What is the Holy Trinity?
Although the words “holy trinity” are not found in the Bible, the Bible both Old and New Testaments – clearly refers to the one God as a tri-unity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The term “trinity” is a contraction of “tri” (meaning three), and “unity” (meaning one): “tri” + “unity” = “trinity“.
Simply put, the Holy Trinity is one God in three persons who each share the same essence of deity.
God is the absolute compound unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit – three persons in one divine essence. Three persons who share one divine nature. Think of a triangle – it has three corners, but it is still one triangle.
What the Holy Trinity is Not!
- It is not three Gods, or three modes of one God, or three essences.
- God is also not three separate physical beings.
- The Trinity is not the Father, Mary and Jesus.
Why Do Christians Believe in the Holy Trinity?
Simply put, because the Bible teaches it. Throughput the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, God refers to Himself in both singular and plural terms. In addition, the Father is referred to as God, the Son as God, and the Holy Spirit as God. Furthermore, the three personalities of the Godhead – Father, Son and Spirit, each conduct particular activities which are characteristic of their personality. Finally, they are all unified in absolute communion from all eternity as the one God.
So the Holy Trinity is one God, and yet three persons sharing one divine nature. Jesus, as the eternal Word of God, has shared n the Father’s divine nature before time began. But when He entered time, space and matter, and, became flesh, He added a human nature to His existence. He did not cease being God – He simply added a human nature. Thus Jesus is one person of the Godhead, but with two natures – a human nature, and a divine nature.
Realizing that Jesus actually had two natures helps us understand and better appreciate how only Jesus could bridge the gap between the Creator God and His Creation. For example, did Jesus know all things (as God would)? As God, yes; as man, no. Did Jesus get hungry? As God, no; as man, yes. Did He know the time of His second coming? As God, of course; as man, no.
Understanding the Holy Trinity also helps us understand why Jesus subordinated Himself to the Father, saying “The Father is greater than I.” The Father and Son are equal in essence, but different in function. Much like human relationships, a father and son both share a human essence, but the father holds a higher office.
The same hold true with the Holy Spirit – He too shares in the same divine essence, but differs in function. 1 The Spirit is referred to both as God, and as a person in Scripture. He was also there at the beginning of creation (“and the Spirit hovered over the face of the waters”). As does any person, He makes choices, directs followers, and is grieved as well when His children go astray.
So although we may not understand HOW the one true God can also be three persons, the fact is, this is what Scripture teaches. And if God is who He claims to be, the eternal one who has always existed beyond time, space, and matter – who are we to question His triune nature? We shouldn’t be surprised at this. In fact, does He not say “My ways are not your ways, neither are My thoughts your thoughts.”
Evidence of the Holy Trinity in the Old Testament
Here are a just a few examples of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit — in the Old Testament (there are many more!):
In the Beginning, The Triune God Creates the Universe
Gen 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Father is portrayed as the creative source of all things.
Gen 1:2: “.. and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Here, in the second verse of Genesis, the Spirit of God appears as active in the creation process.
Gen 1:3: “Then God said, “Let there be light; and there was light.” The Son, the eternal Word of God, speaks the first of Gods works into existence.
Points to note:
- The first three verses of Genesis portray the triune God creating the heavens and the earth
- Genesis 1 refers to the Father, verse 2 the Spirit, and verse 3 the Son, as the eternal Word of God speaking light into existence.
The Triune God Creates Man
Gen 1:26: “Then God said, “Let Us [plural] make man in Our image, according to Our likeness...”.
Gen 1:27: “So God [singular] created man in His [singular] own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Points to note:
- Verse 26 mentions God three times – Us, Our and Our
- In verse 26, God refers to Himself in the plural form; while in verse 27, immediately following, He refers to Himself in the singular form!
- Verse 27 mentions God three times – His, He and He
The Triune God Seeks an Intercessor
Isaiah 6:8-10: “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Here God refers first to Himself in the singular, then in the plural pronoun, confirming that there are multiple persons in the Godhead.
The Pre-incarnate Son Speaks of the Father and Spirit
Isaiah 48:16 “Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me.” In this instance the pre-incarnate Son of God is speaking, indicating that He will go on behalf of the Father and the Spirit and redeem God’s creation.
Pre-incarnation Appearance of the Son
Gen 18:1: “The LORD appeared to him by the terebinth trees of mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day.”
