This article is written by Hans Neser and is used with his permission.

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I was asked the following question:

"My fiancee is VERY christian, and SHE has a problem with the whole Holy Trinity thing, she tells me that the Bible doesn't mention the Holy Trinity at all, and that it was 'created' by the Catholics. Anyone care to put me/her right on this?"

My response to this question is..

The Trinity is a concept more than anything else. Being omniscient and omnipresent God is beyond our comprehension. To help us in our Human terms come to some understanding of God we have come up with the Trinity.

The Bible talks about the Jesus as the Son of God - hence he is called the Son. God is quite often called the Father and the Holy Spirit is the invisible mark given to Christians to mark their salvation.

When we refer to the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit we refer to three separate entities that we can understand that are all God - the best analogy is Water, Steam and Ice. All have the same chemical composition being H2O but have different physical properties, looks and feels when observed in different states.

We can see in Mathew 28:18-20 where the Bible states "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'"

Here we can see that the Apostles taught the three aspects of God but it is true that the word Trinity itself does not appear in the Bible. For that matter neither do the words "Bible" or "Sunday School".

A couple of definitions of the Trnity from Bible Dictionaries are:

Trinity - a word not found in Scripture, but used to express the doctrine of the unity of God as subsisting in three distinct Persons. This word is derived from the Greek "trias", first used by Theophilus (A.D. 168-183), or from the Latin "trinitas", first used by Tertullian (A.D. 220), to express this doctrine. The propositions involved in the doctrine are these: 1. That God is one, and that there is but one God (Deuteronomy 6:4; 1st Kings 8:60; Isaiah 44:6; Mark 12:29-32; John 10:30). 2. That the Father is a distinct divine Person (hypostasis, subsistentia, persona, suppositum intellectuale), distinct from the Son and the Holy Spirit. 3. That Jesus Christ was truly God, and yet was a Person distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit. 4. That the Holy Spirit is also a distinct divine Person.
(Easton, M. 1897, "Illustrated Bible Dictionary").

Trinity - The word Trinity is not found in the Bible, and though used by Tertullian in the last decade of the 2nd century, it did not find a place formally in the theology of the church till the 4th century. It is, however, the distinctive and all-comprehensive doctrine of the Christian faith. It makes three affirmations: that there is but one God, that the Father, the Son and the Spirit is each God, and that the Father, the Son and the Spirit is each a distinct Person. In this form it has become the faith of the church since it received its first full formulation at the hands of Tertullian, Athanasius and Augustine.

I. Derivation
Though it is not a biblical doctrine in the sense that any formulation of it can be found in the Bible, it can be seen to underlie the revelation of God, implicit in the OT and explicit in the NT. By this we mean that though we cannot speak confidently of the revelation of the Trinity in the OT, yet once the substance of the doctrine has been revealed in the NT, we can read back many implications of it in the OT.

a. In the Old Testament
It can be understood that in ages when revealed religion had to hold its own in the environment of pagan idolatry, nothing that would imperil the oneness of God could be freely given. The first imperative, therefore, was to declare the existence of the one living and true God, and to this task the OT is principally dedicated. But even in the opening pages of the OT we are taught to attribute the existence and persistence of all things to a threefold source. There are passages where God, his Word and his Spirit are brought together, as, for example, in the narrative of the creation where Elohim is seen to create by means of his Word and Spirit (Genesis 1:2-3). It is thought that Genesis 1:26 points in the same direction, where it is stated that God said: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness", followed by the statement of accomplishment: "So God created man in his own image", a striking case of plural and singular interchanged, suggesting plurality in unity.

There are many other passages where God and his Word and Spirit are brought together as 'co-causes of effects'. In Isaiah 63:8-10 we have the three speakers, the covenant God of Israel (v. 8), the angel of the presence (v. 9) and the Spirit 'grieved' by their rebellion (v. 10). Both the creative activity of God and his government are, at a later stage, associated with the Word personified as 'Wisdom' (Proverbs 8:22; Job 28:23-27), as well as with the Spirit as the Dispenser of all blessings and the source of physical strength, courage, culture and government (Exodus 31:3; Numbers 11:25; Judges 3:10).

