The Trinity

The word 'trinity' is typically defined in Theology as the union of three divine persons in one God. Although the word trinity is not found in the Bible, it is a term that man uses to describe the Godhead as we see it defined within the Word of God. Though God is one, there is clear evidence that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct persons of the Godhead. A good explanation of the trinity is best stated this way.

Within the one being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and coeternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

A great amount of detail can be gleaned from this statement. Each word in this definition was chosen for a specific purpose. Before we can really understand what this statement is saying, we must define some of the words within it.

Being is what God is. It is His existence. We are human beings, but different people. There is only one God, and that God is one in being.

Person is who God is. We do not use the word to mean a human being. I am a human being, but who I am defines my personal attributes. We as humans are one in being and in person, but God is not limited by human nature. God is one in being but three in person. This means that each person of the Godhead possess all of the fullness of that Godhead, but each person is distinct from the other. When we say person, we mean it in a personal sense.

We must not confuse these two terms when discussing the Godhead. There is only one God in being, but we cannot deny the three distinct persons of the Godhead. The Bible is very clear that there is one God and that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct from one another. According to scriptures both of these are true. As we study this, we will see this more clearly.

Coequal does not mean that all persons must have the same role. In his humanity Jesus was actually submissive to the Father. He said nothing that the Father did not tell Him to say (John 13:49) and even stated that the Father was greater than Himself (John 14:28). This, however, does not mean that He is not coequal with the Father. Willingly taking upon a role of submission for a time does not negate His equality within the Godhead eternally.

Christ willingly set aside His divine rights and priviledges, so that He could take the form of a servant. While His role in redemption required this submissiveness, it does not mean that He as a person of the Godhead was not equal with the Father. Consider the following example.

There is an old movie called "Brubaker" about a man who just became the warden of a prison. He had heard the former warden was corrupt and he wanted to see for himself just how deep the corruption went. He decided to begin his job undercover. Instead of going into the prison and demanding to take control (as was his right, for he was the warden) he entered the prison as a fellow inmate. While he was undercover as a prisoner he was subject to the authority of those in control. He had to follow the rules and do what was told or face the consequences. While he had the authority and power to over rule the officers who held him prisoner, until he actually exercised that power, he was treated as a prisoner like the rest of the population. As a prisoner, he was submissive to the officer in charge, but his true status as warden made him ruler over everyone.

Christ willingly chose to become submissive in his humanity so that He could fulfill the requirements for our redemption. After He had completed what needed to be done, He did not stay in His submissive role. He is now exalted to the highest place.

Phil 2:5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)

Coeternal Since God is one in being and God exists eternally, the doctrine of the trinity maintains that all persons of the Godhead exist eternally as well. Some people will claim that the Son did not exist in the beginning, but the Bible is clear that all persons of the Godhead have existed throughout all eternity. We see that all persons had a role in creation.

Father: Deut 32:6 Is this the way you repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you? (NIV)

Son: Col 1:13-16 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. (NIV)

Holy Spirit: Gen 1:2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (NIV)

These verses show us that the Father, Son and Spirit were all there playing an active role in creation. Were these merely different manifestations that were referring to the same person or were these persons distinct? We find the answer in Genesis.

Gen 1:26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, (NIV)

If there is no distinction of persons in the Godhead, then who is the us and our that God was speaking to?

Was it an angel? It can't be an angel for God created the world alone.

Isa 44:24 "This is what the LORD says-- your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, (NIV)

Was God actually counseling with His own will?

Eph 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: (KJV)

Though this verse says that God does things after the counsel of His own will, this in no way suggests that God talks to himself as though His will is another person.

Was it another god?

Isa 43:10 ... Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. (NIV)

The Us clearly has to Be God, who alone created the world, without being another god. There is only one explanation and that is that God is a trinity. He is one God yet three in person. The Bible is clear that God is one, but let us examine that phrase for a moment.

The One Being that IS God

Trinitarians believe that God is one in being. They do not believe in more than one God, but they do recognize that their one God consists of the Father, Son and Spirit. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God, yet they are not three Gods, they are one.

