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The Trinity

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Basic Doctrines
God—The Trinity

1) Who is God?

A) God is a spirit. As physical, material beings, it is difficult for us to comprehend the idea of a non-material being. God doesn’t have a physical body like we do
John 4:24 NIV
God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
This means that God is invisible. Paul called Him “the invisible God”
Colossians 1:15 NIV
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
This means that God is invisible. Paul called Him “the invisible God” (), and “the King eternal, immortal, invisible” (). John tells us that “no man has seen God at any time” ().
), and “the King eternal, immortal, invisible” (). John tells us that “no man has seen God at any time” ().
and “the King eternal, immortal, invisible”
1 Timothy 1:17 NIV
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
). John tells us that “no man has seen God at any time” ().
John tells us that “no man has seen God at any time”
John 1:18 NIV
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
).
(1) Because God is a spirit, you can know Him apart from your physical senses. You do not have to see Him or feel Him to know Him. Communion with God does not depend on physical, material things because it takes place internally in the spiritual part of your being. That was the point of Jesus’ comment to the woman at the well—since God is spirit you must worship Him in spirit
John 4:24 NIV
God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
B) God is personal. God is not an impersonal force that acts without purpose or reason. The essence of personality is self-consciousness and self-determination, and God has both. He is conscious of His own being—He told Moses that His name was, “I AM WHO I AM”
Exodus 3:14 NIV
God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ”
). Only a person who is aware of Himself could make that statement. He also has the freedom to choose His own course of action according to what He considers best. He demonstrated it when He subsequently told Moses to return to Egypt, gather the elders together, and inform them that the nation was about to be delivered from Egyptian bondage (). An impersonal force does not speak and give logical directions like that.
Only a person who is aware of Himself could make that statement. He also has the freedom to choose His own course of action according to what He considers best. He demonstrated it when He subsequently told Moses to return to Egypt, gather the elders together, and inform them that the nation was about to be delivered from Egyptian bondage
Exodus 3:15–17 NIV
God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation. “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’
). An impersonal force does not speak and give logical directions like that.
An impersonal force does not speak and give logical directions like that.
(1) Because God is personal, He has the basic characteristics of personality— intellect, emotions, and will. He thinks, He feels, and He acts
Isaiah 57:15–21 NIV
For this is what the high and exalted One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry, for then they would faint away because of me— the very people I have created. I was enraged by their sinful greed; I punished them, and hid my face in anger, yet they kept on in their willful ways. I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners, creating praise on their lips. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. “And I will heal them.” But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
Jeremiah 3:12–13 NIV
Go, proclaim this message toward the north: “ ‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt— you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,’ ” declares the Lord.
; ), and because of this you can know Him personally and communicate with Him. If God were an inanimate object or an impersonal force there would be no hope of a personal relationship with Him.
;
and because of this you can know Him personally and communicate with Him. If God were an inanimate object or an impersonal force there would be no hope of a personal relationship with Him.
C) God is infinite. God had no beginning and will have no end—He has always existed and will always exist
Psalm 90:2 NIV
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
Psalm 93:2 NIV
Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.
; ; ). When speaking of God’s infinity, we generally use terms like omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence:
Psalm 93:2 NIV
Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.
Revelation 4:8 NIV
Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “ ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”
). When speaking of God’s infinity, we generally use terms like omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence:
When speaking of God’s infinity, we generally use terms like omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence:
(1) Omniscience means that God is all-knowing—He has unlimited knowledge. His infinite knowledge is what qualifies Him to be sovereign ruler and judge over all things. Not only does God know everything that has and will happen, He also knows all things that could have happened. Nothing takes God by surprise, and no one can hide their sin from Him. There are many verses in the Bible where God reveals this aspect of His nature. One such verse is
1 John 3:20 NIV
If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
: “...God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (NASB).
“...God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (NASB).
(2) Omnipotence means that God is all-powerful—He has unlimited power. This is important because it establishes God’s ability to carry out His sovereign will. Because God is omnipotent and has infinite power, nothing can stop His decreed will from happening. There are many verses in the Bible where God reveals this aspect of His nature. One such verse is
Psalm 115:3 NIV
Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.
: “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (NASB). Also, when answering His disciples’ question, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus answered them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (, NASB).
“But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (NASB). Also, when answering His disciples’ question, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus answered them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”
Matthew 19:25–26 NKJV
When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
, NASB).
(3) Omnipresence means that God is always present. There is nowhere you can go to escape God’s presence—He is present at every point of time and space. There are many verses in the Bible where God reveals this aspect of His nature. One such passage is
Psalm 139:7–10 NLT
I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.
: “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me” (NLT).
