The Text itself: Mark 1:9-13 (niv)

“At that time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you, I am well pleased.”
At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him”

Last week we noted Mark describing Jesus coming out of the water and two things happening:


The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus ‘like a dove’. At that moment, we have Jesus (God the Son) coming out of the water; We have God the Spirit descending on Him (‘like a dove’); We have God the Father making a declaration about His Son.

This is EVIDENCE for the Trinity.


A voice from heaven is heard, which declares: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” In declaring ‘you are my son’, God confirmed that Jesus is divine.

This is EVIDENCE of the deity of Jesus. Last week, we unpacked the biblical evidence that Christ himself, the disciples and the emerging church understood that He was God.

This week, we are going to look at the Trinity. The Christian belief that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are God might on the face of it suggest we are polytheistic (from poly=many and theos=God). This is what Moslems and some other people believe. They think we believe in many Gods.

Yet, we claim to be monotheistic (mono=one). So, the doctrine of the Trinity answers this perception. It teaches God is three, yet one.

Many of the Christian creeds which developed in the first few centuries to codify the beliefs of orthodox Christianity. The Apostle’s creed and the Nicene creed, both declare belief in Father Son and Holy Spirit. The apostle’s creed was agreed around AD150, it does not specifically develop a trinitarian theme, but it does say:

I believe in God the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

and goes on to say

I believe in the Holy Spirit

The Nicene creed which was codified in 325 is rather more developed from a trinitarian point of view. In it we declare these essential elements of our faith:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.

If you think about it, you will see that this declares our faith in the Trinity: “we believe in” …

  1. “one God, Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth”—that’s the Divine Father
  2. “one Lord, Jesus Christ” …. (goes on to declare He is) “true God from true God” (and) “begotten, not made”. That’s a Divine Son
  3. “the Holy Spirit” and calls Him “the Lord, the giver of life” (and says He is) “worshipped and glorified WITH the Father and the Son”. That’s the

This is important because, like I said at the beginning, people will accuse us of being polytheistic. They will say we believe in more than one God. If we cannot answer that accusation, then we have failed before we have started.

In short, HOW are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit NOT three Gods? How do they relate in the Godhead?

God the Father.

I am not going to argue that God the Father is divine.

Arguing that god actually exists in the first place is a different argument and a different message. There are all sorts of arguments for this but the main three are:

  1. The cosmological argument.
  2. The teleological argument.
  3. The moral argument.

I am not going to unpack these arguments today. Like I say, that is a different message. But I do encourage you to look them up.

That God is our Father also seems to be something I shouldn’t have to elucidate. The Gospels record this is overwhelmingly Jesus’ description of Him.

Ephesians 4:6 describes God the Father as “One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Paul says in Romans 8 that it is by the Spirit, we call God “Abba” Father, and he writes much the same thing to the Galatians: “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:6-7). Jesus actually calls God Abba when he’s praying in Gethsemane: “Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will”.” (Mark 14:35, 36). Abba is an Aramaic word and is a familiar term for father – kind of similar to the English ‘daddy’.

1 John 3:1 declares: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him”.

So that God is Father is well attested in Scripture, and I think we can take His divinity as a given—especially in a church!

God the Son

We tackled this last week, but in the interests of completion, I’ll very briefly mention again the Biblical evidence that Jesus is God (if you want to hear the arguments developed a bit more, go back and listen to last week’s podcast):

John 8:48-59. Jesus adopts God’s name: When people say Jesus never claimed to be God, this passage is one you can turn to. In Exodus 3 we have the account of the encounter between Moses and God at a burning bush where Moses is called to confront Pharaoh. During this exchange, Moses says to God, ‘who shall I say sent me?’ God’s response? “I AM who I am” (Exodus 3:14). In John 8:58, Jesus says “before Abraham was, I Am!”. Although He doesn’t actually say, “I am God”, in making the declaration “I am”, there was no doubt among his hearers that he is making a clear reference to the burning bush encounter which they would not have missed. They would not have missed the inference.

Luke 11:9 (& others). Jesus speaks AS God: The prophets of God always said “the Lord says …” Jesus never did, He always said “I say this to you” (Luke 11:29 records him saying: “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”). Because of this, the Jews understood that Jesus’ words revealed what He thought about himself. He never felt compelled to say, “God is telling you this.” Instead, He said, “I’m telling you this.” Jesus understood himself to be God, He knew He had the authority of God, and He was not shy about speaking AS God.

