This morning we continue our series on the Holy Spirit. Turn with me to John chapter 14. Let’s read John 14:8-21.
There is a deeply profound revelation in this passage.
It begins with a request. Philip says to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father.”
The response is extraordinary. Look at verse 9 – “Have I been with you so long and you still do not know me?”
Do you see it?
We don’t know who is speaking.
Philip says, “Show us the Father” and a voice answers – “Don’t you know me?” Who is speaking? Is it Jesus? Is it the Father? The answer is yes.
Look at verse 10 – “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” “The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”
In other words, Jesus says, “when you hear me, it is the Father speaking, when you see my works, it is the Father working.”
The disciples do not understand it yet, but Jesus has just opened a curtain to reveal the ultimate mystery of the universe.
He is showing them that the source and the center of all existence is an eternal relationship.
In Christian theology we call that eternal relationship the Trinity.
This morning I am going to give a brief explanation of the Trinity which will answer all your questions and resolve two thousand years of confusion.
Then I am going to show you why that matters to your everyday life tomorrow and what you should do about according to John 14.
The trinity is defined as “the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead.”
The word comes from the Latin trinitas which means triad. The earliest English word for trinitas, in Old English was threness or threeness.
The word trinity is not in the Bible. So where do we get the idea from?
It begins with the foundational statement of theology found in the Old Testament, known in the Jewish tradition as the Shema. It’s found in Deuteronomy 6:4 – “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”
There is one God. This is the foundational belief of Judaism and Christianity. We call this monotheism.
There is one God. Yet throughout the Scriptures there is language of plurality in God.
There is plural language used by God in the Old Testament.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.'”
This is repeated in Genesis 3:22 and Genesis 11:7. It’s not limited to Genesis – you can find it in Isaiah 6:8.
There is divine language used to refer to three persons in the New Testament.
The Father is God (John 6:27, Romans 1:7, 1 Peter 1:2)
Romans 1:7 – Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Son is God (John 1:1, Romans 9:5, Hebrews 1:8, 1 John 5:20)
John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
“If Jesus is not God, then there is no Christianity, and we who worship Him are nothing more than idolaters. Conversely, if He is God, those who say He was merely a good man, or even the best of men, are blasphemers. More serious still, if He is not God, then He is a blasphemer in the fullest sense of the word. If He is not God, He is not even good.”
J. Oswald Sanders
“If Jesus Christ is not true God, how could he help us? If he is not true man, how could he help us?”
“The deity of Christ is the key doctrine of the scriptures. Reject it, and the Bible becomes a jumble of words without any unifying theme. Accept it, and the Bible becomes an intelligible and ordered revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ.”
The Spirit is God
But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”
Acts 5:3-4 – 3
There are many verses in the NT which refer to each of these 3 persons with equal significance.
In the Great Commission Jesus gave the church to preach the gospel to the whole world, making disciples and baptizing those who believed, he instructed them to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit . . .”
The apostles invoked the three in their greetings.
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect . . . who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”
1 Peter 1:2
And in their closing benedictions.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”
2 Corinthians 13:14
The work of salvation in a person’s life is described in trinitarian language.
“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
The work of God in building the church is described in trinitarian language.
“4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”
1 Corinthians 12:4-6
“In whom [Jesus] you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
There is continued reference in the 1st century church to these three persons.
“Do we not have one God, and one Christ, and one gracious Spirit that has been poured out upon us, and one calling in Christ?”
Clement, 1st century
“Study, therefore, to be established in the doctrines of the Lord and the apostles, so that everything you do may prosper . . . in the Son, and in the Father, and in the Spirit”
Ignatius, c 110
In the early years of the church, two needs contributed to the formalizing of the doctrine which became known as the trinity.
The first was the need to communicate the God of the Scriptures to the world. The first explainers and defenders of Christian faith, known as apologists, sought to clearly explain the triune nature of God found in the Scriptures.
One of the first was Justin Martyr, who sought to explain that God is one person, yet He has three faces.
