Establishing Personal Confidence in the Doctrine of the Trinity

Introduction

Christians encounter a variety of questions about the Trinity, a doctrine that is difficult to understand but foundational to the Christian faith. Some of these questions are a result of their own reflection, while others arise from people around them, whether critical or sincere. Unfortunately, Christians may find themselves unprepared to answer these questions. To them, the Trinity is a formal theological creed that they cheerfully accept, but not a core belief that they may confidently explain and defend from Scripture. To resolve this dilemma, it is necessary to know the core elements of the Trinity doctrine and to be able to find them in Scripture. By doing this, a believer will enjoy a more vibrant relationship with God and a greater confidence to share this relationship with others.

It is necessary to know the core elements of the Trinity doctrine and to be able to find them in Scripture.

To this end, the purpose of this article is to equip Christians to accurately describe and confidently defend the doctrine of the Trinity from Scripture. First, I will acknowledge some questions that nonbelievers raise about the Trinity. Then I will provide a basic definition of the Trinity, followed by an extended presentation of evidence from Scripture for the important elements of the doctrine of the Trinity. In conclusion, I will offer six ways that a Christian should respond to the doctrine of the Trinity. By providing this material, I hope to equip believers to share the truth about the Trinity with others.[1]

Questions about the Trinity

From Jehovah Witnesses

Some questions about the Trinity come from people who are outside of the Christian faith. Jehovah Witnesses, for instance, repudiate this doctrine. To them, it is nothing more than polytheism, an errant belief in multiple gods. To maintain a belief in one true God, they teach the Father as God, but Jesus the Son as an angel and the Holy Spirit as nothing more than a force that emanates from God to accomplish his will. By doing this, they reject the deity of the Son, and they also reject the deity and personality of the Spirit. Since the advent of the Watchtower magazine in 1882, Jehovah’s Witnesses have trained extensively to defend their faulty perspective with vigor.[2] Furthermore, their Bible (the New World Translation) features deliberate attempts to remove any allusion to Trinitarian doctrine such as the deity of Jesus Christ. For example, John 1:1 reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”[3] The NWT alters the final phrase to say, “The Word was a god” [emphasis added], removing a direct reference to Jesus as God.[4] Furthermore, Colossians 1:16 reads, “By Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth.” The NWT alters the final phrase to say, “By means of him all other things were created in the heavens and on the earth,” making allowance for their wrong belief that God created Jesus first, relegating Jesus to the status of a created being and not God. In both cases, the NWT rendering misrepresents the underlying Greek text.

From Muslims

Muslims also adhere to a form of monotheism that considers the Trinity to be a form of polytheism. In fact, they consider belief in anything more than one God to be the greatest possible sin, which they call “ash-shirk.” It is interesting to note that some scholars interpret the central Muslim text, the Quran, as improperly identifying the Christian Trinity, rejecting an odd threesome that consists of God the Father, Mary the Mother, and Jesus the Son, thereby accusing orthodox Christianity of ascribing deity to Mary.[5] Still, others believe that the Quran directly renounces the Christian Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit.[6] Whatever the case, Muslims clearly forbid calling any being God, apart from Allah.

From Pantheistic Religions

Other religions that are not monotheistic also misunderstand the Trinity. This includes various forms of pantheism, which is the belief that all things are God.[7] Buddhism, for instance, teaches a concept called trikaya, which it claims is a three-part reality that emanates from Buddha as Essence, Bliss, and Appearance. Hinduism teaches a concept called trimurti, which it describes as a threefold manifestation of the Absolute as emanator, destroyer, and preserver. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science cult, teaches a threefold nature of God as Life, Truth, and Love, but does so while also calling the Christian Trinity a polytheistic tritheism.[8] Though these pantheistic examples convey three-in-one overtones, they differ from the biblical Trinity in significant ways. For instance, although they portray God as a singular, ultimate reality, they omit the plurality of three distinct persons within the Godhead, preferring abstract concepts and forces instead. Such an understanding is entirely foreign to the Christian Trinity.

Other Questions

While proponents of other religions may question the doctrine of the Trinity, other critics propose questions as well. For instance, anyone who begins to investigate the doctrine of the Trinity discovers that the word trinity appears nowhere in the Bible. For this reason, some suggest that the absence of this word undermines the credibility of this doctrine. Such concern is unwarranted, however, because the necessary question is not whether this word appears in the Bible, but whether the Bible teaches the ideas that this word represents. Consider the irony that the word bible appears nowhere in the Bible, yet the Bible is a theological and historical reality nonetheless. The same is true for words like omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, which appear nowhere in the Bible, yet they accurately portray some divine attributes of God that Scripture clearly teaches. Such is the case for the word trinity.

