Why Christians Believe in the Trinity

Question from a Site Viewer
I believe that there is one God and the Trinity is fake. But so many people believe in the Trinity. Please explain.

Tim’s Answer
You state that you believe that there is one God and that the Trinity is fake. Yet, you acknowledge that many people believe in the Trinity. You ask for an explanation of why people believe in the Trinity.

We would know very little about God if He did not reveal Himself to us. While we can see the splendor and glory of the created world, including the stars and galaxies and we can deduce from the created order that God must be very great, we really can know very little about God except for what He tells us about Himself. The Christian religion then is based on what God has said about Himself in His Holy Scriptures. If someone does not accept what the prophets and apostles have said, then one will have no basis for believing in the Christian view of God. This is true also of the Muslim faith. Muslims believe in a certain view of God because that is what the Koran teaches. Those who follow the Koran will hold to the view of God set forth in the Koran. So it is with Christians. Because Christians follow the sacred teachings given by the prophets who came before Christ and by the apostles that Jesus appointed to tell about Him, Christians accept the teaching about God found in these sacred books.

Though many Muslims teach that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe in the same God, it is certainly true that Jews, Muslims, and Christians have different views of that God, and those differences are based on the sacred writings that each accept. Long before the Koran was published, God had spoken to people about Himself in sacred writings. At the very beginning of the sacred texts, in Genesis 1:1, the Hebrew word for God is plural and the verb is singular. While most scholars accept that the word “God” here in Genesis 1:1 is a plural of majesty, the word holds open a mystery in God. Just a few verses later, still in the creation account, God speaks of Himself as “us” and “our” (Genesis 1:26). Again, there are many possible explanations of this verse, with some saying that God and the angels are in view, but men are not ever said to be made in the image of angels, but in God’s image. God elsewhere speaks of Himself in plural form in the writings of Moses (Genesis 11:7) and in the writings of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:8). In the days of Abraham, we find Moses recording that the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah from the LORD out of the heavens. Again, the verse does not prove the Trinity, but does raise questions about why would God say that He rained fire from God rather than say He rained fire from Himself?

In Exodus 3, God appeared to the prophet Moses. As Moses records the encounter, Moses first tells us that

“the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush.”
Exodus 3:2

When Moses drew near, God called to him from the midst of the bush (Exodus 3:4). Who is the Angel of the LORD and what is His relationship with God? Here in this passage, they seem to be equated. They also seem to be equated in Judges 6:11-22, where the sacred Scripture records God’s encounter with Gideon. First we are told in Judges 6:11 that the Angel of the Lord came and sat under a tree and appeared to Gideon. He did not say “I am with you.” Rather, He said “The LORD is with you.” When Gideon responds, however, we are told that “the LORD turned to him and said” (Judges 6:14, 16). Yet, again, this personage is called “the Angel of God” (Judges 6:20). So, there seems to be some connection between the Angel (the messenger of God) and God Himself, a connection that seems intriguing. Again, in Judges 13, Manoah equates seeing the Angel of the LORD as seeing God (Judges 13:21-22). But if He is God, why is He called the messenger (the word translated angel) of God? We find the Angel of the LORD equated with God Himself again in the great account of the sacrifice of Isaac recorded in Genesis 22 by the prophet Moses. (I realize that Muslims hold to the belief that the sacrifice actually involved Ishmael, but the sacred texts Christians and Jews accept record the son as being Isaac.)

Yet, there continues to be some distinction between the LORD and the Angel of the LORD. Thus, in 2 Chronicles 21:15, we read the words:

And God sent the Angel to Jerusalem to destroy it. As He was destroying, the LORD looked and relented of the disaster, and said to the Angel who was destroying, “It is enough; now restrain your hand.” And the Angel of the LORD stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

Is God talking to Himself? Is this “Angel of the LORD” different than the Angel that appeared to Abraham in Genesis 22, or Moses in Exodus 3, or Gideon in Judges 6? There is a mystery in God that is presented to us in the sacred text.

David (Acts 4:25) speaks in Psalm 2 saying that the nations of the earth take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed (the Hebrew word “Messiah”). In Psalm 2:7, David writes these words, but not about himself:

I will declare the decree, the LORD has said to Me, You are My Son, today I have begotten You.

