In the last article the history of the Trinity and its definition was given in order to pave the way for the defense of the doctrine. The doctrine of the Trinity is defended by means of Sola Scriptura Scripture alone.
The Doctrine Defended
The doctrine of the Trinity defines God as one, but three in Person. This is observed in Scripture by the description that God is one, yet plural in person. The terms First, Second, and Third as applied to the persons of the Trinity are terms of order and relationship : the First person being the Father, the Second person the Son, and Third the Holy Spirit.
God is One
Central to the doctrine of the Trinity is the unity of God. The Scriptures teach monotheism, or that there is one God. This distinction set Israel apart from all of her polytheistic neighbors. Israel's daily worship included the recitation of the Shema - "Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!" (Deut. 6:4; cf. Mal. 2:10; Ex. 20:3; Deu. 4:35; 32:29; Isa. 45:14; 46:9). A significant recitation of monotheism, affirming that God is one in essence and cannot be divided.
This doctrine is affirmed in the New Testament as well, "[Y]et for us there is but one God" (1 Cor. 8:6; cf. Mark 12:32; Gal. 3:20; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; James 2:19). It is, after all, the Lord Jesus who tells the Devil, "It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only" (Luke 4:8).
God's Name is Plural
God may be one, but He is described as plural in person. The common Hebrew name for God, 'elohiym is plural. In Hebrew a noun can be uniquely identified as singular (1 person, place, or thing), dual (2 persons, places, or things), or plural (3 or more). Some have suggested that the plural 'elohiym indicates God's greatness and supremacy, and hence, associates this plural form with what they call the "majestic plural." But this falls short, especially when examined with the use of personal pronouns that are also plural! For example, God speaks of Himself with the first person plural pronoun in Genesis 1:26, "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness " (cf. Gen 3:22; 11:7; Isa. 6:8). Notice the use of the plural verb forms used in Genesis 1:26 and 11:7 .
Notice also the combination of the plural 'elohiym used with the singular Yahweh, "The LORD [Yahweh] our God ['elohiym] [is] one LORD [Yahweh]" (Deut. 6:4). It is important that observation and the laws of grammar play a role in building one's theological doctrine, not just one's own logic or reason. It is after all God who has given mankind His Word, telling us who He is and what He has in mind for all time.
Another point of interest is that God is masculine. God is described in Scripture with the masculine noun form and when personal pronouns are used He is always referred to in the masculine.
Finally, Scripture uses plural nouns to describe God. "Let Israel rejoice in his Maker [lit. "Makers"]; let the people of Zion be glad in their King" (Ps. 149:2); "For your Maker [lit. "Makers"] is your husband [lit. "husbands"] the Lord Almighty is his name" (Isa. 54:5).
The Angel of the Lord
The Lord walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden but after the fall, a separation was established between God and man. This separation resulted in the limitation of direct communication between God and man. The interface changed to events and objects like a burning bush, a cloud and the Angel of the Lord. Though the phrase "angel of Jehovah" is sometimes used in the later Scriptures to denote a human messenger or created angel, the phrase is used in the early Scriptures exclusively of the pre-incarnate Lord. This unique reference has caused some to associate the Lord as simply an "angel" or the concept of Modalism (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are simply three modes of existence or three manifestations of one God). But this is far from the true.
The Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is referred to as God, yet at the same time is distinguished from Him. For example notice what Hagar says in Gen. 16:7-13,
Now the Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. And He said, "Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?" She said, "I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai." The Angel of the LORD said to her, "Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand." Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, "I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude." And the Angel of the LORD said to her: "Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has heard your affliction. He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man's hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren." Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, "Have I also here seen Him who sees me?"
Dr. Ryrie says, "This points to personal distinctions within the Godhead. Since the Angel is called God, He could hardly be only a prophet, functioning in pre-prophetic times as the prophets did in later times."
Each Person of the Trinity is Called God
There is almost no denial that the Father is God (except by those who argue for Mother God). For the most part, the cults attack the deity of the Son and Holy Spirit. A more detailed look at the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit will follow, but simply, the Father is called God (1 Cor. 8:6), the Son is called God (John 1:1; Heb. 1:8-10), and the Holy Spirit is called God (Acts 5:3-4).
