No One Like Him - Part 2

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  April 25, 2004
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You know there are some things in life that I just don't understand. And one of those is how anybody ever sends money to Robert Schuller. I don't know if you have ever seen him on television or not. The first time I ever saw him I thought, there's a man that doesn't appear to ring true. And I didn't know anything about his theology, I didn't make, I didn't know that was for sure, I do now. But at the time I didn't even know that was a valid judgment. But there's just this appearance of sort of plastic and I don't understand it.

So some of you may have missed the program with Robert Schuller and Tommy Lasorda, the former manager of the Dodgers. If you did, it's nothing to worry about. Because he had him on, that is Robert Schuller had Tommy Lasorda on, to talk about his wins and losses, his wins in the baseball world and his losses, as in the pounds that he's dropped on his diet. I'm not making this up. And in the process of the conversation Tommy Lasorda said something that just, if you love God and if you understand what we're studying, just sort of made me shiver. He referred to God as the great big Dodger in the sky. I was reminded of Isaiah, who we looked at last week, "There is absolutely no one and nothing like Me," certainly not a baseball player in Dodger blue.

We're studying the nature of God. And God wants us to understand, He wants us to appreciate the fact, that there is no one like Him. And with that in mind, we're stepping back and looking at the nature of God. Let me just review for you briefly where we have been. We started by saying what God is not. And we talked about the various views of anti-theism or atheists. And we looked at those in detail, so we won't tonight. Then we looked at pantheism. That is, the belief that all is God and God is all. We've learned that no, God is distinct from His creation. We looked at polytheism, many gods. And then other monotheistic faiths, including or primarily Islam.

"What is God?", we said. That's what He's not. What is it appropriate to say that God is? We said, first of all, that God is a being. That is, He is distinct from His creation. Secondly, we said He is alive, He's living. We're not worshipping the God of the pagans, the God who can't see and can't speak and can't hear. Instead, our God is a living God; He's alive. Then we learned that God is infinite. That is, God is unlimited. God is limited only by His own character and by the various laws that God Himself has put in place, primarily the laws of logic. God can't do that which is illogical; He can't make A to be not A and A at the same time. But other than that God is infinite, unrestricted. Then we learned that God is spirit. We looked at this in detail last time. God is immaterial. We are both immaterial in our souls and material in our bodies. God is a spirit and therefore we that worship Him, Christ says, "'must worship Him in spirit and in truth.'"

Now that brings us to what we talked about in detail with God. We said that because God is immaterial as a spirit, He's also, we learned, invisible. He's invisible. He can't be seen. You see that in several texts. Potential misunderstandings with the reality that God is a spirit, and that is, well, what you do with those times when He appears physically in the Old Testament or what about when He is said to have bodily parts or what about those passages that talk about, in the future, our seeing God? And we essentially said that those resolved themselves in one of two ways. Either A, in eternity we will see the human nature of Christ, that is His body manifested, or we will see some other temporary physical manifestation of God that He intends for us to see, much as He did with Israel in the Old Testament. You remember, He had a pillar of fire and a cloud.

No physical manifestation of God is a permanent one because God is a spirit. So in eternity we may see God but we will see something that He allows, as a temporary manifestation of Himself, to help us understand His presence. But God isn't confined to any single location. God wasn't in the pillar of fire or in the pillar of cloud and that's the only place God was; that was simply intended to help the people understand that God was, in a special intimate way, present with His people. And God may do that in eternity. In terms of physical manifestations, the same thing is true. Bodily parts, those are those anthropomorphic expressions we talked about. That is, the writers of Scripture, to help us understand what otherwise couldn't be understood, uses language that we can appreciate, because we have hands and we have feet and we have faces, so we can understand something that's true about God.

