The essential doctrine of the Trinity
Published: 30 August 2014 (GMT+10)
While we focus on the doctrine of creation, there are other foundational doctrines which creation depends on, and one of these is the doctrine of the Trinity. Rose W., UK, writes in with some misunderstandings about this doctrine, and Lita Cosner responds:
“When Christ (God) appeared in the flesh”—this quote is from one of the CMI webpages and I have seen others like it but I cannot accept the idea that you seem to think God is Jesus is God?
Surely when a passage states God appeared it is referring to Jesus the Son of God who is carrying out His Father’s work and so has the authority of God?
I think I’ve read on CMI pages that the ‘Holy Spirit’ is a real being when quite clearly the passages mean simply that people are receiving guidance and mental gifts in a sort of telepathic and empowering way—perhaps directly by invisible angels?But the Bible clearly teaches that the Son pre-existed Creation, and was the agent of Creation.
I cannot understand why you hold to a belief in a Trinity! It makes a nonsense of God and his Son and the angels.
Surely God was able to create a Son who had/has the power to create a real live human form that can eat, drink, tire just as any other—and also able to appear and disappear at will—exactly as angels can and do—as the record of Herod being instantly struck down shows.
Herod accepted the praises unaware that an invisible angel was stood/hovering next to him and when he didn’t refute the praise the angel physically struck him dead. Lots of people refuse to accept this type of death and say he had bad stomach problems etc but I don’t see why an angel couldn’t immediately strike him and bring worms to life in and on his body.
Thanks for writing in and allowing us the opportunity of elaborating on why we believe in the Trinity. First, we’ve written a couple articles that give the biblical evidence more in-depth than I’d be able to reproduce in a short article, so before you read further, I’d ask that you go read the following, because the information will form the foundation for what I’ll say in the rest of my response:
No one disputes that the Father is God in the sense that orthodox Christians have always believed—He is eternal, omnipotent, and so on. So moving on to the Son—modalists would reject that He is a Person distinct from the Father, but you don’t seem to be one of those. Rather, you reject the eternality of the Son. But the Bible clearly teaches that the Son pre-existed Creation, and was the agent of Creation. John says at the beginning of his Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made (John 1:1–3).
So we have the statement that Jesus was in the beginning, just as God the Father was in the beginning (Genesis 1:1). Moreover, Jesus even has creative power—He is the agent of God’s creation. A few verses later, John even calls Him “the only God who is at the Father’s side” (John 1:18).
We know that God is certainly able to raise up created men and women for His purposes—there are hundreds of examples of this in Scripture. But this is not the description we get of Jesus. He existed before creation, and He shared glory with the Father (John 17:5). He is the proper recipient of worship that should only be directed to God—and notice that neither He nor Thomas were struck down like Herod (John 20:28)! In the book of Hebrews, even God the Father addresses Jesus, the Son, as “God” (Hebrews 1:8). So Jesus is God—distinct from the Father and equal in divine glory, but one God with the Father.
Most people do not dispute the Spirit’s eternality—they dispute His distinct Personhood of the Spirit. The word ‘spirit’ in our mind brings up images of something ethereal and ghost-like, so that might be part of the problem. However, the ways in which the Spirit is described make it clear that He is a Person alongside the Father and Son. And again, John gives us one of the best passages to illustrate the distinctiveness of the Spirit:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. … 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 that I have said to you (John 14:15–20, 26).
In this passage, there are clearly three closely-related individual Persons being spoken about. Jesus goes and asks the Father to send the Spirit, and the Spirit is sent and indwells believers. And He is an active Person—He teaches and brings things to remembrance. In other passages He intercedes for believers (Romans 8:26). The Holy Spirit can be lied to, tested, and grieved (Acts 5:3, 9; Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit speaks (Acts 8:29, 10:19, 11:12), sometimes in the first person (Acts 13:2).
So the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God—they are all distinct Persons, but there is only one God. While the synthesis of all these clear biblical truths is difficult for even mature Christians to grasp completely, the doctrine of the Trinity is the summary of everything the Bible teaches about the Father, Son, and Spirit.
Rose, I hope you come to understand and accept the truth of the doctrine of the Trinity, because it is critically important for us to understand who God is for salvation. No one can be saved without confessing that Jesus, who died to pay the penalty for the sins of those who would become His people, is God. You can find more information in our Good News article.