Very Brief Study Notes on The Trinity Doctrine

It was apparently the English preacher Robert South (1634-1716) who claimed, "If you deny the doctrine of the Trinity, you could lose your soul, but if you strive too hard to understand it, you could lose your wits." Nevertheless, the principle found in Deuteronomy 29:29 requires us to seek to understand what God has revealed of Himself. We should do so with great humbleness. 1

What is the basis for our belief in the Trinity?

  1. There is but one True God - Isaiah 44:6; James 2:19, etc.
  2. There are 3 Persons that the Bible reveals to be True God (i.e. God by nature). We are therefore driven to the conclusion that God is a Trinity. It is not something that we have dragged in from Paganism or the Roman Catholic Church as some who attack our Church like to suggest. The Trinity is a Biblical doctrine and we believe it and teach it because this is so. We are compelled by Scripture to accept that the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all God but there is only One God by nature.

The Father

No one disputes that He is God so we will not investigate His credentials further.


  1. Jesus is identified as God in both the Old and New Testaments: See Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1; 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13, 14; Hebrews 1:8; Philippians 2:6, etc.
  2. Jesus claimed the Divine Name "I AM" which Yahweh used when He revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush:  John 8:58 compare Exodus 3:14.
  3. In Jesus dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily: Colossians 2:9.
  4. Jesus is "The Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" - Revelation 22:13 compare Isaiah 44:6; 48:12.
  5. Jesus shares the glory of God: John 17:5; Matthew 16:27 compare Isaiah 42:8; 48:11.
  6. Jesus is the Creator: Yahweh says He made everything by Himself - Isaiah 44:24. The New Testament states clearly that Jesus was the Creator and that He made everything for Himself - Colossians 1:16; John 1:3; Hebrews 1:10. Quite clearly Jesus is Yahweh God.
  7. Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords: Revelation 17:14; 19:16 compare Deuteronomy 10:17 and 1 Timothy 6:15.
  8. Jesus is Eternal: Hebrews 7:3; Micah 5:2 compare Psalm 90:2; 93:2.
  9. Jesus accepts worship: Worship is for God only - Exodus 34:14; Matthew 4:10; Acts 10:25, 26; Revelation 19:10; 22:8, 9. Jesus accepted worship - Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:50-52; Hebrews 1:6. To "call upon the name" is related to worship - Genesis 4:26; 12:8; Psalm 116:17; 79:6; Jeremiah 10:25; Zephaniah 3:9; Joel 2:32. This phrase used with reference to Jesus - Romans 10:13; Acts 9:14; 9:20, 21; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 22:16; 2 Timothy 2:22.
  10. Jesus hears prayers: Acts 1:24; 7:59, 60; 2 Corinthians 12:8, 9; John 14:14; Revelation 22:20.
  11. Jesus is Omnipresent (Everywhere present at the same time): Matthew 18:20; 28:20.
  12. Jesus reveals God to us: John 1:18; 14:9; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3. No mere man can reveal God - only God visible could reveal the invisible God. Jesus was both God and man - John 1:1, 14.
  13. A comparison of some NT and OT passages showing that Jesus is Yahweh.
    Hebrews 1:8-12 with Psalm 102:24-27
    John 12:36-41 with Isaiah 6:1-3, 10
    1 Peter 3:14, 15 with Isaiah 8:12, 13.
  14. Jesus is " he who searches hearts and minds " - Revelation 2:23. "you (Yahweh) alone know the hearts of all men" - 1 Kings 8:39, see also Psalm 7:9.
  15. First fruits were offered to God but in Revelation 14:4 they are spoken of as offered to God and the Lamb.
  16. Saved people will be priests of God and of the Lamb: Revelation 20:6.

Some, influenced by people such as "Jehovah's Witnesses," have been led to believe that the New Testament reveals that Jesus was less than the Father by nature. A close look at the texts concerned reveals that Jesus was less in position not nature. We must not fail to notice that the Trinity is revealed to us in the context of the plan of redemption (covering the whole Bible). Jesus accepted a subordinate position to the Father as the Messiah. The above evidence clearly shows that He was not less than the Father by nature. (His Divinity was veiled while He was a man - He did use it on occasions - but never for His personal comfort or purposes).

The Holy Spirit is a Person

We do not learn much of His personality in the Old Testament, however, revelation is progressive (Romans 16:25, 26; Ephesians 3:5, 6) and the Old Testament also leaves us in doubt as to the nature of "the Word" (e.g. Psalm 33:6) but the New Testament makes it quite clear that He is a Person and is in fact God - John 1:1-3, etc. We cannot understand much about the personality and nature of the Holy Spirit for He is far different to us. However, the following references insist upon His personality.