Some critics claim that the Catholic Church fabricated the concept of a divine Trinity as extrabiblical tradition. They raise this question because seven ecumenical councils convened between AD 325-787 to discuss pressing theological questions about the members of the Godhead.[9] In particular, the Councils of Nicea (AD 325) and Constantinople (AD 381) published formal statements articulating trinitarian doctrine.[10] These statements, however, did not create the doctrine of the Trinity, nor do they carry authority because the Catholic Church published them. They present sound doctrine on the Godhead for the simple reason that they align with what Scripture has always affirmed.

So, if Scripture affirms the doctrine of the Trinity, it is necessary for a Christian to be able to answer the question of where it teaches this. Indeed, if the Bible does not teach this doctrine, then people should reject it, and without it the entire Christian faith crumbles.[11] However, if Scripture does teach this doctrine, then believers must defend the truth and respond to it with enthusiasm and worship. Unfortunately, Christians who claim to believe in the triune God often find themselves unable to support this belief with Scripture. With this awkward dilemma in mind, one source observes, “It is little wonder that a veteran Jehovah’s Witness, after a lengthy discussion with one who believed in the Trinity, said, ‘I never before met a Trinitarian who actually seemed to believe the doctrine!’”[12]

If Scripture affirms the doctrine of the Trinity, it is necessary for a Christian to be able to answer the question of where it teaches this.

Knowing that Jehovah’s Witnesses, for instance, rigorously prepare to deny the doctrine of the Trinity, Christians should likewise prepare to answer such challenges and to teach this doctrine to others. As such, they should not be lethargic, relegating this preparation to pastors and theologians. To achieve this aim they must learn to state this doctrine clearly and to demonstrate its biblical basis.

A Basic Definition of the Trinity

Any description of the Trinity must include two basic elements. First, it must affirm that there is one eternal God. Second, it must affirm that this God has always existed as three persons. That is why theologians use trinity to describe this “three-in-oneness” of God. He is one God (uni- means “one”) and three persons (tri- means “three”). Hence, he is triune. One example of a basic statement of the Trinity describes God as “three distinct persons in one divine essence.”[13] A similar statement affirms that “God exists as three persons, yet he is one God.”[14]  Ultimately, it is appropriate to define the Trinity as one eternal God who exists in three coeternal, coequal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It is appropriate to define the Trinity as one eternal God who exists in three coeternal, coequal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Statements like this, which insist that there is one God but three persons, seem incompatible and contradictory. In fact, they seem so incompatible that no person would have devised such a concept.[15] In this way, the triune nature of God underscores the divine origin and authority of Scripture as God’s self-revelation, demonstrating that the Bible is no result of human imagination (2 Pet 1:20-21).[16] So then, the tri-unity of God upholds the divine nature of Scripture, and the Scripture upholds the tri-unity of God as an orthodox doctrine. Furthermore, the triunity of God sets apart the Christian faith as unique from any other religion. No other faith worships such a triune God.

To understand the triunity of God in a responsible way requires an awareness of common misconceptions. Modalism (or Unitarianism), for instance, emphasizes the oneness of God, but not as three eternal persons. It alleges that God is one divine being who has manifested himself in three alternate ways – either as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, but only one at a time. Tritheism, on the other hand, alleges that the Father, Son, and Spirit are three independent gods, which is polytheism. This view emphasizes the three eternal persons, but not as one unified God. Altogether, any description of the Trinity must avoid both errors by firmly accepting the oneness of God and the three persons of God in perfect and eternal harmony.

To understand the triunity of God in a responsible way requires an awareness of common misconceptions.

Christians believe that God is triune, both one God and three persons, not because the concept makes sense, but because God reveals himself this way in Scripture.  Therefore, it is necessary to accept this doctrine by faith. As such, a believer must avoid any attempt to resolve apparent contradictions, knowing that the Trinity defies full comprehension. This does not mean that the doctrine is erroneous, nor does it mean that God has revealed himself in a faulty or incomplete way. Instead, believers seek to understand God through their limited human abilities, which prevent them from understanding the sovereign, incomparable God completely.[17] Nevertheless, he expects every believer to understand him as fully as possible, to the extent that he has revealed himself in Scripture. This requires prayerful, humble reliance upon the Holy Spirit and careful study of his inspired revelation.

