Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled ‘The Doctrine of the Blessed Holy Trinity’. Her main text was taken from the Book of Matthew 3:13-17 and 28:16-20.
In his third expedition, in 1498, Christopher Columbus saw three islands. Coming closer, he saw that the three islands are united into one body. He named the Land ‘Trinidad’ which in Spanish, is Trinity. This is just a parable of the doctrine of the Trinity. From distance, it looks like there are three ‘Gods’. But as we study it closer, we discover that there is only One God, in Three Persons. The word ‘Trinity’ means 3 in 1.
The Doctrine of the Blessed Holy Trinity is the most important doctrines of the Christian faith. There is no higher doctrine than this. The reason is because it is the doctrine about God. This is also one of the most mysterious doctrines, extremely difficult to preach or understand. We preach it and believe in it because we see this revelation in the Bible. As a preacher and congregation, we need to remain humble and trust the Holy Spirit alone for the revelation. The word ‘Trinity’ does not appear in the Bible. The teaching that God is a Triune Being is found in many places, both in the Old and the New Testament. The doctrine of Trinity cannot be explained by man and cannot be understood by human wisdom. This doctrine must be received by faith, as a revelation of the Holy Spirit. Studying the Trinity will surely humble us. It will challenge and increase our faith in God. “Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the Triune God”. We are reminded that God’s mind is so much greater than our mind. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My 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” (Is 55:8, 9). Amen, Lord! This doctrine is unique to Christianity. It separates Christianity from all other religions.
The Bible says that there is only one God. He is the only God that exists. He is the Creator and sustainer of the universe. We should never forget that! “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” (Deut 6:4). “For us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live” (1 Cor 8:6). Within the nature of this one God, there are three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These three Persons are co-equal, co-eternal, distinct from one another, yet always acting in unity, equal in glory, and each One worthy of the same Praise, Worship, confidence, and obedience. These three distinct Persons are the One God! They are not three gods. Everything that is true about God is true about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. It is wrong to say that God is the Father, of that God is the Son, or that God is the Spirit. It is wrong to limit God to only one of the three Persons of the Trinity.
“The Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal” (The Athanasian Creed, 6th century). (The word ‘incomprehensible’ means not able to be understood).
The Theologians use the word ‘Godhead’ sometimes when they want to refer to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as three divine Persons in one God. They are not Three Gods but one! We also say that The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, the Spirit is not the Father, but each is God individually and yet they are together the One True God of the Bible. The truth of the Trinity must be decided solely on what the Bible has to say about the subject. The doctrine of the Trinity can only be known by divine revelation; human reason cannot discover anything about the personal nature of God. There is no real analogy to the Trinity to which humans can compare the Trinity. When we look at what the Scripture has to say we discover that one God exists in three Persons – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is found by noting the following points: only one God exists; there are three distinct Persons in the New Testament – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; each of these three distinct Persons is called God. Therefore, the three distinct Persons must be the one God. The members of the Trinity have different roles though they are equal in character. Although Christians tend to emphasize Christ, each Person of the Trinity is equal. God always was and always will be three Persons. There was never a time when one of the Persons of the Godhead did not exist. They are all eternal.
EACH PERSON IN THE TRINITY IS GOD
The Bible calls God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit! Each Person of the Trinity is separate in function but one in essence!
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:2). We are “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). “But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:3,4). Each of the Three Persons of the Trinity is Omnipresent, Omniscient, and Omnipotent.Praise the Lord!
THE THREE PERSONS IN THE TRINTY ARE DIFFERENT IN FUNCTIONS BUT ONE IN ESSENCE
Since God the Father sent the Son into the world, He cannot be the same person as the Son. Likewise, after the Son returned to the Father, the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit into the world. Therefore, the Holy Spirit must be distinct from the Father and the Son. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn 3:16). Jesus said: “I go to My Father and you see Me no more” (Jn 16:10). “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (Jn 14:26). “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore, being exalted to the right hand of God and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:32, 33).
In the Bible we see that Jesus is God and, at the same time, that he was “with God,” thereby indicating that Jesus is a distinct Person from God the Father. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God… No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (Jn 1:1, 2, 18)
We also see that although there is a close unity between the three Persons, the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore, I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you” (Jn 16:13-15)
While the three members of the Trinity are distinct, this does not mean that any is inferior to the other. Instead, they are all identical in attributes. They are equal in power, love, mercy, justice, holiness, knowledge, and all other qualities. The doctrine of the Trinity does not divide God into three parts. The three Persons are each one-hundred-percent God. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each fully God. For example, this is said of Christ: “For in Him (in Christ) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col 2:9). Thus, the Son is not one-third of the being of God; He is all of the being of God. The Father is not one-third of the being of God; he is all of the being of God. And likewise with the Holy Spirit.
