Does the Bible Teach the Holy Trinity?

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Image by Carolyn, V. Adapted for Redemption of Humanity. Used under licence.

Last edited on 21/Jan/2021

Introduction

The answer to this question is yes, the Bible does teach the Holy Trinity. This is the Christian doctrine which teaches that the only true God in all existence exists in three co-equal, co-eternal Persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each Person of the Trinity is self-aware and rational, yet they are one in essence and nature. Therefore, they are not three gods, but one God. The Trinity doctrine is unique among most doctrines of the Bible in that it is arrived at by looking at what the totality of Scripture teaches about God in relation to creation, as well as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’s nature and relationship with one another. Therefore, while it is impossible to point to just one Scripture to prove the Trinity, it is still taught in the Bible.

Biblical Monotheism (One God)

The first step in establishing the Holy Trinity’s Biblical foundations is examining the Bible’s teachings on monotheism. All throughout the Old Testament it is constantly taught that the Lord is the only true God in all existence, whose personal name is Yahweh (LORD), and that there is no other god besides him; in fact, God declared that he knows of no other god:

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. … 8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” (Isaiah 44:6, 8)

There are many other Scriptures, all throughout the Bible, which teach that there is no other god besides the Lord (Deuteronomy 4:352 Samuel 7:22Isaiah 45:5). The Bible teaches that there were no gods before the Lord, nor shall there be any after him (Isaiah 43:10). There is no being that can be compared to or likened to him (Isaiah 46:5, 9). He does not give his glory or praise to any other (Isaiah 42:8). There is no Saviour other than him (Isaiah 43:11). God has always been God from eternity (Psalm 90:2), and he created all things alone, by himself (Isaiah 44:24). He is all-powerful (Jeremiah 32:17), all-knowing (1 John 3:19–20), and all-present (Ephesians 4:6). These same teachings are retained in the New Testament as well. The apostle Paul taught that God is the only God:

To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)

There are a number of other New Testament texts which teach the same thing (1 Corinthians 8:4John 5:44). God gives life to his creation and everything else; he is Lord of Heaven and Earth (Acts 17:24–25). It is a sin to worship anyone or anything other than God (Matthew 4:9–10Romans 1:21–25), and prayer belongs to God alone (Matthew 6:6). Therefore, it is clear that there is only one true God in all existence, who alone is the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, eternal Creator, worthy of worship, and whose personal name is Yahweh. Thus, it is clear that the Bible does not allow for the existence of any lesser, equal, or greater god than Yahweh, because that is idolatry, and God punishes idolaters severely (Exodus 20:2–6).

The Father’s Deity

The second step in establishing the Holy Trinity’s Biblical foundations is examining the Bible’s teachings on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’s nature. It is important to remember that the writers of the New Testament were strict, monotheistic Jews, just like the prophets and authors of the Old Testament, who would never dare preach the existence of any god other than Yahweh, the only true God. Firstly, the Old Testament makes it clear that God is Israel’s Father. This is taught in passages like Isaiah 64:8:

But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

The prophet Malachi taught that we all have one Father and one God who created us (Malachi 2:10). When rebuking the children of Israel for their idolatry, Moses taught that God was their Father who created, made, and established them (Deuteronomy 32:6). The New Testament calls God the Father much more frequently than the Old Testament, and can be found in many Scriptures, such as the following:

Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 6:23)

There are plenty more Scriptures which testify to the Father being God (John 6:271 Corinthians 1:3James 1:27). In his earthly ministry, Jesus consistently referred to God as our Heavenly Father (Matthew 6:9). The Father is the eternal Creator of all things and his creation exists for him (1 Corinthians 8:6). Whenever “God” is just mentioned, along with the Son and Holy Spirit, it always refers to the Father (2 Corinthians 13:14). Therefore, it is clear that the Father is God. Since opponents of the Holy Trinity are in universal agreement with this, these Scriptures of the Father should suffice.

