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H. LaVern Schafer

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              By H. LaVern Schafer, B.A., Th.M., Th.D.

  Chairman of the Department and Professor of Theology in THE 
  1225 Franklin Street, San Francisco, California 94109

  (These notes are class handouts from Theology Proper, 102, 1965)

According to the Scriptures God is one in essence yet three in persons. 
God as God is one in a different way than he is three. The one infinite 
Spirit which is God is shared simultaneously and equally by three divine 

The doctrine of the Trinity is a Biblical revelation. This triune 
concept of God does not come from reason, philosophy, analogy, nor from 
natural phenomena. The Trinity is not the same as the triad of gods 
found in ancient heathen deities. The heathen concept of a virgin and 
child; or a mother, father and son; or of three separate gods, as of 
three different forms of one god; or of a three headed god, is not 
comparable to the Biblical doctrine of a Trinity within a Godhead.

Human reason and wisdom are incapable of discovering the doctrine of the 
Trinity. Therefore, all precepts and concepts of this doctrine must come 
from Biblical revelation. Although the doctrine is not rationally 
derived, still it is not rationally contradictory. Moreover, in keeping
with the revelation of God, it is rationally explainable to a 
Spirit-illumined mind. It is thus a truth that is mentally 
apprehensible though, because of human limitations, it is not completely 

The word Trinity does not occur in Scripture, yet the doctrine 
concerning the Trinity is wholly a Biblical doctrine.

All of the factual material which makes up the doctrine is contained in 
the Bible. Therefore, the human devised term, Trinity, defines and 
explains accurately Divinely revealed facts concerning God. Therefore, 
the doctrine of the Trinity is wholly a Biblical doctrine.

However, since no one verse contains the complete statement of the 
doctrine, an inductive study of the total testimony of the Scriptures 
related to this subject is necessary. Without this scientific approach 
to the whole truth concerning this subject one can not understand it.

The doctrine of the Trinity is peculiarily a New Testament revelation. 
This does not mean that the Old Testament does not contain veiled hints 
concerning a plurality within God. It does mean that these Old 
Testament intimations are unintelligible apart from the plain revelation 
of the New Testament.

In the New Testament alone the doctrine is taught with utmost clarity. 
The New Testament is dependent throughout on the doctrine of a Trinity 
within the Godhead. Every activity of God in providing or applying 
salvation for man is stated to be a work of the one God who is in a 
different sense three. A Trinity in unity, not in a unit.

The New Testament is as careful as the Old Testament to oppose the 
thought that there is more than one God. In presenting God as triune 
the New Testament does not contradict the Old Testament. Rather the 
hints and veiled statements of the Old Testament are clearly explained 
in the New Testament. The pages of the New Testament clearly teach 
that God is one and yet in an altogether different way He is three. 
Lucidly this section of Holy Scripture sets forth the fact that the 
Father is God, and the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. On the 
other hand the clear statement is that these three are not three aspects 
of the same person, but three persons having an essential relationship 
to each other. There are three divine persons but one God.

God's dealings with man in the Old Testament made it unnecessary for 
this doctrine to be revealed then. God progressively revealed Himself 
and His plan of salvation. The work on the cross necessitated a fuller 
revelation of God so that man could understand what God had done. 
Therefore, after the cross God manifested by clear revelation the truth 
concerning the Godhead. During the Old Testament times this was 
unnecessary for the nation Israel. The polytheistic idolatry to which 
Israel was exposed required only the revelation which emphasized Jehovah 
as the one true God. Though the intimations and foregleams of this 
doctrine are in the Old Testament, none of the Israelites saw in these 
shadows the details we now have. Now Christians with their full 
revelation plainly see a Trinity in unity and a unity in Trinity. The 
relation of Old Testament and New Testament revelations is such that the 
believer is prevented from thinking that in the New Testament there are 
simply two persons added to the God of the Old Testament. Therefore, New 
Testament revelation clarifies Old Testament shadows in such a way as to 
show that God has not changed, but He simply has revealed more about 
Himself. There is one God, but there are three who are God.