The implications we looked at is that God is invisible, incorruptible, and immortal. And then we looked at what we need to understand of the reality of God as a spirit. He can't be perceived by our senses. So don't try to feel God. You know, there are people who spend their whole lives sort of trying to feel God's presence. God is a spirit, you don't feel God. We shouldn't make any form of God to worship Him. And we should worship God, Christ tells us, "'in spirit and in truth.'" That is, with our immaterial being. God is not happy or satisfied with you or me just showing up on Sunday. That doesn't impress God. Because God expects, because He is a spirit, He expects our worship to come not from our, just our bodies, but from our spirits, from our immaterial part. From our hearts is the way we would say it. As well as that worship should be in line with His revealed will in the Scripture, "'in truth.'"

Now, that brings us back to finishing up our list. He's a being. He's living. He's alive. He's infinite. He is Spirit. And that brings us to the next thing that we want to see about God. And that is, that God is a person or we could say personal. Albert Einstein admitted that there was a cosmic force in the universe, but he concluded that that force that he called God, is unknowable. Well, the Scripture says that's not true. God is not a force or some collection of cosmic energy, He is a person.

Now let me just say, there can be some confusion here. I'm not using the word person here as I will use the word person when we get to the Trinity. I'm not talking about the three persons of the Trinity and saying, no, in reality there aren't three persons in the Trinity, there's only one person. I'm using it more in the sense of personal. God is personal. And just make sure you have that clear in your mind. Now, when we talk about God being a person or personal, what do we mean? Well, first of all, we mean that God is rational, there is thinking, there is reason. Specifically, we speak of God being self-conscious, that is, self-aware.

Let me give you an illustration. Take your dog for a moment, some of you have dogs, some of you have cats. My girls want a cat and I have told them only over my dead body will they have a cat. And so Lauren, when she was four, asked Sheila one day, "Mommy, when daddy dies can we get a cat?" But some of you have dogs. If you step on your dog's tail, your dog experiences the sensation of pain and will yelp. But your dog isn't capable of thinking that there is a self that is experiencing that sensation and that he is that self. Does that make sense? Your dog doesn't register all that like you do. You hit your thumb with a hammer, it registers with you that you are an individual entity, you're aware that you're an entity, you're aware that you're experiencing pain and that you are the entity, who is a self, experiencing that pain. Your dog isn't aware of that. There's not a self-consciousness.

To be a being, to be a person, to be personal you have to be self-aware in this way. God is self-aware. The Scripture is very clear. For example, in Exodus 3:14 God shows up, you remember, to Moses in the burning bush. And what does God do? He tells Moses His what? His name. He says, this is my name, I am. Your dog will never come up to you and tell you his name, even if he could speak, because your dog is not self-aware. It simply responds to external stimuli.

In Isaiah 43:10 God compares Himself with others. In fact, let's turn there for a moment. We looked at this passage, I believe, last time, Isaiah 43, but let me just show you something a little different here. Isaiah 43:10, "'You are my witnesses,' declares the Lord, "'And my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me.'" You see what God is doing here is He's demonstrating, in addition to the theological point that He alone is the sovereign God of the universe, He's demonstrating what theologians call self-consciousness. God is comparing Himself to others and saying, there really aren't any others, that He is aware.

Look at, over at chapter 54, and I'm not going to labor this point but I just want you to see this, because this goes in the face of some of the theories that are out there about God. Isaiah 54:7, God says,

"For a brief moment I forsook you,
But with great compassion I will gather you.
In an outburst of anger
I hid My face from you for a moment,
But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,"
Says the Lord your God.

Verses of great encouragement in terms of the Lord's forgiveness and compassion, but they also demonstrate that God is aware of His current mental state, if we could put it that way. He is self-aware. God is self-conscious. And, of course, we've learned that the Bible is God's one great self-revelation, so He's definitely aware.

Well let's move on. By rational we also mean (we're not going to look at all these verses so I'm just going to skip through there), we also mean self-determining, self-determining. In other words, God chooses as He pleases and He has the power to do whatever He chooses. To be a person, to be personal means that you're rational. And to be rational means that you are aware of yourself and that you are self-determining, you make decisions to do as pleases you. We do this every day.

