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Trinity

The Trinity is the theological term designating one God in three persons.

Even though the term is not used in the Bible, it is a correct designation for the one God self-revealed in Scripture as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The term simply means that within the one essence of the Godhead, we have to distinguish three persons who are neither three gods, nor three parts or modes of God. The three persons of the Godhead are coequal and coeternally God.

The biblical teaching on the Trinity is developed through the progressive self-revelation of God in the Scriptures. The Bible declares, “The LORD is our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The unity of God is emphasized. The Hebrew word echad always denotes “compound unity.” It is one in the sense of unity. It is suggestive of the one Divine Unity of the Trinity. He is the only Yahweh. There is no other. It is to Him alone that the name rightly belongs. God is not Himself a plurality. He is not one among many others. There are no other gods (5:7-11). There is only one essence or substance of God. However, the individuality of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is preserved. God is one, yet the self-revelation of God clearly teaches in Himself and from all eternity, He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is the triune God—the three in one.

There are clear intimations of the Trinity in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit is mentioned frequently from the beginning verses (Genesis 1:2), and in verses 26 and 27 the plural form is used. Each member of the Godhead was explicit participants in creation. The "Spirit of God" in the Old Testament is synonymous with the Holy Spirit. In Genesis 18, the appearance of the LORD to Abraham is suggestive of the second person of the Godhead as well as other occurrences in the Old Testament. Isaiah 48:16 is also a strong Trinitarian statement. “Come near Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, from the first time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.” The speaker in this verse is probably the Messiah, the Servant of the LORD.

The New Testament never violates the Old Testament concept of the oneness of God. The writers unanimously and fully affirm the great Hebrew monotheistic faith in Yahweh. They extend this great doctrine to include the deity of both Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

In the New Testament, the LORD God is still preached as the one God (Galatians 3:20). In John 8:58 Jesus proclaimed His own deity. “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.” The other emphatic “I AM” statements of Jesus reinforce the same truth (6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 9, 11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1) The disciple Thomas declared in 20:28, “My Lord and my God!” John’s purpose statement for writing his gospel is stated in verse thirty-one. “These have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ [Messiah], the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” He began his gospel saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Who is the Word? He is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, our Lord and Savior. He is equated with God. The apostle Paul wrote, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:3).

Jesus was with God; Jesus is fully God. He said, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus is fully divine. The Lord God Almighty came into human history in the person of Jesus Christ. The incarnate Jesus Christ is the God-man. He is fully God, and He is fully man.

Moreover, the Holy Spirit has the same relationship with the Father and the Son as taught in John 14-16. The Holy Spirit is the Helper or divine Encourager who is another of the same kind.

The Holy Spirit is one member of the Trinity, equal in all ways to both the Father and the Son. His distinction from the Father and the Son and His mission proves His personality. He is a person and not a mere force or power. He is omniscient (1 Cor. 2:10-11; Jn. 16:12-13), omnipotent (Luke 1:35), and omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-10). The name of God is indirectly given to Him (Acts 5:3-4). To sin against the Holy Spirit is not to sin against a spiritual force, but God.

The entire Trinity is mentioned in John 14:25-26. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you.” In deed, as B. B. Warfield observed the three Persons come into view as Divine Persons in numerous passages (Lk. 1:35f; Matt. 1:18ff; 3:16-17; Mk. 1:10-11; Lk. 3:21-22; Jn. 1:32-34).

“Israel worshipped the only one true God under the name of Jehovah; Christians are to worship the same one and only true God under the Name of ‘the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’”

What is always needed in theology is balance; and this is true when we think of the LORD God. Most often heresy results from emphasizing one part of biblical truth at the expense of other parts.  If we emphasize the unity of God at the expense of the diversity of persons or the diversity at the expense of unity, we fall into error. The great truth of Biblical theology is, “the LORD our God is one.” He is a Triunity—He has revealed Himself from all eternity as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

A correct understanding of the Biblical teaching on the Trinity balances the concepts of the unity of God as well as the distinctiveness of His persons. Two extremes are tritheism and Unitarianism. The error of tritheism is in emphasizing the distinctiveness of the Godhead to the point the Trinity is seen as three separate Gods. We do not worship a Christian polytheism. The other error in understanding the Trinity excludes the concept of the distinctiveness while focusing only on God the Father at the expense of the other Persons. These teachers deny the deity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. They are placed on a lower category than the Father. The result of the compromise in either direction reduces the true reality of our salvation.

We come to know the Trinity through experiencing the act of grace through personal faith in God. The early church worshipped in an awareness of the Trinity. The fullness of God’s being is made available to the individual believer through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rev. 1:4).

The New Testament does not give us a systematic doctrine of the Trinity. It does, however, teach the Trinity without a full-length discussion because there was no pressing need for a full-blown teaching on the subject. The first Christians were faithful worshippers of the God revealed in monotheistic faith of Israel. They fully realized the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. He receives a fuller revelation in the New Testament and more complete in the person of His Son.

In redemptive history, God reveals Himself to mankind through God the Son and God the Spirit without ceasing to be Himself. He remains in both in the Old and the New Testament an undivided unity.

Those who refuse to believe in the Trinity do so because they do not want to accept the facts regarding the deity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

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(c) 2006  Message by Wil Pounds. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.

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