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Who is God? The Triune One

February 2, 2015

Grace to you! Today we will look at what it means for God to be a Trinity. Now the word ‘trinity’ is not in the bible. It was a term coined by the early christian Tertullian to explain the tri-unity about God. This is the idea that God is three in one, hence the word ‘tri’ for three (like ‘tricycle’) and unity for God as one. God is a ‘tri-unity’ or ‘trinity’.

The Trinitarian teaching says scripture shows a plurality in God’s being but yet God is one God. Is this so? Let’s see. First the scripture is clear that God is one God and one alone. Jesus and the Old Testament affirm that God indeed is one alone. (See Deuteronomy 6:4/Matthew 12:29) But there is more.

The bible presents the Father as God: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” (Phillipians 1:2) It also claims Jesus is God: “…and the Word (Jesus) was God.” (John 1:1) And the Holy Spirit is said to be God: “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, you have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4) The apostle Peter equates lying to the Holy Spirit as lying to God!

Does this mean then that God has three different ways He expresses Himself, first as Father, then as Son, then as Spirit? No, something greater is being revealed here. To say that God only expresses Himself in three different ways or modes is the ancient heresy called Modalism.

We get further help in understanding God as trinity when we realize that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father. How do we know this? Because the Father sends the Son. (John 6:57). Jesus says He will send the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). Further, we see each Person distinctly in action at Jesus’ baptism. “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven (God the Father) said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

So how do we put this together? Well, there are limits but this much we can say. God is one God in three Persons. The three Persons are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father. There are not three gods nor does God just appear in three different ways. The bible summarizes this teaching in the baptismal formula: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) Notice it says ‘name’ and not ‘names’ plural. This is intentional because each person shares in the divine nature but yet there is only one God. This is indeed the mystery of the trinity.

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