The Son’s Deity

Now what does the Bible teach about the Son? The Bible makes it clear that Jesus Christ is God, because it plainly calls him God. Keep in mind that the authors still believed in the existence of only one God. After Jesus had risen again from the dead, and showed Thomas the apostle his wounds from his crucifixion, he confessed Jesus as his Lord and his God:

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:28–29)

In fact, God the Father himself called Jesus God (Hebrews 1:8–9). The apostle John taught that in the beginning Jesus was the Word, and that the Word was God (John 1:1, 14). Clearly, since the Bible plainly calls Jesus God in these examples, the New Testament authors believed in his deity. Thus Jesus has a divine nature, just like the Father. In fact, the Old Testament authors also believed in Christ’s deity, since the prophet Isaiah wrote concerning him:

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 Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

It is interesting to note that in the next chapter Yahweh is referred to as Mighty God (Isaiah 10:21). In addition to Jesus being called God, the New Testament authors even called Jesus Yahweh—that is, by the only true God’s personal name, which was so holy that the Jews didn’t dare pronounce it out loud. Paul wrote concerning Jesus:

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9–13)

As we can see, the Lord whose name is called on is Jesus himself, since the Bible says that “the same Lord is Lord of all”. This is significant because Paul took a passage from Joel 2:32 that referred to Yahweh, and then applied it to Jesus, thus declaring that Jesus is in fact Yahweh, the same Lord whose name even the people in Old Testament times have always called upon. This is done several other times throughout the New Testament.

For example, when John met the resurrected Jesus, he claimed to be the First and the Last (Revelation 1:17), which is another name for Yahweh (Isaiah 48:12). Paul took another passage that referred to Yahweh, this time from Isaiah 45:23, and applied it to Jesus in Philippians 2:9–11, teaching that every knee shall bow before Jesus and confess him as Lord. The author of Hebrews took a passage that referred to Yahweh in Psalm 102:25–27, and applied it to Jesus in Hebrews 1:10–12, calling Jesus the eternal, unchanging Creator of the Earth and heavens.

Additional Divine Attributes

Aside from being called God and by God’s personal name, Yahweh, the Bible also gives Jesus the attributes of God. The Bible teaches that Jesus is allowed worship, because many Christians in the Bible worshipped him and on each occasion he accepted it (Matthew 2:11Matthew 14:33Matthew 28:16John 9:35–37), that he can be prayed to, because the Christians of the New Testament prayed to him and he answered their prayers (John 14:14Acts 7:59–601 Corinthians 1:32 Corinthians 12:8–9), that he is our Saviour (2 Peter 1:11), because he saves believers from their sins (Matthew 1:21) by redeeming them through his blood on the cross (Titus 2:13–14), and that he was involved in creating all things (John 1:3Colossians 2:16).

Since the Bible teaches that only God is our Creator (Isaiah 44:24) and Saviour (Isaiah 43:11), and that only he can be worshipped (Matthew 4:9–10Romans 1:21–25) and prayed to (Matthew 6:6), this is a clear testimony to Jesus’ deity. Furthermore, Jesus is eternal (Micah 5:2John 1:1Colossians 1:17), equal with the Father (John 5:18; see also Philippians 2:5–7), and honoured the same as the Father (John 5:21–23). The Scriptures would not have made such statements had it not acknowledged the deity of Christ (Isaiah 46:5, 9).

The Bible also teaches that Jesus is all-powerful, since he upholds the universe by the word of his power and has power which enables him to subject all things to himself (Philippians 3:20–21Hebrews 1:3), all-knowing, according to the apostles’ testimonies (John 16:30John 21:17), and all-present, because he indwells every Christian in the world (Matthew 28:20John 14:23). The authors of the Bible gave Jesus all of these God-exclusive attributes because they believed in his deity; Jesus is truly God and truly man.

