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.

Creation

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.

Conclusion

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?

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19 Replies to “Is the Trinity Biblical?”

  1. The Trinity is a mystery that I hope to understand better in heaven. This is an excellent argument for Its existence.

  2. Jesus can also be seen in the Genesis account. Just ask the question who was Adam walking with in the garden, “They heard to voice of the LORD God walking”?
    Great words. Great truth.

  3. 1 john 5:7 is a good verse if you read the KJV only – other versions chamge the wording.
    “7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”
    The Word, of course, being Jesus, the Trinity is clearly expressed here. Funny no other version that I know of does this verse like this.

    1. Pete, as always, thanks for reading. I was interested by your comment so I checked my translation (HCSB) and others and they are definitely different than the KJV. The issue is that the few manuscripts that the KJV based this translation of Father, Word, and Spirit on are very late manuscripts and therefore are not as reliable.

      1. Maybe not as reliable, but this verse is truth all the way. It’s a shame it is not in other translations. Best image.of the Trinity in the whole Bible!

  4. The real question is why does man want to force God to be called something he did not call himself?

    I feel like there are religions that don’t accept God as he describes himself, like he made a mistake by leaving something out and he needs our help to word it correctly. This seems very arrogant on mans part. It also seems like a lack of respect. I don’t want people referring to me in anyway I don’t describe myself, regardless of their perception of how they think I am.

    God is wiser than we are, more knowledgeable, and has more understanding….. why do we keep adding to his book?

    Scripture – 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.”

    Q – The question is, who is God talking to when He says “us” and “our” (the first-person plural)?

    A- He didn’t tell us so the only answer is, “We don’t know”. No one on Earth can know who God was talking about at the beginning of creation when he himself didn’t tell us. He did tell us he has a spirit and that is all we know from that verse.

    God tells us what he wants us to know about him: Deuteronomy 4:35,39 — Unto thee it was shown, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him. (39) Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.

    So you know form that verse there is one God

    God tells us what he wants us to do when we baptize: Matthew 28:19 New International Version (NIV)
    19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

    So you know from that verse what to do when you baptize

    If we do what is said and acknowledge what he tells us then we can navigate correctly. God is complicated and mysterious and there are things you don’t know about him but trying to fill in the blanks is nonsensical. No one is qualified to fill in God level empty spaces. He is as he describes himself to be.

    Matthew 24:36
    The Day and Hour Unknown
    36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[a] but only the Father.

  5. This is a useful post, and I agree with everything you have written here. I have no problem with accepting three personages as one unified God, and I agree that it is very clear from the scriptures that this is the case.

    What I have a hard time accepting is the notion that they are “of one substance,” as declared in the Nicean creed. Can’t they be perfectly unified and act as one, without physically being of one substance?

    I don’t think the Bible teaches that they are of one substance, as it is clear that the three members can be in distinct locations at the same moment. For instance, at the baptism of Jesus the voice of God the Father is heard from heaven, the Spirit is seen descending in the form of a dove, and Jesus is in the water. How can they be of one substance if they are in three different locations?

    At the intercessory prayer Jesus prayed to the father that his disciples would “be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:22-23). He wants us to be unified with one another and with him, in the same sense that he is unified with the father. They are unified in perfection, power, and purpose, and he wants his disciples to have that same unity. But does Jesus want his disciples to be “of one substance” with one another, and with him?

    C.S. Lewis tried to explain the Trinity as being sort of like a hypercube — a fourth-dimensional geometrical object which we just have a hard time visualizing because we are three-dimensional beings. I think the logic of that explanation is sound, but I still think it is simpler to just say that they are three physically separate, but otherwise perfectly unified beings.

    Your post doesn’t really address this question, and I am curious to get your thoughts about it.

  6. But then, this doctrine of the Trinity contradicts several other verses in scripture. Especially Isa 9:6.

  7. The trinity doctrine has been around a long time. This doesn’t mean that it is necessarily true. A doctrine is only true when it is in agreement with all of scripture – without having to do a bunch of theological hand waving.

    Isaiah 11:2 speaks of multiple spirits of God. “And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of Knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” (ESV).

    Proverbs 8 personifies ‘wisdom’ throughout the proverb and states that ‘wisdom’ was there during creation.

    The book of Revelation speaks multiple times of ‘the seven spirits of God.’