  1. He performs personal actions in association with other persons: Matthew 28:19; Acts 15:28; Revelation 22:17 - NB The Holy Spirit is a separate person from the Father and Jesus - Matthew 28:19 etc.
  2. He takes the place of Jesus: John 14:16. Could an impersonal force take the place of the Divine Jesus on earth? The Greek word translated "Comforter," "Helper," or similar here is parakletos. This New Testament Greek word is never applied to other than persons.
  3. In John chapters 14- 16 Jesus many times over deliberately broke the rules of Greek Grammar and referred to the Holy Spirit as " He, " " Him, " etc. Noted Theologians such as Leon Morris and J. I. Packer have pointed this out. Our own Scholar Wooldrow Whidden, on page 71 of The Trinity, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Hagerstown, 2002, says, " we should observe that while the word " Spirit " (Greek pneuma) is in the neuter gender in Greek, the personal pronoun ekeinos ( ' that one, ' or ' He, ' clearly used to refer to the neuter Spirit) is in the masculine gender. It is this grammatical fact that has led the majority of translators to render the other personal pronouns called for in these passages as ' He ' rather than ' it ' or  ' that one '..." The Greek word for "Spirit" is a neuter word and therefore should rightly be referred to as "it" but a perusal of Bible translations will confirm that because of what Whidden has stated Bible translators feel compelled to translate various pronouns as "He" etc. We must either accept that Jesus did this in order to make it clear to us that the Holy Spirit is a Person, or, we have to accept that our perfect Jesus made a number of uncharacteristic blunders.
  4. He exhibits qualities which evidence personal existence: Mind - Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10, Will - 1 Corinthians 12:11, Foreknowledge - John 16:13, He speaks - Acts 1:16, Commands and Forbids - Acts 8:29; 11:12; 13:2, 4; (In these verses just mentions He refers to Himself as "me" and "I.") 16:6, 7; 10:19, 20, Appoints - Acts 20:28, Vexed and Grieved - Isaiah 63:10; Ephesians 4:30, Works Miracles - Acts 2:4; 8:39, Can be insulted - Hebrews 10:29, Blasphemed - Mark 3:29, Loves us - Romans 15:30.

The Holy Spirit is God

Most, even those who deny the personality of the Holy Spirit, will admit that He is God in some way.

  1. He is clearly referred to as God: Acts 5:3, 4. Compare 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17 with 6:19 and also 2 Corinthians 6:16. Compare 1 Corinthians 12:11 with 12:28.
  2. The Holy Spirit is Yahweh: Compare:
    Jeremiah 31:33, 34 with Hebrews 10:15-17.
    Psalm 95:7-11 with Hebrews 3:7-11.
    Isaiah 6:9, 10 with Acts 28:25-28.
  3. 2 Samuel 23:2 with 2 Samuel 23:3.
  4. The Holy Spirit is Eternal: Hebrews 9:14.

Because the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all the One God in Triunity (Trinity), what one does has the value of them all doing it. When the Holy Spirit comes to us it is the same as the Father coming to us, or of Jesus coming to us, or of the whole Three coming to us. The Holy Spirit is sometimes referred to as the Spirit of Christ - Romans 8:9, 10; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19, etc. Luke 21:15 says Jesus will tell His followers what to say in time of trouble while Mark 13:11 says it is the Holy Spirit Who will do this. This is where some dissidents have become confused. They think that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the same Person or that the Holy Spirit is some force that comes from Jesus and the Father. The truth is that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the same God - not the same Person. Remember the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19, 20 where they are spoken of as separate Persons.

John 14:18 tells that Jesus will come to His followers - Verse 23 says that both the Father and the Son will make their abode with believers. Verse 26 indicates that this will be through the Holy Spirit - see also verse 28 first part. There is no need for confusion - there are Three Persons all working in perfect harmony as One God.

What might we expect God to be?

Illustration: An Amoeba is a microscopic single cell creature. There is a great gap between an Amoeba and a human made up of millions of cells. We would expect the gap between a human and the Infinite God to be enormously greater. We would expect God to be vastly more complex than we are. See Isaiah 40:18, 25.

We believe a lot of things we donīt really understand

For example, light. Some say it is made up of particles, others say it is composed of waves. Yet others say it is a combination of both. We might not understand it but we believe it. We don't know how could God always have existed? - How can He know the end from the beginning? Christians don't understand these things but we believe them.

Do we expect God to explain Himself fully?

Illustrations: God is like a very tall man who stoops down and lisps in a little child's ear. John Calvin (16 th century Reformer) referred to the Bible as God's "baby talk." God meets us where we are and reveals Himself to the degree that suits His purpose and to the degree that we can understand. Remember Deuteronomy 29:29. He expects us to seek to understand what He has revealed of Himself.

God has revealed Himself to us

God has revealed Himself to us in what is termed " the economy of the plan of redemption. "

In other words, the terms "Father," "Son," and "Holy Spirit," are suitable to help us understand the Heavenly Three and their relationship to One Another in the plan of Redemption (This is what the Bible is all about).

We do not know how each of the 3 Persons would be described apart from the plan of redemption.

