The Trinity: Is there one Christian God? In other words, do you agree with the following statement? There is one true God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Would you believe, only 56% of Americans strongly agreed with that statement? As of 2019, about 65% of the population of the U.S. claims to be Christian. That means at least 9% of them don’t agree that there is one Christian God, made up of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Oops.
Truth is, that number could be over 9%. There are likely quite a few non-Christians that would know Christianity teaches about the Trinity: one God in three Persons. Even Muslims know about the Trinity in Christianity, even though they teach it’s not correct. Oops again.
Does it matter that only 56% of Americans strongly agree about there is only one Christian God? That the Christian concept of the Trinity – one God in three Persons – is correct? Yes, it does. It doesn’t matter if non-Christians don’t believe it. Why should they? But One God in three persons is one of those basic core beliefs for Christians. Not believing it means we don’t believe something that all Christians denominations take as a core truth in our faith. So yes, it absolutely does matter.
What is the Christian Trinity?
As we can see in the image of the dictionary.com definition, the Trinity is, somehow, one Christian God in three “persons” – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Holy Ghost is a name that was pretty much switched over to Holy Spirit some time ago. But let’s look at a definition from a Christian dictionary to see what it says.
TRINITY. The term ‘Trinity’ is not itself found in the Bible. It was first used by Tertullian at the close of the 2nd century, but received wide currency and formal elucidation only in the 4th and 5th centuries. Three affirmations are central to the historic doctrine of the Trinity: 1. there is but one God; 2. the Father, the Son and the Spirit is each fully and eternally God; 3. the Father, the Son, and the Spirit is each a distinct person. Nowhere does the Bible explicitly teach this combination of assertions. It may, nevertheless, be claimed that the doctrine of the Trinity is a profoundly appropriate interpretation of the biblical witness to God in the light of the ministry, death and resurrection-exaltation of Jesus—the ‘Christ event’. 1)Turner, M., & McFarlane, G. (1996). Trinity. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 1209). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Since the word Trinity isn’t actually in the Bible, that can be cause for confusion. But really, such confusion should be pretty much for non-Christians. Even a basic study of Christianity should cover the topic of the Trinity. Plus, many prayers end with “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” It’s not a foreign concept to anyone spending much time in a Christian church. At least it shouldn’t be. On top of that, it’s certainly covered in any Baptism class that’s given before a person becomes a Christian. As I expect every Christian is aware of the concept of the Trinity. And if we don’t believe that, we’re off to a really poor start to our faith.
Muslims know of the Christian Trinity, but do not understand it
Since the Christian Trinity is mentioned in the Qur’an, Muslims are aware of it. However, they do not understand it. The Qur’an teaches that the Trinity shows Christians are not monotheistic. That we believe in three Gods, not one. One example comes from Sura 4, below.
(171) O FOLLOWERS of the Gospel! Do not overstep the bounds [of truth] in your religious beliefs, and do not say of God anything but the truth. The Christ Jesus, son of Mary, was but God’s Apostle – [the fulfillment of] His promise which He had conveyed unto Mary – and a soul created by Him. Believe, then, in God and His apostles, and do not say, “[God is] a trinity.” Desist [from this assertion] for your own good. God is but One God; utterly remote is He, in His glory, from having a son: unto Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth; and none is as worthy of trust as God.
There are actually a couple things here. First, Muslims do not believe Jesus is the Son of God. Instead, Jesus is the son of Joseph and Mary. Therefore, Jesus also cannot be God. The Qur’an teaches that Jesus is only human. Special, but still only human. Muslims consider Jesus (Isa) to be the second most important prophet, after Muhammad.
Because of those things, there’s a misunderstanding about what the Christian concept of Trinity is about. Muslims think that because we believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we must believe in three Gods. That we are polytheistic. One of the things that was important to Muhammad was the had a desire for his people, Arabs, to be monotheistic.
Not understanding the concept of the Trinity leads to a belief that Christians aren’t monotheistic. But of course, we are. More on that in a moment.
(172) Never did the Christ feel too proud to be God’s servant, nor do the angels who are near unto Him. And those who feel too proud to serve Him and glory in their arrogance [should know that on Judgment Day] He will gather them all unto Himself:
This verse lines up with Christian belief. In fact, Jesus was referred to in Isaiah as the “suffering servant” as part of the prophecy of His coming to earth.