WHO BELIEVES IN THE TRINITY?
All true Christians believe in the Trinity. If you are sure that you do not believe in the Trinity, you are not saved! It is only the children of God that believe this doctrine. Anyone who says that he is a Christian but rejects this doctrine, is not born-again! Selah!
WHAT AND WHY DO WE BELIEVE?
We believe that the one God eternally exists in three Persons: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit; and that these three are one God, co-equal and co-eternal, having precisely the same nature and attributes, and worthy of precisely the same worship, confidence, and obedience.
Why do we believe this doctrine? The most important reason is because the Bible teaches about the Trinity. The second reason is because all true Christians all over the world, since the Church started, have believed in it. Lastly, we believe in the Trinity because no other explanation makes sense of the God of the Bible.
ARGUMENTS AND ERRORS AGAINST THIS DOCTRINE
Two major Faith groups reject the doctrine of the Trinity: the Mormons (The Latter days saints) and the Jehovah Witnesses’, who do not believe that the Jesus Christ is God. The Muslims and the Jews deny the Trinity. They argue saying that how can 1+1+1=1? They forget that this formula can be changed to read like this: 1x1x1=1!
WHAT THIS DOCTRINE IS NOT
Christians do not believe in three Gods. Christians do not believe that God has three different forms: like water, vapor, and ice. Christians do not believe that the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are parts of the whole. For example, we do not believe that God the Father is 1/3rd of God, the Son is 1/3rd of God and the Holy Spirit is 1/3rd of God. These are all false doctrines. God is not One Person who took three consecutive roles. That is the heresy of modalism (They say that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are divine, but they are not distinct Persons). The truth is that Father did not become the Son and then the Holy Spirit. Instead, there have always been and always will be three distinct Persons in the Godhead.
SYMBOLS OF THE TRINTY
The Christians over the centuries have tried to simplify this doctrine by using symbols. For example, they say that God is like an egg, made from three parts: the shell, the white and the yoke. These parts are different, yet they make one complete egg. Others say that a man can be a father, a son, and a brother, at the same time. Other people say that this unity and diversity is seen in the marriage. The husband and the wife are different people, yet they become one in marriage. Then they have a baby. They are three in one. One of the most interesting illustrations is by the American scientist Dr. Henry M. Morris (1918-2006), and engineer who became saved. He was the President of the Institute for Creation Research. He says that the entire universe is Trinitarian by design. The universe consists of three things: matter, space, and time. Take away any one of those three and the universe would cease to exist. But each one of those is itself a trinity. 1. Matter = mass + energy + motion; 2. Space = length + height + breadth; 3. Time = past + present + future. It’s important to remember that all illustrations fail eventually. They don’t “prove” the Trinity, they simply help us to understand the concept.
THERE IS A “DIVISION OF LABOR” IN THE TRINTY
God the Father is the Creator of all things. He is also the Planner of salvation. He is in charge of election. God the Son is the Redeemer. He died for sinners that they may live. The Holy Spirit is in charge of the sanctification. These are the general roles as seen in the Bible.
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD, NOT A POWER OR AN INFLUENCE
Most Christians have no problem in appreciating God the Father and God the Son as Divine Persons, worthy to be worshipped. But they misunderstand the Person of God the Holy Spirit. They think of Him as a ‘force’, like the power of God and not as a Person. This is a mistake to be corrected. The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force like gravity for example. The Holy Spirit is an ‘He’ and not an ‘it’ (John 14:26; 16:7-15; Acts 8:16). The Holy Spirit is a Person because He speaks (Heb 3:7), He reasons (Acts 15:28), He thinks and understands (1 Cor 2:10, 11), He wills (1 Cor 12:11), He feels (Eph 4:30), and has personal fellowship with the believers (2 Cor 13:14). These are all qualities of a Living Person.
WHERE IN THE BIBLE DO YOU FIND THIS DOCTRINE?
