What Does Scripture Say about the Trinity?
The Doctrine of the Trinity is simple in its essence, yet simultaneously unfathomable. This Doctrine is one of the core doctrines of our faith. Jonathan Edwards said, “I think [the doctrine of the Trinity] to be the highest and deepest of all Divine mysteries.”
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19
Islam claims that Christianity worships three gods. The Qur’an claims Christians worship Mary, Jesus, and God the Father. But the Bible is clear, our God is one. All three persons of the Godhead are equal in divinity, power, majesty, and glory. Each are called “God” in the New Testament.
“To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him.” Deuteronomy 4:35
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” Deuteronomy 6:4
“Thus, says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I AM the first and I AM the last, and there is no God besides Me.’” Isaiah 44:6
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’ If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; for now on you know Him, and have seen Him. Phillip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Phillip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’” John 14:6-9
“That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21
“Therefore, concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” 1 Corinthians 8:4-6
“You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God vand there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame.” Joel 2:27
“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39
“I and the Father are one.” John 10:30
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4-6
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
The Historicity of the Doctrine of the Trinity
The Nicene Creed is one of the most definitive statements of faith on the nature of Trinity:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets. And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The Athenasian creed also affirms the Trinity:
Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the universal faith. Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally. Now, this is the universal faith: We worship one God in Trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being. For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another. But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty. What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit. Uncreated is the Father; uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit. The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite. Eternal is the Father; eternal is the Son; eternal is the Spirit: And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal; as there are not three uncreated and unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited. Almighty is the Father; almighty is the Son; almighty is the Spirit: And yet there are not three almighty beings, but one who is almighty. Thus, the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God: And yet there are not three gods, but one God. Thus, the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; the Holy Spirit is Lord: And yet there are not three lords, but one Lord. As Christian truth compels us to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords. The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten; the Son was neither made nor created but was alone begotten of the Father; the Spirit was neither made nor created but is proceeding from the Father and the Son. Thus, there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three spirits. And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons. Whoever wants to be saved should think thus about the Trinity. It is necessary for eternal salvation that one also faithfully believe that our Lord Jesus Christ became flesh. For this is the true faith that we believe and confess: That our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son is both God and man. He is God, begotten before all worlds from the being of the Father, and he is man, born in the world from the being of his mother — existing fully as God, and fully as man with a rational soul and a human body; equal to the Father in divinity, subordinate to the Father in humanity. Although he is God and man, he is not divided but is one Christ. He is united because God has taken humanity into himself; he does not transform deity into humanity. He is completely one in the unity of his person, without confusing his natures. For as the rational soul and body are one person, so the one Christ is God and man. He suffered death for our salvation. He descended into hell and rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. At his coming, all people shall rise bodily to give an account of their own deeds. Those who have done good will enter eternal life, those who have done evil will enter eternal fire. This is the universal faith. One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.
Cornelius Van Til said, “Naturally in the system of theology and in apologetics the doctrine of God is of fundamental importance. We must first ask what kind of God Christianity believes in before we can really ask with intelligence whether such a God exists.”
The Doctrine of the Trinity affirms that God is one in essence yet three in person. This is not a contradiction. This doctrine is highly complex, and we cannot entirely comprehend it. Yet the limitations of our finite minds do not negate the validity of this truth. It is important to understand it enough to confess it rightly. To deny the truth of the Triune God is to deny the Word of God and to deny God’s revelation of Himself to us in Scripture.
We can learn about soteriology while we learn more about the Trinity. Without the love of the Father, the Son coming to bear the wrath of God, and the regeneration by the Holy Spirit, we could not have salvation. A study of the Trinity shows us also that God is completely independent. He did not need to create the world in order to have a relationship because He eternally had a relationship with the other members of the Trinity.
Charles Hodge says that “… one God, and therefore have one mind and will….Paternity, therefore, is the distinguishing property of the Father, filiation of the Son; and procession of the Spirit.” A right biblical understanding of the Trinity is vital as it is a core component of Christianity. If we do not represent the Trinity correctly, you risk being heretical in your representation of God’s truth and His Word. You can not be a Christian and deny the Trinity. You cannot know who God is, His nature, or who Christ is. If you claim to worship God and deny the Trinity, you are worshipping a god of your own making.
The Doctrine of the Trinity is simultaneously simple and complex. God is not made up of parts. The essence of God is always simply the essence of God which is made up of His attributes. John Frame, in his Systematic Theology, said, “It is not difficult to see that all His attributes imply His unity. Only one being can be the standard of perfection, goodness, love, knowledge, truth, and so on… the doctrine of simplicity is really fairly simple. It is a biblical way of reminding us that God’s relationship with us is fully personal. So, the simplicity of God, like his other attributes, sets forth his covenant lordship.” God does not change (James 1:17 & Malachi 3:6). Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever and God is eternal and is always the same (Hebrews 1:12 & 13:8.) Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica said, “For there is neither composition of quantitative parts in God, since He is not a body; nor composition of form and matter; nor does His nature differ from His suppositum; nor His essence from His existence; neither is there in Him composition of genus and difference, nor of subject and accident. Therefore, it is clear that God is nowise composite, but is altogether simple.”
So simply put, we can understand that the Trinity:
- God is One being in Essence
- God is Three Distinct Persons
- The Three Persons are distinctly God
- Each of the Persons is distinctly not the other – not Modes of one another
- The Three Persons are eternally in relationship as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
About the Doctrine of the Trinity
We can see that each member of the Trinity is mentioned in Scripture as being eternal. God says that He is eternal in Isaiah. Paul says that God is eternal in Romans, without beginning or end. Jesus said that He is eternal in Revelation and Micah says that the Son is eternal. And in Hebrews, we can see that the Holy Spirit is eternal.
“I AM the first and the last” Isaiah 44:6
“But now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith,” R0mans 16:26
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Revelation 22:13
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” Micah 5:2
“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 9:14
We can also see in Scripture that all three members of the Trinity were present at Creation and active in the Creation of everything. We see this first in Genesis. Job says that the Holy Spirit made him. The Psalmist said that God is the creator. Paul says that Jesus was involved in Creation in the book of Colossians.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
“The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Job 33:4
“Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and now we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” Psalm 100:3
“All things come into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” John 1:3
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17
The Trinity and Salvation
Jesus is “in” the Father, and the Father is “in” Him. And they are both “in” the Holy Spirit just as the Holy Spirit is “in” them. This indwelling concept is ineffable, which means it is beyond our ability to totally comprehend, but it is not outside God’s ability to provide us the faith to believe it. The Father and the Son indwell the believer through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ. So, when we are saved and indwelt with the Holy Spirit we are united to Christ and thus in fellowship with the Trinity. Not that the Divinity is infused in us in any way – but we do have an intimate and spiritual fellowship with God because of this.
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” John 14:23
Let us praise God and worship Him for who He is. Our God is One. Yet He is distinctly three persons. God alone is Sovereign over our salvation, and it is through His mercy that Jesus the Son bore the wrath of God on our behalf so that we might be regenerated by the Holy Spirit and dwell with Him forever.