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Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Doctrine of the Trinity

One of the biggest distinctives between orthodox Christianity and anything else you might care to examine is the basic doctrine of the Trinity. Odd accusations are tossed out like "You're believing in a doctrine that is not part of Scripture" or "That doctrine was invented in the 4th century."

This post, then, is primarily a homework assignment for my readers. It is a listing of a host of references that help form the biblical basis for the doctrine of the Trinity. They come (as they must) from both the Old and New Testaments. I don't place it here for debate or dialog. I simply want to provide a reference source.

Once you see this (partial) list you will understand why I didn't put every text down and let you read it while I explain it. You can be good Bereans (Hey, it's Sunday! What better to do than spend the afternoon in God's Word?) and look it up for yourself -- it is a massive list. (Funny thing - not one piece of it comes from Augustine or Constantine. How odd!)

General Scriptures regarding the Trinity
Gen. 1:26; Gen. 3:22; Isa. 6:3,8; Isa. 11:2,3; Isa. 42:1; Isa. 48:16; Isa. 61:1-3; Isa. 63:9,10; Matt. 1:18,20 ; Matt. 3:11,16; Matt. 12:18,28; Matt. 28:19; Mark 1:8; Luke 1:35; Luke 3:16,22; Luke 4:1,14,18; John 1:32,33; John 3:34,35; John 7:39; John 14:16,17,26; John 15:26; John 16:7,13-15; John 20:22; Acts 1:2,4,5; Acts 2:33; Acts 10:36-38; Rom. 1:3,4; Rom. 8:9-11,26,27; 1 Cor. 2:10,11; 1 Cor. 6:19; 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 Cor. 12:3-6; 2 Cor. 1:21,22; 2 Cor. 3:17; 2 Cor. 5:5; 2 Cor. 13:14 ; Gal. 4:4,6; Phil. 1:19; Col. 2:2; 2 Thess. 2:13,14,16; 1 Tim. 3:16; Titus 3:4-6; Heb. 9:14; 1 Pet. 1:2; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 5:6,7; Rev. 4:8

So ... is Jesus God? First, look at some of the facets of the unique nature of God:
JEHOVAH (YHWH)
CREATOR
ETERNAL
HOLY
IMMUTABLE
OMNIPOTENT
OMNIPRESENT
OMNISCIENT
RIGHTEOUS
SELF-EXISTENT
SAVIOR
SOVEREIGN
THE FIRST AND THE LAST
ALONE WORTHY OF WORSHIP

(I certainly hope I don't have to produce Scripture to prove any of the above.)

Now, what does Scripture say about Jesus Christ as God?

YHWH
Compare Isa. 40:3; Matt. 3:3
Compare Psa. 24:7,10; 1 Cor. 2:8; James 2:1
Compare Psa. 97:9; John 3:31
Compare Psa. 110:1; Matt. 22:42-45
Compare Isa. 40:10,11; Heb. 13:20
Compare Prov. 16:4; Col. 1:16
Compare Joel 2:32; 1 Cor. 1:2

YHWH-tsidkenu (Jehovah our righteousness)
Compare Jer. 23:5,6; 1 Cor. 1:30

YHWH OF HOSTS
Compare Isa. 6:1-3; John 12:41; Isa. 8:13,14; 1 Peter 2:8

LORD OF THE SABBATH
Compare Gen. 2:3; Matt. 12:8

EQUAL WITH THE FATHER
Compare Prov. 30:4; Matt. 11:27
John 10:30,38; 12:45; 14:7-10, 16; 15:26; 17:10

CREATOR
John 1:3,10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16,17; Heb. 1:2,10; Rev. 3:14
Compare Psa. 102:24-27; Heb. 1:8,10-12
Compare Isa. 40:28; John 1:3; Col. 1:16

ETERNAL
Psa. 102:24-27; Prov. 8:22-25; Isa. 9:6; Micah 5:2; Mark 12:36,37; John 1:1,2,4,15; 6:62; 8:23,58; 12:41; 17:5,24,25; Eph. 3:21; 4:10; Col. 1:17; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 1:10-12; 6:20; 7:16,24,25; 13:8; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 John 1:1,2; 2:13,14; Rev. 1:8,11,17,18; 5:13,14

