"Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."" (Matthew 16:13-19)
When author Dan Brown exhibited his historical and theological ignorance in his fictional novel "The DaVinci Code", the mainstream evangelical church was thrown a curveball. Christians were sent scrambling in order to find answers to the charges Brown had brought against the true faith. Many pastors tried to ignore Brown's work, but his voice had grown to be too loud and haughty, soaring to the top of the lists of Best Sellers.
Brown's success and the church's response are a sad testimony to the theological ineptness of fundamentalism. The fact is that, as little as 200 years ago, Dan Brown would have been ashamed to print his folly. The church, knowing their theology and God's Word, would have exposed Brown's foolish heresies for what they were. For this is hardly the first attempt by the gates of Hell to ascend upon the Rock on which Christ's Church was built, namely that He is "the Christ, the Son of the living God".
The Trinity Defined
Before the Trinity is defended, it must first be defined. Dr. John Owen, in my opinion, offers the quintessential work on this doctrine, entitled "A Brief Declaration and Vindication of The Doctrine of the Trinity". He gives, as the substance of the Trinity, "that God is one; — that this one God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; — that the Father is the Father of the Son; and the Son, the Son of the Father; and the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of the Father and the Son; and that, in respect of this their mutual relation, they are distinct from each other."1 (I highly recommend this work by Owen. If the Christian Church ever commits to a full-fledged study of Owen, cults such as the Jehovah's Witnesses would disappear, or at least think twice before knocking on our doors.) Alan Morrison gives the simple, straightforward definition of the Trinity that the least child among us can understand: "One God, consisting of three persons, co-equal in diety".2
The Trinity in Christian Orthodoxy
Brown reiterates the tired old myth that pervades the cultists such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, claiming that the Doctrine of the Trinity was invented by the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. The fact is that the essence of the Trinity Doctrine has always been held by true believers. This is apparent, even from secular sources. In his letter to the Emperor Trajan in 110 AD, Pliny the Younger wrote that the early Christian church was "accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god".3 A recent archaeological discovery of a 3rd Century church in Megiddo shows an inscription in the tile floor that reads, "Akeptous, the God-loving, offered this table for (the) god Jesus Christ, as a remembrance."4
The earliest known Christian writing outside of the Bible is the Didache, The Teaching of The Twelve Apostles. In it, Jesus was addressed a multitude of times as "Lord" (kurios κύριος) a Greek word denoting Divinity. While the date of the Didache is hotly debated, no reputable scholar would place its writing after the Second Century (in fact, I hold it to be at least partially written before 70 AD.) The Jewish Historian Josephus hints of Jesus' Divinity, writing "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."5 Justin Martyr baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Ignatius of Antioch refers to Jesus Christ directly as God no less than a dozen times. These and similar statements made by the Ante-Nicene fathers occurs far too many times to document here.
In fact, There in no record of anyone denying the deity of Christ until late second century, when Theodotus, a Byzantine leather merchant, said in reference to Christ, ''I have not denied God but a man... ". Aside from musings of this poor soul, the rock of Christ's deity was never seriously challenged until the 4th century.
The first of the three major heresies to deny Christ as God was Arianism, named after its founder Arius (250-336 AD). Arius held that Christ was the first being to be created by God. This belief was followed closely by Modalism, a heresy created by Sabellius. He held that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were not three persons, but were 3 "modes" of God. Macedonianism, similar to Arianism, denied the deity of the Holy Spirit. All three were condemned as heresies by the Council of Nicea, which upheld the traditional view of the Trinity, while not yet called such.
All Christian Creeds and Confession, without exception, hold to the Trinity. The Apostle's Creed states, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord". The Nicene Creed says, "one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made." The Athanasian Creed states, "And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity", and reaffirms the Deity of each member of the Godhead. "But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal." The Westminster Confession of Faith states, "In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son." Any who would remove Christ from His throne must deal with those great Divines who worshipped Him "in Spirit and in Truth" of Divine Orthodoxy. (John 4:24).
The Trinity in Scripture
The Trinity, using Morrison's definition, can be easily supported by Scripture. "One God, consisting of three persons, co-equal in deity". Using such we can establish that each part of the Trinity Doctrine, the Oneness of God, as well as the Deity of the three separate persons of the Godhead.
