LECTURE 2: THE TRINITY
A second lecture in a seven part series on the Godhead.

 Joshua P. Stewart
 March 2017
Vestal, NY



The Trinity of the Godhead

The Trinity is the characteristic truth of Christianity; One God, . The three Persons are of the same essence, and of the same mind and the same will. There is an inter-communion between the persons of the Godhead, characterized by love (14:31; 2 Cor. 13:14

One God

Monotheism has been defined as the belief in the existence of only one god. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are the three major monotheistic religions of the world, and they all trace their roots back to Abraham. Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses have departed from monotheism in claiming that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are separate gods. But the Bible teaches only One God, not three. Both New and Old Testaments are very clear on this:

"For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." (1 Cor. 8:5-6)

"Hear, O Israel Jehovah our God is one Jehovah." (Deuteronomy 6:4)

Polytheism is the belief in more than one god. In the Roman Empire, during the first several centuries A.D., Christianity stood out against the many gods of the Pagan world. In fact, Christians were referred to as 'Atheists' in a derogatory way [1], because one god compared to thousands seemed to the Pagans like belief in no god at all!

Three Divine Persons

The New Testament identifies three Persons that are Divine. While, e

ach of the three persons are identified as God, there is still only one God. To be clear, the Bible never says that the Son is 'a god', like the Jehovah's Witnesses believe. While there are countless references to show this, the following verses clearly show that there are three Divine Persons.
  • The Father: "Grace be to you and peace from God the Father..." (Gal. 1:3)
  • The Son: "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God..." (1 John 4:15)
  • The Spirit: "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God..." (Eph. 4:30)

The doctrine of the Trinity was not fully revealed in the Old Testament, but the Trinity is eternal, and thus existed in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is not silent on this matter. The verse we have already mentioned, Deut. 6:4 says “Hear, O Israel the LORD our God is one LORD.” In the original the names of God read as follows:

"Hear, O Israel Jehovah [singular] our Elohim [plural] is one Jehovah [singular]."

Here we have an affirmation of the Oneness of the Godhead, but at the same time carefulness to preserve the truth of the Trinity.

Distinct Personalities

In scripture, the three divine Persons are carefully distinguished from one another.
  • The Father is not the same as the Son; "the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world" (1 John 4:14).
  • The Son is not the same as the Holy Spirit; "the Spirit was not yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified" (John 7:37).
  • The Holy Spirit is not the same as the Father; "the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name" (John 14:26).
The practice of putting numbers on the persons of the Godhead is not scriptural; e.g. the "third Person of the Godhead" is a designation that demotes the Holy Spirit to a lesser place than He has as God. Yet the three persons have distinguishing features that mark them as different.

There have been many attempts to find a physical illustration for the Trinity, but all fall short of it. Why? because God is Transcendent, and cannot be comprehended by the human mind. My favorite illustration is sunlight.


Image result for sun sidewalk bike


1.
 Three different things that are really one:

The Source
 (Father) you can look up into the sky on a sunny day, and say "there is the sun", referring to the source of sunlight.
 
2.
 
The Display or Agent (Son) you can see the brightly lit road, and say "there is the sun", referring to the display of sunlight on the road.
 3. The Power (Holy Spirit) you can feel the warmth of the sunlight on your face and arms, and say, "there is the sun", referring to the power of the sunlight affecting your skin.
The source, the display, and the power are each "the sun", but they are distinct from one another. You cannot say the sunlight on the road is the fiery ball of gas in the sky, nor can you say the warmth on your skin is the sunlight on the road. The same is true of the Trinity; three distinct Persons, only One God.

God Himself, the Source, the Fountain,
Christ the Way the waters flow,
By the Spirit manifested,
He the finished work hath done.

The Lord Jesus could say "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30), which is an expression of their oneness in divine essence; they are "one thing" as each Person is God. He does not say "I and my Father are one Person". No, the Persons of the Trinity are distinct.

God the Father

The Father is commonly found in scripture as the giver or source of goodness, wisdom, justice, authority, etc. We are told in James 1:17 that "Every good gift and every perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of lights, etc." This thought of a supreme Giver is brought out abundantly in John's Gospel.

  • The Father has "given all things" into the hands of the Son (John 3:35)
  • The Father "gave His only begotten Son" for our redemption (John 3:16).
  • The Father "gives" souls to the Son, then draws them to the Son in grace (John 6:37, 44).
  • The Father will give to believers "whatsoever" they ask in the Son's Name (John 16:23).

The Father is also the special object of worship (John 4:23), while the Son is the subject of worship (Col. 1:14-20), and the Spirit is the means of worship (Phil. 3:3).

While the Father was not known by the name of "Father" in the Old Testament, He was nonetheless the Father from a past eternity, just as the Son was always the Son. These two truths are closely connected: the Eternal Sonship of Christ, and the Eternal Fatherhood of God. There are many proofs of this, but a simple one is "the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world" (1 John 4:14). The Son had to have been the Son and the Father had to have been the Father before the incarnation, or this verse could not be truth. We will discuss this more fully in subsequent lectures.

God the Son

The Son of God is found in scripture as the display or expression of God toward man. We are told in John 1:18 that "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." The only way for man to really know God, is through the Person of the Son! This is a central message of the New Testament. He is the Agent by which God acts. He is the way God comes to man. God created all things "by Him" (Col. 1:16), etc.

