Study of God – Part 6
IV. The Doctrine of the Trinity
A. Introduction. The word “trinity” is not found in the Scriptures, but the teaching is there. The fact of the Three Persons of the Godhead cannot be explained away. On the one hand, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are mentioned as distinct Persons with equal attributes; at the same time, numerous plain statements are made which present God as essentially One Being. While this may be above our ability to comprehend fully, this is not contradictory. We can believe, though we cannot understand this, and other doctrines, such as the Virgin Birth, the Divine-human nature, or the resurrection, of Christ.
1.) What this doctrine says and what it does not say.
The doctrine does not say that three wholly separated and individually identified subjects are one, nor that one is three. It does say that a being may be singular in one sense and plural in another. Humans are made up of material parts (the body) and immaterial parts (the soul and spirit). Since each human is singular (a person) and plural (material and immaterial) why try to deny this principle to God? In humans there is one consciousness with a twofold substance; in God there are three consciousnesses, but one indivisible essence. This whole essence belongs to each of three distinct but not separate Persons, Who are equal, eternal and coexistent.
2.) Three errors to avoid.
a.) Tri-Theism: The Godhead is composed of three separate Persons, loosely associated as men are associated; thus, there are three Gods.
b.) Unitarianism: The Godhead is only one Person with three manifestations, or fields of activity.
c.) Sabellian Modalism: God was revealed for a time as the Father; later in the New Testament He is revealed as the Son, and after Pentecost He is revealed as the Holy Spirit. He is not all three at once, but plays the role needed at the time.
3.) Three Consequences in denying the Trinity.
a.) Christ is dishonored. There would be no explanation for His relation to nature as Creator and Sustainer; Col. 1:16-17. There could be no redemption apart from the Son of God. To say that God might forgive sin apart from the Son, by mere generosity, is an insult to divine holiness. It was the Lord of Glory Who was crucified; 1 Cor. 2:8. There could be no expression of God’s love without the Son; Rom. 5:8.
b.) The Holy Spirit is dishonored. Part of our salvation is the sanctifying of the Holy Spirit. If He is not God, then He cannot indwell us or know our thoughts or give spiritual gifts to the Church. He could not impart life if He were only a creature or mere influence. We have been born again through the Holy Spirit, and it is a dishonor to consider Him a creature; 1 Cor. 6:19; Rom. 8:9-11.
c.) Scripture is dishonored. The language of the Bible would be filled with falsehood if the doctrine of the Trinity were not true. The Bible would be guilty of telling men to worship false gods if Christ and the Holy Spirit are not members of the Godhead; Jn. 9:38; Acts. 5:3-4.
4.) Definition of the Trinity. The Godhead includes three distinct but not separate Persons, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. All three are of one essence, equal in all attributes and glories, but having distinct positions and functions.
B.) Proof of the doctrine of the Trinity from Reason.
1.) The attributes of God are eternal, having always existed in Him.
2.) These attributes have always been active; God used them even before creation of the universe.
3.) Thus, there must have been Persons in the Godhead as objects of such attributes as love, intelligence and truth.
4.) Since God is sufficient in Himself, the object of fellowship must have existed in the Godhead.
5.) These objects must have been Persons, since true communion demands similarity in thought and will.
6.) If all forms of activity of Persons are to be experienced, there must be joint action as well as individual action. If this joint action is to have an object, there must be a Third Person to receive such action. There is no need for more than three, and there could not be less than three.
7.) This reasoning is Biblical. Before creation, the Trinity:
a.) Exercised mutual love; John 17:24
b.) Displayed mutual glory; John 17:5.
c.) Possessed mutual knowledge; John 10:15.
d.) Enjoyed mutual communion; John 1:1-2
C.) Proof of the Trinity from the Old Testament.
1.) The use of a plural noun, Elohim, as a name of God, indicating a plurality of Persons in the Godhead; Gen. 1:26.
