Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, February 3, 2011 11:26 am
The Messenger, February 3, 2011
The First Council of Constantinople, Part III
By DEON BARNES
Special to The Messenger
God is God; God is Christ; and God is the Holy Spirit. Christ is God; Christ is Christ; and Christ is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God; the Holy Spirit is Christ; and the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit.
Three Persons, each with a specific role, each being the one true God of the universe, equal in power, substance and existence. This is the Biblical formulation of the Trinity and was the doctrine that the First Council of Constantinople sought to defend by reaffirming and revising the Nicene Creed.
We know Christ and God are one from John 10:30. Peter reaffirms this in II Peter 1:1 by referring to Christ as God. However, Paul deepens our understanding of the trinity by also referring to Christ as the Holy Spirit in II Corinthians 3:17.
In addition, God declares in Jeremiah 31:33 that He will write His law upon the peoples’ hearts; later, in Hebrews 10:16, we are told that the Holy Spirit is the one who wrote the law on the peoples’ hearts.
Can God — an infinite, almighty, ever-present Being — truly be three persons while simultaneously being one God? Is there an aspect of union between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that our feeble and finite minds cannot comprehend?
Belief in the Trinity as it is taught in scripture requires a great deal of faith and dependence on the Word of God. Faith is more than just believing in something we cannot see. Faith is believing in something that we may not completely understand.
But what if we do not hold to the doctrine of the Trinity? Is there any harm in Christ not being the one true God, or the Holy Spirit not being the one true God? Is it OK to believe that this one God fulfills the three roles of Father, Son and Spirit all by Himself? Or, perhaps, there are actually three gods?
“God is not one person who plays three separate roles” (R.C. Sproul). This is called modalism. The danger of modalism lies in this question: If Christ and God are the same person, then when Christ died on the cross, did God die? In essence, yes — they killed God, but not God entirely. Rather, they only killed the second person of God, the Son, who became our perfect sacrifice. If they had killed God entirely, the universe as we know it would have ceased to exist (Hebrews 1:3, Job 38).
But we also cannot fall into believing that there are three separate gods. This is called tri-theism. God clearly commands in Exodus 20:3 that we shall not worship any other god but Him. If Christ is a god separate from the one true God, then all of Christianity is idol worship and contrary to the will of God. We know with great certainty that this is not the case.
And what of the Holy Spirit? The same holds true. Are we led by some other creature, created by God, who cannot be perfect and holy as God Himself is? Are we led by another god in the direction toward the one true God?
The answer is simple, and only requires childlike faith to believe. God is God; God is Christ; and God is the Holy Spirit. Christ is God; Christ is Christ; and Christ is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God; the Holy Spirit is Christ; and the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit. Three Persons, each with a specific role, each being the one true God of the universe, equal in power, substance and existence.
Editor’s note: Deon Barnes serves as a ruling elder of Grace Community Church (PCA) in Troy and is a candidate for the ministry in Covenant Presbytery.