The Doctrine of the Trinity: God is One God

TrinityThere is nothing bare-bones about the Trinity. But sometimes when introducing this doctrine it helps to give a brief, ‘bare-bones’ outline to help young believers or novice theologians understand the parameters of orthodox belief about Scripture’s deepest mystery.

With such an intention, let me lay out a bare-bones doctrine of the Trinity. In its shortest and most incomplete delineation, the Christians doctrine affirms two things: (1) God is One God and (2) God is Three Persons. This denies modalism (one god in three forms) and tritheism (three gods), and gets on the way to a right view of the doctrine.

After affirming these two points, we can point to Scripture to explain ten other basic facts about the Triune God of Creation, Redemption, and Revelation. Here is the list, followed by Scriptures references for the first point (God is One God). Next week, we’ll pick up Scriptures for the other half of the points (God is Three Persons).

God is One God

  1. The Father is God.
  2. The Son is God.
  3. The Holy Spirit is God.
  4. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are Uncreated, Co-Eternal, Inseparable, and Perfectly Equal in Essence.

God is Three Persons

  1. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  2. The Father Sends the Son and the Spirit.
  3. The Son is Sent by the Father, and Sends the Spirit.
  4. The Spirit is One Sent by Father and Son.
  5. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit works together to create the cosmos, sustain life, and redeem the church.
  6. God’s visible actions in history reveals his invisible triune nature.

God is One God 

The key verse for this truth is Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” All that man is is to worship all that God is, and God is one. This verse is quoted three times in the gospels (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:29-30, 32; Luke 10:27) and is echoed in other statements in the Old Testament (see Exodus 15:11; 45:5-6, 21-22).

Exodus 15:11

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

Isaiah 45:5-6, 21-22

I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. . . .

Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.

In addition to these explicit statements, there is a collection of passages in the New Testament that reiterate God’s oneness.

Romans 3:30 

. . . since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.

1 Corinthians 8:6 

yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

1 Timothy 2:5

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

James 2:19

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Together, the Scriptural testimony is clear: There is one God who is revealed in the Old Testament as Yahweh. In the New Testament, with hints in the Old Testament, there begins to be the teaching that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Let’s look at verses supporting those claims.

2. The Father is God

Genesis 1:1. Beginning with this verse, God is identified as the Creator and Father.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 

Deuteronomy 32:6

Do you thus repay the Lord, you foolish and senseless people?
Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?

Malachi 2:10

Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?

Matthew 6:9ff. Jesus prays to the Father in heaven.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

In Paul’s letters, God is often the title used to speak of the Father. Whereas Paul speaks of the Son as Lord, God is the Father. The most clear verses that demonstrate this fact are the ones that speak of God, Lord, and Spirit.

1 Corinthians 8:6

. . . yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, . . . 

1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

Ephesians 4:4-6

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

3. The Son is God

In the Old Testament, the prophets foretell of a divine messiah.

Isaiah 9:6-7

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Jeremiah 23:5-6

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

Daniel 7:13-14 (cf. Micah 5:2)

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.

And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

In the New Testament, the apostles attribute the divine name to Jesus Christ. Jesus is ‘Lord’ (OT: YHWH; NT: kurios). But the New Testament also calls Jesus “God” and ascribed him to eternal existence.

John 1:1-4

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

John 20:28

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Romans 9:5

To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Philippians 2:9-11 (cf. Isaiah 40:3 = Matthew 3:3)

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Colossians 1:19; 2:9

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, . . . For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily . . .

Titus 2:13

. . . waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,. . .

2 Peter 1:1

To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

The New Testament also bears witness to the divine attributes, actions, and authority that Jesus has. For instance, in John 14-16 Jesus says that he is going to heaven where he will send the Holy Spirit, who is the third member of the Trinity.

4. The Holy Spirit is God

The passages affirming the deity of the Spirit take a little bit of inductive reasoning. In multiple passages, God is named and in the next verse while God is still in view, it speaks of the (Holy) Spirit. A faithful reading of these passages indicates that the Spirit is one and the same with God.

Genesis 1:1-2. The God who made heaven and earth, formed the cosmos (e.g., the heavens and the earth) with his Spirit.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Psalm 139:7-8. God’s omnipresence is matched by (and carried out by) his Spirit.

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

Acts 5:3-4. To lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God.

