Trinity: Definition and Meaning
- Trinity is a theological term to define and describe three-fold doctrine of God; God the father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
- Bible does not contain a word for ‘Trinity’, but the concept of Triune God flows throughout the bible from the Old testament to the New Testament.
- Trinity is a mystery, beyond human comprehension or understanding. It is reflected through scriptural revelation only. It is not an idea from philosophical reasoning.
- Biblical definition of Trinity is that
- God is One in three distinct persons.
- Each of the person is God (not a part of God).
Non-biblical View of Trinity:
- Trinitarian view of Godhead in bible balances unity and distinctiveness of persons of God. If one of these characteristics is compromised, we find non-biblical view of Trinity.
- Christian Polytheism: If one only emphasize on the distinctiveness of God, it reflects three Gods, with different roles. (This may be similar to Hinduism concept of ‘creator’, ‘sustainer’ and ‘destroyer’.)
- Unitarianism: It only focuses on the unity. According to this view, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are placed in the lower categories (less divine) than God the father.
- Both of these views undermines the biblical doctrine of Trinity.
Trinity in the Bible: Old Testament
Before we can understand the triune God, we need to understand progressive revelation of God. God did not reveal His plans, purpose or Himself in one time and place, but they were progressive in nature. Trinity was not fully known or understood in the Old Testament. However, there are many references, which alludes to the unity and distinctiveness of Godhead.
Distinctiveness of God:
- Gen 1:1-3 – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”
- Gen 1:26 – “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image…”
- Gen 11:7 – “Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
Unity of God:
- Deut 6:4 – “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”
- Ps 33:6 – “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.”
- Proverbs 3:19 – “By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place…”
Revelation and Salvation:
- Ps 107:20 – “He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”
Trinity in the Bible: New Testament
- In New Testament, the concept of Trinity is more clear and distinct without violating ‘oneness of God’.
- For the first disciples, Trinity was more than a philosophical concept.
- They were with Jesus, God in flesh.
- They saw Jesus, his extraordinary claims, his miracles, his prayers to God the father, and his ultimate victory over death.
- They witnessed Jesus ascending into heaven.
- They experienced the incoming of Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and there after.
- John describes Jesus as the ‘Word of God’ in the Old Testament. (John 1:1-4)
- Jesus himself affirmed the Trinity.
- John 14:16 – “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.”
- John 15:26 – “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.”
- Matthew 28:19 – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,…”
- Baptism of Jesus: Mat 3:16-17 – “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
- Paul – 2 Cor 13:14 – “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
- Peter: 1 Pet 1:2 – “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”
Practical but Imperfect Analogies for understanding Trinity:
These are some of the practical, but imperfect analogies of the biblical doctrine of Trinity. Many of us may not agree with using such analogies or ideas. But, these practical examples can help us understand the mystery of Trinity. However, we must recognize that it is a mystery, which we cannot completely comprehend, with our finite minds. And we need to trust in the revelation of God through His words.
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