Concerning the question of the ‘Trinity’.
We can only go as far as God’s word leads us. If there are things that aren’t fully explained in the Bible, the temptation is to apply human logic to ‘develop’ the teaching to make it more ‘intellectually satisfying’, or to try and produce a ‘complete picture.’ However, we need to accept and believe the things that God has revealed, even if we can’t always explain the details attached to a truth. As it says in Deuteronomy 29:29,
“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
Firstly, the Bible never uses the word ‘three’ or ‘trinity’ to refer to God or to His characteristics. The Bible universally declares that there is one God,
In Deuteronomy 6:4-5, it says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
Jesus reaffirms this in Mark 12:29, “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:”
There is no hesitation in declaring that God is one in the writings of the apostles:
“Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.” (Galatians 3:20).
“But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” (1 Corinthians 8:6).
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5).
The Bible never uses the expression ‘three Gods’. So we must never use the language of ‘three Gods.’ However, the Bible clearly represents the Son and the Holy Spirit as divine.
Jesus said in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
This is the only verse in the Bible that mentions Father, Son and Holy Spirit together in this way. (We will look at 1 John 5:7 later.) No one questions the ‘divinity’ of the Father. Some have questioned the divinity of the Son, and some have questioned whether the Holy Spirit is just a reference to God’s Spirit and nothing more.
The scriptures make the divinity of Jesus Christ very clear. For example,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1); “Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” (Romans 9:5); “For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9).
In John 8:58,59 we read, “Jesus said unto them, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.’ Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” Why did they want to kill Jesus? Because they understood the meaning and reference of his words very well. It was a reference to Exodus 3:14, “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shall you say unto the children of Israel, I AM has sent me unto you.” It is for this same reason they wanted to stone him in John 10:30-33, “I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do you stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone you not; but for blasphemy; and because that you, being a man, make yourself God.” The scriptures attest to the divinity of Jesus Christ in the clearest possible ways, “But unto the Son he says, Your throne, O God, is forever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the sceptre of your kingdom.” ( Hebrews 1:8 ); “And we know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20). There are also many other verses which confirm this, such as John 14:9 and Hebrews1:3. We will not pursue this any further as I believe this is clear to us all.
The Bible not only confirms the divinity of the Holy Spirit, but presents Him as distinct from the Father and the Son – as is apparent in Mtt.28:19. In John 14:16 Jesus says this, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you ANOTHER Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.” Please notice the use of the word ‘another’ comforter. Jesus was ‘going away’ and the Father would send ‘another comforter’. So the ‘other’ comforter is distinct from the Father and the Son. Jesus also calls Him the Spirit of Truth (verse 17) and then clearly identifies the ‘Comforter’ as being the Holy Spirit (verse 26).
Thus we read, “And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5); “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:14); “Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16); “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30). We further read,
“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2); “But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land?” (Acts 5:3).
These verses are not exhaustive but sufficient to show the distinctiveness and divinity of the Holy Spirit; and to underline this truth we read, “Verily I say unto you, all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies whatever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit has never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal judgment.” (Mark 3:28-29), and again, “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemes against the Holy Spirit it shall not be forgiven.” (Luke 12:10). The Holy Spirit is also referred to as the Spirit of God and is necessarily therefore divine.
So, what is clear is that the word of God declares that there is one God. However, it also makes clear the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. This ‘plurality’ is clearly suggested by the use of the plural noun for God, ‘Elohim’, in the original Hebrew of the Old Testament. This plural noun for God is used, for example in the following verses, Genesis 1:1, 26; 3:22; 11:7 and Isaiah 6:8. Even more clearly for us to understand is the use of the plural pronoun in the Hebrew for the word ‘us’, referring to the Godhead, “And God said, Let US make man in our image, after our likeness… And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of US, to know good and evil…” (Genesis 1:26; 3:22); “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)
This plurality is also reflected in the following verse, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.” (2 Corinthians 13:14), as well as in Matthew 3:16,17; 28:19.
