10. The Trinity

What is God Like?

“That I may know Him” (Phil. 3:10).

To know each person of the trinity, the unity and love they have for one another will cause wonder, praise and awe. The end result of theology is to know God. It must deepen our worship, adoration, and praise but it must also apply practically. When difficult times come, when tragedy comes, it is important to know God. There comes a time when we need to enjoy our relationship with Him and what we have learned about Him. Our high, exalted view of God must be applied on a horizontal level. In times of adversity, confusion, doubt we need to know God not just know about Him. Theology and doctrine are so important to the believer but it must lead to a better knowledge of God and correct false doctrine. If not it defeats the whole purpose of Biblical truth. “All your Biblical knowledge introduces us to God. When you know more about him you become enthralled with God, you go beyond your doctrine, you live in wonder, live in love, live in praise. Your Christian life is no longer defined by your theology, but by your passion for God, your delight to be with Him. You become more excited about yur Lord than you do about your theology. We are in a warfare and need to storm the gates and pull down spiritual strongholds, fortresses, speculations, thoughts, systems, ideologies, any ungodly idea, theology, psychology, science and set captives free and bring them captive to Christ. The battle is for the mind and we pull down by truth.(2 Cor. 10:3-5).” (John MacArthur – God’s Word and Your Spiritual Growth)

God Reveals Himself as a Trinity

The Doctrine of the Trinity teaches that there is only one God, who has revealed Himself in Scripture as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The three Persons are of one nature but they exist as three distinct, separate, and equal persons. While there is no single verse that states “God exists as the Trinity,” the doctrine is clearly taught. The word “Trinity” means “three are one.” God is not static or distant waiting to be found, He is not on some planet. He is present and active in creation and history, reaching out in personal love to mankind whom He has made for himself. He has spoken to mankind and says, “This is who I am.” This doctrine is crucial to Christianity because the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit are wrapped up in it.

Three Persons – The Trinity

a) The first verse in the Bible intimates there is a plurality of persons in the Godhead. “In the beginning God (elohim) created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The word for God is “Elohim” and it is in the plural form, it refers to the essence or character of the Godhead, (Trinity) rather to the individual members of the Trinity. It indicates all three were involved in creation. God is one in essence, yet three distinct persons. The trinity is mentioned in numerous scriptures (2 Sam. 23:1-3; Isa. 48:16; Isa. 6:3; 63:7-10: Psalm 2: 6-7; Rev. 4:6), they are too many to mention here.

b) “God said “Let us make man in our own image” (Gen. 1:26). “Us” and “our” are in the plural but “image” is in the singular. This is three in personality and one in character. (Gen.11: 7; Gen. 18; Isa. 48:16).

c) “Let us go down…” Once again we see the three in action.

d) The Trinity is a divine mystery revealed but defied human analysis or understanding. Christians accept and acknowledge the trinity by faith. When Christians talk of God we refer to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This one God however exists in three persons, or in the Greek hypostases. The Bible states that there are three separate persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that each of these persons is God, and that there is only one God, what explanation would fit other than the doctrine of the Trinity.

Illustrations of Three in One

Some try to illustrate this as a shamrock with three leaves but one shamrock, chalk (calcium, carbon and oxygen), the sun (light, heat and time), water in gaseous form (steam), solid form (ice) and liquid form (water), or man (body, soul, and spirit), the analogy to light. Light is composed of three elements, Actinic (neither seen nor felt; The Father). Liminiferous (both seen and felt; The Son) and Calorific (light is felt, but not seen; The Holy Spirit.), a family (1 family and 3 members).

Monotheism – One God

a) In the Shema it says, God is one in essence, and within the essence of the Godhead e have to distinguish three “persons.” The Hebrew Scriptures puts this one doctrine faith above others, and surround it with stern warnings against departure from this central issue of faith, and of faithfulness to the covenant God had made with them. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD” (Deut. 6:4). He demands the exclusion of all pretended rivals “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” Deut. 5:7-11) and, “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel and his redeemer the LORD of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” (Isaiah 44:6). This expresses his uniqueness and unity. God is solitary and unique and syncretism or worship divided between God and any other is forbidden. Interfaith worship is forbidden. The Old Testament believers were surrounded by many different gods and philosophies and so God revealed to them he was not “many” but “one”, who was personal, infinite, majestic, glorious and eternal. He is a person not nature, not the chief God but the only God.

b) Believers are not baptised in the names (plural) but in the “name” (singular) of the Father, Son and Holy spirit. Before each person is the word “the” indicating each is a definite person.

c) There is not one divine person acting in three different ways but a real distinction of persons within the unity of God. The unity is in “essence”.

