Q: #460. Explain the Trinity!
By: Steve Shirley
A: The Bible never uses the term Trinity, however, the concept for it is very clear. To explain why we use the word "Trinity," two things must be clearly understood: 1. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all called God, 2. There is only ONE God.
Speaking to the first point, the clearest way to see that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God is because the Bible calls them God. The following verses show us this:
Father: (1 Th 1:1)(1 Pet 1:2)(2 Jn 1:3)
Son (Jesus): (Heb 1:8)(Jn 1:1,14)(Jn 20:28) (see: "Jesus IS God")
Holy Spirit: (Acts 5:3-4)
In addition to this, we can see that they all share the traits of omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience that belong only to God.
Omnipotent (Mt 19:26)(Lk 1:37)(Jer 32:27)
Omnipresent (Mt 10:29-30)(Mt 6:6)(Jer 23:23-24)
Omniscient (1 Jn 3:20)(Isa 46:9-10)(Ps 147:4-5)
Omnipotent (Col 1:16-17)(Rev 3:7)(Jn 10:17-18)
Omnipresent (Mt 18:20)(Mt 28:20)
Omniscient (Jn 21:17-19)(Rev 2:23)(Acts 1:24)
Omnipotent (Job 26:13)(Rom 15:19)(Zech 4:6)
Omnipresent (Ps 139:7-12)(Jn 16:7-8)(1 Cor 6:19)
Omniscient (1 Cor 2:10-13)(Ezek 11:5)(Jn 14:16,26)
Having established that each is God, we move to the second point. The Bible also clearly tells us that there is only "one" God (Deut 6:4)(Jas 2:19)(1 Cor 8:4)(Mk 12:29).
If one looks at the first point without the second point, it might be concluded that Christians believe there are "three separate gods." In fact, this is exactly what Christians are accused of by cults like the Jehovah Witnesses. There are also those who call themselves Christians who believe that each is God, but have been manifested in different "modes" (modalism - i.e. United Pentecostal Church). (I do not believe one can be a Christian and hold this view.) This is why it is CRUCIAL to add the second point, that the Bible tells us there is ONE God.
Putting these two points together, how then do we define a "triune" God? Following is a good definition:
There is one God, manifested in 3 distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They have always existed eternally and simultaneously and all are equal. We do NOT believe in 3 separate gods (tritheism), nor do we believe God manifests Himself in 3 different ways (modalism). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all have a relationship with each other based on selfless love. Each also has a position and function in this relationship which, while unique, shows how they manifest this love for each other, often sharing the same traits. For instance:
Glorifies the Son: (Jn 17:1)
Loves the Son: (Jn 3:35)(Jn 5:20)
Honors the Son: (Jn 8:54)
Sends the Son: (Jn 6:57)(Jn 8:16)
Sends the Holy Spirit: (Jn 14:16,26)
Glorifies the Father: (Jn 17:1)
Loves the Father: (Jn 14:31)
Honors the Father: (Jn 8:49)
Reveals the Father: (Lk 10:22)(Mt 11:27)
Sends the Holy Spirit: (Jn 15:26)(Lk 24:49)
The Holy Spirit:
Glorifies the Son: (Jn 16:13-14)
Testifies about the Son: (Jn 15:26)
Another strong proof for the "Trinity" can be found at the beginning of creation. The Bible clearly shows us that the Father (1 Cor 8:6), Son (Jesus) (Col 1:16), and Holy Spirit (Ps 104:30) (and God: Isa 42:5), were ALL were responsible for authoring creation. Now, combine this knowledge with these two verses:
(Gen 1:26) And God said, Let US make man in OUR image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
(Gen 3:22) And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of US, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: (caps emphasis mine)
Notice that we have "God" being called "US" and "OUR." "God" (singular) is having a conversation, and we know who is having this conversation, because we know who was present!
Two more verses can be added to these:
(Gen 11:7) Go to, let US go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
(Isa 6:8) Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for US? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
One more excellent way to show a "triune" God is to look at attributes that the God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all share. For example, if I asked you: "Who raised Jesus from the dead?" what would be your response? If you said, "God," you would be right. If you said: "the Father," "Jesus," or "the Holy Spirit," you would also be right. How can this be? Do you get the point? Here are a few examples of this, along with Bible verses.
Who raised Jesus from the dead?
Jesus: (Jn 2:19)
Holy Spirit: (Rom 8:11)
Father: (Gal 1:1)
God: (Rom 10:9)
All are called "Lord."
Jesus: (Lk 2:11)
Holy Spirit: (2 Cor 3:17)
Father: (Mt 11:25)(Lk 10:21)
Who dwells in you when you are saved?
Jesus: (Eph 3:17)
Holy Spirit: (Rom 8:9,11)
God: (1 Jn 4:15)
All have existed eternally.
Jesus: (Rev 1:8,17)(Rev 22:13)
Holy Spirit: (Heb 9:14)
God: (Rom 16:26)(Ps 90:2)
(Mt 28:19) is generally considered the single clearest verse pointing to the Trinity. It says, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the NAME of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Caps emphasis mine) (Note that Jesus said in the "NAME" and not names of)
It is also worth noting that Satan often tries to counterfeit the things of God (I discuss this here). In relation to the "triune" God, we see that in the End Times, he will create an "unholy trinity" consisting of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet (Rev 16:13).
Finally, many people attempt to use "earthly" examples to explain an unexplainable God. For example, I found this in "Today In The Word" from Moody Bible College:
"(This example) is one many ancient Christian writers have used, likening it to the three-fold aspect of the sun. We feel the warmth of the sun on our bodies. Our eyes receive the light by which we see. Finally, there is the orb itself shining in the sky, the source of both the warmth and the light. Yet, these three aspects of the sun are interrelated, for all three are inextricably linked as one: the orb in the sky, the warmth of the rays, the light it produces. To speak of the "sun" includes all three, for all are equally the "sun."
Many people use the example of an egg. It is made up of 3 distinct parts: the yolk, the white, and the shell, yet, all still make up an egg. Another example is water. Water (H2O) can be manifested in 3 ways: solid (ice), liquid, or gas (steam), yet, all are still water (H2O).
However, these and all other examples fall short, and have fatal flaws. For example, the problem with the egg is that the yolk, white, and shell of an egg can be separated into parts, but a Triune God cannot be separated. With water, when liquid water is frozen, it takes on another form as "ice," or when heated, it takes on another form as "steam." God does not "take on another form" (i.e. the Father does not "become" the Son, the Son does not "become" the Holy Spirit). This would in essence be "modalism," as we mentioned above, and unbiblical.
Ultimately, we must keep in mind that the Bible says that God's ways are unknowable (Rom 11:33-34)(Ps 145:3). His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isa 55:8-9). We cannot fully understand God (1 Cor 13:12)(1 Cor 2:10-11)(1 Jn 3:2)(Ps 139:6,17-18), and I believe that is a good thing. I don't really want a God that I can fully understand. I want a God whose ways are so far above mine that I cannot humanly understand them. A God I could fully understand wouldn't seem like God.