Whether it is orthodox, protestant, evangelical, or catholic Christianity, all agree on the doctrine that God exists as three persons–Father–Son–Holy Spirit together as one God.
Below is a brief outline of the primary Scriptures that described the doctrine of the Trinity.
Definition of the Trinity
I believe that the one God exists as three distinct persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—each is equal in nature, equal in glory, but distinct in relationship (definition based on J. Scott Horrell and his forthcoming book on the Trinity).
II. GOD IS ONE
A. Old Testament
When reading the first five books of the Old Testament it is good to remember who wrote the books, whom they were written to, and what was the historical context of “God” at that time. Numerous hints and evidences are provided in the Bible that suggest Moses was the person who wrote the first five books of the Bible. And those first five books were written between 1446 and 1406 after the “Exodus” of the Israelites from Egypt. In this time, there were numerous gods throughout the ancient near east. Gods of fertility, water gods, grain gods, and many many others. Moses, as God’s chosen leader taking the people out of Egypt recorded the first five books of the Old Testament as a way to communicate to the Israelites who they were and who their God was.
1. Gen 1:1
Simply, one God created the world with ease and freedom.
2. Gen 1:27
God created human beings in his own image
“The idea that man was created ‘in the image’ here should not be understood to imply that God has a limiting shape (as in pagan conceptions)—God is spirit. ‘Image’ is used figuratively here to indicated that humans share, although imperfectly, in the nature of God in his communicable attributes, such as intelligence, creativity, compassion, and the like” (Allen Ross, “Genesis,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, [Tyndale, 2008], 37)
3. Exod 20:2-3 (also see Deut 4:34-35, 39)
God is that god which rescued the Israelites out of Egypt. If the Israelites were wandering who rescued them, it is now clear it is YHWH.
4. Deut 6:4
This is Moses’ summary of all that the Israelites have experienced and seen over the past 40 years.
“The Lord is our God, the Lord alone”
This verse focuses on the fact that God is one and what the appropriate response is.
5. 1 Kings 8:60
Solomon’s dedication of the temple. When the people see the magnificent temple they will know that there is no other God.
6. Pss 86:10
A Psalm of David affirming that there is “one” God and he is God “alone.”
7. Isa 43:10-11 (cf. Isa 44:6; 45:5-6, 14, 18, 21-22, Isa 46:9)
Additional Scripture about God as one in the Old Testament: Exod 15:11; Deut 4:34-35, 39; 32:39; Josh 3:11, 13; Gen 24:27; Isa 42:8
B. New Testament
1. Mark 12:31-32
The man asking the question affirms that there is “one God” (v. 32). Then, Jesus in responding to the man affirms that what the man said was correct.
2. Luke 10:27 (cf. Mark 12:29-30; Matt 22:37)
Jesus says to love the “Lord” (singular).
3. 1 Cor 8:4
We know that there is “one God.” Paul leads us to believe that everyone understands this.
4. Eph 4:5-6
One Lord and one God.
5. James 2:19
James, the half-brother of Jesus—the second member of the Godhead—affirms that there is one God.
C. Conclusion on God as One
In our study of God and the Trinity, I hope that you can see that the OT and NT writers are all saying the same thing: there is one God. Whether Moses, Solomon, Isaiah, Jesus, Paul, or James, all affirm that there is one true God.
III. GOD IS THREE
Some thoughts and Scripture about God being distinguished from God in the Bible.
- אֱלֹהִים / Elohim – God. This is a plural noun yet it is almost always used with singular verbs. It is often seen as a plural of “majesty,” “respect,” or the “totality of manifestations” (Herbert Wolf, An Introduction to the Pentateuch, 28). Does this prove “Trinity” in the OT? No, but it does allow for its later development. “It is wrong to argue that the plural proves the doctrine of the Trinity, but it does allow for its later development” (Herbert Wolf, An Introduction to the Old Testament: Pentateuch [Moody, 1991], 28).
- Gen 1:26 – “Let us make man. . . .” (also seen Gen 3:22; Isa 6:8). This is one of the few times that we see Elohim used with plural verbs. God is making humans in his own image.
- Deut 6:4-6. אֶחָד (‘ehad). This word means “one” or “to be united” often as a composite oneness. It is used as “one flesh” in Gen 2:24. As a cardinal number it stresses unity while recognizing diversity. “Its predominant use is to designate something that is numerically one, and that seems to be its sense here. There is only one Yahweh; no one else qualifies as God” (John Feinberg, No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God, 446). יָחִיד (yahid) = “only,” “only one,” “solitary” is not used of God. See Gen 22:2 “only son”; Judg 11:24; Zeck 12:10 (William Gesenius, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, 402). Conclusion: There was another word that God could have had Moses used in Deut 6:4-6 that would mean “solitary one,” yet God had Moses use אֶחָד which is similar to Elohim because it does not prove the Trinity but does allow for the development of Trinitarian doctrine based on further biblical revelation.