Five verses later, David tells us:

Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish in the way when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

The idea of being blessed by putting one’s trust in someone is always used in Scripture of God Himself, never of any other person (Psalm 34:8; 84:12; Jeremiah 17:7). Yet, here, David tells us that we are blessed if we put our trust in the Son.

The writer of the book of Proverbs asks us the question concerning the One who has gathered the wind in His fists, who has bound the waters in a garment, who established all the ends of the earth:

What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, if you know?
Proverbs 30:4

The prophet Isaiah tells us that there is coming a Son who will be given to us and His name will be called:

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

The prophet Isaiah also tells in Isaiah 48:16, there is one who says:

Come near to Me, hear this: “I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was I was there.”

There is only one person who was there from the beginning, and that was God. But the speaker goes on to state:

And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit have sent Me.

So, here we have God saying that God and God’s Spirit has sent God. This idea of God both sending and being sent is picked up again in the prophet Zechariah, where we read:

For thus says the LORD of hosts: “He sent Me after glory . . . Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst, says the LORD . . . Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you.”
Zechariah 2:8-11

Again, you have God saying that He has been sent by someone else. And the One sending Him was God as well. You find the same thing in Zechariah 4:8-9, where God says that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. Again, in Zechariah 6:12-15, God speaks and again repeats the refrain:

Then you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you.

This interplay within God continues in Zechariah 12:10 where the prophet tells us these words from God:

. . . they will look on Me whom they pierced; yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.

Again, why is there an interplay between the personal pronouns “Me” and “Him”? The same interplay is found in the prophet Malachi, in Malachi 3:1, where God says:

Behold I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me, and the Lord, whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, in who you delight. Behold, He is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

God is sending someone whom God calls “the Lord.” There is complexity within God as shown by these and many other passages in the Hebrew Scriptures which are also accepted by Christians as being part of the sacred texts.

Yet, Scripture affirms that God is one (Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; 6:4; 32:39; 1 Kings 8:60; Isaiah 43:10-11; 44:6, 8; 45:5, 18, 21, 22; 46:9; Mark 12:29, 32; John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 8:4, 6; 1 Timothy 2:5; James 2:19). On this, I take it from your email that you agree. I only state this because the oneness of God is foundational to an understanding of the Trinity. Christians do not believe that there are three gods. Christians do not worship three gods. Christians believe in one God.

The same Scriptures that affirm that God is one also affirm that the Father is God (John 17:3; Ephesians 1:2; 1 Peter 1:2), the Son is God (John 1:1, 1:18; 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:20), and the Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4). The Father, Son, and Spirit are equated in the baptism formula given to us by Jesus (Matthew 28:19). Paul gives a similar equation in 2 Corinthians 13:14. The Spirit is said to be another “paraclete” like Jesus (John 14:16-17; see also John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7-15). Jesus speaks of sharing glory with the Father before the world was in John 17:5. Jesus said that the one who saw Him had seen the Father (John 14:9). How are we to explain that Scriptures affirm three persons to be God and yet affirms that God is only one? Because of the clear Scriptures affirming that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each said to be God, and the same Scriptures telling us that God is one, we must affirm both truths if we want to be faithful to the sacred text. The word given to the union of these two truths is the word “Trinity.”

The word “Trinity” is never found in the sacred Scriptures. But we cannot be true to Scripture if we deny the oneness of God and the teaching that the Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Spirit is God. Besides the Scriptures cited above, there are many other Scriptures where the nature of God is given to the Son and the Spirit. For instance, the title “Lord of lords” is spoken in Psalm 136:3 in reference to God and is one of the names of Jesus when He returns from heaven (Revelation19:16). Isaiah gives us the words of God in saying:

That to Me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall take an oath.
Isaiah 45:23

Paul tells us that every knee shall bow to Jesus and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). Moses tells us that we are to worship no other god (Exodus 34:14). Jesus seems to have this in mind when He confronted the devil in Matthew 4:10. And yet, in Matthew 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 28:9, 17, Jesus repeatedly accepts worship by people and blesses those who worship Him.

