The Trinity

Understanding the Triune God revealed in the Bible

God has revealed Himself to us.  It's not for man to define or establish God; rather humanity must accept God for who He is (Hebrew 11:6).  Accepting and believing what God has said about Himself is not optional.  Doing otherwise has you creating for yourself, and perhaps worshipping, a new god. This "other" god is unquestionably a false god. 

We can and must use the wording God included in His word in any description of Him.  This does not restrict us from using synonyms or equivalent descriptions and even newly created words, so long as they encompass the thought, the meaning and intent, of God's revelation.  The fact God wants His word translated into every language (Revelation 5:9-10; 7:9), to build a church from every language, presupposes new words will be used to describe His original thoughts original given in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.

There is:

Only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:5, 18, 21-22; 46:9; 47:8; John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 8:5-6).  Christianity is monotheistic!  The word monotheism isn't in the Bible, yet the Bible very clearly teaches it.

God is:

  • Without beginning and end, eternal (Psalms 90:2; Isaiah 57:15)

  • God alone (Isaiah 43:10; 46:9)

  • Creator (Genesis 1:1; 2:1; Isaiah 40:12, 22, 26; 45:18; 48:13; Psalms 102:25)

  • Holy, Holy, Holy (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8)  

  • Omnipotent (Jeremiah 32:17, 27; Job 42:2; Luke 1:37); more powerful than any other (John 10:29; Hebrews 6:13; 1 John 4:4)

  • Omnipresent (Psalms 139:7-12; Jeremiah 23:23-24)

  • Omniscient (1 John 3:20; Hebrews 4:13; Psalms 139:1-4; Psalms 44:20-21; 90:8)

  • Love (1 John 4:8, 16; Exodus 34:6-7; 2 Corinthians 13:11)

  • Merciful (Exodus 34:6; Psalms 86:15; Ephesians 2:4; 1 Peter 1:3)

  • The God of truth (Isaiah 65:16; 45:19; Psalms 31:5; 25:5; 43:3)

  • Light (1 John 1:5; James 1:17; Revelation 21:23; 22:5; Isaiah 60:19; Psalms 27:1; 36:9)

  • Spirit (John 4:24; 2 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Timothy 1:17)

  • To alone be worshipped (Revelation 22:9; Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8; 2 Chronicles 29:28; Psalms 97:7; Revelation 4:10; 5:14; 7:11; 15:4; 1 Corinthians 14:25; Deuteronomy 6:13-14)

  • Sovereign (Proverbs 19:21; Isaiah 14:24,27; 46:10; Daniel 4:35; Proverbs 16:1,9; 21:30; Job 23:13; Acts 4:28; Ephesians 1:11)

  • Triune (Trinity).  The word Trinity isn't found in Scriptures, even as "monotheism" isn't either, yet it was coined to readily describe a concept deduced from multiple Scripture passages. When seemingly contradictory passages of Scriptures are found, the higher unity or underlying truth is the correct understanding.  Consider...

The Father is God (Philippians 1:2; John 20:17; John 8:54; 2 Corinthians 1:3; 11:31; Ephesians 1:3; 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 3:11; 2 Peter 1:17). 

The Holy Spirit is God:

  • The Holy Spirit was present in the beginning when God created the Heavens and the Earth (Genesis 1:2)

  • Called the Spirit of the Lord God (Isaiah 61:1)

  • Appears together with the Father and the Son (Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 1:35; 3:22; Acts 7:55)

  • Acts in care of God's church (Acts 20:28; Romans 15:16)

  • The Holy Spirit is both the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God (Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6)

  • Reveals what God alone knows (Romans 8:16; 1 Corinthians 2:10-12; Ephesians 1:17; 3:5; Luke 10:21), including the future (Luke 2:25-26; Acts 1:16; 20:23; 21:11)

  • Justifies (1 Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5)

  • Has a temple (1 Corinthians 6:19)

  • Gives grace along with the Father and Jesus (2 Corinthians 13:14)

  • Assures salvation (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30)

  • Can be sinned against (Acts 5:3; Ephesians 4:30; Isaiah 63:10; Matthew 12:32; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10)

  • Lying to the Holy Spirit is lying to God (Acts 5:3-4)

  • Speaks for God (2 Peter 1:21; Revelation 2:7; Luke 12:12; Hebrews 3:7), including through His written word (Hebrews 10:15-17)

  • Shares a name with the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19)

  • Lives in believers (2 Timothy 1:14), helps believers (Romans 8:26)

  • Carries our prayer to God (Jude 20; Romans 8:26)

The Son is God: 

  • Jesus accepted accolades as God (John 20:28; Revelation 5:13)

  • Salvation is ascribed to God and the Lamb (Revelation 7:10) 

  • Jesus and His Father are one (John 10:30; Revelation 5:13), all the Father has belongs to Jesus (John 16:15).

