Apologetics

In a culture where God’s Word is constantly under attack from those both inside and outside of the church, we must always be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in us. This web series on Apologetics is designed to give you the tools required to defend the faith.

Introduction

Have you ever wondered about the doctrine of the Trinity? How could the God of the Bible be one God, but at the same time three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Doesn’t the Bible emphatically state that God is one? These queries are common discussions among Christians and non-Christians alike.

The Bible should be accepted as the final authority for the believer. Therefore, we must look to Scripture to learn what God has revealed about Himself in His inspired Word. The famous passage known as the Shema (Hebrew: “hear”) starts by stating, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5). The Bible is quite clear: God is one!

The Bible is also clear that there are three Persons who are each called God. This plurality of God is presented in 2 Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [the Son], and the love of God [the Father], and the communion of the Holy Spirit [the Holy Spirit] be with you all. Amen” (bracketed information added). With our finite minds it is impossible to fully comprehend the infinite God. It is also difficult for us to apprehend the concept that God is one Being in three Persons.

The Doctrine of the Trinity in the New Testament

The New Testament portrays each member of the Godhead as distinct Persons in passages such as the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18–20 Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Believers are to go into the world and make disciples and baptize them in the name (singular, not “names”) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus placed Himself and the Holy Spirit on the same level as the Father.

Matthew also portrays all three members of the Trinity as involved in the baptism of Jesus. “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16–17). In this passage the Father spoke from heaven and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove while Jesus was on the earth.

The Bible Names Each of the Three Persons of the Trinity as “God”

Virtually no one questions that the Father is described as God in the Bible. Paul wrote, “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24). Paul addressed the epistle of Romans to “all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7).

Jesus identified Himself as God in John 10:30 when He stated, “I and My Father are one.” He also declared His divinity during His temptation by the devil when He said, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (Matthew 4:7). This concept will be given more attention later in this chapter. Jesus is also called God by others.

Matthew claimed that the events surrounding the birth of Christ fulfilled Old Testament prophecies, including Isaiah 7:14, which states, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Matthew adds that Immanuel means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). The writer of Hebrews wrote that the Father said to the Son, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8).

The Holy Spirit is also recognized as God. He is not merely an impersonal force similar to electricity, as some cults would like us to believe. When Peter condemned Ananias for lying, he said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God” (Acts 5:3–4, emphasis added).

In the gospel of John, the Bible intimately links the Holy Spirit to both the Father and the Son: “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 things that I said to you” (John 14:26). In the next chapter Jesus added, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26).

All Three Persons of the Trinity Are Eternal

The Scriptures listed above are just a few of many used to demonstrate that the God of the Bible is one God in three Persons. Not only are each of the three Persons of the Trinity identified as God, but each is said to possess eternality. Deuteronomy 33:27 explains to us that God the Father is eternal. “The eternal God is your refuge.” In Micah’s prophecy, which named Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah, the Son is also shown to be eternal. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). The eternality of the Holy Spirit is described when the author of Hebrews asked rhetorically, “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14).

The triune God of the Bible is utterly distinct from the false gods of this world. Jeremiah proclaimed Him as the only true Creator God.

But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God, and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, and the nations will not be able to endure His indignation. Thus you shall say to them: ‘The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens.’ He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens at His discretion (Jeremiah 10:10–12).

Does the Old Testament Support the Doctrine of the Trinity?

A Grammatical Mistake in Genesis 1:1?

The very first sentence in the Bible appears to have a grammatical mistake in the original language. “In the beginning God created …” The word translated as “God” is the word elohim, which is a plural noun.1 But now we have a problem—the verb created is a third person singular verb. So, it seems that in the first sentence of the Bible there is a grammatical mistake of using a plural noun with a singular verb. This would be like someone saying in English, “they was,” which is not proper in English, nor is it proper in Hebrew.

God told us about Himself in the first sentence of the Bible. He is one Being with a plurality of Persons. Genesis 1:1 does not directly explain that God is a triunity, but it is consistent with this truth. Genesis 1:26 states, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.’” Who is the “Us” and the “Our” in the passage? The next verse goes on to state, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). While verse 26 uses the pronouns “Us” and “Our,” verse 27 uses the singular pronouns “His” and “He” to refer to the same God. As in Genesis 1:1 the word “God” in Genesis 1:26 is a plural noun, and the verb “said” is a third person singular verb. The God of the Bible reveals Himself as plural in Persons but single in Being.

