Chapter 2

How Important is the Teaching of Three in One?

Opponents of the teaching of the Trinity make very serious claims. They insist that anyone who believes in a three-in-one God violates the first commandment of Moses in which the Lord states, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:2-3).

Yet, for many centuries church theologians have also made serious claims in support of the Trinity. This doctrine, according to church fathers, is not a matter of pagan philosophy. It is not polytheistic. It is not a matter of semantics. That the one true and Most High God exists in three distinct Persons is, according to church theologians, a biblical teaching of the greatest importance.

Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox branches of the church all agree that the New Testament teaching of a three-in-one God is a doctrine firmly grounded in Scripture not in philosophy. Together they agree that the Trinity shows us the extent to which God’s own existence is rooted in the joys of eternal relationship. The three-inoneness of God shows us the eternal reality of His love and the enormous price that God paid in giving His Son as a sacrifice for our sin. The three-in-oneness of God shows that our own relationships are important to a God in whom relationship and love are foundational to His existence. A three-in-one God gives us the example of one who exists not merely as one, but in the inexpressible joy and creativity of a perfectly shared relationship. Unlike the many warring gods of pagan religion, and unlike our own history of broken relationships, this God is always one in mind and heart and action.

All major branches of Christendom also agree that a three-in-one God is consistent with the trail of Old Testament evidence for the same doctrine. The Old Testament gives strong implications that though God is one, He is not a solitary Being. Old Testament writers often use language that makes us think of a plurality within this unity.

For example, the word translated “God” some 2,570 times in the Old Testament is Elohim—a plural term. In all except five instances, it clearly refers to the one God who is Creator, Sustainer, and Master of everything.

God sometimes used a plural pronoun when speaking of Himself. For example, He said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Later, after Adam and Eve had eaten from the forbidden tree, God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil” (Gen. 3:22).

When Moses declared that God is one (Dt. 6:4), he used the same word he had employed to describe the “one flesh” relationship of a man and his wife (Gen. 2:24). The word one in Deuteronomy 6:4 definitely allows for the idea of a plurality of Persons within the unity of the Godhead.

Both Testaments, therefore, give us reason to believe that one can be more than one. That this is beyond our ability to fully understand is not reason to reject it, but to try to understand as much as we can of what God has revealed.

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