So we return to this truth that the Bible declares that there is one God but it also reveals the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit. To the HUMAN MIND there is a TENSION OF LOGIC here. However, the Bible does nothing in the way of teaching to clarify this ‘tension’ to the human mind. The Bible certainly doesn’t use the language of ‘three Gods’– and nor should we. People have ‘done their best’ to find language which incorporates both ideas; for example, ‘God in three Persons.’ Is this all right? I suppose it is ‘all right’ if people understand it rightly! However, for most of us, we only come across this expression in the statements of faith of some denominations. I have managed to live not using such expressions personally.
The so-called doctrine of the ‘trinity’ was developed by the state-recognised church of the Roman Empire in the 4th century AD. It was developed to oppose those who denied the divinity of the Son or of the Holy Spirit. So the aim was good, but the language they used went beyond the Bible, in that they used or created language not used or taught in the Bible and SUGGESTED the idea of three Gods. As a result, a lot of theological language was used to defend the divinity of the Son and of the Holy Spirit while trying to avoid the impression of contradicting the Bible which teaches there is one God!
The Bible does not use the word ‘trinity’. It is best avoided. But be careful! If you say to someone you don’t believe in the idea of the trinity, to them it might mean you don’t believe in the divinity of either the Son, on the one hand, or of the Holy Spirit, on the other. For many people the idea of the trinity is just a simple way of saying they believe in the divinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The problem with the word ‘trinity’ is that this word can easily conflict with the declared truth of their being one God.
As I said, one problem with the word ‘trinity’ is that it could suggest three Gods sitting around a table discussing things. In other words, our understanding of ‘divinity’ or ‘God’ could be interpreted by human logic and human ideas of divinity and equality. We begin to define divinity in terms of logic and philosophy instead of letting the word of God teach us. What I mean is this – there is a revealed relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that can be completely ignored by human definitions of the Godhead. We read, for example, “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do: for whatsoever things he does, these also does the Son likewise… I can of my own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father who has sent me…For I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me… Jesus said unto them, My food is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. John For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father who sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak… And he that sent me is with me: the Father has not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. (John 5:19, 30; 6:38; 4:34; 12:49; 8:29).
Here we have a clear picture of the Son doing nothing of Himself. He was sent by the Father to do the Father’s will, and He only did those things that pleased the Father. Does this mean He wasn’t divine? No, of course it doesn’t mean that – although this revealed truth could offend human ideas of equality. What the scriptures reveal is a RELATIONSHIP within the Godhead – a relationship that reveals to us the NATURE of the Godhead. This relationship is further touched on in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Paul says this later in the same letter, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death… And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:26-28).
These verses, which suggest a ‘submission’ of Christ to the Father, do not undermine the divinity of Christ but rather reveal an aspect of the NATURE of the Godhead. Modern, human ideas of ‘equality’ are quite different to those revealed in the Bible and in the nature of God. Modern ideas of equality are opposed to the idea of ‘submission’. The emphasis today is on ‘equality’, and ‘equality’ means that “I don’t have to ‘submit’ to you – if I have to submit to you that means we are not ‘equal’; it means you are ‘superior’ to me!” This is the thinking of the world; this is the spirit that is in the world. This is the attitude that says, ‘if we are equal, who are you to tell me what to do? I am just as good as you! I can do whatever you can do!’ And, ‘if women are equal to men, then they should be able to hold the same position and have the same authority as men.’ This unbiblical attitude has even got into churches today. It is also the attitude that is resulting in women not respecting their husbands and in children not respecting their parents, but of course, for Christians it is equally true that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church. The spirit of this age has got into the church. Christ Jesus is divine (‘and the word was God’), but He didn’t fight for position or equality. Philippians 2:6 shows us something wonderful about Christ, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be grasped to be equal with God.” Christ was divine, so He didn’t need to ‘grasp’ or ‘fight for’ equality with God, but rather He HUMBLED Himself and took on Him the form of a SERVANT in order to fulfil the purposes of God the Father! The world does not understand this and many in the church today do not (want to) understand this.
What we have here is something remarkable – it is the ‘self-humbling’ of the Son. This is His Spirit! He says that we are to come to Him because He is MEEK and LOWLY IN HEART! Christ manifests this aspect of the divine! It stands in stark contrast to the spirit of this age and to the spirit of Satan, who wanted to exalt himself above God, “How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer…For you have said in your heart, I WILL ascend into heaven, I will EXALT MY throne above the stars of God: I WILL SIT also upon the mount of the congregation.” (Isaiah 14:12,13), and again, “Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord GOD; Because your heart is LIFTED UP, and you have said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas; yet you are a man, and not God, though you set your heart as the heart of God.” (Ezekiel 28:2).
