The Triune God
February 6th, 1974 @ 7:30 PM
THE TRIUNE GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-6-74 7:30 p.m.
Out of all of the doctrines we shall ever study, there will be none so pivotal as this one. The title of the lecture tonight is The Triune God. If you have your white book, let us read together the second article on God. And if you can share your book with neighbors, maybe most of us will be able to read it out loud together. Now everybody looking on with a friend, everybody reading out loud together, the second article on God. Now together:
There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.
Now let’s read together “God the Father.” Now together:
God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all powerful, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.
Now let us read the article of our confessed faith on “God the Son.” Now together:
Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ, He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God taking upon Himself the demands and necessities of human nature and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, partaking of the nature of God and of man, and in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.
Now the article, the confession on “God the Holy Spirit,” together:
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. Through illumination He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. He calls men to the Savior, and effects regeneration. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the assurance of God to bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service.
Now the lesson prepared by the pastor.
God has three names: the one true God has three names. Many of us have three names. We are one somebody, but we have three names. The Lord be pitiful to me but I have three names: Wally Amos Criswell. No wonder they call me W. A. I have three names, but I am one somebody. So God has three names, but God is one somebody. In the Great Commission in Matthew [Matthew 28:19], do you notice the name is singular? “Baptizing them in the name of”; so the name of God is the Father Jehovah; the Son Jesus; and the Spirit of holiness, the Holy Spirit. God has three names, but they all refer to the one living God.
Now in the Scriptures “the Father” is a name of God. In John 6:27, we read, “Him hath God the Father sealed. Him hath God the Father.” The Father is a name of God. In 1 Peter 1:2 we are told that “We are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” So, “the Father” is a name of God.
Second: “Jesus” is a name of God. In John 1:1, “And the Word was God.” In John 20:28 is the great confession of doubting Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus is a name of God, “My Lord and my God,” talking about Jesus. In Titus 2:13, there is a distinct, and direct, and studied, and definite declaration of Christ’s deity. Titus 2:13, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.”
God’s name is Jesus Christ. This is a very studied declaration concerning the deity of our Lord. “Looking for that blessed hope,” the coming again of Christ, “and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” [Titus 2:13]. “Jesus” is a name of God.
In Hebrews 1:8, there is a quotation out of the Old Testament [Psalm 45:6], and it is addressed to the Son, in which quotation He is called God: “But unto the Son,” this is Hebrews 1:8, “but unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” Addressing Jesus, the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures says, “Thy Son, O God, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.”
In Colossians 2:9, the apostle Paul by inspiration wrote, “For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Whatever the fullness of God is, that fullness bodily resided, lived, moved, had its being in Jesus Christ. In Philippians 2:6, the apostle says by inspiration that, “Our Lord Jesus, being in the form of God,” whatever the morphos, the form of God is, that is what Jesus was; “and He took upon Him, He emptied Himself out and took upon Him the morphos, the form of a man” [Philippians 2:7].
But Jesus was in the form of God. And in the King James Version it is translated, “He thought it not robbery to be equal with God” [Philippians 2:6]. What it actually says, translated in our own words and more clearly, “Jesus looked upon it as not a thing to be grasped, to be held onto, to be equal with God, but poured Himself out, emptied Himself, and became a man” [Philippians 2:7].
Now one of the most remarkable passages in the Bible is [John 12:41]. In the Old Testament, the Lord’s personal name is Jehovah [Exodus 3:14]. And I told you where that word came from. They took the consonants of Yahweh, and put with it the vowels, the Masoretic vowel text of Adonai, Lord, and it came out Jehovah. That’s a manufactured word, there never was any such word as “Jehovah.”
But the American Revised Version did a smart thing and a fine thing. In teaching us the personality, the individuality of God, by giving Him a name, which is exactly what the Holy Scriptures do; and whenever you see “LORD” in the Old Testament spelled with capital letters, in the Hebrew that is Yahweh, that’s Jehovah, that Is His personal name.
