Defence of the Trinity
I regularly get criticism that the doctrine of the Trinity is not found in the scriptures, but instead is invented by men. I have decided to write this as a summary of the biblical evidence for the orthodox position on the Trinity. That is, that the Father, Jesus, and the Spirit are equally God, three persons of one divine being/substance. Eternal, indivisible, and unchanging. I won’t lay out exactly what this means, or the full implications, that is for other people to do. But I will provide the evidence for it.
Part 1: The Father is God
This will be the easiest section. Unitarians, those who deny the Trinity, believe that only the Father is God. But I will include it for the sake of completeness.
Here is a single, sufficient piece of evidence: Jesus calls the Father God.
John 10:27: Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'”
If the Father is Jesus’ God, then the Father is God.
Part 2: Jesus is God
This will be the first contentious section. The most obvious part of scripture to talk about here is John 1:1-3. Now the Word here is Jesus. John 1:14 is pretty clear about that. So what does John 1:1-3 say?
John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
Jesus was not only with God, but He was God. Some translators note that there is an article in the first mention of God and none in the second. A more literal, word-for-word reading is this: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and the word was God”. So the Word is not “the God”. But Trinitarians accept that the God that the Word was with is the Father, and the Word is not the Father. But the Word is the God Himself, even if He isn’t the Father. He was God.
He also is the creator. How many thing exist that are uncreated? Only one: God. God is the creator of all that exists apart from Himself. But in v3, we see that the Word is the creator of everything that was created. So the Word Himself must be uncreated. That is, He is God.
We will also look at the end of John.
John 20:27-29 Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
Thomas recognises that Jesus is God. In the Old Testament, what happens when someone calls an angel “Lord”? The angel rebukes them, and tells them to worship God alone. But what does Jesus do? He encourages people to believe the same thing as Thomas. That He is God.
2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
Jesus is the God and Saviour. No way around it, Jesus is God. Some might say He’s simply “a god”, rather than “God”, that He’s a lesser deity to YHWH the creator. But we know that Christians are forbidden from worshipping anything other than YHWH the creator, the almighty God. And yet we are told to worship Jesus. So Jesus is YHWH. Which he claims in John 8:58. Remember that YHWH means “I am”. When Jesus says “Before Abraham was, I Am”, He is calling Himself YHWH. He could have said “I was”, but He chose His words carefully to carry this meaning. The audience understood this, they picked up stones to stone Him.
As The Gospel Coalition has helpfully summarised:
Jesus has honour that is only to be given to God. Christians may only worship God alone (Deut. 6:13; Matt 4:9-10), and yet they are to worship Jesus (Matt. 14:33; Heb. 1:6; Rev 1:17). Jesus has the same attributes as God: eternal (John 1:1-3; 8:58), all-powerful (Matt. 28:18), all-knowing (John 21:17), and loving (Rom 8:35-39). Jesus has the name above every name, (Phil. 2:9-11). Jesus is called God (John 20:28), Lord (Acts 1:24), the King of kings (Rev 19:16), Saviour (Luke 2:11), and the First and the Last (Rev 1:7-8). These titles belong to God alone. Jesus is said to be the creator (John 1:3), the sustainer of all things (Heb. 1:2-3), He is sovereign over the forces of nature (Matt. 8:2327), the one who forgives sins (Matt 9:1-8), and even the one who gives life (John 1:4; 5:21). In fact it could be said that everything that God does for us, Jesus does for us. Jesus sits on God’s throne (Rev. 3:21), ruling over all things (Rev 5:13). This is nothing short of claiming to be equal with God (John 10:27-33). Jesus is the judge of all history, of the entire world, of each person – to Him every knee will bow
Jesus is almighty God, the creator, equal in divinity with the Father.
Psalm 102 praises the “Lord” quite a lot. The Lord sits and rules in heaven, the Lord will restore Zion, the Lord laid the foundations of the Earth, the Lord endures forever and never changes. I don’t see any reason to say that the Psalmist is talking about a different being here than they normally are when they use the word “Lord”. But Hebrews 1 takes this Psalm as being about the Son, the Son is the Lord, as much as the Father is. The Son is God as much as the Father is.
Part 3: The Spirit is God
Some people don’t even believe that the Spirit is a real person, but instead is just a manifestation of the Father’s action, or something like that. So here we will show that the Spirit is the third person of the Trinity.
We see the Spirit being given attributes that only God has. This will demonstrate that the Spirit is divine Himself. The Spirit creates (Job 33:4, Psalm 104:30), the Spirit is eternal (Hebrews 9:14), the Spirit is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7–8) and omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10). Who is the eternal, omnipresent, omniscient creator? God alone.
The Spirit is a person distinct from the Father, as He is sent by the Father (John 14:26). The Spirit is distinct from the Son, as the Son calls the Spirit a “He”, a different entity to the Son. (John 14:27).
The Spirit is referred to as God in Acts 5. In v3, Peter says that Ananias has lied to the Spirit. Then in v4, he says that he has lied to God. Clearly the Spirit is God. A similar interchange is used in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 6:19. In 3, we are temples of God. In 6, we are temples of the Spirit. So the Spirit is God.
The Spirit is not just God, but YHWH, the almighty creator. In Hebrews 3:7–11, it is the Spirit who says “Israel tried and tested me…”. But who did Israel try and test? It was YHWH, their God. In Hebrews 10:15–17, it is the Spirit who makes a covenant with Israel. But who made a covenant with Israel? It was YHWH. So the Spirit is fully YHWH. Just as Jesus is, and just as the Father is.
Part 4: There are only three
Some have asked why there are three rather than four (or more or less). Some theologians such as Aquinas have attempted to articulate precisely why it is that God exists as a Trinity in terms of theology and philosophy. I will not attempt to do this, that’s beyond me. Instead, here’s the evidence that God is only and precisely three persons.
We see in many places all three mentioned together, with no others. Here are some examples of the three together:
- 1 Corinthians 12:4–6
- 2 Corinthians 13:14
- 1 Peter 1:2
- Matthew 28:19
- Matthew 3:16
- Matthew 12:28
- Luke 3:22
- John 14:26
- John 15:26
- Acts 2:33
- Romans 1:4
- Romans 8:9
- 1 Corinthians 6:11
- Galatians 4:6
- Ephesians 1:17
- Ephesians 2:18
- Ephesians 2:22
- Hebrews 9:14
- Acts 10:38
- Acts 1:4
Now I won’t exegete each of these, I leave that to you. But you can see that the three members of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, appear together all throughout the New Testament. And when they appear, they do so alone. There is none another among them, and so there is no other member of the Godhead. There are precisely three.