Many have struggled to understand the Holy Trinity. Historic Christian controversies, resulting in the historic creeds of the church, have been about the Trinity. There is a mystery about God. We have produced analogies, like St. Patrick’s famous analogy of three leaved clover, but none of them are complete and they have serious flaws.
There are five basic statements we could make about the Trinity as God is revealed in Scripture.
- In the Bible all three Persons are recognised as God.
- They are seen as distinct Persons
- Trinity is the essential and eternal nature of God
- There is one God – not three!
- The three persons are equal in being God, but demonstrate mutual worship, love and submission
We easily see the Father as God, the Originator and the source of all being. We can sometimes struggle to see Son and Spirit as equally God or feel that somehow Son and Spirit are less remote than Father, and so we develop a Son- or Spirit- centred theology that sidelines the Father. All three are vital to our salvation; it was the Father who sent the Son into the world so that we might live through him. The Spirit brings us to Christ and sets us free from the law of sin and death.
Jesus, the Son, is also God. The following Bible passages help us understand:
- John 20:28: Jesus accepted the description "my God" from Thomas when he realised Jesus had risen from the dead
- Romans 9:5: Jesus of human descent is also God, and is to be worshipped. The Greek word order means this can only be translated "Christ who is God over all. . . "
- Hebrews 1:8: the Father worships the Son; the chapter is a statement of the glories of Christ. Jesus is addressed as God and in verse 10 is identified with the Creator
- Titus 2: 13. Paul goes out of his way here to declare the deity of Jesus
- 2 Peter 1: 1. Peter calls Jesus “our God and Saviour”
- 1 John 5: 20. The statement is clear, “He is the true God”
- Rev. 22: 13. When we combine this with Rev. 1: 18 it “constitutes a strong claim to equal deity with the Father. Sovereign over all of history and all of creation, Jesus is the beginning and the end.”
- Rom. 10: 9; 1 Cor.12 3 The Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Yahweh” is regularly used in the New Testament for Jesus. The New Testament word used to translate Yahweh is kurios and so when it calls Jesus Lord it is calling him Yahweh. Jesus used ‘I AM’, a related name, of himself and the response of his opponents showed they regarded his claim as blasphemy.
The Holy Spirit is also called God, and bears the name “Lord” or “Yahweh. He is the giver of life and he is the truth.
However, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct persons
- They are distinct from each other
- The Father and the Son are distinct from the Holy Spirit
- The Spirit proceeds from the Father
- He is sent by the Father and Son
The Trinity is eternal, not just temporary states or manifestations of God. The distinctions are eternal but these three distinct Persons are still one God. This is a relationship beyond our defining or comprehending, and yet in some way we enter into the whole being of the Trinity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all united and involved in our salvation and in our living as Christians – hence we are baptized into the name of the Holy Trinity.
- 1 John 4:9
- Romans 8:1-2
- Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p.546
- Exodus 3:14
- John 8:58
- Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor. 3:16; 1 Cor. 12:4-6
- 2 Cor. 3:17 Also please see the previous paragraph.
- Romans 8:2 cf. John 1:4 and Hebrews 7:16 where Jesus is also the giver of life and has life in himself
- John 16:18 cf. John 16:6
- John 5:22; John 5:37; Psalms 2:7; John 1:14; John 1:18; John 3:16; Galations 4:4; Matthew 3:16-17
- John 4:16-17
- John 15:26
- John 14:26; John 15:26; John 15:26; Galations 4:6
- John 1:1-2; John 17:5; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15–17; Psalms 33:6; Hebrews 9:14
- John 15:10; John 17:22-23; Ephesians 4:6; Galatians 4:6; Revelation 5:6
- John 15:10
- Matthew 28:19