Mark 2:5 (& others). Jesus forgives sin: There is an account in the gospels where a group of friends break through a roof to bring their paralysed friend to Jesus. Jesus sees the man, and says to him, “son, your sins are forgiven”. The scribes around knew the implications of what he said. John records their reaction, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7). Jesus doesn’t deny what they are thinking. In fact, He reveals it (and as 1 Samuel 16:7 says, only God can see into our hearts, which is another indication of His divinity), and He doubles down and proves His divinity by healing the man.

John 10:33. Jesus claims to be God: In John 10:30, Jesus says: “I and the Father are one” (this is where He calls himself the ‘good shepherd’). We read the response of His opponents in the verses which follow. They understood exactly what Jesus was claiming—deity.

John goes on to record their actions. John 10:31 “The Jews picked up stones again to stone him”. Jesus challenges them, and they reply, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy because you, being a man, make yourself God” (John 10:33).

John 20:28. Jesus accepts worship: This is the encounter between Jesus and Thomas. When Thomas calls Jesus “God”, Jesus doesn’t correct Him. This is important because Jesus was not averse to correcting His disciples when they did get it wrong. He calls Peter, Satan. He also rebukes James and John when they want to call down fire on the Samaritan village (Luke 9:55).

Revelation 19:10 tells us that we should only worship God, and given the commandment to worship only God and have “no other Gods before Him” (Exodus 20:3), coupled with Jesus’ assessment of the greatest commandment (“love the Lord your God …”), when Thomas falls down and worships Jesus declaring “my Lord and my God!”, if Jesus wasn’t God, He would have corrected him (I know this is an argument from silence, but ).

Luke 18:19. ‘you know you’re calling me God? Right?’: In Luke 18 we read about a young man who is wealthy. He comes to Jesus and calls him ‘good teacher’. Jesus response is “why do you call me good? … only God is good”. In this moment, Jesus is NOT denying He is God. In fact, he is doing the opposite. He is saying that since only God is good, in addressing him as “good teacher”, he is, in fact, recognising His divinity.

Just like in Thomas’ confession of Jesus as God, Jesus does not correct the statement, He merely points out its implication. Jesus is saying, “you do realise you’re calling me God, don’t you?” He then goes on to answer the question He is asked.

This is a very brief recap on what I said last week. Jesus IS God.

So, we have God the Father and God the Son. Next …

God the Holy Spirit

Some Bible verses and evidence about the Holy Spirit:

In Mark 3:28-9, Jesus says: “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

But what is blasphemy? Biblically? Essentially, it is speaking evil of or against God. Blasphemy in its literal definition is not restricted to God, but can refer to speaking cursing and swearing generally. However, if you were to ask anybody what blasphemy is, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t see it in terms of God. It is certainly seen Biblically as something against God. Which is why the Jews had a law which gave the death penalty for blasphemy.

By saying the Holy Spirit can be blasphemed, and only God can be blasphemed, we are at the very least recognising the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

Next we look at Some passages in Acts

  1. Start in Acts 5. Ananias and Sapphira are two Christians who show us how not to be a Christian. They are (if you like) the first Christian hypocrites. They make a gift to the Apostles and then lie about it. (Read Acts 5:1-4: “Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God”. The story progresses and Sapphira meets the same fate as her husband. My point for this morning is to note Peter’s response to Ananias in verses 3 and 4:
    – in v3 he says they lied to the Holy Spirit
    – and in v4 he says they lied to God.
    So, in lying to the Holy, Spirit, Peter says they lied to God.
  2. Acts 13 describes the believers worshipping together and verse 2 tells us that, While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” doesn’t GOD call us to His work? If this is the case, the Holy Spirit is speaking to the believers AS God. Note also that He uses the pronouns ‘me’ and ‘I’ (which point to his being a PERSON). The same points are true in:
  3. Acts 10:19 where Peter is thinking about his vision (of the sheet and the unclean food): “While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”.
    The point is that on both of these occasions, the Holy Spirit is acting and speaking AS God.

When we look up texts that speak about and describe the Holy Spirit, we can see that He

  1. Guides (or leads): (Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Philip was led by the Spirit to the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26 “The Spirit of the Lord said to Philip “go south to the road””), Romans 8:14 and Galatians 5:18 both speak of the Spirit leading the Christian). Jesus himself says of the Spirit that he will lead us into all truth (John16:13).
  2. Testifies: Romans 8:16, Hebrews 10:15, and 1 John 5:6. All describe the Spirit testifying. 1 John 5:6 says, “And it is the Spirit who testifies because the Spirit is the truth” (and we all know John 14:6 where Jesus declares “I am the way, the truth, and the life”).
  3. Speaks: I’ve just referenced two passages in Acts where the Holy Spirit spoke to the early believers.
  4. The Holy Spirit can be grieved: Ephesians 4:30 says, “and do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”. Sorrow and grief are things which are experienced by persons.
  5. Hebrews 10:29 tells us that we can insult the Holy Spirit: “How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?”

