Topical Studies

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What the Bible says about Trinity
(From Forerunner Commentary)

"The mind of man cannot fully understand the mystery of the Trinity. He who has tried to understand the mystery fully will lose his mind; but he who would deny the Trinity will lose his soul."
(From A Handbook of Christian Truth by Harold Lindsell and Charles Woodbridge, pp. 51-52)

This line of reasoning is in direct opposition to Christ's statement in Matthew 13:11, where He says that it was given to the disciples—and by extension, to us—to understand the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Paul writes in I Corinthians 2 that we were given the Spirit of God so that we might understand the things of God, and yet some scholars assert that the Trinity is a mystery—to the point that one will go crazy trying to understand it. In reality, their concept of the Godhead does not align with the Scriptures, and so they have to resort to a convoluted argument to try to convince others, who are looking to the Bible, that their explanation is correct. These scholars admit that nobody will ever understand the Trinity. What they are trying to palm off is not truth at all but an error. It is beyond them to comprehend the true nature of God simply because they do not have God's Spirit and do not believe what the Bible says.

The nature of God is not hard to understand at all. He gives His children the ability to understand it. The world, however, tends to take simple biblical truth and make it into a complicated and confusing false teaching.

Early in the discussion of the Trinity in the book quoted above, the authors admit that the Old Testament has no teaching on the Trinity at all and that the New Testament had no clear statement affirming it. They admit that the doctrine of the Trinity is developed by what they called "Christological speculation."

"Speculation" means they are guessing. Even giving them the benefit of the doubt by saying that this central doctrine of the church has been arrived at by deduction does little more than point out that it was arrived at by plain and simple human reason and not from clear scriptures in God's Word.

This doctrine did not come into the church easily, but rather through a great deal of dispute. It was first introduced at the Council of Nicea in AD 325, presided over by the Roman Emperor Constantine, but it did not become firmly entrenched within the Catholic Church until the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451.

This is a striking contrast to the Council that was held in Acts 15, in which it took God only a couple of days to get a true teaching into the true church, as compared to 125 years for the false church to pick up a false teaching. It is apparent how confusing this doctrine was to them. It was not until a majority of the people were finally convinced into believing it that they were able to force it into the doctrines of that false church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim

Related Topics: False Christianity | God's Nature | Trinity


So powerful has the belief in the Trinity become that it is the litmus test for whether or not a person is considered to be orthodox. According to The Watchmen Foundation, the acceptance or rejection of the Trinity idea tops their list as to what they consider to be a cult. If a group does not believe in the Trinity, they are considered a cult.

It is also true that there were ancient pagan trinities, and those concepts were undoubtedly drawn upon by those who forced this doctrine upon the church. However, these "change agents" still had to deal with the Bible, and so ways had to be devised to make this pagan doctrine appear to agree with it. They have done this by elevating the Holy Spirit to divine status as a personality, just like the Father and the Son. They label it "co-equal" and "eternal with them," and at the same time they make the "three" also to be "one." The result is this incomprehensible mixture—"a mystery"—that a true child of God, one who believes the Bible, cannot accept.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim

Related Topics: False Christianity | Holy Spirit | Paganism | Trinity


In His inspired revelation of Himself and His purpose, does God reveal Himself to be a trinity? Notice these quotations from a few authoritative sources:

"Though 'trinity' is a second-century term found nowhere in the Bible, and the Scriptures present no finished trinitarian statement, the NT does contain most of the building materials for later doctrine." (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, "Trinity," p. 914. Author's emphasis throughout.)