- Matt 28:18-20.
Additional support for the Trinity showing God as distinct from God:
- Pss 45:6-7 (shows a plurality in the Godhead)
- Pss 110:1 (YHWH speaks to Adonai – Father speaking to Jesus?)
- Isa 9:6-7; 44:6; 63:8-16 (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together)
- Dan 7:13-1-4 (Jesus and God the Father);
When studying the “Father” in the Old Testament I must admit that it is sometimes difficult to discern whether the Old Testament writers were describing God as our Triune God or if they are describing God as the Father. The passages which I have selected seem to refer to God the Father, but not all of the verses are perfectly clear. Therefore, I have chosen a larger section of verses so we can read together and begin to see that there was some reference to God as Father in the Old Testament even if the Old Testament writers did not yet recognize a plurality within the Godhead.
1. Deut 32:6
The father has made and established you
2. 2 Sam 7:14
God will be the father to his eventual son (cf. 1 Chro 17:13)
3. 1 Chro 28:6
4. Pss 68:5
5. Pss 89:26
Maybe about Jesus calling out to God the Father.
6. Isa 63:16-17
7. Jer 3:4, 19; 31:9
8. Mal 2:10 (cf. 1:6)
9. Eph 3:14-15
Knowing about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, Paul here prays directly to God the Father.
10. Matt 3:16-17; 17:5
Both verses share that God is the Father of Jesus.
When studying the second member of the Godhead—the Son Jesus—it is important to study Jesus’ deity and his humanity.
1. Christ’s Deity
a) 2 Samuel 7:12-16
God says, “I will be his father, and he will be my son.”
b) Pss 2:7
It is good to remember that these Old Testament verses and prophesies often have two levels of fulfillment and meaning. For example: (1) We know that Solomon was a descendent from the line of David, right? (2) We also know that Jesus was a descendent from the line of David, right? In this way, a verse can appear to speak about a “person” but it can also refer to two separate persons, if that makes sense?
c) Matt 11:27 (cf. Luke 10:22)
This is a unique relationship that includes exclusivity between Son/Father
d) Matt 26:63-66 (cf. Mark 14:61-62; Ezek 22:27-70)
During Jesus’ trial he is asked if he is the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus affirms it, the high priest affirms it, and others affirmed it.
e) Col 1:15 (read the entire pericope of 1:13-20)
f) Col 1:19
g) Col 2:9
h) 1 Timothy 2:3-6
i) Heb 1:1-14
2. Christ’s Humanity & Incarnation
a) Gen 3:15 (cf. Gal 3:6-9)
This “seed” of the woman will be looked at in Galatians, but it is important to note that this is a “seed” of humanity. Someone who was to come from the woman and strike the head of the serpent.
b) Gen 12:3
Further explaining God’s revelation of Gen 3:15, Gen 12:3 explains that this “seed” of the woman and Abraham will bless the world. All the nations of the world will be blessed through this person.
c) Dan 7:13-14 (this also shows deity)
d) Gal 3:6-9, 16
Jesus is the singular “seed” of Abraham. As a descendent from the Father of the Israelite nation—Abraham—Jesus was fully human while also fully God. As the seed of Abraham Jesus was the “Messiah” which the nation of Israel was waiting for and looking for to deliver them.
e) Phil 2:5-8
f) Col 2:9
g) Heb 2:14-15
C. Holy Spirit
1. His Deity
When studying the Holy Spirit it is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is both “God” and a “person.” First, let’s look at how the Holy Spirit is God.
a) Gen 1:2
The “Spirit of God” was covering over the water. This is the Holy Spirit.
b) Pss 51:11
This is the first use of “Holy Spirit” in the Old Testament. David is asking God not to take that Holy Spirit from him. This is because the Holy Spirit had a different function and different role in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit did not come down and indwell believers. Instead, it would temporarily anoint and be present with believers, but it could leave if needed. Examples of this are”
- Gideon (Judg 6:34)
- Saul (1 Sam 11:6)
- Isaiah (Isa 61:1)
Also see the “breath” or “Spirit” of God giving life (Job 33:4; Pss 104:30)
c) Isa 40:13
As God is all knowing, all power, and all present so is God’s Spirit.
d) Matt 12:31-32 (cf. Matt 28:19)
Even though there might be debate as to what speaking against the Holy Spirit is, it is important to note that the Holy Spirit is so highly regarded as a member of the Godhead that speaking against him is considered to be an unforgiveable sin.
