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THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY

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A) TO THE FACTS.

B) THE CLASSICAL DEFINITION.

C) PROPOSITIONS FOR THE DOCTRINE.

D) THE LOVE ASPECT.

E) TRIUNE ACTIONS.

F) OTHER PASSAGES TO CONSIDER.

G) FROM MY FAVORITE BIBLE COMMENTATOR.

H) THE FOUR THEOLOGICAL TRUTHS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.

 

 

A) TO THE FACTS

 

 

First of all, in our discussion of the “Trinity,” never let it be said or thought that I am putting forth the idea that there is more than “one” God (see Ephesians 4:5).  The true concept of the “Trinity,” or “Triune Godhead,” is, “One God, comprised in Three distinct personalities.”

 

Let me state that this “mystery,” or any “mystery” of God, I, nor anyone else will not be able to explain to you.  We can only look at the facts that God has given to us and wants us to know about Himelf.  As far as looking into the “Trinity,” we are venturing onto/into “Holy Ground.”

 

Here are just a few verses to show that we cannot totally understand God:  Job 26:14; Psalm 145:3; Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33.

 

The fact that the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible tends to discourage some away from this doctrine.  The logical fact is, that “Tri” is just short for “Three.”  However, you will not find the word “Three” in the Biblical narrative, in attempting to have it be in reference to the Triune Godhead.

 

The concept of a triune Godhead is mainly developed in the Creation account (“Us” “Our” “Own;” Genesis 1:26), encompassed in the fact that there are three “Entities,” of God, or “Figureheads” of God in the Bible = God The Father, God The Son, and God The Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28:19; First John 5:7).

 

NOTE:  Many regard this following text as not being in “some” Manuscripts.  I will not address that argument here.  Argue with other texts that affirm the Trinitarian Doctrine.  To really confuse you, let’s look at First 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.”  That is pretty plain, in that It is teaching us that there is only “one” God.  But how can that be if there are “Three” mentioned?

 

In the creation account and other places Biblically, “Us; Our; Own; We,” etcetera, brings out the Biblical FACT that our God is comprised of more than one player, i.e., the Triune Godhead.  Please discover Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8; Jeremiah 51:9; Daniel 10:13; John 14:16; 17:11.  See also John 14:20; 16:7; 17:21-23; First Corinthians 8:6.  It is also contained in the Hebrew plurality verbs (see Genesis 20:13; 35:7).  Looking at the Genesis description of the Godhead, these are just definitions used to describe God as the Living Creator.  The question then comes, according to John, Chapter One, specifically, verse three, Jesus created all things.  Yet according to Genesis, Chapter One, “Us,” “Our,” “Own,” and “We,” created this earth and all that in it is.  Therefore, only One Divinity exits and is the Creator. Wrap your confusion around that!!!

 

The argument that pops up the most against the creation account of “Us; Our; Own,” is that God is talking to the angels.  I do not by the concept that our God had to consult with the angels first before creating mankind.  Plus, nowhere are “angels” mentioned in the script of the context to the questioned passages.  Plus, since God is the “Only One” Who can create, Who would God be talking to but another One Who can also create, i.e., “Let Us?”  And again, in Genesis 1:1, we have God, along with “the Spirit of God,” in verse 2.

 

If we go to Acts 20:28 we read:  “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God, which He hath purchased with His Own blood.”  If I ask you Who is the “He” and the “His Own,” are, most would respond with, “Jesus,” because He is the One that died for our sins.  Therefore, this would be perfectly in line with the fact that TWO distinct Personalities abide within the “One God” of the Bible.

 

If we go to Romans 10:9, we can find “both” God the Father and God the Son in the same breath.  The same is true of John 1:18 & Philippians 2:11.

 

 

B) THE CLASSICAL DEFINITION

 

 

The classical definition of the “Trinity,” was first proposed by Tertullian (about 220 A.D.), who stated this, “tria personae unia substantia,” meaning, “three persons and one substance.”  And a quote I like is from a pamphlet titled, “The Bible Doctrine of the Trinity,” by Samuel T. Spear, published in 1892, by the “Pacific Press.”  The pamphlet corrected two prevailing misconceptions of the Trinity doctrine, showing that it “is not a system of tri-theism, or the doctrine of three Gods, but it is the doctrine of one God subsisting and acting in three persons, with the qualification that the term ‘person’ . . . is not, when used in this relation, to be understood in any sense that would make it inconsistent with the unity of the Godhead.”  Thus, in my humble opinion, Persons” should not be used.  Rather, three distinct “Personalities” would be more appropriate.

