"The Holy Trinity"
Back to Basics Theology - Part 2
In the name of the Father, the Son and The Holy spirit, One God, Amen.
Glory be to the Father to the Son and to the Holy spirit, both now and to the ages of all ages, Amen.
Good morning, and it is great to see you in the church despite the rough weather we’ve been having. Hopefully this will be close to the end of the winter season, but it seems like there is more snow coming on the way, but there is no problem. In either case, we are thankful and grateful for God’s blessing throughout the year.
Today God willing we will continue our series which was started last week, entitled “Back to basics”, and in it we are trying we are trying to investigate the foundations of our faith. What is it that we believe in, and why do we believe in it? Last week we spoke about the Theology or The Doctrine of God. The need for God Almighty the creator of earth and heaven to exist, and we went through some rational proofs but also we stressed on the faith and we stressed on the means to know God, how do we know God, how do we realize his presence, what are His names that are revealed to us, and we spoke about how God reveals Himself to us through many various means that we can get to encounter and to know Him.
Today by the grace of God, we’ll continue this series which will take us right through towards the end of the Holy Land, and we are speaking today about the Doctrine of The Holy Trinity. And then next week we will speak about Christology, or The Doctrine of The Person of The Christ, then The Doctrine of Salvation which is Sutriology, Doctrine of Human Nature Sin and Grace, The Doctrine of Church, which is Eglisiology, The Doctrine of The Sacraments, and then finally, come Sunday, we’ll speak about The Doctrine of The End of Times, or Escathology.
Also, I want to mention that what we are doing here on Sunday morning, because we have very limited time, is just a mere introduction, but books and books have been written on these subjects, and courses have been taught in Seminaries and other places, where we can investigate and know more about these topics.
The Doctrine of The Holy Trinity, is one of the doctrines that cannot be proven through proofs, like we cannot give you 1-2-3-etc and then it comes naturally. It is the doctrine that has mystified the Christian faith ever since its inception. A lot of people have said so many heresies, and different doctrines and teachings, especially when it comes to The Holy Trinity. The problem with this particular belief or faith or doctrine is that the word “Trinity” is not mentioned anywhere in The Scriptures, in either testaments, whether Old Testament or The New Testament, but it came about from the early church practice, as it expressed its faith and then, as we will see in a little bit, that Tertulian, one of early church father, he coined that term, “Trinity”, or The Holy Trinity”, but the doctrine has been embedded in The Scriptures, and in the faith of all believers ever since The Old Testament, as we will see today.
How do we understand The Holy Trinity, and how do we understand the concept of incarnation, and this is a merely introduction, but we’ll speak about the nature of Christ next week, or Christology, God willing.
Some of the that will help us to understand the concept of God becoming human is that if we remember in that in the 60-ies the first astronaut landed on the moon; Neil Armstrong. When he was there, of course it was a joyful day for all humanity because for the first time they could travel to another planet, well, not really a planet, but the moon. While he was there, he brought back some samples, some rocks from the moon; sample rocks, in order for us here on earth to analyze it and try to understand the nature of this formation, this entity; Neil Armstrong brought back the rock; if the rock in a sense, is a part of the moon; it is a part of its nature, it is part of its essence, and by studying this one rock we have a better understanding of the nature of the moon; we can know the moon better, because we have something physical in our hands, here on earth, that we can study, that we can analyze, and say “for sure, this is the nature of the moon”. In a sense, this is the concept of the incarnation, or God becoming human. For the longest time, humans could not travel to the moon. For long times, people spoke about God, metaphorically, or theoretically, or in the means that they could not grasp or understand, but it is through incarnation that we can fully understand the concept of God, who He is like, what His nature is like, just like that little rock that was brought back from the moon and analyzed; a sample that we could see and hold, and truly understand.
Another analogy of the concept to help us understand how God could become human is the analogy of the ocean and a bucket.
