Is the Trinity Biblical?

COPYRIGHT 1998 - James M. Frye

All scripture quotations are taken from the Authorized King James Bible. Any deviations are not intentional. All underlines, bold and words within brackets are the author's.

 

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Introduction

Most "Christian" groups today believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, while other groups, such as the Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons, do not. The important question, however, is not what various groups believe, but what does the Bible teach? In this article we will examine this doctrine to see if it is taught in scripture. Is the doctrine of the Trinity biblical?

 

The Doctrine Stated

The Trinity is often misrepresented by those who set out to disprove it. Many create a definition of the Trinity that is not entirely accurate and then begin to refute what they have misdefined. So, it is important that we begin with a proper definition. The doctrine of the Trinity is as follows:

There is only one God. This God exists eternally as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of these three persons is fully God.

This definition breaks down into three parts.

1) There is only one God.

2) The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are each distinct persons.

3) Each person is fully God.

We will examine each of these three points one at a time.

 

Is There Only One God?

Does the Bible teach that there is only one God?

Isaiah 44:6 Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.

Isaiah 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:

Isaiah 46:9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,

1 Corinthians 8:4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

As you can see, the Bible clearly teaches that there is only one God. So the first part of our definition is obviously true. Let's look at the next part of our definition.

 

Are The Father, Son and Holy Spirit Each Distinct Persons?

Matthew 3:16-17 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.

We see from the verse above that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are each distinct. That is, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, etc. For example: in the verse above, who was it that was baptized? It was the Son [Jesus], not the Father, nor the Holy Spirit. Who was it that descended? It was the Holy Spirit, not the Father nor the Son. Who was it that spoke? It was the Father, not the Son, nor the Holy Spirit. We see then that each of the three persons are distinct.

Luke 1:35 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.

Here again we see that the three persons are distinct. So part two of our definition is correct as well.

 

Are the Father, Son and Holy Spirit Each Fully God?

 

The Father

Let us look at the Father first. What does the Bible say about Him? Is he God?

2 Peter 1:17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

John 6:27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.

Here we see that the Father is called God. So we know that the Father is God.

The Son

Hebrews 1:8 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.

Here we see that the Son is clearly called God.

John 1:1, 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten [Son] of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Here Jesus [the Son] is referred to as the Word. It is not only stated that he was with God (a reference to the fact that he is distinct from the father), but it is also stated that he is God (For more information on this subject, see our article "Is Jesus Christ God?").

The Holy Spirit

Acts 5:3-4 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit], and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit and the Bible says that he lied to God. So we know that the Holy Spirit is God as well.

Fully God

We have seen that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are each God. We must also note that they are each fully God. For example, concerning the Son we read:

Colossians 2:8-9 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead [deity] bodily.

It is not that we have one God divided into three parts with each of the three being 1/3 God. No. Each are fully 100% God. Yet we do not have 300% God, but only 100% God. It is not 1+1+1=3 but 1x1x1=1. All the fulness of deity (that which makes God, God) is in Jesus. And all the fulness is in the Father and in the Holy Spirit as well.

In this section, we have seen that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are each fully God. So then we must conclude that the final point of our definition is correct as well.

All three points of our definition are true. The doctrine of the Trinity is biblical. We even find this truth recorded for us in a single verse of scripture.

1 John 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word [Jesus], and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

Common Objections

There are a number of objections that have been raised against the doctrine of the Trinity. We will look at a few of the more common ones in this section.

"I Can't Understand It"

Sometimes people will respond with the objection: "But I don't understand it, and if I can't understand it, then it can't possibly be true". Does the fact that we have difficulty understanding something mean that it cannot be true? Of course not. There are many things in the Bible that we do not fully understand that are none-the-less true. For example, the Bible tells us that God is eternal - that He has existed forever and has no beginning and no end. How is that possible? We don't know. God did not tell us, and if he did we probably couldn't understand it anyway. But even though we do not understand it, it is still true. There are many such things in the Bible.

Isn't this what we should expect about God? Since God is so much higher than we are, shouldn't we expect that there would be some things about Him that we can't fully understand? I think it must be somewhat like our relationship with an ant. Can you imagine a little ant looking up at us and trying to understand us? His puny little mind could not begin to comprehend us. And how much greater the distance between us and God. The Bible tells us that God's ways are higher than our ways.

Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

Job 11:7 Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?

The question, then, is not whether or not we can understand this doctrine, but does the Bible teach it? Since the Bible does teach it, we are obligated to believe it - whether we can fully understand it or not.

"The Word 'Trinity' isn't in the Bible"

It is proposed by some that since the word Trinity is not found in the Bible, the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be true. How foolish. The word "Bible" is not in the Bible. Does this mean that there is no such thing as a Bible? Of course not. This objection is based on a faulty principal and should therefore be rejected. The word Trinity may not be in the Bible but the teaching that it represents surely is.

"The Bible Teaches that Jesus is Inferior to the Father"

People often point out verses which say that Jesus is inferior to the Father to try and disprove the doctrine of the Trinity. For example, people often quote John 14:28 where Jesus says "my Father is greater than I" or John 20:17 where Jesus calls God his God. Do these verses disprove this doctrine? We must keep in mind that Jesus is not only fully God, he is also fully man (Col. 2:8-9). Jesus sometimes speaks from his humanity and at other times from his deity. In his humanity, Jesus is inferior to the Father. But in his deity, he is Equal.

Philippians 2:5-6 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

Common Errors

There are three common errors today (regarding the doctrine of the Godhead) among groups that claim to be Christian.

Tritheism

Tritheism teaches that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are each three separate Gods. Mormonism holds to a modified form of Tritheism. They believe that God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate Gods.

Modalism

Modalism teaches that there is one God that reveals himself in three ways: sometimes as the Father, sometimes as the Son, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit. They believe he is never all three at the same time. Some Apostolic Churches and other churches affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church (UPC) hold to this belief.

Arianism

Arianism teaches that the Father is God, the Son is a created being, and that the Holy Spirit is a non-personal force. The Jehovah Witnesses hold to this belief.

The three views listed above are all incorrect. Each of them denies one or more parts of this doctrine and should therefore be rejected.

Summary

1) Most "Christian" groups today believe in the doctrine of the Trinity.

2) Those who set out to disprove this doctrine often misdefine it.

3) The doctrine of the Trinity states:

There is only one God. This God exists eternally as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of these three persons is fully God.

4) This doctrine breaks down into three parts, each of which is backed by scripture.

5) The objections that are raised against this doctrine do not set aside the fact that the Bible does indeed teach it. We must therefore believe it whether or not we can fully comprehend it.

6) There are three main errors today regarding this doctrine: Tritheism, Modalism, and Arianism. All three of these are contradicted in scripture and should be rejected.