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Concordia University Ann Arbor

This I Believe:
The Trinity and Salvation

Alarik Morris

Biblical Theology
Professor Hopkins
4 November 2015

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The three ecumenical creeds of the Christian church form the main foundation for all
beliefs and doctrines that we, as Christians, believe in today. All three creeds assert belief in God
the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit and that they are one, all-powerful, omniscient,
and immanent God. In addition, each creed professes belief in the fact that Jesus, God the Son,
was born as human, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and suffered and died on the cross for our sins
so that we might not die, but we may believe in him and have eternal life. Whoever wants to be
saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and inviolate will
doubtless perish eternally. (second line of the Athanasian Creed)1. Properly understanding the
Trinity is essential to salvation because of all the pitfalls that one can fall into, and as a result,
many wrong doctrines have been created throughout the church history. Primarily they are
created through misinterpretation of Gods natures of unity, divinity, and equality in his three
persons.
These natures are best understood through the words of the Athanasian Creed whose
main message is that we worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing
the persons nor dividing the substance.2 as described in the Book of Concord. The creed goes on
to also describe that in essence, only the Father sends, only the Son is begotten and suffered for
our salvation of the remission of sins, and only the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the
Son. Thus defining each of the main natures of each distinct person, the central Christian belief
of Jesus Christ and his death, and the fact that the three persons are of the same substance and are
all one God. The creed also goes into detail on the true natures of Christ and how he is not
1

2000, 24
2

Kolb, Robert, and Timothy J. Wengert, eds. The Book of Concord. Minneapolis: Fortress Press,
Kolb and Wengert, The Book of Concord, 24

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primarily God or primarily man, but is completely and unequivocally both. The Creed also
makes a strong stand in the equality of each of the three persons, What the Father is, such is the
Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father is uncreated; the Son is uncreated; the Holy Spirit is
uncreated. The Father is unlimited; the Son is unlimited; the Holy Spirit is unlimited.3 and so
on.
In the Bible there is support for this nature of the Trinity and each of the three persons
that make it up. In Genesis 1:26 the Bible reads Then God said, Let us make man in our image,
after our likeness (ESV). The first person plural pronoun of us makes the argument for the
Trinity because God would have been the only person in existence considering the fact that he
created all living beings besides God himself. Then in the next verse Genesis 1:27, the author
writes So God created man in his own image using the singular third person, thus switching
the person of God from multiple persons to one singular person lending some credit to the
argument of the Trinity. However the greatest biblical evidence for the existence of the Trinity is
when Jesus goes out to the Jordan River before his ministry begins and is baptized by John the
Baptist. Matthew 3:16-17 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the
water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like
a dove anda voice from heaven said, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.
(ESV). This is the only time in the Bible where every person of God is present at the same time
which shows explicit evidence of the three distinct persons of God and his triune nature revealed
to us as Jesus begins his ministry with his baptism.

Kolb and Wengert, The Book of Concord, 24

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Some early church members did not want to believe that Jesus was Lord because of
gnostic beliefs that God would not stoop so low as to become one of his creatures, thus
undermining the fact that Jesus is God incarnate and the belief that the Trinity is unified as being
one divine God. Professor Robert Kolb explains this, stating that particularly Jews, who had
always confessed that God was totally distinct from his creatures, and was one single Lord
(Deut. 6:4), found it difficult to accept Jesus claim to be the Son of Man and thus the Lord
God.4 Many did not want to believe this despite the fact that Jesus himself confesses to being
the Son of God as he was being interrogated by the high priest. Kolb writes He had claimed to
be God (Matt. 26:64-65). He had claimed the same life-giving power as the Father and the same
honor as the Father (John 5:21-23).5
Another place to look for evidence that God is one, is at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ,
most specifically as he dies. Norman Metzler echoes this argument of theologian Jurgen
Moltmann in his article featured in Concordia Theological Quarterly entitled The Trinity in
Contemporary Theology: Questioning the Social Trinity. He explains, What happened on the
cross was an event between God and God. It was a deep division in God himself, in so far as God
abandoned God and contradicted himself, and at the same time a unity in God, in so far as God
was at one with God and corresponded to him.6 Essentially, we can look at the death of Jesus
and realize that Jesus was separated from God in death and by bearing our sin. The sky grew
dark, the curtain in the temple was torn, and as is stated in Matthew 27:52-53, bodies of those
4

Kolb, Robert. The Christian Faith: A Lutheran Exposition. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing
House, 1993, 43
5
6

Kolb, Christian Faith, 43

Metzler, Norman. "The Trinity in Contemporary Theology: Questioning the Social Trinity."
Concordia Theological Quarterly 67, no. July (July 1, 2003): 270-87. Accessed November 5, 2015, 276