What is that? We look at the ocean in front of us, and it is vast; it is huge. No one could really put some kind of limit; none of us human beings could fully encompass the ocean and hold it in our hands. But if you go and take the bucket, the same essence, the same nature of the ocean, is now present in the bucket! The water is huge, and while the water is inside the bucket, it is still in the ocean, it did not leave, and this is the concept that we understand about God. Some people will say “Well, while God was on earth, was the heavens empty, or vacant?” No! Our Lord Jesus Himself said that while He is on earth, he is still in heaven. That’s OK, and these two things do not contradict one another. The bucket has helped us to form, to have a form of the ocean. A sample, a true nature; they are common. Nature between the ocean; the water that is in the ocean is the same exact water that is inside the bucket, but now we can hold the bucket, and it has a shape and form and we can see it and we can hold it, and it is still one and the same in the essence, but now you have water that is in the ocean, and you have the water also that is in the bucket.
The third analogy which is some sort of sampling of the air; if we want to understand what the nature of the air, we have to take some kind of test tube and also run it and put it inside the microscope and analyze all the vapor that is in it and its components, and the representation inside of this one test tube will also be representative of the entire atmosphere or air that is around us.
Here is one that we can analyze and understand The Holy Trinity; some people have come up with this particular triangle; now, I want to say that it doesn’t matter if The Father or The Son or The Holy Spirit at either end, it doesn’t mean that The Father on top is better in any way than The Son or The Holy Spirit, they are interchanged but, as a matter of fact, when you look at the annunciation of Archangel Gabriel to the virgins, he didn’t say The Father first and then The Son and The Holy Spirit, because the order really is irrelevant. He told her “The Holy spirit will come upon you, and the power of The Most High will overshadow you and therefore the one who is born of you will be called “The Son of God””. First he mentioned The Holy Spirit, then The Father, then The Son, so the order really is irrelevant here.
The way that we can understand The Holy Trinity in the following manner, by saying God is sort of the common essence or attribute between The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, and we can say that The Father is God, we can say that The Son is God, and we can say The Holy Spirit is God, but we cannot say, or it does not automatically mean that The Father is The Son, or The Father is The Holy Spirit, or The Son is The Holy Spirit. So, The Father is not The Holy Spirit, The Father is not The Son, and The Son is not The Holy Spirit, and this the understanding that we have, concerning The Holy Trinity.
Let us try to understand a little bit about… and here we are going to introduce some Greek and some Latin terminology which were used in the early church as early as the second century, but definitely while in the3rd and the 4th centuries, in order to help the church coin and fully understand and canonize its faith about The Holy Trinity.
We say that God is One, and definitely this is our faith, God is One, Osium, and Hypostasis. One in substance, sharing essential qualities equally, the foundation, the essence is the same between The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, or what we call The God Head, and three persons distinct in relation over against one another, as well as distinct in missions in relation to the world, and this is the way we can say that The Father is not The Holy Spirit, no; these are two separate entities, as we will understand now.
What do they share among them? The Greek term that was used is “Precorusus”, meaning “Mutual interpenetration”. How the three persons of The Trinity relate to one another; this allows the individuality, which insists that each person shares in the lives of the other two, and that comes the two symbols that actually we have seen in the beginning, this is the “trillium flower”, which is the symbol of interior of course, and then you have the symbol of the fish, which is the very early, one of the earliest symbols of Christianity, the fish or the because it would represent in its letters the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; “Jesus Christ Son of God, Savior”, so the fish was also used as a symbol of how they interpenetrated one another; this is how we understand The Holy Trinity.
Of course, in the beginning, we have to reaffirm our belief in God. There has never been any confusion in The Old or The New Testament, concerning that we worship The One God. As a matter fact, we can read in Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, The Lord Is One”. So, Christians do not worship three gods, okay? so, we do not worship three gods, but we believe in One God Who has manifested Himself in Three Hypostasis.
In The New Testament also we can read in James 2:19: “You believe that there is One God, you do well. Even the demons believe and tremble.” Therefore we have to reaffirm our faith that we believe in One God, and it is very clear in The Old Testament as well as in The New Testament that this is our belief. The
Scriptures bear witness to a God who demands to be understood and worshiped in the Trinitarian manner. So if we believe that The Holy Scripture is the inspired word of God, we will get to know more about God by studying The Scriptures, and understanding that He demands to be worshiped as a Holy Trinity, as we say, “O Holy Trinity, have mercy on us”, alright? Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, we say it three times, alright, and at the end we say “O Holy Trinity, have mercy upon us”.