Let me show you that God does it. Turn to a couple of passages. Again we won't look at all of these, but turn to Job 42. Verse 1, after God gets done with Job, after He lays out for him several chapters worth of God's greatness, "Job answers the Lord," verse 1 of chapter 42, "and said, 'I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.'" God has a plan, He has a purpose, and that purpose cannot be denied. Psalm 115 makes the same point. Psalm 115:3, (I said we wouldn't look at all of these but I think we will.), Psalm 115:3, a contrast here of heathen idols with Yahweh, the God of Israel. Verse 3, "But our God is in the heavens; and He does whatever He pleases." The writer of the psalm is making the point that the key contrast between God, who is a person, and the idols, which are nothing, is that God can do what He chooses; He is self-determining.

And my favorite, Ephesians 1, Ephesians 1:11. As Paul lays out all of the blessings that are ours in Christ he says this in verse 11, "we have been predestined according to God's purpose," watch this, "who works all things after the counsel of His will." We'll talk about this when we get to God's divine decree, but basically it's this, God has determined what will occur to accomplish His own ends and purposes. God is self-determining. And more than self-determining, God is everything determining. But we're talking about the fact that He's a person, so He's rational.

Secondly, God is personal, personal. He relates to His world and His creation. That's what I mean by this. God is a person in that He's rational, He's aware of Himself, He makes decisions about what He will do, and He is personal, He relates to others. For example, and we won't turn to these, but in Matthew 7:7 we find that He answers prayer, He responds to us. This is where the rubber meets the road in this issue. God is personal. He knows you as His sheep. Christ says, in John 10, "'He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him.'" There's a personal relationship. There's a personal interaction. We learned what that personal relationship was a couple of weeks ago. It's God as our adopted father and us as His children. It's personal.

God is not removed from His creation nor is He His creation so that there's no personal interaction. No, He is like us. He's personal. He answers prayer. He comforts. Second Corinthians 1, you know, he says, listen, "You have been comforted from God with a comfort that only God can give and therefore you're in a position to be able to comfort others." God is relational. He loves. We understand all of these attributes of God that show that He relates to His world and His creation. He's rational and He's personal. In other words, God is a person.

But let me ask you, what is the greatest proof that God is a person as opposed to a cosmic force of some kind? It's the person of Jesus Christ. In Christ we have a revelation of what it is to be God. And we see that what it means to be God, as well as human, is to interact with others, to have relationship with others. That relationship, of course, originally existed where? In the Trinity, between the members of the Trinity. And now God demonstrates that relationship to His creation, to His creatures. The greatest proof that God is a person is in the person of Jesus Christ. In John 14:9 Christ said, "'He that has seen Me has seen the Father.'" In John 10:30 He says, "'I and the Father are one.'" So as Jesus was obviously rational and personal or relational, even so God is, that's His nature. God is a person who pursues relationship.

Think about that for a moment. You and I, in the sense that we are made in God's image, we too pursue relationship. There is a tendency, we talked about this with the men, there is a tendency not to understand the importance of that. But God is relational. He is a person who relates within the Trinity and He relates to all of His creatures. To be like God then is to pursue relationships. You should not live, nor should I, as an island, sitting mesmerized in front of our television or computer screen, not pursuing relationships with others. It's part of the nature of a person and it's certainly part of the nature of a Christian who reflects his God, to be personal and relational.

Now, let's move to the next category. He's a being. He is living and alive. He's infinite. He's spirit. He's a person or personal. But now we come to the place, I think, of greatest mystery and that is, He is Trinity, He is Trinity. Thomas Carlyle, following Plato, pictures a man, a pagan thinker, locked away in a cave for all of his adult life. Basically he grew to maturity in some hidden cave and suddenly one day he's brought out to see the sunrise. As he stands at the edge of his cave and for the first time in his entire life he sees the sun come up. And he sees the sun break across the distance and he sees the sky light with a myriad of colors. And then he sees the creation. He sees the deep sea of blue above his head. And he looks out across and he sees the variety of green and vegetation and trees. And he sees creatures and water and all of these things that he's never seen before.

