So far in our study of the Trinity we have looked at two key statements that help us to summarize and understand the Trinity: (Click on the links below to view the previous posts.)
Today, we are going to add the third and final statement that helps us to summarize the Biblical doctrine – Each of the three persons in the Trinity are distinct from one another. Let’s take a closer look at what the Bible says about this important element of the Trinity.
The Bible shows us that although each member of the Trinity shares the same divine “essence” they each exist as distinct personalities. This third statement is very important in helping us to properly articulate the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity. As we will see in the next chapter, many faulty views of the Trinity come about because of drawing the distinctions between the three personalities either too sharply or two softly. If the line is drawn too sharply, we end up with three different Gods. This is called Tritheism. But if the line is drawn too softly we end up viewing the persons of the trinity as temporary modes of the same being. This is called Modalism. Both represent an unbiblical view of the Trinity. Therefore, we must be very careful at this point to understand what the Bible says about the distinction between the persons of the Trinity. In addition, we must also be careful in how we articulate this truth.
One of the best places in all the Bible to see the distinction between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is Matthew 3:13-17. Here we have God the Son being baptized, God the Holy Spirit descending upon Him like a dove, and God the Father speaking from heaven. All three members of the Trinity are present and distinct from one another. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Spirit, and so forth. Each member of the Trinity is a distinct from the other two, but still carrying out the same task or purpose in unity.
An even better place to see this interaction between the members of the Trinity is Ephesians 1:3-11. We will look at this passage in detail in chapter 3, but for now simply see that in our salvation the Father chooses us, the Son redeems us and the Holy Spirit seals us. Each member is distinct from the other two, but still working to carry out their collective purpose.
Familiarity with the doctrine of the Trinity has resulted in its neglect. Many, perhaps even most, evangelical Christians cannot articulate or defend the doctrine from the Bible. To make matters worse, church members often make the mistake of trying to understand the Trinity through a picture or image. There is no perfect images or illustrations help grasp the Biblical truth of the Trinity. The familiarity of these images contributes to the ongoing neglect by creating a false sense of confidence that one understands the doctrine. The best way to understand and explain the Trinity is to simply use the three propositions that we’ve covered over the past couple of days:
1.) There is one God
2.) Three persons are called God in the Bible
3.) Each of these three persons is distinct from the others.
Starting tomorrow we will look at some of the common heresies that developed about the Trinity and next week, dig into how we experience the Trinity in our daily lives.