The Doctrine of the trinity has flourished for centuries. It is generally accepted as a truth of Christendom without question. It came to be accepted as a doctrine of the church at the council of Nice in AD325.
What is the doctrine of the trinity? It teaches that there are three persons in one godhead – “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost”. A careful study of the Bible however, will find no form of the word “trinity” anywhere. “God the Father” is a Biblical term, but the other two terms are totally absent.
The Apostle Paul wrote: “To us there is but one God, the Father … and one Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor.8:6). “One God” means that only one person is God. At the same time, all three exist, but the Bible makes it clear that one and three are not equal, as Jesus himself said, “my father is greater than I”. We ask the question, how can one person be three persons? Perhaps the favourite text used to support this doctrine is John 1:1-2: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” The word “Word” is from the Greek logos, and according to Dr Robert Young it means “word, speech, matter, or reason.” It carries no thought of personality. God’s Word is God in the sense that it is a part of Him and it is an exact expression of His mind. In that sense the Bible is as God to us. At the same time, Jesus Christ is the living Word of God. As an expression of the logos, he actually spoke the Word of God to men after being born of the virgin, and in doing so he became a manifestation of God’s word and wisdom. However God’s wisdom, plan, or blueprint (logos) was with Him in the beginning. Centuries later the spoken word became flesh in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. (V.14). Read John 1:1-2 and substitute the word “trinity” for the word “God”. It does not make sense, does it? If we read “the word” (logos) as being literally God, a person, and with the trinity, there would be four persons. Any aim to reason out the trinity leads to confusion. Jesus is not “God the Son”. One cannot be with God and be God at the same time. It makes no sense to say that a person is with another person and at the same time is the other person. Jesus Christ was not, and is not, the “God-Man”. This is another term which is never found in Scripture.
Jesus made it a principal of his life to promote his father and not himself. “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). How could this be if the two are equal? God was the teacher of Jesus (John 8:28). Jesus, the pupil, was not above his teacher nor equal to him. The Son learned things from his Father. The title “father” means a male parent who begets an offspring. Jesus Christ was begotten by the Father. Since God was the Father of Jesus, Jesus was dependent upon God for life. The Son said as much: “As the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” (John 5:26). Yes, God is the source and fountainhead of all life. He has given His Son power to have life in himself. Since this is definitely true, how could Jesus have been co-eternal or co-equal with the Father? Were it not for God, the Son would never have lived.
If then, Jesus is not “God the Son or the “God-Man”, who is he? The whole testimony of Scripture says that he is the “Son of man” and “Son of God”. John 1:51 and 3:14-15 tell us he is the Son of Man. This strongly indicates that it was by human birth that he “became flesh”.
The twelve apostles, being Jews by birth, were brought up in the Jews’ religion, of which one of the cardinal doctrines was that there is but one God. Did Jesus tell them about the trinity? Did he convert them to believe in a triune God in which he was the second person? Did the disciples regard him as “God the Son”? What did they call him? John called him the “Son of God” (John 1:32-34). Nathaniel called him “Son of God” (v49). Martha did likewise (11:24-27). Even the accusation that the Jews brought against him was, “He made himself the Son of God” (19:7). Because Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, they charged him with blasphemy. They declared that he had violated Leviticus 24:16. They interpreted “Son of God” as being equal with God. This was a false charge. Jesus Christ made no such claim for himself. “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him and he in God” (1 John 4:15). “Who is he that over cometh the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (5:5). The peace that Christians have in their hearts comes from “God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father” (2 John 3). Indeed, all witnesses bear the same testimony. Not one ever speaks of Jesus as “God the Son”, but they repeatedly speak of him as the Son of God. We contend that this is his true identity. He spoke of himself as the only begotten Son of God, and as the “root and offspring of David” (Rev.22:16). Since he was the descendant of David, how could he have existed before David? Or Abraham? (Matt.1:1) or Eve? (Gen.3:15). Figuratively speaking, the church is the Bride, and Christ is the Bridegroom. The marriage is of the Lamb of God, not the Almighty. The church is the Bride of Christ, not of God (Rev.19:7-9).
The Bible writers always make a clear distinction between God and the Son of God. Read again Jesus’ familiar words to Nicodemus. (John 3:16-18). One person gave another person. Belief on Jesus as the Son of God is one of the requirements of salvation (Acts 8:37).
The statement, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30), from the lips of Jesus, is often thought to support the doctrine of the trinity. However, we understand that he was stressing the beautiful unity that exists between him and his Father. Jesus and God are one in purpose. They are partners in saving lost humanity. The same concept is taught later on when Jesus spoke of his disciples, “And the glory which you gave me I have given them, that they may be one just as we are one: I in them, and you in me; that they may be made perfect in one”, (John 17:22). This is obviously referring to a beautiful unity between many individuals. The Jews wanted to stone Jesus for making this claim of oneness with God (vv31-39). Not because he taught the trinity, but because he claimed to be the Son of God which they interpreted as making himself God (v33). His argument is interesting. He told them that it was written in their law, “Ye are gods” (v34). This quotation was from Psalm 82:6 and refers to the judges of Israel. The judges were as God to the people. In Jewish law judges were called “gods”, but they were ready to stone Jesus because he said he was the Son of God. The Jews could not annul this scripture which called human judges “gods”. Hence, their charge against him lost its validity.
Jesus Christ confessed, “I can of mine own self do nothing … because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30). This makes it very clear that they are two separate, distinct individuals. One sent the other. One is the Father, the other the Son. The Father gave the Son. In God and Jesus we see perfect oneness. Such unity did not require Jesus to say “I am God” or “I am my Father”.
On one occasion Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). The people who listened to Jesus, and who witnessed his actions, saw a perfect reflection of God. That is what Jesus had in mind. The offspring looks like the parent. Jesus mirrored His Father throughout his ministry. He had just told the disciples that he was going to the Father. How could he say in the same breath that he was the Father? Jesus also said, “Ye believe in God, believe also in me” (v1). Why the expression “also in me” if Jesus were God? Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father, and Jesus explained how that was what he had been doing all along (v8-9).
Jesus prayed to his Father and said, “I have manifested thy name”, thereby expressing the principal that he was a man who chose to submit his will to the will of his Father and allow the spirit and/or the word of God to be the motivating and guiding force of his life. In this way Jesus was a manifestation of God in ‘the flesh’, an exhibition of Gods family name in a human being.
These few Bible references teach us that God is to be worshiped and honoured as the great one true God and that Jesus, as His only begotten son is also worthy of our worship, praise, and exaltation. As he put it, “He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him”.
Jesus is a manifestation of God to us, but he is neither God nor “God the Son”.