And Carlyle raises the question, "What would his wonder be, his rapt astonishment at the sight we daily witness with indifference?" What do you think he would respond? How do you think he would respond to all of that? He would absolutely be awestruck with the mystery of what he was seeing. Carlyle goes on, he says, "It is not by our superior insight that we escape the difficulty. It is by our superior levity, our inattention, our want" or lack "of insight. It is not by thinking that we cease to wonder at it." To complete his thought, "It's by not thinking" about what we see.

This wonderful world that we see and witness is filled with mystery. We see it and we sort of categorize it. You know, we live in a culture that categorizes everything and we think we understand it. We look at the various forces that God has set up in the world and we sort of put them in a box. We understand that. We put it back on the shelf. And we've lost our sense of mystery, because we think we understand everything. Tozer writes this, "We harness the mighty energy that rushes through our world. We subject it to fingertip control in our cars and our kitchens. We make it work for us like Aladdin's lamp. But still we do not know what it is. Secularism, materialism, and the intrusive presence of things have put out the light in our souls and turned us into a generation of zombies. We cover our deep ignorance with words, but we are ashamed to wonder. We are afraid to whisper, 'mystery.'" It's a great, great quote. That's exactly what we do when it comes to the person of God. We take God out and we analyze Him from a variety of sides, and then we put Him back in a little box that we mark "God," and we put Him back on the shelf, as if now we have mastered the person of God.

But when we come to the point of the Trinity that isn't possible. And because of that we tend to respond with indifference. If we can't understand it then we want to move on. One of the mysteries of our world and of our lives as believers is the doctrine of the Trinity. Now let me make an important distinction for you. A mystery is not a contradiction. At some point I'm going to talk about the fact that the Trinity and the doctrine of the Trinity is not a contradiction. It's not a breach of the law of logic. We can understand certain things about the Trinity and what we can understand makes it obvious that it is not nonsensical, it is reasonable. However, that's as far as we can go and what goes from there is mystery; and we will never grasp the reality of it, not even in heaven. As I've reminded you before, we will still be finite in heaven. We will be perfect finite creatures but we will be finite creatures; and we will never be able to put our arms around all that is God. We will still understand, back to that illustration I gave you of an infinite cube, our understanding will still be a tiny little blip, a tiny little dot on one surface of that infinite cube.

Although the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity is clearly taught in the Scripture, and you know this, but the word trinity does not occur and no verse or passage precisely states it's truth. That have led some to deny it. Still, it has been almost universally embraced by all those who call themselves Christians. Wayne Grudem writes in his theology about one group that denies the Trinity and he says this, "Because of its denial of the three distinct persons in God, this particular denomination should not be considered to be evangelical and it is doubtful whether it should be considered genuinely Christian at all." That has always been the perspective about those who deny the Trinity.

Now, how do we get then, if there is no one text, no one verse that states the Trinity, how do we get there? Well, essentially we get there through some clear sets of biblical data. Let me tell you what they are, three suppositions that rise out of the Scripture, they're not pre-suppositions, okay, it's not like we're making them up, they are suppositions, or propositions we could say, that grow out of the biblical data. And when you look at these you have to conclude the doctrine of the Trinity. First of all, God is one. And we're going to look at these in some detail tonight and next week, Lord willing. God is one. Secondly, Christ is God. Thirdly, Christ is distinct from the Father. Now, you could substitute the Holy Spirit for the word Christ in here and you can make the same arguments, but it's typically made with the person of Christ.

Now if you look at those for a moment you begin to realize that the scriptural data, if these in fact reflect the scriptural data (and I will show you that they do as we go along over the next few minutes), but if the scriptural data support these then immediately you're faced with trying to reconcile these. The doctrine of the Trinity is a logical attempt to systematize these three suppositions. They are put sometimes differently. Another form is this, God is three persons. Each person is fully God. There is only one God. Again, the biblical data support those three propositions, but immediately when you look at those propositions you realize they cannot be easily reconciled. Either way you put it, these propositions form the basis for the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.

