We established in the first two parts of our discussion of the Trinity and its importance to Christian unity. We accomplished this by first locating the critical discussion of the matter found in Ephesians 4 in part one. Then in part two we established the only feasible biblical position on God as monotheism. This leads us to the final part of our discussion in which we will look at the workings of the Godhead and how unity in the church flows from that understanding.
As I asked at the conclusion of the previous part, “Why is the fact that there is only ‘one God’ so important to the church and unity?” Well we, Christians, are no less than nine times called in the New Testament, “the church of God.” Although there are other assemblies of people gathered under the names of other so called gods, none of them are truly the church of God. The fact that there is only one God means that we are in fact one people since we all believe in Him, properly worship Him, and rightly belong to Him. With multiple gods, would come divisions and separation.
As Christians we do not only believe that there is only one God, we also believe that this God is one. We do not believe in Tri-theism that is three gods, nor do we hold to modalism, that is that the one God appeared as three different persons, although He was not actually three persons, but rather only one person. Both of these positions were condemned over and over again within the first 600 hundred years of the church’s history as heretical opinions of men that failed to properly describe the existence of the one true God. Although we hold to three persons, each of whom are designated as God, we believe in only one God. We are monotheists. The Christian faith inherited this belief and doctrine from Judaism, which properly preceded it.
Deuteronomy 6:4, was and is the great Shema of Israel, in which the doctrine of God was perfectly encapsulated, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” The New Testament in no way at all departed from this essential doctrinal statement regarding God. We showed earlier that this oneness of God is our position. However, the Spirit, the Son, and the Father each bear the designation God, which leads us to the doctrine of the Trinity. Although they are all three called God and thus are the same in nature, we also recognize that there is a difference between them and that difference is established by themselves. In other words, there is nothing outside of themselves that demands or requires the difference, except their own good pleasure.
So then, the Father and the Son are different from each, for the Father loves the Son (Jn. 17:22-26) and the Son says that He came to do will of the Father who sent Him (Jn. 4:34). The Spirit is different than both the Father and the Son, for the Son indicated that He was going to ask the Father and the Father would send the Spirit (Jn. 14:16). He also indicated that He Himself would send the Spirit (Jn. 16:7). It is according to this manner that the Godhead relates to one another. From this foundation of their relationships to one another, they relate outside of themselves to the creatures that they made. To the Father is attributed origination, to the Son medium and provision, and the Spirit extension and active implementation.
What we see within the Trinity is a real difference in a perfect or an intrinsic unity. When we say a real difference, we are saying that the members of the Trinity are more than just appearing to be different. It is not that the Bible is winking at us while telling us that the members of the Godhead are different from each other. There is actual or real difference and distinction between the members of the Godhead. Yet, that difference, as real as it is, is marked by a unity that is so comprehensive and absolute that the three cannot be distinguished from each other in essence or being, for they are in all actuality one. The Bible does not ask us to comprehend and grasp this divine truth fully, it demands that we accept it by faith. It demands that our human reason yield to our divinely given faith, not in spite of our reason, but as an extension of our reason under faith’s tutelage.
The implications of this fact that God is one is therefore quite clear for the unity of the church. We have brought it up on a number of times, but it bears repeating again. As the Trinity is, so is the church. If we as a people worship the Triune God, who is three persons existing in one essence, different but in perfect union, how can we not but be unified ourselves. If God exists in this intrinsic, essential, ontological unity, would it make sense that He would not see to it that His people, who worship Him, also manifest this same type of unity. That God is one, means that His people are also one.
For a Biblical Exposition of the Doctrine of the Trinity (Preached at Berean on October 25, 2015):