October 25, 2020 Truth, Rejoicing, and the Trinity

Truth, Rejoicing, and the Trinity

Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 13:8-14.

 

 

For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.[1]

 

The word “for” here connects verse 8 with verse 7, which we considered last week. Paul was imploring the Corinthians to do the right thing. The “right thing” to which he refers is dealing with sin in their lives. The follower of Christ must deal with sin in their lives. They cannot allow it to remain. This is promoting truth. You see, sin is a lie. It promises pleasure and freedom. But the reality is that, in the end, it brings misery and bondage. Sin is a deception. Therefore, to eradicate sin from our lives and the lives of those close to us is to promote the truth.

 

Other than God Himself, truth is the most important thing in the universe.[2] Even love is dependant upon truth. Because a person could love a lie. We must love that which is true.

 

Jesus said this about his ministry:

 

For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.[3]

 

This statement by our Lord informs us how important truth is! If this is the very reason that Jesus came, to bear witness to the truth, then we must take truth to heart, we must understand it, and we must love it.

 

Truth can be known. We live in a skeptical age. In a recent survey only 28% of the people asked believed there was such a thing as absolute truth. In other words, a large majority believed that truth was relative, rather than absolute. Amazingly, this same question was asked of Evangelical Christians and only 23% believed in absolute truth! But a relative truth is no truth at all. Because if something can be validated for one person and not true to someone else, then truth loses its meaning.

 

Truth is objective and truth can be known. The reason we know that truth can be known is because Jesus came to bear witness to it. Our Lord is not going to waste his time telling us the truth if we can’t know it. More, Jesus promised that we could know it.

 

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”[4]

 

The condition for knowing the truth that Jesus promised is abiding in his word. If we abide in his word we will know the truth! Because all truth originates with God and because the Scriptures are the very words of God, the more accurate our knowledge of the Bible is then the more truth we will know.

 

You could divide up the people of the world in different ways. You could divide them as saved and unsaved. This is a true division. Every person alive today, and who ever lived, is either saved or unsaved. There is no in-between, no third category.

 

You could divide every person as either male or female. While there are some rare individuals who possess physical traits of both genders, their chromosomes will reveal their true gender.[5]

 

One way to divide the people of the world is by those who seek the truth and those who do not. Put another way, there are those who love the truth and those who hate the truth. You might think that there is a third category – those who are indifferent to the truth. In other words, those who don’t care about the truth. But, indifference is just another form of hatred. You avoid those things you despise. If you are indifferent to the truth then you hate it.

 

Which are you? Do you love the truth or are you running away from it? I hope you love the truth. Even if you are not reconciled to God yet, if you love the truth and seek it then the Lord will bring you into his fold (John 18:37).

 

Last time we considered two fruits of righteousness that accompany salvation. That is, we saw that two clear evidences of belonging to God were loving the brothers and sisters, and regularly meeting with the local church. We could add loving the truth as a third evidence. Paul wrote that we can do nothing against the truth, only for the truth. The true child of God loves the truth!

 

A child of God may temporarily not love a brother or sister. They may temporarily not meet with the church. They may, for a time, not love the truth. Why? Because each one of those is a sin. And, a child of God can sin. But, the Holy Spirit – who is the Spirit of truth – will not allow God’s children to remain in those conditions for very long.

 

Love the truth! Seek the truth!

 

11 Finally, brothers, rejoice.

 

Since the apostles are rejoicing (7:13), they are able to exhort the Corinthians to rejoice too. We rejoice not in our natural life, but we rejoice “in the Lord” (Phil. 3;1; 4:4; I Thes. 5:16), that is, by being one with Him in our spirit.

 

According to the New Testament, the Christian life should be a life of rejoicing. Other than at times of great tragedy, if your life is not a rejoicing life then your Christian life is not normal. To rejoice means more than simply having joy. It is possible to have joy but not rejoice.

 

Joy is something that we have inwardly. We all go through many trials in life. We have trials in our marriages, trials at our jobs, trials in parenting, trials in our own failures in following the Lord. We can go through these trials and still have inward joy because we know that our sins are forgiven; we know that we are loved by the Lord; and, we know that.

 

Rejoicing means that our inward joy is expressed outwardly.[6] In order to rejoice we must use our voice. We need to sound out our joy. To voice out our joy is to rejoice.[7] We can rejoice by singing, praising, shouting, and calling on the Lord.

 

The more we rejoice the more joy we will have. It is not just our inner thoughts and feelings that are displayed in our actions and words. But our feelings and actions make up a two-way street. Often, our feelings are expressed by what we say and do.

 

It has been said that is you wish to change the way you feel then you need to change your thoughts, that is, what you believe. This is absolutely true! But, what is also true is that our feelings are changed and even created by what we do!

 

A pastor by the name of George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. "I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me."

Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan "Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you've convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that your're getting a divorce. That will really hurt him." With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, "Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!" And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting "as if." For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing. When she didn't return, Crane called. "Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?"

"Divorce?" she exclaimed. "Never! I discovered I really do love him." Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds. It is the same with joy! The more we rejoice, that is, outwardly express joy, the more joy we will actually have!