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”

1 Corinthians 2:10-11. Only God’s Spirit can know God. As to knowledge, the Spirit is co-extensive with God himself.

. . . these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

1 Corinthians 3:16. God possesses his temples by means of putting his Spirit within them.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

John 3:5-9. Only God can give new birth (1 John 3:9).

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

5. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are One God

More specifically, you might say that the Triune God is the uncreated, eternal, inseparable God. The best way to see this unity is to observe the dozen passages which conjoin Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, what are known as ‘triads.’ We begin with Matthew 28:19, the most clear statement on the Trinity as one God (singular ‘name’) and three persons (plural: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

Matthew 28:19

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, . . .

1 Corinthians 8:6

. . . yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, . . . 

1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

2 Corinthians 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.

Galatians 4:6-7

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Ephesians 4:4-6

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

1 Peter 1:1-2

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

Jude 20-21

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God,waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

In the end, no one verse explains the Trinity. The doctrine is a theological doctrine, not a purely exegetical one. It depends on a synthetic process of comparing Scripture with Scripture, always holding in tension the twin truths “God is one” and “God is three.” As we have shown above, the Bible clearly affirms that God is one God. Next week, we will show how God is three persons. 

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

 

7 thoughts on “The Doctrine of the Trinity: God is One God

  1. Thank for for gathering together all the scriptural references, David. The doctrine of the Blessed Trinity is arguably the most difficult mystery of the faith to grasp. I suspect that the day we all agree on the particular facets of this complex mystery will be the day we all worship the One God with one voice throughout the world. God bless!

  2. It difficult to grasps because it is relying on freelanced opinions and ideas that are not in harmony with all 66 books of the Bible.

    Those that support such a doctrine have trouble reconciling scriptures that are complete contradictions to the scriptures used in support of the Trinity Doctrine. When people who truly want to understand before putting faith in it gives a listening ear and perform their own due diligence, they keep running into contradictions. These questions, challenges or contractions are dismissed by the supporters of the Trinity Doctrine. This is what causes the difficult mystery.

    While I would agree that we cannot know everything about Jehovah, there are many things about his personality and his purposes that he wants mankind to know about. He makes it very clear in all 66 books what he wants mankind to know concerning him as well as mankind, the earth, the heavens and his purposes.

    • Steve,

      Thanks for commenting, but I am confused by your argument. It sounds like the problem you have is with the Bible and then by extension the doctrine of the Trinity.

      Does the Bible contradict itself (your second paragraph), or is it clear / perspicuous (your third paragraph)?

      The doctrine of the Trinity depends on special revelation and is not discernible by means of nature or general revelation. Therefore, your clarity or confusion about God as Three-in-One depends on how your read Scripture.

      As to contradictions you see in the Bible, which ones are referring to? Can you give specific verse citations?

      Seeking to know and love the Truth,
      dss

  3. Pingback: The Doctrine of the Trinity: Three Distinct Persons | Via Emmaus

  4. My point was clear. There is no need for re-shaping.

    Your response is typical of a supporter of this doctrine. That which cannot be explained aways is left as a mystery for anyone that cannot see the connection using the whole bible.

    A honest-hearted person is okay with what you teach until they come across a scripture that is in conflict, supporters of the doctrine have two tactic, try to explain it away with other scriptures hopefully not in conflict or just claim the doctrine of the trinity a mystery. I know this because I used to believe and do the same.

    I use to accepted doctrine as bible truth for years as a child to adulthood. From the Catholic Church to the Apostolic faith and in between. My path has been very diverse. But I would admit, I did not study my bible when I was in Christendom. Ironically, most of the members of the many churches I attended did not read or study their bibles in any meaningful way. Most relied on what they heard, especially if it was presented in a entertaining way. Those that did read focused there time on the Greek scriptures, all but ignoring the first 39 books in the bible. Sure they could show where Psalm was located, tell you about Adam and Eve and even mention Moses. But for the most part, their focus is on the Greek scripture because this is where Jesus’s name appears.

    But i will admit to you I have never in all of my days, with all the different faiths I have been part of heard ” The doctrine of the Trinity depends on special revelation and is not discernible by means of nature or general revelation.”

    Even with the many clergy that I have spoken, multiple confirmation classes and processes, I have never heard this one.

    I have seen trinitarians tell Jewish people that they do not know their own language of their forefathers just because they refute what the trinitarians say about Ex. 3:14.

    In the end, you always gave the “mystery card” to play.

  5. Pingback: The Doctrine of the Trinity: Three Perichoretic Persons | Via Emmaus

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