Mt 12:15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, 16 warning them not to tell who he was. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
Mt 12:18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
Mt 12:19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
Mt 12:20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he leads justice to victory.
Mt 12:21 In his name the nations will put their hope.”
Furthermore, Jesus taught us to follow His example, and be a servant to all.
9:33-37 pp — Mt 18:1-5; Lk 9:46-48
Mk 9:33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Mk 9:35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Mk 9:36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
So we can see the issue isn’t one of actual disagreement about whether there is one God or many “gods”. Nor about whether Jesus was a servant. And not about whether Jesus told us to be servants. Rather, it’s the misunderstanding of what Christianity actually teaches.
As far as whether Jesus was only human or was both 100% God and 100% human, that’s beyond the scope of today’s study. However, claiming that Jesus wasn’t God does mean the Qur’an has to disavow many things in the Old and New Testaments. This causes many issues, since at its core, the Qur’an and therefore Islam share many of the same books in both Testaments.
That means the Qur’an must, and does, frequently make references to them, but must either explicitly state where it disagrees, or just ignore the conflicts and rewrite the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. This one question of whether Jesus was only human – or both 100% man and 100% human is but one of many such cases.
(173) whereupon unto those who attained to faith and did good deeds He will grant their just rewards, and give them yet more out of His bounty; whereas those who felt too proud and gloried in their arrogance He will chastise with grievous suffering: and they shall find none to protect them from God, and none to bring them succour. 2)Asad, Muhammad. The Message of the Qur’an . The Book Foundation. Kindle Edition.
Just a quick note on this. Christians believe in forgiveness of sin and payment for our sins because of Jesus’ death on the cross. The payment for our sins is then made by God Himself, in the “person” of Jesus. On the other hand, the Qur’an not only teaches that Jesus wasn’t God, it also teaches that Jesus didn’t die on the cross. On both counts, that means He didn’t pay for our sins.
For Muslims, it’s a question of whether good deeds outweigh bad deeds in a person’s life. That’s is totally contrary to the Christian belief that we are saved by grace alone. That deeds aren’t done to save us, but are done because of our faith. If Jesus was only human and not God, then His death couldn’t possibly have atoned for our sins. That yields huge problems with the Christian beliefs about God’s grace, justice and forgiveness of our sins.
OK – back to the issue at hand – the Trinity.
What does the Bible say about the Trinity?
Is there any evidence of the Trinity of God in the Old Testament? It may be surprising to some, but yes, there is. Even back in the beginning.
Ge 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Ge 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
Ge 1:6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
Ge 1:9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
Ge 1:11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
Ge 1:14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
Ge 1:20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
Ge 1:24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
Ge 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
Ge 1:27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Ge 1:28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Ge 1:29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
Ge 1:31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
Ge 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
Ge 2:2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
You’ve likely read or heard verse 26 many times. Ge 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” In that one verse, it says God and us – where God says “let us make man in our image“.
Now, we know “us” is plural. And we probably think we know God is singular. So we maybe assume God was talking to someone else. Maybe an angel? But then, that means God has help creating people. That hardly makes sense. God should be able to do that all by Himself.
Is this a discrepancy? No, not al all. The problem is that there’s an error in the logic above. The error? The Hebrew word for God is not singular. It’s plural.
430 אֱלֹהִים [ʾelohiym /el·o·heem/] n m p. Plural of 433; TWOT 93c; GK 466; 2606 occurrences; AV translates as “God” 2346 times, “god” 244 times, “judge” five times, “GOD” once, “goddess” twice, “great” twice, “mighty” twice, “angels” once, “exceeding” once, “God-ward + 4136” once, and “godly” once. 1 (plural). 1A rulers, judges. 1B divine ones. 1C angels. 1D gods. 2 (plural intensive—singular meaning). 2A god, goddess. 2B godlike one. 2C works or special possessions of God. 2D the (true) God. 2E God. 3)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
Every time we read the word God in the passage titled “The beginning” in the NIV, the Hebrew word is Elohim. And it’s plural. Please note, God tells us several names for Himself, each of which reveals something of His nature and character. So not every instance of the word God in English comes from Elohim.
