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---On the Christian doctrine of the Trinity

Christmas is becoming more and more secular and commercial, with the Santa Claus---a cheerful old man with red and white fur, a long white beard, and with a black belt at his waist--- as the main symbol.

Santa Claus is from Saint Nicholas (AD. 270-343) who was born in Lucia (now in Turkey) in Asia Minor. He was the bishop of the city of Mira in the third and fourth centuries. He was persecuted during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, and was later released during the reign of Diocletian’s successor Constantine and was invited to participate in the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325. (第一次尼西亚大公会议)

There are two anecdotes about St. Nicholas that are widely circulated. First, he often quietly gave gifts to those in need, this is why he became the prototype of later Santa Claus. Second, he Adhered to the truth without compromise. At the first Council of Nicaea, he was very angry with the heresy of Arianism (which denies the deity of Christ), he was so angry that he even slammed a punch on the face of Arius. (St. Nicholas couldn’t imagine that his name was abused as Santa Claus. If he is still alive today, according to his uncompromising personality, he will again punch the face of Santa Claus. )

In Nicene creed(尼西亚信经), a special term Homoousios was adopted to describe Jesus Christ as “same in being, same in essence” with God the Father (ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί).( “The same term was later also applied to the Holy Spirit in order to designate him as being "same in essence" with the Father and the Son.”)(Wikipedia, under the term of Homoousion)

There is a similar term Homoiusios, which means “similar in being or essence.” It denied that Jesus Christ has the same nature with God the Father, but only a similar nature with God.

In a Cartoon picture, a boy asked the Santa Claus, “Homoousios or Homoiusios?” The Santa Claus was greatly puzzled, “What?” Then the boy said to him, “Hmm, you are not the real St. Nicholas.”

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” (“太初有道,道与神同在,道就是神。这道太初与神同在。万物是借着祂造的。凡被造的,没有一样不是借着祂造的。”)(约/John 1:1-3)

Last Sunday’s sermon was entitled with “In the beginning was the Word,” this passage indicates not only its strong apologetic feature of the gospel of John, it also demonstrates its profound theological significance of this book.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (“太初有道,道与神同在,道就是神。”)(约/John 1:1)

“The Word was with God.” Obviously, the Word was distinct from God, yet He was God. Meanwhile, the Word was actively engaged in the creation of the world, for “Through Him all things were made.”(“万物是借着祂造的。”) (约/John 1:3)

Now the problem arises: How can God be with God?

This great question leads to a great Christian doctrine---Trinity, which was originated from the First Council of Nicaea.

The term “Trinity” (or Triunity) is the most famous and mysterious term in Christian doctrine, it has never appeared in the Bible.

Then you may ask: is it biblical? Surely it is! As a matter of fact, it is a fundamental doctrine for Christian faith. Whether accept or deny this doctrine, is the distinguishing mark between the authentic Christianity and all kinds of heresy.

Many people have attempted to invent some analogies to explain or better understand the term Trinity, such as water with its three states: the solid ice, the liquid water and the gas vapor; the Sun and its three features: Light, Heat and energy. Yet none of them is correct, they may sound similar, but they are totally different from the truth of Trinity. Therefor no one can truly understand or explain this concept.

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God.”(“隐秘的事是属耶和华我们神的。”)(申/Deut 29:29)

Trinity the definition:

“God eternally exists as three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and each Person is fully God, and there is one God.” (Wayne Grudem)


“There is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence.” (B. B. Warfield)


I. The concept in the Old Testament(旧约的启示)

A. The Unity of God(神的独一属性)

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deut 6:4-9)


“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (以色列啊,你要听。耶和华我们神是独一的主。) (申/Deut 6:4)

“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.” (“你们要追念上古的事,因为我是神,并无别神,我是神,再没有能比我的。”)(赛/Isa 46:9)

B. The plural form expressions(神的复数表达形式)

“Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” (“神说,‘我们要照着我们的形像,按着我们的样式造人。’”)(创/Gen 1:26)

“(The LORD said), Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." (“【耶和华说,】‘ 我们下去,在那里变乱他们的口音,使他们的言语彼此不通。’”)(创/Gen 11:7)

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’" (“我又听见主的声音,说,‘我可以差遣谁呢?谁肯为我们去呢?’”)(赛/Isa 6:8)

“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” (Ps 45:6-7)


The author did not talk to any human king, but to “God” whose throne will endure forever and ever, He said, “Your God, has set you above your companions,” obviously there are two persons are to be called “God.” (in the New Testament, the author of Hebrews applied Him to be Jesus Christ.)

