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Friday, January 10, 2014

How to Easily Grasp and Apply the Trinity to Our Life

If I say "Trinity," you say . . .? Doctrine that means little to you? Incomprehensible? Who cares? Denial that God is one?

I believe most Christians don't understand neither what this doctrine professes, why its necessary and important, nor its meaning for their lives. So I thought I'd take a stab at explaining the teaching. It really isn't that complicated or illogical.

What is the Trinity?

Simply put, based on the discussions at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and the Council of Constantinople in 360 AD embodied in the Creed, the three persons revealed in Scripture as being God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are all of the same divine "substance," thus there is only one God.

People get fuzzy on this because it is often taught that God is three, but at the same time, one. How can that be? This is a result of treating this doctrine within the confines of metaphysical philosophy instead of what was taught and understood at the time.

The idea isn't that hard to understand. The analogy that illustrates this best is a father and his children. There are many persons, but only one humanity. There is only one "substance" of humanity.

That is why we are not dogs, whales, or apes. Those are related but different substances. The doctrine of the Trinity says the same thing about the three persons: they all have the same exact divine substance we call God just as my children are as fully human as I am.

Why are my children fully human? Because they were not made, but begotten by my wife and me. Likewise, this is why the Creed makes a point of showing the Father as eternally the Father, being the source of the one divine nature. Christ, being eternally begotten, therefore has the exact same divine nature. The Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father, also shares in that one God-substance.

So, Doesn't this Make Three Gods, as Some Would Accuse?

After all, my son has his own will, goes his own way, doesn't believe exactly as I do. Therein is the key difference. The human nature is changeable, finite, imperfect. The divine nature is changeless, eternal, infinite, and complete. Because of that, each person sharing the divine nature are perfectly harmonized in one will, one dream, one direction, one existence.

So while there are three, they work in perfect harmony as one due to the perfect divine nature they share. It wouldn't matter how many of them there would be, there would still only be one God, as stated in Scripture. Not three. Which is while Jesus struggled in His humanity facing the cross, he said, "Not my will, but Thine be done." (Luk 22:42)

But the Scriptures Don't Use the Word Trinity.

No, they don't. So what? It is simply a word to describe a teaching in Scripture. However, the term was first written as early as 160 AD by Tertullian and Origen to refer to this teaching. It was not made up at the council in 325 AD.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD. (Deu 6:4 KJV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (Joh 1:1,14 KJV)

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (Luk 1:35 KJV)

How can the Word be with God and also be God? The same one who came in the flesh as Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. How can the Holy Spirit not be of the same nature if He is involved in actualizing the incarnation of the Word in Mary's womb? They must all be of the same nature derived from the Father, one by being begotten, one by proceeding from, and therefore all equally one God. Anything less denies the revelation of Scripture.

One sees this most clearly at Jesus' baptism. All three working together for creation to be sanctified and cleansed.
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Mat 3:16-17 KJV)

One would have to dismiss these verses to deny this truth. In which case you might as well put the Scriptures in a shredder if you can so easily dismiss what doesn't jive with your theology.

To deny the Trinity is to deny the revelation of Scripture.

Why is the Trinity so Important?

Aside from the fact it is revealed in Scripture, if it is not true, there is no hope of our salvation. For Jesus to die, and defeat the death caused from our sin by rising from death to life, He had to be both fully man and fully God.

Without the divine nature, He would not have the power to defeat death and rise to life again. As St. Paul said so well, "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." (1Co 15:14 KJV)

Likewise, if He was not fully human, derived from the Virgin Mary, He would not be defeating our death. He would be defeating death for some other created entity and substance.
Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 6:9-11 KJV)

Because none of us can look upon the Father and live (Exo 33:20), the Word was sent, incarnated in Mary by the Holy Spirit. Likewise, if the Holy Spirit is not God, then Him filling us would not allow us to participate in God's divine life as we were created to do.
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature . . . (2Pe 1:4a KJV)

If Jesus Christ is not God, we are dead in our sins. If the Holy Spirit is not God, then His life is not in us.

The Trinity is critical to the reality of the Gospel. Without it, we have no good news.

What has the Trinity meant to your life?

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