The Trinity and Church History


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How did the doctrine of the Trinity get formulated throughout church history. Check it out in these notes. And be sure to visit our website at

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The Trinity and Church History

  1. 1. Welcome to “Learning and Living the God-centered life” Carmel Baptist Church May 31, 2009
  2. 6. <ul><li>A Historic and Biblical Overview of the Trinity </li></ul><ul><li>Monotheism </li></ul><ul><li>In Old Testament Israel and in the New Testament church we have a wholehearted commitment to believe that there is one and only one God. </li></ul><ul><li>Why is that so remarkable, because that sounds right to us? </li></ul><ul><li>The reason is true for ancient Israel and today for early Christians because they were surrounded by polytheistic cultures. </li></ul><ul><li>And well is this clear that the Old Testament teaches one God? </li></ul><ul><li>Genesis 1:1 - “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth </li></ul><ul><li>Is this a monotheistic text? </li></ul>
  3. 7. <ul><li>And these religions they held the different gods help territorial jurisdictions over different portions of the created order. And therefore they had lordship over various parts of creation </li></ul><ul><li>And in contrast to that Moses writes Genesis 1:1 and explains that there is one God who made all of it which means that he alone has rights of rulership , over every one and everything. </li></ul><ul><li>And this is exactly what Moses is saying from verse one of the Bible: </li></ul><ul><li>There is one God who made it all </li></ul><ul><li>This God rules over all he made </li></ul><ul><li>God rules over the nations like Assyrians, Babylonians, Philistines and Egyptians - why, because He created and has the right </li></ul><ul><li>Deuteronomy 4:35 (READ THIS SCRIPTURE) </li></ul><ul><li>Deuteronomy 6:4 - (READ THIS SCRIPTURE) </li></ul>
  4. 8. <ul><li>Yes in the age of pluralism in which we live now, these words are enormously relevant whether others out there acknowledged this or not, there is one God and He reigns over all people and they must bow the knee to him or they perish. </li></ul><ul><li>Isaiah 45:5-7 (READ THIS SCRIPTURE) </li></ul><ul><li>“ I am the LORD and there is no other” </li></ul><ul><li>This is about Cyrus who was born over 200 years before this was written </li></ul><ul><li>Isaiah 46:9 (READ THIS SCRIPTURE) </li></ul><ul><li>The Old Testament affirms there in one and only one true God. </li></ul>
  5. 9. <ul><li>But now when we moved to the New Testament, in which we clearly can see God the Father , God the Son and God the Spirit . </li></ul><ul><li>It would have been easy to affirm three instead of one true God the calls of the polytheistic cultures But no the New Testament is insistent that there is one true God </li></ul><ul><li>John 17:3 </li></ul><ul><li>“ This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God…” </li></ul><ul><li>1 Corinthians 8:6 </li></ul><ul><li>“ yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him…” </li></ul><ul><li>1Timothy 2:5 </li></ul><ul><li>“ For there is one God…” </li></ul><ul><li>Romans 3:30 </li></ul><ul><li>“ since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one” </li></ul><ul><li>James 2:19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. </li></ul>
  6. 11. How did the early church develop its Trinitarian understanding given that it was committed to monotheism? In early church there was no question that the Father was full deity Who did Jesus seek to honor with his life if not God the Father? To whom did Jesus pray if not God the Father There was a tendency in the early Church to something called “monarchianism” the thinking about the Father in such a way that would render less the Son and the Spirit The Scripture talks about the Father’s monarchy or his rule over all things that could not be jeopardized
  7. 12. <ul><li>But what about Jesus? </li></ul><ul><li>The burning question for the first three centuries of the church theologically, is this question who is Jesus? </li></ul><ul><li>How can we understand Jesus is God and the Father is also God? </li></ul><ul><li>John 17:3 (Turn to this Scripture ) </li></ul><ul><li>Who is capable of giving eternal life? </li></ul><ul><li>1 Corinthians 8:6 (Turn to this Scripture) </li></ul><ul><li>Who is capable of creating the universe? </li></ul><ul><li>Look how Paul distinguishes between Father and Son </li></ul><ul><li>But he attributes to Father and Son the same ability to bring about creation the Father is the Creator and the Son is the Agent </li></ul>
  8. 13. Important passages that affirm the deity of Christ John 1:1 the Word was with God ( distinction ) you are with someone only if they are distinct from you The Word was God ( identity ) We need to see the Father and Son as distinct from one another while identifying as the same God So what language can we borrow to express such great truth? This is written in the context of Genesis 1:1 “in the beginning…” John 1:3 - the Son created the heavens and the earth that is declared in Genesis 1 he is God
  9. 14. John 8:58 Before Abraham was “I AM” Look at the response and this was not because they thought Jesus was indicating he was 2000 years old. But with this statement Jesus was claiming to be God (Exodus 3:14) the Lamb of the God of Israel is what Jesus is declaring to be. Mark 2:5-11 An account where Jesus forgives sin and of course only God can forgive sin.