  • Jesus knows everything (John 21:17) including people's thoughts (Matthew 9:4).

  • Only God is to be worshipped (Exodus 34:14; Revelation 19:10) and Jesus accepts worship (Matthew 28:9, 17; Luke 24:51-52; John 9:38; Revelation 4:10; 1:12-17; 5:13-14; 22:3)

  • Jesus identifies Himself as the God of the Old Testament (John 8:53-59, something readily recognized by His Jewish listeners, which is why they wanted to kill him)

  • Jesus is the Creator and sustainer of the universe (Colossians 1:16; 1 Corinthians 8:6; John 1:1-3, 10, 14; Hebrews 1:1-3) - this in light of the Bible making clear that God created everything (Genesis 1:1; Revelation 4:11).

  • Jesus is identified as God by His personally appointed Apostles (Romans 9:5; John 1:1-3; Philippians 2:6-11; 1 John 5:20)

  • Jesus is on the throne of God (Revelation 7:17)

  • The fullness of God dwells in the Son (Colossians 2:9) and if you've know Jesus you know Father (John 14:7-11)

  • All judgment was given to the Son by the Father (John 5:22, 25-29), and the Son sits on the throne of God in judgment (Revelation 20:11)

  • He existed before creation and shared in the eternal glory of God (John 17:1-5; Hebrews 1:1-3) 

  • He's called God (John 1:1, 14; Colossians 2:9)

In Summary, from Scriptures we see:

  • The Father is God

  • The Son, Jesus, is God

  • The Holy Spirit is God

And, yet, there's only one God!  Take note that each in the Triune God is Truth.  Yet there are not three truths, there's one objective truth&ldots;

  • Jesus is Truth (John 14:6; 1 John 5:20

  • The Holy Spirit is Truth (1 John 5:6)

  • The Father is Truth (Psalms 31:5; Isaiah 65:16)

God is truth, perfect and unchangeable, incapable of lying (Deuteronomy 32:4).  Only God is like this, so it's not surprising the Son and Holy Spirit are described as eternally unchangeably as the Father...

  • The Father (Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Hebrews 6:18; James 1:17-18; Psalms 90:2; 102:27; Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 57:15; Romans 1:20; 1 Timothy 1:17)

  • The Son (Hebrews 13:8; Hebrews 1:12; Revelation 1:17-18)

  • The Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9:14), who is also a source of eternal life (Galatians 6:8) or eternal damnation (Mark 3:29; Matthew 12:32; Luke 12:10).

Further, the Father, Son, and Spirit are equally described as a source of perfection and sinlessness (or goodness)...

  • The Father (Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Samuel 22:31; Psalms 18:30; Romans 12:2)

  • The Son (Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 12:2; 1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 2:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:9; Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 1:19)

  • The Holy Spirit (Nehemiah 9:20; Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 59:21; 61:1; 63:14; Acts 2:38), including that He's called the "Holy" Spirit (Psalms 51:11; Isaiah 63:10-11; Matthew 1:18, 20; 3:11; 12:32; 28:19; John 14:26; Acts 1:16; etc.)

Though one God, each in the Trinity is unique: 

  • Each has a will separate from the others (Father: Luke 22:42, Son: Luke 22:42, Holy Spirit: 1 Corinthians 12:11).  It's the existence of independent will that becomes grounds for calling each in the Trinity a "person." The Bible shows this interaction of their wills...

