Sermon title: Father, Son and Holy Spirit—Then the Tempter      John 1:1-18

 

    Immanuel Baptist Church – January 14, 2018

Back to ImmanuelBaptistNB.org

 

 

 

 

When the subject of Christian theology comes up

the most talked-about topic

and the one that causes the most consternation

is the doctrine of the Trinity—

the teaching that the Father is God,

Jesus, the Son, is God,

and the Holy Spirit is God,

yet there is only one God.

Believers often worry, “Why can’t I understand it.”

Is there something wrong with me?

Am I less spiritual

than folks who say they understand it?

Meanwhile, many sects,

like the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses,

and Mohammed’s followers, the Muslims,

denounce the Trinity as ‘a false doctrine.’

 

Aside from the Trinity,

the second-most-puzzling doctrine

in Christian theology

may be the teaching on Satan the devil.

Who is he?

Why does he exist?

Is the devil God’s equal, only evil?

 

People have many questions about the devil.

And many people dismiss their questions

by saying Satan is only allegorical—

not a real person in the invisible realm.

 

In our chronological coverage

of the 4 Gospels,

as we go through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

in the order in which the events took place,

we come now to passages

that touch on both of these theological topics:

the doctrine of the Trinity

and the teaching about Satan the devil.

 

At Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist,

we find the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

all present and interacting with each other.

Matthew 3:16-17 says,

“As soon as Jesus was baptized,

he went up out of the water.

At that moment heaven was opened,

and he saw the Spirit of God

descending like a dove and alighting on him.

And a voice from heaven said,

‘This is my Son, whom I love;

with him I am well pleased.’”

 

So, we see the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

each present individually

at Jesus’ baptism.

 

And then, right after that,

Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell us

that Jesus was led off into the wilderness

to be tempted by the devil.

 

So, this is an appropriate point

in our study of the Gospels

to consider these aspects of theology:

the doctrine of the Trinity,

and the teaching about the devil.

 

Now the very early Church

didn’t bother much with theology.

 

Believers knew that God the Father in heaven

had sent His Son Jesus

to be our Savior

and for us to follow Him as our Lord.

And they knew that Jesus,

before He went back to heaven,

promised to send the Holy Spirit

to give us new birth as born-again children of God

and to comfort us and guide us into all truth.

 

Even the very first believers

recognized that Jesus was God,

and they bowed in worship before Him.

 

And Acts, chapter 5 tells us

that in the very early Church,

Ananias and Saphira

were struck dead for lying to God,

because they “lied to the Holy Spirit.”

So, the Holy Spirit is God.

 

The very early Church had no problem with this.

Many among them had seen Jesus

personally in the flesh.

They knew He was God.

They knew the Holy Spirit was God.

And they knew from the Scriptures

that there is only one God.

 

The need for theology

came about later—

but not much later—

as false teachers came into the churches.

These false teachers

brought in destructive heresies,

and the early Church had to develop theology—

and, in particular,

the branch of theology called apologetics

to answer those false teachers.

 

Just as biology is the study of living creatures,

theology is the study of God—

from the Greek word theos, meaning God.

 

And although “apologetics” sounds like our word “apology”

those who engage in apologetics are not apologizing

for Christian beliefs—

they are defending those beliefs.

Our word “apologetics” comes from the Greek apologia,

which means “to speak in defense.”

 

The letter of Jude[  OPEN  ]

is found toward the end of our Bible,

just before the book of Revelation.

It’s a very small book

of less than 2 pages in most Bibles,

written by Jude, a half-brother of our Lord Jesus.

Notice how Jude

expressed the need to defend the faith.

Jude 1:3 says,

“Dear friends, although I was very eager

to write to you about the salvation we share,

I felt compelled to write and urge you

to contend for the faith

that was once for all

entrusted to God’s holy people.”

 

So, Jude was telling fellow believers

that we need to “contend” for the faith.

That carries the meaning of fighting for the faith,

like a contender in a boxing ring.

Jude went on to write about

false teachers

who were sneaking into the churches

and denying Christ,

not only by teaching false doctrines,

but also by living immoral lives.

 

Jude 1:7 says,

“In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah

and the surrounding towns

gave themselves up

to sexual immorality and perversion.

They serve as an example

of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”

And we, today,

face the same challenge.

 

We need to contend for the faith—

the original faith

that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people—

against false teachers

who say that the sins named in the Bible

aren’t sins any more.

 

Besides behaving immorally,

the false teachers in the early churches

were also denying Christ

by teaching falsely about Him.

 

At 2 Corinthians 11:4,[  OPEN  ]

the Apostle Paul scolded that church

for accepting teachers

who preached a “different Jesus.”

These teachers still talked about “Jesus”

but their theology was wrong,

so it was “a different Jesus”—not the real Jesus.

 

At 2 Corinthians 11:4

Paul wrote,

“You are very patient

with anyone who comes to you

and preaches a different Jesus

from the one we preached. 

You are very willing to accept a spirit or gospel

that is different from the Spirit and Good News

you received from us.”

