Where is the ‘Trinity’ in the Bible?
In the ancient world, essentially all people were polytheist, meaning they believed in multiple gods. They may have elevated one god as higher than others (henotheism), but nonetheless, they believed in many gods. The Jewish people were one of the first people groups in the ancient world to believe in only one God. The Shema is a Jewish prayer that was repeated from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 twice a day, at daybreak and in the evening. The beginning of the Shema is, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Furthermore, any good Sunday School student knows that the 1st of the Ten Commandments is “You shall have no other gods before me.” So what are we as Christians to make of the Trinity and where is it at in the Bible? Because the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible.
Trinity in the Old Testament
As far back as the very first chapter in the Bible, Genesis 1:26, we see something interesting going on. Perhaps some, “Trinitarian” language.
“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” – Genesis 1:26
So there was someone else there with God the Father at the beginning during creation. God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” And whoever that someone was, had God’s same image and likeness. This same, “us” is used in Genesis 11:7 at the incident at the Tower of Babel. God says “Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” It is also used in Isaiah 6:8 when Isiah is commissioned. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”
We see someone else alongside God in the Old Testament.
Let’s fast forward to the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew. In Matthew 22, Jesus is in the Temple being questioned by the Sadducees and Pharisees in their attempts to try to trap him and make him look foolish. They ask him about paying the imperial tax to Caesar (verse 17), about whether the afterlife really exists (verse 28), and which is the greatest commandment in the law (verse 36). However, in Matthew 22:41-46, Jesus asks the Pharisees two questions.
“While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, “The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” If then David calls him ‘Lord’, how can he be his son? No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.” – Matthew 22:41-46
Messiah means “anointed one.” The Jewish people believed according to the Old Testament that a Messiah would come, an “anointed one”, who would save Israel and restore it to the glory days when the land/country was at its height under Kings David and Solomon. They believed the Messiah would be in the line of David according to 2 Samuel 7:11-16. This is what the Prophet Nathan spoke to King David:
“The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him as I took it away from Saul, who I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:11-16
So the Pharisees gave the right answer to Jesus’ question “Whose son is he? (referencing the Messiah). “The son of David” they replied based on verse 12. But it was only a partially correct answer. Verse 14 says “I (God) will be his (Messiah) father and he will be my son.” They missed verse 14 stating that the Messiah would be the son of God!
I don’t think verse 14 is talking about the Messiah being a human being, like we’re all “sons of God” as human beings being made in God’s likeness. I also don’t think verse 14 is talking about the Messiah simply being Jewish. Sometimes the Jewish people are called the “son’s of God.” Because otherwise, why would Jesus ask this first question, followed by his 2nd question, “How is it then that David, speaking by the spirit, calls him (Messiah) ‘Lord’? For he says “The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” This comes from Psalm 110:1.
Psalm 110:1 is a very interesting verse, and you must also look back at the Hebrew to get a full understanding of how it relates to the Trinity.
“The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” – Psalm 110:1
In the Hebrew, Psalm 110:1 says “Yahweh says to Adonai: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” See the article on What is God’s Name for a breakdown of where the names Yahweh and Adonai come from. These were both names for God in the Old Testament. Yahweh was the “main” name for God in Old Testament times. Jewish people considered it too Holy to be uttered; so instead of saying “Yahweh”, they called God “Adonai”, meaning ‘Lord’ or ‘Master’ in Hebrew.
Psalm 110:1 is David speaking. It’s almost as if he received a spiritual download from Heaven and says “Yahweh says to Adonai: ‘Sit at my right hand.’” Why would David, a man after God’s own heart, utter “Yahweh says to Adonai”. The Jewish people are monotheist and believe in one God. So how could God be speaking to himself and telling himself to do something? Adonai and Yahweh must be two persons. This aligns with what we read in Genesis 1:26, Genesis 11:7 and Isaiah 6:8.