Gen 18:2: “So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him.”
Gen 19:24: “Then the LORD rained brimestone and fire on Sodom and Gormorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens.”
Points to note:
- This passage recounts the events preceding the destruction of the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah
- Here the LORD (YHVH) has appeared on earth to Abraham, along with two angels
- Verse 24 described how the Son (LORD) while on the earth, rained brimstone and fire from the Father (LORD) out of the heavens.
The Holy Trinity in the New Testament
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are presented throughout the New Testament as the eternal Godhead. One God and Lord, existing and ministering in three persons. Here are a few examples (again – there are many more!):
Mark 1:9-11 “It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Here we have the Father, looking down approvingly at His beloved Son, while the Spirit descends and rests upon Him.
The Commandment to Baptize in One Name, but Three Persons
Jesus is record as saying in Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and ofthe Holy Spirit.”
- We are not baptizing in multiple names, but ONE NAME. There is but one God and Lord to baptize in the name of.
- But we are also to baptize in the one name of the three-person Lord – Father, Son and Spirit.
Three Who Bear Witness, and These Three are One
John wrote in 1st John 5:7 about the assurance we have of salvation, by stating: “For there are three who bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit:and these three are one.”
Paul, writing to believers, encourages them to in 2 Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” Here we have the three persons of the Godhead described, each with their own distinctive qualities:
- The grace of the Lord Jesus (“the law came by Moses, grace and truth by Jesus Christ”
- The love of God the Father (“God is love”)
- The fellowship of the Holy Spirit (“I will give you another Comforter”)
Peter, writing in 1 Peter 1:2, also greets fellow believers in the name of the Triune God: “To the …elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you, and peace be multiplied.”
Jesus Direct Claims to be Eternal and One with the Father
Mark 14:61-64: “Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ And Jesus said, ‘I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his clothes..”. Here Jesus answers a direct question with a direct answer: “I am.” (note this also happens to be the name God gives to Himself, the great “I am”, the eternal, self-existent One).
Why did the high priest tear his clothes? Because he knew that Jesus was claiming to be the same ‘Son of Man’ that was described in Daniel 7:13, who would come with ‘the clouds of heaven’ and be given dominion over all the earth by God the Father (the ‘Ancient of Days’).
John 8:56 “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” The the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.‘ Then they took up stones to throw at Him …” In this passage Jesus plainly claims to be the same eternal, self-existent God that spoke to Moses out of burning bush – the great ‘I AM.” They took up stones to throw at Him because they immediately recognized His claim.
John 10:30-31 “I and My Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.”
John 10:38 “...the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” The Father and the Share the same divine nature.
John 12:45 “.. he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.” Here Jesus emphasizes His nature as the express image of the invisible God.
Christ Proclaimed as God Manifested in the Flesh by the Apostles
John 1:1, 14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us..”” Here we note that Jesus was existent with God the Father “in the beginning”, and that at a moment in history chosen by God, He took on flesh and became a man, and dwelt among His creation.
Romans 9:5: .”. Christ came, who is over all,the eternal blessed God. Amen.”
Colossians 2:8-9: “Christ, for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form.”
Hebrews 1:3 “God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person…” Here Jesus is referred to by the apostle as the very image of God.
2 Peter 1:1: “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteous of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The Son is Proclaimed God in the Book of Hebrews
Hebrews 1:8: “But to the Son [Jesus] He [God] says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteous is the scepter of Your Kingdom.” God the Father is recognizing that Jesus is God, and King of Kings.
Jesus, as the Second Person of the Trinity, is Eternal
Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
The Spirit Appoints Overseers for God’s Church
Acts 20:28 “Therefore, take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Here we have the Holy Spirit acting as a person, appointing overseers to guide the church which He (God in Christ) purchased with His own blood.
His Spirit Who Raised Jesus Will Also Gives Us Life
Romans 8:11: “But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.” Here Paul describes how the Spirit of God the Father raised Jesus up from the dead; and that how likewise, His Spirit will also give life [spiritual life] to our mortal bodies.
The Holy Spirit Proclaimed as One with His Son
Galatians 4:6: “God has sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out “Abba, Father!”. Here the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all referenced.
The Holy Spirit Referred to as God
Acts 5:3-4 “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your hear to lie to the Holy Spirit…? ..You have not lied to me but to God.”
1 Cor 3:16 ““Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” In this passage it is clear that we are the temple of God, and that He dwells in us through His Holy Spirit.
