It was apparently the English preacher Robert South (1634-1716) who claimed, "If you deny the doctrine of the Trinity, you could lose your soul,but if you strive too hard to understand it, you could lose your wits." Nevertheless, the principle found in Deuteronomy29:29 requires us to seek to understand what God has revealed of Himself.We should do so with great humbleness. 1
What is the basis for our belief in the Trinity?
- There is but one True God - Isaiah 44:6; James 2:19,etc.
- There are 3 Persons that the Bible reveals to be True God (i.e. God by nature). Weare therefore driven to the conclusion that God is a Trinity. It is not something that wehave dragged in from Paganism or the Roman Catholic Church as some who attack our Churchlike to suggest. The Trinity is a Biblical doctrine and we believe it and teach itbecause this is so. We are compelled by Scripture to accept that the Father, Jesus, andthe Holy Spirit are all God but there is only One God by nature.
No one disputes that He is God so we will not investigate His credentials further.
- Jesus is identified as God in both the Old and New Testaments: SeeIsaiah 9:6; John 1:1; 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13, 14; Hebrews 1:8; Philippians 2:6,etc.
- Jesus claimed the Divine Name "IAM" which Yahweh used when He revealed Himself toMoses at the burning bush: John 8:58 compare Exodus 3:14.
- In Jesus dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily: Colossians2:9.
- Jesus is "The Alpha and the Omega, the First and theLast, the Beginning and the End" - Revelation 22:13 compare Isaiah 44:6; 48:12.
- Jesus shares the glory of God: John 17:5; Matthew 16:27 compareIsaiah 42:8; 48:11.
- Jesus is the Creator: Yahweh says He made everything by Himself - Isaiah 44:24. The New Testament states clearly that Jesus was theCreator and that He made everything for Himself - Colossians 1:16;John 1:3; Hebrews 1:10. Quite clearly Jesus is Yahweh God.
- Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords: Revelation 17:14; 19:16compare Deuteronomy 10:17 and 1 Timothy 6:15.
- Jesus is Eternal: Hebrews 7:3; Micah 5:2 compare Psalm 90:2;93:2.
- Jesus accepts worship: Worship is for God only - Exodus 34:14; Matthew 4:10; Acts 10:25, 26; Revelation 19:10;22:8, 9. Jesus accepted worship - Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:50-52;Hebrews 1:6. To "call upon the name" is relatedto worship - Genesis 4:26; 12:8; Psalm 116:17; 79:6; Jeremiah 10:25;Zephaniah 3:9; Joel 2:32. This phrase used with reference to Jesus -Romans 10:13; Acts 9:14; 9:20, 21; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 22:16; 2 Timothy 2:22.
- Jesus hears prayers: Acts 1:24; 7:59, 60; 2 Corinthians 12:8, 9;John 14:14; Revelation 22:20.
- Jesus is Omnipresent (Everywhere present at the same time): Matthew18:20; 28:20.
- Jesus reveals God to us: John 1:18; 14:9; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews1:3. No mere man can reveal God - only God visible could reveal theinvisible God. Jesus was both God and man - John 1:1, 14.
- A comparison of some NT and OT passages showing that Jesus isYahweh.
Hebrews 1:8-12 with Psalm 102:24-27
John 12:36-41 with Isaiah 6:1-3, 10
1 Peter 3:14, 15 with Isaiah 8:12, 13.
- Jesus is "he who searches hearts andminds" - Revelation 2:23. "you (Yahweh) alone know the hearts of all men" - 1 Kings 8:39, see also Psalm 7:9.
- First fruits were offered to God but in Revelation 14:4 they arespoken of as offered to God and the Lamb.
- Saved people will be priests of God and of the Lamb: Revelation20:6.
Some, influenced by people such as "Jehovah's Witnesses,"have been led to believe that the New Testament reveals that Jesus was less than theFather by nature. A close look at the texts concerned reveals that Jesus was less inposition not nature. We must not failto notice that the Trinity is revealed to us in the context of the plan of redemption(covering the whole Bible). Jesus accepted a subordinate position to the Father as theMessiah. The above evidence clearly shows that He was not less than the Father bynature. (His Divinity was veiled while He was a man - He did use it on occasions - but never forHis personal comfort or purposes).
The Holy Spirit is a Person
We do not learn much of His personality in the Old Testament, however, revelation isprogressive (Romans 16:25, 26; Ephesians 3:5, 6) and the Old Testament also leaves us indoubt as to the nature of "the Word" (e.g.Psalm 33:6) but the New Testament makes it quite clear that He is a Person and is in factGod - John 1:1-3, etc. We cannot understand much about thepersonality and nature of the Holy Spirit for He is far different to us. However, thefollowing references insist upon His personality.
- He performs personal actions in association with other persons:Matthew 28:19; Acts 15:28; Revelation 22:17 - NBThe Holy Spirit is a separate person from the Father and Jesus -Matthew 28:19 etc.
- He takes the place of Jesus: John 14:16. Could an impersonal forcetake the place of the Divine Jesus on earth? The Greek word translated "Comforter," "Helper," or similar here isparakletos. This New Testament Greek word is never applied toother than persons.