HOLY
Compare 1 Sam. 2:2; Acts 3:14
Psa. 45:7; 89:19; Isa. 11:4,5; 32:1; 42:21; 49:7; 50:5; 53:9; 59:17; Jer. 23:5; Zech. 9:9; Mark 1:24; Luke 1:35; 4:34; 23:40,41,47; John 5:30; 7:18; 8:46; 14:30; 16:10; Acts 3:14; 4:27,30; 13:28,35; 2 Cor. 4:4; 5:21; Heb. 1:9; 4:15; 7:26-28; 9:14; 1 Peter 1:19; 2:22; 1 John 2:29; 3:5; Rev. 3:7

IMMUTABLE
Heb. 13:8

OMNIPOTENT
Psa. 45:3-5; 110:3; Isa. 9:6; 40:10; 50:2,4; 63:1; Matt. 8:3,16,27; 10:1; 12:13,28,29; 28:18; Mark 3:27; 6:7; Luke 5:17; 9:1; 11:20-22; John 2:19; 5:21,28,29; 10:17,18,28; 17:1,2; Phil. 3:20,21; Col. 1:17; 2 Thess. 1:9; 1 Tim. 6:16; Heb. 1:3; 7:25; 2 Peter 1:16; Rev. 1:8; 3:7; 5:12

OMNIPRESENT
Matt. 18:20; 28:20; John 3:13; Eph. 1:23

OMNISCIENT
Prov. 8:1-16; Isa. 11:2,3; 50:4; Matt. 9:4; 11:27; 12:25; 13:54; 22:18; 24:25; 26:46; Mark 2:8; 5:30; 14:13-15,42; Luke 2:40,47,52; 5:22; 6:8; 9:46-48; 22:10-13; John 1:48; 2:24,25; 3:32; 4:16-19,28,29; 5:30,42; 6:64; 8:16; 13:1,2,10,11; 16:30,32; 17:1; 18:4; 21:17; Acts 1:24; Col. 2:3; Rev. 2:18,23; 5:5,12

PREEXISTENT
Gen. 1:26; Psa. 102:25-27; Prov. 8:22-36; John 1:1-3; 6:62; 8:56-58; 17:5; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 8:6; Phil. 2:5-7; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:1,2,8-12; 2:9,14-16; 4:8; Rev. 4:11

SAVIOR
Compare Hos. 1:7; Titus 2:13
Gen. 12:3; 49:18; 2 Sam. 23:6,7; Job 33:23,24; Psa. 14:7; 72:4,12-14,17; 80:17; 89:19; Isa. 8:14; 28:16; 32:2; 40:10,11; 42:6,7; 49:6,8,9; 50:2,8,9; 53:10,11; 59:16,17,20; 61:1-3; 62:11; 63:1,5,8,9; Jer. 23:5,6; 33:15,16; Ezek. 34:23; Hag. 2:7; Zech. 4:7; 9:9; Mal. 4:2; Matt. 1:21; 9:12,13; 15:24; 18:11-13; Luke 1:68-77; 2:11,31,32,34; 5:31,32; 9:56; 15:1-10; 19:10; John 1:9,29; 3:16,17; 4:14,42; 5:26,33,34,40; 6:27,32,33,35,37,39,51,53-58,68; 7:37-39; 8:12; 9:5,39; 10:7,9-11,14-16,27,28; 11:25-27; 12:47; 14:6,19; 16:33; 17:2,3; Acts 3:26; 4:12; 5:31; 13:23,38,39,47; 15:11; 16:31; Rom. 3:24-26; 4:25; 5:1,6,8-11,15,17-19,21; 6:23; 8:2; 10:9,11; 15:7,9; 1 Cor. 1:30; 3:11; 6:11; 10:3,4; 15:17,57; 2 Cor. 5:18,19,21; Galatians 1:3,4; 2:20; 4:7; Eph. 1:10,11; 2:7,13-18,20; 4:8; 5:2,14,23,25,26; Phil. 3:20; Col. 1:12-14,27,28; 2:8,10; 3:3,4,11; 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9,10; 2 Thess. 1:12; 1 Tim. 1:1,15; 2 Tim. 1:1,9,10,12; 2:10; 3:15; Titus 1:4; 2:13,14; Heb. 2:3,17; 5:9; 7:22,25; 13:10,20; 1 Peter 1:3,18,19; 2:4-7,25; 3:18,21; 5:10; 2 Peter 1:3,11; 2:20; 1 John 3:5,8; 4:9,10,14; 5:11-13,20; Jude 1:1; Rev. 2:7; 3:18; 5:5-14; 7:10; 14:4; 21:27; 22:1,2