    Of course, there are doctrines and theologies that will explain the above (and a few other) verses in ways that force the verses to fall in line with the trinity doctrine. That does not negate the existence of the other verses nor what they are saying. Nor does it make the trinity doctrine true.

    I realize that the doctrine of the trinity is foundational to much of Christianity. I find this odd as the word of God is to be our only foundation. If a foundation has even one wobbly pillar, it does not make a good foundation, and the trinity doctrine has at least one wobbly pillar.

    The doctrine of the trinity forces God into a box. If you want to believe that, fine. I will never condemn those that do (and rarely bring the topic up). Personally, I will not limit God in that way. Does He Himself not say that His ways are above our ways, and His thoughts are above our thoughts? Who are we, then, to say we have Him figured out? (Even though the trinity doctrine is still considered a ‘mystery’, it is as if one is saying, ‘I have you figured out, God’.)

    Rather, can we not let God be who He is, the one who was, who is, and who will be? Beyond our understanding, but full of love, mercy, forgiveness, and giver of salvation to all of us. Can we not just accept that and then do what He asks of us?

    Personally I rejoice in thinking that we will not have a ‘theology exam’ when we are standing at the gates of heaven and ‘hoping’ to get in. I also find it interesting that the only actual theological statements made that I can think of (off the top of my head) are:

    > “Hear O Israel, the LORD our God is one (God)”, written in Deuteronomy. 6 and quoted by Yeshua (Jesus) in the gospels.

    > And the other comes from the apostle John where he wrote, “deceivers … do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.” (2 John 1:7)

    > Lastly, the verses about Yeshua’s death and resurrection are important theological statements.

    Why does there need to be doctrines beyond this, doctrines that do not unify the followers of God through Yeshua (Jesus)? Rather, the fruit of such doctrines is division, and spawn many more less important doctrines that divide even further. It is almost as if Yeshua’s prayer was, “Father, make them into thousands of denominations” instead of what he did pray, “Father, make them one as we are one.” (Loosely taken from John 17:21).

    Nowhere does it stand written that we are to love one another only if they believe the same doctrine as we do, including the doctrine of the trinity.

    I will sum up by repeating myself: the trinity doctrine puts God in a box that does not need to be. God is bigger then that! Let Him be so!

    -Yosef

  8. I enjoyed your presentation of the Trinity. I grew up with an understanding of the Trinity as the three in one.
    The older I get the more questions I have in regard to some of the things I have always simply taken for granted. For example, if God is Spirit which I believe he is, then why do we try to give (him) gender? Also, if God is Spirit, then there is no need for the third member of the Trinity. Lastly, why do we try to keep Jesus in human form as a separate entity. If as we believe, Jesus and God are one, would his Spirit not have merged back into the Spirit of God when he returned to heaven making it unnecessary to keep him human in heaven? What I am saying is that if God is Spirit and the Holy Spirit is Spirit and Jesus is God’s Spirit, then as we say they are One, and there is no need to keep them separate. Lord God is sufficient! Just something to chew on. I hope this is not to confusing.

  9. Interesting. I wrote a poem on the Trinity. I like this post. It’s obvious that the three exist, but should it be in the context we place it…I don’t think so if it’s not written in the Bible…

  10. I was raised in a non-Trinitarian religion. I became a Christian as an adult. I believe that the Trinity is one proof that the Biblical God is the true God. The Trinity is a concept that is very difficult to comprehend, one God yet three personalities/persons. The true God Who is powerful and intelligent enough to create the vast universe would certainly be a God that we could not imagine and conceive of. The false gods are “made in man’s image” rather than the reality of humankind being “made in God’s image”.

  11. I would have loved to hear your arguments on the Nicene Creed- the political and social factors which influenced its content.

  12. No trinitarian doctrine is explicitly taught in the Old Testament. Sophisticated trinitarians grant this, holding that the doctrine was revealed by God only later, in New Testament times (c.50–c.100) and/or in the Patristic era (c. 100–800).

  13. At the end of Mathew, Jesus tells the disciples to, “go out and baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. That’s how, I think, the phrase entered Christianity. I think there are three persons, under the umbrella (so to speak) of God. But just as I am a separate being to my son, but we both have the same surename, so I think it’s similar with the three in one. Three persons, with the surename God.

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