Praise to the Holy Trinity: The Three Person LORD of All
Romans 11:36: “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, [are] all things: to whom [be] glory for ever. Amen.” Here Paul is administering a blessing on his readers, and he exalts the three-person Lord when doing this: for of Him (the Spirit) all are things, and through Him (Jesus) all things came into being and are sustained, and to Him (the Father) all things will eventually meet their destiny at the end of time. He is giving glory to the one God in three persons – Father, Son and Spirit.
Paul Asks Another Blessing of the Holy Trinity
At the close of his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul asks a blessing from God upon the saints in Corinth: Roman 13:14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”
Here we see three complimentary aspects of God: our Lord Jesus, the second person of the Godhead, has provided us all with unmerited “grace”, by giving His life on the cross as a “ransom” for us – so that we can now enter into eternal life if only we choose to do so; how that God the Father loves us so much that He was willing to “give His one and only Son” to die for us; and that because He has given us His Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, we can have communion and fellowship with one another.
Paul Describes the Work of the Trinity: the Three Person Godhead
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes how God, acting in the form of His three person existence, has:
- Chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world
Ephesians 1:3-4: “Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly [places] in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world..”
- Redeemed us through His blood
Ephesians 1:7: “In whom we have redemption through his [the Lord Jesus] blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace..”
- Sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise
Ephesians 1:14: “In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,..”
Through Jesus by One Spirit We Have Access to the Father
Ephesians 2:18: “For though Him [Jesus] we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” Paul is describing how that it is only through Jesus that we have access to the Father, because of what He did on the cross. And that the way we have this access is through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit in us – for he that worships God “must worship Him in Spirit, and in Truth.”
Great is the Mystery of Godliness
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul cites what appears to be a common doxology of the time, one that the early church may have recited routinely. We see the nature of the Trinity here in that the Son was sent forth from the Father, manifested in the flesh, and justified in the Spirit:
I Timothy 3:16: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God [Jesus] was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”
New Covenant Sacrifice
The writer of Hebrews depicts the Trinity when he describes Christ’s sacrifice for mankind: Hebrews 9:14: “.. how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God..”
Shared Characteristics of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Below is a table of scriptures drawn from both the Old and New Testaments, where we see the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit – working as God.
(Note: the matrix below is a work in progress – so stay tuned for more as we fill in the details from Scripture!)
Referred to as God
|Isaiah 45: 22 “For I am God, and there is no other ..||Isaiah 6: “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given ..and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor,Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”John 10:30-31: “I and My Father are one.” Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.”
“He that has seen Me has seen the Father”
|Acts 5:3-4 “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your hear to lie to the Holy Spirit…? ..You have not lied to me but to God.”1 Cor 3:16 “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”|
Creator of All Things
|Isaiah 45:12 “I have made the earth, and created man on it. It was I – My hands that stretched out the heavens..”||John 1:3 “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.Psalm 33:6 “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of is mouth.”||Gen 1:2 “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The Spirit participated in the act of creation, along with the Father and the Word.Psalm 104:30 “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created.”Job 33:4 “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breadth of the Almighty gives me life.”|
||Gen 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”||John 6:51: “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my Word, he shall never see death.”“I am the resurrection and the life.”John 10:17-18 “I lay down My life that I may take it again… I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”Jesus proved He had power over life – by raising many from the dead, as well as reclaiming His own life after being put to death on a cross.||Rom 8:11 “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
1 Cor. 3:16 “Do you not know that .you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
|Isaiah 57:15 “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity,whose name is Holy…”||John 8:58-59 “Jesus said to them, Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him …”
John 12:41: These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.”
|Hebrews 9:14: “...Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God.” (here we see the triune God as well!)|
||Isaiah 66:1 “Thus says the LORD, “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that you build unto me?”Jer 23:34:“Can any hid in secret places that I shall not see him? says the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the LORD.”||Before the incarnation, Jesus – the eternal Word – was indeed everywhere. Upon entering space and time He willingly limited Himself by assuming a human nature in addition to His divine nature. Subsequent to His resurrection, He again is omnipresent, and near when needed ; Matt 28:30“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”||Psalm 139: 7 “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your Presence?” God’s Sprit is present everywhere.|
Has Intellect and Will
|God the Father describes to Job how He created all things, and maintains their own by the power of His will.||
Jesus displayed an amazing intellect by virtue of His teachings, and had absolute control of His own will.