- In John chapters 14- 16 Jesus many times over deliberatelybroke the rules of Greek Grammar and referred to the Holy Spirit as "He," "Him," etc. Noted Theologians such asLeon Morris and J. I. Packer have pointed this out. Our own Scholar Wooldrow Whidden, onpage 71 of The Trinity, Review and Herald PublishingAssociation, Hagerstown, 2002, says, "we should observe thatwhile the word "Spirit" (Greek pneuma) is inthe neuter gender in Greek, the personal pronoun ekeinos('that one,' or 'He,' clearly used to refer to the neuterSpirit) is in the masculine gender. It is this grammatical fact that has led themajority of translators to render the other personal pronouns called for inthese passages as 'He' rather than 'it' or 'thatone'..." The Greek wordfor "Spirit" is a neuter word and thereforeshould rightly be referred to as "it" but aperusal of Bible translations will confirm that because of what Whidden has stated Bibletranslators feel compelled to translate various pronouns as "He" etc. We must either accept that Jesus didthis in order to make it clear to us that the Holy Spirit is a Person, or, we have toaccept that our perfect Jesus made a number of uncharacteristic blunders.
- He exhibits qualities which evidence personal existence:Mind - Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10,Will - 1 Corinthians 12:11,Foreknowledge - John 16:13, He speaks - Acts 1:16, Commands and Forbids - Acts 8:29; 11:12; 13:2, 4; (In these verses just mentions Herefers to Himself as "me" and "I.") 16:6, 7; 10:19, 20,Appoints - Acts 20:28, Vexed andGrieved - Isaiah 63:10; Ephesians 4:30, WorksMiracles - Acts 2:4; 8:39, Can be insulted - Hebrews 10:29, Blasphemed -Mark 3:29, Loves us - Romans 15:30.
The Holy Spirit is God
Most, even those who deny the personality of the Holy Spirit, will admit that He isGod in some way.
- He is clearly referred to as God: Acts 5:3, 4. Compare 1 Corinthians3:16, 17 with 6:19 and also 2 Corinthians 6:16. Compare 1 Corinthians 12:11 with12:28.
- The Holy Spirit is Yahweh: Compare:
Jeremiah 31:33, 34 with Hebrews 10:15-17.
Psalm 95:7-11 with Hebrews 3:7-11.
Isaiah 6:9, 10 with Acts 28:25-28.
- 2 Samuel 23:2 with 2 Samuel 23:3.
- The Holy Spirit is Eternal: Hebrews 9:14.
Because the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all the One God in Triunity(Trinity), what one does has the value of them all doing it. When the Holy Spirit comesto us it is the same as the Father coming to us, or of Jesus coming to us, or of thewhole Three coming to us. The Holy Spirit is sometimes referred to as the Spirit ofChrist - Romans 8:9, 10; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19, etc. Luke21:15 says Jesus will tell His followers what to say in time of trouble while Mark 13:11says it is the Holy Spirit Who will do this. This is where some dissidents have becomeconfused. They think that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the same Person or that the HolySpirit is some force that comes from Jesus and the Father. The truth is that Jesus andthe Holy Spirit are the same God - not the same Person. Remember thebaptismal formula of Matthew 28:19, 20 where they are spoken of as separate Persons.
John 14:18 tells that Jesus will come to His followers - Verse 23says that both the Father and the Son will make their abode with believers. Verse 26indicates that this will be through the Holy Spirit - see also verse28 first part. There is no need for confusion - there are ThreePersons all working in perfect harmony as One God.
What might we expect God to be?
Illustration: An Amoeba is amicroscopic single cell creature. There is a great gap between an Amoeba and a human madeup of millions of cells. We would expect the gap between a human and the Infinite God tobe enormously greater. We would expect God to be vastly more complex than we are. SeeIsaiah 40:18, 25.
We believe a lot of things we don´t really understand
For example, light. Some say it is made up of particles, others say it is composed ofwaves. Yet others say it is a combination of both. We might not understand it but webelieve it. We don't know how could God always have existed? - How can He know the end from the beginning? Christiansdon't understand these things but we believe them.
Do we expect God to explain Himself fully?
Illustrations: God is like a verytall man who stoops down and lisps in a little child's ear. JohnCalvin (16th century Reformer) referred to the Bible asGod's "baby talk." Godmeets us where we are and reveals Himself to the degree that suits His purpose and to thedegree that we can understand. Remember Deuteronomy 29:29. Heexpects us to seek to understand what He has revealed of Himself.
God has revealed Himself to us
God has revealed Himself to us in what is termed "theeconomy of the plan of redemption."
In other words, the terms "Father," "Son," and "HolySpirit," are suitable to help us understand the Heavenly Three andtheir relationship to One Another in the plan of Redemption (This is what the Bible isall about).
We do not know how each of the 3 Persons would be described apart from the plan ofredemption.
