Trinity Part 1: The Name of the Son
When I was doing some background reading for this new series about the trinity, I came across an extraordinary story that I want tell you about. David Pawson is one of my favourite bible teachers. You may have heard about him because he’s written many books including the one that I like best which is called “Unlocking The Bible”.
A few years ago he was contacted by Premier Radio and asked if he would take part in an experiment. They said that they wanted to get two Christian people together in the studio who had never met, and who were as different as “chalk and cheese”, and let them get to know each other. David Pawson agreed to be a volunteer, and when he went to the studio he was introduced to a Greek man called Chris Lambrianou, a former member of the 1950/60’s criminal gang led by the Kray Brothers in East London. These two men could not have been more different, in race, education, family history and background, but within two minutes they were the very best of friends.
Along with others in the gang, Lambrianou had been sentenced to 15 years in prison and not a day less. He was in solitary confinement, with just an iron bedstead that had been cemented to the floor so that he couldn’t harm himself. He was full of rage and decided that the only way that he could beat the system (not serve 15 years) was to commit suicide.
As he was contemplating this, he noticed a box of books on the floor that someone had left for him, and to distract himself from his suicidal thoughts, he started glancing at them. One of them was a bible, which he recognized and thought, “a bible, I’ve heard that does you good”. So he decided to sleep on it, literally! He tucked it into his pillow and had the best nights sleep that he’d had in ages! When he woke up, he tucked the bible into his jerkin and walked around with it all day and began to feel better and better.
At last he decided to read it, and of course he read about Jesus. One night he woke up in the early hours of the morning and there were three bearded men standing at the foot of his bunk, and he said to them, “I know who you are: You’re the Father, you’re the Son, and you’re the Holy Spirit” And the middle one of the three said, “Just follow me Chris”.
From that moment he gave his life to Christ, and when he was released he started doing great work rescuing young men who were drifting into the sort of life that he led when he was part of the Kray Gang.
Now I imagine that most of us haven’t had the sort of vision that Chris Lambrianou had, so we have to be clear about what we believe regarding the trinity. Clear that God is one God in three persons, each with a vital role to play in our lives. Hopefully this series will help you to be clear about each of the three persons involved. Today I’m considering God the Son - Jesus, next week it will be God the Holy Spirit, and the following week it will be God The Father.
Why should we be interested in this? Because it deals with the proper purpose of life itself, which is to do the good, pleasing and perfect will of the Father. And the only way to do that is to accept Jesus as the Son of God, (who did the Father’s will perfectly) and follow him. That of course, is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. So this really is important!
Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” This has been called the central issue of life. Who was, who is Jesus? Other spiritual questions are irrelevant without deciding first to believe that Jesus is who he said he was.
An eyewitness of Jesus’ earthly ministry was a man called John who was, perhaps, Jesus’ closest friend on earth, and he had no doubt who Jesus was. He wrote the gospel of John, 3 letters, and the Book of Revelation, which can be found in the second part of the bible called the New Testament. At the very beginning of his gospel he writes this, familiar words to some of you….. John 1:1-18 which you can read here.
In summary then, John tells us that:
As an eyewitness, John leaves us in no doubt exactly who he believed Jesus was and is.
Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” And he’s still asking that question. Have you made your mind up about Jesus? Before answering that you might want to ask these questions that have been asked since Jesus walked on this earth:
Jesus (the word/logos) was with God in the beginning, he’s eternal.
Although no one else has ever seen God (the Father) Jesus has because he himself is God (the Son)
Everything was made through Jesus
Jesus is the light that overcomes darkness: sin and death.
Though Jesus is God, he became a human being (became flesh)
Did an historical person called Jesus of Nazareth actually exist?
If he did, wasn’t he just a great human moral teacher?
Did Jesus actually claim to be God?
Are the accounts of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection reliable; what’s the evidence, what’s the best explanation?
Even if you have already decided that Jesus is the Son of God and so don’t need to ask these questions, others seeking to know the truth may well ask them of you. The bible tells us “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15)
So, let’s briefly consider the four questions posed above.