|1 Cor 2:11 “Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” Here it is clear the Spirit is capable of knowing.|
Special Characteristics Jesus and the Holy Spirit Share with the Father
Below is a table of scriptures drawn from both the Old and New Testaments, where we see the Son and the Spirit sharing certain special characteristics with the Father.
|Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.”||Mark 2:5-12 “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” Scribes nearby said “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”|
||Mark 6:48: “..He came to them walking on the sea..”|
||Isaiah 41:4: “I, the LORD, am the first; and with the last I am He.”Isaiah 44:6 “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of Hosts: I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.”Isaiah 48:12 “I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last”.||Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, says the Lord, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”Rev 1:11 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.”|
||Isaiah 45: 22-23 “For I am God, and there is no other …to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.”||Rom 10-11: “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, for it is written: ‘As I live, says the LORD, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”Phil 2:10-11: “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”|
||Lev 11:44 “For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy, for I am holy.”||John 8:48: “Which of you convicts Me of sin?”Mark 1:24 “I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”Psalms 16:10 “Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”|
||Isaiah 42:9 “And new things I declare;Before they spring forth I tell you of them.”||Jesus predicted His capture, death and resurrection numerous times.Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple with amazing accuracy (not one stone was left standing after the Romans took the temple apart stone by stone to retrieve the gold)He also made many other predictions.|
||Isaiah 43:3 “For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel,your Savior.”
Isaiah 45:21 “..there is no God besides Me, a just God and a Savior.”
|Matthew 1:21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He sill save His people from their sins.”|
||Ex 34:14 “for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is jealous, is a jealous God.”||John 9:38: “Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshipped Him.” (Jesus)|
|The people were astounded, because Jesus spoke not as the scribes, but as one having authority(“But I say unto you …”).
||The Holy Spirit speaks: Acts 8:29“Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go near and overtake this chariot.'” See also Acts 10:19, 11:12, 21:11, 1 Tim 4:1, Heb 3:7.|
Interacts as a Person
|Jesus, the eternal Word of God, was made flesh and dwelt among us for this very reasons – to interact with us, communicate to us and reach each of us on a personal level.
||The Holy Spirit interacts as a person: He may be lied to (Acts 5:3), tested (Acts 5:9), insulted (Heb. 10:29) or blasphemed (Matt. 12:31). He also leads(Rom. 8:14), convicts(John 16:8),intercedes (Rom. 8:26), calls (Acts 13:2), and commissions (Acts 20:28)…. Only a person can be vexed (Isaiah. 63:10) or grieved (Eph. 4:30).|
Counselor and Teacher
|John 14:26 “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things.|
Did the Early Church Believe in the Holy Trinity? Yes!
Some maintain that the Holy Trinity was a later invention by the Church, and that the first Christians believed no such thing. We have already seen how the Bible – the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, present the compound unit of God – Father, Son and Spirit. Let’s consider the evidence: what did the earliest Christian writers have to say? Plenty – the evidence shows that the early 1st – 2nd century church (long before Constantine and the Council of Nicea in 325 AD) believed in a triune God.
Ignatius was one of the early “church fathers” – a disciple of the apostles, and bishop of Antioch. Date of writings is estimated to be 105-155 AD. Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 3.36) places Ignatius’ martyrdom in the reign of Trajan (A.D. 98-117). For more about Ignatius: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignatius_of_Antioch.
“Defer to the bishop and to one another as Jesus Christ did to the Father in the days oh His flesh, and as the Apostles did to Christ, to the Father, and to the Spirit. In that way we shall achieve complete unity.”
Letter of Ignatius to the Romans:
“Nothing you can see has real value. Our God, Jesus Christ, indeed, has revealed himself more clearly by returning to the Father.”
Athenagoras of Athens was a philosopher who converted to Christianity in the second century. He wrote his Plea for Christians approximately in 177 CE. To learn more about Athenagoras go to:http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/athenagoras.html. The following is an extract from a letter written to Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
“… But the Son of God is His Word in idea and in actuality; for by Him and through Him all things were made, the Father and Son being one. And since the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son by the unity and power of the Spirit, the Son of God is the mind and Word of the Father.”
“I do not mean that He (the Son) was created, for, since God is eternal mind, He had His Word within Himself from the beginning, being eternally wise. Rather did the Son come forth from God to give form and actuality to all material things.”