Some other Biblical models are:
- Shepherd (Psalm 23:1; Hebrews 13:20 );
- Parent (Jeremiah 3:19; Matthew 6:9 );
- Light (Isaiah 9:2; 1 John 1:5 ); 4. Rock (Psalm18:2; 1 Corinthians 10:4 ).
These models help us to understand what God is like.
God´s revelation to us of the plan of redemption
God's revelation to us of the plan of redemption,including an understanding of Him, is progressive.
The Holy Spirit was only fully revealed when Jesus was about to return to heaven.Jesus ministers for us in the Heavenly Sanctuary and the Holy Spirit ministers for us onthe earth. God has revealed Himself gradually - it would be too muchfor us if a full presentation were given all at once
God has not revealed all about Himself
Let us not forget that a complete understanding of God is beyond us. As St. Augustinerightly said: "If you can understand it, it is notGod." Remember Isaiah 40:18.
Illustration: We can see only one tenth of anIceberg. Likewise there is much more to God than our finite minds can possibly understand orabsorb.
Illustration: A bucket of salt water, sand, and seaweed cannot help us understand all about an Ocean. Likewise, what we know of God is no morethan a small part of what could be known of Him.
The doctrine of the Trinity is an adequatedefinition of what has been revealed in Scripture.
How then shall we describe the Three?
- Subordinationism :This system claims that Jesus and the Spirit are lesser deities. Some saythat God the Father created them.
- Modalism: Thisclaims that God just manifests Himself in one of three ways on variousoccasions.
- Tritheism : TheFather, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are three separate deities (a form ofpolytheism).
- Arianism : TheFather created Jesus who created the Holy Spirit.
- Semi-Arianism: Jesus was born from the Father in the mystical past. The Holy Spirit is not aperson but is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. All shades of Arianism have beencondemned as heretical when they have popped up down through the Christian centuries.Today some confused Seventh-day Adventists have been fooled into accepting the system. Ifyou want to be an Arian you have to accept that there is a Big God (the Father) and alittle god (Jesus). This is quite unacceptable and is a miniature form of Polytheism. Sinis an infinite problem. It has affected the whole of creation. How could any sacrificewhich was of less than of Infinite value pay for the sin of the whole world? If Jesuscould die in His Divinity He would have to have been of something less in substance thanthe Father - yet semi-Arians say He was born from the Father. Wouldthey say that God brought forth from Himself something less perfect than He was? Theirgreatest problem is that they have not understood the Greek wordmonogenes which the King James Version wrongly translated as "Only Begotten" when referring to Jesus, but as "only" when referring to others. The word hasbeen translated something like "unique" inmodern translations. My paper Jesus as Monogenes needs to bestudied on this matter.
- The Trinity : Thereare three Persons in One Substance or Essence. God is Three as to Persons but One as toSubstance.This must be true if there is only One True God for the Father is God, Jesus isGod, and the Holy Spirit is God. Only the Trinity doctrine is faithful to Scripture.Imagine the great howl of protest that would have arisen in the 1st century ifChristians preached three gods to the strictly monotheistic Jews. Matthew28:19, 20 presents Three Persons all in the One Name. See alsoMark 3:16, 17; 2 Corinthians 13:14 , etc. A very good statementon the Trinity is found on page 367 of Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, WHENCRITICS ASK , Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Mich. 1992: "God is one in essence, but three inPersons. God has one nature, but three centersof consciousness. That is, there is only one What in God, butthere are three Whos. There is one It, but threeI's. This is a mystery, but not a contradiction. Itwould be contradictory to say God was only one person, but also was three persons. Orthat God is only one nature, but that He also had three natures. But to declare, asorthodox Christians do, that God is one essence, eternally revealed in three distinctpersons is not a contradiction."
The Trinity doctrine helps us to see the full dimension of God'slove. He didn't send an innocent Third Party to die for us - He came Himself in the Person of Jesus and died for us. Whatgreater exhibition of love could we have than this? See 1 Corinthians 2:8; 2 Corinthians5:19; Acts 20:28; Hebrews 2:14, 15.
God is complete in Himself. The Trinity teaching makes this clear to us. Before Hecreated anything else, He was able to express and experience love within the confines ofthe Godhead. He didn't need to create in order to be able to expresslove as some have erroneously claimed.
It hardly needs to be pointed out that the above is but a very brief indication of theScriptural evidence, which requires Bible believers to accept that God is a Trinity. Godis far above us and beyond our comprehension. To understand all about God we would haveto be God. God has revealed certain things about Himself in His Word and we should beprepared to accept this information with gratitude and leave it at that. I would suggestto those wanting to gain a much clearer understanding of the doctrine that they shouldread my book Understanding the Trinity. It is available atSeventh-day Adventist bookstores.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow. He made us, He has maintained responsibilityfor us, He loves us, He died for us, and He is coming again soon to restore for us thatwhich was lost through sin. How can we do other than love, adore, worship, and serve Him?If we lift Him up we can be sure that He will never let us down. I, for one, can testifythat this is true.
|To God the Father, God the Son,|
And God the Spirit, Three in one,
Laud, honor, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally.