LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

Home   About Us   Holiness Library   Bible Prophecy   Listen to Sermons  History of the Holiness Movement   Early English Bibles   Bible Studies   Links

 

 

 

 

THE TRINITY

 

 

The Apostles’ Creed identifies five Biblical facts essential to the Christian faith. These facts are the Trinity, the Incarnation, salvation, the church, and the resurrection of the body with the final judgment following. This is not just a list of meaningless, sentimental religious talk; these things are matters of revealed truth that, when believed and relied upon, enable the Holy Spirit to interact with the spirit, mind, and will of a person to perform the work of salvation.

It is not enough for a person to be able to recite the Creed or even to recite the entire Bible; but it is important to know the essential facts concerning God’s revelation of Himself as seen in the facts of the Creed. In this chapter and the following chapters we will explore these facts and their importance in the process of salvation. Before exploring these facts, consider what D. O. Teasley wrote in his booklet Rays of Hope:

 

The New Testament is the Christian’s creed and articles of faith. The New Testament is spoken of as faith because it is a written expression of what the first Christians believed. They did not believe it because it was written, for they believed it before it had been written. It was written because they believed it. “These are written that we in turn might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, we might have life through his name.” The New Testament is an expression of those principles of the Christian religion first taught by Jesus Christ and believed by His disciples and afterwards taught by the disciples and believed by all who accepted Christ, therefore called “the faith once delivered to the saints”.[1]

 

The previous chapter presented an illustration showing that each statement in the Apostles’ Creed is based on a New Testament text and not just doctrinal statements devised by religious leaders sometime in the past. That these things were believed by the first Christians is obvious. It was also brought out that the New Testament contains some extracts of creedal statements that may have been used by the Early Church in its instructing new converts. As the New Testament is an expression of the very things taught by the Lord Jesus Christ to His Apostles, and the Apostles to the Church, the Apostle’s Creed is a digest of those teachings made simple. Clearly, the Apostles’ Creed is an abbreviated statement of the “faith once delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3).

 

The Trinity

 

The fact of the Trinity is the very first article of the Apostles’ Creed as all three Persons of the Godhead are mentioned in successive order. The Trinity of God is the ultimate fact of the Christian faith as no one can be a Christian without believing it. There is not a statement that says “I believe in the Trinity,” the Trinity is understood in that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each are mentioned in the Creed.

The Trinity is not an easy concept to understand. There is only one God and He exists in three distinct persons. Christians are often accused of polytheism, or tri-theism, by people that reject the truth of the Trinity. At no time and under no conditions do Christians believe in three Gods; there is only one God. We speak of God using the personal pronoun “he” as of one Person. But each Person of the Godhead is a “he” individually and apart from the other Persons of the Godhead. Yet, it takes all three individual “he-s” to be the one “he” who is God.

The Trinity is the very nature of the person of God; it is who He is and it is who He has revealed Himself to be. There is an order within the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This order does not indicate hierarchy, an order of superiority, one over the other Persons of the Godhead; rather, the order indicates function or what each Person of the Godhead does as the one God acts. Any action of God involves the entire Godhead; no individual Person within the Godhead acts independently or without the concurrence and participation of all Persons of the Godhead. This is seen in the very first revelation of God in the Bible, which also happens to be the beginning of our universe.

 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, Let there be light; and there was light (Genesis 1:1–3).

 

The word God in these verses is the Hebrew word Elohim, which is in the plural. While the word is in the plural, it does not denote gods, as of more than one god, it is used in a singular sense, indicating the multiple nature or personalities within God, the Godhead. The Godhead is represented by the Person of the Father, although He is not specifically called the Father here, just God. God and the Father are words used interchangeably many times in the Bible, such as in John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Since God has a Son, of necessity there must be a God the Father.

The expression “God said” represents the Word of God, also known as the Son as identified in John 1:1–3, “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.” He is not called the Son in these verses, but following the text through verse 18 we find the Word revealed to be “Jesus Christ . . . the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father.”

The Book of Genesis also reveals that as God spoke the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, was present and hovered over the creation process. Without contradiction, the very first revelation of God in the Universe is trinity in His unity of purpose and His action as the Trinity. God is Trinity and He must be believed in as Trinity; to believe anything else is not to believe in God as He revealed Himself and as He exists. To reject the Trinity of God is to reject God and in rejecting God, one cannot be a Cristian. The Apostle John summarized the truth of the Trinity in 1 John 5:7, “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit.”

