Further thoughts on Question 6: The Trinity

We began with singing, ‘God is in his temple’, alluding to this morning’s sermon on Haggai and the glory of the temple because of the presence of Christ. The Christian is himself a ‘temple’ too…

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (1 Cor 6:19)


This section of questions deal with the nature of God, Q4 asks ‘What is God?’, Q5, Are there more Gods than one? The ‘unity of God’. Q6 How many persons are there in the Godhead?
Building on these about the nature of God, we then enter the area of the works of God. But first we gave more time to talking about the Trinity, which was rather truncated last time around.

Councils of Nicea (325 AD) – the Son co-essential with the Father – and Constantinople (381 AD) assert the deity of the Holy Spirit.
The creeds are used by some, especially Charismatics, to say that the church has always somehow given too little attention to the Holy Spirit. But the controversy of the day was concerning the person of Christ and that affected salvation so this featured strongly in the early credal statements. Since then we have further controversy and so we have larger statements of doctrine, such as the Westminster Confession, etc. But the Person of the Holy Spirit clearly wants to exalt Christ:

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

John 16:13

Picking up James Fisher’s questions, we asked whether it was possible to be a Christian without holding to the doctrine of the Trinity. Although reluctant to be harsh in this matter, this doctrine is bound up in our view of salvation because of the need for the Three to be involved as God and the Son to be both fully man and fully God. Confusion in this area is understandable but rejecting the teaching altogether is a serious symptom of a lack of willingness to come under the clear teaching of the scriptures.

Q. 37. Could the Trinity of persons, in the unity of essence, have been discovered by the light of nature?
A. By no means: for then it would be no mystery, seeing divine mysteries are such secrets, as the wisdom of man could never have found out, Matt. 11:27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. 1 Cor. 2:9, 10, 14.9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Q. 29. Is it proper to say, that the Father is the fountain of the Deity?
A. The expression is dangerous, and now used by adversaries in an unsound sense, to exclude self-existence and independency from the Son and Holy Ghost, and therefore is to be avoided.
Q. 38. Is it OK to explain the doctrine of the Trinity by natural illustrations? [lawful to explain this mystery by natural similitudes?]
A. No; for there is no similitude amongst all the creatures, that has the remotest resemblance to this adorable mystery of the three one God. By making similes or comparisons of this kind, men have become vain in their imaginations, and their foolish minds have been darkened, Rom. 1:21-26 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:; and therefore, as this doctrine is entirely a matter of faith, it becomes us to adore it, without prying curiously into what is not revealed.
Q. 39. If we say that there are 3 persons in the Godhead, does this mean they are separate or divided, or that division is possible? [Does the asserting of three persons in the Godhead, with distinct personal properties, infer any separation, or division, in the divine essence?]
A. No; for the persons in the Godhead are not separated, but distinguished from one another, by their personal properties. As the unity of the essence does not confound the persons, so neither does the distinction of persons imply any division of the essence, 1 John 5:7.
Q. 41. How is our worship to be directed to this three-one God?
A. We are to worship the Father, in Christ the Son, by the Spirit; and thus, when we pray, we are to ask the Father, in the name of the Son, by the Holy Ghost, Eph. 2:18 and 5:20.
Q. 42. Will not this mystery be more fully known and displayed in heaven?
A. Yes; for, says Christ, “at that day ye shall know, that I am in my Father,” John 14:20; 1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
Q. 43. How are we comforted by this doctrine of the Trinity?
A. That the gift of eternal life, in the promise and offer of the gospel, to sinners of mankind, is attested by the three famous witnesses in heaven, who are above all exception, 1 John 5:7, 11; and consequently, that a portion infinitely rich, is insured by the covenant of grace to all those who believe, when it makes over all the three persons to them, as their God, Jer. 31:33. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts

What can we do while waiting for revival?

Psalm 37:1-3, 23-27
Revival is bringing back to life. Versailles palace and Fontaineblue, from the morning sermon, the former being likened to heaven and the latter, His summer palace for a visitation. God is seen to be who He is far more clearly. God is glorified 1Kings 8:60
What can we do while waiting for revival? Similar to asking what is prayer for if it is God that saves. Even now ‘ordinary’ people and weeks of their lives are full of wonderful God’s works.
Elvet Lewis : to wait and to work.
Revival is God’s work, it remains for us to be faithful.
Sorting out our sin
Do we keep secret sins? Are my motives ever right? Are we saved? Examine ourselves yet without losing heart. He is faithful to forgive but we may not trust. Admitting there is a problem is a good first step. 2Cor10:5 desire for better is from the Lord.
Growth leads to greater sense of sin. God is well able to show us more of our sin. Pride is a huge thing, continually dissatisfied with ourselves but satisfied with God. ‘who am I!?’, asked David.

