We are continuing in our new series titled “We Believe” as we are looking at the 8 core beliefs of our church as outlined in our statement of faith. Last week I talked about the scripture or Bible and it is inerrant, inspired, and trustworthy. We concluded that God’s Word is a peek at who God is as He is revealed in scripture and it is the final authority to the Christian faith and life.
This week I will talk about our second core belief which is, “We believe there is one God, and He has chosen to reveal Himself as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.” We know this core belief to be the doctrine of the Trinity. Now, I am going to be completely transparent in telling you that first, this doctrine is an extremely complex doctrine. Second, I am going to attempt to explain something that is very difficult and nearly impossible to explain simple way. My overall goal is to help you understand the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity that will help enhance your worship of God and help you live God honoring lives. I am not going to spend our time giving you cute and memorable ways to define, describe or understand the doctrine because one cannot do this in an effectively. I understand that people have tried using several analogies from nature, science or human experience to attempt to explain the doctrine and this may be helpful on an elementary level. For believers who seek to know God intimately these analogies are inadequate. I am guilty of using them in the past, so I am not scolding. However, to say that the Trinity is like a three-leaf clover, fails because each leaf is only part of the clover, and any one leaf cannot be said to be the whole clover. We will soon see that in the trinity each of the persons are not just a separate part of God, each person is fully God. The same applies with the analogies of water, steam, ice, and an egg.
So, are there any analogies we can use to teach the Trinity? This is an interesting question because the Bible uses numerous analogies to teach about God, Jesus, and the Spirit (God is like a rock, Jesus is the good shepherd, the Spirit is like a wind) and yet there are no analogies to properly teach this doctrine of the trinity other than Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and this is not helpful to many.
I am going to be honest by saying the personal application for this message may not be crystal clear or come in a nice and neatly wrapped package; in reality it may look more like a UPS package that was crushed under a heavy item in the back of the truck. However, my hope is that when I conclude this message you will have a better understanding of the Trinity and that we have seen some of the passages that will help us better understand the doctrine.
So, in talking about the trinity I am face with a great difficulty in adequately describing this doctrine. To say that this doctrine is incomprehensible, is to say nothing more than must be admitted of any other great truth, whether of revelation or of science. However, in its complexities we should not shy away from teaching it, as it is a foundational doctrine to Christianity and the Church. So let’s jump in the deep end.
The first complexity is in the word itself… It is not in the Bible, you can look for it until kingdom come and you will not find it, however, the doctrine of the trinity is evident throughout the Bible. The word trinity means “tri-unity” or three-in-oneness”. It is used to summarize the teaching of Scripture that God is three persons yet still one God. The numerous basic elements of the doctrine are stated, or assumed, over and over, from start to finish in the Bible. This simply means the doctrine of the trinity is found in the scriptures not by name, but in what it teaches and proves. There are collections of individual passages that make up and support the doctrine of the trinity, some of which we will look at in a little bit.
The second complexity is that the Bible as a whole teaches that there is one God in three persons. There is no argument that Christianity is a monotheistic religion, yet the trinity implies plurality.
We saw in my previous sermon series “The Ten Commandments” that there is only One God and there are no other gods beside Him. Deuteronomy 6:4 – 5 says, “Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one, Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
However, the Bible also teaches that our God is one God in three distinct persons… The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
So, we can conclude that God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all divine, inseparable, equal, and they share the same essence (according to J.I. Packer this is the “stuff” of deity, if we may dare to call it that). Thus, we see that the doctrine of the Trinity is present in the Bible, but it is not mentioned by name.
Now, we must be careful to not confuse the Trinity in the biblical truth that they all three share the same essence (“stuff of deity”), yet they are distinct (recognizably different in nature) in their roles played. The one God (“he”) is also, and equally, “they,” and “they” are always together (inseparable) and always cooperating, with the Father initiating, the Son complying, and the Spirit executing the will of both, which is his will also. The New Testament distinguishes between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and the Scriptures teach us not to confuse the three. They are distinct in that we do not put the Father or the Spirit on the cross, it was Jesus who hung on the cross. Also, it was the Spirit that Jesus breathed into the disciples, not God or himself. This is a great mystery because they are distinct and equal and yet we cannot truly wrap our brains around this reality.
According to the Scripture, the Father created the world, the Son created the world, and the Spirit created the world. It also teaches that the Father preserves all things; the Son upholds all things; and the Spirit is the source of all life. These facts are expressed by saying that the persons of the Trinity concur in all acts ad extra. Nevertheless, there are some acts which are predominantly referred to the Father, others to the Son, and others to the Spirit. The Father creates, elects, and calls; the Son redeems; and the Spirit sanctifies.
A Short History Lesson: The Trinity and Church History
The Trinity is a biblical truth that the Apostles held to, but never called it the Trinity. They believed the Father, Son, and Spirit were one as the Bible had taught and Jesus affirmed. It was at the council of Nicea the doctrine of the Trinity was adopted as stated in the Nicene Creed (drafted in 325 A.D and amended in 381 A.D.). Ancient church father Tertullian was the first person to use the word trinity (taken from the Latin word “Trinitas” which means the number three) substance, and person to explain that God was one in essence and not in person. The purpose of this council was to address that over the centuries various heresies began popping up in the church regarding the trinity such as…
Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” The plural words “us” and “our” show that at the creation of humanity there was more than one person present. We conclude that us and they refer to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Matt. 28:19: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” The word “name” is singular, yet the names “the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” are plural, suggesting their three-in-oneness
John 14:26: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”
Today I have merely scratched the surface in talking about the doctrine of the Trinity. I make no claims to have exhausted this topic at all. As I stated earlier, my goal is to help you better understand the biblical concepts behind the doctrine. The trinity is a mystery beyond our comprehension, and it is extremely difficult to teach is simply and it is impossible to FULLY understand it. However, having made that statement, I am in no way saying that since it is impossible to fully understand that we should give up and not continue to study the doctrine and dig deep into the Bible to try and gain a better understanding of it.
My hope and prayer for you today is that as we have looked at the biblical doctrine of the Trinity and if anything, you can come to the conclusion that our God is abundantly unique and diverse. There is no one like Him. There are no other gods besides Him, and yet those religions who claim to worship a God or gods cannot and do not make any claims that would remotely look like the Trinity. This is what makes Him unique. In His uniqueness he is abundantly diverse. God the Father sent His Son Jesus Christ to the world to show humanity the way to the Kingdom of God and to have eternal life through His death, resurrection and ascension. Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to His disciples and the Holy Spirit was poured out on His people at Pentecost. Thus, through the Spirit, God’s people have the ability to live their lives for His glory and honor, have victory in life, know and attain wisdom, and serve one another in love and compassion. This is a wonderfully unique and loving God and in knowing this fact about Him should cause us to worship Him all the more because He is one God and there is none like him.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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