The Holy Spirit’s Deity

We have examined that the Bible calls both the Father and the Son God, and that they both have a divine nature, but what about the Holy Spirit? The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is God, because like the Father and the Son, there are Scriptures that plainly call him God. One such example was when the apostle Peter taught Ananias that by lying to the Holy Spirit he was actually lying to God himself:

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? 4 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 men but to God.” (Acts 5:3–4)

The Bible teaches that Christians are God’s temple, and that the Holy Spirit dwells in it (1 Corinthians 3:16–17). It uses the term “God’s temple” interchangeably with “temple of the Holy Spirit”, since Christians are also said to be temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Since God’s temple can only hold God himself, and since temples are only habitations for deities, 1 Corinthians 3:16–17 teaches that the Holy Spirit is God. Therefore, he has a divine nature. The Bible also calls the Holy Spirit by God’s personal name, Yahweh. The author of Hebrews wrote:

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds”, 17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” (Hebrews 10:15–17)

Here, he took a passage where Yahweh was speaking, in Jeremiah 31:33–34, and then applied it to the Holy Spirit. That is to say, the Holy Spirit is the same Yahweh who spoke these words from Old Testament times. The Holy Spirit and Yahweh are one and the same. Similarly, the Bible also says:

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:12–17)

The “Lord” of verse 16 refers to Yahweh in Exodus 34:34–35, when Moses removed the veil to stand before Yahweh and speak with him. The Bible says that when one turns to the Lord the veil is removed, just like whenever Moses turned to the Lord his veil would be removed, and that the Lord is the Spirit. Then, the Bible says that today, Christians behold the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, just like Moses did, and that this is from the Lord, who is the Spirit. Thus, here the Holy Spirit is clearly identified as Yahweh, whose glory we are beholding.

The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit spoke the words of Psalm 95:7–11, which was spoken by Yahweh, where he said that the Israelites put him to the test in the wilderness (Hebrews 3:7–11). One final example would be in the book of Acts. At the end of the Acts of the Apostles, Paul said that the Holy Spirit spoke the words of Isaiah 6:8–10, which were the words of Yahweh (Acts 28:25–28), which foretold the New Testament ministry for the gentiles. This, again, is clear evidence that the Holy Spirit is Yahweh.

Additional Divine Attributes

In addition to being called God and by God’s personal name, Yahweh, the Holy Spirit has many divine attributes which only God can have. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit was involved in creating everything (Genesis 1:1–2Job 33:4Psalm 104:30), that he is our Saviour, because he gives us life (Romans 8:10–112 Corinthians 3:5–6) and spiritually regenerates us (Titus 3:5–7), and that he is eternal (Hebrews 9:14). Since the Scriptures teach that only God is our eternal Creator (Psalm 90:2Isaiah 44:24) and Saviour (Isaiah 43:11), this is a clear testimony that the Holy Spirit is God.

The Bible also teaches that the Holy Spirit is all-powerful, because he is said to be the power of the Most High (Luke 1:35), all-knowing, because he searches everything, even the thoughts of God, and comprehends them (2 Corinthians 2:10–11), and all-present, because he indwells every Christian all around the world, along with the Father and the Son (John 14:16–17; see also Psalm 139:7–10). Like the Son, the authors of the Bible gave the Holy Spirit all of these God-exclusive attributes because they believed in his deity; the Holy Spirit is truly God. Therefore, we can conclude from the Biblical evidence that the Bible teaches the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; that is, that they each have a divine nature.

Three Distinct Persons

The third step in establishing the Holy Trinity’s Biblical foundations is by examining the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’s connection and relationship with one another. We know that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not three gods, because there is only one God in all existence, as we have established in the “Biblical Monotheism” section. We also know that the Son and the Holy Spirit are not created, lesser beings than the Father, because the Bible calls them God, as we have established in “The Deity of the Son” and “The Deity of the Holy Spirit” sections. The only two options left are that they are either one in person, or one in essence/ being.