The Biblical Basis for the Trinity

God is One

To understand the Trinity properly, it is necessary to observe that the Bible reveals one God and not three. The Old Testament Scriptures affirm this reality from the opening line (Gen 1:1). The Ten Commandments likewise open this way, “I am the Lord your God … you shall have no other gods before Me” (Exod 20:2-3). Furthermore, the central command of all Scripture, called the shema, rests squarely on this monotheistic reality, which Jesus repeated centuries later in his public teaching ministry (Deut 6:4; cf. Mark 12:29, Luke 10:27). At the outset of the church era, James reaffirms this monotheistic belief in one God for the church (Jam 2:19), and Paul also draws attention to this timeless doctrine (1 Cor 8:4-6).

To understand the Trinity properly, it is necessary to observe that the Bible reveals one God and not three.

That God is one seems to reveal more than the singular number of God, for it also relates to his divine essence and his unity of purpose. Divine essence refers to all that being the one, true God requires. It refers to all the qualities (and the extent and proportion of those qualities) that are essential to being God (hence, “essence” as in “essential”). As such, he perfectly embodies all the necessary attributes of God, and this divine essence is unchangeable and indivisible. Many theologians call this the doctrine of simplicity, meaning that the nature of God cannot be divided into parts. So, he is always God and perfectly God in every way. In that sense he is one. He is also one with regards to his unity of purpose, which refers to the mutual harmony of the three persons within the Godhead. Neither the Father, nor the Son, nor the Holy Spirit ever functions independently, or out of harmony with one another, or out of harmony with the singular, shared will of the Godhead (John 5:19; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10).

There is a Plurality within the Godhead

While Scriptures clearly teach that there is one God, they also intimate that somehow there is a plurality within the Godhead. Moses intimated this from the beginning when he recorded God as saying, “Let us make man in our image” (Gen 1:26). This divine statement, of course, refers to God with a plural form, though he is a singular God. Recent scholarship has suggested that this phenomenon is nothing more than a plural of majesty by which God merely refers to himself in a regal fashion, as when the Queen of England refers to herself as “we.”[18] In contrast, however, early church fathers and the Reformers alike have interpreted this as an unmistakable introduction to a plurality within the Godhead. Beyond this instance, God refers to himself this way twice more in Genesis (3:22; 11:7) and once in Isaiah (6:8). To be sure, these plural references neither specify three divine persons nor identify the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit in any distinct way. Even so, they exhibit a plurality within the Godhead nonetheless.

While Scriptures clearly teach that there is one God, they also intimate that somehow there is a plurality within the Godhead.

Some will object to this plurality by claiming that since God is one, this renders any plurality within the Godhead impossible (Deut 6:4). This criticism fails to acknowledge, however, that the Hebrew word for one includes an allowance for plurality to coincide, as when a husband and wife are called “one flesh” (Gen 2:24). One dictionary explains that one conveys the idea of “unity while recognizing diversity within that oneness.”[20] Therefore, the meaning of this word beautifully accommodates a trinitarian understanding.

The Father is God

Having established the three-in-oneness of God, it is necessary to establish that Scripture also teaches that each member of the Godhead is equally and eternally God, no more and no less than the others. This begins by recognizing the deity and eternality of God the Father. From Genesis 1:1 and beyond, general references to God throughout Scripture normally refer to the Father (i.e., John 3:16). Still, Scripture also provides explicit references to the Father as God. The OT prophet Malachi identifies the one true God as Father (Mal 2:10), and in the NT Paul likewise affirms that there is one God called the Father (1 Cor 8:6). Isaiah repeatedly alludes to God this way (63:16; 64:8), and James does the same (1:17), as does Jesus himself (Matt 6:9; 23:9; Luke 10:21-22). Furthermore, God the Father is eternal, indicating both that he must be God and that he has always been God (Deut 33:27; Ps 90:2).

