Trinity - 2: Does The Bible Teach It?



Having considered the doctrine – its definition and distinctive, let us now answer the more pertinent question of whether this doctrine is biblical. This we will do by reflecting on the scriptural data and seeing whether from it, we can faithfully reproduce the definition we saw earlier. The thesis is that if all the three foundational and constituent truths can be proved to be biblical, then the synthesis of these truths as given by the definition of the doctrine is also biblical.

1.      That there is only one God.

The most famous scripture passage in the Bible for showing its affirmation of Monotheism is the Shema[1] in Deuteronomy 6:4 which says,  "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” The following verse calls the people of God to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” The basis for this exclusive loyalty is to be found in the oneness of God as explained in verse.4.  Monotheism thus calls for “exclusive worship of and obedience to the one true God”. [2]

The Decalogue begins by stating explicitly how the oneness of God was revealed in the economy of God’s redemption of His people from Egypt. "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2-3) This then becomes the basis for Him alone to be worshiped as God. Since there is no God other than Yahweh, there is no place for any graven image or idolatry (Exodus 20:4).  

The Prophets later on in the Old Testament constantly call the people of God to return to their Monotheism and make an end to their idolatry.  Here is Isaiah crying out “I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5) and later, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:9).

The stress of Monotheism is carried forward by the New Testament too.  In His high priestly prayer, Jesus defines eternal life as knowing “you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Though this verse is a clear proof of the divinity and equality of Jesus with the Father, the fact that Jesus refers the God He came to reveal, as the only true God, proves Monotheism is clearly assumed in these words of our Lord.

In 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, Paul says, “Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.’ For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth--as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’-- yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist.” Here Paul brings in the truth of Monotheism to counter idolatry, a pattern of logic already found in Deuteronomy. Later on in Ephesians, while listing truths which the church confesses and finds grounds for unity, he says, the church has “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:6) In his pastoral epistle to Timothy, Paul says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5) In James 2:19, James commends Monotheism and yet points how even the demons believe it.  The affirmation of Monotheism is thus not limited to the Old Testament but is foundational to New Testament too.

2.      There exists within the one being of God, three distinct divine Persons

Though there are passages of scripture in the Old Testament, where there are already hints of the plurality of Persons within God, the clear revelation of the Trinity comes in the New Testament due to progress of revelation. How the New Testament affirms this truth is by -  (a) introducing us to the three distinct Persons of the Father, the Son and the Spirit and (b) by affirming the deity of each of these three persons. In other words, New Testament affirms both the personality and deity of each of the three Persons.

The Father

There has been little debate over the personality or deity of the Father. Still for completion sake, lets see briefly how the New Testament affirms these concerning Him. In the words of Jesus, “God” and “your heavenly Father” are interchangeable expressions.[3] In Matthew 6:26-30, Jesus calls Him “your heavenly Father” in verse 26 and “God” in verse 30, without any discernable shift in meaning. In His high priestly prayer, He called the Father who sent Him as the only true God (Jn. 17:3). Likewise in John 3:16, the One who gave the Son for the world, clearly recognized as the Father in rest of the New Testament (e.g.: 1 John 4:14), is called God. In Galatians 1:1, Paul calls God, “God, the Father”, affirming the deity of the Father. Moreover in the verses we saw from New Testament affirming Monotheism, the Father is immediately identified as the God we worship (See 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, Ephesians 4:6, 1 Timothy 2:5). Thus it is very clear that in the New Testament, the Father in His being is God.

