9. The TrinityRelated Media
What is the doctrine of the Trinity? It should be noted that the word Trinity is never given in the Bible; it was originally used by the church father Tertullian (ad 155–220).”1 “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 one God.”2 Essentially, the doctrine of the Trinity teaches these three things:
- There is one God
- God is three individual persons and each is fully God.
- God is a unity (three-in-oneness)
The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) summarizes these statements this way: “In the unity of the God-head there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.”3
These truths seem to contradict one another. How can there be one God and, yet, three individual persons that are also fully God? It is not something that we necessarily fully understand, but it is something that the Bible teaches. J. I. Packer said this:
The historic formulation of the Trinity...seeks to circumscribe and safeguard this mystery (not explain it; that is beyond us), and it confronts us with perhaps the most difficult thought that the human mind has ever been asked to handle. It is not easy; but it is true.4
Let’s investigate each of these statements regarding the doctrine of the Trinity.
Where do we see the teaching that we have one God? We see it throughout the Old Testament. In fact, this was the teaching that at that time separated Judaism from other religions. Monotheism during ancient times was unique, as most nations accepted many gods.
We see this in Deuteronomy 6:4–5: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (emphasis mine).
The great declaration of the Jewish religion was that God was one Lord, and on that basis, he should be loved with all one’s heart, soul, and might. He was the only one worthy of worship because he was the only God. In fact, we see this reiterated by implication in the Ten Commandments through the prohibition against idols.
I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. (emphasis mine)
The implication is that God is the only God, and therefore, the Israelites should not worship other gods or make any idols before him. God is one.
We also see this teaching throughout the New Testament. James declares this in James 2:19: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (emphasis mine).
James says even demons believe in monotheism. Paul similarly teaches this in 1 Corinthians 8:4: “So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: ‘We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one’” (emphasis mine).
Paul teaches that there is only one God and that all other deities or idols are nothing at all. They are false. There is only one God in the world.
The teaching of the entire Scripture is very clear; there is only one God, and therefore, we should not worship any other. And because he is the only God, the Creator, we should love him with all our heart, soul, and might. Nobody else deserves our devotion and the best of our affections except God.
Three Individual Persons
But that is not the only thing the Scripture teaches about the Trinity. It also teaches that God is three separate persons.
Where do we see this?
We have seen this in every place that speaks of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as uniquely and fully God. We will consider a few Scriptures that teach this.
God the Father Is Fully God
Typically, when the term “God” is used in Scripture, it is referring to God the Father. We, obviously, see numerous verses about God, and therefore, there really is no discussion about whether or not God the Father is God. Genesis 1:1 says: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth.” Jesus taught the disciples to pray to the Father in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9). God the Father is uniquely and fully God.
Jesus Is Fully God
We also see throughout the Scriptures that Jesus is God. One of the initial prophecies about Jesus was that he would be called Mighty God. Isaiah 9:6 says this:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (emphasis mine)
In the book of Titus, Paul called Jesus God as well. He said: “While we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (emphasis mine)” (Titus 2:13).
It should be noted that not only does the Bible teach that Jesus is God, but that he is fully God. He is not fifty percent man and fifty percent God, but one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man, even though we may not be able to fully comprehend how this is possible. Listen to what Colossians 2:9 says about Jesus: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”
Christ is fully God. In addition, Hebrews 1:3 says this:
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (emphasis mine)
Christ being fully God is an important doctrine that has been constantly attacked throughout the centuries. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses both teach that Jesus is a created being. Mormons believe he originally was an angel, and Jehovah’s Witnesses see him as only the Son of God, a created being, and not God.
These interpretations do not agree with sound doctrine; the Son of God is fully God. When Jesus was born, it was his humanity that came into being but he has always eternally existed as God (John 1:1, 8:58).
The Holy Spirit Is Fully God
Not only are the Son and Father fully God, but the Holy Spirit is fully God as well. This boggles the mind. However, Scripture clearly declares this reality. Look at Acts 5:3–4:
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” (emphasis mine)
Peter equates lying to the Holy Spirit as lying to God. Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 3:16, Paul calls the church the “temple of God”, and, then, he says the Holy Spirit indwells us, equating the Holy Spirit to God. Listen to the text, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (emphasis mine)
It is very clear that even though the Scripture says that we have only one God, it also says that the Holy Spirit is God, the Father is God, and that Jesus is God.
The Bible also teaches that the three persons of the God-head are distinct. Look at Matthew 3:15–17 at Jesus’ baptism:
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (emphasis mine)
In this verse, we see the Trinity’s distinctness. Jesus comes out of the water from his baptism, the Holy Spirit descends upon him like a dove, and God speaks saying, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” Though they are one, we see them clearly operating individually and separately.
