The Doctrine of the Trinity

Trying to explain God is like trying to explain the feeling you get when the sun finally comes out after a month of rain.  It just can’t be done! The fact is, God is a huge mystery.  If we could completely understand Him, He wouldn’t be God.  What we do have are the glimpses of what He has chosen to reveal in scripture.

Augustine said, “If you deny the Trinity you will lose your soul.  If you try to understand the Trinity, you will lose your mind.” He was right! The fact is, what we believe about God determines what we believe about life.

The doctrine of the Trinity states that God is one triune God who exists eternally in three equal persons…God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes but with no division in nature, essence, being, or message.

There is one God

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like ourselves. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” Genesis 1:26 (NLT)

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Deuteronomy 6:4 (NIV)

Then people all over the earth will know that the Lord alone is God and there is no other.  1 Kings 8:60 (NLT)

“But you are my witnesses, O Israel!” says the Lord. “You are my servant. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God— there never has been, and there never will be.  Isaiah 43:10 (NLT)

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Luke 1:35 (NIV)

One day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.  Luke 3:21-22 (NLT)

Development of the doctrine of the Trinity.

It’s important to know that the Trinity is not mentioned in the Bible.  Instead the idea of one God in three persons first mentioned by Theophilus of             Antioch in 170 AD who was known for driving out heretics attacking Christians.  Others have associated this new doctrine to Tertullian.

One of the most difficult aspects of understanding concepts from the Bible that was written in another age is the difference in language and culture.  “Person” in English is understood to be an individual.  In ancient Israel, “person” communicates the idea of an individual AS WELL AS that person existing in community.

Why does it matter if it is one or three Gods? A number of questions would be raised.

  • Who is supreme?
  • Who should be worshiped?
  • Who is more powerful?
  • Which should be followed?

When we attempt to study God, we often call it “theology”.  It’s a word made by two greek words…Theos (God) + Logos (Word) = theology – a word about God.  Similarly, sociology is a word/study about society.  Psychology – A word/study about the psyche (mind/behavior).  Ecclesiology – A word/study of the Ekklesia (the church).  Soteriology – A word/study of the soter or savior or the  study of salvation.  Studying the Trinity helps us to understand God in the ways he was revealed Himself to us.

God represented as “Three In One” Through the Bible

God was so revered in the Old Testament that His name was never to be spoken out loud.  He was to be honored above all things.  He was simply called God or Lord.

The Holy Spirit was introduced in the Old Testament but was not fully taught until the New Testament.  Jesus was mentioned in the OT as the coming messiah and He asserted his godship as did God the father during Jesus’ baptism.  The consistent message of the Trinity has always been to know God, to become like Christ, and to lead others to do the same.

This is the one who came by water and blood–Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.  1 John 5:6-13 (NIV)

Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.  Hebrews 9:14 (NLT)

God the Father

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”  John 6:35-40 (NLT)

Jesus who was often referred to as “the Word”

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.  John 1:1-5 (NLT)

Holy Spirit

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.  2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NLT)

Our response to the Trinity

Once we have a grasp of God existing as one God in three persons, we must respond to him in some way.  After Jesus was wrongfully convicted, crucified, and resurrected from the grave, He gave certain instructions to His followers.  We call this the “great commission”. We see that we are to lead people to know and worship God as the Trinity.

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT)

Bottom Line

  1. God is one God that exists in the three persons of God the Father, Jesus His Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  2. God’s consistent message is one of love and salvation through Jesus so that we can know God, become like Jesus, and lead others to do the same.
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