The Trinity


Admittedly, the trinity is a mysterious concept. How can there be but one God, yet in three persons? Does this mean all the persons of the trinity are equal? If they are equal, are they not just different names for the one God, perhaps describing different capacities of God? I can be a father, husband, brother, son, friend, etc., yet I am one person. We will see that the trinity is much more. The trinity combines persons who are the one God but who are not equal in knowledge nor power nor purpose.

In the Beginning . . .

Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

The name of God in the first verse is Elohim. Strangely, the name is plural though the verbs used with it are singular. Already, in the first verse of Scripture we’re introduced to the mystery of the trinity. In the second verse we’re introduced to a specific person of the trinity, the Spirit of God.

The Word Pre-existed With God Before His Incarnation . . .

Scripture teaches that Jesus – who prior to his incarnation was known as “The Word” – pre-existed his life on earth.

John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God.

It is interesting that Jesus’ name, “The Word,” is still his name even after his incarnation. When pictured ready to judge and make war at Revelation 19:11-16, his name is said to be “the Word of God” (v. 13).

Entire Trinity Was Present At the Creation . . .

We have seen, “In the beginning God . . .” where God (Elohim) is plural. We have seen through the Apostle John that “The Word” was with God in the beginning. The second verse (Genesis 1:2) states: “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Thus all three members of the Trinity are accounted for at the time of creation.

1 Corinthians 8:6 further states that it was Jesus – The Word – who created all things, “by whom are all things, and we by him,” again perhaps better stated in the NIV:

1 Corinthians 8:6

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Inequality . . .

I’ve seen statements of faith of Christian organizations which declare that there is one God in three persons all of whom are equal in . . . .(reciting various attributes of God.) Where did the concept of equality within the godhead come from? It came from Jesus’ enemies.

John 5:17

But Jesus answered them, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” 18Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

Did Jesus declare himself to be equal with God? Never. In a dialogue with his disciples he had the following exchange:

John 14:8

Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. 9Jesus saith unto him, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? 10Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.”

Jesus did not declare himself equal with the Father, but rather that the Father could be seen in him because he did and said what the Father told him to do and say. Because Jesus was wholly and totally obedient to the Father, his nature was conformed to the nature of his Father and the Father’s nature was fully evident in him.

On the contrary, Jesus often told of his subordination to God, his Father. Let’s look at several such examples.

Give Places of Authority in His Kingdom

Matthew 20:23

And he saith unto them, “Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.”

Jesus did not have the authority to grant positions of honor to his disciples, namely that one could sit on his right hand and another on his left in his kingdom. Jesus said that authority resided in the Father.

The Day of His Return

Matthew 24:36

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

The disciples wanted to know the time when would be the time of his coming and of the end of the world? Wouldn’t Jesus know when he was to return? Surely he knew the time of the end of the world. No, Jesus said only one person knew the day and hour of when he would return and when the world would end. It was the Father only!

Surely, in each of these cases, if God were one person acting in different capacities, not as different persons in one godhead, then no matter what capacity God was in, he would know those things that Jesus said only the Father knew.

God the Father Raised His Son From the Dead . . .

It is really inconceivable to say that God, in one capacity, raised himself, in another capacity, from the dead. If that were said in Scripture, then the arguments of the early Gnostics and others were probably true, i.e., that Jesus really didn’t die or that he really didn’t appear in the flesh, but only in the spirit, etc. It becomes heretical if we were to try to reason God raising himself (in another capacity) from the dead. But Scripture is clear:

1 Corinthians 15:15

Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

Galatians 1:1Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

Ephesians 1:20Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

That should be sufficient to establish that Scripture teaches that God raised Jesus from the dead. The last, Ephesians 1:20, also establishes the separate person of the Christ from the Father who seated Jesus at his own right hand. Would he have seated himself in a different capacity at his own right hand? Scripture would have to be strongly bent in order to argue that conclusion.

Jesus Did Nothing On His Own . . .

John 5:19

Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

John 8:28Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. 29And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.

John 5:30I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

God the Father Honored Jesus His Son . . .