The Trinity in Isaiah

The prophet Isaiah made a statement that supports the doctrine of the Trinity: “Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God [the Father] and His Spirit [the Holy Spirit] have sent Me [the Son]. Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit” (Isaiah 48:16–17, bracketed information added). All three Persons of the Trinity are explicitly mentioned in this passage.

Jesus is not God the Son?

Nearly every cult and false religion denies the doctrine of the Trinity. Two of the major cults that do this are Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is not Jehovah God. Instead, they believe that He is a god but not the one and only true God. Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own version of the Bible called the New World Translation. This version translates John 1:1 erroneously. While the inerrant Word of God states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1), the New World Translation presents the last phrase of the verse this way: “and the Word was a god” (emphasis added). The article “a” is not in the original Greek. A rule in Greek grammar states that when an anarthrous (no article) predicate nominative is present it is for emphasis. The noun is “Word” and the predicate nominative is “God.” Since no article is present before the predicate nominative, “God,” the verse is testifying that the Word (Jesus) is God. By denying the Trinity and teaching that Jehovah God is supreme and Jesus is an inferior god on the order of Michael the Archangel, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are actually polytheistic—they believe in multiple gods.

Mormonism is a religious system that believes in many gods and denies the Trinity. Here are some statements from Mormon writings.

[T]here is an infinite number of holy personages, drawn from worlds without number, who have passed on to exultation and are thus gods.2

Abraham … Isaac … and Jacob … have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.3

“But both the scriptures and the prophets affirm that Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers.”4

The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, believed in many gods. Smith said, “I will preach on the plurality of Gods … I wish to declare that I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods.”5 “Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God. I say that is a strange God anyhow—three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization.”6

Contrary to the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, the Bible refers to Jesus as fully God. “For in Him [Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9, bracketed information added). Paul wrote that we should live in a godly manner, “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Even “doubting Thomas,” upon seeing the resurrected Lord, said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). The fact is that Jesus is unequivocally called God in multiple passages.

Furthermore, Jesus identified Himself as God several times. Three times in John 8, Jesus declared that He was Almighty God. “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). The pronoun He is in italics in the New King James Version, meaning that it is not found in the Greek text but was added to the text by the translators to make it read better in English. Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the I Am who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). He does the same thing in John 8:28 and John 8:58. The Jewish leaders understood exactly what He claimed, and they attempted to stone Him for claiming to be God (John 8:59).

The Jews tried to do the same thing in John 10 after Jesus declared, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus asked why they wanted to stone Him, and they replied, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (John 10:33).

Conclusion

The Bible is quite clear—there is one true God, and He exists in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. There is salvation in no other God. This Trinitarian God is eternal as stated in Isaiah.

“You are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “And My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, and there was no foreign god among you; therefore you are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “that I am God. Indeed before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:10–13)

God the Father, in the power of God the Holy Spirit, through the agency of God the Son—Jesus Christ—created everything that exists. John 1, Colossians 1, and Hebrews 1 teach that the Lord Jesus is the Creator. Since He is our Creator, He has the right and the authority to be our Redeemer. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:6–7).

The doctrine of the Trinity is not derived from pagan beliefs but was developed from the plain teaching of Scripture. God is one Being in three Persons. The following chart was developed by Bodie Hodge, Answers in Genesis and provides numerous passages concerning the various attributes and works of each member of the Trinity.7

