What do you think of when you read or hear someone say the word, Trinity?
The Bible’s teaching on the Trinity is one of the most fundamental, essential truths of Christianity. But sadly it is often misunderstood or the importance of it is downplayed.
The Trinity is woven into the fabric of the Christian life. Just think about some of the songs you may have grown up singing:
Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee.
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
There is a distinct feature to these lyrics. It is understood that when the songs use the word God they mean God is Trinity. In “Doxology” the God of the first line is the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost of the fourth line. In “Holy, Holy, Holy” the last line says that God is in three persons and is the blessed Trinity. So we know the Lord God Almighty of the first line is this blessed Trinity.
What is the Trinity?
Let’s lay our cards on the table right now. The Bible does not use the word, Trinity. We use the word to explain the Bible’s teaching on who God is. God is one in essence and three in persons. There is one God in three persons: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. There is only one God. The diagram below shows this:
The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith says this of the Trinity:
In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.
As the song says, God in three persons blessed Trinity. The three persons are distinct. They are individuals. They have the same nature but they are different, distinct persons.
God is One
God is one. Deuteronomy 6:4 says:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
God is one. So when we say that there is one God and that God is one but there are three persons we are not saying there are three gods. We are monotheists (the belief that there is one God) not tritheists (three gods). This verse is also teaching us there is only one God. There is no rival to God.
If we are honest this is the easy part of the Trinity.
God in Three Persons
We see throughout the New Testament that God is three persons, but there is only one God. We see hints of this in the Old Testament but it is fully revealed in the New. Our theology must always flow from Scripture.
Old Testament Hints
The first hint we see is in Genesis 1:26:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
While it is not explicit in this passage that there is one God in three persons we do see there is a plurality (more than one) in God. Moses records that God said, “Let us make man in our image.”
We see similar language in Genesis 3:22
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.
“The man has become like one of us.” Again, it is not explicit that there are three persons but we do see hints of the Trinity in these passages. There are other passages we could review, but let’s move on to the explicit teaching of the New Testament.
New Testament Clarity
As the Old Testament begins with a hint of the Trinity the beginning of the New Testament brings clarity to this teaching and reveals what the hints in the Old Testament were pointing to. We first see the Trinity in Matthew 28:19:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Notice the singular use of “name” Jesus uses in this verse. He commands His disciples to baptize new believers in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. I expect the language to be in the names. Why does Jesus use this? He does this because the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God. There is perfect unity, they are not divided. They are all God, God in three persons the blessed Trinity. Multiple names are not needed because there is only one God.
As the New Testament progresses we read this in 2 Corinthians 13:14:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Again we have three persons.
- The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
- The love of God the Father
- The fellowship of the Holy Spirit
How should this truth affect my life and your life?
First, I would not be surprised if some of us need to change some of our thinking about God. Some churches are focused on Jesus exclusively, others on the Father, and still others on the Holy Spirit. This can happen because we do not have a full view of what the Bible teaches about God. All of us should focus on God, as He has been revealed in Scripture, which means God in three persons. When you say God you should be thinking of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To the extent that we do not think this way we need to allow Scripture to change our thinking.
A second application focuses on our actions. Since God is one and three, one God in three persons, there has always been perfect love and community within the Trinity. God did not create you and me because He was dissatisfied and needed us to make Him happy. God from all eternity has been supremely satisfied in Himself as Trinity. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, The Father and the Son love the Holy Spirit. The Trinity has always existed in this perfect community, the three persons of the Trinity have always had fellowship with one another.
So what is the application?
It is two-fold. Since we are created in God’s image we should be loving in all of our interactions with our neighbors. God is love, therefore, we should love. God’s children have every reason to love. Not only should we love but we were created for community. We need one another. For the Christian, this means God did not save us to leave us alone but He has placed us in His family, the church. We need one another and we were created to be in community with one another.
You made it to the end! Congratulations! I would not be surprised if there are some who get to this point and say there is a lot of mystery involved in this. And you would be right in saying that. God thoughts and ways are higher than ours. This is hard to understand. But that does not mean we can’t accept it by faith. Accept it by faith and ask the Holy Spirit to grant you understanding through Scripture.