Matthew 28:16–20 (CSB) The eleven disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but some doubted. Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 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 everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.
In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences
1 John 5:7–10 (CSB) For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and these three are in agreement. If we accept human testimony, God’s testimony is greater, because it is God’s testimony that he has given about his Son. The one who believes in the Son of God has this testimony within himself. The one who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony God has given about his Son.
I am in full appreciation of theologians in the past, that have crafted and wrote the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Savoy Declaration. The Baptists, with the 1st and 2nd London Confessions, only added a few clarifying words here and there but in every sense, blatantly plagiarize the WCF/Savoy. “If it aint broke, don’t fix it” is an apropos saying from my childhood.
But another way to state this: the early church theologians have already done the heavy lifting in fine tuning and carefully crafting the right words in order to protect believers from heresy.
Here, a word that is not used often, subsistences. (This word is so less know that my writing application, Microsoft Visual Studio Code, is marking it as misspelled.) But even using words like persons or persona might pull a believer into tritheism or even monotheism.
The definition for subsistence is real being. God, not a figment of anyone’s imagination, not a mode, not a mask, not a god with three different names who switches out these names, masks, personalities when the time is right. God is three real beings.
the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit
Matthew 28:19 (CSB) 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,
And it was when Jesus Christ began his ministry on the earth that he massively unveils one of the greatest mysteries of the Old Testament, second only to how will God finally rescue his people. The answer to greatest mystery of the gospel of God in the OT is the Lord Jesus Christ. And with the revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ and the proclamation from his mouth, he reveals that God is three subsistences or three hypostases or three real beings: God the Father, God the Holy Spirit and himself, the Word, that is, God the Son.
Now think of the preaching ministry of Christ. God with us, taking on flesh, fully God and fully man makes the declaration to believers and non-believers alike:
John 10:29-30 (CSB) My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
How do you think that the most religious of the day responded? Took it all in? Pondered the points? Consider the memorized Scriptures?
No! They responded in violence!
John 10:33 (CSB) “We aren’t stoning you for a good work,” the Jews answered, “but for blasphemy, because you — being a man — make yourself God.”
Christ himself God and equal with the Father because why? Christ is God. In the same way, I am Joseph Louthan. I could state all the things that are used to identify myself according the world and to history and to philosophy: male, tall, son of Joseph and Sue, Technical Project Manager, writer, wife of Sarah, father of three kids, heterosexual.
But the only identity that actually matters is: am I in Christ or not in Christ. The fact is I am an adopted child of the living God. That is an absolute fact.
Christ stating his actual existence, his subsistence, his real being–that is an absolute fact.
So many people don’t want to know or can’t stand knowing. Don’t be ignorant of the facts: we are saved by sovereign grace of the Father by the power of the Almighty Spirit through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is God.
of one substance, power, and eternity
2 Corinthians 13:13 (CSB) The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
However and whatever means you use to preach and teach the doctrine of the Trinity, you must not forget the attributes of God 1
We know that God is eternal:
Psalm 90:2 (CSB) Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, you are God.
Revelation 22:12-13 (CSB) “Look, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to repay each person according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
And we know he is almighty:
Genesis 17:1 (CSB) When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him, saying, “I am God Almighty. Live in my presence and be blameless.
Revelation 4:8 (CSB) Each of the four living creatures had six wings; they were covered with eyes around and inside. Day and night they never stop, saying,
Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God, the Almighty,
who was, who is, and who is to come.
What about one substance?
Deuteronomy 6:4 (CSB) “Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
John 10:29-30 (CSB) My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided
Exodus 3:14 (CSB) God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.”
John 8:57-58 (CSB) The Jews replied, “You aren’t fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen Abraham? ”Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.
I think the best way of describing this is loosely quoting Augustine:
With three people in a room, you have three minds, souls, hearts, spirits and wills. With the Triune God in the room, you still have three persons but you would only have one mind, one soul, one heart, one Spirit, and one will.
That description alone transcends God from us. God is so unlike us–that even when we are like God in that we love, give, serve, and create and we can do all of these things that reflects his image, what makes God apart from everything else in all of creation is the fact that God is three persons yet with one undivided essence.
The Doctrine of the Trinity is such a mystery. The moment we try to demystify it is the moment we are declaring outright historical heresy. 2
the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding
John 14:11 (CSB) Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves.
1 Corinthians 8:6 (CSB) yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through him, and we exist through him.
Every Lord’s Day, in my church, Reforming Truth Church (Lexington, KY) will conclude our Communion with this utterly Triune declaration:
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be world without end. Amen.