This is also an important doctrine of the Trinity to understand for there are many false teachings concerning it. One such false teaching is called modalism. Instead of God being three distinct persons that are unified, God is seen as being one person showing up or revealing himself in different modes. In the Old Testament, God revealed himself as God the Father. In the Gospels, God revealed himself as Jesus. In the book of Acts till now, God has revealed himself through the Spirit. It would be similar to me saying I am a husband at home, a pastor at church, and a professor in the classroom. I am the same person, but I wear three different hats.
But that is not what Scripture teaches. In Matthew 3:15-17, Christ is baptized, the Holy Spirit descends, and God speaks. They are all God but independent and distinct.
Unity of God
We have seen that we have only one God and that this God manifests himself in three unique and separate persons: Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father. But we also see clear teaching that they are unified, that they are three in one. This is especially important in order to protect us from the false understanding of the Trinity called tritheism. Tritheism does not err in teaching the independence and distinct nature of the God-head. It errs in teaching that there is no unity at all. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three distinct powerful gods that are not unified. However, Scripture clearly contradicts this. We have one God that is three separate persons that are fully God and are yet somehow unified. How do we see this throughout the Scripture?
Unity in the New Testament
John 10:29-30 says this: “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (emphasis mine).
Christ clearly declares to his disciples that he and the Father are one. Similarly, John 14:9–10 says this:
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (emphasis mine)
Jesus said to Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (v. 9). Christ was in the Father and the Father was in him. There is unity within the God-head. They are separate and distinct, but they are also unified.
How else do we see this unity in Scripture?
We also see this unity in the Great Commission. Matthew 18:19–20 says this:
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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (emphasis mine)
What is interesting about the Great Commission is that Christ gave God a singular “name” (v.19), but then gave the three persons of God-head next: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He gives a singular name to refer to three distinct persons. This is a great evidence of their unity—their three in oneness.
We also see some evidence for their unity in how they are often closely put together in many of the blessings or descriptions given in the epistles. We see this often in the writings of Paul. In 2 Corinthians 13:14, he says this: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” In this passage, Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit are associated with one another and seen ministering with one another. Jesus gives grace, God gives love, and the Holy Spirit brings fellowship. This hints at the unity of their relationship in the Trinity. We see this also with Peter’s greeting in 1 Peter 1:1–2:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (emphasis mine)
God knows every believer intimately through his foreknowledge, the Spirit sanctifies believers by making them holy, and Christ cleanses them through his blood. Their close ministry together also hints at their unity.
Where else do we see this unity?
Unity in Works
We see this unity in statements that declare that Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit are doing the same works. We will consider several examples of this.
Scripture teaches that God the Father created the earth: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
But it also teaches that Christ created all things. Listen to this: “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him (emphasis mine)” (Colossians 1:16).
John says the same thing: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made (emphasis mine)” (John 1:1–3).
Not only do we see the distinctness of Christ as he was “with God,” but also the unity as he “was God” and made all things. God made all things, and yet, Christ made all things. Christ, the Word, is the Creator.
Similarly, the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit was a part of the creation process, especially in the creation of humanity.
We see the Holy Spirit’s involvement from the very beginning of creation as it speaks of him “hovering over the waters” (Gen 1:2). We also can discern his involvement as God breathed the breath of life into man’s lifeless body (Gen 2:7). The word for breath in the Hebrew can also be translated Spirit. The Spirit was involved in creation. We see further evidence of this in how wisdom literature speaks of the Spirit’s current work in creating. Job 33:4 says; “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
Job claims that the Spirit of God created him. This would mean that not only was the Spirit involved in the initial creation of man, but also that the Spirit is necessary for the creation of every human today.
The Psalmist said the same thing about the creatures of the earth (cf. Psalm 104:25, 30). “When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:30).
How can God and Jesus have created all things, and yet, as Job said, the Spirit of God created him and David said the Holy Spirit creates animals? This can only be true if they are unified, if they are all equally God.
Dwelling in Our Hearts
We also see the same works ascribed to them in their indwelling of the hearts of believers. The Holy Spirit, the Father, and the Son are said to indwell the hearts of believers. Look at these verses: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (emphasis mine), who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Paul calls believers the temple of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 6:19, but in 1 Corinthians 3:16, he calls them the temple of God. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple (emphasis mine) and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). God the Father and God the Holy Spirit both indwell the believer.
In Ephesians 3:16–17, we also see the Bible teaching that Christ indwells believers. “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (emphasis mine).