Deut 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (NIV)

We see here that God is one. The being of God is united, unique and indivisible. Trinitarians are strong believers in the fact that there is only one God, that apart from God there is no salvation, and that God is one in being. However, we can see from the first verse in the Bible that God is more than one in person.

Gen 1:1 In the beginning God[Elohiym] created the heavens and the earth. (NIV)

The actual word for God that was used here is Elohiym, which is a plural meaning of the word God, which is Elowahh. The Bible was written by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit and their words were not poorly chosen. The words that were chosen reveal to us who God is.

If Elohiym (the plural form of Elowahh) was used in Genesis 1:1, we must realize that it is either speaking of the persons of God, or else it contradicts the verse in Deuteronomy that clearly states the Lord is one. What is even more significant about Deuteronomy 6:4 is the word that was used for one.

Deut 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one[Echaad]. (NIV)

The wording in the original texts for the word one, is Echaad, which actually translates very poorly into the English language. In Hebrew it literally means compound unity. We see this word used in other places in the Bible with the same meaning. In Genesis 1:5 where it says "the evening and the morning were the first day." Echaad was the word used for first. That one-day consisted of both the evening and the morning, which gives us a compound unity, that makes up one day. This same word was also used in Genesis 2:24, when God instructed the husband and wife to become one flesh. This too, is the same word Echaad which means compound unity.

Gen 2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one[Echaad] flesh. (NIV)

There is a Hebrew word for absolute oneness. It is "Yachid" as used in Genesis 22:2 where God tells Abraham to "take thine only son Isaac" to sacrifice him. This word, however, was not chosen to describe God. There is only One God, that is clear, but it also clear that within that one God, there exists a compound unity.

Three Distinct Persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Things become quite evident when we examine closely what something means rather than just what it says. When we read about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit we see apparent relationships between the three. But what does that mean, that they have relationships to one another? Let us define relationship.

re·la·tion·ship n.
1. The condition or fact of being related; connection or association.
2. Connection by blood or marriage; kinship.
3. A particular type of connection existing between people related to or having dealings with each other: has a close relationship with his siblings.
4. A romantic or sexual involvement

In order for a relationship to exist, there has to be more than one person with which to be related, connected or associated with. Relationships take two. There is no relationship without an outside person to have a relationship with. So let us look at just how the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit associated with one another.

The baptism of Jesus is one of the most beautiful examples of how the Father, Son and Spirit were all present together. Even better than that, it also illustrates a relationship between them.

Luke 3:21-22 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." (NIV)

Above we see clear evidence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit descended upon the Son. And then we hear the Father speak to His Son and he shares a very powerful statement about His relationship with the Son.

"You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

Jesus is the Father's Son whom He loves and is pleased with! These are relational terms. He is clearly talking to another person that He has feelings for.

There is also proof in the New Testament that this relationship existed since the beginning. The Son, though made flesh in the New Testament had a relationship with the Father since the beginning. Listen to what Jesus said in His prayer to the Father in the 17th chapter of John.

John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began...
John 17:24 Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (NIV)

The love that the Father had for the Son existed since before the world began! Jesus did not merely say that the Father loved the plan of me or the thought of me. Jesus clearly said the Father "loved me before the creation of the world." Jesus was not only loved he also had glory with the Father. They shared in that experience and love!

The distinction between the Father and Son not only existed in the beginning and during Christ's life here on earth, it has continued and will continue throughout eternity. The Son has not merely taken on the role of the Father, he sits at the Father's right hand and continually mediates to the Father on our behalf. This is an active continuous relationship that goes on until Christ returns again!

1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (NIV)

Heb 7:24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (NIV)

1 John 2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. (NIV)

Rom 8:34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (NIV)

Jesus has to be another person in order for Him to intercede on our behalf. Like relationships, a mediator must go between two separate parties. Mediators do not mediate on their own behalf. If Jesus were merely the Father in the flesh, then we would have no need for mediation or intercession. Those terms would be pointless. Both terms means that the mediator/intercessor must go between two separate parties, not one party and them self.