No other God
It is clear from the very first Commandment that there is only one God, and we are to worship no other (Exodus 20:2-3). "To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, driving out before you nations greater and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other" (Deut. 4:35-39)..."that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other. (1 Kings 8:60). (See also Isaiah 44:6-8, Isaiah 45:5, Isaiah 45:21, 1 Cor. 8:4-6, Eph. 4:6). Thus, the first truth of the Doctrine of the Trinity, that there is one God, is firmly established.
"Before Abraham Was, I AM"
Throughout the Scriptures, the pre-existence of Christ is well established. Those who insist on worshipping a mere man cannot be saved. John tells us that "he who denies that Jesus is the Christ" is "a liar" (1 John 2:22). Furthermore, "No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also" (1 John 2:23). While this was John's polemic against first Century Judaism in particular, it certainly can be applied to anyone who makes Christ anything other than the "sent one". What was the error of the Pharisees, but the denial of Christ's Deity and eternal pre-existence? "Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.'" (John 8:58). As a result of this statement, the Pharisees "picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple." (John 8:59). On another occasion, Jesus proclaimed "I and the Father are one." Again, "The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus inquired of them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?" The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God." (John 10:30-33). Let the cultists rage over the alleged "mistranslation", or misunderstanding concerning Jesus' words. The Pharisees understood quite well what Jesus was claiming.
We already know that Christ's "goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2). Therefore Paul can encourage us to "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:5-7). This clearly shows that Jesus Christ existed well before His earthly incarnation, willingly taking on the likeness of man. "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things..." (Hebrews 2:14). "Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; (Hebrews 10:5). He could then, during His earthly ministry, pray for the Father to "glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed." (John 17:5). This would, of course, be impossible for a mere man. But we know that He, the Word, was "in the beginning" and "was God" (John 1:1), and that "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). The plurality of the Godhead is established at creation, when we are told that "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth". (Genesis 1:1). Interestingly, the word for God ('ĕlôhîym אלהים) is simply the plural form of ('ĕlôahh אלוהּ). Therefore the triune Godhead could, in full agreement, say "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." (Genesis 1:26). The Creation of the universe and all things in it are attributed to the Father (Genesis 1:1; Malachi 2:10), to the Son (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16), and to the Holy Spirit (Job 26:13; Psalms 104:30). Likewise, the resurrection of Christ is said to be the work of the Father (Acts 2:32), to the Son (John 10:17-18), and to the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:4). Therefore, those who would deny Christ's pre-existence or His equality with the Father cannot be saved, for they do not worship the God of the Scriptures. Paul warns all true believers concerning the vain philosophy of cultists. "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority." (Colossians 2:8-10).
Christ in the Old Testament
“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)
At this point, it will be profitable to show that Christ was the major focus of Old Testament worship, and furthermore, is recognized as Divine. Volumes have been written concerning theophanies in the Old Testament, so I'll only briefly touch on some here.
There are several places in the Old Testament where "the Angel of the Lord" appears. In Genesis 16, this Angel appears to Hagar, and Hagar acknowledges the Angel to be Lord and God (Genesis 16:13). In Genesis 31:11-13, the angel proclaimed himself to be God. In Numbers 21:6, we see that "the LORD (yehôvâh יהוה - the self-existing One) sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. Paul, the inspired Apostle, attributes this work to Christ (1 Cor. 10:9). In Daniel 3:25, Nebuchadnezzar was astonished to see a fourth man in the fiery furnace, "and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God". These are but a few of many Old Testament appearances of Christ. In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah saw the Lord ('ădônây אדני), which was Christ (Compare Isaiah 6:1-10 comp. John 12:37-44). There are other, more indirect theophanies, such as Jacob's Ladder (See Genesis 28:12 and John 1:51). I won't, at this time, deal with the debate over whether or not Michael the Archangel was indeed a theophany. The point of emphasis here is that Christ existed from everlasting, made appearances in the Old Testament, and is said to be God.
More compelling, however, are the direct references to Christ when comparing the Old and New Testaments. For example, the name for God (Elohiym) in Psalms 45:6 "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;" is applied to Christ (Hebrews 1:8). The same is true with Psalms 68:17-18 (see Eph. 4:8-10). The name ('âdôn אדון) in Psalms 110:1 is applied as (κύριος) to Christ (Matthew 22:44). Jehovah of Hosts, the "stumbling block" of Isaiah 8:13-14 is Christ (1 Peter 2:7-8). The Hebrew title of Divinity ('êl - אל) (Greek - κύριος) in Psalms 102:25-27 also speaks of Christ the Creator (Hebrews 1:10-12). The voice from the wilderness in Isaiah 40:3 prepared the way for the Lord (Jehovah)...our God (Elohiym), who is none other than Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:3). If the New Testament is to have any credibility whatsoever, the pre-existence and Divinity of Christ cannot be denied.
In Isaiah 43:11, God tells us that "I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior." Of necessity, therefore, Christ our Savior (Luke 2:11) is God. Thus when Isaiah prophesied the birth of that Savior, he referred to Him as "Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14), which means "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). He is the "Mighty God" and "Everlasting Father" (Isaiah 9:6), and "Jehovah Our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:6). Surely this is enough to establish the Divinity of Christ without even opening the New Testament.
God made manifest in the flesh
Christ full membership in the triune godhead is more firmly established in the New Testament. "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Colossians 2:9). Christ is identified as "God over all, blessed forever" (Romans 9:5). Thus Paul could encourage Titus in "waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ," (Titus 2:13). Thomas recognized Christ as ""My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). Christ's words in John 10:30 were recognized by the Pharisees as a claim to deity, thus their reaction in John 10:31-33.
1 Timothy 3:16 has been a much debated Scripture in recent times, but wrongly so. Cultists who make a claim of "textual criticism" have attempted to replace the word "God" (theos θεός) with "who" (ός). However, no reputable Greek writer would contrive such a grammatical monstrosity. Along with creating a sentence with no subject (thus having to invent the word "He" out of thin air), the cultist is faced with the fact that there is no historical evidence to support such a rendering. Aside from the fact that eyewitnesses of original manuscripts have all but unanimously verified θεός, the ancients have added their support as well. No less than a dozen early church fathers have either paraphrased 1 Timothy 3:16, or have directly quoted it using θεός.6 Thus the statement, that "God was manifest in the flesh" is the correct statement, and is clearly supported elsewhere in Scripture (see John 1:1, John 1:14)
Acts 20:28 tells us to "feed the church of God (θεός) which he has purchased with his own blood". Can there be about doubt about the blood of θεός being that of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, who "by his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12)?
The Distinct Personhood of Jesus Christ
"And Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway from the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him; and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17).
In this passage, the other two members of the triune godhead introduce us to God the Son. The Son is clearly the Son of God, and God Himself addresses His Son as a person. While the Father and Son are One (John 10:30) in essence, they are clearly separate persons in substance. This distinction of personhood is clearly shown throughout the Scriptures. In Isaiah 53:1-12, we see that He (the Son) was "smitten of God" (Isaiah 53:4), thus requiring the Son to be different in substance from the Father. "Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all....Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him; he hath put him to grief... and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand." (Isaiah 53:6; Isaiah 53:10) Who can deny the clear separation of the persons of our one God? Christ, the Son of the Father, clarified the distinction between the He and the Father in John 14:6-13. He prayed to the Father on many occasions, addressing Him as a distinct person (Matthew 11:25; John 17:1; John 15:24) and having His own will (Luke 22:42; John 6:38; Hebrews 10:9). In turn, the Father addresses His Son as a distinct person (Psalms 2:7-12; Psalms 110:1-2; Matthew 3:16-17). Away with the idea that Christ is a mere "mode of God", lest we insult His humanity and His personhood.