The Son is God

Though critics abound, Scripture strongly attests to the deity of the second person of the Godhead. John begins his gospel by declaring that Jesus has always been God, and as such has always been in perfect union with God the Father (John 1:1). Matthew also declares that the Son, in his earthly, human existence, was named for who he was, that is “God with us” (Matt 1:23; cf. Isa 9:6). What’s more, Jesus himself claimed to be God, the God who revealed himself to Moses as Yahweh at the burning bush (John 8:58; cf. Exod 3:14). Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews provides explicit, emphatic evidence for the deity of the Son by recording that the Father also called him “God,” a declaration that originates in the Old Testament (Heb 1:8; cf. Ps 45:6-7). Furthermore, the Son is eternal, indicating both that he must be God and that he has always been God, just as the Father (Mic 5:2; John 8:58; 17:5; Rev 1:8).

Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of the Son, claiming that this identity as a “son” proves he is not equal to the Father as God. They misunderstand the meaning of this title, however. In fact, the antagonistic rabbis agreed that the claims that Jesus made for God as his Father were direct claims to personal deity, fully equal to the Father (John 5:18; 10:30). One theologian says this: “The designation ‘Son of God’ when used of our Lord means of the order of God and is a strong and clear claim to full Deity.”[21] Knowing this, Jewish authorities rejected his claim and made plans to execute him for blasphemy. Thomas, the doubtful disciple, also recognized the divine claims of Jesus, but he responded by giving him worship instead, which Jesus willingly accepted (John 20:28).

The Spirit is God

In addition to the Father and the Son, Scripture also provides evidence for recognizing a third person, the Holy Spirit, as God. Luke records a clear affirmation by Peter that to lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God, identifying the Spirit as God (Acts 5:3-4). Furthermore, Paul calls him “the Lord” (2 Cor 3:17). In the Old Testament, Job claimed that the Spirit created him, an activity that only God can perform (33:4). David ascribes to him the exclusively divine attribute of omnipresence (Ps 139:7), and Paul does the same with the divine attribute of omniscience (1 Cor 2:11). Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews calls the Spirit eternal, indicating both that he must be God and that he has always been God, just as the Father and the Son (Heb 9:14).

The Three Members of the Godhead are Distinct Persons

Having recognized the equally divine and eternal nature of each member of the Godhead, it is necessary to recognize that Scripture also portrays them as persons, each having the attributes of a personal being and not merely an abstract force or emanation of some kind. As such, Scripture reveals that each manifest the capacity to think, feel, and make purposeful choices. First, the Father knows (Matt 6:8, 32), feels (Ps 86:15; Rom 1:18), and makes intentional choices (Matt 6:10; 1 Pet 1:2). Second, the Son also knows (John 2:24; 16:30), feels (Matt 9:36; John 11:35), and makes intentional choices (John 5:30; 6:38). Finally, the Spirit also knows (John 14:26; 1 Cor 2:10), feels (Isa 63:10; Eph 4:30), and makes intentional choices (Gen 6:3; 1 Cor 12:11).

Having recognized the equally divine and eternal nature of each member of the Godhead, it is necessary to recognize that Scripture also portrays them as persons.

Not only does Scripture acknowledge the personality of each member of the Godhead, but it also distinguishes them from one another. This is a necessary observation because although the three persons of the Godhead are equally the same God and share the full divine essence, they are not the same person. For instance, the Son is not the Father because he speaks of “going to” the Father (John 20:17). Likewise, we know that the Spirit is not the Father because the Father “sends” the Spirit (John 14:26). Furthermore, we know that the Spirit is not the Son because the Father sent him to dwell within us, taking the place of the Son who was departing (John 14:16). This reference by John to the Holy Spirit as “another helper” is especially helpful because it identifies the Spirit as both equal to Jesus in divine essence and work, yet distinct in that he would replace Jesus. Additionally, Luke also alludes to the Trinity with reference to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers (Acts 1:7-8).

Not only does Scripture acknowledge the personality of each member of the Godhead, but it also distinguishes them from one another.

Further evidence for a distinction between the members of the Godhead may be found in those occasions where Scripture portrays them as acting separately from one another yet in harmony with one another. The example of the Son requesting the Father to send the Spirit has already provided one such occasion (John 14:16, 26). Another compelling example appears in Matthew’s account of the baptism of Jesus (Matt 3:13-17). All three persons participated in this event simultaneously. While the Son underwent baptism, the Spirit descended upon him as the Father spoke aloud for all who observed. Examples like this demonstrate that God does not merely reveal himself as the Father, the Son, or the Spirit, one at a time in a modalistic fashion. He is one God and three distinct persons all at once.