Those same people will say “Well, it doesn’t make any difference, if we just worship God”, no! it does make a difference; if we know God more, like, let’s say, we were speaking about the ocean, and the ocean is so vast, and no one knows its limits, but if we really want to learn about the ocean, we will know that the ocean consists of water, and this water is salty, and if we know the type of water that is salty, we know that there are living creatures inside of this particular ocean fish or other plants, etc… therefore, if we demand to know God, we should understand more about His nature as he reveals it The Holy Scriptures. Therefore God demands to be understood and worshiped in a Trinitarian manner, and this is evident and apparent throughout The Holy Scriptures.
Let us see together how we understand the Deity of The Holy Trinity; that when we speak about Father, we are speaking about God, when we speak about Son, we are speaking about the same God, and when we speak about The Holy Spirit, again we are speaking about the same God.
Deity of The father, we will find out that Our Lord Jesus, when he spoke about God, especially on the Sermon on the Mount, he used the word God and Father interchangeably.
If we look at Mathew 6:26-30, we will find the following verses, our Lord Jesus said: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? “ He says “your heavenly father” here. And he continues by saying: “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature, so why do you worry about clothing? And yet I say to you that even Salomon in all his glory was not 16:01) like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the fields, which today and tomorrow is thrown in to the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Therefore we can immediately see in this verse, and we have many other examples that we can refer to, also in Mathew 19:23-26 and Mark 12-17, we see that Our Lord Jesus Christ would refer to God as Father and Father as God, and we can understand now the Deity of Father.
What about the Deity of The Son?
Well, it is manifested ever since The Old Testament. From the book of Isaiah, and… this is something that some of the Hebrews, it was concealed to them, because The Holy Trinity was concealed, sort of, in The Old Testament, it wasn’t very well manifested, but it was very apparent and clear in The New Testament, as we will see in a moment.
Isaiah whom some people call “The fifth evangelist”, spoke with the eyes of faith about this coming Messiah. Isaiah 9:6, he called this coming Messiah some words which are amazing, that were not said about any other prophet or ordinary man in the history. He said “For to unto us a child is born, and to us a child is given. And the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called wonderful, counselor, mighty God, Everlasting father, Prince of Peace”. Therefore we can see here that The Son, our Lord Jesus is prophesized about that he will be called “Mighty God”, and this is something that is not shared amongst any other person or individual in the history of humanity.
Also in The New Testament, it is very clear, such as in Philippians 2:5-11 the Deity of The Son. Let’s read just a couple of verses together. St Paul said the following about the Deity of The Son: ”Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, did not consider (18:38) to be equal with God”, you see, here is the Deity of Our Lord Jesus Christ; he did not consider it, ”but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant and coming in the likeness of man, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God has also highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every other name”.
So he speaks about the equality and the oneness and the sameness. Also we can read in Hebrews 1:2 another expression of the Deity of Our Lord Jesus Christ as he said: “…has in these last days spoken about His son whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world”, so we see here that The Son is from everlasting to everlasting because through him he made all the world.
Of course, in John 1:4 we see that “The word became flesh” and in the beginning was the Logos, and we see that the logos became flesh, and we see it here among other verses, the deity of The Son.
What about the Deity of The Whole Spirit? Again we see that The Holy Scriptures speaks about The Spirit interchangeably with God, to speak about God and to refer to God. In the story of Hananiah and Saphira we see that, as the apostles condemned them, they said that they lied to The Spirit, and then they go back and speak about God, and that will help us to connect the two together.
Acts 5:3,4 says the following: “But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to The Holy Spirit (so the lying here is to The Holy Spirit), and keep back part of the price of the land to yourself? While it remain, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? What have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God”, so he says that he lied to The Spirit, and then he says that he lied to God.
We can also refer to I Corinthians 3:16, 17, as well as 6:19-20, just because of the time, we will skip these particular verses.
