The Trinity in New Testament Literature

While there are hints of the Trinity in the Old Testament, we get a clear teaching of it in the New. These people constitute one and only God – one Deity. 

However, when speaking of three persons the La Familia De Dios do not mean that God manifests himself in different ways, but on the contrary, that God was, is and will be three subsistences, each with its own redeeming functions. That is: the Father generates, the Son redeems and collaborates with the Father in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is the executive of the Deity. 

The Father

A key New Testament concept is the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity teaches that there is one God in three Persons, each of whom is equally Divine. This is a mystery beyond human understanding, but it is central to Christianity.

The Father is the first Person of the Trinity, and He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He is absolute holiness, and He loves the world and His creatures. He reveals Himself through His Word, circumstances, and people, and He answers prayer. He is sovereign over all things, and His ultimate plan always prevails over the free choices of human beings.

In Jesus Christ, the Father reveals His true nature as a loving, personal God. His teaching and His works, especially His death and resurrection, establish the fact that He is both God and man. He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). His incarnation and earthly ministry arouse faith in the eternal Sonship of the Father and the divinity of the Holy Spirit (CCC 241).

Early New Testament literature affirms that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct persons within the one God. The baptismal formula conferred "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" expresses this fact, as do the various doxologies that mention the Three Persons together.

The clear scriptural revelation concerning the Father shows that he is separate from the Son and the Holy Spirit, even as He is one with them. In the Trinity, each Person possesses the fullness of the divine substance in the proper manner appropriate to that Person, but is incomplete without the presence and action of the other two Persons. The Father acts in ways that are proper to His Personhood, the Son in ways that are proper to His Personhood, and the Holy Spirit in ways that are proper to his spiration.

Early Christian writers defended the idea that God is three Persons by appealing to Scripture and to the traditions of Israel. They never argued that the Jews should accept their interpretation of who God is. The New Testament books were not compiled as part of a confessional system, but were composed and read within particular historical circumstances. In the future, this textbook will utilize a historical–not a confessional–approach to New Testament literature.

The Son

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three distinct Persons who possess the fullness of divinity. They are not the same as one another, but each is equal and coeternal with the other two. It is because of this that the Triune God is a mystery revealed to us through Jesus Christ and His teachings. This doctrine was made explicit in the Church’s early profession of faith when Jesus instructed the apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (CCC 253).

This doctrine is taught through the Scriptures because of certain events, such as the incarnation of the Son of God and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This revelation is different from that which may be given by the interior inspiration of prophets, for it comes in the form of historical events manifest to human eyes. The Word of God speaks with a lowly voice, without pretense or loftiness, to all men. It teaches them the clear truths and trains them in the mysteries, addressing them to both the unlearned and the learned.

In the Old Testament, the term son of God is used idiomatically to indicate an affiliation with God in a certain sense, usually that of being a political ruler granted divine authority or as a righteous person who carries out God’s law and is characterized by piety. In the Gospels, however, Jesus is not simply referred to as the Son of Man; He is called the Son of God, in reference to His divinity. This is a major change from the Old Testament, and it is at the heart of the New Testament teaching on the Trinity.

This is evident not only in the words of Jesus, but also in the way in which the Synoptists present Him and refer to His actions. It is not necessary to list individual passages, but it should be noted that all those which affirm the Divinity of the Son also confirm His separate personality and separateness from the Father. The words of John, for example, are especially clear in this respect. In John 1:1-18, we read that the Word was with God in the beginning and that He was God Himself.

The Holy Spirit

The New Testament teaches that the Holy Spirit is God. He is a true member of the Trinity, just as are Jesus and the Father. In the Old Testament, the word “Spirit” usually meant God’s power, rather than a distinct personality. In the New Testament, however, the distinction is clear and the New Testament writers clearly affirm that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son (cf. John 14:26).

The Gospels describe the incarnation of Christ, his ministry and his salvific passion. They also describe his resurrection, ascension into heaven and return in glory. These events are all manifestations of the work of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures also describe how the Holy Spirit indwells every believer and empowers them for witness, service and discipleship to the world.

After his resurrection, the Lord told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would come upon them and that they will receive power to be witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. Jesus’ promise is another clear affirmation that the Holy Spirit is God and part of the Trinity.

The New Testament also reveals how the Holy Spirit gives gifts to believers for the common good of the Church. It is the Holy Spirit who guides and directs our lives, guiding us toward truth and helping to overcome sin. He enables us to live in the light of the Lord and sanctifies our actions and thoughts by His grace, even when we do not always succeed.

There are many other ways the New Testament reveals that the Holy Spirit is God. For example, the Apostles speak of their own experiences with the Holy Spirit, describing how He came upon them in various ways: He came upon Mary at the nativity (Lk 1:24), and filled John the Baptist in his mother’s womb (1:41) and Zechariah and Elizabeth when they were visited by Gabriel (Lk 1:67). The Holy Spirit comes on people to give them faith, to heal the sick, and to perform miracles. He teaches and counsels Christians and leads them to a deeper understanding of the Scriptures.

The Church

The church is the showcase for God's purposes in this world, bringing forth cosmic reconciliation and highlighting Christ as the center of history. The church is also where God shows His grace, wisdom, love, unity, and holiness. This is why Paul writes so much about it: "as you have received Jesus Christ the Lord, so walk in him, and keep his commandments; as he has also given you authority to teach and baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

The New Testament reveals the nature of the Trinity by the revelation of events, such as the incarnation and resurrection of the Word and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. These events reveal to us a properly divine unity of the Persons and their actions. They demonstrate that the Father is the One who sends the Son and the Spirit, the Son who sanctifies and the Father who gives life.

This revelation of the Triune nature of God is a mystery, hidden in the Old Testament scriptures but revealed to the Apostles by Christ and His words at the time of their baptism. It is also a mystery to believers, who, as Paul says, have come to know it in part and will come to know it fully on the day of judgment. The doctrine of the Trinity is most fully expressed in the baptismal formula: "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

Another point to note is that the church does not exist as a hierarchy of bishops, priests, elders, and deacons, with only some having spiritual gifts while others do not. Such a hierarchical structure is foreign to the biblical teaching on the church, which sees the whole body of believers as being one body with different parts that perform different functions. It is as a result of the many different gifts that the Lord has given His church that it can minister to the whole world and bring healing. This ministry is accomplished through the Holy Spirit who empowers and equips all believers for service as part of the church.

While there are hints of the Trinity in the Old Testament, we get a clear teaching of it in the New. These people constitute one and only God – one Deity.  However, when speaking of three persons the La Familia De Dios do not mean that God manifests himself in different ways, but on the contrary,…