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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Trinity: One God in Three Persons

Don Stewart :: How Can There Be One God in Three Persons?

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How Can There Be One God in Three Persons? (The Doctrine of the Trinity)

The Trinity: One God in Three Persons – Question 1

One of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith is that of the Trinity. From Scripture we learn that God, by nature, is a Triune Being or a Trinity. In His very Being, God has always existed in more than one Person. The subject of the Trinity is holy ground because it discusses the nature of the one, true, God. Consequently, we should approach the special subject with all humility and reverence.

All Doctrine Must Be Derived from the Bible

At the outset we must state that any belief about the Trinity must come from the Bible and the Bible alone. It is the only authoritative source to discover answers about God and His nature. The Bible, by itself, must answer the question as to whether or not there is such a thing as a Trinity. Tradition or the pronouncements of some church authority does not make the Trinity doctrine true. Scripture alone must be our guide.

The Trinity Is Only Known by Revelation

In addition, the doctrine of the Trinity could only be known by divine revelation. Indeed, it cannot be known by human reason. The only way in which the inner working of God could be known is that God revealed it to humanity.

In fact, the Bible says the mind of the Lord is unknown to humanity. Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

We who have the Spirit understand these things, but others can’t understand us at all. How could they? For, ‘Who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who can give him counsel?’ But we can understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:15, 16 NLT)

The Trinity is a doctrine that God has revealed to humankind through the Scriptures. It is not the result of human reasoning.

The Definition of the Trinity

The word Trinity means tri-unity, or three-in-oneness. It is used to explain the God who is revealed in Scripture. The doctrine of the Trinity can be simply stated as follows:

The Bible teaches that there is one eternal God who exists. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. However, within the nature of this one God are three Persons, or three centers of consciousness. They are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three Persons are co-equal, and co-eternal. They are also distinguishable, or distinct from one another. These three distinct Persons are the one God. Everything that is true about God is true about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, God is one in essence but three in Persons.

While the Bible teaches that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God it is wrong to say that God is the Father, God is the Son, or God is the Holy Spirit. God’s nature consists of three distinct Persons. Therefore, it is incorrect to limit God to one particular member of the Trinity.

Furthermore, while there are three centers of consciousness, there is only one divine, harmonious will. The three members do not act independent of one another.

Scripture makes the following points about the nature of God:

1. There Is Only One God That Exists

Foundational to the doctrine of the Trinity is the biblical teaching of the existence of only one God. No other divine being has real existence. Trinitarians, or those who believe in the Trinity, are emphatic that only one God exists.

Furthermore the essence of God cannot be divided. God, by nature, is spirit; He has no physical form. It is not possible to divide up spirit. The God of the Bible is one single eternal, infinite being who is indivisible or impossible to divide.

2. There Are Three Distinct Persons Who Exist (The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)

Scripture is also clear there are three distinct Persons who exist. They are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father.

For example, Jesus prayed to God the Father, He did not pray to Himself. At His baptism the voice of the Father spoke in an approving way of Jesus, it was not Jesus who spoke of Himself. Therefore the three Persons should not be confused with one another. In other words, they are distinguishable.

3. Each of These Three Persons Is Called God

The Bible teaches that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Each are called God, each possess attributes that only God can possess, and each perform works that only God can perform. The divine essence is in each Person. The Father is wholly God, the Son is wholly God, and the Spirit is wholly God. Jesus is distinct from the Father but is truly God as is the Father. The same holds true for the Holy Spirit.

4. The Three Persons Are the One God (The Trinity)

The conclusion to the above facts is as follows: if only one God exists, and if there are three distinct Persons who are all called God, then the three Persons must be the one God. This is the doctrine of the Trinity.

Some Important Clarifications of the Doctrine of the Trinity

There are some much-needed clarifications that should be made about the Trinity. They include the following:

1. The Members Are Distinct in Their Roles

The members of the Trinity have distinct roles. Although they are all equally God, they have different functions within the Godhead. For example, the Father is the one who sends, while the Son, Jesus Christ, is the One who is sent. The Holy Spirit is also sent to testify of Jesus.

