The key theme I want you to remember is, “The Trinity is Biblical.” The reason for the emphasis on the Bible is that many groups believe the Trinity was invented by the early church and as they developed this doctrine, were influenced by pagan deities and beliefs. This accusation I will later show to be false. Instead it was the Bible that formed the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity.
However, there are some difficult passages, especially when it comes to the nature of God. Let me share a couple that Jehovah Witnesses use to show that Jesus is not fully God but a created being; a lesser god. Later I will discuss more.
- John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” They would begin by saying we know the Word is Jesus. How can Jesus be with God and be God at the same time? It sounds like a contradiction. This is how they justify their New World Translation of John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” By adding this “a” Jesus can be with God (Jehovah) because he is a different god.
- Here is the scripture my junior high student shared: “Going a little farther, he [Jesus] fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’” (Matthew 26:39)If Jesus is God who is he praying to? Is he praying to himself?
How do we solve these problems? Do we believe in a contradiction? It is my contention once we have a correct understanding of the Biblical Trinity we will be able to make sense of these verses and more.
However, before we examine the Biblical foundations of the Trinity and solve these problems, I would like to look back at the early church fathers and see how they developed the wording for describing the Triune nature of God.
The Early Church Fathers Describe the Triune God
Following the resurrection the early church begins with a bang. Thousands of new believers were now following Jesus and the Book of Acts gives us a picture of incredible expansion. However, one of the problems with great growth and new churches coming into existence, bad teaching begins to happen almost immediately. In Acts 20 the Apostle Paul warned the Ephesian elders about savage wolves or false teachers who would distort the truth. The early church needed protection against error, especially false teachings concerning the Biblical truth about God.
However, doctrinal writings were difficult to produce because the early church was under intense persecution. The lack of early writings reflects the fact that when you are on the run for your life you do not spend long periods of time reflecting on in-depth theological ideas, studies, and writings. It wasn’t until the persecution slowed greatly by the early 4th century do we see more attention paid to doctrines like the Trinity.
Even without written support the early church was Trinitarian. Jesus was honored in their worship as equal to the Father. What the Apostles taught, right from the beginning, was later recorded in the New Testament; Jesus was fully God and fully man. When I speak of discovering the Trinity, the early church fathers found words to express a Biblical teaching and to correct errors that were already causing havoc. God has been a Triune God for all eternity.
It is important to note that all early doctrines that were developed over a period of time are like a computer program; nobody buys the 1.0 version of any program. The reason is because the bugs have not been worked out. Each new software version solves one problem while creating others. In similar fashion it took nearly 400 years to complete the doctrine of the Trinity. The problem was early church writers had to use words to describe the nature of the God and the eternal relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This was not easy an easy task.
Critics, like the Jehovah Witnesses, say the early Christian church invented the doctrine of the Trinity. Their booklet “Should You Believe in the Trinity” makes this claim. The truth is the early church fathers revealed a truth that was always there. It just took time to develop a clear and concise wording to express that truth.