“When I go down into Egypt,” said Moses, “and they ask me, Who is this God that sent you to deliver us? What is His name?” “You tell them that My name is Jehovah” [Exodus 3:13-15]. I have a personal name, just like Dr. Eddleman has a personal name, and Sarah has a personal name, and Mary has a personal name, and Jubal—if I had that personal name I’d change it like mine! But he’s got a personal name. Avon on the River has a personal name. God has a personal name: “My name is Jehovah” [Exodus 3:14].
Now in the New Testament, Jehovah of the Old Testament is called Jesus, the same person. And that’s why I say John 12:41 is one of the most remarkable verses in the Bible. In John 12:40, the sainted disciple quotes a passage out of the sixth chapter of Isaiah. John chapter 12:40 quotes Isaiah 6:10. Then John says, look at it, “These things said Isaiah, when he saw His glory, and spoke of Him” [John 12:41]. Do you remember how the sixth chapter of Isaiah begins? “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord, Jehovah, high and lifted up [Isaiah 6:1]. The whole world was full of His glory. And the seraphim cried one to another, Holy, holy, holy!” [Isaiah 6:2-3].
Now the apostle John says Isaiah saw Jesus [John 12:41]. In the Old Testament His name was Jehovah. They knew Him by Jehovah [Exodus 3:14]. In the New Testament we know that same person as Jesus. He is the same person [John 1:1, 20:28; Titus 2:13]. The Lord of the Old Testament, in the King James Version––and that’s not a bad thing, our people surely have been taught a right spirit, and a right truth, and a right reverential attitude––when you read the word “Lord” in the Old Testament, you’ll see the word “Lord” in the New Testament. Or, using the words of the name, “Jehovah” of the Old Testament, “Jesus” of the New Testament, they are the same. The name of God is Jesus [John 1:1, 20:28; Titus 2:13].
Jesus’ name is associated with the name of God on an equal footing; Matthew 28:19, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And in these apostolic benedictions you will find the name of Jesus on the same level, on an equal footing, with the name of God the Father. First Corinthians 1:3, “Grace and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ,” or, 2 Corinthians 13:14, the benediction that you’ve heard all of your life, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.”
In John 5:23, the apostle writes that, “All men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.” The same deferential reverence that you offer before God the Father is also to be offered before God the Son. In John 14:1, the Lord pleads, “You believe in God.” We do. We’re not atheists. “You believe in God, believe also in Me.”
In 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, there are the two names, God the Father and God the Son, and there is one singular verb. In 2 Thessalonians 2:16, “Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father,” now look at the singular verb, “who hath loved us, who hath,” singular, “who has loved us, and,” singular, “has given us everlasting consolation.” They are one. It’s hard to make our grammar and our language bear the truth of it. They are, He is, one.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God even our Father, who has loved us,” singular verb, “and has given us everlasting consolation” [2 Thessalonians 2:16]. They are one, and they are the same. They are known to us as two different distinctive persons. In His incarnation [John 1:14], in some way, Jesus’ deity was limited, humbled by His earthly life. He was in the form of God, and emptied Himself, and became in the form of a man [Philippians 2:6-7]. But He is still deity. He is still God.
So, “the Father” is the name of God [John 6:27; 1 Peter 1:2], and “the Son” is the name of God [John 1:1, 20:28; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; Colossians 2:9; Philippians 2:6], and “the Holy Spirit” is the name of God. In Acts 5:3-4, the apostle Peter says to Ananias, “You have lied to the Holy Spirit,” and then in the next verse, verse 4, he says, “You have lied unto God.”
When Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, “What made you lie to the Holy Spirit?” [Acts 5:3]. And then the next verse, “You have lied unto God” [Acts 5:4]. In 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. You are the temple of God, and God dwelleth in you, the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.” The Holy Spirit is called God.
In 1 Corinthians 12:4-6––you have a whole lot here in the Bible of the Trinity, that we don’t usually think of as the Trinity––in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, look at what the apostle writes, “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” Now there is the same Spirit, there is the same Lord Christ, and there is the same God; God the Father, God the Son our Savior, and God the Holy Spirit. There is the Trinity; and they all are God.
