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A Concise Look at the Doctrine of the Trinity: The Nature of God

 

KEY TERMS:

Unitarianism or unipersonalism: the belief that God exists as one sole Person.  

Monotheism: One true God by nature (from mono--one/only and theos--God/Being-). Thus, monotheism means one Being or one God, not "one Person."

"Being is What something is, "Person" is Who something is: Thus, he Trinity teaches one Being revealed in three Persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit.

 

All religious groups that are “unitarian” in their theology (i.e., maintaining that God exists as one Person) reject the biblical doctrine of the Trinity chiefly on the basis of their false notion as to what the doctrine actually teaches. As with Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, Muslims, Jews, etc. they see the Trinity as teaching three separate Gods. Thus, because of their misrepresentation of the doctrine (believing God to be unipersonal, that is, existing as one Person, they naturally reject the deity of Jesus Christ falsely concluding if Jesus were God, then, there would be more than one God.

 Most of these groups, therefore, do not actually condemn the doctrine of the Trinity, but rather they argue against tritheism (three Gods). But this misrepresents the doctrine of the Trinity. Trinitarianism teaches that there is one eternal God revealed  in three distinct co-equal, co-eternal, co-existent Persons. For the condemnation of the belief in the tritheism is shared by both unitarian groups and Muslims and Christians. Therefore, we need to show unitarians groups that the belief of the Trinity equals the belief in three Gods is a false claim that misrepresents the Trinity. In doing so; Christian-unitarian dialogue can progress a lot further.

So, before presenting the concept of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity to anti-Trinitarians, you must first deal with the unitarian/unipersonal assumption: i.e., God existing as one Person. For this is the theological starting point of unitarian groups such as Muslims, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, etc. It must be emphasized over and over: The very foundation of the doctrine of Trinity is ontological Monotheism—one God by nature (cf. Deut. 6:4; Jer. 10:10-11.)

 

The 3 Biblical Pillars of the Trinity

 

Pillar 1: There is only one God.

Pillar 2: There are three Persons or Selves that are presented as God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Pillar 3: The three Persons are distinct from each other.

Conclusion: The three distinct Persons share the same nature of the one Being or God.

 

Scriptural References

 

Pillar 1: There is one eternal God: e.g., Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10; 44:6, 8; Jer. 10:10-11.

 

Pillar 2: The three Persons are presented as fully God:

      I. The Father is God: e.g., Rom. 5:10; Gal. 1:3.

 

      II. The Son is God. The evidence of the deity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God is as follows:

 

 

 

Scripture presents that

 

1. Jesus Christ (the Son) is fully God (ho theos, “the God) and seen as the Yahweh of the OT: e.g., John 1:1-3 John 1:18;  John 20:28; Colossians 2:9;  Philippians 2:5-11; Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter1:1 (see Granville Sharp's Greek Grammar Rule #1); Hebrew 1:3;  and esp. HEBREWS 1:8. Further, He was presented as the great “I Am” (egō eimi); viz. at John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8 (see The Eternal Egō Eimi, "I AM"--cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10 [LXX] where egō eimi is used of Yahweh)

2. Jesus Christ  was presented as the Yahweh of the OT.

The NT authors clearly envisaged Jesus Christ as the Yahweh of the OT. Hence, they often cited OT passages referring to Yahweh and yet applied them to Jesus Christ: e.g., compare Joel 2:32 with Rom. 10:13; Isa. 6:8 with John 12:41; Ps. 102:25-27 with Heb. 1:10-12; Isa. 45:23 with Phil. 2:9-11; Isa. 8:12-13 with 1 Pet. 3:14-15; etc.

 

3. Jesus Christ is Creator: e.g., John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 8-10. See also: The Pre-existence of Jesus Christ in the Face of Unitarianism
 

4. Jesus Christ is worshipped in a “religious context” which was reserved for God alone (cf. Exod. 20:5): e.g., Matt. 14:33; 28:9; John 9:38; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:11-14.
 

 

5. Jesus Christ possesses the SAME attributes as God the Father, for example:
 

   > Creator (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:12, 10)

   > Raises the dead and gives them life: John 5:21: "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the
       Son also gives life to whom He wishes” (cf. John 6:37-40, 44).

