 400 years later the word ghost has unholy and spooky connotations, so most people use the term spirit. The Old Testament word for spirit is the same word for wind. The New Testament word for spirit also doubles as the word for breath. That is why Paul in 1 Timothy 3:16 says all Scripture is “inspired” meaning “God-breathed.”
c.    The Bible says that “the Lord is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:17). Since the Lord is God and there is only one God, the Spirit is God. He was with the Father and Son in the beginning and participated in Creation (Gen 1:2). He is equal with the Father and Son, and He has all the same attributes of power, presence, and knowledge. Paul writes, “For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:10-11). Paul understood like Isaiah that the Holy Spirit has emotions. He writes, “And do not bring sorrow to (grieve) God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live” (Eph 4:30). The Holy Spirit guides and makes choices: In Acts we see that “while they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).
d.   APPLICATION: The most amazing truth about the Holy Spirit is that if you are in Christ, saved, then He lives inside you! The Bible calls your body “the temple of God” because the Spirit lives there (1 Cor. 3:16). When you choose to become a follower to Jesus, God sends His Spirit to live in you to be with you and to help you. What does the Holy Spirit do to help you?
                     i.        He teaches you (John 14:26).
                    ii.        He guides you (John 16:13-15)
                  iii.        He prays for you (Romans 8:26-27)
                  iv.        He helps you remember and understand God’s Word (John 14:26)
                   v.        He gives you gifts that help you help others (1 Cor. 12)
                  vi.        He helps you act more like Jesus (Gal. 5:16-26).
e.   The Holy Spirit helps you grow as a Christian and develop the same characteristics that Jesus displayed while He was on earth – the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). The main job of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Jesus to us just as Jesus revealed the Father to us, and to help us to become more like Jesus. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me” (John 16:13-14).
f.    The Holy Spirit also speaks to people who don’t believe in God, drawing them to Him by helping then understand their need for His forgiveness and revealing to them the truth about Jesus (John 16:8-9). You can resist the Holy Spirit’s guidance (Acts 7:51), but that is not wise. Is the Holy Spirit speaking to you and drawing you to admit your offenses to God and submit yourself to His Kingship in your life?
4.   GOD THE FATHER IS ZEALOUS AND MIGHTY KING (Isaiah 63:15-16)
a.   Isaiah 63:16 – You, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer. This is an awareness of a personal relationship with the Lord that Paul expresses in Romans 8. Isaiah repeats himself in Isaiah 64:8, “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
b.   God is not just a moral governor. He is like a Father to his people. In His love and grace the Lord will save those who appeal only to his mercy (Isaiah 64:8-12).
c.   ILLUSTRATION: We were all born to a mother and father. A parents’ job is to protect and provide for a child’s needs. The Father knew you before you were formed in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139). He created you and nurtures you and provides for you. He is your heavenly Father. He created you for a purpose. He placed you in a particular nation, ethnic group with a particular heritage and culture. He does not make mistakes. He has a long-term plan for your well-being. For those who do not or did not have an earthy father, God is a special Father. David calls him the “Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5), writing in Psalm 27:10, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.”
d.   APPLICATION: Until we know God as “our Father” in a personal relationship, he will not be real to us, nor will we be bound to him permanently. The Father invites each of us to have a close and special relationship with Him through Jesus so that we may call God “Abba” or Daddy just as Jesus does.
e.   And, yes, like all children, we will make some mistakes along the way. But like a good earthly father, our heavenly father will discipline us and correct us because He loves us. In Proverbs 3:11-12 the Father says, “My child, do not reject the LORD’s discipline, and do not be upset when he corrects you. For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.”
f.    If we listen to our Father and obey Him, we will grow to become mature men and women of faith “encouraged in heart and united in love, so that [we] may have the full riches of complete understanding in order that [we] may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col.2:2).

Invitation: A person becomes His child by placing his or her trust in Jesus Christ as Lord so that their sins can be forgiven. They are then adopted into His family. Each one of us can make a choice to belong to Him. But God does not merely adopt us then disappear from the scene. He wants to be with us, talking with us and walking with us every day of our lives, whether we begin to know Him at age seven or seventy-seven.
When we begin the Christian life, we all start out as “little children” in the family of God (Matt. 18:3). He sends His Holy Spirit to live in our hearts, to guide us, and we soon begin to grow by feeding on the Word of God.
“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him” (1 John 3:1). Won’t you choose right now to become one of God’s children through Jesus Christ?
Sources:
John Hay and David Webb, Who is God? And Can I Really Know Him? (Anderson, IN: Apologia Press, 2009), 88-110.


Session 5: “Trinity, God Is,” Equip School of Ministry (Calvary Chapel Crook County), http://srp.alldigital.net/B5B1FC01/16569395/artworks/9748789_22436.pdf


[1] H.J. Thurston, ed., Butler’s Lives of the Saints, 1:615.

[2] Edom is singled for mention because of their treatment of the Jews when Jerusalem fell to Babylon in 586 B.C. The Edomites, cousins of the Jews, helped the Babylonians destroy the city and Solomon’s Temple (Psalm 137:1, 7ff). But it is widely agreed, even among liberal scholars that their name “Edom” sounds like “adam”, the word for the peoples. It is a pun. The NT supports this idea (Revelation 19:15).


[3] The structure is similar to Psalm 44 and its content is comparable to Lamentations. The bloody image of Isaiah 63:1-6 is balanced by the image of a compassionate shepherd in Isaiah 63:7-14 who hears a confession of faith in God’s loyalty to His covenant with Israel at Sinai despite Israel’s frequent disloyalty (Isaiah 63:10). We see the value of covenant and the security of the believer.
[4] Nicene Creed (A.D. 325): “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. “Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. “And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets. “And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
[5] The Trinitarian doctrine was worked out in the midst of much error in the Early Church. John Ascunages and John Philoponus taught tri-theism that there were three who were God only related in loose association, like Peter, James, and John were disciples. This idea abandons the unity within the Trinity, of three Persons within one Godhead. Another error was modalism or Sebelliaism (as taught by Sebellias c. A.D. 200). This teaching nearly the opposite of tri-theism. Sebellias taught that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are simply three forms or three manifestations of one God. This teaching is also known as modalism because One God appears in three modes:  Father, Son, or Holy Spirit. Modalism denies the personal relationships within the Trinity and three separate persons at the Jesus’ baptism where the Father speaks from heaven and the Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove. Modalism makes all instances of Jesus was praying to the Father an illusion or a charade. It denies the Biblical teaching of the Son or Holy Spirit interceding for us before the Father. Modalism denies the heart of the Atonement, that God sent the Son as a substitutionary sacrifice, to bear the wrath of God in our place, and so that the Father,
representing the interests of the Trinity, saw the suffering of Christ, and was satisfied – Grudem, 242. A third error is Arianism, a teaching by Arius (250-336) which denies that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all equally God. (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses). Arianism teaches that the Son is subordinate to the Father, even in essence. Arianism leads ultimately to denial of Christ’s deity. Arius taught that Jesus was begotten, therefore He was created, so there was a time when Jesus didn’t exist. Arius and his teachings were condemned at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325.
[6] Jewish Targum Niofiti (200 BC): A targum was an accepted Jewish translation of the OT. Note it is 200 years before Jesus, 500 years before the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) where Christians declare the Trinity Doctrine. “In the beginning by the Firstborn God created the heaven and the earth...and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.” – Genesis 1.1. Here is a Jewish Trinitarian understanding of One True God.
[7] Also note Genesis 3:22; 11:7; 16:7-13.

[8] See also Isaiah 48:12-16


[9] Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:17-18; 3:14-17; 4:4-6; 5:18-21; 6:10-11, 17. Other NT references to the Trinity: Matt. 12:31; John 5:21-23; 1 Cor. 8:6; 12:4-6; 1 Peter 1:2; Rev. 1:4-5.