April 19 – Understanding the Trinity: 3 points

April 19, 2021 Randy Bushey

~by Randy Bushey

And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:10,11).

In our study of Mark 1 on Sunday, we explored the ramifications and inescapable conclusions of this incident at the outset of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.

As John the Baptist immersed Jesus in the Jordan River, God chose to disclose the 3-Person dimension of His Being:

a) as God the Son was baptized,

b) God the Holy Spirit – symbolized for observation as a dove – physically alighted on Him, and

c) as the heavens [were] being torn open, God the Father verbally thundered from above, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

The Trinity is taught explicitly throughout the New Testament, and hinted at in the Old Testament. In fact, the very first reference to God has a more-than-one dimension as the suffix “im” in Elohim (Hebrew for God) is a plural form: In the beginning God [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

This is not abstract theology. A Scripturally precise understanding of the Trinity is foundational to understanding God and eternal truth.

Much is at stake: getting the Trinity wrong distorts the Gospel because, “[t]he doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith”, says Theologian Wayne Grudem.1

The Bible’s teaching can be stated as follows: One God eternally exists in 3 Persons, and although each Person is distinct, together they are one God.

Here are the 3 basic declarations of orthodoxy, a basic familiarity with which will keep you from sliding into heresy. (This will require some hard thinking – but stay with me; it’s worth it!)

1.The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons.

In everyday speech we define a person as an “independent individual”, and every individual person is a separate being.

But not so with God. He is 1 Being, expressed in 3 Persons.

Sometimes God is wrongly thought of as rotating through 3 different roles or modes, wearing 1 of 3 alternate masks.

But again, although His Being or essence is 1, He expresses Himself in 3 Persons.

This might help: theologian Norman Geisler explains that being or essence is what you are, person is who you are.

In other words, God is 1 what, and 3 whos.2

2. Each Person of the Trinity is fully God.

Each is not one-third God. The Triune God is not made up of 3 incomplete pieces.

3. There is only One God.

The biblical Gospel is emphatically monotheistic.

When questioned as to which is the greatest commandment, Jesus began His answer this way: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one (Mark 12:29).

Skeptics rashly label the doctrine of the Trinity as a contradiction. However, to be contradictory, a statement must be simultaneously affirmed and denied.

If I said God is one and in the same way He is three – that would be irrational. When we define the Trinity, we assert that God is one and three, but not in the same way.

When I explain to my grandchildren that I am their grandfather, but at the same time I am also a father and son, they understand that I cannot be all 3 in the same way and same relationship. All 3 are true, but obviously in different relationships.

God is three in a different way than He is one.

That’s because He is 3 Persons, sharing a single essence, or Being.

Consequently, disciples of Christ are to be baptized in the name [not the names, plural] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

Takeaway: in seeking to get our mind around the Bible’s doctrine of the Trinity, we are wrestling with that which for us, is imponderable.

But it is true.

Theologian Lewis Sperry Chafer: “Though no finite mind has ever comprehended how three Persons may form but one Essence, that precise truth is the testimony of all parts of the Bible.”3

footnotes:

1 Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Zondervan.

2 Matt Perman, Desiring God website: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-the-doctrine-of-the-trinity

3 Chafer’s Systematic Theology, volume 1, Dallas Seminary Press.

…a version of this post appeared in November 2017