<< by Prof. Greg Oliver | Shorter Catechism >>

Q5: Are there more Gods than one?
A: There is but one only (1 Cor. 8:4), the living and true God.
Q6: How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A: There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19); and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory (2 Cor. 13:14).

I. Q5: There is one living and true God (Jer. 10:10; Mk. 12:32).

A. God is said to be “one” to oppose polytheism (1 Cor. 8:4-6).

Relevant quote from Lonsdale Ragg:
Polytheism is the form which religion practically took all over the ancient world. The only exception is the Hebrew religion, which, while developed on a background like that of kindred Semitic tribes, differs from them all toto cœlo in its pure Monotheism; as we shall see further on, when we come to speak of Judaism. Different views are possible with regard to the origin of Polytheism.  Some hold it to be due to an association and amalgamation of different tribes having each its own object of reverence (‘totem’); others would ascribe it to a personification of the most obvious forces of Nature—the sun, moon, stars, springs, forests, etc.;—others, in part to one of these causes and in part to the other. But in any case its claim to be the final Revelation of Divine truth, were such claim to be put forth, would be scarcely worthy of serious consideration. The history of mankind has shown Polytheism to be practically so degrading in its effects, and philosophically so unsatisfying, that no other verdict is possible. The highest minds of Greece and Rome were forced to abandon it in reality, while they conformed, from habit or for convenience’ sake, to its outward rites and ceremonies. Philosophically there was no stopping short of Monotheism, even though the Monotheism of the philosophers was of a very cold and abstract character, and had little practical effect on life and conduct. The nations in modern times who can be classed as Polytheists represent the most backward sections of the human family; and though the Hinduism, Brahminism, and Buddhism of India might seem to be exceptions, the two latter can scarcely be called Polytheistic in any true sense, their characteristics being rather those of Pantheism. And against the two former, backed up though they are by the prestige of an ancient civilisation, may be urged an absolute failure to touch morality. It will not be necessary to consider at length more than one of these—that which represents the highest and most successful effort of Hindu thought and devotion, and has spread itself in the course of centuries over vast tracts of the neighboring countries.
Lonsdale Ragg, Evidences of Christianity, Second Edition., Oxford Church Text Books (New York: Edwin S. Gorham, 1909), 55–56.
B. God is said to be “living” to oppose dead idols (Ps. 115:4-6).

1. All life is from God: natural (Acts 17:23; 1 Tim. 6:13); spiritual (Eph. 2:1); eternal (Col. 3:4).

C. God is said to be “true” to oppose false gods (Isa. 44:9-20; 1 Thess. 1:9).

I. Q6: The three persons in the Godhead are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

A. A “person” is defined as one who has intelligence, a will, and personal subsistence.

Relevant quote from Augustus Strong:
The Scriptures represent God as a personal being. By personality we mean the power of self-consciousness and of self-determination. By way of further explanation we remark:

(a) Self-consciousness is more than consciousness. This last the brute may be supposed to possess, since the brute is not an automaton. Man is distinguished from the brute by his power to objectify self. Man is not only conscious of his own acts and states, but by abstraction and reflection he recognizes the self which is the subject of these acts and states,

(b) Self-determination is more than determination. The brute shows determination, but his determination is the result of influences from without; there is no inner spontaneity. Man, by virtue of his free-will, determines his action from within. He determines self in view of motives, but his determination is not caused by motives; he himself is the cause.

God, as personal, is in the highest degree self-conscious and self-determining. The rise in our own minds of the idea of God, as personal, depends largely upon our recognition of personality in ourselves. Those who deny spirit in man place a bar in the way of the recognition of this attribute of God.
Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1907), 252.

B. The term “Godhead” means divine nature (Rom. 1:20).
C. There are two truths to safeguard when stating the doctrine of the Trinity.

