July 2, 2023


Passage: Isaiah 6:1-3

1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
— Isaiah 6:1-3, ESV

In the history of higher education, theology used to be called “the queen of the sciences.”  Saint Thomas Aquinas dubbed it so, meaning the most important thing in the universe is the study of the God who created it, and us, and continually governs both planet and people for His glory and the good of His chosen ones.  Get God wrong, it was once believed, and nothing else is really right.

Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown (the Baptist entry into the pantheon of prestigious schools) and most of the other Ivy League institutions were founded by men with an orthodox, protestant, and evangelical understanding of God and a high view of Holy Scripture.  Their primary purpose was to teach theology, and prepare students to shepherd the churches and spread the gospel all over the world.  Other fields of study were of importance and offered, but nothing loomed as large as the “queen,” theology.

Times have changed.  Theology has long been deposed as queen.  She’s no longer even considered to be an objective science, but a subjective art.  Philosophy took her crown first (changing the highest pursuit from Th.D. to Ph.D.), followed by mathematics, physics, biology, and medicine.  Today, the theology that is taught in most religious and secular schools would not be recognized by Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, or any other orthodox, protestant, evangelical Christian.

Times have changed.  God has not.  Immutability is one of His key attributes.  “I the LORD do not change” (ref. Malachi 3:6).  This and other theological truths matter immensely.  We must get God right, or everything else will ultimately go wrong.

To begin a proper study of theology, we must begin with theology proper, the study of God.  If there is one word to describe God, it would have to be, ironically, a word not found in Holy Scripture, but taught from first to final page.  It is the word “Trinity.”

The Trinity is Three in One

Trinity, the triune God, or the tri-unity of God, is the doctrine of one true and living God, revealed in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The three are one, and the one is three.  This is a theological truth revealed in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  It defines God as the most transcendent, supreme, complex, powerful, holy, being in the universe He created.

Isaiah knew a thing or three about God.  He marvels over the thrice-holy God in one of the most familiar passages in his prophetic book (Isaiah 6:3).  This is reflective of the rest of Isaiah’s revelation where he calls God Father (Isaiah 63:3); clearly recognizes God the Son as equal with the Father, even calling the Son “Mighty God” (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6); and, distinctly traces the work of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, as a distinct person and work of God (Isaiah 11:2, 32:15, 40:13, 61:1, 63:14).  All the other Old Testament authors are in complete theological agreement with this doctrine of God as triune, the Trinity.

As we progress to the New Testament, the Trinity comes into bolder view.  At the inauguration of the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Father speaks, the Son is baptized, and the Spirit descends (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22).  The Apostle John, the Isaiah of the New Testament, tells us that Father and Son are one (John 1:1-14, 10:30, 14:9); Son and Spirit play equal but distinct rolls as the paraclete, the divine comforter and helper (John 14:26; 1 John 2:1); and, the Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son” (Nicene Creed; John 14:26, 15:26).

Both testaments testify that God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29).  Both testaments testify to the deity of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  God is clearly three in one.  He is the Trinity.  He is “holy, holy, holy.”

The Trinity is One in Three

The Trinity is three in one.  He is also one in three.  “God in three persons, blessed Trinity” (Reginald Heber).

God’s transcendent oneness cannot be fully explained or ascertained, for no man can fully know the mind and mystery of God (Romans 11:34).  God is not like H2O, one compound in three substances, ice and water and steam.  He created H2O, and the Creator is infinitely greater than the creation.  God is not like one man wearing three hats, a husband and father and pastor.  That’s modalism, theological malpractice, for while we are made in God’s image, it is God who made us and the creature will never be as supremely magnificent and complex as the Creator.

God is one transcendent God.  But God is three imminent persons.  God is “high and lifted up … holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:1-3).  But we can “draw near to God” (James 4:8) because He has drawn near to us in three persons through three activities: creation, revelation, and salvation.  These three things make the three persons of the one transcendent God imminent and knowable to the moral man.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all at work in creation, for the first words of the Bible tell us so.   “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth … and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2).  Combine this truth with the prologue to the Gospel of John, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3), and there you have tri-unity in action at creation.

“God” in Genesis 1:1 is not the singular “El,” but “Elohim,” which linguists call a “majestic plural,” a singular supreme being revealed in plural (or three) persons.  “Him” in John 1:3 is the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.  The truth is this triune God, existing from eternity past to eternity future, could have existed in perfect peace and harmony without creation and creatures, even without the penultimate creature, mankind, yet He chose to create us so that He could draw near to us in covenant relationship for time and eternity.  “Holy, holy, holy” is the Lord of all creation!

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have made creation to be the first revelation of God to mankind, so that we can know God.  “His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20).  On top of the general revelation of creation, God has given us the special revelation of Holy Scripture, “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) revelation.

The Bible seems to bother most people in the modern world, but when theology was queen, and still today among true believers, this book is “holy, holy, holy.”  We understand the providence and power of the Father picked the forty or so souls who scripted it.  The Son makes plain that all Scripture points to Him (John 10:25).  The Holy Spirit works to make it inspired, inerrant, and infallible (2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Timothy 3:16).  “Holy, holy, holy” is God and His word!

The most holy ground of all, however, where God and man meet, is where creation and revelation lead, namely in salvation.  It is by grace alone through faith alone in God alone.  All three persons of the Godhead initiate and activate such a great and eternal salvation.

God the Father sovereignly chooses people to be saved (Ephesians 1:4), and all He chooses choose to be saved.  God the Son paid the price of salvation with His sinless life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:8, 6:5), and all He saved will be saved.  The Holy Spirit enables and applies salvation to the human heart, transforming body, mind, and soul into a child of God (Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Acts 11:18), and all the Holy Spirit convicts and converts will be saved.  “Holy, holy, holy” is the salvation that belongs to the Lord (Jonah 2:9)!

The Trinity is Holy, Holy, Holy

To illustrate how far the world, even the confessing Christian church, has fallen, consider the curious case of Princeton Theological Seminary.  This is one of the premier institutions where theology was once queen.  There biblical pastors and evangelical missionaries were once trained.  The first president (principal) of the school was none other than the great reformed, protestant, evangelical Jonathan Edwards.

The school still gives a prestigious award each year, ironically named after another great reformed, protestant, evangelical, Abraham Kuyper.  A recent choice for the honor was a contemporary leader of reformed, protestant, evangelical theology, Tim Keller.  I have never known of nor read from someone who knows God better, loves Jesus more, and has been used of the Spirit greater to unite people with God.  Sadly, Keller passed away from cancer this year.

Shortly before Keller was to receive the award, however, Princeton rescinded it.  Faculty, students, and alumni went ballistic over the selection of Keller and forced the administration to take away the honor.  The reason they gave was Keller’s unacceptable beliefs on a trinity of subjects they named as triumphalism, chauvinism, and conservatism.

Triumphalism is the belief that Christianity, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, is alone the only way to be saved, made right with God, and assured of Heaven.  Chauvinism was claimed against Keller because he believed the Bible speaks with the authority of God on all matters, including gender and sexuality.  Conservatism speaks of Keller and others who are trying to hold the fort, walk the old paths, keep to the truths and traditions of historic, biblical, evangelical, trinitarian Christianity.  How dare he?!

How dare Princeton, and the other apostate institutions!  How dare cults like the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and certain pentecostal and prosperity gospel preachers deny the cardinal doctrine of the Trinity!  How dare they diminish the way of salvation and tarnish the crown of the queen!

Let our church declare today and forever that there is one God, one Lord and Savior, one Spirit of truth and true theology, He is the great three in one and one in three, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!”

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