The doctrine of the Trinity is at the very center of the Christian faith. That God is triune in nature is affirmed not only in Scripture but also in the early ecumenical creeds of the church—specifically, Nicaea (A.D. 325) and Constantinople (A.D. 381).
The doctrine is essentially that God is one in being while existing as three co-equal, co-eternal Persons, namely, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, God the Father alone having Assets, which is to be self sufficient in and of Himself.
One often-heard objection to the Trinity is that the doctrine entails tritheism (a belief in three gods). Is Trinitarian theology at odds with the monotheism of the Hebrew Scriptures? Or did the early Christians get it right when they upheld the monotheism of the Old Testament while at the same time affirming the full deity of three distinct Persons?
To answer this question, we need to look over the biblical data. The Bible clearly affirms that there is but one God (Isaiah 43:10; 1 Corinthians 8:4). In addition, the Bible teaches the deity of the Father (John 6:27; Romans 1:7; 1 Peter 1:2), the Son (John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:2; Titus 2:13; Colossians 1:16-17), and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4; 1 Corinthians 3:16). Moreover, the biblical writers go out of their way to affirm that all three Persons are distinct from each other (Matthew 28:19; Romans 15:30; 2 Corinthians 13:14). So, while it is true that the word trinity is not found in the Bible, the concept most certainly is.
The same Scriptures that affirm that all three Persons of the Trinity are divine also unequivocally affirm monotheism (Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Timothy 2:5). A person can be defined as “a center of self-consciousness.” A person has a mind, emotions, and a will, can communicate with others, and is capable of performing actions. When we speak of the concept of personhood as it relates to the Trinity, we are describing self-distinctions in God. All three Persons of the one triune God possess the complete attributes of deity. All three Persons are divine, yet eternally distinct from one another. The divine Persons can and do communicate with each other (John 17:1-26; Hebrews 1:8-9).
The Distinctions as Given by God the Father and Jesus Themselves
There are distinctions within the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. While being one in Spirit they are separate individual spirits. It is a fact that Jesus isGod the Son in the flesh, but He is NOT God the Father in the flesh.
The distinction applies to whatever extent God and Jesus themselves say it is. As a man come to Earth, Jesus defers to God the Father and makes himself subject to the Father. He does not make Himself equal to the Father as a man.
In this regard we examine the breath of the distinctions between God the Father and Jesus the Son. The assertion that Jesus is God is typically taken out of context, because the references usually refer to Jesus as a man, calling him God. To say Jesus is God is notincorrect, as long as the reference distinguishes Him as God the Son. When the reference attempts to state that Jesus is God the Father in the flesh, it’s an error.
The argument for Jesus being God the Father is made by taking a few scriptures out of context, and espousing a religious view that offers dubious support in the claim, rather than giving credence to what Jesus Himself said about this matter.
There is also an argument to imply that Jesus is a created being, as espoused by the Jehovah Witness faith:
- Colossians 1:15 “first born of every creature “(that Jesus was created)
- Revelation 3:14 “the beginning of the creation of God “(that Jesus was created)
- Colossians 1:16 “For by Him were all things created that are in Heaven and that are in Earth” (that Jesus is God)
- John 1:1 “And the Word was God “(that Jesus is God)
- John 1:3 “All things were made by Him “(that Jesus is God)
These are not the only references used in scripture to express these views, but these are the usual suspects as it were.
The reason we need to explore this subject is because it goes to the heart of salvation and the specifics of what a Christian believes. It affects the viability of prayers and places in context why Christ sacrifice for our sins is such a big deal. It will help to put in proper context why Jesus is worthy to be praised, and place things into proper perspective about God Himself.
If the basis of salvation is to be saved from the wrath of God, then we should be clear that there is a distinction between God and His savior, the Christ.
There are many that misinterpret the account in Colossians 1:15-19: to say that Jesus and God are one and the same. In some instances, as with the Jehovah Witness faith, they use these verses to say that God created Jesus. This will require a slightly deeper dive to answer the question.