2.) The use of plural pronouns for God, indicating plurality:
Gen. 1:26, “Elohim said, Let us make man in our image.”
Gen. 11:5-7, “The LORD (Jehovah) said…Let us go down.”
Isa. 6:8 “the Lord (Adonai) saying, …who will go for us?”
3.) The use of “one” in connection with “Elohim” and “Jehovah” in Deut. 6:4. The Hebrew word is echad, “one consisting of unified parts” (cf. Gen. 1:5,”evening and morning were day one,” or Gen. 2:24 “They two shall become one flesh”). So in Deut. 6:4, “Jehovah (always singular) our Elohim (always plural), is nevertheless one” (echad), or plurality in oneness. To express one single unit, the Heb. word yachid , “only” would be used, as in Gen. 22:2, 16, “thine only son.”
4.) The Trisagion (3 “holy’s”) of Isa. 6:3 where the seraphim ascribed glory to Jehovah of hosts is also ascribed to Christ in John 12:41 and as inspired by the Holy Spirit in Acts 28:25.
5.) Indications in the Old Testament of the Second Person.
a.) He is Jehovah’s King and Son; Ps. 2:6.
b.) He is the Creator’s Son; Prov. 30:4.
c.) Nebuchadnezzar saw Him in the furnace; Dan. 3:25.
d.) Joshua saw Him as Captain of the Host; Josh. 5:15.
e.) Jacob wrestled with Him; Gen. 32:24-32.
f.) He appeared with Jehovah; Zech. 1:12-13.
g.) He is Immanuel, “God with us” Isa. 7:14 and the “Mighty God, the Everlasting Father” in Isa. 9:6.
6.) Indications in the Old Testament of the Third Person.
a.) The Holy Spirit had a part in creation; Gen. 1:2.
b.) The Holy Spirit is called “Jehovah” Isa. 61:1.
c.) The Holy Spirit is called Elohim; Ex. 31:3.
d.) The Holy Spirit strove with man; Gen. 6:3.
e.) The Holy Spirit revealed God’s Word to man; 2 Sam. 23:2; Ezek. 2:2; Micah 3:8. Also, compare Ps. 110:1 with Mk. 12:35-37; Acts 2:34-35.
D.) Proof of the Trinity from the New Testament.
1.) The Name God is used of all Three.
The Father; Eph. 1:2-3; The Son; John 1:1; 1 Jn. 5:20;
The Holy Spirit; Acts 5:3-9
2.) Attributes of God are ascribed to all Three Persons
|Eternity||John 1:1-2||John 1:1-2||Heb. 9:14|
|Omnipotence||1 Pet. 1:5||2 Cor. 12:9||Rom. 15:19|
|Omniscience||Rom. 11:33-34||Rev. 2:23||1 Cor. 2:11|
|Omnipresence||Eph. 1:23||Jn. 14:23||Jn. 14:17|
|Holiness||Rev. 15:4||Acts 3:14||Eph. 4:30|
|Truth||John 7:28||Rev. 3:7||1 Jn. 5:6|
3.) Works of God are ascribed to all Three Persons
|Inspiration||2 Tim. 3:16||Jn. 10:34||2 Pet. 1:21|
|Death of Christ||Rom. 8:32||Jn. 10:18||Heb. 9:14|
|Resurrect. of Christ||Acts 2:24||Jn. 2:19||1 Pet. 3:18|
|Resurrect. of man||Jn. 5:21||Jn. 5:21||Rom. 8:11|
|Regeneration||Jn. 1:13||Jn. 1:12||Jn. 3:5-8|
|Indwelling believers||Eph. 4:6||Col. 1:27||1 Cor. 6:19|
|Safekeeping believers||Jn. 10:29||Jn. 10:28||Eph. 4:30|
4.) Worship is ascribed to all Three Persons
|The Father; Rev. 4:8;||The Son; 2 Cor. 13:14;||The Holy Spirit; Eph. 6:18|