The church where I pastor has long used the New Hampshire Baptist Confession as its statement of faith. The NHBC is a standard Baptist confession used by many churches but I admit I have never been crazy about it. Several years ago, while working through the doctrine of the Trinity, I looked in more detail at the NHBC and found its section on Theology Proper woefully lacking. I have since drafted a new statement of faith I am hoping to present to the church this year. Here is my proposed section on the Trinity. I’m interested in your helpful and thought-provoking comments.
Statement on the Trinity
by Michael R. Jones
God is one essence in three persons. Though the word “Trinity” is not used in Scripture, the concept is present. The Scripture reveals that God is one (Exod. 15:11; Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29-30; 1 Tim. 2:4-6; James 2:19) in substance or essence, that is, in what makes him what he is as uniquely God. The Scriptures also show evidence that there is a plurality in the Godhead. The God of Israel is frequently referred to in the plural (Gen. 1:27; 3:22; 11:7; Isa. 6:8) and the name and idea of God are applied in several places to more than person (Isa. 48:16; 63:7-14; and Isa. 61:1, cf. Luke 4:18ff).
The NT refers to the Father as God (Matt. 6:24-34; 27:46; Rom. 1:7; Gal. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:2) though Jesus Christ claims to be deity (John 5:17-18 and John 10:29-30) and he is referred to in divine terms by Paul in Phil. 2:6 and in Col. 1:15 and 2:9. Hebrews 1:3 refers to Jesus Christ saying that he is the “exact representation of his [God’s] nature. John 1:18 and Titus 2:13 also explicitly refer to Jesus as “God.” The titles of God are applied to Jesus Christ, such as “Lord” and “Lord of Glory” in 1 Cor. 2:8 and Rev. 1:17-18 also affirms this. Many OT passages referring to God are applied to Jesus Christ such as Isaiah 6 (John 12:41), Ps. 2:7 (Acts 13:33), and Psalm 110, which is the most oft-quoted OT passage in the NT. Jesus is also receives worship without rebuking those who offered it (Matt. 15, 28; John 9).
The NT affirms that the Holy Spirit is God by referring to him as such (Acts 5; 2 Cor. 3:17-18), by attributing the words of the OT spoken by God to the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:25-27; Heb. 3:7-11; 10:15-17), by ascribing to the Holy Spirit the attributes of God (e.g., eternality in Heb 9:14; truth in 1 John 5:7), by attributing to the Holy Spirit the Works of God such as the power of regeneration (John 3:5-8), the sanctifying of believers (1 Pet. 1:2), inspiring people to write God’s Word (2 Pet. 1:21), and even raising Christ form the dead (Rom. 8:11).
In short, the attributes of God and the works of God are attributed to the Father, to the Son, and to the Spirit. These three: Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one (Jesus is one with the Father, John 10:30, and the Son is one with the Spirit, Rom. 8:9-10, and the Spirit is the Lord, 2 Cor.3:17) though each is distinct from the others. Matthew 3 records the baptism of Jesus when the Son is baptized, the Father speaks, and the Spirit descends out of heaven. John 14-15 records Jesus’ teaching about his departure and the subsequent sending of the Spirit from the Father and the Son, which implies that they are distinct.
The doctrine of the Trinity does not mean that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each have one-third of God’s essence. God’s essence is indivisible and each person possesses the fullness of the essence of God (Col. 2:9). The three persons of the Godhead are distinct persons (centers of consciousness with the power to will to choose and to act) but one God with the same essence. This is what is meant by the statement “Trinity in unity”: God has only one essence in which each Person, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit shares, but each Person is distinguishable from the others.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not merely three different manifestations of God (as in modalism) though each person does play a distinct role in the outworking of God’s purpose (the economic Trinity).
The Son was not created. If the Son shares in the essence of God, then he, too, must be eternal as God is eternal. The Spirit is not merely a force but a person and “the Christ” is not merely a power or influence that was placed upon the man Jesus.
The doctrine of the Trinity is important not only to be orthodox in one’s Christian belief and doctrine but also to relate to God properly and to enjoy his blessings and benefits. Since the three members of the Godhead share the same essence they have the same goals, honor the same promises, and accomplish the same works, the believer may rest in full assurance that they will accomplish our salvation, make good on those promises, continue to dwell with us teaching us divine truth and work together to receive us into glory and into the new heavens and the new earth.