God … The Father The Son The Holy Spirit
is the Creator Genesis 1:1, 2:4, 14:19–22 Deuteronomy 32:6; Psalm 102:25; Isaiah 42:5, 45:18; Mark 13:19; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:9; Hebrews 2:10; Revelation 4:11 John 1:1–3; Colossians 1:16–17; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 1:2, 1:8–12 Genesis 1:2; Job 33:4; Psalm 104:30
is unchanging and eternal Psalm 90:2, 102:25–27; Isaiah 43:10; Malachi 3:6 Micah 5:2; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:8–12, 13:8; John 8:58 Hebrews 9:14
has a distinct will Luke 22:42 Luke 22:42 Acts 13:2; 1 Corinthians 12:11
accepts worship Too many to list Matthew 14:33; Hebrews 1:6
accepts prayer Too many to list John 14:14; Romans 10:9–13; 2 Corinthians 12:8–9
is the only Savior Isaiah 43:11, 45:21; Hosea 13:4; 1 Timothy 1:1 John 4:42; Acts 4:12, 13:23; Philippians 3:20; 2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:4, 2:13, 3:6; 2 Peter 1:11, 2:20, 3:18; 1 John 4:14 John 3:5; 1 Corinthians 12:3
has the power to resurrect 1 Thessalonians 1:8–10 John 2:19, 10:17 Romans 8:11
is called God John 1:18, 6:27; Philippians 1:2, 2:11; Ephesians 4:6; 2 Thessalonians 1:2 John 1:1–5, 1:14, 1:18, 20:28; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:8; Titus 2:13 Acts 5:3–4; 2 Corinthians 3:15–17
is called Mighty God Isaiah 10:21; Luke 22:69 Isaiah 9:6
is omnipresent/everywhere 1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 46:10 Matthew 28:18–20 Psalm 139:7–10
is omnipotent/has power and authority 2 Chronicles 20:6, 25:8; Job 12:13; Romans 1:20; 1 Corinthians 6:14; Jude 1:25 John 3:31, 3:35, 14:6, 16:15; Philippians 2:9–11 1 Samuel 11:6; Luke 1:35
is omniscient/all-knowing Psalm 139:2; Isaiah 46:10; 1 John 3:20; Acts 15:8 John 16:3, 21:17 1 Corinthians 2:10–11
has the fullness of God in Him (not just “a part of God”) N/A Colossians 2:9
gives life Genesis 1:21, 1:24, 2:7; Psalm 49:15; John 3:16, 5:21; 1 Timothy 6:13 John 5:21, 14:6, 20:31; Romans 5:21 2 Corinthians 3:6; Romans 8:11
loves John 3:16; Romans 8:39; Ephesians 6:23; 1 John 4:6, 4:16 Mark 10:21; John 15:9; Ephesians 5:25, 6:23 Romans 15:30
has ownership of believers Psalm 24:1; John 8:47 Romans 7:4, 8:9
is distinct Matthew 3:16–17, 28:19; John 17:1 Matthew 3:16–17, 4:1, 28:19; John 17:1 1 Samuel 19:20; Matthew 3:16–17, 4:1, 28:19
is Judge Genesis 18:25; Psalm 7:11, 50:6, 94:1–2, 96:13, 98:9; John 8:50; Romans 2:16 John 5:21–27; Acts 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:1
forgives sin Micah 7:18 Luke 7:47–50
claimed divinity Exodus 20:2 Matthew 26:63–64
is uncreated, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End Isaiah 44:6 Revelation 1:17–18, 22:13
lives in the believer John 14:23; 2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 John 3:24 John 14:20–23; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27 John 14:16–17; Romans 8:11; 1 Peter 1:11
has the title of deity, “I Am,” pointing to the eternality of God Exodus 3:14 John 8:58
is personal and has fellowship with other persons 1 John 1:3 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:3 Acts 13:2; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 4:30; Philippians 2:1
makes believers holy (sanctifies them) 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Colossians 1:22 1 Peter 1:2
knows the future Isaiah 46:10; Jeremiah 29:11 Matthew 24:1–51, 26:64; John 16:32, 18:4 1 Samuel 10:10, 19:20; Luke 1:67; 2 Peter 1:21
is called “Lord of lords” Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalm 136:3 Revelation 17:14, 19:16

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Footnotes

  1. Scholars have debated whether this term should be viewed as hinting at the plurality of Persons of the Godhead or if it is used simply as “the majestic plural.” Scott concluded, “More probable is the view that ʾĕlōhîm comes from ʾĕlōah as a unique development of the Hebrew Scriptures and represents chiefly the plurality of persons in the Trinity of the godhead.” Jack Scott in Robert Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, electronic ed., 41 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 93c. Back
  2. Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, (Salt Lake: Bookcraft, 1991), 576-577 Back
  3. Doctrine and Covenants, 132:37. Available online at http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/132?lang=eng. Accessed March 9, 2011. Back
  4. From Ensign Magazine, an official publication of the LDS Church in response to the question “How can Jesus and Lucifer be spirit brothers when their characters and purposes are so utterly opposed?” (June 1986), p. 25. Back
  5. Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976) Back
  6. Ibid., p. 372. Back
  7. This chart is also available at http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2008/02/20/god-is-triune. Back