(4) Because God is an infinite spirit being, we could not know about Him unless He revealed Himself. Thankfully, God has not left us in the dark. Instead, He has revealed Himself to us through both general revelation (creation and our conscience) and special revelation (the Written Word of God, the Bible, and the living Word of God, Jesus Christ). Therefore, we can know God, and we can know how to be reconciled to Him and how to live according to His will. Despite the fact that we are finite and God is infinite, we can know and understand God as He has revealed Himself to us.
D) God is a Trinity. The word “Trinity” (lit. “a unity of three”) is a theological term that is used to express what the Bible teaches about the nature of God. In the simplest of terms, it means that God exists as three Persons. The three Persons are: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit (also called the Holy Ghost).
(1) Early Christians used a diagram to visually explain the Trinity (last page of lesson). The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all God; they are not three names for the same person. The Persons are distinct: the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father.
2) Where does the Bible teach that God is a Trinity?
A) The Bible clearly teaches there is only one God, yet it also teaches that there are three distinct Persons who are referred to as God. It follows then that God is a tri-unity (Trinity): one God who exists as three Persons who share the same nature. Here is the progression of logic that leads us to this conclusion:
(1) There is only one God:
(a) “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”
Deuteronomy 6:4 NIV
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
, NASB).
(b) “Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me”
Isaiah 43:10 NIV
“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.
, NASB).
(2) The Father is God:
(a) “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”
2 Thessalonians 1:2 NIV
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
, NASB).
(b)
2 Peter 1:17b NIV
He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
, NASB).
(3) The Son is God:
(a)
John 10:30–33 NIV
I and the Father are one.” Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
, NASB). Don’t believe anyone who tells you that Jesus never claimed to be God.
Don’t believe anyone who tells you that Jesus never claimed to be God.
(b) “The Word [Jesus Christ] was God”
John 1:1–5 NIV
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. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
;
John 1:14 NIV
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
,
(c) Jesus’ disciple Thomas addressed Him as “My Lord and my God”
John 20:28 NIV
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
, NASB). Jesus did not tell Thomas that he was mistaken; instead Jesus accepted this claim as true.
Jesus did not tell Thomas that he was mistaken; instead Jesus accepted this claim as true.
(4) The Holy Spirit is God:
(a) “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God’”
Acts 5:3–4 NIV
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.”
3) What are some misunderstandings about the Trinity?
A) Misunderstanding #1: The word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible, therefore it cannot be true.
(1) It is true that the word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible. But there are many biblical concepts which are not mentioned directly in Scripture. For example, the words “omniscience,” “omnipotence,” and “omnipresence,” are not found in the Bible, but we use them to describe the attributes of God. We don’t have to see a specific word in the Bible in order for the concept it describes to be true.
B) Misunderstanding #2: Christians believe there are three Gods.
(1) Because Christians refer to the Father as God, the Son as God and the Holy Spirit as God, some people think that Christians believe in three gods. But this is not true. Christians believe in one God who exists in three Persons. Over the centuries people have tried to come up with simple illustrations of the Trinity. There are limits to every illustration, but you may find some of them to be helpful. For example, God is NOT 1+1+1=3, God is 1x1x1=1. St. Patrick is believed to have used the shamrock as an illustration of the Trinity: a leaf with one stem but 3 lobes.
C) Misunderstanding #3: Jesus is not God.
(1) Jesus IS truly God. He accepted worship as God and claimed to deserve the same honor as the Father
Matthew 14:33 NIV
Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
; ; ; ). He
Matthew 28:17–18 NIV
When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
John 5:22–23 NIV
Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
; ; ). He
John 9:38 NIV
Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
;
He claimed to be the divine Son of God, a title the Jews rightly understood to be a claim to equality with God
John 5:17–18 NIV
In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
; ; ).
claimed to be the divine Son of God, a title the Jews rightly understood to be a claim to equality with God (; ; ).
John 10:30–33 NIV
I and the Father are one.” Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
; ).
John 19:7 NIV
The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”
).
D) Misunderstanding #4: The Father, Son and Spirit are just different ways that God has revealed himself.
(1) Not true. The Bible clearly shows that the Father, Son and Spirit are distinct Persons.
(a) The Father sends the Son
Galatians 4:4 NIV
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
; ). (b) The Father sends the Spirit ().
1 John 4:14 NIV
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
). (b) The Father sends the Spirit ().
(b) The Father sends the Spirit
John 14:26 NIV
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
).
(c) The Father and the Son count as two witnesses
John 5:31–37 NIV
“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true. “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
;
John 8:16–18 NIV
But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”
(d) The Father and the Son glorify one another
John 17:1 NIV
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.
, ) and the Spirit glorifies Jesus the Son ().
John 17:4–5 NIV
I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
, ) and the Spirit glorifies Jesus the Son ().
and the Spirit glorifies Jesus the Son
John 16:14 NIV
He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.
4) What are some modern religious
movements that deny the doctrine of the
Trinity?
A) Examples of major religious movements that deny the doctrine of the Trinity include the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormonism), the Unitarian Universalist Church, and Oneness Pentecostalism.
(1) Jehovah’s Witnesses—they believe the doctrine of the Trinity has no explicit basis in Scripture and deny the deity of Jesus Christ.
(2) Mormons—they believe that the Godhead consists of three distinct beings who are one in purpose but not in nature. Mormonism affirms the existence of many gods.
(3) Unitarians—they deny the deity of Jesus Christ and the deity of the Holy Spirit.
(4) Oneness Pentecostals—they believe that the Father, Son and Spirit are merely manifestations of a single God.
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