Friday, February 24, 2017

Is the trinity Biblical?

Does the Bible teach that there are three Gods? Do Christians believe in three different Gods? This issue has been one of the most commonly misunderstood for centuries and even Christians who believe in the trinity do not fully comprehend it. Because this issue goes to the heart of the nature of God, it is critical to separate truth from error. The concept is biblical as will be demonstrated below. Many religious doctrines either mischaracterize the trinity, condemn it, or both. Below is a very brief sampling of some of those teachings.


1. Modalism
Modalism is the doctrine that God is one, but represented in three different manifestations or modes. This was one of the heresies the early church had to contend with as taught by Sabellius in the third century. One typical modal analogy used is the sun, which is manifested as heat, light, and the physical globe itself. However, the sun is one entity, not three. Another analogy is water, which appears in three states:  solid, liquid, and gas. According to modalism, water is not three different substances, so God is one being who can manifest Himself in one of three ways:  Spirit, Son, or Father. However, these analogies are unbiblical. The Son and Spirit are not alternate manifestations of the one God. 

2. Islam
In the Quran, Mohammad denounced the concept of the trinity. Sura 4:171 states:
O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, "Three"; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God.”
The same denunciation is found in Sura 5:73:
“They have certainly disbelieved who say, "Allah is the third of three." And there is no god except one God. And if they do not desist from what they are saying, there will surely afflict the disbelievers among them a painful punishment.”
The Quran clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is not equal with God and in fact is not even the Son of God.

3. Jehovah’s Witnesses
The doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses teaches that the doctrine of the trinity is unbiblical and erroneous. According to JW theology, Jesus Christ is not equal in authority with the Father and the Holy Spirit is not even a person. The Jehovah’s Witnesses official website provides these denunciations of the trinity:
Beyond a doubt, the Trinity doctrine has confused and diluted people's understanding of God's true position.”
“Those who believe in the Trinity are not ‘holding God in accurate knowledge.’"
“THERE (sic) can be no compromise with God's truths. Hence, to worship God on his terms means to reject the Trinity doctrine. It contradicts what the prophets, Jesus, the apostles, and the early Christians believed and taught. It contradicts what God says about himself in his own inspired Word.”[i]


One God
First, the Bible clearly states there is only one God:
·         “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4)
·         “there is no one besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:6)
·         “there is no other God besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; There is none except me.” (Isaiah 45:21)
·         “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5)
·         “You believe that God is one you do well.” (James 2:19)
So, if the Bible teaches there is only one God, what about the individual persons of the Godhead?

Three persons
The trinity means one God in three persons. By “persons” is meant separate, individual beings who exist independently within themselves. Each member of the trinity (Father, Son, and Spirit) is eternal and equal in authority as God. However, each member serves different functions. For example, the Son became a human being (John 1:14) and, during His time on earth, did not exercise His full authority as God (Hebrews 2:9). The Son served the role as propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2). The Spirit serves many functions, including: teaching (John 14:26) and guiding believers (Romans 8:14), directing people (Acts 13:4), interceding for believers (Romans 8:26), and many more. The Father is depicted in the Bible as holding the position of greater authority in the trinity, though He is not better in essence or being. Jesus submits to the higher authority of the Father (Luke 22:42 and John 14:28) as well as the Spirit (John 16:13-14).

Jesus Christ is God
Numerous Biblical passages indicate that Jesus Christ is equal with God the Father in authority, position, and essence. For example, in the Old Testament, Isaiah calls the Son of God “Mighty God”. “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” In the New Testament, Jesus identified Himself with God the Father when He said, “’I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). On another occasion, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58), an obvious reference to Exodus 3:14, when God spoke to Moses from the burning bush. Immediately following both statements by Jesus, the Jewish religious leaders picked up stones to stone Him, realizing Jesus had equated Himself with God. Jesus also is given attributes that only God has, such as the ability to forgive sins (Luke 7:48 and Mark 2:5). Jesus accepted worship (Matthew 2:11, John 20:28, Matthew 28:17, and Hebrews 1:6). Jesus is identified as Savior (Luke 2:11), while Isaiah 43:11 states, “I, even I, am the Lord (Yahweh), and there is no savior besides me.” Other verses clearly identify Jesus Christ as God.[ii]

The Holy Spirit is God
Peter plainly equates the Holy Spirit with God when he identifies Ananias’ lying to the Holy Spirit as lying to God.[iii]But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit … You have not lied to men but to God.’" The Spirit of God is eternal, appearing at the creation of the earth, as Genesis 1:2 states, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters”. The Spirit is omnipresent, as indicated in Psalm 139:7-8 shows, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there”. The Spirit has intimate knowledge of the thoughts of God: “the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God … the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11).

Did the Father become the Son?
The ancient heresy known as patripassianism (from the Latin words meaning ‘father’ pater and ‘to suffer’ passus) taught that the Father literally became the Son and suffered on the cross. This is similar to modalism or Sabellianism, teaching that there is only one God, but may appear as the Father, Son, or Spirit.  However, according to this doctrine, God would only be able to appear consecutively in a different form, not concurrently. The Bible on the other hand illustrates that the three do appear simultaneously. For example, after Jesus was baptized by John, all three persons of the trinity were present individually:
After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased’" (Matthew 3:16-17).
So, according to the Bible, the Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct, separate entities.

Different analogies have been given to help people comprehend the mystery of the triune God, such as the comparison with time, which has past, present, and future. Another is space, which consists of height, width, and depth. However, in both analogies, the three aspects still represent only one concept or one essence. The trinity consists of three separate persons, each with His own separate being. Possibly one analogy that more closely approximates – recognizing that none are perfect – is that of a business partnership; not just any partnership, but one in which all three partners are in complete agreement concerning the operation of the business. For the sake of argument, we’ll call the business “Ben, Jerry, and Bob’s Ice Cream Company”. Any one of the three can sign the checkbook and all three have equal authority to make decisions regarding the business. Though they are separate persons, each equally represents the mission and interests of the ice cream business. They may perform separate functions; for example, Ben may operate as CFO, Jerry may be in charge of hiring, and Bob may oversee marketing and advertising. Even so, all three are co-owners. This may help us today to understand the statement made in Genesis 1:26:
            “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.’”[iv]

Though analogies fail at some point, and biblical scholars do not fully comprehend it, the doctrine of the trinity is clearly taught in the Bible. There is only one God, but three separate eternal persons. Though the Father, Son and Holy Spirit may perform different functions, each has equal authority as God. 

(Biblical references are from th

[i] Jehovah’s Witnesses Official Website, “Worship God on His Terms”, Published in 1989, Copyright 2006, Accessed 24 Jul 2008, <>.
[ii] “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1), then several verses later, “and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
“the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).
[iii] “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’" (Acts 5:3-4).

[iv] Students of Hebrew grammar note that the word used for God “Elohim” is a plural noun and, because of this, the pronouns “us” and “our” are required to be plural also.  This may not necessarily indicate God is speaking for the trinity; rather, it may simply be a requirement of the grammatical structure.

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