The Trinity (IIIa)
The NT Witness: The Ancient Church Formulas in the NT
As we turn to the NT data (and related historical documents), we get tons more data, but still of the same 3-fold type:
- Creedal/liturgical formulas that 'suggest' or even make explicit plurality within God;
- Portrayal of multiple agents as "being God" and portrayal of those same agents as "interacting with God";
- These agents will be appropriately treated as deity (e.g. prayed to , worshipped), whereas attempts to treat OTHER agents so will result in rebuke or censure.
Methodologically, then, we will need to look first for creedal/hymnic materials in the NT. This material is generally considered to be the OLDEST data we have, preserving material that existed in fixed-form BEFORE whatever document in which they occur was written. (Refs: NTLE:192ff, MNT:74-75, GNTI: 632f, Schaff-Creeds of Christendom, vol 2.5-8)
The hymnic/creedal materials of the NT include:
- benedictions and blessings
- creedal statements/confessions
- liturgical formulas (i.e. prayers, baptismal forms, eucharistic forms)
- other passages in which the terms are co-located
When we look at these for any patterns in them suggestive of plurality in unity, we find that the 'incipient' plurality in the OT is expanded into VERY explicit 'multiple person' statements!
1.Benedictions and blessings: Whereas in the OT the benediction form was STRICTLY that of YHWH, in the NT, the 'multiple agents' creep in.
Old Testament examples:
New Testament cases:
- May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, (Ps 67.1)
- Say to them: "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace." (Num 6.23f)
- Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, "May the LORD give you children by this woman (I Sam 2.20)
- (But compare the benediction/prayer of Jacob in Gen 48: "Then he blessed Joseph and said, 'May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm -- may he bless these boys. '"// here we have the Angel, but it is obvious from the construction that the three-fold phrases are ALL the same agent--'he'.)
Summary: the benedictions move in and out of single-Father, single-Christ, dual-Father/Son, triune statements.
- 2 Cor 13.14: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor 13.14) [Notice the source of blessing has 'expanded' to a trinitarian source!]
- Rom 1.7 (and 2 Cor 1.2, 1 Cor 1.3, Eph 1.2, Phil 1.2): Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Notice the double source of grace/peace)
- Rom 16.20: The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. (notice: grace comes from Jesus alone?)
- I Cor 16.23: The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
- Rev 1.4: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. (Notice: grace comes from BOTH again)
- Eph 6.23: Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Notice: dual source)
- 2 Cor 1.3-4: Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort (Note: single-source, the Father)
- Gal 1.3: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Notice: dual-source)
2. Creedal statements and confessions
Summary: The creedal/confessional data is aimed at OTHER topics generally, but one or two DO add some support for the plurality position--esp. the Confession of Thomas-- (and NONE for the unitarian positions per se.)
- The confession of Nathanael--John 1.49: Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." (Notice: Jesus is titled 'rabbi' and 'THE Son of God'--no plurality data, except maybe 'Son')
- The confession of Peter in Mt 16.16: Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Notice: Jesus is called 'messiah' and 'THE Son of the living God'--no plurality data, except maybe 'Son', although we noted in our study of the OT that some passages portrayed a divine messiah)
- The confession of Peter in John 6.68: Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." (Notice: "Holy One of God" was simply a messianic title--no plurality data)
- The confession of Thomas--John 20.28: Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" (Notice: Jesus is called both 'Lord' AND 'God' in one statement, without rebuke, without qualification, without reflection. VERY STRONG plurality data--at least data for the deity of Jesus.)
- Rom 10.9: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," (Notice: only Jesus is featured here, and the confession is ambiguous--it CAN be referring to the OT Lord--generally YHWH--or it can be referring to "Lord of history and cosmos, reigning for YHWH"--the NT usage of the word often. If the first case, STRONG plurality data; if the second, not much.)
- I Cor 15.3-4: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures... (Notice: no plurality data)
- I Cor 8.6: yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (Notice: explicit confession including both Father and Lord, but in an economic-agency relationship. It is interesting to note that the appellative 'the Father' becomes standard usage in the NT, perhaps to distinguish from God the Son?--cf. "the only-begotten God" of John 1.18! At any rate, this verse CERTAINLY makes Jesus into much 'more than man'--preexistent, creator of the universe, agent of redemption.)
Summary: The hymns afford a surprisingly strong witness to the deity of Christ and the interactions between Him and His Father. The passages from Col. and Phil. are VERY explicit as to the exalted nature, and even divine nature, of Jesus the Christ.