The second cause for formalizing doctrine was the need to defend sound doctrine against false teachers. Some taught that the trinity were entirely distinct, a form of polytheism. Some taught a form of monotheism that made Jesus and the Holy Spirit less than God.
The council of Nicea was convened to clarify and establish Christian doctrine. The result was the Nicene Creed. Here is what those early Christians declared about the nature of God:
“We believe in one God, the Father almighty . . .
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God . . .
And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. He proceeds from the Father and the Son, and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.”
One nature, three persons, eternal relationship.
It’s simple and at the same time incredibly difficult. Many people who are considering Christianity find it difficult to make sense of the trinity.
Here’s what you need to remember – the God of the Bible is not an idea to be understood. It is a person to be received.
The person of God transcends the limitations of space and time. Would you be able to accept a God who exists outside of the dimensions of space and time and can be categorized in neat labels and definitions by people whose entire existence is confined to 4 dimensions? If the realities of quantum physics are difficult for the average person to grasp, should we expect the designer of the physical world to be easier to label and define?
God is not an idea to be defined. He is a person to be received.
So what does this mean for me, the triune nature of God?
This is what it means: the ultimate meaning of the universe is love.
If this world was made by a triune God, relationships of love are what life is really all about. -Tim Keller, Jesus the King
There is no truer or profounder explanation of the trinity or of all existence than this:
God is love.
The doctrine of the Trinity means that relationship, that fellowship, that togetherness and sharing, that self-giving and other-centeredness are not afterthoughts with God, but the deepest truth about the being of God. The Father is not consumed with Himself; He loves the Son and the Spirit. And the Son is not riddled with narcissism; he loves his Father and the Spirit. And the Spirit is not preoccupied with himself and his own glory; the Spirit loves the Father and the Son. Giving, not taking; other-centeredness, not self-centeredness; sharing, not hoarding are what fire the rockets of God and lie at the very center of God’s existence as Father, Son and Spirit.
C. Baxter Kruger, Jesus and the Undoing of Adam
The Triune God is in the world, nearer to us than we are to ourselves, yet the world is also encompassed by his loving presence. He does have the whole world in his hands, even while he inhabits the whole world. For Christians, being saved means being caught up into this communion, indwelled by God and indwelling in him, and being opened up so that other people may have room in us and we in them.
Peter Leithart, Traces of the Trinity
God is one essence and three persons. God is the Father eternally communing with the Son. The son eternally communing with the Spirit. The Spirit communing with the Father. Eternal, unbroken love.
What is the meaning of your life? Why did you wake up to find yourself existing in this world?
The source and center of existence is love, you are a product of that love and you are invited into that love.
What does this mean for me?
It means that to know God, to have a relationship with Him and walk with Him (which is what each of us is made for) to have a relationship with God is to relate to all 3 persons.
It’s to know and worship and pray to God the Father.
It’s to know and worship and follow and pray to God the Son.
It’s to know and worship and be filled with and pray to God the Spirit.
It may be that your knowledge of God and your relationship with Him feels empty and shallow because you have in your head a generic and one dimensional concept of God. It may be that you have yet to tap into the richness and the depth of knowing and relating to God as Father, Son and Spirit.
So what do I do?
Let’s turn back to John 14. To know Jesus is to know God the Father. To see Jesus works, to hear his words is to know the Father. The depth of communion between the two is so intertwined that you cannot separate them. And in the background is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the communio, He fills Jesus and provides the relational connection.
In John 14-16, Jesus is explaining the depth of love and relationship in the trinity and preparing us to be swept into that relationship through the Holy Spirit.
There are two reactions Jesus gives us to respond to the trinitarian God in John 14. The first is to believe. You see than in verse 11.
Verses 12-13 show us 3 things we should see in those who believe:
- They will do the works Jesus did.
- They will do greater works than Jesus did.
- They will have powerful prayer lives, asking in Jesus name and receiving what they ask.
