For ages the doctrine of the Trinity has been upheld even though it’s been twisted around a thousand ways to Tuesday. Some people find the doctrine of the Trinity a hard pill to swallow, others think Christians believe in three gods, and still others believe we’re contradicting ourselves all over the place when we discuss these things. Yet, the doctrine of the Trinity is of such importance that if you deny it, you cannot in any real way call yourself a Christian.
Here’s what I want to do this week: first, I’ll give you some definitions, then I’ll show you where get these definitions in Scripture, then I’ll show you common ways people distort this doctrine, and last show you why this matters.
Though the word ‘Trinity’ (coined by Tertullian in 3rd century) never appears in the Bible but the substance of it is all over it. Throughout the history of the Church, we’ve always taught four fundamental things about the Trinity. 1) God is One in essence, 2) God is three in Person, 3) each Person is co-equal in power and glory, and 4) each Person is fully and completely God, but not identical. Therefore the classic definition of the Trinity is this: God eternally exists as one in essence and three in Person: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the same in substance, equal in power and glory (see triangle image below)
All of this is great, but is this the picture we get in the Bible? My answer is of course, a resounding yes! Let’s take our definition and split it up into pieces to see this:
a) ‘God eternally exists…’ – Few people would debate this. The common refrain found in Revelation 4:8 is enough to prove our point, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.’ So God exists, and His existence is an eternal existence. Psalm 90:2 states, ‘Before the mountains were brought forth or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God.’
b) ‘…as one in essence…’ – The hallmark text for the oneness of God is found in Deuteronomy 6:4 which says, ‘Hear O’ Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.’ Historically and even today this verse is called the ‘Shema’ because ‘shema’ is the Hebrew word for ‘hear.’ Throughout the Old Testament God rejects the polytheism (a belief in many gods) of the nations surrounding Israel. In place of the rampant polytheistic world Israel lives in God demands an exclusive devotion to Himself, God demanded monotheism. Because of this, God should not only have first place in our hearts and affections, we’re commanded to put away any form of idolatry we have, recognizing that idolatry, at its root, is a worship of false god.
c) ‘…and three in Person: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’ – Too often people think we lose monotheism as soon as we begin talking of the three Persons in the Trinity, this is not the case. From the opening verses in the Bible we see Trinity reflected in God. The Spirit of God was hovering over the deep in Genesis 1:2. When God makes man in Genesis 1:26 He states, ‘Let us make man in our image.’ Prideful Jacob was turned into humbled Israel after wrestling with God in human flesh in Genesis 32. Joshua bowed before the Commander of the Lord’s army in Joshua 5. After Isaiah saw the Lord high and exalted God commissioned Isaiah into service saying in Isaiah 6:8, ‘Who will go for us?’ As we cross over into the New Testament we see these things continue. As Jesus was baptized the Holy Spirit descended on Him while the voice of the Father spoke audibly for all to hear in Matthew 3:16-17. John 1 says the Son of God who became flesh and dwelt among us was in the beginning with God and was God. We’re given the Great Commission that as we go we’re to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe God’s commands, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in Matthew 28.
We could go on and on and on here, but one text rises to the surface. In Ephesians 1 we see how our whole redemption is accomplished by the Trinity. In 1:3-6 the Father is the Architect who plans, predestines, and sends. In 1:7-12 the Son obeys the Father, redeems His sheep, and with the Father sends the Holy Spirit. In 1:13-14 the Spirit seals us guaranteeing our future inheritance to come, sanctifies us by grace, proceeds from both the Father and the Son, and completes the work the Father and the Son began.
So we have the distinct work of each Person in the Godhead, now we can see clearly that the Father is not the Son or the Spirit, the Son is not the Father or the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father or the Son. One in essence yes, but three distinct Persons. From front to back, the Bible portrays redemption as a sovereign work of the Holy Trinity. This is why one cannot claim to be a Christian and deny the Trinity, because in denying the Trinity you’re denying the God of the Bible, who is the only God who saves. This is who He is. Theologian Herman Bavinck said, ‘In the doctrine of the Trinity beats the heart of the whole revelation of God for the redemption of humanity.’
d) ‘…the same in substance equal in power and glory.’ – This echoes back to what we’ve said before, that God, though three in Person, is one in essence. Each of the three Persons are not separate Gods, they’re one God, the same in substance, co-eternal, co-equal, co-essential in power and glory. The clearest place in the Bible we see this is not only what we’ve just seen in Ephesians 1 where we see the individual actions of each member of the Trinity working together to form the one grand act of redemption, but in 1 John 5 where John says there are three who testify and those three agree, or those three are one.