Q. 6. How many persons are there in the Godhead?

Q. 6. How many persons are there in the Godhead?

A. There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

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““Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” (Matt 1:23)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20)

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom 8:26-27)

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Cor 13:14)

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This is the second of the two-part lesson on the Trinity. When we think about God as Trinity, we have to hold together both his One-ness and his Three-ness. But God is not one and three in the same sense. God is one in substance, and three persons.

Words like “trinity,” and “substance” are not in the Bible. And the word “persons” is being used here in a slightly different sense than what we typically mean by it. So thinking about the Trinity gets tricky and misleading if we are not careful about the words we use.

But should we even use words like “trinity,” “substance,” and “persons” since the Bible does not use them? Are we arrogantly imposing the structures of our own thoughts upon God? This objection is made from time to time. So it is important to know these words came to be used in the history of the Church precisely because the teachings of the Bible were in dispute by some people. After all, even heretics read the Bible. So at some point we need to do more than endlessly recite our favorite verses against our theological opponents. We have to try to bring some clarity to what we understand by the words and the concepts we use. After all, no one objects to owning or using a dictionary, do they? Every word in a dictionary is defined by the means of other words. But no one cries foul, because that is what we do. We use other words and concepts to bring clarity to something we want to understand better. So simply objecting that “trinity,” “substance,” and “persons” are not in the Bible is not a smart objection. Instead we use these words carefully to aid our understanding of God as he is revealed to us in the Bible.

Words like “trinity,” “substance,” and “persons” have come to be used carefully after much thought and debate. So it is impossible to cover them adequately here. Some time ago we studied the Trinity in our Sunday School for some 3 months. We were both impressed and overwhelmed with the rich rationale and history of these words.

Simply put, “substance” is what makes a thing it is. We believe the Three are same in substance, meaning we believe that the Father is fully God, the Son is fully God, and the Spirit is fully God. This is to guard the Bible’s teaching on the One-ness of God. There are no three gods, but One God in three persons. And “God” is not an abstraction, like when we say three students make up a class. In this case a class does not exist in reality except as an idea that represents the three students. It is not so with God. One God exists, not as an abstracted idea from the three persons, but in reality. So that the three persons are One God.

And there are three persons in the Godhead. When Christians are welcomed into the Kingdom of God through baptism, we are welcomed in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are welcomed by no creatures, but by God. We do not come into God’s family in the name of a creature, but in the name of the LORD.

When we are struggling to pray, who helps us but the Spirit of God? The whole point of Rom 8:27-27 is that God himself helps us to pray. And who better than God can make our prayers acceptable to him?

When God’s blessing is pronounced on Christians, it is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:14). Again, the point is that God himself is declaring our blessing. No creature can be the source of our blessing than God himself. When God gives, he gives himself. I am sure you get the point.

So there are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are one God, same in substance and glory. But that does not mean one person is sometimes shown as the Father, at other times as the Son, and at other times as the Spirit. This is a heresy called modalism (also known as Sabellianism). The three persons are one in substance, yet they differ in important ways that have to do with their relationship and work toward us. The Father begets the Son. The Son is begotten. The Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son. Since the three are one in substance, there is a mutual “intertwining” of the three persons and their works. So what the Father does, the Son and the Spirit do also. What the Son says, the Father and the Spirit equally say. Where the Spirit is, the Father and the Son are present also. Yet it is also undeniably true that the Father has sent the Son, that the Son has died on the cross, and the Spirit dwells in our hearts. So the three persons differ in their relationship and work toward us. The word “persons” in the context of Trinity is pointing to these distinctions as well as the real inter–personal relationship between the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

There is obviously quite a bit here. But the bottom line is that we have to hold God’s One-ness and Three-ness together. But God is not one and three in the same sense. God is one in substance, meaning the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are fully God. God is also three persons, meaning God is not putting on an act of three persons, but that the tree persons really exist, with perfect harmony of purpose and work.

The Trinity is indeed a deep mystery. But it is a comforting mystery. None other than our Creator for whom all things were created died for our sins (Col 1:15-20). The Spirit of God in us makes us belong to God (Rom 8:9). Thus the indwelling Spirit is the only proof we need for the assurance of our standing before God. And the love of the Father! He loved us so much he gave us his only begotten Son (John 3:16)! One God in three persons is a mystery that moves us to worship. It is a mystery that builds our confidence.