Is God A Trinity?
(Updated October 15, 2009 to comply with TOA module abbreviations)
by Mike Vinson
Questions concerning the God-head have been around within God's church since the death of the apostles, and they will no doubt continue until Christ's return.
Belief in a Trinity God-head has been declared by some to be one of the required beliefs to which one must confess to avoid the label "cult" these days, or in post-Nicean days, "heretic". Having read many essays on this subject over the years, one thing has become clear; proponents of the Trinity are forced to go outside scripture, outside the family and outside reality to explain how three equals one. So, having no illusions of settling this question once and for all, let us simply consider what scripture says on this subject.
The pivotal trinity scriptures, of course, are the last three verses of the Gospel of Matthew: “And Jesus came and spake to them, saying, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.’” (Mat 28 18-20 KJV). There it is “…in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost…” Isn't that three in one? Does the use of the words "Holy Ghost" here (Strong's Concordance #40 hagios=holy, #4151 pneuma=spirit, ghost) somehow exclude the Father from being "hagios" or "pneuma?" Of course not! Christ calls His Father hagios, holy (John 17:11). Also, we are told “God is a spirit” (pneuma) (Joh 4:24).
Now we know from the scriptures that the Father is "hagios" and "pneuma" spirit. So is there any scriptural reason to believe that the "hagios pneuma" is the spirit of the Father? As a matter of fact, the scripture says exactly that!
But first, let's consider a few other scriptures on this subject. Notice Mat 1:18 - “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost (hagios pneuma).” Now look at Luk 1:35 - “…The Holy Ghost shall come upon you and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
Matthew says simply “…she was found to be with child of the Holy Ghost.” But Luk 1:35 mentions "the Holy Ghost", "the Highest" and "God."
Who is the Father of Christ?
So who fathered Christ? Well, since Christ spent His whole earthly ministry talking about "your Father" (Mat 5:16), "my Father" (Mat 7:21), and "My Father and your Father" (John 20:17), it should be obvious that we are all "fathered" by the same Father.
Then in Mat 12:31, Christ says “…the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” Why did Christ say this? Because He had just been accused by the Pharisees of casting out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons (note vs. 24). So how does Christ respond to this accusation? Notice verse 28: “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God , then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” He then goes on to warn them against blasphemies against the "hagios pneuma", Holy Spirit, translated Holy Ghost in the KJV.
Obviously Christ had cast out the demons by the Holy Ghost, or as He puts it in verse 28, "by the Spirit of God…" This same account in Luk 11:19 calls the hagios pneuma "the finger of God" again indicating the Holy Spirit is the essence through which God operates. What then is Christ's relationship to the Holy Spirit? To answer this question, as always, we must consider all sides of the question and all the scriptures on the subject. A couple of very revealing scriptures are Joh 14:28 and Luk 11:11-13.
Notice first Joh 14:28 - “…My father is greater than I.” Remember now both Matthew and Luke, as shown above, say Christ was fathered of Mary by the hagios pneuma, Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost. Maybe that explains why in all His earthly ministry Christ speaks often of His relationship with His Father (Joh 14:10-11; 15:1; 11:41-42), but never once mentions His relationship with this other person supposedly equal to Himself and the Father.
What is the purpose of the Holy Spirit?
A careful reading of John chapters 14-16 makes it clear what the hagios pneuma, Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost is and what function it serves.
First we will look at Luk 11:11-13 - “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?” Let's notice here Christ is telling us the Father has (owns) something He wants to give to us. Something of His that He considers will nourish and strengthen us. What is this nourishment the Father has for us? Notice verse 13: “If you then being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” Notice here that even the King James translators render the Greek words "hagios pneuma" as Holy Spirit. So the Holy Spirit is a gift God the Father has for us if we will only ask Him.
