While it has become increasingly popular to suggest that the doctrine of the Trinity is derived from pagan sources, in reality, this Christian essential is thoroughly biblical. The word “Trinity”—like “incarnation”— is not found in Scripture; however, it aptly codifies what God has condescended to reveal to us about his nature and being. In short, the Trinitarian platform contains three planks: (1) there is but one God; (2) the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; (3) Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally distinct.
The first plank underscores that there is only one God. Christianity is not polytheistic but fiercely monotheistic. “You are my witnesses, declares the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me” (Isaiah 43:10, emphasis added).
The second plank emphasizes that in hundreds of Scripture passages the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are declared to be fully and completely God. As a case in point, the apostle Paul says that, “there is but one God the Father” (1 Corinthians 8:6). The Father, speaking of the Son, says, “Your throne, O God, will last forever and forever” (Hebrews 1:8). And when Ananias “lied to the Holy Spirit,” Peter points out that he had “not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:3–4).
The third plank of the Trinitarian platform asserts that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally distinct. Scripture clearly portrays subject/object relationships between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For example, the Father and Son love one another, speak to each other (John 17:1–26), and together send the Holy Spirit (John 15:26). Additionally, Jesus proclaims that he and the Father are two distinct witnesses and two distinct judges (John 8:14–18). If Jesus were himself the Father, his argument would have been not only irrelevant but also fatally flawed; and if such were the case, he could not have been fully God.
It is important to note that when Trinitarians speak of one God they are referring to the nature or essence of God. Moreover, when they speak of persons they are referring to personal self-distinctions within the Godhead. Put another way, we believe in one What and three Who’s.
For further study, see James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2001).
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”
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“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.”