THE OLD TESTAMENT
In the Old Testament you find the Trinity indirectly and in the New Testament you find the direct revelation of it. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). In the first verse of the Bible the word translated God is Elohim. In Hebrew is a plural form of the word ‘El’. In other passages it is translated ‘gods’ referring to the pagan deities. “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So, God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26, 27). Please observe the plural and the singular referring the God. This is diversity in unity. God (plural) is One!
“Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me.” (Is 48:16). In this scripture you hear the Son speaking about His work as the Redeemer. He confirms that The Lord God (which is the Father) and His Spirit have sent Him.
THE NEW TESTAMENT
In the New Testament we see all the Three Persons associated together on an equal basis in numerous passages:
*When Jesus God baptized by John in the River Jordan, the Father spoke, and the Holy Spirit became visible descending like a Dove on the Son)
“When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:16, 17)
John’s Baptism was a symbol of repentance, cleansing and preparation to meet God. Our Lord was baptized by John so that He can identify with the sins of men. This was in preparation for Him becoming their Substitute. John protests when Jesus came to him for water baptism. The reason was because he is a lesser person than Jesus, and his baptism is a lesser one that the Baptism of fire Jesus has come to perform. John offered a baptism of repentance, but Jesus does not need to repent. Jesus offers forgiveness but He Jesus does not need it. “But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him” (Mt 3:15). The reason why Jesu said ‘permit it to be so now’ it is because His ministry has not started yet. John said that Jesus will baptize with fire. But as He came out form the water, the Holy Spirit came as a Dove on Him. Jesus purifies us with Fire but He does it gently, like a Dove. Thru this Baptism, Jesus was empowered to do ministry. The Holy Spirit was active throughout the life of Jesus on earth. The Holy Spirit led Him from place to place and gave Him the power to do miracles. It is the same Holy Spirit that helped Jesus to go to the Cross, as a Sacrifice. This is how He cleanses our conscience with fire from religious works that lead to death. “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb 9:13, 14). The Holy Spirit that descended on Jesus anointed Him for ministry. In this scripture you see the Trinity again: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Ac 10:38).
*Apostle Peter defines salvation as the work of the Trinity: The elect are chosen by God the Father, Faith in the Son and sanctified by the Spirit!
Greetings to the “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied” (1 Peter 1:2).
*Salvation is by the Love of God, by the Grace of the Son, and by the communion or fellowship of the Holy Spirit!
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (2 Cor 13:14)
*Paul thanks The Father for the brethren who pay the price for spiritual maturity. They are beloved of Jesus and sanctified by the Holy Spirit!
“But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thess 2:13)
*This is the Great commission given by the Resurrected Christ. The Christian Baptism in water is in the name of the Trinity!
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen” (Matt 28:18-20). First, notice that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are described as three distinct Persons. Second, notice that each Person must be deity because they are all placed on the same level. Jesus would not have us baptize in the name of a mere creature! Therefore, each of the Persons into whose name we are to be baptized must be deity. Third, notice that although the three divine Persons are distinct, we are baptized into their name (singular), not names (plural). The three Persons are distinct, yet they constitute only one name. It means that they share one essence, one being.
The Great Commission is ‘to make disciples’. It means to teach the baby Christians the Word of God until they become mature believers, able to obey God’s commands. The Water Baptism is a public proclamation that you now belong to the Lord Jesus. You died in Him and you rose in Him. The water Baptism does not save your soul. It is a command of the Resurrected Christ. It is not an ordinary ceremony. It adds Grace and confidence to the believer. The Baptism is done ‘in’ the name of the Trinity. The word ‘in’ in Greek is ‘eis’. It is also translated as ‘into’ some place, time, or purpose. The same word applies as baptism ‘into Moses’. “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor 10:1, 2). What does it mean ‘to be baptized into Moses?’ It means to become like Moses who left Egypt to become a leader of God’s people. It also means that passing thru the water of the Red Sea, they were changed, from slaves to free men.
To understand this change that happens during the Baptism, is like using cucumbers to make pickles. The cucumber is dipped ‘into’ boiling water. After that it is dipped ‘into’ vinegar and salt solution. It changes the cucumber permanently. It stops the corruption of the cucumber. It is now preserved. The pickle can never become a fresh cucumber again. Similar with the process of making pickles, the believer is dipped into the hot water of death and the vinegar salty water of life. To be Baptized into Moses, the Law Giver, is to become one with the Law of God. To be baptized into the Holy Spirit it means to become one with God the Father and God the Son. This is the mystical union of the believe with Christ. The change is permanent. After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, the Holy Spirit was delivered and just like living water, believers were “immersed” in the Holy Spirit and it’s brought about the necessary transformation at a more permanent level.