But we still need to understand what Christ has to do with the Holy Spirit. So let's go back to John 14 where the "Comforter which is the Holy Ghost" (vs 26) is first mentioned in scripture. As a matter of fact, the only mention of the Comforter in all of the King James Bible is in the 14 th , 15th and 16th chapters of the gospel of John. Notice I said "in the King James Bible." I did not say "in the Bible." I'll explain the reason for this shortly.
First let's see what scriptures reveal about this "Comforter which is the Holy Ghost" (Joh 14:26). The context of this chapter is established in the previous chapter 13. In Joh 13:33, Christ says “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You shall seek me: And as I said unto the Jews, whither I go, you cannot come; so now say I to you.” Now, notice verses 4-6 of chapter 14: “And whither I go you know and the way you know. Thomas saith unto Him, Lord we know not whither you go and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth and the life: no man comes unto the Father but by Me.” Going on to verse 10: “Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak to you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwells in me, He does the works.” Where is the Holy Spirit in all this? Christ says “I am in the Father and the Father in me…”
Notice the wording of verses 16-20; the first mention in all scripture of "The Comforter." “And I will pray the Father and He will send you another Comforter (Greek - parakleetos, Strongs #3875), that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not, neither knows Him; for He dwells WITH YOU (Christ) and SHALL be in you. I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you.” Now look at verse 20: “At that day (when the Comforter "dwells with you") you shall know that I am in my Father and you are in Me and I in you.”
As clearly as it can be stated, our Savior has here said “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.” If we can see as Christ told Phillip that“…I am in the Father and the Father in me” (vs 10), then we will understand who the Holy Ghost is and what its function is. So why then would Christ use the word "another" Comforter? Was the Christ who "dwells with you" (vs 17) somehow different from the Christ who "shall be in you"? Oh, how true this is!
The apostles knew Christ outwardly in the flesh for 3½ years without even being converted. (Luk 22:32). They had baptized more disciples than John (Joh 4:2), cast out demons (Luk 10:17) and healed the sick (Luk 10:9), yet Christ tells Peter in Luk 22:32 that he has never even been converted.
We all experience Christ in the flesh (baptism, demons cast out, healings) blessings indeed, but all experienced in the passing flesh long, long before He begins to live His life in us. So Joh 14:17, “…He dwells with you and shall be in you” is as true today as the day the apostle John wrote those words. As good as Christ of the flesh is, "another comforter" is better. The apostle Paul puts it this way: “…henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.” Another, a better Comforter has come. He is not just WITH us. He is IN US!
Let's go back now to John 14. Christ continues to expound upon the coming of "another Comforter." (vs 23) “If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him and (the coming of the Holy Ghost) WE will come unto him and make OUR abode with him.” And now verses 25 and 26: “These things have I spoken unto you being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, (Remember verse 18 - ‘I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you.’) he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” These words sound very similar to the verses mentioned earlier when we posed the question "Is there any scriptural reason to believe that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of the Father?" The first scripture is Luk 12:11 and 12: “And when they bring you unto the synagogues and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing you shall answer, or what you shall say: for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what you ought to say.” Luke here is inspired of God to say “…the Holy Ghost shall teach you…”
But notice now how Matthew is inspired to relate this same event. “But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and you shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what you shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what you shall speak. For it is not you that speak, but the SPIRIT OF YOUR FATHER which speaketh in you.”
There it is, made plain by the scriptures. The Holy Ghost is the spirit of the Father. A gift the Father gives to those who ask Him (Luk 11:13). Christ is in the Father and we are in Christ and Christ is in us (Joh 14:20). Teaching us all things (Joh 14:26) the "comforter…even the Spirit of Truth…" (Joh 14:16 and 17). AND WHO DOES CHRIST SAY THIS "COMFORTER…EVEN THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH" IS??
Notice Joh 16:13-15 “Howbeit when He the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth: (remember Joh 14:6 where Christ says ‘…I am the …truth…’) for He shall not speak of Himself; (sound familiar? - Joh 12:49, Joh 14:10) but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come.” NOW PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO VERSE 14. “He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of MINE and shall shew it unto you. All things (including the Holy Spirit) that the Father has are MINE: therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine and shew it unto you.”