False Teaching About the Trinity

God is not one person manifesting himself in three modes (Sabellianism also known as modalism, modalistic monarchianism, or modal monarchism which is non-Trinitarian belief that the Heavenly Father, Resurrected Son and Holy Spirit are different modes or aspects of one God (for us only), rather than three distinct persons (in Himself). (God was said to have three “faces” or “masks”.) Some Church of God denominations believe this. Nor is He just one person (Unitarianism – Jehovah’s Witnesses) nor a force (Star Wars). God reveals Himself as a trinity of persons. The Bible teaches three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, are God. Mormons misunderstand scripture for they believe that there are three gods and that a man can become a god. This leads to polytheism. The trinity is not a female as in the Matrix film trilogy. Some believe that the three main characters resemble the Holy Trinity throughout the trilogy. Morpheus as the Father, Neo as the Son, and Trinity as the Holy Spirit. Some contemporary theologians including feminists refer to the persons of the Holy Trinity with gender-neutral language, such as “Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer (or Sanctifier).

The Trinity in the Old Testament

God reveals himself as a plurality in the Old Testament.

1. The Father, (Gen 1:3, Isa 53:10)

2. The Son, (Gen 1:1, Cf. Jn 1:3, Col 1:16, Isa 53, 63:8, Micah 5:2)

3. The Holy Spirit is mentioned frequently (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 104:30, Gen 41:38, Num 27:18, 1 Sam 16:13, Psa. 139:7)

4. The implications of the repetition of worship “Holy, Holy, Holy” (Isaiah 6:3; Rev. 4:8).

5. The inference of plurality is in the Hebrew tetragramation –JHWH. It is a verb “to be” and means “I AM THAT I AM” or absolute in existence. It is translated Jehovah and sometimes refers to all members of the Godhead. (Num.6: 24-27) and sometimes to a specific person, the context indicates which. In the King James Version, “LORD” = JHWH; GOD = “Elohim”

6. “Jehovah (the Father) said … Thou art my son today have I begotten you.” (Ps. 2:6-7). The Son was begotten not created.

7. In Isaiah 11:2 “the Spirit of Jehovah” refers to the Holy Spirit (c.f. Acts 28:25 and Isa. 6:3).

8. There are three distinct persons indicated in 2 Sam. 23:1-3; Isa. 48:16; 63:7-10.

9. The reference to Jesus as Lord in Hebrews 1:5-13 without a shadow of doubt refer to Christ’s Lordship. “The Lord (Father) said to my Lord (Son), “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” Ps110:1, (c.f. Ps. 97 1-5, 104;4; 45:6-7; 102:25-27; 103:20; Isa. 9:6-6)”

10. Jesus Christ as Jehovah is found in many passages of scripture (Ex.3:14 c.f. John 8:28; Ps. 10:16 c.f. Rev. 11:15; Isa. 40:3 c.f. Jn. 1:23; Zech. 14:1-3 c.f. Rev. 19:11).

Jesus Christ in the Old Testament

Jesus is the Greek word for Saviour but it was transliterated for the Hebrew word “Joshua. Christ is the Greek word meaning “anointed one” it is derived from the Hebrew word “Messiah” (Dan. 9:25; Jn.1:4). Lord has numerous translations i.e. the Hebrew word (‘adown) means firm, strong, lord, master. The Greek is (Kurios) taken form Kurio, meaning supremacy. He to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord.
the possessor and disposer of a thing
the owner; one who has control of the person, the master
in the state: the sovereign, prince, chief, the Roman emperor
is a title of honour expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants greet their master
this title is given to: God, the Messiah
Christ was the “Sheknah Glory” or “Cloud” over the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 25:22; Lev.16:2). He is the “Lord of Hosts” and Isaiah saw His glory. (Isa. 6:3) the Father ( Jn.12:31).

The Angel of the Lord

a) The Angel of the Lord identifies himself as God who made a covenant with the Hebrews. “Then the Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: “I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you.” (Jud.2:1).

b) The connection between the angel of the Lord and the preincarnate appearance of the Messiah cannot be denied. Manoah meets the angel of the Lord, and declares that he has seen God. The angel accepts worship from Manoah and his wife as no mere angel, and refers to himself as “Wonderful,” the same term applied to the coming deliverer in Isaiah 9:6 (Judges 13:9-22.) The functions of the angel of the Lord in the Old Testament prefigure the reconciling ministry of Jesus. In the New Testament, there is no mention of the angel of the Lord; the Messiah himself is this person.