The long and the short of it is this: All these are things which persons do and feel. The Holy Spirit is a person. He is not some kind of nebulous ‘force’, He is a person. We are not in some kind of Star Wars universe where the Holy spirit is some kind of nebulous force which is in us, with us and all around us (which is pantheism, by the way – the belief that God is everything and is IN everything).

So, the Holy Spirit is God, and He is a PERSON.

The Trinity.

How we understand Jesus, Father God and The Holy Spirit as being God, yet simultaneously believing in ONE God, is the doctrine of the Trinity.

The Trinity is possibly one of the most complex and difficult to understand attributes of God, which we struggle to get to terms with.

  1. There is ONE God (Deuteronomy 6:4 – the Shema). This is why, when we talk about God, we NEVER use the pronoun ‘they’. Although the Hebrew word for God found particularly in Genesis is plural (‘Elohim’ rather than ‘el’), God is ONE. He is always HE, not they.
  2. There is one God who exists in three DISTINCT persons. (Genesis 1:26, 3:22, 11:7 (“let us), Mark 1:9-11, Matthew 3:16,17, 28:19). We’ve already tackled this, but in summary:
    1. the father is God (1 Corinthians 8:4, Galatians 3:20)
    2. the son is God (John 1:1, Colossians 2:9, Hebrews 1:8, 1 John 5:20), and
    3. the spirit is God (Acts 5
    These three interact with one another (Matthew 3:16,17, Isaiah 48:16, Zechariah 2:11)
  3. There is one God who exists ETERNALLY in three distinct persons. (John 17:24, also the verses in Genesis which show us that since all three persons of the Trinity are present in creation, it follows that they are all eternal).

We must understand the difference between our “whats” and our “whos”.

In the trinity we have only ONE what (God), but we have three whos (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

So in saying God the Father, we are giving him a

  1. “what”: God, and
  2. a “who”: Fatherr.

Likewise, God the Son is bot

  1. a “what”: God, and
  2. a “who”: The Son.

And God the Spirit is

  1. a “what”: God, and
  2. a “who”: The Holy Spirit.

So, God is one what and three whos. The problem is this: It is SUCH a brain ache to get our heads around this that we tie ourselves up in knots even trying. What’s worse, we can fall into false beliefs and teachings in our attempts to understand and explain it:


One of the most common illustrations for the Trinity I have encountered is water, which can exist in liquid, sold and gaseous forms, yet remains water. The issue is that the same molecule of water cannot simultaneously be all three. This is known as modalism, which teaches that God has three different “modes”. He changes as circumstances require, so God is Father in the Old Testament, he becomes Christ in the Gospels, and then He is the Holy Spirit as the church nourishes and grows.

Just like superman is Clark Kent, but then jumps into a phone box, reveals his super-suit and comes out as superman!

We do not believe that.

John 1:1 describes Jesus at the beginning with God, and Genesis 1:1 describes the Holy Spirit in creation as well. All three are there at the beginning. In today’s passage, we have Jesus (God the Son) coming out of the water; We have God the Spirit descending on Him (‘like a dove’); We have God the Father making a declaration about His Son. All three in the same place at the same time.

Tri-Theism This is a form of limited polytheism. That Father is one God, Jesus is another God and the Holy Spirit is yet another God. I think you can see from what I’ve already said that this is profoundly un-biblical.

Partialism This is where, like segments of a circle, they together form God, but each one is simply incomplete without the others. Another illustration would be to think of an egg or a shamrock, An egg comprises yolk, white and shell. Together, they constitute an egg, but on their own, they are ‘egg’ in nature, but not complete. A shamrock has three leaves, but is one shamrock, but each individual leaf is not a shamrock, it is a part of a shamrock. The Bible speaks strongly of Father, Son, AND Holy Spirit being fully God. God cannot be divided into parts.

So What?

Don’t use analogies – they fall short of explaining the Trinity and could lead you into a heresy.

The bottom line is this: You will NEVER be able to fully and entirely understand or explain the Trinity. At least not this side of heaven, anyway.

Which seems like an awful and discouraging place to finish.


If we could explain God, He wouldn’t be God.

This means we can know that even if we can’t explain something, it doesn’t mean there isn’t an explanation. Our faith in God is based not on what we can’t explain, but what we CAN and DO know about him. We trust him for the rest because he has shown himself to be trustworthy.

Go away today in the knowledge that our God CAN supply all our needs, that He knows us intimately, and that His heart is FOR us. Even if we can’t see or explain it right now.