 

Today we, too, face teachers

who preach a different Jesus.

 

The Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons and the Muslims

all do that—preaching a different Jesus.

 

The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Watchtower magazine

has taught millions of people

that Jesus is not God,

but just an angel—

the first angel God created.

And, of course, you can’t pray to an angel.

And an angel can’t be your Lord and Savior.

 

For many years Christians would defend the faith

and show Jehovah’s Witnesses

what John 1:1 says,

as we read in our responsive reading.

It says,

“1 In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.”

 

The JWs had a hard time

talking their way out of that.

But then they

produced their own Bible—the New World Translation

which changes John 1:1

to say “the word was a god” with a small “g.”

 

The Mormons preach a different Jesus in another way.

They make Jesus just one of many, many ‘gods.’

They teach that God the Father was once a man

and that you, too, can become a god.

 

If you’re interested in refuting

Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses from the Scriptures

there are some books

on the table in the vestibule.

They’re free, so please help yourself to a copy.

 

There are hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide,

but few people realize Islam

has a lot to say about Jesus,

just like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons.

The Muslim holy book the Koran teaches

that Jesus was sent by God,

that Jesus performed miracles,

and that Jesus went to heaven.

But the Koran teaches that Jesus was just a great prophet—

not the Son of God.

 

From the 7th Century onward Muslim armies

invaded Christian lands

and turned people to “a different Jesus.”

 

The false teachers who plagued the First Century Church

and the false teachers today

show why the Church needs

theology and apologetics

to contend for the faith.

 

So, the early Church worked out the doctrine of the Trinity

to refute false teachers

who were trying to teach “a different Jesus.”

And the doctrine still represents

the Church’s best effort to put into human terms

the mystery revealed in Scripture.

 

 But it’s still a mystery.

It’s one of those things

that are beyond our grasp

while we are still in the flesh.

 

There are limits to our theology

because we can’t see heavenly things..

 

The Apostle Paul made that clear

at 1 Corinthians 13:12 where he said,

according to the King James Version,

“For now we see through a glass, darkly;

but then face to face:

now I know in part;

but then shall I know

even as also I am known.”

 

Or, as the New International Version renders the same verse,

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;

then we shall see face to face.

Now I know in part;

then I shall know fully,

even as I am fully known.”

 

Theology helps us understand many things

and it helps us defend the faith.

 

But theology isn’t the way to come to know God.

 

I’ve written books on apologetics,

and I’ve taught in 1997 and again in 2015

at Spurgeon’s annual School of Theology in London,

but the most profound thing I’ve learned

about knowing God

was in the words spoken to me

by a little old lady

who had little formal education.

It was 1982,

and I was the guest speaker at a church in Brockton.

This little old lady spoke to me after the service,

and she said,

“I didn’t come to know God

at any school of theology.

I came to know God

at the school of kneeology.”

And what she meant by “the school of kneeology”

was that she learned to know God

through all the time she spent on her knees, praying.

 

In Jeremiah chapter 31,[  OPEN  ]

when He foretold the New Covenant

God promised that sort of closeness to Him.

And that closeness would be accomplished,

not by everyone becoming theologians,

but by the Son of God

coming to earth

and revealing the Father to us

and then putting the Holy Spirit inside us.

 

At Jeremiah 31, beginning at Verse 31, it says,

 

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord,

when I will make a new covenant . . .

No more shall every man teach his neighbor,

and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me,

from the least of them to the greatest of them,

says the Lord.

For I will forgive their iniquity,

and their sin I will remember no more.”

 

In the New Covenant we can all know the Lord

from the least of us to the greatest of us.

That’s why that little old lady

who told me about “the school of kneeology”

could know God as well

as any high-ranking clergyman or theologian.

 

At Matthew 11, beginning at Verse 28,

Jesus gives us the invitation.

He says,

 

“Come to me,

all you who labor and are heavily burdened,

and I will give you rest. 

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,

for I am gentle and lowly in heart;

and you will find rest for your souls. 

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

When we turn to Jesus

to obey Him as our Lord,

and repent of our sins,

trusting Him to save us from our sins,

he sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts,

and we are adopted

as children of God.

It’s appropriate then

to be baptized

as a first act of obedience to Christ,

and as an outward sign

of the invisible change that has taken place.

From then on

we can live a new life,

as new creatures, renewed by the Holy Spirit.

 

==================         ===============      =======

Now when Jesus was baptized

by John the Baptist

it was not a sign of repentance,

because Jesus had not committed any sins.

For Jesus,

baptism marked

His entry into public ministry.

He was leaving that carpentry shop in Nazareth

where He had grown up as the son of Mary

and the adopted son of Joseph the carpenter.

And He was presenting Himself

to the world

as the Son of God,

the anointed Messiah, the Christ.

 

God the Father’s voice from heaven said,

‘This is my Son, whom I love;

with him I am well pleased.’”

 

And the Holy Spirit descended from heaven

upon Jesus like a dove.

 

What an awe-inspiring event!

 

But the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 4[  OPEN  ]

tells us that Jesus

went right from that baptism in the Jordan River,

into the wilderness

where He was tempted by the devil.

