The Trinity


What we think about God is at the center of what we think about our faith. Getting God wrong sets in motion a stone that will crush all other aspects of what we believe. But in getting God right we begin upon a foundation that can build a healthy and thriving faith. A faith able to stand up against all that this world has to throw at us. A faith that will bring comfort, protection, and strength as we stand for Christ in this world.

As that is the case, it makes sense to begin by looking at what God says about Himself in His Word. Rather than defining God with our own words, we will let Him tell us about Himself. From that basis we are prepared to ask the harder question, So What? Why does it matter that God is Trinity? We have already hinted at the answer in our opening, but any attempts to be faithful to God must begin with an understanding of who He is.

What Does Scripture Say

God is not hiding from us, He wants us to know Him, and He has given us a picture of Himself starting in the very first verses of Scripture. Genesis 1:1 says in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. So, right from the start we have a view of God as the Creator of all things. The starting point of all that there is, In the beginning God. Connecting this passage with John 1:1 brings further clarity as he writes,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John will later tell us that the Word was made flesh. That the Word is Jesus.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

We see that Jesus was in the beginning with the Father and Jesus in the beginning is God. So that one God that created all things, that one God that began everything, in the book of John and in the book of Genesis, is the Father with Jesus. But not the Father and Jesus alone. The Holy Spirit is their right from the start as well.

Genesis 1:2 says:

And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

In just the first 2 verses of the Bible we’ve seen God is the one Creator, there is no other, in the beginning was God. And He is seen as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as we look at the whole of Scripture. But this is just the start of the Book. Just the first two verses.

If we had space and time we could go through the Old Testament and see how the Psalms speak of the Son and the necessity of honoring Him (Psalm 2:12), Proverbs speaks of the name of the Son of God (Proverbs 30:4), and Isaiah says the virgin will bear a Son and His name will be God with us (Isaiah 7:14) and the Child born unto us will be called the Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus is seen as God throughout the Old Testament, in more passages than these, and even the Holy Spirit, acting as only God does, is seen in creative acts in Genesis 1:2 and in Psalm 104:30, granting power to men in Judges 6:34, abilities in 1 Samuel 10:10.

Then there are those passages where all Three are seen acting together as in Isaiah 11:1-5. The Old testament declares what our statement of faith repeats:

We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

But it is not just in the Old Testament, no, but throughout Scripture the Trinity can be seen working among His creation. Just a sampling of this truth would include John 8:58.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him,

Why did they pick up stones, because Jesus claimed to be God. He said He was the great I AM . He said He was Yahweh, the one true God of the Old Testament, made flesh. The Jews knew what He was saying, they rejected what He was saying, and so they picked up stones to stone Him.

How about John 10:33 from the mouths of the Jews themselves:

“It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

The Gospels speak of Jesus as God and receiving worship Matthew 28:9, and the New Testament letters call us to worship Him as God in Philippians 2:10, Heb 1:6, Rev 5:12-14.

The Holy Spirit gets the same treatment throughout Scripture. We worship Him as God and through Him to God, (Philippians 3:3) for He is declared plainly to be God

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4)

And again, there are passages that connect all three. As the Lord Jesus is baptized, who do we see coming to the event

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

Jesus is baptized and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him, while the Father looks on and adds His blessing. Or how about when Jesus Himself commands His followers to Baptize new believers into the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:19)

We could go on and on with passages, but the reality is God has shown Himself to be The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One glorious God eternally existent in three divine Persons.

Why Does It Matter

Apart from saying it matters because that is who God has revealed Himself to be, which I am more than willing to say, there are any number of other reasons why this is more than a theological exercise. This is more important than getting the right answer, it is about getting the right God.

While there are lots of ways to go about this “why does it matter” question, to keep this short and simple, it is enough for this post to keep our focus on the love of God, and the God of love.

I just recently read about a Scottish author and theologian from the middle 1100’s AD named Richard of St. Victor, after the Abbey he lived in. Richard made the claim that the Trinity is important, not just because God says it in His Word, which again should be enough, but also because it is who God is. To miss this is to miss God Himself. To deny the Trinity is to deny all that God is, it would be to leave the faith entirely, and create your own God. An idol made in your own image.

Richard starts with God’s self revelation as loving. God doesn’t just act loving, He Himself is loving. The perfection of love in Himself. But love for oneself is not really love, it’s narcissism. However, with the picture of God as a Father, eternally loving the Son, a truer understanding of what love is develops. An abiding love of Father for Son.

But, Richard argues, there is more to it than just that. The love between two people can be deep, but is also selfish and excludes others. It is a miserly love that separates and does not lead to creation. But again, God is love, true love, perfect love, and therefore He has a self-sacrificing, sharing, and growing love. The Father’s love for the Son is a secure and pure love, that spreads to the Holy Spirit, includes Him, and rejoices in Him.

What we can see in Richards discussion of the love of the Trinity is that God creates the world out of an abundance of His love. A pure desire to spread the joy and blessing He has in Trinity. What caught my attention in this is that creation becomes the outpouring of the perfect love of our God. With the Trinity our value as His people comes from His abundant love for us, a love that is self-sacrificing for His children, an all-encompassing love that spreads to every aspect of His creation and adds worth to all that He has made.

This truth matters because you and I matter to and are loved by God. The Trinity is the only view of God that makes sense of that love. As the basis for understanding what love is, God must be Trinity and any lesser God is not God.

Even more personally we see in the Trinity our salvation.

God the Father’s love for His creation is what drove Him to send His Son to this earth. God was perfect in eternity past. In Himself perfect, but it was His love that grew into the creation of all things. When His creation fell into sin, rejected His love, and turned to their own narcissism, their own self-love, and a hatred for God. God’s love never wavered. It was out of love for the hurt and pain of His fallen creation that the Father sent the Son.

But it was the love of the Son that came to us. The father sent Him yes, but He came willingly out of love for His creation. The Son walked this earth with His children, cried with His children, lived, and laughed with His children. All out of love. Hear the love of the Son for His people:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37)

The cross lay before the Son, and He did not turn away. Though He could have called all the power of Heaven against the men standing before Him, Jesus went willingly to the cross out of love. Jesus died, on the cross, not for His own sin, for He had none, but for the sins of His fallen creation. He died for us out of love.

Then three days later the love of the Holy Spirit, for the Son, the love of the Spirit for His people, brought Jesus back from the dead. Raised Him up on the third day and brought resurrection life to all of us who repent of our sins and place our trust in Jesus finished work on the cross. Out of love Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to live within us, His children, and out of love the Spirit begins to transform us into the image of the Son. The Holy Spirit is at work within His people cutting out the sin, molding our hearts in love, and bringing the very presence of God into our lives.

The Trinity is the God of love, who saves. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are at work, out of their love for each other and for us, to bring salvation to mankind. The love of God is displayed in the loving unity of the Godhead, and it is a love that never stops, but continues to grow calling all of us to the worship of our glorious God.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
For further reading on the Trinity check out these resources:
Jesus In Trinitarian Perspective by Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler