Three Gods in One? (the Trinity)
Apr 2, 2017 // By:Dave // 1 comment
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is a concept which is revealed in scripture but difficult to explain and impossible for any human to understand. Even though we mere mortals cannot explain or fully understand it, this scripture based idea is apparent and crucial to christian foundational theology.
The word “trinity” will not be found in scripture.
The Trinity is one God existing in three Persons (Father, Son, & Spirit). Understand that this is not in any way suggesting three Gods. This is a term that is used to attempt to describe the triune God—three coexistent, co-eternal Persons who make up God. Of real importance is that the concept represented by the word “Trinity” does exist in Scripture. The following is what God’s Word says about the Trinity:
1) There is one God (Deut 6:4; 1 Cor 8:4; Gal 3:20; 1 Tim 2:5).
2) The Trinity consists of three Persons (Gen 1:1, 26; 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8, 48:16, 61:1; Matt 3:16-17, 28:19; 2 Corinth 13:14). In Gen 1:1, the Hebrew plural noun “Elohim” is used. In Gen 1:26, 3:22, 11:7 and Isaiah 6:8, the plural pronoun for “us” is used. The word “Elohim” and the pronoun “us” are plural forms, definitely referring in the Hebrew language to more than two. While this is not an explicit argument for the Trinity, it does denote the aspect of plurality in God. The Hebrew word for “God,” “Elohim,” definitely allows for the Trinity.
In Isaiah 48:16 and 61:1, the Son is speaking while making reference to the Father and the Holy Spirit. Compare Isaiah 61:1 to Luke 4:14-19 to see that it is the Son speaking. Matt 3:16-17 describes the event of Jesus’ baptism. Seen in this passage is God the Holy Spirit descending on God the Son while God the Father proclaims His pleasure in the Son. Matt 28:19 and 2 Corinth 13:14 are examples of three distinct Persons in the Trinity.
3) Each member of the Trinity is God. The Father is God (John 6:27; Rom 1:7; 1 Pet 1:2). The Son is God (John 1:1, 14; Rom 9:5; Col 2:9; Hebrews 1:8; 1 John 5:20). The Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4; 1 Corinth 3:16).
4) There is subordination within the Trinity. Scripture shows that the Holy Spirit is subordinate to the Father and the Son, and the Son is subordinate to the Father. This is an internal relationship and does not deny the deity of any Person of the Trinity. This is simply an area which our finite minds cannot understand concerning the infinite God. Concerning the Son see Luke 22:42, John 5:36, John 20:21, and 1 John 4:14. Concerning the Holy Spirit see John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7, and especially John 16:13-14.
5) The individual members of the Trinity have different tasks.
The Father is the ultimate source or cause of the universe (1 Corinth 8:6; Rev 4:11); divine revelation (Rev 1:1); salvation (John 3:16-17); and Jesus’ human works (John 5:17; 14:10). The Father initiates all of these things.
The Son is the agent through whom the Father does the following works: the creation and maintenance of the universe (1 Corinth 8:6; John 1:3; Col 1:16-17); divine revelation (John 1:1, 16:12-15; Matt 11:27; Rev 1:1); and salvation (2 Corinth 5:19; Matt 1:21; John 4:42). The Father does all these things through the Son, who functions as His agent.
The Holy Spirit is the means by whom the Father does the following works: creation and maintenance of the universe (Gen 1:2; Job 26:13; Psalm 104:30); divine revelation (John 16:12-15; Eph 3:5; 2 Peter 1:21); salvation (John 3:6; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:2); and Jesus’ works (Isaiah 61:1; Acts 10:38). Thus, the Father does all these things by the power of the Holy Spirit.
There have been many attempts to develop illustrations of the Trinity. However, none of the popular illustrations are completely accurate.
|The egg (or apple) fails in that the shell, white, and yolk are parts of the egg, not the egg in themselves, just as the skin, flesh, and seeds of the apple are parts of it, not the apple itself. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not parts of God; each of them is God. (This illustration fails because is divides God into parts that make a whole; called partialism)|
|The water illustration is somewhat better, but it still fails to adequately describe the Trinity. Liquid, vapor, and ice are forms of water. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not forms of God, each of them is God.(This illustration fails because it describes one God revealing Himself in different “phases” or “modes” hence called “modalism”)|
|The shamrock illustration where the viewer is asked if they see three leaves or one. Three leaves making up a larger whole leaf is used to represent the trinity. (partialism strikes again)|
- So, while these illustrations may give us a picture of the Trinity, the picture is not entirely accurate. An infinite God cannot be fully described by a finite illustration.
Below is the best symbol for the Trinity I am aware of.
It boils down to who we worship as God. Recognizing that Father, Son, and Spirit are all God, that each is attributed with creation helps us to know what (or whom) I am calling God. That God is my Father & Protector, Savior & Friend, and Empowerer and Comforter refines my prayers, reminds me of who is in charge during trials, and even refines my understanding of how I am saved. The doctrine of the Trinity may not be as primary as that of salvation by grace alone (Eph 2:8-9) but it is important to preserve recognition of the deity of Jesus Christ and that of the Holy Spirit (without which Jesus is reduced to a mere prophet who was crucified by romans and the Holy Spirit is reduced to an impersonal force like the wind in the trees). All three are God, different in personhood but are One.
How? I don’t know.
I dont have to understand something to place faith in it. I just have to believe the one who tells me, and that would be God himself (through His Word). Some one was questioned on their foolish belief that a great fish could swallow a man (referring to the story of Jonah). He replied “if the bible said Jonah swallowed a whale, I would believe it because God said it”.
After all, since when did it become rational to imagine God limiting Himself to the imaginations of the minds in the men that He created? May it never be!
εν διακονια τω θεω, Dave Cadieux