The Trinity: One God, Three Persons

by | Updated December 8th, 2019

There is only one God. This fact is made clear throughout scripture. However, there are three persons eternally existent in the one God. Paul Little said it this way, “God is one in His essential being, but that divine essence exist in three modes or forms, each consisting a person, yet in such a way that the divine is wholly in each person.”

There are not three Gods all independent and self existing. The three co-operate with one mind and purpose so that in the truest sense of the word, they are one. Instead of being independent, they are wholly dependent on each other or interdependent. There are three separate and distinct persons that are called God in scripture. The trinity is one God, but three persons.

For more information about the trinity read The Trinity: The Unity and Oneness of God and Illustrations and Examples of the Trinity.

God the Father

Very few people dispute the existence of God the Father, unless they are an Atheist. Paul begins his letter to the Galatians saying he was appointed an apostle, not by man, but by Jesus Christ and “God the Father” (Galatians 1:1). In referring to Jesus’ incarnation, resurrection and exaltation, Paul says that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus to be Lord “to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11). Clearly there is a person called God the Father within the Godhead.

God the Son

This is where most erroneous teachings begin. Cults and false teachers deny the divinity of Jesus. In doing so, they create another Jesus and a different, false gospel (2 Corinthians 11:3-5 and Galatians 1:6-9). This doctrine is so frequently attacked because of its importance. If you don’t have the right Jesus, your salvation is negated. If your Jesus is anything other than God Almighty, you have the wrong Jesus.

Paul said, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). From this passage we see clearly there can be another Jesus portrayed by false teachers, which is a false Christ. Any Jesus that is anything other than God incarnate is a false Christ.

Paul said again, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9).

From this we see that whereas there is another Jesus, there is also a different gospel – A false gospel. It is a perversion of the true gospel of Christ. Paul uses very stern words here in dealing with those who espouse false doctrine. Twice he says, “Let him be accursed.” He says it twice because, as the dreams of Pharaoh of old, the thing is sure. The Greek word translated “accursed” is “anathema.” In this context, “anathema” refers to someone who is without hope of being redeemed, doomed to destruction, and accursed, under the divine curse. In essence, Paul was saying of those who preach a false gospel, “Let them go to hell.”

I suggest you study the following scriptures thoroughly and even put them to memory. This is where the gospel we preach is attacked and we must be equipped to defend and fight for it diligently. Jude says, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We must be able to give an answer for the hope that is in us. “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). We must be so well equipped with the Word of God that we are able to give an answer to those honestly seeking answers and be able to adequately defend our faith.

The Incarnation

In a prophecy about Jesus being born of a virgin, Isaiah said, he would be called Emanuel (Isaiah 7:14). Matthew quotes Isaiah and defines Emanuel as meaning “God with us.” “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23). His very name refers to the incarnation, hypostatic union, the union of two natures or God becoming man. Jesus was very man and very God.

John begins his gospel with this, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). He goes on to say, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14). The Word was with God and the Word was God and was made flesh. These verses not only declare the eternal existence, divinity, and incarnation of Christ, but they also show the plurality of persons in the Godhead, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and and the Word was God.” The Word (Jesus prior to His incarnation) was already there in the beginning. He was with God and was in fact, very God.

In a prophecy about where Jesus (the Messiah) was to be born, Micah declares, “But thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousand of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). This verse declares that the baby that was to be born in Bethlehem was from “everlasting.” He had, as his origin, eternity past (an everlasting past). This clearly means He had no beginning. This was said of God, thus making the baby in the manger God Almighty (Psalms 90:2 and 93:2). Also read Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Timothy 3:16; Colossians 2:9; John 14:8-9; 20:19-29.

The Son of God

Whenever Jesus said God was His Father, He was claiming to be God Almighty and the Jews knew it. It is extremely important, when we call Jesus the Son of God, we define what we mean. There is typically a language barrier that exist between cults and authentic Christians. What they mean by the Son of God and what the Bible teaches are usually totally different things. If their definition isn’t that He is very God, then we have a major point of disagreement.

The Jews were seeking to kill Jesus, as they so often were. John reports, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). The Jews knew when Jesus said God was His Father, He was claiming equality with God. If Jesus was not very God, He was committing blasphemy, which was punishable by death. This is why they sought to kill Him. They knew He was claiming equality with God. Therefore, we must conclude, Jesus is very God.

Again Jesus said, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). You cannot stop here. The context is always imperative. When dealing with false teachers and cults, they will always say, we are one with God too. We are one with Him in purpose, desire and so on. John continues, “Then the Jews took up stones to stone Him. Jesus answered them. Many good works have I shown you from my father; for which of those do you stone me? The Jews answered Him, saying, For a good work we stone you not; but for blasphemy; because you being a man make yourself out to be God” (John 10:31-33). The penalty for blasphemy was stoning. The Jews knew, when Jesus claimed to have God as His Father, He was making Himself out to be God.

