The doctrine of the Trinity is the idea that there is only one God and God has always existed as three distinct persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Though the word, “Trinity” is not found in our Bibles, the question remains, is the idea of a triune God a biblical idea? Can we find that teaching in the Bible or is it simply a religious tradition? Let’s take a look at a few passages.
There is One God
It is one of the foundational truths of both the Old and New Testaments that there is only one God. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth — as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’ — yet for us there is one God” (1 Corinthians 8:5-6). The idols people worship are not gods at all.
Read the way Isaiah mocked idolatry in Isaiah 44. He talked about a man who cuts down a tree…
Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”
How silly. The man chose a part of the block of wood to burn in a fire and another part of the wood to be his god, hoping that block of wood will deliver him.
The entirety of Scripture testifies to this great truth, “The Lord (YHWH) is God; there is no other besides him” (Deuteronomy 4:35).
The Father is God
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, he spoke of God as his “Father.” Jesus was not God the Father, he was not a projection of the Father, and he wasn’t the Father in a different form.
There is one Father in heaven and he is God. He is the one to whom Jesus submitted. He is the one Jesus glorified. He is the one to whom Jesus prayed in passages like John 17:1-5,
Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
Jesus is God
Notice again what Jesus prayed in John 17:5, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” Jesus was in the presence of the Father – sharing in glory – before the world existed.
John’s gospel account makes it unavoidably clear from the beginning to the end, Jesus is God. Or perhaps it is easier to say it this way: Jesus is divine.
Jesus is not another God and He is not a part or piece of God. This is how John describes Jesus’ divine nature in John 1:2-4:
He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
This is the testimony of all of Jesus’ apostles:
- Jesus is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23).
- Jesus is the creator and sustainer of all things (Colossians 1:16-17).
- In Jesus, the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9).
- Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Hebrews 1:3).
- Jesus upholds the universe by the word of his power (Colossians 1:3).
Jesus said things like, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58) and, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). The Jews understood exactly what Jesus was claiming, so they, “picked up stones again to stone him,” saying to him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God'” (John 10:31,33).
The Holy Spirit is God
The New Testament teaches that the Spirit is not the Father and he is not the Son, but he is nevertheless God. When Jesus was being baptized, the Father spoke from heaven while the Spirit descended on the Son (Matthew 3:16-17). All three members of the Godhead were present. They were all three together and unified, but at the same time distinct from one another.
The New Testament says:
- The Spirit is the one the Father sent in Christ’s name to teach and lead the apostles (John 14:26).
- The Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are the Father’s children (Romans 8:16).
- The Spirit is the one through whom God dwells in his people, his holy temple (Ephesians 2:22).
- The Spirit strengthens us in our inner being, so Christ can dwell in our hearts (Ephesians 3:16-17).
The Spirit is God. He is not a God. He is not a part or piece of God. Like the Father and the Son, He is also divine.
The Doctrine of the Trinity
Often people claim the doctrine of the Trinity was invented by theologians in the centuries after the New Testament was written. But the truth is, those theologians simply gave words to what we read in Scripture. From the teachings of the apostles, Christian theologians concluded:
- There is one God.
- The Father is God.
- Jesus is God.
- The Holy Spirit is God.
If all of those things are true, then there is only one explanation (even if that explanation is difficult to comprehend), God has a triune (three-in-one) nature.
Metaphors to Try to Explain the Trinity
Many people have tried to explain God’s triune nature with various metaphors. For instance, when I was a kid, people tried to explain it to me using an apple (seeds, skin, and flesh) or water (liquid, solid, and gas). But these actually confuse the issue. The Father, Son, and Spirit are not different parts of God; and they are not different forms of God.
All metaphors and explanations we invent fall short. And why wouldn’t they fall short? God is holy; which means, God is “otherly.” God is neither an apple nor water. God is God. So let us fall before Father, Son, and Spirit in wonder, awe, and loving devotion.
I love you and God loves you,