SOVEREIGN
Rom. 9:5
Compare Daniel 10:17; Rev. 1:5; 17:14

THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Compare Isa. 44:6; Rev. 1:17; Isa. 48:12-16; Rev. 22:13

PRESERVER OF ALL THINGS
Compare Neh. 9:6; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3

WORSHIP
Josh. 5:14,15; Psa. 45:11,17; 72:15; Matt. 2:2,11; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 20:20; 21:9; 28:9,16,17; Mark 3:11; 5:6,7; 11:9,10; Luke 4:41; 5:8; 23:42; 24:52; John 5:23; 9:38; 12:13; Acts 1:24; 7:59,60; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 12:8,9; Phil. 2:10,11; 1 Tim. 1:12; Heb. 1:6; 2 Peter 3:18; Rev. 5:8,9,12-14; 7:10

Okay, now for some Scripture on the Holy Spirit as part of the Trinity.

The character of the Holy Spirit coincides with the character of God.

ETERNAL
Rom. 8:11; Heb. 9:14

OMNIPRESENT
Psa. 139:7

OMNISCIENT
1 Cor. 2:10-11

CREATOR
Job 26:13; 33:4; Psa. 104:28-30

Peter equates the Holy Spirit with God:

But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." - Acts 5:3-4

Now, of course, the problem with the Spirit is that detractors will say, "Well, of course the Spirit has all the characteristics of deity -- it is simply the Spirit of God. We are saying it is not a person." So proving the deity of the Spirit becomes moot. What needs to be shown is the distinction between God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

Distinctions:
Gen. 1:2; 6:3; Neh. 9:20; Psa. 51:11; 104:29; Isa. 48:16; 63:10; Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:27; Hag. 2:5

The real problem, of course, is the relational terms used of the Holy Spirit that don't make sense if 1) there is some distinction between God and the Holy Spirit (as indicated in the above verses) and 2) if the Holy Spirit is simply God's "force". A force, for instance, may be resisted, but it is not grieved. A force does not impart wisdom. A force doesn't impart fellowship. The Holy Spirit is referred to as a "person", an entity that feels and acts. Further, He is sent by the Father and the Son. This makes Him a distinct person, not a force.

Another consideration on the general topic is the 3-fold references to God. It occurs multiple times in Scripture - Matt. 3:16-17; 28:19; Acts 7:55; 10:38; Rom. 15:16, 30; 2 Cor. 13:14; Gal. 4:6; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 4:2. These passages hold both distinction between each character as well as unity. Further, if Christ is distinct from God, then the Holy Spirit must, in the same way, be distinct from God. So the Holy Spirit must be distinct from the Father rather than merely an emanation of His force.

Oh, and I don't plan to offer a quiz on this homework assignment ... but others might question you on it, so you might want to be prepared.

14 comments:

Jeff Barrett said...

Thanks Stan! This is a very useful overview which to which I hope many readers devote some study time.

-Jeff
www.DidacticWorship.com

Stan said...

Looks like your site is worth reading for awhile, too. Thanks for pointing it out.

Science PhD Mom said...

Excellent post! Jives nicely with the reading I'm doing about the character of God in Grudem's Systematic Theology text. Great stuff!

Samantha said...

Thank you Stan. This is very helpful :)

Jesse said...

Here's a proof for the deity of Christ:

"and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them." (Acts 16:7)

Anonymous said...

