The Doctrine of the Trinity - Bible Study

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This article is one in a series of studies on William Branham and the Trinity - you are currently on the topic that is in bold:

The doctrine of the Trinity requires agreement with the following three statements:

A. There is one God.
B. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God.
C. The three are distinct.

The purpose of this Bible study is to list a number of passages the deal with each of these three statements.

There is one God

Scripture is abundantly clear that there is one and only one God.

The Old Testament

This is the basic understanding of God in the Old Testament:

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.[1]
...that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other.[2]

God alone is the one true God and there is no one like him. When he speaks, he alone is speaking—he is not speaking as one God among three who are to be worshiped.[3]

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. [4]
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.[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; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. 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.[6]

The New Testament

The New Testament also affirms that there is one God.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus...[7]
...since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.[8]
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder![9]

Each member of the Godhead is fully God

While there should be not question that the Father is fully God, there are people in the message that do not believe that the Son is fully God (see Vaylism). Additionally, some cults, such as the Jehovah's Witness, do not believe that the Holy Spirit is fully God.

The Son is fully God

The first chapter of John clearly affirms the full deity of Christ:

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.[10]

The Son was always fully God. The story of Thomas' encounter with the risen Christ also confirms this. The narrative shows that both John in writing his gospel and Jesus himself approve of what Thomas has said and encourage everyone who hears about Thomas to believe the same things that Thomas did.[11]

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”[12]

Other passages speaking of Jesus as fully divine include Hebrews 1, where the author says that Christ is the “exact representation” (vs. 3, Gk. χαρακτήρ, G5917, “exact duplicate”) of the nature or being (Gk. ὑπόστασις, G5712) of God, meaning that the Son exactly duplicates the being or nature of God the Father in every way: whatever attributes or power God the Father has, the Son has them as well.[13]

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.[14]
But of the Son he says... You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.[15]
...waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ...[16]
To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ...[17]
To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.[18]
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.[19]

The Holy Spirit is fully God

The Holy Spirit is classified on an equal level with the Father and the Son. According to Peter’s words, 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.[20]

God’s temple is the place where God himself dwells, which Paul explains by the fact that “God’s Spirit” dwells in it, thus apparently equating God’s Spirit with God himself.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?[21]

David attributes the divine characteristic of omnipresence to the Holy Spirit, something that is not true of any of God’s creatures. It seems that David is equating God’s Spirit with God’s presence. To go from God’s Spirit is to go from his presence, but if there is nowhere that David can flee from God’s Spirit, then he knows that wherever he goes he will have to say, “You are there.”[22]

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![23]

Paul attributes the divine characteristic of omniscience to the Holy 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.[24]

Jesus attributes the activity of giving new birth to everyone who is born again to the Holy Spirit:

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.[25]

And John attributes it to God, meaning that the Holy Spirit is God:

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.[26]

Each of the Three Members of the Godhead are Distinct

The statement "God is three persons" means that the Father is not the Son; they are distinct persons. It also means that the Father is not the Holy Spirit, but that they are distinct persons. And it means that the Son is not the Holy Spirit. For a discussion of what the term "person" means, we would recommend that you read this article - Three Persons

The Old Testament

There are a number of Old Testament passages that refer to one person as “God” or “the Lord” while this individual is distinguished from another person who is also said to be God. These are some examples.

In Psalm 45, two separate persons are called “God”.

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions…[27]

In the New Testament, the author of Hebrews quotes this passage and applies it to Christ:

But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” [28]

Jesus rightly understands that in Psalm 110, David is referring to two separate persons as “Lord”, but who is David’s “Lord” if not God himself? And who could be saying to God, “Sit at my right hand” except someone else who is also fully God?[29]

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”[30]
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet” ’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.[31]

Isaiah 63:10 appears to suggest both that the Holy Spirit is distinct from God himself (it is “his Holy Spirit”), and that this Holy Spirit can be “grieved,” thus suggesting emotional capabilities characteristic of a distinct person.[32]

But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.[33]

Isaiah 61:1 also distinguishes “The Spirit of the Lord GOD” from “the LORD”:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor…[34]

In Isaiah 48:16, the Spirit of the Lord, like the servant of the Lord, has been “sent” by the Lord GOD on a particular mission.

Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there.” And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit.[35]

The New Testament

The New Testament refers clearly to God in three persons.

