Contending for the Trinity by Pastor John Samson
Some months ago I visited the newly developed web site of an independent minister friend of mine, whom I have known for more than two decades.
I was interested to see the improvements and enjoyed seeing the upgraded graphics and the easy to read text. However, curiosity got the better of me and I clicked on the Statement of Faith link (the statement of faith is the first thing I look at when assessing a Church or ministry). I thought I would enjoy reading what my friend had posted there. But in reading it, I became deeply troubled as I read the following sentence: "We believe there is one living and true God (manifested as Father, Son and Holy Spirit) infinitely perfect and eternal in existence."
The phrase "one God... manifested as Father, Son and Spirit" was far too vague for me, and if I was honest, could easily be interpreted as embracing one of the age old heresies of the past, Sabellianism, which says that there is one God who manifests Himself sometimes as Father, sometimes as the Son, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit. I was sufficiently concerned to contact my friend immediately by way of e-mail.
I wrote of my pleasure in seeing the newly acquired upgrades on his site but mentioned that he might want to review his statement of faith and quickly change the wording, as it could, in its present form, be perceived as being heretical. I thought I was acting as a good friend in pointing this out.
The reaction was very slow in coming, but when it did come, was cool. Six months on, the statement of faith on his website remains unchanged. I am left to believe that one of two things governs my friend's thinking: 1) He really does believe the age old Sabellian heresy; or 2) He doesn't think it is an issue worth taking five minutes of his time over. I tend to think that my friend falls into the second category, but either way, I remain perturbed because the Trinity, as I understand it, is one of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.
Very few people have a firm grasp of the concept of the Trinity. It is important therefore to determine what we as Christians mean by the term. The doctrine of the Trinity, stated simply is that there is one eternal being of God, and this one being of God is shared by three co-equal, co-eternal persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is therefore one in essense and three in personality.
It is necessary here to distinguish between the terms "being" and "person." It would be a contradiction, obviously, to say that there are three beings within one being, or three persons within one person. There is no contradiction though because that is not what is being said at all. There is one eternal, infinite being of God, shared fully and completely by three persons, Father, Son and Spirit. One what and three who's.
All the major cults today (Jehovah's Witnesses, the Latter Day Saints or Mormons, etc.) contend that Christians have simply made up the concept of the Trinity, saying that the term is not even found in the Bible. Though it is true that the actual term cannot be found in Scripture, I would have to say, "so what?" for even the word "Bible" is not found in the Bible! The term "Bible" comes from the word biblos meaning "book," and therefore means "the Book." The Bible is not just "a" book but "the" book, because it is the very Word of Almighty God, and therefore the most important book anyone can ever read, for it is the only one that is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16).
The phrase "substitionary atonement of Christ" is not found in the Bible either, yet I believe in the substitutionary atonement of Christ and in the Trinity because these concepts are definitely taught in the Bible. How so? While the actual terms are not found in the Scripture, the doctrines certainly are.
On the basis of Scripture itself, Christians throughout the centuries have professed belief in the Holy Trinity. This is because the following three things are very clearly taught in Scripture:
(1) There is only one God, who is eternal and immutable (unchanging). (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10; Mal. 3:6; Mark 12:29; John 17:3; 1 Tim. 2:5; Jam. 2:19)
(2) There are three eternal Persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These Persons are never identified with one another - that is, they are carefully differentiated as distinct Persons. The Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Holy Spirit, and nor is the Holy Spirit the Father. (Matt: 3:13-17; 28:19; Luke 10:22; John 1:1, 2; 3:16, 17; 15:26; 16:7; 17:1-26; 2 Cor. 13:14)
(3) The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, are identified as being full Deity - that is, the Bible teaches the Deity of the Father, the Deity of Christ and the Deity of the Holy Spirit. (Isa. 9:6; John 17:3; John 1:1, 18; 8:58; 20:28; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1; Acts 5:3, 4; 2 Cor. 3:17, 18)
When someone denies any of these three statements, severe error is the result. Dr. James White states, "if one denies that there are Three Persons, it results in the "Oneness" teaching of the United Pentecostal Church and others. If one denies Full Equality, one is left with Three Persons and One God, resulting in "subordinationism" as seen in Jehovah's Witnesses, the Way International, etc. ... The Jehovah's Witnesses deny Full Equality (i.e., they believe that Jesus is Michael the Archangel), they deny the Three Persons (the Holy Spirit is an impersonal, active "force" like electricity) and One God (they say Jesus is "a god" - a lesser divinity than Yahweh). And, if one denies One God, one is left with polytheism, the belief in many gods, as seen clearly in the Mormon Church, perhaps the most polytheistic religion I have encountered."
I trust that by the grace of God, we as Christians will continue to contend for the doctrine of the Trinity, for God is one in essense and three in personality: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For more study and articles on the Trinity, I recommend the following found here.