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We Need To Embrace The Trinity

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Though “Trinity” is not a word found in the Bible, the idea is there. It refers to the “three-in-oneness” of God; Three persons, one essence.

Should We Use The Word “Trinity?”

Occasionally a well-meaning Christian will remark, “I don’t like the word “Trinity” because it’s not found in the Bible. I prefer the word “Godhead” better.” What do we say to this?

First, misguided or not, scruples are scruples. If this brother or sister doesn’t want to use the word, we shouldn’t push them. They should be aware, however, that they are handicapping their ability to communicate the deeper things of God. Language necessitates the use words that adequately convey larger ideas without having to constantly rehash those ideas.

Second, just because a word is not found in the Bible doesn’t mean it can’t be useful in capturing Biblical concepts. Words like atheism, divinity, incarnation, and monotheism are not found in the Bible either, yet we still use them. (Even the word Bible is not found in the, well, Bible.) We just need to ensure Scripture defines our doctrine of the Trinity, instead of us projecting an extra-biblical understanding onto Scripture.

Third, the word “Godhead,” which only occurs in the King James Version three times (Acts 17:29; Rom. 1:20; Col. 2:9) and the American Standard Version twice (Acts 17:29; Col. 2:9), is never used by Scripture specifically in reference to the triune nature of God. So if you insist on using “Godhead” in lieu of “Trinity,” know you are also using a word in a way the Bible doesn’t.

We Need To Embrace The Trinity

“Trinity” is simply a word we have invented to describe God as He has revealed Himself in His Word. So as it relates to the Trinity, what has God revealed?

Deuteronomy 6:4 says that Jehovah our God (elohim, plural) is one Jehovah. The word “one” refers to a combined or united one. The same Hebrew word for “one” (echad) is found in Genesis 1:5, where we find the “evening and the morning” were the “first (echad) day.” Two can be one. We also find the same word in Genesis 2:24, where we find “two becoming one (echad) flesh.” Two can be one. When we understand this, we can understand three persons can be united in one essence – the Trinity.

One God

When God speaks, He repeatedly says He is the one and only God (Isa. 45:5-6; 46:9; 1 Kings 8:59-60; 1 Tim. 2:5, etc.). “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God” ( John 17:3). “God is one” (Rom. 3:30). “There is one God” (1 Cor. 8:6). “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder!” ( Jas. 2:19).

Father, Son, and Spirit Are Each Fully God

We do not get off quite so easily – for the Bible teaches that the Father, Son, and Spirit are each fully God.

We understand that the Father is God (Eph. 4:6; Phil. 2:11; etc.). Likewise, Jesus is called God (John 1:1-3; 8:24, 58; cf. Exo. 3:14). The Holy Spirit, also, is God. In Isaiah 5:8-9, we read about the Lord (Jehovah) telling Isaiah something. Yet in Acts 28:25, Paul said it was the Holy Spirit that spoke to Isaiah. The same is true about Jeremiah 31:33 and Hebrews 10:15, where the Lord (Jehovah) says it in one passage, and the Holy Spirit is the author of the other. A similar thing happens in Acts 5:3-4, where one says God, the other the Holy Spirit.

Each person of the Godhead is fully God. But don’t think that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are 1/3 God each. Instead, know each is fully God and subsists under the presence of deity.

God Is A Unity of Three Persons

In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” To whom was God talking? He was not talking to angels, because man is not made in the image of angels, but “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27). God used the words “us” and “our,” implying that more than one divine person was involved in creation.

When we say that God is three persons, we mean that the Father is not the Son, the Father is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit
is not the Son; they are all distinct from one another. But be careful! It’s dangerously easy to think of the persons of the Godhead as you would a created human being, with bodies made out of skin and bones. Instead, as Jack Cottrell proposes, think of God this way: “That God is three persons means that within the one divine nature are three individual centers of consciousness.”[1]

He Is What He Is

You might be thinking, “I’m still not sure I understand the Trinity very well.” To which I say, “Welcome to the club!” Yet knowing God as a Trinity is the best way to understand what the Bible teaches about the Godhead. God is one in essence[2], and three in personality. Each eternal person of the Godhead – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is fully God, and each person has a role in the undivided single essence.

We simply must believe in the Trinity because it is so plainly taught in the Bible. The only word that fully describes the logistics of the three persons of the Godhead is the word “mystery.” Moses reminds us, “The secret things belong to the Lord” (Deut. 29:29). But much like God has revealed the mystery of salvation to the entire world (cf. Eph. 3:2-6), God has revealed some of the facts of the mystery of Himself to us: He is one God, and He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But an element of mystery will always remain.

Though God’s nature is an enigma, the Trinity is not a problem. By studying the three persons of God as revealed in Scripture, we can better know, serve and love God in His glory.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Endnotes
[1] Jack Cottrell, The Faith Once for All, p. 71
[2] By “essence” we mean the real, basic, fundamental nature of God. For example, God is in essence a spirit; God is in essence loving; God is in essence righteous. Likewise, God is in essence one.

3 Responses to We Need To Embrace The Trinity

  1. Glenn Colley January 10, 2017 at 4:45 PM #

    Excellent article, Ben

  2. IJ January 14, 2017 at 7:17 AM #

    Hi Ben,
    Great (and timely for me) article. How would you go about teaching this to your kids (eventually 😊). I have a recently turned five-year old who I have discussed this with a couple of times. His Bible teacher insisted there is only one God. I happened to walk into class while she was teaching and he looked at me so confused and upset because I had taught him there is God the father, God the son, and God the spirit but they are united in word, thought and deed they are all God. He’s a respectful little guy so he didn’t dispute the teacher when she corrected him when he said there are three. I really struggle with articulating this but maybe it’s because I don’t fully understand myself??? Help 😊❤️

    • Ben January 14, 2017 at 7:50 PM #

      I would absolutely be okay with my 5 year old being told in his Bible class that there is one God because we do in fact only have one God. There is no getting around passages like Ephesians 4:6. Remember: God is three in person, one in essence. One God Who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

      I know this is hard to understand. But aren’t you glad we serve a God who we can’t put into an easy-to-imagine box?

      Trusting that God is who (and how) He says He is, regardless of whether we understand it, is simply a matter of faith.

      But to say we have three gods would make us polytheists, which is a terrible heresy.

      Thanks for the great comment.

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