One of the two major objections to the doctrine of the Trinity is that 
it has no practical application to daily life for the believer. Indeed, 
very few, if any, of the books written on the subject relates this most 
important doctrine to situations of daily life. However, according to 
the New Testament nothing could be more closely related to daily life 
and experience. Every aspect of the Christians life is related to 
different persons of the Godhead. The very life that the Holy Spirit 
manifests through the believer, comes from the indwelling Son of God. 
The new nature which opposes the old nature, comes from the indwelling 
Father who is God. In fact the whole triune Godhead is involved in every 
Christian experience. In fact a complete Christian experience is based 
on an apprehension of the doctrine of the Trinity.

The second major objection is that the word Trinity is not found in the 
Bible. Though the word Trinity does not occur in Scripture, yet the 
concepts and precepts which make up this doctrine are all found in the 
Bible. Therefore there is a doctrine of the triunity of God clearly 
stated in God's Word for which the term Trinity has been descriptively 
applied. This same problem exists with most doctrines of Scripture. The 
doctrine of the Church uses a term to describe ecclesia which is not a 
translation but descriptive. "Church" means, belonging to the Lord, but 
ecclesia means, called out ones. The word church is a term devised to 
describe the "called out ones" of the Bible. Few object to this 
descriptive word, yet in an analogous situation some object to the term 

One of the most accurate and brief statements of what the Bible teaches 
concerning the Trinity is the Athanasian Creed: "We worship one God in 
trinity, and trinity in unity; neither confounding the persons nor 
dividing the substance."

The Biblical statement of this doctrine is contained in many verses, 
which must inductively yield their truth. However, the Bible does state 
succinctly in one verse this doctrine. The golden text of Trinitarianism 
is Matthew 28:19:  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing 
them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

          TRINITARIANISM -- 21 Summary Statements

1. The Trinity is therefore three eternally inter-constituted, 
inter-related, inter-existent, and therefore inseparable Persons within 
One Being and of One Substance or essence. John 10:30

2. The unity of God does not infer that He possesses but a single 
personality, but a oneness of essence and being, as the one and only 
Deity. This unity is therefore
a compound or composite unity rather than a simple or single units.

3.  Thus, the one indivisible divine essence, as a unity, exists 
eternally as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that each Person possesses 
the whole essence, and yet is constituted a distinct person by certain 
incommunicable properties not possessed in common with the others.

4. God is thus not one and three, but one in three. [Colossians 2:9]

5. Therefore the essence is not one constituent factor by itself, apart 
from the persons, nor the persons three constituent factors by 
themselves, apart from the essence.

6. The one essence is simultaneously three persons, and the three 
persons are one essence. The Trinity is simple and uncomplex.

7. Therefore the Trinity is not an essence without distinctions united 
with three distinctions so as to make a complex being.

8. This doctrine is logically consistent because it affirms that God is 
one in another sense than He is three; and three in another sense than 
He is one.

9. We do not state that three beings are one being or that three persons 
are one person; or that three intelligent beings are one intelligent 
being; but we do state that in the same undivided essence are three 
different personal distinctions or personal subsistences.

10. The divine nature is distinguished from human nature in that the 
divine nature can subsist wholly and indivisibly in more than one person 

11. A trinitarian person is thus the entire Divine nature subsisting in 
a particular manner, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

12 Therefore, when it is stated that there are three persons in one 
essence, it does not mean that the essence is a fourth thing.

13 The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are each simultaneously the whole 
divine essence; so that while there are three persons, there is but one 

14. The substance of one Divine Person is the substance of the others, 
both numerically and identically. In this instance, there is no division 
of substance. The whole undivided Divine nature is in each Divine person 
simultaneously and eternally. (John 14:10, 20)

15. One human person exists externally to another, and separate from 
him; but one Divine person exists in another, and inseparably from him. 
Thus one human person can exist apart from another; a Divine person 
cannot. John 14:10, 20; John 12:48-49; 

16. The difference between one Divine person and another is greater than 
the difference between the person and the essence. The essence is 
predicated of each Divine Person but the personal characteristics cannot 
be predicated of any Divine person except the one to whom it belongs.