The Divinity and Personhood of the Holy Spirit
Having now established that 1. There is One God, 2. That the Father is that One God, 3. That the Son is that One God; and 4. That the Father and Son are distinct persons of the godhead, we turn our attention to the Holy Spirit. Strange and perverse things have been uttered in regard to this most precious entity, whose work is most crucial in obtaining eternal life (John 3:5), such that the denial of which can never be forgiven (Matthew 12:31). Modern cultists not only want to remove Christ from His rightful throne, but limit the Holy Spirit as being some abstract, impersonal power from God. It is abundantly clear that the Holy Spirit is the One and Only God. The Bible declares the Lord (κύριος) to be the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). Peter accused Ananias and his wife of lying "to the Holy Spirit" (Acts 5:3), and as a result, they died because they had "not lied to men but to God." (Acts 5:4). It is the Holy Spirit who is given glory for the sanctification of the elect, along with the foreknowledge of God and the obedience of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1-2). The Son of God - θεός - (Luke 1:35) is said to have been "conceived... from the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:20). The Spirit, along with the Father and Son, was present at Creation (Genesis 1:2), made Job (Job 33:4). The Holy Spirit is completely Sovereign, as no one shows Him Counsel (Isaiah 40:13). The Holy Spirit is a person of the godhead, and has the ability to teach (Luke 12:12), and to judge what is good (Acts 15:28). He is a helper, and dwells in God's People (John 14:26). The Word of God itself was the result of the Holy Spirit speaking through the prophets (Numbers 24:2 comp. Numbers 24:12-13; Acts 1:16). He speaks to the church (Rev. 2:7). He commanded the Apostles to "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (Acts 13:2), and later Paul was "forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia." (Acts 16:6).
The children of Israel suffered in the wilderness at the hands of God for trying the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 3:7-9). The God (yehôvâh) who promised a new covenant to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34) was none other than the God the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 10:15-17). When Isaiah saw the glory of yehôvâh (Isaiah 6:5), which was the glory of Christ (John 12:41), the words instructing him (Isaiah 6:10) from the very throne of God are attributed to the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:25-26). Therefore, since "Jehovah our God is one Jehovah" (Deut. 6:4), both the Son and the Holy Spirit are that one Jehovah.
The first and most offensive heresies to be introduced into the Church have surrounded the nature of our Triune God.7 The Scriptures tell is that "without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he is and that he rewards those who seek him." (Hebrews 11:6). If one does not believe that the Son is Divine, that person cannot be saved. For "who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also." (1 John 2:22-23). Thus, my dear reader, I'll part from this subject with Paul's benediction direct from the mouth of Our Triune God. "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).
1.) Dr. John Owen, "A Brief Declaration and Vindication of The Doctrine of the Trinity"; p. 12
2.) Alan Morrison, "The Blessed Three-In-One: The Christian Doctrine of the Trinity Proven from Scripture"; p.1, Diakrisis 2003. (Note: Alan Morrison has since left the church, and has adopted some strange conspiracy doctrines.)
3.) Pliny the Younger; Letters 10.96-97
4.) Excavation of an early christian building in Megiddo, with floor mosaics (fish) and three inscriptions
5.) Flavius Josephus; Antiquities of the Jews xviii 3.3
6.) One such example is Ignatius of Antioch (100 AD) in his Letter to the Ephesians. Under Chapter 7, Beware of False Teachers, he writes, "There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible, even Jesus Christ our Lord." The Greek rendering of "God existing in flesh" is a word for word agreement of 1 Tim. 3:16 in the Textus Receptus.
7.) Other early church heresies included the following:
Adoptionism - God granted Jesus powers and then adopted him as a Son.
Albigenses - Reincarnation and two gods: one good and other evil.
Apollinarianism - Jesus divine will overshadowed and replaced the human.
Arianism - Jesus was a lesser, created being.
Docetism - Jesus was divine, but only seemed to be human.
Kenosis - Jesus gave up some divine attributes while on earth.
Modalism - God is one person in three modes. Two forms of modalism:
a.) Noetus – Son and Spirit are roles the Father assumes
b.) Sabellius – All three are masks which God assumes (persona)
Patrapassianism - The Father suffered on the cross
Monarchianism - God is one person.
Monophysitism - Jesus had only one nature: divine.
Nestorianism - Jesus was two persons.
Socinianism - Denial of the Trinity. Jesus is a deified man.
Tritheism - The Trinity is really three separate gods.
Dynamic Monarchianism - No personal distinctions (Jesus not fully God, but given a portion of the divine nature.)
All modern pseudo-Christian cults deviate on doctrine of the Trinity (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, etc.)