The Trinity & Deity of Jesus in the Writings of Ante-Nicene Fathers

[This is the first installment for the new section on my Apologetics Page, “Bible Inserts”.  You can view a PDF of this post there.  It is intended to be printed as a half-sheet, placed in your Bible, and used as an apologetics guide or reference for evangelism.]

Introduction
The following is a brief selection of the Ante-Nicene (before Nicaea) testimony to these fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, thus demonstrating that the doctrines of the Trinity and Deity of Jesus were not later inventions of the church at the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325), as is frequently asserted by various cults.[1]

Ignatius: (Wrote in the early 2nd Century)
“There is only one physician, who is both flesh and spirit, born and unborn, God in man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first subject to suffering and then beyond it, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Epistle to the Ephesians, vii.)

“…because you are stones of a temple, prepared beforehand for the building of God the Father, hoisted up to the heights by the crane of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, using as a rope the Holy Spirit….” (Epistle to the Ephesians, ix.)

“For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to God’s plan, both from the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit.” (Epistle to the Ephesians, xviii.)

“…when God appeared in human form to bring the newness of eternal life.” (Epistle to the Ephesians, xix.)

“I glorify Jesus Christ, the God who made you so wise,…he is truly of the family of David with respect to human descent, Son of God with respect to the divine will and power….” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, i.)

“…in accordance with faith in and love for Jesus Christ our God…. heartiest greetings blamelessly in Jesus Christ our God.” (Epistle to the Romans, Salutation.)

Polycarp: (Wrote in the early 2nd Century)
“…and to all those under heaven who will yet believe in our Lord and God Jesus Christ and in his Father who raised him from the dead.” (Epistle to the Philippians, xii.)

Hippolytus: (Wrote during the late 2nd Century to early 3rd Century)
“These things then, brethren, are declared by the Scriptures. And the blessed John, in the testimony of his Gospel, gives us an account of this economy (disposition) and acknowledges this Word as God, when he says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” If, then, the Word was with God, and was also God, what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two Persons however, and of a third economy (disposition), viz., the grace of the Holy Ghost. For the Father indeed is One, but there are two Persons, because there is also the Son; and then there is the third, the Holy Spirit. The Father decrees, the Word executes, and the Son is manifested, through whom the Father is believed on. The economy of harmony is led back to one God; for God is One. It is the Father who commands, and the Son who obeys, and the Holy Spirit who gives understanding: the Father who is above all, and the Son who is through all, and the Holy Spirit who is in all. And we cannot otherwise think of one God, but by believing in truth in Father and Son and Holy Spirit. For the Jews glorified the Father, but gave Him not thanks, for they did not recognise the Son. The disciples recognised the Son, but not in the Holy Ghost; wherefore they also denied Him. The Father’s Word, therefore, knowing the economy (disposition) and the will of the Father, to wit, that the Father seeks to be worshipped in none other way than this, gave this charge to the disciples after He rose from the dead: “Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Mtt. 28:19) And by this He showed, that whosoever omitted any one of these, failed in glorifying God perfectly. For it is through this Trinity that the Father is glorified. For the Father willed, the Son did, the Spirit manifested. The whole Scriptures, then, proclaim this truth.” (Against the Heresy of Noetus, xiv.)

“Let us believe then, dear brethren, according to the tradition of the apostles, that God the Word came down from heaven, (and entered) into the holy Virgin Mary, in order that, taking the flesh from her, and assuming also a human, by which I mean a rational soul, and becoming thus all that man is with the exception of sin, He might save fallen man, and confer immortality on men who believe on His name.” (Against the Heresy of Noetus, xvii.)

 


[1] All quotations, except those of Hippolytus, are from The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 3rd Edition, by Michael W. Holmes.  The Hippolytus quotations are from Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5.

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Jesus is the Savior: A Brief & Often Overlooked Argument for the Deity of Jesus

The testimony of the Scriptures to the Deity of Jesus is explicit and full.  Nonetheless, many cults and others wish to make an attempt at disproving His Deity (i.e. God in the truest sense of the word).  It is not my purpose in this post to look at such attempts and respond to them.  I have taken up some of that with regard to the claims and arguments from Muslims (though many of their arguments would likewise be found on the lips of others like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons) on my Apologetics Page (always in progress).  In this post I simply want to lay out a brief argument for Jesus’ Deity that I believe often goes without consideration, or is rarely brought up.

Argument: God (Yahweh) says that He alone is the Savior.  After all, only God, who is all-powerful and the giver of grace and mercy, can save spiritually depraved and corrupt sinners.  Yet, in the New Testament, Jesus is repeatedly referred to as our Savior.  It rightly follows, therefore, that Jesus is indeed God in the flesh.

Isaiah 43:11 “I, even I, am the LORD [Yahweh], and there is no savior besides Me.”

New Testament Testimony Regarding Jesus:

1 Timothy 1:15 “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.”

Titus 2:13 “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and savior, Christ Jesus.” [“God” actually refers to Jesus in this text as well!]

Titus 3:6 “[The Holy Spirit] whom He [the Father] poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

2 Peter 1:1 “…To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” [“God” also refers to Jesus in this text.]

2 Peter 3:18 “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity.  Amen.” [Note how we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, and how glory is due to Him, both now and for all eternity (cf. Rev. 5).  Such language is blasphemous if Jesus is not God.]

