What is the Trinity?

by Matt Slick

The word "trinity" is not found in the Bible, but the concept is.  All cults deny the Trinity.  Christians claim it is true.  But, what is it?  Is it an office held by three gods (Mormonism) or a pagan concept borrowed from ancient cults (as the Jehovah's Witnesses teach)?  The Oneness Pentecostal believers teach that God is not a Trinity but is really one person who takes three forms.  So, which of these is true?  None.

The Trinity is the doctrine that there is only one God in all creation, all time, and all places. This one God exists as three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each person is not the same person as the other, yet there are not three gods, but one.

The Bible has many references to a plurality concerning the nature of God's existence.  Consider the following verses as an example:  Gen. 19:24, "Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven."  Notice that the Lord rained FROM the Lord out of heaven.  Amos 4:10-11 says, "I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt; I slew your young men by the sword along with your captured horses, And I made the stench of your camp rise up in your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me, declares the Lord [YHWH]. 11I overthrew you as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze; Yet you have not returned to Me, declares the Lord."  Notice here that the Lord is talking and says, "I overthrew you as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah." Sometimes when I show these verses to Jehovah's Witnesses (without saying anything else), they often respond with, "Are you trying to show me the Trinity?"  I then say, "You got the Trinity out of that?  Wow!"

In the New Testament there are several verses that show God's plurality.  Here are two of those verses.  Matt. 28:19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,". Note that there is one name and three persons.   Also, 2 Cor. 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." These kinds of verses, and others are part of the means by which the doctrine of the Trinity is derived.

When we "theologians" use the word "person," we are not saying that God is three individual beings walking around who are actually one being.  That would be a contradiction.  Instead, we define a person as having self awareness, identity, can speak, love, grieve, etc.  These are attributes of personhood and we see all of these attributes, and more, in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Trinity is a very important doctrine within Christianity.  It is the correct view of the Godhead and needs to be affirmed by Christians.  Of course, the cults deny the Trinity, often misrepresent it as teaching three gods, or that it is an office, etc.  But the truth is that the Trinity doctrine is derived from Scripture and is unique to Christianity.

Finally, the Trinity is important because only in the doctrine of the Trinity can we have the true incarnation of God (the Word become flesh as the Son--John 1:1, 14).  Only the God-man Jesus can offer a sacrifice sufficient to appease the infinite Father in heaven.  No mere man can do this.  No mere angel.  Instead, God the Word, in His grace, added to Himself human nature (Phil. 2:5-8) in order to bear our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24) so that He might become sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21).  This way, He atoned for our sins by the shedding of His blood (Heb. 9:22) and guaranteed that all who trust in Him will receive everlasting life (John 3:16).  Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we might then have eternal life that is received by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8).  Amen to that!




About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.