"One does not find in the NT the trinitarian paradox of the coexistence of the Father, Son, and Spirit within a divine unity, the mystery of the three in one, yet one does find there the data that serve as the foundation of this later dogmatic formulation." [The Anchor Bible Dictionary, "God (NT)," p. 1055]

"The new element is the historical Jesus, at once the representative of humanity and of God. As in philosophy, so now in theology, the easiest solution of the problem was the denial of one of its factors: and successively these efforts were made, until a solution was found in the doctrine of the Trinity, which satisfied both terms of the equation and became the fundamental creed of the church. Its moulds of thought are those of Greek philosophy, and into these were run the Jewish teachings. We have thus a peculiar combination—the religious doctrines of the Bible, as culminating in the person of Jesus, run through the forms of an alien philosophy." (The Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., vol. 6, p. 284)

"The New Testament teaching upon this subject is not given in the way of formal statement. The formal statement, however, is legitimately and necessarily deduced from the Scriptures of the New Testament, and these, as has been suggested, cast a light backward upon the intimations of the Old. . . . 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." (Unger's Bible Dictionary, p. 1118)

What is wrong with the Bible's own description of God? The problems arise when one tries to blend alien, human, philosophical thinking with the Bible's own clear statements about God. To this odd mix is added man's unwillingness to believe "the simplicity that is in Christ" (II Corinthians 11:3). Would a loving God inspire the Bible to be difficult for His people to understand?

John W. Ritenbaugh
God Is . . . What?

Related Topics: God's Nature | Trinity


The Trinity is incomprehensible because it is not part of the revelation of God to His people. A revelation is an opening up, an uncovering. How can the Trinity be a revelation when the most learned of biblical scholars write that it is incomprehensible and unexplainable? That is double-talk, and it directly conflicts with the Bible's testimony.

By His Spirit God has revealed to His people in general terms what He looks like, and it is that simple. Nowhere does the Bible say that God's bodily form or bodily parts are figures of speech. This is not to say that no figures of speech are used in the Bible. There are many, and Bullinger in his Companion Bible says, "They are never used but for the sake of emphasis." For a figure of speech to be true, the concept or the idea it conveys must be true. God keeps saying over and over that He is real, that He has body parts.

We do not have God's authority expressed anywhere in His Word to say that He is a spiritual nothing, whether walking the earth, participating in the events, or seen in heaven. He consistently shows Himself with form. Why is that so difficult for some to accept? Why can His Word not be taken literally on this in the same way that it is accepted and understood literally in other places?

When a person insists that God does not have form, his teaching is not consistent with what the Bible plainly shows.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part Two)

Related Topics: Trinity


The Trinity doctrine did not appear as part of the doctrine of the "Christian church" until the fourth century—300 and some years after the time of the apostles. When a new, major doctrine suddenly appears 300 years after God Himself laid the foundation through Christ, one must question it. If the Trinity is the central doctrine of the "Christian church," why did the apostles not clearly state it? Why did Jesus not clearly state it?

The answer is that Trinitarians give is that it was there all along, but it was not until the fourth century that people discovered it. How preposterous! It is as if Jesus whispered to His closest associates, saying, "Do not tell anybody about this directly but hide it in what you write." It took more than three hundred years to discover the central doctrine of the "Christian church"?

The truth is that this doctrine is arrived at by deduction, following the disciplines of theology. It is not developed from clear Scripture references, but rather by beginning with a premise, boldly claiming that premise is true, and then proceeding to develop "proofs" from Scripture.

Theology exalts human reason above God's inspired Word, and the theologians' flawed, beginning premise is that the logic that applies to the physical world applies equally to the spiritual world. How do they know that? It is a guess! Is spirit the same as flesh? We know it is not. Jesus—as a spirit being—walked right through the wall, without opening a door. That is certainly not the same as what can be done in the flesh. Do things of the spirit take up space like flesh? Are they affected by time in the same way that humanity is?

To true Christians, the proof must come from the Bible. No man alive has ever been spirit. No man has ever had to deal with life from the standpoint of being a spirit, except Jesus. Yet theologians deduce a tremendous theology out of a concept that they have had absolutely no experience in—and they ask us just to accept it.

In reality, the Trinity doctrine must be read into the Scriptures—it is not derived from it. The Trinity doctrine is a convoluted mass of words that confuse, and admittedly, that no one can understand. Yet, through the Bible, God is supposed to be revealing Himself to His children.

Trinitarians have "sold" this doctrine so well that today a person who is an idolater, an adulterer, or a murderer—but professes that he loves Jesus—is more readily accepted in their churches than a non-Trinitarian. Believing in the Trinity has become the litmus test, the acid test, as to whether a person is a "Christian" or belongs to a cult.

