Without a doubt, the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the truths that distinguish Christianity from the major religions of the world. While many religions are monotheistic and others are pantheistic, biblical Christianity is unique in its belief in one God manifested in three Persons. Skeptics would claim that such a belief is self-contradictory and even biblically unsubstantiated. Yet the reality is that the Trinity is only understood through an exhaustive and methodical study of Scripture. Thus, the Trinity is not unbiblical but wholly biblical. As Millard Erickson says, “the Trinity is a genuine exercise in systematic theology.” (Christian Theology, p. 347)
1. What the Trinity is not
- Tri-theism – A belief that the three Persons of the Trinity are three distinct and loosely related gods – The Father is a God, the Son is another God, and the Holy Spirit is a third God. Such a belief contradicts the biblical teaching of monotheism.
- Modalism – A belief in one God who reveals Himself in three different ways, i.e. a man being a husband, father and employee. God does not take off “one hat” and then put on another. Such a belief denies the simultaneous existence of the three Persons of the Trinity.
2. What the Trinity is
- A belief in one God – Scripture is clear in it’s teaching that there is only one God. This truth is found in both the Old and the New Testaments…
Deuteronomy 6:4 – Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
I Timothy 2:5 – For there is one God…
- A belief that God is three distinct Persons – In other words, the Father is not the Son and the Father is not the Holy Spirit. Though one God, they are distinct in their personhood. (Matthew 3:13-17; 28:19; II Cor. 13:14)
- A belief that each Person is equally God – Some have tried to write it this way – “God are one,” or “God is three.” The idea being that each Person of the Trinity is equally God. Once again, this truth is clearly found in Scripture.
Þ The Father is God – The Godhead of the Father is seen from the very first verse of the Bible – “In the beginning God…”
Þ The Son is God – John 1:1 echoes the words of Genesis 1:1 and clearly shows that Jesus was always God.
Þ The Holy Spirit is God – The Holy Spirit is classified on equal level with Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19;Ephesians 4:4-6; I Peter 1:2). In addition, there are passages in which He is directly referred to as God (Acts 5:3, 4; I Corinthians 3:16)
3. The Trinity is difficult to comprehend
Finally, we must admit that the Trinity is humanely incomprehensible. For years we have tried to use human analogies to explain it: It is like an egg, which consists of yolk, white and shell. Or, it is like water, which can be found in solid, liquid or vapor forms. Quite frankly, though, all of the analogies fall short. In the end we must admit that it cannot be rationalized and must simply be believed. Tertullian (160-225 AD) asserted that the doctrine of “the Trinity must be divinely revealed and not humanly constructed.” In other words, we cannot fully understand it. It must be accepted and embraced by faith.