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Robert Bowman, Jr. :: The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity

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This outline study presents a biblical case for the doctrine of the Trinity, citing roughly 1,000 references drawn from well over 300 different chapters of the Bible, including references from all 27 books of the New Testament. For an explanation of the method, reasoning, and background of this study, please see the Introduction.

  1. There Is One God
  2. This one God is the single divine being known in the OT as Jehovah or Yahweh ("the LORD")
  3. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is God
  4. The Son, Jesus Christ, is God.
  5. The Holy Spirit Is God
  6. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each someone distinct from the other two.
  7. Conclusion: The Bible teaches the Trinity.
  8. What difference does the doctrine of the Trinity make?

Introduction

It is often alleged that the doctrine of the Trinity is not a biblical doctrine. While the word Trinity is not in the Bible, the substance of the doctrine is definitely biblical. The doctrine is simply a formal way of systematizing the following six propositions, which may be viewed as premises of the doctrine:

  1. There is one God (i.e., one proper object of religious devotion).
  2. This one God is a single divine being, called Jehovah or Yahweh in the Old Testament (the LORD).
  3. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is God, the LORD.
  4. The Son, Jesus Christ, is God, the LORD.
  5. The Holy Spirit is God, the LORD.
  6. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each someone distinct from the other two.

Anyone who affirms all six of these propositions is affirming what is essential to the doctrine of the Trinity, since this is just what the doctrine of the Trinity says. In order to dispute the doctrine of the Trinity, then, one must take issue with one or more of the propositions stated above. Anything else is tangential to the issue. Objections based on the special theological vocabulary used in Trinitarian creeds, the conceptual difficulty of the doctrine, the political dimensions of ecclesiastical controversies involving the doctrine, the questionable conduct of some of those who adhere to the doctrine, and the like, fail to engage the biblical basis of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Ironically, anti-Trinitarians who profess faith in the Bible can be found who affirm all of these propositions, though they disagree among themselves as to which ones are biblical. All anti-Trinitarians affirm proposition #3. Anti-Trinitarians who affirm something akin to the ancient heresy of monarchianism or modalism generally affirm all but proposition #6 (though they actually have difficulty affirming #3 in a consistent manner). Anti-Trinitarians who affirm something akin to the ancient heresy of Arianism agree that Yahweh or Jehovah is a single divine being (cf. proposition #2) and affirm proposition #3; they also agree that the Father and Son are personally distinct but take a somewhat different view of the Holy Spirit (cf. proposition #6). There are still other variations. Each of these anti-Trinitarian groups considers its position obviously biblical. Thus, there is no need to appeal to extra-biblical considerations to settle the question, as all of the essential elements of the doctrine are addressed one way or another in the Bible.

The following outline study presents an overview of the biblical basis of the above six propositions, and therefore of the doctrine of the Trinity. Comments on the texts have been kept to a bare minimum; the emphasis is on the many biblical texts themselves. Roughly 1,000 references drawn from well over 300 different chapters of the Bible are listed, including references from all 27 books of the New Testament. The study makes no direct references to any specific non-Trinitarian religious groups but focuses solely on presenting the positive biblical evidence for the Trinity and responding succinctly to common objections to this evidence. No secondary sources are cited in the outline itself, though of course I have consulted numerous such sources.

Brief expositions of many of the texts discussed here can be found in the author's book Why You Should Believe in the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989). Unfortunately, that book is out of print, but you can order a copy here. The material on the deity of Christ (point VI of the outline) is discussed in even greater depth in my more recent book Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ, co-authored with J. Ed Komoszewski (Kregel, 2007).

A proper evaluation of the biblical evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity will depend on the faithful application of sound principles of biblical interpretation. Here I will mention just two principles which, if followed, would prevent almost all interpretive errors on this subject.

The first is to interpret the implicit in light of the explicit. That is, texts that explicitly state that such-and-such is true are to govern our understanding of passages that do not address the issue directly. For example, many passages of the Bible state explicitly that God is omniscient, that is, that he knows all things, including the thoughts of men and all future events (1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Chron. 28:9; Job 37:16; Ps. 139:1-4; Is. 41:22-23; 42:9; 44:7; Jer. 17:10a). These texts must govern our understanding of passages which might seem to imply, but which do not assert, that God did not know something (e.g., Gen. 3:9-13; 4:9; 18:9, 20-21).

The other principle is that we interpret logically but not rationalistically. Using the same illustration, if God knows everything ahead of time, then logically He must have known that Adam and Eve would fall into sin. However, to argue that if God knew Adam and Eve would sin then they would not be responsible for their choosing to sin is not "logical," it is rationalistic. It may be difficult to understand how persons could be responsible for their sinful actions if God knew ahead of time that they would sin, but it is not illogical (not self-contradictory) to say so.

It should be kept in mind that a fruitful study of the Trinity depends to a considerable extent on a proper understanding of the nature of God. This outline touches on God's attributes in various places but does not attempt to survey all of the relevant biblical material on the subject.

Note: This outline study has been a work in progress of mine since the late 1970s. A version that was several pages shorter than the current version was one of the most widely disseminated standard resources sent out by the Christian Research Institute (CRI) in the late 1980s and early 1990s. An electronic media version was created without my knowledge in 1994. Since that time it has appeared on various web sites in various editions (including some with unauthorized revisions), sometimes with permission and sometimes not. The version here, created for publication on the web site of the Institute for Religious Research, is the most recent version and includes the most significant revisions and additions in two decades (including some 300 new biblical references). In order to ensure the accuracy and integrity of this free resource, I am asserting my copyright to the work as its sole author. Anyone is welcome to print out and copy the outline study as much as they want as long as it is reproduced without change in its entirety (including this introduction and note). Permission must be obtained for posting this resource on another site.

