The Church and the Trinity

I am not going to try to prove the Trinity. That is as impossible as trying to prove the existence of God. By the way, it is also impossible to prove He doesn’t exist! What I am going to do is attempt to display what the Bible says about the Trinity and then show how that relates to the Church.

The apostle Paul writes to the believers in Corinth that “Even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us (believers in Jesus Christ) there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through who are all things, and through whom we are” (I Corinthians 8:5-6). Here we see that, in Paul’s description of Christian belief, God is plural. He places the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ together on the same level, as one.

The Bible reveals the triune nature of God as a God who possesses mutuality within His own being. Rather than promoting a lone ranger type God, the doctrine of the Trinity emphasizes life, love, and movement within the Godhead. Let’s look at a few things that the Bible says about the Trinity:

Genesis 1:26 – “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.'” As God prepares to create mankind, He draws on that mutuality within Himself. Notice that it is “Our image” and “Our likeness.” I refer to this as plurality within unity. The pronouns are all plural but the nouns are all singular. There is one image and one likeness. Mankind is created in the image and likeness of God; not angels or anyone or anything else that may have existed at that time. The conversation about the creation of man was within the Godhead. “We” will make man and he will look like “Us.”

Genesis 3:22 – “Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.'” After man sinned by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God declares that he was now like “Us,” again noting that plurality within the one God. We had not become like anyone else. In fact, isn’t that what Satan had promised Eve? “You will be like God.” He didn’t say that we would be like him or angels or anyone else.

In Genesis 11:7, in response to the attempt of civilization following the flood to build a tower to the heavens, God says to Himself, or within Himself, “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language,…” Verse 8 says that “the LORD scattered them abroad.” It doesn’t say He had any help from anyone else, again affirming His plurality.

The final Old Testament example is Isaiah 6:8 where Isaiah the prophet is seeing “the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up.” In verse 8, he records, “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us’?” God is sending, but the one sent is going for “Us.” Again we see plurality within oneness.

In the New Testament we begin to see a  fuller description of this plurality in the one Godhead. In John 1:1, John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word did not begin in the beginning; He was. The Word existed in the beginning and He existed with or alongside God; and to further clarify, “the Word was God.” He existed in the beginning with God and was Himself God. How could He be with God and be God unless there is more than one Person who is God? Again, understanding the previous teaching of the Oneness of God, e.g., Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one!” there cannot be more than one God. If there is more than one Person who is God and there is only one God, then God must be plural.

In John 1:14, after identifying the Word as God and with God, John goes on to say that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” This Word that became flesh is later identified as Jesus Christ of Nazareth, a very human Person who was also God. So the Word who became flesh had existed with God in the beginning and was Himself God.

In Matthew 3:16-17, Matthew tells of this Word made flesh coming to John the Baptist to be baptized by him in the Jordan River. “Then Jesus, when He had been baptized, 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 landing on Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My dearly loved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'” Here we have a picture of God the Father speaking from heaven while God the Son is coming up out of the Jordan River and God the Holy Spirit descending on Him in the form of a dove. The Trinity is on display.

In Jesus’ final instructions to His followers before He went back to heaven, He said this: “Therefore, as you go, make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19). Notice that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all included in this baptismal formula; but also notice that we are to baptize in one name. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have only one name because they are three Persons in one God.

The apostle Paul, in concluding his second letter to the Corinthian believers, gave them this blessing: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (II Corinthians 13:14). Again we see the Trinity on display.

So we see that the Father is God (I Corinthians 8:6). Jesus is God (Hebrews 1:8 – “But He says to the Son: ‘You throne, O God, is forever and ever…'”). The Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4: “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?… You have not lied to men but to God.'”). To summarize: There is only one God. God is three Persons. Each Person is fully God; and as each of the Persons is fully God, none of them is the other. The Father is not the Son, nor is the Son the Father. The Father is not the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. The Son is not the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not the Son. They each are uniquely represented in the Godhead but are in complete unity with each other. They are truly One.

As Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in perfect relationship within the Trinity, we are created, in His image and likeness, to be in relationship with Him and with each other. Just before going to the Cross to die for us, Jesus prayed to the Father “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory that You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:…” (John 17:21-22). In the same way that the Father and the Son are one, Jesus is praying that believers in Him should be one; with each other and with the Godhead.

As Jesus was baptized, the Father declared Him to be His beloved Son, one dearly loved. This love that the members of the Godhead have for each other is the love that God has for each of us. Jesus said to His followers: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him” (John 14:21). Then a couple verses later, Jesus added, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). As we respond to what Jesus has done for us by obeying Him, both the Father and the Son come to us and come to be at home with us, and Jesus reveals Himself to us. Then the Holy Spirit, the very presence of the Father and the Son, abides with us and “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and tell it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said the He (the Holy Spirit) will take of Mine and tell it to you” (John 16:14-15).

Two persons can have a relationship but it takes three or more to experience community. As the Members of the Trinity have community among Themselves, when They come to us and make Their home with us, we are able to then experience community with God as well as with each other. Paul tells us that Jesus “is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased (the Father) that in (Christ) all the fullness should dwell” (Colossians 1:18-19). All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus. Jesus is head of the church. Therefore all the fullness of the Trinity dwells in the church. The Father “put everything under His feet and gave Him (Jesus) to be head over everything to the church, which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23).

God not only “designed” believers to be like Himself, but He then works in us to fulfill this design. In reality, a personal relationship with God is not really personal. Rather, it is communion or fellowship with the Trinity who then transforms believers to be like Him. Personal devotions aren’t really personal. A time of personal devotions is communion with the Trinity. Devotions are all about growing in a love relationship with God. Our relationship with Him then overflows to our relationship with others in community.

God helps us see His presence in others and to love them like He does. We begin to see how He is molding people and transforming them into His image. Community, in fact, is the very nature of God.

I am grateful to Joel Comiskey for insights on this subject from his book Biblical Foundations for the Cell-Based Church.

Categories Pastors Blog | Tags: | Posted on March 19, 2013

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