Additional thoughts on Mark 1:9-11. (These thoughts follow a sermon preached at Gray Road Baptist Church. If you would like to listen, just go to the sermons page (http://www.grayroad.com/index.cfm/pageid/723) and the title is "The Identity of Jesus")
"In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'"
This week's follow-up entries will focus on a secondary teaching found in Mark 1:9-11. It is not secondary because it is unimportant...it is secondary because it is not the primary teaching of these three verses. As you can see, in the account of Jesus' baptism, we have a clear display of the trinity. God the Father is speaking in verse 11, God the Son is being baptized, and God the Spirit descends in verse 10.
Now, the word "trinity" does not appear in the Bible, but it is one of the most important doctrines in the Bible. It helps to answer the question "What is God like?" The word trinity comes from Latin and means 'tri-unity'. In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem gives the following definition of the doctrine of the Trinity: "God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God." (p. 226)
There are three ideas that are put forward in such a definition. (1) God exists in three persons. (2) Each person is fully God. (3) There is one God. (from p. 231 of the same book) Now, another way I have heard this put is in the following summary: "God the Father is fully God. God the Son (Jesus) is fully God. God the Spirit (Holy Spirit) is fully God. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Father. There is one God." Confused yet? Though it is a very important doctrine, there is mystery to it.
We will never be able to fully comprehend with our finite mental capacities. However, if you'd like to look at some Bible texts to help point you to three distinct persons, all of whom are God (and that there is only one God), here are some for your own consideration (taken from http://www.sbc.net/bfm/pdf/The%20Baptist%20Faith%20and%20Message.pdf).
On God the Father: Genesis 1:1; 2:7; Exodus 3:14; 6:2-3; 15:11ff.; 20:1ff.; Leviticus 22:2; Deuteronomy 6:4; 32:6; 1 Chronicles 29:10; Psalm 19:1-3; Isaiah 43:3,15; 64:8; Jeremiah 10:10; 17:13; Matthew 6:9ff.; 7:11; 23:9; 28:19; Mark 1:9-11; John 4:24; 5:26; 14:6-13; 17:1-8; Acts 1:7; Romans 8:14-15; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 4:6; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 11:6; 12:9; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 John 5:7.
On God the Son: Genesis 18:1ff.; Psalms 2:7ff.; 110:1ff.; Isaiah 7:14; 53; Matthew 1:18-23; 3:17; 8:29; 11:27; 14:33; 16:16,27; 17:5; 27; 28:1-6,19; Mark 1:1; 3:11; Luke 1:35; 4:41; 22:70; 24:46; John 1:1-18,29; 10:30,38; 11:25-27; 12:44-50; 14:7-11; 16:15-16,28; 17:1-5, 21-22; 20:1-20,28; Acts 1:9; 2:22-24; 7:55-56; 9:4-5,20; Romans 1:3-4; 3:23-26; 5:6-21; 8:1-3,34; 10:4; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:2; 8:6; 15:1-8,24-28; 2 Corinthians 5:19-21; 8:9; Galatians 4:4-5; Ephesians 1:20; 3:11; 4:7-10; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-22; 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 3:16; Titus 2:13-14; Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14-15; 7:14-28; 9:12-15,24-28; 12:2; 13:8; 1 Peter 2:21-25; 3:22; 1 John 1:7-9; 3:2; 4:14-15; 5:9; 2 John 7-9; Revelation 1:13-16; 5:9-14; 12:10-11; 13:8; 19:16.
On God the Spirit: Genesis 1:2; Judges 14:6; Job 26:13; Psalms 51:11; 139:7ff.; Isaiah 61:1-3; Joel 2:28-32; Matthew 1:18; 3:16; 4:1; 12:28-32; 28:19; Mark 1:10,12; Luke 1:35; 4:1,18-19; 11:13; 12:12; 24:49; John 4:24; 14:16-17,26; 15:26; 16:7-14; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4,38; 4:31; 5:3; 6:3; 7:55; 8:17,39; 10:44; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6; 19:1-6; Romans 8:9-11,14-16,26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14; 3:16; 12:3-11,13; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; 1 Timothy 3:16; 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:14; 3:16; Hebrews 9:8,14; 2 Peter 1:21; 1 John 4:13; 5:6-7; Revelation 1:10; 22:17.
If it would help, print this out, and take time in your personal Bible study to look up the passages mentioned previously. I remember being blessed when I first looked them all up. I also remember being overwhelmed at the Scripture's constant testimony to what God is like. If you are like I was, then a study like this might just change you. You will no longer be one whose doctrine of the Trinity is based solely on a pastor's sermons or a Sunday school teacher's lessons. You will have the confidence of knowing that your doctrine of the Trinity came from your own study of the Scripture.
Now, before moving on...I know that what will follow may feel like a bit much to try and digest. If that's the case, just take it slow. Read some, pray, and think about it. Ask God to help you see the importance of His being one God in three persons, and ask for His Spirit to be your Teacher.
Now, why is this doctrine so important? Another helpful resource here will be Dr. Bruce Ware's Father, Son, & Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance. In it, he lists ten reasons why the doctrine of the trinity is so important. In order to let you digest it slowly, I will post three reasons here, three more on Wednesday, and the final four on Friday (by the way, multiple posts during the week will not become the norm). Each reason will be stated, and then I will include some of Dr. Ware's thoughts about that reason. I pray that dwelling on these truths all week will cause us all to live in light of this important doctrine.
TEN REASONS TO FOCUS ON THE WONDER OF THE TRINITY
"1. The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most important distinguishing doctrines of the Christian faith and therefore is deserving of our careful study, passionate embrace, and thoughtful application.
As one considers the distinctiveness of Christianity compared to other religions and ideas, clearly the doctrine of the Trinity not only distinguishes the Christian faith from all others, it also establishes the basis for all that we hold dear as Christian believers. The doctrine shows us in essential and glorious ways what it is to be 'Christian.' To know the Christian faith, and to know what it means to be a Christian, one must see more clearly what it means for God to be triune...
How enriched our lives can be, and how much more joyful our experience and fruitful our service, when informed by an intimate knowledge of who God is. Let us press on, then, to know with greater clarity the one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
2. The doctrine of the Trinity is both central and necessary for the Christian faith to be what it is. Remove the Trinity, and the whole Christian faith disintegrates.
Can the Christian faith survive, as it were, if the doctrine of the Trinity is omitted? Are we aware of just how crucial this doctrine is to all else we believe as Christians?...our salvation comes as the Father judges our sin in the Son, who became incarnate and lived his life in the power of the Spirit as the perfect and sinless God-man, and accomplished his perfect obedience to the Father through the power of the Spirit. Disregard the Trinity and you necessarily undermine salvation. More can be said, but this example is sufficient to demonstrate how crucial this doctrine is to the whole of our faith as Christians.
3. Worship of the true and living God consciously acknowledges the relationship and roles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
As Paul demonstrates in Ephesians 1:13-14, the whole of God's work is accomplished in a trinitarian framework, and hence the worship of this God - the true and living God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - necessarily requires a conscious understanding and honoring of the Trinity...Paul is saying that praise to God must be given to God the Father, through the Son, in light of his blessings being mediated to us by the Spirit. So here we have in one verse the praise of God, who is none other than Father, Son, and Holy Spirit...Christian worship is inherently trinitarian."
If you can, come back on Wednesday to see a few more reasons this doctrine is so important. If you feel overwhelmed, just print it out and save it for later. Or...come back to the blog at another time and find the entries. They're not going anywhere. May the Lord bless your study and cause to grow in grace and knowledge.