As part of Grace Church Southall’s Bible Study series titled ‘The Attributes of God’, Regan King taught on Friday 8 May about the triune nature of God. You will find his notes below. An audio link (MP3) is also available to this file.
By Regan King (Church Planter)
One would be forgiven for thinking that leading a Bible study on the Trinity would be quite daunting. It may be thought – ‘It’s such a difficult doctrine to grasp’. Maybe you think ‘It’s hard to explain’. Perhaps you think it daunting because it is a hard truth to understand. Maybe you are aware of the questions some ask about the Trinity and the debates that about with Muslims, JWs, and others who deny this doctrine. Perhaps you would find it daunting because you are not certain how to defend it. Perhaps it would just take too much time to explain. Let me be clear. If you find the doctrine of the Trinity daunting, but you are easy and relaxed when talking about ‘God’ or when considering matters of Christology and Pneumatology, you may not have the right view of God. You may not know the same God I know who should strike awe and wonder, and holy fear within our hearts in the consideration of the totality of His being. You may not know the same God I know who, though He has revealed Himself, is in Himself mysterious and wonderful beyond all human comparison and comprehension. You may not know the same God I know who cannot be tied down by mathematical formulas and who, though operating in time and space, remains outside time and space. You may not know the same God I know whose understanding and way of working is beyond our finite, physically constrained thought process. You may not know the same God I know who needs no defense of His being or character, who is and in whom a whole lifetime is not enough to explain his workings. What I find daunting about discussing this matter is that here I am, a mere creature and miniscule part of this grand expanse of a universe, seeking to briefly explain the Creator. Apart from God’s help, I cannot come close to doing this justice.
The Fullness of God.
A) The revelation of the Trinity
We sing a song that declares God to ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, merciful and might, God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity.’ Where did this idea come from? What is the basis for such a statement? We read from the Bible the express and clear statement ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” in Deuteronomy 6:4. The Cornerstone of Christianity, the Lord Jesus Christ repeats this in Mark 12:29. God is one. He is one in His Being. He is one in His essence. And yet He has revealed Himself as a divine, Triune being. This is seen and understood in God’s progressive revelation of himself in both Old and New Testaments. It was a core part of Jesus’ teaching and that of His apostles and the one’s who came after them. The Bible presents real Theology and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is saturated with the doctrine of the Trinity. God is one and yet God is Three in One. The Bible speaks of God the Father (Malachi 2:10; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:6) The Bible speaks of God the Son (John 1, Colossians 1, Romans 9:5, Colossians 2:9, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:3,8, 1 John 5:20-21, 2 Peter1:1 2 Peter 1:16-21). The Bible speaks of God the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2; John 3, John 14:16; 1 Peter 1:2) If you think these contradict, look up the law of contradiction and you will see these do not. The members of the Trinity are individual persons, but they are one in the God head and operate together (Genesis 1, Isaiah 9:6, John 10, John 14, Ephesians 1). On the basis of this revelation, we see how the Godhead relates to itself.
B) The relationship of the Trinity in the Godhead
The Trinity is core in that it is the central feature of God’s revelation of Himself to man. The Trinity is Coexistant. One part does not exist outside of eternity and out of unity with the rest. He is truly Coeternal. The Trinity is Coequal. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all equally God and all one in God. The Trinity is Complementarian. The roles of each person are complementary to the other and their primary responsibilities within the Godhead differ. At the same time, the Trinity is Correlational. Each member relates to the other and operates in conjunction with the other, walking individually and as one in operation. Thus, the Trinity is coordinated. No individual property or practice in any person of the Trinity can be separated from the property and practice of the other. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all intimately related to one another and involved equally in relation to the World. On the basis of these core truths, we can better understand God’s dealings with the Universe.
C) The relationship of the Trinity in the Universe
We could spend a significant time discussing the Godhead’s outworking in the Universe, but for the sake of time and space, I have needed to narrow this down to 4 general aspects. God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit relates to the Universe in Creation. God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit relates to the Universe in conversion. God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit relates to the Universe in conformation – that is in conforming or sanctifying the lives of those who follow Him as He has revealed Himself. God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit relates to the Universe in Communion with His people, the Church. Read Ephesians 1
The Fickleness of Man
Unfaithful, unreliable, treacherous. These are words which sum up the human condition in general and sadly, man’s treatment of the Godhead in particular. There are several aberrant doctrines that misrepresent God and so indicate their followers lack the indwelling fullness of God. Some are full denials of the Trinity. Others are the result of men trying to explain God via the medium of childish illustrations that fall far short of truth. They are as follows:
Modalism/Sabellianism: The Trinity is not three distinct persons, but God appears in three different forms, sometimes as Father, sometimes as Son, and other times as Holy Spirit.
Arianism: The Son and the Spirit are not God, but merely proceed as special creations from God.
Partialism Not distinct persons that are equally God, but rather different parts, each part comprising 1/3 of the Trinity and that make up God in their union.
The Foolishness of Unbelief.
Only through realising and accepting the truth of the mysterious Almighty Creator can we fully understand who we are and who we are called to be. Apart from a proper understanding of the Trinity, we can never hope to understand our own personhood, a personhood that has been made in God’s image with the purpose of reflecting his being. Without knowing and growing in our understanding of the core, coexistant, coeternal, coequal, complementarian, correlational, conjunctional, coordinated nature of the triune God, we can never hope to reflect these aspects of His being, much less have a right relationship with Him. Without a humble submission to this truth, any doctrine of Christ or the Spirit makes no sense. We limit Christ to a mere human or we make him a less superior deity which on one hand calls in question his sinless life and efficacy of sacrifice and on the other diminishes Christianity to a crude sci-fi paganism. Likewise we make the Spirit an impersonal force that is just a philosophical coat hanger we can use to explain spiritual strength and morality. Without a robust doctrine of the trinity, we cannot have the proper view of Creation and our place within it before the Father, we cannot make sense of or be assured of conversion through the Son, we do not have hope in conformation/sanctification through the Holy Spirit, and the idea of communion with God becomes a distant, but unrealistic wish. To try and explain the Trinity in our our finite ways, or to deny its truth for the sake of ease and convenience of explanation is to behave foolishly by standing against what it means to be indwelt by the ‘fullness of God’. Do you really think you, as a finite, mortal creature can understand the infinite, immortal Creator in a way as simple as 1+1+1? Do not be so foolish!
If you have stood in denial of this truth, I urge you to repent and be filled with the fullness of God, having turned to Him in the glorious totality of His Being. If you know this truth, go out! Proclaim the truth of God in His name, the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the words of 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.”