The Trinity

Standard

triquetra*1. Statement of the Doctrine.

The Bible teaches that, while He exists in three Persons, called Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are not three persons in the ordinary sense of the word; they are not three individuals, but rather three modes or forms in which the Divine Being exists. At the same time they are of such a nature that they can enter into personal relations. The Father can speak to the Son and vice versa, and both can send forth the Spirit. The real mystery of the Trinity consists in this that each one of the Persons possesses the whole of the divine essence, and that this has no existence outside of and apart from the Persons. The three are not subordinate in being the one to the other, though it may be said that in order of existence the Father is first, the Son second, and the Holy Spirit third, an order which is also reflected in their work.

2. Scripture Proof for the Trinity.

The Old Testament contains some indications of more than one Person in God. God speaks of Himself in the plural,

Gen. 1:26; “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 birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:26)”

11:7; “Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. (Genesis 11:7)”

the Angel of Jehovah is represented as a divine Person,

Gen. 16:7-13; “7 And the angel of Jehovah found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. 8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s handmaid, whence camest thou? and whither goest thou? And she said, I am fleeing from the face of my mistress Sarai. 9 And the angel of Jehovah said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. 10 And the angel of Jehovah said unto her, I will greatly multiply thy seed, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. 11 And the angel of Jehovah said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son; and thou shalt call his name Ishmael, because Jehovah hath heard thy affliction. 12 And he shall be [as] a wild ass among men; his hand [shall be] against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell over against all his brethren. 13 And she called the name of Jehovah that spake unto her, Thou art a God that seeth: for she said, Have I even here looked after him that seeth me? (Genesis 16:7-13)”

18:1-21; 19:1-22; and the Spirit is spoken of as a distinct Person, Isa. 48:16; “Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; from the beginning I have not spoken in secret; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord Jehovah hath sent me, and his Spirit. (Isaiah 48:16)”

63:10. “But they rebelled, and grieved his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, [and] himself fought against them. (Isaiah 63:10)”

Moreover, there are some passages in which the Messiah is speaking and mentions two other Persons,

Isa. 48:16; “Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; from the beginning I have not spoken in secret; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord Jehovah hath sent me, and his Spirit. (Isaiah 48:16)”

61:1; “The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening [of the prison] to them that are bound; (Isaiah 61:1)”

63:9, 10. “9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old. 10 But they rebelled, and grieved his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, [and] himself fought against them. (Isaiah 63:9-10)”

Due to the progress of revelation, the New Testament contains clearer proofs. The strongest proof is found in the facts of redemption. The Father sends the Son into the world, and the Son sends the Holy Spirit. Moreover, there are several passages in which the three Persons are expressly mentioned, such as the great commission,

Matt. 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: (Matthew 28:19)”

and the apostolic blessing,

II Cor. 13:14. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)”

Cf. also Luke 3:21, 22; “21 Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that, Jesus also having been baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form, as a dove, upon him, and a voice came out of heaven, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. (Luke 3:21-22)

1:35; “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)”

I Cor. 12:4-6; “4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are diversities of ministrations, and the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)”

I Pet. 1:2. “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. (1 Peter 1:2)”

This doctrine was denied by the Socinians in the days of the Reformation, and is rejected also by the Unitarians and the Modernists of our own day. If they speak of the Trinity at all, they represent it as consisting of the Father, the man Jesus, and a divine influence which is called the Spirit of God.

3. The Father.

The name ‘Father’ is frequently applied in Scripture to the triune God, as the creator of all things,

I Cor. 8:6; “yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him. (1 Corinthians 8:6)”

Heb. 12:9; “Furthermore, we had the fathers of our flesh to chasten us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? (Hebrews 12:9)”

Jas. 1:17; “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning. (James 1:17)”

as the Father of Israel,

Deut. 32:6; “Do ye thus requite Jehovah, O foolish people and unwise? Is not he thy father that hath bought thee? He hath made thee, and established thee. (Deuteronomy 32:6)”

Isa. 63:16; “For thou art our Father, though Abraham knoweth us not, and Israel doth not acknowledge us: thou, O Jehovah, art our Father; our Redeemer from everlasting is thy name. (Isaiah 63:16)”

and as the Father of believers,

Matt. 5:45; “that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5:45)”

6:6, 9, 14; “6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee. …9 After this manner therefore pray ye. Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. …14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 6:6,9,14)”

Rom. 8:15. “For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (Romans 8:15)”

In a deeper sense, however, it is applied to the First Person of the Trinity, to express His relation to the Second Person,

John 1:14, 18; “14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth. …18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [him]. (John 1:14,18)”

8:54; “Jesus answered, If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing: it is my Father that glorifieth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God; (John 8:54)”

14:12, 13. “12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater [works] than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father. 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:12-13)”

This is the original Fatherhood, of which all earthly fatherhood is but a faint reflection. The distinctive characteristic of the Father is that He generates the Son from all eternity. The works particularly ascribed to Him are those of planning the work of redemption, creation and providence, and representing the Trinity in the Counsel of Redemption.