You’ll find that Trinity again in 1 Peter, in 1 Peter chapter 1 and verse 2. First Peter chapter 1:2, “We are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, God the Father”; second, “through sanctification of the Spirit, God the Spirit”; and third, “unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” [1 Peter 1:2]: the foreknowledge of God, the sanctification of the Spirit, and the blood of Jesus.
He is a person. The Holy Spirit is a person, such as Jesus is, such as God the Father is. The neuter gender in Romans 8:27, “And the Holy Spirit itself maketh intercession for us according to the will of God.” That is grammatical gender, and we do not use grammatical gender in the English language. And the translation of that is a tragedy! Isn’t it a shame that the King James Version, as great as it is, doubtless the greatest version translation of the Bible that was ever made, isn’t it a tragedy that here and there are some of the grossest, grossest errors? And that is one of the grossest.
There are languages that have grammatical gender. To us in the English language, we call gender exactly what it is. There is a masculine gender. There is a feminine gender, and there is a neuter gender. And in the English language we refer to everything according to the gender. If it is a male, it is always a he. If it is a female, it is always a she. If it is neither male nor female, like the desk here, it is an “it.” It is here on the pulpit, the desk. He is standing here speaking; that’s the pastor, he is a male member of the species Homo sapiens. And I am looking down at Sarah, and she’s a woman; it’s a she. Now in the English language we speak like that.
But some of the great languages of the world do not follow actual gender. They use grammatical gender. German is one of those languages. For example, das Mädchen; you know what gender that is? Das Mädchen, the girl, the maid. Did you know “girl” in German is neuter? Now to us that is inane, it is just funny, it’s just laughable, but that’s the way the language is built.
Now Greek also has grammatical gender, just like German does. And in that passage there they translated it exactly as it is in the Greek, but the translation is because of the construction of the language. And when they translated it, they should not have translated it Greek. They should have translated it English.
And when you translate it English, then it becomes as you have in the next verse, Romans, Romans 8, then in 26, in Romans 8:26, “The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities… but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Now that’s grammatical gender. But in the next verse, you know exactly what actually the apostle is writing, “And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He,” now that’s correct, “He the Spirit, He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” [Romans 8:27].
When anybody refers to the Holy Spirit as an “it,” that is terrible! “You ought to refer to God the Father as an ‘it,’ or you ought to refer to God the Son as an ‘it.’” You would not think of referring to God the Father as an “it,” nor would you think of referring to God the Son as an “it.” Well, neither should you ever, ever refer to God the Holy Spirit as an “it.” There is no such thing in the revealed Word of the Lord. That grammatical gender has made us to stumble.
The Holy Spirit has all the characteristics of a person. He searches [1 Corinthians 2:10]. He knows [1 Corinthians 2:11]. He speaks [John 16:13]. He testifies [Romans 8:16]. He reveals [1 Corinthians 2:10]. He convicts [John 16:8]. He convinces [Romans 8:14]. He commands [Acts 16:6]. He strives [Genesis 6:3]. He makes intercession [Romans 8:26]. He performs miracles [Matthew 12:28]. He is affected as persons are. He is affected as we are. He can be resisted [Acts 7:51]. He can be grieved [Ephesians 4:30]. He can be vexed [Isaiah 63:10]. He can be blasphemed [Mark 3:28].
For example, in Isaiah 63:10 the children of Israel vexed the Holy Spirit. In Acts 7:51, Stephen talking to the people of Israel says, “Ye do always resist the Holy Spirit.” In Ephesians 4:30, the apostle Paul writes to us, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit.” And in Romans 15:30, Paul speaks, “For the love of the Spirit.” So the Holy Spirit is somebody; never an “it.”
And He is distinct from the Father and from the Son. He is as distinct as the Father is distinct, as the Son is distinct. So the Holy Spirit is distinct. When Jesus was baptized, you have all three of the distinctions in the Godhead present. You have the Son of God being baptized, you have the Holy Spirit of God coming down in the form of a dove and lighting upon Him, and you have the voice of the Father from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” [Matthew 3:16-17].
