The Trinity
One in Purpose, Power, and Nature

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In This Lesson
Discussion | Their Distinct Personalities | Their Divine Attributes
Their Simultaneous, but Separate, Interactions | Consideration

 

Discussion
The doctrine of the Trinity has been a divisive issue throughout Church history. God's Word clearly presents the core facets of the Trinity — such as each One being called "God", possessing attributes of deity, or demonstrating characteristics of personhood.

However, some of the subordinate essences are not as explicitly clear. The seemingly self-contradictory Biblical doctrine of the Trinity teaches and confirms there is only one God, not three. But, just as time, space, and matter each exist in three forms but are each one unit, so the one God of the Bible exists in three distinct Persons — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — and yet is one God.

Illogical? Yes! Unimaginable? Yes! This is why we say the doctrine of the Trinity is discerned, not in a single verse, but by a careful study of the whole of God's Word — and perhaps child-like faith and acceptance that our God is fully entitled to be more than we can understand or explain.

What distinguishes our triune God from the triad divinities of polytheistic religions is that these three distinct Persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — are one in purpose, one in power, and one in nature. They have always co-existed and have always worked together in perfect union and harmony. They did in creation; they did while Jesus was here on earth; and they always will.

Their Distinct Personalities
[Note: We already reviewed some of the following points in the lesson "The Trinity: Revealed Doctrine". However, the triune nature of our God is such a sensitive and difficult concept that I believe it warrants a more in-depth look.]

When describing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we use the word "Person" — which is not to be confused with "human", which they certainly are not! We can accurately refer to each one as a Person because they each display characteristics of identity similar to humans — not in a body of flesh-and-bones, but in personality. They each have a will, they love and speak, and they desire fellowship just as human beings do.

Following is a list of some of the comparative characteristics of the Members of the Godhead, which will aid in our understanding of who our God is and who He wants to be to us and in us.

[Note: As is the case in all other lessons, I have emphasized the significant words/phrases in each Scripture quotation.
However, to reduce the clutter of unnecessary repetitive text, I have not added the words "emphasis added" after each reference.]

Each one loves.

    "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

    "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." (Ephesians 5:25)

    "I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf." (Romans 15:30)

Each one has a will.

    "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." (Luke 22:42)

    "All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills." (1 Corinthians 12:11)

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Each one speaks.

    "...and behold, a voice from heaven said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'" (Matthew 3:17)

    "And when he [Jesus] saw their faith, he said, 'Man, your sins are forgiven you.'" (Luke 5:20)

    "And the Spirit said to Philip, 'Go over and join this chariot.'" (Acts 8:29)

    "And while Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Behold, three men are looking for you.'" (Acts 10:19)

    "And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction." (Acts 11:12a)

    "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'" (Acts 13:2)

Each one desires to fellowship with us.

    "...that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3)

    "God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:9)

    "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." (2 Corinthians 13:14)

    "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion..." (Philippians 2:1)

Each one experiences and gives joy.

    For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD; I sing for joy at the works of your hands. (Psalm 92:4)

    "...do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10c)

    "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15:11)

    "And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit." (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

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Their Divine Attributes
Like a family name or surname, the Bible uses the word "God" for all three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To distinguish between them, we usually refer to the Father as "God", we call the Son by His earthly name, "Jesus" or "Yeshua" [also Y'shua or Yehoshua], and we refer to the third Person as "the Holy Spirit". Let's examine what the Bible says about each of them.

The Bible calls each one "God".

    "Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal." (John 6:27)

    "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:2)

    "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1)

    "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 men but to God.'" (Acts 5:3-4)

    "For in him [Christ] dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2:9)

    "But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom." (Hebrews 1:8)

    See also Romans 1:7; Romans 9:5; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 5:20.

The Bible refers to each as the Creator.

    "But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand." (Isaiah 64:8)

    "Through him [Christ] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:3)

    "He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:15-17)

    "The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life." (Job 33:4)

Each One is eternal.

    "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God." (Psalm 90:2)

    "And you, Bethlehem Ephratah, you being least among the thousands of Judah, out of you He shall come forth to Me, to become Ruler in Israel, He whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity." (Micah 5:2)

    "...how much more shall the blood of Christ (who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God) purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:14)

Each One gives life/resurrects.

    "For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will." (John 5:21)

    "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." (Romans 8:11)

    "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant — not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Corinthians 3:6)

    See also John 10:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:10.

