Summary: Scriptural support for the Trinity. The contribution of Tertullian.
Augustine said, ‘if you deny the Trinity you lose your soul, if you try to explain it you lose your mind’. The hope today is to avoid both of these pitfalls. But in order to do this, you will need to put your thinking caps on. And you’ll need to think because we are moving around the Bible and putting material together to give us a sense of what God is like in trinity. If you flunked out of school, today you are officially back in school.
We tend to be interested in only what is immediately useful and we are impatient with truth for truth’s sake. Macleod points out that ‘even if the Christian life could be reduced to an endless round of singing and praying (and, of course, it cannot) we have to sing and pray with understanding (1 Cor 14:15)’. God has gone to enormous trouble to teach us the truth about himself and we should surely take some time to learn it. Whilst truth in the Bible is always factual, above all else it is relational. So Jesus says in John 14:6, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’. To know Jesus is to know the truth. The truth shows us the way and the truth points us to life.
The great thing about truth is that it brings us in touch with reality. And ultimate reality is about knowing Jesus as Lord and Saviour and living each day with him. So the truth about the Trinity is not there for the sake of being there, it is there so that you might have life and have it to the fullest. Paul, writing to the younger Titus, says to him, ‘You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine’ (Titus 2:1). We need to know not only how we ought to behave as Christians, but also why we should behave this way. Of all the doctrines we can ever study, the doctrine of the Trinity is the most empowering for life in this world.
People in our world want to be loved. People want relationships. People want communication. A lot of advances on the internet are chat rooms and blogs and forums and Twitter and Facebook. These are portals by which people can be spoken to and speak to one another. Mobile phones, texting and emails reflect a deep desire for identity in a fast moving world. We want a sense of belonging, a sense of unity, in a world full of diversity.
All these deep longings are grounded in the fact that we are made in the image of God. We are all born with a concept of God and we need to understand that no person can rise above their concept of God. So we need to get our understanding of God right. There’s nothing more important than answering these questions, ‘Who is my God’? ‘Who do I believe in? Who will I face when I die’?
We begin to understand God correctly when we understand that he exits in Trinity. The Bible doesn’t aggressively argue the truth of the Trinity. The word is not even found in the Bible. In order to demonstrate that God is Trinity we need to show that there is one God, and that the Father is God, the Son is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God. So let’s for a moment consider the evidence in the New Testament for the divinity of the Father, Son and Spirit. I’m really excited about doing this, and I hope the other two of you share in my joy.
The Bible is clear from beginning to end that there is one God. Deut 4:35, ‘the Lord is God, beside him there is no other’; Deut 6:4, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one’; Deut 32:39, ‘There is no god beside me’; Ps 86:10, ‘You alone are God’; Isaiah 43:10, ‘Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me’; Isaiah 45:5, ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no god’; and 1 Tim 2:5, ‘There is one God’.
God reveals himself as one God. Christianity is absolutely committed to belief in one, exclusive and true God. The doctrine of the Trinity says that there is one God who eternally exists in three persons. Where does the Bible say that Father is God? In John 6:27, Jesus refers to God as ‘the Father’. In 1 Cor 8:6 Paul says, ‘yet for us there is but one God, the Father’. Of all the false teachings that I know, none of them deny that ‘God the Father’ is God.
The next thing to needed to establish the truth of the trinity is to show that Jesus is God. Despite the views of others, we see this truth beginning to unravel in John 1:1, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (Jn 1:1–2). As we keep reading we learn that this Word is the Lord Jesus. Verse 14, ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling amongst us’ (Jn 1:14). Jesus, who is God the Son, was with God the Father and he became a man.