Saturday, August 6, 2016

A statement and meditation on the Trinity

2 Corinthians 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” 

So what kind of God is God 
revealed to be in the Bible? Who is He? In today's post I want to consider a doctrine that is so fundamental to the Biblical understanding of God’s identity: The Biblical doctrine of the Trinity. The Doctrine of the Trinity has been attacked over the centuries as being illogical and of no real consequence to the everyday concerns of the Christian life.  However today’s post will aim to show the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity.

So what does the Bible have to teach us about the doctrine of the Trinity? 
Immediately some people will note: "If the doctrine of the Trinity is as core to the Christian faith as you claim, then why is the word "Trinity" not found in the Bible?"  True, the word "Trinity" itself is not found in the Bible, but neither is the word "Bible". The term "Bible" comes from a Greek word "biblos" meaning book and is doctrinal shorthand for designating the 66 books of the Old and New Testament as "The Book" - i.e "Bible". 

Thus too, the term "Trinity" is doctrinal shorthand in bringing together the Bible’s revelation of God. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention, defines the Trinity: “The eternal Triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.”

Three major truths comprise this very important Biblical teaching of God as Trinity. 

1. God is One God (Monotheism)

2. This One God exists as Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

3. Each Person is completely and truly God. 

Lets consider each of these in their turn.

1. God is One God (Monotheism)
The Baptist Faith and Message asserts Biblical monotheism at the beginning of its statement on God: "There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience."

The Westminister Confession of Faith offers this fine definition of God as one God (i.e monotheism): "There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense,eternal,incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will."

In consideration of the fact that we have spent the last several posts meditating on God's omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence and goodness - we must reaffirm the truth of this first fact about God in the Bible: He is One, and there is no other (see Isaiah 43:10-11; Isaiah 44:6; 1 Corinthians 8:4). 

2. This One God exists as Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
The Baptist Faith and Message then transitions into identifying this One God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Concerning the Person of the Father the BFM 2000 notes: God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.

Concerning the Person of the Son, the BFM 2000 states: Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.

Then concerning the Person of the Holy Spirit, the BFM 2000 asserts in part: "The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures." 

It must be underscored that God exists in, through and as the Three Persons of the Trinity. Each Person, in turn, truly expresses the fullness of what it means to be God, without exclusion to the other two Persons. All Three Persons share One will, One Divine nature and thus, are together the One God specifically revealed in scripture and generally revealed in creation and the conscience. All three are co-equal, co-eternal and co-powerful in their interrelating to one another. The totality of the reality that is God is in and among and through the Three Persons of the Trinity. 

So we see in the doctrine of the Trinity the confession monotheism, as well as the fact that this One God exists as three Persons.

3. Each Person is completely and truly God.
This final statement completes the circuit of our definition of the Trinity as found in the Bible. Each Person of the Trinity mutually indwells the other two Persons, thus making the unity of what is called "the Godhead" a true unity expressed in the diversity of the Three Persons (see John 14:10-11; 14:23; 16:12-14; 16:26-28). This arrangement of the Persons is expressed in Jesus' teaching of "He being in the Father" and "The Father being in Him" as well as "The Spirit coming forth from the Father, in Jesus name" (again, refer to John 14:10-11; 14:23; 16:12-14; 16:26-28). This mutual indwelling of the Persons within, through and by one another is called by the ancient Christians the "perichoresis" or "dance of the Trinity". This imagery ensures to us that God is not some static, abstract Being, but rather the living, dynamic, interacting God of Biblical revelation.