“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell. Who is the image of the invisible God” Colossians 1:15-19
This refers to Jesus, who in His life and behavior, emulated God. Jesus is “like” God, in a similar way a son is the image of his father. The son may look like his dad, he may have some of his father’s attributes and talents, the son will remind you of his father, but the son is “NOT” the father and the father is not the son.
“He that has seen me, has seen the Father, and how sayest thou then, shew us the Father? Believest thou that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words I speak unto you, I speak not of myself, but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me, or else believe me for the very works sake” John 14:9-11
When Jesus said this, He was not saying that He was God the Father, He was speaking to the aspect of His will and that of the Father as being one and the same. To be of one mind, one Spirit, one faith and to be on the same page completely.
“I and my Father are one” (John 10:30)
The context of what Jesus meant is the closeness they share. Not that Jesus and God are one in the same (Ephesians 4:4-6), one faith, one baptism, one God of all.
Jesus said in a prayer to the Father..(He was NOT speaking to Himself..)
“That they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” John 17:21-23
Jesus makes plain here the aspect of what He means when He uses the phrase “ONE”
As Christians, Christ lives in us, but this is manifest in us through the Holy Spirit. It is referred to as the “fruit of the Spirit” which enables us to have Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Faith, Meekness, and Temperance. (Galatians 5:22-23; Col. 3:8-10)
“the Spirit of God dwelleth in you” 1 Corinthians 3:16
This Spirit that is in us, gives us the heart of Christ and the capacity to be children of God. As Paul states “all things become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
To be one in the Lord is to be in complete agreement with the Father, as Jesus is in complete agreement with Him. As an example, or type and shadow of this effect in our lives, God gave us marriage and family. Which is why in part family is a sacred office of man, this began with Adam.
“Therefore shall man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh” Genesis 2:24
This account in Genesis, is the first time the admonition of becoming “ONE” is seen in scripture. It is where the concept of becoming one mind and of one agreement, being one as a couple is introduced. Adam and Eve were not the same person, but it is easily understood, that a marriage is to become one. This is actually a spiritual concept manifested in the flesh through marriage. It is this reality that Jesus always referred to between Himself and God.
“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife. And they twaine shall be one flesh, so then they are no more twaine, but one flesh” (Mark 10:7-8,Matthew 19:5-6; 1 Corinthians 6:15-17 and Ephesians 5:31)
One mind, one faith, one Agreement, with the husband as the head of the household, as the Father is the head of Christ (Romans 15:6; 1 Corinthians 6:17; Ephesians 5:22-24; 1 Cor. 11:3)
“the first born of every creature” Colossians 1:15
There are a few things this verse does “NOT” mean. Jesus was “NEVER” born “Spiritually” in the same way man is born with a body and a spirit. Jesus was only born “Physically”. Jesus’ birth made Him the first person to be born that belonged directly to God. Jesus did not have to be reconciled to God, because He was never created as a spirit and subsequently flesh like a man. Jesus was born to Mary of the Holy Spirit, making Him “NOT” born of the seed of man (Matthew 1:18-25).
“Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost.” Matthew 1:20
This in part, is why Jesus Himself never had to be reconciled to God, having not been born into sin. But Jesus did reconcile all believers to God.
“and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” Revelation 5:9
Another point about the “creature” reference, is Jesus’ birth had nothing to do with animals or other creatures, other than mankind. Jesus’ entire life, work, death and resurrection was about humans. Animals don’t go to Heaven.
“Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” Ecclesiastes 3:21
The reference to Jesus being the first born of every creature, is about the salvation of man in the big picture. Jesus is the first person to experience the transition His life and resurrection was all about. He physically transitioned from death to a glorified body. The same as every Christian experiences. Jesus let the disciples examine this manifestation as well.
“Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself, handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when He had thus spoken, He shewed them His hands and feet.” Luke 24:39-40
There are some nuances and subtle points to pick up about Jesus’ glorified body, it hasflesh and bones. It is recognizable to those who knew Him before He died. It had scars or in His case, holes in His hands, feet and side. At the very least, it had markings that they would recognize from the crucifixion. He could eat food.
“And they gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and of an honey comb. And He took it, and did eat before them.” Luke 23:42-43
Jesus could function as He did prior to His death, walking, talking, eating, etc. He had full command of all His faculties. When Jesus ate the food, it was not so much because He needed to eat, it was in order to make the disciples comfortable, to show that He was still human, so to speak.
