Over the next six series of posts, I am going to explore and unpack the doctrine of the Trinity. I think this is something that is not often discussed and is acknowledged by most Christians without understanding much about it. As a result, we are missing something extremely critical for the Christian life because if we are to love God, we need to know God. To know God, we need to grapple with the Trinity.
To jump right in, there is one divine being (Deuteronomy 6:4, Exodus 20:2-4, James 2:19, 1 Timothy 2:5-6, 1 Corinthians 8:4-6). This being eternally exists, meaning he is not subject to time. In him, there are no beginnings or ends. This being is self-sufficient. There is no cause for him. He exists on his own and has no needs that are not met within himself (John 5:26, Acts 17:23-25, Isaiah 43:10-11, John 17:24). This being is the one God, in which nothing else can compare. God exists in the three persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Each person of this so-called Trinity is fully God and equal in authority, power (Ephesians 3:16), and nature. This statement is crucial and is worth further exploration.
How do we know each person of the Trinity is fully God? One method of telling is to approach the Bible looking for four things related to each member:
- For each one to be addressed by divine names.
- For each one to have divine attributes.
- For each one to perform actions that only God can do.
- For each one to receive worship.
Let us start with the Son (Jesus) and see if he meets these four criteria.
- He is referred to be these divine names: Lord (1 Cor. 8:6), Lord and God (John 20:28), the Word who is God (John 1:1-3), King of Kings, Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16), Son of God, Son of Man, Messiah, the I am statements in John 8:58, 10:7, 11:25, 14:6.
- He has these divine attributes: holy (Acts 3:14), uncreated (Colossians 1:15), eternal/immutable (Hebrews 13:8), omniscient (Luke 6:8, 11:17), omnipotent (many miracles), the way, truth, and life (John 14:6).
- He performs these divine actions: creating (John 1:3), forgiving sin (Mark 2:1-12), raising the dead (John 11:1-27), gives new life (John 5:21), not able to be held by death (Acts 2:24), power over nature (various miracles).
- He receives worship: John 5:23, Acts 7:59, Philippians 2:10-11.
Now for the Holy Spirit.
- He has these divine names: Holy Spirit (Romans 1:4), Spirit of God (Matthew 3:16), Spirit of Christ (Romans 8: 1 Peter 1:11) Spirit of the Lord (Luke 4:18).
- He has these divine attributes: omniscience (Isaiah 40:13, 1 Corinthians 2:10-12), omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-10), omnipotent (Job 33:4, Romans 15:18-19), eternal (Hebrews 9:14), life-giving (Romans 8:10-11).
- He performs these actions: overcomes demons (Matthew 12:28), sinners enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:5), the Son is raised (Romans 8:11), guides into truth (John 16:13).
- He receives worship: in benedictions (2 Corinthians 13:14), in baptism (Matthew 28:19), prayer in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18), worship in Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-19), blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32).
I am going to assume the Father is not in question and keep moving. Now, where do these Trinitarian terms like “three-in-one and persons” come from? The Nicene and Constantinoplean creeds produced them in 325 and 381 AD. Specifically, the creeds said God is one essence and three persons. As peculiar as this may sound, it is essential to understanding God and should be emphasized even though we cannot fully understand it with our finite minds. Michael Reeves put it this way in his book Delighting in the Trinity:
“Given all the different preconceptions people have about ‘God’, it simply will not do for us to speak abstractly about some general ‘God’. And where would doing so leave us? If we content ourselves with being mere monotheists, and speak of God only in terms so vague they could apply to Allah as much as the Trinity, then we will never enjoy or share what is so fundamentally and delightfully different about Christianity.”