- Phil 2.6-11:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This incredible hymn is one of the OLDEST witnesses to what the very early church believed. Although it is used in Philippians (which was written around 60ad), Paul probably picked it up in his early years in the churches in which he worshipped--late 30's (MNT:74). This passage is so heavily trinitarian that it is amazing. In this hymn, we have a pre-existent Jesus who is the very nature (gk: morphe, "outward manifestation that corresponds to the essential nature") of God, as contrasted with a mere appearance ( 2.7, gk: schema, "outward appearance, which may be temporary") [Refs: Kent/EBC, DNTT s.v. 'morphe', EDNT s.v. 'morphe, et. al.] He was 'equally God' (the word 'equal' is the adverbial form, yielding 'he did not consider the being equally God to be something to be held on to..."), but did not consider that status something to be 'selfishly protected'. Instead, He descended to the utmost humility. This pre-existence as equally-God is stated in the present tense (i.e. participle), indicating continuing existence in this state--it was NOT a temporary state. After the steps of descent to humiliation, God (the Father, v. 11) exalts Him, giving him the Name that is above all Names (i.e. YHWH!). This brief hymn contains the most exalted description of Christ's nature (even more so than a simple 'god' --theo-- word-choice would have done)! This is VERY VERY STRONG data for the deity of Jesus, and hence for trinitarian thought.
- Col 1.15-20: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
This is another ancient, but exalted, high Christology. In this case, we have Jesus--preexistent and the Creator of the universe, both material and immaterial. He also somehow 'holds the universe together'. And, when this pre-existent One came to earth to build the community of the redeemed, He lost NONE of his nature--all the 'fullness of God' was present in his body (cf. 2.9: For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form). This is rather strong data for the deity of Jesus, as well.
- I Tim 3.16: Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. (Notice: we have a pre-existent Christ, and is the object of preaching and trust in the world.)
- Eph 2.14-16: For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. (Notice: this hymn adds no data to the deity of Christ (except perhaps the implications of redemptive-ability), but it does differentiate God from Christ.
- Eph 5.14: This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." (No data for plurality.)
4. Liturgical formulas
Summary: The liturgical formulas, when they deal with the topic at all, present a STRONG indication of trintarian belief on the part of the earliest church--so early that there would not have been time for them to 'create the myth'.
- The baptismal "formula"--Mt 28.19: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Notice: this is an explicit statement of three-in-one: it is ONE 'Name', but THREE agents! This linking of the Son with the divine names of God and Holy Spirit is quite a statement!)
- The Eucharist commemoration -- I Cor 11.23-26: For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (No data on plurality here.)
- Faithful saying -- 2 Tim 2.11-13:
Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; 13 if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (No data on plurality here.)
- Faithful saying -- Tit 3.4-7: But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. (Notice: this saying is VERY trinitarian--with all three agents playing separate roles in the redemptive process--with echoes of John 14-17! Notice also that 'God our Savior' and 'Jesus Christ our Savior' are in this passage together, and that the Holy Spirit is responsible for our renewal.)
Summary: The doxologies, which are appropriate to GOD ALONE, sometimes ascribe this glory to the Son of God!
- Rom 11.36: For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Notice this is to the Father, but the phrase 'through him' is also applied to the Son in I Cor 8.6.)
- Gal 1.5: according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Notice: 'glory' is ascribed to the Father.)
- Phil 4.20:
To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Notice: this is a very full version, and to the Father.)
- 2 Tim 4.18: The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (In this passage it is not clear WHO is intended by the phrase 'Lord'. If 'every evil attack' hearkens back to the phrase 'deliver us from the evil one' of Matt 6.13, then the 'Lord' could be a reference to the Father. However, this is unlikely. "Lord" is used consistently of Jesus in the epistles, and this passage is MORE CLOSELY paralleled to 2 Ths 3.3 than to the Matt 6.13 passage. In the 2 Thess passage, it is Jesus Christ who is 'Lord', and if this identification holds for the 2 Tim passage, then the doxology is applied to CHRIST.)
- 1 Pet 4.11: ... so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (Notice: The NIV translation given here leaves it ambiguous as to the referent of "To him be the glory"--Jesus or God. The NAS translation does NOT: "so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever...". If the NAS is correct, then we have a doxology applied to Christ, with the Father right there in the passage. Notice that all glory goes to the Son, who in turn glorifies the Father.)
- Rom 16.27: -- to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Notice: the glory is to God, through Jesus--an functional relationship in time.)
- Eph 3.20: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Notice: a doxology to God).