  • The Son is the Eternal "Word", or expression of God (John 1:1)
  • The Son is the "image" or representation of the invisible God (Col. 1:15)
  • The Son is the "exact impress" (i.e. not just likeness) of God's Person (Heb. 1:3)
  • The Son is the "bodily dwelling" of the Godhead (Col. 2:9)

The incarnation is the unfathomable mystery of what John writes: "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). In the Old Testament the Son appeared a various times to saints; e.g. Gen. 18:1, Ex. 3:2; Josh. 5:13; Isa. 6:1... "In the year of the death of king Uzziah, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple, etc." In all of these cases it was God the Son appearing in some pre-incarnate form. And yet, God's heart could not be fully declared until the the Son became a man, and so "it behooved him in all things to be made like to his brethren" (Heb. 2:17). The incarnation will never be reversed... the Son of God will remain a man for all eternity!

God the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is found in scripture as the energy or power for divine activity. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is carefully developed in John's Gospel.

  • The Spirit is the power to quicken souls, using the Word of God (John 3:5).
  • The Spirit is the power in us to spring up in worship (John 4:14; Phil. 3:3).
  • The Spirit is the power that unites the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).
  • The Spirit is the power for true Christian ministry (Luke 4:14, 1 Cor. 12).
  • The Spirit is the power in us flowing out with blessing to others (John 7:38-39).
  • The Spirit is the power by which we enjoy eternal life (John 20:22; Rom. 8:2).
  • The Spirit is the power by which we have deliverance from sin (Rom. 8:2; Gal. 5:16).
The sending of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was promised by the Lord Jesus, and had to wait until Jesus was glorified at the Father's right hand (John 7:39). The Holy Spirit is here in two capacities: 

"And I will beg the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see him nor know him; but ye know him, for he abides with you, and shall be in you." (John 14:16-17).

The Spirit is "with us" in the aspect that believers collectively are are the House of God, "a habitation of God in the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22). The Spirit is "in us" individually by inhabiting our physical bodies; "your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you" (1 Cor. 6:19). The indwelling of the Spirit is called the "Anointing", "Sealing", and "Earnest" of the Spirit (2 Cor. 1:21-22). The Lord Jesus also is sealed with the Spirit (Matt. 3:16, John 6:27). The Spirit indwelling all believers at the present time forms a link uniting the Body of Christ to the Head (1 Cor. 12:13).


The Trinity as seen in Scripture

All cults and false religions do not believe in the Trinity, because it is the characteristic truth of Christianity. Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. all deny it. The truth of the Trinity is clearly revealed in the New Testament, for example Matt. 3:16-17 and Matt. 28:19.

"And Jesus, having been baptized, went up straightway from the water, and lo, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him: and behold, a voice out of the heavens saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight."

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

Notice, it is "the Name" (singular) that is associated with three persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is witnessed so abundantly in the New Testament; see II Cor. 13:14; Eph. 2:18; 4:4-6; Rev. 1:4-5; John 14:26, etc. However, the New Testament does not seek to prove the Trinity to man's mind, rather it is stated as the way that God has revealed Himself. The Trinity is seen in everything God does:
  • CreationFather (Acts 17:24; Eph. 4:6); Son (John 1; Col. 1; Heb. 1); and Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:2).
    • Note: the actual work of Creation is attributed to the Son, accomplishing the Father's will.
  • Incarnation: Father (Psalm 2:7); Son (Luke 1:35); and Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20).
  • Atonement: Father (2 Cor. 5:21); Son (1 Pet. 2:24); and Holy Spirit (Heb. 9:14).
  • ResurrectionFather (Gal. 1:1); Son (John 10:18); and Holy Spirit (1 Pet. 3:18).
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! 
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea. 
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty, 
God in three persons, blessed Trinity

The Trinity is not fully revealed in the Old Testament, but you can see it there. For instance, in the first verse of the Bible; 

"In the beginning Elohim [plural] created [singular] the heavens and the earth [dual]." (Gen. 1:1)

In Hebrew there are not merely two grammatical numbers like in English (singular and plural); but three (dual). If something is in the plural, it is not two-or-more, but three-or-more! For example: one cherub, two cherubs, or several cherubim! The same is true with the name "Elohim". It is interesting that New Testament (Koine) Greek only has two grammatical numbers, but the Trinity is fully revealed! But when Elohim acts, it is "created" (singular)... One God! 

"And God [plural] said, Let us [plural] make man in our [plural] image, after our [plural] likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, etc... And God [plural] created Man in his [singular] image, in the image of God [plural] created he [singular] him; male and female created he [singular] them." (Gen. 1:26-27) 

We could multiply instances (Gen. 11:7-8, Isa. 6:8), but these two are sufficient to show that the Trinity is found in the Old Testament. The truth of it is not fully declared, although some instances get us close to a declaration of it:

"Come near unto me, hear ye this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I [the Son]; and now the Lord Jehovah [the Father] hath sent me, and his Spirit [the Spirit]." (Isa. 48:16

Here we get the three Persons distinguished, but nothing known about their relationship to one another. The relationships in the Godhead could not be full known until the Son came in flesh to declare God to man. Sadly, Jews reject the trinity, though it can be proven from their own scriptures.


Conclusion

The Trinity is part of the foundation on which our faith rests. The Trinity is involved in everything God does; whether it be the incarnation, the atonement, or the resurrection. That foundation is still being assaulted by Satan today. May we take courage from the words of our Lord Jesus; "on this rock I will build my Church... and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Let us thank God for preserving it to us in His Word. May these scriptures encourage us to become more grounded in that foundation!

Blest our portion, thus to be
Glorying in the Trinity;
For the Gospel from above,
For the word that God is love.

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen." (2 Cor. 13:14) 

Further study:

[1] During the Roman persecution of Christians, when attempting to draw out a recantation from a Christian, they would ask them to say "Away with the Atheists" or in other words, "away with the Christians." See the Martyrdom of Polycarp as an example.