"Trinity #1- God the Father" by Rod Bayley, 25 July 2010

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Danny

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Aug 3, 2010, 1:20:54 AM8/3/10
to Sermons from Wollongong Baptist Church
In his 2008 book ‘The reason for God’, American pastor and author Tim
Keller states what we all know to be true if we’ve given any thought
to this fundamental doctrine about God: “The doctrine of the Trinity
overloads our mental circuits.” It is difficult for a finite creature
to fully grasp the infinite Creator God, let alone clearly explain the
mathematically unusual idea that three equals one. James Denney, the
famous Scottish pastor and author of the 19th century used to warn his
students against thinking they could learn all there was to know about
God while at Bible College, saying: “to study infinity requires
eternity.” However, even though the Trinity is complex, it is worth
putting our mind to, as it is crucial to understanding who God is, and
therefore who we worship. A well-known English philosopher in the
17th century was Anthony Collins. One Sunday when he was out walking
he crossed paths with a commoner. ‘Where are you going,’ asked
Collins. ‘To church sir,’ the man replied. ‘What are you going to do
there?’ said Collins. ‘To worship God, sir.’ ‘Is your God a great or
a little God?’ asked Collins. ‘He is both sir.’ ‘How can He be
both?’ asked Collins dismissively. ‘He is so great, sir, that the
heaven of heavens cannot contain Him, and so little that He can dwell
in my heart.’ Collins later declared that this simple answer had more
effect on his mind than all the volumes he had ever read about God,
and all the lectures he had ever heard.

The trinity is also central to our understanding of God’s revelation,
our salvation and our growth as a Christian, to name but a few
applications. As Tim Keller goes on to say in his book: “Despite its
cognitive difficulty, this astonishing, dynamic conception of the
triune God is bristling with profound, wonderful, lifeshaping, world-
changing implications.” It is because of this that I think we should
feel as if we are standing on holy ground, as Moses was in Exodus 3,
as we come to consider this very important belief. It is a uniquely
Christian concept, because Christianity alone among the world faiths
teaches that God is a Trinity - that God is three in One. The
doctrine of the Trinity is that God is one being who exists eternally
in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Maybe as we commence
this series today you have a number of unanswered questions regarding
the Trinity. Well, I hope that at least some of those questions will
be answered, as over the next four weeks we are going to look at this
complex and yet crucial Christian belief. Today we will consider the
divinity of God the Father and His role in creation and salvation.

So we come to the first point on your outline: ‘The divinity of the
Father.’ We cannot know anything about who God is, unless he reveals
Himself to us. So although it goes without saying, we need to form
our view of God the Father from the bible, His special revelation to
us. Notice again what is stated in Exodus 20:2-3:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land
of slavery. 3You shall have no other gods before me.”
God again uses both the self-reference of ‘I am’ from Exodus 3 (v14),
and his personal name ‘Yahweh’ (3:15), which is translated ‘Lord’ in
English. Yahweh, the great ‘I am,’ here proclaims himself to be God,
and the one who has sovereignly saved the people of Israel from
Egypt. The instructions for living that follow in the ten
commandments are based on Yahweh’s authority as God. And so God
states that He is God - it would be boastful and untrue for any
creature to make such a claim, but for Yahweh to say He is God is
simply to state what is true. The proof of God being God because he
said so is certainly circular, but we would expect nothing else but
for God to say He is God, without any hint of embarrassment. More
than that, this has serious implications which are in addressed in
verses 3 to 11 of Exodus 20, the fundamental one being in verse 3 that
His people cannot have other so-called gods. He is actually jealous
for the worship which can only be rightly and deservedly given to Him
as God, and will punish those who give the worship due to Him to false
gods of our making or imagination.

The divinity of the Father continues to be highlighted throughout the
Old Testament, and this truth continues to be affirmed in the New
Testament. This makes it clear that God does not just have three
different modes, as if He takes off the Father mask in the NT, and
puts on the Son mask. No, all three are eternally present and
distinct, and yet one. Consider how the apostle Paul expresses the
divine status of the Father in 1 Timothy 6:15-16:
“... God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of
lords, 16who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light,
whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever.
Amen.”
Paul is probably drawing on an early Christian hymn as he extols God’s
character and rule. He states four truths about the Father, which
demonstrate why He is God. Firstly, He is the true ruler of all
things, who is beyond comparison and without a rival. Of course,
Jesus will also be referred to as ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ in
the book of Revelation (17:14; 19:16). Secondly, the Father is
“immortal”, not subject to time or death. In Isaiah He refers to
Himself as the First and the Last. Of course the Son will also be
referred to as the Alpha and Omega. Thirdly, the Father is
inaccessible in the sense of being beyond the reach of sinful people,
because He dwells in unapproachable light. Darkness in any shape or
form cannot enter his presence - this is a reference to His holiness.
His absolute purity. Fourthly and lastly, God is invisible - no one
has seen Him or can see Him. All that human eyes have been allowed to
see is his ‘glory’ (Ex.24:9f; Is.6:1f, Ez.1:28), His appearance in a
manifestation like the burning bush (Ex.3); or His image in His Son
who took on flesh (Jn.1:18). And so we could summarise all this by
saying Yahweh is invincible, immortal, inaccessible and invisible - He
is God.