- I Tim 1.17: Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Notice: This doxology is to the Father (cf. 6.15-16), and is a strong monotheistic statement--'the only God'...remember, the trinitarian position is still only ONE GOD. But also note that Jesus refers to himself as King-different-than-the-Father in Matt 25.)
- Heb 13.20-21: May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Notice: like I Pet 4.11, this passage is somewhat ambiguous as to the referent of the glory. The most natural, linguistically, is Jesus, but the most natural theologically is the Father. Not enough data.)
- 2 Peter 3.18: But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (Notice: Blum, EBC in. loc. "The closing doxology is notable for its direct ascription of 'glory' to Christ. For a Jew who has learned the great words of Isaiah 42:8--"I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another"--this doxology is a clear confession of Christ (cf. John 5.23: "that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father"). ")
- Jude 25: to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Notice: here we have the doxa to God, but the glory is "through" Jesus.)
- Rev 1.5-6: To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father -- to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (Notice: this recipient of a doxology (1) is separate from 'his God and Father' and (2) has blood...this is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ! And this figure is said to fulfill commitments made by YHWH in Exodus 19.6 and Isaiah 61.6.]
6. Other passages in which the terms are co-located.
Summary: There are a huge multitude of passages in which the persons of the trinity are linked in the life of the believer and in the history of redemption. Sometimes it is very difficult to sort out what roles they are playing, and what the relationships between them are. But the spiritual experiences of the early church and her leaders NATURALLY BROUGHT TO THEIR LIPS the three Persons of the Godhead.
- I Cor 12.4-6: There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. (Notice: All three agents are here, in parallel, with NO qualifications.)
- Eph 4.4-6: There is one body and one Spirit -- just as you were called to one hope when you were called -- 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Notice: "one Spirit", "one Lord", "one God and Father")
- 2 Thess 2.13-14: But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Notice: all three are here, linked to redemptive history, and with a special focus on the glory of Jesus.)
- 1 Peter 1.2: who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood (Notice: all three here, in redemptive history, with the phrase "God the Father" present.)
- Acts 2.32: God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, "`The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."'
36 "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." (Notice: the first sermon of the Church!--the distinction of the persons, some of their relationships, and messianic understanding of Ps 110!)
- I Cor 15.24ff: Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (Notice the interplay between the Son and the Father, and that Christ is doing the reigning now! So exalted is the Son's reign that the apostle has to make sure the readers don't believe the Son is OVER the Father! And in verse 28, you have the incredible implication that the Son is NOT 'subject to Him' during this special time of ruling! Can this even be remotely ascribable to a mere creature?!)
- Gal 1.1: Paul, an apostle -- sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, (Notice: Paul was sent by Jesus and the Father, co-operatively...and somehow Jesus was 'NOT a mere man'!)
- Gal 4.6: Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." (Notice: all three, but that the Spirit NOW called the 'Spirit of his Son' is also known as the "Spirit of God" in a similar passage in Rom 8:14-17. This is a strong identification of the Son with the Father.)
- Eph 5.18f: Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Notice: all three present.)
- I Thess 1.1 (also 2 Thess 1.1):
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: (Notice that the church, instead of just being 'in Christ' is ALSO 'in God the Father'--a very strange, but CLOSE, link.)
- I Thess 1.3f: We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit (Notice: all three again, in redemption.)
- I Thess 3.11: Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. (Notice: the co-ordinate work, and BOTH as recipient of prayer! BTW, prayer is supposed to be to God alone.)
- 2 Thess 2.16ff: May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (Notice: Co-ordinate work, and BOTH as recipient of prayer.)
- Ephesians 2.18: For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Notice: all three, economically related. Father and Son, equally mentioned --without the word "God" applied to the Father alone.)
- I John 1.3: And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (Notice: Father and Son, equally mentioned --without the word "God" applied to the Father.)
- I John 2.22: Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist -- he denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (Notice: Son and Father, without the word God, equally linked, rejected or acknowledged simultaneously.)
- I John 4.14: We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. (Notice: all three present, and 'Father' is used without 'God'.)
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Pushback: Glenn, you give numerous examples of three-fold co-ordinate statements. But if I use that argument on the triple formula in I Tim 5.21: I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism then I would get ALL of the good angels as GODS! Aren't you being a little inconsistent with your methods, or conveniently selective in your data?
Response: This issue is easily resolved, due to (1) the sheer magnitude of the 'multiple agent' passages cited versus THE SINGLE EXCEPTION under discussion(!); and due to the fact that the context of judgment in the passage is correlated in scripture with angels present AT the judgment (cf. Matt 16.27: For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done., also Mt 25.31). What is being described by Paul is judgment--NOT the redemptive work of the Triune God in the history and life of the believer. Hence, we would expect 'all parties necessary' to that setting to be mentioned.