  10. 15. Hebrews Chapter 1 - 6 argument for the deity of Christ Point #1 - Hebrews 1:2-Christ is creator of everything Point #2 - Hebrews 1:3 (a)-he is the exact representation of the nature of his Father Point #3 - Hebrews 1:3(b) - he upholds the universe by the word of his power Point #4 - Hebrews 1:6-the angels worship him do you think God knows that only the angels should worship God? God commands the angels to worship Jesus the Son Point #5 - Hebrews 1:8-the Greek word for God is used as the title for the Son Point #6 - Hebrews 1:11-12 applied these verses to Jesus the Son
  11. 17. Well what about the Holy Spirit? And indeed the early church had to wrestle through this issue of the Holy Spirit is God But finally as usual the words of scripture provided the evidence
  12. 18. <ul><li>Acts 5:3-4 </li></ul><ul><li>This is Peter’s dialogue with Ananias and Sapphira asking them if they lied to the Holy Spirit and then he says you have not lied to men but to God </li></ul><ul><li>1 Corinthians 2:10-11 </li></ul><ul><li>Paul indicates the Holy Spirit knows the thoughts of God </li></ul><ul><li>this is an emphasis regarding revelation, but it is the Spirit who reveals the thoughts of God and who can know the thoughts of God other than God himself. </li></ul><ul><li>1 Corinthians 3:16 </li></ul><ul><li>Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? </li></ul><ul><li>Isn’t this an incredible metaphor when a rethink of the temple of God in the Old Testament, where God dwelt and manifest himself as the Shekinah glory and now it is us by whom? </li></ul><ul><li>Answer - God present in us by his Spirit </li></ul>
  13. 19. <ul><li>The last category will be in the New Testament that are referred to as triadic passages </li></ul><ul><li>Which means that all three are present in the same context and some are clear to indicate the deity of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit </li></ul><ul><li>Matthew 28:19-20 (Turn to this Scripture) </li></ul><ul><li>in the name (Singular) which indicates one nature of God, one being of God, whose name is Father, Son and Holy Spirit </li></ul><ul><li>The one name of the one God is Father, Son and Spirit, </li></ul><ul><li>2 Corinthians 13:14 (Turn to this Scripture) </li></ul><ul><li>This is the last verse of 2 Corinthians and is Paul’s benediction to say God be with you. May God’s presence go with you </li></ul><ul><li>The one God whose blessings will rest upon them is Father, Son, and Spirit </li></ul>
  14. 20. So how did the early church put together all this data? At the Council of Nicaea 325 A.D. Leading up to the Council at Nicaea there had to be much dispute especially as it related to the Son. And at this point the Holy Spirit is not much on the radar screen Because the issue of the Son had not yet been settled in order to move into the issue of the Spirit. One proposal that was put on the table was that of “modalism”this was done so by a gentleman named Sabellius
  15. 21. He argued for one God, the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God This sounds pretty good to us doesn’t it? So what’s the problem? Sabellius held to a monarchian in view of the Father Therefore in the incarnation the Father is now manifesting Himself as the Son. So during the life of Christ we have God the Father present as the Son but not as Father, and not Spirit At Pentecost the Father comes again in Spirit but not as Son or the Father. So yes we have God the Father God the Son God the Father
  16. 22. <ul><li>But each is God successively , and not simultaneously </li></ul><ul><li>This became obvious to Christian people when they read their Bibles that this would just not work. </li></ul><ul><li>Example: </li></ul><ul><li>The baptism of Jesus </li></ul><ul><li>How can you have the voice from Heaven-this is my beloved Son </li></ul><ul><li>the Spirit descending as a dove upon the Son in the water all simultaneously? </li></ul><ul><li>Who does Jesus prayed to in the garden? </li></ul><ul><li>Unless you hold to the fact that Jesus somehow was a ventriloquist </li></ul><ul><li>So “modalism” died out because it became obvious from a reading of the Scriptures that this simply did not work. </li></ul>
