Triune God

The Triune God

The term “Holy Trinity” is not mentioned in the Bible.

The first time someone told me that, I wanted to jump out of my chair and debate. A quick online search, and you’ll find this to be true. The term Holy Trinity is not in the Bible. My most recent class jumped into the New Testament, specifically the epistles and Revelation. 

When we got to Romans 5, I started paying attention to the Holy Trinity in the epistles. As a Christian, I think it’s critical to know what the Fathers of the Church believed.

Similar to an American knowing what the signers of the Declaration of Independence were thinking when they created our incredible country. I have enjoyed reading and writing about greats like Clement of Rome, a disciple of Paul, mentioned by Paul in the Bible. Clement was an Apostolic Father of the Church—a title given to Christian leaders who personally knew the apostles. He was also one of the earliest popes and the patron saint of mariners.

Knowing what they believe is vital to understanding our faith. It was in Romans 5:1-5 where I had a moment of clarity.

Paul writes: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” 

God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

There it is!

All three divine persons in one scripture passage.

Triune God
Masaccio's Holy Trinity
but wait, there's more

The Letter to the Corinthians

Focusing only on Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, he “elaborates” on the spiritual gifts, “I do not want you to be uninformed.” He ascribes them to three givers: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6.

The second Letter to the Corinthians ends with a Trinitarian blessing, “Finally, brethren, farewell. Mend your ways, heed my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.  All the saints greet you. 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of[a] the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:11-14

The Letter to the Ephesians

While explaining the roles and responsibilities of Christians in Ephesians, Paul explains, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

Paul explains the likeness of Jesus to God often, including in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God.” He explains the supremacy of Jesus in Colossians explicitly: “He is the image of the invisible God.” 

The Letter to the Hebrews

Paul, if you believe is the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, writes, “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Hebrews 1:1-2.

Paul was a convert!

A skeptic could say Paul believed that the three divine persons he often mentioned in the scriptures were three separate Gods. But that would be like staring at one piece of a puzzle and being able to see the big picture. Paul was a devout Jew. He was a Pharisee before his conversion. He grew up believing in one God. Now, what about after his conversion?

Monotheism

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8, “Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

“For there is one God,” 1 Timothy 2:5

Romans 5:5

Full circle to where I started, in Romans 5:5, the Apostle Paul mentions the Holy Spirit, God, and Jesus

Let’s take a closer look at Romans 5:5:

“and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Paul emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life, particularly in relation to the experience of hope and the assurance of God’s love.

Here's a breakdown of the key elements:

In Romans 5:5, Paul highlights the Trinitarian nature of God’s work in salvation. God the Father’s love, Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence and empowerment.

This verse underscores the interconnectedness of the Trinity in the believer’s experience of hope, love, and salvation.

While the concept of the Trinity—the belief in one God who exists as three distinct persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit—is not explicitly spelled out in the writings of Paul or any single verse of the New Testament, there are several passages where Paul alludes to the Trinitarian nature of God or where the roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are mentioned together.

Final Thoughts:

Moment of Clarity: Paul never believed in multiple Gods. As a Jew he believed in One God. As a Christian, He still believed in one God, one Savior/Lord, and one Holy Spirit. Not considering New Testament doctrine and teaching about the divine persons, it is clear that Paul believed in the Trinity of God before the Dogma of the Trinity was published. 

I hope this clarifies a few things, but I think it’s important to know we can all misinterpret the sacred scriptures and sacred traditions. It’s not just modernity that creates confusion, but the early Church Fathers had to respond to heretics immediately after the birth of Christianity. I wrote about the Nicene Creed vs Apostles Creed and how the additional portion of the creed was added to address some of the heresies involving the Holy Trinity. 

I leave you with the Dogma of the Trinity: 

In God there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each of the Three Persons possesses numerically the one Divine Essence. [De fide.] *For my Catholic friends, De fide means the Church has deemed this Dogma, and Catholics are obligated to believe this. For my non-Catholic friends, Catholics are only obligated to believe in the Dogmas of the Church. I’ll write about this in the future.

And a final blessing from Jesus Christ at the end of the Gospel of Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”