The Doctrine of the Trinity
In this study, we will attempt to gain a better understanding of what the doctrine of the trinity (is it even possible to scratch the surface?), why it is vital to our understanding of God and how believing an aberrant view of this doctrine could prove fatal, eternally.
It is important to note that the word trinity cannot be found anywhere in the bible; should we avoid using the term based on this? Not really; But if questioned, one should make it clear that, yes, you are correct-it is not found in scripture-believers use it as a summary to describe the Triune God. Much like the Confessions.
It is said to be first used by Tertullian (c. A.D. 160-230). It can be said that the doctrine was formulated over time in the early church-it would be a falsehood to believe that since it isn’t in scripture per se, that it is a figment of our imagination. The doctrine is based upon a number of passages. For instance, one could not find the word ‘bible’ in the bible.
Alister McGrath writes:
“The doctrine of the Trinity can be regarded as the outcome of a process of sustained and critical reflection on the pattern of divine activity revealed in Scripture, and continued in Christian experience. This is not to say that Scripture contains a doctrine of the Trinity; rather, Scripture bears witness to a God who demands to be understood in a Trinitarian manner…. Historically, it is possible to argue that the doctrine of the Trinity is closely linked with the development of the doctrine of the divinity of Christ.…The starting point for Christian reflections on the Trinity is, as we have seen, the New Testament witness to the presence and activity of God in Christ and through the Spirit.5”
Here are some relevant scriptures:
- 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. [Gen 1:26-27]
- All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 [Matthew 28:19].
- May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of theHoly Spirit be with you all [2 Corinthians 13:14].
- To God’s elect. . .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 [1 Peter 1:1-2].
16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. [Rom 14:16-17]
15 Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God, 16 that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. [Rom 15:15-16]
2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. [1 Cor 2:2-5]
11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. [1 Cor 6:11]
3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. [1 Cor 12:3-6]
20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. [2 Cor 1:20-22]
6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. [Gal 4:6-7]
4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [Titus 3:5-7]
6 This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7 For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. [1 John 5:6-8]
Would anyone care to illuminate his or her understanding of the doctrine?
Is there one God or three?
The Shema says: The Lord our God is one.
Deut 6:4 “Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”
A brief primer on Philosophy:
Contradiction: A contradiction is something that violates the classical law of non contradiction; Something that is against the truth-sometimes referred to as an antinomy (Against law)
‘A cannot be A and non A at the same time and in the same relationship;
“The qualifiers “same time” and “same relationship” are very important. Some attempt to deny the law of noncontradiction by giving examples from the natural world that seem to render the law invalid. One example of this might be water. Water can be both a liquid and a gas and so therefore, the law of noncontradiction must not be true. However, the qualifier “same time,” makes this an inaccurate assumption. A molecule of water can be both a liquid and a gas, but that molecule is never both a liquid and a gas at the same time.
The qualifier “same relationship” is also very important. We see a good example of this in Christian theology. Many people mistakenly believe that when we confess the doctrine of the Trinity, we confess a contradiction.”
Gordon Clark defined the paradox a ‘charley Horse between the ears’.
Paradox: Something that is a seeming contradiction, but can be ultimately reconciled after thorough study.
Matt 10:39 Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it…
Mystery: Something that is unknown, but can be known with greater study.
Example: predestination, The Incarnation, trinity
Sproul calls the Trinity ‘a paradox’. Some call it a mystery.
We will focus on 6 points:
1) What is the biblical view of the Trinity,
The Westminster Shorter catechism states:
WSC Q. 6. How many persons are there in the godhead?
A. There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.
That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal. . . .
Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. Yet there are not three gods; there is but one God.
Thus the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord. Yet there are not three lords; there is but one Lord.
God is 3 persons and one essence.”
~Chair 0 person/1 essence
~Humans 1 person/1 essence
~God 3 persons/1 essence
Just as Christian truth compels us to confess each person individually as both God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.”
Perichoresis is a Greek term used to describe the triune relationship between each person of the Godhead. It can be defined as co-indwelling, co-inhering, and mutual interpenetration. Alister McGrath writes that it “allows the individuality of the persons to be maintained, while insisting that each person shares in the life of the other two. An image often used to express this idea is that of a ‘community of being,’ in which each person, while maintaining its distinctive identity, penetrates the others and is penetrated by them.”
