Summary: This message explores the biblical basis for our understanding of the Godhead. It discusses the nature of the Trinity and explores how it is reflected in both the old creation and the new creation - the church.
THE GLORIES OF CHRIST
Message 3: The Holy Trinity
A. What is the Trinity?
What do we mean by the ‘Holy Trinity’?
The adjective ‘triune’ literally means ‘three in one’. It’s used to describe a single entity, the one (and only) God, who consists of (or subsists in) three independent and equal beings, known to us as the ‘Father’, the ‘Son’ and the ‘Holy Spirit’.
This triune diversity of three divine beings within the unity of the God-head is referred to as the ‘Trinity’ – a term coined by the church in the second century B.C.
B. Objections to the Trinity
Some people reject the notion of the Trinity because (as they rightly say) the word itself is nowhere found in the Bible!
I think we can do away with this objection immediately! It’s based on the assumption that the Bible was originally written in English. In fact, the Bibles that we read today are translations of the original texts – coming down to us in Hebrew with a little Aramaic (O.T.) and koine Greek - again with a little Aramaic (NT). And whether our translation is based on ‘formal equivalence’ (word for word) or ‘dynamic equivalence’ (thought for thought) both approaches are, at the end of the day, still designed to convey the ideas expressed in the original text.
This being so, it appears perfectly legitimate (and sometimes necessary) to coin expressions in one language that will conveniently convey (and encapsulate) concepts implied in the other. Hence we use words such as ‘rapture’ ‘hypostatic union’ and, in this case: ‘Trinity’.
Be that as it may, some reject the concept of the Trinity because, in their view, it implies the existence of more than one God.
For example, in the third century, a theologian by the name of Sabellius taught that there was only a single, divine being (God) who simply manifested Himself in three ‘modes’: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the forth century, an infamous heretic, Arius, maintained that God consisted of one internal person and that the Son and Holy Spirit were created by Him. This belief was dismissed as heresy by the council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. There, the equality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit was asserted and confirmed in what became known as the ‘Nicene Creed’.
There is another heresy known as 'Partialism' which teaches that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each from only
part (i.e one third) of the Godhead - and that together they form the one God.
But, for our purposes, the question remains: can we conclude with certainty what the Bible has to say on this matter? Are we able to confidently ‘give an answer’ when confronted with objections to this most important doctrine?
C. THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD
Let's begin our exploration with the proposition that we can all agree on: the Bible teaches us that there is only one God! Biblically, that's beyond any doubt. When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He said to them:
Deuteronomy 4:35; “You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is
God; besides him there is no other.” (see also Zechariah 14:9).
The prophecies of Isaiah contain several similar assertions made by Yahweh to His people:
Isaiah 43:10 “…..Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.”
And when we come to the New Testament writings, the testimony is just as clear:
1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and one
mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.”
D. THE ESSENTIAL NATURE OF THE TRINITY
So it's clear, according to the Scriptures, that there is only one God. But the Bible also gives strong evidence that, while there is no plurality of gods, there is a plurality within the ‘God-head’: viz. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
As we read on, we’ll find that each of these ‘members’ of the Godhead is a complete and perfect personality. Accordingly, all three are usually spoken of as ‘personalities’, ‘persons’ or ‘beings’.
Yet all three are equally the one ‘God’ as they exist in perfect unity on every level. While separate in existence and action, they are of the same ‘substance’ or ‘essence’ – sharing the same uncreated, divine nature.
As such, they share the same essential attributes of deity: omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. They are absolutely equal in love, grace, holiness, righteousness, immutability and eternity of being. They are, all three, equally deserving of worship, honour, praise and glory. Each is involved in creation and redemption and each one is supreme in heaven and on earth.