Trinitarian Theology and the Bible

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Does Scripture really teach the doctrine of the Trinity? If so, where? I need to know, because I'm having a crisis of faith on this point. Some missionaries from another religious group came to my door and told me that the word "Trinity" never once appears in Scripture. They said that "corrupt" theologians of the second and third centuries "invented" this idea under the influence of "Greek thinking." I've been studying my Bible carefully and haven't been able to find anything that contradicts their claims. Now I'm thoroughly confused. Please help!

As you may know, the doctrine of the Trinity has been a hotly debated topic for centuries. The discussion has been going on practically since the dawn of church history. Why mention this? Simply because, given time, we could probably write several volumes in answer to your inquiry. There’s a vast amount of material available to anyone who is looking for scriptural references and exegetical studies that support this foundational Christian teaching. Obviously, we can’t cover all of them here.

What we can do is suggest a principle that may help guide your thinking. There are a number of commonly used modern theological terms that don’t occur in Scripture. That doesn’t change the fact that the concepts expressed by these words are clearly biblical. Consider, for example, the adjectives “omniscient” and “omnipresent.” You won’t find them in the Bible. But that doesn’t mean that God is not portrayed as “all-knowing” and “everywhere present” in the books of the Old and New Testaments. He most certainly is. Isaiah 46:9, 10 says, “I am God and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done” ( omniscience). And Jeremiah 23:24 asks the following questions: “‘Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?’ says the Lord; ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?'” ( omnipresence). Theologians have invented the words “omniscient” and “omnipresent” as convenient labels for these indisputably biblical ideas. Obviously, Isaiah and Jeremiah would not have recognized these Latin-based technical terms. But they were thoroughly familiar with the ideas they are meant to express.

The same thing can be said about the word “Trinity.” The term was employed by the early church fathers as a “shorthand” way of referencing the idea that the Bible portrays God as both Three ( trinus) and One ( unitas). No one who has studied the Scriptures closely can easily deny this.

Let’s take a closer look at the evidence. God is spoken of in both the singular and the plural throughout the Old Testament (see, for example, Genesis 1:26, 11:7). He is specifically called Father (Matthew 6:9), Son (John 8:58; Hebrews 1:8, 9), and Holy Spirit (John 16:26; Romans 8:9) in the New. We find all three Persons present simultaneously in the Gospel writers’ description of the baptism of Christ (Matthew 3:16, 17). Furthermore, the Bible makes a clear distinction between these Persons. For instance, when Christ was on the earth He prayed to His Father, not to Himself. At His baptism the voice of God was heard from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son, hear Him.”

We should also point out that the earliest Christian confession of faith consisted of two words: Iesous Kyrios, “Jesus [is] Lord” (I Corinthians 12:3). In the ears of first-century Jewish Christians, this could only have meant one thing: “Jesus is Jehovah” (the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament consistently translates the Hebrew Tetragrammaton YHWH, “Jehovah,” with the Greek word kyrios, “lord”).

How are we to account for this confusing and varied array of biblical testimony concerning the nature and the Person of God? There’s only one answer: we have to resort to the doctrine of the Trinity. It’s the only way to make sense of the biblical picture of God. It’s the only way to bring together all the different threads of the tapestry in a unified whole. To put it another way, Christian teachers have not invented the doctrine of the Trinity. That doctrine has thrust itself upon them by sheer weight of evidence.

If you need additional help understanding these concepts, call us. Focus on the Family has a staff of pastoral counselors who would love to speak with you over the phone.

 

Resources

What Every Christian Ought to Know Day by Day: Essential Truths for Growing Your Faith

The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters

Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know

Mere Christianity

Basic Christianity

What the Bible Teaches: The Truths of the Bible Made Plain, Simple, and Understandable

The Bible Answer Book

Referrals
Christian Research Institute

Insight for Living

LeeStrobel.com 

Articles
Becoming a Christian

Christian Worldview

Copyright © 2011, Focus on the Family.

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