 

Have you ever been lifted up and inspired at church,

only to go home to some disaster

like a flooded basement

or a house fire

or a sudden illness that tested your faith?

That’s what Luke Chapter 4 makes me think of.

 

If we begin reading

at Luke 4, Verse 1, it says,

 

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan

and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,

2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.

He ate nothing during those days,

and at the end of them he was hungry.

 

3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

 

4 Jesus answered, “It is written:

‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

 

5 The devil led him up to a high place

and showed him in an instant

all the kingdoms of the world.

6 And he said to him,

“I will give you all their authority and splendor;

it has been given to me,

and I can give it to anyone I want to.

7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

 

8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

 

9 The devil led him to Jerusalem

and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said,

“throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

 

“‘He will command his angels concerning you

    to guard you carefully;

11 they will lift you up in their hands,

    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

 

12 Jesus answered, “It is said:

‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

 

13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

 

God the Father had just publicly declared

at Jesus’ baptism, ,

‘This is my Son, whom I love;

with him I am well pleased.’”

 

But now Satan keeps saying,

“If you are the Son of God,”

then do this or do that.

 

And the things Satan challenged Jesus to do

were selfish things

like turning a stone to bread

to satisfy His hunger,

“If you are the Son of God,”

 

Jesus would later turn water into wine

at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee—

not to satisfy Himself,

but to keep a wedding from being spoiled

when they ran out of wine.

 

Satan wanted Jesus to throw Himself down

from the highest point above the roof of the Temple

so that the crowds worshiping there

would see Him come to a soft landing.

But that wasn’t God’s way

of introducing Jesus.

 

Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world,

in exchange for worship.

Satan was offering to make Jesus King of the world,

without having to go to the cross.

Again, that was not God’s way of doing things.

Jesus would later rise from the grave

as King of the Universe—

without bending the knee to Satan.

 

Who was this character

who dared to tempt the Son of God?

And where did he come from?

 

The Bible only hints at his origin.

 

Ezekiel Chapter 28 implies

that he was in the Garden of Eden

as the “guardian cherub”

an angel assigned to care for the Garden

and for the first humans.

But, instead,

this angel abused his authority

and spoke through a serpent

to lead Adam and Eve astray.

 

Revelation 12:9 refers to him as

“that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.”

 

And that same 12th chapter of Revelation

goes on to say that he drags with him

 “a third of the stars of heaven.”

So, besides leading humans astray,

he has apparently also led many angels to follow him—

angels who thus became demons.

Matthew 9:34 calls him “ruler of the demons.”

 

Although Satan the devil has deceived many humans and angels

to follow him in behaving wickedly,

he is no match for God.

He is more like

an Adolf Hitler of the spirit world.

 

And Satan will be knocked out of the picture

by God’s heavenly armies

just as the once powerful Adolph Hitler came to his end.

Christ has already defeated Satan at the cross,

and the final victory is spelled out in the book of Revelation.

 

Meanwhile, though,

Satan and his demonic angels

are behind the false teachers in many churches today

and behind the many temptations

to wickedness in the world today.

 

The Apostle Peter, in his first letter                         [  OPEN  ]

warns us about the devil,

because he tempts us

much as he tempted Jesus.

Peter gives us this warning

in 1 Peter, Chapter 5,

beginning at Verse 8.

There Peter wrote to all Christians,

 

“8 Be alert and of sober mind.

Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith,

because you know that the family of believers throughout the world

is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

 

10 And the God of all grace,

who called you to his eternal glory in Christ,

after you have suffered a little while,

will himself restore you and make you strong,

firm and steadfast.

11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

 

 

Ephesians Chapter 6 tells us specifically[  OPEN  ]

how to resist the devil.

 

We are called to “resist” the devil.

But we don’t resist him in our own power.

It is God’s power

that keeps us safe

for eternity with Christ.

 

Ephesians Chapter 6, beginning in Verse 10 says,

 

“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord

and in his mighty power.

11 Put on the full armor of God,

so that you can take your stand

against the devil’s schemes.

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world

and against the spiritual forces of evil

in the heavenly realms.

 

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God,

so that when the day of evil comes,

you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

14 Stand firm then,

with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,

with the breastplate of righteousness in place,

15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness

that comes from the gospel of peace.

16 In addition to all this,

take up the shield of faith,

with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

17 Take the helmet of salvation

and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions

with all kinds of prayers and requests.

With this in mind, be alert

and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

 

So, we face Satan’s temptations,

not in our own power,

but with the power God gives us.

God equips us for battle

with a spiritual suit of armor.

 

We wear a belt of truth

that exposes Satan’s lies.

 

The shield of faith

and the helmet of salvation

can’t be penetrated

by the weapons Satan attacks us with.

 

And God has put a powerful weapon in our hands—

the Bible, the word of God,

which is “the sword of the Spirit”—

to counter Satan’s attacks.

 

And we have prayer.

Through prayer,

we know that Jesus is right there with us

so that we are not fighting our battles alone.