Theologians have said that no person or nation can rise above their thought of who God is. Who and what you see as God or a god determines what kind of life you live here on earth and into eternity. It is important in this part of our journey in the study of Christian doctrine that before we get to the creation of the earth and man being made in the image of God, we first have to look at who God is and how God reveals Himself within the Bible. This is what we call the Doctrine of the Trinity, or the reality that though our God is one God, He reveals Himself in three distinct persons who are totally equal, uncreated, co-existant and co-eternal. This concept is the subject of this chapter as we dive into who God is and how He has chosen to reveal Himself to His creation.
It has been said by many preachers that the reason God created humanity was because He was lonely and in need of someone to share His thoughts with. Though this sounds really noble and exciting for us as humans, this simply is not a Biblical truth. The Bible declares that God the Father has lived in perfect eternal community/communion with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. This community is the perfect picture of what it means to belong. Every person is born with internal longings. These longings aren’t something that we have learned, but rather something we were given by God in our formation in the womb. One of those key longings is the desire to belong in a community where trust is the norm, where nothing is hidden, where we are accepted for who we are and a place where everyone has great love for each other.
This longing to belong is a reflection of our Creator and the relationship that He is in with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Christians have called this relationship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit the Trinity. The word Trinity doesn’t appear in the Bible. It was introduced to us around 155 A.D. by an early Christian leader that was trying to best explain how God has revealed Himself throughout the entirety of the Bible. Many throughout history have worked to explain the Trinity using various analogies but it is best said like this; “The trinity is One God, who eternally exists as three distinct persons—the Father, Son and Spirit, who are fully and equally God in eternal relation to each other.” You might say, wow that’s a lot of information just to explain who God is and how He has revealed Himself. True, but we must remember that we are talking about God Almighty and He deserves a lofty title.
What is the Trinitarian God of the Bible Like?
In Exodus 34 God gives one of His leaders, Moses, a powerful definition of who He is and what He’s like. For a backdrop about where God’s people were at in their journey with Him when He gave them this description of Himself, we have to look at Exodus 32 and 33. Here is a short paraphrase of what has taken place within Exodus 32 and 33. God has led His people out of Egypt with a great demonstration of power and authority, breaking in on behalf of His chosen people at the sound of their cry and delivering them from the hand of wicked oppression. They have journeyed through a divided Red Sea, which closed up behind them swallowing their enemies. God has supernaturally fed them with meat falling from the sky and bread appearing on the ground every morning. Their sandals haven’t worn out, water has come out of a rock to satisfy their thirst and they have been lead by a cloud in the day and fire at night. But even though they had seen God do all these wonderful things, their passion for God was about to change, rapidly.
One day Moses went up the mountain to talk with God and while he was gone some many days the people in the camp got a little restless and convinced Aaron, Moses’s number two, into gathering up all the jewelry and building two golden calves with it. After the Israelites built these calves they bowed down before them and declared that these worthless idols were the gods who took them from Egypt to where they are. While Moses is on the mountain with God, the Lord tells Moses to go down from the mountain and to return to the camp because the people are worshiping idols. Moses, in a passionate fury races down the mountain to find the camp of some one million + people worshipping these golden calves. After sometime, Moses is able to destroy these calves and call the people back into relationship with the living God, and here, in their broken state, God declares to them who He is.
In Exodus 34:6-7 after this terrible act, God chose to reveal Himself to the nation of Israel with these words;
“The Lord, The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.”
What a statement from God’s own mouth about who He is and how He feels. It’s in their weakest place, where the sinfulness of their hearts is springing forth that God says to them, “I am the Ruler over all creation, I am merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steady love, faithful, forgiving and I am also One who tells you the truth.” What is so important about this passage is that we understand God chose to reveal Himself to His people in this way. This isn’t what man wanted God to be, but rather who God is. If you want to know what the Trinitarian God of the Bible is like, dwell on this passage and allow each of those qualities of God to break into your heart and mind, and change the way you view the God of the Bible. This is who He is.
Does The Trinity Appear In The Old Testament?
Different groups throughout history have worked to disprove the Trinity by saying that you can’t see a clear Trinitarian picture of God in the Old Testament. This is simply isn’t true. It’s like the statement that grace didn’t exist in the Old Testament, only in the New Testament. If this were true, it would mean that the God of the Bible who says He changes not, does in fact change. If God is a Trinity in the New Testament, then He must also be One in the Old Testament. Let’s take a look at two clear scriptures where we can see the Trinity at work in the Old Testament. In Genesis 1:26 Moses wrote,
“Then God said, let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness.”
Now, I am going to rewrite this passage so that we can clearly see what’s going on. “Then God (God the Father) said, let us (The Trinity) make man in Our (The Trinity) image, according to Our (The Trinity) likeness.” It is clear to see that God the Father is not simply talking to Himself, but to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and their discussion is centering around making man in Their image.
Man is made in the image of a Trinitarian God. Here’s another scripture from the Old Testament that also speaks of the Trinity. Isaiah 61:1 says “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.” I will again rewrite this scripture so we can see who is saying what within the Trinity. “The Spirit (The Holy Spirit) of the Lord God (God the Father) is upon Me (Jesus Christ) because God (God the Father) has anointed Me (Jesus Christ) to preach the good news to the poor.” Now, we really know that this is a Trinitarian statement from reading in the New Testament where Jesus came into the temple in Luke 4 and took the scroll and began reading this very passage from Isaiah 61:1. When Jesus finished reading this passage in the temple, He said,
“Today, this scripture (Isaiah 61:1) is fulfilled in your hearing.”
