Is the Trinity Biblical?
Is the Trinity biblical? Well, it depends on how you define the term “biblical.” The word Trinity is never used in the Bible, but the theological concept of God’s three-in-one-ness is clearly present. Let’s look at some examples.
The best place to begin is in the beginning. Genesis 1:1 begins with God and His creation of the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:2 says that His Spirit (Hebrew ruach) was hovering over the face of the waters. When you jump down to verse 26, you find the famous line, “Let Us make man in Our image.” The question is, who is God talking to when He says “us” and “our” (the first-person plural)? There are many answers given to this question, and we don’t have time to explore all of them. Suffice it to say that Genesis 1 is good evidence for the eternal existence of all three members of the Trinity.
But where is Jesus in all of this, you ask? I can see God and I can see the Spirit, but those first-person plural pronouns don’t necessarily imply Jesus. True, but when we get into the New Testament, Jesus’s role in creation is more fully developed. The New Testament contains four “high-Christological” passages, and three of them speak of Jesus and creation. In John 1:1-18 Jesus is metaphorically described as “the Word.” John 1:3 tells us that, “All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created.”
Next, speaking of Jesus, Colossians 1:16 says, “For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him.”
Finally, Hebrews 1:2b reads, “God has appointed Him [the Son] heir of all things and made the universe through Him.”
As you can hopefully see, each of these passages speak of Jesus’s role in creation, pointing further to the eternal existence of the Trinity.
The Gospel of John and Ephesians 2
Sadly, there are very few verses in Scripture that mention all three members of the Trinity together. Yet it does happen, especially in John’s gospel. Jesus speaks in John 14:26, saying, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” For more references from John, see John 1:33-34; 16:13-15; and 20:21-22.
Another verse that mentions the Trinity is Ephesians 2:18—“For through Him [Christ] we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”
If you aren’t familiar with any of these other references, you might have heard the Great Commission before. At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus calls His disciples together and sends them out. One of the commands He gives them is to baptize people “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
Monotheism vs. Trinitarianism
Some have had trouble accepting the doctrine of the Trinity because of the Bible’s (and especially the Old Testament’s) strict adherence to monotheism—the belief that there is only one true and living God. There is no doubt that this was one of the major teachings of the Israelite people, as repeated over and over whenever the Shema was spoken: “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
Even the New Testament, with verses like James 1:19 (“You believe that God is one…”), seems to affirm monotheism. So are monotheism and Trinitarianism at odds with each other? Not necessarily. The doctrine of the Trinity does not claim that there are three separate Gods, but rather that the one true God manifests Himself in three distinct ways—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
The Deity of All Three Members
Because of that last statement, it is necessary to affirm the Scriptural deity of all three members of the Trinity. First, God. God is God. There doesn’t seem to be much debate about that. But what about Jesus? Was and is Jesus divine?
John 1:1 says that the Word (Jesus) was God. In John 10:30 Jesus said, “The Father and I are one.” Possibly the greatest statement regarding Jesus’s divinity was made by Paul in Philippians 2:6ff. He wrote of Jesus: “who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.” This speaks of both Jesus’s divinity and his humanity.
Finally, what about the Spirit? Is the third member of the Trinity referred to as divine in the Scriptures? Yes. In Acts 5:3-4, God and the Holy Spirit are used interchangeably as the subject Ananias lied to. Also, in John 14-15 the connection between the Son and the Spirit is made very explicit. Jesus tells His disciples multiple times that when He leaves, He will send them the Spirit to be with them. In fact, in John 15:26 He says He will send the Spirit “from the Father,” revealing yet another connection between all three members.
The Place of the Spirit
When it comes to the Trinity, it seems that the Father and the Son receive most of the attention, making the Spirit a mystery of sorts. While He (yes, the Spirit is a He, not an it) is somewhat mysterious, He is present and active in both the Old and New Testaments and maintains His place among the Godhead.
In this article we set out to discover if the Trinity is indeed biblical. While the term “Trinity” is never found in Scripture, the concept of one God being manifested in three distinct persons—Father, Son, and Spirit—is clearly present. Can you see it?