“But there are other who reckon this present life of very little value. They are guided by this alone – to know the true God and His Word, to know the unity of the Father with the Son, the fellowship of the father with the Son, what the Spirit is, what unity exists between these three, the Spirit, the Son, and the Father, and what is their distinction in unity.”
First Apology of Justin
Justin Martyr (Justin the Martyr a.k.a Justin of Caesarea) (100 – 165 AD) was an early Christian apologist. His works represent the earliest surviving Christian apologies of notable size. The following letter is extracted from a letter by Justin Martyr to the Emperor Titus; Justin was providing a defense of the Christian faith to the emperor. It is dated about 155 AD. Read more about Justin:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justin_Martyr.
“.. the Father of the Universe has a Son, who being the Word and First-begotten of God is also divine. Formerly he appeared in the form of fire and the image of a bodiless being to Moses and the other prophets. But now in the time of your dominion he was, as I have said, made man of a virgin according to the will of the Father for the salvation of those who believe in him, and endured contempt and suffering so that by dying and rising again he might conquer death.
Athanasius – On the Incarnation
Athanasius of Alexandria (also spelled “Athanasios”) (c.298 – May 2, 373 AD) was a Christian bishop, the Patriarch of Alexandria, in the fourth century. He is revered as a saint by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, and regarded as a great leader and doctor of the Church by Protestants. For more on Athanasius please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasius_of_Alexandria.
Here is an extract from Chapter 1 of the On the Incarnation”…
“..the Word of the Father is Himself divine…. For it is a fact that the more unbelievers pour scorn on Him, so much the more does He make His Godhead evident. The thing which they, as men, rule out as impossible, He plainly shows to be possible; that which they deride as unfitting, His goodness makes most fit; and things which these wise acres laugh at as “human” He by His inherent might declares divine. Thus by what seems His utter poverty and weakness on the cross He overturns the pomp and parade of idols, and quietly and hiddenly wins over the mockers and unbelievers to recognize Him as God.”
Nicene Creed (325 AD)
The Nicene Creed originated at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, in an effort to encapsulate the core beliefs of Christianity in one easy to remember and recite creed. The highlighted portions below make it obvious that a core doctrine of Christianity was the Holy Trinity: to believe in one God in three persons – God the Father, His “one and only son” the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit:
“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
Answering Objections to the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity
The Concept of a Trinity is Too Complex!
Some say that the Trinity is too complex, not comprehensible to us. We can’t understand how one God could also existing in three Persons. But if we take this position, aren’t we putting God in a box? After all, who are we to say what God – the Almighty, the Creator – can and can’t do? The Truth is not always simple.
Recall that God says in Isaiah that “my ways are not your ways, neither are my thoughts your thoughts.” So why should we be so presumptuous to think that everything about God – the Creator of the universe of space, time and matter – should be totally comprehensible to us? Quite the contrary, we should NOT be surprised if there are quite a number of things that we do not understand when it comes to the things of our Creator.
Yes, it goes beyond our comprehension, but the fact remains: He is a Triune God – one God existing in three persons – Father, Son and Spirit.
But God Would Not Beget a Son of God!
Many Muslims misconstrue what the Bible is teaching on this point, because they interpret “begotten” in a fleshly, anthropomorphic manner – in the sense of someone literally begetting children. Begetting implies to a Muslim a physical act, and since God is Spirit and has no body, this doesn’t make sense. Besides, claim Muslims, this is beneath God. This would amount to the Uncreated creating another Uncreated – which again doesn’t make sense.
These views are reflective of the misunderstandings that many Muslims have about what Christians believe. No Christian that I know of holds that “begat” equates with “made” or “create”. The new Testament clearly records that the power of the Holy Spirit “overshadowed” Mary, such that she conceived. There was no physical act by God involved, but rather a miracle – the virgin birth. Jesus became the “Firstborn” of a new creation, the Head of God’s new family.
Also note that the words “only begotten” can also be translated, as the NIV does, as God’s “one and only Son“. It does not imply a creation by the Father, but rather a unique relationship to Him. There is no physical generation, but rather an eternal procession from the Father. So while Muslims believe that the book the Quran is not identical to God, but eternally proceeds from Him, soChristians believe that the Lord Jesus Christ – God’s living “Word” – eternally proceeds from Him.
