The Trinity – Part 5
This is the final installment of a series on the doctrine of the Trinity. Previously, we defined the Trinity as "one God in three distinct equal persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; equal in nature, distinct in person, subordinate in their duties." So far we’ve surveyed the external evidence for the Trinity, as well as evidence that is contained in both the Old and New Testaments. Last month, we examined how the attributes and work of God teach us about the Trinity. This month we’ll focus on understanding what the Trinity is not.
The Trinity Is Not Three Gods
Oftentimes, Trinitarians will be accused of believing in multiple gods. To some, the Trinity is synonymous with the concept of polytheism or more specifically tritheism – the belief in three gods. Those who believe in the doctrine of the Trinity believe in only one God as clearly taught from the Bible.
"Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God." (Isaiah 44:6)
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;" (1 Timothy 2:5)
The Holy Scriptures explain that this one God exists in three distinct persons who are equal in nature.
The Trinity Is Not Three Manifestations Of God
Sabellianism, also known as modalism, is the non-trinitarian belief that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are simply three different modes of one God. This false teaching rejects the idea that there are three distinct persons in God Himself.
Sometimes I will hear sincere Christians attempt to explain the Trinity by using the illustration of an individual who exists as a father, son, and brother. Here is one person that has three separate "natures" or "modes." This is a fallacious example of the Trinity that is aligned with the teaching of Sabellianism.
It is important to realize that with the Godhead we have three separate and distinct persons that exist at the same time. Notice in Galatians 4:4 we have the Father and Son distinguished as the sender and sent while in John 1:14 we have the Father and Son distinguished as the begetter and begotten. Isaiah 48:16 shows that the Holy Spirit is distinguished from God and John 15:26 teaches that the Spirit is sent by the Father and Son.
The Son And Holy Spirit Are Not Created By The Father
The false doctrine of Arianism holds that the Father is the only being without a beginning while the Son and Holy Spirit were both created by God. Those who hold to this view believe that Christ is called God because He is next in rank to God and endowed by God with the power to create. If we carefully examine the Scriptures, we can easily conclude that the teaching of Arianism is in violation of God’s Word.
Jesus and the Holy Spirit were not created because they never had a beginning and have always existed. The eternality of Christ can be seen in Colossians 1:17, John 8:58, Micah 5:2, Isaiah 9:6, etc. Hebrews 9:14 shows us that the Holy Spirit is eternal.
Colossians 1 teaches that Christ is the great Creator who has created all things. The created could not have created "all things." The power to create from nothing is an attribute of God and requires omnipotence. To give Christ omnipotence is to give Him deity.
A favorite verse of those who believe Christ was a created being is Colossians 1:15 and the phrase "firstborn of every creature." This small phrase has been the source of much confusion and much false teaching. Time and space will not permit a thorough discussion of this particular passage but allow me to quickly summarize the proper interpretation. Many Bible scholars believe that Psalm 89:27 is key to understanding the meaning of "firstborn." Just as David was supreme or sovereign in respect to other kings, so is Christ sovereign over all creation. The phrase "firstborn" is not a reference to time but a reference to position or status. Therefore the Son is "firstborn" as the first parent or first creator and "firstborn" as the governor or manager of creation. Jesus, the "only begotten" Son of God (as distinguished from the adopted "sons of God") is heir and ruler of all.
The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the key fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. It is vitally important that every Christian have a proper and accurate understanding of the Godhead. In this age of apostasy, we are commanded by God to know what we believe, why we believe it, and have the knowledge to defend our position. I hope this series has been a help and blessing. We truly serve a great and amazing God.