2) How not believing the biblical view of the trinity is a break in the second commandment.
If one is to say that the Son and the Father are not one, he goes against the biblical doctrine and in turn breaks the second commandment-you have made a god into an unbiblical image in your mind. In the same way, if one is to say that the HS and Jesus, or the HS and God are not the same….
3)How is God the Father, Jesus the Son and God the Holy Spirit different from each other, yet the same.
a) There is not a subordination in the members of the trinity.
b) There is not inferiority in regards to the members.
There cannot be an actual subjection.
c) There is an eternal covenant between the members of the trinity in regards to the redemption of man
d) God is spirit-He is omnipresent-no man has seen God and lived; Jesus is flesh and blood, yet omnipresent in a sense; He has been seen by men; He is the manifestation of God the Father. He sits at the Fathers right hand. The Holy Spirit is the helper-He is omnipresent.
4) The incarnation vs the trinity and how it is different:
The incarnation is a hypostatic union:
Jesus has two complete natures; One divine and the other human. What the doctrine of the hypostatic union teaches is that these two natures are united in one person. Jesus is not two persons. He is one person. The hypostatic union is the joining of the divine and the human in the one person of Jesus.
As the Chalcedonian Creed states, his two natures are without confusion, without change, without division, and without separation. Jesus is one. Handout
If one denies the doctrine of the trinity, it would follow that they would deny then, Jesus’ deity and the incarnation.
5) Relevant scriptures; It is important to note that the doctrine cannot be proven from a particular scripture. The concept used to come to a conclusion is by good and necessary inference.
The Father is God: A. Explicit statements: John 5:18; 6:27; 17:1, 3; 20:17; 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 John 3
Jesus is God: Isaiah 9:6, John 1:1, John 1:18, John 20:28, Acts 20:28, Rom 9:5
The Holy Spirit is God: Eternal: Heb. 9:14; Omnipresent: Ps. 139:7, 3. Omniscient: 1 Cor. 2:10-11, Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 3:17-18, 1. Creation: Gen. 1:2; Ps. 104:30, Incarnation: Matt. 1:18, 20; Luke 1:35, Resurrection: Rom. 1:4; 8:11, Salvation: Rom. 8:1-27
The New Testament presents a consistent triad of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (God, Christ, Spirit): Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; also Luke 1:35; 3:21-22 par.; 4:1-12; John 4:10-25; 7:37-39; 14-16; 20:21-22; Acts 1:4-8; 2:33, 38-39; 5:3-4, 9, 30-32; 7:55-56; 10:36-38, 44-48; 11:15-18; 15:8-11; 20:38; 28:25-31; Rom. 1:1-4; 5:5-10; 8:2-4, 9-11, 14-17; 1 Cor. 6:11; 12:4-6, 11-12, 18; 2 Cor. 1:19-22; 3:6-8, 14-18; Gal. 3:8-14; 4:4-7; Eph. 1:3-17; 2:18, 21-22; 3:14-19; 4:4-6, 29-32; 5:18-20; Phil. 3:3; 1 Thess. 1:3-6; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; ****. 3:4-6; Heb. 2:3-4; 9:14; 10:28-31; 1 Pet. 1:2; 1 John 3:21-24; 4:13-14; Jude 20-21; Rev. 2:18, 27-29.
6) Why is the doctrine of the trinity important?
Because it explains to us who and what God is. To disagree is to disagree with scripture. To fail to see the trinity is to fail to worship the true God rightly. Question: Do the Jews who hold to the God of our bible worship the same God as us? How can they if they deny the trinity? You know thay would quote the Shema to us right now: It says in Deut God is one! How can He be 3?
Without the doctrine of the trinity, Christ’s redemptive work is destroyed. Jesus, the 2nd person of the Trinity is able to accomplish that which the Father demands because He is God and man-How could He be a perfect sacrifice, living like a man if He wasn’t God? Jesus as the God man, conquers sin, death and hell. A mere man could not do this! The HS enables the believers and regenerates them. This is all brought together by the Trinity. Without it, the Earth falls off it’s access and the molecules of life are altered and changed.