The Triune nature of God by Jack Kettler
In my dealings with various individuals over the years it is has been rare to find someone who could accurately state the Christian doctrine of the triune nature of God and at the same time reject it. It speaks volumes when someone rejects a position without understanding the position that is being rejected. If someone cannot state an opposing position, they clearly do not understand it. The common reason for many in rejecting the triune nature of God is that they claim to not understand or comprehend that kind of being. If God is God and we are men it should not surprise us that we cannot completely comprehend God. If we could do this, then God would be nothing more than a finite entity. The standard for rejecting a belief should not necessarily be an inability to comprehend it entirely. Why? For example, almost no one can understand or comprehend how they’re own brains function. Why not reject our brains? In this respect, many individuals are operational rationalists. Rationalism is a philosophy where human reason becomes the standard of truth. For the Christian, the Bible is our standard of truth. This does not mean that Christians are irrational for believing in the triune nature of God. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It should be noted that, epistemology is the study of how we know things. There are generally understood to be three types or theories of gaining knowledge, 1. empiricism (a view that experience, especially the senses is the only source of knowledge), 2. rationalism (a view that appeals to man's independent reason as a source of knowledge) and 3. dogmatism, or scripturalism (all knowledge must be contained within a system and deduced from its starting principles, in the Christian case, the Bible). The Bible is the Christian's starting principle or presupposition.
To begin, the triune nature of God can be simply stated as:
1. There is only one God
2. There are three equally divine, distinct and eternal Persons called God
3. Therefore, these three equally divine and eternal Persons are the one God
Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology correctly defines the doctrine of God's triune nature. The doctrine is stated in a series of propositions:
1. There is in the Divine Being but one indivisible essence;
2. In this one Divine Being there are three Persons or individual subsistences,Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
3. The whole undivided essence of God belongs equally to each of the three persons;
4. The subsistence and operation of the three persons in the divine Being is marked by a certain definite order;
5. There are certain personal attributes by which the three persons are distinguished.1
A definition that is more suited to the lay person would be:
Within the nature of the one true God, there are three eternal Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Or, it could be said God is One with respect to His nature or substance and three in respect to Persons.
The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father; the Son is not the Spirit; and the Father is not the Spirit. God is not one person who manifests or reveals himself in three different modes, or three gods who are one in purpose. There is only one God in essence, who truly exists as three divine persons. The Christian is honestly handling the word of God by saying there is only one God. The Christian is indeed correct in saying that there are three persons who are God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The magisterial confession of faith states:
In the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.2
The following Scriptures, demonstrate that there is a plurality of persons in the Godhead, in other words, you see more than one divine person in each passage listed:
Genesis 1:26, 3:22, 11:7; Isaiah 6:8; 48:16; 61:1-2; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Zechariah 10:12; Matthew 28:19; Luke 4:18-19; John 1:1-3; John 14:23; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Colossians 2:2; Hebrews 1:8-10; Hebrews 3:7-11; 1 Peter 1:2; and 1 John 2:24
Yet, the Bible makes it indisputable that there is only one God:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD. (Deuteronomy 6:4)
…I am he: before me there was no God formed. Neither shall there be after me, I, even I, am LORD, And beside me there is no saviour. (Isaiah 43:10)
…I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. (Isaiah 44:6)
Is there a God beside me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any? (Isaiah 44:8)
The Bible teaches the Father is God in the following verses:
To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7)
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (I Cor. 1:3)
Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (II Cor. 1:2)
The Father is Jehovah:
In Exodus 3:13, 14 God (Elohim) reveals Himself as the “I Am” or Jehovah the Lord.
The Father is both Jehovah and Elohim:
These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD [Jehovah] God [Elohim] made the earth and the heavens. (Genenis 2:4)
And the LORD [Jehovah] God [Elohim] planted a garden Eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. (Genesis 2:8)
And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God (Elohim) of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he Said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM [Jehovah] hath sent me unto you. (Exodus 3:13.14)
The Son is proved to be God by the following verses:
But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. (Hebrews 1:8)
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (Colossians 2:9)
And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. (I John 5:20)
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; (Titus 2:13)
Jesus is Jehovah:
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say you, before Abraham was, I am [Jehovah] (John 8:58)
Jesus is using the divine name from Exodus 3:14. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses (Ego eimi) for Jehovah (I AM) in this verse. John 8:58 in the Greek uses the same formulation (Ego eimi). It is inescapable that Jesus is Jehovah.
Isaiah 45:23 says “That unto me [Jehovah] every knee shall bow…” The New Testament in Philippians 2:10 tells us that this verse speaks of Jesus. Jesus is Jehovah.
The following passage speaks of Jehovah:
Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them. (Psalms 68:18)
The next verse from Ephesians speaks of Jesus with the wording from Psalms 68:18. This makes Jesus Jehovah.
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Ephesians 4:8)
Jeremiah the prophet records:
I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. (Jeremiah 17:10)
What does the New Testament teach about Jesus that identifies him with Jehovah whom Jeremiah spoke? Consider what John says in Revelation 2:23:
…I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:23)
More passages could be sited from the Old Testament in which the New Testament writers apply to Christ. The above two examples should be sufficient. In addition, consider Christ’s following claim:
I and my Father are one. (John 10:30)
“Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.” (John 10:31) Why? Jesus was clearly claiming to be Jehovah God this verse. Is this true? The Jews said:
The Jews answered him; saying, For a good work we stone thee not; bur for blasphemy: and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. (John 10:33)
The Holy Spirit is called God in the following verses:
But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? ...thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. (Acts 5:3-4)
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (I Corinthians 3:16)
Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: (Hebrews 3:7,8) See Psalms 95:7,8.
