Our Triune God!
The Trinity is an unfathomable, and yet unmistakable doctrine in Scripture. As Jonathan Edwards noted, after studying the topic extensively, “I think [the doctrine of the Trinity] to be the highest and deepest of all Divine mysteries” (An Unpublished Treatise on the Trinity).Yet, though the fullness of the Trinity is far beyond human comprehension, it is unquestionably how God has revealed Himself in Scripture—as one God eternally existing in three Persons.
This is not to suggest, of course, that the Bible presents three different gods (cf. Deut. 6:4). Rather, God is three Persons in one essence; the Divine essence subsists wholly and indivisibly, simultaneously and eternally, in the three members of the one Godhead—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (We considered the deity of Christ previously in this post.)
The Scriptures are clear that these three Persons together are one and only one God (Deut. 6:4). John 10:30 and 33 explain that the Father and the Son are one. First Corinthians 3:16 shows that the Father and the Spirit are one. Romans 8:9 makes clear that the Son and the Spirit are one. And John 14:16, 18, and 23 demonstrate that the Father, Son, and Spirit are one.
Yet, in exhibiting the unity between the members of the Trinity, the Word of God in no way denies the simultaneous existence and distinctiveness of each of the three Persons of the Godhead. In other words, the Bible makes it clear that God is one God (not three), but that the one God is a Trinity of Persons.
In the Old Testament, the Bible implies the idea of the Trinity in several ways. The title Elohim (”God”), for instance, is a plural noun which can suggest multiplicity (cf. Gen. 1:26). This corresponds to the fact that the plural pronoun (”us”) is sometimes used of God (Gen. 1:26; Isa. 6:8). More directly, there are places in which God’s name is applied to more than one Person in the same text (Ps. 110:1; cf. Gen. 19:24). And there are also passages where all three divine Persons are seen at work (Is. 48:16; 61:1).
The New Testament builds significantly on these truths, revealing them more explicitly. The baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19 designates all three Persons of the Trinity: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” In his apostolic benediction to the Corinthians, Paul underscored this same reality. He wrote, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God [the Father], and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14). Other New Testament passages also spell out the glorious truth of the Triune God (Romans 15:16, 30; 2 Cor. 1:21–22; Eph. 2:18).
In describing the Trinity, the New Testament clearly distinguishes three Persons who are all simultaneously active. They are not merely modes or manifestations of the same person (as Oneness theology incorrectly asserts) who sometimes acts as Father, sometimes as Son, and sometimes as Spirit. At Christ’s baptism, all three Persons were simultaneously active (Matt. 3:16–17), with the Son being baptized, the Spirit descending, and the Father speaking from Heaven. Jesus Himself prayed to the Father (cf. Matt. 6:9), taught that His will was distinct from His Father’s (Matt. 26:39), promised that He would ask the Father to send the Spirit (John 14:6), and asked the Father to glorify Him (John 17:5). These actions would not make sense unless the Father and the Son were two distinct Persons. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit intercedes before the Father on behalf of believers (Rom. 8:26), as does the Son, who is our Advocate (1 John 2:1). Again, the distinctness of each Person is in view.
The Bible is clear. There is only one God, yet He exists, and always has existed, as a Trinity of Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit (cf. John 1:1, 2). To deny or misunderstand the Trinity is to deny or misunderstand the very nature of God Himself.
* Today’s article was adapted from John’s commentary on 1-3 John.
Can You Be a Christian and Deny the Trinity?
By: John MacArthur
A Mormon asked me this question a number of years ago, and through the years here at church, I’ve asked a number of people this question, and I wanted to get your opinion. Can you become a Christian if you deny the Trinity?
I would answer, “No.” If you don’t believe in the Trinity, then you don’t understand who God is. You may say the word “God” but you don’t understand His nature. Second, you couldn’t possibly understand who Christ is–that He is God in human flesh. The Incarnation of Christis an essential component of the biblical gospel, as John 1:1-14 and many other biblical passages make clear. To deny the Trinity is to deny the Incarnation. And to deny the Incarnation is to wrongly understand the truegospel.
In saying that, I realize that such an answer is going to not only impact people that you may have witnessed to (like Mormons), butit also applies tosome in the broader Pentecostal movement, called United Pentecostals or “Jesus-Only” Pentecostals.Such individualshold to a kind of modalism, where God is sometimes in the mode of the Father orthe mode of the Son or the mode of the Spirit, but He’s never all three at the same time. That too is a deficient and heretical view of the Trinity. It denies the distinct Personhood of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The same question sometimes arises about the Virgin Birth. I think it is possible for a personto become a Christian before learning about the details of theVirgin Birth, thoughthat personwould certainly assume that Jesus Christ must have had a unique birthsince He is both God and man. But, if someone knows about the Virgin Birth and says, “Ideny the Virgin Birth,” then he is simultaneously denying the deity of Christ, and also the Trinity. Such a person betrays the fact that they do not understand the gospel, and therefore cannot have truly been saved.The Trinity VS Oneness theology.
Question: “What does the Bible teach about the Trinity?”
Answer: The most difficult thing about the Christian concept of the Trinity is that there is no way to perfectly and completely understand it. The Trinity is a concept that is impossible for any human being to fully understand, let alone explain. God is infinitely greater than we are; therefore, we should not expect to be able to fully understand Him. The Bible teaches that the Father is God, that Jesus is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God. The Bible also teaches that there is only one God. Though we can understand some facts about the relationship of the different Persons of the Trinity to one another, ultimately, it is incomprehensible to the human mind. However, this does not mean the Trinity is not true or that it is not based on the teachings of the Bible.