Again, as I mentioned a minute ago, that The Holy Spirit was concealed in The Old Testament, but it was still… there are still several references that we can speak about. When the Old Testament speaks about “wisdom” for example, it personifies it. It speaks about a person, not a concept. So the idea of personification it means that it has an existence apart from, yet dependent upon God, and we can see this in proverbs, the book of Proverbs 1:20, we read the following verses: “Wisdom calls aloud outside. She raises her voice in the open squares”. Again the personification of wisdom, for example we can also look at proverbs 9:1-6 and Job 28, as well as Ecclesiastes 24.
In the Old Testament also, the word of God, whenever it is mentioned, it has authority. God’s speech or discourse is treated as an entity with an existence independent of God, yet originating with God, and we can see this in several passages, Psalms 119 for example, verse 89 we read the following about the word of God: “Forever O Lord, your word is settled in heaven”.
We can also look at Psalm 147:15-20 and Isaiah 55:10-11.
Also The Old Testament may speak clearly about the spirit of God, the spirit present in the expected Messiah, and we read this in Isaiah 42:1-3: “and also the spirit is the ancient of all creation”, as we read in Ezekiel 36:26 and 37:1-14.
Now some people when they speak about The Holy Trinity, they say “Well, God speaks about Himself in the plural sense, Elohim, four times, starting from Genesis 1:26 and 3:22; 11:7 and isaiah 6:8”.
Is this an understanding of the Holy Trinity? Not really because the plural sense does not mean the Trinitarian God. It just means the plural sense, which is some sort of speaking about the plural of the majesty. Even some of the Turkish people or some of the Royalty people when they speak about themselves, they speak as the sense of “We” okay, but it means just an individual, so this is not really an example of The Holy Trinity, but the other close example that may represent The Holy Trinity is the angel visiting Abraham in Genesis 18 where you find three angels are visiting, and then, you know, the one speaking and then, the mention of One God, etc… so it is some sort of analogy or idea, yet again, it is concealed, not very clear in The Old Testament, but still we can find definitely, the connection.
In The New Testament, scriptures speak clearly about The Holy Trinity, for example Our Lord Jesus, just prior to his ascension to heaven, he spoke about baptism in the name… “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of The Father and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit”, Mathew 28:19.
Also we read in I John 5-7 that “For there are three that bear witness in heaven; The Father, The Word and The Holy Spirit, and these three are One”. Again there are so many verses that speak The Holy Spirit, but this is just a little representation.
Now, as you… as I have mentioned earlier that the word Trinity, in its common sense that we use today in the church, was not used until a little bit later, but still, as we have seen from the proofs of The Holy Scriptures, both New and Old Testament, that this is a manifestation of God; God wants us to know more about Himself, and that’s how He revealed Himself, to be worshiped as a whole Trinity. Therefore, to understand the development of this doctrine, we will go through some terminology, a little bit of history. Jesus Christ is of the same substance as God and we call that Homo Oseos, as opposed to Homoy Oseos, are of similar substance as God. And this… sometimes they say “heresy is the mother of Doctrine or of Orthodoxy”, because whenever the church believes in something, and then someone comes out and says “That’s not what we believe in, we believe in something else” therefore, what happens, the church, the counsels will get together, the bishops will get together, and they will formulate their understanding, and they will coin it and write it down and make it into a doctrine, so this is exactly what happened.
The Arian controversy which arose early in the first century saying that “Christ is not of the same nature as God The Father (but) is of Similar nature”, so the council convened together and they said “No, the Christ is of the same; Homo Oseos, not Homoy Oseos”, just the difference of one letter, but it makes a big difference, and that is the beginning of The Nice an Creed which we still recite up until today.
Then there was a challenge by Macedonius against the divinity of The Holy spirit, he said “The Holy spirit is a creation of God, he came much later”. And that is The Council of Constantinople in 381 that affirmed the divinity of The Holy Spirit, and some say that this understanding was composed a little bit before 381 by of Jerusalem, but it was formulated and became a canon at that particular time at the council of Constantinople.
The Patristic era, especially Tertulian, he was the first one to use the word Trinity, in Latin “Trinitas” it is a…or… and the word also “Persona”, which translates the Greek word “Hypostatis”. Persona literally means a mask often used in a theatrical presentation. Back in the days, a woman could not go up on the stage and act, so if the actors were, let’s say, taking the role of a woman, all they would do is that they put on a mask of a woman, let’s say, and this was called a Persona, or a different identity or taking the same person, but plays a different roles or identities.