The threefold source revealed in creation becomes still more evident in the unfolding of redemption. At an early stage there are the remarkable phenomena connected with the angel of Yahweh who receives and accepts divine honour (Genesis 16:2-13; 22:11-16). Not in every OT passage in which it appears does the designation refer to a divine being, for it is clear that in such passages as 2 Samuel 24:16; 2 Kings 19:35, the reference is to a created angel invested with divine authority for the execution of a special mission. In other passages the angel of Yahweh not only bears the divine name, but has divine dignity and power, dispenses divine deliverance, and accepts homage and adoration proper only to God. In short, the Messiah has deity ascribed to him, even when he is regarded as a person distinct from God (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6).

The Spirit of God is also given prominence in connection with revelation and redemption, and is assigned his office in the equipment of the Messiah for his work (Isaiah 11:2; 42:1; 61:1), and of his people for the response of faith and obedience (Joel 2:28; Isaiah 32:15; Ezekiel 36:26-27). Thus the God who revealed himself objectively through the Angel-Messenger revealed himself subjectively in and through the Spirit, the Dispenser of all blessings and gifts within the sphere of redemption. The threefold Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:24) must also be noted as perhaps the prototype of the NT apostolic blessing.

b. In the Gospels
By way of contrast it must be remembered that the OT was written before the revelation of the doctrine of the Trinity was clearly given, and the NT after it. In the NT it was given particularly in the incarnation of God the Son, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But however dim the light in the old dispensation, the Father, Son and Spirit of the NT are the same as in the OT.

It can be said, however, that preparatory to the advent of Christ, the Holy Spirit came into the consciousness of God-fearing men in a degree that was not known since the close of Malachi's prophetic ministry. John the Baptist, more especially, was conscious of the presence and calling of the Spirit, and it is possible that his preaching had a trinitarian reference. He called for repentance toward God, faith in the coming Messiah, and spoke of a baptism of the Holy Spirit, of which his baptism with water was a symbol (Matthew 3:11). The special epochs of trinitarian revelations were as follows:

(i) The annunciation. The agency of the Trinity in the incarnation was disclosed to Mary in the angelic annunciation that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, the power of the Most High would overshadow her and the child born of her would be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Thus the Father and the Spirit were disclosed as operating in the incarnation of the Son.

(ii) The baptism of Christ. At the baptism of Christ in the Jordan the three Persons can be distinguished, the Son being baptized, the Father speaking from heaven in recognition of his Son and the Spirit descending in the objective symbol of a dove. Jesus, having thus received the witness of the Father and the Spirit, received authority to baptize with the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist would seem to have recognized very early that the Holy Spirit would come from the Messiah, and not merely with him. The third Person was thus the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ.

(iii) The teaching of Jesus. The teaching of Jesus is trinitarian throughout. He spoke of the Father who sent him, of himself as the one who reveals the Father, and the Spirit as the one by whom he and the Father work. The interrelations between Father, Son and Spirit are emphasized throughout (see John 14:7-10). He declared with emphasis: 'I will pray the Father, and he will give you another counselor (Advocate), to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth' (John 14:16-26). There is thus a distinction made between the Persons, and also an identity. The Father who is God sent the Son, and the Son who is God sent the Spirit, who is himself God. This is the basis of the Christian belief in the 'double procession' of the Spirit. In his disputation with the Jews, Christ claimed that his Sonship was not simply from David, but from a source that made him David's Lord, and that he had been so at the very time when David uttered the words (Matthew 22:43). This would indicate both his deity and his pre-existence.