Of course, many today reject the Christian claim that there is one,
unique God who has revealed Himself to us in the bible. Rather,
various people will argue either that there are many gods, which is
polytheism; or that the notion of any God of any sort is wrong -
atheism. We are used to secular western societies being quite
dismissive of the Christian God. Richard Dawkins and Christopher
Hitchens have had the red-carpet rolled out to them around Australia
this year, and been presented as great intellectuals for their strong
atheistic statements. There was the 2010 Global Atheist Convention in
Melbourne in March, which headlined Dawkins (author of ‘The God
Delusion’), and Hitchens (author of ‘God is not great’) visited Sydney
in May this year as the star attraction of the Sydney Writers Festival
and also appeared on the ABC’s Q and A.

But as we read how the bible addresses atheism and polytheism, we
realise that the Father is even more dismissive of these human
philosophies than their proponents are of God. Notice what is written
in Psalm 14:1-3 with regards to atheism:
“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt,
their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. 2The Lord looks
down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who
understand, any who seek God. 3All have turned aside, they have
together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Though atheists are often presented as the wise intellects of our age,
atheism is the height of foolishness. Such human philosophies are
empty because we are corrupted sinners unable to find our way to true
understanding without seeking the One who is all-knowing.

The idolatry of polytheism is mocked for its foolishness in Isaiah 44,
and in Romans 1 we is again termed foolish, and is a suppression of
the truth. Paul writes in Romans 1:22-23, 25:
22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged
the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man
and birds and animals and reptiles ... 25They exchanged the truth of
God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the
Creator - who is forever praised. Amen.”

The two exchanges here of the ‘glory of God’ for ‘idols’, and ‘the
truth of God’ for a ‘lie’, teach us again that God the Father is
jealous for His glory, and His worship - that it must not be given to
anything else. Indeed, we dismiss God or replace God at our own
peril, because he gives us over to our depraved minds and our sin.

This brings us to the second point on your outline: ‘The Father’s work
as Creator, Sustainer and Ruler.’ We have already seen references to
the Father as Creator, but we are going to consider this particular
role of the Father a little more, as it is highlighted throughout
scripture. For example, in Isaiah 45:12 the Father says: “It is I
who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands
stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.” Of course
that simply reflects what is taught in Genesis 1 and 2, although here
we have the more human analogy of God using His hands. This doesn’t
contradict the creation account that God simply spoke - it is a
metaphor designed to convey God’s intimate, ‘hands on’ approach. God
the Father is portrayed as the Creator throughout Scripture, including
in the final book of the New Testament. In Revelation 4:11 the twenty
four elders before the Father’s throne state: “You are worthy, our
Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created
all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

Now the Trinity has often been reduced to the assumed primary
functions of the three Persons of the Trinity, with the Father seen as
Creator, the Son as Redeemer, and the Spirit as Sanctifier. While
that is somewhat helpful as a broad outline, as we’ll see in future
weeks, all three are involved in all areas. The Son and the Spirit
are also involved in Creation, and so on. I think it is better to
capture the function of the Father by viewing Him as the planner and
sender of the Word and the Spirit. We see this in Job 38 and 39 as
the planning and marking out of the creation by the Father is
detailed. Also, in Psalm 104 as we read how he sustains the Creation,
the writer records many details of His fatherly care of every animal,
including the provision of water and grass. The Psalmist concludes in
verses 27 to 30 of Psalm 104 that:
“These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.
28When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your
hand, they are satisfied with good things. 29When you hide your face
they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and
return to the dust. 30When you send your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.”

The Father holds the life of every person, and every animal in His
hand. His Fatherly planning and care which extends from flowers to
the needs of humans is reiterated in the New Testament also, as the
Son explains in his sermon on the Mount. Having spoken about how our
heavenly Father feeds the birds in Matthew 6, Jesus asks in verse 26:
“Are you not much more valuable than they?” And then going on to
explain how God clothes the lilies and grass of the field, Jesus
reassures his listeners in vers 30: “... will he not much more clothe
you.”