So to repeat, God has three names. He is the Father. That’s one of His names, Jehovah [John 6:27; 1 Peter 1:2]. He is the Son, Iēsous, Savior, Jesus. That’s one of His names [John 1:1, 20:28; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; Colossians 2:9; Philippians 2:6]. And the Holy Spirit is another of His names [Acts 5:3-4; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; 1 Peter 1:2; Romans 8:26-27]. There are three distinctions in the Godhead, and there are three names to characterize the one and true and living God.
All right, the second great heading under which we are discussing this: God is revealed to us as triune. The first big heading was we know God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three names. Now God is revealed to us as triune. In the nature of God there are three eternal distinctions, all of them equal. There are intimations of that in the Old Testament.
Where was I? Oh, Dr. Tom McCall, speaking to our Jewish fellowship meeting last night, pointed out to us that when we read Genesis, Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” And the word for “God” is plural. Elohim —plural, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” [Genesis 1:1], and then in Genesis 1:26, “Let Us make man in Our image,” plural. In Exodus 23:20-23, there is the Angel of Jehovah, capital “A,” “the Angel of Jehovah, in whom is the name of God. See that you obey Him.”
Who is that Angel of God? You’ll see that Angel of God appearing all through the Old Testament Scriptures, and He is God, that Angel of God. In Joshua 5:13-15 there is a Christophany. “As the Lord of hosts am I come. And Joshua bowed before Him.” And that visitor said, “Take off the shoes from your feet; for the place where you stand is holy ground” [Joshua 5:14-115].
I’ve kind of heard that before, haven’t you? When the great I Am [Exodus 3:14] spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, He said to him, “Take off your shoes, for the place where you stand is holy ground” [Exodus 3:5]. This infinite personage, this Christophany, this appearance of Christ before His incarnation, who appeared to Joshua, was the Lord Jehovah Jesus God. And Joshua bowed down and worshiped [Joshua 5:14].
Now, that intimation of the tri-distinction in God that we find in the Old Testament is clearly and formally presented in the New Testament. Now this is not tritheism. I don’t know how many people actually think––and I mean people in our church that I’ve talked to, and they’re wonderful people, they’re good people, they’ve gone to church all their lives, they’ve been listening to me preach for thirty years––yet they think that they’re going to see three Gods in heaven. When they get to heaven they’re going to see God the Father, one; God the Son, two; and God the Holy Spirit, three. That is tritheism, and there’s no difference in being a tritheist and being a polytheist.
If you believe in three distinct separate Gods, then you might as well believe in five or fifty or five hundred. There is one God. There are not three Gods. There are three distinctions in the one essence. There is one God with three distinctions in the same essence.
I don’t like to use the word “person.” The reason I don’t like to use the word “person” is because it gives us a wrong idea. It is not in the Bible, and it was a term coined by Tertullian, the great Latin apologist of the Church, the greatest Latin apologist that the Church has ever produced. There’s none like him. He was a lawyer in Carthage, North Africa, and he fought the polytheists. And he presented the great doctrine of Jesus Christ, and he invented the word “person” to refer to the Godhead. But that was more than two hundred years after Jesus. The word “person” is not used in the Bible to refer to God, nor is “the Trinity” used in the Bible to refer to God.
It is the weakness of language, being unable to bear the weight of the revelation that makes us use words like “person.” For when we use the word “person” immediately there comes to my mind, “This is a person, and that is a person, and that is a person.” So when you get to heaven you think you’re going to see three persons, that one, that one, and that one, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
You are not going to see three Gods in heaven. The word “Trinity” is an attempt to sum up four great facts of the Scriptures. One: God the Father is God. Two: the Son is God. Three: the Holy Spirit is God. Four: but there is one God. And the attempt to sum that up is where we get the word Trinity.
There are three equal distinctions in the substance of God. In my reading, I came across this––which is fine––“The Father is life transcendent above all, the transcendent God; the Son is life immanent, through all; and the Holy Spirit is life individualized, in us all” which is a very fine thing to say.