1. The unity of God.

2. The plurality within the Godhead.

D. There are three essential elements in asserting the doctrine of the Trinity.

1. There is only one God (monotheism).

2. There are three persons that are each God (Trinitarianism).

3. The three persons are each distinct.

a. It has been said that all error somehow traces back to a defective view of God.

b. This doctrine is practical, under-girding the plan of salvation, and is not just some abstract truth.


II. Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are the greatest proof of the Trinity.

A. The deity of the Father is not usually questioned (Ga. 1:1).
B. The deity of Jesus is proven through four lines of evidence: Name, Attributes, Work, and Worship.
C. The deity of Christ: Name.

1. The name of God is applied to Christ by the OT passages that pertain to Jehovah, and that the NT applies to Jesus.

a. The “Lord of lords” (Deut. 10:17; cf. Rev. 19:11-16).

b. The One to sanctify/hallow in the heart (Isa. 8:12-13; cf. 1 Pet. 3:14-15).

c. The stone that causes to stumble (Isa. 8:12-14; cf. Rom. 9:32-33).

d. The “first and last” (Isa. 44:6; cf. Rev. 1:4-8; 22:12-13).

2. The name of God is attributed to Christ by the prophecies of Yahweh that He fulfills.

a. “God with us,” the “Everlasting Father” (Isa. 7:14; 9:6-7; cf. Matt. 1:23).

b. “One whom they pierced” (Zech. 12:9; cf. Jn. 19:34-37).

c. The “messenger” (John the Baptist) prepares the way before Yahweh (Mal. 3:1; cf. Mk. 1:1-7)

d. Yahweh baptizes with His Spirit (Joel 2:28; cf. Acts 2:16, 33).

e. The name of God is explicitly used in reference to Jesus (Jn. 1:1, 14; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Rom.
9:5; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 1:15-17; 1 Tim. 3:16; Tit. 2:13; Heb. 1:8-9; cf. Ps. 45:6-7; Heb. 1:10-12;
cf. Ps. 102:25-27; 1 Jn. 5:20; Rev. 4:8;).

f. John said that Isaiah saw the glory of Jesus (Jn. 12:41; cf. Isa. 6:1-8).

3. The name of God Jesus claims for Himself in His many “I AM” statements (Ex. 3:14; Jn. 8:58; cf. 5:18).

a. “I am the Bread of Life” (Jn. 6:35, 48, 51).

b. “I am the Light of the World” (Jn. 8:12; 9:5).

c. “I am the Door of the Sheep” (Jn. 10:7, 9).

d. “I am the Good Shepherd” (Jn. 10:11, 14).

e. “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (Jn. 11:25).

f. “I am the way, the truth and the Life” (Jn. 14:6).

g. “I am the Vine” (Jn. 15:1, 5).

D. The deity of Christ: Attributes.

1. Christ: has authority and power (Matt. 28:18; Mk. 4:35-41; cf. Ps. 107:23-32); is omniscient (Jn. 1:43-51; 2:23-25; Col. 2:3); is omnipresent (Matt. 18:20; 28:20); is eternal (Jn. 1:1-2, 15); possesses glory (Jn. 17:5); is the object of faith (Jn. 14:1); is immutable (Heb. 13:8).

E. The deity of Christ: Work.

1. Christ: is the giver of grace and the receiver of prayer (2 Cor. 12:7-9); forgives sin (Mk. 2:1-12); gives life (Jn. 5:21); is the Creator and Sustainer of all things (Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:3); performed many miracles.

F. The deity of Christ: Worship.

1. Christ is worshiped by: men (Jn. 9:35; 20:28); angels (Heb. 1:6); the disciples (Matt. 14:33; Lk. 24:52); the saints in glory (Rev. 7:9-10); the demons (Mk. 5:6).

a. Christ receives praise and defends it with the OT (Matt. 21:16; cf. Ps. 8:2).


III. The deity of the Holy Spirit: Name, Attributes, Work, Worship.

A. The Holy Spirit is explicitly called God (Acts 5:3-4).

1. Paul said that He who was speaking to Isaiah was the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:25-27; cf. Isa. 6:9-10).

a. The Holy Spirit is further equated with Yahweh (Jer. 31:31, 33-34; cf. Heb. 10:15).