1. Setting our affections on Christ
Consider what he has done for us. Goto Calvary.
Preaching the gospel keeps Christians at the foot of the cross. Put him first. Thankfulness. The heart is engaged – what excites us. Better is he that keeps his own than that takes a city. 1 Corinthians 9:27 – deliberate. Colossians 3: What we are in Christ – realise our new standing in him. What is on my mind the most? Hebrews 12:1
My plans. Pause. Do I want to do that more? Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Seeking each other’s good
Will you see Mr Wesley in heaven?
What we don’t do – we too often drag each other down. Quenching the spirit. Encouraging one another. Esteem all others better than ourselves. Pray for them. Soul surgery is the pastor’s prerogative. You may start presuming what others think. Not pandering to wrong but we can make judgements.

Straightening out our lives
The more we see of Him… We should be those who keep the cup clean so we can be ready to be filled. Cutting river beds to aid the flow. Trimming the sails to prepare for the wind. Digging ditches. Putting myself in the way of blessing. Ps37:3-4

Best wishes,


Question 6: The Trinity

This question was considered during the Doctrine Classes of 28th October and 4th November 2012.

QUESTION 6. How many persons are there in the Godhead?
ANSWER: There are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

Councils of Nicea (325 AD) – the Son co-essential with the Father – and Constantinople (381 AD) assert the deity of the Holy Spirit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicene_Creed#Comparison_between_Creed_of_325_and_Creed_of_381
Much of what follows uses James Fisher’s ‘Catechism on the Catechism’

Q. 1. Whence is it, that this article of our holy religion has been so much opposed by adversaries, in every period of the church?

A. The devil and his instruments have warmly opposed it because they know it is the primary object of our faith and worship; it not being enough for us to know what God is, as to his essential attributes, without knowing who he is, as to his personality, according as he has revealed himself in his word, to be Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, 1 John 2:23, — “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.”
Q. 2. Is this doctrine of the Trinity, then; a fundamental article, upon the belief of which our salvation depends?
A. Beyond all doubt it is: because without the knowledge and belief of the Trinity of persons, we would remain ignorant of the love of the Father, the merit of the Son, and the sanctifying influences of the Holy Ghost, in the purchase and application of redemption; without which there could be no salvation, John 17:3, — “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” BUT MORE THAN THAT – ‘THE DIVINITY OF CHRIST IS ESSENTIAL TO OUR SALVATION: ONLY AS FULLY GOD CAN WITHOUT QUALIFICATION TAKE OUR HUMANITY AND UNITE US WITH GOD
Q. 3. Can the Trinity of persons be proved from the Old Testament?
A. Yes; not only from the history of man’s creation, where God speaks of himself in the plural number, “Let us make man,” Gen. 1:26; but likewise from such passages, as expressly restrict this plurality to three persons, such as, Psalm 33:6, — “By the word of the Lord, or JEHOVAH, were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath, or spirit, of his mouth;” where there is mention made of JEHOVAH, the Word, and the Spirit, as concurring in the creation of all things: accordingly, we are told that all things were made by the Word, John 1:3, and that the Spirit garnished the heavens, Job 26:13. The same truth is also evident from Isa 63:7, 9, 10; where we read of the loving-kindness of JEHOVAH; Of the Angel of his presence saving them; and of their vexing his Holy Spirit. A plain discovery of a Trinity of persons.
Q. 4. What is the meaning of the word Trinity, so commonly used in expressing this doctrine?
A. It signifies the same with Tri-unity, or three in one; that is, three distinct persons, in one and the same individual or numerical[15] essence, 1 John 5:7.
Q. 5. Is not a Trinity of persons, in the divine Essence, an unsearchable mystery?
A. Yes; and so is every perfection of God, which infinitely transcends our thoughts, and finite capacities, Col. 2:2; Job 11:6, 7.
Q. 6. Is it not unreasonable to require a belief of what we cannot understand?
A. It is not at all unreasonable in matters that are entirely supernatural; but, on the contrary, it is the highest reason

  1. we should believe what God says of himself, and of the manner of his own subsistence, John 20:31 ‘But these are written , that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.’:besides,
  2. it is the peculiar office of faith to subject our reason to divine revelation, Heb. 11:1.

Q. 7. How has God revealed this mystery in his word?
A. He has in it told us, that “there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one,” 1 John 5:7.

Is 1 John 5:7 scripture?

The whole of this must be regarded as a gloss, as must the words in earth in verse 8… The words do not occur in any Greek MS, version or quotation before the fifteenth century. They first appear in an obscure fourth-century Latin MS and found their way into the AV because Erasmus reluctantly included them in the third edition of his text. They are rightly absent even from the margin of RV and RSV.