Now I want to tell you what I think. You are not going to see three Gods in heaven. If you believe that, you just might as well be a polytheist. You might as well believe in five, or fifty, or five thousand. It’d all be the same. You have departed from the great monotheistic revelation of the true God in the Bible. When you get to heaven, the only God you will ever see is Jesus Christ, God. The only God you will ever feel is the Holy Spirit, God. And the only God that there is, is God God, God the Father God.
And when you read, “Seated on the right hand of God” [Colossians 3:1], that is language trying to describe the exaltation of Jesus Christ. And when you have places in the Bible where it seems to be that there will be God seated on the throne, and the Son of God to His right hand, and there are two different persons up there [Acts 7:55], that is the weakness of language. The revelation is trying to convey to us a great spiritual truth regarding the exaltation of Christ. But there is no such thing as three Gods. There is one God, and when we get to glory the only God we’ll ever see is God manifest; that is, Jesus Christ.
“In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was pros ton theon, face to face, equal with God; and the Logos was God” [John 1:1]. John uses a metaphysical, philosophical word there that was used by Philo, “the active God, the revealed God, the God of movement and reason and revelation”; and that God is named Jesus. “And the Word became flesh”; the God that moves and lives became flesh, “and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten” Son of God, Word of God [John 1:14].
God manifests Himself in three characters; neither encroaching on the other, neither antagonistic to the other, but each one distinct and individual. It is a revelation that we cannot comprehend by intellectual processes. They are one in the purposes of redemption. Everything in the Bible is subordinate to the story of redemption. The loving, compassionate Father; the humble, gracious, pitiful, suffering Jesus; and the illuminating, comforting, renewing Spirit [John 14:16, 16:13; Titus 3:5]: the whole Bible is nothing but the story of redemption, and in that story God is revealed to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19].
Now I come to the third great heading under which I am discussing this. We know in human experience God as triune: as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is a caricature that archaeologists discovered. There was a caricature scratched on the wall of the Palatine palace in Rome. It represents a human figure with an ass’s head hanging on a cross, while a man stands before it in the attitude of worship. And underneath the effigy is this ill-spelled inscription: “Alexamenos adores his god.”
That was, of course, some Roman who was making fun of a Christian, who’s bowed down before the Lord of the cross. We know God as triune in our experience. We bow in prayer before God the Father, and we pray to Him, and it seems right in our hearts. We bow in prayer before God the Son. We pray to Him, and it seems right in our hearts. We bow in prayer before God the Holy Spirit. We pray to Him, and it seems right in our hearts.
Now I did this one time in a sermon, but I’m going to do it again, and I want you to see how perfectly, perfectly appropriate it is: I’m going to bow, and I’m going to pray to each one of those three persons in order, one, two, three. All right, I’m going to bow and pray.
Our Father, the God of all mercy, bless us according to the riches of Thy grace in glory. In Thy dear and blessed name, O God, amen.
Didn’t you think that was all right? Was there in anything in your heart that said, “Now the pastor is not correct in that address, or in that prayer.”? All right, I’m going to pray now to God the Son, and you watch it, you feel it in your heart as I pray.
O blessed Lord Jesus, for Thy love that came down from heaven and poured itself out on the cross for us, for the redemption that brings us close to the holy throne of heaven itself, O blessed Jesus, how much we are indebted to Thee, and how much we love Thee. O precious Lord, may we grow to be more like Thee and serve Thee better all the days of our lives. Humbly we ask in Thy dear and precious name, amen.
Did you find anything in your heart that said, “Now the pastor’s not correct in that. He didn’t address that prayer right. That’s not good what he said”? Why no. When I pray to the blessed Lord, you felt in your heart, “That’s right, pastor, amen. God grant it.” Now I have one other. God is also Holy Spirit, so I’m going to kneel, I’m going to bow before God the Holy Spirit, and I’m going to pray.
Holy Spirit of heaven, dwell in our hearts richly by faith. O Spirit of God, Holy Spirit of Jesus, permeate every part of this service, and bless this church, and may the fullness of Thy glory and wisdom be given to our people. O Spirit of God, convict the lost, woo and draw them to the Savior, and give me holy unction as I preach and as I try to mediate the truth and the revelation of that blessed Book. O Spirit of God, be with us in grace, in power; and God be praised through Thee, world without end, amen.
Did you feel that the pastor was theologically wrong in beseeching the presence, and the blessing, and the grace, and the convicting, saving, wooing of the Holy Spirit? Why no. In our experience we see that and know that. We know God experientially, empirically, as our Father. We know Him as our Savior. We know Him as the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
The being of God is a mystery. The Trinity is a mystery. We are finite, and we cannot comprehend the infinite. For example, in Job chapter 11 there is an unusual passage, Job 11:7-9:
Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?
It is as high as heaven, the knowledge of God, it is high as heaven; what canst thou do? It is deeper than hell; what canst thou know?
The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.
No man’s mind can comprehend the infinite infinitude of Almighty God.
But there is no greater mystery than your own triune personality. I say we cannot understand God. It is a mystery [Isaiah 55:8-9]. We cannot enter into it. Nor can we understand the mystery of you. You yourself are a triune personality. Paul will refer to the somatikos man, that is the “body man,” the man that you see standing before you. I am a somatikos man [1 Corinthians 3:13]. Paul will refer to the psuchikos man, that is the man that can think. He has life. He can think [1 Corinthians 2:14]. But Paul also refers to the pneumatikos man, the man of the spirit, the man that can know God [1 Corinthians 2:15].
Now an animal––well, let’s take it lower than that––all of the living will share in the somatikos creation. A tree has life. It has cells. It has nuclei. It has cytoplasm, nuclear wall, everything. There are some places where it’s hard to distinguish between a vegetable and an animal; the somatikos, the body, somatikos, the somatikos creation.
All right, then the psuchikos, we share that with an animal. A dog, a horse, can think, can love, can be faithful and true, can literally give its life for the one it’s devoted to. It can reason. It’s just amazing sometimes how animals can be smart and shrewd in what they do. And we could illustrate that world without end. That’s the psuchikos man.
But there is another personality on the inside of a human being. What a tree cannot do, what no animal can do, a man can do. He can think God’s thoughts. He has a moral equation built on the inside of him. He can love God, and worship God, and think God’s thoughts [1 Corinthians 2:15].
Now there’s nobody in the earth that can understand that. How can spirit––and surely there’s something to a man beside the somatikos, the body [1 Corinthians 3:1-3]. I have looked at a man and he is alive, I have watched him die and he’s still there, every organ in his body is right there. His face, his brain, all of the processes of life, they’re there, but something has happened. His spirit is gone.
How does spirit use body? You don’t know. Nobody knows. And there’s nobody in this earth that can tell you what death is. They do not know. What has happened, nobody knows. Spirit using body, expressing itself through body, is a mystery. And nobody can enter into it. And the mystery of God is just no more of a mystery than the mystery of you.
Now I have a little moralizing here. The acceptance of this mystery of God is a solution to a multitude of mysteries. Things are explicable only on the basis of the revealed Trinity of God. And when you turn aside from that revelation of God—when you expel God in His tri-personality—and I don’t like to use that word “personality” in His tri-distinctiveness—when you expel Him from your faith, when you thrust Him back into remoteness and vagueness of human speculation [1 Corinthians 3:19], you know what you do? You consign yourself to live in a dim, unlit, unknown, undiscoverable, meaningless limbo, and to fail ultimately in the purpose of life and living.
If a man will accept the revelation of God in the Bible, there are ten thousand mysteries that are explicable to him. But if a man draws back in unbelief from that revelation of God, he falls into a veritable ocean of emptiness, and sterility, and purposelessness, and meaninglessness. The whole world becomes dark, and vacant, and void to the man that refuses to accept by faith the holy revelation of the mystery of God [John 3:19].
Now our time is gone and I will hurry through this last. I have a fourth heading. I don’t know where the time goes. It seems to me we just get started and the hour’s gone––the fourth; the acceptance and the worship of the true God.
