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THE NATURE OF GOD - THE TRI-UNITY OF GOD

 


By James White

I. The Attributes of God:

A. Natural:

1. Spirituality (John 4:24)
2. Personality (Exodus 3:14)
3. Life (Jeremiah 10:6-11)

B. Pertaining to His Infinity

1. Absoluteness - Uniqueness
2. Sovereignty/Supremacy (Isaiah 40:12-17, 43:12-13, 46:9-10, Psalm 135:6)
3. Self-existence
4. Immutability - He doesn’t change - Psalm 102:27, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17
5. Unity - one substance, one ousia (Deuteronomy 6:4)
6. Perfection (Matthew 5:48)
7. Immensity (2 Chronicles 6:18)
8. Eternity (Exodus 3:14, Psalm 90:2, 1 Timothy 1:17, Jude 25)

C. Pertaining to Creation

1. Omnipresence - Psalm 139:7-10, Jeremiah 23:23-24
2. Omniscience - Hebrews 4:13, Matthew 10:29-30, Romans 11:33
3. Omnipotence - Genesis 17:1, Revelation 1:8, Romans 4:17

II. Moral Attributes of God

A. Holiness
B. Righteousness
C. Love
D. Truth

III. The Tri-Unity of God

A. The Creeds:

The Nicene: “We believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of all things both visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten born of the Father, that is of the substance of the Father; God from God, light from light, true God from true God; begotten, not created, consubstantial with the Father; through Him all things were made, those in heaven and those on the earth as well...And we believe in the Holy Spirit. As for those who say: ‘There was a time when He did not exist’ and ‘before He was begotten, He did not exist;’ and ‘He was made from nothing, or from another hypostasis or essence,’ alleging that the Son of God is mutable or subject to change - such persons the Catholic and apostolic church condemns.”

The Athanasian: “We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity; we distinguish among the persons, but we do not divide the substance. [Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct persons still they] have one divinity, equal in glory and coeternal in majesty. What the Father is, the Son is, and the Holy Spirit is. [Each, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is uncreated, has immensity, is eternal, is omnipotent, is God, is Lord, yet there is] but one eternal being...one uncreated being...one being that has immensity...one omnipotent being...one God...one Lord...The Father is not made by anyone, nor created by anyone, nor generated by anyone. The Son is not made nor created, but He is generated by the Father alone. The Holy Spirit is not made nor created nor generated, but proceeds from the Father and the Son. There is, then, one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. In this Trinity there is nothing antecedent, nothing subsequent to anything else. There is nothing greater, nothing less than anything else. But the entire three persons are coeternal and coequal with one another, so that, as we have said, we worship complete unity in Trinity and Trinity in unity...we believe and profess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and man. As God He was begotten of the substance of the Father before time; as man He was born in time of the substance of His mother. He is perfect God and He is perfect man, with a rational soul and human flesh. He is equal to the Father in His divinity but is inferior to the Father in His humanity. Although He is God and man, He is not two but one Christ...because He is one person.

IV. Foundation of the Trinity: The doctrine of the Trinity is based on three Biblical truths that together form its foundation: 1. There is only one God (monotheism); 2. There are three Persons - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is in direct contradiction of modalism, Sabellianism, or the “Jesus Only” teachings that deny the separate personhood of Father, Son and Spirit; 3. There is full equality of the Persons. This is in direct contradiction of Arianism and all systems that would deny the full Deity and equality of the Son and the Spirit. Each of these truths is part of God’s revelation of Himself, and no system can claim to be based on the Bible unless these truths are taken into account. The denial of any one of these Biblical teachings leads directly to heresy and false doctrine - denial of monotheism leads to polytheism (such as in Mormonism); denial of the three Persons leads into modalism (such as the United Pentecostal movement); and denial of the equality of the Persons leads to subordination-ism (Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Way International, etc.).

A. There is One God:  Deuteronomy 4:35, 6:4, 10:14, Psalm 96:5, 97:9, Isaiah 43:10, 44:6-8, 44:24, 45:5-6, 45:21-23, 46:9, 48:11-12, John 17:3, 1 Timothy 2:5, Revelation 1:8, (Hosea 13:4). He is not, in His essential nature, a man: Hosea 11:9, Numbers 23:19.

B. There are three Persons: Father, Son and Spirit:  Matthew 3:16-17, 11:27, 17:1-9, 27:46, John 1:18, 14:16-17. The Pre-existence of the Son:  Colossians 1:13-17, Hebrews 1:2-3, John 1:1.

C. Equality: the Deity of Christ: Colossians 2:9, John 20:28, Titus 2:13, 2 Peter 1:1, John 1:18; identification as Yahweh: John 6:39-41/Isaiah 6, Hebrews 1:10-12/Psalm 102:25-27.

