A common critique of Biblical Christianity is that word “Trinity” is not in the Bible. How can it be, it is asked, that you believe in a triune God when the Bible itself does not even have the term anywhere in it? Or, it is asked, how can worshiping a triune God be such an important part of your faith when there is no one place in your Bible where there is a declaration that God is Trinity?
It’s a valid critique, to a point, because the term “Trinity” isn’t in Scripture nor is there any one reference we can point to where we are taught that God is indeed a Trinity. But if we take the whole teaching of the Holy Bible, it is clearly proclaimed that our God does exist in the form to which we give the label “Trinity.”
There are two fundamental truths that come together in our belief in a Triune God. First, we have only one God. Second, this one and only God exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. At its core, this truth is beyond human reason. We don’t have the language or even the wisdom to fully express or understand how one God can be three Persons or how three Persons can be one God. Yet this is a core article of our faith, and we believe it to be so because it is what Holy Scripture teaches. Without being able to explain it, then, we simply confess its truth.
That we worship one God is seen throughout Scripture as that one God is confessed from creation to Law to the revelation of the Last Days. Our Scripture begins with the confession, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God, not the gods, created. This truth is more specifically expressed as Moses reminded the Israelites of God’s Law: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4 ESV). Then, as God introduced His revelation to John, we read, “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (1:8).
If there is one place where we see God at work in Trinity, it might be the first chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians. The first two persons of the Trinity are named in chapter 1 verse 2 and again in verse 3: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” and “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing…” The third person of the Trinity is added in verses 13 and 14: “In [our Lord Jesus Christ] you also, when you heard the world of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance…”
The divinity of the Father is a core teaching of all of Scripture and in essence not questioned. The divinity of Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, permeates the New Testament; but a few specific passages highlight it. John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’” John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” John 20:28, 29, “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”
So too with the divinity of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. In the account of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, Peter told Ananias he had lied not to men but to God (4). When he spoke just a few hours later to Sapphira, he asked her, “How is it that you have agreed to test the Spirit of the Lord?” (9). It is clear that in Peter’s confession the Holy Spirit is God. Besides all the places where the attributes of God are assigned to the Holy Spirit we have, also, 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
The Father is Lord, Jesus is Lord, the Spirit is Lord; and yet we do not have three Lords but only one Lord. While the Bible itself does not call God a Trinity, we have and do use the term “Trinity” to put an understandable label on this piece of our confession. When we say we worship a Triune God, we are declaring that we believe in one God who is three Persons. We are declaring that we believe that the Father is God, that Jesus the Son is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God, but that we have only one God and not three Gods.
(See also the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds for brief confessions of God in Trinity and the Athanasian Creed for a more detailed explanation of the inter-relationships of the three Persons of the Trinity.)