17. A trinitarian person is not so comprehensive as the Godhead. A 
trinitarian person includes all that is in the unity, but not all that 
is in the trinality of God. Thus he does not possess the personal 
characteristics belonging to the other two persons.

18. The trinitarian persons are not so real as to constitute three 
essences, or beings, but the whole Divine essence is in each trinitarian 

19. The three persons are so real and distinct from each other, that 
each possesses a hypostatical or trinitarian consciousness different 
from that of the others. These three hypostatical consciousnesses 
constitute the one self-consciousness of the Divine essence.

20.  There is only one essence, having one understanding, and one will, 
yet this unity of essence, understanding and will, has three different 
forms of consciousness because it has three different forms of 
subsistence as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

21. The Divine self consciousness is not a fourth consciousness 
additional to the three hypostatical consciousnesses but is the 
resultant of the Three. The three consciousnesses are the one Divine 
self-consciousness, and the one Divine self-consciousness is the three 
hypostatic consciousnesses.


   A. A Plurality of Persons are Associated as God
      1. Two Persons are Associated as God-- 
         a. John 10:30
         b. John 5:17-29
         c. 1 Corinthians 8:6
      2. Three Persons are Associated as God
         a. Ephesians 1:3-14
         b. Ephesians 4:4-6
         c. John 1:29-34; cf. Matthew 3:16-17
         d. John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15
         e. 2 Corinthians 13:14
         f. 1 John 5:1-12

   B. Three Persons are Declared to be God
      1. The Father is Declared to be God
         a. Title God is usually joined with reference to Father
            (1) 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:6
            (2) Romans 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:24
            (3) John 6:27; James 3:9
         b. Title God when used alone usually refers to Father
            (1) James 1:5
            (2) 1 Peter 3:18
      2. The Lord Jesus Christ is Declared to be God
         a. The claims of Jesus
            (1) He claimed to be God
                (a) Matthew 4:6-7 
                (b) Matthew 26:63-64; cf. Mark 14:61-62; Luke 22:67-70
                (c) John 4:25-26; 9:35-38; Luke 19:10
            (2) He claimed to come from heaven
                (a) John 1:11; cf. Matthew 10:34-35; Mark 2:17
                (b) John 3:13 -- first occurrence of phrase "came down 
                    from heaven"
                (c) John 5:36-37 -- first occurrence of phrase "Father 
                    hath sent me"
                (d) John 8:42; 16:28,30 
            (3) He claimed a unique relation to God as Father
                (a) Matthew 7:21; 10:32-33; 11:25-27
                (b) Luke 22:29; 24:49
                (c) John 5:17 ff -- many references follow this
                (d) Matthew 6:8-9 (note "Your Father" and "Our Father")
                (e) John 20:17 (note "my Father" and "your Father") 
            (4) His claims validated by His enemies' reactions
                (a) John 5:18; 8:59; 10:31, 39
                (b) Matthew 26:63-64
                (c) John 18:31; 19:7 
         b. The testimony of others
            (1) Introduction--John 5:31-47
            (2) John the Baptist:
                (a) John 1:23
                (b) John 1:15,30 (cf. v. 27)
                (c) John 1:34
            (3) God the Father
                (a) Matthew 3:16-17
                (b) Matthew 17:5 
            (4) Angels
                (a) Luke 1:31-33, 35
                (b) Luke 2:11
                (c) Mark 1:24
            (5) The disciples
                (a) Matthew 16:16 (cf. John 6:68-69)
                (b) John 20:27-29
            (6). Other persons
                (a) Elizabeth -- Luke 1:43
                (b) Zachariah -- Luke 1:78
                (c) Thief on cross -- Luke 23:42
                (d) Centurion at cross -- Mark 15:39 
            (7) New Testament writers under inspiration and their 
                inspired writings
                (a) Romans 9:5
                (b) John 1:1, 18 ("only-begotten God")
                (c) Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1 [Granville Sharp rule]
                (d) Acts 20:28
                (e) Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:11; Acts 2:34,36
                (f) 1 Corinthians 2:8; 8:6
                (g) Romans 14:8-9
                (h) Hebrews 1:8, 10
      3. The Holy Spirit is Declared to be God
         a. His titles relating Him to God
            (1) Spirit of God -- Matthew 3:16
            (2) Spirit of the Lord -- Luke 4:18
            (3) Spirit of your Father -- Matthew 10:20
            (4) My Spirit -- Acts 2:17-18
            (5) Spirit of Christ -- Romans 8:9
         b. Specific statements
            (1) Acts 5:3-4, 9 (distinctly called God)
            (2) 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (see RSV)
            (3) 1 Corinthians 3:16; cf. 6:19; Ephesians 2:22
            (4) Comparison of New Testament quotations with Old
                Testament passages quoted
                (a) Cf. Acts 28:25-27 with Isaiah 6:1-13
                (b) Cf. Hebrews 3:7-11 with Psalm 95:7-11
                (c) Cf. Hebrews 10:15-17 with Jeremiah 31:31-34
                (d) Cf. Acts 7:51 with content and Old Testament