One: He is personal. He has a personal name, Jehovah Jesus [Philippians 2:6-8]. He is not an insensate figure. He is not the sum of all the forces in nature and in the universe. He is not a first great cause. We’re not pantheists. God is separate from the universe He created, just like a watchmaker is separate from the watch that he made. Here is the watchmaker and there is the watch. They are two different things. So God who created the universe is different from the universe that He made. God is not the world.
Second: He is not only personal, second, He is eternal. He always was, He always will, is, and always shall be. When Moses was sent down to Egypt to tell them the name of God, “Yahweh, I Am That I Am, I shall be what I shall be” [Exodus 3:13-14]. It refers to the eternity of God. There was a time when there was no sun, moon, earth, and stars, but there never was a time when there was not God. That belongs to the mystery of His being, eternity.
He is not only personal, He is not only eternal, but He is a living Spirit. God is not material. John 4:24, “God is Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” He is not a being. God is not a being of flesh, and color, and shape such as a horse, or dog, or a bird, but God is Spirit and He is independent of all space. All of God can be with a man over there in Asia, and all of God can be with a man over there in South America, and all of God can be with a man in Africa, all of Him; and all of Him can be there at the same time.
All of God can be with a Hottentot in Africa. All of God can be with an aborigine in Australia. All of God can be with a Chinese man in China, and all of God can be with me right here tonight. He is not limited by space or time. He is spirit. He is not material. And it was because of that that He became a man; that we could touch Him, and see Him, and love Him, and talk to Him by name; revealed to us in the loving personality and human form of Jesus Christ [Colossians 2:9].
Now He loves us and He cares for us. He not only is personal, He is not only eternal, He is not only a living Spirit, but God loves us and cares for us. The whole purpose of the biblical story of redemption is that; that God is not untouched by our sorrows and our infirmities, but His characteristics are lovingkindness and plenteous in mercy [Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4].
I one time heard of a homiletical teacher who took that verse in Genesis 3:9, after Adam sinned and he hid himself [Genesis 3:1-8], “and God came in the evening to talk to the man that He made, and He could not find him.” Isn’t that terrible? Isn’t that unthinkable that such a thing could have happened? He wanted to visit, as He had aforetime, as His custom was [Genesis 3:8], He wanted to visit with the man that He made. He made him for that; to talk to him, and to visit with him, and to love him; and they think their thoughts together. Sun couldn’t do that, an ocean couldn’t do that, a mountain range couldn’t do that, but the man could. So the Lord came to visit him, and He couldn’t find him.
So He lifted up His voice and He said, “Adam, Adam, where art thou?” [Genesis 3:9]. Now, the homiletics teacher took that and he had each one of his members, each one of his theologues, each one of his boys in the class to read it. And one boy read it, and another boy read it, and another boy read it, another boy read it, another boy read it. Then there was a boy, one of the members of the class, and when that boy read it, he read it with great pathos, and sorrow, and tenderness, and seeking in his voice. “Adam, O Adam, where art thou?” [Genesis 3:9].
And the homiletics teacher said, “Son, you, you are going to be a great evangelist”; because he had caught the spirit of the compassionate God. That’s what the Bible is about. God is not untouched with our infirmities, and our heartbreaks, and our sorrows. But He is revealed to us in the humble, and loving, and piteous Jesus [Hebrews 4:14-16].
And last He is not only personal, He is not only eternal, He is not only living, He is not only loving and caring [Deuteronomy 6:13; Matthew 4:10], but He is to be worshiped and adored. I love to make things like that come to pass in our hearts in our church services. I like to see our people come to a great worshipful, reverential bowing before God. Psalm 95:6; “O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” That’s what we are to do.
When men worship inferior things they immediately become degraded and debased; whether that’s an idol such as you see in the land of India, or as it was in the ancient empire, or whether they worship things like money, or prestige, or social success, or whatever they give their hearts and lives to; when men worship inferior things they are debased. And it never fails, they are degraded.
But when men worship the true God, they are elevated and exalted. It has that repercussion in your life; it is an “upness.” There is an upness about the Christian faith that is always present; a lifting up, a looking up. That is the true worship of the true God.
Well, bless you for coming and listening as patiently and as thoughtfully as you do.