God as a Relational Trinity

GOD AS A RELATIONAL TRINITY.

72-002 (Deut. 6:4).

The Doctrine of God-Part 2.

“Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord [the only Lord].” (Deuteronomy 6:4, AMP)

Lesson Objectives: [Understanding the Trinity].

  1. Give biblical evidence for the deity of the Father, Son, and Spirit.
  2. Provide biblical evidence for God as a relational Trinity.
  3. Believe that there is one God in three Persons.
  4. Believe that Jesus Christ is God.
  5. Know that the Spirit is not merely a ‘ghost/ an essence,’ He is God. 
  6. Have a greater appreciation of the Trinity.
  7. Have ability to discuss, if not defend, the Trinity.

Heart Questions: [1] How does Scripture prove the deity of the Father, Son, and the Spirit? [2] How would you show from the Old Testament that there is a plurality in the Godhead? [3] What are the biblical evidences for the Trinity? [4] How can you document from Scripture that each Person in the Trinity loves the other two? [5] How do we know from the Hebrew language that the ‘Shema’ of Deuteronomy 6:4 is not speaking of a solitary God? What is it speaking about, and why?

INTRODUCTION

“Trinity” is one of the most difficult subjects in Christian theology. The word ‘Trinity’ is not in the Bible. It is a theological term not a biblical one– the word itself is never used in Scripture. However, it is of course pure biblical teaching!

God as a Relational Trinity: “Scripture presents God as a relational Trinity, in which the three Persons of the Godhead experience an eternal, divine, reciprocal love among themselves, which necessitates a temporal experience in the give-and-take exchange in their nature as a God of love.”

“God is a relational God. This must be said before anything else, because this is how the Father, Son, and Spirit have existed together forever. This is what they have always experienced. This is what they will always experience.” [Norman R. Gulley, Systematic Theology: God as Trinity, (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2011), 3].

TRINITY AND THE CREATION ACCOUNT.

To understand the trinity we begin with the creation account. God is the Creator of Heavens and Earth.–  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1–2, NKJV)

Evidence for Divine Plurality:Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26, NKJV) “God said, Let Us [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] make mankind in Our image” (Genesis 1:26, AMP)

“In the creation of male and female in the image of God (Gen. 1:26–27), the Persons of the Godhead are represented by in the oneness of man and woman in marriage. Scripture specifies the reality of that image as the Spirit (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 104:30; cf. Job 33:4; 26:13) and the Father creating everything through the Son (Col. 1:15–16; Heb. 1:2b), and hence the reality of the image is a oneness in three, or the Trinity.” [Norman R. Gulley, Systematic Theology: God as Trinity, (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2011), 24].

“The word “us” requires the presence of at least two persons counseling together. The statements that man was to be made in “our” image and was made in “God’s” image leads to the conclusion that those counseling must both be persons of the same Godhead.

‘This truth, implied in the OT, in various passages such as the one discussed here, and Gen. 3:22; 11:7; Dan. 7:9, 10, 13, 14; etc., is fully and clearly revealed in the NT, where we are told in unmistakable terms that Christ, the second person of the Godhead, called God by the Father Himself (Heb. 1:8), was associated with His Father in the work of creation. Texts like John 1:1–3, 14; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16, 17; Heb. 1:2 teach us not only that God the Father created all things through His Son but also that all life is preserved by Christ.” [The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, 1:215].

JESUS: THE SECOND PERSON OF THE TRINITY.

To understand the trinity next, we will look at Jesus Christ. There are two important questions: The deity, and the humanity of Jesus.

[1] Was Jesus Christ a person? Yes He was–“For there [is only] one God, and

[only]

one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5, AMP)

Jesus Christ had personality: He astonished many with His teaching (Matthew 7:28). His style had a definite impact (Matthew 22:16). He had a mind (Philippians 2:5). He had a will (Matthew 8:7). He had feelings (Matthew 14:14).

[2] Was Jesus Christ God? Yes– “In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself.” (John 1:1, AMP) He existed from the beginning (John 1:1); He was creator (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16); He was fully God (John 1:1; Colossians 2:9); He was worshipped and received worship (Matthew 2:2; John 20:28); and He forgave sins (Matthew 9:2).

HOLY SPIRIT: THE THIRD PERSON OF THE GODHEAD

[1] The Holy Spirit is a person.

  • Jesus described him as ‘another’ paraclete (John 14:16).
    • A paraclete (Gr, parakletos) is one who comes alongside.
    • When Jesus called him ‘another’ paraclete this implied that the Holy Spirit is a person just as much as Jesus is a person.
  • The Spirit is never an ‘it’ but a ‘He’ (John 16:8, 12–14; Romans 8:26).
  • He has personality (Acts 5:32). That is how he was recognized by the apostles.
  • He has feelings (Ephesians 4:30).
  • He has a will (Acts 16:6–7.)
  • He has a mind (John 3:8; Romans 8:27).

[2] The Holy Spirit is God.

  • He is creator (Genesis 1:2).
  • He is eternal (Hebrews 9:14).
  • He is called God (1 Cor. 12:4–6; 2 Cor. 3:17; Acts 5:3–4).
  • He gives life (John 6:63).
  • He convicts of sin (John 16:8).
  • He intercedes for us (Romans 8:26–27).

TRINITY AND THE NEW TESTAMENT.

What the New Testament teaches explicitly about the triune God emerges implicitly in the Old Testament.

[1] The general term in the Old Testament for God is Elohim.

  • The Hebrew word is plural.
  • This refers largely to the transcendence of God: His power and ‘otherness’.
  • Elohim creates by means of the Word and Spirit (Genesis 1:1–3).

[2] This teaching becomes clearer in Genesis 1:26: ‘Then God said, let us make man in our image, in our likeness.’

[3] Both the creative activity of God and his government are at a later stage associated with the Word personified as Wisdom.

  • God understands the way [to Wisdom] and He knows the place of it [Wisdom is with God alone]. For He looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When He gave to the wind weight or pressure and allotted the waters by measure, When He made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder, Then He saw [Wisdom] and declared it; He established it, yes, and searched it out [for His own use, and He alone possesses it].” (Job 28:23–27, AMP)
  • The Lord formed and brought me [Wisdom] forth at the beginning of His way, before His acts of old.” (Proverbs 8:22, AMP)

[4] The Spirit is seen as the dispenser of all blessings and the source of strength, courage, culture and government.

  • And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and ability, in understanding and intelligence, and in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship,” (Exodus 31:3, AMP)
  • And the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him and put it upon the seventy elders; and when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied [sounding forth the praises of God and declaring His will]. Then they did so no more.” (Numbers 11:25, AMP)
  • The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord delivered Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand and his hand prevailed over Chushan-rishathaim.” (Judges 3:10, AMP)

[5] The Spirit of God is given prominence in connection with redemption and revelation, and is assigned his office in the equipment of the Messiah for his work.

  • And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the reverential and obedient fear of the Lord—” (Isaiah 11:2, AMP)
  • Behold My Servant, Whom I uphold, My elect in Whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice and right and reveal truth to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1, AMP)
  • The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound,” (Isaiah 61:1, AMP)

[6] The Spirit would be the explanation for the response of Faith and Obedience.

  • Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is valued as a forest.” (Isaiah 32:15, AMP)
  • A new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26, AMP)
  • And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall heed My ordinances and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:27, AMP)
  • And afterward I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28, AMP)

[7] All prophets spoke as they did because the Holy Spirit was in them and behind their utterances For no prophecy ever originated because some man willed it [to do so—it never came by human impulse], but men spoke from God who were borne along (moved and impelled) by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21, AMP)

THE TRINITARIAN IMPLICATIONS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.

The preaching of John the Baptist.

  • Repentance toward God (Matthew 3:2, 7–8).
  • Faith in a coming Messiah (Matthew 3:11).
  • Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11).

The baptism of Jesus.

  • The presence of Jesus himself.
  • The Father’s voice from heaven (Matthew 3:17).
  • The Spirit like a dove (Matthew 3:16).

