Jesus Christ our Creator

A biblical defence of the Trinity

by Jonathan Sarfati

First published in: Apologia 5(2):37–39, 1996

The doctrine of the Trinity is difficult for some people to understand. But this is what God has revealed in Scripture about His own Being, so we should believe it.

The doctrine of the Trinity states that in the unity of the Godhead there are three eternal and co-equal Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the same in essence but distinct in role — three Persons (or three centres of consciousness) and one Being (see diagram, below). The different senses of one-ness and three-ness mean that the doctrine is not self-contradictory. This is similar in principle to saying that the navy, army, and airforce are three distinct fighting entities, but are also one armed service. NB: this is not to suggest that the three persons are ‘parts’ of God. Indeed, each Person has the fullness of the Godhead (see Colossians 2:9). A better analogy is that space contains three dimensions, yet the dimensions are not ‘parts’ — the concept of ‘space’ is meaningless without all three dimensions.

Biblical derivation

All things necessary for our faith and life are either expressly set down in Scripture or may be deduced by good and necessary consequence from Scripture. Some cults, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, and groups known as ‘Oneness’, or ‘Jesus-only’ Pentecostals (not to be confused with mainstream Pentecostals who do believe in the Trinity), are fond of pointing out that the word ‘Trinity’ is not found in the Bible. But the doctrine can be logically proven from the following clear teachings of Scripture as follows:

Ancient diagram of the Trinity

Ancient diagram of the Trinity;
redrawn by artist Debra Bosio Riley—the chosen colours are important, because the additive primary colours of light combine to form white light (see this picture).

The distinction in persons within the one God means that it is possible for Jesus to be the ‘one mediator between God and men’ (1 Timothy 2:5), and to be our ‘advocate with the Father’ (1 John 2:1) when we sin. An advocate is a defence lawyer, who pleads our case before a judge. This demonstrates a distinction between the persons.

The distinction makes the Substitutionary Atonement possible. How else could Jesus be the One on whom the LORD has ‘laid … the iniquity of us all’ (Isaiah 53:6)? The one laying and the one on whom our sins are laid must be distinct.

Jesus said that His Father sent Him (John 14:24) and that the Spirit was sent by both the Father (John 14:26) and the Son (John 15:7). This also points to distinct centres of consciousness within the one God.

The fact that Jesus prayed to God the Father (John 17:1) shows there was a distinction between Father and Son. Since Jesus was fully human (as well as fully divine), and humans should pray, it follows that it was proper for Jesus to pray in His humanity.

Also, the deity of the Son, Jesus Christ, is further proved by the fact that He has attributes belonging uniquely to God, e.g.:

Some Objections to the Trinity Answered

Despite the clear Biblical evidence for the Trinity, some cults have objections based on misunderstandings of Scripture.

The word ‘better’ (kreitton) would have been used to describe superiority in nature if this is what had been meant. Indeed, kreitton is used to describe Jesus’ superiority in His very nature to the angels (Hebrews 1:4). The distinction can be illustrated in the human realm by the role of the Prime Minister — he is greater than us in position, but he is still a human being like us, so is not better in nature.

Firstborn’ does not mean ‘first created’; the Greek for the latter is protoktisis, while firstborn is prototokos. In fact, the verses after Colossians 1:15 show that Christ Himself is the creator of all things.

This is shown in the human realm by Hebrews 11:17, where Isaac is called Abraham’s ‘only begotten son’. Abraham had other sons, but Isaac was the unique son of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis chapters 15–18, 20), born when his parents were old.

References

  1. Paul Enns, Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody, 1989).
  2. Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Harvest House 1993).
  3. Josh McDowell & Bart Larson, Jesus: A Biblical Defence of His Deity (East Sussex, UK: Crossway Books, First British Ed. 1991).
  4. W. E. Vine, M. F. Unger and W. White Jr., Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (NY: Thomas Nelson, 1985).

(Also available in FarsiSpanish and Swahili).

  • Paul Enns, Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody, 1989).
  • Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Harvest House 1993).
  • Josh McDowell & Bart Larson, Jesus: A Biblical Defence of His Deity (East Sussex, UK: Crossway Books, First British Ed. 1991).
  • W. E. Vine, M. F. Unger and W. White Jr., Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (NY: Thomas Nelson, 1985).
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