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Lesson 1: The Triune God *

Introduction: When I first started using computers I was frustrated. I wanted to know how they worked internally. Anyone can type and print a document, just like anyone can drive a car. But, what is happening "under the hood?" To answer that question I did some reading and, with the direction of my young son, built a computer. Now, I am satisfied that I know the essentials even though my knowledge is far from complete. Our lesson this week is like that. We will learn some essentials about Jesus and the Trinity, but complete knowledge is simply beyond our grasp. Because I do not think you can be a Christian without being a Trinitarian, let's dive into our Bibles and see what we can learn!

  1. The Puzzle

    1. Read Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Mark 12:28-30. What does this tell us about God? (That "the Lord is one.")

      1. Why do you think God introduces the "love Me with all your heart" command with the "the Lord is one" statement? (It is a positive command to love God completely, and a negative command not to love other gods.)

      2. The New Bible Commentary tells us Deuteronomy 6:4 is the "central prayer in Judaism." It is called the "Shema" because it starts with the word "hear" which is what shema means in Hebrew. If this was the central prayer for the Jews, what should it mean to us who believe in the inspiration of the Old Testament?

    2. Did you notice that it was Jesus who repeated in Mark 12:29 that God is "one?" Jews and Muslims say that Christians are not monotheists (those who believe in one God) because we believe that God the Father, the Holy Spirit and Jesus are all God. If the Jews and the Muslims are right, why would Jesus call attention to the Shema and say that the love command is "the most important one?"

    3. Recently, a top-selling book (which was made into a movie) told a story which was based on the idea that the Catholic Church manipulated the gospels to make it appear that Jesus claimed to be God, when in fact Jesus made no such claim. Are the gospels the only source of the claim that Jesus is God?

  2. The Foundation for the Trinity

    1. Read Genesis 1:1-2. When God introduced Himself in the Bible, what did He reveal about His nature? (He revealed that the "one God" had a "Spirit!" Thus, from His very first introduction God lets us know that He exists and He has a Holy Spirit which also exists.)

    2. Read Genesis 1:26-27. What is this "let us make man in our image" stuff? What does this suggest about God? (That He is a "plural" of some sort.)

      1. Look again at verse 27. What does that suggest about the nature of God? (That it includes "male and female.")

      2. Let's read Genesis 2:22-24. What is God calling "one flesh?" (Adam and Eve, and all who become married thereafter.)

    3. What do these verses in Genesis reveal to us about God's view of the term "one?" (That He has an expansive view of "one!" Adam and Eve had their own personalities, yet God called them "one flesh." From the very beginning, God is revealed to have a Spirit that "hovers." You could say that God is only a Spirit, but that does not work very well with the later "let's create humans in our image" statement. We can see that the Foundation for the Trinity did not begin in the gospels, but rather it began in Genesis.)

    4. Read Judges 3:9-10 and Judges 6:34. Does this remind you of what you regularly see in the New Testament? (Yes. The New Testament develops the idea of God's Spirit being something separate from Jesus and God the Father. We see that very same type of thing in Judges.)

  3. Jesus' Claims to Divinity

    1. In the introduction, I said that a person is not a Christian if they do not believe in the Trinity. Is that an unfair statement? Let's read John 8:58. What is Jesus' claim here?

    2. Read John 6:35-40 and John 6:51. What is Jesus' claim here?

    3. Read John 8:12. What is Jesus' claim here?

    4. Read John 11:25-27. What is Jesus' claim here?

    5. Read John 10:30. What is Jesus' claim here?

    6. Read John 10:32-33 and Luke 5:21-24. What did Jesus' listeners understand Him to claim?

    7. Read Mark 14:61-62. What claim is Jesus making here?

    8. Read Matthew 3:16-17. What does this teach about the Trinity?

    9. Read John 1:1-4 and John 1:14. What does this teach us about Jesus?

  4. Why It Matters

    1. In these texts you just read Jesus clearly claims divinity. He calls Himself "I Am!" This is how Jehovah describes Himself ( Exodus 3:13-14). If Jesus is not God, what does this say about Him? (That He is a liar or deluded. He is not to be trusted, much less worshiped.)

      1. Read Psalms 73:7-9 and Jeremiah 23:34. What do these Old Testament texts tell us about false claims? (They come from the wicked.)

    2. Read Matthew 26:63-64. The entire sweep of the Old Testament is about the sacrifice of the lamb for the sin of humans. God's people expected a Messiah to come and to save them. Is the High Priest asking Jesus if He is the Messiah? (Yes. Jesus claims to be the Messiah - the Promised One who is from God, will return to God and will come again to save His people.)

    3. Read John 8:23-30. What does Jesus teach is at issue when it comes to the question of His divinity? (We will die in our sins! Jesus tells us specifically that if we do not accept Him as the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, then we have no Messiah, no Lamb of God, and we will die for our sins! The issue could not be more critical or more central to our hope as Christians!)

  5. Why Paul Thinks It Is Important

    1. Recall the popular book and movie that argued to the Biblically illiterate that Jesus did not think He was divine -- that this was just something later concocted by the Catholic Church to bolster its importance? We have seen that the Trinity has a foundation in Genesis, and we have seen that Jesus claimed to be God and the Messiah. Let's look next at what Paul wrote about Jesus and His divinity. Read Colossians 2:9-10. What does Paul say about Jesus' divinity?

    2. Read Colossians 2:13-15. What does Paul say about Jesus as the Messiah who takes away our sins? (That is how Paul identifies Jesus.)

  6. Why Peter Thinks It Important

    1. Read Acts 1:1-5. What are Jesus' instructions to His followers for the future?

    2. Read Acts 2:1-4. Is this what Jesus promised?

    3. Read Acts 2:29-36. What does Peter say about Jesus?

      1. Who does Peter claim is the source of his statement? (The Holy Spirit.)

    4. Friend, Genesis sets the foundation for the Trinity. Jesus claims to be the Messiah and "I Am." Peter and Paul claim Jesus is the Messiah - and Peter says this statement comes from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The New Testament, as a whole, argues that Jesus is God. The Old Testament points to Jesus as the Messiah. This is not some fabrication of early church leaders to increase their importance. This is the central message of the Bible. I we do not accept that Jesus is God and that He died in our place for our sins, then we are lost. Will you accept today that Jesus is our Lord and our God?

  7. Next week: In the Beginning.
* Copr. 2012, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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