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The Trinity

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By
Pastor Mark Montgomery
Ambassador Baptist Church
1926 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15209
(412)822-7255
The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most blessed and most puzzling doctrines of the Bible. The Biblical concept of one unified Person in three distinct parts is foreign to the other religions of the world. Yet it is a doctrine which is most blessed to the believer. Were it not for the doctrine of the Trinity, man would have no supreme Sacrifice to look to for salvation. He would not have the assurance of a Comforter within him, guiding him in the way that he should go. Thus, the Trinity is a chief cornerstone in the foundation of fundamentalism.

The doctrine of the Trinity is shown to man strictly through revelation. It is not evidenced through nature or through wisdom. Nature and reason will teach us the Unity of God. By this is meant that "there is but one God and that the divine nature is undivided and indivisable.''(1) Man need only to look around him and know that there is a God Who made the universe in a perfect way. Man's inner conscience teaches him that when he sins he has offended a true and holy and just God. But man's reasoning will not teach him that there is a Trinity. As man looks at the world around him he sees the evidences of a unified God, but nothing of a Trinity. This knowledge calls for divine revelation from God.

The Scriptures teach that there are three who are recognized as God. While the actual word "trinity" is never used, the concept is taught. The doctrine of the Trinity is not fully revealed in the Old Testament, but yet it is taught there. The very use of the name "Elohim" for God in Genesis 1:1 gives a simple indication of a unified God made up of two or more eternal distinctions. "Elohim" is the plural form of the Hebrew word "El" which means God. Thus, the use of this word indicates that God is made up of more than one personality. It is especially interesting to note at this point that the verb "created" in Genesis 1:1 is a singular verb. Thus two or more personalities are seen as working in one act of creation. Another Old Testament Scriptural proof for the Trinity rests in the fact that Christ is referred to as Deity. Micah 5:2 teaches that the Messiah will come out of Bethlehem. Of Him it is said that His "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." This teaches that Jesus the Messiah was in existence from eternity past. The Spirit is also spoken of in the Old Testament. As David cries to God the Father for forgiveness in Psalm 51:11 he states, "Cast me not away from Thy presence and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me." In this passage the Spirit is seen as being a separate personality from the Father. So while the Old Testament does not fully reveal the Trinity, it is still in evidence.

The New Testament contains more abundant clues as to the concept of the Trinity. First of all, there are general statements and allusions which refer to the Trinity. One of these instances involves the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:16-17. Here at one time the Father, the Spirit, and Son are all present. Another such instance would be the time when Jesus prayed to the Father to send the Comforter. A final example would be found in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19 when Jesus commands His disciples to baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Other New Testament examples of a Trinity are seen in the ascribing of Deity to each of the three members. Romans 1:7 is just one example of the many verses which refer to the Father as God. This verse reads, "... Grace to you and peace from God the Father...". Christ is also referred to as Deity in the New Testament on many occasions. John 1:1 is an example of this as it states, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." In John 10:36, Jesus indicated that He had personally made the claim to being the Son of God. In addition to outright claims of Deity, numerous Scriptures ascribe the attributes of Deity to Christ. He is shown to have self-existence (Hebrews 7:16), Immutability (Hebrews 13:8), Truth (John I4:6), Love (I John 3:16), omnipresence (Ephesians 1:23), omniscience (Acts 1:24), omnipotence (Matthew 27:18), and holiness (John 6:69). (2) These attributes prove that Jesus is God just as the Father is God. The Holy Spirit also is proved to be God through His divine attributes. He has the attributes of truth (John 16:13), omniscience (I Corinthians 12:11), eternity (Hebrews 9:14) and holiness (Ephesians 4:30). In addition He is spoken of as God. When Ananias and Sapphira lied about the price of the land in Acts chapter five, the Bible says in verse three that they lied to the Holy Ghost, and in verse four it states that they had not lied unto men, but unto God. This passage equates the Holy Spirit with God. So the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all are ascribed to a position of Deity within the Scriptures.