Though His body was recognizable, it had no blood in it. Blood is loosely referred to as “Corruption” because blood is what hastens the decay of the body, under normal circumstances.
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” 1 Corinthians 15:52-53
The word “corruption” in Greek is “Phthartos” meaning “Decay” The word “corruptible” in Greek is “Aphthartos” meaning “Immortal”.
Jesus ate this food more for the comfort of men than a necessity. There are other accounts when men were in the company of Angels and the Angels ate food with them. Just as there are accounts when Angels refused food (Genesis 18:1-8; 19:1-3; Judges 13:15-16).
Jesus is the “first” to experience this transition Christians refer to as the “Rapture” or the “First Advent” of Christ, Jesus “first” coming (1 Thess. 4:13-17; 1 Cor. 15:50-55; Matthew 24:40-42; Luke 17:34-36).
In this context Jesus is also referred to as the “first begotten of the dead.”
“From Jesus Christ, who is the faithful and true witness, and the first begotten of the dead” Revelation 1:5
Jesus being the “first” to be resurrected.
The bigger picture of Christ work is that it is the ultimate end game of man’s salvation. It is not simply about being saved from the wrath of God’s judgment, it is to be reconciled to God in a never before experienced one on one, face to face relationship with God Himself, “without” any mediator, not Jesus or any Angels. Jesus work in our salvation is to remove any veils or impediments to a true personal relationship with God. No more prophets, teachers, or even a Gospel, just you and God.
“For by Him were all things created that are in Heaven, and that are in Earth, visible and invisible” Colossians 1:16
This portion of the scripture refers to God Himself, not Jesus.
“In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth.” Genesis 1:1
“Thus saith God the Lord, He that created the heavens, and stretched them out, He that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it, He that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and the spirit to them that walk therein.” Isaiah 42:5
Here we see that God the Father is the one who created all things, He is the one who places the very “spirit” in man that animates us and makes us eternal beings.
“whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, all things were created by Him, and for Him.” Colossians 1:16
These are references to Angels and the physical applications of Thrones, as in Earthly Kings, Dominions, as in places of rule, Principalities, as in governments, Powers, as in those in authority.
“Let every soul be in subject unto the higher powers, For there is no power but of God. The powers that be, are ordained of God Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist, shall receive themselves damnation.” Romans 13:1-2
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lords sake, whether it be to Kings, as supreme, Or unto Governors, as unto them that are sent by him, for the punishment of evil doers, For so is the will of God, that with well doing you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. Honor all men, Love the brotherhood, Fear God, Honor the King. Servants be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thank worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.” 1 Peter 2:13-21
In this we see that God appoints those who are in authority over us, and even if that authority is unjust, we are to behave in a manner that our compliance is as though we are submitting to the Lord, not so much the men with authority over us. This submission has its rewards from the Lord. The offices of authority have two aspects, the physical and the spiritual.
Spiritually this embodies the roles of Angels from Gods direction to them and their interactions with men. The physical refers to the roles of man, and the offices men hold that are monitored by the Angels.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12
Dominions and Powers are a form of Angel in the second hierarchy of the work of Angels. When God performs miracles for man using the natural laws in nature, it is called providence. These forms of miracles are enacted through Dominion Angels.
Powers are another form of Angel in the second hierarchy. They oversee the distribution of power among mankind as God dictates.
Principalities are in the third hierarchy and they are concerned with the welfare of human affairs. In this regard the spiritual authority passes to Angels and is administered by them to men.
“all things were created by Him” Colossians 1:16
This again, refers to God Himself (Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6; Isaiah 45:5-7,18,21-23; Hebrews 11:3; John 1:3)
“And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.” Colossians 1:17
This reference is to God himself. Paul makes the distinction between God and Jesus.
“But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him.” 1 Corinthians 8:6
Paul is the author of the book of Colossians, what he said about this distinction in Corinthians, should help with the clarification of what he meant in this writing in Colossians.
“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Corinthians 11:3
God is the one who created everything. God has “given authority” over all that “He has created” to Jesus. But there is a difference between the one who created and the one who has authority over this creation.
