In contrast to views the widely held, but totally incorrect view that the Trinity is “like ice, water, and steam” which is, in reality, the ancient heresy of Modalism that has God morphing into various forms as God the Father in the Old Testament becoming God the Son in the New Testament, and becoming God the Holy Spirit today, this lesson will demonstrate how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are uncreated, co-equal, and eternal persons.
The Lesson will show this by demonstrating that each person of the Trinity has the characteristics of personhood including personal relations, intellect, emotions, and will. In addition, the lesson will show how the persons of the Trinity work together in our salvation.
Below are links to the podcast, video, and downloadable charts related to the lesson. Just click on the charts to download a PDF of them. You have permission to make as many copies of them as you want.
• What do you know about the Trinity?
• How would you explain it?
• Or do you even try?
• In this series of three lessons, I’ll help you understand the Trinity and it isn’t nearly as difficult as you might currently think.
Understanding the Trinity, part One
The Three Persons of the Trinity
teacher, Yvon Prehn
The challenge of understanding the Trinity
• Many people believe that the idea of the Trinity is one of the most difficult to understand in the Christian faith.
• I very much disagree!
• God does not intentionally confuse us as to who He is; He desires a relationship with us.
• The challenge to understanding the Trinity is the same challenge of understanding everything else about our faith—
We need to look at what God’s Word says about it!
• Which I’ll help you do, so you won’t simply accept the statements of “Oh, this is a mystery we can’t understand.”
• We will look at God’s Word and the passages that specifically deal with Trinity to do this.
• This is different than reading the Bible as a whole, which I recommend you do each year, but once you understand the message of the Book overall, it is valid to pull out verses on a particular topic, making certain you don’t take them out of context or twist them to say something they don’t say.
• The verses that I quote are not exhaustive on our topic but representative, as the whole Bible clearly teaches the reality of the Trinity.
• Here is our overall plan for learning about the Trinity in Three Parts.
Here is our plan
• Understanding the Trinity, part One, The Three Persons of the Trinity, how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are uncreated, co-equal, and eternal persons.
• Understanding the Trinity, part Two, The One Substance of the Trinity, the attributes shared by the members of the Trinity and what that means to us.
• Understanding the Trinity, part Three, The Trinity Throughout the Bible, descriptions of the Trinity and roles of each member in the Old and New Testaments.
• Notes, videos, podcasts, charts, and associated resource links are all available on www.Bible805.com
Why we need to understand the Trinity
• First, an understanding of the Trinity is important to our personal faith, our relationship with our God.
• One of the most frustrating things in any relationship is if we feel that the person we love does not understand us.
• God loves us and wants us to understand Him and He’s gone to great lengths to make that possible.
• God has given us Creation, His Word, and Jesus, God incarnate—God made flesh so we can understand Him.
• So many problems of life are because we don’t know our God and have false ideas about Him. This series of lessons hopes to help change that.
Second, we need to understand what is false in other religions
• A proper view of the Trinity is one of the KEY differences between Christianity and non-Christian religions such Islam.
• It is also a key difference between the cults that are distorted interpretations of the Christian faith such as the Mormon religion and Jehovah Witness.
• All of those mentioned and all other cults and false religions have distorted, incorrect views of the Trinity, based on teaching totally in disagreement with what the Christian Bible teaches.
• In summary, other religions and cults believe in a primary God, an overall Father and….
None of them doubt or deny Jesus or a Holy Spirit exists
• But they do not believe Jesus is God or the Holy Spirit is God and a part of the eternal Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
• They say Jesus is either a lesser god, or a created part of the Godhead, such as the Mormons do.
• Or simply a revered prophet, as Muslims believe, very wise perhaps but totally human.
• Other religions’ views of the Holy Spirit are that He is always lesser than that of God the Father and see the Holy Spirit as more of a force than a person.
• None of these opinions agree with what the Bible says about Jesus or the Holy Spirit, as you’ll see.
The problem understanding the Trinity isn’t only with other religions
• Most Christians don’t understand the Trinity, which is why it’s hard for them to spot problems with other religion’s views of it.
• In addition, because most Christians don’t understand it, they fall back on saying “it’s too hard” or they accept what is basically a heretical view of it without thinking.
Here is one of the most common examples of wrong thinking about the Trinity
• It is popular to say that the Trinity is like water—that it is one substance.
• Yet it can be three, in that it can be in the form of ice, liquid, and steam.
• Though well-meaning, this is the heresy of Modalism.
• This and similar analogies are not truly useful, because they are incorrect and can lead to false beliefs.