So, with that in mind let's begin to look at the Trinity defined. First of all, we need to examine what it is not. I love to do what a man I respect deeply does, Martin Lloyd Jones, I should say did although he may do it still, but what he did and that is, he would start with, "Before we talk about this let's talk about what it is not." You know, there's a real value in that because it kind of removes the rubble from our minds and allows us to build on fresh ground. So what is it not? And let me tell you before we look at these that many evangelicals, perhaps some of you sitting here, have been influenced by various writings and bought in, in your mind, to a variation of these heresies really, okay? So pay close attention and make sure that your own perception of the nature of the Trinity doesn't fit in one of these boxes because they're not boxes you want on your shelf, three common deviations.

The first is tritheism. You recognize the word theism, theos, for God, tri meaning three. Basically, this view says that there are three Gods. This heresy teaches that the Trinity is composed of three separate gods. Now, fortunately this one has really never been held widely, it had not been taught, either in the past or today. There have been various groups, but very seldom. The more dangerous problem is for us as evangelical Christians to sort of think this way. Because we want to embrace the point of three persons it's easy for us to sort of fall off the wagon on the side of thinking about God as three separate gods. No, our God is one, in three persons. So tritheism is one problem.

The next two are, the next one, I should say, is one where many Christians are influenced. There aren't many groups that hold this in reality, but some Christians kind of get this in their mind. It's called modalism. It's also called Sabellianism after Sabellius, one of the famous holders of it. And it's also called, and you don't need to write this one down, modalistic monarchianism. What does it mean? Well basically, this is a heresy as well, condemned in the fourth century I believe it was; this heresy teaches that there is only one God who assumes three different roles or modes. Let me give you an example. They would say, well, you know, it's like this. Take a man, take me for example. I am one person, one entity, but I can wear three different hats. I can be a husband, for example. I can also be a father. And I can be a son at the same time.

So when the Scripture talks about Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it's not talking about three different persons in one God. Instead it's talking about three different modes of God or God, the same God, the same person, wearing three different hats. Or maybe another way to put it is looking at God from three different angles. If you look from one angle He looks like a Father. If you look at Him from another angle He looks like the Son. If you look at Him from another angle He looks like the Spirit. Today there is only one denomination that holds this view, it's called the United Pentecostals. It's also called the Jesus Only Pentecostals or the Oneness Pentecostals. The most famous Oneness Pentecostal is someone you see on your television, or you may, if you're like me and have a morbid interest in Trinity Broadcasting Network; it's like a train wreck, you know, I don't want to look but I want to look. But the most famous of these is T.D. Jakes, who last I read and heard continued to embrace Oneness Pentecostalism.

The third heresy, wrong way of perceiving the Trinity, is what's called subordinationism, subordinationism. Also sometimes it's called Arianism because Arius was one of the famous holders of this view. This heresy denies the deity of Jesus Christ. Basically it says, okay, we can't resolve this issue, so we know there's only one God and yet we know Christ and the Holy Spirit are mentioned, they are in Scripture, so how do we reconcile this? Well, let's just say that God the Father is the only one who is in essence God and let's make Jesus and the Holy Spirit created beings who do not share all of the divine attributes and who are created and therefore subordinate. Arius is the one who really came up with this view. Arius was the Bishop of Alexandria. He died in 33, excuse me, 336 A.D. He taught that God the Son was at one point created by God the Father and that before that time the Son did not exist, nor did the Holy Spirit, but the Father only. The Son existed before the rest of creation and He's far greater than the rest of creation, but He is still not equal to the Father in all His attributes.

Basically, how did they come up with this view? Well again, Arius was motivated I think, as best we can know today, he was motivated by a desire to reconcile these issues, of how do you say there is one God and yet there are these three persons? His solution was simply to make Jesus and the Holy Spirit less than the essence of God. He argued from several different kinds of texts. He argued from those texts that talk about Christ being the "'only begotten Son,'" like John 3:16 for example. And he said, see, that whole issue of Son and begotten must mean that Jesus had a beginning; He must have been created. He also argued from Colossians 1:15 where it says Christ is the "firstborn of all creation." Of course we know that word prototokos can also mean "the preeminent one" as it is used back in the Psalms. We'll get there when we get to Christ. But basically his views were condemned at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 335. What group today embraces subordinationism or Arianism? The Jehovah's Witnesses, they come to your door, and I'm sorry if they do unless you have plenty of time to evangelize, but apart from that they're going to come to your door with a view like this of the Trinity.