J. R. W. Stott, The Epistles of John (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979), p. 180.

Even Berkov (Systematic Theology) states in p86

‘The only passage speaking of tri-unity is 1 John 5:7, but this is of doubtful genuineness, and is therefore eliminated from the latest critical editions of the New Testament.

However, this verse is strongly defended by the following reformed scholars: Matthew Henry, RL Dabney, Edward Hills – for more on this, see: TBS Why 1 John 5:7-8 is in the Bible

Or, as our Confession expresses it, “In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost,” Matt. 3:16, 17 and 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14.

Q. 8. What is meant by the word Godhead?
A. The divine nature or essence; Rom. 1:20, compared with Gal. 4:8.
Q. 9. What is meant by a person in the Godhead?
A. A complete, intelligent, and individual subsistence, which is neither a part of, nor sustained by any other; but is distinguished by an incommunicable property in the same undivided essence.
Q. 10. Has each person then a distinct nature, or essence of his own?
A. No; but the same divine nature, or essence, is common to all the three glorious persons, 1 John 5:7, — “These three are one;” not only united in will and affection, but in one and the same common nature, or essence: it being the transcendent and incommunicable property of the divine nature, to reside in more persons than one. ‘Modes’ is a dangerous word in discussing this doctrine. cf modalistic monarchianism. (vs Dynamic: Jesus was just a man and the Holy Spirit a mere divine influence)
Q. 11. What was the heresy of the Sabellians, and Tritheists, in opposition to this fundamental doctrine of the Trinity?
A. The Sabellians maintained that there is but one person in the Trinity under three different names; the Tritheists, that the three persons are three Gods.
Q. 12. Is the word Person, as applied to this mystery, made use of in scripture?
A. Yes; for the Son is said to be the “express image of the Father’s person,” Heb. 1:3.
Q. 13. How do you prove that there are three persons in the Godhead?

A. From the institution of baptism, Matt. 28:19; from the apostolical blessing, 2 Cor. 13:14; from John’s salutation to the seven churches, Rev. 1:4, 5; and from the baptism of Christ, Matt. 3:16, 17; where the Father is manifested by a voice from heaven; the Son, by his bodily appearance on earth; and the Holy Ghost, by his lighting on him in the shape of a dove.

Q. 14. How is it farther evident that they are three distinct persons?

A. From the distinct capacities in which they are represented to act; for, in the work of redemption, we find in scripture, the Father “ordaining,” the Son “purchasing,” and the Holy Ghost “applying it,” 1 Pet. 1:2. Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus.

Q. 15. How are the persons in the Godhead distinguished from each other?
A. By their personal properties, which are incommunicable to each other.

Q. 16. What is the personal property of the Father?

A. To beget the Son, and that from all eternity, Psalm 2:7.

Q. 17. What is the personal property of the Son?

A. To be eternally begotten of the Father, John 1:14, — “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.”

Q. 18. What is the personal property of the Holy Ghost?

A. To proceed eternally from the Father and the Son, John 15:26 — “When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.”

Q. 19. How does it appear that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son, as well as from the Father, when it is not expressly affirmed that he does so, in the above text?
A. Because he is called “the Spirit of the Son,” Gal. 4:6 — “the Spirit of Christ,” Rom. 8:9; the Spirit is said to receive all things from Christ, John 16:14, 15; to be sent by him, John 15:26; and the Father is said to send him in Christ’s name, John 14:26; from all which, it may be safely gathered, that he proceeds from the Son, as well as from the Father.
Q. 20. What is the difference between a personal and an essential property?
A. A personal property is peculiar to one of the persons only, but an essential property is common to them all.
Q. 21. Why are the personal properties called incommunicable?
A. Because each of them is so proper to one of the persons in the Trinity, that it cannot be affirmed of any of the other two.
Q. 22. Is it the divine essence that begets, is begotten, or proceeds?
A. No; for these are not essential, but personal acts. It is the Father who begets the Son; the Son who is begotten of the Father; and the Holy Ghost, who proceeds from both.
Q. 23. Are the terms necessary existence, supreme Deity, and the title of the only true God, essential or personal properties?
A. They are essential properties of the divine nature, and so common to all the persons of the adorable Trinity, who have all the same essence, wholly, equally, and eternally.
Q. 24. May the above terms be taken, or are they, by sound authors, taken in a sense that includes the personal property of the Father, and so not belonging to the Son and Holy Ghost?
A. They may not be, and never are, by sound authors, taken in that sense; for this would be to make the Son and Holy Ghost inferior to, and dependent upon, the Father, for being or existence, which is the very soul of Arianism.
Q. 25. Does not the Father, being called the first; the Son, the second; and the Holy Ghost, the third person in the Godhead, imply an inequality, or preference of one person to another?
A. These are only terms of mere order, and imply no preference or priority, either of nature, excellency, or duration; and therefore we find in scripture, that sometimes the Son is named before the Father, as in 2 Cor. 13:14, Gal. 1:1; and sometimes the Spirit before the Son, as in Rev. 1:4, 5.
Q. 26. Is not each of these glorious persons truly and properly God?
A. Each of these persons is God, in the true and proper sense of the word; though none of them can be called the Deity, exclusively of the rest, in regard the Deity, being the same with the divine nature, or essence, is common to them all.
Q. 27. But does not our Lord say, that the Father is the “only true God,” John 17:3 — “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God?”
A. Our Lord does not say, that the Father only, is the true God, exclusive of the other persons of the Trinity; but that He is the only true God (as each of the other persons is) in opposition to idols, or gods falsely so called.
Q. 28. How does it appear that the Father is God?
A. From his being expressly so called every where in scripture: particularly, 1 Cor. 8:6; and 15:24; Gal. 1:1, 3, &c.