Let’s look at one more verse dealing with Jesus as the Son. “But unto the Son He (the Father) saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: a sceptre (scepter) of righteousness is the sceptre (scepter) of thy kingdom” (Hebrews 1:8). Here, the Father is talking to the Son and says, your throne O God. The Father is calling the Son God. You can’t get much clearer than that.

When I was young in the Lord and just starting out in ministry, I was visiting an old friend. There was another young man there who was part of the Way International. The Way denied the divinity of Jesus. Their founder had written a book entitled “Jesus is not God.” We began debating some about the person of Christ. I went through all the scripture I shared above and more. He seemed to have a way of explaining everything away in order to dispute Christ’s divinity. Near the end of our discussion, I quoted Hebrews 1:8, “But to the Son He says: Your throne, O God.” He got a puzzled look on his face and said, “I haven’t seen that one before. I’ll have to work that out.” I replied, “Work what out? Either Jesus is God or God the Father lied.” He had no further argument. God says just what He means. Jesus, the Son of God, is very God.

The Resurrection of Christ

Paul begins his letter to the Romans by saying Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with Power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). The resurrection is an infallible proof that Jesus is indeed the Son of God or God Himself. Jesus “presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Read also 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.

Thomas, who had doubted before, after seeing the resurrected Christ, proclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Jesus never rejected Thomas’ worship and declaration. Throughout scripture, whenever an angel or man received worship, they always rejected the person’s adoration. The fact that Jesus never rejected Thomas’ worship is proof of His divinity.

Jesus, the Firstborn

Let’s clear up a common misconception of Jesus as the firstborn. The Bible says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). Cults and false teachers conclude from this that Jesus was the first to be created and is therefore a created being. God created Jesus first and then used him to created all other things. This is an erroneous (false) concept.

As we have already shown, Jesus is very God and had no beginning. His existence was from eternity past. Again the context is always of utmost importance. If you will go down just a few verses, you will see, “He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything” (Colossians 1:18). This defines what the writer meant by firstborn in verse 15. Notice it says, “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.” So we see that firstborn was referring to Him being the first to rise from the dead, never to die again.

Firstborn is also a title of preeminence in scripture, “So that He Himself will come to have first place (preeminence) in everything.” Jesus being the firstborn of all creation refers to Him being the first to rise from the dead, never to die again, and not the first to be created. Jesus was not a created being but the creator of all things, God the Son!

The Great “I AM”

Jesus was arguing with the Pharisees, as He so often did, and said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad. So the Jews said to Him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am. Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple” (John 8:56-59). Again, the penalty for blasphemy was stoning.

They knew what Jesus was asserting. “Before Abraham was born, I am.” He was claiming to be the very same “I AM” God that spoke to Moses through the burning bush, the self existent one. “God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM; and He said, Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). Thus, Jesus was God Almighty. Jesus told John, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty (Revelation 1:8). Jesus’ claim here is clear, “The Almighty!”

God the Holy Spirit

One of the best proof texts for the divinity of the Holy Spirit is found in the book of Acts. Many in the church were selling what they had and giving it to the Apostles to distribute to those in need. This was done voluntarily and not mandated. Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold their property, but secretly kept back part of what they received.

We read, “A man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God. And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it” (Acts 5:3-5).

Notice Peter said, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit” and then, “You have not lied to men but to God.” First Peter said he lied to the Holy Spirit and then, in the next breath, you didn’t lie to man but God. He was clearly attributing deity to the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to look at this passage and not see that the Holy Spirit is very God, the third member (person) of the Godhead (trinity).

Another common misconception about the Holy Spirit is that He is just a force and not a real person. The Holy Spirit is more than a force but the third person of the trinity. Below are five characteristics of personality, with scripture references, attributed to the Holy Spirit.

  1. Intellect (1 Corinthians 2:11, Romans 8:27).
  2. He has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11).
  3. Sensibility (Romans 8:26-27, Romans 15:30). This has to do with the ability to feel, be affected emotionally or intellectually, and have a sensitive awareness or responsiveness.
  4. He grieves (Ephesians 4:30).
  5. He speaks (Acts 13:2, Hebrews 3:7).

The Triune Existence of God

We see that God is one in nature, but three in person and manifestation. This is beyond comprehension to the natural, finite mind. God is infinite and we are finite. We can not expect to grasp the concept of Him in all its totality. We can however, understand it to some degree, knowing that the concept is clearly taught in scripture.

One of Job’s Friends said to him, “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty” (Job 11:7)? The obvious answer is no, but we can sure try. The only way we can begin to grasp the greatness of God is through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-15). Let’s explore all the depths of God and ask Him to supernaturally reveal Himself to us.

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