 

As stated before, the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible.  However, the concept of a “multi-God” in “One” Personage is established from the very beginning in God’s Word.  This concept of a Biblical “Trinity” is found in the plural form of the Hebrew Divine Name “Elohim,” as found in the occasional employment, with reference to God, in plural pronouns, in the very beginning of God’s Word (discussed earlier).  For me, when Scripture states, “Let US make man in OUR OWN image,” Genesis 1:26, it becomes VERY clear that there is more than One personality present.

 

The word “Trinity” is derived from the Greek word “trias,” first used by Theophilus (in 168-183 A.D.), or from the Latin word “trinitas,” and was first used by Tertullian (in 220 A.D.) to express this doctrine.  Tertullian comprised the doctrine from Matthew 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.”  However, Hebrew scholars knew of this concept well before this, since they recognized the multiple Characters in their Hebrew word “Elohim,” (meaning, “Plurality Godhead”) as found in the creation account.

 

 

C) PROPOSITIONS FOR THE DOCTRINE

 

 

The propositions involved in this doctrine are these:

 

1) That God is One, and that there is but One God (see Deuteronomy 6:4; First Kings 8:60; Isaiah 44:6; Mark 12:29, 32; John 10:30).

 

2) That the Father is a distinct, Divine Personage, distinct from the Son and the Holy Spirit (See the passages under #3).

 

3) That Jesus Christ was and is truly God, and yet was a Personage distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit, see Psalm 90:2; 93:2; 103:17; Proverbs 8:23; Isaiah 57:15; Micah 5:2; Habakkuk 1:12; John 14:6-7 & 9-10; 17:5 & 21-22; Colossians 1:13-17; 2:9; First Timothy 1:17; 6:15-16.

 

“The Lord Jesus Christ, the Divine Son of God, existed from eternity, a distinct Person[age], yet One with the Father.”  1SM:247; FLB:46; LHU:16; 5BC:1126; RH, April 5, 1906; 7ABC:440.  “In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived.”  DA:530.

 

4) That the Holy Spirit is also a distinct, Divine Personage (See my Bible Study:  “GOD, THE HOLY SPIRIT”).

 

Another consideration is that in certain repetitions of the Name of God, there seems to be something distinguishable between God and God (see Genesis 19:27; Psalm 45:6 & 7; 110:1; Hosea 1:7).  The concept is also upheld in threefold liturgical formulas (see Deuteronomy 16:4; Numbers 6:24 & 26; Isaiah 6:3).  This concept is implied in a certain tendency to hypostatize the conception of Wisdom (as in Proverbs, Chapter 8), and especially in the remarkable phenomena connected with the appearances of the Angel of Yahweh (that being Jesus, see Gen. 16:2-13; 22:11 & 16; 31:11 & 13; 48:15 & 16; Exodus 3:2 & 4 & 5; Jud. 13:20-22; etcetera).

 

Other passages like Psalm 33:6; Isaiah 61:1; 63:9-12; Haggai 2:5 & 6, show that God and His Word and His Spirit are brought together, co-causes of effects, are adduced toward the concept of the “Trinity.”  Lastly, if we look at Hebrews 1:8, “But unto the Son He [God-The-Father] saith, Thy throne, O God,” when you ask the question, “Who is God here,” we can answer, “Both,” or better, “All [three];” although for sure, Jesus is implied.

 

 

D) THE LOVE ASPECT

 

 

That the God of the Bible is a Triune Being, is expressed in the concept of Love, because He is Love (First John 4:8).  The model is that “Love” cannot be exercised in isolation.  You cannot be “All Loving” and be “All Alone” at the same time.  Love is manifested in relationships.  Augustine expressed this truth eloquently, when he said: “Ubi amor, ibi trinitas,” meaning, “Where there is love, there is a trinity.”  By that he meant, that “where there is love, there is a lover, a beloved, and a spirit of love.”  God does not Dialog (two beings talking) in Heaven, He Trialogue’s!