Ephesians 1:20

Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

On multiple occasions, Scripture records honor and power given to Jesus by God his Father. Does not the greater give to the lesser if it is something the giver gives of something he possesses? So it is with the Father. Note above and following what he has given his son:

Philippians 2:9

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Colossians 1:15Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

Jesus Will Be Subject To God . . .

Yes, amazingly, this subject can all be cut short by the recognition that Scripture specifically states that which will happen at the end:

1 Corinthians 15:27

For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28And 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.

The foregoing language establishes beyond all doubt that at some future time the Son, Jesus Christ the Lord, will “himself be subject unto God”. Thus, there cannot be equality, and there cannot be one person acting in different capacities.

The Holy Spirit Speaks Nothing on His Own

John 16:13

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

This was the same limitation Jesus said of himself. Jesus said, “The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John 14:31; see also John 14:24). Both are subject to the Father; the Holy Spirit does not act on his own!

One God, the Father, and One Lord, Jesus Christ . . .

1 Corinthians 8:6

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.

This is an example where the King James Version does a disservice. As we know, the original languages lacked punctuation so the translators placed the punctuation wherever they saw fit. Occasionally that seems misplaced as it does in this case. The following, from the New International Version, seems to have the same sentence structure in the last as in the first and matches the meaning emphasized elsewhere in Scripture:

1 Corinthians 8:6

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

The NIV version matches the emphasis in Scripture that Jesus Christ is LORD! It also shows the close harmony of the relationship between the Father and the Son. But it also clearly distinguishes between the Father and the Son.

Salvation Through Jesus Was Directed By the Father . . .

Many Scriptures state clearly the Father’s role in directing the Son to die for the sins of the world. Let’s look at just two:

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Colossians 1:19For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Once again, the NIV does us a favor by making this much more understandable, substituting nouns for pronouns so it is clear who is acting for whom:


For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], 20 and through him [Jesus] to reconcile to himself [God] all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his [Christ’s] blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he [God] has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation . . .

Two distinct parties accomplished one purpose. God reconciled us by Christ’s physical body through death. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. Both say the same thing. Both show God the Father directing the plan of salvation in which his son cooperated.

That this was God’s will was clearly demonstrated when Jesus pleaded in prayer with his Father to take the cup from him:

Matthew 26:39

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

It was the Father’s will his Son should drink the cup of suffering and death so that all mankind could be reconciled to God. Jesus submitted to his Father even in this. Is it possible, or conceivable, that if God were only representing himself through different names in different capacities that he would plead with himself in another capacity to be spared the agony of the cross? Of course not. But, if, as the Scriptures show, the Father and the Son are two very different persons, one subject to the other, then it would be both possible and conceivable that in the hour of Gethsemane the Son would plead that the cup be taken from him. Not only did Jesus’ plea establish that it was God’s will that he die, but that the only way to God was through Jesus Christ and that the only way to be justified by God was through the shed blood of his Son.

God and Father of our Lord Jesus . . .

A most astonishing statement is made repeatedly by the Apostle Paul. He not only has established the inequality of God the Father and God the Son in the godhead, but he further states that the Father is the God of the Son. Some scriptures illustrate this:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (Ephesians 1:3).

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: (Ephesians 1:17).

It is most mysterious how God the Father is also the God of God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  For me, it is enough that Scripture says it.  That makes it so.  God’s ways are not man’s ways nor his thoughts our thoughts.

Scripture Places All Three of the Trinity in View in Salvation . . .

Paul explained the relationship of the Trinity and their roles in salvation:

Titus 3:4

But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

As we see above, all three members of the Trinity are in view, establishing again that they are separate persons with separate functions in our salvation. It is also of interest in this passage that in two persons of the Trinity, the Father and the Son, the capacity is stated to be the same – Savior. Once again the idea that they are one and the same person acting in different capacities is shown to be untrue; here is the exact opposite; separate persons acting in one and the same capacity.

Receiving the Holy Spirit Involves the Entire Trinity

John 14:15

‘‘If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth.