  1. There Is One God
    1. One God: Explicit Statements
      1. OT: Deut. 4:35, 39; 32:39; 2 Sam. 22:32; 2 Kings 5:15; Is. 37:20; 43:10; 44:6-8; 45:5, 14, 21-22; 46:9
      2. NT: John 5:44; Rom. 3:30; 16:27; 1 Cor. 8:4-6; Gal. 3:20; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 1:17; 2:5; James 2:19; Jude 25
    2. None like God (in his essence)
      1. Explicit statements: Ex. 8:10; 9:14; 15:11; 2 Sam. 7:22; 1 Kgs. 8:23; 1 Chr. 17:20; Ps. 86:8; Is. 40:18, 25; 44:7; 46:5, 9; Jer. 10:6-7; Micah 7:18
      2. Being like God a Satanic lie: Gen. 3:5; Is. 14:14; John 8:44
      3. Fallen man become "like God" only in that he took upon himself to know good and evil, not that he acquired godhood: Gen. 3:22
    3. Only one true God: 2 Chr. 15:3; Jer. 10:10; John 17:3; 1 Thess. 1:9; 1 John 5:20-21
      1. Antitrinitarians sometimes argue that the word translated "true" in John 17:3 (alêthinos) actually means "archetypal," referring to the Father as the archetypal or original God, thus allowing Christ to be designated "God" in a derivative or secondary sense.
      2. Even if this interpretation were possible for John 17:3, it is not for the OT texts, since the Hebrew word for "true" ('emet) never means "archetypal."
      3. Elsewhere, the expression "the true God" in context contrasts this God with idols or false gods, not with genuine though derivative gods:
        1. 2 Chron. 15:3—Just as Israel was for many days "without the true God" but then turned back to him (vv. 3-6), so Asa turned to him by first removing all the idols from the land (v. 7[1]).
        2. Jer. 10:10—Israel not to fear the gods of the nations, worshiped in idols (10:1-9); the true God is the living God (v. 10) and the Creator of the world (vv. 11-12).
        3. 1 Thess. 1:9—the Thessalonians turned from idols to serve the living and true God.
        4. 1 John 5:20-21—We are in the true God and eternal life (v. 20b), and should guard ourselves from idols (v. 21).
      4. We should read the expression "the true God" in John 17:3 in light of its use elsewhere in the Bible as well as in its immediate context in John. Jesus' point is not that the Father is the archetypal God from whom all other Gods are derived, but that God is only truly known in the Father whom Jesus his Son came to glorify. That God the Father cannot be known apart from the Son is a major theme in John's writings (e.g., John 1:18; 8:19; 14:6-7, 9, 23; 17:25-26; 1 John 2:23; 5:20). The parallel with 1 John 5:20 is especially significant: eternal life consists in knowing the Father as the true God and Jesus Christ (John 17:3); we know the true one in his Son Jesus Christ, and this is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20).
      5. Ironically, critics of the Trinity often lean hard on John 17:3 to try to prove that Jesus cannot be God because the text says that the Father, as distinct from Jesus Christ, is the only true God. But this argument backfires when the "archetypal" understanding of John 17:3 is refuted, because John explicitly identifies Jesus as God (John 1:1, 18; 20:28; see IV.A.2-4 below). Although Christ humbly honors the Father in this statement as the only true God, his statement does not necessarily mean that he (Jesus) is not also God—and the explicit statements in the same Gospel prove this was not his meaning.
    4. All other "gods" are therefore false gods (idols), not gods at all: Deut. 32:21; 1 Sam. 12:21; Ps. 96:5; Is. 37:19; 41:23-24, 29; Jer. 2:11; 5:7; 16:20; 1 Cor. 8:4; 10:19-20
    5. Demons, not gods, are the power behind false worship: Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37; 1 Cor. 10:20; Gal. 4:8
    6. How human beings are meant to be "like God"
      1. The image of God indicates that man is to represent God and share his moral character, not that man can be metaphysically like God: Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1; 1 Cor. 11:7; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10
      2. The goal of being like Christ has the following aspects only:
        1. Sharing His moral character: 1 John 3:2; Rom. 8:29.
        2. Being raised with glorified, immortal bodies like His: Phil. 3:21; 1 Cor. 15:49.
      3. Becoming partakers of the divine nature refers again to moral nature ("having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust"), not metaphysical nature: 2 Pet. 1:4; see also Heb. 12:10; on the meaning of "partakers," see 1 Cor. 10:18, 20; 2 Cor. 1:17; 1 Pet. 5:1.
    7. Are mighty or exalted men gods?
      1. Scripture never says explicitly that human beings are gods.
      2. Powerful, mighty men are explicitly said not to be gods: Ezek. 28:2, 9; Is. 31:3; 2 Thess. 2:4.
      3. Man and God are opposite, exclusive categories: Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Chron. 29:1; Job 32:13; Ps. 56:4, 11; Prov. 3:4; Is. 31:3; Ezek. 28:2, 9; Hosea 11:9; Matt. 19:26; John 10:33; Acts 12:22; 1 Cor. 14:2.
      4. Moses was "as God," not really a god: Ex. 4:16; 7:1.
      5. Ezek. 32:21 speaks of warriors or soldiers as "mighty gods," but in context they are so regarded by their pagan nations, not by God or Israel; cf. Ezek. 28:2, 9
      6. The elohim before whom accused stood in Exodus was God himself, not judges, as many translations incorrectly render: Ex. 22:8-9, 28; compare Deut. 19:17.
      7. The use of elohim in Psalm 82, probably in reference to wicked judges, as cited by Jesus in John 10:34-36, does not mean that men really can be gods.
        1. It is Asaph, not the Lord, who calls the judges elohim in Ps. 82:1, 6. This is important, even though we agree that Ps. 82 is inspired.
        2. Asaph's meaning is not "Although you are gods, you will die like men," but rather "I called you gods, but in fact you will all die like the men that you really are."
        3. The Psalmist was no more saying that wicked judges were truly gods than he was saying that they were truly "sons of the Most High" (v. 6b).
        4. Thus, Ps. 82:1 calls the judges elohim in irony. They had quite likely taken their role in judgment (cf. point 6 above) to mean they were elohim, or gods, and Asaph's message is that these so-called gods were mere men who would die under the judgment of the true elohim (vss. 1-2, 7-8).
        5. Christ's use of this passage in John 10:34-36 does not negate the above interpretation of Psalm 82.
        6. The words, "The Scripture cannot be broken," in this context probably mean "the Scripture cannot go without having some ultimate fulfillment" (cf. John 7:23; Matt. 5:17). Thus Jesus is saying that what the OT judges were called in irony, he is in reality; he does what they could not do and is what they could never be (see the Adam—Christ contrasts in Rom. 5:12-21 and 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45 for a similar use of OT Scripture).
        7. The clause, "those against whom the word of God came" (John 10:35) shows that this "word" was a word of judgment against the so-called gods; which shows that they were false gods, not really gods at all.
        8. Finally, these wicked men were certainly not "godlike" or "divine" by nature, so that in any case the use of elohim to refer to them must be seen as figurative, not literal.
      8. Even if men were gods (which they are not), this would be irrelevant to Jesus, since He was God as a preexistent spirit before creation: John 1:1.
    8. Are angels gods?
      1. Scripture never explicitly states that angels are gods.
      2. Demonic spirits are not gods, 1 Cor. 10:20; Gal. 4:8; thus, being "mighty spirits" does not make angels gods.
      3. Satan is therefore also a false god: 2 Cor. 4:4.
      4. Psalm 8:5 does not teach that angels are gods.
        1. Ps. 8:5 is paraphrased in Heb. 2:7, not quoted literally (for a similar example of such paraphrase, cf. Ps. 68:18 with Eph. 4:8). In Ps. 8:5, elohim certainly means God, not angels, since Ps. 8:3-8 parallels Gen. 1:1, 8, 16, 26-28. (Hebrews is here following the Septuagint, or Greek translation of the OT, in using "angels" in place of "God.") Note that the Psalmist is speaking of man's exalted place in creation, whereas Hebrews, while agreeing on man's exalted status compared to the rest of creation, applies the Psalm to speak of the lower place taken by Christ in becoming a man compared to his intrinsic status as divine. Thus, Heb. 2:7 may not mean to equate angels with gods at all (and the writer never draws that conclusion).