 

There was an old Valentinian writer -- possibly it was Valentinus himself -- who reasoned -- perhaps he was the first person to so reason -- that “God is all love,” “but love is not love unless there be an object of love.”  To go further still, Augustine, when, seeking a basis, not for a theory of emanations, but for the “Doctrine of the Trinity,” he analyzes this ‘Love’ which God is, by putting it into the triple implication of “the lover,” “the loved,” and “the love itself,” and sees in this Trinary thought an expression of Love and an analogue of the Triune Godhead.  Also, according to Second Corinthians 5:19, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.”  Conclusion:  No One can be in the Other if there is no Other.

Note:  However, this is speaking of the Humanity of Christ and not His Divinity (Augustine’s error).

 

In the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Personages; the same in substance but distinct in subsistence.  In other words, the Biblical fact that All Three have within Their spheres Their Own clear and distinct personalities and personality traits is clear in God’s Word.  The Doctrine of the “Trinity” brings this positive rational support to it -- that of discovering in it the only adequate conception of God as A self-conscious Spirit, Living as A Being of “Love.”

 

Difficult therefore as the idea of the “Trinity” in itself is, it does not come to us as an added burden upon our intelligence; it brings us rather to the solution of the deepest and most persistent difficulties in our conception of God as an infinite, moral Being, and illuminates, enriches, and elevates all our thought of God.  It has accordingly become a commonplace to say that Christian theism is the only stable theism.  That is as much as to say that theism requires the enriching conception of the Trinity to give it a permanent hold upon the human mind.  This is done through the concept of what “love” is and what is required in order to have “love,” i.e., more than one person.  How God can be Triune and yet be “One” is too often too much to conceive; but believe.

 

 

E) TRIUNE ACTIONS

 

 

Other passages of Scripture (not mentioned already) that point out for us the actions of more than One Member of the Godhead in action at the same exact time are:

 

Psalm 110:1 (God The Father, Jesus; Explained by our Lord in Matthew 22:44; see also Luke 20:42 & Acts 2:34); Matthew 1:18 (Holy Ghost and Jesus);

Isaiah 48:16 (Jesus, Holy Spirit, God the Father);

Matthew 3:16-17 (Jesus, Holy Spirit, God the Father);

Matthew 4:1 (Jesus, Holy Spirit);

Mark 10:1-11 (Jesus, Holy Spirit, God the Father);

Mark 1:12 (Jesus, Holy Spirit);

Luke 1:35 (Holy Ghost and Jesus);

Luke 3:21-22 (Jesus, Holy Spirit, God the Father);

Luke 4:1 (Jesus, Holy Spirit);

John 1:32-33 (Jesus, Holy Spirit);

 

And many more that show Jesus and the Father are together, as exampled in Romans 1:7; First Corinthians 1:3; Second Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; First Thessalonians 1:1; Second Thessalonians 1:2; First Timothy 1:2; Second Timothy 1:2; Philemon 1:3; (All Three mentioned in) John 14:16 & 26; 15:26.

 

With these as a starting-point, the teaching of Jesus is conditioned throughout God’s Word in a Trinitarian way.  He has much to say of God His Father, from Whom, as His Son, He is in some true sense distinct, and with Whom He is in some equality in a true sense, One.  Also, He has much to say of the Holy Spirit, Who represents Him, just as Jesus represents the Father, and by Whom He works as the Father works by Him.

 

Jesus claims a Son-ship to God, which is unique (Matthew 11:27; 24:36; Mark 13:32; Luke 10:22); keeping in mind that the hardest thing to do in the Christian life and concept of Jesus is to keep His humanity separate from His Divinity, or together as “One” when appropriate.  That is another Bible Study.  In the following passages, the title of “Son of God” is attributed to Him and accepted by Him:  Matthew 4:6; 8:29; 14:33; 27:40 & 43 & 44; Mark 3:11; 12:6-8; 15:39; Luke 4:41; 22:70 (compare with John 1:34 & 49; 9:35; 11:27), and which involves an absolute community between the Two in knowledge and power, in which both Matthew (Matthew 11:27) and Luke (Luke 10:22) record His great declaration that He knows the Father and the Father knows Him with perfect mutual knowledge.  Jesus also speaks of employing the Spirit of God Himself for the performance of His works, as if the activities of God were at His disposal:  Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20; compared to the promise of the Spirit in Mark 13:11 and Luke 12:12.