The distinct personality of the Father is seen in His relationship with the other Persons of the Trinity. The First Person of the Trinity is called the Father precisely with respect to His relationship with the Second Person. He is the eternal Father who has eternally begotten the Son.  A survey of John’s gospel will prove this point. In John 1:14, Jesus is called the only Son from the Father. The unique relationship between the Father and Son is clearly implied here with the word “only begotten”. The word in Greek, monogenēs, in this context can best be translated as the only one of a kind or unique son[4]. It thus speaks of the distinct personalities of the Father and the Son as they relate to one another. The Father finds his personhood in being the one who begets the Second Person of the Trinity. He is thus one with the Son in substance, yet distinct in personhood.  In John 1:18, the Son is said to be on the bosom of the Father, speaking of their intimate love. Love as we noted earlier can only make sense if its relational and personal. Thus for the Father to love the Son, they have to be distinct persons.

In John 8:54, Jesus says it is the Father who will glorify Him. This speaks of the great plan and purpose of the Father to see His Son glorified in all things. The Scripture repeatedly bears witness to the great love of the Father for His Son and how He wants His Son to be glorified in all things. This again proves the distinct personhood of the Father, derived from His relationship with His Son.  Towards the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus spoke about His return to the Father (John 14:12) which teaches us that it was not the First Person of the Trinity who got incarnated, but the Second. Thus though they are same in essence, in Person they are distinct. The Father sends the Son. Thus the Father cannot be the Son. Similarly the Father sends the Spirit upon His Son during Jesus’ baptism and upon the church during the Pentecost. These observations clearly show how the person of the Father cannot be synonymous to the Son or the Spirit, but is a distinct manner of existence within the one being of God.

The Son

Regarding the Second Person of the Trinity, as we have noted above, even though there are hints in the Old Testament of His distinct personality and deity (see Isa. 9:6, 48:12, 16; Ps. 110:1; Hos. 1:7;), the clearer revelation of His person and deity is found in the New Testament.

The gospel of John alone is enough to prove the deity and personality of Jesus.[5] The deity of the Son of God is affirmed in the prologue itself. Here, John begins his gospel by declaring how the Divine Logos was with God - speaking of His distinct personhood from the Father, and was God – speaking of His deity (Jn. 1:1-2). He has now become flesh to dwell among us (v. 14). This is thus one of the clearest of all passages in New Testament affirming the deity and personhood of the Son of God. The Incarnation is thus, properly speaking, the Second Person of the Trinity coming in flesh. The popular understanding of Incarnation as God come in flesh lacks the Trinitarian nuance found in the Bible. Thus all Christians who affirm the biblical doctrine of Incarnation have to be Trinitarian.

It has been argued by many that Jesus never made any overt claims like “I am God”. This however is not a proper understanding of both the New Testament and the doctrine of Trinity. For in the New Testament and particularly in the gospel of John there are clear records of how the Jews did hear Jesus making claims of deity. For example in John 5:18, it says that the Jews were all the more seeking to kill Jesus because He was “making Himself equal with God”. Thus the original hearers of Jesus did hear Him claim to be God. Secondly, Jesus came as the Son of God and thus the distinct personhood that He claims in the pages of New Testament is that of the Second Person of the Trinity. In other words, though He was in substance God, since He was the Second Person of the Trinity, His function was to reveal the First Person of the Trinity. Thus for Jesus, His claim was that He was the Son of God which as the Jews rightly understood is to be in essence, God. Hence, in Matthew 26:63-65, when the Jews asked Him whether He is the Christ, the Son of God, the response of Jesus is a confident affirmation, resulting in them, accusing Him of blasphemy. Thus people who search for any claim by Jesus to be God and makes the above mentioned argument, are not understanding how Jesus claimed to be God. He claimed to be God in a Trinitarian fashion – one with God in essence and distinct in personhood. Thus Jesus claiming to be the Son of God properly understood is Jesus claiming deity.

How Jesus claimed to be God in essence, can be seen just by His use of the “I Am” title of God, seven times in the gospel of John alone - “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35, 48; cf. 6:41, 51), “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), “I am the gate” of the sheep (John 10:7, 9), “I am the good shepherd” (10:11, 14), “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), “I am the true vine” (John 15:1, 5). The Greek ego eimi is the very same phraseology used in the Septuagint with reference to Yahweh (see Ex. 3:14; Isa. 43:10,  LXX). The Jews in John 8 certainly understood the theological significance of this phrase being claimed by Jesus, for they picked up stones to stone Him for blasphemy (John 8:58-59). 

