This is a guest post by Pastor Aaron Carpenter
Almost 1,700 years ago a young deacon named Athanasius joined a conference of church leaders to oppose a popular teacher, named Arius, and his idea that the Son of God was not quite the same as God Himself. The difference between Athanasius and Arius could be summed up by a single Greek letter, which marked the difference between our English ideas of “same” and “similar.” The question was whether Jesus Christ was the same as God, or merely similar. The answer from the conference came to be known as the Nicene Creed and declared both Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to be fully God. Athanasius would spend the next 60 years defending this declaration as the only true understanding of the Bible’s teaching about God.
This teaching is the doctrine of the Trinity, and it states that there is only one God who exists as three Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – each of whom are fully God. Neither Athanasius, nor the Nicene conference, invented this idea. They merely wrote down what the Bible taught and agreed that this was a fundamental belief for any and all churches that would call themselves Christian.
Trinity a Scriptural Idea
Of course, the Bible never uses the word “Trinity,” and there is no Scripture that – by itself – defines the Trinity as I have. But the Bible does state several ideas very clearly.
1. There is only one God. (Deut. 6:4)
2. The Father (John 20:17), the Son (Heb. 1:8), and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:4) are all referred to as God. Different names may be used throughout Scripture, but it is always in reference to these three. The Father may simply be called “God” or “the LORD;” the Son may be called “Jesus,” “Christ,” or “the Word;” and the Holy Spirit may be called “the Spirit of the LORD.”
3. The Bible shows all three persons doing things that only God can do, such as creation and salvation. Even the believer baptism is to be done “…in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19)
These ideas (and more) combine to form the doctrine of the Trinity, and children of a previous generation learned it with these words: “There are three persons in the one God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These three are one God, the same in substance, and equal in power and glory.” However, while we learn to acknowledge this supernatural three-in-oneness, we will also have to keep in mind that the three persons of God, while equally God, perform distinct roles. For example, the Father gives the Son (John 3:16), the Son submits to the will of the Father (Matt. 26:39), both Father and Son send the Spirit (John 14:26; 16:7), and the Spirit testifies of the Son (John 15:26).
Trinity a Significant Idea
Unfortunately, from the time of Athanasius to the present day, there have always been those who deny or distort some part of the doctrine of the Trinity. They may believe in a supreme God along with lesser gods, they may deny that the Son or Spirit are fully God, or they may say that God does not exist as three persons but instead shows Himself in three different ways. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Oneness Pentecostal churches are some of the modern groups that hold a non-Christian view of the Trinity.
Does it matter? Some would say it doesn’t, that it’s one of those matters for theologians to debate in some dusty academic journal. But if the Trinity is the true understanding of who God is, then any belief that ignores the Trinity is a false faith. Or to put it another way, because God is a Trinity, those who deny it are, in fact, worshipping a different god. Another god. A false god.
Trinity a Supernatural Idea
The Trinity is certainly not the easiest doctrine to understand, and at some point, we just don’t have the ability to understand it fully. Even our illustrations don’t quite get it: there aren’t three parts to God like there are to an egg, and unlike water, which exists in one of three states, depending upon the temperature, God always and eternally exists in three persons. There really is no way to fully explain or understand what the Bible tells us about who God is.
But I kind of like it that way. After all, what kind of a God would He be if we could totally figure Him out? Instead, He reveals Himself to us and says, “I am so much more than you can ever possibly imagine me to be. And I still love you.”
Pastor Aaron Carpenter is the lead pastor at Central Baptist Church in Dixon Mills, Alabama. He is also a personal friend of Pastor Teis. To find out more about Pastor Aaron and his ministry, please visit his church website at centralbaptistdixonsmills read his blog Blueprints. or follow him on twitter @pastoraaronc