The word Trinity isn’t found in the bible but that doesn’t mean the concept isn’t. The concept of the trinity is complex and it’s explanatory scope and power are the foundation for a coherent understanding of who God claims Himself to be. In this article I would like to compare the Old and New Testaments claims about God and see if the concept of the Trinity is affirmed or denied in scripture. The very concept of God is a complex one and I don’t think that mankind can understand and determine exactly who and what God is, other than what God has chosen to reveal to mankind about himself, in scripture.
What is the definition of the Trinity? The word Trinity simply means: three persons in one being, God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit, also called the Godhead. Let me explain how this is possible. Note, however, that I can’t give any direct illustrations because no naturalistic example could explain the greatest conceivable being (God), who is not bound by time, space, or matter.
Scripture tells us that God has entered into the world many times. Adam walked with God in the garden1. God appears to Abraham2. Jacob wrestled with God3. These accounts are only from he first few chapters of the Old Testament. Now that we have established that God has come into the world lets look at some possible difficulties with this understanding. Scripture says that “no one has seen God”4 and that “no one can see God and live”5. Is this a blatant contradiction in scripture? I think the concept of the trinity reconciles such verses once it is possible that more than one person exists in the Godhead6. This concept of “personhood” is used to describe the three persons of the Godhead because the word “person” is appropriate. A person is self-aware, can speak, love, hate, say “you,” “yours,” “me,” “mine,” etc. Each of the three persons in the Trinity demonstrates these qualities7. Also consider that personhood is not tied to a physical body or state but is geared toward a mind. Many people have suffered the loss of a limb or even the loss of brain tissue, but that does not retract from their personhood because persons are directly related to their minds.
The questions of who and what become beneficial to identify the essence and nature of God. Lets apply those questions to ourselves; what am I? I am a human being. Who am I? I am Petrus Klopper, the person. This illustrates that I am one in being and one in person, though my being and person are different. When applying these questions to God, we see that it is possible for God to have a being, distinct from his personhood.
God the Father8, Jesus the Son9 and the Holy Spirit10 exist in perfect harmony with equal power, throughout eternity as the Godhead. Jesus exists as one person with two natures, a divine nature and a human nature. This is called the Hypostatic Union of Jesus, among theologians today11. Any other arrangement in the Godhead is a departure from Christianity. The Holy Spirit is not a force and Jesus is not simply human in nature as the Jehovah’s Witnesses hold. Nor is there three God beings in the trinity like Mormons would claim. Nor is there simply one God that changes “modes” and jumps back and forth between God in heaven, Jesus and the Holy Spirit12.
Jesus, being fully man and fully God is capable of entering into the world and communicating face to face with mankind, due to his human nature13. The Trinity is also the best explanation for verses where God is referred to multiple times in different locations in the same context. Lets consider the text in Genesis 19:24 “Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens.” The text clearly states that two divine figures are interacting together in the same context. Lets also consider Psalm 110 where it is written, The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.” These are two obvious examples for God interacting with God in a set location and context. And perhaps the best display of the Godhead is at the baptism of Jesus in Mathew 3: 16-17 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Hear we see the three separate persons in the Godhead, represented by the text, God the Father speaks from heaven to the “beloved Son” as the Holy Spirit descends upon the Son like a dove. Genesis chapter one also gives us insight into the Godhead, Genesis 1:26 -Then God said (singular verb), ‘Let us make (plural verb) man in our image, after our likeness’14. This verse alone demonstarates the plurality of personhood in the Godhead. Now one might think that this is a grand or royal way of speaking but the truth is that this verse is unique, there simply isn’t another reference of this sort in scripture.
A purely monotheistic God, as worshiped by Jews, Jehovah Witnesses and Muslims, fails to be all loving in his nature, just as one person needs another person to love so God needs something to love if he claims to be “all loving”15. An all loving God only makes sense from the perspective of the Trinity.
We can determine that the concept of the Trinity is confirmed in scripture, and does offer explanatory scope and power regarding who and what God is. We have also seen how the concept of an “all loving” God is consistent with the Trinitarian view of God, who can also come into the world and meet with people -because of Jesus’ human nature and divine nature. God can interact with God in the same context as we see at the baptism of Jesus, in the Psalms and at Sodom and Gomorrah. The deity of Jesus and the deity of the Holy spirit are essential to a coherent understanding of scripture. Therefore, even though the word Trinity is not found in the bible, we have good reasons to believe that the concept of the Trinity is sound; and by the way, the word “bible” also isn’t found in the bible either.
1 Genesis 3:21 (NIV) The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
2 Genesis 18:1 (NIV) The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.
3 Genesis 32:28 (NIV) Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
4 John 6:46 (NIV) No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.
5 Judges 13:22 (NIV) “We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have seen God!”
6 1 Corinthians 8:6 (NIV) yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
7 https://carm.org/trinity Also see the chart on the same page for scripture verses for the deity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
8 Philippians 1:2 (NIV) Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
9 John 1:1 (NIV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:14 (NIV) The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
10 Acts 5:3-4 (NIV) Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
13 Exodus 33:11 (NIV) The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.
15 1 John 4:8 (NIV) Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.