What other works do we see shared amongst the God-head?
We see all three persons working to keep the salvation of the believer. Listen to this text:
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.
We see here that Jesus has the believers in his hand in order to keep them from perishing (v. 28). But God also has the believers in his hand as well for the same purpose (v. 29). Jesus then declares this is possible because they are one (v. 30).
We also see the Holy Spirit working to keep the salvation of believers. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (emphasis mine)” (Ephesians 4:30). The Holy Spirit seals every believer until the day of redemption. He is protecting them so they will not be lost and eternally condemned. We are in God’s hand, Jesus’ hand, and also in the grip of the Holy Spirit.
We see the unity of God in his works.
Unity in the Old Testament
Do we also see the unity of God in the Old Testament? Are there any ways that we see the doctrine of the Trinity?
In the Old Testament, the doctrine of the Trinity is never clearly taught, but there are many passages that suggest or imply Trinitarian doctrine.
What are these passages?
Plurality in Hebrew Words for God
As mentioned before, we may see an implication of the Trinity in the name Elohim. Elohim, which can be translated as God, is a plural noun that is typically used with a singular verb. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created (emphasis mine) the heavens and the earth.” Here, God (Elohim) is plural while the word created (bara) is singular, representing both God’s plurality and oneness.
Similarly, the Hebrew word “Adonai” (Lord) is also a plural noun that receives a singular verb. The Hebrew God is plural yet singular, as shown in the use of the names Elohim and Adonai.
Plurality in the Creation of Mankind
It should also be noted that when God made mankind, he did not make one human. He made two, which says something about God since man was made in his “image”. The image of God is seen in a plurality. Genesis 1:27 says this: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (emphasis mine).
When he says, “in the image of God he created him”, “him” is referring to man as a collective (mankind). He then describes how he created mankind as both “male and female.” We may see the plural nature of God hidden in the fact that he made mankind, “male and female.”
The singularity of the plural God may also be discerned in that the male and female would come together and be “one flesh,” a plural becoming singular. Listen to Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (emphasis mine).
What other ways is the Trinity implied in the Old Testament?
Plurality in the Plural Pronouns
We also see an implication of the Trinity in the plural pronouns used for God. Genesis 1:26 says this:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. (emphasis mine)
God says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” Who could he be referring to when he says “us” and “our”?
It does not seem to be referring to angels, as Scripture never clearly teaches that angels are made in the image of God. It must be himself that God is referring to by the plural pronouns. In the beginning there was a conversation amongst the members of the God-head about the creation of man.
This plural language is also seen in other sections of Scripture. Genesis 11:5–7 says:
But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other. (emphasis mine)
When God came down to the tower of Babel and confused the language of the people, he again referred to himself in plurality. “Let us go down and confuse their language.” It doesn’t say the Lord came down with his angels. It only says “the Lord” came down and said, “Let us.”
We see this also in Isaiah 6:8. It says, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (emphasis mine).
Right before commissioning Isaiah to prophesy to the nation of Israel, God refers to himself first in singular, “Whom shall I send” and then in plural “And who will go for us?”. Again this is probably an implication of the Trinity—God’s plurality, and yet, oneness.
God Distinguished from God in Passages
There are also passages in the Old Testament where one person is called God or Lord, and yet, distinguished from another person called God or Lord in the same scenario. This shows the distinctness of the individual persons in the God-head. Psalm 110:1 says this, “The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” (emphasis mine).
Psalm 110:1 has messianic expectations. The Jews believed that David, who was the author of this passage, was talking about a conversation between God (LORD) and the messiah (Lord). God told the messiah to come and sit at his right hand till all his enemies were made a “footstool” for his feet. But what is interesting is that David calls them both, Lord. Jesus uses this passage to try to help the Pharisees recognize that the messiah would also be God. Consider their discussion in Matthew 22:41–46:
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”‘ If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
It is clear from this text that David believed in the plurality of God. He declared that not only was God, LORD (Yahweh), but the messiah was also Lord (Adonai). A father or grandfather in the Hebrew context would never call a son, ‘Lord’. It was a patriarchal culture, and therefore, that would never happen. David, the grandfather of the coming messiah, only did this because he believed that the messiah was God and at the same time separate from God. The Pharisees could not explain this, and it is impossible for a Jewish person to explain it today unless he or she recognizes the plurality of God (cf. Isaiah 9:6).
We see the same thing happen in Malachi. The Lord God refers to the coming messiah as Lord. Malachi 3:1 says this, ‘“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty” (emphasis mine).