*Prayer is done as filled with the fullness of God, knowing the Love of Christ and strengthen by the Holy Spirit!
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:14-21).
THE DOCTRINE APPLIED
Many Christians think that even if they believe it, this doctrine is not useful to them. That is a mistake. Any revelation in the Bible that helps us to know God better, it is most useful. To worship God, you must know God. Eternal life is knowing God. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).
What does this doctrine teach us?
*First, it leads us to salvation. Each of the Three Persons in the Trinity has a function in the plan of Salvation. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph 1:3, 4). Someone said: “The Father is the Love of Salvation; The Son is the Lord of Salvation; and the Holy Spirit is the Light of Salvation. It teaches us that God has fellowship within Himself. The Trinity had a holy counsel before the foundation of the world and decided how to save sinful man. The plan of salvation was designed by God the Father. God the Son volunteered to become a Man, go to the earth, reveal the Father to men, and die as their substitute. God the Holy Spirit agreed to go to the earth, after the death and the resurrection of Christ, and start the Church, the Body of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit alone who leads into all truth, and who applies the doctrine of salvation to men. The Holy Spirit came to glorify God the Son. Each Person of the Trinity had a function to play in the plan of salvation. The Persons of the Holy Trinity act in total unity, harmony, and perfect love. The doctrine of the Trinity helps us to understand the Cross. With the sins of the world upon Jesus, He cried “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Sin caused a temporary split in the Trinity. The Son could not call Him ‘Father’ as in the past. Here we see that God speaks to God. At last, the relationship between Father and Son is restored. “And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” Having said this, He breathed His last” (Luke 23:46). This is the weakness and the power of the Cross.
On the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem there is a writing in Arabic saying: “Allah has no son”. This is what the Muslims believe. I don’t know if they are happy with this word. But as for me, it is wonderful to believe in the Trinity. God the Father has God the Son, who is the first born among many brethren. I feel good knowing this. It is good for me to know that the God of the Bible is a Trinity. My election and salvation were planned by the Trinity. God the Father talked to God the Son and to God the Holy Spirit when they called my name. I feel that I am adopted into ‘A Family’ God. I belong to the household of God, to God’s family! I feel encouraged and happy. This is my personal testimony concerning the application of the doctrine of the Trinity.
*Secondly, it helps us to worship God deeper. The more we know God, the deeper our worship will be. To pay the price to know God, it means you honor God! Worship proceeds from a heart that knows the God of the Bible. The doctrine of the Trinity reminds us how great God is. We cannot understand God completely with our finite minds. The only response to these mysteries is to bow and worship. The seraphim around the throne cry Holy! Holy! Holy! They address one God! 3 And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” (Is 6:3).
*Thirdly, it helps us to pray better. The most common way of prayer is to pray to God the Father, thru the name of Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit. “For through Him (Jesus Christ) we both have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Eph 2:18). But because the Three Persons of the Trinity are co-eternal and co-equal, we can pray and worship any one of the three. There is never any jealousy among the members of the Trinity.
*Finally, it helps us to love others. This fellowship between the three Persons of the Trinity is hard for us to understand. We must accept it by faith. This revelation shows us the root of social behavior, and intimacy in marriage. God made man to be like Himself, to speak, love and fellowship with one another. From here we see that God is never lonely. We too should never feel lonely.
The Trinity is a doctrine that all Christians believe but no one really understands. Someone said that if you try to explain the Trinity, you will lose your mind. But if you deny it, you will lose your soul. Daniel Webster (1782-1852) was an American Lawyer and a stateman. He was a committed Christian. Someone asked him: “How can a man of your intellect believe in the Trinity?” He replied: “I do not pretend fully to understand the arithmetic of heaven now”. That’s a good phrase—the arithmetic of heaven. The Trinity should cause us to bow in humble adoration before a God who is greater than our minds could ever comprehend. Though we can understand some facts about the relationship of the different Persons of the Trinity to one another, ultimately, it is incomprehensible to the human mind. However, this does not mean the Trinity is not true or that it is not based on the teachings of the Bible. “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:33-34). At the end of every church service, we all recite ‘The Grace’. It is a reminder of the doctrine of the Trinity! “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor 13:14; NIV). Worship the Lord!