Encounter II Lesson 1

UNDERSTANDING THE HOLY TRINITY

LESSON 1

Several texts, especially in the New Testament, present God (Father), the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit together in such a way as to strongly imply the Trinitarian nature of God.

Introduction
It is therefore important that we objectively explore this subject and trust God for a better understanding of His triune nature. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is the belief that the Godhead consists of Three Distinct persons.

Whereas there is only one God, Jehovah, the Godhead consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All the three persons are equal in attributes (omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal, and unchanging) but each one of them is distinctive in nature and each one has unique functions.

Whereas the Bible does not directly speak of the Trinity, the Scripture in several places reveals God as existing as more than one person.

  1. God spoke in plurality at creation

In the creation process, it is recorded that God was singularly involved at the beginning of creation.

Genesis 1:1

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”.

However, later in the creation process, God spoke as if there were more than one person involved.

  • Genesis 1:26
    “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

God here says, “Let us make…in our image…in our likeness” instead of “Let me make…in my image…in my likeness.”

The implication is that there is more than one person involved.

  1. God acted in plurality at the Tower of Babel

When God was unhappy about the construction of the Tower of Babel, He came down to stop the work on the project.

Genesis 11:5

“But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building”.

God is here reported as coming down as one person. However, when God spoke about His intended action, He spoke as if they were more than one.

Genesis 11:7

“Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other”.

Here too God says, “Let us go…” instead of “Let me go…” thereby implying some form of plurality. There are several occasions in the Bible that God manifests Himself simultaneously in three persons.

There are also Biblical texts that refer to the three persons of the Godhead at the same time.

  1. The reality of the Trinity was manifest at Jesus’ Baptism

When Jesus came to John to be baptised, all the three persons of the Godhead were present and distinct from each other.

Matthew 3:16-17

“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.”

On this occasion:

The Son is present in the person of Jesus, The Holy Spirit is present in the form of a dove.The Father is present as a voice from Heaven. All are present simultaneously.

  1. The unity of the Trinity is implied in the Great Commission

After His resurrection and before He ascended into heaven, Jesus called together His disciples and gave them the command to go spread the Gospel in all the world.

In that commission, Jesus explicitly mentioned the three persons of the Godhead.

Matthew 28:19

‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’.

Note

We note here that Jesus commands that baptism be done “in the name” (singular) rather than “in the names” (plural). This implies that there is only one name or one being (God). And yet Jesus proceeds to mention three distinct persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Whereas Jehovah exists as one Divine Being, each of the three members of the Trinity plays a distinct role in relation to the universe and especially in salvation.

  1. Peter identified the specific roles of the Trinity

At the opening of his letter, Peter outlines the role of each member of the Godhead in the work of salvation.

1 Peter 1:1-2

“To God’s elect…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood”.

God the Father has made an eternal choice of the believers (the elect); God the Holy Spirit sanctifies (purifies) them, in accordance with the redeeming blood of God the Son.

Thus the Father elects, the Son redeems, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies

2. In the Pauline benediction we see One God ministering in three unique ways

Paul pronounced a special blessing upon the Church. He prayed for the believers to experience a unique relationship with each member of the Godhead.

2 Corinthians 13:14

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”.

Paul identifies God’s grace (special favour) as brought through the Son, God’s love is lavished by the Father, and God’s abiding presence is administered through the Holy Spirit.

Class Discussion

1.Share with your group what you find most difficult to understand or believe about the Holy Trinity.

2.How have you tried to resolve it, if at all?

This is a question that many Christians have asked over the centuries. At its core is the matter about the significance and relevance of the doctrine of the Trinity to the Christian faith. Can Christianity stand without the belief in the Trinity?

  1. Without Trinity, God becomes alienated from His people

At the core of the doctrine of trinity is the fact that a majestic, mighty, and awesome God; through Jesus the Son, became our Father in order to save us.

Matthew 1:21-23

She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”

The angel declared to Joseph that Jesus would be the incarnation of God among His people. Thus, whereas the Bible is clear that no one can see God and live, through Jesus we can confidently come to God.

Hebrews 4:15-16

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

  1. 2. Without the Trinity, Jesus is a mere Religious leader

Without the Trinity, Jesus is not the Son of God. Then He is like any other of the prophets, teachers, or leaders of other religions. Then, the very foundation of our faith fundamentally collapses!

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus declares here that God’s redeeming love for the world is expressed in the gift of “His one and only Son.” Thus to deny Jesus’ deity is to reject this fundamental gift.

John 3:18

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”.

Jesus is clear that belief in Jesus as the Son leads to salvation, but whoever denies or rejects Jesus as the Son of God “stands condemned already…” Why such a strong judgement?

This is because such a person“…has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

  1. Without the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is a mere force

Those who deny the Trinity, automatically deny that the Holy Spirit is God. Because of the Spirit manifestation at Pentecost, they consider the Holy Spirit as merely a power, a wind, but not God. This is contrary to Jesus’ own reference to the Holy Spirit.

John 14:16-17

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you”.

In Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming Messiah, Jesus was referred to as Wonderful Counselor. But it appears that after Jesus had served His term on earth, He promised to “ask the Father” to send “another Counselor” to be with the disciples forever.

The belief in the Holy Trinity is central to the Christian doctrine. To deny the deity of any of the three members of the Godhead is to deny the core of Christianity.

To believe in the triune ministry of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is to avail ourselves the privileged intimacy with the most powerful and majestic God like no other.

The Father lavishes love unfathomable, the Son extends grace immeasurable, and the Holy Spirit grants power unstoppable.

Class Discussion

1. Can you think of any items that exist in three states but remain essentially the same?

  1. In what ways would these compare with or differ from the Holy Trinity?