This article is not about religion. It is about the object of religion.
Religion is a word used to describe man’s expression of his belief in the divine. The Protestant Reformers used a term, “true religion.” They sought to express man’s “reaching out” to the one true God. They used this term “true religion” in describing the visible church. “The visible church ... consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children ...” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 25, Para. 2)
True religion is not determined by man’s belief. It is a response to the true God. Who is He? Or, more precisely, who has He told us He is? This is critical for us to know if we are indeed practicing the true religion.
The most fundamental teaching of the Christian Church concerning the nature of God is that He is three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Further, He is one in substance and each person is equal in power and glory. I have just given a brief definition of the doctrine of the Trinity.
This teaching is so critical that any religious expression of God not holding to the church’s teaching on the Trinity cannot be considered a true church.
But, there is a problem or the appearance of a problem. The word “Trinity” is not in the Bible. One would think that such a fundamental doctrine would at least be explicitly described in the word of God written. In fact, even though the word “Trinity” does not appear in scripture, it is explicitly taught.
Let’s look at the beginning. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of god was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said...” (Genesis 1:1-3a)
The one true God created everything out of nothing. God was the initiator. The word translated “father” in the Bible means initiator, provider and protector. From this understanding, we are told that God the Father initiated creation. Secondly, the spirit of God is revealed as “hovering” over what is declared to be chaos, not an orderly creation. Thirdly, the spoken word of God is declared to bring order out of chaos. John wrote that the word of God was with God and was God. He was speaking of the second person of the Trinity who took upon Himself human nature and was incarnate. (John 1:1-2)
Moving to the Psalms, King David wrote, “The LORD says to my Lord; sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1) David wrote of the “conversation” between Yahweh or, if you prefer, Jehovah, and Adoni, which means “master.” Jesus quoted this scripture to confuse the Pharisees as a result of their inability to identify the Messiah, namely Him. He further used this passage to declare that God’s word written cannot be broken! David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was writing of the relationship between Father and Son in the God-head.
The famous passages of Isaiah called the “Suffering Servant” passages also include God’s revelation of the Trinity. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me...” (Isaiah 61:1) The servant of God spoke through Isaiah and said that God the Father had anointed Him, Jesus, with the Holy Spirit. Jesus read this passage in the synagogue located in His hometown. He declared that what the prophet Isaiah wrote was fulfilled in Him. (Luke 4:16-21)
Now for the most expressive passage of scripture which reveals the doctrine of the Trinity, I turn to the New Testament. “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)
Jesus has commanded all of His followers to make disciples. I’m sure that you’ve been taught that the direct and emphatic command of Jesus in the great commission is to disciple! Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, the only Son of God as He is offered in the gospel are to make followers of Jesus. The specific nature of discipleship is Trinitarian. That is, we are to identify followers with God who has identified Himself as the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, true followers of Jesus are identified with the Trinitarian God. We worship and follow the God who has revealed Himself as three persons in one substance. Any expression, that is, religion, not worshiping Him in this way is false.
The Rev. Lou Tiscione is pastor at Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)