c) The Angel of the Lord appeared and spoke to Hagar. Then the Angel of the Lord said to her (Hagar), “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude,” and added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count…. She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me Gen. 16:10 –13).

d) The Angel of the Lord spoke and appeared to Abraham from heaven. “But angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham” “Here I am,” he replied. He stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac and commends him because he has not withheld his only son from God (Gen. 22:11-18). Abraham identifies the angel as God, calling the place “The Lord Will Provide.”

e) The Angel of the Lord (Jesus Christ) spoke to Moses. “And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.” (Ex. 3:2).

f). The Angel of the Lord appeared to and spoke to Balaam (Num.22:22-35).

g) The Angel of the Lord appeared unto Joshua (Joshua 6:11-22.)

h) As the Angel of the Lord He knows everything in the earth. Only God can know everything therefore He is God. “To bring about this change of affairs your servant Joab has done this thing; but my lord is wise, according to the wisdom of the angel of God, to know everything that is in the earth.” (2 Sam. 14:20).

It was important that the 2nd person of the trinity be known and understood, so that He would be recognised when the “fullness of the times” came (Gal.4:4).

The Trinity in the New Testament

The New Testament also insists on the worship of the God “There is none other God but one” (1 Cor. 8:4). Paul says the other gods are not gods at all but counterfeits and substitutes for God (1 Cor. 8:5). The earliest Christians believed in the existence of one true God, in contrast to the polytheism (many gods) of the nations and cultures around them. While maintaining strict monotheism, they believed also that the man Jesus Christ was at the same time something more than a man.

a. The Father planned salvation; (Isa 14:27, Jn 4:34, 5:17, 12:44, 1:24; 1Cor 8:6, Eph. 3:11).

b. The Son executes the plan of salvation; (Jn 4:34, 5:17, Heb 10:7).

c. The Holy Spirit reveals the plan of salvation;

(1) To unbelievers; (Jn 16:8-11).
(2) To believers; (Jn 16:13,14; 1Cor 2;10).

2. Doctrine of Procession;

1. The Father sent the Son; (Jn 17:3, Gal 4:4).
2. The Father and Son sent the Holy Spirit; (Jn 14:26, 15:26).
3. Christ sends The Comforter; (Jn 16:7).
Each Person of God possesses identical Divine attributes, making them co-equal one with the other. (Jn 10:30, 16:15).

3. The Trinity in Creation

1 The Father Created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1; Psalm 96:5; Isa. 37:16; Mark 13:19; Rom. 4:17; Rev. 4:11). 2. The Son made all things (Col.1 16-18; Heb 2:13; 1 Cor. 10:6). 3. The Holy Spirit was involved in creation (Gen.1:2, Job 26:13, 33:4; Psalm 104:30; Isa. 40:12-13).

Nontrinitarian groups

These include Christadelphians, Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, Mormons, Unification church, Oness Pentecostals, Iglesia ni Cristo. Non-unitarianism groups differ from one another in their views of Jesus Christ, depicting him variously as a divine being second only to God the Father, Yahweh of the Old Testament in human form, God (but not eternally God), prophet, or simply a holy man.

The Bible, however, teaches that there is only one God. The strict monotheism of the Jews in the Old Testament Jewish religion is its strict monotheism and is carried into the New Testament as well. Jesus referred to the “praise that comes from the only God” (John 5:44), while Paul stated: “We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4). James said of the belief in one God that “Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19). This means Hinduism or religions with another god are false religions and we should not worship with them or join them in worship. However we should treat them well, and as human beings, showing respect for them and witness to them.

The Father

a) God in Christ is the ultimate revelation of the Fatherhood of God. (John 16:2-3). It is not enough for man to believe in God, everything depends on what kind of a god it is in whom he believes. God is revealed as “the Father of Jesus Christ.” Christ came to reveal the Father to mankind. There are horrible consequences moral, eternal and otherwise if one does not believe in the God of the Bible. Morality, conscience, good conduct, good works or theism is not sufficient we must come to know the Father through the Son.

b) The Hebrews thought of God as the Father of Israel. The Fatherhood of God is clearly and directly stated. God said, “I am a Father Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.” (Jer. 3:4,19) Israel cried out, “Jehovah is our Father. He is the potter we are the clay.” (Isa. 64:8). Or “Like a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that hear him.” (Ps. 103:13). Or “He shall cry unto me, thou art my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation” (Ps. 89:26). He called the Father/Creator of the angels and men, (Job. 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Ps. 86:6; Luke 3:38). He cared for Israel as a Father (Hos.11:1; Deut.14:1; 2 Sam. 7:14, Ps.2:7; 89:26). However most of this was for national Israel Christ gave a new conception of God being a personal Father.

c) Christ reveals the Father. In the New Testament John refers to God as Father 107 times. He says, “No man can come unto the Father but by Me” (John 14: 5-7). He reveals the Father, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him. “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matt.11:27).