The Holy Ghost, the gift God has to give to those who ask him (Luk 11:13) is also Christ's spirit so that “…Therefore said I, that He (the Father) shall take of Mine (the Holy Ghost) and shall shew it unto you. A little while and you shall not see me: (in the flesh) and again a little while and you shall see me, because I go to the Father.”
Now Joh 16:7 makes sense. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter (Greek - parakleetos, Strongs #3875) will not come unto you; but if I depart (that is if Christ in the flesh departs), I will send Him unto you (remember verse 15 of this same chapter - ‘He shall take of MINE, and shall shew it unto you.’).” Ever wonder why the Holy Ghost couldn't come while Christ was here?
We can clearly understand that pivotal Trinity scripture, “All power is given unto Me (including the power to give the Spirit) in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost: (which belongs to both the Father and the Son) teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS even unto the end of the world.”
Is Christ The Comforter?
If the Holy Ghost, the hagios pneuma, which is the Comforter, the parakleetos, is really Christ in us, then there should be a scripture that calls Christ the parakleetos. It so happens that there is just such a scripture. But you would never know it by simply reading your King James Bible or for that matter, using your Strong's concordance which is keyed to our King James English. If one uses Strong's, one will see the four places where parakleetos appears in John 14, 15 and 16. These scriptures certainly reveal Christ as the parakleetos as we have shown. You would need to use an Englishman's Greek Concordance (Wigram's) or America's Online Bible to find the only other appearance of this Greek word in all of the scriptures. It's not translated Comforter there. Remember as you read this that, according to Joh 14:26, “The Comforter (parakleetos )…is the Holy Ghost…” The scripture before us is the First Epistle of John, chapter two verse one. “My little children, these things I write unto you that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate (parakleetos - not even capitalized here in the KJV) with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous:” There it is once again stated straight out. Jesus Christ is the parakleetos, the Comforter which is the Holy Ghost. But in what way is He the Comforter? He is the Comforter because "all the Father has He has given to Me" and Christ now gives the Holy Spirit "to whom He will."
One God The Father
So what is the conclusion and sum of this discussion? There are several scriptures that come to mind. The first is Luk 10:22: “All things are delivered to Me of My Father: and no man knows who the Son is but the Father, and who the Father is but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him.”
Another scripture along these lines is 1Co 15:27-28, “For He (the Father) has put all things under His (Christ's) feet. But when He (the Father) saith all things are put under Him (Christ) it is manifest that He (the Father) is excepted which did put all things under Him (Christ). And when all things shall be subdued unto Him (Christ) then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him (the Father) that put all things under Him (Christ) that God (the Father) may be all in all.” Eph 1:10 says this is 'all things in heaven and on earth.' The Holy Ghost, of course, is not mentioned.
The Godhead Is Understood By The Things That Are Made
1Co 11:3 says “But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ: and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God (the Father).” Paul is applying in this verse the principle he lays down in Rom 1:20 - “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and God head; so that they are without excuse:”
Paul's point in 1Co 11 is that the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man. Notice now verse 12. “For as the woman is of the man even so is the man by the woman: but ALL THINGS OF GOD.” Every man ever born excepting Adam, came through a woman. In a sense Adam came "by the woman". Applying the Rom 1:10 principle, we could say that in the beginning, God (the Father has no beginning) the Father created Christ and through Christ created the rest of creation. And how does this fit with scripture? Very well indeed. Notice Col 1:15-17 - “Who (Christ) is the image (not God, but the image) of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by Him (Christ) were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth; visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him: And He is before all things and by Him all things consist.” This, of course, agrees with the gospel of Joh 1:1-3 - “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made.”
