The Trinity

“Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). Old testament Judaism and New testament Christianity both stress monotheism (one God) as opposed to polytheism (many gods) or atheism (no god or gods). But only Christianity recognizes the divine three-in-oneness, the eternal co-existence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the inner personal life of the Godhead.

The nature of the Godhead is revealed in the first chapter of the Bible by use of the plural pronoun. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’” (Gen. 1:26). The doctrine of the Trinity was revealed in the baptismal formula which was stated by Christ Himself. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). The Epistles clearly teach the threefold expression of the Godhead, uniting all three as the agents of our salvation and sanctification. Notice how Paul unites the believer with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Rom. 8:9; “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

Although the Father, Son and Holy Spirit work in unity, everything flows from the Father. Jesus said He could do nothing on His own initiative (Jn. 5:30;8:42) and modeled a life that was totally dependent upon the Father (Jn. 17:7). In this way He left us an example that we ought to follow in His steps (1 Pet. 2:21), for we too are called to live dependently upon God. Likewise the Holy Spirit comes from the Father (Jn. 15:26), and He will not speak on His own (Jn. 16:13). As we approach the Father we do so in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as led by the Holy Spirit. The sacrificial death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the only basis by which we can approach our Heavenly Father and it is the unique work of the Holy Spirit to bear witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16), who also leads us into all truth (Jn. 16:13).

After Pentecost, Peter’s message brought together the finished work of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in one divine unity. The giving of the Holy Spirit is the evidence that Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of the Heavenly Father. During the three year public ministry of Jesus, “the Spirit had not yet been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified” (Jn. 7:39). “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord [kurios] and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Kurios (Lord) is used for Jesus in Jude 4, and is used for God in Jude 5.

The Athanasian Creed said, “We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the substance, for there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost; but the godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.”

Dr. Neil

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