Thursday, February 19, 2009
Bible Doctrine Series-The Triunity of God
The Triunity of God. Trinity is, of course not a biblical word. Neither are triunity, trine, trinal, subsistence, nor essence. Yet we employ them, and often helpfully, in trying to express this doctrine which is so fraught with difficulties. Furthermore, this is a doctrine which in the New Testament is not explicit even though is is often said that is is implicit in the Old and explicit in the New. But explicit means "characterized by full, clear expression," an adjective hard to apply to this doctrine. Nevertheless, the doctrine grows out of the Scriptures, so it is a biblical teaching. Not only is it biblical teaching but it is one of the most fundamental doctrines concerning God. Without the triunity of God there could be no incarnation. Thus there could be no redemption accomplished by the Son and no redemption applied by the Spirit of God. In the doctrine of the Trinity, we encounter one of the truly distinctive doctrines of Christianity. Among the religions of the world, the Christian faith is unique in making the claim that God is one and yet there are three who are God. In so doing, it presents what seems on the surface to be a self-contradictory doctrine. Furthermore, this doctrine is not overtly or explicitly stated in Scripture. Nevertheless, devout minds have been led to it as they sought to do justice to the witness of Scripture. A. The Explanation of the Triunity of God. God is the Three in One—three persons in one essence. He is not three in one in the same sense. B. False Ideas of the Trinity. 1. Tri-theism—the belief that there are three gods. 2. Modalism—the belief that there is only one person but three modes or manifestations of God. 3. Unitarianism—the belief that only God the Father is eternal and divine. The Son and the Spirit are created beings. C. Illustrations of the Trinity. No illustration can possibly capture all that is involved in the biblical revelation of the Trinity Most are at best only parallels of a "three-in-one" idea. A common diagram attempts to picture the Godhead as one, yet showing each Person as God and also distinct. Water may serve as a "three-in-one" illustration since it retains its chemical activity whether in solid, gas, or liquid state. There is also a triple point for water, a condition under which ice, steam, and liquid water can coexist in equilibrium. All are water, yet distinct from each other. The sun, its light, and its power may help illustrate the Trinity. No one has actually seen the sun just as no one has seen the Father. Yet we learn a great deal about the sun by studying the sunlight just as we learn about the Father through Jesus Christ the Son who is the radiance of His glory (Hebrews 1:3). We see the power of the sun as it is involved in the growth of seeds and trees and plants, and when asked what makes things grow, we say the sun does. The Holy Spirit is like the power of the sun and He is God. Whatever usefulness or limitations illustrations have, we say again that we are faced with a mystery. D. Biblical Proof. 1. In the Old Testament (not a developed doctrine in the Old Testament). a. Suggestions of plurality in the Godhead. Genesis 1:1 Elohim is a plural noun. 1; 26 “our” image 3:22. Psalm 110:1 God’s name is applied to more than one person in the same text. Jeremiah 23:3-5. b. Scriptural statements. Isaiah 48:16; 61:1. 2. In the New Testament. a. The baptism of Christ—Matthew 3:16, 17. b. The baptismal formula—Matthew 28:19. c. The apostolic benediction—2 Corinthians 13; 14. d. Personal distinctions in the Godhead. 1) The Father and the Son are distinct persons. John 5:26; 3:16; Galatians 4:4. 2) The Father and the Son are distinct from the Spirit. John 14:16, 17. The Unity of God. A. The Explanation of the Unity of God. There is but one essence in the Godhead, and this one essence pervades each of the three persons without division of multiplication. B. Biblical Proof. 1. Scriptural statements. Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29-30; Romans 3:29-30; James 2:19. 2. Each of the three persons is recognized as God. a. The Father is God—John 6:27. b. The Son is God—Hebrews 1:8. c. The Spirit is God—Acts 5:3-4. 3. These three persons are one God. a. The Father and the Son are one. John 5;18; 14:10,11; 17:22 Cf. the implications of John 5:22 b. The Father and the Spirit are one—1 Corinthians 3:16. c. The Son and the Spirit are one—Romans 8:9. d. The Father, Son and Spirit are one—John 14:16, 18, 23. 4. These three persons have distinctions in their function (the “economical Trinity”). a. In the work of the Godhead the Father is first, the Son is second and the Spirit is third. 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 2:18 Note the prepositions: “Of” the Father (ek)—source. “Through” the Son (dia)—channel. “By” the Spirit (en)—agent. “Unto” the Father (pros)—goal. b. In the work of the Godhead the Son is subordinate to the Father, and the Spirit is subordinate to the Father and the Son. I John 4:10, The Father sends the Son. John 14:26, The Father sends the Spirit. John 15:26, The Son sends the Spirit. Romans 8:9, Summary—Spirit of God/Spirit of Christ. Some Practical Ramifications: The richness of the concept of the Trinity overflows into several areas of theology. The doctrine of redemption is an obvious example, for all Persons of the Godhead are involved in that great work (John 3:6, 16; Rev. 13:8). The doctrine of revelation serves as another example, the Son and Spirit both being involved in communicating God's truth (John 1:18; 16:13). Fellowship and love within the Godhead is only possible in a trinitarian concept of God, and that fellowship is akin to the believer's fellowship with Christ (14:17). Priority without inferiority as seen in the Trinity is the basis for proper relationships between men and women (1 Corinthians 11:3). Prayer is practiced in a trinitarian way. Though we may address any Person of the Trinity, ordinarily, according to the biblical precedent, we address the Father in the name of Christ as the Spirit direct us (John 14:14; Ephesians 1:6; 2:18; 6:18). Dr,. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.