According to the Bible, they cannot be one in person, because in Jesus’ baptism all three of them manifested themselves simultaneously:

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16–17)

The Holy Spirit cannot be Jesus, because he descended on him. Jesus cannot be the Father, because the Father spoke to him. The Father cannot be the Spirit, because he spoke to the Son while the Spirit descended on him. Another example is Jesus’ promise to ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit, whom he calls another Helper, to his disciples (John 14:15–17). The fact that Jesus asks the Father proves that he is not the Father, the fact that the Father sends the Spirit proves that the Father is not the Spirit, and the fact that the Spirit is called another Helper, proves that the Spirit is not Jesus. There are other Scriptures which assume the distinctions between the Persons of the Trinity. To conclude the second letter to the Corinthians, Paul included a Trinitarian blessing, listing each divine Person of the Trinity:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)

To begin his first letter in Scripture, Peter included a Trinitarian introduction that highlights the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’s combined works in our salvation, crediting the Father as the one who elects, the Spirit as the one who sanctifies, and the Son as the one who redeems us by his blood (1 Peter 1:1–2). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are so important that each of them are included in a list of the key foundations for the Christian faith (Ephesians 4:4–6). All of these Scriptures, and many more, demonstrate the distinctions between the divine Persons, and also their close relationship. Since the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are divine, since there is only one God, and since they are not one in person, the only option left is that they are one in essence. When taking all Scriptures into account, this is the only Biblical conclusion we can draw.

Three Persons in One Essence

Aside from that, though, there are various Scriptures in the Bible where it teaches directly, and sometimes indirectly, the oneness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in essence. Firstly, let’s examine Jesus, the Son. The most clear example is when Jesus claimed that he and the Father are one (John 10:30). This is not a oneness of purpose, but a oneness of essence, because by claiming this he was making himself God (John 10:30–33), as well as giving himself the same power as God (John 10:27–29). Furthermore, the Bible teaches that Jesus has the exact same nature as God:

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:3)

Because Jesus is of the same nature as the Father, this means that they are one in essence. Some other Scriptures which imply the Father and Son’s oneness of essence would be Colossians 1:15 and Colossians 2:9, teaching that Jesus is God’s visible image and that the fullness of deity dwells in him bodily. With regards to the Holy Spirit, he is both the Spirit of the Son (Galatians 4:6Philippians 1:19) and the Father (Matthew 10:19–20) (see also Romans 8:9). This implies a mysterious unity between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is made more clear by the fact that the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son (John 14:26John 15:26); the Bible portrays this vividly in the account of Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit on his disciples (John 20:22), indicating the Spirit’s oneness with the Father and the Son in essence. The Bible teaches that we are God’s temple because the Holy Spirit dwells in us, thus demonstrating that the Spirit and God are one in essence:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

The Holy Spirit knows the thoughts of God, and likewise God knows the thoughts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10–11Romans 8:27). Such a profoundly close relationship could only mean that they are one in essence. Finally, let’s examine the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together. Whenever a believer becomes a Christian, they are indwelt by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit simultaneously:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you for ever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. … Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:16–17, 23)

This demonstrates their oneness of essence, by emphasising the fact that they are inseparable, and also by the fact they must be one being to indwell us. Also, Jesus commanded that baptism be done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). This is significant because the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are so close that they share the same name, which implies a oneness of essence.

Conclusion

Throughout this article, we have examined that the Bible teaches the existence of only one true God, and that there is no god besides him, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each truly God and have a divine nature, and that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct according to their personhood, but one and the same according to their essence/ being. Since the Bible teaches all this, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is indeed taught in the Bible.

Belief in the Holy Trinity is simply a matter of believing everything that the Bible has to say about God, as opposed to believing most of it and re-interpreting the rest to fit one’s own preferred definition of who God is. The Holy Trinity is a mystery, and many people deny it precisely because of that; nevertheless, it is an essential mystery for Christians to believe, in order to have a correct understanding of who the only true God is, and to have fellowship with him.

See Also

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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