If this is not enough, a small survey of the New Testament would prove this point. The witness of the synoptic gospels regarding the claims of Jesus, concerning His deity, can be best summarized as follows: “He claimed that God’s angels (Luke. 12:8-9, 15:10) were His angels (Mt. 13:41), and God’s kingdom was His (Mt. 12:28, 19:14, 24, 21:31, 43). God’s elect was also His elect (Mt. 12:28, 19:14, 24, 21:31, 43). He also applied a number of Old Testament references to God to Himself. The judgment scene of Matthew 25 reflects the theophanic language of Daniel 7:9-10, Joel 3:1-12, Zechariah 14:5. In Matthew 21:16 Jesus applies Psalm 8:1-2 to Himself and in Luke 19:10 apparently alludes to Ezekiel 34:16, 22. Other references of this type are Luke 20:18a (Isa. 8:14-15); Matthew 11:10, Mark 1:2 and Luke 7:27 (Mal. 3:1; 4:5-6); Mark 13:31 (Isa. 40:8). There are those passages in which He assumes the role of Yahweh among the most impressive of these are the predictions of the Second Coming and Judgment. In Mark 9:12-13 (Mt. 17:11-12), Matthew 11:10 (Luke. 7:27), and Matthew 11:14 there are references to Malachi 3:1 and 4:5-6 which predict the coming of Elijah as the forerunner of Yahweh. Jesus, however, identified John the Baptist who had come as His forerunner as Elijah. In Matthew 19:28 and 25:31-46 Jesus alludes to Daniel 7. In Daniel 7:9 the Ancient of Days sits on a throne. Jesus Himself however takes the role of the Ancient of Days sitting on His “glorious throne”. And in parables where Jesus identifies Himself as the sower, the shepherd and the bridegroom, He places Himself in the role of God.”[6] 

Moving to the epistles of the New Testament, Philippians 2:5-11 is a rich passage on the deity of Jesus. Paul speaks of Jesus being in the very nature of God and not considering that equality something to be grasped, He gives Himself up and becomes obedient to death, even death on a cross. Exegetes have noted that the Greek word translated “in the very nature” is the word morphē, which refers to the full set of characteristics, which makes something that which it is. In other words, the idea communicated is not of a mere external appearance or façade. Thus Paul is saying Jesus was in His very essence fully God.

In Colossians 1:15-20, the language used by Paul regarding Jesus cannot be justified if Jesus is not God. For Paul says, the Son is the image of the invisible God, the first born or heir[7] of all creation, through whom and for whom all things were created by God, in whom all things are held together, who has supremacy in everything and through whom God reconciles all things. The word “image” in Greek is eikon and New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce remarks, “To say that Christ is the image of God is to say that in Him, the nature and being of God has been perfectly revealed – that in Him the invisible has become visible.”[8] In addition, Paul goes on to say in Colossians 2:9 that in Christ “all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form.” To understand all these assertions the deity of Christ is crucial, for if we read these assertions of Paul without the deity of Christ, the language is blasphemous.

The writer to the Hebrews begins his sermon by giving a powerful description of who Jesus is. He says, “the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” The Greek word translated as “exact representation” is charaktēr, which speaks of qualitative identity and not merely similarity of being[9]. The author goes on to quote Psalm 45:6 in verse 8 and Psalm 102:25 in verse 10, both of which contains God the Father addressing the Son as “God” and “Lord” respectively.

In Titus 2:13, Paul says we “wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Here we see Paul making an explicit affirmation of the deity of Jesus Christ. Later on in Titus 3:4-6, Paul first speaks of God as our Saviour and yet also goes on to describe Christ as our Saviour. If Christ is not God, equating Him with God, as our Saviour makes no sense. Thus describing “Christ as Saviour is an implicit confession of His deity”[10].  

