What the Bible Teaches About the Trinity
Having a correct understanding of the character of God is essential for our salvation, our sanctification and our witness. Ron Carlson and Ed Decker wrote, “As we begin to study the things that people incorrectly say to God and about God, we need to think about the true nature and character of God…because this is where the cults step away from sound doctrine and go off on their many tangents from the truth…A.W. Tozer said… ‘We tend, by some secret law of the soul, to move toward our mental image of God.’” So to the degree our image of God is distorted, our relationship with God (or lack thereof) will be distorted as well. The plea of God throughout the Bible is that we come to know Him better; without knowing God better, we simply cannot grow as Christians.
I. God the Father- His Characteristics:
A. God the Father’s Personality
The Father is living , is personal and is love. Before the beginning of creation He loved the Son and the Holy Spirit. Many religions talk about love, but without a personal, Triune God, none of the non-Christian religions or cults can truly stand on God’s love- there ends up being a striving to merit God’s love or acceptance with a continual uncertainty in the midst of that striving to be accepted by God (or gods or a spiritual force)- a striving that never gets satisfied. We know from the Bible that God loves us and we are precious in His sight. He desires a personal relationship with each of us and set about a plan after the fall of man into sin to redeem us by sending His Son. In the Old Testament we see that God called Israel His wife, His son and even compared His love for Israel as a mother’s love for her nursing baby. In the Old and New Testaments He is called our Father. One cannot escape the fact that God is a personal God who desires a personal relationship with His people.
B. God’s Names
God’s names reveal much about His character. “Elohim is the usual word for ‘God in Hebrew…it is actually plural in form,” giving us an indication in the first verse of the Bible the nature of God as Triune. Bill Goodrich noted the following meanings to God’s names : Elohim: “strong and mighty one.” El Elyon: “Most High God,” El Olam: “Everlasting God,” El Shaddai: “Almighty God,” Adonai: “Lord, master, owner, ruler.” Some compound names combined with Jehovah are: Jehovah Elohim , Jireh , Rapha , Nissi , Shalom , Roah , Tsidkenu , Sabaoth and Shammah. These all indicate God’s personal relationship with His people: He is their Creator, Provider, Healer, Banner of Victory, Peace, Shepherd, Righteousness, Lord of Hosts and is Ever-Present with us.
C. God’s Majesty
God is One – He is three persons but One God, not three Gods. He is all-powerful, all-knowing , omnipresent and eternal . He is the Creator of all: He always existed (the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End) and He never changes. He is holy and righteous, blameless and faultless in all His ways. He never forgets and never makes a mistake. He knows all things, past, present and future and is never surprised. He is consistent: He never lies and He always fulfills all of His promises and prophesies with 100% accuracy. In addition, He alone is able to save us from our sins- we cannot save ourselves. Because of all of this, He alone is worthy of our adoration and worship.
II. God the Son
Jesus is revealed in nearly 300 prophecies in the Old Testament. It was clear to the Jew who understood the Old Testament that the Messiah was God become man, the Son of God, born of a virgin. The Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem and minister in Galilee , live a perfect, sinless, righteous life and perform miraculous signs and healings. He would be Prophet , Priest and King . He would be a descendent of David and a line of kings as the final King.
What most Jews failed to understand was that not only would the Messiah reign in power, but that He would first come as a suffering servant , gentle and meek who would die on the cross for the sins of the world, rise from the dead and ascend into heaven . The Jews of Jesus’ day killed Him for this very reason- their rejection of His claims to deity. The fact that He rose from the dead is the cornerstone of the Christian faith . Eleven disciples were all willing to die martyr’s deaths based on their testimony to this fact, and ten of them did. Because of this we know He is Lord (Jehovah) and Savior of the world.
B. Jesus’ Claims to Deity
Jesus claimed He was the “I am,” the Jehovah of the Old Testament, numerous times. Richard France wrote, “Certainly Jesus revealed God to man in a way the written Old Testament alone could never have done…If we are to know the revelation Jesus gave, we must turn to the New Testament to find it.” In the New Testament, Jesus is called the eternal and immortal King who alone is wise and worthy of honor and glory. He is the Creator of all creation who eternally has existed , the Alpha and the Omega who has all authority on heaven and earth. He is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. He sanctifies us and is our Righteousness, our Redeemer and our Savior . As with the Father, Jesus can be blasphemed. Each of these characteristics in the Bible are uniquely God-characteristics. There are no other beings, neither in the spirit world or human beings that have these characteristics. To reduce Jesus to a prophet or an angel or anything else, but not the Eternal God (Jehovah) in the flesh is to reduce Him from the revelation given in the Bible. The Bible is clear that such beliefs are blasphemy and will result in eternal damnation.