Also the third word that Tertulian used was Substentia, it is the fundamental unity within the God Head. Substence is what Three persons of The Trinity have in common, the essence or the substance, this is what they have in common.
St Adonicius explained The Holy Trinity and said “The Father is The One who begets the son, or The Father is the source of the light, and The Son is the ray. Of course, the ray cannot exist without the sun; neither is there a time that the sun existed without the ray, but he explained it as we said, begotten of The Father, as we will recite the creed now, so this is how he said that The Son has the source of the light and then the ray, and of course, there is the heat that comes out of it and you feel it, this is The Holy Trinity. Also, he understood the Father, the relationship between The Father and The Son, as The Father is the fountain, while the son is the stream, if you understand, the water coming from the … and then there is the stream, all of them have the same essence and existence, but you cannot say that the stream is the fountain, neither is the fountain the stream.
Then the Cappadocian fathers, had also lots of contributions, the Cappadocian fathers are basically St Gregory of (…), St Besel of (…), St Gregory of Nisa, they are the ones who explained The Holy Trinity as The God Head is common to all three Hypostasis or again, as persons. Also they said The Son is begotten of The Father, and The Spirit proceeds from The Father, as the church needed further explanations about the relationship between The Holy Trinity.
Finally I just want to say a few days about, how to experience The Holy Trinity in our everyday life. It is fine and good and (…)that we understand our doctrine and our faith, but how does that relate to my personal life?
Now, in The Nicean Creed, it is very clear that God, of course from scriptures, but also formulated in the creed, that, in our prayer and in our worship, and in our Agbea, always there are certain prayers and requests that are made either to The Father, to The Son or The Holy Spirit. Sometimes we understand God The Father as the creator, The Son as The Redeemer and The Spirit as The Sanctifier. Now, there is no problem between, you know, giving our worship to The Father and to The Son and to The Holy Spirit, because at the end we are giving our worship to God, but it is important to develop a relationship, a personal relationship with the Holy Trinity. And this is what we do in The Liturgy, sometimes, we have, we say the liturgy of St D is directed to The Father, the liturgy of St Gregory is directed to The Son, and this is okay, as we mention in our prayer, The Father or The Son and The Holy Spirit, because they are three, yet they are three persons of the same essence or Hypostasis.
Now, it is important that we in our prayer mention The Holy Trinity, as St Paul, and this is the passage I want to conclude with, from Ephesians 3:14-21, we’ll see the beauty of this prayer as St Paul gives it to us as a sort of model prayer to The Holy Trinity. He said the following:
“For this reason I bow my knees to The Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in the heavens and earth is named, that He would grant you according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might through the spirit and the inner man. That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. That you being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and the length and depth and height to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God, now to Him who was able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. To Him be glory and the church by Christ Jesus to all generations forever”.
And this is the beauty of a Trinitarian prayer, that you find that “God (here he starts by saying), for this is…I bow my knees to The Father, (he mentions The Father, and he says) that you may be strengthened with might through His Spirit, (and finally he says that) Our Lord Jesus Christ is The one who, that…to know the love of Christ which passes all knowledge. This is the beautiful Trinitarian prayer.
I pray that this topic, I know that sometimes when we speak about Theological matters and doctrines, they are so important… that we understand what we believe in and why we believe in it, and that it could become part of our practice, our everyday life practice, as we understand God more, and become deeper in His knowledge and in his love.
The early Patristic fathers, the early church fathers did not have any distinction between Theology and Spirituality because always one connects to the other. It is just not a matter of having a simple … faith, whatever, no, the Christian should know and understand and be knowledgeable about what they believe in and why they believe in it, and in the authenticity of The Holy Scriptures, and the writing of the early church fathers, for this is our doctrine and it is manifested in our worship, as we will stand now together, to recite The Holy Creed, and we will confess our belief in The Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit, One God always.
May The Lord be glorified in His church today and at all times and glory be to God forever and ever Amen.