As stated above, the fact of the Trinity specifies function and not hierarchy. While Christ submitted Himself to the will of the Father, and the Holy Spirit has been sent by the Father and the Son, no chain of command is implied by these facts. These functions are clearly seen from God’s own revelation of Himself in the act of creation: The Father wills; the Son expresses the will; and, the Holy Spirit performs the will. The Persons of the Godhead work in concert with each other and God is always present as Elohim. There never is a circumstance where one of the Persons is present without the others; and in every circumstance no Person of the Godhead is left out. The baptism of Jesus shows us this to be true:

 

When He had been baptized, Jesus 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 alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:16–17).

 

At the baptism of Jesus, God opened the curtain that separates this world from the eternal world, giving mankind a peek into His real nature. The Son is present in the incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth; the Holy Spirit is present in an appearance resembling a dove alighting on Jesus; and, the Father speaks from heaven declaring His approval of the Son.

 

The Trinity Essential To Salvation

 

Believing the Trinity is essential for salvation because one must believe in the God Who is there. This is what makes people Christians. Mankind are fallen creatures, separated from their Creator by their sins and, as a result, they are spiritually dead. The fall of man was not the will of God but redemption from sin is the will of God. Through the action of the Trinity God made the only way for sins to be forgiven, which is for fallen persons to be born anew with spiritual life made possible through the atonement in Christ.

The Bible refers to this in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” God so deeply loves His created people that He made the way for people to come to repentance, to have their sins forgiven, and to be saved from the penalty of eternal death. In the function of the Trinity, the Father wills the salvation of every human being.

The Son expresses the will of God for the salvation of the human race. The annunciation of the conception of Jesus clearly demonstrates that the very purpose of the Incarnation is the salvation of mankind, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). The literal meaning of the name Jesus is Savior. What clearer statement that the Son expresses the will of the Father with regard to salvation can be said than in Romans 5:8–11:

 

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

 

The Holy Spirit performs the will of the Father in the work of salvation in that He ministers salvation to those who repent of their sins and place their faith in the atonement in Christ and the promise of God the Father. Mankind are dead in trespasses and sin and must be born again into a new life, a spiritual life. Jesus, the Son expressing the will of the Father, teaches exactly this in John 3:6–8:

 

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.

 

Salvation is not limited to the work of Jesus, neither is it the work of just the Father or just the Holy Spirit, it is the untied work of the Trinity. Jesus made this clear to His disciples in His very last teaching as seen in John 14:23–26:

 

Jesus answered and said to him, 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. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while being present with 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 things that I said to you.

 

Jesus first speaks of the Father and Himself coming to make their home with those who keep His words. He goes on to say that this coming is accomplished by the coming of the Holy Spirit whom the Father sends in His name. Since the Father and Son make their home in believers when the Holy Spirit comes into their lives, it is obvious that the Trinity lives in believers through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. It is not uncommon among Christians to hear them speak of being filled with the Holy Spirit, as if it were only the Holy Spirit that lives in their lives. In reality, it is the Triune God that takes up His presence in the lives of believers. This is spiritual life; this is salvation from sin; and this is holiness.

 

The Trinity In The Creed

 

The Apostles’ Creed presents the Trinity under three heads. The first is the simple statement “I believe in God the Father Almighty.” This statement is given without explanation other that the Father is God and He is Almighty. The Apostles and those who followed and ultimately developed the Creed evidently felt this to be sufficient for new converts and a suitable argument for non-believers as it is evident that God must exist and that the evidence of the creation in which we live shows Him to be Almighty without equal.

The second head acknowledges the Second Person of the Godhead, the Son, and His presence in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Much more detail is given concerning Christ as He is the focus of both Christianity and the New Testament. We see His conception by the Holy Spirit in Mary, His crucifixion, His death and resurrection, His ascension, and His eventual return as the judge of all humanity.

The third head is the brief statement “And in the Holy Ghost.” This is perhaps too short, as the New Testament lays heavy emphasis on the need for and the work of the Holy Spirit. This may suggest that, by the time the Creed was put into its actual form during the Fourth Century, the church had strayed from the true teachings of the Apostles on the new birth and baptism of the Holy Spirit and was devolving into ritualism at the expense of true conversion.



[1] Teasley, D. O.,  Rays of Hope,  Faith Publishing House: Guthrie, OK,  p. 7.