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The Doctrine of the Trinity

by Walter Martin

The Doctrine of the Trinity teaches that within the unity of the one Godhead there are three separate persons who are coequal in power, nature, and eternity. This doctrine is derived from the clear teaching of Scripture, and is not a man-made doctrine as some (such as the Jehovah's Witnesses) have claimed. Let us briefly examine some of the New Testament evidences for this important doctrine.

1. The Incarnation. The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ as described in the accounts in Matthew and Luke show that the doctrine of the Trinity was not a later invention of theologians. Luke records what an angel said to Mary: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

Since other passages of Scripture reveal that the term "Most High" refers to God the Father, we have in Luke a concrete instance of the Holy Spirit, the Father, and the Son all being mentioned together in the supernatural event of the Incarnation.

2. The Baptism of Our Lord. When Jesus Christ was baptized, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit "descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased'" (Luke 3:21-22). In these verses we see the Son being baptized, the Spirit descending upon Him, and the Father bearing testimony.

3. Discourses of Christ. In John 14--16 Christ speaks of the persons of the Trinity in His Upper Room Discourse. Jesus declared to the disciples, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to 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). Our Lord here prays to the Father for the Spirit, and His emphasis on triunity is quite apparent. In John 14:26 and 15:26 Christ uses the same formula, mentioning the three persons of the Deity and indicating their unity, not only of purpose and will but of basic nature.

4. Paul's Letters. The apostle Paul definitely taught the triune nature of God. He wrote: "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2 Cor. 13:14). It would have been difficult for Paul to give this benediction if the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were not equal persons within the Godhead.

5. The Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20 the Lord Jesus commissions the disciples to go out and preach the gospel and to make disciples of all nations. He commands them also to baptize "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Taken with the other passages bearing on the subject, this becomes an extremely powerful argument for the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

6. Creation. Although the Bible does not explain to us how the three persons are the one God, it tells us most emphatically that the Spirit of God created the world (Gen. 1:2), the Father created the world (Heb. 1:2), and the Son created the world (Col. 1:16). If you check the creation references in the New Testament, you will see that these particular references are bolstered by several others teaching the same things.

The apostle Paul declared in Acts 17:24, "the God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands." This forces us to an irresistible conclusion. As creation has been attributed to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit singly and collectively, they are the one God. There cannot be three gods. The Scripture declares: "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other" (Isa. 45:22). Hence there is unity in trinity and trinity in unity.

7. The Resurrection of Christ. A final instance of Trinitarian emphasis is that of the resurrection of our Lord. In John 2 Christ declared to the Jews, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days" (v. 19). John hastens to tell us that Jesus was speaking of the resurrection of His earthly body (v. 21). Other Scriptures, however, state that Christ was raised by the agency of the Holy Spirit (e.g., Rom. 8:11). And Peter explicitly states that the Father raised the Son (Acts 3:26). So, again, God's Word affirms the triune nature of God.

We may not fully understand the great truth of the Trinity. However, we can see the rays of light which emanate from God's Word and which teach us that, in a mysterious sense beyond the comprehension of man's finite mind, God is one in nature but three in person.

This article was adapted from Dr. Martinís book, Essential Christianity. Taken from The Founder column of the New Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 6: Number 2, 1993. The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes. Copyright © 1994 by the Christian Research Institute, P.O. Box 7000, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688-7000. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller. Faith and Reason Forum would like to thank CRI for graciously allowing us to put this article on our website. This data may not be used without the sole permission of the Christian Research Institute for resale or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all of its content with the exception of a few brief quotations not to exceed more than 500 words.

End of document, CRN0063A.TXT (original CRI file name), "The Doctrine of the Trinity" release A, July 15, 1994 R. Poll, CRI. A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.