We have to look up every instance of God to know the Hebrew or Greek word from which it comes. But the Hebrew people knew that Elohim was plural. They didn’t understand how – but they knew that somehow, Elohim was plural. That we don’t know this in English is an unfortunate product of our language and the need for translators to force complex meanings into English words without all the subtleties and nuances of the original Hebrew and Greek words.
However, now that we know what the Hebrew people knew all along, let’s proceed to look at how this concept of a plural Elohim can be one God. In other words, how the English word God can be both singular and plural. And how we really can’t tell the difference without reverting back to the original language of the Bible book we’re reading.
By the way, even in this first instance, we begin to see how someone can easily be confused about whether Jews and Christians believe in one God, or many gods. Ultimately, we’ll be told by God Himself that, even though this word is plural, He is still one God.
Let’s fast forward a bit. To the book of Exodus. Specifically, to the ten commandments. Even more specifically, to how God identifies Himself just before giving the ten commandments.
20:1-17 pp — Dt 5:6-21
Ex 20:1 And God spoke all these words:
Ex 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
Ex 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
I am the LORD your God
There are three words in there that refer to God. And since they actually came from God, what they tell us is important.
595 אָנׄכִי [ʾanokiy /aw·no·kee/] pers pron. A primitive pronoun; TWOT 130; GK 644; Three occurrences; AV translates as “I”, “which”, and “me”. 1 I (first pers. sing.). 4)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
OK – it’s a pronoun, so it won’t tell us anything additional about God’s nature or character. However, note that it is first person singular. Not plural – singular. So if the word God still comes from Elohim, then we have the link to God somehow being plural and singular.
But first, let’s look at LORD.
3068 יהוה, יְהוִה [Yâhovah /yeh·ho·vaw/] n pr dei. From 1961; TWOT 484a; GK 3378; 6519 occurrences; AV translates as “LORD” 6510 times, “GOD” four times, “JEHOVAH” four times, and “variant” once. 1 the proper name of the one true God. 1A unpronounced except with the vowel pointings of 0136. Additional Information: Jehovah = “the existing One”. 5)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
It’s a noun, but isn’t identified as either singular or plural. However, it is the proper name of “the one true God“. As such, we know it is singular in nature.
We also learn something about JEHOVAH (LORD), that He is “the existing One”. That, of course, goes along with other places where God is identified is, was and ever will be. In other words, He’s eternal, with no beginning and no end.
Now, let’s move on to God.
430 אֱלֹהִים [ʾelohiym /el·o·heem/] n m p. Plural of 433; TWOT 93c; GK 466; 2606 occurrences; AV translates as “God” 2346 times, “god” 244 times, “judge” five times, “GOD” once, “goddess” twice, “great” twice, “mighty” twice, “angels” once, “exceeding” once, “God-ward + 4136” once, and “godly” once. 1 (plural). 1A rulers, judges. 1B divine ones. 1C angels. 1D gods. 2 (plural intensive—singular meaning). 2A god, goddess. 2B godlike one. 2C works or special possessions of God. 2D the (true) God. 2E God. 6)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
Indeed, it is the same Hebrew word. We do now have God identifying Himself, in a way we cannot understand, as both singular and plural. Moreover, He identifies Himself as the one true God.
What about the Son?
The passage below from Isaiah is one of many references to Jesus in the Old Testament.
Isa 9:1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan—
Isa 9:2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
Isa 9:3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
Isa 9:4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Isa 9:5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
Isa 9:6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isa 9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.
So now we have the One True God as plural, including Jesus the Son.
Let’s move on to see about the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 51 is from David, after he was made aware of the gravity of his sins by Nathan, a prophet from God. One was adultery with Bathsheba. The other was the murder, by way of the orders David gave, of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah.
For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
Ps 51:1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Ps 51:2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
Ps 51:3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Ps 51:4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
Ps 51:5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Ps 51:6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Ps 51:7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Ps 51:8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Ps 51:9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Ps 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Ps 51:11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Ps 51:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Ps 51:13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.
Ps 51:14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Ps 51:15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
Ps 51:16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
Ps 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.
Ps 51:18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Ps 51:19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
I’m including the entire Psalm, because I think it’s an excellent example of how we should all pray after messing up in such a big way.
