John 1:1


Sermon preached on February 3, 2002 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.



If I were to ask people what the sun was like, I would get some different answers. One might say that the sun is light, it's where we get daylight from. Another might say it was heat, that it's the sun that warms the earth's atmosphere. Another might say that the sun is energy and that it sends some of it off in what we call solar winds .

Now that illustration is not perfect in illustrating the Trinity, but many theologians have found it useful. The sun is one, yet there are distinctions within it. Light and heat and the solar winds are not the same.

This morning I want to look at the doctrine of the Trinity. Our God is so wonderful that He exists in three persons. In the Bible we read about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They are all fully and equally God. They are all equal in the Godhead. Yet together, they make up one God. They don't make up three Gods.

Now this doesn't make sense to certain people. They wonder how there can be three in one. They don't understand it because it doesn't seem to make sense to them. They reject the idea of the Trinity because they don't understand it.

But everyday we accept things we don't understand.
Physicists don't understand how our universe works. You have all heard of Einstein's Theory of Relativity. It tells us that the only constant is the speed of light and that time is relative. Einstein's theory encompasses big things—stars, planets, moons etc. But what is interesting is that very little things don't fit into Einstein's theory. When physicists study very, very small things, they find that they're in a different world where things work differently. They've come up with Quantum Theory, quantum physics to explain how tiny, minute things work.

So we have
the theory of the large, big things and we have the theory of the small. But what's interesting is that these two theories don't fit together. They're incompatable. Some physicists today are devoting their lives trying to find a theory that encompasses everything. They call it a theory of everything. But they haven't found it yet. They don't understand the universe, it's a mystery to them. In certain ways it doesn't make sense.

And yet in spite of that, I've never heard anyone rejecting the universe just because it doesn't make sense to them or because they don't understand it. We have to deal with the universe because it's there. We know it's real.

In the same way, just because we don't understand the Trinity fully doesn't mean that we should reject it. God is real. He exists. He is like He is. Rather than rejecting this, we should try to better understand it and praise and glorify God for what He is like.

So let's look at some of the things that the Bible tells us about the Trinity. We're going to use John 11 as our starting point. John wrote,

"In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God."

What we see here is that

although God is one, there are different 'persons' in the Godhead.

We all know that God is one. There is only one God. Even though we believe in the Trinity we do not believe in three Gods. There are not three Gods. There is one God. Deuteronomy 6:4 reads,

"Hear, O Israel:
The LORD our God,
the LORD is one."

The Old Testament clearly teaches that God is one. We see the same teaching in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 8:4 we read,

"So then,
about eating food sacrificed to idols:
We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world
and that there is no God but one."

Ephesians 4:4-5 confirms this. It reads,

"There is one body and one Spirit —
just as you were called to one hope
when you were called —
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all."

We see the same teaching in James 2:19. It says,

" You believe that there is one God.
Good!
Even the demons believe that —
and shudder."

So the Bible is quite clear. There is one God. Christianity has always been firmly committed to that position.

Yet having said that, our text shows clearly that although God is One,

there are distinctions in the Godhead.

John wrote,

"In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God."

The Word is God yet we are also told that the Word was with God. There is a distinction there. John Calvin writes, (Institutes, 1:13:6)

"For if the Word were simply God, and yet possessed no other characteristic mark, John would wrongly have said that the Word was always with God."



The point is that although Jesus is truly and fully God there is something that distinguishes Him from God. It can be said of Him that He was 'with God'. John 1:1 teaches that Jesus is God and that He is eternal. He has always existed. Yet in some respects He is to be distinguished from the Father.

We know from other passages that Jesus is
co-equal with God. Philippians 2: 6 teaches this. It says, (verses 5-6)

"Your attitude should be
the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped,"

Jesus is co-eternal with the Father. He is co-equal to the Father, yet He is revealed as the 'Word" or as the 'Son'. We see this clearly in John 3:16.

"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."

Now before I go any further, I want to make sure you're clear on what I'm saying. There are not three Gods. There is one God. There is a unity between the persons of the godhead. Remember what Jesus said in John 10:30?

"I and the Father are one."

There is a unity between the Father and Son. They are one. Theologians like to use terms like 'unity of substance', or 'subsistence', or 'essence'. God is truly One. Within the Godhead there are three "persons" who are neither three Gods nor three parts of God.

Nor are we to think that God is one person who took three forms. Some have taught that the Father became the Son and the Son became the Holy Spirit. They teach that what we have is one God who reveals Himself to us in three ways or manifestations. But our text dispels any such notion. In the beginning the Word was with God. There are distinctions in the Godhead.

We see these distinctions right from the beginning of God's revelation to us.

Although the New Testament reveals the Trinity most clearly, we see much teaching about the Trinity in the Old Testament. Hermann Bavinck writes, (Doctrine of God, p. 255)

"The O.T. contains the adumbration, the nucleus of the doctrine of the trinityÖ. The O.T. gives a vague idea of God's Trinitarian existence: it is the first installment of progressively revealed teaching concerning the trinity."



The doctrine of the Trinity is progressively revealed in Scripture. (Grudem).