The announcement of Jesus’ birth.

  • The agency of the Spirit in the incarnation (Luke 1:35).
  • Jesus would be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35).
  • The Lord God would give him the throne of his father David (Luke 1:32).

The baptismal formula: Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19, AMP)

The relationship between the Father and Son.

  • The Word was ‘with’ God shows a Trinitarian relationship.
  • No one knew the Son except the Father, and vice versa (Matthew 11:27).
  • The Father ‘sent’ the Son (John 6:44).
  • The Father ‘loves’ the Son (John 5:20).
  • The Father ‘entrusts judgement’ to the Son (John 5:22).

Preaching of Peter (Acts 2:32–33).

  • Jesus was exalted to God’s right hand.
  • Jesus received of the Father the promise of the Spirit.

Notice the following Apostolic blessing:

  • The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” (2 Corinthians 13:14, NKJV)
  • John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,” (Revelation 1:4–5, NKJV)

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE PERSONS OF THE GODHEAD

[1] They heap praise upon each other.

  • Father: glorifies the Son (Matthew 3:17; 17:5; John 5:20–23).
  • Jesus: honours the Father (John 5:19, 30–31; 12:28).
  • Spirit: honours the Son (John 15:26; 16:8–10, 14).

[2] Secrecy is attributed to the Father.

  • In the choice of a people (John 6:37; Eph. 1:4).
  • In the timing of events (Mark 13:32; Gal. 4:4)
  • In the movements and ministry of Jesus (John 5:16–17, 19, 30).

[3] Openness is attributed to the Son.

  • He was clearly visible (1 John 1:1, 14; 20:27).
  • He made known what was invisible.
    • The Father’s face (John 14:9).
    • The Father’s will (John 14:20).
    • The Father’s plan (John 19:30).

[4] Clarification is attributed to the Spirit.

  • The purpose of the Son (Acts 2).
  • The teaching of the Son (John 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:10).
  • Assurance of salvation (Romans 5:5).
  • The Spirit gives intimacy with the Father (Romans 8:15).

NOTE: The Spirit will communicate [to us] a message that He receives from the Father —“But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth). For He will not speak His own message [on His own authority]; but He will tell whatever He hears [from the Father; He will give the message that has been given to Him], and He will announce and declare to you the things that are to come [that will happen in the future].” (John 16:13, AMP)

[5] Intercession is made for us by both the Son and the Spirit.

  • By the Spirit (Romans 8:26–27).
  • By the Son (Romans 8:31f; Hebrews 7:25).

[6] There is no rivalry in the Trinity. You can pray to any person of the Godhead: Jesus said to pray to the Father (Matthew 6:9); But prayers were addressed to Jesus (Luke 23:42; Acts 7:59).

[7] Trinity and salvation of sinners: The relationship of the persons of the Trinity regarding the salvation of sinners can be summarized as:

  • The Father thought it (Ephesians 1:9).
  • The Son bought it (1 Corinthians 6:20).
  • The Spirit wrought it (John 6:63).

CONCLUSION: The doctrine of the Trinity is central to the Christian Faith. Any teaching that does not affirm the Trinity is heresy. Heresy is a strong word; it means false doctrine. You might not like the word trinity, but as we saw briefly, it is biblical.

“The Trinity, revealed in the Old and New Testaments, is a God of love. The Trinity consists of three eternal, divine, equally self-existent Persons as One God. They are a communion of love, a relational Trinity, with an inner history of reciprocal love for one another. Each one is called “God” by another in the Trinity. The Old Testament Shema speaks of God as one God, but not as a solitary God. The biblical God is unique among all gods (1) as Creator of all there is, (2) as a plurality, (3) as a relational Trinity, and (4) as all three participate in the plan to save humans” [Norman R. Gulley, Systematic Theology: God as Trinity, (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2011), 32].

ACTION STEP: What response do you think this lesson should inspires us to do? “Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He.” (Mark 12:29–32, NKJV)

The Gospel’s Voice/ Bible Study Guide/ Core Doctrines/ Godhead/ Lesson # 2.