Is the Trinity Even Biblical?
In my article about the Godhead, I indicated that I would follow up on the question of whether the Trinity is a biblical concept. This article is the fulfillment of that promise.
This article will be a very simple answer to the question “Is the Trinity even a biblical concept?”
Though the doctrine of the Trinity can be very difficult to wrap our minds around, I do believe very strongly that it is clearly taught in Scripture and that it can be defended with relative ease. Understanding how it is possible for there to be three persons yet one God is a separate issue altogether and outside the scope of this post. For now, merely a demonstration that the concept is biblical is the aim.
The Doctrine of the Trinity states that there is one God eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Three are equal in being, nature, power, and glory. In order to prove this to be the biblical position, I will have to demonstrate from Scripture the following six points:
- That there is one God
- That the Father is God
- That Jesus Christ the Son is God
- That the Holy Spirit is God
- That the three share the same attributes
- That they are separate persons.
Fortunately for me, this will be a relatively simple task.
1. There is one God
In the Old Testament, Moses was speaking with the nation of Israel. Most of the surrounding pagan nations were immensely polytheistic, meaning they believed in many gods, and Moses was instructing Israel on the nature of their God, Yahweh, the one true God, and their responsibility to obey Him. As he spoke he said, “Listen, Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Duet. 6:4 CSB). This is part of what is known as the Great Shema and is still considered by the Jews to be a central aspect of their faith.
In the New Testament, Paul was writing to the church in Corinth. The people were concerned regarding what to do about food sacrificed to idols and whether they should eat it or not. Paul wrote, “we know that “an idol is nothing in the world,” and that “there is no God but one.”” (1 Cor 8:4)
Even though these passages (and more) clearly demonstrate that there is but One God, there are many passages that indicate that there is plurality within this unity. Even as early Genesis 1:26 God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness” indicating that God the Father was not acting alone. There are many other Old Testament references that also hint toward plurality in the Godhead.
Though there are hints and implications in the Old Testament, it really isn’t until the New Testament when those hints are made explicit. God reveals Himself as One God in Three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
2. The Father is God
There are numerous references to God where He is called the Father. In most of these, the reality of His divinity is assumed. However, there is one reference in particular where Paul explicitly calls the Father God. It is found in 1 Cor 8:6. We talked about this context above when talking about the oneness of God in verse four. In verse six, Paul says “yet for us there is one God, the Father.”
I am not aware of any group that would deny that when the Scriptures speak of the Father, they are referring to God. To my knowledge, this is universally agreed upon. However, when it comes to the other two persons of the Trinity, there is much more debate. This should not be the case, however, because, as we are about to see, the Scriptures make it very clear that Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit are both divine.
3. The Son is God
The author of the book of Hebrews clearly understood that the Son was divine. In Heb 1:8-9 we read “But to the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” There is no denying that the Son, whoever He is, is divine because the author of Hebrews calls Him “God.” But who is this Son? How do we know that it is Jesus Christ? Did Jesus ever claim to be God?
He absolutely did. For starters, Jesus claimed and embraced the title “Son of God” for Himself at different points in His earthly ministry (check out Luke 22:70).
In addition to that, we can know that Jesus is God for several reasons
- He claimed to be God.
- John 5:17 says “But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Now, this doesn’t seem like a claim to deity on the face of it, but Jesus’ audience clearly understood it to be just that. Verse 18 says “Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
- John 8:58 says “Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Here, in order to understand that this is a claim to deity, you have to know that the name “I AM” is the title that God claimed for Himself in the Old Testament. God was talking to Moses, commanding him to go to Egypt to bring the Hebrews out. Moses wants to know what to say when the people ask who sent him. God replies “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14). So Jesus was claiming to have the same name as the Father. John 8:59 makes it clear that the Jews understood that Jesus was claiming to be God because they picked up stones to try to kill Him, just like in chapter five.
- There are many other passages we can turn to in order to demonstrate that Jesus claimed to be God, but I will let these suffice.
- He had divine attributes
- (see chart below)
- He was active in divine activities. Jesus did things that only God can do.
- He forgives sins. In Luke 5:20-26, Jesus encounters a man who is unable to walk. When he sees him, Jesus says “Man, your sins are forgiven”. The religious leaders are upset and ask “who can forgive sins but God alone?” and the right answer is no one. But then Jesus goes on to prove that he has the power to forgive sins by healing the lame man.
- He grants eternal life. Who can grant eternal life? Only God alone. Jesus said in John 10:28 “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”
All of this leaves no doubt: Scripture calls Jesus God, Jesus did in fact claim to be God, and he did things only God can do. Jesus Christ, most assuredly, is God.
4. The Holy Spirit is God
In the book of Acts, there is a situation where a couple decided they were going to sell a piece of property and give the proceeds to the church. This was all well and good, except that couple decided to keep some of the money for themselves, but continue to tell everyone that they gave all the proceeds to the church. When they are confronted about this they are told “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit… You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4). Here, it is quite obvious that the Holy Spirit is also divine.
5. They Share the Same Attributes
If I were to talk individually about every single passage that addresses all the attributes of God and how each member of the Trinity possesses those attributes, we’d be here for a quite a while. So all I will do is provide this handy little chart for you so you can look up the references for yourself as you desire.
Again, this most certainly is not an exhaustive or comprehensive chart. It's merely a starting place.
6. They are Separate Persons
This task of showing that these three are indeed separate persons is fairly easy as well. But why does this need to be addressed? There are some people who claim that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all the same person, He is just manifesting Himself differently at different times; they do not exist simultaneously. But this view runs into several problems.
First, who is Jesus praying to in John 17 (and all the other places where the Gospels record Jesus praying)? If Jesus is the Father, then His prayer makes no sense in its content, purpose, or practice.
Second, there is the issue of Jesus’ baptism. Luke 3:21-22 says “When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.””
If the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are one person, then this scene makes no sense. There is clearly a distinction between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each acting as individual persons.
As you can see, the concept of the Trinity truly is biblical. There is no denying it. Defending the concept of the Trinity is really a relatively simple task. Understanding how it all fits and works together? That's another issue for another time. What we have seen should leave no doubt in our minds that Trinity truly is a biblical doctrine, and to deny it is to deny Scripture and call God a liar. Very serious business. Though we may not fully understand it, we ought to embrace it as God’s revelation of Himself to us.
Soli Deo Gloria