Moreover titles like  “Saviour” (Luke 2:11; John 4:42; Phil. 3:20; 2 Tim. 1:10; Titus 2:13, cf. v. 10; 2 Pet. 1:11; 2:20; 3:2, 18; 1 John 4:14; cf. Is. 43:11; 45:21-22; 1 Tim. 4:10; Heb. 5:9, cf. Ex. 15:2; Ps. 118:14, 21), “Shepherd” (John 10:11; Heb. 13:20; cf. Ps. 23:1; Is. 40:11), “Bridegroom” (Matt. 22:2; 25:1-13; Mark 2:19; John 3:29; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-27; Rev. 19:7-9; 21:2, 9; cf. Is. 54:5; 62:5; Jer. 31:32), “The First and the Last” (Rev. 1:7-8, 17b-18; 2:8; 22:13; cf. Is. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 21:6), “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev. 17:14; 19:16; cf. Dan. 4:37; 1 Tim. 6:15), which are used for God in the Old Testament are used in the New Testament for Jesus, proving His equality with God in His divinity. [11]

In addition to these, the New Testament affirms Jesus doing all the works of God – from Creation (John 1:3, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16), to Redemption (Matt. 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26) and to Judgement at the end (Matt. 25:31-46; John 5:22-23; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Rom. 2:16; 1 Cor. 4:4-5; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Thess. 1:7-8; 2 Tim. 4:1; Rev. 2:23). In the gospel of John, Jesus explicitly makes this claim of His deity that He does all the works that the Father does (John 5:19b).  

Finally, the New Testament reveals Jesus as having all the attributes of God. He is Self-existent (John 5:26), Immutable (Heb. 1:10-12), Eternal (John 1:1-3; 8:56-59; 17:5; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12; 7:3), Omnipresent (Matt.18:20; 28:20;), Omniscient (Matt. 9:4; 11:21-23; 12:25; Mark 2:6-8; 8:31-32; Luke 6:8; 10:13-15; 21:20-24; John 2:23-24; 4:16-18; 11:11-15; 13:10-11, 21-29, 36-38.; 16:30-31; 21:17; Acts 1:24; 1 Cor. 4:5; Rev. 2:23; cf. Mark 13:30-32), Omnipotent (Matt. 28:18; John 2:19-22; 10:17-18; 1 Cor. 1:23-24; 2 Cor. 12:9; Eph. 1:19-21; Col. 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:22) and Incomprehensible (Matt. 11:25-27).

Regarding His distinct personhood from the Father and the Spirit, the New Testament is equally clear. As noted at the beginning, the gospel of John begins by identifying Jesus as the Logos of God who was both God and with God. He being with God speaks of His distinct manner of existence from that of the Father. From all eternity, before the beginning of time and creation, He existed as a distinct Person within the Trinity.  When Paul explains the humiliation of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11, the language of equality with God, which Jesus did not hold on to, but gladly gave up for us, makes little sense if He Himself is the Father. It makes sense and becomes the ultimate example of humility for us, only when we see how He was a distinct Person from the Father and was willing to take part of humanity for our salvation.

Moreover the inter-personal interactions between the Father and the Son makes little sense outside a Trinitarian understanding of seeing them as distinct Persons within the Being of God -  The Son is sent by the Father (John 3:16-17; Gal. 4:4; 1 John 4:10, 17:18; 20:21); The Son is loved by the Father (John 3:35; 5:20, 15:9a, 17:24b; Matt.3:17); The Son loves the Father (John 14:31, ); No one knows the Father except the Son and no one knows the Son except the Father (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22; John 7:29; 8:55; 10:15); The Son now sits on the right hand of Majesty, being our Advocate making intercession for us (Heb. 1:3b, 7:25, 8:1;1John 2:1).