It is noteworthy that the theological beginning of the Trinity doctrine occurred at the same council presided over by the Roman emperor Constantine—not a minister or even a theologian, but a political figure. This is the same man who placed the authority of the State behind the changing of the Sabbath to Sunday. He was acting from political motivations. If he threw his weight to Sunday worship, then he must have believed that he would gain politically from it. To him, it was not a matter of true doctrine, but what was politically expedient. The same principle is involved in inserting the Trinity into the "Christian" church's body of doctrine.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit

Related Topics: Trinity


From The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967 Edition, page 295, article "Holy Trinity":

It is difficult in the second half of the twentieth century to offer a clear objective and straight-forward account of the revelation doctrinal evolution and theological elaboration of the mystery of the trinity. Trinitarian discussions (Roman Catholic as well as others), present a somewhat unsteady silhouette [in other words, this is shaky].

Two things have happened. There is the recognition on the part of exegetes [people who explain Scripture] and Biblical theologians, including a constantly growing number of Roman Catholic, that one should not speak of trinitarianism in the New Testament without serious qualification.

There is also the closely parallel recognition on the part of historians, the dogma, and systematic theologians, that when one does speak of an unqualified trinitarianism, one has moved from the period of Christian origin, to say, the last quadrant of the fourth century [at least 400 years later].

It was only then that what might be called the definitive trinitarian dogma, 'One God in three persons,' became thoroughly assimilated into Christian life and thought. Herein lies the difficulty. On the one hand it was the dogmatic formula, 'One God in Three Persons' that would henceforth for more than fifteen centuries [up to this present time] structure and guide the trinitarian essence of the Christian message, both in the profession of faith and theological dialectic. On the other hand the formula itself does not reflect the immediate consciousness of the period of origin. [They are saying, essentially, that they cannot see it in the Scripture.]

It was the product of three centuries of doctrinal development, but current preoccupation and current emphasis is far less with the subsequent articulation of Christian dogma than with the primitive sources chiefly biblical. It is this contemporary return to the sources that is ultimately responsible for the unsteady silhouette.

In that fancy academic language, they said when you go back to the Bible, it gets shaky.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part One)

Related Topics: Trinity


From The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, page 3012, article "Trinity":

The term 'trinity' is not a Biblical term, and we are not using biblical language when we define what is expressed by it as the doctrine that there is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three co-eternal and co-equal persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence. A doctrine so defined can be spoken of as a biblical doctrine only on the principle that the sense [what they feel the scripture implies] of Scripture is Scripture and the definition of a biblical doctrine in such an unbiblical language can be justified only on the principle that it is better to preserve the truth of Scripture than the words of Scripture.

In point of fact the doctrine of the trinity is purely a revealed doctrine. That is to say, it embodies a truth which has never been discovered, and is undiscoverable by natural reason. With all his searching, man has not been able to find out for himself the deepest things of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part One)

Related Topics: Trinity


From The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912 Edition, p. 47, article "Trinity":

It is manifest that a doctrine so mysterious presupposes a divine revelation. When the fact of revelation, understood in its full sense as the speech of God to man, is no longer admitted, the rejection of the doctrine follows as a necessary consequence. For this reason it has no place in liberal Protestantism of today.

The writers of this school contend that the doctrine of the Trinity as professed by the church [meaning Catholic] is not contained in the New Testament, but that it was first formulated in the second century and received final approbation in the fourth as a result of the Arian and Macedonian controversies. (Emphasis ours.)

