Pastoral 2013

The Holy Trinity

Written by Rev (Dr) Prabhudas Koshy Sunday, 28 April 2013

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The doctrine of the Trinity, which declares that God is Triune, is fundamental to the Christian faith. We must believe this grand doctrine because it is clearly taught in the Scriptures. But it is a doctrine that defies human logic. It is beyond man’s ability to fathom and explain.

Why is this doctrine so incomprehensible? God is infinite, and hence He is beyond human reasoning. We can know Him only because He has revealed Himself to us by His Word. Whatever He has revealed concerning Himself in His Word must be received by faith and with humility. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

The word “Trinity” is derived from the Latin word Trinitas, meaning “threeness”. It is not found in the Bible but has been historically used by theologians to define and defend the divine mystery that is revealed in the Holy Scriptures.

Very early in the church history, the truth of the Trinity has been studied and affirmed. Trinity was the designation for the uniquely Christian monotheistic understanding of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit as tri-unity. The church fathers vehemently defended the Trinity against those who denied it with their heretical teachings. In AD 325, a church council that met in Nicaea (now Iznik in Turkey) affirmed this eternal truth concerning God and it has been known as the Nicene Creed.

Our Westminster Confession of Faith defines the Trinity thus: “In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son” (Chapter 2, paragraph 3).

Truths affirmed by the Doctrine of the Trinity

There is only one true God, who must be worshipped and loved exclusively. The doctrine of the Trinity does not teach tri-theism but monotheism. The Scriptures firmly declare in Deuteronomy 6:4 – “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Our Lord Jesus also reaffirmed this truth in Mark 12:29-30.

The essential oneness of God is taught by the biblical statement: “The Lord is one.” The Hebrew word for “one” (echad) denotes “compound unity” or “united one”. Here, both the uniqueness of God and the unity of God are underscored. God is a unity of three divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. God is one in essence and three in person.

Christians are monotheistic in their theology – “The LORD he is God; there is none else beside him” (Deuteronomy 4:35; cf. Isaiah 44:6, 8; 45:5-6).

All three Persons are coequal and coeternal. God eternally exists as three Persons, and each Person is fully God. They are equal in authority, power, glory and all the divine attributes. None is lesser than the other; they are coequal and coeternal, each partaking of the full divine essence.

Jesus’ words “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30) clearly give evidence that they are equal in essence and authority. The Baptism formula (“in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” – Matthew 28:19), which mentions the Holy Spirit along with the Father and the Son, testifies to their equal divine authority. Moreover, Paul’s well-known benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14 includes the Holy Spirit as the object of our worship – “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.”

The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Ghost is God!

All three Persons are distinct, but not separate. There are three distinct Persons in the Godhead. It means that the Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father. But the great mystery of the Trinity is that though the three Persons are distinct, they are not separate, but one in their essential being. The divine essence is not divided among the three Persons.

Furthermore, the designations – the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost – do not indicate inferiority among them but their eternal relationship within the Godhead. The three Persons are distinguished by certain personal distinctions: the Son is eternally begotten of the Father, and the Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son.

The three Persons of the Trinity do not act independently of one another. This was a constant theme of Jesus in rebuffing the charges of the Jews. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19; cf. John 8:28; 12:49; 14:10).

Conclusion

Trinity is triunity! This is one of the great mysteries of faith, and as such, it is far beyond our human comprehension. The Trinity must be acknowledged as a biblical doctrine. The clearest of all Scriptural passages on the Trinity is 1 John 5:7 – “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”