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“That they may be one as we are one” (John 17:21).
This verse presents to us the strong desire and prayer of Jesus.
The word “Trinity” is originally derived from the Latin root word Trinitas meaning a “triad”. Tertullian, a Latin theologian from the 3rd century, was the first person to use the word Trinity in relation to the Godhead. Later in 325 AD, the first Council of Nicaea established the doctrine of Trinity with the publishing of the Nicene Creed.
The theology of the Trinity is first revealed in the Scriptures in the creation story. There were three persons involved at creation: The Father (Gen. 1:1); the Son (the spoken Word of God; Gen. 1:3, John 1:1, Col. 1:16); and the Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:2). Then, we see a conversation among the Trinity in Gen. 1:26: “Let US make man in OUR own image, after OUR likeness.”
We see the same presence of the Trinity later at the baptism of Jesus Christ: The Father spoke from Heaven and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove! Jesus further established the doctrine of the Trinity in Matthew 28:19: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Apostle John, who wrote the Book of Revelation after a vision of Heaven, further propagated this understanding of the Trinity in his statement: Grace be unto you from Him (the Father),… the seven Spirits (the Holy Spirit),… and from Jesus Christ… (the Son) (Rev. 1:4,5). John firmly establishes the doctrine of the Trinity in 1 John 5:7: “There are three that bear record in Heaven; the Father, the Word (Jesus; John 1:1), and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.”
(Anything to be established as doctrine should have been foreshadowed in the Old Testament, taught by the Lord Jesus Christ, and be a part of the theology formed by the disciples of Jesus in the Epistles.)
Nature of the Trinity
Now that we have observed Scriptural references for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, it is important for us to also understand their nature.
They are one in essence, attributes and power. None is more or less powerful. Just like the Father; the Son and the Holy Spirit are also eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, infinitely wise, loving, kind and merciful.
How the Trinity Works
God loves the fellowship of human beings, but God is not at all dependent on us for fellowship because there is perfect fellowship among the Trinity itself. There is absolute love, joy and peace within the Godhead.
United: There is complete unity in the motive and actions of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They are completely submissive to each other to the extent that they are completely one in the very literal sense.
Like Jesus said: “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father” (John 14). Furthermore, Jesus promised that He will never leave the disciples, and sent the Holy Spirit to be with them until the very end. That is how identical and united they are.
Yet Distinct: Although there is absolute oneness in the personality and Will of the Trinity, there are differences in their respective functions.
A basic way of understanding the Trinity is through the use of a metaphor involving the sun, light and heat. From the sun comes the light; we see it and when we don’t see it, we feel its heat. All these three are inclusive; yet, have their own individual characteristics.
Right from creation to redemption, and to the resurrection; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have completely different roles, making it clear that they are three distinct persons.
1. Since the explicit mention of the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, it is not a Biblical doctrine. Absolutely incorrect. The word “gravitation” was not part of the English Dictionary until Newton came up with his laws of motion. That doesn’t mean that the gravitational force did not exist all along. Newton only gave a name to that which already existed. The same applies here; we have only given a name to the Triune nature of God!
2. The Trinity is the Father, the Mother (Mary, who was the mother of Jesus on earth), and the Son. Absolutely incorrect. This concept is not based on the Word of God. Mary was only a carrier of what God had predestined and she had no direct involvement with the Trinity whatsoever. She was chosen to manifest Jesus on the earth; period.
3. The Trinity contradicts the verse in Deuteronomy 6:4. Absolutely incorrect. This is an argument posed by Zakir Naik, who is an Indian public speaker on the topic of Islam. He is featured at many Islamic conferences and debates the accuracy of the Word of God, specifically taking issue with Deuteronomy 6:4 that states that God is one.
The fact is that the Hebrew word used in this verse is “Echad” which stands for unity or oneness rather than the number ‘one’ which is “Aleph” in Hebrew. With this understanding, it is clear that Deuteronomy 6:4 refers to the oneness of God and not the one person of God.
4. God exists in three different forms or names. Absolutely incorrect. This is also another wrong understanding because we see the presence of the three different persons at the same time in the same place at different places right from creation to the resurrection.
5. The Father is an angry and cruel person while Jesus is loving and kind and the Holy Spirit is their servant. Absolutely incorrect. As we discussed earlier, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is completely one in their nature; infinitely loving and kind! You will see God showing mercy, forgiveness, love and judgement in the Old Testament as you will see in the New Testament too.
You will see the the ultimate expression of the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in John 14. The Father sent Jesus into the world; Jesus introduced them to Holy Spirit who in turn brings them back to Jesus; and Jesus leads them to the Father. There is such a beautiful, mutual understanding and submission within the Trinity.
And it is the prayer of Jesus that we be one as They are One. This is exactly how our communities, churches and families are meant to be.
Discussion: What revelation have you had on the Trinity? Have you had any difficulty with understanding the teaching on the Trinity? How have you come to understand this doctrinal truth from the Word of God?