The Trinity

The understanding of the Trinity is foundational to our Christian faith but can be confusing. Scripture clearly states that God is one (Mark 12:29; Galatians 3:20; James 2:19). However, there are three manifestations of God revealed in the scriptures: God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (the Godhead).

Adding to the confusion, the term ‘trinity’ is not in Bible. Scripture itself does represent the unity of the three members of the Godhead by a single term but only by association, actions and description.

The Nicene Creed, accepted by the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in AD325, and modified at the second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in AD381, is a critical summary of our knowledge of God, the trinity and their respective roles in the time of the church.

‘We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made.  For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father. With the Father and the Son, he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.  We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.’

The purpose of this chapter is to describe the three members of the Godhead to provide a basis of our belief in the trinity and why is it critical to us as Christians.

There are three basic reasons supporting the trinity in Scripture.

The essence of the trinity

The existence of the Trinity can be clearly ascertained in Scripture for each member of the Godhead on several levels. Let us consider the Bible references below.

  • Ascribed as God –
    • God the Father – God Himself, the head of the Godhead, is mentioned thousands of times in scripture as God through the Greek word θεός (theos), the general word for God in Greek and primary names for God in the Old Testament especially אֱלֹהִים (‘ĕlôhı̂ym) and יְהֹוָה (yehôvâh).
    • Jesus Christ – He is attested to as God Himself in the following verses: Psalms 45:6; 110:1; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:20; and John 20:28.
    • The Holy Spirit – The Holy Ghost is testified to as God in: 2 Corinthians 3:17 and Acts 5:3-4.
  • By titles signifying deity
    • God the Father – Stated in His name, God (theos)
    • Jesus Christ – Son of God and God His Father (signifying equality with God, John 5:18)
    • The Holy Spirit – Called Lord in 2 Corinthians 3:18

    In summary, God is one, yet there are three distinct manifestations of the one God described in scripture, have names of deity, possess characteristics as well as perform actions that only can be of God and are associated together to accomplish the Father’s purposes. These three members together are known as the ‘Godhead’ which is known as the doctrine of the ‘trinity’; accepted by the ecclesiastical fathers from the earliest time the church could legally organize (313 AD).

    The roles of Christ and the Spirit through the Bible

    The members of the Godhead all have different roles in the church time to accomplish separate purposes. However, these roles differed in times before the epistles and the church. The section below describes the various roles of the Godhead in differing sections of the Bible depending on God’s administration of His people.

    The roles of Christ and the Spirit in the Old Testament
    • Jesus Christ
      • Creator – Colossians 1:16; John 1:3, Hebrews 1:2
      • Sustains creation – Colossians 1:17
      • Angel of Yahweh (Lord) – The Angel of Yahweh is the manifestation of the invisible God in the life of Israel. His role is clearly of deity and although controversial, is most likely the incarnate Christ.
      • Led Israel – Christ led Israel in the cloud as noted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4
      • Visible manifestation of God – Any visible appearance of God must be Christ (Exodus 3:2; 33:19)
    • The Holy Spirit
      • Creator – Genesis 1:2; Psalms 33:6, 104:30; Job 27:3, 33:4
      • Contended with man – Genesis 6:3
      • Gave revelation and prophecy – 2 Peter 1:20-21
      • Came upon selected saints – The Spirit empowered certain people such as kings (David and Saul), the builders of the tabernacle, as well as the prophets, the 70 elders of Israel, several judges, and others. The Spirit’s association with Old Testament saints appears limited in scope to accomplish specific works over a period of time. These actions by the Spirit contrast with the New Testament where believers are indwelt permanently from salvation and His power is not limited (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13-14).
    The roles of Christ and the Spirit in the Gospel
    Current roles of Christ and the Spirit

    Importance of the Trinity

    The existence of the trinity has profound importance in our understanding of God, our salvation and Christian lives.

    • Our understanding of God – As Christians we realized we worship a single God (monotheism). However, to accomplish His will and purpose in our lives, God manifests Himself in three ways: God the Father, Jesus Christ our Savior, and the Holy Spirit. Each manifestation is distinct and completely God, with their own will and purpose as part of the Godhead.
    • Our great salvation – The existence of the trinity is vital to our salvation. We understand for us to be justified, a man had to die in our place to take our sins (Hebrews 9:15). Therefore, a loving God sent Jesus Christ, as God, to become man. He was born of the Virgin Mary as man. Christ is one entity with two natures. This is called the hypostatic union. Jesus Christ was all God and all man. As perfect man He was a satisfactory sacrifice to take our sins and appease God’s righteous judgement (Romans 3: 23-26; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).

    The Holy Spirit, as a separate manifestation of God, participated in our salvation by convicting us of sin (John 16:8-11). Upon our belief in Christ, the Spirit regenerated us, sealed us unto onto our salvation and placed us in the church. Each member of the Godhead is vital for bringing us to eternal life (Ephesians 1:13-14, Titus 3:5, 1 Corinthians 12:13).

    • Christian walk – Each member of the Godhead is active in our Christian walk, as described above, with the Spirit and Christ praying for us, Christ acting as our great High Priest to mature and nurture us and as head of His body, the church, while the Spirit helps us put to death the deeds of the flesh, teaches us and provides us power (please see above).

    Indeed, God has given us a great salvation and has provided for every need to attain this, from the beginning of time to eternity future.