Revelation through the Bible teaches that the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are God. But what are these three Beings? Some would teach that the Bible is polytheistic in that it teaches that there are three different Gods. This doctrine is known as Tritheism. Others would take the other extreme and try to teach the doctrine of Sabellianism. This teaching holds to a Trinity of revelation, but not of nature. This means that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are merely three separate distinctions within the same one essence known as God.(3) This belief is closely related to Unitarianism, which states that there is "one God who exercises His interests and powers in various ways."(4) Both of these theories are incorrect. Tritheism is refuted by the doctrine of the Unity of God which was touched upon earlier. Rather than saying that there are three Gods, it would be better to say that there are three "Persons" in the Godhead. While there are three Persons, there is only one essence. It would be impossible logically for there to be three Gods. To have three Gods "limiting each other, would deprive each other of Diety."(5) One God, known as the Son, being omniscient, omnipotent, and eternal, could not be limited by another God, known as the Father. If one God can limit another, that indicates that the one is greater than the other. It so, than the second cannot be infinite, and thus, by loosing this divine attribute, cannot be God. The loss of the divinity of one of these would destroy the Revelation from God which teaches thet there are three Persons to Whom are ascribed the attributes of God.

The doctrine of the Unity of God is very important at this point. Deuteronomy 6:4 reads, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." James 2:19 states, "Thou believest" that there is one God; thou doest well: The devils also believe and tremble." I Kings 8:60 states, "That all the people of the earth may know that the Lord is God, and that there is none else." I Timothy 2:5 reads "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." These passages of Scripture teach that there is only one God. Thus, Tritheistic theology would be contradictory to the Word of God. This unity also solves the problem raised in the preceeding paragraph dealing with the limitation of one God upon another. When these three "Gods" are viewed in the Scriptural sense of being three distinct personalities within the Divine essence of God, then the problem disappears. As all three are members of one essence, God can limit Himself in one or more areas. He is not being limited, He is limiting Himself in one of His three distinct personalities. A. H. Strong states, "While we show that the unity is articulated by the persons, it is equally important to remember that the persons are limited by the unity."(6) But this limitation does not remove any sense of Deity, because all three belong to the same essence. God is not limited. He remains eternal and unchanging.

Sabellianism is also an incorrect view of the Godhead. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not the same Person manifesting Himself in different ways. There are three distinct personalities taught in the Word of God, while Sabellianism teaches that there is only one personality. Each of these personalities is distinct from the others. Christ distinguished Himself from the Father during His earthly ministry. In John 5:37, Christ states, "And the Father Himself, who hath sent me, hath borne witness of me." In the Old Testament, in Psalm 2:7, the author, speaking of Christ, writes, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee." These two passages both show a definite distinction between the person of God the Father and the person of Jesus.

John 14:16-17 teaches a distinction between these two Persons and the Holy Spirit. Christ said, "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of Truth ..." Thus, the Sabellian view of one Person manifesting Himself in different ways cannot be accepted.

The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most difficult, yet most glorious doctrines of the Word of God. It is very hard to understand how one Essence could be manifested in three distinct, yet unified, Personalities. Each member of the Trinity has His own special ministry in the life of the Christian. Yet all these are one and the same God. There are not three gods. There is not only one Personality manifested in three different ways. There is one Divine Essence consisting of three unique Personalities. And what a blessing the Trinity is! To know that Jesus Christ could be the perfect sacrifice because He was God is wonderful. It is a great comfort to realize that the Comforter within the Christian is the Divine Spirit of God Who will never steer him wrong. The fact of the Trinity is truely one of the greatest blessings of the Word of God.


(1) Henry Thiessen, Introductory Lectures in SystematicTheology (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman's PubIishlng Company, 1949), p. 134.
(2).Augustus Strong, Systematic Theology (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1907) p. 307 308.
(3)Thiessen, op. cit., p. 135.
(4) Lewis Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), p. 282.
(5) Strong, op. cit., p. 330.
(6) Ibid

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bicherstett, Edward. The Trinity. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1957.

Chafer, Lewis. Systematic Theology. Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947.

Strong, Augustus. Systematic Theology. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1907

Thiessen, Henry. Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing Company, 1949.



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