THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY
A. Introduction: In this lesson, we want to begin to deal with who God is, or the nature of God.
1. Such a study may seem a bit irrelevant. We all have real problems that need real solutions.
a. This topic doesn't seem to relate to our problems -- physical, financial, mental, marital.
b. Theologians may need to know about the nature of God, but everyday people
don't. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
2. There are some key reasons why we need an accurate understanding of who God is.
a. You were created to know God, to love God, and to be His son or daughter. Without accurate knowledge of who God is, you will not fulfill your created purpose.
b. Anything we learn, know, about God will enrich our lives. II Pet 1:2
c. Inaccurate knowledge of who God is is dangerous. Following the wrong God will take you to hell.
3. Today, more than ever, there is an attack on who God is -- especially who Jesus is.
a. This will continue as we move toward the time when the world will accept the false Christ, the Antichrist, and will embrace a false Christianity as the one world religion.
b. We must be able to distinguish the genuine from the false.
4. It is vitally important that we get our information about God from the Bible, because it is through the Bible that God has chosen to reveal Himself to us.
a. Many people have ideas about God, but they are subjective = what He means to me (rising out of my feelings and opinions as opposed to objective facts independent of personal feelings or prejudices).
b. It does not matter how you “feel” about God. What matters is who He says He is and whether or not you believe it.
c. Accurate knowledge of God has always been important, but perhaps now more than ever.
5. In this lesson, we want to specifically deal with the doctrine (GR = instruction, teaching) of the Trinity -- the fact that in the Bible God has clearly revealed Himself as one God, yet He has also clearly revealed Himself as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
6. This is not theological mumbo-jumbo. This is practical Christianity. Consider:
a. As we said, it is more important than ever to be on guard against deception about the nature of God.
b. The more you know about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the sweeter your fellowship with God will be, and the more effective your Christianity will be.
1. II Cor 13:14--We are called into relationship and fellowship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.
2. Matt 28:18-20--We are to live our lives as Christians in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
7. Our goal is not to do an exhaustive study of the Trinity -- that would take months.
a. Our goal is to give you a basic understanding of this vital Bible theme.
b. Our goal is not to give you ammunition to go out and try to convert all the Jehovah's witnesses and other cults which don't believe in the Trinity.
c. Our goal is to help you be convinced of what you believe and why.
d. Our goal is to improve the quality of your Christian life by increasing your knowledge of God. Col 1:9-12
B. Let's begin with some general statements about the Trinity.
1. The word Trinity is not found in the Bible. Trinity comes from two Latin words -- TRI and UNIS, meaning three and one.
a. As we read the Bible we see that there is clearly only one God. However, we also clearly see three persons who are God -- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And, they all possess and demonstrate the qualities, characteristics, and abilities of God.
b. We see three-in-oneness in the Godhead (THEOTES, THEIOTES = the divine nature).
2. The Bible does not try to prove the existence of the Trinity, it presumes it.
3. When we talk about the nature of God, we run into some difficulties.
a. This Being we are attempting to discuss is infinite (without limits of any kind) and eternal (having no beginning and no end). Ps 90:2; 102:25-27
1. We think of eternity as a really long time. But, eternity is a “way of existence that does not involve a progression of events and moments”. (James R. White)
2. God is not limited to time or space, and that is very difficult for we who are limited to understand. Jer 23:24; II Chron 6:18
b. John 4:24--God as to His nature is spirit. (Wuest) = invisible, immaterial, and powerful (Vines).
c. So, when we talk about God who has revealed Himself as one yet three, there are some limits as to how much understanding we can have at this point in our existence.
I Cor 13:12
4. Based on what we see in the Bible, let's state a definition of the Trinity.
a. “Within the One Being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and coeternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” (James R. White)
b. There is only one God, but there are three divine persons = one what, three whos.
c. Each is fully God, not one third of God.
5. God is not composed of three separate individuals (ie: Peter, James, and John).
a. God is not one person with three jobs or areas of interests.
b. Each of these persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is fully God and displays all the attributes of God = three persons all of the same substance which is God.
6. There have been a number of challenges to the doctrine of the Trinity especially in the last two centuries.
a. We won't go into detail, but here are a few of them: Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, Mormons, Unity, Oneness.
b. Their ideas include: Jehovah is the only God; Jesus is a created being; the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force; there is no Father or Holy Spirit, only Jesus; belief in the Trinity is polytheism.
7. But, the solution to this controversy is the same one we find in every area we study.
a. If your only source of information was the Bible, there would be no doubt in your mind that God is one yet three.
b. If you read the whole Bible with no presupposed ideas, taking all verses in context, the only conclusion you can reach is that God is one and three, three persons in one divine Being.
C. Let's do what we often do when we study various subjects. Let's take a brief Bible survey.
1. Although the doctrine of the Trinity is not fully spelled out until the NT, we can see it in the OT.
2. Remember, one of God's goals in the OT was to reveal Himself as God Almighty to Israel in the midst of a world completely given over to the worship of idols.
3. Isa 40-48--The trial of the false gods. In these chapters God rebukes the false gods who lure His people into idolatry, and in the process, reveals much about Himself.
a. 40:13-18--God can't be compared to anything.
b. 40:21-28--God expects men to know their Creator.
c. 43:10-12--There is no God before or after Him.
d. 44:6-8--There is no God beside Him. He is first and last.
e. 45:21,22--There is no God but God.
