This is the third in a series of columns about the Trinity, excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available in print and Kindle versions from Amazon.com.
Consider three simple truths the Scriptures teach about the Trinity:
- There is only one true God.
- The Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Spirit is God.
- The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct, but inseparable, persons who exist simultaneously.
1. There is only one true God. Christians do not worship three gods; that’s polytheism. We do not worship one God made up of three parts; that’s tritheism. Nor do we exalt God as a lone actor who wears three different masks; that’s modalism.
Rather, Christians worship one God who exists as three distinct, co-equal, co-eternal persons, sharing all the attributes of deity, agreeing completely in will and purpose, and existing eternally in divine, loving relationships with one another.
Scripture is clear that there is only one true and living God. The Shema, the most important text for considering Jewish monotheism, reads, “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4).
The Lord Himself declares in Isaiah 43:10, “No god was formed before me, and there will be none after me.”
And the apostle Paul writes, “there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (Rom. 3:30).
Many other passages could be cited, but there is a clear and consistent theme throughout Scripture that there is one, and only one, true God.
2. The Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Spirit is God. In hundreds of Scripture passages, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are declared to be the true God. A few examples:
Father. Paul writes, “yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him” (1 Cor. 8:6).
In his first epistle, Peter writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3).
Son. In Hebrews 1:8, the Father, speaking to the Son, says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of justice.”
Throughout the New Testament, we see that Jesus exhibits the attributes of God. He is eternal (John 1:1). He has all authority (Matt. 28:18). He is unchanging (Heb. 13:8). Further, He is the Creator (John 1:3; Col. 1:16). He forgives sin, receives worship, and claims equality with the Father (Mark 2:5; John 10:30; 20:28; Heb. 1:6).
Holy Spirit. Called the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9; 1 Pet. 1:11), the Holy Spirit is revealed as both divine and personal. For example, when Ananias lies to the Holy Spirit, Peter points out, “You have not lied to people but to God” (Acts 5:4).
Time and time again, as we read through the Bible, particularly the New Testament, we see that the one true and living God (one being) exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
3. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct, but inseparable, persons who exist simultaneously. The false doctrine of modalism teaches that God reveals Himself consecutively as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But Scripture paints a much different picture – a picture of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit existing simultaneously.
The Bible even shows the three persons of the Godhead as eternally distinct. The Father and Son love one another, speak to each other, and together send the Holy Spirit. Additionally, Jesus proclaims that He and the Father are two distinct witnesses and two distinct judges (John 8:14-18).
Such self-distinctions are amplified through the announcement of Christ’s birth (Luke 1:35), His baptism (Luke 3:22), and His commission to baptize believers “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).
Next: Is the doctrine of the Trinity a late invention?