And not only is the Father both Creator and Sustainer by His word, but
He also rules His creation. In Isaiah 40, the prophet records in
verses 22 and 23:
“He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are
like grasshoppers ... He brings princes to naught and reduces the
rulers of this world to nothing.”
These words are humbling, because they drive home the reality to us
that we really are small and insignificant. The Father certainly
gives us significance through sending the Son, but we are not of great
consequence despite what our secular humanistic society would have us
believe - we don’t control anything at all. Rather, the Father
orchestrates everything that happens every day - not one thing happens
anywhere except in fulfilment of His will by His word. In Isaiah 44
and 45 He even raises up the pagan Persian king Cyrus to be used as
His instrument to do His bidding. Even though Cyrus doesn’t even
acknowledge God, he is a pawn as it were, used by the Father to carry
out His plans. The Father really is on the throne, standing outside
of time, outside of His Creation, and He does as He pleases. He
speaks and it is done.

This brings us to the third and final point on your outline: ‘The
Father’s work in salvation.’ We saw in this past term as we studied
Exodus that the Father saves His chosen people from Egypt through the
ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea (Ex.14:29-31). However,
His redemptive plan has always concerned the whole world, which was
first made explicit in the promises to Abraham in Genesis 12. Though
God’s chosen people failed to be a light to the nations in many ways,
His concern for all people continued to be expressed and His salvation
plan continued to unfold. In Isaiah 45:21b-22, God the Father says:
“And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Saviour;
there is none but me. 22Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the
earth; for I am God and there is no other.”

We are used to referring to Jesus as our Saviour, and rightly so, but
the Father is no less our Saviour. In the O.T. before the incarnation
of the Son, and the giving of the Spirit to all believers, the Father
is viewed almost singularly as the Saviour, although in preparation
for the New Testament He carries out His rescues through His word,
empowered by His Spirit. Of course, In the N.T. His word becomes
flesh and dwells among us (John 1) in the Person of His Son. And so
we see the fulfilment of Isaiah 45 as we read John 3:16-17:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that
whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For
God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to
save the world through him.”

Again, like His role as Creator, Sustainer and Ruler, the emphasis in
the Father’s role is on the planning and the sending of His word. He
unfolds His rescue plan and sends the incarnate Word, Jesus, to be the
means by which all people who had trusted in Him could be saved from
the consequences of their sin. The Son dies as our substitute in
obedience to the Father. The Father’s holiness and justice were
upheld, as His wrath against sin was exhausted at the Cross.

Of course, like Creation, all three Persons of the Trinity are
involved in our Salvation, and we’ll look at this further in the next
two weeks as we consider the Son and the Spirit. We might say that
the Father plans our salvation from before the creation of the world,
the Son is sent to execute the plan and be the means by which the
Father can forgive us, and the Spirit is sent to fulfil the plan as we
are born again or given new life through His indwelling. However, it
should be noted as we focus on God the Father today, that the Son and
the Spirit are therefore functionally subordinate to the Father - they
submit to the Father’s plan. It is not that they are any less God -
they are all equal and in full unity with each other. But there is a
sense in which the Father is the leader or initiator, and the Son and
the Spirit willingly function as those who fulfil His will. Jesus
expressed over and over in John’s gospel that he was sent by the
Father to do the Father’s will. For example, Jesus said in John 4:34:
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his
work.” And Jesus said of the Spirit in John 16:13b-14: “He will not
speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell
you what is yet to come. 14He will bring glory to me by taking from
what is mine and making it known to you.”

The famous early church father, Augustine, said that every analogy for
the Trinity that is drawn from the natural world or science falls
down, because it lacks the relational aspect that is the key to
understanding the Godhead. As a result he preferred human
relationships as an analogy, as imperfect as they ultimately are
also. With that in mind, the marriage relationship, where the two
people are to be one, where both are equal but one is given the
responsibility for leading within the relationship, can perhaps help
us to understand this dynamic of the Headship of the Father within the
Trinity. That is not my idea, but rather it’s the point the apostle
Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 11:3 when he says that “the head of Christ
is God.” Having said that, it’s not as if the Father is the only One
to receive glory, or that He is focused on Himself. Each is
selflessly seeking to bring glory to the other. Jesus describes the
Spirit as living to glorify the Son (Jn 16:14); in turn the Son
glorifies the Father (17:4); and the Father glorifies the Son (17:5).
And this has been going on for all eternity - it is the divine dynamic
of the Trinity.
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