People who practice other religions often think Christians worship three gods. Although Christians claim they worship only one God, they teach that He is triune (i.e., a trinity comprised of three “Persons”).
Unger’s Bible Dictionary explains the concept of the Trinity as follows:
[The Trinity is] the term by which is expressed the unity of three persons in the one God. The Christian doctrine is: 1. That there is only one God, one divine nature and being. 2. This one divine being is tripersonal [sic], involving the distinctions of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 3. These three are joint partakers of the same nature and majesty of God.
Unger’s goes on to make the following acknowledgment:
It is admitted by all who thoughtfully deal with this subject that the Scripture revelation here leads us into the presence of a deep mystery; and that all human attempts at expression are of necessity imperfect. The word person, it may be, is inadequate, and is doubtless used often in a way that is misleading.
Neither of the two following illustrations adequately explains the phenomenon of the trinity of God, but they each may provide some insight as to how God can reveal Himself in the forms of three different Persons.
It is said that Saint Patrick, when he first began to teach the people of Ireland about Christianity, used the shamrock as an example to explain the concept of the Trinity. He used the shamrock, which is a plant like a clover, because it has three distinct leaves that are united on one stalk. Likewise, God is three “Persons,” Who together reveal different aspects as to Who He is.
Water provides another illustration of how it is possible for God to reveal Himself in the forms of three Persons, yet be only one God. When water is in what probably is its most common form, it is liquid. But, if water is heated to a sufficiently high temperature, it becomes vapor or steam. However, if water is cooled to a low enough temperature, it will freeze and take the form of ice.
Now, let’s consider what the Old Testament indicates as to whether or not God is a plural Being. [Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible, unless we indicate otherwise.]
In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . . .” The plural pronouns that are used in this verse of scripture appear to support the concept that God is a plural Being. In fact, even the prior verses in the first chapter of Genesis support this concept.
John MacArthur, President of The Master’s College and Seminary, asserts on page 160 of his book entitled The Battle for the Beginning,
The fact of multiple Persons in the Godhead has been hinted at in the Hebrew word for God that is used in twenty-one of the first twenty-five verses of Scripture, because elohim takes the form of a plural noun in Hebrew. But the plural pronouns of verse 26 make the point even more forcefully. It is by no means a full revelation of the doctrine of the Trinity, but it is an unmistakable reference to plurality within the Godhead, and it begins to lay the groundwork for what we later learn of the Trinity from the New Testament.
Isaiah 48:16 states, “Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me.” Note that “the Lord God” and “His Spirit” are referred to as two distinct Persons. And, the narrator who was sent by the Lord God and His Spirit is the Son of God, as indicated by verse 12, which includes the statement by the narrator that “I am the First, I am also the Last.” Thus, Isaiah 48:16 provides a basis for the concept of the Trinity (i.e., that God is three Persons).
Next, let’s consider what the New Testament indicates about whether or not God is a plural Being. John 1: 1-2 and 14-15 provides perhaps the strongest support in the New Testament for the doctrine of the Trinity. These verses declare,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John [the Baptist] bore witness of Him. . . .
These verses of scripture make it sufficiently clear that Jesus Christ is “the Word” and that He was the one of whom John the Baptist bore witness.
However, some people assert that John 1:1 should say that “the Word was a god,” rather than that “the Word was God.” (Note: Webster’s Dictionary defines a god as “a person or thing deified or excessively honored and admired.”) These people believe that God has revealed Himself in only one form, not in the three forms of a trinity. As a result, they argue that Jesus Christ is merely “a god,” rather than one of three forms of God. But, there is no biblical support for believing that God chose to create a separate being to serve as a god to co-existence with Him in heaven.
Furthermore, the Bible indicates that God is jealous when any other god is reverenced instead of Him. So, it is not logical that He would create such a god. Therefore, Jesus Christ is not a created god.
1 John 5:7 may seem to be another New Testament scripture passage that strongly supports belief in the triune nature of God. This passage states, “[T]here are three who bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.”
However, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary states with regard to this verse,
The text of this verse should read, Because there are three that bear record. The remainder of the verse is spurious. Not a single manuscript contains the Trinitarian addition before the fourteenth century, and the verse is never quoted in the controversies over the Trinity in the first 450 years of the church era.
Norman Geisler, Ph.D. and Thomas Howe, M.A., on pages 540-541 of their book entitled When Critics Ask, provide the following additional perspective regarding 1 John 5:7:
This verse has virtually no support among the early Greek manuscripts, though it is found in Latin manuscripts.
Its inclusion in the Latin Bible probably results from a scribe incorporating a marginal comment . . . into the text as he copied the manuscript of 1 John.
Although 1 John 5:7 does not have credibility as a biblical passage that supports the doctrine of The Trinity, the New Testament as a whole does. Unger’s Bible Dictionary says, “The same worship is paid, the same works are ascribed to each of these three persons [i.e., God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit], and in such a way as to indicate that these three are united in the fullness of the one living God.”
On the basis of the foregoing considerations, we think it is reasonable to conclude that Christians worship only one God, who manifests Himself as three different Persons.