The Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity gives us understanding of who God is and what He is like. Scripture clearly teaches that He exists I three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet He is one God.

Though the word “trinity” does not appear in the Bible the idea behind the word is taught in many places. The doctrine is found in both the Old and New Testaments, but is given greater emphasis in the New. In the New Testament we find the word “Godhead” used to express the teaching of the Trinity (Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9).

Like many important Bible truths the Trinity can be traced back to the book of Genesis. In the beginning (the creation of the world) God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). We have the plural verb “let us” and the plural pronoun “our” in this text. We understand from Scripture that God alone worked on Creation, no created being (angels) participated. Therefore we have to ask who it was God was speaking to when He spoke these words. The only valid explanation is that Genesis 1:26 reveals that Father, Son and Holy Spirit make up God – three persons yet one God in every aspect. It is obvious from the text that more than one person was involved.

A similar expression that can only refer to the plurality of persons in the Godhead is found in the following verses: “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever” (Genesis 3:22); “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech” (Genesis 11:7); “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8). Throughout these references we find the One God using “us”. It is also worthy of note that there is a combination of singular and plural in the same sentence in Isaiah 6:8.

Other Old Testament passages have God speaking to someone other than Himself yet calling that person God. In Psalm 45:6-7 we read, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of Thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.” In these verses we have two different persons called God (Hebrew – Elohim). It is significant that the apostle Paul uses these very verses to prove that Jesus Christ is God, “But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom” (Hebrews 1:8). Also in Psalm 110:1 David says, “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” Jesus Himself confirmed that this verse spoke of two different persons, “While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is He? They say unto him, The son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is He His son? And no man was able to answer Him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask Him any more questions.” (Matthew 22:41-46). Who was David’s Lord if not God Himself? Who can sit on God’s right hand other than someone who is fully God?

There are several occasions in the Old Testament where an angel is mentioned yet is given the titles “God” and “LORD”. Of the three angels that came to Abraham prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah one is clearly revealed as being Jehovah. “And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? … And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do … And the LORD went His way, as soon as He had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto His place.” (Genesis 18:13, 17, 33). We find the same “angel” mentioned in Exodus 3:2-6, “And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And He said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover He said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God”, Judges 2:1-2, “And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?”, and Judges 6:11, 14, “And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites … And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” It is not possible for this to be anyone else but the Lord God. These appearances of the “Angel of the LORD” are termed Theophanies (manifestations of God in human or angelic form).

Those who reject the Trinitarian understanding of the person of God usually quote from Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.” They fail to realise that the word “one” is in the plural rather than the singular. God is “one” as in a unity. Since the Bible reveals that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we can call this unity “tri-unity” or Trinity.

The New Testament deals with the doctrine of the Trinity in far greater detail. It reveals more fully how God can be both one yet three.

In the life of Jesus Christ we find mention of the Trinity. For example: a) At His conception, “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35), we see here three persons mentioned. b) As a boy, “And He said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). c) At His baptism, “And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17), here we see the three persons of the Godhead involved yet each active in different ways – The Father speaking from Heaven, The Son being baptised in Jordan, and the Holy Spirit appearing in the form of a dove. The same idea is seen when Jesus taught His disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit upon their lives, so in John 14:16-17 we find the three members of the Trinity in operation again, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”

After His resurrection from the dead Jesus gave His disciples the Great Commission. He commanded “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). This statement reveals that the three persons of the Godhead are distinct yet equal. We see in it the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus could easily have avoided this if He did not want His followers to believe in the concept of the Trinity.

John 3:16-17 also indicates that there is more than one person involved with the redemption of the world, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” It is through the will of God the Father and His Son that the good news of salvation came to this fallen world. This united work for the redemption of mankind is also found in Galatians 4:4, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law”.

We cannot fail to see the manifestation of the Godhead with regards to the Day of Pentecost. “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33). Here we find Peter giving Scriptural reasons why the events of that day took place. In doing so He speaks of the work of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. It should also be noted that Peter uses the title “Father” when speaking of God. The same usage can be found in John 6:27, Galatians 1:1,3, Ephesians 6:23, Philippians 2:11, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4, 1 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 1:17, 2 John :3, Jude :1, each of these verses use the phrase “God the Father”. There would be reason to do so unless a distinction needed to be made between God the Father, God the Son, and god the Holy Spirit. There are variations of this phrase elsewhere in the New Testament.

The unity of the Godhead can be seen in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” The same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God reveals both the plurality and the unity of the Godhead. The same is true of the following references: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” (2 Corinthians 13:14), Paul must have in mind the Trinity and therefore does not see any inequality amongst them for he changes the common format of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Galatians 4:4-6). Is the “one Spirit” and “one Lord” different from the “one God and Father”? It would be totally unnecessary to use these titles unless Paul had in view a united Godhead made up of more than one person. It seems that he is emphasising the doctrine of the Trinity here. All three members of the Trinity are mentioned together in 1 Peter 1:2, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied”, and in Jude : 20-21, “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”

To accept the Person and knowledge of God we must believe at least three important things about Him:

(1) That there is more than one member of the Godhead;

(2) That each one is considered to be divine; they work together in all they do, be it in Creation, Redemption, or the ongoing work in the believer’s life; “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2), “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3), “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16), “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Corinthians 8:6),

(3) Yet there is only One God.

All this can be confirmed in 1 John 5:7-8, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” Though this text is dismissed as uninspired by antitrinitarian groups it should be noted that we do not base our doctrine of the Trinity upon these verses alone, there is sufficient evidence elsewhere in Scripture to acknowledge the truthfulness and reliability of this text and the doctrine.

It is usually only Jesus and the Holy Spirit that come under attack when cultists consider the Godhead. They normally reduce Jesus to “a god” and the Holy Spirit to a “supernatural force”. If Christ Jesus is not actually God then He must be a created being, and therefore unable to save us from our sin. On reading Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6, “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel … For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”, we see that antitrinitarianists have a problem whichever way they approach these verses. Firstly, God sent someone to die for our sin and in our place. He obviously was not a created man, but nor could He be an angelic being “for unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and He shall be to me a Son?” (Hebrews 1:5). If not an angel then who is He? Secondly, The Father did not Himself come to die on the Cross for us, so we know He was not God the Father. Thirdly, He is called “The Mighty God”. Objectors usually say that Jesus is Might God but not Almighty God, to this we would respond that even Jehovah is called “Mighty God” in Isaiah 10:21. Mighty God and Almighty God mean exactly the same thing. We are left with a Saviour who is different from man and angels, but the same as God – “Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:3). We are left with no other alternative but to accept a second member of the Godhead. If we are forced to acknowledge two then why not three as the Scriptures teach?

Finally, a clear revelation of the Trinity can be gained by carefully looking at the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We ask those who reject the Trinity doctrine who it was who raised Jesus Christ from the dead. They may (usually do) with “The Father raised Jesus from the dead”. This is correct but the whole answer, otherwise we have to disregard what the Scriptures actually say. It is our contention that the Trinity was responsible for raising Jesus from the dead. This is proven as follows:

a) The Father raised Jesus from the dead; “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10); “Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it” (Acts 2:24); “And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses” (Acts 3:15).

b) Jesus raised Himself from the dead; “Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up … But He spake of the temple of His body” (John 2:19, 21); “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:18).

c) The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead; “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11); For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

If all three raised Jesus from the dead and Peter said that “God hath raised” Him up, then we can only accept that all three are in fact God, and since only God can raise the dead we are left with the Trinity at work in the Resurrection.

Though the word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible it is clear that The Trinity does.