“But about the Son He says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy."(Heb 1:8-9)


These two passages are almost identical only the Heb 1:8 adds the phrase: “But about the Son He says.”

“The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’"(“耶和华对我主说,‘你坐在我的右边,等我使你仇敌作你的脚凳。’”)(诗/Ps 110:1)

There are two Lords here, and who can sit at the right hand of God but God Himself?

“Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah--from the LORD out of the heavens.”(“当时,耶和华将硫磺与火从天上耶和华那里降与所多玛和蛾摩拉。”) (创/Gen 19:24)

Again, there are two LORDs here, one is in heaven, and one is on earth.

“‘The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,’ declares the LORD. ‘As for me, this is my covenant with them,’ says the LORD. ‘My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth.’” (Isa 59:20-21)


Notice that the Lord, the Redeemer, the Spirit of the Lord, all three appeared here in this passage.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on Me.” ( “主耶和华的灵在我身上。” )(赛/Isa 61:1)

“And now the Sovereign LORD has sent Me, with His Spirit.” (“现在主耶和华差遣我和祂的灵来。”)(赛/Isa 48:16)

Note that three persons appeared in these verses: the LORD, the Spirit of the LORD, and Me.

C. The Angel of the Lord(耶和华的使者)

The “Angel” (The Messenger) of the Lord is distinct from the Lord Himself, yet the Angel of the Lord sometimes is called “God” or “the Lord.”

“The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; ...She (Hagar) gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me.’” (Gen 16:7; 13)


“There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So, Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight--why the bush does not burn up.’ When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’ ‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ Then He said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.” (Exod 3:2-6)


The angel of the LORD appeared several times to many other peoples as God or Lord in the Old Testament. You will be surprised to notice that in the New Testament, the term “The Angel of the Lord” never appeared again. Apparently, the specific term “The Angel of the Lord” in OT refers to God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity---the pre-incarnated Christ.

II. The Trinity in the New Testament(新约的启示)

A. The Oneness of God(神的独一属性)

Like the Old Testament, the New Testament also insists that there is only one true God.

“Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live.” (然而我们只有一位神,就是父,万物都本于祂,我们也归于祂。)(林前/1 Cor 8:6)

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (“因为只有一位神,在神和人中间,只有一位中保,乃是降世为人的基督耶稣。”)(提前/1 Tim 2:5)

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.” (“你信神只有一位,你信的不错。鬼魔也信,却是战惊。”)(雅/James 2:19)

B. Three Persons of the Godhead(神性中的三个位格)

There are passages in the New Testament that the three Persons of the Trinity are mentioned together.

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’"(Matt 3:16-17)


“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (“所以你们要去,使万民作我的门徒,奉父子圣灵的名,给他们施洗。”)(太/Matt 28:19)

Note that the Name is singular, yet the Three persons of the Godhead are under the same Name.

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. ...But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:16; 26)


In this passage, the Holy Spirit, God the Father, and Jesus Christ, three distinct Persons of the Godhead are mentioned.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” (1 Cor 12:4-6)


“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (“愿主耶稣基督的恩惠,神的慈爱,圣灵的感动,常与你们众人同在。”) (林后/2 Cor 13:14)

This is the Trinitarian expression in the apostolic blessing.

“There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called--one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph 4:4-6)


“(God’s elect,) who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.” (“就是照父神的先见被拣选,藉着圣灵得成圣洁,以致顺服耶稣基督,又蒙他血所洒的人。”)(彼前/1 Pet 1:2)

Again, all the three persons of the Godhead are mentioned in this verse.

C. Each Person of the Trinity is fully God(每个位格的神性)

1. The Father is God(圣父是神)

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (“起初神创造天地。”)(创/Gen 1:1)

“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval."(“不要为那必坏的食物劳力,要为那存到永生的食物劳力,就是人子要赐给你们的。因为人子是父神所印证的。”) (约/John 6:27)

Father is the One to whom Jesus prays always: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” (“父阿,时候到了。愿你荣耀你的儿子,使儿子也荣耀你。”)(约/John 17:1)

“To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (“我写信给你们在罗马为神所爱,奉召作圣徒的众人。愿恩惠平安,从我们的父神,并主耶稣基督,归与你们。”)(罗/Rom 1:7)

2. Jesus Christ is God(耶稣基督是神)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (“太初有道,道与神同在,道就是神。”)(约/John 1:1)

The Word here clearly refers to Jesus Christ (John 1:14) and He was with God and He was God in the very beginning.

“‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I Am!’” (“耶稣说,我实实在在地告诉你们,还没有亚伯拉罕,就有了我。”)(约/John 8:58)

Note that “I Am” was the Name of God in Old Testament (Exod 3:14), and Jesus applied this Title to Himself.

“Thomas said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”(“多马说,‘我的主,我的神。’”) (约/John 20:28)

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders. And His Name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isa 9:6)


This was the most famous prophecy concerning the Messiah in the Old Testament, it refers the Messiah (Jesus Christ) as Almighty God.

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel.” (“必有童女怀孕生子,给祂起名叫以马内利。”)(赛/Isa 7:14)

This well-known verse gave the Son the Name Immanuel, which means God with us.

“A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.’” (“有人声喊着说,‘在旷野预备耶和华的路,在沙漠地修平我们神的道。”)(赛/Isa 40:3)

This OT prophecy was about John the Baptist’s preparing the way for Jesus Christ, who was called the Lord and our God.

“Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.”(“列祖就是他们的祖宗,按肉体说,基督也是从他们出来的,祂是在万有之上,永远可称颂的神。阿们。”) (罗/Rom 9:5)

“While we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”(“等候那有福的盼望,就是我们伟大的神,救主耶稣基督荣耀的显现。”【新译本】) (提多/Titus 2:13)

“The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful Word.” (“祂是神荣耀所发的光辉,是神本体的真像,常用祂权能的命令托住万有。”)(来/Heb 1:3)

“But about the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. ... He also says, ‘In the beginning, O Lord, You laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.’” (Heb 1:8;10)


Jesus Himself claimed attributes which only God possesses, like Omniscience (Matt 9:4), Omnipotence (Matt 28:18), Omnipresence (Matt 28:20). He did things only God can do, such as forgiving sins (Mark 2:1-12), and raising the dead (John 11:43), upholding all things (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3), Creating all things (Col 1:16), judging of all (John 5:27), etc.

3. The Holy Spirit is God(圣灵是神)

“Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit ...? ...You have not lied to men but to God." (Acts 5:3-4)


“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (“主就是那灵。主的灵在哪里,哪里就得以自由。”)(林后/2 Cor 3:17)

“Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?” (“岂不知你们是神的殿,神的灵住在你们里头吗?”)(林前/1 Cor 3:16)

This passage indicates that God’s Spirit equal with God Himself.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” (Ps 139:7-8) (Omnipresence)


“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” (“岂不知你们的身子就是圣灵的殿吗?”)(林前/1 Cor 6:19) (Omnipresence/无所不在)

“but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” (1 Cor 2:10) (Omniscience)


“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) (Omnipotence)


“Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:5-6) (Regeneration)


In Matt 28:19, The Holy Spirit is classified on an equal level with the Father and the Son.

In John 14:26, The Holy Spirit is considered as another Counselor, same qualification as the Son.

The same patterns appeared in the following passages: 1 Cor 12:4-6; 2 Cor 13:14; Eph 4:4-6; 1 Pet 1:2; Jude 20-21.

In the passages such as Acts 28:25-27 and Heb 3:7-11, the Lord’s sayings in the OT are credited to the Holy Spirit.

As all the messages mentioned above, we have to confess that the concept of Trinity remains the mystery of God.

Why is this doctrine of Trinity important to us?

It affects our understanding of the nature of God, for we must worship God in truth and Spirit.

It also affects our Christian life in every way: Creation, Salvation, Fellowship, prayer, love.

We worship the Triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Though we do not fully understand the meaning of the Trinity, yet we worship Him who is our Creator and Redeemer. God the Father decreed the salvation for sinners; and God the Son, who is the eternal Word, yet the Word became flesh and dwell among the sinners, and died on the cross to fulfill the salvation; and the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of grace, while we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive with Christ.

The doctrine of Trinity empowers us to better understand the depth and nature of our God. “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.” (Eph 1:17)

The doctrine of Trinity also changes our way to love others and our daily prayers; it changes our way to receive love, so that we may believe and live our lives in the love of God.

“Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!

Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;

Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!

God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!”

圣哉!圣哉!圣哉! 全能的大主宰!

清晨欢悦歌咏, 高声颂主圣恩;

圣哉!圣哉!圣哉! 恩慈永不更改!


Glory be to God our Father forever and ever, Amen!

Praise the Lord!


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