Deuteronomy 6:4, 5 Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy might.
“The trinity is a difficult concept, not fully susceptible to human explanation because it involves categories our finite mental power cannot easily grasp.” Paul E. Little
I. What is the Trinity and where did that word come from?
In the book The Davinci Code by Dan Brown, Emperor Constantine is credited with first coining the word or bringing the concept into the church, but that is simply not true. Let us first remember that we should not obtain our theological understandings from a book of fiction. And that is what The Davinci Code is—a book of fiction; which means by definition, false. In fact, The Davinci Code is a great example of things that our God and Christianity is not. Please do not read it and adopt this work of fiction as theology.
The word “trinity” was actually coined by a church apologist and scholar named Tertullian. Tertullian lived from about 185 AD until 225 AD, wrote many things and was said to be a trained lawyer and ordained priest. He coined the word, not to introduce a new concept, but to explain a biblical truth in a simple expression. Tertullian wrote in Latin, but the word actually appears earlier in a Greek writing as well.
At a spiritual meeting in 325 AD a group of learned men, called the Council of Nicaea, seeking to unify the teachings and understandings of the body of Christ developed the Nicene Creed. In that creed they described Christ as “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.” That Creed is still recited in many congregations today.
So what is it? The trinity is almost as difficult to define as it is to understand. Scholars continue today to try their best to articulate its meaning, but they have arrived at this, one God in three persons. Within the only being who is God, three persons or beings exists eternally co-equal and co-eternal, namely, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
That is to say there is only one God, there are not three gods. Yet, there are three personal distinctive. God is not three people, persons does not mean people, but again, has three personal distinctive.
I can express that in this manner. In creation, the Father originates, the Son (Jesus Christ) reveals it and the Spirit executes. Creation is from the Father, through the Son and by the Spirit.
Don’t get bogged down here. Let’s move on a bit.
II. If the word Trinity is not in the Bible, why is it a teaching of the Christian church?
The easy answer here is that it is because the concept is in scripture. In fact, it is throughout scripture. The word was only coined by Tertullian to be able to explain the concept.
Let’s look at how that plays out in scripture when looking at creation.
Isaiah 64:8 calls God, the Lord, or Jehovah which is the name of the God (For more info, check out last weeks study on Who is God)the creator. God made man. “But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter;And all of us are the work of Your hand.”
But take a look at John 1:3 Read this chapter and you will see that we are talking about Jesus. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” So through Jesus creation was made.
But let’s look at Job 33:4 “The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
That’s just one example. In John 1:1 Jesus is called God. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” In verse 14 you will discover that the Word is Jesus. This is the gospel of John. Look at Titus 3:4 where Jesus, the Savior, is called God. “But when the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior appeared…”
There are many other verses as well. But this wasn’t a New Testament idea only.
In the Old Testament the common term for God comes from the Hebrew word Elohim. It looks like this in Hebrew אֱלֹהִ֔ים But Elohim is a plural word.
But wait, if your brain isn’t whirling around inside your head yet, hang on.
In the creation, in Genesis 1:26 the Bible says the following: “Then God (using the word Elohim) said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” Did you catch that? Let us make man in our...
Some say that is why man is a 3-part harmony—body, soul, and spirit. Although be careful not to take that too far.
Please understand, this is the tip of the iceberg. We can talk all day, and frankly my fingers would be bruised from typing so much if I tried to indicate all the scripture and the ways that God the Father is God, God the Son is God, and God the Holy Spirit is God. There are many studies about this and they are interesting and inspiring and makes us all realize God is bigger than me. Thank God! And it also lends a credibility to it all—if man or men were making this up, they would have never come up with such a scheme.
Now also Let us also remember. God is one God. This, too, is repeated over and over in scripture. Remember our verse from last lesson, “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God.” Isaiah 45:5
“There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:5.
III. A flawed explanation.
Ok, I am going to give it another crack at an explanation. Keep in mind this is flawed and inaccurate. But it might be a help. I am a Husband, I am also a father and a son. And dependent upon which situation I am in, I respond to that situation as a husband or a father or a son. Now, that is a very poor illustration, but it’s the one I keep in my pocket.
Another explanation is that of an egg. An egg has a shell, a white and a yolk…but it is one. Remember that all these explanations are made to assist you in understanding, but they are all flawed.
III. What some say about the trinity
As I said, the Nicene creed is still recited in many congregations today. The trinity is the accepted orthodox Christian belief. It is necessary for our understanding of who God is and who is the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is therefore necessary to our faith.
However, there are some religions that do not follow this truth. They may use the bible as we do, or they use their own version, or they use pieces of the bible and other writings not recognized as scripture by Christianity. They separate themselves from Christianity and they don’t believe many of the other main teachings of Christianity. They are called cults and the short list looks like this: Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons. We don’t have time to go into these at this point.
IV. Approaching the trinity
Approach understanding the trinity by faith. We cannot understand everything about God. He says that his ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts higher than our thoughts. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are my ways your ways, says 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.” Isaiah 55:8,9
Simply put, God is bigger than you and me. There are things that don’t make sense to our minds, but we believe them by faith. Faith in God is more than what you can calculate, what you can imagine, what you can visualize, and what you can think. It is a trust in God, that even though you may not understand, you trust His words. That is what it takes to get back the relationship that Adam and Eve lost in the garden. They doubted God’s word and sinned. Now, we trust his word and we are restored to a relationship with him. Hebrews says, “without faith it is impossible to please God.”
If we try to bring God down to our understanding, to fit within our thoughts, he no longer is God, but we make ourselves to be god. Our god would be our own wisdom, our own understanding. That is an arrogant place to be and a dangerous one.
Appendix: Below are scriptures that relate to God being one and only one. Also there are scriptures about the Father as God, the Son as God and the Holy Spirit as God.
God is ONE
Isaiah 42:8; 43: 10, 11; 45:5
God the Father as a being of the Trinity
Isaiah 9:6; 63:16; 64:8
Jesus, the Son, as a being of the Trinity
John 1:1; 10:30-33; 14:9; 20:28
2 Corinthians 4:4
Philipians 2:6; 9-11
The Holy Spirit, as a being of the Trinity
The Holy Spirit is eternal, like God the Father, and God the Son
The Holy Spirit is omnipresent like God the Father
Psalms 139: 7-12
The Holy Spirit is omnipotent like God the Father and God the Son
The Holy Spirit is omniscient like God the Father and God the Son
1 Corinthians 210-11