We are looking at the foundations of our faith. And after the authority of Scripture, we are going to spend a couple of weeks looking at other foundational pieces of our faith before we get to the topic of salvation. This week I want to look at the topic of the Trinity.
Due to limitations of time, this cannot be exhaustive, but I will let you know that I have found James R. White’s book, The Forgotten Trinity – Recovering the heart of Christian Belief to be most helpful, and strongly recommend it for those who want a deeper understanding of the Trinity.
God is not a man. God has divine attributes that we humans don’t have. I have pulled these from The Handbook of Basic Biblical Texts from John Jefferson Davis (a great book to have in your library as it looks at theological issues and gives scripture supporting the different sides):
• God was not created. God has always existed. (Psa. 90:2) “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
• God is perfect; therefore, He has no need to change. (Nu. 23:19) “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”
• God is truly independent and He doesn’t need us for anything. Even the most independent person needs God. for air and other things that God provides. (Isa. 44:24) “This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself.”
• God is omnipresent. He is not limited by space as we know it. (Jer. 23:23-24) “‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the Lord, ‘and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.”
• God is omnipotent. We can only do that which works along with our abilities and the natural order, God is not bound by these things. There is nothing He cannot do. (Mk. 10:27) “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’”
• God is omniscient. God knows everything past, present and future, and because He lives outside of time, He knows what might happen and what will happen. (Heb. 4:13) “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
• God is one in essence; there are no divisions or contrary elements in His nature. (Deut. 6:4) “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
• God is pure spirit (John 4:24) “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
All of these things are hard to comprehend because we cannot be any of these things, and we don’t see them in nature. But if God were bound by the natural order, then He wouldn’t be God (natural order would be).
The nature of the Trinity can be just as hard for us to wrap our heads around. As Gordon Lewis and Bruce Demarest describe in their book Integrative Theology:
If we don’t understand the Trinity, and why it is scripturally clear, then we are susceptible to falling away and following cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, or others who manipulate scripture and actually change the wording so that it works for them.
Here is the definition of the Trinity from James White’s book, The Forgotten Trinity (p. 23):
One God eternally existent in three persons. We don’t worship 3 gods, we worship one God. This is the greatest issue that Muslims have with Christians. They believe Christian are polytheists (believe in more than one God).
And Jesus agreed with this. When asked about the greatest commandment, He said:
“The most important one, answered Jesus, is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these.”Mark 12:29-31 NIV
This comes from the Shema (Deut. 6:4), where God made it clear that He alone was God, and none other should be worshiped. God’s being is one. There is no division in His being. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not all 1/3 God, because there is only one God.
But God is beyond us. He is greater than we can think or imagine. And He begins to let us know that there is more to Him than meets the eye (or understanding) right from the beginning.
Let’s start at the beginning
If you read Genesis 1:26-27 in the original language (Hebrew), we see that God used the plural. “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness (Gen. 1:26).” Notice the plural. We are created in the image of God, not of God and angels. So what does this mean? I think it means that God is complicated. We cannot put God in a box.
There is also Genesis 1:1-3. In the beginning, God. With God in the beginning was the Spirit of God, hovering… and God spoke, and things came into being.
Then there’s John chapter 1.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” John 1:1-4 NIV
John starts back at the beginning, but adds some clarity. I like an analogy White uses later on in his book. He mentions that the Old Testament is like a room that is very dark, where things are hard to see. When Jesus came, He brought light into the darkness of understanding, and illuminated things in the Old Testament that were not fully understood.
There is only one God. Gen. 1:1-3 mentions the Father and the Spirit, but now hopefully in John 1:3 we see the Son – who is also known as the Word. “Through Him all things were made.”
Here in John (as White points out), the wording in the Greek gives little room for anything other than Jesus being God (along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit). And Jesus shares His famous “Before Abraham was, I Am (John 8:58),” alluding to Exodus 3:13-14. And Jesus was certainly alluding to it because they were going to stone Him because of it!
There are so many other texts we could look at, but I just want to look at a couple with regard to the Holy Spirit.
First, we have the Great Commission:
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matt. 28:18-20 NIV
Jesus calls for baptism to be done in the name of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And then we have Acts 5:
“Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.’” Acts 5:3-4 NIV
“Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, and as the Bible shows here, in lying to the Holy Spirit he was lying to God. Thus, the Holy Spirit is also God.”
And then there’s Jesus’ baptism.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” Matt. 3:16-17 NIV
The three persons of the Trinity, all present. The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one God, but He is eternally present in three persons.
Here is the definition of the Trinity again (The Forgotten Trinity, p. 23):
For more detail, you can go to facebook and listen to the complete message from Sunday 2/19/23, or check out James White’s book The Forgotten Trinity.
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