   C. Three Persons Possess the Attributes and Characteristics of God
      1. Representative Attributes and characteristics of God in New 
         a. Power -- Matthew 19:26
         b. Goodness -- Matthew 19:17 
         c. Mercy -- Luke 1:78
         d. Grace -- Luke 2:40
         e. Love -- 1 John 4:8, 16
         f. Light (holiness) -- 1 John 1:5
         g. Knowledge -- Luke 16:15
         h. Truth -- John 3:33
         i. Righteousness -- Romans 1:17; Acts 10:34
         j. Life -- Matthew 26:63
      2. Attributes and Characteristics Possessed by the Father
         a. Holiness -- John 17:11
         b. Righteousness -- John 17:25
         c. Life -- John 6:57 (also of Christ)
         d. Mercy -- 2 Corinthians 1:3
         e. Omnipresence -- Matthew 6:4,  6
         f. Omniscience -- Matthew 6:8
         g. Love -- John 5:20
      3. Attributes and Characteristics Possessed by the Lord Jesus
         a. Eternity -- John 1:1; 8:58
         b. Omniscience -- John 1:47-48; 2:24-25 
         c. Omnipresence -- John 1:48-50; Matthew 18:20; 28:20
         d. Life -- 1 John 1:2; 5:20
         e. Love -- Ephesians 5:2
         f. Immutability -- Hebrews 13:8
         g. Truth -- John 14:6 
      4. Attributes and Characteristics Possessed by the Holy Spirit
         a. Holiness -- Ephesians 4:30
         b. Truth -- John 14:17;  15:26;  16:13;  1 John 4:6
         c. Life -- Romans 8:2 (John 17:2-3 -- also Father and Son)
         d. Grace -- Hebrews  10:29
         e. Knowledge -- 1 Corinthians 2:11
         f. Eternity -- Hebrews 9:14
         g. Glory -- 1 Peter 4:14