(It was also this way about our salvation in Jesus. It was only over a great period of time that God revealed the salvation we have in Jesus. So it was with the Trinity.)

The title of Chapter 13 of Book 1 of John Calvin's
Institutes is,

"In Scripture, From The Creation Onward, We Are Taught One Essence Of God, Which Contains Three Persons"



How true that is. What do we read in the second verse of the Bible? (Genesis 1:2)

"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."

Right in the second verse of Genesis we see teaching about the Spirit. It is interesting that near the end of the chapter we read, (Genesis 1:26)

"Then God said,
'
Let us make man in our image,
in our likeness',"

Notice the plural verb (let us) and the plural pronoun (our). We see the same thing in Genesis 11:7, where God said,

"Come, let us go down
and confuse their language
so they will not understand each other."

Why did God speak like that? Some have suggested that it is a plural of majesty- as some king might use. For example, a king might say, "We are pleased to grant your request.") But Grudem points out that in the Old Testament there are no examples of a king doing that. Some have suggested that God is speaking to angels, to His heavenly host. But did angels participate in creation? Nowhere else do we have that suggestion. Nor are we ever told that we are made in the image of angels. So that suggestion is not convincing. Grudem writes, (p. 227)

"The best explanation is that already in the first chapter of Genesis we have an indication of a plurality of persons in God himself."



Furthermore, we have some passages in the Old Testament where one person is called 'God' or 'the Lord' and yet they are distinguished from another person who is also said to be God. Psalm 45:6-7 is one such place. It's a messianic psalm which talks about Jesus. We read,

" Your throne, O God,
will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God,
has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy."

What we have is two separate persons being called God. Jesus is called God, and yet He is distinguished from the Father and Spirit. There are also some instances where someone is referred to as 'the angel of the Lord' and yet later is called, 'God'. We see this in the incident of the burning bush. (Exodus 3:2-6)

Or think of the messianic prophecy we have in
Isaiah 9:6f. You all know it.

" For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace."

Isaiah predicted that the child that was going to be born would be no one less than the "Mighty God'.

Or think of the name that was given to the messiah in
Isaiah 7:14.

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:
The virgin will be with child
and will give birth to a son,
and will call him
Immanuel."

What does Immanuel mean? It means "God with us." (Matthew 1:23)

The Old Testament is full of allusions to the Trinity. So don't ever think that the doctrine of the Trinity is only found in the New Testament. God began to reveal His Trinitarian character right in the second verse of Genesis. There is one God yet He exists in three persons.

Now what is important for us to not is that the Bible tells us that each person of the Trinity is fully divine.

Jesus is divine.

Our text says,

"In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God."

The Word was God. That this speaks of Jesus is clear from verse 14 where it says that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We also see a reference to Jesus' divinity in Philippians 2:5f,

"Your attitude should be the same
as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!"

Now I could give many references to prove the divinity of Jesus but I'll mention just a few more.

Remember Paul's words to the Ephesian elders in
Acts 20:28? Paul said,

" Keep watch over yourselves
and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit
has made you overseers.
Be shepherds of the church of God,
which he bought with his own blood."

God bought us with His own blood. God is God. When He died on the cross, He was reconciling us by the blood of God.

Or remember what Jesus said to
Philip in John 14:9. Jesus said to him,

"Don't you know me, Philip,
even after I have been among you such a long time?
Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say,
'Show us the Father'?"

Or think of how Hebrews 1:1f describes Jesus.

"In the past God spoke to our forefathers
through the prophets at many times and in various ways,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,
whom he appointed heir of all things,
and through whom he made the universe.
The Son is the radiance of God's glory
and the
exact representation of his being,
sustaining all things by his powerful word."

Perhaps the best way to conclude this section is with a quote from John 20:28. After Thomas had seen the risen Lord, he said,

"My Lord and my God!"

The scriptural teaching about the divinity of Jesus is so clear that it is irrefutable.

We also see from the Scripture that

the Holy Spirit is divine.

We can easily deduce this from the fact that divine attributes are ascribed to Him. In Hebrews 9:14 we read,

"How much more, then,
will the blood of Christ,
who through the
eternal Spirit
offered himself unblemished to God,
cleanse our consciences
from acts that lead to death,
so that we may serve the living God!"

The Spirit is described as being eternal. He has been from everlasting and He will be to everlasting. Who is eternal but God Himself? No one. So when it says that the Spirit is eternal, it is telling us that the Spirit is fully God.

In
Psalm 139:7-10 we see that the Spirit is present everywhere. He is omnipresent. We read,

" Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens,
you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths,
you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast."

In 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 we are told that the Spirit knows everything.

"The Spirit searches all things,
even the deep things of God.
For who among men knows the thoughts of a man
except the man's spirit within him?
In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God
except the Spirit of God."

The Spirit knows the thoughts of God. He is God Himself.

We also see His divinity in the angel's words to
Mary. Gabriel said, (Luke 1:35)

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High
will overshadow you.
So the holy one to be born
will be called the Son of God."