III. God the Spirit
A. Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
C.S. Lewis wrote of the Holy Spirit, “In the Christian life you are not usually looking at Him: He is always acting through you.” In the Old Testament, only a select few individuals were filled with the Holy Spirit- prophets, priests, kings and other select individuals. In the Old Testament the prophets spoke of a future day when all would know God and the Holy Spirit would be poured out on both men and women. After Pentecost, everyone who came to believe in Jesus Christ was baptized into the Holy Spirit. One cannot inherit eternal life unless one has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him – His presence in our lives is a deposit guaranteeing our salvation. Without the Holy Spirit in us, we are not, as Jesus said, “born again ,” and thus we cannot enter the kingdom of God. It is only through the Holy Spirit in us that we can have a close, intimate relationship with God such that we can call Him “Abba, Father” which means “Daddy!”
B. Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is a person with a personality. He can be grieved and insulted when we resist Him and sin against Him. To lie to the Holy Spirit is the same as lying to God. The Holy Spirit can intercede for us, search our hearts, counsel and teach us in all truth and commune with us. He helps us in all our weaknesses and makes known to us the will of God, teaching us God’s ways. The Holy Spirit works on man’s conscience to convict all mankind of sin, righteousness and judgment . The Holy Spirit also appoints overseers in the church. Thus it is obvious that the Holy Spirit is a person who gives us a relationship with God. He’s not a force.
C. The Holy Spirit is Jehovah
The Holy Spirit was involved in the work of creation, both physical creation and spiritual rebirth . The Bible states that the Lord is the Spirit who is the Giver of spiritual gifts. Both Paul and the writer of Hebrews identified the Holy Spirit as Lord who spoke the prophetic word in the Old Testament prophets and demonstrated it as a timeless word that applied in New Testament times. Like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is eternal , omniscient and omnipotent. The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead, sanctifies us and can be blasphemed as God.
Acknowledgements & Further Reading
1. Fast Facts on False Teachings, p. 31, Ron Carlson and Ed Decker, Harvest House, Oregon, 1973.
2. Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 2, Moody Press, Chicago, 1962.
3. Bill Goodrich, Biblical Theology notes, CCBC, lesson 2 page 4, Indianapolis, 2003.
4. Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p. 164, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1999.
5. Richard France, Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible, p. 37, Eerdman’s Publishing Company, Michigan, 1973.
6. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 153, 1943, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York
Fast Facts on False Teachings, p. 31, Ron Carlson and Ed Decker, Harvest House, Oregon, 1973.
Jeremiah 31:34, Philippians 3:10
Genesis 3:15, 12:1-7, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Psalm 22
Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 2, Moody Press, Chicago, 1962.
Bill Goodrich, Biblical Theology notes, CCBC, lesson 2 page 4, Indianapolis, 2003.
Isa. 41:4, 44:6-8, 48:12, Rev. 1:8, 21:6, 22:13
Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p. 164, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1999.
Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7, Jeremiah 23:6, Psalm 2:7,12, Psalm 89:26-29, 2 Samuel 7:14, Matthew 3:17
Psalm 110:1-7, Genesis 14:18-20
Jeremiah 30:8-9, Zechariah 9:9, Hosea 3:5, Psalm 2:6, Micah 2:12-13
Isaiah 11:1, 53:2, Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15, Zechariah 3:8, 6:12, cf. Matthew 1:16
Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:37, 50:10, 52:13, Zechariah 3:8, 9:9-10, 12:9-13:1
Isaiah 52:13, 53:11-12, Psalm 16:10, Matthew 28:1-15, Acts 2:24
Psalm 110:1, Isaiah 52:13, 53:12, Acts 1:9
Exodus 3:14, John 6:41, 8:12, 10:7, 11, 11:25, 15:1
Richard France, Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible, p. 37, Eerdman’s Publishing Company, Michigan, 1973.
Revelation 1:17, Matthew 28:18
John 3:16,18,36, 5:24, 28-29, 38-42, 6:29, 8:24
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 153, 1943, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York
Jeremiah 31:31-34, Joel 2:28-32
Romans 6:3-5, Acts 2:17-21, 1 Corinthians 12:13
Romans 8:9,11 cf. 1 Corinthians 2:12, 6:19-20, 1 John 3:24, 4:13,15
Ephesians 1:14, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, 4:30, 5:5
John 3:3, 1 John 5:1, 1 Peter 1:3, James 1:18, 2 Corinthians 5:17
John 14:16-17, 26, 16:13-15, 2 Corinthians 13:14
Genesis 1:2, Job 33:4, John 3:6
2 Corinthians 3:17-18, 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
Acts 28:25-27, Isaiah 6:8-10, Hebrews 10:15-16, Jeremiah 31:31-34
Romans 15:16, 2 Thessalonians 2:13