After singing praises, the hearing of God’s law, the Confession of our Sins, the Assurance of Pardon, the Catechism, the Prayers, with the preaching of the Gospel and to take the wine and the bread–our little church boldly and loudly declares this fact: that God is Triune and He is Glorious and He is Eternal! Amen!
the Son is eternally begotten of the Father
John 1:14–18 (CSB) The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning him and exclaimed, “This was the one of whom I said, ‘The one coming after me ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.’ ”) Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness, for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him.
John 3:16 (CSB) For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are three distinct subsistences yet are of one substance.
The Nicene Creed states it as this:
true God from true God
And look at Scripture to explain this:
John 1:1 (CSB) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Colossians 1:15 (CSB) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
John 1:14 (CSB) The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Christ is eternally begotten from the Father. That means there was never a time when he was not begotten. He has always been with the Father, living in distinct perfect community.
the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son
John 15:26 (CSB) “When the Counselor comes, the one I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me.
It is so tempting to give an entire treatise on the Holy Spirit right here and right now. Mostly because of two reasons:
- I grew up Charismatic. There is some baggage for sure but in the grace of God, I grew up the opposite of my Baptist brothers and sisters–namely, the Holy Spirit was not foreign to me but rather, he is my Comforter, my Witness, my Wisdom, my Truth and my Joy. More so than that, he is my God!
- I just finished Holy Spirit–The Helper by John Owen This was a real complete joy to read this and only solidify my pneumatology and be strengthen in declaring what he does.
But what the Holy Spirit does will be laid out here in the entire exposition.
But I want to call your attention to this one passage in John:
John 16:7-14 (CSB) Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
“I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
We tried to wrap our heads around the perfect community of the Triune God. Here is a prime example that I have always loved.
Christ glorifies the Spirit - I could speculate all the live long day on why Christ said this. But the fact is: Christ is not going to do what the Spirit will be sent to do. Christ has taken on flesh to be fully God and fully man, to live and die so that he will save his people from their sins. The Holy Spirit does not do that. However, what the Spirit does that Christ does not: convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment.
Christ, by being man during his ministry, was indeed limited by time and space (and I could give some arguments for and against this). Christ glorifies the Spirit by what the Spirit will do when Christ ascends to the Father.
The Spirit glorifies the Christ - “He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” How does the Spirit glorifies the Son? By pointing everything, including the word of God, back to the Word of God.
We have not seen glory like this in our lives. We do get a tiny glimpse of the glory of God in Christ Jesus because the Father has revealed the Son to us.3
all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God
You might suggest, “Oh since Christ took on flesh, he had made himself limited like us.” He was limited like us in certain ways–especially when it comes to the limits of time and space. But this is where the Covenants of Works and Redemption meet. Christ perfectly born of woman and perfectly obeyed and fulfilled the law. Because Christ has done this and then died, he was perfectly glorified by the Father.
Christ was always fully God. He is the Alpha and Omega and the Beginning and End. He is eternally begotten of the Father and the Sender of the Spirit. When Christ was glorified by God, he was no longer limited by time and space and within brokenness of sin but rather he is above sin and death because he has conquered it.
I don’t know what our glorification will completely look like except for one thing: it has already been done. Since the Father has glorified the Son, we are already glorified because all of what the Son has done.
Romans 8:30 (CSB) And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.
So what can we say about these things? Indeed.
who is not to be divided in nature and being but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations
There is a new-old heresy being circulated around that fired up about ten years ago then sort of fizzled like a fart in church, called the Eternal Submission of the Son (ESS). Those who are spouting out such nonsense are always those who fall so far into hard Complementarianism camp(those who believe genders of mankind are different but equal) that they are indistinguishable from Patriarchy (men are always right and women need to shut up stay quiet.) There one verse that they have built their house of cards upon is:
1 Corinthians 11:3 (CSB) But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ.
Now, I hope you can tell from reading the last paragraph, that I have zero grace towards people who keep teaching ESS like it is a real and Biblical thing. Those are false teachers and I will not stand for it. Come into my church shooting that nonsense and you will be handled promptly and according. (Not a threat but a fact.)
Call it Western thinking. Call it whatever you want: just because the Father is usually mentioned first does not give him more ranking than the Son nor Spirit. I know, I know mankind has been so futilely obsessed with power and influence and we have been so since the Fall of Mankind. 4
So, because of being born of Adam, indwelling of sin, and the fact we cannot help but be nurtured by the philosophies of our time, we read into passages like 1 Corinthians 11:3 and we put our own spin and interpretation on it. Go back to all of chapter in the context of 1 Corinthians and look me dead in the eye and tell me that is how you would interpret verse 3? Nah, I didn' think so.