The Three Members of the Godhead are Equally Divine

Having considered that God is one and that there are three distinct persons within the Godhead, it is important to know where Scripture presents the members of the Godhead as sharing in the divine nature equally, meaning that one is not somehow more divine than another and underscoring that all three members are fully and equally one-and-the-same God. The most distinct example of this occurs at the end of Matthew’s gospel, when Christ gave instructions for baptizing new disciples (Matt 28:19). The church should baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This instruction certainly re-echoes the baptism of Jesus, which has already been cited as evidence for the triune God (Matt 3:12-17; 4:17).[22] Yet it also features a significant grammatical detail, which is the way that Jesus used a singular form for the word name, even though a plurality of three persons follow. Whereas the reader would normally expect him to say, “in the names of…,” he used the singular form instead, followed by the threefold reference to the persons of the Godhead. This unusual grammatical arrangement indicates both unity (one God, from “the name”) and plurality (three divine Persons) within the Godhead.

Scripture presents the members of the Godhead as sharing in the divine nature equally, meaning that one is not somehow more divine than another and underscoring that all three members are fully and equally one-and-the-same God.

Beyond this clear witness to the three-in-one Godhead by Jesus Christ himself, other examples also emerge. Paul names the three persons of the Godhead in equal function and association with one another at the close of a New Testament letter (2 Cor 13:14). One commentator highlights the significance of this pronouncement:

Paul’s final benediction mentions blessings that all three members of the Trinity bring: grace from Christ, love from God, and koinonia of the Holy Spirit. Paul does not elaborate a doctrine of the Trinity, but as a Jew he would not offer such a blessing in the name of anyone but the one God.[23]

This observation underscores the significance of this triune blessing as support for three equally divine persons within the Godhead. It also underscores the significance of a similar allusion at the beginning of this same letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 1:21-22), in addition to similar trinitarian references in four other Pauline epistles (Rom 8:9-11; Gal 4:4-6; 1 Cor 6:11; 12:4-6; Eph 1:3, 13-14; 2:18; 3:14-17; 4:4-6) and one general epistle (Jude 20-21).So indeed, Scripture presents one God as three distinct persons who share the same divine essence equally.

Evaluating the Johannine Comma

Having established a scriptural basis for the doctrine of the Trinity, it is important to acknowledge a possible mention of this doctrine that appears exclusively in the KJV and NKJV translations, that is 1 John 5:7-8. It says, “There are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.” If these verses, especially the first one, are authentic Scripture, then they offer the clearest, most unmistakable prooftext for the triunity of God.

However, despite their apparent helpfulness, these verses have no reliable manuscript support. Prior to AD 1215, no known Greek manuscripts contained them, and after this date they appear in only 8 of 5,800 manuscripts, of which only 4 appear in the text, while the other 4 appear only as marginal notes. It is especially significant to learn that these verses appear nowhere in the writings of the early church fathers. One linguist and historian astutely observes that “if early defenders of the Trinity had known about this text, they would have used it in the many heated debates concerning this doctrine.”[24] Yet these verses appear nowhere in the records of early trinitarian defense.

These verses have no reliable manuscript support, and they appear nowhere in the records of early trinitarian defense.

Nevertheless, the King James translators included these verses in their English translation, choosing to follow the reading of the Latin Vulgate used by the Catholic Church, which also was reflected in the third edition of the Textus Receptus compiled and edited by Erasmus (1522). Ironically, Erasmus refused to include these verses in his first two editions of the Greek New Testament because he found no manuscript support for them. In 1520, however, a monk somehow produced a Greek manuscript that included these verses, on behalf of the Catholic Church, obliging Erasmus to include them.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the absence of these verses from the historic NT canon causes no harm to the doctrine of the Trinity. Scripture rigorously upholds this doctrine without them, and the church has ably defended this doctrine through two millennia on this basis. Furthermore, no questions from Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, or other detractors may discredit this doctrine, and no alternate trinitarian formulas, such as those found in pantheistic Buddhism, Hinduism, or Christian Science, may be considered parallel or equal to the unique, orthodox doctrine of the Christian Trinity.

Scripture rigorously upholds this doctrine without them, and the church has ably defended this doctrine through two millennia on this basis.