    • What the Father wills, He does. (Isaiah 46:10)

    • What the Father wills, the Son wills and He does. (Hebrews 10:7; John 4:34)

    • What the Father and Son will, the Spirit wills and does. (John 14:26; Ephesians 1:17; John 16:7; Galatians 4:6; John 15:26; John 16:15)

  • Each speaks (Father: Matthew 3:17; John 12:28-30, Son: Luke 5:20; Revelation 1:12-19, Holy Spirit: Acts 8:29; 13:2)

  • Each knows everything (Father: 1 John 3:20, Jeremiah 23:24, Son: John 16:30; 21:17, Holy Spirit: 1 Corinthians 2:10-11)

There's no statement in the Bible (this being another word not found in Scriptures) that states "God in three persons; blessed Trinity," along the lines of a stanza from a well-known hymn.  Likewise there's no one verse saying here's proof of the Trinity.  We use the church-crafted word Trinity to describe what Scriptures reveal.  The entire idea is hard to describe or rationalize, yet it exists. Scripturally there is one God who is eternally three, indivisibly God; each God and together God.  There is no one verse that states this truth; rather it is deduced from a number of passages.  A truth taught across many passages is no less a truth than something taught in a single verse or passage.  Doing so is indeed necessary to understand the totality of many subjects taught in Scriptures and to reconcile seemingly contradictory passages.

Though Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equally God; Scriptures further reveal that there is order of authority within the Trinity.  Scripture shows that the Holy Spirit is subordinate to the Father and the Son, and the Son is subordinate to the Father. This is an internal relationship and does not deny the full deity of any Person of the Trinity. It is not a forced subordination, as though one is more powerful than the others, it's a voluntary submission. This is simply an area which our finite minds cannot understand concerning the infinite God. (Concerning the Son: Luke 22:42, John 5:36, John 20:21, and 1 John 4:14; concerning the Holy Spirit: John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7, and especially John 16:13-14). End Note

While one in purpose and always working together, the individual members of the Trinity have different tasks. The Father is the ultimate source or cause of the universe (1 Corinthians 8:6; Revelation 4:11); divine revelation (Revelation 1:1); salvation (John 3:16-17); and Jesus' human works (John 5:17; 14:10).  The Father initiates all of these matters. End Note

The Son is the specific agent by which the Father does the following works: creation and sustaining of the universe (John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:15-17); divine revelation (John 1:1; 12:49; 16:12-15; Revelation 1:1; Matthew 11:27); and salvation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Matthew 1:21; John 4:41-42). The Father does all this through His Son, who functions as His agent. End Note

The Holy Spirit is the means by which the Father does the following works: creation and sustaining of the universe (Psalm 104:30; Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13); divine revelation (John 16:12-15; Ephesians 3:4-5; 2 Peter 1:21); salvation (John 3:5-6; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:2); and Jesus' works (Isaiah 61:1 & Luke 4:1, 18; John 1:32-33, Acts 10:38). The Father does all these things by the power of the Holy Spirit. End Note

There is an inseparably close interaction within the Triune God: The Father sent the Son, the Son does the Father's will, and the Father and the Son both send the Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; Hebrews 2:4). The Holy Spirit is even called the Spirit of His Son (Galatians 4:6). Yet, the Holy Spirit can lead Jesus (Luke 4:1). The Spirit and the Son both act on behalf of the Father (John 5:19). The Spirit guides into all truth (John 16:13) and teaches of Jesus (John 15:26) and Jesus reveals the Father (John 14:9).  The Holy Spirit wants people to know Jesus and Jesus wants people to know the Father (John 17:3) - this is to know God!  

Some mock the idea of Trinity by saying "if Jesus cannot be the entire Trinity, how is he God?"  I answer that Scriptures says that each is God and there is unchangeably only one God, I don't have to explain this or fully understand it, I'm called by Scriptures to believe that which God has revealed as truth.  Others mock the Trinity as being pagan, pointing to pagan religions who had some form or appearance of a triad of gods.  This is an irrelevant argument; if it's biblical it's to be believed, regardless of whether some pagan religion imitates or seemingly precedes Christian belief in this area.  (For the record, these so-called precursors are far from the revealed Trinity of Scriptures, and, as shown in this article, nascent Trinitarian ideas are God-revealed beginning at creation.  This makes it hard to say any other religious ideas came earlier; the devil, the Father of lying false religions, is quite willing to mock truths that he's well aware of).    

Believers in Jesus Christ are a temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 Corinthians 3:16). Showing the Holy Spirit is God, this temple is also called the temple of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:19).  And yet, Jesus made it clear that He and His Father, and the Holy Spirit dwell in every believer, as these three who are one are the living God!  (See John 14:15-17 [Spirit], John 14:18-20 [Jesus], John 14:23 [Father]).

The church baptizes in the (singular) name of God, which is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19).  The work of God shows itself in His people through what His Spirit and Jesus are doing, God at work in all His people (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).  God's blessing to His church rests together in the fullness of the Triune God (2 Corinthians 13:14). 