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Pushback: But, glenn, when you cite co-ordinate phrases like "God the Father and our Lord", doesn't the very presence of the word "God" in describing the Father--without the same 'God' designator being applied to the Lord--PROVE that the Lord is NOT 'God'?
Response:Probably not. The PRESENCE of the word "God" MEANS something positive, but the absence of the word "God" CANNOT be construed as positive data for the opposite. Take for example, the phrase "God our Father" or "God the Father"--would the occurrence of the simple phrase "our Father" or "The Father" PROVE that the Father was not God? Certainly not--it could not be construed as a PROOF. [Indeed, "the/our Father" occurs VERY OFTEN without the word "God" attached--in the Epistles alone a score of times--cf. Rom 6.4; Eph 2.18, 3.4; Col 1.12; Heb 12.9; Jas 1.12; I Pet 1.17; I John 1.2, 2.1, 2.13-24; 4.14; 2 John 4.] [There ARE passages in which the Son is specifically called 'God'--other than the ones we have seen so far--but they fall outside of the scope of THIS piece on church formulas.]
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Pushback:You know, glenn, your argument seemed sorta convincing up until you got into those "would a mere creature be mentioned co-equally with God?!" passages. But you seem to have overlooked a MAJOR weakness of that argument--We have SPECIFIC passages where God and a human ARE JUST SO CONNECTED. For example, what about Ex 14.31: And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant? And I Sam 12.18: Then Samuel called upon the LORD, and that same day the LORD sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the LORD and of Samuel.? And 2 Chrn 20:20: As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, "Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful." ? And Judges 7.20:they shouted, "A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!"?.
Response: A couple of notes about these verses will highlight the main differences between these and the ones I cited above.
Thus the huge differences between the offered contrary-data and the affirmative-data are such that the original position still seems the most sure.
This survey of the ancient forms imbedded in the New Testament reveal a surprisingly robust 'theology', with an especially exalted Christology. The Spirit of God is predictably linked closely to the Father, but the exalted terms and pre-existence of the Son, along with the extent of His responsibilities, perfection, and identification with deity, is amazing, given the limited vision and faith of the disciples even up to the Resurrection (cf. Luke 24.25; Mrk 16.14). The supernatural event of Pentecost--the outpouring of the Spirit--as promised by Jesus the night before He died, so transformed the interpretive grid of the apostles that Peter was able on that very day to preach a high-Christology sermon, and draw upon OT texts for support!
This belief in Father, Son, and Spirit was somehow experienced, intuited, and drawn from OT texts and words of Jesus. It was not derived from theological ruminations. These liturgical forms above represent the pre-reflective confession of the church--their response to the disclosive acts of God in history. Thomas' response of "My Lord and my God" might have been 'softened' if he had had time to critique his words from his background theology! But as such they describe an irreducible core belief in the plurality of God--esp. the deity of Jesus Christ.
Jaroslav Pelikan notes that this core belief surfaced in EVERY extra-biblical arena (JPECT:173):
The oldest surviving sermon of the Christian church after the New Testament opened with the words: "Brethren, we ought so to think of Jesus Christ as of God, as the judge of living and dead. And we ought not to belittle our salvation; for when we belittle him, we expect also to receive little." The oldest surviving account of the death of a Christian martyr contained the declaration: "It will be impossible for us to forsake Christ...or to worship any other. For him, being the Son of God, we adore, but the martyrs...we cherish." The oldest surviving pagan report about the church described Christians as gathering before sunrise and "singing a hymn to Christ as to [a] god." The oldest surviving liturgical prayer of the church was a prayer addressed to Christ: "Our Lord, come!". Clearly it was the message of what the church believed and taught that "God" was an appropriate name for Jesus Christ.
It is this ascription of deity to Jesus Christ that is the core contention of all those who do not accept the doctrine of the plurality-in-unity of God. The data we have surveyed in the OT indicates that the position was very much 'a problem' there, and a few of the messianic prophecies guaranteed that the 'problem' would surface again in the NT--and indeed it did!
The first of our criteria--examining the creedal/liturgical statements for 'signs' of plurality--has yielded VERY strong, extensive, and conclusive data IN FAVOR OF a plurality-in-unity position (e.g. no less than 3 clear ascription's of deity to the man Jesus and doxologies/prayers offered to him!).
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