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Understanding the Doctrine of the Trinity
➤ by Pastor Gerhild Fulson
Why is understanding the doctrine of the Trinity so important? Simply because without the Trinity, there would be no Gospel. The Trinity is foundational to our Christian faith.
What is the Gospel? The Scripture defines it the best:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, Romans 1:16 (emphasis mine).
The Gospel (from the Greek, euaggelion, meaning 'good news') is the message of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He paid the price for all sin and has reconciled us with God. He offers that salvation freely to those who will believe. This is the Gospel.
Once you were alienated from God ... now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation ... This is the gospel, Colossians 1:21-23 NIV (emphasis mine).
The Gospel is summarized in the most familiar verse in the entire Bible: John 3:16.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
What is the Trinity?
The doctrine of the Trinity means that there is one God who eternally exists as three distinct persons — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is one in essence, yet three in person.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct persons, each Person is fully God, and there is only one God.
In the 4th century, Athanasius, a Christian theologian, wrote: "We worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."
Is this easy to understand? No.
Is there an easy way to explain it? Not really.
Yet, our Christian faith is hinged to the doctrine of the Trinity. Though we may not fully understand it, in faith we accept it.
However, as we study the Scriptures that relate to the Trinity, understanding will come. With that understanding, we find ourselves growing stronger in our faith.
Why understanding the Trinity is Important
With the advent of more and more new age invading our culture, more cults, and more perversion of the gospel, we need to be able to stand strong in our faith. Knowing where we stand and what we stand on will keep us from being swayed or double-minded (Jam 1:8).
When someone, such as a Jehovah's Witness, tells you that Jesus wasn't really God because the Trinity isn't mentioned in the Bible, can you counter that? Do you know where the Scriptures are? Or are you just blindly repeating what you've heard at church. If that's the case, it means you'll be unable to help them realize they've been misled and won't be able to minister to them. Worse case, it means you'll be easily swayed.
If we know the truth, deception doesn't stand a chance. Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free, John 8:32. It's only the truth we know, that will make us free … free from being deceived!
While it's true that the actual word, Trinity (from the Latin, trinitas) is not in the Bible, the concept of the Trinity is throughout the Scriptures.
Bible Verses displaying the Trinity
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep, Genesis 1:1 (emphasis mine).
God = (h0430) "elôhîym" is actually "Gods" being the plural form of God (h0433) "elôha" meaning God (singular). In Genesis 1:1, "elôhîym" is used grammatically in the singular sense.
The Holy Spirit is involved in creation as well: And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, Genesis 1:2 (emphasis mine).
God spoke everything into existence with His Word: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light, Genesis 1:3 (emphasis mine).
In John 1:1-3, Jesus is revealed as the Word: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. Jesus is the Word, as stated here: And the Word was made flesh, John 1:14 (emphasis mine).
God is revealed as God (the Father) who spoke the Word (Jesus) and the Spirit (Holy Ghost) did the work.
There's an interesting change of pronouns when God created man: And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them, Genesis 1:26-27 (emphasis mine).
Some pronouns are plural and others singular, indicating a plurality, but a unity as well. In our image = in his own image.
So, the very first chapter of the Bible sets the stage for the doctrine of the Trinity. God is revealed in three persons. But, God is also revealed as ONE God: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD, Deuteronomy 6:4 (emphasis mine).
There are various places throughout the Scriptures where the plurality of God is evident.
Here God is speaking to Jesus and/or Holy Spirit:
- And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil, Genesis 3:22 (emphasis mine).
- And the LORD said … Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, Genesis 11:6-7 (emphasis mine).
In 2. Samuel 23:2-3, all three are mentioned as speaking at the same time: The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me. (emphasis mine)
- The Spirit of the Lord is the Holy Ghost (Spirit), as is evidenced by: Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, 1 Peter 1:21 (emphasis mine).
- The God of Israel is God, the Father: I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel, Isaiah 45:3 (emphasis mine).
- Jesus is the Rock of Israel: For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ, 1 Corinthians 10:4 (emphasis mine).
Jesus, the night before His crucifixion, told His disciples that all three, the Holy Spirit, the Father, and He, Jesus, would make their abode with them.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, John 14:16 (emphasis mine).
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him, John 14:23 (emphasis mine).
Paul clarifies this by actually naming them: But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his ... But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you, Romans 8:9-11 (emphasis mine).
Yet in Ephesians 4:4, Paul states that there is only one Spirit: There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling. (emphasis mine)
Jesus clearly stated that baptism was in the NAME (singular) not names (plural) when He said: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Matthew 28:19 (emphasis mine).
Paul grouped all three together: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all, 2 Corinthians 13:14.
John also groups them together and then states clearly that these three are one: For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one, 1 John 5:7 (emphasis mine).
Is Jesus really God?
Jesus as the Son of God
- And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him, Mark 9:7
- Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God, 1 John 4:15
Jesus as equal with God
- Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God, John 5:18
- Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, Philippians 2:5-6
- And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God, John 20:28. Jesus accepted Thomas' worship, even though in Exodus 34:14 it says, For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
- Jesus said: I and my Father are one, John 10:30
Jesus as God
- For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace, Isaiah 6:6
- Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us, Matthew 1:23
- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, John 1:1
- And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God, John 20:28
- God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory, 1 Timothy 3:16
- But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom, Hebrews 1:8
Jesus performs God's Deeds
Searches the heart of man:
- God says in Jeremiah 17:10, I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
- Jesus talking in Revelation 2:23, I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
- Jehovah God in Genesis 1-2
- God says in Hebrew 1:10 speaking of Jesus, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands
- Also, speaking of Jesus, For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him, Colossians 1:16
- For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, Matthew 6:14
- But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, Mark 2:10
- Quoted from the Old Testament (Deut 32:35): For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people, Hebrews 10:30
- For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son, John 5:22
- In the Old Testament, God is speaking: and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me, Isaiah 45:21, and all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, Isaiah 49:26
- For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 2 Peter 1:11
- For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 2 Peter 2:20
- But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 2 Peter 3:18
- God says in Isaiah 41:15, I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King
- The Angel, speaking of Jesus says in Revelation17:14, These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings
- John speaks of Jesus in Revelation 19:16, And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
As First and Last (only one can be first and only one can be last!)
- Jehovah God speaks in Isaiah 41:4, I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he, and in Isaiah 48:12, Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.
- Jesus saying to John in Revelation 1:17-18, And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: -- I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen, and in Revelation 22:13-14, And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Is Holy spirit really God?
We are the temple of God:
- Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 (emphasis mine)
- What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, 1 Corinthians 6:19 (emphasis mine)
The voice of the Lord in the Old Testament is attributed to the Holy Spirit by Paul in the New Testament.
- Isaiah 6:8-10: Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ... Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not....lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed, (emphasis mine)
- Acts 28:25-27: Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive, ... lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them, (emphasis mine)
Paul also declared:
- Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (emphasis mine)
Peter told Ananias that lying to the Holy Ghost is lying to God.
- But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, ... thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God, Acts 5:3-4 (emphasis mine)
For further insight into the Holy Spirit, see What is the role of the Holy Spirit?
As you study the above scriptures, allow the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth (John 16:13), and may ... The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen, 2 Corinthians 13:14.
Key Point: The Scriptures clearly show the doctrine of the Trinity: One God who eternally exists as three distinct persons — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is one in essence, yet three in person.
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Side note: To see the Hebrew/Greek words & meanings for yourself, use Olive Tree (free) with KJV Strong's. Hovering over the English words, the Hebrew/Greek translation with meanings will show.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Unless stated otherwise, all Bible passages quoted in blue are from the KJV translation.