B. The Holy Spirit possesses the attributes of God.

1. The Holy Spirit is: omniscient (1 Cor. 2:10-11); eternal (Heb. 9:14); omnipresent (Ps. 139:7-10); omnipotent (Rom. 15:19); sovereign (Jn. 3:8); the object of faith (Matt. 28:19).

C. The Holy Spirit performs the works of God.

1. The Holy Spirit: makes alive (Jn. 3:5; 6:63); creates (Gen. 1:2); resurrects (Rom. 8:11); convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn. 16:8-11); dispenses gifts of grace as He wills (1Cor. 12:11); calls (Acts 13:2; cf. 20:28).

D. The Holy Spirit is worshiped (Matt. 12:31; 28:19).
E. The Holy Spirit is a distinct person.

1. Personality includes intelligence, will, individual subsistence. A “person” is that which, when speaking, says “I”; when addressed, is called “thou”; and when spoken of, is called, “him” or “he.”

2. Personal pronouns are used in reference to the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13-14; Acts 10:19-20; cf. Acts 11:12; Acts 13:2).

3. Personal properties are ascribed to the Holy Spirit: understanding and wisdom (1 Cor. 2:10-11); will (1 Cor. 2:11); power (Rom. 15:13).

4. Personal activities are ascribed to Him: He speaks (Acts 13:2; 1 Tim. 4:1); He teaches (Jn. 14:26); He guides into all truth (Jn. 16:13); He comforts, counsels, and helps (Jn. 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7); He may be grieved (Eph. 4:30); He may be lied to (Acts 5:3-4).


IV. Christ taught that God was triune and the disciples were firmly convinced Trinitarians.

A. The baptismal formula of Christ proves the Triune nature of God (Matt. 28:19).

1. Jesus said baptize them into the “name.”

a. The name is singular.

(1). To the Jewish mind the “name” would have been taken to be God (Lev. 24:11; Deut. 28:58; Isa. 59:19).

(2). The name of someone pertains to his nature (1 Sam. 25:25).

b. The name is not “of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” as if synonymous, but distinguishes each as having their own identity and personality.

(1). The Son and the Holy Spirit each take a definite article (“the”).

(2). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each in the genitive case, showing possession of the one “name.”

B. The Trinitarian benediction (2 Cor. 13:14) shows that each person is distinct and equal in power and glory.
C. Each person being God and manifesting Himself as such caused the disciples to believe in the Trinity (Matt. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:18; 4:4-6; 2 Th. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rev. 1:4-6).
D. Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329-389 AD ) said: “I cannot think of the One, but I am immediately surrounded with the splendor of the Three; nor can I clearly discover the Three, but I am suddenly carried back to the One.”

V. Christ is not subordinate ontologically, but is subordinate in His role.

A. Christ said He could do nothing of Himself because He came to do His Father’s will (Jn. 5:19, 30; cf. 6:38).
B. Christ said that the Father was “greater” than Himself (Jn. 14:28).

1. In His role as servant, and as man (Phil. 2:7) the Father is greater.

a. Note Christ did not say “better,” which is a value judgment.

b. Note Christ had just told Phillip that if he had seen Him he had seen the Father (Jn. 14:9).

(1). Analogy: The President of the United States is greater than a citizen; the warden of a prison is greater than an inmate.

C. Some terms and passages referring to Christ are often twisted to deny His deity.

1. The term “only begotten” (Gk., monogenes) is used 5 times in the NT in reference to Christ (e.g., Jn. 1:14). The most authoritative grammars and lexicons all render it “only” or “unique,” the “only member of a kin or kind.”

a. Christ is the unique Son of God, who has the preeminence (Col. 1:15-18).