The important point is that Jesus, the Son of God, was not created, but always eternal. To quote John 1: “In the beginning was the Word … and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us”. In other words, before the creation of time, space and all matter, the eternal Son was already there. When He was born, He added a human dimension to His existence (“became flesh”), but He did not cease to be the eternal Son. As it says, Jesus – the same, yesterday, today, and forever.
Don’t Christians Believe in Three Gods?
Christians do not confess a belief in three gods, but in only one God. They hold to the word in the Old Testament that exclaims “The Lord our God, the Lord is One!” (Deu 6:4). Jesus and His followers also demonstrated an adherence tothis belief (Mark 12:29, , 1 Cor 8:4, 6). So any true Christian must believe in only one God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things.
What is at issue is whether there can be any plurality of persons in this unity of nature. Christians were led to the complex truth of the Trinity by several key factors. First, by the fact there can only be one God.
Second, by the fact that Jesus claimed to be God, and validated His claim by performing numerous miracles – finally rising from the dead. He clearly claimed to be God, and did the works of God, although He was not the same as the one He addressed – the Father.
Third, the Spirit was also God by associating with the Father in the act of creation (see Gen 1). He is also called God in numerous places (see above). Characteristic of God, the Spirit possesses the characteristics of omnipresence (is everywhere – PS 139:7-12) and omniscience (is all knowing – 1 Cor 2:10-11). He is also involved with the other members of the Godhead in the work of redemption (John 3:5-6), and is associated with the other members of the Trinity under the one “name” of God (see Matt 28:18-20).
Thus Christians were undeniably led to the conviction that there was one God, but that the one God existed in three persons – Father, Son and Spirit.
But the Word Trinity is Not Recorded in the Bible!
While this is true, we do rationally and reasonable infer the existence of theTrinity from the Bible:
- It is indisputable that both the Old and New Testaments affirm that there is only ONE God – not multiple Gods. Yaweh (YHVH), insists that He is the one and only Creator, Savior, Redeemer, and Giver of Life.
- And yet, there are also numerous instances of the One God being referred to as Father, Son and Spirit throughout the Old and New Testaments (see above for examples).
- All three of these entities have the characteristics of “persons” – they think, act, make judgments, speak, direct, love, are grieved, etc.
- Jesus claimed to be God come in the flesh (“and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”) – the second person of the Godhead. The fact that He died as the prophets had foretold, and rose, again, validated His claim.
- The Holy Spirit is referred to as God in both the Old and New Testaments
It is also clear from the evidence that the early Christian Church believed in and taught the doctrine of the Trinity. This is evident from an inspection of the New Testament writings, as well as a review of the writings of the early church fathers. Furthermore, the early church “creeds” – the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and others, all emphasize that Christians believe in one God, manifested in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Why Believe in the Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit
Simply put, because that is what the Bible teaches, and that is who our Lord is. Our God is one God, but three persons – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in absolute unity from all eternity. And God loves you – so much that He, in the fullness of time, became a man like one of us, led a perfect, sinless like, and paid the penalty for our sins by giving His life in exchange for ours. He returned to His Father, but left us with His Holy Spirit to dwell in every believer, unifying us, guiding us, and teaching us all things.
Do You Know the Lord? If Not, Give Your Heart to Him!
Why not give Him a chance and let Him prove Himself to you! Say a simple prayer and mean it – ask Him, if He is who He claims to be, to come into your lifeand make you the person you were meant to be. He created you, after all, so why not give Him a chance to give you the best He has to offer?
Here is a link to Billy Graham’s web site that can show you how you can pray this prayer and begin a personal relationship with the Lord who loves you so much…
Go to Steps to Peace with God ==> http://www.billygraham.org/SH_StepsToPeace.asp
- The Blue Letter Bible (KJV) – on the web
- Evidence for the Trinity – from CARM – the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry: http://www.carm.org/doctrine/trinity.htm
- “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist”, Norman L. Geisler, Frank Turek. Crossway.
- The Bible, New King James Version.
- Campus Crusade for Christ: http://everystudent.com/forum/trinity.html
- All About God – the Holy Spirit; http://www.allaboutgod.com/Holy-Spirit.htm
- Nicene Creed:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicene_Creed#The_original_Nicene_Creed_of_325
- Proof texts: http://www.bible.ca/trinity/trinity-proof-texts.htm
- “Answering Islam”, Normal L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Baker Publishing