“I do nothing of myself, but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.” John 8:28
A father can start a company and give it over to his son to run, but no matter what his son does with the business, he does it and has it because his father gave it to him. There is no difference in this example with respect to God and Jesus.
“All power is given unto me in Heaven and in Earth” Matthew 28:18
This power Jesus spoke of came from somewhere, and it was “given” to Him by God the Father.
“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and things in Earth, and things under the Earth. And that every tongue should confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11
All who praise Jesus do so to the glory of God the Father, which is to say, to the satisfaction of God the Father (Romans 14:11-12; Hebrews 1:1-14).
God wants to see Jesus praised, Jesus does not want to see Himself praised. This authority and praise, is Gods reward to Jesus for what He has done for man, in this, we must see the distinction.
Another passage that has created similar confusion.
“In the beginning was the Word” John 1:1-3
The phrase “Word” is a designation associated with Jesus, because Jesus spoke Gods word.
“and the Word was with God” John 1:1
This means that Jesus was “with” God in the beginning of all things. Jesus has no beginning or end any more than God has no beginning. Man is the one who was created, and as such, we are finite beings with a beginning (birth) and an end (death). Jesus is not in this condition, despite His physical birth and death as a man, because He was always a Spirit before time.
“Thus saith the Lord the King of Isreal and His redeemer, the Lord of Host.” Isaiah 44:6
Here we see that God is the King of Israel, where the “original” designation was associated. This and other designations were later attributed to Jesus in His role as the redeemer of man. But it is important to follow the way these designations are applied to God and then to Jesus.
The distinction in this verse, “and His redeemer” means that Jesus was with God.
“the Lord of Host” refers to another designation for Jesus, which is to say He is over all the host of Heaven. At the time of this writing and discussion between God and Isaiah only “Angels” were the inhabitants of Heaven. Heaven was a place where only the Godhead and the Angels lived. Man was in “Paradise” at this time, never having been to Heaven yet.
“As for our redeemer, the Lord of Host is His name.” Isaiah 47:4
Jesus is the one who redeems man to God.
“and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9
“And now O’Father, glorify thou me, with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” John 17:5
Jesus makes the point that He (Jesus) was with God before the world was ever formed.
“for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24
The foundation of the world is what God created in the world in order for the planet to sustain life, the Anthropic Constants.
Gravity, oxygen, the transparency of the atmosphere, rotation of the planet, etc. These are what the foundations of the World are (Job 38).
Jesus was with God, when all that work was done, which is why He is also referred to as the “faithful and true witness”. Jesus saw it all in real time (Revelation 1:5, 3:14).
“and the Word was God” John 1:1
Jesus in fact is God the Son, He is part of the Godhead, which is made up of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Which is also referred to as the “Trinity” though they are separate and apart from each other, with God alone having “Asiety” which is to say that God is self-sufficient in and of Himself. God the Father alone needs nothing or anyone to sustain Himself.
“The same was in the beginning with God” John 1:2
This shows a distinction that the same Word (Jesus) was “with” God in the beginning. Not the same person here, but two distinct persons, God and Jesus.
“All things were made by Him” John 1:3
This refers to God Himself. We refer back to (Colossians 1:16; Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 45:5-7, 18, 21-23; and Hebrews 11:3).
“and without Him was not anything that was made” John 1:3
This refers again to the fact that Jesus was with God when God made everything. Some would argue that Jesus made everything, or that God made everything through Jesus.
What is more supported in scripture is that God made it all and gave it to Jesus.
“And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first born from the dead, that in all things He might have the preeminence” Colossians 1:18
Having preeminence in all things is to be first in rank and influence, having position of preference by God in all things.
“For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell” Colossians 1:19
All things run through Christ, but the Father is the one running it through Christ. That is a distinction with a difference. In rewards (2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Cor. 3:13-15) The beginning of judgment (Rev. 5:1-7; Matthew 25:31-46) and Power (John 14:12-14, 16:24-27; Matt. 28:18; Phil. 2:9-11; Hebrews 1:1-4; Luke 10:19).
“But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things” 1 Corinthians 8:6
This means that God is the one who created all things.