4. The Son.

The second person in the Trinity is called ‘Son’ or ‘Son of God.’ He bears this name, however, not only as the only begotten of the Father, John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; “16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. …18 He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16,18)”

Gal. 4:4, “but when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, (Galatians 4:4)”

but also as the Messiah chosen of God,

Matt. 8:29; “And behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? (Matthew 8:29)”

26:63; “But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou art the Christ, the Son of God. (Matthew 26:63)”

John 1:49; “Nathanael answered him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art King of Israel. (John 1:49)”

11:27, “She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I have believed that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, [even] he that cometh into the world. (John 11:27)”

and in virtue of His special birth through the operation of the Holy Spirit,

Luke 1:32, 35. “32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: …35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:32,35)”

His special characteristic as the Second Person of the Trinity is that He is eternally begotten of the Father,

Ps. 2:7; “I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son; This day have I begotten thee. (Psalms 2:7)”

Acts 13:33, “that God hath fulfilled the same unto our children, in that he raised up Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. (Acts 13:33)”

9:20; “And straightway in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, that he is the Son of God. (Acts 9:20)”

Heb. 1:5. “For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, This day have I begotten thee? and again, I will be to him a Father, And he shall be to me a Son? (Hebrews 1:5)”

By means of eternal generation the Father is the cause of the personal existence of the Son within the Divine Being. The works more particularly ascribed to Him are works of mediation. He mediated the work of creation,

John 1:3, 10; “3 All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made. …10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not. (John 1:3,10)”

Heb. 1:2, 3, “2 hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in [his] Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds; 3 who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; (Hebrews 1:2-3)

and mediates the work of redemption, Eph. 1:3-14.

5. The Holy Spirit.

Though Socinians, Unitarians, and present day Modernists speak of the Holy Spirit merely as a power or an influence of God, He clearly stands out on the pages of the Bible as a Person,

John 14:16, 17, 26; “16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever, 17 [even] the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth him: ye know him; for he abideth with you, and shall be in you. … 26 But the Comforter, [even] the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you. (John 14:16-17,26)”

15:26; “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, [even] the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of me: (John 15:26)”

16:7-15;

Rom. 8:26. “And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for [us] with groanings which cannot be uttered; (Romans 8:26)”

He has intelligence,

John 14:26, “But the Comforter, [even] the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you. (John 14:26)”

feeling,

Isa. 63:10; “But they rebelled, and grieved his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, [and] himself fought against them. (Isaiah 63:10)”

Eph. 4:30, “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)”

and will,

Acts 16:7; “and when they were come over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia; and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not; (Acts 16:7)”

I Cor. 12:11. “but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will. (1 Corinthians 12:11)”

Scripture represents Him as speaking, searching, testifying, commanding, revealing, striving, and making intercession. Moreover, He is clearly distinguished from His own power in

Luke 1:35; “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)”

4:14; “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and a fame went out concerning him through all the region round about. (Luke 4:14)”

Acts 10:38; “[even] Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Acts 10:38)”

I Cor. 2:4. “And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: (1 Corinthians 2:4)”

His special characteristic is that He proceeds from the Father and the Son by inspiration,

John 15:26; “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, [even] the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of me: (John 15:26)”

16:7; “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you. (John 16:7)”

Rom. 8:9; “But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:9)”

Gal. 4:6. “And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. (Galatians 4:6)”

In general it may be said that it is His task to bring things to completion both in creation and redemption,

Gen. 1:3; “And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:2)”

Job 26:13; “By his Spirit the heavens are garnished; His hand hath pierced the swift serpent. (Job 26:13)”

Luke 1:35; “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)”

John 3:34; “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for he giveth not the Spirit by measure. (John 3:34)”

I Cor. 12:4-11; Eph. 2:22. “in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)”

 

*This is an excerpt from the book, Summary of Christian Doctrine by Louis Berkhof (1873-1957).

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s