        2. Having argued that Christ, unlike the angels, bears the designation "God" (1:8), it would be odd for the writer to imply just several verses later that the angels were "gods" (supposedly in 2:7).
        3. Even if Heb. 2:7 did imply that angels are "gods," in the context of Hebrews 1-2 these angels would be those falsely exalted above Christ. (The focal claim of Hebrews 1-2 is that Christ is greater than all the angels.) Cf. also Rev. 19:10 and 22:8-9 on the problem of the worship of angels (as well as possibly Col. 2:18).
      5. Elsewhere in the Psalms angels, if spoken of as gods (or as "sons of the gods"), are considered false gods: Ps. 29:1; 86:8-10; 89:6; 95:3; 96:4-5; 97:7-9 (note that these false gods are called "angels" in the Septuagint); 135:5; 136:2; 138:1; cf. Ex. 15:11; 18:11; Deut. 10:17; 1 Chr. 16:25; 2 Chr. 2:5.
      6. Even if the angels were gods (which the above shows they are not), that would be irrelevant to Jesus, since He is not an angelic being, but the Son who is worshipped by the angels as their Creator, Lord, and God: Heb. 1:1-13.
    9. Does the plural form of Elohim refer to "gods" or "Gods"?
      1. It is true that the Hebrew word elohim (usually translated "God") is grammatically a plural form. However, when it refers to "gods" in the plural (typically false deities), elohim regularly takes plural verbs, adjectives, and pronouns (e.g., "other [pl.] gods," Ex. 20:3; Deut. 5:7; frequent in the OT; "these [pl.] are the gods," 1 Sam. 4:8; "so may the gods do [pl.] to me," 1 Kings 19:2; "you [pl.] are our gods," Is. 42:17; etc.). When it refers to the true God, the Creator, the object of Israel's proper worship, it regularly takes singular verbs, singular adjectives, and singular pronouns. For example, "created" in Genesis 1:1 is a singular verb form, despite the fact that elohim ("God") is grammatically a plural noun. Most Hebrew scholars understand this use of the plural form elohim for God to be an example of the plural of fullness (or plenitude, amplitude, etc.).
      2. The simple fact that the OT occasionally uses elohim with reference to a single pagan god, such as Ashtoreth, Chemosh, or Molech (1 Kings 11:5, 33), is sufficient to show that elohim can refer to a single deity (see also Judg. 6:31; 11:24; 16:23, 24; 1 Sam. 5:7; 1 Kings 18:24a, 25; 2 Kings 1:2, 3, 6, 16; 19:37).
      3. The Greek OT (or Septuagint) translated elohim in these contexts consistently with the singular noun theos ("God"), and when the NT quotes the OT it also uses the singular form theos (e.g., Deut. 6:13, in Matt. 4:10 and Luke 4:8; Deut. 6:16, in Matt. 4:7 and Luke 4:12; Ex. 3:6, in Matt. 22:32, Mark 12:26, and Luke 20:37; Ps. 22:1 in Matt. 27:46 and Mark 15:34; etc.).
      4. Since the plural form elohim can be used even with reference to an individual pagan deity, we should also not regard this plural form as evidence of the Trinity.
    10. Conclusion: If there is only one God, one true God, all other gods being false gods, neither men nor angels being gods, and none even like God by nature—all of which the Bible says repeatedly and explicitly—then we must conclude that there is indeed only one God.
  2. This One God Is the Single Divine Being Known in the OT as Jehovah or Yahweh ("The LORD")
    1. This one God is known in the OT as Jehovah or Yahweh ("the LORD")
      1. Texts where Jehovah is said to be elohim or el: Deut. 4:35, 39; Josh. 22:34; 1 Kings 8:60; 18:21, 39; Ps. 100:3; 118:27; etc.
      2. Texts where the compound name "Jehovah God" (Yahweh Elohim) is used: Gen. 2:4-9, 15-22; 3:1, 8-9, 13-14, 21-23; 24:3; Ex. 9:30; Ps. 72:18; 84:11; Jonah 4:6
      3. Only one Yahweh/Jehovah: Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29
      4. The Bible never speaks of "the gods" as a group that includes Yahweh; nor is creation ever credited to "gods"; nor does it ever enjoin the worship of "gods"; nor does it speak in any other way that would imply that Yahweh was one of a group of deities. In fact the Bible explicitly rejects these types of statements (e.g., Deut. 5:6-10; 6:4-5, 13; Is. 43:10; 44:6-8, 24).
      5. Conclusion: Jehovah is the only God, the only El or Elohim
    2. This one God, the LORD, is one single divine being
      1. The Bible always refers to the LORD or God in the third person singular (he, his, him), never as they, and speakers in the Bible addressing God/the LORD always do so in the second person singular (you singular). Citing texts is really unnecessary because there are far too many occurrences, but see, for example, Gen. 1:5, 10; Ex. 3:6, 12-14; 20:7; Deut. 32:39; 1 Kings 18:39; Ps. 23:2-3.
      2. Whenever in the Bible the LORD or God speaks to human beings or other creatures, he always speaks of himself in the first person singular (I and my/mine, not us/we and our/ours). Of the obviously numerous examples, see the especially famous examples in Ex. 3:14; Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:6. He says "I am the LORD" or "I am the LORD your/their God" some 164 times in the OT (especially in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Isaiah, and Ezekiel).
      3. This conclusion cannot be circumvented by saying that there is one "Godhead" consisting of a plurality of divine beings. The word "Godhead" is equivalent to the word "Godhood" (-head is an old English suffix meaning the state or status of something, as in maidenhead, the state of being a maiden or virgin). In the English Bible it is used to translate three closely related words: theion ("divine being," Acts 17:29), theiotês ("divine nature," Rom. 1:20), and theotês ("deity," Col. 2:9). In none of these texts does "Godhead" refer to more than one divine being. The use of "Godhead" as a term for the Trinity is not found in the Bible; it is not inaccurate per se, but it must be understood as a term for a single divine being, not a group of gods.
    3. However, the Bible never says that God is "one person."
      1. Heb. 1:3 KJV speaks of God's "person," but the word used here, hupostasis, is translated "substance" in Heb. 11:1 KJV; also in Heb. 1:3 "God" refers specifically to the Father.
      2. Gal. 3:20 speaks of God as one party in the covenant between God and man, not as one person.
      3. Job 13:8 KJV speaks of God's "person," but ironically the Hebrew literally means "his faces."
    4. The use of plural pronouns by God in Genesis 1-11
      1. As already noted, the Bible always refers to God in the singular, and he always speaks of himself with singular pronouns (I, me, mine, my) when addressing creatures. These singular forms do not disprove that God exists as three "persons" as long as these persons are not separate beings.
      2. At least three times God speaks of or to himself using plural pronouns (Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7), and nontrinitarian interpretations cannot account for these occurrences.
        1. A plural reference to God and the angels is not likely in these texts. In 1:26 "our image" is explained by the parallel in 1:27, "in God's image." In 3:22 "like one of us" refers back to 3:5, "like God." In 11:7 "let us go down and there confuse their language" is explained immediately in 11:8-9, "So the LORD [Yahweh] scattered them abroad from there … The LORD confused the language of the whole earth." Angels were evidently present when God created human beings (cf. Job 38:4-7), but the Bible never includes them as participants in creating human beings. Nor does the Bible ever speak of humans as being in the image of angels.
        2. That the plural is in some way literal is evident from 3:22 ("like one of us") and from 11:7 ("Come, let us go down"), which parallels the people's statements "Come, let us …" (11:3, 4).