   D. Three Persons Exercise the Prerogatives of God
      1. Representative Prerogatives of God in the New Testament
         a. Receive worship -- John 4:24; Matthew 4:10
         b. Forgive sin -- Mark 2:6-7
         c. Receive service -- Matthew 6:24
         d. Bestow reward -- Hebrews 11:6
         e. Be the object of faith -- Mark 11:22
      2. Prerogatives Exercised by the Father
         a. Receive worship -- John 4:23
         b. Forgive sin -- Matthew 6:14
         c. Receive praise -- James 3:9
         d. Bestow reward -- Matthew 6:6
         e. Give commands -- John 14:31
      3. Prerogatives Exercised by the Lord Jesus Christ
         a. Receive worship -- John 9:38; 20:28
         b. Forgive sin -- Mark 2:8-12
         c. Bestow reward -- Revelation 22:12
         d. Be the object of faith -- John 1:12; 20:31
         e. Give commands -- John 15:12, 14 
      4. Prerogatives Exercised by the Holy Spirit
         a. Receive worship -- Hebrews 10:29; Ephesians 4:30 (implied);
            1 Thessalonians 5:19
         b. Give commands -- Acts 8:29; 10:19
         c. Bestow gifts -- 1 Corinthians 12:4, 7-8 cf. 11

   E. Three Persons Execute the Works of God
      1. Representative Works of God in the New Testament
         a. Creation -- Mark 13:19; 1 Timothy 4:3-4
         b. Providence -- Matthew 6:30
         c. Resurrection -- Acts 2:24, 32
         d. Revelation and Inspiration -- Hebrews 1:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:16
         e. Judgment -- Romans 2:2, 5
      2. Works Executed by the Father
         a. Creation -- 1 Corinthians 8:6
         b. Providence -- Matthew 6:26
         c. Revelation -- Matthew 16:17
         d. Resurrection -- Romans 6:4
         e. Judgment -- Matthew 15:13
      3. Works Executed by the Lord Jesus Christ
         a. Creation -- John 1:3, 9; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2, 10;
            Ephesians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 8:6
         b. Providence -- Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3
         c. Resurrection -- John 10:17-18;  5:28-29
         d. Revelation -- John 16:12-13
         e. Judsnent -- John 5:22, 27; Acts  17:31
      4. Works Executed by the Holy Spirit
         a. Revelation and Inspiration -- 2 Peter 1:21;
            1 Corinthians 2:12-13
         b. Resurrection -- Romans 8:11
         c. Guidance -- Romans 8:14
         d. Security by sealing -- Ephesians 1:14
         e. Indwelling -- 2 Timothy 1:14
         f. Quickening -- 1 Peter 3:18


   A. Implications of a Plurality in God
      1. The Plural Name Elohim -- Other explanations of the plural form
         of this name are given; but in the light of the New Testament 
         revelation of the doctrine of the Trinity, the concept that it 
         is a foregleam of that revelation divinely purposed is the most 
      2. Other Plural Titles for God
         a. "Thy Creators" Ecclesiastes 12:1
         b. "Thy Makers" -- Isaiah 54:5
      3. Use of Plural Pronouns and Adjectives by God
         a. Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8 -- pronoun
         b. Deuteronomy 5:26; 1 Samuel 17:26; Jeremiah 10:10 -- 
      4. Dual [compound] Form of Word One with reference to God --
         Deuteronomy 6:4 cf. Genesis 2:24
      5. Jehovah Distinguished from Jehovah -- Hosea 1:7
      6. Jehovah Declared to Have a Son -- Psalm 2:2, 6-7; Proverbs 30:4

   B. Old Testament Doctrine of the Angel of Jehovah
      1. Introduction -- The sanctity of God's name -- Isaiah 42:8
      2. Amount of Evidence -- The Angel of Jehovah appears about 25
         times in the Old Testament, never in the New Testament.
      3. Titles Used of This Person
         a. Angel of Jehovah (the LORD) -- Genesis 16:7 (first reference)
         b. Angel of God -- Judges 13:9
         c. Angel of His Presence -- Isaiah 63:9
      4. Content of the Evidence
         a. Angel of Jehovah Identified as Jehovah
            (1) Consciousness of men -- Judges 13:20-22
            (2) Content of Scripture -- Exodus 3:2-6
            (3) Revelation of God -- Genesis 31:11-13
         b. Angel of Jehovah Distinguished from Jehovah as a Person --
            Zechariah 3:1-2
      5. Conclusion from the Evidence -- The Angel of Jehovah is a 
         divine Being who is distinguished from God as a Person, a fact 
         which indicates plurality in the Godhead.