Similarly the Person of Jesus is not the Person of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself calls the Spirit of God “Another Comforter” (John 14:16) clearly speaking of His distinct personhood from that of the Spirit of God. The Spirit on the other hand comes to glorify the Son of God, thus proving again that Jesus and the Spirit are not one person (John 16:13-14).

The Holy Spirit

The New Testament affirms both the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity.  First of all, the Spirit is called God in the New Testament. In Acts 5:3, Ananias is rebuked by Peter for lying against the Holy Spirit. He moves on to say in v.4 that the sin is so serious for he has “not lied to men, but to God”. Thus Peter is affirming the deity of the Spirit, when he equates the Spirit with God.  The fact that “Holy Spirit” and “God” are interchangeable words, explicitly proves that the Holy Spirit is God. Also worth observing is that the sin in the passage is “lying” and thus implicitly proves the personality of the Spirit. For it is impossible to lie against an impersonal power. Thus this passage teaches both the deity and personhood of the Spirit.  In Corinthians 3:16, Christians are called “God’s temple” and then in 6:19, Christians are called “the temple of the Holy Spirit”. This interchange of words also proves the deity of the Spirit. In 3:16 Paul’s logic that Christians are God’s temple stands on the fact that Christians are indwelt by the Spirit. Thus the deity that habitats this temple is the Spirit. Thus Christians are God’s temple because the Spirit who indwells us, is God. It is also noteworthy here that a temple is a habitation for a deity and not for an impersonal power. Thus the use of the word “temple” implicitly suggests the personality of the Spirit too.

Secondly, the deity of the Spirit is affirmed by the different names of the Spirit found in the New Testament. He is called the Spirit of God (Matt. 3:16; Matt. 12:28; Rom. 8:9, 14, 15:19; 1Cor 2:11, 14, 7:40, 12:3; Eph 4:30; Phil 3:3; 1Pe 4:14; 1Jo 4:2), the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9; 1Pe 1:11), the Spirit of Jesus (Act 16:7; Phil 1:19;), the Spirit of His Son (Gal 4:6), all of which shows how the Spirit is in His essence God as the Father and the Son are.

Thirdly, the deity of the Spirit is affirmed by the witness of the Scriptures  regarding the Spirit as having all the incommunicable attributes of God.  Around 90 times the New Testament calls the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, speaking of His Holiness. He is also eternal (Heb.9:14) and Omnipresent (Ps. 139:7-9). When the Spirit fills someone, it does not mean He is confined to the physical limitations of that one person. If so He could not be in every Christian around the world. As Thomas Oden rightly observes about the Biblical assertions on the Spirit filling all Christians everywhere, “such statements are grounded in the premises of omnipresence and eternality — attributes ascribed properly only to God.”[12] Moreover the Spirit is Omnipotent (Matt. 12:28; Rom. 15:18-19) and Omniscient (1Cor. 2:10-11).

Fourthly, the Scriptures affirm the deity of the Spirit by the works He does. He works with the Father and the Son – in Creation (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 104:30), in giving the Scriptures (2Peter 2:20-21) and in Redemption ( regeneration - John 3:5 cf. John 1:12; sanctification - Rom. 15:16; 1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Thess. 2:13; resurrection - Rom. 8:11).

Regarding His distinct personality, the New Testament is clear enough to teach us that He is a different Person from the Father and the Son within the one being of God.  That He is a person is taught in Scripture. For as a Person, the Spirit has a will (1Cor. 12:11; Acts 15:28), He speaks[13] (John 16:13; Acts 1:16; 8:29; 10:19; 11:12; 13:2; 16:6; 20:23; 21:11: 28:25-27; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:7-11; 10:15-17; 1 Pet. 1:11; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.), He knows (1 Cor. 2:11), He prays (Rom. 8:26), He guides (Rom. 8:14), He convicts (John 16:8), He calls (Acts 13:2), He commissions (Acts 20:28), He has a mind (Rom. 8:27), He can be lied to (Acts 5:3), grieved (Eph. 4:30), tested (Acts 5:9), insulted (Heb. 10:29) and blasphemed (Matt. 12:31).

