For those outside (and even some inside) Christianity, the doctrine of the trinity may be one of God’s most challenging aspects to fathom. We may understand this conceptually. To say we grasp this completely and fully understand how this relationship works, is a stretch. However, believing in the trinity is vital for Christians—one of those concepts that your faith needs to function properly. The good news is you can be trinitarian even if you don’t fully understand the concept.
So, what does does it mean to be a trinitarian?
What Does a Trinitarian Believe?
A trinitarian believes in the doctrine of the trinity. This doctrine states that one God is revealed in three persons. We refer to the three persons as God the Father, God the Son or Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit. These three are co-equal, co-existent, and co-eternal. While other religions may have trinitarian aspects, Christianity is the only religion that teaches this doctrine in this fashion. One God revealed in three persons. Some may attempt to paint this as polytheistic, but that is not the case because the core of trinitarian doctrine is to believe in one God, not three. Those who misunderstand this teaching often miss this point.
What Makes the Trinitarian Position So Important?
When you look at Scripture and how it describes God, no other position except the trinitarian position fully captures its descriptions of God. This will take some explaining, so I ask you to stay with me, but let’s start with an example.
“And God spoke all these words: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…’” (Exodus 20:1-5)
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)
From these two scriptures, you can decipher the following:
- There is only one God.
- God sees no one as his equal.
- He is the one deserving of our worship.
- We should worship him and no one else.
- To worship anyone else besides him is idolatry.
Now that we’ve established Scripture says there is only one God, we have to consider how we reconcile that with passages like Hebrews 1:6: “And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
This is not the only place where Jesus is ascribed with attributes of deity. He is described in such terms throughout Scripture—verses where he is called Lord and God.
When you read verses like this one without a trinitarian viewpoint, they seem to contradict God’s words in the Old Testament. In Exodus, God said not to bow down or worship any other god. Yet, in Hebrews, he commands the worship of Jesus. You must ask, “What is it about Jesus that the Father would say to worship him?”
The only thing that makes sense is that Jesus must share in God’s divine nature. If that is not the case, then God has either contradicted himself or changed his mind, and he does neither of those things. The only logical conclusion is that Jesus is equal to the Father. As such, Jesus is worthy of the same worship the Father receives.
Now that we’ve established Jesus is God, we must consider the trinity’s third member.
How does the Holy Spirit fit into the Trinitarian point of view?
The Holy Spirit is the most misunderstood and often most disrespected member of the trinity. He gets blamed for things he has nothing to do with. We cannot diminish his authority or deity because Scripture doesn’t do that. From its opening pages onward, we see the Holy Spirit present during creation, “moving over the waters” (Genesis 1:2). When you dig deeper into the creation account, you will see the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit present—the Gospel of John highlights how Jesus was present when he says “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1). As you read Scripture, you will discover places where the Holy Spirit is described as God. For example, in Acts 5, Peter tells Ananias, “you have lied to the Holy Spirit,” and later says, “you have not lied to men but to God.” The words of Scripture are clear. The Holy Spirit is God as well.
Do We See Trinitarian Ideas from the Bible’s Beginning?
You don’t have to look very far into Scripture to find the roots being laid for a trinitarian theology. The very first verse of the Bible in Genesis 1 starts with “in the beginning was God.” This is the opening stanza where God lays the foundation for understanding who he is. The Hebrew word that is used for God in Genesis 1:1 is elohim. This is a plural word that takes on a singular meaning. God could have introduced himself in many ways, but the first way God describes himself is by using a plural yet singular word. This is a trinitarian doctrine at its core: one God (singular), three persons (plural). As seen above, Genesis refers to the Holy Spirit being present, and John details Jesus being present at the start of creation.
The more you read Scripture, the only position that truly makes any sense is the trinitarian one. People may try to take other positions that fit better with their human logic and reasoning, but those are simply attempts to make God into something that fits better into their point of view.
A Common Mistake about the Trinitarian Viewpoint
Some people reject the idea of the trinity because they feel it doesn’t make sense. How is it possible there is only one God revealed in three persons, and there still be one God instead of three? If I were to view this from the vantage point of just logic and human reasoning, maybe that is a valid question. However, God’s actions and attributes do not always fit nicely into our human reasoning. If we could figure out God completely, he would stop being God.
We must recognize God’s infinite nature and eternal wisdom are far greater than our capacity to understand them with our finite minds.
As I said before, we don’t have to understand how the entire trinity works to believe it or to be true. Just as we cannot comprehend the full depths of God’s love for us, we believe it and know it to be true. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because something is beyond your comprehension, that means there is something wrong with it. That mentality will cause you to miss many things God wants to do in your life.
How Do We Gain a Trinitarian View?
While the Bible’s verses work together to create a trinitarian view of God, the fact it is mysterious means that we do not become trinitarians through education. We must humble ourselves and ask God to show us how to believe this truth. We become trinitarians by walking with God, accepting his mystery and revelation as he shows us who he is.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Oleksandr Hurtovyi
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.
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