   C. Old Testament Doctrine of the Spirit of God
      1. The Spirit Possesses the Attributes of God
         a. Wisdom -- Isaiah 11:2
         b. Omnipresence -- Psalm 139:7
      2. The Spirit Executes the Work of God
         a. Creation -- Job 26:13; Psalm 33:6
         b. Restrains sin -- Genesis 6:3; Isaiah 63:10
      3. Conclusion from the Evidence -- The Spirit of God is a divine
         Being who is distinguished from God as a Person, a fact which 
         indicates plurality in the Godhead.

   D. Repetition of the Threefold Formula
      1. Isaiah 6:3 -- "Holy, holy, holy"
      2. Numbers 6:24-26 -- The Aaronic Benediction upon Israel
      3. Genesis 48:15-16 -- The Benediction of Jacob upon Joseph's Sons


   A. The Theological Statement
      1. Three Persons are God
         a. The Father is God
         b. The Lord Jesus Christ is God
         c. The Holy Spirit is God
      2. God is One
         a. Deuteronomy 6:4 (Mark 12:29)
         b. John 17:3
      3. The Concluding Statement
         a. The Biblical revelation of God is that God is a unity as
            far as essential nature is concerned and yet subsists as a
            Godhead of three Persons, co-equal and co-eternal each of
            whom possesses the totality of the divine essence
            simultaneously while existing as a separate personal
         b. The Athanasian Creed -- page 1.
      4. The Remaining Mystery -- Having stated the doctrine as a 
         conclusion from the Biblical revelation, one must immediately
         confess the remaining unfathomable mystery of the doctrine and
         its supra-rational character. It must be accepted by faith in
         God and in His revelation of Himself in the Bible.

   B. Errors to Avoid
      1. Tritheism -- The polytheistic concept that God is in reality
         three Gods, being three separate individuals such as Peter,
         James,  and John.    This is not the Biblical doctrine,  even
         though Christians are accused of holding such a doctrine by
         Jews, Mohammedans, and Unitarians.
      2. Monarchianism -- The viewpoint that God is ultimately one, 
         explaining away the Biblical evidence of the trinity of
         Persons in one of two major ways.
         a. Dynamic Monarchians
            (1) Makes the Biblical revelation of the Father the only
                true God
            (2) Denies in effect the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ,
                making him in effect a mere man who is indwelt and
                empowered by the spiritual force of God which came upon
                him at his baptism and left him on the cross.
            (3) Denies the personality of the Holy Spirit, making
                Him simply the personification of the power
                or forceful influence of God.
         b. Patripassion Monarchians (same as modalism or Saballianism)
            -- Considers God as basically one who variously presents 
            Himself in Scripture in the role of the Father or the role 
            of the Son or the role of the Holy Spirit. Cannot explain 
            passages where Christ addresses the Father or speaks 
            concerning Him or concerning the Holy Spirit as separate 

IV. THE NATURAL ILLUSTRATION -- This doctrine has no real and perfect 
   illustration, because God is unique; but it does permit of almost 
   endless analogies in the created world: light, man, egg, time, etc.

               Five Important Statements on the Trinity

1. There can be no subordination, as to essential Being, of the one 
   person of the Godhead to another.

2. The subordination is only in respect to order and in relationship to

3. There is no subordination as to the possession of the divine essence, 
   but in the manner of personal subsistence and in manifestation.

4. Certain personal operations are not performed by the three persons 
   jointly but by individual persons exclusively.

5. The oneness of essence explains the fact that (while Father, Son,
   and Holy Spirit, as respect to their personality, are distinct 
   subsistences) there is an intercommunion of Persons and an immanence 
   of one divine person in another which permits the peculiar work of 
   one to be ascribed, with limitation, to either of the other, and the 
   manifestation of one to be the manifestation of the other. (John 14)

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