These are incredible statements. There are two ways you can interpret them.
The first is to say, let’s take this at face value. Let’s go to the hospital and clear it out with healings. Let’s go downtown and cast out unclean spirits. Let’s go out on the Arkansas river and walk on water. And when we’re done, I’m going to ask God for a Tesla roadster in Jesus name.
I’m not sure that’s the right way to interpret these words.
Another way to interpret them is to say the first interpretation cannot be right. The essence of Jesus work was love. Those who believe will fill the world with acts of love. It is not the degree, but the scope of the believer’s work which will be greater than Jesus’ work. Jesus reached a few, Christians will reach the world with love. Prayer doesn’t change the world, it changes us.
That’s the safe interpretation, but it doesn’t seem right either, does it?
So what do we make of these words? We’re going to get into that in the coming weeks. You’re going to have to come back to get the answer.
The second response to the revelation of the trinity Jesus gives us is love. We see that in verse 15.
How do you know if you love Jesus? Jesus repeats the answer twice.
You will keep his commands.
If you keep his commands, Jesus will do two things.
First verse 16 tells us he will ask the Father and the Father will give you the Holy Spirit.
Verse 21 tells us that God will love you and Jesus will manifest or show himself to you.
How do you know that you love Jesus? You follow his commands. You forgive others. You pray for your enemies. You care for the poor and the oppressed. You are faithful to your spouse. You flee from sexual immorality. You are a faithful servant of the local church. You are devoted to fellowship and you pray for one another, serve one another, forgive one another, encourage one another and bear each other’s burdens.
That’s what it looks like to love Jesus.
When the Holy Spirit comes into a life, he begins to convict us in those places we are not keep the commands of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit convicts of sin and righteousness and judgment. When he does that, it’s as if he leads us to the edge of a cliff. He leads us out from a place of sin and imminent judgment to the edge of a cliff. Many people resist Him as they near that cliff’s edge.
The problem for many of us is that our relationship with God has been hindered by sin and disobedience. We have union with Christ through the finished work of the cross. We have eternal life. But our communion with God is hindered by resistance and by sin.
This is what holds many of us back from the life transformation that we need. What keeps us bound up in the chains of sin and shame and guilt is the mistake of projecting our past into our future.
What do I mean by that?
When we carry sin and guilt and shame in our lives we our connection with God is broken. The Bible calls that spiritual death. We have no real experience of God. He is just a concept in our heads. We hear words like love and grace, but it isn’t real. We don’t walk in peace and freedom and trust because our conscience condemns us of sin, because we have chosen sin over God and we know only the fear of judgment.
If that’s your idea of God, your experience of God and you project that into the future – what does that give you?
Repentance is terrifying, because if you give up your sin you are giving up the only thing that has brought you any measure of relief or pleasure. And as fleeting and tainted as that relief has been, it feels better than the prospect of total and emptiness.
You will have a voice in your ear telling you it’s not worth it. If you believe that you will never experience true repentance. You will always keep sin in your back pocket.
This is the origin of sin in Genesis.
The deceiver said to our first ancestors in the garden, “is God so stingy and cold that he won’t allow you to experience any freedom or pleasure?”
This is what Jesus is addressing in John 14. What will happen if you surrender to the Holy Spirit and to the commands of Jesus?
Here’s what will happen – you will experience the Holy Spirit flowing into your heart. You will experience the love of God and you will experience the reality of Jesus in ways that you could never imagine.
Underneath that cliff of conviction is a deep, vast sea of grace, peace and love.
To obey Jesus is to leap from the cliff of sin into the sea of grace.
You will never make the jump of repentance until you can see the deep, bottomless pool of grace waiting to receive you.
The voice holding you back is the most terrible falsehood in the history of the universe.
It has destroyed countless lives.
The conviction of sin and the call to repentance and confession is the ultimate gift. It is the ultimate sign of affection from God. It is the gateway to a life of fulfilment and contentment and joy.
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown