What Is the Trinity? BY William Boekestein for Core Christianity
(24) Q. How are these articles divided?
A. Into three parts: God the Father and our creation; God the Son and our deliverance; and God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.
(25) Q. Since there is only one divine being,why do you speak of three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
A. Because that is how God has revealed himself in his Word:these three distinct persons are one, true, eternal God.
The eighteenth century German philosopher Immanuel Kant said, “Absolutely nothing worthwhile for the practical life can be made out of the doctrine of the Trinity.”[i] Was he right? Is the Trinity simply a theological secret handshake that proves one’s orthodoxy? More personally, if you affirm the historic, orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, does it matter to you? Do you rejoice in the unity and diversity of the Godhead? Do you pray in the Trinity, not simply as a “formula to follow” but as “the natural movement of a mind instructed in gospel truth and a heart enflamed by gospel grace”?[ii]
The Apostles’ Creed handily summarizes the entire Christian faith using the scheme of the Trinity. But more basically it helps believers declare their total dependence on the Triune God. Let’s learn from the Creed to affirm the Trinity. More than that, let’s be captivated by what has energized and united Christians from the start: our God is one divine being in three distinct persons.
What Is the Trinity?
This question is ultimately answered not by creeds, councils, or kings, but by the Bible. God used churchmen to clarify what the Bible says, usually in response to false teaching. But the church didn’t invent the Trinity. We speak of God in three persons “because that is how God has revealed himself in his word.” Here’s what we learn from the Bible. “The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. Yet there are not three gods; there is but one God.”[iii]
The Israelites, much like us today, were embedded in religiously pluralistic societies like Egypt, Canaan, and Babylon. Every group had their god or gods—inferior knockoffs of the one true God. So it makes sense that the most basic and well known confession of faith in the Old Testament is the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:4–5). There is one God. Yet this one God exists in three persons. The Son is not the Father, but is sent by the Father (John 17:18), reveals the Father (14:9), and is the way to the Father (14:6). The Spirit is not the son but carries on his work in the world during his physical absence (14:16, 17). The three persons act distinctly from, though in harmony with, each other and commune with each other as at Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:16–17).