Understanding God Rightly: A Look into the Doctrine of the Trinity

By Elias Ayala
(MDiv & M.A.T.)

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast in his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises loving kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth; for I delight in these things, ‘declares the Lord…”

Scripture teaches us that God delights in the fact that we “know and understand” Him. Accurate knowledge of God is vital to a mature walk and relationship with the One who holds our affections. Thus, right doctrine is something that both honors God, and matures us in our thinking about Him.

However, thinking about an eternally existing, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent being can in itself be mind boggling. How can one reflect on such greatness? It is true that one could not even accurately engage in such reflection apart from the fact that such a God reveals Himself to His creatures. Fortunately, the God of scripture is a God of revelation. He has in a sense stooped down to communicate to us. This communication manifests itself both in the created order which bares His fingerprints and within our very being and conscience. This communication has also been manifested in scripture itself. In theology, God’s revelation in scripture is called “special revelation” and it communicates to us more specific information concerning the nature of God, what He requires of us, and how we are to relate to Him. It is to this aspect of God’s revelation that we turn to reflect on the majestic doctrine of the trinity.

Scripture clearly teaches there exists but One God. Consider the words of God Himself: “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God (Isaiah 45:5).” Or again, “Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me” (Isaiah 43:10). Yet, there seems to be a mysterious multiplicity to this One God: “Let Us make man in Our image” (Genesis 1:26); or again, “Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens” (Genesis 19:24). The multiplicity of the One true God is even sharpened when we consider the Person of Jesus Christ. For in many places in the New Testament he is called God (John 1:1, 14, Colossians 2:9).

Perhaps the strongest reason that the Christian church came to adopt the idea that the One true God was a multiplicity of Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) was that they had to come to grips with Jesus’ own radical self-understanding. While the New Testament clearly teaches the deity of Christ, it does so because this is how Jesus perceived Himself and this self perception was vindicated in both his works and his resurrection. However, the scriptures continue to expand upon the triune nature of God in that the Holy Spirit is clearly described in personal pronouns, and is Himself called God (Acts 5:3-4).

Thus, the biblical presentation is that there is One God in all of existence, yet this one God exists as three co-eternal, simultaneous Persons denominated: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is to say that God is one “What”, and three “Who’s”. He is One being, who exists as three Persons. A more technical definition may actually provide some more clarity: God is one being who has three centers of consciousness, each of which have the necessary characteristics of what it means to be a person. These Persons can interact with each other and in the case of God, has had an eternal inter-trinitarian love relationship with which He invites humans to partake in.

Understanding God rightly is honoring to Him. Thus, we are to take very seriously the way in which God has revealed Himself. Having a correct understanding of our creator helps us to have a deeper reverence for who He is, and it allows us to properly engage in the apologetic task which may require us to distinguish between true and false beliefs about Him. Let us stand in awe of our great God: Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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