Yahweh (the LORD) distinguishes himself from the messiah in this passage by saying the “Lord” is coming to his temple. Malachi prophesied that the messiah was God but, at the same time, distinct from God. There are many implications of the Trinity in the Old Testament, even though they are not explicitly explained.
Therefore, the Bible teaches that there is only “one” God, but also teaches that God is three distinct persons. It also clearly teaches that these three distinct persons are a unity (three-in-oneness). Scripture teaches Trinitarian doctrine.
Roles in the Trinity
Another aspect of Trinitarian doctrine is the fact that there are roles within the Trinity. This is even implied by the familial names in the God-head. God is called God the Father (Matt 6:9) and Jesus is called God the Son (1 John 4:15). Scripture teaches that a son should submit to his father (Colossians 3:20), and this happens in the God-head as well. This submission is clearly seen throughout Scripture. John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (emphasis mine).God sends his Son into the world, and the Son obeys.
We also see Christ’s submission to the Father. Christ said this, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). He obeys the father throughout his life and gives his life in obedience to him. Listen to Christ’s prayer to the Father right before his crucifixion: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
We even see that Christ’s purpose in redemption is to bring glory to Father eternally. First Corinthians 15:24–28 says:
Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (emphasis mine)
Finally, Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit submits both to the Father (John 14:26) and to the Son (John 16:7, 15:26). Jesus told the disciples I will send you the Holy Spirit and also that the Father would send him. John 14:26 says: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (emphasis mine).
John 15:26 says: “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me” (emphasis mine).
There is perfect submission in the God-head. Jesus obeys and submits to the Father and seeks to bring glory to him (cf. John 17:4). The Holy Spirit seeks to bring glory to both the Son and to the Father (cf. John 16:14, 1 Cor 2:12). There is a perfect unity in their oneness.
It should also be added that there is perfect love in the Trinity. First John 4:8 says this: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (emphasis mine).
What did God do before the creation of man and angels? He lived in a perfect loving relationship with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. And in this perfect loving relationship, there was submission and authority.
It is, therefore, no surprise that human relationships, which are meant to reflect the image of God, are built both on love and submission. Children love their parents and submit to their authority (cf. Eph 6:1). Wives love their husbands and also submit to them (cf. Eph 5:22). All human relationships should be built on love and submission as seen in the God-head. It is when there is a lack of love or a lack of submission that human relationships fall apart. This is true of the husband and wife relationship, the child and parent relationship, and also in work relationships.
We were made in the image of God, and therefore, we are called to reflect both love and submission.
Importance of the Doctrine of the Trinity
Why is the doctrine of the Trinity important? Wayne Grudem gives six reasons.
First, the atonement is at stake. If Jesus is merely a created being, and not fully God, then it is hard to see how he, a creature, could bear the full wrath of God against all of our sins. Could any creature, no matter how great, really save us? Second, justification by faith alone is threatened if we deny the full deity of the Son. (This is seen today in the teaching of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who do not believe in justification by faith alone.) If Jesus is not fully God, we would rightly doubt whether we can really trust him to save us completely. Could we really depend on any creature fully for our salvation? Third, if Jesus is not infinite God, should we pray to him or worship him? Who but an infinite, omniscient God could hear and respond to all the prayers of all God’s people? And who but God himself is worthy of worship? Indeed, if Jesus is merely a creature, no matter how great, it would be idolatry to worship him—yet the New Testament commands us to do so (Phil. 2:9–11; Rev. 5:12–14). Fourth, if someone teaches that Christ was a created being but nonetheless one who saved us, then this teaching wrongly begins to attribute credit for salvation to a creature and not to God himself. But this wrongfully exalts the creature rather than the Creator, something Scripture never allows us to do. Fifth, the independence and personal nature of God are at stake: If there is no Trinity, then there were no interpersonal relationships within the being of God before creation, and, without personal relationships, it is difficult to see how God could be genuinely personal or be without the need for a creation to relate to. Sixth, the unity of the universe is at stake: If there is not perfect plurality and perfect unity in God himself, then we have no basis for thinking there can be any ultimate unity among the diverse elements of the universe either. Clearly, in the doctrine of the Trinity, the heart of the Christian faith is at stake. Herman Bavinck says that “Athanasius understood better than any of his contemporaries that Christianity stands or falls with the confession of the deity of Christ and of the Trinity.” He adds, “In the confession of the Trinity throbs the heart of the Christian religion: every error results from, or upon deeper reflection may be traced to, a wrong view of this doctrine.”5
Certainly, we can see why this is such an important doctrine—one worth teaching and defending.
What are applications one can take from the doctrine of the Trinity?
