He also pre-exists the universe, which
The one eternal God exists in the
three Persons of Father, Son, and Spirit.
And this relationship is one of perfect
harmony. They are equal in deity, glory,
and power. As Wayne Grudem states,
“The word trinity is never found in
the Bible, though the idea represented
by the word is taught in many places.
The word trinity means “tri-unity”
The three Persons are distinct. The
Father is not the Son or the Spirit, the
Son is not the Father or the Spirit, and
the Spirit is not the Father or the Son.
While the Persons always act in complete
agreement and harmony, bringing about
the will of God in all ways, sometimes
this involves one Person doing something that the other two do not: for
instance, only the Son took on human
flesh in the Person of Jesus.
It is important to be able to state
the main elements of the doctrine of
the Trinity, because many heresies
can be identified as twisting one of
these elements. 2
Refuting errors about the Trinity
While there are lots of different groups
that embrace errors about the Trinity,
it is easy to sort them into groups and
address the error that various groups
have in common.
Unitarianism is the error of saying
that God is one, and only one. Groups that
believe this include Jehovah’s Witnesses,
Christadelphians, and followers of Islam
and modern Judaism.
Tritheism is the error that the Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit are three gods, not
one. There are not many people today
who believe this, but it was a big deal
in early church history. Some Muslims
conflate the Trinitarian doctrine with
Polytheism is the belief that there are
many gods. Mormonism believes that
Yahweh is one of many gods, and that
humans may ascend to godhood themselves (see Genesis 3: 5).
Denying the deity of the Son
One of the most common errors people
make when talking about Jesus is to say
that He was just a man, or that He was
an exalted created being, but not God.
Practically all cults make this error in
one way or another. However, the Bible
is clear that God the Son is eternal,
and thus had no beginning. He is not a
created being; rather, He is the agent of
Creation, and He became incarnate in
the Person of Jesus.
The beginning of John’s Gospel testifies clearly about the deity of Christ: “In
the beginning was the Word, and the
Word was with God, and the Word was
God. He was in the beginning with God;
all things were made through him, and
without him was not anything made that
was made” (John 1:1– 3). There are many
other passages that testify to the deity
of the Son, including Titus 2: 13, which
calls Jesus “our great God and Saviour”,
and Colossians 2: 9 which states that “the
fullness of deity” dwells bodily in Christ.
Many cultists have ready-made
responses to the most common passages
that are cited regarding Jesus’ divinity,
such as John 1. So it is useful to have
some less-commonly cited passages
ready at hand. For instance, in John
12: 37–41, John cites Isaiah 6, and says,
“Isaiah said these things because he saw
his [Jesus’] glory and spoke of him”. Yet
when you turn back to Isaiah 6, Isaiah
saw Yahweh’s glory. This means John is
identifying Jesus as Yahweh.
Denying the Personhood of the
Many cults say that the Holy Spirit is not
a distinct Person, but a way of speaking
about the power of God, or a ‘force’.
Jehovah’s Witnesses make this error, but
many Christians also erroneously down-play the Personhood of the Holy Spirit.
In Scripture, the Spirit interacts with
the Father and the Son. He also indwells,
comforts, and empowers believers. He
can be grieved. He even speaks saying
“me” and “I” (Acts 13: 2). These are not
the actions of an impersonal force, but of
a Person. He (not it!) has the same glory,
and is as worthy of worship, as the Father
and the Son.
Confusing and conflating the
Persons of the Trinity
Unfortunately, many Christians confuse
or conflate the Persons of the Trinity.
Because much teaching in this area is
deficient, many Christians formally
believe in the Trinity, but their descriptions of the Trinity are actually unbiblical.
One of the most common errors is
called ‘Modalism’. This is the belief that
the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all
manifestations of the same Person. In the
Old Testament, we see the Father. Then
in the Gospels we see Jesus, and after
Pentecost we see the Holy Spirit. But in
the Bible the three Persons interact with
each other, meaning that they cannot be
the same Person ‘wearing different hats’.
Some errors conf late the actions of the
Persons. For instance, Patripassianism
asserts that the Father suffered on the
Cross. The popular (and unbiblical)
movie The Shack portrayed ‘Papa’ with
scars on ‘her’ wrists, compounding error
The Trinity and salvation
Each of the three Persons in the Trinity
is active in the salvation of those who
trust in Him. The Father put the plan
of salvation into place before the world
was created. The Son became incarnate,
lived a righteous life, and died as a sacrifice for sin so that all who would believe
in Him could be pardoned and credited
with His righteousness. He then rose
from the dead. The Holy Spirit indwells,
sanctifies, and empowers believers.
While this hardly exhausts the ways in
which the Trinity acts to save believers,
this shows how important it is to have a
correct understanding of this important
doctrine. A wrong view of the Trinity
inevitably warps our view of salvation.
Answer the door with confidence!
As Christians, we should be prepared
to explain the basic doctrines of our
faith with unbelievers and cultists at
any time—even if too early on Saturday
morning! Some dedicated study can help
you to be ready to take full advantage of
opportunities to share the Gospel.