Jesus refers to Him as Father in Matthew 5:45 and also in the Lords Prayer. Jesus Christ revealed the Father –character of God. Peter calls Him “God the Father” (2 Peter 1:17). When one becomes a child of God by faith they are adopted into God’s family and receive the Holy Spirit of adoption (John 1:12; Gal.3:16; 4:5; Rom.8:15). We can now confidently pray to Him in Jesus name (Matt.6:22; John 17:11.) We cannot separate Jesus Christ from the Father. Our conception of God is through the Son.

d) The Fatherhood of God brings great comfort and peace to His children. He cares for us, He provides for us, He guides us, He has a purpose for us, He has a destiny for us. His Fatherhood is practical and personal. This inspires us to and motivates us to love Him and serve Him. We want to do His will, we want to speak to Him, we have fellowship with Him.

The Son The Deity of Christ

The deity of Jesus Christ is also an inescapable teaching of the Bible. John opens his gospel with his description of the Word, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1). John goes on to identify the Word as Jesus Christ (John 1:14-15, 30-31). He refers to the angels as “his angels” (Matt. 31:41, 6:27, 24:31). The Deity of Christ is mentioned distinctly eight times in the New Testament with such verses as Titus 2:13 “We wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Hebrews 1:8 “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever. “ The Bible teaches that Jesus is God the Son. He claimed to have all the divine fullness, and share what God has (Matt. 11:28).

a) Jesus is not only God, but He is the God of the Old Testament. He is Emmanuel (God with us), the God-Man. He is “The only begotten Son of God” (John3:18). The Jews understood He claimed to have equality with God (John 5:18); and to “make himself God” (John 10:33). He claimed divine supremacy in the spiritual world and the physical world (Matt. 13:41). The kingdom is His, and all angels are His obedient servants. He claimed that he would preside as the Universal Judge (Matt. 25:31:46). He claimed to have all power (Matt. 28:18). Acts 10:42; 17:31 say of Him he is “ordained to be the Judge of the living and the dead”. He claimed to assign mansions to believers when to they go to heaven (John 14:1-4). Isaiah prophecies the child would be called “the mighty God” (Isa. 7:12). He claimed to have power over death (John 10:18).

b) The Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ: Most Study Bibles have notes which give references to the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here is what the Scofield Study Bible Notes say: (1) In the intimations and explicit predictions of the O.T. (a) The theophanies intimate the appearance of God in human form, and His ministry thus to man (Gen. 16:7-13; 18:2-23. especially v. 17; 32. 28 with Hos. 12:3-5; Ex. 3:2-14). (b) The Messiah is expressly declared to be the Son of God (Psa. 2:2-9), and God (Psa. 45:6, 7 with Heb. 1:8,9; Psa. 110. with Mt. 22:44; Acts 2:34 and Heb. 1:13; Psa. 110.4 with Heb. 5:6; 6. 20:7. 17-21; and Zech. 6:13). (c) His virgin birth was foretold as the means through which God could be “Immanuel,” God with us (Isa. 7:13, 14 with Mt. 1:22, 23). (d) The Messiah is expressly invested with the divine names (Isa. 9:6, 7). (e) In a prophecy of His death He is called Jehovah’s “fellow” (Zech. 13:7 with Mt. 26:31). (f) His eternal being is declared (Mic. 5:2 with Mt. 2:6; John 7:42).

(2) Christ Himself affirmed His deity. (a) He applied to Himself the Jeho-vistic I AM. (The pronoun “he” is not in the Greek; cf. John 8:24; John 8:56-58. The Jews correctly understood this to be our Lord’s claim to full deity [v. 59]. See, also, John 10:33; 18:4-6, where, also “he” is not in the original.) (b) He claimed to be the Adonai of the O.T. (Mt. 22:42-45. See Gen. 15:2, note). (c) He asserted His identity with the Father (Mt. 28:19; Mk. 14:62; John 10:30; that the Jews so understood Him is shown by vs. 31, 32; John 14:8, 9; 17. 5). (d) He exercised the chief prerogative of God (Mk. 2:5-7; Lk. 7:48-50). (e) He asserted omnipresence (Mt. 18:20; John 3:13); omniscience (John 11:11-14, when Jesus was fifty miles away; Mk. 11:6-8); omnipotence (Mt. 28:18; Lk. 7:14; John 5:21-23; 6. is); mastery over nature, and creative power (Lk. 9:16. 17; John 2:9, 10:28). (f) He received and approved human worship (Mt. 14:33; 28: 9, John 20: 28, 29).