Some other Biblical models are:

  1. Shepherd ( Psalm 23:1; Hebrews 13:20 );
  2. Parent ( Jeremiah 3:19; Matthew 6:9 );
  3. Light ( Isaiah 9:2; 1 John 1:5 ); 4. Rock ( Psalm 18:2; 1 Corinthians 10:4 ) .

These models help us to understand what God is like.

Godīs revelation to us of the plan of redemption

God' s revelation to us of the plan of redemption, including an understanding of Him, is progressive.

The Holy Spirit was only fully revealed when Jesus was about to return to heaven. Jesus ministers for us in the Heavenly Sanctuary and the Holy Spirit ministers for us on the earth. God has revealed Himself gradually - it would be too much for us if a full presentation were given all at once

God has not revealed all about Himself

Let us not forget that a complete understanding of God is beyond us. As St. Augustine rightly said: " If you can understand it, it is not God. " Remember Isaiah 40:18.

Illustration: We can see only one tenth of an Iceberg. Likewise there is much more to God than our finite minds can possibly understand or absorb.

Illustration: A bucket of salt water, sand, and sea weed cannot help us understand all about an Ocean. Likewise, what we know of God is no more than a small part of what could be known of Him.

The doctrine of the Trinity is an adequate definition of what has been revealed in Scripture.

How then shall we describe the Three?

  1. Subordinationism : This system claims that Jesus and the Spirit are lesser   deities. Some say that God the Father created them.
  2. Modalism: This claims that God just manifests Himself in one of three ways on  various occasions.
  3. Tritheism : The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are three separate deities (a form of polytheism).
  4. Arianism : The Father created Jesus who created the Holy Spirit.
  5. Semi-Arianism:  Jesus was born from the Father in the mystical past. The Holy Spirit is not a person but is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. All shades of Arianism have been condemned as heretical when they have popped up down through the Christian centuries. Today some confused Seventh-day Adventists have been fooled into accepting the system. If you want to be an Arian you have to accept that there is a Big God (the Father) and a little god (Jesus). This is quite unacceptable and is a miniature form of Polytheism. Sin is an infinite problem. It has affected the whole of creation. How could any sacrifice which was of less than of Infinite value pay for the sin of the whole world? If Jesus could die in His Divinity He would have to have been of something less in substance than the Father - yet semi-Arians say He was born from the Father. Would they say that God brought forth from Himself something less perfect than He was? Their greatest problem is that they have not understood the Greek word monogenes which the King James Version wrongly translated as "Only Begotten" when referring to Jesus, but as "only" when referring to others. The word has been translated something like "unique" in modern translations. My paper Jesus as Monogenes needs to be studied on this matter.
  6. The Trinity : There are three Persons in One Substance or Essence. God is Three as to Persons but One as to Substance.This must be true if there is only One True God for the Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Only the Trinity doctrine is faithful to Scripture. Imagine the great howl of protest that would have arisen in the 1 st century if Christians preached three gods to the strictly monotheistic Jews. Matthew 28:19, 20 presents Three Persons all in the One Name. See also Mark 3:16, 17; 2 Corinthians 13:14 , etc. A very good statement on the Trinity is found on page 367 of Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, WHEN CRITICS ASK , Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Mich. 1992: " God is one in essence, but three in Persons. God has one nature, but three centers of consciousness. That is, there is only one What in God, but there are three Whos. There is one It, but three I ' s. This is a mystery, but not a contradiction. It would be contradictory to say God was only one person, but also was three persons. Or that God is only one nature, but that He also had three natures. But to declare, as orthodox Christians do, that God is one essence, eternally revealed in three distinct persons is not a contradiction. "

The Trinity doctrine helps us to see the full dimension of God's love. He didn't send an innocent Third Party to die for us - He came Himself in the Person of Jesus and died for us. What greater exhibition of love could we have than this? See 1 Corinthians 2:8; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Acts 20:28; Hebrews 2:14, 15.

God is complete in Himself. The Trinity teaching makes this clear to us. Before He created anything else, He was able to express and experience love within the confines of the Godhead. He didn't need to create in order to be able to express love as some have erroneously claimed.

It hardly needs to be pointed out that the above is but a very brief indication of the Scriptural evidence, which requires Bible believers to accept that God is a Trinity. God is far above us and beyond our comprehension. To understand all about God we would have to be God. God has revealed certain things about Himself in His Word and we should be prepared to accept this information with gratitude and leave it at that. I would suggest to those wanting to gain a much clearer understanding of the doctrine that they should read my book Understanding the Trinity. It is available at Seventh-day Adventist bookstores.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. He made us, He has maintained responsibility for us, He loves us, He died for us, and He is coming again soon to restore for us that which was lost through sin. How can we do other than love, adore, worship, and serve Him? If we lift Him up we can be sure that He will never let us down. I, for one, can testify that this is true.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in one,
Laud, honor, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally.