In Defense Of The Trinity
In Defense Of The Trinity
The doctrine of the Trinity allows us to understand the Persons of God in their unity and in their distinctness.
WHY THIS TOPIC?
1. The reality is, good people, regenerate people, can misunderstand the Bible and be in error.
2. Thomas misunderstood and rejected the bodily resurrection of Christ but, when confronted with the truth, he fell down and pronounced to that Jesus, ‘You are my Lord and my God.’
CAN WE UNDERSTAND THE TRINITY?
1. The short answer to this is absolutely we can understand the concepts of the trinity.
a. The long answer is we cannot fully grasp these concepts as they really speak to the majesty of God.
b. I cannot reduce God to my level for the sake of understanding.
2. Stuart Olyott puts it this way:
So we see that what God says about himself is clear enough. But it is all too wonderful for the human mind to grasp. We cannot take it in, for his thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8–9). We can see what the truth is, but we cannot explain how it can be so. Our minds are too limited.
3. Our confession also reiterates this in chapter 2, paragraph 1 by saying, His essence cannot be understood by anyone but Him.
4. The reality is this is not an easy topic but we must both understand that we cannot reduce an infinite God into finite terms for the sake of simplicity, nor can we abandon the topic because of its complexity.
5. We must grasp with the deep things of God or we fail to understand God in His Persons.
6. Men can try to use analogies for this concept we call the Trinity, but even those fall short.
7. There are significant numbers of errors around the Trinity. Some of those errors are due to doctrinal bias and others due to doctrinal error.
WHY IS THE TRINITY IMPORTANT?
1. It is important we understand this doctrine because the wrong Jesus or the wrong God cannot save us from eternal death.
2. The proper understanding of the Trinity cannot be divorced from a proper understanding of salvation.
3. If we know what the true doctrine looks like we will be able to spot when fake or false alternatives are offered.
WHY IS THERE CONFUSION?
Confusion for well-intentioned people comes from the finite grasping the infinite.
1. The Old Testament, by design, lends itself towards a monotheistic view of God
2. Men tend to think in human concepts: for example, when did I come into existence. You might respond, when you were born. That would be accurate. But when did God come into existence? He always was. Because of this we cannot allow the Incarnation to cloud our theology.
3. The New Testament sheds clearer light on this truth (though the Old Testament has clear statements of three Persons of the Trinity) and we must allow New Testament clarity guide our understanding.
4. So we come to the question - what is the trinity?
WHERE DO WE FIND ANSWERS?
1. The Word of God
3. Books/Systematic Theologies
SUPPORT FOR THE TRINITY
SUMMARY OF THIS TRUTH
1. The doctrine of the Trinity is the belief that there is one God who has revealed Himself in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three persons make up the one true God. These three persons are of the same substance, equal in power and glory.
2. The orthodox understanding of the Trinity additionally understands:
Lexham Survey of Theology The Trinity
The Bible also clearly teaches that the Father, Son, and Spirit are not identical with one another or merely different masks God wears according to particular times or functions. The Father, Son, and Spirit are “persons” who interact with one another and with us in distinct ways. Because each person of the Trinity is fully God, they share the same purpose and activity, but the ways they think and act are distinctive to each.
3. This first statement is more the positive side of this doctrine while the second is a response to errors in the trinity.
THE ONENESS OF GOD
1. The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, chapter 2, paragraph 1, states The Lord our God is one, the only living and true God.
2. The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, paragraph 3
This divine and infinite Being consists of three real persons, the Father, the Word or Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three have the same substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence without this essence being divided.
3. Stuart Olyott was very helpful here:
What the Bible Teaches about The Trinity God Is One
What are we trying to say here? ‘God is one in His essential being or constitutional nature,’ writes Louis Berkhof. But what does that mean? It means that God cannot be divided or split up. You cannot have a collection of pieces which are less than God, put them together, and have God! He is not like a jigsaw. Nor is he like a human body, made up of many organs. You cannot add eternity and unchangeability and all-power and holiness together, and make up God. He is not made up of parts. He is indivisible. He is one. All of him is eternal. All of him is unchangeable. All of him is all-powerful. All of him is holy.
4. R.C. Sproul, in his book What Is The Trinity, says,
Before we can talk about the Trinity, we have to talk about unity, because the word Trinity means “tri-unity.” Behind the concept of unity is the biblical affirmation of monotheism. The prefix mono means “one or single,” while the root word theism has to do with God. So, monotheism conveys the idea that there is only one God.
5. Olyott makes another statement regarding the relationship of the Trinity
What the Bible Teaches about The Trinity God Is One
Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit being of ‘the same substance’. We shall not mean that they are composed of the same ‘stuff’. We shall mean that although they are distinct, they are the same one God. All that God is is the Father. All that God is is the Son. All that God is is the Holy Spirit. Each one is all that God is.
THE THREE DISTINCT PERSONS OF GOD
THE FATHER IS GOD
1. Consider Matthew 6:9, whom are we to pray to?
2. When Paul is telling the Corinthians that there really is a God he writes (1 Cor. 8:5-6).
3. To the church in Ephesus in Ephesians 4:6 .
JESUS, THE SON, IS GOD
1. In John 20:17 Jesus says, that He is our Father but differently than He is Jesus’ Father.
2. Olyott says this of the Second Person of the Godhead.
What the Bible Teaches about The Trinity Pre-existence
Of all the men and women who have walked this earth, only of Jesus Christ can it be said that his life did not begin when he was born. He existed before that time. He was in the beginning, and all things were made by him
a. Passages that are key here are John 1:1-3 and Colossians 1:15-18
b. Another key passage is John 6:62, where Jesus says he will ascend where he was before. If He was not already in Heaven how could He go back there?
c. Consider John 17:5, which states that He shared the glory with the Father before Creation.
d. In John 8:58, He identifies Himself as the I AM, the ever present One.
3. John 1:18 tells that when men have seen God they have seen the Son.
4. John 10:30 is another key passage here, Jesus and the Father are one.
5. Frequently Jesus is referred to as Lord - this is linking Him to Jehovah/Yahweh of the Old Testament. In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) the word Yahweh is translated as kyrios, Lord, in our English versions.
6. The link between Psalm 45:6-7 and Hebrews 1:8 cannot be reasoned away.
7. Finally, there are key doctrinal passages such as Romans 9:5, Titus 2:13, Acts 20:28, and Colossians 2:9.
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD
1. Some have allowed Charismatics to dampen their appreciation for the Holy Spirit, some do not even regard Him as a Person.
a. The Holy Spirit is not merely a force or an influence that comes from God.
b. He is, indeed, a person, who is God in the same sense the Father and the Son are God, yet distinct.
2. Scripture speaks of Him as a Person
a. Dwelling in John 14:17
b. Teaching in John 14:26; Luke 12:12
c. Testifying in John 15:26; Acts 5:32
d. Convicting in John 16:8
e. Guiding, hearing, speaking, showing and glorifying in John 16:13-14
f. Speaking in Acts 8:29; 28:25; Hebrews 3:7
g. Sending in Acts 13:4
h. The Apostles say, it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us in Acts 15:28.
i. Of particular weight is Acts 5:1-4
i. In Acts 5:3 Peter says, why has Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit.
ii. In Acts 5:4 Peter says, you have not lied to men but to God.
iii. It is obvious, Peter regards the Holy Spirit as God and Scripture has captured this in inspiration.
3. We ascribe to Him deity by His works
a. In giving us the Word of God: we call Scripture theopneustos, God-breathed, in 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21 says that men wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
b. In evangelism in sending the Apostles out - consider Isaiah 6:8-9 and Acts 28:25-27
Paul quotes this in Acts 28:25-27
4. Attributes of God given to the Holy Spirit
a. He is Eternal in Hebrews 9:14
b. He is Omnipresent in Psalm 139:7-10
c. He is Omniscient in Isaiah 40:13-14; 1 Cor. 2:10-11.
d. He is Omnipotent in 1 Cor. 12:11; Rom. 15:19.
NOT ALL ARE THE SAME
1. Within Olyott’s book he spends time looking at the acts unique to each Person in the trinity. He summarizes these points by saying
What the Bible Teaches about The Trinity Chapter 9: Blessed Trinity!
Generation is an act of the Father alone. Only the Son can be said to be begotten. Procession can be ascribed only to the Holy Spirit.
2. Within the Trinity there is an order (the Ontological Trinity): all are equal, each is eternally God, none is lesser, but there is a relationship. Each is equally God.
a. The Father is not begotten by any other person.
b. The Son is the only-begotten by the Father, He reveals the Father
c. The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO DEEPEN YOUR UNDERSTANDING?
1. Read the Bible, especially the Gospels, but particularly the Gospel of John
2. Study the doctrine
i. What is the Trinity? by David Wells
ii. What is the Trinity? by R.C. Sproul
iii. What the Bible Teaches About The Trinity by Stuart Olyott
iv. Experiencing the Trinity by Joe Thorn
v. The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders
i. The Nicene Creed
ii. The Athanasian Creed
c. London Baptist Confession - chapter 2
d. Systematic Theologies
ii. John Gill
HOW SHOULD THIS CHANGE YOUR LIFE?
1. When you read the Bible: see the Oneness of the Godhead and yet the Persons within the Godhead.
2. Realize you are suspect to doctrinal error.
3. Purpose in your heart to deeper understand God.
4. If all of this was new to you today, take heart - if you are a believer the Spirit dwells in you and will lead you into all truth. Not truth at all times, but truth by the means of grace.