Hi Stan,

In Deuteronomy 6:4 Moses says 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!' At that time, according to the following link, the Jews only believed in a single God and therefore were following a monotheistic religion.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrahamic_religions

Can you clarify why the meaning of the word 'one' is now being defined as 'as one' or 'in one' or in such a way that loses the fact that their original belief was monotheistic?

Stan said...

You're thinking Tritheism, the belief in three gods. Christianity is a monotheistic religion. The Trinity is One essence in three persons, with "persons" being more at "persona" than "individuals." You'll find these personas in the Old and New Testaments. It's not new to 4th century or something.

Anonymous said...

No, I'm talking about Judaism, the belief in one God. The Jews in the time of Moses were therefore following a monotheistic religion. As they only believed in one God, and not three persons in one God, when Moses spoke those words he could only have been referring to a single God.

So why has the meaning of the word 'one' now been changed?

Stan said...

"One" is your problem? So you have difficulty with "one team" made up of a group of people or "one nation" made up of a group of states or "one Bible" made up of a whole bunch of books? Is your "one" so absolutely limited?

Judaism of the Old Testament had no Jesus, had no "indwelling of the Holy Spirit", not even the grace of salvation by faith apart from works. The Judaism of the Old Testament was Christianity in the womb, developing, growing, becoming. Christianity is the Judaism God originally intended, not something new and separate. And "one" doesn't require the extreme limited definition you're trying to impose.

Look, you started these arguments over "Father" and "Son". You continued them over "ekklesia" and "logos". Now it's "one". In the midst of it all, you assured me that "marriage" meant "having undergone any kind of marriage ceremony". What we have here is a failure to communicate. What we have here is a 21st century First World English speaker who thinks, for reasons unknown, that he/she can grasp the clear meaning of Greek terminology using Strong's and also apply nuanced or radically altered English terms to full-bodied biblical terminology. Mostly, I'm just impressed that you think, "I've figured all this out when the best and the brightest, the centuries and millennia of genuine believers, couldn't."

You do so ignoring the fact that 1) you can't translate the Bible from a Strong's Greek Dictionary, and 2) if you deny the deity of Christ, you eliminate any possibility of salvation for the human race. If Jesus is a creature, a creation, a guy like any other, and not God Incarnate, then He might have lived a sinless, perfect life and died for sin, but that sinless, perfect, human-only payment would cover only one sinful debt, not all. For the debt of all sinners to be covered, the payment would have to be infinite, not finite.

Anonymous said...

1 of 2

'One' becomes a problem when its meaning is changed. Moses said 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!' so there is no other way to understand what he is talking about other than one single God. Problems arise when man changes this to mean something different to that which Moses was saying.

So why is this important? Because we then know that all of those people in the OT believed in a single, all powerful God. This is because there was, and is, only one, single all powerful God! In Mark 12:29 Jesus himself says “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one”. So Jesus is acknowledging this fact and reiterating it. Jesus and Moses had the same belief, neither were secretly trinitarians. Moses knew there was one God, 'The LORD would speak to Moses face to face just as a man speaks with his friend' (Exodus 33:11)

The discussion began over the terms 'Father' and 'Son' because God specifically uses them to describe the relationship between himself and Jesus. He gives us easy, indisputable words so that we can understand his word of truth, the Bible. Why do we need to understand? Because John 3:16 says 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life'. The Father / Son relationship is mentioned in the most famous verse in the whole Bible, and so is the fact that believing in them is essential for our salvation. Life or death itself. We can't then say they are not Father and Son and hope for everlasting life.

Anonymous said...

2 of 2

Salvation is for all, not just the 'best' or the 'brightest'. It comes from hearing the word and believing it, so if we change the meanings of the words that God uses we are not only making it difficult for anyone to understand but we are losing that possibility of salvation. Changing the meanings of words results in failure to communicate. God has given us his word the Bible so that anyone can understand it, clever or not. It's not impressive to think that anyone has 'figured it out'. It's sad to think that its message is hidden in confusion.

To answer your points, the NT was written in Greek, so no translation was required. And a dictionary is only used when we find complicated words that we don't understand, not to look up easy words which we already know the meaning of, like Father and Son for example.