Properly understood from Scripture, the Trinity affirms one eternal God who exists in three coeternal, coequal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So then, God is eternally one and yet there is an eternal plurality within the Godhead at the same time. As such, it is appropriate to call the Father God, the Son God, and the Holy Spirit God. These three members of the Godhead are distinct persons, and each are equally and completely divine. Though these statements may appear contradictory and impossible, they accurately portray the way that God has revealed himself in Scripture. Using Scripture, a believer should be able to demonstrate the truthfulness of this doctrine in answer to whatever questions he encounters, both from his own reflection and from people around him. Whether he is teaching a high-school Sunday School class, conversing with an inquisitive colleague over lunch, or responding to a Jehovah’s Witness at his front door, he should be able to explain this doctrine in a clear and thoughtful manner, referring directly to what the Bible says. Best of all, receiving and internalizing this truth about the Trinity by faith makes possible a more knowledgeable and vibrant relationship with God.

Application

The believer who begins to comprehend the incomparable nature of the triune God soon realizes his extreme unworthiness to approach the supreme majesty of God. Like Isaiah in the presence of the Godhead, he must bow down to worship in humility and awe (Isa 6:1-8). Sharing this perspective, one theologian properly exclaims:

One cannot reflect upon the nature and uniqueness of our God without being filled with awe and praise. We shall forever ponder these sacred mysteries and learn of this infinite Being. Meanwhile, it is our joy to fellowship with the Members of the Trinity and to express our love for Them by our trust and obedience (Mark 12:30; John 14:15, 21, 23).[25]

The believer must also embrace God’s mission to speak to people on his behalf (Isa 6:9-10). Though believers today do not share Isaiah’s prophetic mission of exclusively proclaiming judgment, they share a more glorious mission of proclaiming deliverance through Christ and teaching obedience to his will. As with Isaiah, a proper response to the reality, authority, and presence of the triune God undergirds this mission to all the peoples of the world (Matt 28:18-20).

Preparing to answer questions about the Trinity should motivate the believer to read and study the Bible with greater awareness (1 Pet 3:15). Sometimes God reveals truth about himself through Scripture in obvious ways, and other times he does so through the details, both difficult and obscure (2 Pet 3:16). In either case, Scripture contains far more evidence for the Trinity than this paper provides. Any believer may read the Bible with a keen and eager eye for these additional clues (Luke 16:29; 24:25-27).

Increased knowledge of the triune God should foster a greater familiarity and confidence in approaching the Godhead through prayer. The believer should learn what it means to engage the Trinity by praying “to the Father [Matt 6:6] in the name of the Son [John 16:24] through or in the Holy Spirit [Jude 20].”[26]

Furthermore, he should learn to sing hymns to God with greater devotion and understanding (1 Cor 4:15; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). This should be especially true regarding hymns that convey truth about the triune God. Scholars believe that the early church sang such hymns, some of which appear to be recorded in the New Testament (Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:15-20; 1 Tim 3:16; Heb 1:1-3).[27] Modern examples include “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “Come, Thou Almighty King, and “Praise God, From Whom All Blessings Flow.” An attentive worshipper will soon realize that many hymns extol the glories of the triune God.

Finally, believers who reflect upon the triune nature of God will learn how to relate with other people in a more meaningful way. From the beginning, God created people after his own image and likeness, saying, “Let us make man in our image” (Gen 1:26-27). Therefore, the believer should seek to learn from God how to best relate to the people he places into his life (Eph 5:22-6:9; Col 3:18-4:1; Phil 2:1-8). This pursuit answers the heart-cry of Jesus when he prayed for believers to share a similar kind of unity as the Trinity: “That they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them, that they may be one just as we are one” (John 17:21-22).

Selected Bibliography

Barackman, Floyd H. Practical Christian Theology. Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1984.

Blomberg, Craig. “Matthew.” The New American Commentary. Vol. 22. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1992.

Buswell, Jr., J. Oliver. What is God? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1937.

Cross, F. L. and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds. Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Eddy, Mary Baker. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Boston: The Trustees Under the Will of Mary G. Baker Eddy, 1906.

Emory, Giles and Matthew Levering, eds. The Oxford Handbook of the Trinity. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2011.

Enns, Paul P. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Chicago: Moody Press, 1989.

Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.

_______. Introducing Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992.

Feinberg, John S. No One Like Him. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2001.

Geisler, Norman. Systematic Theology. Vol. 2. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2003.

Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.

Heiser, Michael S. “Image of God,” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry et al. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016.

Holsteen, Nathan D. and Michael J. Svigel. Exploring Christian Doctrine. Vol. 1. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2014.