Furthermore Psalm 110:1 states that Adonai has equality with Yahweh, when Yahweh says to Adonai, “Sit at my right hand.” Since most people were right-handed, the right in those days identified a special place of honor & rule, strength, power, might, co-authority and equality. So Adonai would be equal in power and authority to Yahweh.
Through these questions, Jesus is telling us two very important things. First, that the Messiah is Adonai; because “my lord” (Adonai) in Psalm 110:1 is the Messiah. Even though the word “Messiah” is nowhere in Psalm 110:1, Jesus brings up this specific Psalm (and specifically says David calls him “my lord” Adonai) after asking the Pharisees his first question. Scripture interprets scripture. The New Testament oftentimes interprets the Old. The second thing Jesus is telling us is that Yahweh and Adonai are two persons; and that Adonai will have equality with Yahweh. And to have equality with God (Yahweh), means you must be God! Thus, the Messiah = Adonai = Yahweh = God.
Was Jesus the Messiah? Is he God? From multiple scriptures, we know that Jesus is the Messiah. Here are just a few:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say the Son of Man is? They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you Simon son on Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. - Matthew 16:13-16
“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham.” – Matthew 1:1
“These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God!” – John 20:31
Furthermore, John tells us that Jesus was with God the Father at the beginning before creation.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John1:1-2, 14
The ‘Word’ John was referring to was Jesus Christ—that is who his entire Gospel is about. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the Messiah. And the Messiah is Adonai. And Adonai is Yahweh. So Jesus is Yahweh, Jesus is God!
So we see Jesus as part of the Godhead in scripture. But what about the Holy Spirit, the 3rd person of the Trinity; where do we see him in Scripture? First, it is important to understand that the Holy Spirit is a person. He, not an “it”.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” – John 14:16-17
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” – John 14:26
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” – Romans 8:16
Who is “He”, the Holy Spirit, and what does the Bible say about him? The Holy Spirit teaches (John 14:26, Luke 12:12), intercedes (Romans 8:26), leads (Matthew 4:1), gives life (John 6:63), searches for truth (1 Corinthians 2:10), loves (Romans 15:30) and speaks (Acts 10:19).
But is the Holy Spirit also God and thus part of the Godhead? There are several scriptures where the Holy Spirit is mentioned on equal level with God. Here are just a few.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” – Matthew 28:19
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. – 2 Corinthians 13:14
The Holy Spirit is on par with God the Father and Jesus Christ in these preceding two verses. Furthermore, in Acts Chapter 5, a man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property and lied to the Apostles saying they were donating the entire proceeds of the sale to the church. However, they kept back part of the money for themselves. This is Peter’s response:
“Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” – Acts 5:3-4
First Peter says, Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit. Then he says he lied to God. It’s clear that in Peter’s eyes, these two were one in the same.
The doctrine of the Trinity is taught throughout the entirety of scripture. Not just in the New Testament. It teaches that God is one in ‘Being’ yet three in ‘Person’—Father, Son, and Spirit. I don’t think my finite, human, mind can completely unwrap, breakdown, and explain how the one, true God of the universe, is made up of 3 unique persons. The best explanation I’ve heard is that in addition to God being Holy, God is Love. Love is one of the fundamental attributes that define us as human beings. Here is what Dr. Ravi Zacharias says about the Trinity and God being love.
If love is at the heart of existence and God is love, it is within the Trinity itself that we hunger for relationships. You hunger for relationship, I hunger for relationship. Existentially, I believe it is revealed in the Holy Trinity Himself. Where the Father loves the Son and the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit. Is it one and three? No. I believe it’s one in one sense. Three in another. It’s not a mathematical issue, it’s a very nature of being. Unity, diversity, in the community of the Trinity. There’s both majesty and mystery. And I believe when we see God face to face, we’ll find out why it is he made us thus, to hunger for relationships ourselves.
If we fully understood God and all He is, everything He does, His whys and His ways; then He wouldn’t be God. There should be some things about God that are difficult to understand and explain. Fortunately, we do have the scriptures to unwrap the Triune God so we can properly worship and adore, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Elder – NEO Church