“Who Invented the Trinity?”: Defending the Triune Nature of God as Revealed in His Word

Not that long ago I responded to an Islamic article entitled “Is Jesus Really God?”.  You can read my response here: “Is Jesus Really God?”: Defending the Eternal Glory of Jesus against the Objections of Islam.  I just finished my response to a related article entitled “Who Invented the Trinity?”.  You can read my response to this article here: “Who Invented the Trinity?”: Defending the Triune Nature of God as Revealed in His Word.  May these articles be a blessing to God’s people, strengthening them in the truth of God’s word; and may it be a blessing to Muslims, opening their eyes to the truth of the Bible, and bring them to the obedience of faith in the gospel of Christ.

Debate: Can God Become a Man? (James White vs. Abdullah Kunde)

Let me tell you, this is a really good debate.  James white, of course, does a wonderful job clearly presenting the biblical case for the incarnation and the Deity of Christ.  Yet, you can tell that he’s not simply concerned about winning an argument; he’s there for a reason, and that reason is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, and to make the gospel known for the salvation of his Muslim hearers.  Dr. White is passionate about what he does, first and foremost because he loves the Lord and His truth, and second, because he knows that defending and proclaiming the truth is the only way that these Muslims will come to repentance and faith, as the Spirit works through the word.  While Abdullah Kunde, an intelligent young guy, does demonstrate some misunderstandings of the Christian position, at the same time he has a genuine desire to understand the Christian position and accurately represent us.  This honesty and genuineness makes for a worthwhile debate.  Lastly, the thesis of the debate is central to the Christian faith and message – the incarnation of the Son of God – and for that reason Christians need to watch this and learn from White’s presentation.  Also, pass it along to any of your Muslim friends.  Before you watch the debate though, I recommend that you read John 1:1-18, Galatians 4:4-5, Philippians 2:5-11, and Hebrews 2:14-18.  These are a few key texts on the nature and significance of the incarnation, and they’ll help to prepare you for the debate.

Video: The Forgotten Trinity (by James White)

This lecture by James White is based on his book, The Forgotten Trinity.  He discusses the three foundational truths or teachings of the doctrine of the Trinity, that if you eliminate just one of them, you go off into some heretical error.  Learn these foundations!  Then he spends some time explaining how to explain or defend the Trinity when talking with adherents of other religions (e.g. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses).  This is a really important and educational lecture.  Also, if you don’t already have his book, then I highly recommend it.  The Trinity is a central doctrine of the Christian faith, yet far too few Christians understand its Scriptural basis and can defend it.  You may also check out a blog post I did on the Trinity a while back: Trinity: A Practical Overview & Encouragement for Further Study.

The Trinity: A Practical Overview & Encouragement for Further Study

The Trinity DiagramChristianity, through and through, is trinitarian in nature.  The Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is central and indeed essential to the Christian faith and life.  Yet, there seems to be little study, conversation, and thought on this wondrous reality of God’s nature and the way in which each Person of the Trinity relates to each other and the Christian.  So I want to encourage my fellow brethren to take up this study.  I want to encourage you to read and study the Scriptures with the Trinity in the forefront of your mind.  As you do so, you will begin to see and grow in your understanding and appreciation of the Trinity in the Christian faith and life.  Just look at these three passages, as examples, of the importance of the Trinity in relation to salvation, prayer, and worship.

Hebrews 9:14 “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Romans 15:30 “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf.”

Philippians 3:3 “For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.”

From these few examples alone we see the essential and central nature of this doctrine in the Christian faith and life.  The gospel is trinitarian; worship is trinitarian; prayer is trinitarian; etc.

I hope these things will encourage you to engage in an in-depth study on the Trinity.  I therefore make these resources available to you.  May you be greatly encouraged in your faith and immensely blessed as you engage in this awesome (reverential) study.

The Trinitarian Nature of Christianity (This is a simple overview of the doctrine of the Trinity, with particular focus on the practical significance of the Trinity in our faith and life.  Suggested resources for further study are given at the end of the lesson.)

The Trinity (Handout Sheet) (This is simply an accompanying handout sheet if you so wish to teach on the Trinity in Sunday school or Bible study.  There are also resources suggested on this sheet).

The Baptist Catechism: Q. 9 (The Trinity)

Q. 9: How many persons are there in the Godhead?
Answer: There are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one God, the same in essence, equal in power and glory.
Scripture: Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14

Comment: The doctrine of the Trinity—one God in three distinct, co-equal, and co-eternal Persons—is an essential doctrine of the Christian faith.  In fact, the Christian faith and life is Trinitarian through and through.  It is difficult to think of one area of Christianity that is not Trinitarian in some regards.  For instance, the scope of redemption is Trinitarian (Eph. 1:3-14; 1 Pet. 1:1-2).  The work of Creation is Trinitarian (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 33:6; Jn. 1:3).  The resurrection of Christ is Trinitarian (Rom. 1:4).  Baptism is Trinitarian (Matt. 28:19).  The kingdom is Trinitarian (Rom. 14:17-18; Eph. 5:5).  Worship is Trinitarian (Jn. 4:24; Phil. 3:3).  Prayer is Trinitarian (Jn. 16:23-24; Rom. 8:26-27).  The scope of the Christian life is Trinitarian (2 Cor. 13:14; Jude vv. 20-21).  We could go on and on.  Everywhere we look we see Father, Son, and Holy Spirit manifesting, at the same time, their co-equality and distinct roles in these various ways.  The more we understand the doctrine of the Trinity and its implications for our faith and life, the more invigorating we will become in our devotion and service in the various aspects of the Christian life.  Let the Trinity inform your faith and life.