As seen clearly from Acts 5:3, 4 the Holy Spirit is a person who can be lied to. In John 14:26 the Holy Spirit is sent to teach the apostles and bring things to their remembrance. This is proof that the Holy Spirit is an intelligent member of the Godhead, hence a person.
The Holy Spirit is Jehovah:
Now the Lord [Kyrios] is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord [Kyrios] is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17)
The Greek word Kyrios is used in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) to translate Jehovah. Kyrios is translated in English with the word “Lord.”
God is the creator. All three persons are involved in creation:
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. (I Corinthians 8:6) (Father)
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:3) (Son)
The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. (Job 33:4) (Spirit)
All three persons share the attributes of deity. For example, all three persons are omniscient:
Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. (Acts 15:18) (Father)
And he said unto him, Lord thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. (John 21:17b) (Son)
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (I Corinthians 2:10) (Spirit)
All three persons are omnipotent:
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. (Revelation 19:6) (Father)
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (Matthew 28:18) (Son)
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee:... For with God nothing shall be impossible. (Luke 1:35,37) (Spirit)
All three persons are omnipresent:
Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? (Jeremiah 23:24) (Father)
...and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world, Amen. (Matthew 28:20) (Son)
Wither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? (Psalms 139:7) (Spirit)
The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are all eternal:
But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: (Romans 16:26) (Father)
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8) (Son)
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit... (Hebrews 9:14) (Spirit)
All three persons of the Trinity dwell in us. Only God can do this:
Jesus answered and said unto him, if a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23) (Father)
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye being rooted and grounded in love. (Ephesians 3:17) (Son)
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:17) (Spirit)
All three persons of the Trinity were involved in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Only God can raise the dead:
Paul, An apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead:) (Galatians 1:1) (Father)
Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.... But he spake of the temple of his body. (John 2:18-20) (Son)
For Christ also hath once suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: (I Peter 3:18) (Spirit)
We see all three persons at the baptism of Christ. These are persons, not modes of existence:
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:16,17)
We see all three persons at the Great Commission:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28:19)
We see all three persons in Paul's letter:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen. (II Corinthians 13:14)
How many Gods are there in the Bible? The Bible is abundantly clear on this. Two verses are sufficient to put an end to polytheism forever:
...Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any. (Isaiah. 44:8)
And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: (Mark 12:32)
The Bible teaches that there are three persons who are called God, and yet the Bible is emphatic that there is only one God.
In conclusion, theologian Norman Geisler summarizes:
•All three Persons possess the attribute of omnipresence (that is, all three are everywhere-present): the Father (Matthew 19:26), the Son (Matthew 28:18), and the Holy Spirit (Psalm 139:7).
•All three have the attribute of omniscience: the Father (Romans 11:33), the Son (Matthew 9:4), and the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10).
•All three have the attribute of omnipotence (that is, all three are all powerful): the Father (Jeremiah 32:27), the Son (Matthew 28:18), and the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:19).
•Holiness is ascribed to each of the three Persons: the Father (Revelation 15:4), the Son (Acts 3:14), and the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-14).
•Eternity is ascribed to all three Persons: the Father (Psalm 90:2), the Son (Micah 5:2; John 1:2; Revelation 1:8, 17), and the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9:14).
•Each of the three Persons is individually described as the truth: the Father (John 7:28), the Son (Revelation 3:7), and the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:6).
•As well, each of the three is called Lord (Romans 10:12; Luke 2:11; 2 Corinthians 3:17), everlasting (Romans 16:26; Revelation 22:13; Hebrews 9:14), almighty (Genesis 17:1; Revelation 1:8; Romans 15:19), and powerful (Jeremiah 32:17; Hebrews 1:3; Luke 1:35).
Indeed, the Holy Spirit was present at the same time, revealing that they coexist. Further, the fact that they have separate titles (Father, Son, and Spirit) indicate that they are not one person. Also, each member of the Trinity has special functions that help us to identify them. For example, the Father planned salvation (John 3:16; Ephesians 1:4); the
Son accomplished it on the cross (John 17:4; 19:30; Heb. 1:1-2) and at the resurrection (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:1-6), and the Holy Spirit applies it to the lives of the believers (John 3:5; Ephesians 4:30; Titus 3:5-7). The Son submits to the Father (1 Cor. 11:3; 15:28), and the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son (John 16:14).3
A further response to rationalist critics of God's triune nature Geisler says:
Critics make a point of computing the mathematical impossibility of believing there is a Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Godhead, without holding that there are three gods. Does not 1+1+1=3? It certainly does if you add them, but Christians insist that the triunity of God is more like 1x1x1=1. God is triune, not triplex. His one essence has multiple centers of personhood. Thus, there is no more mathematical problem in conceiving the Trinity that there is in understanding 1 cubed (13).4
There is one God Deuteronomy 6:4 and Jesus is YAHWEH
Creator John 1:3
Colossians 1:16, 17
Isaiah 43:3, 11
1 John 4:14
King Matthew 2:1-6
Judge 2 Timothy 4:1
2 Corinthians 5:10
I Am John 8:24
2 Samuel 22:32
Rock 1 Corinthians 10:4
1 Peter 2:6-8
Shepherd John 10:11
1 Peter 5:4
Light John 8:12
First and Last Revelation 1:17
This chart shows that there is only one God. Jesus in Revelation 1:17 is said to be the First and Last. YAHWEH in Isaiah 41:4 is the First and Last. Therefore, there is only one God.
1. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing
Company, 1979), pp. 87-89.
3. Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, pp. 731-732.
4. Norman L. Geisler, p. 732.
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com