Thus, the complexity we find in the former prophets continues with Jesus and His appointed messengers. In fact, the prophets Isaiah and Zechariah’s statements on God as being sent and sending explodes with Jesus, as He repeatedly uses these words of being the One the Father sent in His ministry (John 3:17; 4:34; 5:23, 24, 30, 36, 37, 38; 6:29, 38, 39, 40, 44, 57; 7:16, 18, 28, 29, 33; 8:16, 18, 26, 29, 42; 9:4; 10:36, 42, 44, 45, 49, 13:16, 20, 14:24; 15:21; 16:5, 17:3, 18, 21, 23, 25; 20:21). He was the God who was sent by God.

So Christians have chosen the word “Trinity” to describe this God who is revealed to us as One God, a unitary being composed of three persons, each of whom Scripture affirms to be God. The many alternative views of God all run counter to certain Scriptures. For instance, there have been some who have said that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all the same God who simply manifests Himself in different ways at different times. However, this would have Jesus praying to Himself whenever He prayed to the Father. Such makes no sense. Further, we have accounts in Scripture where all three members of the Triune God appear at the same time. For instance, at the baptism of Jesus, the Father spoke from heaven, the Spirit came down in a physical presence, and Jesus was present coming out of the water (Matthew 4:16-17). And, of course, there is the Isaiah 48:16 passage previously mentioned as well as the John 14:26 and 15:26 passages. It becomes impossible to say that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are manifestations of the same person, given the way they interact with each other.

Likewise, we must never take a view like some do who break the unity of God apart into three separate gods. This likewise is a denial of the many Scriptures that affirm that there is only one God.

Finally, there are some who have taken the position that when Scripture mentions Jesus as being God, He is simply a lesser God than God Himself. But again, one cannot hold to this view and accept the words of Scripture. Jesus is called the “mighty God” in Isaiah 9:6, a phrase only elsewhere used of the One True God (Deuteronomy 10:17; Nehemiah 9:32; Psalm 24:8; Isaiah 10:21; Jeremiah 32:18). As John says in John 1:1, not only was Jesus in the beginning with God but Jesus was God. Click here to read more about the argument of some that John 1:1 should be translated as “a god.”

Accordingly, it is because we take seriously the sacred texts that have been given to us by God that Christians accept the concept of the Trinity. And contrary to the teaching of some, the Christians have never held that the Trinity consists of the Father, the Son, and Mary. From the earliest days of the church, and we have church writings beginning in the late first century, at the same time that the apostle John was still writing, the church used a trinitarian formulation. Thus, Ignatius, the great bishop of Antioch and a person who personally knew the apostles of Jesus Christ, speaks of the apostles being subject “to Christ, and to the Father, and to the Spirit.” (Epistle to the Magnesians, Chap. XIII) Ignatius died in 108 A.D. and this letter was written sometime shortly before his death.

I hope this helps explain why Christians believe in the Trinity. The belief is because of the sacred Scriptures God has given to us, beginning in 1400 B.C. by Moses through David in 1000 B.C., Isaiah in 750 B.C., Zechariah in 520 B.C., Malachi in 430 B.C., and the teachings of Jesus in 30 A.D. and the writings of the apostles in 50-65 A.D., ending with John in 96 A.D. Although we understand that others believe differently, Christians do not accept that there are any other sacred writings added to the Scripture after John wrote Revelation in or around 96 A.D. Accordingly, not only do Christians not accept the Koran as part of their sacred texts, but Christians also do not accept the Book of Mormon followed by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Later Day Saints (Mormons) or any other more recent text. When Christians look at their sacred texts, they find the Trinity.

Thanks again for writing. I trust that you will come to find Jesus as your Savior and Lord, as the One sent from the Father to die for our sins and create a way for us to have forgiveness of sins and a way back to our holy God.

May the Spirit of God guide you in your search for truth.

2 thoughts on “Why Christians Believe in the Trinity

  1. Robyn Evans

    I was not raised in church. I have learned what I know about God from the Bible and the Holy Spirit that lives within me. I personally do not use the word “trinity”; but I find that what I know to be true is that God is three entities we can’t possibly understand! Would anyone really want to have a God that anyone could completely understand? Where would the life changing force come from if we didn’t perceive power, majesty, and eternal glory from our creator! Faith is built on a solid foundation of the personal knowledge and relationship with our Father. How can the creation ask, who is my creator? Just ask, “what is your will Abba?”. Praise YHWH!!!

    Reply
  2. Steve

    I believe your article makes an excellent case for “the trinity” being a false teaching. It is purely of man.

    Reply

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