Help – I don’t understand the Trinity!

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. …..
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. Church of England Common Worship (2000)

Every year on the Sunday after Pentecost churches around the world celebrate Trinity Sunday, and think about that essential Christian understanding about God. We believe that God is three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and yet at the same time there is only one God. But what does all that mean?

The understanding of God as one substance in three persons was adopted by the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD and still declared today in that Nicene Creed. C. S. Lewis said about the Trinity that it is either the most farcical doctrine invented by the early disciples or the most profound and thrilling mystery revealed by the Creator Himself, giving us a grand intimation of reality.

But the doctrine of the Trinity is often a stumbling block to people enquiring about the Christian faith. They cannot understand it! The first thing we should admit is that Christians don’t understand the Trinity either! It is a truth about God too deep for us to fathom, a “mystery”.
“We believe in God the Father incomprehensible, God the Son incomprehensible, and God the Holy Spirit incomprehensible, these three incomprehensibles being not three but one incomprehensible!”

So why do we believe in the Trinity?

WHO HERE believes in the Trinity ? God as 3 in 1 and 1 in 3? WHY???

The word Trinity NEVER appears in the Bible! Where do we find Trinity in the New Testament?

Matt 28:19 the ONLY clear reference

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Deliberate Threefold Structures can be found

in 1 Cor 12:4-6: 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

Spirit, Lord, God.

In Ephesians 4:4-6 4 There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you were called- 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Spirit, Lord, Father

2 Cor 13:14
14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Conclusion: – The doctrine of the Trinity does not lie on the surface of Scripture.

BUT that God is a Holy Trinity is IMPLIED in so many places in the New Testament..

The doctrine of the Trinity grew as Christians grappled with their understanding of their experiences of God. The earliest Christians were Jews, and Jesus Himself was a Jew, and the thing which always distinguished the Jews from all the other religions was their central belief that there is only one God. It is prayed in the shema every day, `Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.’ (Deuteronomy 6:4)

So it was a great shock to every Jew when Jesus came working miracles, preaching the gospel and claiming Himself to be God. That was the `blasphemy’ for which He was crucified. The first Christians were those who believed that Jesus really was Immanuel, `God with us’ and worshipped Him as Lord and God. They had met with God incarnate, living as a human being (John 1:14).

Christ’s divinity and His pre-existence is recognised in the N.T. We believe Christ is God, quite apart from any specific verses about the deity of Christ, because those first Jewish Christians worshipped Jesus, when only God was to be worshipped! Then in was the Risen CHRIST who poured out the Holy Spirit into the Church in Acts 2 – and only God could send His Holy spirit.

In fact it was just as they were beginning to understand that Jesus and His Father are indeed one (John 14:6) when the Holy Spirit overwhelmed the church at Pentecost, and continued to express God’s love and power in the churches. The Jews had always used the expression `the Spirit of God’ to refer to God’s activity in the world, and it then took two centuries for Christians to recognise fully that the Holy Spirit was indeed divine, personal, and a person distinct from the Father and Son, actually the third Person of God, the `other Counsellor’ who the Father gives to represent Jesus and continue His work through the Church, as Jesus taught in John 14 and 16.

Acts 2:32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

The Father raises the Son to life, the Father gives the Spirit to the Son and the Son pours out the Spirit on the Church.

Our God is a Trinity. This means there are three persons in one God, not three Gods. The persons are known as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and they have all always existed as three separate persons. The person of the Father is not the same person as the Son. The person of the Son is not the same person as the Holy Spirit. The person of the Holy Spirit is not the same person as the Father. If you take away any one, there is no God. God has always been a trinity from all eternity:

God is not one person who took three forms or “faces”, i.e., the Father who became the Son, who then became the Holy Spirit. This belief is false.

Nor is God only one person as Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christadelphians teach
The Bible says there is only one God. Yet, it says Jesus is God (John 1:1,14); it says the Father is God (Phil. 1:2); and it says the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4). Since the Son speaks to the Father, they are separate persons. Since the Holy Spirit speaks also (Acts 13:2), He is a separate person. There is one God who exists in three persons.

Separate verses of Scripture teach us that each of the persons of God, each of Father, Son and Holy Spirit are separately called God. Each are eternal. Different verses teach us that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were each involved in Creation and in the Resurrection of Jesus. They each are all-knowing, each give life. Different Scriptures say that Father, Son and Spirit each make us holy, each speak, each love, each search hearts”. (VISUAL AID)

So Christians believe in God in Trinity, One God who is the Father (God above us), the Son (God with us) and the Holy Spirit (God inside us). Within his own mysterious being God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The designations are just ways in which God is God. Within the Godhead there are three “persons” who are neither three Gods nor three parts of God, but coequally and coeternally God.

