God As A Trinity Of Persons

Thus far the discussion has led us to consider one God, and we have thought of Him as an all-wise, all-powerful, and all-good God, the creator, the strength and stay upholding all creation. About Him, Holy Scripture and right reason both bear witness. Now we will inquire into the being and the nature of the persons in the Godhead, without deviating from what is said about God in Holy Scripture. Already it has been made clear that God is essentially one. That He is one in three persons has yet to be made evident, and will be undertaken in the subsequent discussion.

Our Lord Jesus Christ bore witness to this and stated that God is one in essence, but a trinity in substances (hypostases) and persons, when He told His disciples, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). He also called Himself the Son of God, and He called God His Father. Moreover, He bore witness to the Holy Spirit for He promised to send Him to His disciples. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name. he shall teach you all things” (John 14:26).

In addition to the foregoing evidence, the most Holy Trinity was revealed clearly at the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ:

  1. The Father spoke from Heaven and declared that Christ is His Son with whom He is well pleased;
  2. The Son was baptized by St. John the Forerunner and was acknowledged by God the Father;
  3. The Holy Spirit descended upon the Son, as a dove.

The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Orthodox Church holds the sacred deposit, the sublime truth about the Holy Trinity, in her Creed, and he who rejects it cannot be saved. The teaching concerning the Holy Trinity is stated even more positively and fully in the definition of St. Athanasios, patriarch of Alexandria (c. 296-373 A.D.). The Athanasian Creed states:

“The Catholic faith is this: that we worship one God in trinity, and trinity in unity, neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the essence.

For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.

But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one: the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.

Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.

The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three gods, but one God.

Likewise, the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord. And yet they are not three lords, but one Lord.

The Father is made of none: neither created nor begotten.

The Son is of the Father alone: not made, nor created, but begotten.

The Holy Spirit is of the Father: neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

And in this trinity, none is afore or after another: none is greater or lesser than another.
But the whole three persons are co-eternal together: and coequal.

He, therefore, that will be saved, must think of the Holy Trinity.”

After the apostles were instructed by the Savior, the Theanthropos, they spent their time preaching and revealing the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. St. John the Theologian, in many passages in his epistles, wrote of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and thus clearly put forward the truth of the Holy Trinity. He stated, for example, “For there are three that bear record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (I John 5:7).

Secondly, when St. Paul addressed the Corinthians, he blessed them with the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. He wrote: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all” (II Corinthians 13:14).

Thirdly, St. Peter wrote of the election of the faithful from the foreknowledge of God the Father, from sanctification by the Holy Spirit, and from sprinkling by the sacred blood of Jesus Christ. The apostle attested clearly to the existence of the Holy Trinity when he wrote: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout” (the East) ” . . . elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the. Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied” (I Peter 1: 1,2).

Inerrant and inspired Holy Scripture bears incontestable witness both to the existence of the one and only true God, and also to the trinity of persons in the Godhead. While it bears witness to the oneness, concurrently it bears witness to the triune existence also.

The revelation and incarnation of the divine Logos is the revelation and incarnation of the Son of God. St. John the Theologian, who through faith penetrated far deeper than words can express, declared, “And the Logos was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This can mean only that the Father is one person and that the Son is yet another.

When the Lord Jesus taught Nicodemus concerning the will of God, He revealed to him the separate existences of the Father and of the Son. Said Christ: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In this passage the Son is distinguished from the Father, because the Son is one and the Father another, the one sending and the other being sent.

Christ, when speaking on another occasion, made the substances (hypostases) of the divine persons perfectly clear. He taught: “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand” (John 3:34,35). From this passage also, the unequivocal truth about the Holy Trinity is derived, because the Father who sends is one, and the Son who is sent is another, and yet another is the Spirit who is given to the Son, and whom the Father gives Him without measure. Therefore, three persons are distinguished in the Godhead, in one essence.

The dogma of the Holy Trinity is attested to by all of Holy Scripture. For this reason it is an indisputable and precisely defined theological truth. Not only is the individuality of the substances (hypostases) in the Godhead demonstrated by Holy Scripture, but also their co-essentiality or homoousion, and their oneness – the fact that there are three in one and one m three, their indivisibility, and their union and cohesion.

When Christ wished to acknowledge His oneness with God the Father, He said that He is one with His Father: “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). Elsewhere He taught that He possesses the same life as God the Father, and that He has the same Spirit and not a different one. “For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” (John 5:26). Therefore, the Spirit of the Father is the Spirit of the Son, as also the Son is one with the Father.

