The Trinity in the New Testament and Three at Once : The New Testament is filled with references to the uniqueness of the persons of the Godhead while affirming the One God. Those who affirm the deity of Christ and still deny His eternal distinction from the Father have to explain away Trinity-supporting scriptures. Some argue that the Son was a thought in the mind of God and that each person of the Godhead is a different mode that God enters. However, if God does not change, as the Bible claims, different modes are unbiblical. It is also impossible to explain scripture that reveals more than one ‘mode’ at the same time. We should never have to explain away scripture. Scripture was written as God’s revelation of Himself and His plan. When scripture can’t be explained away, critics of the Trinity deny the reliability of scripture itself. It should always raise a red flag when someone claims to be a Christian but then discredits scripture. If the Trinity is true, we are criticizing God when we criticize the Trinity revealed in scripture. A misunderstanding of God always leads to error. Therefore it is vital that we seek to know God, not make Him fit the ideal that we feel is rational or compliant to our beliefs.
Throughout the gospels, we see the Father and the Son together. Begin by looking at these two passages:
34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last.
Jesus cried out to God. Similar to the Old Testament references, we have God speaking to God. How can Jesus commit His spirit to the Father if He is the Father? Oneness writer and teacher David Bernard quotes Praxeus as a resource. Praxeus taught that God was numerically one in person and the names Father and Son were different offices of that one person, who is God. How can this be reconciled with these passages above? God, in the office of the Son cried out to the office of the Father, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” How did God, while holding the office or residing in the mode of Jesus commit to the Father His spirit? Oneness doctrine can’t claim that this is a change of office, because it doesn’t explain Jesus’ plea for help on the cross. It also does not explain Jesus’ daily prayer life. Look at——–
39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He withdrew to be alone to pray. In John 11, Jesus used prayer to reveal His relationship with the Father to those around Him, but Jesus’ daily prayer life was spent alone with the Father. Luke 5:16 tells us, “Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” What purpose is there in slipping away alone to pray unless it truly is a communion between the Father and the Son? How can God plead with Himself to find another way of redemption other than the cross unless the Son and the Father are distinct persons?
Jesus testified to this distinction. Look at John 8
16 “And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.”
29 “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”
I am not alone? The Father has not left me alone? He who sent Me is with Me? Next we will examine an even greater example of this unity and distinction. Look at Matthew 22
43 He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying:
44 ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool” ‘?
45 “If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?”
Here Jesus is referring to the prophecy of Psalm—-
The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
Don’t miss the importance of this passage. The Father said to sit at His right hand ‘till’ I make Your enemies Your footstool. This has not happened. This is the future reign of Christ. This is repeated again in——
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,
11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Once again we have a distinction between the Father and the Son. Every knee will bow (including His enemies) and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of who? The Father. How can Jesus sit at the right hand of the Father and at the same time be the Father unless the Trinity is an accurate view of God? In Revelation 3:21, we are promised that those who overcome will sit with Jesus on His throne as He overcame and sits with the Father on His throne. If Jesus sits with the Father on His throne, how can Praxaeus, Sabellius, and Oneness teachers claim that God only exists in one ‘mode’ at a time? In 190 AD, Hippolytus stated the church’s belief clearly when he said,
God, subsisting alone, and having nothing contemporaneous with Himself, determined to create the world….Beside Him there was nothing; but He, while existing alone, yet existed in plurality.
Three at Once
Several times in the New Testament we see all three persons mentioned together. Two of the most popular Trinity supporting passages are:
16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Here is how the historic Christian leaders viewed this truth:
110 AD. Ignatius of Antioch wrote,
“Wherefore also the Lord, when He sent forth the apostles to make disciples of all nations, commanded them to “baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” not unto one [person] having three names, nor into three [persons] who became incarnate, but into three possessed of equal honour.” (Letter to the Philadelphians, 2)
In Matthew 5 we see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit together and distinct. Matthew 28 commands us to make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Triune God. In Titus we are given the same picture that we have in Matthew. Look at —–
4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,
5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,
6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
The kindness and love of God appeared, we are renewed by the Holy Spirit who is poured out on us through Jesus Christ.
There are two final passages I want to include in this study. In John 14 we see all three persons of the Triune God referenced together and distinctly from each other. Look at—-
16 “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever –
17 “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
We are told that the Son will pray to the Father and the Father will send the Helper (Holy Spirit). Then in verse 21 we are told that when we keep His commandments, we will be loved by both the Son and by the Father. Jesus clearly draws a distinction between Himself and the Father. This is future tense. After we have the Holy Spirit on earth, we will still have the love of the Father and Son in heaven. Jesus again reveals an eternal distinction in—–
7 “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
8 “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9 “of sin, because they do not believe in Me;
10 “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;
In this passage, Jesus promises that He will send the Holy Spirit and who will convict the world of sin. Yet He also makes it clear that He goes to the Father. He does not become the Father, nor does He become the Holy Spirit. The book of 1 John walks us through the Trinity. Look at these verses from chapters—–
1 John 2:1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
1 John 4
14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.
Jesus is our Advocate with the Father. An advocate is a legal representative. An advocate pleads for the one being defended. Here John tells us that when we sin, Jesus pleads on our behalf to the Father. This does not make sense if Jesus is the Father. Throughout this book, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are identified as separate persons and the identified as one. Look at—–
1 John 5
6 This is He who came by water and blood — Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.
7 For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.——
“O Lord God almighty…I bless you and glorify you through the eternal and heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom be glory to you, with Him and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever”
We hold the doctrine that was preached by the apostles, their disciples and the early church they instructed. With confidence we can hold fast to the scriptures knowing that it truly is unaltered and is God’s revelation. In the Bible we have God’s revelation of Himself and our call to faith and obedience. We are called to have faith, not in a god shaped by the traditions of men, but in the Triune God. One God, three persons, equal and eternally distinct, uncreated and of one substance. One God, three persons.
The anti-Trinitarian view was refuted again and again by the true church. I will close with the exhortation Dionysius made in 262 AD against the Sabellius who popularized the Oneness/Modalistic view. He responded to the argument that Oneness believers use today – that the Trinity equals three gods. He called the argument blasphemy and the idea that the Son is the Father and Father is the Son is also blasphemy:
“Next, then, I may properly turn to those who divide and cut apart and destroy the Monarchy, the most sacred proclamation of the Church of God, making of it, as it were, three powers, distinct substances, and three godheads. I have heard that some of your catechists and teachers of the divine word take the lead in this tenet. They are, so to speak, diametrically opposed to the opinion of Sabellius. He, in his blasphemy, says that the Son is the Father and vice versa” (Letters of Pope Dionysius to Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria 1:1 ).
That is the position of the early church and historic Christianity. Is your doctrine the philosophy and traditions of men, or of God as revealed in scripture?
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