The Trinity of God

By Ron Jones

©Titus Institute 2009 Updated August 2022

Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. What did he mean when he made that claim? How does God have a son? We want to answer these questions by seeing what the Scriptures specifically say about Jesus and his claim to be the Son of God. Jesus spoke of God as his Father, he as the Son, and the Spirit as united to them. In John 14:26, he states, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you."

Jesus talks about three persons, the Father, himself (the Son), and the Holy Spirit. As we shall see, Jesus revealed that God was three persons in one God. Within the one being of God there are three distinct persons. Jesus taught that the Father is God, that he himself is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God. Yet, Jesus also taught that there is only one God.

If we are going to understand what the Bible says about Jesus, we need to begin with his identity as a member of the Trinity. In the pages of the Scriptures, God has revealed himself as three persons in one God and that Jesus Christ was the second person of the Triune God, the Son, who became a man and died on the cross for us. The central truth about God that he has revealed about himself is the Trinity, for in the Trinity is the proper identity of the God of the universe and Jesus Christ, God who became a man.

You might ask, "How can a being be three persons in one God? That does not make sense." As human beings, we are only familiar with a person who is a separate being from another person. That makes sense to us because we are familiar with it. We cannot understand how one being can be three persons who are distinct and yet united as one being, but that does not mean it is not true. There are many things about God we will not understand and we must just accept because he is God and we are not. However, we can understand what God has revealed to us about his Trinitarian nature in the Bible. So how do we know that God is a Trinity of three persons in one being.

How does the Bible teach that God is actually three in one? The Bible teaches the doctrine of the Trinity by teaching that there is only one God, and yet calling three persons God united in one name or essence. The Trinitarian nature of God can be defined as "There is only one God, but in the unity of the Godhead, there are three co-equal persons, Father, Son and Spirit." In the human realm, "persons" refer to distinct and separate beings, but with God as an infinite being, "persons" means a distinct person who can think, choose, feel, and speak, and yet is in absolute unity of being with the other two. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit each have an intellect, will and emotions, which are distinct. Yet, within the unity of their nature, they are one being, God.

In order to understand what this definition means, we need to understand what it does not mean. It does not mean there are three separate gods. That would be polytheism. It does not mean that there is one God (one person) who shows himself in three different roles. There is not one person, who has three different names or has revealed himself in three different ways. This is an ancient heresy called Sabellianism. It does not mean that God has three parts. "God is one" means that God is undivided and indivisible. The truth is simply stated, "There are three persons in one God. God is one being, with one essence or nature."

The Bible teaches this by first teaching that there is only one God and no others. All throughout the Old Testament, the prophets taught that there is only one God. The Jews were monotheists among all of their neighbors who were polytheists because God revealed his true nature to them. The prophet Isaiah proclaims this important truth clearly when he declared the Word of the Lord to the nation of Israel. In Isaiah 45:5, God proclaims, "I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God." Earlier, Isaiah declared why God chose Israel to be his people who would know that he was the true God. Isaiah 43:10 states, "You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me." God chose Abraham and his descendants to be his people and be witnesses of his true nature as God and witnesses that he is the only God that exists. The idols of the Gentile nations were false.

Jesus and the apostles also taught that there was one God. In Mark 12:29 Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4 saying, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one." Jesus believed in only one God. This is what God revealed about himself in the Old Testament Scriptures. Paul states this truth in 1 Corinthians 8:4 when he writes, "We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one."

So, the prophets and Jesus and the apostles all revealed that there is only one God. Yet, when Jesus came to earth, He called three persons God and claimed that they had one name or essence. In John 6:27, Jesus declares that the Father is God, "Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." In John 20:28-29, Jesus allows himself to be worshipped as God. It says, "Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!' Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Here, Thomas who is a Jew and a monotheist calls Jesus "God." Jesus who is also a Jew and a monotheist accepts this title and praises those who will believe the same thing in the future. Remember, Jesus was never accused by the Jewish leaders for teaching polytheism. He was accused of claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God which they did not believe he was.

In Matthew 12:28, Jesus called the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, "But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." All throughout the Bible the Father, Son, and Spirit appear as distinct persons from each other. Each speaks individually as a person, God the Father (Matthew 3:17), God the Son (Gospels), and God the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2).

The most important statement by Jesus of the Trinity appears in Matthew 28:19, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Notice, three persons are mentioned, but "name" is singular. "Name" in the Old Testament, when used of God, described his essence and nature. There is only one name of God. This statement by Jesus reveals the Trinity by commanding believers to be baptized in one name which is the name of God, yet giving three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit that one name. The only way we can know that God is three in one is by God revealing it to us by his Son whom he sent into the world."