Passages that refer to all three persons

The following passages refer explicitly to each of the three members of the Godhead:

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; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”[36]
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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”[37]
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. [38]
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…[39]
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.[40]

The New Testament authors generally use the name “God” (Gk. θεός, G2536) to refer to God the Father and the name “Lord” (Gk. Κύριος, G3261) to refer to the Son of God, then it is clear that there is another trinitarian expression in 1 Corinthians 12[41]:

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.[42]
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.[43]

Distinctions between the Three Persons

The fact that God is three persons means that the Father is not the Son; the Father is not the Holy Spirit; and the Son is not the Holy Spirit. For a discussion of what is meant by separate person, we would refer you to this article which specifically deals with this issue – Three Persons

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.[44]

The fact that the “Word” (who is seen to be Christ in John 1:9–18) is “with” God shows distinction from God the Father. In John 17 this distinction is also made:

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.[45]

Jesus is our High Priest and Advocate before the Father:

But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.[46]
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.[47]

Jesus distinguishes the Spirit from the Father:

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.[48]

He also distinguishes the Holy Spirit from himself:

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.[49]

Paul says that the Holy Spirit also prays or “intercedes” for us, indicating a distinction between the Holy Spirit and God the Father to whom the intercession is made:

And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.[50]

The role of the Holy Spirit

Some have questioned whether the Holy Spirit is indeed a distinct person, rather than just the “power” or “force” of God at work in the world. But the New Testament evidence is quite clear and strong. First are the several verses mentioned above where the Holy Spirit is put in a coordinate relationship with the Father and the Son since the Father and Son are both persons, the coordinate expression strongly intimates that the Holy Spirit is a person also.

Then there are places where the masculine pronoun ἥ (Gk. ἐκεῖνος, G1697) is applied to the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13–14), which one would not expect from the rules of Greek grammar, for the word “spirit” (Gk. πνεῦμα, G4460) is neuter, not masculine, and would ordinarily be referred to with the neuter pronoun ἐκεῖνο. Moreover, the name counselor or comforter (Gk. παράκλητος, G4156) is a term commonly used to speak of a person who helps or gives comfort or counsel to another person or persons, but is used of the Holy Spirit in John’s gospel.[51]

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.[52]

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.[53]

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.[54]

If the Holy Spirit is understood simply to be the power of God, rather than a distinct person, then a number of passages would simply not make sense, because in them the Holy Spirit and his power or the power of God are both mentioned.[55]

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.[56]
...John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.[57]
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.[58]
...and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power...[59]

The Holy Spirit is also involved in the following activities:

Teaching
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.[60]
Bearing witness
But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.[61]
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.[62]
Interceding or praying on behalf of others
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.[63]
Searching the depths of God/Knowing the thoughts of God
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.[64]
Distributes gifts to some and other gifts to others
All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.[65]
Preventing certain activities
And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.  And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.[66]
Speaking
And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.”[67]
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”[68]
Evaluating and approving
For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements...[69]
Being grieved by sin in the lives of Christians
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.[70]

Conclusion

This Bible study has presented a number of scriptures which Biblically prove that the following three statements are true:

  1. God is three persons.
  2. Each person is fully God.
  3. There is one God.

If you do not believe the first statement, you end up with the ancient heresy of Sabellianism, which we deal with in this article - Oneness

If you do not believe the second statement, you end up with the ancient heresy of Adoptionism, Arianism or Nestorianism.


Footnotes

  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Dt 6:4–5.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Ki 8:60.
  3. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 238.
  4. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Is 45:5–6.
  5. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Is 45:21.
  6. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Is 44:6–8.
  7. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Ti 2:5.
  8. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ro 3:30.
  9. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jas 2:19.
  10. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 1:1–4.
  11. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 235.
  12. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 20:27–29.
  13. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 235–236.
  14. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Heb 1:3.
  15. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Heb 1:10–12.
  16. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Tt 2:13.
  17. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Pe 1:1.
  18. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Rom 9:5.
  19. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Col 2:9–10.
  20. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ac 5:3–4.
  21. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Co 3:16.
  22. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 237.
  23. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ps 139:7–8.
  24. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Co 2:10–11.
  25. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 3:5–6.
  26. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Jn 3:9.
  27. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ps 45:6–7.
  28. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Heb 1:8–9.
  29. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 228.
  30. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ps 110:1.
  31. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt 22:41–46.
  32. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 228.
  33. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Is 63:10.
  34. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Is 61:1.
  35. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Is 48:16.
  36. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt 3:16–17.
  37. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt 28:19–20.
  38. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Co 13:14.
  39. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Pe 1:2
  40. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jud 20–21.
  41. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 230.
  42. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Co 12:4–6.
  43. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Eph 4:4–6.
  44. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 1:1–2.
  45. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 17:24.
  46. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Jn 2:1.
  47. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Heb 7:25.
  48. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 14:26.
  49. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 16:7.
  50. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ro 8:27.
  51. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 232.
  52. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 14:26.
  53. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 15:26.
  54. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 16:13-14.
  55. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 232.
  56. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Lk 4:14.
  57. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ac 10:37–38.
  58. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ro 15:13.
  59. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Co 2:4.
  60. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 14:26.
  61. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 15:26.
  62. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ro 8:16.
  63. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ro 8:26–27.
  64. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Co 2:10–11.
  65. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Co 12:11.
  66. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ac 16:6–7.
  67. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ac 8:29.
  68. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ac 13:2.
  69. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ac 15:28.
  70. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Eph 4:30.


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