December 1, 2019
In a previous study of Jesus’ birth, we began by asking why all the fuss each December? Is Jesus really God in human form? And if so, what proof do we have from Scripture?
We looked extensively there at the Doctrine of the Trinity: “God is One in three Persons.” Another way to say it is, “God exists in three distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are three in Person, but one in essence.”
You say, “Pastor Rogers, I don’t understand that.” It doesn’t matter that you can’t understand it. I don’t understand it. Nobody understands it, because it cannot be understood; it must be believed. Do we understand infinity? Do we understand eternity? No. Yet we know they exist.
How do we know the Doctrine of the Trinity? It rises or falls on divine revelation. God reveals it in His Word, the Bible. Don’t try to dissect the concept of the Trinity. You cannot take it apart like the parts of a watch, lay it all out on a table and say, “Ah, now I understand.” Instead, accept what the Bible says about God being a Triune God: three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are one in essence.
The Christian life is a life of faith. Second Corinthians 5:7 says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Skeptics would disagree, saying “Seeing is believing.” How will you deal with the doctrine of the Trinity? What are some other things in the Bible you have had to receive by faith?
Because there’s only one God, there’s nothing else we can compare Him to. We can compare one book to another or one church to another, but there’s only one God. As His Word says, “To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?” (Isaiah 40:18).
You can’t say God is “like” anything because God is not like anything else.
That brings us to thinking about Jesus Christ Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity. What biblical proof do we have that Jesus is who He said He is, God in human flesh? We’ll look at Bible evidence for His claim.
The Bible’s revelation of a Triune God is not just an idea that suddenly appeared in the New Testament. The Old Testament is full of that concept, showing that Jesus Christ, Who came to earth as the Baby of Bethlehem, the Second Person of the Trinity, was and is God, as He claimed to be.
Where are the Scriptures to prove it? Let’s walk through a few of them that establish both The Trinity and Jesus’ position within it.
In Exodus 3:14
God asked Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. Moses objects, “But I can’t just go to Pharaoh and say, ‘Let my people go.’ Who shall I say sent me?’” God answers, “I AM WHO I AM. And He said, Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
That is, “You tell Pharaoh ‘I AM’ sent you.” “I AM” is the most sacred name for God in the Old Testament. He is the self-existent God: “I AM THAT I AM.” His existence is independent from everything that exists in the universe He created.
Now flip to the New Testament, to John 8, where the Pharisees were challenging Jesus, demanding He gives them some credentials, some authority for what He was doing. In a back-handed way, they were saying, “We don’t even know who your Father is. Your mother wasn’t married when you were born.” Jesus answers them, “‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad.’ Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’”
That statement blew them away. Jesus didn’t just say, “I was here on earth before Abraham.” No, He said, “There never was a time when I was not. I AM the great God of Exodus 3. I am the great I AM.”
That did it. They knew exactly what He was saying, and to them it was blasphemy. That’s why they picked up stones to kill Him.
Some of those wanting to kill Jesus may have honestly thought they were defending God’s name and honor. But not all, as we see time after time when Pharisees and other religious leaders challenged Jesus. What motivations were likely behind their desire to end Jesus’ life?
Here we read the famous account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego tossed into King Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace for refusing to worship an idol. In they go, but immediately Nebuchadnezzar looks and exclaims, “I see four men…and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God!”
What Nebuchadnezzar saw is called in Scripture a theophany. Any time God appeared in the Old Testament to human beings, He temporarily clothed Himself in flesh. This is called a theophany(from Greek: theo- [god] + -phaneia [to show]). It means “a visible manifestation or appearance of God to man.” It only occurs in the Old Testament. It only occurs before Jesus came to earth. It never occurs in the New Testament, because Jesus was now on earth in his human body.
The entire 18th chapter of Genesis is a theophany—Jesus Christ appearing in person on earth in the Old Testament. For this reason, these occasions are sometimes called a Christophany. Long before King Nebuchadnezzar, Jesus visibly appeared as a man to Abraham, sitting at the door of his tent:
“Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree” (vs. 1-4).
At first, Abraham thinks he has three ordinary human visitors. Two of these, we soon learn, are angels accompanying the third visitor. Who is the third person in the group? Verse 1 reveals His identity.
To see how the rest of this remarkable theophany turns out, read the rest of chapter 18.
Before long, Abraham realizes this is a visit in the flesh by God Almighty. “Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord” (v. 22).
