Sermon title: Father, Son and Holy Spirit—Then the Tempter John 1:1-18
Immanuel Baptist Church – January 14, 2018
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
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
“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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
we know that Jesus is right there with us
so that we are not fighting our battles alone.