(3) The N.T. writers ascribe divine titles to Christ (John 1:1; 20. 28; Acts 20:28; Rom. 1:4; 9:5; 2 Thess. 1:12; 1 Tim. 3:16; Tit. 2:23; Heb. 1:8; 1 John 5:20).

(4) The N.T. writers ascribe divine perfections and attributes to Christ (e.g. Mt. 11:28; 18:20, 28:20; John 1:2, 2:23-25; 3:13; 5:17; 21:17; Heb. 1:3, 11, 12 with Heb. 13:8; Rev. 1:8,17,18; 2:23; 11. 17; 22:13).

(5) The N.T. writers ascribe divine works to Christ (John 1:3. 16:17, Col. 1:16, 17; Heb. 1:3).

(6) The N.T. writers teach that supreme worship should be paid to Christ (Acts 7:59, 60; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 13:14, Phil. 2:9, 10; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 1:5, 6; 5. 12, 13).

(7) The holiness and resurrection of Christ prove His deity (John 8:46; Rom. 1:4).

Philippians 2 is the great Chapter on the kenosis or self-emptying of the Lord Jesus Christ when He became a man. His equality with the Father as the Son of God is stated here.

John made it clear that Jesus said He was God, “This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God.” (Jn.5:18).

Paul taught that the Messiah is God “…to them (the Jewish race) belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Messiah (who is) God who is over all, blessed for ever. Amen.” (Rom.9:5).

John records that Jesus called Himself “The Alpha and Omega”: The First and the Last, The Beginning and The End (Rev. 1:8).

c) Jesus claimed the name of God “I AM.” When Moses was on Mount Sinai, he asked God what His name was so he would be able to say who had sent him to free the Israelites. God answered by saying “I AM WHO I AM,” and told Moses to say that “I AM” had sent him (Exodus 3:14). In the book of Isaiah, and especially chapters 40-55, God refers to himself as “I AM HE” (see for example Isaiah 43:10). When these passages were later translated into Greek (the language of the New Testament) they were translated as the Greek words EGO EIMI, which also means “I Jesus was and is the “I AM”

c) When Jesus had a dispute in the temple with the Jewish leaders who were pointing out that they were children of Abraham. They asked him, “Who do you think you are?” Jesus told them “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I AM” (John 8:53-58). Here Jesus referred to himself as EGO EIMI (I AM), exactly the same Greek words used by God in the Greek version of Isaiah. At that point the Jewish leaders picked up stones to kill Jesus. There are only two choices: either they wanted to stone Jesus for improper grammar (I AM instead of I WAS), or because he was claiming to be I AM, the God who had appeared to Moses and Isaiah.

The Jews wanted to stone Him because he claimed to be God. Jesus stopped them, asking, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” The Jews replied that they were not going to stone him for any of the works that Jesus had performed. They were going to stone him “because you, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:31-33). Jesus Christ is the only visible member of The Godhead; (Jn 1:18, 6:46; 1Tim 6:16, 1Jn 4:12).

The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is deity and has personality. He is not an “it” or an “impersonal force”, a “divine power” or an “influence.” He is a divine Being. He has divine knowledge (1 Cor. 2:10-11). He has a “mind” thought, feeling, purpose(Rom. 8:27). He feels and wills. He loves (Rom. 15:30). He grieves (Eph. 4:30). He speaks and teaches ((John 15:26, 27; 14:26). He “ comforts” (John 14:16-17). He was involved in creation (Gen. 1:2). He is involved in our redemption (Gal. 4:4-60; Eph. 1:5). By Him the body is formed and all gifts given (1 Cor. 12:13-14). He is the “eternal Spirit.” Although the deity of the Holy Spirit is not expressed as often as the deity of Jesus Christ, it is still clearly set forth. In the book of Acts, Luke describes for us the situation in the early Church. In one instance two converts, Ananias and Sapphira, attempted to deceive the church. Peter confronted them saying, “You have lied to the Holy Spirit. You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:1-4).

Two extremes are prevalent in the Church today regarding the person and ministry of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. There are those who are ultra conservative and minimise His ministry today and there are those who are ultra Pentecostal or Charismatic who are unbalanced in their ministry of the Spirit, seeking signs and wonders, miracles on a daily basis and believe all Christians should speak in tongues. The Holy Spirit will not promote Himself but will glorify Christ.