Paul’s Allusion to the Trinity in I Corinthians

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.
1 Cor. 12:4 – 6

The concept of the Christian dogma of the Trinity of the Godhead is the toughest concept with which to grapple. As Philip SAchaff wrote on the topic, ” For the holy Trinity, though the most evident, is yet the deepest of mysteries, and can be adequately explained by no analogies from finite and earthly things” 1. That there is “one God” is plain from even a cursory reading of the Old Testament, from the inference of Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” throughout the Scriptures. In the New Testament there were plenty of inferences, from Jesus Himself saying “I and the Father are one, and He who has seen Me has seen the Father in John 14:9, as well as the Baptismal formula in Mat 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”. But there was no expressed unifying doctrine of the Trinity, as the first believers were preoccupied with living the Gospel and expecting a fairly immanent return of Jesus, until aberrant beliefs like Gnosticism and Arianism began to threaten Christian’s understanding of just who it was they were worshiping. That came to a head in the mid 2nd century culminating in the Council of Nicea which evaluated the current concepts of Christology and agreed on an orthodox belief, as published in the Apostles Creed.

But there were lots of inferences of a “three persons in one” in the Apostolic writings. And my current Bible reading brought me to the passage above where for the first time I saw Paul implicitly offer a threefold personhood of God. Strangely in all the myriad times I’ve read through these verses I had not seen this. I only saw the discussion of the results of the Holy Spirit, of the Lord Jesus, and of God the Father on the life and heart of the believer. Paul in countless places has written of the Spirit and of the Lord Jesus and the Father, but these verses, to me, imply the unity of the persons of the Godhead. Especially as they are embedded in Paul’s discussion of the unity of the body, the Church.

Coming to a true idea of just who is God, and who is Jesus Christ is paramount to the believer’s worship of God. Obviously the Scriptures stress the importance of there being “one God” and only one God. We know that from the first commandment given to Moses on Mount Sinai, and then in all God’s preaching to Israel with its accompanying curses if they don’t comply, culminating it God’s removal of the nation from the Promised Land primarily for violating this very commandment.

So I thought I’d bring to notice these verses which bolster many others that indicate that Jesus Christ is to be considered fully God, like Philippians 2:5 – 7 “Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men”, and Colossians 1: 15 – 16 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth”.

So how awesome is it that God should dwell among us, the very one who created all that exists? How can we not worship our Lord Jesus and the Father as the one God of all?

1 Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church Vol. 2, page 516, downloaded from Christian Classics Etherial Library, . For a good discussion of the developement of the dogma of the Trinity read the section in the same location, section 149, pp. 514 – 518.

[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]

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