Jipp, Joshua W. “Hymns in the New Testament.” <https://bibleodyssey.org:443/en/passages/related-articles/hymns-in-the-new-testament>. October 2017.

Lewis, C. S. Beyond Personality. New York: Macmillan, 1945.

Lewis, Gordon R. and Bruce A. Demarest. Integrative Theology. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.

Manser, Martin H. Dictionary of Bible Themes. London: Martin Manser, 2009.

Martin, Ralph P. and Peter H. Davids, eds. Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997.

Mathews, K. A. “Genesis 1-11:26.” The New American Commentary. Vol. 1A. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996.

Meeks, Charles. “Trinity,” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry et al. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016.

Miley, John. Systematic Theology. Vol. 1. New York: Hunt and Eaton, 1892.

Miller, Jeffrey E. “Johannine Comma,” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry et al. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016.

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Wallkill, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 2013.

Phan, Peter C., ed. The Cambridge Companion to The Trinity. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2011.

Reed, David A. Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses: Subject by Subject. Electronic Ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997.

Root, Michael and James J. Buckley. Christian Theology and Islam. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2014.

Muehleisen-Arnold, John. The Koran and the Bible. London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1866.

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. Basic Theology. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999.

Sproul, R. C. “What Is the Trinity?” in The Crucial Questions Series. Vol. 10. Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2011.

Walvoord, John F., ed. Lewis Sperry Chafer Systematic Theology. Vol. 1. Abridged Ed. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1988.

Witherington III, Ben. Conflict and Community in Corinth. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.

Wolf, Herbert. “61 אֶחַד,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Edited by R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999).

Endnotes

[1] Special thanks to Philip Zhakevich, my personal friend and a Lecturer in the Princeton Department of Near Eastern Studies, for providing lodging and hospitality during my two-day research visit to the Princeton Theological Seminary Library. Thanks also to Kate Skrebutenas, PTS Library Director of Research and Public Services, for providing gracious and intuitive assistance.

[2] David A. Reed, Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses: Subject by Subject, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), n.p.

[3] All Scripture citations are taken from the NKJV.

[4] New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Wallkill, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 2013).

[5] John Muehleisen-Arnold, The Koran and the Bible (London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1866), 442.

[6] Michael Root and James J. Buckley, eds., Christian Theology and Islam (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2014), 3-4.

[7] Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce A. Demarest, Integrative Theology, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987), 282-3.

[8] Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (Boston: The Trustees Under the Will of Mary G. Baker Eddy, 1906), 256.

[9] Charles Meeks, “Trinity,” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary, ed. John D. Barry et al. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[10] F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1653.

[11] Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody Press, 1989), 198.

[12] Lewis and Demarest, Integrative Theology, 1:283.

[13] Nathan D. Holsteen and Michael J. Svigel, Exploring Christian Doctrine, vol. 1 (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2014), 131.

[14] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 226.

[15] C. S. Lewis, Beyond Personality (New York: Macmillan, 1945), 13.

[16] “It appears that Tertullian was right in affirming that the doctrine of the Trinity must be divinely revealed, not humanly constructed. It is so absurd from a human standpoint that no one would have invented it. We do not hold the doctrine of the Trinity because it is self-evident or logically cogent. We hold it because God has revealed that this is what he is like. As someone has said of this doctrine: Try to explain it, and you’ll lose your mind; but try to deny it, and you’ll lose your soul” (Millard J. Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1992], 105).

[17] “We cannot fully understand the mystery of the Trinity. When someday we see God, we shall see him as he is, and understand him better than we do now. Yet even then we will not totally comprehend him” (Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, 104).

[18] Michael S. Heiser, “Image of God,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[19] K. A. Mathews, “Genesis 1-11:26,” in The New American Commentary, vol. 1a (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1996), 162-3.

[20] Herbert Wolf, “61 אֶחַד,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 30.

[21] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 285.

[22] Peter C. Phan, ed. The Cambridge Companion to The Trinity (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2011), 41.

[23] Ben Witherington, Conflict and Community in Corinth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 475-6.

[24] Jeffrey E. Miller, “Johannine Comma,” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary, ed. John D. Barry et al. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[25] Floyd H. Barackman, Practical Christian Theology (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1984), 45.

[26] Lewis and Demarest, Integrative Theology, 1:286.

[27] Joshua W. Jipp, “Hymns in the New Testament,” <https://bibleodyssey.org:443/en/passages/related-articles/hymns-in-the-new-testament>, accessed October 2017.

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