Essence and Distinctness
Dr. Shedd in his classic theology of 1894 identifies the term God as sometimes denoting the Trinity, the entire Godhead, as in John 4:24, "God is spirit [pneuma ho theos], and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." And again in 1 Cor. 15:28, "And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all [hina e ho theos ta panta en pasin]." "The reference in these passages is not to one person in particular, but to the Supreme Being as conceived of in revelation, that is, as the triune God."
The names Father, Son, and Spirit, "given to God in Scripture, force upon the theologian the ideas of paternity, filiation, spiration, and procession. He cannot reflect upon the implication of these names without forming these ideas and finding himself necessitated to concede their validity and objective reality. He cannot say with Scripture that the first person is the Father and then deny or doubt that he "fathers." He cannot say that the second person is the Son and then deny or doubt that he is 'begotten.' He cannot say that the third person is the Spirit and then deny or doubt that he 'proceeds' by 'spiration' (Spirit because spirated) from the Father and Son."
The principle of the subordination of the Son to the Father and the Spirit to the Father and the Son does not mean inferiority. "For as the same divine essence with all its infinite perfections is common to the Father, Son, and Spirit, there can be no inferiority of one person to the other in the Trinity. Neither does it imply posteriority; for the divine essence common to the several persons is self-existent and eternal. The subordination intended is only that which concerns the mode of subsistence and operation, implied in the Scriptural facts that the Son is of the Father, and the Spirit is of the Father and the Son, and the Father operates through the Son, and the Father and the Son through the Spirit."
Dr. Hodge goes on to say, "Among men Father and Son belong to the same order of beings. The one is not inferior in nature, although he may be in rank, to the other."
The Nicene Council decided that the word Son as applied to Christ, "is not a term of office but of nature; that it expresses the relation which the Second person in the Trinity from eternity bears to the First Person, and the relation is thus indicated is sameness of nature, so that Sonship, in the case of Christ includes equality with God."
The essence of the Godhead is common to the three persons, they have a common intelligence, will, and power. "There are not in God three intelligences, three wills, three efficiencies. The three are one God, and therefore have one mind and will." Dr. Shedd points out, "The common statements in the patristic trinitarianism respecting this emanation of the essence are the following: The Son is from the Father, not an effect from a cause; not as an inferior from a superior; not as created finite substance from uncreated infinite substance; but as intelligence is from intellect, river from the spring, the ray from the sun. These illustrations were employed by the early trinitarians to denote the sameness of essence between the first and second persons and the emanation of the latter from the former."
There are certain unique points that can only be identified by examining the Greek. "The Nicene trinitarians endeavored to illustrate the simultaneous existence of the undivided and total nature in each of the three persons by the figure of circumincession. There is a continual inbeing and indwelling of one person in another." (cf. John 14:10-11; 17:21, 23) "The Son is in the Father, and the Father in the Son; that where the Father is, there the Son and Spirit are; that what the one does the others do (the Father creates, the Son creates, the Spirit creates), or, as our Lord expresses it, 'What things soever' the Father 'doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.' (John v.19)"
To speak of the Father and Son as distinct is identified by the expression "another." Jesus says, "It is another [allos] that bears witness of me " (John 5:32) In the Greek there are two distinct words for another. One word is heteros meaning another of a different kind. The other word is allos which is used here and means "another of the same kind."
Likewise, Jesus promised to send '"another Comforter," the Holy Spirit that is [allos] another like Himself, "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper." (John 14:16)
Worship of the Godhead
The object of worship is to be to God alone. Though prayer is but one aspect of worship, praying to God is included with the category of worship. Not only is each member of the Trinity worshipped but collective worship of the Godhead is prescribed. The Father is worshiped (Rev. 1:4-5), the Son is worshiped (Mat. 2:2, 11; 14:33; 15:25; 20:20; 28:9, 16, 17; Mark 3:11; 5:6,7; 11:9, 10; Luke 4:41; 5:8; 23:42; 24: 52; John 5:23; 9:38; Acts 7:59, 60; Rom. 10:13; 1 Cor. 1:2; Phil. 2:10, 11; Heb. 1:6, etc), and the Holy Spirit is worshiped (2 Cor. 13:14?). The Godhead is to be collectively worshipped (Mat. 28:19; John 5:23; 2 Cor. 13:14; Rev. 1:4-5). In fact, the use of the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19 "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and Holy Spirit," relates the singular, "name" to mean the full name of deity.
Next week the deity of the Father will be presented. Though, few will ever deny the Father His rightful deity, nevertheless, presenting His deity is required to build on the strong points associated with the doctrine of the trinity.