Jesus commanded us to baptise disciples `in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.'(Matt 20:19) But this belief is not some complicated invention of deep thinkers to confuse us. It is simply the response of Christians who continue to experience God as Father, as Son and as Holy Spirit, and trust God even if they cannot understand.

So what is the use of the doctrine of the Trinity?

The Trinity is a Key to correct interpretation if the Bible.

In the first four centuries the churches and theologians developed a number of statements of belief called “Creeds”. The purpose of the Creeds is to help the church through the ages to interpret the sayings of Scripture. They are keys to our understanding. They preserve and maintain the integrity and the witness of the New Testament. The creeds were developed by Christians who week in week out were sharing in worship and prayer to the God who is “Three in One”. The trinitarian formula of Father, Son and Holy Spirit was central at baptism and in all declarations of faith.

So the doctrine of the Trinity helps us understand the whole Bible because it sums up the whole sweep of Scripture’s revelation about the nature of God. We could compare the texts of Bible to the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Doctrines such as the Trinity can act as descriptions of the picture which the whole puzzle presents, even though no one single piece presents that whole picture.

The Biblical references which present an aspect of the Trinity were not necessarily understood by their authors or first readers in the Trinitarian way we understand them today. The purpose of the doctrine of the Trinity is as a framework for interpreting the NT texts correctly and to guard against heresy.

We need to remember that the doctrine of the Trinity is only a picture or a model or a metaphor for what God is really like. It is an icon, not a replica. The model is not the reality. Now `we see in a glass darkly’. The God we worship is in Himself truly incomprehensible”

And there are at least two important implications of God being the Holy Trinity.

Firstly, the Doctrine of the Trinity teaches us about God himself. God as He is in himself is community. God is not alone – in Himself He is three. And that shows us that being a person is not about being alone but about being in relationships with others. Relating to other people is not a necessary evil we have to put up with to get by in the world. Relating to others is what we were created for – it is at the heart of what it means to be a human being.

Supremely we were created to be in relationship with God. But God did not create human beings because he was lonely and wanted somebody else to talk to! God was eternally three, Father Son and Holy Spirit, in communion with Himself. God created human beings so that WE might share the eternal blessing of being in communion with Him. We said last week that Pentecost Sunday reminds us that all the wonderful blessings of salvation we enjoy are wrapped up in God’s gift of the Holy Spirit living inside us. Trinity Sunday reminds us that all those wonderful blessings of salvation come from the inestimable privilege of being in relationship with Almighty God. We have a relationship with the Father in the Son through the Spirit – that relationship with God the Trinity is what salvation is all about. John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

The second implication of God being Trinity is expressed in the cost of that marvellous salvation. Salvations for human beings was only possible through the cross of Christ and it cost nothing less than splitting the Trinity in two! On the cross Jesus cried out in Mark 15:34 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?”

These were feelings of complete rejection, no apparent desertion but a real desertion. The Son had come to reveal God as the heavenly Father. He had shocked traditional Judaism by daring to address God as Abba, Daddy. But on the cross for the first time in His life Jesus cannot pray “My Father” but only “My God”. Why have you deserted me just like all my disciples have done? Why have you forsaken me? Why have you abandoned me? Why have you handed me over – just like the Jewish leaders did and Pilate did? Why have you given me up? Why have you betrayed me just as much as Judas Iscariot did? WHY have you rejected me? How those words would have pierced the Father heart of God!

Something very profound was happening deep within God Himself as Jesus was suffering on the cross. As Martin Luther said, “Christ saw Himself as lost, as forsaken by God, felt in His conscience that He was cursed by God, suffered the torments of the damned who feel God’s eternal wrath, shrink from it and flee.” The German theologian Jurgen Moltmann puts it like this. “It was a deep division in God Himself, insofar as God abandoned God and contradicted Himself. The Son suffers in His love being forsaken by the Father as He dies. The Father suffers in His love the grief of the death of the Son.”
So the cross of Christ was just as hard, just as painful, just as heartbreaking for the loving Father as it was for the obedient Son. Any father would suffer handing his son over to such agony and desolation. God the Father was not an aloof spectator at Calvary. He looked on with grief and tears that the world could only be reconciled and redeemed at the inestimable cost of alienation from His only beloved Son. That is how much God loves us!

Amazing love, oh what sacrifice, the Son of God given for me! The sacrifice of the omnipotent Father is as great as the sacrifice of the helpless Son. God’s deity is divided! The Holy Trinity, God eternally three-in-One, is split apart by OUR sin as Christ the Son shares our rebellion and separation from God the Father!
“Christ was without sin, but God made Him to BE sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God!” (2 Cor 5:21)
So the Doctrine of the Trinity reminds us of the sinfulness of sin and the greatness of God’s love. Our sin could only be dealt with at the incredible cost of splitting apart the eternal Trinity!

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.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

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