        3. The "literary plural" (possibly, though never clearly, attested in Paul) is irrelevant to OT texts in which God is speaking, not writing.
        4. The "plural of deliberation" or "cohortative plural" (as in "Let's see now …") with reference to a single person is apparently unattested in biblical writings, and clearly cannot explain the plural in Gen. 3:22 ("like one of us").
        5. The "plural of amplitude" or of "fullness" (which probably does explain the use of the plural form elohim in the singular sense of "God") is irrelevant to the use of plural pronouns, and again cannot explain Gen. 3:22 and 11:7.
        6. The "plural of majesty" (the royal "we") is possibly attested in 1 Kings 12:9; 2 Chron. 10:9; more likely Ezra 4:18; but none of these is a certain use of that idiom; and again, it cannot explain Gen. 3:22 and 11:7.
      3. There are two factors that may explain why these intradivine plural pronouns occur only in Genesis 1-11.
        1. These plural pronouns express communication among the divine persons, rather than communication from God to human beings or angelic creatures.
        2. It may be significant that the use of these plural forms is reported only in Genesis 1-11, prior to the revelations to Abraham, when the focus of biblical revelation became the fostering of a monotheistic faith. The history of the OT is a history of the struggle to establish Israel as a community committed to belief in one God. In that context it would have been confusing to have referred overtly to the three divine persons of the triune God. This also explains why there is no overt revelation of the three persons in the OT.
    5. The uniqueness of God should prepare us for the possibility that the one divine Being exists uniquely as a plurality of persons
      1. Only one God, thus unique: see I.A
      2. None are even like God: see I.B
      3. God cannot be fully comprehended: Is. 40:18, 25; 1 Cor. 8:2-3
      4. God can be known only insofar as the Son reveals Him: Matt. 11:25-27; John 1:18
      5. Analogical language needed to describe God: Ezek. 1:26-28; Rev. 1:13-16
      6. God is transcendent, entirely distinct from and different than the universe, as the carpenter is distinct from the bench
        1. Separate from the world: Is. 40:22; Acts 17:24
        2. Contrasted with the world: Ps. 102:25-27; 1 John 2:15-17
        3. Created the world: Gen. 1:1; Ps. 33:6; 102:25; Is. 42:5; 44:24; John 1:3; Rom. 11:36; Heb. 1:2; 11:3
  3. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is God
    1. Explicit statements: John 5:18; 6:27; 17:1, 3; 20:17; 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 John 3; etc
    2. The expression, "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ": Rom. 15:6; 2 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:3; Col. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:3; see also 2 Cor. 11:31; Eph. 1:17; Rev. 1:6
    3. (Note: No attempt is made here to argue at length for this premise of the doctrine of the Trinity, since those who profess some form of Christian faith rarely, if ever, dispute it.)
  4. The Son, Jesus Christ, Is God
    1. Explicit statements identifying Jesus as "God"
      1. Is. 9:6; note 10:21. Translations which render the Hebrew el gibbôr here as "mighty hero" are inconsistent in their rendering of 10:21. Also note that Ezek. 32:21, which some try to cross-reference, is (a) not in the same context, as is Is. 10:21, and (b) speaking of false gods, cf. I.G.5. Some object that "mighty God" is simply theophoric (i.e., in which a person's name says something about God, not about himself). However, this is not true of the rest of the compound name, which is descriptive of the Messiah himself (note especially "Prince of Peace"). It certainly makes no sense to argue both that the expression el gibbôr means merely "mighty hero" and that it is a theophoric description of God. In light of the NT, we should understand it as a description of the Messiah as God.
      2. John 1:1. Even if Jesus is here called "a god" (as some have argued), since there is only one God, Jesus is that God. However, the "a god" rendering is incorrect. Other NT passages using the Greek word for God (theos) in the same construction are always rendered "God": Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38; John 8:54; Phil. 2:13; Heb. 11:16. Passages in which a shift occurs from ho theos ("the God") to theos ("God") never imply a shift in meaning: Mark 12:27; Luke 20:37-38; John 3:2; 13:3; Rom. 1:21; 1 Thess. 1:9; Heb. 9:14; 1 Pet. 4:10-11. In context, the preincarnate Christ (called "the Word") is eternal (existing before creation, 1:1-2), is credited with creation (1:3, 10), is the object of faith (1:12), and has the divine glory (1:14)—all of which shows that he really is God.
      3. John 1:18. The best manuscripts have "God" here, not "Son." The word monogenês, frequently rendered "only-begotten," actually means "one of a kind," "unique," though in the NT always in the context of a son or daughter. Even if one translates "only-begotten," the idea is not of a "begotten god" as opposed to an "unbegotten god." The best translation is probably "God the only Son" (NRSV).
      4. John 20:28. Compare Rev. 4:11, in which the same author (John) uses the same construction in the plural ("our") instead of the singular ("my"). See also Ps. 35:23. Note that Christ's response indicates that Thomas's acclamation was not wrong. Also note that John 20:17 does show that the Father was Jesus' "God" (due to Jesus becoming a man), but the words "my God" as spoken by Thomas later in the same chapter must mean no less than in v. 17. Thus, what the Father is to Jesus in his humanity, Jesus is to Thomas (and therefore to us as well).
      5. Acts 20:28: "the church of God which he purchased with his own blood." The variant readings (e.g. "the church of the Lord") show that the original wording was understood to mean "his own blood," not "the blood of his own [Son]" (since otherwise no one would have thought to change it). (No one seems to have thought to understand the text to mean "the blood of his own" until about a hundred years ago.) Thus all other renderings are attempts to evade the startling clarity and meaning of this passage.
      6. Rom. 9:5. While grammatically this is not the only possible interpretation, the consistent form of doxologies in Scripture, as well as the smoothest reading of the text, supports the identification of Christ as "God" in this verse.
      7. Titus 2:13. Grammatically and contextually, this is one of the strongest proof texts for the deity of Christ. Sharp's first rule, properly understood, proves that the text should be translated "our great God and Savior" (cf. same construction in Luke 20:37; Rev. 1:6; and many other passages). Note also that Paul always uses the word "manifestation" ("appearing") of Christ: 2 Thess. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 1:10; 4:1, 8. The view that Paul means that Jesus Christ is "the glory of our great God and Savior" has several difficulties. For example, construing "Savior" as someone other than "Jesus Christ" in this context is awkward and implausible. Such alternate explanations would never have been entertained had Paul written "the appearing of the glory of our great Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Thus, the root problem is the assumption that Paul could not have called Jesus God.
      8. Heb. 1:8. The rendering, "God is your throne," is nonsense—God is not a throne, he is the one who sits on the throne! Also, "God is your throne," if taken to mean God is the source of one's rule, could be said about any angelic ruler—but Hebrews 1 is arguing that Jesus is superior to the angels.
      9. 2 Pet. 1:1. The same construction is used here as in Titus 2:13; see the parallel passages in 2 Pet. 1:11; 2:20; 3:2, 18. See comments above on Titus 2:13.