The Father is not the Holy Spirit for it is He along with the Son who sends the Spirit (John 14:16). The Spirit is distinct from the Father as He is said to be proceeding from the Father (John15:26) and that He intercedes before the Father for us (Rom. 8:26-27). The Son and the Spirit are also distinct Persons. Jesus calls the Spirit, Another Comforter, drawing a distinction in terms of their Persons. The Son asks the Father for the Spirit and sends along with the Father, the Spirit to His disciples (John 15:26). The Spirit we are told is all about drawing worship to God in the Son, Lord Jesus Christ. He is all about glorifying the Son of God (John 16:13-14). "The Holy Spirit does not draw attention to himself. He is sent by the Father to glorify Jesus, to show Jesus' attractiveness, and not to take the centre of the stage"[14].

Thus to sum up our survey of New Testament regarding the Holy Spirit,  “Three points that emerge from this survey of the New Testament data are: (1) The Holy Spirit is everywhere regarded as God; (2) He is God in distinction from the Father and the Son; (3) His deity does not infringe upon the divine unity. In other words, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the triune Godhead.”[15]

Thus we have seen sufficient Scriptural data to affirm the second cardinal truth that makes the doctrine of Trinity, namely, that there is in the one being of God, three distinct persons – the Father, the Son and the Spirit. This survey of the New Testament can best be summarised in the words of B.B Warfield who said, “The doctrine of the Trinity does not appear in the New Testament in the making, but as already made.”[16]

3.      The Persons are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial

Though in our previous survey, the distinct personalities of the Three were touched upon, we will still spend a brief amount of space to show that the third cardinal truth of the doctrine of Trinity – the Equality of the Persons, is also found in Scriptures. For this we now devote our time on those triadic passages, passages where all the Three Persons are mentioned and affirmed as equal. Though space limits us from studying every single one of them, we will focus on three of them.

In 1 Cor. 12, while dealing with the grace gifts of the church, Paul describes them in a Trinitarian fashion as follows : “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (v.4-6). To bring unity in the church with diverse gifts, Paul traces the blessings back to its source – the triune God. It is the One Spirit which gives these gifts, it is the One Christ who receives the services through these gifts and it is the One Father who energizes all. This unity of God then becomes the basis for Paul’s plea for the unity to be found in the church. Thus the grammatically parallel construction of this passage speaks of the equality of the Persons mentioned. Paul certainly is working from the assumption of God’s tri-unity.[17]

In 2 Cor. 13:14, Paul gives his benediction in Trinitarian language, "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all". Here when Paul ends his letter and wants to invoke a blessing upon the church, he does so by mentioning the three Persons of the Trinity. That these are three distinct Persons have already been dealt in our study. What is noteworthy here is that those three Persons are mentioned alongside each other, implying their equality. When Paul thinks of the church being blessed, he thinks of it as the church receiving from all the Three Persons of the Trinity.  

In 1 Peter 1:2, Peter begins his letter by describing the church in Trinitarian language speaking of how each of the Three Persons have blessed the church. He calls them those, “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood”.

The Church is made up of people who have been elected by God in eternity past, for whom Jesus died in history to sprinkle His blood on them and make them obedient to Him, and who are set apart by the Spirit in time. The Three are thus equally at work in our salvation. Peter clearly sees the Three Persons of the Father, the Son and the Spirit, though having distinct roles, as equal in essence.