“and we in Him”
The reconciliation of man by Christ is “to God”. The Spirit of man returns to the one that gave it in righteous relationship, God (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
To make the strongest case about the distinction between God and Jesus, we should follow the rules of establishing a truth, according to scripture.
“at the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established” Deuteronomy 19:15
“It is also written in you Law, that the testimony of two men is true” John 8:17
“This is the third time I am coming to you, in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” 2 Corinthians 13:1
In order to establish a “Biblical” truth, this is the rule that is used. It is also referred to as a “Precept” or a standard practice. (Isaiah 28:10)
Here are a few scriptures, which should make the point about whether Jesus is God or not, and as stated earlier, we should see what God and Jesus themselves have to say about the matter, rather than us depending on any religious dogma.
“I came down from Heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me” John 6:38
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” John 14:6
“the servant is not greater than his Lord, neither he that is sent, greater than he that sent him.” John 13:16
Jesus makes a powerful observation here, which is repeated in other accounts.
“My Father which gave them me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:29
Here Jesus says that the “Father” is “Greater” than “All”
“because I said I am the Son of God” John 10:36-38
Jesus says that He is the Son of God, not God Himself.
“I go unto the Father, for the Father is greater than I” John 14:28
Jesus plainly says that the Father is “greater” than he is, a plain distinction.
God does not have to posture with the pretense of Christ, if God is Jesus, He would have just said so straight out. But when Jesus was asked pointedly, if He was the “Son” of God He said the following:
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” Matthew 16:13-17
“But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” Matthew 26:63-64(Luke 22:66-71; Mark 14:61-63)
Jesus did not say He was God, He said He was the Son of God. More to the point, there were these instances as recorded by the Apostles:
“He received from God the Father, Honor and Glory, when there came such a voice out of the cloud, which said, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased” “And this voice came from Heaven and we heard, when we were with Him in the Holy Mount.” 2 Peter 1:17-18
“While He yet spake, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them and behold, a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him.” Matthew 17:5-6
“And lo, a voice from heaven, saying, this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17
On a number of occasions, while Jesus was on the Earth, with a number of witnesses, God cracked the sky with His voice, who was in Heaven, and validated Jesus. The fact that this occurred with the disciples and some number of witnesses around, fulfills the witness requirement of the law, that the encounter was authentic.
There are so many places in scripture that make this point, here are some additional references to support the fact.
John 5:19-26, Isaiah 43:10-13 (This is what God said about the matter directly) Isaiah 44:6-8, 41:4; 40:12-18; 45:5-6, 18, 21-23, Matthew 24:36, 53, 27:46, 28:18, 20:21-24, John 5:30, 45-46, 10:32, 38, 11:41-44, 17:21-24, Acts 7:55-56; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 8:1, 10:12, 1 Peter 3:22, Mark 16:19, Luke 22:69, Revelation 1:5-6, 1:1, 3:21, 22:3-5, 5:3-7, 11:15, 2 Peter 1:16-17, Mark 13:32, 14:61-62, 1 John 1:13
There are literally hundreds of scriptures that speak to the divinity of Christ and the distinctions between God the Father and Jesus. It is important that we learn to stay in the context of scripture and not get caught up in the religion aspects that surround Biblical text, God is not religious.
The scriptures in the Bible move at a very rapid tempo at times, and scripture references go back and forth within its references. It is easy to confine oneself to a viewpoint one way or another, or to fall into a belief of what you heard many years ago. Just because it’s an old saying does not make it right, no matter how comfortable or spiritual it sounds.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness is a common phrase, but its “NOT” in the Bible. Sounds spiritual, but it’s not scriptural.
When we get into areas of biblical teaching that sounds vaguely familiar to us, we are apt to be more vulnerable to being manipulated as to what scripture really says, because most people will not open their Bible to see if what someone said was true or not.
If they are at a pulpit wearing a collar, robe, or a big hat, we tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. We must be careful not to fall into such a lack of discipline if we are to learn what God truly has for us in His word. Any teacher should welcome all questions and be able to defend the faith at all times. There is nothing worse than a teacher who can’t answer a question about something they just said.