Nothing is more important that a proper and sound understanding of the person of God.
It is foundational and non-negotiable. You cannot be a Christian, and yet follow a god who is not the True God. It is that simple and yet that important.
And basic to this, is the doctrine of the Trinity. So we want to dive into the deep end, and talk about the Person of God and how He reveals Himself in the Bible.
So why do we want to talk about this?
Very vaguely understood by too many.
Churches fail to teach on it, or they actually teach an unbiblical understanding.
Along with overt biblical teaching there needs to be a historical context as well so that we don’t fight battles over and over that have already been done for us.
Too often, when people ask questions regarding the Trinity, many teachers can become uncomfortable and purposely vague, simply because they don’t know what to say.
Beyond even that, many don’t see the importance of the doctrine.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem very practical.
It just seems to be a mere point of scholarship, or intellectual exercise.
However, a solid belief and understanding of the Trinity is key to the purity of the Gospel itself.
In fact to have a wrong belief about the Trinity is to have a wrong belief about the Gospel.
They’re inextricably bound up with each other.
In the end, it comes down to knowing the true God, but as He’s revealed Himself. Anything different is called idolatry. You simply worship a God that you’ve imaged. This is why must get God right, and as He truly is. Worship (and a true worship) is what is at stake.
So the doctrine of the Trinity is not some minor point that good Christians are able to agree, to disagree upon. Jesus is either God or not. The Spirit is either God or not.
And if they are not, then there are serious repercussions that occur.
In fact, if the Trinity were not true, then Jesus would be a liar.
In John 14:16 he told the disciples, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper that He may be with you forever.”
That little word, “another” is an important word. Greek uses two different words for “another.”
One, heteros, means another of a different kind. The one Jesus used was allos, which means another of the same kind or nature. If Jesus is God, then he is calling the Spirit God as well.
So this doctrine, though deep and complex, is beautiful and is very important. (We spend so much time trying to figure it out that we miss that grandeur before us.)
Basic Affirmations of The Trinity:
First, we affirm that some problems seem to arise when talking about Trinity.
Israel has a statement that is constantly uttered. It is found in Deut.6:4-5, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
This is part of what is known as the shema.
Every person growing up in Israel would have been taught it. It is like John 3:16 is to so many Christians. You just know it.
And that statement affirms one key and abiding fact, God is one.
This seems to seal it for many people. But the O.T. is not just that one passage.
Throughout the O.T. was an ever-growing depository of revelation from God.
There were also promises of One called Seed, Branch, Wisdom, Shepherd, Son, Prophet, and King.
There were also many mentions of the Spirit of God, or the Holy Spirit.
And not just these, but many other passages, all of which should have caused the nation of Israel to slow down in their quick conclusions (a good lesson to all of us.)
This oneness of God is what was at the heart of the anger that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day had. They rejected Christ because He didn’t fit into their theology. So their hearts were hard.
So there is the problem. If God is one then how are there three persons?
And alongside that problem comes the ability to faithfully describe the Trinity as it’s revealed in Scripture.
It’s fairly easy to prove that Christ and the Spirit are God. What becomes a challenge though is explaining how there are three who are God, and yet, affirming that there is only one God.
Is three in one a contradiction or paradox?
What does “oneness” mean?
Are all three co-equal in every way?
And early in the history of the Church this became an issue that required much talk, study and prayer.
I am convinced that there has not been a truly new thought regarding the Scripture in a long time. Solomon knew what he was saying when he said that there is nothing new under the sun.
I think you will find that some things you may have heard, or even said about the Trinity, were said hundreds of years ago.
So we want to give a brief overview of Trinitarian history, primarily where there were errors or heretical teachings. We are only going to touch on two key errors since they keep cropping up even today.
(The term is derived from “monarch” and comes from the understanding that God is indivisible and supreme, the sole authority.)
“Adoptionistic” monarchianism --
Jesus was a human being in every way until he was adopted by the Father to be his Son.
Adoptionists often cited Jesus’ baptism as the moment at which he was adopted to be the Christ, claiming that the line “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt 3:17) was meant to signify precisely this event.
This error is often seen in some of the eastern mysticism/new age type of religions.
“Modalistic” monarchianism --
The belief that the Father, Son and Spirit are numerically one and the same appearing at different times in history under different forms or modes.
This is seen in Oneness Pentecostalism (T. D. Jakes).
Apostolic, or Jesus' Name Pentecostalism.
It is also rather common in many house church movements in America.
Arius, in the 4th century argued that God is immutable and eternal and therefore indivisible. Therefore, anyone else, by definition, has to be created.
Therefore the Son was created first in creation and through the Son all other things were created (Col. 1:15, “And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.”).
In this view, the Holy Spirit was essentially seen as a force or attribute of God, but not a person.
So what was the lie in the early church became the lie in the time of the Reformation (1500's), where the same error was called Socinianism.
And later in the 17-1800's as Deism and Rationalism.
Today the most prominent group arguing are the Jehovah Witnesses. Or in a rising cult going by the name of Iglesia ni Cristo (The Church of Christ).
O.T. References to God’s Oneness (in no way exhaustive)
Exodus 15:11 “Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders?”
Deuteronomy 3:24 “O Lord GOD, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as Yours?”
Isaiah 43:10 “. . . Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me.”
Isaiah 45:6 “I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me.”
The idea of God as one is so important for us to remember because a common error made by people when discussing the Trinity, is that in an effort to prove the triune nature of God, they end up denying the oneness of God.
And practically, if you were to talk to a to a good Trinitarian Christian today, most will admit they often fall into the trap of thinking of God as three separate people.
This is due to our finitude, but we must fight against it. We must understand God as three, but never at the expense of remembering that we simply serve one God.
So the idea that God is “one” is far broader than merely stating a numerical value. It is stating that there is no other God. It speaks, therefore, to His uniqueness and aloneness as well.
You may wonder about the value of that truth right now.
We’re going to see how this truth impacts our worship and hope of salvation in a little bit.
But first let’s affirm the NT teaching on the oneness of God
Mark 12:28-29 (Jesus quotes the Shema, and in so doing, affirms the oneness of God).
Romans 10:11-12 “For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him.”
Here we find the doctrine of God’s oneness in relationship to salvation.
God is not merely the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob-- in other words, Israel. Rather,He’s simply God. He’s the creator and sustainer of all that exists in space and time.
Therefore, any who desire to be saved from their sins must believe in Him. And the promise, then, is that they won’t be disappointed; rather the promise is true and full. It is based upon the fact that He is God over all.
1 Corinthians 8:1-6, esp. verse 4
Here Paul enters into a subject that was causing much confusion in the Church at Corinth.
Basing his conclusions off of the oneness of God Paul is able to minister a word of direction and encouragement to the believers there.
The basic point is that anything sacrificed to idols is not now made “bad.” Why, for there are no other gods in reality.
And for those who understood this there was a great freedom to relax. Of course he then brings in the doctrine regarding the love of the brethren to bear on this subject as well, to protect the weaker brother
Here James, who is writing to Jewish believers, points out that doctrinal correctness is not equal to being a Christian. To rightly confess truth is not salvation.
But why do the demons tremble at this seemingly basic and seemingly unimportant doctrine?
It is because they are enemies of the One True God. There is no other God. There is therefore, nowhere for them to flee. There is no other God for them to align themselves with. One God and One judge.