The Word Was God
Does it not say "the Word WAS God?" Yes, it does. And He certainly is. Notice Joh 10:32-36 - “…Many good works have I shewed you from My Father; for which of those works do you stone me? The Jews answered Him saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because thou, being a man, make thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are Gods? (Psa 82:6) If He called them gods unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of Him whom the Father has sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?”
Obviously so far as Christ was concerned, being a god is quite different from being THE Father.
Who Can Be Worshipped?
Certainly Christ can be worshipped (Mat 8:2; 9:18; 14:33 and 15:25). Does being worshipped make one "Father of whom are all things?" Apparently not. Notice Rev 3:9 - “…I will make them of the synagogue of Satan…to come and worship before your feet…” Worship is apparently something reserved for gods, but only for those gods who can say with Christ “…my Father is greater than I am” (Joh 14:28).
Now let's allow the risen Christ Himself to reveal to us His relationship to His Father. After all, it is He, not John, who is the revelator. Notice Rev 3:14 - “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, THE BEGINNING OF THE CREATION OF GOD:”
There it is! Christ Himself is calling Himself "the beginning of the creation of God."
Did Any Of The Apostles Teach Anything About A Trinitarian Godhead?
In conclusion, the overwhelming weight of scriptural evidence is that they did NOT teach any such doctrine. How then did they address this question? Apparently there was no question in the minds of the apostles. Here's the most succinct statement in scripture and one to which we should all be able to give a resounding AMEN! 1Co 8:6 - “But to us there is but ONE GOD (and who is that one God?) THE FATHER, OF WHOM ARE ALL THINGS and we in Him…”
Here is one of those straightforward, simple scriptural statements. It is in agreement with all scripture. We would do well to simply believe it.
But let's finish the verse. There is something else God the Father (of whom are all things) wants us to understand about the way He operates, because He is a very consistent and faithful God and Father.
Remember now the Rom 1:20 [invisible Godhead is understood by the things that are made] principle? Also, remember the 1Co 11:12 [the woman was taken out of the man but the man is by the woman but ALL THINGS ARE OF GOD] principle?
Well, here those principles are again: “And one Lord Jesus Christ, BY WHOM ARE ALL THINGS, and we by Him.”
Let us all rejoice that before God the Father ever created the first physical prototype, that the last Adam was provided to redeem all those who were in the first Adam (1Co 15:45). “According as He has chosen us in Him (Christ) BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD…Having made known to us the mystery (Greek=secret) of His will, according to His good pleasure which He has purposed in Himself: [Now here's the secret!] That in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things IN CHRIST, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in Him:” (Eph 1:4,9,10)
But How About 1Jn 5:7?
The answer to this question is certainly ancient history to any student of the scriptures who has progressed beyond the "If the King James Bible was good enough for the apostles, then it's good enough for me!" attitude.
Here is what Jameson, Fawsset and Brown Commentary has to say on this verse: “The only Greek manuscripts IN ANY FORM which supports the words, ‘in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one; and there are three that bear witness in earth’ are the Monfortianus of Dublin, copied evidently from the MODERN Latin Vulgate; the Revianue, copied from the COMLUTENSIAN POLYGLOT; a manuscript at Naples, with the words added in the margin by a recent hand; OTTOBONIANUS, 298, of the fifteenth century, the GREEK of which is a mere translation of the accompanying Latin. ALL the old versions omit the words. The oldest manuscripts of the VULGATE omit them: the earliest VULGATE manuscript which has them, WIZANBURGENSIS, 99, is of the eighth century.” (Emphasis is the author's.)
One should know that the three men who wrote the JFB commentary believe in the Trinity, and go on to attempt to justify what they admit are “words added in the margin by a recent hand.”
Let us by God's grace seek only the truth of God's word as it was given to us by “holy men of old as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2Pe 1:21) Also, “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father and His son Jesus Christ. And these things we write unto you that your joy may be full.” (1Jn 1:3-4)
Christ is our parakleetos, but not of Himself. (Joh 5:30) I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
If you have any questions or comments, please direct them to Mike Vinson.