To restate what Jesus said, you could say “Today, you have seen this scripture fulfilled, because it was talking about Me.” Isaiah, some 600 years prior to Jesus’ coming, speaks about God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Isaiah was telling us that God is one God in three Persons, Father, Son and Spirit. Now that we have seen the Trinity in the Old Testament, let’s look at two main passages in the New Testament where we again see the Trinity at work in the life of Christ.
Does The Trinity Appear In The New Testament?
Scholars from history have mentioned a Bible principle called progressive revelation. What this means, is that the revelation of God get’s clearer and clearer the closer to Jesus we get and when we come to Jesus Christ in the New Testament, the Revelation of God is complete within Him. Paul says in Colossians 1:15,
“Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God…”
Here are two scriptures that show us clearly the Trinity at work within the New Testament. In Luke chapter one, we read the story about the angel visiting Jesus’ mother Mary and talking to her about what was going to happen through her with the birth of her Son, Jesus Christ. It says,
“And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you, therefore , also that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Within this passage we see that God is a Trinity, meaning that we can see God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit at work within the conception and birth of Jesus Christ through Mary. It’s not that there is three Gods, but One God in three Persons; Father, Son and Spirit.
And finally, at the close of the gospel of Matthew in Chapter 28 Jesus gives us the great commission, where we can again see the Trinity at work in the good news of Jesus Christ touching the ends of the earth. Matthew 28:19 says,
“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.”
This passage is why we baptize people not only in the name of the Father, or the Son or just the Spirit, but in the name of all Three. This is our Trinitarian God telling us, when you baptize people, do it in all three of Our names. Why? Because We are a Trinitarian community and when people enter into relationship with Us, they are entering into relationship with all Three; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Now that we have seen the Trinity in both the Old and New Testaments, it’s important that we talk about why we study the Trinity to begin with.
Why Should We Study The Trinity?
When it comes to talking about God, it can become a very overwhelming subject, quickly! Right now, some of you may be super overwhelmed thinking about One God existing eternally in three distinct persons. This is okay. Don’t be discouraged because you don’t fully understand who God is and what God is like. It’s supposed to be this way. There is a principle that states “You can know God truly, but you can never know God fully.” We are supposed to feel overwhelmed when we are looking at God, thinking about God and trying to understand the Trinity. It’s supposed to be this way. We are talking about three Persons who have no beginning or no ending, are uncreated, are all powerful, are all-knowing and ever-present in the past, present and future. Holy smokes, that’s mind-blowing and it’s intended to be.
Not knowing God fully is part of the joy of loving Someone that is so much bigger than we are. Many Christians can give way to lethargy when it comes to studying God. They stop being amazing at the mystery of a God who has numbered every star and every hair on every head. We don’t want cheap answers that short-circuit the joy of discovering who God is and how He has revealed Himself to us. Proverbs says that it is the glory of God to conceal a matter and it’s the joy of kings to search that matter out. We want to go hard after God and press into the knowledge of Him and absorb what we can, and get the rest tomorrow. Someone once said that “you can never drink in all the water in the ocean, but we can drink in as much as we can and leave the rest for eternity.” Dumbing down the Trinity to the three parts of an egg doesn’t help us worship. The Trinity is intended to cause worship to arise from those in relationship with Jesus.
What Are Some Practical Applications Of The Trinity?
The reason we can make practical application to the Trinity, is because the Trinity is the pattern that everyone who loves Jesus should look at when it comes to how we live life with ourselves and everybody else. We gain understanding into so many things when we look at the Trinity and see how The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit relate to one another, others. We also see the goal that Christians are called to reach for. Let’s look at a few things that we can apply in our personal lives after we look at the Trinity.
Firstly, Trinitarian life is humble life. When we look at the Man Christ Jesus, we see a God who created everything, became like His creation, bowed low into the dirt from which He formed man and washed His creation’s feet. This tells us that the Trinity is humble and it calls us into a humble life as well. Secondly, Trinitarian life is relational. When we look at the Trinity we see Three people who love being around each other, who love talking to and about one another, who don’t like being separated from one another. This calls us into a life of relationships as well. This means that if we are living separated from other people, we are choosing not to live a Trinitarian life and we are going against the God of the Bible.
Thirdly, Trinitarian life is submissive. Some would say that there is no hierarchy within the Trinity but that is not true. There is clearly a hierarchy within the Trinity as seen in the relationship between The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father sent the Son and the Son sent the Holy Spirit. Now just because there is a hierarchy that doesn’t mean that One Person in the Trinity is less than the other, for they are all completely equal, but there is an order within the Trinity. This means that the Son submitted to the Father and the Spirit submits to the Son. The Son only says what the Father says, and the Spirit only says what the Son has said and is saying. They submit to One another and not out of pity, or necessity, but out of love for One another and for the mission of the Trinity on the earth.
This means that when we look at the Trinity we also are called to live a similar life, submitting to authority within the Church, within the City, within our homes and in our workplaces. Time wouldn’t permit to share the many scriptures that command us to obey those placed in authority over us not just in the Church but everywhere in our lives. We understand the importance of submission to authority because of the Trinity and watching the relationship within the Trinitarian God.
It’s important that we take the time to understand that God is a vast ocean of depth that can never be fully searched out, but let’s also not let that stop us from jumping in and enjoying what we can in this life. Let’s allow the size of God, the Humility of Jesus Christ and the Power of the Holy Spirit to overwhelm us and help us understand the God of the Bible is a Trinitarian God who is crazy in love with everyone, those who hate Him and those who love Him. He is kind and knowable. Dive in and drink what you can!