The Trinity is one God existing in three Persons. Understand that this is not in any way suggesting three Gods. Keep in mind when studying this subject that the word “Trinity” is not found in Scripture. This is a term that is used to attempt to describe the triune God—three coexistent, co-eternal Persons who make up God. Of real importance is that the concept represented by the word “Trinity” does exist in Scripture. The following is what God’s Word says about the Trinity:
2) The Trinity consists of three Persons (Genesis 1:1, 26; 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8, 48:16, 61:1; Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). In Genesis 1:1, the Hebrew plural noun “Elohim” is used. In Genesis 1:26, 3:22, 11:7 and Isaiah 6:8, the plural pronoun for “us” is used. The word “Elohim” and the pronoun “us” are plural forms, definitely referring in the Hebrew language to more than two. While this is not an explicit argument for the Trinity, it does denote the aspect of plurality in God. The Hebrew word for “God,” “Elohim,” definitely allows for the Trinity.
In Isaiah 48:16 and 61:1, the Son is speaking while making reference to the Father and the Holy Spirit. Compare Isaiah 61:1 to Luke 4:14-19 to see that it is the Son speaking. Matthew 3:16-17 describes the event of Jesus’ baptism. Seen in this passage is God the Holy Spirit descending on God the Son while God the Father proclaims His pleasure in the Son. Matthew 28:19 and 2 Corinthians 13:14 are examples of three distinct Persons in the Trinity.
3) The members of the Trinity are distinguished one from another in various passages. In the Old Testament, “LORD” is distinguished from “Lord” (Genesis 19:24; Hosea 1:4). The LORD has a Son (Psalm 2:7, 12; Proverbs 30:2-4). The Spirit is distinguished from the “LORD” (Numbers 27:18) and from “God” (Psalm 51:10-12). God the Son is distinguished from God the Father (Psalm 45:6-7; Hebrews 1:8-9). In the New Testament, Jesus speaks to the Father about sending a Helper, the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). This shows that Jesus did not consider Himself to be the Father or the Holy Spirit. Consider also all the other times in the Gospels where Jesus speaks to the Father. Was He speaking to Himself? No. He spoke to another Person in the Trinity—the Father.
4) Each member of the Trinity is God. The Father is God (John 6:27; Romans 1:7; 1 Peter 1:2). The Son is God (John 1:1, 14; Romans 9:5; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:8; 1 John 5:20). The Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4; 1 Corinthians 3:16).
5) There is subordination within the Trinity. Scripture shows that the Holy Spirit is subordinate to the Father and the Son, and the Son is subordinate to the Father. This is an internal relationship and does not deny the deity of any Person of the Trinity. This is simply an area which our finite minds cannot understand concerning the infinite God. Concerning the Son see Luke 22:42, John 5:36, John 20:21, and 1 John 4:14. Concerning the Holy Spirit see John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7, and especially John 16:13-14.
6) The individual members of the Trinity have different tasks. The Father is the ultimate source or cause of the universe (1 Corinthians 8:6; Revelation 4:11); divine revelation (Revelation 1:1); salvation (John 3:16-17); and Jesus’ human works (John 5:17; 14:10). The Father initiates all of these things.
The Son is the agent through whom the Father does the following works: the creation and maintenance of the universe (1 Corinthians 8:6; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17); divine revelation (John 1:1, 16:12-15; Matthew 11:27; Revelation 1:1); and salvation (2 Corinthians 5:19; Matthew 1:21; John 4:42). The Father does all these things through the Son, who functions as His agent.
The Holy Spirit is the means by whom the Father does the following works: creation and maintenance of the universe (Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13; Psalm 104:30); divine revelation (John 16:12-15; Ephesians 3:5; 2 Peter 1:21); salvation (John 3:6; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:2); and Jesus’ works (Isaiah 61:1; Acts 10:38). Thus, the Father does all these things by the power of the Holy Spirit.
There have been many attempts to develop illustrations of the Trinity. However, none of the popular illustrations are completely accurate. The egg (or apple) fails in that the shell, white, and yolk are parts of the egg, not the egg in themselves, just as the skin, flesh, and seeds of the apple are parts of it, not the apple itself. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not parts of God; each of them is God. The water illustration is somewhat better, but it still fails to adequately describe the Trinity. Liquid, vapor, and ice are forms of water. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not forms of God, each of them is God. So, while these illustrations may give us a picture of the Trinity, the picture is not entirely accurate. An infinite God cannot be fully described by a finite illustration.
The doctrine of the Trinity has been a divisive issue throughout the entire history of the Christian church. While the core aspects of the Trinity are clearly presented in God’s Word, some of the side issues are not as explicitly clear. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God—but there is only one God. That is the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. Beyond that, the issues are, to a certain extent, debatable and non-essential. Rather than attempting to fully define the Trinity with our finite human minds, we would be better served by focusing on the fact of God’s greatness and His infinitely higher nature. “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:33-34).
Jehovah Witnesses preach the Oneness of God!
Part 1Part 2Jonathan Edwards on the Trinity.
Charles Spurgeon on the Trinity.
John Calvin on the Trinity.
History of the Oneness theology!