Each One is omnipotent.

    "When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless." (Genesis 17:1)

    "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted." (Job 42:2)

    "Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal. (Isaiah 26:4)

    "Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? 'It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.'" (Isaiah 63:1)

    "Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits." (Mark 6:7)

    "After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: 'Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.'" (John 17:1-2)

    "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us," (Ephesians 3:20)

    "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." (Philippians 3:20-21)

    "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." (2 Peter 1:16)

    See also Genesis 8:14; Psalm 110:3; Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 8:16, 10:1, 19:26; Luke 1:37, 9:1; John 2:19, 10:28; Acts 26:8; Colossians 1:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Hebrews 1:3, 7:25; Revelation 1:8, 3:7, 21:22.

Each One is omnipresent.

    "And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not." (Genesis 28:16)

    "When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below." (Joshua 2:11)

    "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!" (1 Kings 8:27)

    "Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me." (Psalm 139:7-10)

    "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20)

    "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20)

    See also 2 Chronicles 2:6; Psalm 139:3-10; Isaiah 57:15, 66:1; Jeremiah 23:23-24, 32:18-19; Acts 17:24-28; 1 Corinthians 12:6; Ephesians 1:23.

Each One is omniscient.

    "Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon me, and he told me to say: 'This is what the LORD says: That is what you are saying, O house of Israel, but I know what is going through your mind.'" (Ezekiel 11:5)

    "Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God." (John 16:30)

    "He said to him the third time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?' Peter was grieved because He said to him a third time, 'Do you love Me?' And he said to Him, 'Lord, You know all things, You know that I love You.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed My sheep.'" (John 21:17)

    "This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." (Acts 2:23)

    "...these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." (1 Corinthians 2:10-11)

    "...if our heart accuses us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things." (1 John 3:20)

    See also Genesis 16:13; Exodus 3:3; Numbers 14:27; Deuteronomy 31:21; 1 Samuel 2:3, 23:10-12; Job 26:6, 42:2; Psalm 1:6, 44:21, 119:168, 139:1-24; Isaiah 29:15-16, 40:26, 50:4, 66:18; Jeremiah 5:3, 11:20, 23:24, 51:15; Daniel 2:20, 2:22, 2:28; Amos 9:2-4; Matthew 6:18, 11:27, 24:36, 26:46; Mark 13:32; Luke 6:8, 9:46-46, 16:15; John 1:48, 3:32, 5:30, 16:30-32, 21:17; Acts 1:24, 15:18; Romans 8:27, 8:29; 1 Corinthians 2:7, 8:3; Galatians 4:9; Ephesians 1:8, 3:10; Colossians 2:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 4:13; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 1:5, 3:20.

Each One indwells us.

    "...even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you." (John 14:17)

    "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16)

    "What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.'" (2 Corinthians 6:16)

    "To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)

Each One sanctifies us.

    "Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

    "Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers." (Hebrews 2:11)

    "...according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you." (1 Peter 1:2)

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Their Simultaneous, but Separate, Interactions
There are several instances where Scripture references all three Members at the same time, or where the Holy Spirit and Father interact distinctly and separately with the Son. It is important to take a look at these references and be aware of them because they aid our understanding of the three Persons being distinct and separate while, at the same time, being "one God".

  • "'Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there.' And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit." (Isaiah 48:16)

    Here, we see the Son speaking through the prophet Isaiah while making reference to the Father and Holy Spirit. While some might argue that this is not Jesus speaking, when you take the verse in context, it is clearly an instance of Old Testament prophetic utterances by the Son.


  • "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound." (Isaiah 61:1)

    Here, again, we see the prophetic utterance of the Son while referencing both the Holy Spirit and the Father. (See also Mark 1:10-11 and Luke 3:21-22.)


  • "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17)

    In Jesus' water baptism, we see God the Holy Spirit descending on God the Son while God the Father proclaims His pleasure in the Son.

Consideration
As stated in the lesson "The Trinity: Revealed Doctrine", in bringing these references together into their revealed unity, we are not rejecting Scripture in favor of a non-Biblical conclusion. Rather, we are embracing a revelation given by God and entering into a more thorough understanding of all that He is and wants to be to us and in us. I pray these lessons have helped you to draw into a more intimate relationship with our most wonderfully creative and extravagantly-loving God!


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