Can you see how the Spirit of Christ incorporates meekness and submission? Can you see how the word of God brings us revelation concerning the nature of Christ and the relationship between the Father and Son rather than trying to produce an intellectual doctrine or philosophical explanation concerning ‘equality’ in the Godhead? Christ’s nature is revealed by what He did and it stands in stark contrast to the nature of the devil. Christ humbled Himself, whereas the devil tried to exalt himself. Make no mistake. It is this same spirit of the devil that is now at work in the world leading people not to submit to anyone! Their ideas of ‘equality’ reject the Spirit of Christ, whether it is in the world or in the church. The fact that Christ Jesus submitted in this way and humbled Himself does not make Him less divine – rather, it reveals a wonderful aspect or characteristic of the divine, which this world (and some in the churches) oppose and fight against.
But as the Son does those things that please the Father, so we read, “the Father loves the Son, and shows him all things that he himself does: and he will show him greater works than these, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises up the dead, and gives them life; EVEN SO the Son gives life to whom he will. For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment UNTO THE SON: That all men should HONOUR THE SON, EVEN AS they honour the Father. He that honours not the Son honours not the Father who has sent him. (John 5:20-23). We can see from these verses (and others) that there is no question about Christ’s divinity. He humbled Himself, yet all are to honour Him as they honour the Father! This is the revelation.
Concerning the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “He shall teach you all things…He shall TESTIFY OF ME… He will guide you into all truth; HE SHALL NOT SPEAK OF HIMSELF, but whatever He hears, that will He speak…HE SHALL GLORIFY ME.” (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13,14).
There are many verses concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit, but here I just wanted us to see that the Holy Spirit comes to glorify Christ. He doesn’t speak of Himself. He is the empowering means by which the will of God is accomplished in believers and in the earth. We are to live in the Spirit and pray in the Spirit, but we have no instance of people praying to or addressing the Holy Spirit in the Bible. The Father sent the Son. The Son always does those things that please the Father, and the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son, so that all should honour the Son as they honour the Father. It is a union and communion within the Godhead – not a fighting or asserting of position! Praise the Lord! Jesus said, “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30), and Christ died to bring us into this same communion, “That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)
The divinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit are established by the scriptures, while declaring there is one God. The Bible does not give us an intellectual or logical explanation of ‘how can these things be?’ My advice is keep the simplicity of scripture; embrace the revelation of scripture. It may not be intellectually satisfying to the human mind, but God has revealed those things that will feed and bless us spiritually if we come in the simplicity of faith. Another piece of advice: on the whole, be careful when entering into DEBATES with people who question the divinity of the Son or of the Holy Spirit. This kind of debate NECESSARILY REQUIRES you to use language and logic which is outside of the Bible with the consequence that you could be accused of heresy! Of course we can give others the relevant scriptures that confirm their divinity, but debating the issue with someone whose mind is already made up is usually pointless and fruitless.
All my Christian life I have used the King James Authorised Version of the Bible, which includes the verse 1 John 5:7, “For there are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these three are one.” (1 John 5:7). However, this seems to be an addition made by the Catholic church. Erasmus (in the 1500s) was the first person to use all available Greek manuscripts to compile an edition of a Greek New Testament. His first edition did not include this verse. The Catholic church complained. He told them there are no Greek manuscripts that support this verse. (The New Testament was originally written in Greek.) The Catholic church then produced about four Greek manuscripts with this reading (not in the margin). These manuscripts seem to date from the 1500s and possibly written after the first edition of Erasmus’ NT was published! However, under pressure, Erasmus included this verse in a later edition. It is this edition that became the ‘textus receptus’ which was the basis of translations into other languages. I very much believe in the inspiration of scripture, but there is sound evidence that this verse was a Catholic addition created to support the doctrine of the trinity. Nearly all modern translations of the Bible do not include this verse. Let me say that whether this verse is genuine or not makes NO difference at all to the truth of the divinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – as we have seen from many other verses.
© David Stamen 2016 www.somabiblia.com