Leads to Oneness Theology
A false belief held by United Pentecostal and United Apostolic Churches
This is easily disproved with the Baptism of Jesus
• Modalism falls apart on when you look at what the Bible says about our triune (3 in 1) God as was shown in the example of Jesus’ baptism.
• That is true of other incorrect views of the Trinity also.
• We don’t go into these terms and definitions because though they may be useful to memorize in seminary, rather than discuss them, we will use the oft-repeated illustration of how to spot counterfeit currency.
• You study the REAL THING.
How we will do that
• A series of Three Lessons
• The Trinity, Part One—Intro and the Persons of the Trinity
• The Trinity, Part Two—the Characteristics of the Trinity
• The Trinity, Part Three—The Revelation of the Trinity in the Old & New Testaments
• All based on what the Bible says.
• But first, we’ll deal with an issue often brought up.
That the word “Trinity”
is not in the Bible
• Nor is the word “Bible” in the Bible nor is the word “Christianity” in the Bible.
• There are many words we use to properly explain Biblical concepts that are not precisely in the Bible, but that are biblically correct.
• Just as reading many Bible passages helps us identify what defines a Christian, so too looking at many passages in the Bible about the Trinity will help us define it.
• To begin, let’s look back in history at the person who first used the term “Trinity” to describe our God.
How Tertullian clarified the true nature of the Trinity
• He was a Roman lawyer (155-220AD) prior to becoming a Christian and leader in the church.
• As a result of his study and in response to what he believed were false views of the Trinity in his day, he coined the term, Trinity, and defined it as
• una substantia, tres personae
• Meaning God is one substance, in three persons
• I created a chart to illustrate it—it’s easy to describe, but a copy will also be in the notes.
A Biblical view of the Trinity
Tertullian separated substance and personhood because…..
• You can have a trinity of anything that has similar characteristics or that works together in some way—a group of 3 chairs, a government with 3 parts, a trio, a group of 3 people singing together.
• But what makes THE TRINITY that is our God unique is its substantia, its substance, the attributes of it, not just that it has 3 parts.
• ONLY THE TRINITY of GOD has the substance of, omnipotence, omniscience, total truth & justice, immutability, et. al. and that substance, those attributes are shared equally and eternally by each member of the Trinity, making the Trinity of our God unique.
Many scriptures point to this uniqueness of God…
• One example: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isa. 55:8,9
• We have thoughts, we have ways, but God’s are so exponentially different than ours—it is this unique essence of who He is that makes Him God.
• The “una substantia”, the One Substance, the characteristics all members of the Trinity share, deserves much more study, which we will do in Part Two of this series on the Trinity, but first, let’s dig deeper into “tres personas” because this tends to be much harder to understand….at least it was for me.
We will define what it means to be a person
• Definition of personhood: The state or condition of being a person, especially having those qualities that confer distinct individuality, personal identity, individuality ‐ the distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity.
• Characteristics of a person are that they possess:
• Personal relations – ability to interact with others
• Intellect – ability to from independent thoughts, to be aware of those thoughts
• Emotions—the opposite of no affect (as in Deism), interacting in “I-Thou” relationships, specifically experiencing emotions of love, hate, sadness, joy
• Will – volition, the self-generated ability to act
More on personhood
• What a PERSON is not: a force, influence, solar object, myth as in many other religions.
• Or in theology, it’s not modes of existence.
• PERSONHOOD IS makes a “you” “YOU” throughout all changes, all eternity.
• Personhood is more than form—and can be corporeal or incorporeal.
• This is very important because the Father and the Holy Spirit are not corporeal—they do not have bodies but are clearly persons as defined by the characteristics we just talked about.
• This isn’t some weird, vague, hard to understand thing as you’ll see.
That we could do this was surprising to me. . . .
• When I first studied the Trinity, I thought of Jesus as a Person, but that God the Father and the Holy Spirit are also persons was not something I understood—
• Let’s look at how that understanding changed for me by looking at verses that clearly identify the characteristics of personhood mentioned previously of personal relationships, intellect, emotions, and will for EACH member of the Trinity.
• We will list the characteristic and then quote verses in the Bible that clearly describe it.