Finally the most definitive triadic passage[18] is the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19 – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. Three observations can be made here for our present consideration. First, the use of the definite article “the” before each of the three, speaks of their distinct personality. Thus the three are not designations of three manifestations or modes of a single person god.  Secondly, the use of “and” between the three, speaks of their equality. During the Arian controversy, Athanasius, the great defender of the doctrine of Trinity, made this observation that to have baptism in the name of ‘God and a creature’ would be indeed very odd.[19] Thus the use of and linking the three proves their co-equality. Thirdly, the baptismal formula mentions only one “name” of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Thus it is one God and firmly monotheistic. This one passage alone is thus enough to teach us that -  the Father, the Son and the Spirit are three distinct Persons within the one being of God who are co-equal in all respect.

Conclusion

Thus in this section we have surveyed the New Testament and seen ample evidence for the three cardinal truths that make our understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. We have seen that -  a. One being of God, b. Three distinct Persons within that being and c. Equality of Three Persons, are all firmly based on Scripture. Thus we can certainly say with confidence that our thesis that, if all the three foundational and constituent truths can be proved to be biblical, then the synthesis of these truths as given by the definition of the doctrine is also biblical, holds good. Yes it may not solve all the problems we have, however we can say with confidence that the church did not invent this doctrine, it is found in the Scriptures. The wise words of Sam Waldron would be worth taking heed at this point, "It [church] maintained the mystery by maintaining that God was in one sense One and in another sense Three. It asserted that God was ultimately both One and Three : one essence or substance and three persons or subsistences. The creeds of the church fence this mystery. They do not explain it. The incomprehensibility of God means that the doctrines of the faith will involve holy mysteries which transcend human reason and contradict fleshly wisdom. Such mysteries must be accepted with humility and reverence by an intellect weaned from the arrogant and foolish notion of rationalism that it must or can comprehend the divine Being (Ps.131)."[20]


[1] Shema Yisrael (or Sh'ma Yisrael) in Hebrew means “Here O Israel” and is title of a prayer (shortened to simply "Shema") that serves as a centrepiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services.
[2] Millard J. Erickson, Making Sense of the Trinity: Three Crucial Questions, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000.
[3] Ibid
[4] Cf. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BAGD, 3rd Edition)
[5] For a good discussion of the reliability of the Trinitarian teaching of John’s gospel, see Millard J. Erickson, God in Three Persons. A Contemporary Interpretation of the Trinity, Baker Book House, 1995, p. 194-198
[6] Millard J. Erickson, Making Sense of the Trinity: Three Crucial Questions, Baker Books, 2000.
[7] “First born” does not mean that Jesus was created, for as Paul goes on to say in the same passage that “all things were created by Him” and that “He is before all things”.  Thus Paul is no way suggesting Christ to be a created being rather the meaning of first born in this passage is that of heir of creation.
[8] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, New International Commentary on the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; 2nd edition (October 23, 1984), p. 57-58
[9]  Most Lexicons recognise the particular meaning of χαρακτρ  in Hebrews 1:3 as precise reproduction in every respect.  
[10] Michael A. G. Haykin, The God Who Draws Near: An Introduction to Biblical Spirituality, Evangelical Press, p.4
[11] Robert M. Bowman, Jr., The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity An Outline Study, Part IV.
[12] Thomas C. Oden, Systematic Theology Vol. 3: Life in the Spirit, p. 18
[13] Oden observes that "the Spirit speaks in the first person as `I'; `It was I who sent them' (Acts 10:20).... `I have called them' (Acts 13:2). None but a person can say `I' " (See The Living God ,p. 200).
[14] Michael Green, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, Eerdmans, 2004,  p. 60
[15] Geoffrey Bromiley, "The New Holy Spirit," in The New Life, edited by Millard Erickson, p.24
[16] B.B Warfield,  “The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity” in The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield (10 vols.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), Vol2, p.143
[17] Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, Hendrickson Publishers,1994, p.161-163
[18] B.B Warfield noted this verse as “the nearest approach to a formal announcement of the Trinity which is recorded from Our Lord’s lips.”, See his The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity.
[19] See Alvyn Petersen, Athanasius, Morehouse Publishing, 1995, p. 194-198
[20] Sam Waldron, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, p.56

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