Question: Tim, I think you would agree that the deity of Christ is an essential of the faith….What about the Trinity? I do believe in the Trinity. But is belief in the Trinity an essential of the faith?
Answer: Thanks for the question. This one is a little tricky, because it depends on what you mean by “an essential of the faith.” For those who aren’t too familiar with this terminology, the Trinity is the Christian belief that God is one Being in three Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
So, is this doctrine an essential of the faith? Absolutely. It is crucial to have an accurate understanding of who God is. If we are off in our beliefs about God Himself, then it is highly probable that the rest of our theology will be askew. So belief in the Trinity is absolutely essential for sound doctrine.
But is belief in the Trinity a requirement for salvation? That is a different matter altogether. Thankfully, God does not require us to live a perfect life and have perfect theology before we can come to Him. If He did, no one would ever be saved.
Let’s look at three popular passages that are often cited when discussing how a person can be saved.
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are in a Philippian jail. They were praying and singing praises to God when an earthquake shook the whole place, and the prison doors were opened, and the chains were loosened. Fearing that all the prisoners were gone (and that he would likely be put to death), the Philippian jailer drew his sword to kill himself. Paul called out and told him not to do it because the prisoners were still there. Acts 16:30-31 states:
Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
How would these two missionaries respond to this all-important question? To hear some people, you would think they said something like this, “Well, you have to stop smoking and drinking. You have to attend church every week and give ten percent to the church. Plus, you have to believe in Jesus and have perfect theology. Then maybe you will be saved.” But that isn’t what they said.
Verse 31 states, “So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved….'” Before commenting on what this means, look at two other popular verses dealing with the same subject.
…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Notice that there is no formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity in these verses. Also, notice that there are no other requirements, such as good works that one must do to get saved. Both Paul (Romans 10:9) and Jesus (John 3:16) declared that salvation is received through faith (belief) in Jesus Christ.
However, notice that each of these statements require belief that Jesus is God – Paul calls Jesus “the Lord” in both Acts 16:31 and Romans 10:9 and Jesus declares that He is God’s Son in John 3:16. So it seems one must have a little bit of understanding into the concept of the Trinity. That is, they must believe that Jesus is God.
Finally, the idea of “belief” in Scripture is not a blind leap of faith or stab in the dark. Believe, faith, and trust are all included in the biblical concept of faith. One lexicon defines “believe” (Greek pisteuo) as “to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance.” In other words, we must stop relying on our own abilities and efforts and place our complete trust and faith in Jesus Christ.
So is belief in the Trinity essential for sound doctrine? Absolutely! Is belief in the Trinity essential for salvation? I would give a qualified “No” to that question. One does not have to grasp that God is one Being in three Persons, before she can repent of her sins and trust in Christ. But if we truly believe that Jesus is Lord, then we should listen to His words about the Father (John 10:30) and the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). These statements, and many others, provide us with the information for understanding the Trinity.
The doctrine of the Trinity is a difficult one to comprehend. That makes sense, since we are finite and God is infinite. How could we expect to fully understand the infinitely intelligent and powerful Creator? Thankfully, God does not require us to be perfect and have perfect understanding before we can come to Him, but He does expect us to trust Him.
If you have a question you want me to answer, please leave it as a comment to this article, and I will try to address it in the near future.