the Trinity – How Can God be both Three and One?

  • When Christians speak of the Trinity we are not talking about three distinct gods (polytheism), nor are we referring to one God who manifests himself in three different ways (modalism).
  • The historic, orthodox doctrine of the Trinity is that there is one divine Being, God, who exists eternally as three persons. The Westminster Confession of Faith defines the Trinity like this, “There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.”
  • While the term “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, the doctrine of the Trinity is clearly found in what God reveals of himself throughout Scripture.
  • In the Old Testament God tells us that he is one. In Deuteronomy 6:4 God declares, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
  • We also find in the Old Testament that God refers to himself as a plurality, using the terms “us” and “our” (Genesis 1:26-27; 11:7-8; Isaiah 6:8).
  • In the New Testament the Trinity is seen at the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:16-17); in the teachings of Jesus (John 14:16); and in Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). The apostle Paul also acknowledges the three persons of the Trinity in his benediction to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 13:14).
  • Throughout the New Testament we also see that the Father is called God (Romans 1:7); the Son is called God (Hebrews 1:8); and the Holy Spirit is called God (Acts 5:3-4).
  • Though none are perfect, there are some illustrations from the natural world that can help us better comprehend the triune nature of God. For example, water can exist as liquid, steam, and ice; and an egg consists of a shell, yoke, and albumen (white).
  • The doctrine of the Trinity can be difficult to comprehend. However, God has revealed the truth of his triune nature to us. While we may not understand this doctrine exhaustively, we can know it sufficiently to trust and believe.

For more information on the Trinity and other doctrines, please check out the Apologetics Study Bible for Students available in our online store.