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The Doctrine of the Trinity

Updated: Dec 3, 2023

What is the Trinity? What does it mean? It can be a complex thing even for well-versed Christians and that is because, though we attempt to describe it, it truly can only be understood in faith. Like any theology on God, we have to accept it is incomplete because of our finite nature. Nonetheless, it poses a tough question when asked to adequately describe it. Perhaps you are talking to a non-believer who asks what it is Christians believe on the subject, maybe you're sitting in a small group figuring out together what the Trinity is, or perhaps you're preparing a lesson. No matter what it is, we must come to terms with what it we believe as Christians. So, what is it we believe? Before Getting started this will be a simple explanation and if you wish to discover more check out Michael Reeves book, "Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith."

For starters although the word "trinity" is not found in the Bible, but the trinity is called what it is because, as most of us know, it deals with three. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit all one but distinct persons. What does that mean though to be one but three? The Holy Spirit is God, Jesus is God, and the Father is God, but the Holy Spirit is not the Son nor the Father, the Son is not the Holy Spirit not the Father, and the Father is neither the Son nor the Spirit. That can be a bit confusing, so read it again if you must. They are distinguished as three because they are all presented with a unique role. Each of the three persons of the trinity has a different mission. For some, this may be the first time realizing this and could be confusing. For example, the Father is the head of the Trinity with all authority and His will, the Son carries out or executes the Father's will thus the one through whom the Fathers will is completed, and the Spirit empowers to complete this will and brings life. Want to see a real scriptural example of this? Check out the first chapter of the Bible. In the first verse (Genesis 1:1) we are told God created the heavens and the Earth and then given a details description of how this happens. However, in the second verse (Genesis 1:2) we are told the Spirit hovered over the face of the waters. Additionally, fast forwarding (Genesis 1:26) we are told that God said he will make man in "our" image, the Father, Son, Holy Spirit. To provide additional insight for the Spirit in creation, when God made man he breathed the breath of life into him, or essentially put his Spirit in man (Genesis 2:7) and life was brought to the man and then after women.

Continuing with this thought, we saw the Spirit, but maybe you're not convinced the Father and Son just yet. Within the New Testament we see the apostle Paul speak on the will of God, though not directly on creation, and he speaks of the Father as the source of all things and Christ as the one through whom all things exist (1 Corinthians 8:6). Additionally, Paull again in another letter (Colossians 1:16-17) states that Christ is the one through whom all creation exists and the one who holds it all together. So we see creation as being filled with the Spirit, created through and held together through the Son. The opening chapter of John's Gospel states this beautifully. We are told there was a "Word", who is Christ, at the beginning who was God but also with God (John 1:1-2). The only way someone can be something and be with that same thing is if there is a trait of uniqueness between the two things. We see they are both God and they are both different. Continuing John tells us that all things were made through this word (John 1:3). To add another layer of depth it helps to look at the Trinity through a lens of John and Genesis together. What did God do in the beginning to create? he simply Spoke. Speaking implies there are words being said. Who does John tell us this "Word" is? He tells us it's Christ and that this word, Jesus, is the one through whom all creation is made. It is fascinating to see how these idea tie together. The Spirit empowers and brings life, the Son is the one through whom the Father's will is completed, but what about the Father?

We need to step outside the creation narrative to complete this trinitarian picture. We know shortly after the beginning man had sinned, and from that point God had been in the business of restoring his creation. The pinnacle of God's work in history has been revealed in Christ, the one who would complete the will of the Father (Ephesians 3:1-13). Jesus was all about doing his Father's will, being the sent one and the Father being the sender (John 6:40; Matthew 7:21; John 5:19,30; 6:38). It becomes clear in Jesus Message the Father is the sender and the one with the will within the three persons of God. Jesus fulfilled the will of the Father by coming to be the propitiation for our sins. This mission was carried out by the strengthening of God's Spirit (Matthew 12:28; Luke 4:14-21; John 1:32-33, 3:34). As Jesus was ascended into heaven the mission of salvation was complete and now the Church is the body of Christ to spread the news as they are also empowered by the Spirit to do the Father's will (Acts 2:16-17; Ephesians 3:8-11).

To continue on the Trinity as we conclude the Father, Son, and Spirit are God, but they are not each other. The Father is the head of the Trinity, and the Son is begotten under the authority of the Father who is unbegotten and uncreated, and the Son is of the same essence of the Father and unified in their nature. The Spirit is begotten of, or "Spirated", from the Father and in the Son, and the concept of the Son being of the Father demonstrates all three shares in their oneness of being God. The Spirit comes from the Father and is within the Son, but the Spirit does not have a will as the Father does and he doesn't carry out the will of God. In their unique existence if the Father was not then the Son would not exist as he would not have been begotten from anything. If the Father and the Son were the not, then the Spirit would not exist as the Spirit is what proceeds from both the Father and Son. The Father is the only person of the trinity who can exist in and of himself, and as the son emanates from the Father being a distinct person of the Trinity does not perform his own will but his Father's. The Spirit is prominent in the Father and put projected in the Son to perform the Father's will.

After all this, I know it can be confusing, but I hope this explanation makes sense. It is my humble attempt to explain something so complex, and it goes without saying it is possible misunderstandings exist. We cannot fully comprehend God. Within our finite minds we can only try to make sense of his goodness, love, justice, holiness, and plan for humanity. Lastly, if you enjoy what you see and are interested in supporting the ministry then be sure to check out our store!

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