Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My Lord and My God: Introducing the Trinity

When the disciples of Jesus gathered after witnessing the resurrected Christ, Thomas was doubtful. "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe" (John 20:25). He soon got the proof he needed:

Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." (John 20:27-29)

When Thomas responded to Jesus' invitation to touch His wounds, he exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" He didn't merely express shock in the way we today might say, "Oh my God!" No, he "answered" him. The word rendered "answered" is the Greek apokrinomai, and means "to give an answer." Thomas was specifically addressing Jesus and was calling Him his Lord and his God. And far from admonishing Thomas for improperly identifying Him as God, Jesus commends him for it, but assures a greater blessing for those who, like us today, have believed without seeing.

In his commentary on this passage, Matthew Henry wrote,

He therefore believed him to be Lord and God, and we are to believe him so. [1.] We must believe his deity—that he is God; not a man made God, but God made man, as this evangelist had laid down his thesis at first, ch. 1:1...He consented to him as his Lord and his God. In faith there must be the consent of the will to gospel terms, as well as the assent of the understanding to gospel truths. We must accept of Christ to be that to us which the Father hath appointed him. My Lord refers to Adonai—my foundation and stay; my God to Elohim—my prince and judge...He says it to Christ, and, to complete the sense, we must read it, Thou art my Lord and my God; or, speaking to his brethren, This is my Lord and my God. Do we accept of Christ as our Lord God? We must go to him, and tell him so...

Indeed. As Christians we MUST accept that Jesus is God incarnate. This is why the council of Nicea in the early 4th century, responding to the heresy of Arianism, agreed to what had been the accepted teaching amongst the churches since the time of Christ:

We believe in One God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only begotten, that is of the substance of the Father. God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten and not made; Himself of the nature of the Father, by whom all things came into being in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.


Yet, Scripture clearly teaches also that Jesus' Father is God, and Jesus is not His Father. How do we reconcile this with the equally clear teaching from Scripture that there is only one God? Though it took a few centuries to fully develop the concept, the Church has historically taught the doctrine of the Trinity. Based on St. Athanasius' On the Trinity, published in the early 5th century, the Athanasian Creed declares,

the Catholic [i.e. "universal"] Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal.

What this means is this:

1. There is one and only one God
2. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God
3. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are eternally distinct and interpersonally relate to one another

Though difficult to comprehend, this is nonetheless what Scripture teaches, and what the Church has taught for nearly 2,000 years. In this series, "My Lord and My God," we will discuss this doctrine in detail, demonstrating it from the Bible, refuting its critics.

1 comment:

  1. Is there anything one can say when you press this verse hard and the unitarian says (and I'm not quoting but you understand) 'well he's a God/judge and that is what this means' 'he is divine just not the almighty'.

    They kind-of turn into henotheists at this point. Any suggestions?