Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Trinity and Hypostatic Union

Same deal as the essay on Salvation.

The Trinity and The Hypostatic Union (Brief intro on heresy)

The doctrine of the trinity is perhaps one of the most basic and misunderstood doctrines in the Christian church today. I believe it to be this way, because it is so complex. One reason for this is that the word trinity never appears in scripture. However, despite the lack of the term being used I am confident that after seeing what scripture says about God Almighty that no other view can be taken. The second topic that we will be covering today is the Hypostatic Union. This is a critical doctrine of Christ Jesus our Lord that we must understand, not for salvation, but to understand Christ’s roll right now. We will begin with the Trinity; can anyone define what it is? Can you show any Scripture that shows this?

The Trinity is best defined as the doctrine of God that states that He is one, yet has three distinct members, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father is neither the Son nor the Spirit, and the Son is not the Father or the Spirit, and the Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. They are not three Gods as that would be polytheism (meaning many Gods) and they are not three beings.

Let’s briefly examine how many Gods exist in the bible. The verses we will examine are Isaiah 43:10, 44:6.8, 45:5,14,18,21-22, 46:9, 47:8. John 17:3, 1 Corinthians 8:6-8 Deuteronomy 32:9. There is clearly one God. We must accept this, scripture is clear. However scripture discusses three persons as God. John 1:1-2,14 (Jesus); Philippians 1:2 (Father) Acts 5:3-4 (Holy Spirit). There are examples like this where God is shown to be more than one person, and we cannot forget that He is one God.

From Rev. Matt Slick, Brief intro to heresy. - The word "heresy" comes from the Greek hairesis which means "choosing," or "faction." At first, the term heresy did not carry the negative meaning it does now. But, as the early church grew in its scope and influence throughout the Mediterranean area, various teachers proposed controversial ideas about Christ, God, salvation, and other biblical themes. It became necessary for the church to determine what was and was not true according to the Bible. For example, Arius of Alexandar (320 AD) taught that Jesus was a creation. Was this true? Was this important? Other errors arose. […] Out of necessity, the church was forced to deal with these heresies by proclaiming orthodoxy. And in so doing, condemnation upon these heresies and the heretics became a reality.

There are several heresies related to the trinity. We well briefly look over a couple of them. The first and most common heresy that exists in the church today is called Modalism. A modalist would state that God is one person, who has displayed himself in three ways in different times throughout history. When discussing God with a modalist I have used one passage over and over again. I will read the section to you and ask that you pick out why you think this shows Modalism as a heresy. (Matthew 3:13 ff and Acts 7:55.) - Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Mat 3:13-17) Today the main groups of people who subscribe to this view point are the United Pentecostal and United Apostolic Churches. The foremost preacher who holds to this view is T.D. Jakes, who is Oneness Pentecostal.

The next major heresy I want to address briefly is Tritheism. According to this heresy that was started in the 11th century by Roscelin (a Catholic Monk), there are three beings in the Godhead which comprise three Gods. The logic behind Roscelin’s thinking was that if there was only one God, both the Father and the Holy Spirit would have become incarnate with Christ. What verses would you quote to someone who held this belief? (see above proof for the Trinity). The modern group that holds to a heresy like this one is Mormonism. A Mormon would state that there are many Gods in the universe, but that they only worship one (the Father), but that Christ and the Holy Spirit are also God’s. We will be spending a fair amount of time on Mormonism as it is the most wide spread of all the Christian Cults.

One major question that exists is why is Jesus, so often, called the ‘son’ of God. There are several possible answers but I believe the best one lies in the concepts of incarnation and authority, as best understood by our next topic the hypostatic union.