V. The Personality of God: He is Trinal

A. Scriptural Evidence: (Quotations from The Works of B. B. Warfield, vol. 2, pages 133-135).

     The term “Trinity” is not a Biblical term, and we are not using Biblical language when we define what is expressed by it as the doctrine that there is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence. A doctrine so defined can be spoken of as a Biblical doctrine only on the principle that the sense of Scripture is Scripture. And the definition of a Biblical doctrine in such unBiblical language can be justified only on the principle that it is better to preserve the truth of Scripture than the words of Scripture. The doctrine of the Trinity lies in Scripture in solution; when it is crystallized from its solvent it does not cease to be Scriptural, but only comes into clearer view. Or, to speak without figure, the doctrine of the Trinity is given to us in Scripture, not in formulated definition, but in fragmentary allusions; when we assemble the disjecta membra into their organic unity, we are not passing from Scripture, but entering more thoroughly into the meaning of Scripture. We may state the doctrine in technical terms, supplied by philosophical reflection; but the doctrine stated is a genuinely Scriptural doctrine...In point of fact, the doctrine of the Trinity is purely a revealed doctrine. That is to say, it embodies a truth which has never been discovered, and is indiscoverable, by natural reason. With all his searching, man has not been able to find out for himself the deep things of God. Accordingly, ethnic thought has never attained a Trinitarian concept of God, nor does any ethnic religion present in its representations of the Divine Being any analogy to the doctrine of the Trinity.
     As the doctrine of the Trinity is indiscoverable by reason, so it is incapable of proof from reason. There are no analogies to it in Nature, not even in the spiritual nature of man, who is made in the image of God. In His trinitarian mode of being, God is unique; and, as there is nothing in the universe like Him in this respect, so there is nothing which can help us to comprehend Him.
     The fundamental proof that God is a Trinity is supplied thus by the fundamental revelation of the Trinity in fact:

that is to say, in the incarnation of God the Son and the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit. In a word, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are the fundamental proof of the doctrine of the Trinity. This is as much as to say that all the evidence of whatever kind, and from whatever source derived, that Jesus Christ is God manifested in the flesh, and that the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, is just so much evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity; and that when we go to the New Testament for the evidence of the Trinity we are to seek it, not merely in the scattered allusions to the Trinity as such, numerous and instructive as they are, but primarily in the whole mass of evidence which the New Testament provides of the Deity of Christ and the Divine personality of the Holy Spirit. When we have said this, we have said in effect that the whole mass of the New Testament is evidence for the Trinity. For the New Testament is saturated with evidence of the Deity of Christ and the Divine personality of the Holy Spirit. Precisely what the New Testament is, is the documentation of the religion of the incarnate Son and outpoured Spirit, that is to say, of the religion of the Trinity, and what we mean by the doctrine of the Trinity is nothing but the formulation in exact language of the conception of God presupposed in the religion of the incarnate Son and outpoured Spirit.

B. OT: “Let us”; tri-hagion of Isaiah 6; plural Yahwehs in Genesis 19:24.

C. NT: Deity of the Son & Spirit in correlation with the fact that there is only one God. Matthew 28:19-20. On this section: Deuteronomy 28:58 - “this glorious and fearful name, Yahweh thy God.” Jeremiah 14:9: “Yet Thou art in our midst, O Yahweh, and we are called by Thy name.” Jeremiah 15:6: “I have been called by Thy name, O Yahweh God of hosts.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 literally: “and My people over whom My name is called...” c.f. Daniel 9:18-19. When, therefore, our Lord commanded His disciples to baptize those whom they brought to His obedience “into the name of...,” He was using language charged to them with high meaning. He could not have been understood otherwise than as substituting for the Name of [Yahweh] this other Name “of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy [Spirit]”; and this could not possibly have meant to His disciples anything else than that [Yahweh] was now to be known to them by the new name, of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit...There is no alternative, therefore, to understanding Jesus here to be giving for His community a new Name to Yahweh and that new Name to be the threefold Name of “the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Nor is there any room for doubt that by “the Son” in this threefold Name, He meant just Himself with all the implications of distinct personality of “the Father” and “the Holy Spirit,” with whom “the Son” is here associated, and from whom alike “the Son” is here distinguished. This is a direct ascription to Yahweh God of Israel, of a threefold personality, and is therewith the direct enunciation of the doctrine of the Trinity.

D. Triadic formulae: 1 Thessalonians 1:3-5, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Corinthians 2:2-5, 6:11, 12:4-6, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, 13:14, Romans 8:26-27, 14:17-18, 15:16, 15:30, Colossians 1:6-8,Ephesians 2:18, 3:16-17, 4:4-6.

E. Statement of the Doctrine: 1. There is in the Divine Being but one indivisible essence (ousia, essentia). 2. In this one Divine Being there are three Persons or individual subsistences, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 3. The whole undivided essence of God belongs equally to each of the three persons. 4. The subsistence and operation of the three persons in the divine Being is marked by a certain definite order. 5. There are certain personal attributes by which the three persons are distinguished. 6. The Church confesses the Trinity to be a mystery beyond the comprehension of man.

1. One essence, substance, or ousia.

2. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, the Spirit is not the Father. 3 subsistences - “personal self-distinctions within the Divine essence.” 3 modes of existence - there are personal relations between the three.

3. Naturally following from the indivisibility of the ousia of God. Hence, there can be no subordination of one Person to another with respect to essential being. Turretin once said, “The mind of the worshiper will not be distracted by the consideration that there are three Divine persons, if he remembers that the whole Divine essence is in each of the persons, so that if he worships one he worships all.”

4. Father, Son, Spirit. Son is begotten by the Father (book example). Spirit is spirited or proceeds from both Father and Son (Western) - also seen in the positions each took in the Eternal Covenant of Redemption.

5. opera ad intra: Father generation; Son filiation; Spirit procession. opera ad extra:  creation, redemption, sanctification.

6. Finite versus infinite existence.

F. Eternal Covenant of Redemption

Remember the voluntariness of Christ’s humiliation, His unique new position, how that explains the “my God” passages and how this reflects the inherent positions within the eternal Trinity.

“In interpreting those passages in which omnipotence and divine exaltation (Phil. 2:9) are said to be “given” to the incarnate Son, it must be recollected that it requires an infinite nature to receive and wield such infinite gifts... They are communicable only to an infinite person.” (Shedd, vol. 1., p. 318).


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