   > Omnipresent (cf. Matt. 28:20; John 14:23; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20).

   > Omniscient (cf. John 2:24-25; 6:64; 16:30; 21:17).

   > Omnipotent or all-powerful (cf. Matt. 8:27; 9:6; 28:18; Heb. 7:25).

   > Eternal (Pre-Existing) (cf. Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5).

   > Immutable (cf. Heb. 13:8).

 

To recap, Scripture then presents in the clearest way that Jesus Christ is God (yet distinct from the Father, cf. John 1:1b; 17:5), Creator, worshiped in a religious context, and possesses the same attributes as that of God the Father.

 

 

 

III. The Holy Spirit is God: e.g., Acts 5:3-4; the Holy Spirit also possesses the attributes of God: 
 

      > Eternal, having neither beginning nor end (cf. Heb. 9:14),

      > Omnipresent, being everywhere at the same time (cf. Ps. 139:7).

      > Omniscient, understanding all things (cf. 1 Cor. 2:10-11).

      > Omnipotent (cf. Luke 1:35).

 

The Holy Spirit is a Person: e.g., the Holy Spirit communicates (e.g., Acts 10:19-20; 13:2; Heb. 3:7-11; 10:15-17); personal pronouns (“I,” “He”) are applied to Him (cf. Acts 10:20; John 16:13-14); possesses “personal” attributes (e.g., He has a will [cf. 1 Cor. 12:9-11]; emotions [cf. Eph. 4:30]; intelligence in that He investigates [cf. 1 Cor. 2:10-11; Rom. 8:27]; He intercedes/prays [cf. Rom. 8:26]; He can be lied to [cf. Acts 5:3]; He can be blasphemed [cf. Mark 3:29-30]; He issues commands [cf. Acts 13:4; Acts 16:6]; He gives love [cf. Rom. 15:30]). See also:      God the Holy Spirit: The Third Person of the Trinity.

  

 

Pillar 3: The three Persons are distinct from each other: e.g., John 1:1b. 17:5; Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 13:14; 1 John 1:3; Rev. 5:13.      See also: Grammatical Details. 

 

 

 

Additionally, in the OT, God is presented as multi-Personal: e.g., Gen. 19:24; Isa. 48:16; Hosea 1:7; Eccl. 12:1 (Heb. “Creators”); Isa. 54:5 (Heb. “Makers”; see also: The Multi-Personal God in the Old Testament and Oneness Theology)

 

In conclusion then, Scripture presents a tri-personal God. The Trinity is God’s highest revelation to mankind. In John 4:23-24, Jesus told the Samaritan woman that God seeks those who worship Him “in spirit and truth.” In truth, God is triune. Worshipping a unipersonal God or three separate Gods is not worshipping Him in truth. The issue being that the truth of the Trinity, the self-disclosure of God to men, is found in nearly every page of the Holy Scriptures: There is one God, and there are three distinct, coequal, coeternal, and coexistent, self-cognizant divine Persons or Egos that share the nature of the one God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

Pillar 1: There is only one God.

Pillar 2: There are three Persons or Selves that are presented as God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Pillar 3: The three Persons are distinct from each other.

Conclusion: The three distinct Persons share the nature or essence of the one Being, that is, the one God.

 

 

See also: The Trinity and the Early Church: Debunking the Oneness Myth

 

 

 


Notes

 

1. Specifically, Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 13:14; 1 John 1:3; and Rev. 5:13 (and there are many others) distinguish the Persons in the Trinity. This is due to their grammatical construction—namely, the repetition of both the article (ho, “the”) and conjunction (kai, “and”). For example, note the literal reading of 2 Cor. 13:14: “The grace [of] the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love [of] the God, and the fellowship [of] the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.” Or the literal reading of Rev. 5:13: “[to] the one sitting upon the throne and [to] the Lamb. . . .” Here, the Father (“the one sitting”) and Christ (“the Lamb”) are personally differentiated by the repetition of the article “the” (ho) and conjunction “and” (kai).