God the Father
• Engages in personal relationships: The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. (John3:35)
• Intellect: Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! (Matt.6:8)
• Emotions: But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. (Ps. 86:15)
• Will: For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. (Matthew 12:50)
God the Son
• The Son engages in personal relations with God and people: Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, “Father, I’m grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41–42)
• Intellect: But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew all about people. No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart. (John 2:24–25)
• Emotions: He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. (Matt. 9:36 MSG)
• Jesus wept. (John 11:35)
• Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. (John 13:1)
• Will: Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done. (Luke 22:42)
God the Holy Spirit
• The Holy Spirit engages in personal relations: The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”(Acts 8:29,NLT)
• Intellect: And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.(Rom.8:27, NLT)
• Emotions: But they rebelled against him and grieved his Holy Spirit. So, he became their enemy and fought against them. (Isa.63:10, NLT)
• And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.(Eph.4:30, NLT)
• THINK of that—we can make the Holy Spirit sad.
• Will: It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
(1 Cor.12:11, NLT)
All three are persons, having the characteristics of personhood.
Yet their personhood is unique as all the persons of thenthe Trinity are God
The Father is God
Jesus, God the Son, is God
The Holy Spirit is God
IMPORTANT–in their interactions, each person of the Trinity has a different role
• The theological term when discussing these roles is the “Economic Trinity.”
• The term “economic” in the term “Economic Trinity” comes from the Greek word oikonomia, which means, literally, “household management.” (from www.gotquestions.org).
• It is the term that describes the different roles that the members of the Trinity have, the different parts they play, while all working towards the same goals.
• We see this illustrated in different ways throughout the Bible.
Here’s how it works in our salvation
• God the Father initiates, sends “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son (John 3:16).”
• God the Son, Jesus accomplishes the work of salvation,
“He (Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 2:2).
• God the Holy Spirit regenerates and renews us, “. . .according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5).
• And they do it all together in perfect love, harmony, deferring to one another when appropriate, working to glorify each other—all examples for how we should work together.
In review, in summary
• The doctrine of the Trinity is not a mysterious, hidden teaching, but one clearly taught throughout the Bible. (and you’ll see more of that teaching throughout the Bible in Lesson 3)
• In this lesson we saw how the three members of the Trinity are persons, uncreated, eternally and equally co-existing.
• See the chart in lesson notes that summarizes the errors of both Modalism and Arianism, and clearly illustrates the Trinitarian view.
Next, we’ll Look at:
• Understanding the Trinity, part Two, The One Substance of the Trinity, the attributes shared by the members of the Trinity, and what that means to us.
• Understanding the Trinity, part Three, The Trinity Throughout the Bible, descriptions of the Trinity and roles of each member in the Old and New Testaments.
One more thing…..
• If you might be paranoid like me— after I learned about the Trinity….
• I had this big fear, a worry that what if I don’t understand which member of the Trinity is doing what, or if I refer to God in the wrong way, will that be a big mistake?
• Will God the Father not get the honor He deserves?
• Will Jesus be upset with me?
• Will the Holy Spirit be sad?
No, I don’t think so—
• God often uses human analogies to refer to Himself and here is one I came up with that may be useful.
• For example, when people talk about coming to the “Prehns” for dinner, they don’t say, Yvon will cook, and Paul will tell jokes and talk, and they both make us feel welcome—they are simply going to be with us.
• My husband and I are a unit in our ministries and life and work, though we remain individual persons with different roles within it. We love our guests that join us and don’t expect them to define who did what when they sit down to dinner or thank us afterwards.
• I think this is a small picture of the much greater unity and unique personhood of the Trinity and of the much greater love the Trinity has for His creation.
• I think God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit delight when we make even the most feeble attempts to learn more about Him or talk about Him regardless of if we are exact in our distinctions of understanding of precisely which person of the Trinity is doing what at a precise time.
A final reminder about the Trinity
• I pray that this study of the Trinity hasn’t been a merely theological exercise, but an opportunity to get to know our God better.
• In closing, consider this trinitarian benediction from the Apostle Paul:
• May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Corinthians 13:14).
• Because, our God, the Trinity of three persons existing from all eternity have shared grace, love, and fellowship among themselves, they can now pour it out on us.
• That’s the essence of the Trinity.
• Now that isn’t so hard to understand, is it?
That’s all for now,
Please check out the lesson notes and other materials at www.bible805.com
If this teaching has been of benefit to you, please consider supporting it with your prayers and gifts and information on how to do that is on www.Bible805.com.
Until next time, I’m Yvon Prehn, your fellow pilgrim, writer and teacher for Jesus.
I’d like to close with this benediction:
May you know the invitation of God, to move
-from confusion to clarity
-from wandering to rest
-from loneliness to knowing you are loved
-from turmoil to peace
From wherever you are on your spiritual journey to a growing knowledge of God’s Word and in your personal relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen
• Links to:
• Podcasts, blogs, and eBooks
• Printables & merch of Bible verses & encouraging sayings
• Chronological Bible-reading schedules