by Matt Slick
God is a trinity of persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is not the same person as the Son; the Son is not the same person as the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit is not the same person as the Father. They are not three gods and not three beings. They are three distinct persons; yet, they are all the one God. Each has a will, can speak, can love, etc. These are demonstrations of personhood. They are in absolute perfect harmony consisting of one substance. They are coeternal, coequal, and copowerful. If any one of the three were removed, there would be no God. (See also, "Another Look at the Trinity")
There is, though, an apparent separation of some functions among the members of the Godhead. For example, the Father chooses who will be saved (Eph. 1:4); the Son redeems them (Eph. 1:7); and the Holy Spirit seals them, (Eph. 1:13).
A further point of clarification is that God is not one person, the Father, with Jesus as a creation and the Holy Spirit as a force (Jehovah's Witnesses). Neither is He one person who took three consecutive forms, i.e., the Father, became the Son, who became the Holy Spirit. Nor is God the divine nature of the Son (where Jesus had a human nature perceived as the Son and a divine nature perceived as the Father (Oneness theology). Nor is the Trinity an office held by three separate Gods (Mormonism).
The word "person" is used to describe the three members of the Godhead because the word "person" is appropriate. A person is self-aware, can speak, love, hate, say "you," "yours," "me," "mine," etc. Each of the three persons in the Trinity demonstrates these qualities.
The chart below should help you to see how the doctrine of the Trinity is systematically derived from Scripture. The list is not exhaustive--only illustrative.
The first step is to establish the biblical doctrine that there is only one God. Then, you find that each of the persons is called God, each creates, each was involved in Jesus' resurrection, each indwells, etc. Therefore, God is one, but the one God is in three simultaneous persons. Please note that the idea of a composite unity is not a foreign concept to the Bible; after all, man and wife are said to be one flesh. The idea of a composite unity of persons is spoken of by God in Genesis (Gen. 2:24).
There is only one God
The first step is to establish how many Gods exist: one! Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:5, 14, 18, 21, 22; 46:9; 47:8; John 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:5-6; Gal. 4:8-9
- "I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God." (Isaiah 45:5).
- “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me." (Isaiah 44:6).
|Called God||Phil. 1:2||John 1:1, 14; Col. 2:9||Acts 5:3-4|
|Creator||Isaiah 64:8||John 1:3; Col. 1:15-17||Job 33:4, 26:13|
|Resurrects||1 Thess. 1:10||John 2:19, 10:17||Rom. 8:11|
|Indwells||2 Cor. 6:16||Col. 1:27||John 14:17|
|Everywhere||1 Kings 8:27||Matt. 28:20||Psalm 139:7-10|
|All-knowing||1 John 3:20||John 16:30; 21:17||1 Cor. 2:10-11|
|Sanctifies||1 Thess. 5:23||Heb. 2:11||1 Pet. 1:2|
|Life giver||Gen. 2:7; John 5:21||John 1:3; 5:21||2 Cor. 3:6, 8|
|Fellowship||1 John 1:3||1 Cor. 1:9||2 Cor. 13:14; Phil. 2:1|
|Eternal||Psalm 90:2||Micah 5:1-2||Rom. 8:11; Heb. 9:14|
|A Will||Luke 22:42||Luke 22:42||1 Cor. 12:11|
|Speaks||Matt. 3:17; Luke 9:25||Luke 5:20; 7:48||Acts 8:29; 11:12; 13:2|
|Love||John 3:16||Eph. 5:25||Rom. 15:30|
|Jer. 17:10||Rev. 2:23||1 Cor. 2:10|
|We belong to||John 17:9||John 17:6||. . .|
1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; 4:10
|2 Tim. 1:10; Titus 1:4; 3:6||. . .|
|We serve||Matt. 4:10||Col. 3:24||. . .|
|Believe in||John 14:1||John 14:1||. . .|
. . .
|John 15:11||John 14:7|
|Judges||John 8:50||John 5:22, 30|
. . .
Therefore, the doctrine of the Trinity is arrived at by looking at the whole of scripture--not in a single verse. It is the doctrine that there is only one God and not three, and that the one God exists in three persons: Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. An analogy would be time. Time is past, present, and future; but, there are not three times and only one.