 

However, Jesus brings us back to the conception of the Godhead being “One” in John 10:30 & 38; 14:9; 15:21; 16:10 & 11; 17:11 & 21 & 22 & 25.  He does this by expressing His eternal participation in the Divine Glory Itself:  “the glory which I had with Thee,” John 17:5.   He is in fellowship and community with the Father.  Jesus continues to represent the Godhead as being enveloped into “One.”  This becomes clear when He is speaking currently of Himself as God’s Son (John 5:25; 9:35; 11:4; compare with John 10:36).  He meant in accordance with the underlying significance of the idea of Son-ship in Semitic speech founded on the natural implication that whatever the Father is, that the Son is also; see John 16:15; 17:10.  To make Himself, as the Jews with exact appreciation of His meaning perceived, “equal with God,” John 5:18, or, to put it brusquely, He is “God,” John 10:33, so upset them that this should be a clear indication to us of the true concept of more than “One” distinct personality.

 

How Jesus, being thus equal, or rather identical with God, was in the world, He explains as involving a Coming forth on His part, not merely from the presence of God (see John 16:30 compared to John 13:3), or from fellowship with God (John 16:27; 17:8), but in actually, from out of God Himself (John 8:42; 16:28).  And in the very act of thus asserting that His eternal home is in the depths of the Divine Being, He throws up and into as strong an emphasis, which He uses and stresses in pronouns that can convey His personal distinctness from the Father (see especially Hebrews 8:42 and then John 16:26- 27; 17:8).

 

Jesus uses a form of expression to illustrate a characteristic of the discourses of our Lord, as recorded by John, that it meets us on every page:  a form of expression which combines a clear implication of a unity of Father and Son, which is an expression of identity of Being; and an equally clear implication of a distinction of Personage between The Godhead, such as allows not merely for the play of emotions between Them, as, for instance, of love (John 17:24; compare to John 15:9; 3:35; 14:31), but also of an action and reaction upon One Another which argues a high measure, if not of exteriority, yet certainly of exteriorization.  He continually represents Himself as on the one hand sent by God, and as, on the other hand, having Come forth from the Father (e.g. John 5:23; 8:42; 10:36; 17:3).

 

In numerous passages scattered throughout Paul’s Epistles, from the earliest of them (First Thessalonians 1:2-5; Second Thessalonians 2:13 & 14) combined with the latest (Titus 3:4-6; Second Timothy 1:3 & 13-14), all three Persons, God The Father, God The Lord Jesus Christ, and God The Holy Spirit, are brought together in the most incidental manner as co-sources of all the saving blessings which come to believers in Christ.  A typical series of such passages may also be found in Ephesians 2:18; 3:2-5 & 14 & 17; 4:4-6; 5:18-20.

 

But the most interesting instances are offered to us perhaps by the Epistles to the Corinthians.  In First Corinthians 12:4-6, Paul presents the abounding spiritual gifts with which the Church was blessed in a threefold aspect, and he connects these aspects with the three Divine Persons.  The Trinity however, is alluded to, rather than asserted.  However, the more clear and instructive verse is Second Corinthians 13:14, which has passed into general liturgical use in the Churches as a benediction.

 

 

F) OTHER PASSAGES TO CONSIDER

 

 

Other passages to consider would be:  Hebrews 2:3 & 4; 6:4-6; 10:29-31; First Peter 1:2; 2:3-12; 4:13-19; First John 5:4-8; Jude 1:20, 21; Revelation 1:4-6.  It should not be missed that the determining impulse to the formulation of the doctrine of the “Trinity” in the Church was the Church’s profound conviction of the absolute Deity of Christ (Colossians 2:9).  This is that on which, as on a pivot to the whole Christian conception of God, formed the first origins of Christianity.