Did an historical person called Jesus of Nazareth actually exist?
Bart Ehrman is an American New Testament scholar, and he writes this about the historical Jesus. “There are so many independent attestations of Jesus' existence, which is astounding for an ancient figure of any kind". He insists that historians or experts in the field do not seriously consider the idea that Jesus never existed at all. You should know that Bart Ehrman is NOT a Christian.
Was Jesus just a great human moral teacher?
I think that C.S. Lewis answers that one brilliantly in his book, ‘Mere Christianity’ This is what he writes, “I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Jesus: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who is merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.
Did Jesus actually claim to be God?
In John’s account of Jesus’ life, chapter 10 verse 30 Jesus says “I and the Father are one”. His Jewish opponents threaten to stone him “for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (v 33) Luke (5:20) records the incident when a paralyzed man is lowered through the roof for Jesus to heal, and Jesus says to him, “Friend, your sins are forgiven”. Everyone, including Jesus, knew that only God could forgive sins. In addition to this, Jesus claimed that he had always existed, (“Before Abraham was born, I am!” John 10:58) and that he is coming to judge the world at the end of time. (Matthew 25:31) There is no doubt that Jesus claimed to be God.
Are the accounts of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection reliable; what’s the evidence, what is the best explanation?
Did he die by crucifixion, and was he buried? Well, again there is a huge amount of evidence to say that he did. Bart Ehrman (again) states that “the crucifixion of Jesus on the orders of Pontius Pilate is the most certain element about him.”
Craig Blomberg (another New Testament scholar) states that most scholars in the quest for the historical Jesus consider the crucifixion indisputable. OK, but what about the resurrection of Jesus? I cover the evidence for this in more detail in the 2018 Summer Edition of Connections Magazine, and there are many books covering this, including Lee Strobel’s excellent “Case for Christ”.
In summary though, perhaps the strongest evidence is the remarkable and amazing change in Jesus’ closest followers. Within the space of just a few weeks after his death they go from a cowering, fearful and beaten group to a bold, fearless and dynamic force. Surely, only meeting with the risen Jesus could have done that? And I can testify that through the power of the Holy Spirit he still does that today.
Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” and he still asks that question. Have you made your mind up about Jesus? Could he be, is he really “The One, the Son of God”? Is he who he said he is or was he lying? Did he deliberately mislead people? What transformed the frightened disciples? Did his followers who were martyred go their deaths for a liar, whom they had NOT in fact seen again after his crucifixion? Why would John, who wrote about Jesus as “the Word” do this? What changed Saul’s mind? You might be thinking, “if only I had seen Jesus as his first disciples did, perhaps seen the nail marks in his hands”. If you are thinking that, I need to remind you of what Jesus said to Thomas who had doubted the eyewitness reports of his fellow disciples; Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen me you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen me and yet have believed”.
Who do we say that Jesus is? We need to weigh the evidence and know what the options are! In my experience, most people have not rejected Christianity because the evidence has persuaded them that it’s not true. Most have not even looked into the evidence.
Jesus as presented in the bible is the “The One”: The one and only Son of God. The one who is eternal, the one through whom all things were made, and the one who loved us so much that he died for us. The one who paid the price of our sin on the cross. He is with God, he is God, he sends us the Spirit of God…… more of that next week.
The option is to accept him fully as God the Son, or not accept him at all – it just makes no sense to create our own version of Christianity, as that would be no Christianity at all but rather a delusion and a dangerous one at that. What will you decide?
Do you accept that Christians believe in one God who is three persons? Could you answer questions about the Trinity?
John (the Baptist) said that although Jesus was younger than him, he was in fact before him. What did he mean?
In what way has Jesus overcome the darkness?
What evidence is there that Jesus’ “own” did not receive him?
John (the apostle) says that all things were made through Jesus. What do you think he meant by that?
What other evidence would you put forward to demonstrate that Jesus rose from the tomb?
Who do you say that Jesus was and is?