So, with that in mind take a look at your own view of the Trinity and make sure that it's not tainted in some small way by one of these heresies. Primarily modalism would be the one that influences most evangelical Christians I think, a sort of skewed view of the Trinity, that it's one person simply putting on different hats. No, the Scriptures teach that God is one but He is three persons and we will talk about what that means next in detail.

The Trinity defined, okay, so that's what it's not, what is it? Well, let me give you a brief definition and then we're going to go to the Scripture and I want you to begin to see how the Scripture lays out the doctrine of the Trinity. And then, Lord willing, next week we'll look at why this is important. Why does it matter? It matters a lot. It's the difference between heaven and hell. So, what is it? Well, first of all, God is one in His essential being or His constitutional nature. Theologians use the word essence. They also use the word ousia if you do any reading in theologies. God is one in His essential being or His constitutional nature. That one we will look at in Scripture, probably next week, that God is one. Secondly, in the one divine being there are three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Now, let's talk about the word person; this is where we have to define our terms. What do we mean when we say there are three persons? The word person was first used in this context in the second century by Tertullian to refer to distinctions within the Trinity. The word person comes from the Latin word persona, per meaning through (this is very, well it interests me, I don't know if it interests you or not, but this is interesting to me), persona, per means through, sono in Latin means "to speak." So literally the word person means "to speak through."

That's because it was used in Roman theatre. The mask, let me back up, let me explain Roman theatre to you, those of you who aren't familiar with it. In current acting if you want to portray someone you simply take make up and you paint your face and you can even take on, you know, different body shapes with the foam and everything else that they use in modern theatre, modern television and movies. In the ancient world, because there weren't that many actors, actors, believe it or not, in the ancient world were not looked upon with the respect that they are today, and so there weren't that many actors or that many people seeking to do it; so often in the plays they had to play several parts.

Well, now think about that. If you're going to play several parts, how are you going to change your costume and your makeup? Well the solution, the costume change was pretty simple, they could slip backstage and slip into something that reflected the costume, but what about the face? How could the person watching tell that this was a different character? They had masks that the actor would hold in front of his face and that would allow the people watching to discern what character he was currently playing. Even if the voice didn't change, the mask changed. So the word persona originally was used of that mask, "to speak through," and it eventually came to refer to the character that that person was portraying. So to be a person meant, that is the character you're playing, that is who you are.

So theologically, when we refer to a person, we mean something different. We don't mean the specific character that a person is playing. We mean, and I don't want to get too esoteric here but stay with me (I'm going to get beyond this in just a moment but you need to understand this), when we talk about there being different persons in God we're talking about distinct centers of consciousness. Let me give you an example, hopefully this will make it clear. God is omniscient. That means God the Father is omniscient. That means God the Son is omniscient. And that means God the Holy Spirit is omniscient. They all know everything and they know it immediately.

However, they all know what they know from their perspective. For example, take the cross for example. Both the Father, now stay with me, I know this is heavy sledding but stay with me a minute, both the Father and the Spirit knew the objective fact that the Son would die on the cross, right? The Father and the Spirit knew the Son would die on the cross, but never did the Father and the Spirit, and or the Spirit, say to themselves, I will die on the cross. Each of the persons of the Trinity are distinct centers of consciousness. That's what we mean when we talk about three persons. So in one divine being there are three distinct centers of consciousness, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thirdly, the essence of God belongs equally to each of the three persons. Three persons with the same omnipresence would have one omnipresence. Three persons with the same omniscience would have the same omniscience. And so with every attribute. They are absolutely identical in all the attributes of deity. Three persons identical in divine essence would be one God. That's what the doctrine teaches.

Now, now that hopefully I haven't confused you, let's move to exactly what the Scripture has to say. What's the biblical evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity? We're going to begin this trek tonight and we'll finish it next time. First of all, we see some hints of it in the Old Testament. And I use that word hints advisedly, intimations in the Old Testament.

