The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is central to most mainstream Christian teachings. But confusion arises in just how the Trinity works and where it is stated in the Bible. Is the concept of the Trinity really based on truth?
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity states that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, while being 3 separate personalities, are all aspects of the same being. Jesus is God, God is Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is part of them both.
However, just how their relationship works is a huge source of confusion. How can three beings be one being at the same time? How can they be the same and yet separate? Many people suppress their questions by stating that “God’s ways are higher than our ways,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything to do with God has to be a mystery.
The doctrine of the Trinity is not actually found in the Bible. It comes from the First Council of Nicaea, in the year 325 AD. This council was convened by the Roman Emperor, Constantine I, to answer growing unrest about the nature of Jesus Christ. The religious authorities of the time did not want to believe that Jesus was a man like us, tempted just as we are, because that meant that they would also have to live like He did; in victory over sin.
Convinced that there was some reason it was impossible for us to walk just as He walked (1 John 2:6) the council brought forward the doctrine of the Trinity. They could not blatantly deny Scripture and say that Jesus was not a man, but neither could they humble themselves to admit that He was. Thus, the impossible concept that Jesus Christ existed as both true Man and true God whilst here on earth was born.
God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are not the same being
It is written about Jesus in Colossians 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” This shows clearly that God created Jesus; hence the names “the Father” and “the Son.” The very nature of being a father and a son means that they are two separate beings.
Jesus also says in Matthew 19:17 “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” We can clearly see that Jesus did not think of Himself as being God.
There are many other verses where God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit refer to each other or are referred to as separate beings, having separate tasks in heaven and on earth. Read John 5:19, John 6:38, John 14:28, John 17, 1 Corinthians 11:3, Acts 7:55, amongst others.
But what about their unity? We can see that these three are not exactly the same being. But neither are they entirely separate; going their own ways. Jesus says in John 10:30, “I and My Father are one.” There are several other verses in the Bible that refer to Jesus being one with God. How can both be true that these three are one but that they are separate beings?
The “oneness” mentioned here refers to a unity of will, of desire, and of purpose, rather than a unity of being. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have a shared goal, a shared purpose and a shared desire for good.
This is why Jesus says in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” He refers to God as a separate person, but both He and God are united in doing God’s will. They are one.
It is the same with the Holy Spirit. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” John 16:13. This shows as well that the Spirit does not speak of His own authority, because He is not God, but rather He also strives to accomplish the will of God.
Jesus’ life on earth
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:5-7.
We can see that even though Jesus was not the same being as God, He was in the form of God, and equal with God before He came down to earth. However He did not bring this divine nature with Him. He “made Himself of no reputation” and “came in the likeness of men.” When Jesus was born as a human being on this earth He was well and truly human. He gave up being in the form of God and left it behind.
That is why the author of the letter to the Hebrews could write, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15. Jesus was a human being with a nature like ours and was tempted in all points as we are. We know God cannot be tempted (James 1:13), therefore Jesus was not God while He was here on earth.
It may seem this is in contradiction to His words in John 14:9 when He says, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” But there was a development in Jesus’ life. It says in Luke 2:52 that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature.” He couldn’t increase in wisdom if He was still in the form of God. God has all wisdom.
It also says in Hebrews 2:10, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” It’s written that in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9), but that wasn’t the case when He came to earth: He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:7-8.
Through His sufferings, which is to say putting the sin in His nature to death (read 1 Peter 4:1-2), Jesus was perfected – as a man; He attained divine nature – He was perfected. “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name…” Philippians 2: 9. That is why, towards the end of His life, Jesus could say, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”
It was because Jesus had been born of the Holy Spirit that He had power to put sin to death. Now the Holy Spirit is also available to us, to give us the same power. (John 3:3-8, Acts 1:5-8, Galatians 5:16-25)
Jesus’ life was the culmination of God’s plan for mankind. Sin came into the world through the disobedience of one man and it had to be conquered through the obedience of one man. Jesus was that man. That was why He often referred to Himself as “the Son of Man.” And Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6. His life is a way for us too to come to the Father; to come to divine nature. By following Jesus’ example, we too can come to freedom from sin as He did.
What Jesus’ life means for us
“As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature.” 2 Peter 1:3-4.
Not only did Jesus attain divine nature, but His disciples can also be partakers of it by walking the same way He Himself walked.
For God’s plan to succeed it was actually vital that Jesus was a man exactly like us and nothing more. Otherwise we would not be able to “walk just as He walked.” 1 John 2:6. All of Jesus’ commandments are actually commandments to live in the same way He Himself did here on earth; in complete victory over sin. John could not say that were it impossible for human beings to do it. But Jesus was a human being and He proved that it is possible.
It wasn’t long after the time of the apostles that Christians began to lose faith that it was possible for a human being to live free from conscious sin as Christ did, so they had to come up with a reason that He was special – a reason that He had something we don’t.
But if you believe in the Bible as it is written, and believe that it is possible for us to live exactly as Jesus did, then the mystery of godliness – “Christ manifested in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16) – suddenly becomes clear. He lived as man, tempted in all points as we, to show us that we too could live without sin. Difficult though it may seem, a life in perfect accordance to God’s will actually is possible through the grace of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sends to those who want to obey Him and also conquer sin in the flesh. (Acts 5:28-32)
And what is the reward? It is the great and precious promise that we may also be partakers of divine nature just as Jesus Christ. “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:21. So there are two thrones in heaven, and Jesus wants to share the one on the right hand of the Father with those He is proud to call “His brothers” (Hebrews 2:10-11) and His bride (Ephesians 5:30-32).
What does “Christ manifested in the flesh” mean for us? Read more here.