The Trinity

Question from a Site Viewer
I am in need of some Bible-based scriptures to help me support my belief on the Trinity to three coworkers who I work with. They are Jehovah Witnesses and do not believe in it.

Please help.

Tim’s Answer
Your question is a good one. There is much to say on the subject of the Trinity. I am summarizing some of it below. However, the Scriptures have much more to say on the issue as well.

The Trinity is one of the most difficult doctrines of Scripture to comprehend. No Biblical passage mentions the word “trinity.” Yet, orthodox Christianity has always held to a Trinitarian view of God and we pronounce as heretics those who deviate from this view. Why do we hold to this doctrine so strongly?

It is found in Scripture. There are not three Gods. Scripture more than demonstrates the Oneness of God. (Gen.1:1–a singular verb linked to God; Deut. 4:35, 39; 6:4; 32:39; 1 Kings 8:60; Is. 43:10-11; 44:6, 8; 45:5, 18, 21, 22; 46:9; Mk. 12:29, 32; Jn. 17:3; 1 Cor.8:4, 6; 1 Tim. 2:5; Ja. 2:19) This is taught both throughout the Old and the New Testaments. “The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!” (1 Kings 18:39) Christians are monotheistic.

This is in distinction to Mormons who follow a modified polytheism. Mormons believe that there is one God of this earth but that there are other Gods as well of other planets and that men can become Gods. Scripture, however, affirms that there has been and forever will be only one God.

Nonetheless, Scripture also affirms a plurality within the Divine Presence. (Gen. 1:1–plural word used for God; see G. A. F. Knight’s argument against seeing this as a plural of majesty; 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; 19:24; Is. 6:8; Hos. 1:6-7; Zech. 3:2) Such plurality is brought to the front in the Old Testament teaching on the Messiah. (Ps. 2:3, 7; 110:1, 5; Is. 9:6; Micah 5:2; Zech. 2:8-9, 11; Zech. 12:10; Mal. 3:1) Perhaps the pre-eminent Old Testament passage on the plurality of the Divine Presence is Is. 48:16.

In the New Testament, the teaching of the Trinity becomes more open. There are three persons called “God.” The Father (Jn. 17:3; Eph. 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:2); the Son (John 1:1, Jn. 1:18; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 Jn. 5:20); and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4)) There are the passages linking the three together in equality. (Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:2; Jude 20-21; Rev. 1:4-5) Jesus is identified as the Yahweh of the Old Testament. (Jn.19:37 cp. Zech. 12:10; Rom.10:9-13 cp. Joel 2:32; Phil.2:10-11 cp. Is. 45:23; Heb. 1:10 cp. Ps. 102:25-26) There are the direct statements in Jn. 1:18; Phil. 2:6; Heb.1:3 linking the Son with God. And then there are many hundreds of other references and inferences to the deity of Christ.

The belief of the Trinity has been subject to many attacks. At the end of the second century and the beginning of the third, Praxeas set forth God as one person who suffered in the flesh as Jesus Christ. This heresy, known as modalism, holds strictly to the oneness of God without allowing for three persons. As Tertullian stated of this view: he “put the Paraclete to flight and crucified the Father.” Tertullian stated that the one trinity consists of three persons of one substance. God is not simply one person who appears in different forms, as shown in such passages as the baptism of Christ or the promise of the Holy Spirit in John 14.

Others have erred in accepting a tritheistic view of God, that is, they see such a separation made that the Trinity becomes to them three Gods who simply happen to be in agreement. Such a separation is a violation of the Oneness of God.

Tertullian, who lived at the end of the second century/early third century A.D. (over 100 years before the Council of Nicea), gives us one of the earliest church statements of this doctrine:

We, however, as we indeed always have done (and more especially since we have been better instructed by the Paraclete, who leads men indeed into all truth), believe that there is one only God, but under the following dispensation, or oikonomia, as it is called, that this one only God has also a Son, His Word, who proceeded from Himself, by whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made. Him we believe to have been sent by the Father into the Virgin, and to have been born of her–being both Man and God, the Son of Man and the Son of God, and to have been called by the name of Jesus Christ; we believe Him to have suffered, died, and been buried, according to the Scriptures, and, after He had been raised again by the Father and taken back to heaven, to be sitting at the right hand of the Father, and that He will come to judge the quick and the dead; who sent also from heaven from the Father, according to His own promise, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the sanctifier of the faith of those who believe in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit. That this rule of faith has come down to us from the beginning of the gospel, even before any of the older heretics, much more before Praxeas, a pretender of yesterday, will be apparent …”

Later, he states:

I testify that the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit are inseparable from each other, and so will you know in what sense this is said. Now, observe, my assertion is that the Father is one, and the Son one, and the Spirit one, and that They are distinct from Each Other.

Before him, Ireneus, bishop of Lyons, who lived earlier in the 2nd century, described the Son as “eternally co-existing with the Father” and goes to great lengths to show that Jesus was both God and man. Ireneus testimony is even more significant because he knew Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna and Polycarp knew the apostles personally. Thus Ireneus testimony is a direct link back to the apostles.

Even earlier, Ignatius who lived from 30 to 107 A.D., was the third bishop of Antioch, and personally knew many of the apostles, describes Jesus in this way in his epistle to the Ephesians: “There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible,–even Jesus Christ our Lord.” He repeatedly refers to Jesus as God.

Thus, from the earliest days of the church, the doctrine of the Trinity has been held, as Tertullian states. Contrary to the teaching of some, this was not a doctrine first set forth at the Council of Nicea.

The Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. summarized the holdings of the church from the earliest days when it stated:

We believe in one God, Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of His Father, only begotten, that is of the ousia of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made, both things in heaven and things in earth, who for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was made flesh and was made man, suffered and rose again on the third day, ascended into the heavens and comes to judge living and dead.But those who say there was when He was not, and before being begotten He was not, and He was made out of things that were not or those who say that the Son of God was from a different substance or being [ousia] or a creature, or capable of change or alteration, these the Catholic Church anathematizes.

What then does the doctrine of the Trinity mean to us? There are some obvious benefits. First, with three persons sharing the same essential being, we can find comfort in the fact that we can deal with each one equally. We do not have to seek to please one and thereby incur the wrath of the other. On the other hand, we have three persons who are longing to help us and to encourage us and to have us win the battle over the enemy. There is harmony and strength in the Trinity.

Second, the existence of the Trinity has provided for us a model of our relationship with God. (Jn. 17:20-23)

I hope this helps some,

tim

Related Articles:
Distinctions Between the Father and the Son
How Jesus Fits in the Trinity

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