      10. 1 John 5:20. Admittedly, biblical scholars are split on whether the "true God" in this text is the Father or the Son. Three considerations favor the Son. First, the closest antecedent for "this one" is Jesus Christ ("in his Son Jesus Christ. This one…"). Second, in 1:2 the "eternal life" is Jesus Christ (who was "with the Father"), an apparent example of inclusio (repetition of a theme or idea at the beginning and end of a text). Third, the confession form "This one is …" (houtos estin) strongly favors Jesus Christ, rather than the Father, as the subject, since John uses this language repeatedly with regard to Christ (John 1:30, 33, 34; 4:29, 42; 6:14, 42, 50, 58; 7:18, 25, 26, 40, 41; 1 John 5:6; of the man born blind, John 9:8, 9, 19, 20; of the disciple, John 21:24; of the anti-Christ, 1 John 2:22; 2 John 1:7), but not once for the Father. John has just used this formula for Christ earlier in the same chapter (1 John 5:6).
    2. Jesus is Jehovah/Yahweh (the Lord)
      1. Rom. 10:9-13: Note the repeated "for" (gar), which links these verses closely together. The "Lord" of 10:13 (where kurios, "Lord," translates the Hebrew Yahweh) must be the "Lord" of 10:9, 12.
      2. Phil. 2:9-11. In context, the "name that is above every name" is "Lord" (vs. 11), i.e., Jehovah.
      3. Heb. 1:10: Here God the Father addresses the Son as "Lord," in a quotation from Ps. 102:25 (cf. 102:24, where the person addressed is called "God"). Since here the Father addresses the Son as "Lord," this cannot be explained away as a text in which a creature addresses Christ as God/Lord in a merely representational sense.
      4. 1 Pet. 2:3-4: This verse is nearly an exact quotation of Ps. 34:8a, where "Lord" is Jehovah. From 1 Pet. 2:4-8 it is also clear that "the Lord" in v. 3 is Jesus.
      5. 1 Pet. 3:13-15: these verses are a clear reference to Is. 8:12-13, where the one who is to be regarded as holy is Jehovah.
      6. Texts where Jesus is spoken of as the "one Lord" (cf. Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29): 1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 4:5; cf. Rom. 10:12; 1 Cor. 12:5.
      7. Many other texts that call Jesus "Lord" do so in ways that equate him with Yahweh: Matt. 3:3, Mark 1:3, and Luke 3:4 (cf. Is. 40:3); Matt. 7:21-22 and Luke 6:46; Matt. 8:25 and 14:30 (cf. Ps. 118:25); Acts 1:24 (addressing the Lord Jesus [cf. v. 21] in prayer and attributing to him divine knowledge); 2:21 (cf. Joel 2:32), 36; 7:59-60; 8:25; 1 Cor. 1:2 (calling on the Lord), 8 (the day of the Lord) [etc.], 31 (cf. Jer. 9:23-24); 2:16 (cf. Is. 40:13); 4:4-5; 5:4 (gathering in the name of the Lord); 6:11; 7:17, 32-35 (devotion to the Lord); 10:21-22; etc.
    3. Jesus has many other names or titles of God
      1. Titles belonging only to God
        1. The First and the Last (Beginning and End, Alpha and Omega): Rev. 1:7-8, 17b-18; 2:8; 22:13; cf. Is. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 21:6
        2. King of kings and Lord of lords: Rev. 17:14; 19:16; cf. Dan. 4:37; 1 Tim. 6:15
      2. Titles belonging in the ultimate sense only to God
        1. Savior: Luke 2:11; John 4:42; Phil. 3:20; 2 Tim. 1:10; Titus 2:13, cf. v. 10; 2 Pet. 1:11; 2:20; 3:2, 18; 1 John 4:14; cf. Is. 43:11; 45:21-22; 1 Tim. 4:10; on Jesus becoming the source of salvation; Heb. 5:9, cf. Ex. 15:2; Ps. 118:14, 21
        2. Shepherd: John 10:11; Heb. 13:20; cf. Ps. 23:1; Is. 40:11
        3. Bridegroom/Husband: Matt. 22:2; 25:1-13; Mark 2:19; John 3:29; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-27; Rev. 19:7-9; 21:2, 9; cf. Is. 54:5; 62:5; Jer. 31:32
        4. Rock: 1 Cor. 10:4; cf. Is. 44:8
      3. Jesus' self-declarations—his "I am" sayings
        1. Jesus' "I am" (egô eimi) sayings with a predicate declare his divine functions: "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35, 48; cf. 6:41, 51), "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12), "I am the gate" of the sheep (John 10:7, 9), "I am the good shepherd" (10:11, 14), "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25), "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6), "I am the [true] vine" (John 15:1, 5). In these sayings Jesus essentially claims to be everything his people need for eternal life.
        2. Jesus' "I am" (egô eimi) sayings without a predicate declare his divine identity as the divine Son come to be the Messiah: "I am [he]; do not fear" (Matt. 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20; cf. Is. 43:2, 5); "I am [he]" (Mark 14:62); "I am [he], the one speaking to you" (John 4:26, cf. Is. 52:6); "unless you believe that I am [he] you will die in your sins…then you will know that I am [he]" (John 8:24, 28, cf. Is. 43:10-11); "before Abraham came into being, I am" or "I am [he]" (John 8:58, note v. 59); "I know the ones I have chosen…you will believe that I am [he]" (John 13:18-19, cf. Is. 43:10); "I am [he]" (John 18:5, cf. vv. 6-8). Note the many parallels to the "I am" sayings of God in Isaiah, which virtually all biblical scholars agree are echoed by Jesus' "I am" sayings in John. Some scholars also see at least an indirect connection to God's declaration "I am who I am" in Ex. 3:14 (especially for John 8:58).
      4. The NT gives an extraordinary emphasis on Jesus' "name," stating that it is the highest of all names, Eph. 1:21; Phil. 2:9-11; referring to it as "the Name," Acts 5:41; 3 John 7; glorifying his name, Acts 19:13-18, cf. Ps. 20:7. Christians call on his name for salvation; they get baptized and receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life in his name; they cast out demons in his name; they suffer and risk their lives for his name; they do everything in his name: Matt. 7:22; 10:22; 19:29; 24:9; Mark 9:38-39; 13:13; Luke 10:17; 21:12, 17; John 1:12; 15:21; 20:31; Acts 2:21, 36, 38; 3:6, 16; 4:7, 10, 12, 17-18, 30; 5:28; 8:16; 9:14, 21, 27-28; 10:43, 48; 15:26; 16:18; 19: 5; 21:13; 22:16; Rom. 10:12-13; 1 Cor. 1:13-15; 6:11; Col. 3:17; 1 Pet. 4:14; 1 John 2:12; 1 John 3:23; 5:13; Rev. 2:3, 13; 3:8.
    4. Jesus received the honors due to God alone
      1. Honor: John 5:23; Heb. 3:3-4
      2. Love: Matt. 10:37; Luke 14:26; John 14:15, 21; 15:10; Eph. 6:24
      3. Prayer: John 14:14 (the word "me" in the text is debated, but in any case it is Jesus who answers the prayer); Acts 1:24-25; 7:59-60 (cf. Luke 23:34, 46); 9:14; 22:16; Rom. 10:12-13; 1 Cor. 1:2; 16:22; 2 Cor. 12:8-10 (where "the Lord" must be Jesus, cf. v. 9); 2 Thess. 2:16-17; Rev. 22:20-21
      4. Worship (proskuneô): Matt. 2:2, 11; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 20:20; 28:9, 17 (cf. Matt. 4:9-10); Phil. 2:10-11 (cf. Is. 45:23); Heb. 1:6 (cf. Ps. 97:7); Rev. 1:17; 5:14 (cf. Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9)
      5. Religious or sacred service (latreuô): Dan. 7:14; Rev. 22:1-3
      6. Doxological praise: 2 Tim. 4:18; Heb. 13:20-21; 1 Pet. 4:11; 2 Pet. 3:18; Rev. 1:5-6; 5:13
      7. Song: Eph. 5:19; Rev. 5:9-10; cf. Ps. 92:1; 95:1; 96:2; etc.
      8. Fear/reverence: 2 Cor. 5:10-11; Eph. 5:21; 6:7-8; Col. 3:22-25; 1 Pet. 3:14-16; cf. Deut. 6:13; 10:20; Prov. 1:7; 2:5; 9:10; etc.; Is. 8:12-13
      9. Faith: Matt. 9:28; John 1:12; 3:15-18, 36; 6:35, 40; 7:37-39; 8:24; 11:25-26; 14:1; 20:31; Acts 3:16; 10:43; 16:31; 20:21; 22:19; 24:24; 26:18; Rom. 9:33; 10:11; Gal. 3:26; 1 Pet. 2:6; 1 John 3:23; 5:1, 10, 13
    5. Jesus does the works of God
      1. Creation: John 1:3, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2, 10; Rev. 3:14 (where archê probably means ruler or head); on "through" and "in" Christ, cf. Rom. 11:36; Heb. 2:10; Acts 17:28; cf. also Is. 44:24
      2. Sustains the universe: Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3, 11-12
      3. Demonstrating divine sovereignty over nature: Matt. 8:23-27 par.; Matt. 14:13-33 par.; Matt. 15:32-39; Matt. 17:24-27; Mark 5:19-20; Luke 5:1-11; 7:11-16; John 2:1-11; John 21:1-14
      4. Speaking with divine authority: Matt. 5:20-22, etc.; 7:24-29; 24:35; Mark 1:22; 13:31; Luke 4:32; John 4:26; 7:46; cf. "Amen I say to you" (74 times in the Gospels); "the word of the Lord," Acts 8:25; 13:44, 48-49; 15:35-36; 16:32; 19:10, 20; 1 Thess. 4:15
      5. Salvation:
        1. In general: See C.2.a. above
        2. Forgives sins: Matt. 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26; note that Jesus forgives sins not committed against him.
        3. Sends the Spirit and his gifts: Matt. 3:11; Luke 24:49; John 1:33; 4:10, 15; 7:37-39; 15:26; 16:7-14; 20:22; Acts 2:33; Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 12:5; Eph. 4:8-11
        4. All spiritual blessings (with the Father): Eph. 1:2-3; 2 Thess. 2:16-17; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; 2 John 3; Rev. 1:4; etc.
      6. Raising the dead: John 2:19-22; 5:28-29; 6:40, 54; 10:17-18, 27-28 (cf. Deut. 32:39); 11:25-26; Acts 2:24
      7. Judgment: Matt. 25:31-46; John 5:22-23; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Rom. 2:16; 1 Cor. 4:4-5; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Thess. 1:7-8; 2 Tim. 4:1; Rev. 2:23
      8. All of them: John 5:19
    6. Jesus has all the attributes of God
      1. All of them: John 1:1; 12:45; 14:7-10; Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 4:4; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:13, 15, 19; 2:9; Heb. 1:3
      2. Self-existent: John 5:26
      3. Unchangeable: Heb. 1:10-12 (in the same sense as YHWH); 13:8
      4. Eternal: John 1:1-3; 8:56-59; 17:5; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12; 7:3
      5. Omnipresent: Matt. 8:5-13; 18:20; 28:20; Mark 7:24-30; Luke 7:1-10; John 1:47-49; 3:13; 4:46-54; Eph. 1:23; 4:10-11; Col. 3:11
      6. Omniscient: Matt. 9:4; 11:21-23; 12:25; Mark 2:6-8; 8:31-32 (etc.); Luke 6:8; 10:13-15; 21:20-24; John 2:23-24; 4:16-18; 11:11-15; 13:10-11, 21-29, 36-38 par.; 16:30-31; 21:17; Acts 1:24; 1 Cor. 4:5; Rev. 2:23; cf. Mark 13:30-32
      7. Omnipotent: Matt. 28:18; John 2:19-22; 10:17-18; 1 Cor. 1:23-24; 2 Cor. 12:9; Eph. 1:19-21; Col. 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:22
      8. Loving (in a preeminent, unlimited way): John 13:34; 15:9, 12-13; Rom. 8:35-39; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:19; 5:2; Rev. 1:4; cf. Rom. 5:8
      9. Incomprehensible: Matt. 11:25-27
    7. Jesus is "equal with God"
      1. John 5:18: Although John is relating what the Jews understood Jesus to be claiming, the context shows they were basically right: In v. 17 Jesus claimed to be exempt from the Sabbath along with His Father, and in 5:19-29 he claimed to do all of the works of the Father and to deserve the same honor as the Father.
      2. Phil. 2:6: Jesus did not attempt to seize recognition by the world as being equal with God, but attained that recognition by humbling himself and being exalted by the Father (vv. 7-11).
    8. Jesus holds God's position
      1. Jesus sits on God's throne, occupying the highest position possible: Ps. 110:1; Matt. 22:44; 25:31; 26:64; Mark 12:36; 14:62; Luke 20:42-43; 22:69; Acts 2:33-35; 5:31; 7:55-56; Rom. 8:34; 1 Cor. 15:25; 2 Cor. 5:10; Eph. 1:20; 2:6; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12-13; 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22; Rev. 3:21; 7:17; 22:1, 3
      2. Jesus rules over all things: Matt. 11:25-27; 28:18; Luke 10:21-22; John 3:35; 13:3; 16:15; Acts 10:36; 1 Cor. 15:27-28; Eph. 1:22; Phil. 2:10; 3:21; Heb. 1:2; 2:8; Rev. 5:13
      3. Jesus rules in this position forever: Luke 1:33; Eph. 1:19b-21; Heb. 1:8; Rev. 11:15; cf. Eph. 5:5; Rev. 22:1, 3
    9. Jesus is the Son of God
      1. "Son" in Scripture can mean simply one possessing the nature of something, whether literal or figurative (e.g. "son of man," "sons of thunder," "sons of disobedience," cf. Mark 3:7; Eph. 2:1).
      2. Usually when "son of" is used in relation to a person (son of Abraham, son of David, etc.) the son possesses the nature of his father.
      3. Jesus is clearly not the literal Son of God, i.e., he was not physically procreated by God.
      4. On the other hand, Jesus is clearly the Son of God in a unique sense (cf. "only-begotten son," John 1:14; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9) and in a preeminent sense (i.e. the term is more fitting for him than for anyone else, e.g., Heb. 1:4-5).
      5. Scripture is explicit that the Son possesses God's essence or nature (cf. F. above).
      6. Jesus' repeated claim to be the Son of God was consistently understood by the Jewish leaders as a blasphemous claim to equality with God, an understanding Jesus never denied: John 5:17-23; 8:58-59; 10:30-39; 19:7; Matt. 26:63-65.
      7. Jesus is therefore by nature God's Son, not God's creation or God's servant; Jesus is God's Son who became a servant for our sake and for the Father's glory (John 13:13-15; 17:4; Phil. 2:6-11; Heb. 1:4-13; 3:1-6; 5:8; etc.).
    10. Objections
      1. Prov. 8:22: This text is not a literal description of Christ, but a poetic personification of wisdom (cf. all of Prov. 1-9, esp. 8:12-21; 9:1-6), poetically saying that God "got" his wisdom before he did anything—i.e., that God has always had wisdom.
      2. Col. 1:15: Does not mean that Christ is the first creature, since he is here presented as the Son and principal heir of the Father (cf. vv. 12-14); thus "firstborn" here means "heir" (cf. esp. Ps. 89:27; see also Gen. 43:33; 48:14-20; Ex. 4:22; 1 Chron. 5:1-3; Jer. 31:9); note that v. 16 speaks of the Son as the Creator, not as a creature (cf. E.1. above).
      3. Rev. 3:14: "Beginning" (archê) in Rev. as a title means source or one who begins, i.e. Creator (cf. Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13); elsewhere Christ is called the archê in the sense of "ruler," Col. 1:18, cf. plural archai, "rulers," in Col. 1:16; 2:10, 15, also Luke 12:11; Rom. 8:38; Eph. 3:10; 6:12; Tit. 3:1; cf. Luke 20:20; Jude 6; 1 Cor. 15:24; Eph. 1:21. An alternative view is that archê in Rev. 3:14 refers to Christ's position as head of the new creation.
      4. 1 Cor. 11:3; 15:28: Christ is still subordinate to God, but as the incarnate Son to the Father; i.e., they are equal in nature, but the Son is subordinate relationally to God, especially due to the fact that he has permanently assumed human nature. (It may also be that the Son is in some sense eternally "subordinate" to the Father, though if so only in a functional sense; Christians who affirm the Trinity hold different views on this question.)
      5. John 20:17; Rom. 15:6; 1 Cor. 15:24; 2 Cor. 1:3; Rev. 1:6; 3:12: Jesus calls the Father "my God" because he is still man as well as God; note the distinction between "my God" and "your God" in John 20:17 (i.e., Jesus never speaks of "our God" including himself with the disciples).
      6. Mark 13:32: Jesus' statement that he did not know the time of his return is to be explained by his voluntary acceptance of the humble form and likeness of a man (Phil. 2:7); in fact Jesus, as God, did know all things (John 16:30), and after his resurrection he does not including himself as not knowing (Acts 1:6-7).
      7. Mark 10:17-18: Jesus does not deny being God, but simply tells the man that he has no business calling anyone "good" in an unqualified sense except God. Those who acknowledge that Christ is perfectly good but deny that he is God have a problem at this point.
      8. Heb. 4:15: Jesus was tempted, cf. James 1:13; but note that Jesus could not sin, John 5:19. God, in his divine nature, cannot be tempted, but if he incarnated himself (John 1:1, 14), then in his human nature he could genuinely experience temptation.
      9. John 1:18: No one has seen God, but people have seen Jesus, e.g. 1 John 1:1-2; but note that no man can see the glorified Jesus either, 1 Tim. 6:16, and to see Jesus is to see the Father, John 14:9.
      10. 1 Tim. 1:17: God cannot die, but Jesus did, e.g. Phil. 2:8; but of course the point of 1 Tim. 1:17 is that God's divine nature is immortal, not that God could not assume mortal human nature. Note that no one could take Jesus' life from him, he could not remain dead, and he raised himself: John 10:18; Acts 2:24; John 2:19-22.
      11. 1 Cor. 8:6: Father called God, Jesus called Lord: but here "God" and "Lord" are synonymous (cf. v. 5; cf. also Rom. 14:3-12 for a good example of "God" and "Lord" as interchangeable); moreover, this text no more denies that Jesus is God than it does that the Father is Lord (Matt. 11:25); cf. Jude 4, where Jesus is the only Lord.