Jesus first speaks of himself. Then he asks the Father to give the Holy Spirit to those who love him and commit to obey what he commands. All are present in the event in which the true believer receives the Holy Spirit. The argument of simply different capacities for the one God does not apply here either. Would Jesus, in his capacity as the Son ask himself in his capacity as the Father to give himself as the Spirit? That interpretation seems to require a major reinterpretation – almost a reinvention – of Scripture.

The Coming Holy Spirit’s Purpose Again Joins the Entire Trinity

John 14:25

‘‘All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Again Jesus speaks, saying one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit will be to remind the Apostles (and perhaps us) of everything Jesus said to them. Jesus reminds us again that it is the Father who will send the Holy Spirit in his (Jesus’) name. As stated before, this passage does not make sense if viewed in the context of one person in various capacities. We have in view here three different persons doing different things.

All Three in Trinity in View When Counselor Comes

John 15:26

‘‘When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.

Jesus gives another purpose of the Holy Spirit – to testify about him. He reminds us that the Holy Spirit goes out from the Father, thus again placing all three members of the godhead in view. Again, the passage doesn’t make sense in terms of one person in different contexts. Here Jesus says he will send the Holy Spirit, that the Spirit goes out from the Father. Would Jesus be saying he will send himself as the Spirit and that he, as the Spirit goes out from himself as the Father? Such an interpretation violates the clear language of the passage.

Jesus’ Baptism Revealed the Presence of All Three Members of the Trinity

Jesus the son was baptized; the Holy Spirit descended as a dove, the Father spoke from heaven, “This is my Son . . .” (Matthew 3:16-17).

Apostles Consistently Recognized the Father and the Son, God and the Lord Jesus Christ . . .

It happened most often in their greetings as they wrote their letters to the churches.  All of the following Scriptures tell of at least two members of the Trinity.

1 Corinthians 1:1

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, . . .

2 Corinthians 1:1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, . . .

Galatians 1:1Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

Ephesians 1:1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God . . .

Philippians 1:2Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, 2To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 1:1Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:1Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 1;1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; 2Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.

2 Timothy 1:1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, 2To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Titus 1:1Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, . . .

1 Peter 1:1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, . . .
2 Peter 1:1Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: 2Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, . . .

2 John 3Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

Jude 1Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, . . .

1 Peter puts all three persons of the Trinity in view.  The writers of Scripture are the people who knew best the message of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Most knew him personally – Paul through revelation.  Are we, almost 2000 years later, to deny what they proclaimed so frequently and faithfully?  Will we now dare to say that they were wrong, that Scripture is mis-stated, that it is not really saying what it means?  I surely hope not.  Taken in the context of the entire New Testament, the message is abundantly clear.  There are three members of the godhead who together comprise the one true God.

Prophecies – in Daniel and Revelation – Show Jesus Distinct From the Father

As Scripture began, so it ends, with the Trinity in view. Revelation 4 and 5 are two of my favorite chapters in all of Scripture for the majesty in heaven it displays:

Revelation 4:2

And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. . . 5And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

5:1And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne [God the Father] a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. . . . 5And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, [Jesus] hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.

6And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God [Holy Spirit] sent forth into all the earth. 7And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. . . . 13And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne [God the Father], and unto the Lamb [the Lord Jesus Christ] for ever and ever. 14And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

In heaven itself the Trinity is distinguished. Great reverence is always shown God the Father who sits on the throne. The Spirit of God is represented by seven lamps of burning fire before the throne and later as seven eyes sent forth into all the earth. When the Lamb, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is revealed, the Root of David, the Lord Jesus Christ – the third person of the Trinity – new adulation and praise flow forth.

This passage is parallel to the passage at Daniel 7:13-14:

13 ‘‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

This is a picture of the Lord Jesus appearing before God’s throne as prophesied by Daniel. We know it because the Lord Jesus himself prophesied it as recorded in Mark 15:62:

“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

The high priest also recognized Jesus’ claim, tore his clothes, and condemned him of blasphemy (Mark 15:63).  In these verses both the Son and the Father are in view.

Scripture makes exceedingly clear there are three persons in the Trinity.  It was the purposes of this writing to establish that the persons of the Trinity are separate and distinct. I trust you agree Scripture has proved ample evidence of that.

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