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Baptist beliefs: The Trinity

We often begin explaining the Trinity by creating human or physical analogies. Regretably, they inevitably fall short of a faithful biblical explanation.

While these analogies have been somewhat helpful, they risk leaving the listener thinking mostly about the ideas communicated by the analogy or the analogy itself in place of the compelling truths of the Bible on the Trinity.  Most importantly, the Scriptures are the place to begin and end when we learn how to speak about God.

The Bible reveals God to us as One and Three persons, but it does not tell us exactly how the Trinity works, nor can this be understood merely by our intellect. Our faith and experience are very important for our understanding. While the Trinity is a fundamental truth of our faith, it is amazingly practical for our life experience.

What are the fundamental truths about God as triune? First, there is one God (Isa. 45:5-6; 21-22; I Tim. 2:5). Second, God is One (Deut. 6:4; Rom. 3:30; James 2:19). Third, God is three persons, each fully divine (Gen. 1; Isa. 64:8; John 1:1-18; Acts 5:3-4; Matt. 28:18-20). “God the Father…” is the providential ruler of all things. God the Son is “Jesus Christ . . . conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.“ We believe with the Historic Christian Church that Jesus was both fully God and fully human. The “Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine” (BF&M Article II 2000).

Only the Trinity can present to us how God is both above us as sovereign ruler and, at the same time, present and active in the world and in our lives in every moment.

• A Father who sends. God as Creator, has made us with a capacity to come to know Him and have a divine relationship with Him. He acts to bring us into that divine relationship with Him. While He does not abandon His rule above and beyond us, He does come to us. He sends . . .

• A Son who seeks and saves. As Son of God, the eternal “Word” of God became incarnate, living on planet Earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. He accomplished His atoning and saving work on the cross in human history. We find in Him what God is like and how we can understand and know God (John 14:7). He was sent by the Father with a purpose, and in Him, God became personal to us. He who has seen the Son has seen God (Heb. 1:1-4). He and the Father are One. (John 10:30) The presence of Christ, then, is the presence of God. Yet we cannot see or hear Him personally as when He lived on Earth.  The Son also sends . . .

• A Spirit Who serves as a powerful  presence of God. How is God present with us now and truly active in our lives? Through the Holy Spirit. The New Testament most often refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Christ, and He stands in such a close relationship with Christ that His presence becomes the presence of Christ. How, then, do I relate to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Others have explained how in this way: to know Christ is to know the Father and to know the Spirit is to know the Son, and thus the Father. We can become a son or daughter of the Father through faith in the Son, and live a transformed life through the work and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God is here with us personally. The story of the Bible is a triune story, and the God we worship is a triune God.

 

Mark McClellan

Author: Mark McClellan

Mark McClellan is the Dean of the Hershel H. Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry and professor of theology and missions at OBU.

View more articles by Mark McClellan.

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