But the key for this topic is verse 11:
Ps 51:11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
The Holy Spirit.
Actually, in the New Testament, we learn the Holy Spirit is, somehow, the Spirit of both the Father and the Son.
So now we have God (both singular and plural), the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Let’s turn to the Father.
Yes, there are references to God as Father in the Old Testament. However, they are to God being the father of His people. That alone does not really identify Him as part of the Trinity of God. Therefore, I believe we are left to turn to the New Testament to complete the Trinity,
The Trinity in the New Testament
Mt 1:18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
Mt 1:20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Mt 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
Mt 1:24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Verse 15 gives us the first glimpse of the entire Trinity.
Mt 1:20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Jesus conception is a product of the Holy Spirit of God. As such He is the Son of God. And of course, that leaves the other third of the Trinity to be the Father.
Honestly though, there are conclusions in there that are beyond the immediate statements in the verse. We must look for a couple other sources to really complete the evidence.
First, we look at God the Father acknowledging Jesus as His Son.
3:13-17 pp — Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21, 22; Jn 1:31-34
Mt 3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.
Mt 3:14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Mt 3:15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
Mt 3:16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.
Mt 3:17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
And there we have it – The Father acknowledging His Son, in verse 17.
Next, we’ll look at the Son acknowledging He and the Father are one.
Jn 10:22 Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
Jn 10:25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Jn 10:31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
Jn 10:33 “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
Jn 10:34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’ ? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38 But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.
Jn 10:40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed 41 and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.
At this point, I could say mission accomplished. But there is one more piece to the puzzle I said we’d look into. Namely, that the Holy Spirit is of both the Father and the Son.
We can imply that from the passage below.
Jn 16:5 “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
Jn 16:12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
Jn 16:16 “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
Notice what Jesus said:
Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
the Counselor is a reference to the Holy Spirit. There’s one thing about that sentence though that we need to examine. There is no Greek word corresponding to the English word “for”. Instead, what it says in Greek is “come”, with an emphasized negative to go with it. The sentence diagram below shows what I mean. One other note – the diagram below is from the 2010 NIV, which uses Advocate rather than Counselor to refer to the Holy Spirit.
So the word “will” is added to make it grammatically correct and easier to read in English. Then there are two words corresponding to “not”, and one word translated as “come”. Let’s look at those three words.
3756 οὐ [ou, before, a, vowel), ouk, and (before an aspirate) ouch /oo/] particle. A primary word, the absolute negative (cf 3361) adverb; GK 4024; 1453 occurrences; AV translates as “not” 1214 times, “no” 136 times, “cannot + 1410” 55 times, and translated miscellaneously 48 times. 1 no, not; in direct questions expecting an affirmative answer. Additional Information: Wigram’s frequency count is 1535 not 1453. 7)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
The first negative – an absolute negative.
3361 μή, μήγε, μήπου [me /may/] particle. A primary particle of qualified negation (whereas 3756 expresses an absolute denial); GK 3590 and together with Strongs 1065 as GK 3591, together with Strongs 4225 as GK 3608; 674 occurrences; AV translates as “not” 487 times, “no” 44 times, “that not” 21 times, “God forbid + 1096” 15 times, “lest” 14 times, “neither” seven times, “no man + 5100” six times, “but” three times, “none” three times, not translated 51 times, and translated miscellaneously 23 times. 1 no, not lest. 8)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
The second negative – an absolute denial.
2064 ἔρχομαι [erchomai /er·khom·ahee/] v. Middle voice of a primary verb (used only in the present and imperfect tenses, the others being supplied by a kindred [middle voice] eleuthomai (el·yoo·thom·ahee), or [active] eltho (el·tho), which do not otherwise occur); TDNT 2:666; TDNTA 257; GK 2262; 643 occurrences; AV translates as “come” 616 times, “go” 13 times, translated miscellaneously 13 times, and “vr come” once. 1 to come. 1A of persons. 1A1 to come from one place to another, and used both of persons arriving. 1A2 to appear, make one’s appearance, come before the public. 2 metaph. 2A to come into being, arise, come forth, show itself, find place or influence. 2B be established, become known, to come (fall) into or unto. 3 to go, to follow one. Additional Information: For synonyms see entries 898, bathmos; 4198, poreuomai; and 5562, choreo.See entry 5818 for comparison of synonyms. 9)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
and finally, the word we read as come.