Therefore Abraham says, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord” (v. 27).
You’re probably familiar with the account of Jacob wrestling one night with a man who finally overpowers him. In the end, “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel [face of God] ‘For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved’” (v. 30).
In each of these cases, Nebuchadnezzar, Abraham, and Jacob had a face to face encounter with the pre-incarnate Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity.
Every orthodox Jew knows God’s Great Commandment to Israel by heart. It’s called the “Shema.”
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord [Yahweh] our God [Elohim], the Lord is one [echad, a plural one]! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
Even in this great confession of Israel, we find the Trinity. “Echad” means not a singular one, but a plural one, as in Genesis 2:24, when the Bible speaks of husband and wife coming together: “They shall be one [echad] flesh.” This is an example of a plural one. Two are one.
In Genesis 11:6, at the Tower of Babel, God says, “The people are one.” Numbers 13:23: “one cluster of grapes.” Many grapes, yet one cluster, a plural unity. And in “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one,” Jehovah our Elohim (plural) is one Jehovah (unity).
Two separate Persons speak here. God the Father begins by saying, “Yet I have set My King [Jesus] On My holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree:” Then God the Son says about God the Father, “The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son. Today I have begotten You’” (vs. 6-7).
The writer asks, “Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, If you know?” His name is Jesus.
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God [El Gibbor], Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
“The Mighty God” [El Gibbor in Hebrew], when translated literally, is “the God-Man.” The prophet Isaiah, 6,700 years before Jesus Christ was born, called the Child of Bethlehem “El Gibbor,” the Mighty God, or literally, “the God-man.”
Even after all this, someone might ask, “What makes you so sure Jesus, the Child born in Bethlehem, was God in human flesh?”
Turn to the first chapter of the New Testament, Matthew 1. Matthew’s account of Jesus’ earthly story. Begin with verses 18 and 19. Joseph, a carpenter in the town of Nazareth, was engaged to a young woman named Mary.
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband [more about that in a moment], being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.”
A “betrothal” in those days was taken more seriously than we take an engagement. In those times, the period of engagement (betrothal) was sacred, and the couple were thought of as though they were already married. The only event yet to occur was the actual taking of the marriage vows. That’s why Matthew calls Joseph her “husband.” But they had not slept together. The Bible makes that clear.
Since Mary was found to be already pregnant, Joseph had every legal right to end their betrothal and even publicly shame her.
What does it say about Joseph’s character that he wanted to quietly break things off without making a public spectacle of her?
The phrase “to put her away” means that Joseph was legally entitled to divorce Mary. Do you see practical reasons why God would not want Joseph to do this?
Initially, Joseph faced a real dilemma. No doubt he felt anguished and betrayed, wondering how he could have so misjudged Mary’s character. How could he have been so gullible? But Joseph’s kindness toward Mary was soon rewarded when an angel of the Lord appeared.
“But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’”
Do you see the three Persons of the Trinity present in Matthew 1:20-23? Identify where they are mentioned.
Why was it helpful for God to send no less than an angel to have a talk with Joseph?
Matthew 1 covers the angel’s visit with Joseph. Now Luke 1 covers the angel’s visit with Mary. In Luke 1, the angel is identified as Gabriel. Compare the two visits and two conversations, where the same news was conveyed:
“And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35).
Who is mentioned first as the catalyst to the conception of Jesus?
Who is “The Highest” referring to?
“That Holy One who is to be born” is, of course, God the Son.
How many Persons of the Trinity are involved in what is going to take place within Mary?
This verse also answers for all time the question: “Who is Jesus Christ?” “…that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Jesus Christ is the Son of God and God the Son. That’s the reason God the Father said in Hebrews 1:5, “…‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ And again: ‘I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son.’”
The Father said to Jesus, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8). God the Father refers to Jesus with the words “O God,” thus testifying to the world that Jesus Christ, His Son, is indeed God.
What points do you see about the Trinity?
When we come to the miracle birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s no surprise to see God the Father, God the Son, and God Holy Spirit coming together in this wonderful Christmas story.
Why all the fuss about the birth of Jesus? Your eternal destiny rides on it. “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
The Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, work together in your salvation.
This is the way you’re saved.
That’s the reason the apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [the Son] and the love of God [the Father] and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”
God loves you.
Jesus saved you.
The Holy Spirit empowers you.
“God in three persons, Blessed Trinity.”
Watch the full message His Undiminished Deity (#2378).