The Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit
By William J. Brown
The Trinity of God is one of the most confusing concepts in the Bible. Representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Trinity still describes one God.
Our human minds aren't like God's. We say they are finite, or limited. God's mind and knowledge on the other hand are infinite, or unlimited.
Think of it this way...
You're online right now, so you obviously know your way around a computer.
Have you ever tried to explain the internet or computers to someone who has never even tried one? Explaining terms like download, upload, megabyte, gigabyte, cpu, rss feed, email, Myspace and even right click are almost impossible because the "computer-unsavvy" have no frame of reference to work from.
In a similar way, we are "spiritually unsavvy." God's mind and knowledge are so much greater than ours. We have no spiritual frame of reference to begin with, so...
...ideas like the Trinity seem strange to us.
The Bible describes it this way in Isaiah 55:8,9...
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
There are some concepts we'll never grasp this side of eternity.
So there's nothing weird or illogical about believing in one God who just happens to be three Persons...Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For Him it's normal!
Of course, we can't say something without some proof of it. Get your Bible
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We serve one God!
We need to be perfectly clear on that issue. We don't serve three separate gods. The Bible clearly states this fact in a number of places both Old and New Testament.
Isaiah 45:5 tells us...
I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me.
Also, in Isaiah 44:6 God says...
Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.
It's pretty clear from these verses that God is the only God. But the classic verse that talks about the "oneness" of God is found in Deuteronomy 6:4...Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.
Jesus quoted this verse in Mark 12:29 reinforcing the idea of the "oneness" of God.
Other New Testament passages also reaffirm this truth. In I Corinthians 8:4 Paul says...
As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.
So here Paul repeats what Christ and the Old Testament says of God. There is no doubt who God is. He's the only One.
So we know that there is only one God. God does not share His greatness or power with anyone else. He is unique as Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
There is only one God.
It seems pretty cut and dry. These verses can't be interpreted any other way. It all seems clear...
It all seems clear, that is, until we do a further study of the Scriptures.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4,5)
Notice Paul mentions the Spirit, the Lord (Jesus) and the Father all in the same breath. Is the idea of the "oneness" of God at stake?
And Jesus said this in Matthew 28:19...
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
As we can see here, Jesus gives us a "formula" for the baptism of new believers. He mentions three names...
...the Holy Ghost.
So which is true. Is God one, or is God three. The answer is...
God is a Trinity!
Now at first blush it seems that the the New Testament writers contradicted the Old Testament and themselves, such as in the case of Paul who affirmed the Old Testament idea of one God in I Corinthians, and then seemed to say the opposite in the Ephesians passage.
Also, Jesus seems to give two different answers in quoting Deuteronomy but then says that baptism is done in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
How can the Old Testament "one God" and the New Testament idea of the Trinity be reconciled.
Maybe a closer look at the Old Testament will help here.
There's some proof of the Trinity right at the beginning of the Bible.
An interesting example of the Trinity in the Old Testament is the word "God." This word in the Hebrew, "Elohim," many times refers to the one, true God. But this word is also sometimes translated "gods" in some Bible passages because the word is actually plural (showing more than one.)
This is a good example of how God had already revealed the idea of the Trinity to us in the Old Testament.
In Genesis 1:26 we read...
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth (Emphasis mine.)
Notice the use of the plural pronouns "us" and "our." Many believe this refers to an early allusion to the Trinity of God.
Also, in Isaiah 6:8, God asks the writer this question...Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? (Emphasis mine.)
Notice "I" shows one, but the pronoun "we" means more than one. This seems to show the "oneness" and the Trinity all in the same verse.
Some see the idea of the Trinity as polytheistic, or a believing in more than one God. They say that these plural references were used by the writers only to show God's "majesty." He's so great it takes more than just a regular word to describe Him.
There are two problems with this idea...
The first is that the Isaiah passage above clearly uses singular and plural pronouns at the same time when speaking of God. If the writer were showing respect to God, he would have used plural pronouns in both instances.
The second problem with this argument is that there are other proofs in the Old Testament of the Trinity. Let's look at Deuteronomy 6:4 a little more closely. Here it is again...Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.
We can see that this passage proves there is only one God. But does it prove that God is only one or is He three Persons dwelling in perfect unity as one Being.
The proof of the Trinity in this verse is found in the word "one."
There are actually two different words in the original language of the Old Testament (Hebrew) for the word "one."
The first is yacheed which means one all by itself. It's an absolute word for one. It can never mean more than one.
It's interesting to note that this is not the word used in the Deuteronomy passage above. In fact this word is never used to describe God in any of the passages describing God's "oneness."
Those passages use the word echad which means a group acting as one single unit. Some modern examples would be "one dozen," "one bunch" and "one herd."
Biblical examples include Genesis 11:6 which reads...And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one.
It's obvious God isn't speaking of one person. He's only noting the unity of the group.
This is the word used in describing God's "oneness."
So, as we can see, even the Old Testament passages that tell us God is one, still make sure we know He is three Persons.
We've already seen examples of the Trinity in the New Testament in Matthew and Ephesians. Let's look at one more.
Baptism of Christ
This is probably one of the clearest examples of the Trinity in the whole Bible. This is a passage every Bible student should know (hint, hint!)
We find Christ's baptism in Matthew 3:16,17...
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Here we see a clear picture of the three separate Persons of the Trinity working in unison. We see Christ, the Son, coming out of the water. We see the Spirit coming in the form (not as) a dove and landing on Jesus. Then God, the Father, calls from Heaven commending Jesus, the Son.
Notice there are three distinct Persons represented here. But they all work in unison. Christ obeys His Father. The Spirit comes as proof of Who Christ is. Then the Father audibly praises His Son.
All Three were in perfect agreement!
That is very simply who God is.
He is one. Yet, He is three.
There are other passages that describe God as more than one Person. But we don't have time to view them all. Here's a list for further study.
1. John 14:26
2. John 8:16
3. Psalm 2:7; 104:30
4. Judges 6:34
cf. Genesis 18
That's it! We won't lay any more on you. Take a break...
Then review what you've learned today.
Pay attention to each main point and the bold sub-points. You don't have to know the Hebrew words we went over, but at least know the concepts that distinguish the two words for "one." Don't worry about the list at the end.
Now take the test (Coming really soon. I promise!)