Jesus the Son, as well as the Holy Spirit, are equal with God the Father in their nature. However, they are subordinate in their relationships. Subordinate in a relationship does not mean lesser in character. This is crucial to understand.

2. Each Member Is Fully God and Equal in Importance

All three Persons of the Trinity are fully God. Each is all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere present. In addition, each member of the Trinity is of equal importance. Christians often overlook the importance of the Father, and the Holy Spirit because Jesus, the Son is where our faith centers. He is the one who became a human being, suffered for the sins of humanity, and rose from the dead. He is the one who will return to the earth and set up His kingdom. Eternal life is based upon how we view Him. Consequently, Jesus Christ is central to the heart of the believer. However, we must realize that each member of the Trinity is of equal importance. They are equal in dignity, majesty, glory, and power, but different in the roles in which they have.

3. There Are No Analogies of the Trinity in Nature

There is something else which we must appreciate. The idea of three centers of consciousness, or three distinct personages has no analogy for us as humans. All attempts to equate the Trinity with some analogy will miserably fail. This includes trying to compare the Trinity to a human being who has intellect, feeling, and will. This is not the same as the Triune God who has three distinct centers of consciousness. Therefore, it is best to admit that the Trinity has no analogy with which we can compare it.

4. The Doctrine of the Trinity Is Unique to Christianity

The last point we want to make concerns the uniqueness of the Trinity doctrine to the Christian faith. While other religions such as Judaism and Islam believe in one God, they do not have a doctrine of the Trinity. Indeed, no other religion has a doctrine exactly like that of the Trinity.

Though some believe that religions who worship a number of different gods have a similar doctrine as the Trinity, this misunderstands what the Bible teaches about the nature of God. Christianity believes and teaches that only one God exists. There are not three gods. Yet it also teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the one God. The fact that God is both three and one at the same time is not a contradiction in terms rather it is a divine mystery. For this is what the God of the Bible has revealed to us about His nature.

Summary – Question 1
How Can There Be One God in Three Persons? (The Doctrine of the Trinity)

The Bible teaches what is known as the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity doctrine is not something obscure or meaningless. Indeed, it is one of the most important doctrines in all of Scripture.

The truth of the Trinity must be decided solely on what the Bible has to say about the subject. It is our final authority on all matters of belief and practice. Whatever it says on the nature of God is the last word on the issue.

Furthermore, the doctrine of the Trinity can only be known by divine revelation. Indeed, human reason cannot discover anything about the personal nature of God. We only know the things about God that He chooses to reveal.

When we look at what the Scripture has to say, we discover that one God exists in three Persons. They are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This is found by noting the following points. There is only one God who exists. However, there are three distinct Persons in the New Testament, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and each of these three distinct Persons is called God. Therefore the three distinct Persons must be the one God. This is the doctrine of the Trinity.

The members of the Trinity have different roles though they are equal in character, or nature. While the Son submits to the Father and the Spirit submits to the Father and the Son, they are all fully God and hence all equal in their nature. The fact that the Son and the Spirit have subordinate roles says nothing about who they are. Indeed, they are each fully God. They are co-equal and co-eternal.

Each member of the Trinity is equally important although Christians tend to emphasize Jesus, the Second Person of Trinity. This is understandable because Jesus is the one member of the Trinity who became a human being. He is the One who has died in our place as well as the One whom we trust to forgive our sins. Thus, it is understandable why He would receive more emphasis than the other members. However, they are not less important.

While people try to give analogies to the Trinity there is no real analogy we can give. We must understand that the Trinity has no analogy in nature or with humans. Therefore, we must be careful not to compare the Trinity with things we think are similar in our world. There is no real comparison.

Finally, we need to appreciate that the Trinity doctrine is unique to Christianity. Although other religions may believe in one God, only the Christian faith believes and teaches that God is both three and one at the same time. This is not a contradiction in terms but rather it is what the one true God has told us about who He is in His basic nature.

These are a few basic truths about the important doctrine of the Trinity.

Understanding the Nature of the God of Scripture (Introduction) ← Prior Section
In What Ways Is the Doctrine of the Trinity Important for Christian Belief? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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