 

In fact, Christ Himself speaks of Himself as being God.  Consider Matthew 26:63-65 (see also Mark 14:62; Luke 22:70) where the “high priest” asks Jesus specifically if He is claiming to be God, and Jesus affirms the same; in which the “high priest” tears up his cloths because of this assertion.  He also affirmed this when standing before Pilot in John 18:37, although Pilot didn’t fully understand Who he was talking to, nor the true nature of his question (Pilot thinking in an earthly perspective).  Even more telling, is when Jesus stated in John 10:30, “I and My Father are One,” which in turn is confirmed, in that the Jews then proceeded to take “up stones” in order “to stone Him,” John 10:31, because Jesus was claiming to be God.

 

On a side note, historically, the autocratic form of Church government has been inspired by the vision of God as the Almighty Sole Ruler of the universe (monotheism), rather than the Biblical conception of God as the communion of Three Equal Personalities.  As a result, a great deal of power was thereby being concentrated in a single figure, such as Pharos, Kings, Popes, Monarchs, Emperors, etcetera.  The reasoning was that just as there is One God in Heaven Who alone governs the world, without explaining anything to anyone, so there must be rulers on earth who act like the “One” God in Heaven.

 

By contrast, with the Biblical concept of the Trinity, recognition of the value and intelligence of the people, their experience of faith and their ability to evangelize, along with their character as representing God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, the people (body of believers) work as a hole to accomplish whatever task it is that needs accomplishing.  This all equal and sharing responsibilities concept and way of dealing with problems, concerns, activities, and ideas in the Church as a society, with equal distribution of functions and tasks, concurs with the monarchal concept of the Scriptures.

 

Thus, the Biblical concept of the Trinity as the perfect communion of the Divine Three, making them One God, proves to be more of the other Biblical concept of “The Golden Rule,” where each take into account the wellbeing of the other.  From this vision will emerge a community-oriented Church where each one has his or her own characteristics and gifts, but all live for the good of all.  Each one, in so far as he or she creates community and becomes a part of that community, represents the Blessed Trinity.  In the Trinity, what unites the Divine Three is the communion among them and the complete self-giving of One personality to the Other Personalities.  The same thing ought to happen in the Church.  It is by overcoming the centralization of power and distributing among all that dynamic unity emerges, reflecting Trinitarian union.

 

 

G) FROM MY FAVORITE BIBLE COMMENTATOR

 

 

“John, the beloved disciple, bears witness: [John 1:1-4 & 14-16: 3:34-36 quoted].  In this Scripture God and Christ are spoken of as two distinct personalities, each acting in Their Own individuality.”  MR760:18.2.

 

“On Sabbath, April 27, many of our brethren and sisters from neighboring Churches gathered in the parlors with the Sanitarium family, and I spoke to them there.  I read the First Chapter of Hebrews as the basis of my discourse.  This Chapter clearly indicates the individual personalities of the Father and the Son.”   RH, August 1, 1907 paragraph 8.

 

“Let not the theory be presented that God would dwell in the soul-temple of a wicked man.  No greater falsehood could be presented.  ‘Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us.’  These words present God and Christ as two distinct personalities.”  1NL:124.

 

“There are Three Living Persons of the Heavenly Trio; in the Name of These Three Great Powers -- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit -- those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these Powers will co-operate with the obedient subjects of Heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ.”  Special Testimonies, Series B, Number 7, pages 62 & 63. (1906); Ev:615; HP:336; 7ABC:441-442; SpTB07:63; BTS, March 1, 1906 paragraph 2.

 

NOTE:  SDA’s, the editors may have added the word “Persons,” as before this time EGW only used the definition of “distinct personalities.”

 

 

H) THE FOUR THEOLOGICAL TRUTHS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

 

 

1) The Father is God.  No one argues with this, so let’s move on.

 

2) Jesus is God (John 1:1 & 14).

 

3) The Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4).

 

4) God is “one” God (Ephesians 4:5 & First Corinthians 8:5-6).

 

NOTE:  The term “Trinity” really doesn’t matter; you can call it whatever you want; as long as it accurately represents the Truth of the Bible; three in “One.”

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