How do we define a Christian teaching as being “Biblical”? Have you ever met anyone that claimed the doctrine of the Trinity wasn’t “Biblical”? I have met several people who deny the Christian teaching of the Trinity on the grounds of this teaching not being “Biblical”. In discussing God with such a confused individual, they nearly always make the statement, “The word Trinity isn’t even in the Bible”. It’s a silly argument isn’t it? The word “Bible” isn’t even in the Bible either. Of course, behind the silliness, there is a legitimate question to be raised. Is the Christian teaching of the Trinity biblical? Yes, of course it is, but let’s touch on the basics.
Words Mean Things…
Before we dive into the biblical data, we should explain what we don’t mean by the term Trinity. Trinitarianism is not the belief that there are three Gods. While we often use the language of three persons, we do not mean to imply three separate persons. On the flip side, Trinitarianism is not the belief of one God who shows Himself in three different ways and at different times, as if he were a single actor playing three different roles in a single play. What then do we mean to communicate with the term “Trinity”? This Christian term means to communicate the glorious mystery of God, who is one in being and three in persons. I’m sure you still have questions. Good, we all still have questions. Even the best minds among us find themselves inadequate to define God, so they simply don’t. We cannot define Him but we can, because of His own gracious self-revelation, describe Him. Admittedly, this is not an easy doctrine to wrestle with. One simple reason we find ourselves mystified by the Trinity is due to our own experience. There is simply nothing in all of our creaturely experience that is truly analogous to God. God is completely unique. As much as we may try to make this doctrine more understandable, no analogy is sufficient to accomplish that task. God is not at all like an egg, a family unit, or a three leaf clover. He is in a class all to Himself. His being is beyond our capacities to fully grasp. However, all that we are able to grasp is of infinite value and worthy of all rapturous praise.
To show the Trinity to be a “Biblical” teaching we must first prove that the scripture teaches monotheism. Second, we must prove that the scripture teaches us that the three persons; Father, Son, and Spirit are all truly God. Third, we must prove that the scripture teaches us that the Father is not the Son or the Spirit, the Son is not the Father or the Spirit. Fourth, we must prove that the scriptures themselves harmonize this data. You ready? Let’s do it.
Monotheism is the belief that there is only one God. Monotheists do not simply claim that they personally only worship one God while other peoples might worship other gods. Monotheists boldly declare there is only one true God and all other gods that other people might worship are not really gods at all. There is not one God among the gods. No, there is simply one God.
Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.Isaiah 44:6
From Genesis to Revelation, the entire Christian canon undeniably declares the truth of monotheism. Our God is “the” God and not “a” god among gods. He is not the highest of a particular class of beings. There is simply no other. God is the eternal self-sufficient Creator and sustainer of all things.
For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.Isaiah 45:18
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…
The biblical language of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is seemingly dripping off of each New Testament page. Objections never arise over this language in the New Testament, but objectors complain that the Old Testament mentions nothing about “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”. Is that true? Not really. Jesus didn’t think so apparently.
One day Jesus had argued against and silenced his theological opponents, the Sadducees. The Pharisees were likely pleased to some degree because the Saducees wrong headed ideas about the doctrine of resurrection had been defeated. However, Jesus was not really a theological ally to the Pharisees so they took this opportunity to try and best Jesus with a question about God’s law. If they could win the debate with Jesus right now, they would have won two victories, solidifying their sect as the true Judaism. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “which is the great commandment in the law”? Jesus answers truly and the Pharisees agree with Him, but what happened next silenced them, showing Jesus to be the greatest teacher. Jesus questioned them about the person of the Messiah.
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.Matthew 22:41-46
Examining Jesus’ language in this text will reveal to us the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit within the pages of the Old Testament. Jesus is quoting from Psalm 110 and He asserts that David wrote these words through the inspiration of the Spirit. Jesus asked two questions, first, “whose son is (Christ)?”, and they answered the son of David. Second, he asked, How then does David call his son by God’s name Adonai? The implication is clear to us. Jesus identified the Messiah as Lord, or Adonai (one of God’s divine names), and His Father as (Jehovah). So then, Jesus identified the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all within Psalm 110:1. Is it true that the Old Testament has nothing to say about the Trinity? No, God is unchanging (Malachi 3:6). From everlasting to everlasting, He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Father is God…
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.Matthew 5:9-13
Is the Father God? Yes. This truth is universally admitted by all who value the Bible as God’s Word. When arguing in favor of Trinitarianism, it is not the Father that anti-trinitarians deny as God. The most infamous dissenting voice of the Trinitarian doctrine is a fourth century pastor/theologian named Arius. Even without knowing who Arius was, modern people who oppose the Trinity echo his heretical stance of declaring the Father is God, but the Son is not.
The Son is God…
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name with is above ever name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:9-11
Is Jesus God? Yes. The Apostle Paul was here quoting from Isaiah 45:23. Paul teaches us that Jesus will one day be confessed as Lord by all. So then, what does Paul mean here by the term “Lord”?
The greek term that Paul used was “Kurios” (transliteration). Paul was fluent in a few languages, but english wasn’t one of them. Paul could undoubtedly speak both Greek and Hebrew. He was a zealous Pharisee before his conversion and studied the Old Testament vigorously. In fact, his study of the Old Testament was something that never changed for Paul after he left his old Judaism behind for Christianity. Paul’s love for the Old Testament wasn’t stifled because the revelation of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ had unlocked the meaning of the Old Testament. Throughout Paul’s New Testament writings he quotes from the Old Testament extensively. When Paul quotes an Old Testament passage, like Isaiah 45, he is usually quoting from the Greek translation (Septuagint) of the Hebrew Old Testament .
The Septuagint translated the divine name (Jehovah) used in Isaiah 45 as “Kurios”. The reason this matters to our discussion of Jesus’ divinity is that Paul used the term “Kurios” for Jesus in Philippians 2:11 and not the Father. Imagine Paul’s Greek speaking audience in Philippi, or anywhere for that matter, wanted to study Isaiah 45 in light of Paul’s teaching in Philippians 2. If they didn’t already believe that Jesus was truly God, then they would be in for a shocker. For example, in Isaiah 45:18, such a Greek reader would see the only God to be named “Kurios”. As that same reader made his way through the rest of the passage, he would eventually come down to Isaiah 45:23 where Paul quotes from in Philippians 2:11. Here’s the shocker. Isaiah called God “Kurios”, and Paul called Jesus “Kurios”.
What did Paul mean by using the term “Kurios” for Jesus Christ? The Apostle clearly meant to communicate to his audience that Jesus is truly God. The sovereign creator and sustainer of all things who is alone God in Isaiah 45 is the same as the crucified and risen Christ. Jesus is truly God.
The Spirit is God…
But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? And after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.Acts 5:3-4
Is the Holy Spirit God? Yes. The challenge for some confused believers is to recognize the Holy Spirit as God and not merely a force or a power. God’s Spirit is a person who may be grieved (Eph 4:30), resisted (Acts 7:51), and who teaches (Luke 12:12), and provides (1 Cor 12:8) for His people. These are only a few of the innumerable passages that prove the person of the Holy Spirit to be God.