Our faith in its essence is a call to enjoy the experience of the One God, the Lover of mankind. The Old and New Testaments confirm the belief in the One God (Exodus 20:3-5; Deuteronomy 4:6-9; 11:18-21; Isaiah 34:10; 44:6, 8; 45:6, 21, 22; Mark 12:28-30; Romans 3: 29, 30; Ephesians 4:6; 1Corinthians 8:4; Galatians 3:20; James 2:19). While the Old Testament deals with this matter in its negative aspect, its aim being to prevent the believers from worshipping idols and false gods and from practicing the abominations of the surrounding pagan nations (2Kings 21:2; 2Chronicles 28:3), the New Testament witnesses to the One God in a positive aspect, for it does not declare the oneness of God, but it deepens our faith in God by revealing the “Trinitarian” faith. In fact, this faith does not oppose “Monotheism,” but emphasizes it by revealing some mysteries of the One God and His relationship to mankind. Without the Trinitarian faith, monotheism would remain obscured.
We do not believe in three divine essences, but in only one. The divine essence, in fact, exists eternally. This existence or “Being” is eternally rational, that is to say He has a “Mind”, “Wisdom,” or “Logos / Word,” begotten from His “Being” but not outside Him, nor as another divine essence. For this reason, when we call the divine Being the Father and the divine Logos the Son, we confirm that the Son is the Logos of God, so that no one misunderstands this as if there are two separate essences, the Father and the Son. So it is said that Jesus Christ is “The brightness of His (= God’s) glory and the expressed image of His person” (Hebrew 1:3). He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), like the word is the image of the invisible mind. The son-ship of Christ to the Father declares Him as the personal manifestation of God. St. John says, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18).
The second hypostasis is called the “Son” to confirm that He is consubstantial with the Father; and He was called the “Word” or “Wisdom” of God to indicate that they are not separated as if they are two essences. Therefore it is important to avoid completely any physical meaning when we hear the titles the “Father” and the “Son.” This does not means that God was married and brought forth another god, for there is no sex in God’s essence. The Father brings forth the Son as the sun brings forth its rays, or the mind brings forth a word. The materialistic view about God created modern feminist theology to use feminist terms while speaking of God, but God is beyond gender.
This divine Being, or the Father, is eternally alive. He has His own “Life,” that is the Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit. The divine Being is distinguished from “Life” but not separated nor has two divine essences. It is important to believe in God who is “Being, rational and alive,” one eternal essence for the three are not separated nor has One existed before the others. They are like the fire which has flame, light and heat at the same time, or the human being who has body, soul, and spirit at the same time.
Trinitarian Dogma and the Bible
The Trinitarian dogma is the first of all Biblical dogmas. The Holy Trinity is referred to at Jesus’ baptism, “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16, 17). St John the Baptist, who baptized Him, bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:27-33). Our baptism, too, is performed in the name of the three Hypostases, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, according to St. Mathew (Matthew 28:19). St. Paul’s benediction enumerates them in (2 Corinthians 13:14). The three are spoken of in (John 14:16; Ephesians 2:18; 1 Peter 1:21, 22… etc.). The works and titles of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in the New Testament declare their divinity.
The Christians, after believing in this dogma, began to see it in the Old Testament. There is not much direct speech to God’s tri-hypostasis, but you can realize this fact hidden in the picture. One of the pictures of the Holy Trinity in the Old Testament is the Trisagion in Isaiah’s vision (Isaiah 6:3). It is noteworthy that the Hebrew name of God comes in the plural form “Elohim” with a verb in a single form, referring to the plurality in One God, and in single name “Eil.” It is also obvious that the Lord God talks in the plural form, like, “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26), and “Let us go down, and there confound their language” (Genesis 11:7), in spite of the fact He emphasized being One God, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
Indeed, in the Old Testament, the dogma of the Trinity was not clear, for the Jews were surrounded by many nations worshipping idols, and the Jews themselves sometimes worshipped the gods of the surrounding nations. Certainly, if God had revealed this dogma clearly, they would have misunderstood it and believed in polytheism. Moreover, there was no need to accept this dogma before the incarnation of the Word of God and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church.
The First Trinitarian Formula
Before His resurrection, Our Lord Jesus Christ did not declare any Trinitarian formula. He revealed the divinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit openly and clearly, indicating their work for our salvation. Before His ascension, He commanded His disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He gave the baptismal formula simply without using the word “Hypostasis / Persons,” because His aim was merely to give the grace of every Hypostasis by name to the believers through the baptism. So, the catechumens accept God’s fatherhood, membership of Christ’s body, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within them.
One of the most important statements regarding the Trinitarian dogma in the Apostolic era is that of St. Paul, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2Corinthians 13:13). The Apostle witnessed to the Holy Trinity in order to reveal the divine grace, love, and communion to the believers to accept the fact that God is working in and with His believers to become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3). In other words, the belief of the Apostolic Church is purely Trinitarian, and its effect on her preaching, worship and behavior, but does not declare this belief in a theological formula, in the modern sense.
The equality between the three hypostases is noteworthy. Therefore, it is not necessary to start mentioning the Father, then the Son, and finally the Holy Spirit. We could see many Biblical verses that have different sequences:
· “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” (Matthew 28:19)
· “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14)
· “… according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1Peter 1:2)
God is neither an idea nor concept that we believe in, nor a Supreme Being who is far away in heaven and isolated from our world. He is not a solid Being, but the Lover of mankind, who grants us His divine knowledge so that we may enjoy His love and feel His fatherhood. He loves to be very close to His children, to unite them with Himself, and to live within them.
God is love (1John 4:8). He created heavenly and earthly beings because of His love. He is merciful and gracious, and beneficent for He loves man. His love is eternal, for the Father loves the Son, and there was no time when the Father did not love the Son. This is obvious, when our Lord Jesus spoke to His eternal Father, saying, “You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
The relation between the three Hypostases of the Holy Trinity, which is eternal and absolute, has been declared to us through God’s redeeming act. Our Lord Jesus, before being betrayed, said to His Father on our behalf, “You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us… And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one… And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me, may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:21-26).