1. The Trinity reminds us of why we should not make any idols of God.
There is nothing in the world like the God of the Bible. There is nothing that can accurately demonstrate the doctrine of the Trinity. It is a paradox. How can we make an idol of something that cannot be fully comprehended or demonstrated? There is nothing like the God of Scripture. He is the one and only God, and therefore, he deserves all our love and worship.
2. The Trinity reminds us of our need for community.
If God is a Trinity that has forever lived in communion, and humans are made in his image, how much more do we need continual fellowship? When God made man he did not make him to be alone; he made two which would become “one flesh.” Man was never meant to be independent. We need friends, family, church members, etc., for we were meant to grow and develop in community. This comes from being made in the image of God.
3. The Trinity reminds us of the order that should be seen in human relationships.
There is order in the Trinitarian relationship. The Son submits to the Father, the Spirit submits to both the Son and the Father, and all this is done in love (1 John 4:8). Therefore, we see the need for this order in our human relationships. We see this order in various ways.
This order is seen in citizens submitting to the government and its officials. Romans 13:1 says:
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
This order is seen in employees submitting to employers. Colossians 3:22 says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.”
This order is also seen in congregants submitting to the leadership of the church. Hebrews 13:17 says:
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
This order is seen in children obeying their parents. Colossians 3:20 says, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”
This order is seen in wives submitting to their husbands. “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18).
In fact, Paul uses the authority in the God-head as a reflection of the roles between a husband and wife. First Corinthians 11:3 says this: “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (emphasis mine).
It should be noted that the word “woman” should probably be translated “wife”. Women are not called to submit to every man, but only to their husbands (Col 3:18). Paul teaches the husband’s headship over the wife by comparing the husband to God and the wife to Christ. The wife is meant to submit to her husband in the same way that Christ submits to God.
Now, this may sound chauvinist and sexist and some have declared it so. However, it is not chauvinist or sexist because God created the sexes, and he made the husband and wife relationship to reflect the order in the Trinity. Christ is not less than God the Father. They are coequal, but there is order in their relationship. In the same way, the husband and wife are coequal, but there is order in their relationship as it reflects the image of God.
As we consider all these areas of authority given by God, which reflect the Trinity, it also must be remembered that all these relationships must be centered in love (1 John 4:8). Submission in the God-head happens in a loving relationship. It should be the same for citizens and government officials, employees and employers, church members and leadership, children and parents, and husbands and wives. Without love and submission, society will fall apart.
What else does the Trinity teach us?
4. The Trinity reminds us that the authorship of Scripture is divine.
Paradoxical doctrines in the Bible, such as the Trinity, are a form of evidence for its divine origin. Man would never make up doctrines such as this. They would make up doctrines one could fully understand and comprehend; however, the Bible is full of paradoxes.
How can Jesus be one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man? That doesn’t make any sense. How can God be in control of everything, yet man still have free-will? How can God be three in one? These are mysteries.
However, they make perfect sense if the Bible has been written by an infinite God. A finite mind could never fully comprehend something “infinite” such as God. Therefore, if Scripture is truly divine, then one should expect to find such mysteries as the Trinity in it. We should expect to not “fully comprehend” an infinite God.
- What are three essential statements about the Trinity?
- What ways do we see the doctrine of the Trinity throughout Scripture? What implications of the Trinity do we see in the Old Testament?
- What are some false ways of looking at the Trinity that have been taught throughout church history?
- What are some applications we can take from the “authority” and “love” seen in the Trinity? Where is God calling you to model the God-head in demonstrating these characteristics better?
- Why do you think paradoxes like the Trinity are so common in the Scripture? What are some other seemingly doctrinal paradoxes? How do you reconcile this with your faith?
- Pray that we would experience the unity, fellowship, and love of the Trinity within our small groups and churches (John 17:21–23). Ask for the removal of all division and the reconciliation of people who are estranged.
- Pray that the church would demonstrate the order of the Trinity in all of our affairs: as children submit to parents, wives to husbands, members to church leaders, and citizens to leaders of government, so that God will be glorified (Romans 13:1).
- Pray that we may experience the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” in our homes, churches, and individual lives (2 Corinthians 13:14).
Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown
The primary Scriptures used are New International Version (1984) unless otherwise noted. Other versions include English Standard Version, New Living Translation, and King James Version.
Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version ® (ESV ®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
1 Mark Driscoll; Gerry Breshears. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 2010), 12.
2 Wayne A. Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 226.
3 Mark Driscoll; Gerry Breshears. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 2010), 12.
4 Mark Driscoll; Gerry Breshears. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 2010), 12.
5 Wayne A. Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 247-248.