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who had died were raised to life. This disjunction of the Trinity of God was also a disjunction of
creation as God was separated from himself, and if God could be separated then he must have to
be unified to start with.
Not understanding this unity of the Trinity as the united God is extremely dangerous to
the salvation of oneself. For example, if you follow the idea the Trinity is not united but all are
separate, then you open the door for the question of well, which one person is truly God? This
is a devastating misconception for the Christian faith because you must assert that God the
Father in heaven is the true God. Thus you state that Jesus is not God. This means that only a
man bore our sins, and if Jesus is only a man (who is inherently sinful) then how can he be the
perfect, pure sacrifice that is needed for the remission of all our sins? Another false path to go
down is the idea that if the Trinity is not united, then there must be three gods and not one God.
This would of course be tritheism, or the belief in three gods instead of one that the Christian
doctrine teaches. According to Called to Believe, Teach, and Confess: An Introduction to
Doctrinal Theology, tritheism makes the three persons into three independent gods that may or
may not work together. This denies the many biblical references to the unity of God.7 In other
words if there are three gods, then the Christian doctrine would be completely wrong as God
explicitly states many times that he is the one God (ex. Deut. 6:4).
The second point made in the argument for the Trinity flows out of the evidence that
Metzler gives as well, the point being that God is divine beyond all of our imagination and so are
each of his three persons. If the most holy and divine being in our universe (the one who created
said universe), died on the cross, then would we not be surprised that all these miraculous events
7

Mueller, Steven P., ed. Called To Believe, Teach, and Confess: An Introduction to Doctrinal
Theology. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2005, 92

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occurred? The result of Jesus death points to the fact that he truly is our almighty and everlasting
God. Another detail in the Bible that asserts the divinity of each of the three persons of God is in
Acts 16:7, as Luke writes about Pauls second missionary journey. And they went through the
region of Phygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in
Asia (ESV). This shows that the Holy Spirit himself authorized keeping the missionaries out of
Asia without any previous instruction or commanding by the Father or the Son. Thus showing
that not only does Jesus have the same authority to speak in the name of God, as the Father does,
but the Spirit as well.
Suppose for the moment that God the Son is not divine and is simply a messenger of the
Father. If this was true then there would be no way possible that his death, whether he be angel
or man, could authorize the remission of sins. If we do not assume that each person of the Trinity
is divine then how can we be saved? It would simply be impossible. Another way to look at this
is viewing the Holy Spirit as not divine. How could we know that the Holy Spirit directed us or
others on the right path if we do not acknowledge that his message is from God alone and not
another source? The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to endure temptation (Luke 4:1),
and if this had not been accomplished then Jesus complete and utter defeat of death would not
have been possible and so our salvation would have remained incomplete.
God is not only completely united and completely divine, but he is also completely equal
in his three persons. This is to say that one person does not come before the others and one
person is not more holy or divine compared to the others. This is evident once again in Genesis
in the first verse of the first chapter it reads In the beginning God created the heavens and the
earth (ESV). Thus the first thing done at the beginning of the world was the creation of the

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earth, as God is already a being as three distinct persons. Thus one was not created before the
other making them all equal as one God. God the Father does not command God the Son, neither
God the Holy Spirit, they need not command or order themselves because they are equal as one
God. This is evident in Johns vision depicted in Revelation 7:11 as he witness the praise of God
in his kingdom, and crying out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the
thrones, and to the Lamb!(ESV). They do not give special praise to God the Father on the
throne but praise the Lamb also, thus not being partial to one person of God, but to both of the
present persons.
Once again failing to believe in this doctrine that the Trinity is equal, is condemning to
ones salvation. For instance the false doctrine of subordinationism claims that in essence, there
was a time when God the Father existed but Jesus did not. This means that the Son is not equal to
the Father and thus that he is not a fully divine deity as the Father is. Again, this affects salvation
because if Jesus and the Holy Spirit are less than equal to God, then how could Jesus be the pure
sacrifice for us? Also this would mean that the Holy Spirit would be regarded as unequal
compared to the Father, yet the Holy Spirit is evident in our life today as an authority guiding us
through our lives. The Holy Spirit has a hand in what we do today and helps to guide us in life.
As C. S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, after they had been formed into a little society or
community, they found God somehow inside them as well: directing them, making them able to
do things they could not do before.8 How could we be allowed to obey and submit to a person
that is less than God and takes authority for the persons own actions? Such a person is not
assured to be divine and thus could be submitted to the sinfulness of the world.

8Lewis,

C. S. Mere Christianity. San Fransisco: Harper, 1952, 163

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Our God is a God that is personal, immanent, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.
We are clearly loved by this our God as he died on the cross so that we might not die, but live
eternally with him in heaven. This is the main core of our faith as Christians and is expressed in
our doctrine of the ecumenical creeds. Most prominently the Athanasian Creed which was
written to combat the straying of theological doctrine that plagued early Christians as well as
Christians today. What is also expressed and is in my opinion overlooked in these creeds, is the
expressed statement that God is three in one, unified, divine, and equal in all respects. This is
essential in the Christian faith and if it is not acknowledged, then as is stated explicitly in the
Creed of St. Athanasius, This is the catholic faith; a person cannot be saved without believing
this firmly and faithfully.9

Kolb and Wengert, The Book of Concord, 25