I love the illustration B.B. Warfield gives. He says, in the Old Testament the doctrine of the Trinity is like this. Let's say there is a beautifully decorated room in your home but for whatever reasons, maybe because your spouse says you want to save money on the electricity, you have the lights down really dim. And you take one of your guests into your room and they look around the room. What do they see? Well, they squint and they see tiny little highlights here and there that hint of what the reality is, but it's not the full splendor of the reality. So then you realize you're being rude to your guest in trying to save electricity and you turn on the light. Now, when you turn on the light what happens? Is there anything new in the room? No, you haven't changed the room at all. All you have done by the introduction of light is you have allowed people to see it, you have allowed a clearer view of everything that was there before.

That's true with the Trinity from the Old Testament to the New. When you get to the New Testament it isn't like Jesus and Paul suddenly reinvented God. It's back to that definition, or that illustration of B.B. Warfield's, all they did was turn up the light.

But in the Old Testament you can still sort of make out some faint hints and traces of the reality of who God is and let me show you that. The New Testament doesn't change or correct the Old Testament, it just brings the truth that was there and intimated into fuller view. First of all, with plural pronouns and plural verbs. Let me give you a couple of examples. Turn to Genesis 1. You're familiar with these. And again, these are intimations, they're not proofs of the Trinity, we will get to proofs, they are merely sort of beginning hints that this may be what God is like. Genesis 1:26, "Then God said, 'Let Us,'" plural, "'make man in Our,'" plural, "'image, according to Our,'" plural, "'likeness.'"

Now what's going on here? Obviously as you start to look at other options they fall by the wayside as invalid. God couldn't be speaking to the angels, who are the only other ones really He could be speaking to at this point. Why? Because angels, first of all, are not made in the same image as God. Secondly, even if that was true, the angels, from everything we learn in Scripture, weren't involved in making man. And so there seems to be this sort of strange scratch your head hint that something isn't exactly like we would expect. Also, in the Hebrew, you don't see it in the English, but in the Hebrew of verse 26 the verb for make is also plural, "'Let Us,'" plural, "'make,'" plural. Again, a hint, just a hint.

Chapter 3 verse 22 you see the same sort of thing going on. "Then the Lord God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil;'" "'one of Us,'" plural, "'and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.'" God is having a conversation, a counsel, with someone and He says, let Us do this, "'Let Us make man,'" and then here in chapter 3 verse 23 He says, "'the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil.'" So you begin to see these sort of hints.

Turn to Genesis 11. This will be the last one I'll show you of these plural nouns and pronouns and plural verbs. Genesis 11:7, the Tower of Babel, verse 6, "The Lord said, 'Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.'" Now, first of all, who is the Lord talking to here? That's the first question to ask. But beyond that, notice what He says in verse 7, "'Come, let Us,'" plural, "'go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another's speech.'" And then in verse 8 we are told that it was the Lord acting alone who scattered the people abroad. So as there is this private conversation going on, God says, "'let Us go down'" and do it and only God does it. Also, in the Hebrew text again, you see the verb "'go down'"? That too is plural. So there are these hints that begin to develop.

Let's look at one more of these hints tonight and that is the word Elohim. It's the Hebrew word for God. It is plural in form. Now, let me answer an objection that some people raise to the argument I'm about to make. Some would say, well, yes, it's plural in form, but that's because it's plural of majesty. In other words it's like a ruler speaking, maybe your father spoke this way, let us, you know, or we are pleased to grant your request. I know someone, I have a close acquaintance, who often speaks in we when he's speaking of himself. We call it the royal we. That's what people are saying, is that, no, God is just speaking with a royal we. And that's what it means when it refers to God in the plural; Elohim is plural. In some places, when it is talking about pagan gods, it's actually translated as gods.

Let me tell you why this plural of majesty or intensity isn't valid, because there are no other Old Testament examples of any king speaking with a plural of majesty or referred to with a plural of majesty. In addition, this is interesting, although it's a plural noun, Elohim, it is often, almost always, put with a singular verb. So plural Elohim, singular verb. But, there are a few places where the plural Elohim, speaking of the true God, is put with a plural verb. Let me show you a couple of those quickly.

