THE TRIUNITY OF THE ONE TRUE GOD
The presentation of the attributes of God now reaches the highest pinnacle of revelation. The capstone is that incomprehensible MYSTERY OF THE TRINITY. To the most reverent and inquiring mind it will forever remain a dark but enticing secret. To the hearts of men of goodwill this unfathomable mystery of the Godhead will provide the necessary compulsion for everlasting wonder and ineffable worship.
The doctrine of the triunity of God is exclusively a revelation from God. Untrammeled human reason may lead one to the unity of God, but only divine revelation discovers the triunity of God to men. This teaches that the nature or essence of God is one, but that within this one essence there are three eternal distinctions presented under the figure of persons. This means that in one sense God is one, but in another sense God is three.
The word trinity is most often used in referring to this aspect of deity. But there is a sense in which this term is inadequate, because it lays emphasis upon three persons of the Godhead to the exclusion of the unity of essence. For that reason, it seems best to adopt the term triunity which brings the three persons into view and yet at the same time makes it clear that this is a trinity in unity.
The importance of this doctrine must not be minimized. It is the fundamental of the fundamentals of the Christian faith. This doctrine differentiates the Christian faith from that of any other religion. Without this doctrine there could be no divine Savior, no divine Holy Spirit, and no incarnation of God in human flesh, no atonement effecting a transaction between persons of the Godhead, no God of eternal love, and no impartation of divine life to men. In fact, all the distinctive truths of Christianity are wrapped up in this great fact. Even the veracity of the Scriptures is at stake. If this is not what is taught in divine writ, then the movement of the Scriptures is to deceive. And if the Bible is deceptive in this area, then there is no fundamental of the Christian faith that can be trusted.
It is an obvious fact that the complete revelation of the triunity of God is given in deeds rather than words. As one theologian put it, "The doctrine of the Trinity is not so much heard, as overheard, in the statements of Scripture." The history and record of experience relating to the Trinity came first. Later, the Church formulated the doctrine of the triunity. It is true that the word trinity does not appear in the Bible. But the idea saturates the Bible. Godly Jews believed in a God who dwelt in heaven, and He was referred to as Father. When Christ came those Jews who knew God recognized Christ as God, though distinct from the Father. When the Spirit came on Pentecost, these same Jews were impressed with the fact that He was God, but different from the Father and from Christ. When at last the New Testament writers recorded their thoughts in books which now make up the New Testament, there was no conscious effort to formulate a new doctrine. They just recorded what happened.
As one great theologian has written, "It is a great mistake to regard that doctrine as a mere speculative or abstract truth, concerning the constitution of the Godhead, with which we have no practical concern, or which we are required to believe simply because it is revealed. On the contrary, it underlies the whole plan of salvation, and determines the character of religion (in the subjective sense of that word) of all true Christians. It is the unconscious or unformed faith, even of those of God's people who are unable to understand the term by which it is expressed. They all believe in God, the Creator and Preserver, against whom they have sinned, whose justice they know they cannot satisfy, and whose image they cannot restore to their apostate nature. They, therefore, as of necessity, believe in a divine Redeemer and a divine Sanctifier...It is not, therefore, by any arbitrary decision, nor from any bigoted adherence to hereditary beliefs, that the Church has always refused to recognize as Christians those who reject this doctrine."