e) Acts 5:3-9
f) 2 Cor 3:17-18
2. His Personhood
Next I want us to look at the Holy Spirit as a “person.” It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is a person—a “he”—not a “force” or “magical presence.” The Holy Spirit exists as God and as a unique member of the Godhead.
a) Isa 63:10-11
The Holy Spirit is “grieved” in v. 10. Only people or living beings can feel emotions.
b) Acts 13:2
The Holy Spirit speaks.
c) 1 John 2:27
Personal pronouns used to describe the Holy Spirit
d) From J. Scott Horrell’s forthcoming book on the Trinity
- He Has Intelligence (John 14:26; 15:26; Rom 8:26-27; 1 Cor 2:10-13)
- He Manifests Affections and Emotions
- παρακαλητος means “counselor,” “comforter,” “advocate” (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7; 1 John 2:1
- Encouraging (Acts 9:31)
- Helping (us in our weaknesses) (Rom 8:26)
- Grieving (the Holy Spirit) (Eph 4:30; Isa 63:10)
- Insulted (Heb 10:29)
- He Has Will and Volition (Acts 5:9; 13:2; 15:28; 16; 1 Cor 12:11)
- He Stands Parallel to the Son as the Other Counselor (John 14:16-17; Rom 8:26; 1 John 2:1)
- Blasphemy Against Him Cannot Be Forgiven (Matt 12:31-32)
- He Does What God Does
- Comforts (Acts 9:31)
- Guides & Glorifies (John 16:13-14)
IV. RELATIONSHIPS AMONG OUR TRIUNE GOD
Now that we have studied how God is one as well as how God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I now want us to look at how the three members of the Godhead exist in community and relationship with each other. I’d like us to look at the uniqueness and distinctiveness of each person, how the members of the Godhead are related and relational, and finally we will see how these three members of the Godhead are one.
* אֱלֹהִים / Elohim – God. This is a plural noun yet it is almost always used with singular verbs. Is often seen as a plural of “majesty,” “respect,” or the “totality of manifestations” (Herbert Wolf, An Introduction to the Pentateuch, 28). Does this prove “Trinity” in the OT? No, but it does allow for its later development. “It is wrong to argue that the plural proves the doctrine of the Trinity, but it does allow for its later development” (Herbert Wolf, An Introduction to the Old Testament: Pentateuch [Moody, 1991], 28).
A. Uniqueness & Distinctiveness of Each Person
1. Matt 28:18-20
In the name (singular). This is not, “In the names of the. . .” but is “In the name”
2. John 15:26
There will be an “Advocate,” which comes from the “Father,” and that Advocate will testify about Jesus.
3. 1 John 2:20-23
Text references someone who denies both “God” and “Jesus.” Text then references someone who denies the Son, but if someone denies the Son that person does not have the Father either.
B. Related and Relational
1. Isa 43:10-11
The Father is the Savior.
2. John 1:1-3
The son has been with God and was God.
3. John 1:17-18
The son has existed with God forever.
4. John 10:30
Jesus and the Father are one.
5. John 17:5, 24
Jesus and God existed before the world began.
6. 2 Cor 3:17-18 (the Lord, who is the Spirit)
7. Additional Support for the Relatedness and Rationality of our Triune God (from Horrell, “IntraTrinitarian Relationships,” forthcoming book on the Trinity).
- Persons with Distinct Centers of Consciousness (Isa 43:10-11; Mark 1:11; John 10:30; Acts 13:2)
- The “Son” and “Spirit” Were with God (John 1:1-2, 18)
- They Know and Testify of Each Other (John 8:17; 14: 26; 15:26, 36-37; 16:8-15; 17:25)
- Each Freely Chooses in Relation to the Other (John 3:7-8; 5:17, 21, 22; 6:40; 8:26; 10:17-18; 16:13-15; 1 Cor 12:11
- Self-Rendering Love (John 5:30; 8:29; 10:17-18; 15:9
- Each Member Mutually Indwells the Other (John 4:10-14; 7:37-39; 10:38; 14:9-20; ; 17:21 20:22; 1 Cor 6:19; 12:13; 1 John 3:9)
- The Son and Holy Spirit Come from the Father (John 1:14, 18; 5:19, 21-22; 6:7-8; 10:30; 15:26; 17:11)
C. Not Only 3 in Relationship with Each Other, also 3 in 1
1. Isa 43:10-11
The Father is the Savior, who is Jesus Christ.
2. 2 Cor 3:17-18
The key phrase here is “The Lord, who is the Spirit” which suggests the Holy Spirit and God the Father are one.
This has been a biblical study on the Trinity. I hope that you have found it beneficial to see what the Bible says about how God is one considering the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in relationship and community together. Now, based on our study I hope that we can more fully and correctly worship our Lord God.