2. “Sonship” in the Western meaning means derivation, inferiority, subordination. The Bible uses sonship in the Semitic sense of a likeness of essence—a sameness.

a. Jesus is the express image of the Father (Heb. 1:3) just as we say a son is the “spitting image” of his father.

3. “Firstborn” (Gk., prototokos [e.g., Col. 1:15, 18]) also can be rendered “first begetter” or “original bringer forth.”

a. In Colossians this term is a comparison between Christ and created things. Christ is the “firstborn” from the dead, that is, the One with the preeminence, or right to rule over death (v. 18).

(1). Jesus, Creator of all things, clearly can’t be created Himself (v.16).

(2). In Romans “firstborn” is applied to Christ denoting His preeminence (8:29).

4. In Mark’s gospel Jesus said that even He did not know the time of His Second Coming (13:32).

a. This pertains to His human nature, which was not omniscient.

(1). Christ was fully man (Heb. 2:17-18).


VI. There is a unity between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

A. The sheep are kept by both the Father and the Son because they are “one” (Jn. 10:28-30).
B. The Father is “in” the Son and the Son is “in” the Father (Jn. 14:9-11).
C. The Father and Son make their home with the believer through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Jn.
14:13, 17).
D. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9).

VII. The OT does not contain a full revelation of the Trinity, but does contain several indications.

A. The plural references to God (Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isa. 6:8).
B. The “threeness” found in Scripture (Gen. 1:1-3; cf. Ps. 33:6, 9; Jn. 1:1).
C. The mysterious trio (Gen. 18:1–19:24).
D. The Angel of the Lord identified as God, and yet distinct (Gen. 16:10, 13; 31:11-13).

1. The Angel as both Yahweh and distinct from Yahweh is a paradox solved in Christ who is also God and man. The Angel appearing at significant moments and taking a redemptive role to God’s people surely foreshadows Christ’s work. God initiating (Hagar [Gen. 16:7], Jacob [32:22-32], etc.), and drawing close to His people in the Angel (His “presence” [Ex. 32; 33; cf. 1 Cor. 10:1-10]).

E. The Spirit of God is present.

1. The Holy Spirit: creates (Job 26:13); gives wisdom for artisanship (Ex. 31:2-4); came upon David when anointed (1 Sam. 16:13); left Saul when he offended God (v.14); was grieved (Isa. 63:10); is spoken of as anointing the Messiah (Isa. 61:1); is the Spirit of grace and supplication (Zech. 12:10); indwells (Ps. 51:11).

a. The clear revelation of the personhood of the Spirit in the NT mandates that the OT portions must be similarly interpreted.


VIII. The full revelation of the Trinity was the inevitable outcome of redemption being accomplished.

A. The Son of God came to be a sacrifice (Incarnation).
B. The Spirit came to convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Pentecost).
C. The Father sends the Son, and the Father and the Son send the Spirit.
D. The Father elects, the Son atones for sin, and the Spirit applies redemption.

1. B.B. Warfield used a metaphor regarding the OT’s revelation of the Trinity: “[A] chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted; the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what is in it but was only dimly or even not at all perceived before. The mystery of the Trinity is not revealed in the OT; but the mystery of the Trinity underlies the OT revelation, and here and there almost comes into view. Thus the OT revelation is not corrected by the fuller revelation which follows it, but only perfected, extended and enlarged.”


IX. Application.

A. Use, of knowledge.

1. This article of faith is essential to salvation. The mystery of the Trinity undergirds all of Christianity; without it there can be no true faith, right worship, or obedience.

B. Use, of testing.

1. Are we truly Trinitarians?

2. Do we esteem one person of the Trinity above the others?

C. Use, of exhortation: sinners and saints.

1. Sinners. Those who: are without God have no hope in the covenant (Eph. 2:12); deny the Son have not the Father (1 Jn. 2:23); have not the Spirit are not of Christ’s (Rom. 8:9).

2. Saints. Adore the Holy Trinity and though it is the highest mystery of our faith endeavor to be prepared to defend this hope which is in you.

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