 

This means that we ought to rejoice whether we feel like it or not. It is not being hypocritical. Rejoicing when you don’t feel like it is both being obedient and writing your own prescription for happiness! Don’t find your happiness in a bottle or a pill. Find it in rejoicing!

 

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.[8]

 

Paul tells the Corinthians to rejoice, restore, comfort, agree, and to “live in peace.” All these actions take time. Do you see it? To restore someone back into a right relationship with God takes some time. To comfort those who are suffering means you must see them and talk to them. To come to agreement means that you must discuss matters. All of these things take time. If we are going to do these good things then we likely need less entertainment and more engagement with people. Not engagement with the TV or the internet. May I put this in a more colloquial way? Get off your butt! There are many good things we can do for the Lord.

 

Paul writes that if we live in peace then God will be with us. Doesn’t this go against our natural concept? We think that we must have God with us in order to have peace with one another. Actually, this is true. Where we go amiss is we think that is all there is to it. We do have to have the God of peace living in us and, if we are one with Him, then we will experience peace. But, Paul writes that we need to live in peace then the God of peace will be with us. Both are true!

 

Just like joy and rejoicing, living in peace and experiencing God is also a two-way street. The more we touch our spirit where the Spirit of the Living God dwells, the more peace we will have with others. But, the more we practice living peaceably, the more we are filled with the Spirit! Hallelujah!

 

12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

 

Displays of affection were not only common in the first century, but here it is commanded. The adjective “holy” is important. All our displays of affection should be holy. I think a practical test of this is that we should only display affection equally between men and women. If you are a man who is only hugging women then I wonder if your hug is holy. If you are a woman who is only hugging men, likewise, it makes me wonder.

 

Paul’s command here brings our attention to the importance of displaying our love to one another and not just talking about it. In many parts of the world such displays as Platonic hugging and kissing are quite common. In America, we are probably too stodgy in this regard and need to get over it.

 

Paul concludes his epistle with a marvelous blessing:

 

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. [9]

 

This formula of blessing is an expression of God’s nature as Triune. God is a Trinity. We must believe in the Trinity because the more we understand the Trinity the more we will love God. The Bible reveals that the more knowledge we have of God the more we will love Him. Therefore, if God has revealed that He is Triune, then we must believe this about Him in order to love Him more fully.

 

The Trinity is easily defined, although it may be hard to comprehend: Within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and coeternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.[10]

 

One of the distinguishing marks of the cults is that they almost all deny the Trinity while orthodox Christians believe in God’s revelation of Himself.

 

It is telling how often the three Persons of the Godhead are revealed as acting together.

 

The very first day of Jesus’ public ministry, at his baptism, they are together:

 

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” [11]

 

The very last day of Jesus’ public ministry, as he issues the Great Commission, they are together:

 

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [12]

 

In the very first gospel message preached after our Lord’s ascension, the three are spoken of as acting together:

 

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.[13]

 

Indeed, throughout the New Testament, the three Persons of the Godhead are mentioned together many times. Just to look at one such passage, where Paul writes about our Lord’s earthly ministry:

 

And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.[14]

 

It is both through Christ and the Spirit that we have access to the Father!

 

As we consider these last few verses of 2 Corinthians we may think that these three things that Paul mentions are unrelated: the truth (vs 8), rejoicing (vs. 11), and the Trinity (vs. 14). But, they are very much related.

 

The Trinity is part of the revelation of truth. Since we must be for the truth, we must be for the Trinity. Paul commands the Corinthians to rejoice. By extension, he is commanding us to rejoice. But, as he concludes this letter, we see that it is through the Triune God that we are able to rejoice.

 

“In the New Testament the real blessing is the Triune God Himself. As we have pointed out, this blessing is threefold, a blessing of grace, love, and fellowship. With love as the source, grace as the course, and fellowship as the transmission, the Triune God reaches us to be our life, our life supply, and our enjoyment. Now in a practical way we can enjoy the Triune God all day long. This is our unique New Testament blessing.”[15]

 

“The grace of the Lord is the Lord Himself as life to us for our enjoyment (John 1:17; 1 Cor. 15:10), the love of God is God Himself (1 John 4:8, 16) as the source of the grace of the Lord, and the fellowship of the Spirit is the Spirit Himself as the transmission of the grace of the Lord with the love of God for our participation.”[16]

 

Because our great God is Triune, we can enjoy him and we can enjoy our fellowship with one another. Forget your problems. They will come and go, but God is forever! This coming week, I say to you, “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!”

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 13:8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Actually, God is the truth (John 14:6; 16:13; I John 5:20; Rev. 6:10)

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 18:37). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 8:31–32). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Females have XX, males have XY. There are rare instances where the X chromosome can be duplicated in males, such as XXY or XXXY. But, if a Y chromosome is present, then the biological sex of the person is male.

[6] This insight is from Witness Lee, Life-Study of Second Corinthians (Living Stream Ministry, Anahein, CA; 1984) 515.

[7] Ibid.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 13:11). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 13:14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity (Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 1998), 26. [TFT, henceforth]

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 1:9–11). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 28:18–19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:32–33). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 2:17–18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[15] Lee, 520.

[16] Ibid.