4. Yet, God revealed Himself to Israel as the United One. Deut 6:4
a. There are two Hebrew words for one: ECHOD (united one or composite unity--Gen 2:24; Num 13:23) and YACHID (the only one--Gen 22:2).
b. In Deut 6:4 God used ECHOD to describe and reveal Himself.
5. Gen 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isa 6:8--The plural word for God is used. Who is God talking to?
a. It couldn't be the angels because they are not of the same substance (image) of God.
b. Who but the Son and the Holy Spirit are equal in substance to the Father?
6. Gen 18--Three men stopped to visit Abraham and one is called the Lord.
a. v3;27--Abraham called God ADONAY = used only as a proper name of God.
b. The name Jehovah is used in v1,13,14,17,19,20,22,26,30,31,32,33.
c. v10--The Lord made a statement to Abraham that only God can make -- Sarah will have a son; (Omnipotent = all powerful = God).
d. v12,13--He knew Sarah laughed; (Omniscient = all knowing = God).
e. John 1:18; Ex 33:20--Abraham talked face to face with God and lived. Who did he talk with? God the Son (coequal, coeternal).
7. The Bible describes numerous appearances of Jesus in the OT before He took on flesh at Bethlehem (preincarnation). Josh 5:13-15; Judges 13:1-25; I Cor 10:4
8. The first Christians would never have questioned the concept of the Trinity. Matt 3:16,17
a. They heard the Father speak from heaven.
b. They saw and walked with the Son for three years.
c. They were indwelt by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2:1-4
9. Jesus spoke to His followers about Himself, the Father, and the Holy Ghost. John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7-10; 13-16
10. Matt 28:19,20--Jesus commissioned them and us to preach the gospel in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
a. Name is singular in the Greek, indicating one God.
b. It is not “into the names of...” or into the name of each one as though they were three, or as though it were three names for one being.
c. It is into the Name (singular) of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is unity, yet they are distinct.
11. In the epistles, we see an acceptance of the Triune God who is three persons in One Being.
Rom 14:17,18; 15:16; I Cor 2:2-5; I Cor 6:9-11; II Cor 1:21,22; II Cor 13:14; Eph 2:18; 3:14-17; Eph 4:4-7; I Thess 1:3-5; II Thess 2:13,14
D. As we study the Bible, we find that each of these persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is called God, and each one displays the attributes and works of deity. They all act like God and do what God does.
1. Omnipresence (everywhere present) -- Father (Jer 23:23,24); Son (Matt 18:20; 28:20); Holy Spirit (Ps 139:7).
2. Omniscience (all knowingness) -- Father (Rom 11:33); Son (Matt 9:4); Holy Spirit (I Cor 2:10).
3. Omnipotence (all powerful) -- Father (I Pet 1:5); Son (Matt 28:18); Holy Spirit (Rom 15:19).
4. Holiness -- Father (Rev 15:4); Son (Acts 3:14); Holy Spirit (John 16:7-14).
5. Eternity -- Father (Ps 90:2); Son (Micah 5:2; John 1:2; Rev 1:8,17); Holy Spirit (Heb 9:14).
6. Truth -- Father (John 7:28); Son (Rev 3:7); Holy Spirit (I John 5:6).
7. All were involved in creation -- Father (Gen 2:7; Ps 102:25); Son (John 1:3; Col 1:16; Heb 1:2); Holy Spirit (Gen 1:2; Job 33:4; Ps 104:30).
8. All were involved in the Incarnation -- Father (Heb 10:5); Son (Heb 2:14); Holy Spirit
9. All were involved in the Resurrection -- Father (Acts 2:32; 13:30; Rom 6:4; Eph 1:19,20); Son (John 2:19; 10:17,18); Holy Spirit (Rom 1:4; 8:11).
E. Consider two more ways besides those already mentioned in which this understanding of the Trinity relates to our lives.
1. Each person in the Godhead was and is actively involved in our redemption.
a. That knowledge can help us cooperate more effectively with God.
1. God the Father sent the Son to die for our sins.
2. God the Son willingly came (incarnated) and took our place on the Cross.
3. God the Holy Ghost now indwells us and is working in us the benefits of redemption and conforming us to the image of Christ.
b. Do you ever wonder which one you should pray to and what you should say? This information about the role of each in redemption will help you.
2. Before there was anything, there was God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), perfect, perfectly complete, in loving fellowship with one another.
a. John 1:1--In the beginning (at the time of creation), Jesus existed with God (the Father and the Holy Ghost).
1. With = PROS = has the idea of intimate, unbroken fellowship.
2. In the beginning, the Word was existing. And the Word was in fellowship with God the Father. And the Word was as to His essence absolute deity. (Wuest)
b. While He was on earth, Jesus spoke of a loving relationship with the Father that existed before time began. John 17:5;24
c. We have been invited into that realm. We have been invited into that fellowship.
John 17:20-23; 14:20; I John 1:3
F. Conclusion: Before there was anything, God was. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit were complete and satisfied in their glory and love.
1. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, has invited us into that realm and has qualified us for it.
2. Can you see how this information will help your daily life?