Dr. Bruce Ware – Lecture 1 – Christology – Beholding the glory of the Christ – The Trinitarian Context (Pt. 1) at SBTS

photo from SBTS
Dr. Ware deals with the person of Christ (not the work of Christ) in the Trinitarian context. Dr. Ware says, „Even trained, educated Bible believers have not been taught to think of Jesus, in relation to the Father and the Spirit, and what that means in terms of how He lived His life. We’re going to be looking at it in this perspective, because I really think this was the perspective of the New Testament. You will see as we take a look at passages form the Bible, the Bible presents Jesus to us very clearly in relationship to the Father and in relationship to the Spirit. In seeing that, it gives us a richness as an understanding of who he is.”

  1. Trinitarian context: This first session is on the larger trinitarian theology and is a framework session about the doctrine of the trinity, for the basis of thinking about Christ in trinitarian terms, in relation to Father and Son. In the other three sessions (there are a total of 4) Dr. Ware takes a look at sort of chronological (order)
  2. Eternal Word – Who was the eternal Son of the Father in eternity past, who is this Son in relation to the Father and what did He do.
  3. Incarnate Son – The Son as He had come into the world and the life that He lived, the obedience that He rendered, the temptations that He resisted and the life of Christ, lived out among us as the incarnate Son of the Father, who lived out His life with the power of the Spirit.
  4. Reigning King – the One who has ascended, who is at the right hand of the Father, who is coming again as judge and King, and reigning over the church, and will bring consummation to all things.

Some notes:

~~~Trinitarian indicators: specific details  that are there in the text, that tell you about the specific work of the Father (not God, generically), or of the Son (not God, generically), or of the Spirit (not God, generically). In other words, this is specifically the Father, specifically the Son, specifically the Spirit. And, when you begin seeing these things, it just opens up a world of beauty of awe and wonder, and you get to know better who God is. We have not been tuned into this, and so, we think in a category of the glory of God. We think in these broader categories, and it’s not that that’s wrong, it is just that it is imprecise; that in fact, we need to see what is so often the case in the Scriptures, particularly in the New Testament, that the God who does these things is the Father, who works through His Son, who is empowered by His Spirit. And so, we need to see this broader trinitarian reality that is there.

A background structure for the doctrine of the trinity.

The doctrine of the trinity- you might think of it as this giant block doctrine that is upheld by two pillars. And both of those pillars have to be in place or that doctrine is going to collapse, it can’t be upheld. It requires both of those pillars to be in place.

A. The twin pillars of trinitarian doctrine

1. One of those pillars is: DISTINCTION. That Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct from each other. So these are not three names for the same person. If we don’t have that in the Christian faith, then we truly don’t have trinitarian monotheism. If we have three names that are the same person, then we have unitarian monotheism. It’s no different then, really, than the god of Islam, or of Judaism. What distinguishes the monotheism of the Christian faith is that it is trinitarian monotheism. Trinitarian, meaning there are three distinct persons, distinct from each other, who are separate in some way although (next pillar’s coming up in a moment) they comprise one God. So that distinction needs to be maintained.

One of the most difficult areas in the doctrine of the trinity is really coming to terms biblically with what constitutes the distinctions of Father, Son and Spirit. If you look back at the history of the doctrine of the trinity, you will see that it is littered with heresy, that answered that question wrongly. So, coming to terms with the distinction is crucial. So, one pillar, then, is the distinction pillar. That Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct from each other. The Father is the Father, not the Son. The Son is the Son, not the Holy Spirit.

2. The second pillar of the trinity is: EQUALITY.  That Father, Son, and Spirit are equally the One God. They are equally divine. Now, that equality does not indicate that they are equal because they are the same kind of being. Our equality is the equality of same kind. You are a human being, I’m a human being, so we are equally human. But, if I were to get hit by an automobile on the way home tonight, you would continue living. Your nature is a different nature than mine. Even though it’s the same kind of nature. Your human nature is your human nature. My human nature is my human nature. I get in a car accident and die, you live on. Your nature continues. So, our equality is an equality of same kind.

But, in the trinity, the equality is an equality in which each of Them possesses not merely the same kind of nature, but the identically same nature. Then the nature of the Father IS the nature of the Son, the nature of the Son IS the nature of the Holy Spirit. So they have the strongest kind of equality that there is.

So, here we have those two pillars that uphold the doctrine of the trinity. Both of them have to be in place. Without the distinction pillar, it will collapse into unitarian monotheism. Without the equality pillar, if they’re not equal in the sense of having the identically same nature, then we could have tritheism, for example- the Father is a God, the Son is a God, the Holy Spirit is a God. Of course that would fit beautifully in a polytheistic world of the ancient Greco-Roman world. But, the church was insistent on monotheism. So, one God who is three persons- one in nature, three in persons is what the church has upheld.

B. Summary statement

The Christian faith affirms that there is one and only one God, eternally existing while fully and simultaneously expressed in three persons: The Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. Each member of the godhead is equally God, each is eternally God, and each is fully God. Not three Gods, but three persons of the one godhead. Each person is equal in essence, as each possesses eternally, simultaneously, and fully the identically same and undivided divine nature. That each is also an eternal and distinct personal expression of that one, undivided divine nature. Because of this, what distinguishes each person of the godhead from each other person is not and cannot be the divine nature. (Because if you point to the divine nature as the point of distinction, you know you’ve got a heresy on your hands). Because the identically same and undivided nature is the full and eternal possession of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. So, what distinguishes each person of the godhead from each other person are the relationships each has with each of the other persons and His particular roles in relation to the others. In light of both the equality of essence, yet, differentiation of relationships and roles that exist among the persons of the godhead, we now consider how the church came to affirm these truths about the trinity and how these trinitarian relationships and roles are expressed within the trinity of the persons.

Next, Dr. Ware gives a biblical, historical overview of how we got the doctrine of the trinity. (at the 17 minute mark).

Lecture 1: Beholding the Glory of the Christ, Part 1 from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

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