Trinity – Why It Matters

ShieldOfTheTrinityAfter being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

Matthew 3:16-17

The above passage is taken from Jesus’ baptism and it is one of the more concise passages in which to demonstrate the tri-une nature of God.  Jesus, the Word become flesh, God the Son is baptized in the physical river, as God the Spirit descends him “as a dove” the Scriptures say, while God the Father speaks over Him from heaven, calling Him His Son.  God the Father is in heaven, and He is sending God the Spirit upon His Son, who is also God.

Here, we see the three persons of the one God in different ways.

While I grew up in the church, and have heard the Trinity preached since I was a child, I have, from time to time, been confronted by various sects of Christianity that hold to “Oneness”, or the idea that there are not three “persons”.  The word “persons” is a bit of a technical term here, because, ultimately, we do fully comprehend God, or His nature.  We derive the term “persons” as a response to Scripture, and it best describes what God has represented Himself to us as.  While “trinity” is not found in the Bible, it is a theological term used to represent what is written.

But, while I was content for a time to simply believe what I believed about the Trinity while at times being in the company of those who did not, it became increasingly clear that the rifts between us were much deeper than I had imagined.  I had imagined that they simply objected to the terminology, and God, being larger than our comprehension, was simply held in another understanding by them.  Rather than causing discord, I chose to simply be “thoroughly convinced” in my own mind about what I believed, and not raise a voice of discord among “brethren”.

But, it wasn’t until I began frequenting a church which had a high proportion of those who held this view that I began to be confronted with the reality of their beliefs.  While on the surface, many have probably not delved deeply into the full meaning of the Scriptures, for those who have, and understand what it means to consistently hold the view, the differences are a large dismissal of the Scriptures or dishonest interpretation.

At its basic, the non-Trinitarians must say that God “put on flesh”, rather than “became” it in, as John 1:14.  This is, of course, a complete denial of what the Scripture says.  But, the ramifications continue on, and on, and on.  And, this is why the doctrine of the Trinity is so vital.  If you continue on their rabbit trail, you find that, in honest, they deny that the “Son” is eternal.

To grasp what they’re saying, you must take what they’re saying into consideration (in order to disprove it).  They claim, ultimately, that “Jesus” is the Father, that “Jesus” is the revealed New Testament name of God, just as I AM was in the Old Testament.  Thus, when asked, “Is Jesus God”, they always respond “Yes”, but that is where the similarity stops.

Taking it further, they see the verse, “You are my son; this day I have begotten you” (Psalm 2:7; Hebrews 1:5), and claim that the “Son”, the physical person who walked the Earth, technically, began with Mary.  That is, if you separate “Jesus” from the “Son”, the “Son” was begotten at the incarnation, and was not eternally past the God’s Son.  They mistake the “I have begotten you” as his birth, not His resurrection, and say that the “Son” came into existence when he was conceived in the womb.

This already is a grave error.  While they can maintain that “Jesus” is “God”, by “Jesus”, they mean the “Father”.  When specifically dealing with the “Son”, however, they must conclude that he was a created being, which is in denial of the New Testament.

It may, of course, be hard to convince them that this is the ramification of their doctrine, but nevertheless, it is the case.  They have, in fact, fallen into the error of Arius, who claimed, “There was a time when the Son was not.”  Again, you must differentiate between the “Jesus” (who they claim is the Father) and the “Son” who they say was created, and that God merely “put on”, but did not “become”.

Probably the main verse that they love to use in the New Testament to attempt to prove that there are not three persons or a trinity, however, is found in John’s Gospel.

I and the Father are one.

John 10:30

This, they claim, is all the proof they need to demonstrate that Jesus is, indeed, the Father.  Yet, it does not take much more reading to discover a startling fact.  Just several chapters later in John’s Gospel, Jesus is found praying the following,

The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;

John 17:22

Here, many mistake Jesus’ prayer as a prayer for unity among the body, “that they may be one”.  But, that is not Jesus’ prayer at all in John 17 (although it may be a fruit of it).

No, Jesus’ prayer here in John 17 is that those who would believe in Him would be one “just as” He and the Father are one.  When one looks at the Greek from which this was translated, the same Greek word (G1520 – heis) is used in both verses.  Jesus is praying here that the same unity that He in His humanity had with His Father in His humanity, that His believers would have the same.

Considering this was the same word “one” in John 10:30, if you took the same logic from John 10:30 and applied it to John 17, Jesus would be praying that the believers would be God the Father Himself, which of course couldn’t be.  Jesus is praying that His followers be in union with God, just as He was.  This, of course, beginning with the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and, in its full maturity, completely submitted to Him, walking in the Spirit and keeping in step with Him, in every word, thought, action, and decision.

Even going back to the Old Testament, when the Law of Moses says, “Hear O Israel, the Lord God, the Lord is one”, those who have studied the Hebrew point out that the word “one” there is not the “singular” word for one, but the plural.

Ultimately, in order to maintain their rendition, those in so called “Oneness” must change vast quantities of Scripture in order to accommodate their beliefs.  While they do not print their own Bibles as some do, they hand down their mis-interpretations orally, such as substituting the word “even” for the word “and” in many of the epistles. Where Paul says “God and the Lord Jesus Christ”, they substitute “God, even the Lord Jesus Christ”, and so forth.

The denial of the trinity leads to only one of a very few outcomes, if followed to its logical conclusion, all of which deny the Son or God’s attributes in some way.  Whereas Scripture portrays them all as God, co-equal, co-eternal, and so forth, one or all of the attributes is diminished, thus making them “less God” than the other.  Even modalism, the most popular form of “Oneness” falls short.

One must come to the conclusion, after seeing where these things must end in their logical conclusion, therefore, that the error of “Oneness” or the “Jesus Only” movement (which rose in Pentecostalism starting in 1914), is, in fact, none other than the same error as Jehovah Witnesses, the Mormons, and many other sects throughout history.

Whether they admit it or not, their error is that of Arius, who claimed, “There was a time when the Son was not”.  In their insistence on a striated view of the text, they end up, knowingly or unknowingly, denying the “Son” was God.

For a video summary of the argument regarding Arius, see the following…  Obviously, I am not endorsing this fellow, nor his channel, nor the entire video–he merely makes a succinct case of the argument.

For other resources on the error of Oneness theology, check out the following:

Our theology matters.  Study to show yourself approved (2 Timothy 2:15).