That is God like? Is He three separate Persons or just one? According to the doctrine of the Trinity, God consists of three Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Throughout the first three centuries, the Christian church by and large accepted this understanding of God. However, at a church council held in A.D. 325 in the town of Nicea (in what is now northwestern Turkey), a bishop by the name of Arius challenged this teaching. According to Arius, only God the Father is fully divine. Jesus is a separate individual from God the Father, but He’s a created Being, and He isn’t fully divine and in every way the Father’s equal. Arianism also teaches that the Holy Spirit is an emanation from the Father and not a separate individual.
The Nicean council rejected Arius’s view, and the Trinitarian doctrine has been the dominant view in Christian theology ever since. However, Arianism is still a firmly held minority teaching.
The basic issue, of course, is what the Bible says. The Bible never uses the term Trinity, nor does it explicitly state either the Trinitarian or the Arian teaching. Thus, to answer the question we have to examine what the Bible does say about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Everyone agrees that God the Father is fully divine. The question is whether it can be demonstrated from the Bible that Jesus is also fully divine and that the Holy Spirit is both an individual in His own right who is separate from God the Father and the Son and is also fully divine.
Regarding Jesus, there is no doubt that He and God the Father are separate individuals, because Jesus lived on Earth and prayed to His Father in heaven. The question is whether both are fully divine or whether Jesus is of a lower nature than the Father. Trinitarians believe that Jesus has always existed just as the Father has always existed and that Jesus is fully divine and equal in every way with Father. Arians believe that God the Father has always existed, but Jesus is a created Being who at one time did not exist, and therefore He is not fully divine and equal in every way with the Father.
Trinitarians believe that the Holy Spirit is a separate individual from the Father, that He has always existed, and that He is fully divine, equal with the Father and the Son. As I pointed out a moment ago, Arians believe that the Holy Spirit is an emanation from the Father and not a separate individual.
Signs of the Times® agrees with the Trinitarian doctrine. Following is the biblical evidence that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are fully divine and equal with God the Father.
In Hebrews 1:2 the author of Hebrews said that God made the entire universe through Jesus, and in verse 3 he said that Jesus sustains all things “by his powerful word.” Only a fully divine Being could do that.
In Hebrews 1:5–13 the author argued that angels are “ministering spirits” (verse 14), but Jesus is superior to them, and he quoted several texts from the Old Testament to make his point. The most striking is Hebrews 1:10–12, where the author applies the words of Psalm 102:25–27 to Jesus. This psalm begins with the words, “Hear my prayer, O LORD.” The word “LORD” is a translation of Jehovah, who is God in the highest sense, and the entire rest of the chapter is praise to Jehovah. (Verses 12, 15, 16, and 19 also address Jehovah). And the author of Hebrews applies a quotation from this psalm to Jesus.
Two texts in Revelation make it evident that Jesus is a divine Being. The first is Revelation 21:5, 6. In verse 5 John said, “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ ” It was clearly God the Father speaking to John, because He is “seated on the throne” (compare with Revelation 4). Then in verse 6 John said that this Being on a throne said to him, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” The words “Alpha” and “Omega” and “the Beginning and the End” are clearly descriptions of God the Father.
Now turn to Revelation 22. Verse 12 is clearly Jesus speaking, because He said, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” Then in verse 13 Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Jesus applied to Himself the words “Alpha” and “Omega” and “the Beginning and the End,” which are unquestionably terms that God the Father applied to Himself in Revelation 21:6. Thus, Jesus is a divine Being, fully equal with the Father.
In John 1:1–3 the apostle wrote, “In the beginning was the Word [a title for Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” Note that John said that “the Word was God.” John also said that Jesus made all things. In other words, Jesus is the Creator, and only a divine Being can create.
the Holy Spirit
A number of texts about the Holy Spirit make it evident that He is a conscious, intelligent entity in His own right and not merely an emanation from God the Father.
Acts 5:3, 4 tells the story of Ananias and Sapphira, who lied to Peter about the value of the property they had sold and the amount of the sale that they gave to the church. When Peter confronted Ananias about his deception, he said, “How is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit?” (verse 3). It’s impossible to lie to something that is not intelligent and conscious. If the Holy Spirit were simply an emanation from God, Peter would have said, “How is it that you have lied to God?”
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul wrote about spiritual gifts, and he said, “All these [gifts] are the work of one and the same Spirit, just as he determines” (verse 11). Only beings that are conscious and intelligent in their own right can make choices, as this text says the Holy Spirit does.
In Romans 8:26 Paul said that “we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Two points are significant here. First, Paul said that the Holy Spirit “intercedes for us.” Intercession is the action of a conscious Being, not an impersonal force that is not intelligent in its own right. Second, Paul used the personal pronoun He to refer to the Holy Spirit. That pronoun can be used only for conscious entities.
In Matthew 12:31, 32 Jesus warned His followers not to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Webster’s definition of blasphemy is “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.” Jesus did not warn them about blaspheming God, though He certainly could have. But He specifically spoke of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, indicating that the Holy Spirit is a divine Being in His own right.
In John 14:16–18 Jesus said that He would “ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” Note the number of times that the words He and Him are used in referring to the Holy Spirit.
In John 16:13 Jesus said, “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” Note the repeated use of the pronoun He, and also note that Jesus said that the Holy Spirit hears, speaks, and tells. These abilities pertain only to intelligent, self-conscious beings.
The doctrine of the Trinity is based on numerous texts throughout the New Testament that make it evident that Jesus is a divine Being fully equal with God and that the Holy Spirit is a conscious, intelligent, fully divine Being who speaks and acts in His own right, and He is not simply an emanation from God the Father.
While we at Signs of the Times® accept the doctrine of the Trinity, we also believe that our eternal life does not depend on whether we hold to the Arian or the Trinitarian understanding of God. Our salvation depends on whether we have accepted Jesus as our Savior from sin, and we encourage you to make that choice.