The early church taught and believed all that Scriptures revealed about God, as exampled in the passages already cited. Earlier church writers spoke of these things but quickly needed new wording to describe them. Tertullian of Carthage (lived circa 155-240 AD), is commonly cited as the first person using the term Trinity to describe what the church believed from the beginning.  Others may have used the term even earlier, yet Tertullian is our earliest extant published source:

All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity. Placed in order, the three are the Father, Son, and Spirit. They are three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in being, but in form; not in power, but in kind; of one being, however, and one condition and one power, because he is one God of whom degrees and forms and kinds are taken into account in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. How they are susceptible of number without division, will be shown as our treatise proceeds. - Tertullian, Against Praxeas, Chapter 2

In their efforts to confront heresy, specifically denying these things, they church began to form creeds. These, and many early councils, came about not to establish new doctrine or belief, rather they came about to concisely express the truth already known and embraced by God's church. The creeds became a way of briefly stating what all these Scriptures express.  Councils likewise issued statement supporting orthodox understanding of Scriptures and condemning aberrant teachings. Later creeds often clarified a detail implicit in an earlier creed, now making it clearer.  This was typically prompted by an attack on biblical belief in a specific area of doctrine, such as the early heresies of Noetus of Smyrna (circa 190 AD) and Sabellius (circa 215 AD), who made each of the Trinity merely a "mode" of God (Modalism), and Arius (lived circa 250-336 AD) who denied Jesus' divinity with Jesus merely a creation of God (Arianism). Another came from Theodotus of Byzantium (circa 190 AD) and Paul of Samosata (lived circa 200-275 AD) who taught that Jesus was a supremely virtuous man later adopted as "Son of God" by the Spirit descending on him (Adoptionism). Further, Macedonius of Constantinople (taught circa 342-360 AD) accepted the divinity of Jesus and the Father, but rejected the Holy Spirit as being merely a creation of the Son and servant to the Father and the Son (Macedonians or Pneumatomachians).  I wish I could say this was a complete list, but others were widespread at times without specific and prominent proponents. Docetism was one such idea early idea, from the late first century onward.  It taught that Jesus' physical body was an illusion, that he was really only pure spirit and only seemed to die physically (Gnostics liked to incorporate elements of this into their later beliefs).

The Trinity, without the later coined word, is in the nascent Apostle's Creed (circa 150 AD) and its later revisions (see This understanding was better defined in the later Nicene Creed (circa 325 AD) and its later revisions, specifically because of the later attacks mentioned in the previous paragraph (see

By the time the false religion of Islam arose (circa 609-632 AD) - a mishmash of Gnostic Christianity, Judaism, and paganism - one thing it clearly shows is this. In Mohammad's day, Christians clearly proclaimed and believed in a Triune God.  While Mohammad didn't understand it, and certainly misrepresented it, his Qur'an condemns those holding to a Trinity: 

People of the Book [Christians], do not transgress the bounds of your religion. Speak nothing but the truth about God. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was no more than God's apostle... And do not say: 'Three [Trinity].' Forbear, and it shall be better for you. God is but one God. God forbid that He should have a son! (Surah 4:171)

Those who say: 'The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,' preach a monstrous falsehood... (Surah 19:85)

Not surprisingly, subsequent false prophets and organizations have followed in the footsteps of Mohammad. Joseph Smith's Mormonism (lived 1805-1844 AD) turned the Trinity into a not-so-unique union of three Gods. And Charles Taze Russell's Jehovah's Witnesses (lived 1852-1916 AD) recycle ancient refuted heresies (see those mentioned earlier) relegating Jesus to a lessor creation of God and the Holy Spirit merely an active force, even denying Jesus' bodily resurrection.  Satan, who is very familiar with the Triune God, continues to spark people and movements to oppose the Truth of Scriptures. God's church across time, regardless of the opposition, embraces the truth; it's this Truth - the Triune God - that has set us free (John 8:32).

End Note: Many points in this article have been made by Christians throughout history and are not unique to this article (as I have read them in works spanning centuries of the church). Out of necessity many referenced Scriptures, or verse lists for specific points, have been used by others in whole or in part. Please note that the paragraphs specifically marked by "End Note" in the article specifically draw on well-crafted wording by (c) 2002-2017.

Article by Brent MacDonald, (c) 2017
CC Discipleship Training Institute & Lion Tracks Ministries
As posted on
Non-profit duplication permitted - a courtesy email is appreciated