This is one in a series of articles on the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. To see MRM’s website page on the Trinity to see other resources, please click here.
By Eric Johnson
There is biblical support for the Trinity. When heresies crept into the theology of the early church, the early Church Fathers kept returning to the Bible as support for why they held adamant to this vital doctrine. In fact, the Bible claims the following:
- There is one God (Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29)
- The Father is God (Gen. 1:1, Is. 43:10, Is. 44:6, 8; etc.)
- The Son is God (John 1:1-14; John 8:58; John 10:30; John 20:28; Col 1:15-17; 2:9; Phil. 2:5-11; etc.)
- The Spirit is God (Gen. 1:2; John 16:5-16; Acts 5:4, 10:44; etc.)
If there is one God yet there are three Persons claiming to be God, there are only two possibilities:
- The Bible is self-contradictory. If this is the case, then the entire concept ought to be dismissed.
- The Bible is not self-contradictory. There really is only one God as He is revealed in three Persons.
We see in the Old Testament that God is complex. Consider Genesis 1:26-27:
Then 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 birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
This is properly translated, for the Hebrew word for God (Elohim) used here is plural. How can God be both “He” and “us” at the same time? The use of plural pronouns suggests the plurality of Persons within the Godhead, even in the Old Testament. Indeed, if the Trinity is true, there is no problem understanding this passage. The Bible does not contradict itself by stating there is one God and yet three Persons that make up God! Each Person of the Trinity is considered deity in the Bible and yet the three come together to form one God. (To read more about Genesis 1:26 as it concerns Mormonism, click here.)
When it comes to reading the Bible, the Trinity is spelled out in so many different ways. For example, Jesus regularly refers to Himself as God and takes credit for being God. The biblical authors agree with this assessment as truth. For instance, Jesus says in John 10:30 that He and the Father are one. (Click here to read more on this topic.) But consider the theological mess that is created if the Trinity is not true, as covered in this syllogism:
- There is one God.
- Jesus claimed to be God.
- Yet if the Father is God, then Jesus would be a second God.
- Two gods do not equal one God.
- Therefore, there must not be one God.
Theologian James White explains how detrimental it would be if the concept of the Trinity is false:
True Christian worship is founded upon Christian truth. We have to have knowledge of our God to worship Him correctly. If we have defective knowledge, or worse, if we have wrong information and have been deceived, our worship is either lessened (due to simple ignorance), or it is completely invalid, as the worship of idols and false gods. That is not to say that we have to have perfect knowledge to worship God–none of us do. . . . Knowledge does not save (that is the error of Gnosticism); but true worship does not exist without knowledge. (The Forgotten Trinity, pp. 194-195).
Indeed, there is biblical support for the teaching.
An excellent passage to demonstrate the concept of the Trinity are the final words in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew 28:19-20 say:
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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Notice the use of the singular noun (“name”) with the plurality of the three Persons. The name of God is understood to be made up of three!
Attributes given to each member of the Trinity
At the bottom of this article is a chart listing attributes that are common to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Let me explain how this works in a practical way.
Suppose you were to ask someone who created the world? Most people would say “God” and they would be correct. However, did you know that each member of the Trinity participated in the creation of the world. Indeed, Genesis 1:1 says that God (inferred as the Father) created the heavens and the earth; Genesis 1:2 says that the Spirit of God hovered over the earth and was the creator; and John 1:3, along with Colossians 1:15-17 and Hebrews 1:2, all state how Jesus created all things, including the universe. All three Persons of the Trinity participated in creation!
Ask a follow-up question: Who raised Jesus from the dead? Most people, again, will say that God did this. This is correct, for example, see Acts 3:15. But did you know that Jesus said that He would raise Himself up from the dead (John 2:19)? This statement didn’t go unnoticed by the Jewish leadership, who demanded that a Roman guard protect the gravesite of Jesus because they understood what He meant. And the Holy Spirit is also credited with raising Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:11).
This chart showing how all three persons have the same attribute (which makes sense) is taken from page 49 of the book Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine by H. Wayne House (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992):
|Eternality||Ps. 90:2||John 1:2; Rev. 1:8,17||Heb. 9:14|
|Power||1 Peter 1:5||2 Cor. 12:9||Rom. 15:19|
|Omniscience||Jer. 17:10||Rev. 2:23||1 Cor. 2:11|
|Omnipresence||Jer. 23:24||Matt. 18:20||Ps. 139:7|
|Holiness||Rev. 15:4||Acts 3:14||Acts 1:8|
|Truth||John 7:28||Rev. 3:7||1 John 5:6|
|Benevolence||Rom 2:4||Eph. 5:25||Neh. 9:20|
|Creation of the World||Gen. 1:1||John 1:3; Col. 1:15-17||Gen. 1:2|
|Creation of Man||Gen. 2:7||Col. 1:16||Job 33:4|
|Baptism of Christ||Matt 3:17||Matt. 3:16||Matt. 3:16|
|Death of Christ||Heb. 9:14||Heb. 9:14||Heb. 9:14|
|Resurrection of Christ||Acts 3:15||John 2:19||Rom. 8:11|