James Montgomery Boice points out that in the Gospel of John, Jesus compares the ministry of the coming of the Holy Spirit to his own ministry. In John 14:16-17 Jesus said,

"And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Counselor
to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth.
The world cannot accept him,
because it neither sees him nor knows him.
But you know him,
for he lives with you and will be in you."

In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 we are told that our bodies are God's temple. Why is that, it's because God's Spirit lives in us.

In Acts 5 we read about the death of
Ananias and Sapphira. In verse 3 Peter told Ananias that he had lied to the Holy Spirit. Then in verse 4 he told him that he had not lied to men, but to God. The Holy Spirit and God are equated.

Such is the Scriptural teaching. God is one yet He exists in three persons. God is one in essence. Remember how Jesus in
John 10:30 said that He and the Father were One? Remember how in 2 Corinthians 3:17, 'The Lord is the Spirit'? God is One yet He exists in three persons.

Now the great question is:

Why does it matter that we believe in the Trinity?

It's a point of controversy. Some people think that we should get rid of all points of controversy. The doctrine of the Trinity is also an affront to some other religions, especially the Muslims. So why do we have to insist on it?

I believe that it's vitally important that we believe in the Trinity. There are three reasons for this that I want to mention.

The first one is this: God exists as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we must worship Him as He is.

We must honor the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. To neglect One is to greatly dishonor not only that person of the Trinity but the other two as well. It dishonors God. It is vitally important that we worship God as He is. You'll remember what Jesus said in John 4 to the woman at the well. He said, (John 4:22f)

" You Samaritans worship what you do not know;
we worship what we do know,
for salvation is from the Jews.
Yet a time is coming and has now come
when the true worshipers
will worship the Father in spirit and truth,
for they are the kind of worshipers
the Father seeks.
God is spirit,
and his worshipers must worship
in spirit and in truth."

The Samaritans were worshiping a figment of their imagination. They weren't worshiping the true God. You can't pick and choose what you will believe about God. We must believe what He has revealed to us. Wayne Grudem writes, (Systematic Theology p. 226)

"The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith. To study the Bible's teachings on the Trinity gives us great insight into the question that is at the center of all our seeking after God: What is God like in himself?"



John Calvin writes, (Institutes, 1:13:2)

"But God also designates himself by another special mark to distinguish himself more precisely from idols. For he so proclaims himself the sole God as to offer himself to be contemplated clearly in three persons. Unless we grasp these, only the bare and empty name of God flits about in our brains, to the exclusion of the true God."


Each of the persons of the Trinity has played an important role in our salvation.

In sum, we believe in the Trinity because God is three in one. To miss the Trinity is to miss God Himself.

But the doctrine of the Trinity is important for another reason.

What's the glory of the cross? What's the wonder of Calvary? What's the certainty of Christianity?

Is it that a creature died for us? No. The glory of the cross, the wonder of Calvary is that God's Son, God Himself, died for us. God purchased the church with His own blood. (Acts 20:28) We are saved by none other than God Himself.

John wrote his gospel so that people would, (John 20:30f)

" believe that Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of God, and that by believing
you may have life in his name."

John wrote this so that we would know the glory of God. In His gospel he was especially concerned to show the glory of Jesus and of the Spirit. He was trying to point people to the Triune God as revealed by Jesus Christ and urged them to place their faith in Jesus and be saved.

If Jesus is not God, then our salvation is in doubt. James Montgomery
Boice wrote,(Systematic Theology, p. 114)

"if Christ is not fully divine, then our salvation is neither accomplished nor assured. No being less than God himself, however exalted, is able to bear the full punishment of the world's sin."



The very doctrine of the atonement is at stake.

But there's even more at stake than that. What about our worship? Dare we worship someone who is not fully God? Dare we trust his righteousness and commit ourselves to justification by faith? Hermann
Bavinck has astutely written, (Doctrine of God, p. 281, 285)

"Christianity stands or falls with the confession of the deity of Christ and of the TrinityÖ In the confession of the Trinity throbs the heart of the Christian religion: every error results from Ö or may be traced to, a wrong view of this doctrine."



Thirdly, if we don't fully appreciate the reality of the Trinity, not only do we follow our imaginations instead of God's revelation, but

we miss completely some of the glorious wonders of our great God.

Who is like our God? Our imaginations fall far short of the reality of God's glory. Who is a God like our God? Before the creation of the world, from all eternity—what was He like? Was He alone, a solitary impersonal figure who needed to create to show His glory? No, not at all.

Our God is a Trinitarian God, a God whose life is one of fellowship and love. Before the creation of the world there was love between the persons of the Trinity. God was not lacking in any way. Quite the contrary, He was perfection itself, expressing joy, love, and glory. God, in Himself, enjoys 'a glorious fullness of life'. (Bavinck, p. 330)

Bavinck writes, (p. 331)

"Once we have accepted the trinity we begin to understand that even apart from the universe and entirely in and by himself God is the independent, eternal, omniscient, and all- benevolent One, love, holiness, and glory. The doctrine of the trinity reveals God to us as fulness of essence, genuine life, eternal glory."