I would like to start off by saying that this is perhaps one of my favorite doctrines of Christianity. It is wonderful and confusing all at the same time. If you ask perhaps ten people if they could tell you what the hypostatic union was, I am confident that only one if any could. However, this is a doctrine that helps us understand the nature of the incarnation, Christ becoming human, and how, by extension, He is seated on his throne right now. The doctrine of the hypostatic union states that Christ Jesus was born to Mary fully man and fully God; He as two natures, human and divine. It is not that he is half man and half God but that He is fully both. The how is a divine mystery, but the proof that it is true is in the text. So let’s dive into the Word of God.

Is Jesus Christ God? What are some things that we only do for God? (Worship, Pray) God is all-knowing, and gives us eternal life. We see that these are the characteristics of Christ. In Matthew 2:2-11 and 14:33, that Christ is worshiped. In the book of Acts 7:59 we see Steven praying to Christ. According to John 21:17, Christ knows all things; and in John 10:28 we see that he gives eternal life. If that is not enough we can see in Colossians 2:9, that in Him all deity dwells and John 1:1-2,14 says that He is God. I believe that we can say with absolute confidence that Jesus Christ is God. The question then remains was he human? Paul said he was, Romans 5:6-17, we see he Died, which God cannot, and he is repeatedly called a man. He had a physical body both before and after the resurrection, Luke 24:39. Now for the real puzzler, he grew in wisdom according to Luke 2:52.

Adults: Where is Jesus Christ right now? Is he alive physically? There is one main reason the Jesus Christ must be a man right now, in Heaven. And that reason is to hold the Priesthood. Right now Christ is still incarnate in the hypostatic union (1 Tim. 2:5; Col. 2:9). Also it is imperative that we hold that Christ is the High Priest right now, as if He did not, we would have no one to intercede for us. Hebrews 6:19-7:28.

Like the Trinity, there are heresies about the nature of Christ. Briefly I would like to look over them. First I would like to look at Apollinarianism. This heresy basically taught that the Logos (Greek for Word) of God came down and after birth replaced the soul of the Man Jesus. So it was deity indwelling a man. The major issue with this heresy is that it puts the nature of the atonement in peril. This is a common theme in all heresies involving the humanity or divinity of Christ. If Christ was not fully God then he was not pure and holy and therefore could not have be a suitable sacrifice. However, if Christ was not a man, he could not have died for men. We see the absolute need for both forms.

The second heresy which is perhaps more common today is that of Arianism. Arius taught that Jesus was the first created being and that it was by him that the world was created. He held that because of the glory of being the first creation of God and the authority given to him by God, Christ deserved to be worshipped, and treated as God. For Arius, at the incarnation, Christ took both the physical and spiritual aspects of Jesus. This heresy is again often refuted the same way that Apollinarianism was, but with the added kick of recognizing that worshipping anything created is idolatry. This heresy denies the full nature of the incarnation, and the eternal coequality of the Father, Son and Spirit, and thus attacks both the Trinity and the Hypostatic Union. Today two major groups that hold to forms of this heresy are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In the fifth century AD there was a church counsel held to discuss the trinity, and to combat the errors that had crept into the body of believers. This creed was written by Athanasius, the fourth century bishop of Alexandria. (Catholic in this context simply means universal or believer, and does not refer to the Roman Catholic Church)

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic 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 Spirit. But the godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.

Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three eternals, but one Eternal.

As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one Uncreated, and one Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Spirit Almighty. And yet they are not three almighties, but one Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three gods, but one God.

So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord. And yet not three lords, but one Lord.

For as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge each Person by Himself to be both God and Lord, so we are also forbidden by the catholic religion to say that there are three gods or three lords.

The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.

And in the Trinity none is before or after another; none is greater or less than another, but all three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

He therefore that will be saved is must think thus of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man; God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of the substance of his mother, born in the world; perfect God and perfect man, of a rational soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching His godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching His manhood; who, although He is God and man, yet he is not two, but one Christ; one, not by conversion of the godhead into flesh but by taking of the manhood into God; one altogether; not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. For as the rational soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ; who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, He sits at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence He will come to judge the quick and the dead. At His coming all men will rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.

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