Turn to Genesis 35. I'll just show you, I'll tell you there's one in Genesis 20:13 and you can look there at your leisure, but let's turn to Genesis 35:7. We are in the life story of Jacob here, he's moved to Bethel, and verse 5, "As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob." "So Jacob," verse 6, "came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him." Verse 7, "He built an altar there, and he called the place El-bethel," literally, the God of Bethel, "because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother." Now, what's going on here? Verse 7, notice the word God. That is the word Elohim; it's plural. You see the noun, or excuse me, the verb "had revealed," "God had revealed," revealed is plural. It's talking about the true God, but he uses a plural verb along with this plural Elohim for God.

My other favorite of these is 2 Samuel. Turn to 2 Samuel 7, 2 Samuel 7. Beginning in verse 18 David is praying. He's planning to build the temple and God makes His amazing covenant with David, beginning in verse 8 down through verse 17, that he would establish his throne forever. And so David does what any of us would have done in that situation, he breaks into prayer and praise. He says this in verse 22, "'For this reason You are great, O Lord God; for there is none like You,'" there is that point again, it keeps coming up, "'there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.'" Verse 23, "'And what one nation on the earth is like Your people Israel, whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people and to make a name for Himself, and to do a great thing for You and awesome deeds for Your land, before Your people whom You have redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, from the nations and their gods?'"

Now, here's again what I want you to see. You see the first translation of the word Elohim, God? The verb that follows, "'to redeem,'" is again plural, "'went to redeem.'" "'God went,'" plural, "'to redeem.'" There is again, just a hint of what we will see in full glory and grandeur when we turn on the light in the New Testament and we see what God says about Himself. We'll continue to look at this next week, we'll stop here, but let me just close with a point, and I'm just going to give you a hint of the application of where we're going with this next week in terms of why it matters.

When you look at the Trinity, when you look at the fact that our God is one God in three persons, you begin to realize the depth of relationship there can be, because from eternity past there was relationship within the Trinity. They love each other, as we will see next week, they fellowship and commune with each other, they enjoy each other, they willingly give up some of their own privileges and responses for the other members of the Trinity. What happens in the Trinity is two things basically. One, we have a powerful lesson of the kind of relationship that we can have with God because God is a relational God. And secondly, we have a pattern for relationship as we look at how God relates to Himself in the persons of the Trinity.

You and I were made for that. We were made for relationship. We fulfill that with each other here. We fulfill that with our spouses, with our children, with our family, with our friends, with our fellow believers. But it only will be fulfilled perfectly when we have that same level of intimacy, face to face as it were, with God. That's what we were made for. Let's pray together.

Our God, we are amazed by what we learn about You in Your word. Lord, we thank You that You are a being distinct from Your creation, that You are living, unlike the dead pretend gods of the nations. Lord, we thank You that You are a spirit, immaterial, that "in You we live and move and have our being," that You are the source of all life, the source of all being, the source of all action.

And Lord we thank You that You are personal, that You are not distant and removed like some sort of cosmic force, but rather You are personal. And You have revealed Yourself to us for the purpose of relationship, that You have likened the relationship we enjoy with You as that of an adoptive father, an adoptive father with an adopted son, an adopted daughter. Lord, how can we ever begin to thank You for Your incredible grace, that You, majestic sovereign God of eternity, has chosen to have relationship with us.

And Lord, our minds are absolutely blown away by what we've begun to learn, just an inkling of the fact that You are Trinity, one God in three persons. Lord, help us to love You. Father, help us to submit ourselves to Your will, to live with You constantly in our minds. Our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray that You would help us to devote ourselves to You as Your disciple, truly followers of You. And Spirit, we pray that You would open our minds to understand these realities, to grasp them. Lord, turn on the light, help us to see who You are, not in the full splendor because it would blind our eyes, but just enough to love You more deeply, to pursue You more vehemently. Lord, don't let us be cold hearted, help us to love You, to pursue You, even "as the deer pants after water." We pray in Jesus' name, amen.