If I deny the deity of Christ, I don't eliminate any possibility of salvation for the human race. We know that God, the Father of Jesus Christ, couldn't die for our sins because he is God. He can't sin and he can't die. We need someone else to endure these essential acts. Salvation comes in the form of Jesus Christ, not just a 'guy like any other', but truly the Son of God, not God because he was both able to sin (but chose not to, and remained sinless until his death) and to die (cease to exist). So the possibility of salvation isn't eliminated, it's made possible through Jesus Christ, and, crucially, can be understood and believed by anyone. We all know what death means – we cease to exist. Jesus died. It's important we understand the meanings of these words because if we change them to mean something different it is impossible to believe and be saved. (Romans 10:9)

Trying to comprehend the trinity is like wearing pink lensed glasses. We think everything is pink. Trying to fit our beliefs into a Bible which uses language that contradicts them means we either need to change the meanings of those words or remove our glasses. Man does the former, but rarely the latter.

Understanding that God is the Father and Jesus Christ is the son is easy, clear and precise. Jesus Christ performed the work of God having been given the Holy Spirit after his baptism; a crucial event that it happens in all 4 gospels. Armed with this simple understanding we can now read the Bible in a clear manner and tackle any problem passages using the simple framework of understanding that God has given us. Our very salvation depends on it.

Stan said...

No one has changed the meaning of "one". I've said it already; you just ignore it. That's what makes for a useless conversation. We're not discussing "3 gods"; we're discussing One God. But you won't accept that. We agree that we're talking about One God; we simply disagree about the nature of that One God.

You require "father" to mean "father" in a narrow sense. I suspect, if I ask you specifics, you'll back off that narrow sense. For instance, "father" in English can simply refer to "sperm donor". Is that your understanding of God's relationship to Christ? Of course not. So you've already applied a different definition to "father" than that easiest of all definitions from English. Paul refers to Timothy as "my true child in the faith" (1 Tim 1:2). Does that mean that Paul gave Timothy life, created Timothy, was even his actual father? No. It means Paul was his mentor, his teacher and trainer. But you won't accept that easy understanding of "father" either. "I will only allow in this particular discussion a very narrow -- my very narrow -- definition of 'father' which allows for none of the other standard uses of the term." You define the terms in such a way to necessarily exclude what the rest of Scripture teaches and then twist the rest of Scriptures to agree with your version. And then you deny the justice of God. Understanding that God is the Father and Jesus Christ is the Son is easy, clear, and precise, but you've understood it entirely different than the rest of the Scriptures and the rest of Christianity has.

Clearly your goal is not to understand, but to rewrite. You ignore all the Scriptures that attribute divine attributes to Christ and revise all the Scriptures that equate Him with God and consider your job finished. Clearly we have different Gods and Christianity. As in the other discussion, we're finished here (Titus 3:10).

Stan said...

I'm sorry you failed to understand. We're done here. Argue your case somewhere else.

Jesse said...

Mr. Anonymous,

I know that Stan has covered a lot of ground and no longer desires to continue in a discussion, but I had a few thoughts I wanted to add...The idea of plurality within the Godhead has strong support in the Old Testament, as I demonstrate plainly here:

https://rationalchristiandiscernment.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-hebrew-roots-of-trinity.html

If Jesus is not God, then how could He rightly claim to be Lord over the Sabbath (Matthew 12:6-8)? How could He tell His Jewish audience that He was greater than the temple? Why would the Pharisees conspire against Christ, if what He had affirmed about Himself did not imply that He was divine (Matthew 12:14)? If the Lord Jesus Christ is only a created being, and He is the wisdom and power of God (1 Corinthians 1:24), then would that also mean that God had no wisdom and power prior to Him creating His Son (which is absurd in the highest degree)? Also, would you be willing to call Christ an idolater, since He was worshiped on multiple occasions throughout the four gospels?

No mere man could have invented a doctrine as sophisticated, yet so profound, as that of the trinity. Trinitarian monotheism is the most rational expression of monotheism.