Q. 30. How does it appear from scripture, that Christ, the Son, is truly and properly the supreme God, equal with the Father?
A. From the same names, attributes, works, and worship being ascribed to him in scripture as are ascribed to the Father, and in as full and ample a sense.[16]
Q. 31. What are the names ascribed to Christ, that prove him to be equal with the Father?
A. He is expressly called “God,” John 1:1 — “the great God,” Tit. 2:13 — “the mighty God,” Isa. 9:6 — “the true God,” 1 John 5:20 — “the only wise God,” Jude ver. 25; and JEHOVAH, which is a name never ascribed to any, in scripture, but the living and true God, Jer. 23:6; Psalm 83:18.
Q. 32. What are the divine attributes ascribed to Christ, that prove him to be the supreme God?
A. Eternity, in the strict and proper sense of the word, Mic. 5:2; unchangeableness, Heb. 13:8; omniscience, John 21:17; omnipotence, for he calls himself “the Almighty,” Rev. 1:8; omnipresence; “Lo,” says he, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” Matt. 28:20; and supremacy, Rom. 9:5.
Q. 33. What are those works which manifest Christ to be the true God?
A. The creating and preserving of all things, Col. 1:16, 17; the obtaining eternal redemption for us, Heb. 9:12:the working of miracles by his own power, Mark 5:41; the forgiving of sins, Mark 2:5; the raising of the dead at the last day, John 5:28, 29; and his judging the world, Rom. 14:10.
Q. 34. What is that worship ascribed to Christ which proves him to be the supreme God?
A. The same divine worship and adoration that is given to the Father, John 5:23; we are commanded to believe in him equally with the Father, John 14:1; and we are baptised in his name, as well as in the name of the Father, Matt. 28:19.
Q. 35. In what sense does Christ say, John 14:28 — “My Father is greater than I?”
A. He does not speak in that place of his nature, as God, but of his office, as Mediator; in which respect he is the Father’s servant, Isa. 42:1.
Q. 36. How do you prove the supreme Deity of the Holy Ghost?
A. From the same arguments, by which the Deity of the Son was proved; for, (1.) He is expressly called God, Acts 5:3, 4. (2.) Attributes, which are peculiar only to God, are ascribed to him, Heb. 9:14; 1 Cor. 2:10; Luke 2:26; Psalm 139:7. (3.) Works which can be accomplished by none but God, are performed by him, Psalm 33:6; Job 26:13; Luke 1:35; 2 Pet. 1:21; John 16:13; Rom. 15:16. (4.) The same divine worship is paid to him, as to the Father and the Son, Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14.

Propitiation 2

Propitiation part 2
The apostolic preaching of the cross is more extensive. Problem in making the term simple. Many technical words in various spheres. Not many examples of this word
Expiation is making wrongs right – Expiation of a single or crime. Impersonal process to nullify the effect of sin. Nothing there about the wrath of God. God is removed from the equation. With propitiation God is angry with sin and that anger must be dealt with.
Wrath in the old testament. God is love, so the wrath is just affected by that of the heathen around them. People reject the concept of God condemning sinners to hell. Wrath is just a case of cause and effect. Disaster follows sin. Where is the holiness of God?!
OT prophets saw God as personal and punishment effected it personally. John Owen’s definition is helpful.
As for the septuagint, we cannot do justice to the person of God as loving but also implacibly opposed to sin, the sin which destroys us. Love and anger are not in opposition to each other. The world view of sin is only against love divine. Sin opposes any higher view of love. God wants us to be saved from the consequences and power of sin. God is angry, as a parent is angry with an erring child doing something harmful to themselves even in the face of clear instruction. 10 commandments. Gal 5:13
Sin is personal. We must keep short accounts with God. The more godly our fathers were the more aware of their sin. (Will this endure in heaven?) How seriously do we take sin? Consequences will ensue. Psalm 51: sin is against God primarily and he will be angry. Judgement upon us today.
Setting oneself apart for God, not just apart from the world.