(iv) The commission of the Risen Lord. In the commission given by Christ before his ascension, instructing his disciples to go into the whole world with his message, he made specific reference to baptism as 'in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'. It is significant that the name is one, but within the bounds of the one name there are three distinct Persons. The Trinity as tri-unity could not be more clearly expressed.

c. The New Testament writings
The evidence of the NT writings, apart from the Gospels, is sufficient to show that Christ had instructed his disciples on this doctrine to a greater extent than is recorded by any of the four Evangelists. They whole-heartedly proclaim the doctrine of the Trinity as the threefold source of redemption. The outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost brought the personality of the Spirit into greater prominence and at the same time shed light anew from the Spirit upon the Son. Peter, in explaining the phenomenon of Pentecost, represents it as the activity of the Trinity: 'This Jesus being exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear' (Acts 2:32-33). So the church of Pentecost was founded on the doctrine of the Trinity.

In 1st Corinthians there is mention of the gifts of the Spirit, the varieties of service for the same Lord and the inspiration of the same God for the work (1st Corinthians 12:4-6). Peter traces salvation to the same triunal source: 'destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ' (1st Peter 1:2). The apostolic benediction: 'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all' (2nd Corinthians 13:14), not only sums up the apostolic teaching, but interprets the deeper meaning of the Trinity in Christian experience, the saving grace of the Son giving access to the love of the Father and to the communion of the Spirit.

What is amazing, however, is that this confession of God as One in Three took place without struggle and without controversy by a people indoctrinated for centuries in the faith of the one God, and that in entering the Christian church they were not conscious of any break with their ancient faith.

II. Formulation
Although Scripture does not give us a formulated doctrine of the Trinity, it contains all the elements out of which theology has constructed the doctrine. The teaching of Christ bears testimony to the true personality of each of the distinctions within the Godhead, and also sheds light upon the relations existing between the three Persons. It was left to theology to formulate from this a doctrine of the Trinity. The necessity to formulate the doctrine was thrust upon the church by forces from without, and it was, in particular, its faith in the deity of Christ and the necessity to defend it, that first compelled the church to face the duty of formulating a full doctrine of the Trinity for its rule of faith. Irenaeus and Origen share with Tertullian the responsibility for the formulation which is still, in the main, that of the catholic church. Under the leadership of Athanasius the doctrine was proclaimed as the faith of the church at the Council of Nicea (ad 325), and at the hands of Augustine, a century later, it received a formulation enshrined in the so-called Athanasian Creed that is accepted by Trinitarian churches to this day. After it had received a further elucidation at the hands of John Calvin (for which see B. B. Warfield, Calvin and Augustine, 1956, pp. 189-284), it passed into the body of the reformed faith. In the relationship between the Persons there are recognizable distinctions.

a. Unity in Diversity
In most formularies the doctrine is stated by saying that God is One in his essential being, but that in his being there are three Persons, yet so as not to form separate and distinct individuals. They are three modes or forms in which the divine essence exists. 'Person' is, however, an imperfect expression of the truth inasmuch as the term denotes to us a separate rational and moral individual. But in the being of God there are not three individuals, but three personal self-distinctions within the one divine essence. Then again, personality in man implies independence of will, actions and feelings leading to behaviour peculiar to the person. This cannot be thought of in connection with the Trinity. Each person is self-conscious and self-directing, yet never acting independently or in opposition. When we say that God is a Unity we mean that, though God is in himself a threefold centre of life, his life is not split into three. He is one in essence, in personality and in will. When we say that God is a Trinity in Unity, we mean that there is a unity in diversity, and that the diversity manifests itself in Persons, in characteristics and in operations.

b. Equality in Dignity
There is perfect equality in nature, honour and dignity between the Persons. Fatherhood belongs to the very essence of the first Person and it was so from all eternity. It is a personal property of God "from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named" (Ephesians 3:15).

