Systematic Theology: The Doctrine of God Lecture Notes, Chapter 14: The Trinity

Systematic Theology: The Doctrine of God[1]

Lecture Notes[2] Chapter 14: The Trinity

 

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;
17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

 

(Matthew 3:16-17)
How can God be Three Persons, Yet One God?

So far, we’ve looked at what the Word reveals about the Trinity and a few of the erroneous beliefs that the world AND CHRISTIANS have had about the Trinity.   Two weeks ago we looked at the summary statements concerning the Trinity:

1.  God is 3 persons

2.  Each person is fully God

3.  There is one God

Today, we’re going to look at the distinctions; or the differences; in the Trinity.

D.  What are the Distinctions Between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? 

We need to establish from the very beginning here that when we talk about differences, we ARE NOT talking about differences in their desires, differences in their plans, or differences in their wills.  In those matters, they are one.  They are PERFECTLY UNITED.  Each member is fully God, which means each member possesses ALL the attributes of the Father.  They are not subordinate.  They are not inferior.  When we speak of their distinctions, we are mainly pointing out their roles or functions.

They are not less than one another but they do carry out different activities or responsibilities, especially as it relates to Creation and Redemption.

1.  Creation

The Father spoke the words to bring about creation, but the Son carried out the decrees.

John 1:1-3 (ESV)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Colossians 1:16 (ESV)
16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

1 Corinthians 8:4-6 (ESV)
4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.”
5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—
6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

The Holy Spirit was also active in creation.

Genesis 1:2 (ESV)
2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Here He was moving or hovering over the waters.

Psalm 33:6 (ESV)
6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.

Psalm 139:7 (ESV)
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?

2.  Redemption

The Father planned redemption and sent the Son.  The Son obeyed and won redemption for us on the cross.  The Holy Spirit then was sent by the Father and the Son to apply that redemption to us.  The Holy Spirit sanctifies us and empowers us for service.  He completes the work that has been planned by the Father and begun by the Son.

A.  God’s being is not divided into 3 Equal Parts.

The Son is not partly God or just 1/3 of God.  He is fully and wholly God.  The Holy Spirit is fully and wholly God just as the Father is.  When One goes off to do something, the others are not diminished.  The Trinity together is not a GREATER BEING THAN THE FATHER ALONE, OR THE SON ALONE, OR THE SPIRIT ALONE.  They did not have to “join forces” to overcome their enemy.  Any One of them alone could do that AND HAVE DONE THAT.

B.  The Personal Distinctions in the Trinity are not things that are added onto God’s Being.

In other words, one person of the Trinity doesn’t possess attributes or ADD attributes that the other 2 are lacking.  No one member of the Trinity adds anything that is lacking in order to complete the whole.  Each One has all the attributes of God.

C.  The Persons are not just 3 Different ways of looking at the One Being of God.

This is modelism.  Each Person is real.  That is why they refer to themselves and each other as “I” and “You” and “He”.

There’s is not a difference of “Being” but simply a difference in “Relationships”.  This is hard for us to grasp, because in the Human realm, every different person is a different being.  In the Trinity, every different Person is the same Being.  I challenge you to try and understand that one!!  Every different Person is the same being!!  I just had to laugh at that one.  Then I praised God for it!!

There is no difference in attributes.  Instead, the Father relates as Father to the Son and Holy Spirit.  The Son relates as Son.  The Holy Spirit relates as Spirit.

 

Last week I said that the family and the Church are the closest analogies.  Actually, marriage is closer.  I didn’t want to say that last week because it is still an analogy that doesn’t do the Trinity justice.

There is in marriage 2 persons trying to be one.  That’s a big difference there already compared with the Trinity because in the Trinity, of course, there are 3 persons not just 2 and they don’t have to TRY or to WORK at being One.  That’s why I am reluctant to use this.  But in the marriage, there is also diversity and unity.

1 Corinthians 11:3 (ESV)
3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

The Father exercises authority over the Son and the husband has authority over the wife.  The husband’s role is similar to God the Father and the wife’s role is similar to God the Son.  JUST AS THE FATHER AND THE SON ARE EQUAL IN DEITY AND IMPORTANCE AND PERSONHOOD, SO TOO THE HUSBAND AND WIFE ARE EQUAL IN HUMANITY AND IMPORTANCE AND PERSONHOOD.  The Father is not somehow superior and the Son is not inferior.  In the same way the husband is not superior and the wife is not inferior.

1 Corinthians 12:11-12 (ESV)
11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

Just like the physical body, the Church also reflects unity and diversity with “many members” and “many gifts” yet “one body.”

Paul then expands that to the universal Church.

1 Corinthians 12:13 (ESV)
13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:27 (ESV)
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

And that is why the Family and the Church are SO OUTRAGEOUSLY IMPORTANT to the Trinity.  It is because they dimly reflect the relationship that exists in the Trinity.  Imagine never having an argument, never needing to be right, never needing to say “I’m sorry”, never wanting to have their own way, and always having complete harmony and agreement!  That’s what we see in the Trinity.

We must admit that we cannot comprehend fully most of what is involved here.  It is so difficult for us to unite these truths; to reconcile these truths.  But we can KNOW it is Truth because the Word of God teaches it.  In fact, it is good for us to admit that we can’t understand it because God is far greater than we could ever dream.  This humbles us and ushers us into a depth of worship that we need to get to and that God is pleased with.

 

 

[1] Based on and various Quotes from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Zondervan

[2] All Scripture from ESV Bible, Crossway

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