      12. 1 Tim. 2:5: Jesus here supposedly distinct from God; but Jesus is also distinct from (fallen) men, yet is himself a man; likewise Jesus is distinct from God (the Father), but is also God.
      13. Deut. 4:12, 15-25; God not appear in a human form to Israel, lest they fall into idolatry; but this does not rule out his appearing in human form later after they had learned to abhor idolatry.
      14. In many texts Jesus is distinguished from God: He is the Son of God, was sent by God, etc.; in all these texts "God" is used as a name for the person most commonly called God, i.e., the Father.
  5. The Holy Spirit Is God
    1. Equated with God/the Lord: Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 3:17-18
    2. Has the incommunicable attributes of God
      1. Eternal: Heb. 9:14; this poses a problem for anyone suggesting that the Holy Spirit is something other than God (implies someone or something else besides God is eternal)
      2. Omnipresent: Ps. 139:7
      3. Omniscient: 1 Cor. 2:10-11
    3. Involved in all the works of God
      1. Creation: Gen. 1:2; Ps. 104:30
      2. Incarnation: Matt. 1:18, 20; Luke 1:35
      3. Resurrection: Rom. 1:4; 8:11
      4. Salvation: Rom. 8:1-27
    4. Is a person
      1. Has a name: Matt. 28:19; note that even though "name" might be used of a nonperson, here, in conjunction with the Father and the Son, it must be used of a person.
      2. Is the "Helper"
        1. Is another Helper: John 14:16, cf. 1 John 2:1; note also that "Helper" (paraklêtos) was used in Greek always or almost always of persons.
        2. Is sent in Jesus' name, to teach: John 14:26.
        3. Will arrive, and then bear witness: John 15:26-27.
        4. Is sent by Christ to convict of sin, will speak not on his own but on behalf of Christ, will glorify Christ, thus exhibiting humility: John 16:7-14.
      3. Is the Holy Spirit, in contrast to unholy or unclean spirits: Mark 3:22-30, cf. Matt. 12:32; 1 Tim. 4:1; 1 John 3:24-4:6.
      4. Speaks, is quoted as speaking: John 16:13; Acts 1:16; 8:29; 10:19; 11:12; 13:2; 16:6; 20:23; 21:11; 28:25-27; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:7-11; 10:15-17; 1 Pet. 1:11; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.
      5. Can be lied to: Acts 5:3
      6. Can make decisions, judgments: Acts 15:28
      7. Intercedes for Christians with the Father: Rom. 8:26
      8. "Impersonal" language used of the Spirit paralleled by language used of other persons
        1. The Holy Spirit as fire: Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16; cf. Ex. 3:2-4; Deut. 4:24; 9:3; Heb. 12:29
        2. The Holy Spirit poured out: Acts 2:17, 33; cf. Is. 53:12; Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6
        3. Being filled with the Holy Spirit: Eph. 5:18, etc.; cf. Eph. 3:17, 19; John 14:10
  6. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Are Each Someone Distinct from the Other Two (i.e., they are three "persons")
    1. Matt. 28:19
      1. "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit": use of definite article before each personal noun indicates distinct persons unless explicitly stated otherwise; compare Rev. 1:17; 2:8, 26
      2. The views that "Father" and "Son" are distinct persons but not the Holy Spirit, or that the Holy Spirit is not a person at all, or that all three are different offices or roles of one person, are impossible in view of the grammar (together with the fact that in Scripture a "spirit" is a person unless context shows otherwise).
      3. Does singular "name" prove that the three are one person? No; cf. Gen. 5:2; 11:14; 48:6; and esp. 48:16. Thus, the word "name" can apply distinctly to each of the three (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and does not imply that they have only one name.
      4. "Name" need not be personal name, may be title: Is. 9:6; Matt. 1:23.
    2. Acts 2:38 and Matt. 28:19
      1. Neither passage specifies that certain words are to be spoken during baptism; nor does the Bible ever record someone saying, "I baptize you in the name of...."
      2. Those said to be baptized in the name of Jesus (whether or not the formula "in the name of Jesus" was used) were people already familiar with the God of the OT:
        1. Jews: Acts 2:5, 38; 22:16
        2. Samaritans: Acts 8:5, 12, 16
        3. God-fearing Gentiles: Acts 10:1-2, 22, 48
        4. Disciples of John the Baptist: Acts 19:1-5
        5. The first Christians in Corinth were Jews and God-fearing Gentiles: Acts 18:1-8; 1 Cor. 1:13
      3. Trinitarian formula for baptism (if that is what Matt. 28:19 is) was given in context of commissioning apostles to take the gospel to "all the nations," including people who did not know of the biblical God
      4. Cross-referencing Acts 2:38 and other Acts references to baptism "in Jesus' name" with Matthew 28:19 to prove that Jesus is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is hermeneutically flawed, since none of these passages is seeking to make such a point and none of them is claiming that baptism must be performed using a particular formula.
    3. God the Father and the Son Jesus Christ are two persons
      1. The salutations: Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; 6:23; Phil. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1, 2; 1 Tim. 1:1, 2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Tit. 1:4; Philem. 3; James 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:2; 2 John 3
      2. Two witnesses: John 5:31-32; 8:16-18; cf. Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15
      3. The Father sent the Son: John 3:16-17; Gal. 4:4; 1 John 4:10; etc.; cf. John 1:6; 17:18; 20:21
      4. The Father and the Son love each other: John 3:35; 5:20; 14:31; 15:9; 17:23-26; cf. Matt. 3:17 par.; 17:5 par.; 2 Pet. 1:17
      5. The Father speaks to the Son, and the Son speaks to the Father: John 11:41-42; 12:28; 17:1-26; etc.
      6. The Father knows the Son, and the Son knows the Father: Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22; John 7:29; 8:55; 10:15
      7. Jesus our Advocate with the Father: 1 John 2:1
    4. Jesus is not God the Father
      1. Is. 9:6: "Father of eternity" means eternal; compare other names formed with word "father": Abialbon, "father of strength" = strong (2 Sam. 23:31); Abiasaph, "father of gathering" = gatherer (Ex. 6:24); Abigail, a woman's name (!), "father of exultation" = exulting (1 Chron. 2:16).
      2. John 10:30
        1. Jesus did not say, "I am the Father," nor did he say, "the Son and the Father are one person."
        2. The first person plural esmen ("we are") implies two persons.
        3. The neuter word for "one" (hen) is used, implying essential unity but not personal unity.
        4. John 10:30 in context is a strong affirmation of Christ's deity, but does not mean that he is the Father.
      3. John 5:43: Jesus' coming in his Father's name means not that he was the Father because he had the Father's name, but that, while others come in their own name (or their own authority), Jesus does not; he comes in his Father's name (on his Father's authority).
      4. John 8:19; 16:3: Ignorance of Jesus is indeed ignorance of the Father, but that does not prove that Jesus is the one he calls "My Father."
      5. John 14:6-11
        1. Jesus and the Father are one being, not one person.
        2. Jesus said, "I am in the Father," not "I am the Father."
        3. The statement, "the Father is in me," does not mean Jesus is the Father; compare John 14:20; 17:21-23.
      6. John 14:18: An older adult brother can care for his younger siblings, thus preventing them from being "orphans," without being their father.
      7. Colossians 2:9: Does not mean that Jesus is the Father, or that Jesus is an incarnation of the Father; rather, since "Godhead" (theotês) means Deity, the state of being God, the nature of God, Jesus is fully God, but not the only person who is God. "The Godhead" here does not = the Father (note that Jesus is in the Father, John 10:38; 14:10, 11; 17:21), but the nature of the Father. See II.B.3.