Consequently, the Spirit, the Father, and the Son are three distinct persons in the one essence of the Godhead. The Godhead is one, but God the Father is one, God the Son is another, and God the Holy Spirit is yet another. However, there are not three gods divided in essence, but one God – one in essence, yet in three distinct persons. God in trinity was revealed to us by Christ, and not only by His words, but also by His actions.

The Holy Trinity was revealed to us through the words which Christ, in the Gospels, taught about God. It was revealed too by the acts in which God made Himself known. He revealed Himself at the river Jordan, when the savior was baptized. He revealed Himself also on Mount Tabor at the savior’s Transfiguration. There Christ was clothed with divine glory, heralded by the Father as almighty, and arrayed in divine glory by the Holy Spirit. These manifestations of the Holy Trinity are pieces of evidence which occur in the sacred history of the Gospels.

In the Old Testament, the revelation of God as a trinity is more veiled and mysterious. In the creation of the first man, God spoke in the plural form and not in the singular, for He said, “Let us make man according to our image and likeness” (Genesis 1 :26; LXX). God would not have spoken thusly if He were not a trinity in substances (hypostases) and persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Again in the Old Testament, when Adam transgressed the divine law, God said: “Behold, Adam is become as one of us, to know good and evil … “ (Genesis 3:23; LXX). In this passage, too, it is clear that the persons in the Holy Trinity are more than one, for it states explicitly that Adam was created “as one of us,” referring specifically to God.

Then there. are the angels, the seraphim, who praise the holiness of God, as the prophet Isaiah heard them (Isaiah 6:3; LXX). The angels praise God in a manner which implies a triune Godhead, for three times they cry: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” The three repetitions of the word holy point to the individuality of the divine persons, while the singular reference, Lord of hosts, spoken only once, points to the one essence of the Godhead.

There are yet other passages in the Old Testament which also indicate that God is one in three persons. The prophet David, in his thirty-second psalm, declared: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were established; and all the host of them by the spirit of his mouth” (Psalms 32:6; LXX). The Word of God by whom all things were made is one; the heavenly Father, He who creates all things by the Word, is another; and the Spirit of His mouth is yet another.

Elsewhere is recorded, ” … and now the Lord, even the Lord, and his Spirit, hath sent me” (Isaiah 48:16; LXX). And “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me; he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor … “ (Isaiah 61:l;LXX).

He who is sent is the Son of God, sent forth from God the Father to carry out His will. But the Son is sent not only by God the Father, but also by the Spirit of God. This is why two words were employed – Lord and God, or the repeated kyrios, kyrios. The words are chosen carefully to imply a distinct person of the Spirit, that the Spirit is of the Lord, and that He anointed Him high priest, king, and prophet for all mankind, and ordained Him to preach the saving Gospel of grace and truth to the poor. Poor means the humble in spirit, those who are aware of and confess their own spiritual poverty.

Throughout all of this – from the New Testament as well as from the Old Testament, though in a more veiled manner – the great and unequivocal Scriptural and theological truth is declared: God is one in essence, but a trinity in substances (hypostases) – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

This great theological truth concerning the Holy Trinity is contained in the Nicaean-Constantinopolitan Creed, wherein is stated: “I believe in one God the Father almighty … and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God … And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, and giver of life.” The Christian confesses his belief in one God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, a trinity undivided, of one essence. In confessing this belief, he confesses the truth; he remains in the truth; he is delivered and saved by the truth:

  1. God is one in essence;
  2. God is three in persons.

These two truths, attested to by Holy Scripture, give irrefutable knowledge of the true God. Not to know the true God is the greatest possible loss. Anyone who does not know God and does not have a true mental image of Him, both cannot be a moral being or make any progress at all in his spiritual career. To the soul, the notion of God is as light to the eyes, or as a lighted lamp in the house. Without light, or at nighttime without a lamp, one cannot see what is in the house, nor can one perform any work.

In the same way, without true knowledge of God, it is impossible to become aware of the things of which we are ignorant both in ourselves and outside, or for us to fulfill our duties. Above everything, it is fitting for Christians to desire to know God in order to have true knowledge of Him, because by it they are enlightened and enabled in their moral life to do what is both moral and holy.

The more one knows about God, the more he is elevated in the spiritual world, and becomes more holy and a faithful worshiper of God, for he worships Him in spirit and in truth. The man who knows God performs works worthy of Him, and by these actions he honors God. Oppositely, the man who does not know God, or who knows Him imperfectly, performs works that are unworthy of Him. and thus dishonors God by his actions.

When the soul knows God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – and loves Him and is united with Him through the spirit of love, then it ascends to the spiritual world and bums with longing for fellowship with God. But there can be no true godliness for the man who does not know God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – one, yet a trinity, the God of the Gospel.

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