The Son is called the 'only begotten' perhaps to suggest uniqueness rather than derivation. Christ always claimed for himself a unique relationship to God as Father, and the Jews who listened to him apparently had no illusions about his claims. Indeed they sought to kill him because he "called God his own Father, making himself equal with God" (John 5:18).

The Spirit is revealed as the One who alone knows the depths of God's nature: "For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God ... No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10f). This is saying that the Spirit is 'just God himself in the innermost essence of his being'.

This puts the seal of NT teaching upon the doctrine of the equality of the three Persons.

c. Diversity in Operation
In the functions ascribed to each of the Persons in the Godhead, especially in man's redemption, it is clear that a certain degree of subordination is involved (in relation, though not in nature); the Father first, the Son second, the Spirit third. The Father works through the Son by the Spirit. Thus Christ can say: "'My Father is greater than I. As the Son is sent by the Father, so the Spirit is sent by the Son. As it was the Son's office to reveal the Father, so it is the Spirit's office to reveal the Son, as Christ testified: 'He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you'" (John 16:14).

It has to be recognised that the doctrine arose as the spontaneous expression of the Christian experience. The early Christians knew themselves to be reconciled to God the Father, and that the reconciliation was secured for them by the atoning work of the Son, and that it was mediated to them as an experience by the Holy Spirit. Thus the Trinity was to them a fact before it became a doctrine, but in order to preserve it in the credal faith of the church the doctrine had to be formulated.

III. Implications of the doctrine
The implications of the doctrine are vitally important not only for theology, but for Christian experience and life:

a. It means that God is revealable
Revelation is as natural for God as it is for the sun to shine. Before there had been any created being, there was self-revelation within the Trinity, the Father revealing to the Son, the Father and the Son revealing to the Spirit, and the Spirit communicating that revelation within the Being of God. When God willed to create a universe it implied no change in God's behaviour; it meant letting his revelation shine outwards to his creation. And this he did by his revealing Spirit.

b. It means that God is communicable
As the sun shines it communicates its light and heat and energy. So if God is a fellowship within himself he can let that fellowship go out to his creatures and communicate himself to them according to their capacity to receive. This is what happened supremely when he came to redeem men: he let his fellowship bend down to reach outcast man and lift him up. And so because God is a Trinity he has something to share: it is his own life and communion.

c. It means that the Trinity is the basis of all true fellowship in the world
Since God is within himself a fellowship, it means that his moral creatures who are made in his image find fullness of life only within a fellowship. This is reflected in marriage, in the home, in society and above all in the church whose koinoµnia is built upon the fellowship of the three Persons. Christian fellowship is, therefore, the divinest thing on earth, the earthly counterpart of the divine life, as Christ indeed prayed for his followers: "That they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us" (John 17:21).

d. It gives variety to the life of the universe
There is, as we have seen, diversity in the life of God. God the Father designs, God the Son creates, God the Spirit quickens; a great diversity of life and operation and activity. For that reason we can realize that if the universe is a manifestation of God, we can expect a diversity of life within the whole of the created universe. We think that the so-called uniformity of nature is utterly untrue. All the wonders of creation, all the forms of life, all the movement in the universe, are a reflection, a mirroring, of the manifold life of God. There is no monotonous sameness, no large-scale uniformity of pattern, for nature reflects the many-sidedness of the nature and character of the living God.

J. R. Illingworth, The Doctrine of the Trinity, 1909;
C. W. Lowry, The Trinity and Christian Devotion, 1946;
A. E. Garvie, The Christian Doctrine of the Godhead, 1925;
H. Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, 1951, pp. 255-334;
B. B. Warfield in ISBE (s.v. 'Trinity');
R. S. Franks, The Doctrine of the Trinity, 1953;
K. Barth, Church Dogmatics, E.T. 1936, 1, pp. 339ff.;
D. Lamont, Christ and the World of Thought, 1934, pp. 221-247. r.a.f.
Douglas, J. (1982). New Bible Dictionary. (Pages 1221-1224). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.