      8. The Father and the Son are both involved in various activities: raising Jesus (Gal. 1:1; John 2:19-22), raising the dead (John 5:21; 6:39-40, 44, 54, 1 Cor. 6:14), answering prayer (John 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23), sending the Holy Spirit (John 14:16; 15:26; 16:7), drawing people to Jesus (John 6:44; 12:32), etc. These common works do prove that the two persons are both God, but not that Jesus is the Father.
    5. The Son existed before his Incarnation, even before creation
      1. Prov. 30:4: This is not predictive prophecy; "prophecy" in 30:1 translates massa, which is rendered elsewhere as "burden."
      2. The Son created all things, requiring of course that he existed when he did so: See above, IV.E.1.
      3. Jesus was "with" (pros or para) God the Father before creation: John 1:1; 17:5; pros in John 1:1 does not mean "pertaining to," although it does in Hebrews 2:17; 5:1 (which use pros with ta).
      4. Jesus, the Son of God, existed before John the Baptist (who was born before Jesus): John 1:15, cf. 1:14-18, 29-34.
      5. Jesus, the Son, came down from heaven, sent from the Father, and went back to heaven, back to the Father: John 3:13, 31; 6:33, 38, 41, 46, 51, 56-58, 62; 8:23, 42; 13:3; 16:27-28; cf. Acts 1:10-11; cf. the sending of the Holy Spirit, John 16:5-7; 1 Pet. 1:12
      6. Jesus, speaking as the Son (John 8:54-56), asserts His eternal preexistence before Abraham: John 8:58
      7. The Son explicitly said to exist "before all things": Col. 1:17, cf. 1:12-20
      8. These statements cannot be dismissed as true only in God's foreknowledge
        1. We are all "in God's mind" before creation; yet such passages as John 1:1 and John 17:5 clearly mean to say something unusual about Christ.
        2. To say that all things were created through Christ means that He must have existed at creation.
        3. No one else in Scripture is ever said to have been with God before creation.
      9. Texts which speak of the Son being begotten "today" do not mean he became the Son on a certain day, since they refer to his exaltation at his resurrection (Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:3-5; 5:5; cf. Ps. 2:7; cf. also Rom. 1:4).
    6. Jesus is not the Holy Spirit
      1. The Holy Spirit is "another Comforter": John 14:16; compare 1 John 2:1.
      2. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit: John 15:26; 16:7.
      3. The Holy Spirit exhibits humility in relation to, and seeks to glorify, Jesus (John 16:13-14).
      4. The Son and the Holy Spirit are distinguished as two persons in Matt. 28:19.
      5. The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus: Luke 3:22.
      6. Is Jesus the Holy Spirit?
        1. 2 Cor. 3:17: the Spirit is here called "Lord" in the sense of being Yahweh or God, not Jesus (cf. v. 16, citing Ex. 34:34; cf. v. 17 in the Revised English Bible); note Acts 28:25-27, cf. Is. 6:8-10.
        2. 1 Cor. 15:45: Jesus is "a life-giving Spirit," not in the sense that he is the Holy Spirit whom he sent at Pentecost, but in the sense that he is the glorified God-man; and as God he is Spirit by nature. All three persons of the Trinity are Spirit, though there are not three divine Spirits; and only one person is designated "the Holy Spirit."
        3. Rom. 8:27, 34: the fact that two persons intercede for us is consistent with the fact that we have two Advocates (John 14:16; Rom. 8:26; 1 John 2:1).
        4. John 14:18: Jesus here refers to his appearances to the disciples after the resurrection (compare 14:19), not to the coming of the Spirit.
        5. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are both involved in various activities: raising Jesus (John 2:19-22; Rom. 8:9-11), raising the dead (John 5:21; 6:39-40, 44, 54, Rom. 8:9-11), dwelling in the believer (John 14:16; 2 Cor. 13:5; Col. 1:27), interceding for the believer (Rom. 8:26; Heb. 7:25), sanctifying believers (Eph. 5:26; 1 Pet. 1:2), etc. These works prove that the two persons are both God, but not that Jesus is the Holy Spirit.
    7. The Father is not the Holy Spirit
      1. The Father sent the Holy Spirit: John 14:15; 15:26.
      2. The Holy Spirit intercedes with the Father for us: Rom. 8:26-27.
      3. The Father and the Holy Spirit are distinguished as two persons in Matt. 28:19.
      4. Is the Father the Holy Spirit?
        1. Matt. 1:18; Luke 1:35: It is argued that the Holy Spirit is the Father of the incarnate Son of God; this argument ignores the fact that the "conception" is not a product of physical union between a man and a woman!
        2. The Father and the Holy Spirit are both said to be active in various activities; the resurrection of Jesus (Gal. 1:1; Rom. 8:11), comforting Christians (2 Cor. 1:3-4; John 14:26), sanctifying Christians (Jude 1; 1 Pet. 1:2), etc. The most these facts prove is that the two work together; they do not prove the two are one person.
  7. Conclusion: The Bible teaches the Trinity
    1. All the elements of the doctrine are taught in Scripture
      1. One God who is one divine being (see Part I and Part II).
      2. The Father is God (see Part III).
      3. The Son is God (see Part IV).
      4. The Holy Spirit is God (see Part V).
      5. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three persons, i.e., they are not each other, nor are they impersonal; they relate to one another personally (see Part VI).
    2. The New Testament presents a consistent triad of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (God, Christ, Spirit): Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; also Luke 1:35; 3:21-22 par.; 4:1-12; John 4:10-25; 7:37-39; 14-16; 20:21-22; Acts 1:4-8; 2:33, 38-39; 5:3-4, 9, 30-32; 7:55-56; 10:36-38, 44-48; 11:15-18; 15:8-11; 20:38; 28:25-31; Rom. 1:1-4; 5:5-10; 8:2-4, 9-11, 14-17; 1 Cor. 6:11; 12:4-6, 11-12, 18; 2 Cor. 1:19-22; 3:6-8, 14-18; Gal. 3:8-14; 4:4-7; Eph. 1:3-17; 2:18, 21-22; 3:14-19; 4:4-6, 29-32; 5:18-20; Phil. 3:3; 1 Thess. 1:3-6; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; Tit. 3:4-6; Heb. 2:3-4; 9:14; 10:28-31; 1 Pet. 1:2; 1 John 3:21-24; 4:13-14; Jude 20-21; Rev. 2:18, 27-29.
    3. Therefore, the Bible does teach the Trinity.
  8. What Difference Does the Doctrine of the Trinity Make?
    1. Sovereignty: Because the three persons have each other, we can be assured that God created us only to share the love they have and not as a means to his own end: Acts 17:25; John 17:21-26.
    2. Mystery: The triune God is totally unlike anything in our world, and therefore greater than anything we can comprehend: Rom. 11:33-36; Isa. 40:18.
    3. Salvation: God alone planned our salvation, came to save us, and dwells in us to complete our salvation: 1 Pet. 1:2; Eph. 1:3-18; etc.
    4. Prayer: We pray to the Father through the Son, and also pray to the Son directly, in the Spirit: John 14:13-14; Eph. 2:18; etc.
    5. Worship: We worship Father and Son in the Spirit: John 4:23-24; Phil. 3:3; Heb. 1:8; etc.
    6. Love: The love among the three persons is the basis and model for our love for one another: John 17:26.
    7. Unity: The unity of the three persons is the basis and model for the unity of the church: John 17:21-23.
    8. Humility: As the persons of the Trinity seek the glory of each other, so we should seek the interests of others above our own: Phil. 2:5-11; John 16:13-14.
    9. Sonship: We are "sons of God" as we are united with the Son of God by the work of the Holy Spirit and the adoption of the Father: John 1:12-23; Rom. 8:14-17.
    10. Truth: All those who wish to worship and love God must seek to know Him as He is in truth, for God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is truth: John 4:24; 14:6, 17; 15:26; 16:13.



The content of this article is the sole property of its author, Robert Bowman Jr., and has been provided with his permission for redistribution on Blue Letter Bible’s website. Robert Bowman Jr.’s biography is located here and his website is located at https://robertbowman.net/.


1. Footnote by BLB [This appears to be a quote from 2Ch 15:8]

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