Here’s the thing. In English, we’d read this as not not come. The double-negative reduces the phrase to, literally, “come”. We would read that as the Holy Spirit will come.
But that’s not correct, with respect to what was actually said. Remember, when the Bible repeats something like this, it’s for emphasis. What Jesus really said was no, there’s no way the Holy Spirit is coming unless I leave. It’s more like the Holy Spirit isn’t going to come – as opposed to that He will not come.
Maybe a subtle difference, but maybe important? Keep in mind, Jesus was 100% man and 100% God. As a human, Jesus could only speak to those within hearing range of His voice. As the Spirit of God, He can and does communicate will all of us at once. That’s a big deal.
The idea of The Holy Spirit as being of both the Father and the Son and laid out clearly by Paul. Well, maybe clearly, but not so obviously. There’s a bit of work to get there. Hang in here with me – we’re almost done.
Let’s start with something from 1 Corinthians.
1Co 2:6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment:
1Co 2:16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord
that he may instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
That last verse is from Isaiah. Paul writes that we have the mind of Christ, a reference to the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent when He returned to Heaven. The question becomes then, who is the mind of the Lord? That hinges on who is the Lord? Since we’re in the New Testament, it can be a bit confusing, since Jesus is often referred to as Lord. So let’s go back to Isaiah.
Isa 40:1 Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Isa 40:2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD’S hand
double for all her sins.
Isa 40:13 Who has understood the mind of the LORD,
or instructed him as his counselor?
Isa 40:14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him,
and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge
or showed him the path of understanding?
I’ll give you one guess what the Hebrew word is for LORD there in verse 13. We saw it above.
3068 יהוה, יְהוִה [Yâhovah /yeh·ho·vaw/] n pr dei. From 1961; TWOT 484a; GK 3378; 6519 occurrences; AV translates as “LORD” 6510 times, “GOD” four times, “JEHOVAH” four times, and “variant” once. 1 the proper name of the one true God. 1A unpronounced except with the vowel pointings of 0136. Additional Information: Jehovah = “the existing One”. 10)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
Yes, it’s the Hebrew word for the One true God – Jehovah. And in case you’re wondering:
JEHOVAH An older English representation of the proper name for the God of Israel (YHWH). The influence of the King James Version on the English language, and the influence of Christianity on Western culture, resulted in the pronunciation “Jehovah” coming to be an accepted English name for the God of the Bible. 11)Mangum, D. (2016). Jehovah. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Conclusion – The Trinity: Is There One Christian God?
It’s been a long route. Scenic, to be sure. We went from Genesis to Paul’s writings in the New Testament, with several stops along the way. But they were needed. If the word Trinity was actually in the Bible, it would be easy. Even if it was easy, given some of the survey results, I suspect the chances of all Christians believing it is pretty much zero. And that’s unfortunate.
It is possible, as we just saw, to trace the roots of the Trinity of God concept all through the Bible. Of course, there are so many other verses as well. I included just enough to show that it does exist.
Enough verses to show that the Christian God really is one God – and yet, in a way that we cannot comprehend, three “persons”. In a way, it’s unfortunate that we didn’t come up with a new word, rather than use “person”. Everyone already has a concept of what “person” means. After all, every one of us is a person.
And Jesus was a person. But then, Jesus was both 100% human and 100% God or Spirit. But just because we relate to Jesus as a person, that doesn’t mean the term person can be easily applied to any of the members of the Trinity of God as Spirit. We have too many preconceptions about person being tied to someone physical. But – we have what we have.
Ultimately, while Muslims disagree, Jehovah’s Witness disagrees, Universalists disagree, and others as well, I believe the concept of the Trinity of God is spelled out in the Bible. One God. Three “persons”, but one God. So yes – the Christian God really is monotheistic. One God.
References [ + ]
|1.||Turner, M., & McFarlane, G. (1996). Trinity. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 1209). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.|
|2.||Asad, Muhammad. The Message of the Qur’an . The Book Foundation. Kindle Edition.|
|3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.||Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.|
|11.||Mangum, D. (2016). Jehovah. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.|