Jesus stated that the law requires there to be at least two witnesses to testify on someone's behalf. Jesus clearly stated that He had two witnesses. If Jesus is the Father, then He lacked a witness, and this statement is false.

John 8:17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me." (NIV)

We can clearly see the distinction between the Father and the Son. They were not merely different manifestations of one person for they actually have a relationship with each other. The Holy Spirit is also distinct from the Father and the Son and He too has an interactive relationship with both of them.

The Person of the Holy Spirit

So many people miss the biblical evidence that the Holy Spirit is a person. They will refer to Him as it or think He is just some strange power or force. This simply is not true and we can see that clearly in the Bible.

The Holy Spirit is a person. He spoke to men and when doing so He referred to Himself using personal pronouns.

Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (NIV)

Jesus also referred to the Holy Spirit as a person.

John 15:26 "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about me. (NIV)

The Holy Spirit has feelings and expresses emotions just as any person would. This verse clearly tells us that the Holy Spirit is capable of experiencing grief.

Eph 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (NIV)

Like the Son, the Holy Spirit is God, but distinct from the other persons of the Godhead. We know that when Ananias and Saphira lied to the Holy Spirit, they did not simply lie to some mystical being, but to God Himself.

Acts 5:3 Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." (NIV)

But this was not simply the Son or Father manifest as the Spirit, this is another person of the Godhead that was sent by the Father through the son. The distinction is clear.

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- (NIV)

John 15:26 "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. (NIV)

So we see that we have 3 distinct persons of the Godhead, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We must not forget, however, that there is only one God. Each of these persons makes up one God.

Only One God

We have just shown how the Bible is clear that the Father, the Son and the Spirit are distinct persons. The Bible is also clear that there is only one God.

Isa 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. (NIV)

Deut 32:39 "See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. (NIV)

Though there is only one God, the Bible also tells us that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all God. We know the Father is God.

John 8:41 "We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself." (NIV)

Jesus Christ was also God. He wasn't killed for being a prophet, a good man or a lesser god. Jesus was killed because he made himself equal with the Almighty God. The Jews rejected who he was and plotted to kill him because he claimed to be God.

John 10:33 "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God." (NIV)

John 5:18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (NIV)

Thomas proclaimed that glorious truth after Christ's resurrection. Jesus accepted his testimony, because Jesus IS God.

John 20:28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" (NIV)

And we can remember the verse above, that tells us how Ananias and Saphira lied to God when they lied to the Holy Spirit. This is because the Holy Spirit is God.

Acts 5:3 Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." (NIV)

There is only one God but the Father, the Son and the Spirit are each distinct from one another yet they all claim to be God. With all the scriptural evidence we can only come to one conclusion.


We cannot say there is an absolute oneness of God that insists that the Son and Holy Spirit are merely different manifestations of the Father. This negates many of the verses that prove they have relationships with each other. It also disproves Jesus' only testimony about himself, that He has two witnesses, both himself and the Father. More importantly it downplays the significance of the death that had to take place in order for our sins to be forgiven. That penalty was real, the death was real, yet when God the Son died, the Father was alive to raise Him again.

Acts 13:32 "We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: "'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.' 34 The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: "'I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.' 35 So it is stated elsewhere: "'You will not let your Holy One see decay.' (NIV)

We also cannot say that there are three Gods. The Bible does not leave that option open to us. We have clearly shown that there is only one God. We cannot just make up a hierarchy that puts the Father as the Almighty God and the others as lesser Gods. God said there is NO God besides Him.

Deut 32:39"See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. (NIV)

The only solution that makes sense and keeps the scriptures from contradicting themselves is that God is a trinity. God is one in being, but three in person. We may not understand how it can work that way nor fathom exactly what God is like, but we can understand what the Bible reveals to us about Him. The only biblical conclusion that one can draw is a belief in a God that is one in being but separate in person. The Bible teaches this to be true.

2 Cor 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (NIV)

Other helpful sources

What is the Trinity - Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry
The Trinity - Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry offers a chart that reveals that all persons of the Godhead share the same titles according to the scriptures.
A Brief Definition of the Trinity - By James White.
The Forgotten Trinity - By James White. Order this book here.

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