Summary: There is one God. He exists in three distinct persons of Father, Son and Spirit. Pastor Mark Driscoll explains the doctrine of the Trinity in the first sermon of our new series, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe.
This blog is intended to augment my recent sermon on the Trinity as the first of thirteen sermons in the series Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. The new series will follow the storyline of the Bible and serve as a class of sorts, teaching the essential truths of Christian doctrine. With so many new people and new Christians at Mars Hill Church, the hope is to ground people in sound doctrine while also refreshing and further instructing our more mature church members. When the series is completed, Dr. Gerry Breshears and I will write the content as a book for Crossway in our Vintage Jesus line and deal with the issues in even greater detail. Until then, this blog will be utilized to serve people who want to study the sermon topics further.
While the word trinity does not appear in Scripture, the concept very clearly does. The church father Tertullian (AD 155–220) was the first to use the word trinity in an effort to summarize a great amount of biblical truth. To say that God exists as a trinity does not mean there are three Gods, or that one God merely manifests himself as either Father, Son, or Holy Spirit on various occasions.
The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) summarizes the doctrine by saying “In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.” Wayne Grudem defines the doctrine of the Trinity as follows: “God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 226). Bruce Ware provides another helpful definition: “The doctrine of the Trinity affirms that God’s whole and undivided essence belongs equally, eternally, simultaneously, and fully to each of the three distinct Persons of the Godhead.” (Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, p. 41). Louis Berkhof explained the doctrine of the Trinity under these headings:
There is in the Divine Being but one indivisible essence.
In this one Divine Being there are three Persons or individual subsistences: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The whole undivided essence of God belongs equally to each of the three persons.
The subsistence and operation of the three persons in the divine Being is marked by a certain definite order.
There are certain personal attributes by which the three persons are distinguished.
The Church confesses the Trinity to be a mystery beyond the comprehension of man. (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pp. 87–89)
In my sermon, I used my definition: The Trinity is one God who eternally exists as three distinct persons—Father, Son, and Spirit—who are each fully and equally God.
“Person” does not mean that God the Father or God the Spirit became human beings. Rather, it means that each member of the Trinity thinks, acts, feels, speaks, and relates because they are persons and not impersonal forces. Further, each member of the Trinity is equally God, which means that they share the divine attributes, such as eternality, omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.