witnessing a discussion on Facebook the other day, and noticing the struggle
everyone had in trying to convince the original poster of the validity of the
Trinity in the scriptures, I decided to take a stab at it myself. Now, please understand, I’m not expecting to
change anyone’s mind, nor am I interested in this becoming a long, drawn out
debate over this doctrinal issue. My
only desire is to give voice to my thoughts on the topic and allow others to
make their own decision. I do believe
this can have implications for someone’s salvation. But I don’t believe anyone has ever been
argued into Heaven. So, here we go!
might as well begin by stating my position: I am a Trinitarian. This means I believe that God eternally exists
as three persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each person is fully God, and
there is One God. The doctrine of the
Trinity was first stated by Tertullian in 215 A.D. The word “Trinity” mean
“tri-unity” or “three-in-oneness.” I believe the Bible clearly affirms the
existence of three distinct Persons
that are all identified as the one God of the universe.
no illustration is perfect, I like the one where the Trinity is the universe
itself. Isn’t it interesting that the entire physical universe (uni: meaning one) consists of
three, and only three aspects—space, time, and matter? If you were to take away any of these three,
you would no longer have a universe.
consists of length, width, and height—three in one. If you were to take away any of these
dimensions, you would no longer have space.
consists of past, present, and future—three in one. If you were to take away any of these aspects,
you would no longer have time.
consists of energy in motion producing phenomena—three in one. If there were no energy there could be no
motion or phenomena. If there were no motion, there would be no energy or
phenomena. If there were no phenomena,
it would be because there was no energy or motion.
see this tri-unity composing the very fabric of the universe. Why would the
universe reflect a trinitarian nature? I believe that God left His fingerprints
on the work of His creation, and we see in it a reflection of the Trinity.
what does the Bible teach about the Trinity? It clearly affirms the existence of three
distinct Persons that are all identified as the one God of the universe. This is not a contradiction because I am not
saying that God is both one person and three persons. Nor am I saying that God is both one god and
three gods. What I am saying is that God
is one and three in different ways. Just
as the one universe exists as space, time, and matter, the one God exists as
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
our belief in the Trinity does not first come from our observation of the
universe, but from Scripture. The
following premises are all taught in the Bible and form the basis of the
doctrine of the Trinity.
is only one God.
O Israel, the Lord our God is One Lord. (Deuteronomy
I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me. (Isaiah 46:9)
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all identified in Scripture as God.
the Father (Galatians 1:1)
Word (Jesus the Son) was God (John 1:1)
is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit…?
You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts
each relate to one another and to the world as distinct Persons.
Mark 1:10–11, Jesus is baptized, the Holy Spirit
descends like a dove, and a voice from Heaven (the Father) says, “You are My
Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
see here that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit could not be the same Person;
they are distinctly acting in different roles at the same time. And toward the end of His ministry, Jesus
said He would ask the Father to send to us “another Helper”—the Holy Spirit (John 15:26).
Do you see the three distinct Persons involved in this request?
of course, the Great Commission Jesus commanded for all His followers. Look closely at the wording, “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, and teaching them to obey everything I have
commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the
age.” (Matthew 28:19, 20)
we see that the one true God of the Bible has revealed Himself to exist in
three distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
big question now is, how important is the doctrine of the Trinity?
say that it’s not important, but I believe this attitude is mistaken. The doctrine of the Trinity underlies key
teachings that are essential to the gospel. For example, those who deny the Trinity
usually deny that Jesus is God. But if
the Jesus you believe in is not God, you don’t have a Jesus
who can save you; you have a false savior, or another
Jesus, as Paul put it in Galatians 1:6–9.
Also, if we deny that
the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct, we deny God His inherent
personal or relational characteristics. For
instance, God would not be a loving God from all eternity if He had to wait
until He created in order to love anyone (because love must be shared). But if
God is more than one Person, there has been a loving relationship from all
eternity among the Persons of God. Believing in a relational God is important,
because it affects the way we relate
to one another, as well as to God. The
Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit are not impersonal entities, but are living in
relationship to one another.
each possess personhood and from eternity past have lived in personal
relationship with each other. We call
them Persons because they live in relationship with one another and because
they all exhibit qualities of “personhood” (will, emotion, intellect, moral
character, etc.). Each member of the
Trinity can refer to Himself as “I” and can communicate to another member of
the Trinity as “You.” Though the Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit are one God, they are distinct enough to love one another,
to give to one another, to communicate to one another, to live for one another,
and to indwell one another.
how do they relate to one another?
all eternity the Son has been the Father’s beloved and “only begotten Son” (John 3:16, 17:5).