  17. 23. <ul><li>The more serious problem came from Arias, who was one of the main proponents of the notion that Jesus was the highest form of all God created beings. The Son was head over all creation (Colossians 1:15) but according to Arias, the Son was in essence subordinate to the Father. </li></ul><ul><li>The Son was created and the Father was uncreated this became such a popular view that a council was formed and met at Nicaea and 325 A.D. in which the hero of the day became a man named Athanasius. </li></ul><ul><li>He was a courageous defender of the deity of Christ. Athanasius put forth the Greek term </li></ul><ul><li>“ homousios” </li></ul><ul><li>Which means that the Son is of the same nature as the Father </li></ul>
  18. 24. <ul><li>However at the same council were the followers of the deceased Origen who proposed a middle position </li></ul><ul><li>They proposed Christ as </li></ul><ul><li>“ homoiusios” </li></ul><ul><li>which means of a similar nature to God the Father . </li></ul><ul><li>Beware of those who say that we should always find a middle position </li></ul><ul><li>Instead we seek the truth and sometimes the truth is no one edge or the other, but go for the truth! </li></ul><ul><li>At the end of the day Athanasius won out and it came about that Christ is not just similar to but is of the same kind as the Father and this is where we get the Nicene Creed </li></ul>
  19. 25. <ul><li>So what about the Holy Spirit? </li></ul><ul><li>The Arians since losing the battle on the Son moved their attack to the Spirit. And contended that the Spirit of God was likened to an arm of God, or the right hand of the Lord, or the breath of the Lord, this was just an emphasis on the presence of God but not his personhood. </li></ul><ul><li>So that the Spirit represents an impersonal force that is the presence of God. </li></ul><ul><li>And He is not deity. </li></ul><ul><li>So another council is called and this time at Constantinople in 381 A.D. in which the heroes were three Eastern theologians (the Cappadocian fathers) </li></ul><ul><li>Basil the Great </li></ul><ul><li>Gregory of Nyssa, bishop of Nyssa, </li></ul><ul><li>Gregory of Nazianzus, Patriarch of Constantinople </li></ul>
  20. 26. In 325 A.D. at Nicaea here is what stated regarding the Holy Spirit “and we believe in the Holy Spirit” This represents the attention those days given the Holy Spirit. In 381 A.D. an extension of the Nicene Creed is made for the church in which the third article proclaiming the Holy Spirit is the Lord, the life giver, the one who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is to be worshiped and glorified. There was much dispute between Gregory of Narziances and the other two over pushing the term homousios, this means the same nature as, which had been done with Athanasius in his argument over the deity of Christ Gregory wanted this badly but the other two men voted against him. And he got so upset that he got up and left in mid-Council and actually wrote some nasty notes back to the other two gentlemen.
  21. 27. But they became convinced this approach needed to be different than before in order for this article to pass. Instead they orchestrated language that amounted to the same thing but deeply rooted in biblical teaching so others can not complain against them unless you complained with Scripture period The third article of the Nicene Creed indicates the deity of the Spirit with spiritual language indicating he is Lord (2Corinthians 3:18), creator (Genesis 1:2) and is to be worshiped and glorified as God (2Corinthians 13:14) At the Counsel at Nicaea 325 A.D. and Constantinople 381 A.D. then the Church affirms the deity of the God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit
  22. 28. How to put that together with one God, well for that we need St. Augustine. Saint Augustine put together our Orthodox understanding of the Trinity Here is an Augustinian definition of the Trinity: God’s whole and undivided essence belongs equally, eternally, simultaneously, and fully to each of the three persons of the Godhead. So that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each is fully God while each in his own personal expression in role and activity of the one eternal and undivided divine essence.