Protip: Don’t take verses out of context. Now what does that mean? Don’t take a standalone verse or passage out of the Bible and try to make it mean what you want it to mean and ignore the text before and after and all of Scripture. Cherry picking verses is how sects, cults, and false religions get started. See Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Restoration Movement, and a whole lot of fruit from the Second Great Awakening.
God the Father is God. The Son is eternally begotten with the Father. And the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son.
One interesting tidbit and I will step down from my soapbox.
Jesus declares “I cannot do anything unless I see my Father doing likewise”:
John 5:19-20 (CSB) Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, the Son is not able to do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son likewise does these things. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing, and he will show him greater works than these so that you will be amazed.
Yet, because Christ perfectly saved his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21), by perfectly fulfilling the law (Matthew 5:17-20), died the death we should have died for our sins (Romans 6:1-14), look how the Father glorifies the Son:
Daniel 7:13–14 (CSB)
13 I continued watching in the night visions, and suddenly one like a son of man was coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him.
14 He was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.
Christ perfectly glorifies the Father. The Father perfectly and rightfully glorifies the Son. And they do so in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Glory be his name. Amen!
which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God and comfortable dependence on him
Especially in today’s culture, we struggle with a lust for power–mostly because we don’t want to be hurt or forgotten or abused. And I get that. But because of how we would run the world around us cannot be put on the perfection of the Triune God. God is the source of all good, all wisdom, and is holy and righteous. And God is love. And God is perfect in love and in all things good. That is the glory of God.
And upon that glory, we can rest assure that our salvation permanently and eternally secure–not because we can hope to do anything worthwhile. No. It is all rested upon the Triune God, who steadfast love towards will never come to an end because it never started. And his mercies towards will never come to an end–they are new and fresh every single morning.
To the great and mighty God, his promises are yes and amen. Our promises are easily broken. We are faithless, he remains faithful. Great is his faithfulness!
Romans 8:14–17 (CSB) For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
To the Judicious and Impartial Reader: Baptist Symbolics Volume 2.
by James Renihan.
Founders Press. 2022.
A New Exposition of the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689
by Rob Ventura.
Mentor. January 17, 2023.
Truths We Confess: A Systematic Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Sproul, R. C.
Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2019.
The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689: Or the Second London Confession with Scripture Proofs
by Peter Masters.
Wakeman Trust. January 1, 1981.
Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.
by Samuel E. Waldron.
Evangelical Press. 2013.
The Westminster Confession: The Confession of Faith, The Larger and Shorter Catechism.
The Directory for the Public Worship of God, with Associated Historical Documents. 2018.
The Creedal Imperative.
Carl R. Trueman
see 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 2.1 The Attributes of God ↩︎ For the record, there are no new heresy. All heresies are historical. In other words, the church before us have already done the heavy lifting of hearing the false teaching, examining the Scriptures by the power of the Spirit, and put that heresy to death. There are no new errors and heresies. If you hear a false teacher or a Christian who says something in error, 100% of the time, it was already declared heresy–and more than millennium ago. Like the words says in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” Sometimes, the modern mind will war against, not the idea we cannot come up with new heresies, but the fact that we cannot come up with new theologies and doctrines. But mankind will always try to come up with new ways to lower God to man or elevate man to God. And filed under “fact is sometimes stranger than fiction”, when man comes up with a new theology and therefore a new religion, they never give their followers more license to sin but more laws and rules to follow. Imagine that. ↩︎ John 1:18; Titus 3:3-7 ↩︎ Read Genesis 6:1-7. Stay put on verse 4. For my own exposition on this passage, see Genesis 6:1-7 The Gospel Certainty: The Wickedness of Man ↩︎
see 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 2.1 The Attributes of God ↩︎
For the record, there are no new heresy. All heresies are historical. In other words, the church before us have already done the heavy lifting of hearing the false teaching, examining the Scriptures by the power of the Spirit, and put that heresy to death. There are no new errors and heresies. If you hear a false teacher or a Christian who says something in error, 100% of the time, it was already declared heresy–and more than millennium ago. Like the words says in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” Sometimes, the modern mind will war against, not the idea we cannot come up with new heresies, but the fact that we cannot come up with new theologies and doctrines. But mankind will always try to come up with new ways to lower God to man or elevate man to God. And filed under “fact is sometimes stranger than fiction”, when man comes up with a new theology and therefore a new religion, they never give their followers more license to sin but more laws and rules to follow. Imagine that. ↩︎
John 1:18; Titus 3:3-7 ↩︎
Read Genesis 6:1-7. Stay put on verse 4. For my own exposition on this passage, see Genesis 6:1-7 The Gospel Certainty: The Wickedness of Man ↩︎