The Son is eternally self-existent as
God, and is of the same nature as the Father, yet His existence is from the
Father. Eternally, the Son has related to the Father as a Son, and the Father
has related to the Son as a Father, though not in a physical sense.
the Son has eternally related to the Father as a Son, He is eternally
submissive to the Father. That is why
the Son allowed Himself to be sent by the Father into the world. And that is
why Jesus said, “My Father is greater than I.” This statement by Jesus only
refers to the authority structure within the Godhead; it does not refer to any
difference between the nature of the Father and the nature of the Son. It is important to stress that Christ’s
submission to His Father does not in any way diminish His nature as God the
Son. He is equal to the Father in
essence. He is to be worshiped and glorified on the same level as the Father. Jesus said that all should honor Him “just as
they honor the Father.”
word used to show the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the other
members of the Trinity is “proceeding”
(ekporeuomai). In John 15:26,
Jesus said that He would send to us the Holy Spirit, “which proceeds from the
Father” (NASB). Though the Spirit “proceeds”
from the Father, He is equal to the Father and the Son, and is to be equally
honored. Keep in mind that this “proceeding”
and “sending” is happening between three Persons living in loving relationship
with each other.
let’s take a moment and look at the structure of the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have always
existed in a structure of relationships.
The Father is the Head, then the Son, then the Spirit. These three timeless and equal Persons have
positions of authority based on their relationships with each other. This structure of authority is reflected in
the family and in the church. Like the Trinity, all the members of the family
and in the church have equal value, but not all have the same role. God commands husbands to lead their wives, and
fathers to lead their families. This does
not make them more important than others in the home or the church. As in the
Trinity, difference in roles does not negate equality of value and nature.
the terms we use to describe the Trinity important? Since God is three Persons, but only one
Being, it would be incorrect to speak of members of the Trinity as beings or
individuals. We should also use the word
“distinct” rather than “separate” when speaking of the
Persons in the Trinity because they are mutually indwelling and cannot be separated.
It would be inaccurate to imply that there are three separate individuals in
the Trinity. The Trinity consists of one
being revealed in three distinct persons. As Christians, we reflect God’s personhood and
we are made in His image, we have the capacity to relate to one another and to
God. We have a mind, a will, and emotions.
After God created Adam, He said, “It is not good
that man should be alone.” Then He made Eve. Adam was incomplete without Eve because,
without her, he didn’t have some other human with which to relate. While Genesis
indicates that each individual human being bears the image of God. Genesis
also indicates that man and woman together also reflect God’s image, “And God
created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and
female He created them.”
too, are not functioning as whole persons unless we are in relationship with
others, as God is. We don’t necessarily need to get married like Adam did, but
we do need to have fellowship with others. God made us to relate to others, as
He relates to Himself in His three persons.
look now at how the church reflects the Image of God. Scripture expresses a wonderful comparison
between the nature of God and the nature of the Church. Within both God and the
Church, there is diversity, yet in unity. According to 1 Corinthians 12,
the body of Christ is a unit composed of many parts functioning together for a
purpose. All of us are to use our gifts
and abilities to help others grow spiritually. In doing so, we will be
reflecting God’s relational nature. The
Apostle Paul expected all the various members of the Church to bond together in
love so that all believers would grow to be more like Christ.
prayed that we would, “…in all things grow up into him who is the Head,
that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every
supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its
were made in the image of God as social, relational beings. Should we not then focus on others rather than
ourselves? Should we not emphasize
community instead of “radical” individualism?
does it mean to worship as a Trinitarian? A Unitarian would pray only to the Father,
neglecting the Son and the Spirit in worship. Trinitarian worship recognizes that we come to
the Father with the aid of the Spirit and on the basis of the atoning work of
the Son. As Trinitarians, we are to pray
to the Father, in the Spirit, through the Son.
An important goal of
worship is for us to become caught up into the dynamic life of God; into the
love relationship that the members of the Trinity have for each other. Think of the love that exists between the
Father and the Son, and of what Christ did on the Cross so that we could experience
that love. And as a result of the Son’s
atoning work, the Spirit is able to help us participate in that fervent love
Trinitarians, we not only pray to the Father, in the Spirit, through the Son,
but we also pray to the Father, to
the Son, and to the Spirit. Trinitarian worship brings glory to each
member of the Trinity equally, recognizing the role each plays in our
have seen that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all the one infinite
transcendent God. The three members of
the Trinity have eternally lived in self-giving love for each other. The relationship in the Trinity helps us to
understand how we as persons are to relate to God and to one another.
concept of the eternal Trinity is not easy for human minds to grasp, but it is
a fact revealed in Scripture. Our lives
and worship must bring glory to our Triune God.
Would you like to know how to have a relationship with God?
Reproduced with permission from Russ Sharrock.