Did not some attempt to sell us this doctrine as a teaching that ALL of Christianity outside of the church of God believed? No, everybody does not believe it. It is not universally accepted by those who cannot find it in the Scriptures.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part One)

Related Topics: Trinity


From The New International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, page 3013:

As the doctrine of the trinity is undiscoverable by reason, so it is incapable of proof from reason. There are no analogies to it in nature, not even in the spiritual nature in man who is made in the image of God. In His trinitarian mode of being, God is unique, and as there is nothing in the universe like Him in the respect, so there is nothing which can help us to comprehend Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part One)

Related Topics: Trinity


From The New International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, page 3014, "Not clearly revealed in the Old Testament":

So strongly is it felt in wide circles that a trinitarian conception is essential to a worthy idea of God that there is a broad, deep-seated unwillingness to allow that God could ever have made Himself known otherwise than a trinity. From this point of view, it is inconceivable that the Old Testament revelation should know nothing of the trinity. If, however, and this is the faith of Christendom, a living idea of God must be thought in some way after a trinitarian fashion, it must be antecedently [previously] probable that traces of the trinity cannot be lacking in the Old Testament since its idea of God is a living or historical one. Whether there really exists traces of the idea of the trinity in the Old Testament, however, is a nice question. Certainly we cannot speak broadly of the revelation of the doctrine of the trinity in the Old Testament. It is a plain matter of fact that none who had depended on the revelation embodied in the Old Testament alone has ever attained to the doctrine of the trinity. Nobody has ever found it there. The tendency of more recent authors is to appeal, not so much to specific texts of the Old Testament, as to the very organism of revelation in the Old Testament in which there is perceived an underlying suggestion that all things owe their existence and persistence to a three-fold cause.

That is academic language for "We are assuming."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part One)

Related Topics: Trinity


From The New International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, page 3015:

It is with a view to this cursoriness [skimpiness] of the allusions [notice this term] to it in the New Testament that it has been remarked the doctrine of the trinity is not so much heard as overheard in the statements of Scripture. It would be more exact to say that it is not so much inculcated as presupposed. The doctrine of the trinity does not appear in the New Testament in the making, but it is already made.

This is the same book that a couple of paragraphs before said it is not in the Old Testament, and yet here it is saying that in the New Testament it appears as a doctrine already made.

It takes its place in the pages, as Dunkle [a researcher] phrases it, "with an air almost of complaint, already in full completeness, leaving no trace of its growth."

Talk about intellectual dishonesty! What we are dealing with here are presuppositions and assumptions.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part One)

Related Topics: Trinity


From The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912 Edition, "The Trinity: The Trinity as a mystery":

The Vatican Council has explained the meaning to be attributed to the term "mystery" in theology. It lays down that a mystery is a truth which we are not merely incapable of discovering apart from divine revelation, but which, even when revealed, remains hidden by the veil of faith and enveloped, so to speak, by a kind of darkness. In other words, our understanding of it remains only partial even after we have accepted it as part of the divine message. Through analogies and types we can form a representative concept expressive of what is revealed, but we cannot attain that fuller knowledge which supposes that the various elements of the concept are clearly grasped and the reciprocal compatibility manifest. As regards the vindication of the mystery, the office of the natural reason is solely to show that it contains no intrinsic impossibility that any objection urged against it on that score [that it violates the laws of thought] is invalid. More than that it cannot do. The Vatican Council further defines that the Christian faith contains mysteries strictly so called. All theologians admit that the Doctrine of the Trinity is of the number of these. Indeed of all truth, it is the most impenetrable to reason. But according to their own testimony, it still remains only a possibility.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part One)

Related Topics: Trinity


Exodus 32:2

Groups of people create a spirit that tends to pull its members along with it. "Birds of a feather flock together." It is a form of mob psychology. A milder form of this process motivates people to conform to certain current fashions, music, foods, dress, or whatever. A modern cliché speaks of "going with the flow," which urges the individual not to resist the power or the direction of the spirit of an event but choose to yield to it. "Don't resist it. Go right along with it."

The person's choice should depend on its direction, but far too many yield to what is popular or what feels good at the moment rather than what is right. Sometimes, we have to resist the spirit, the flow, or the power of an event. Adolf Hitler used large crowds, martial music, aggressive speaking, and dramatic lighting to create a spirit, which enabled him to win the hearts of so many Germans that virtually the entire nation walked in lock-step with that spirit.

In a simpler and less serious fashion, advertising follows the same course, but advertisers try to create an aura about the product. They create a spirit to energize people to purchase their product. Restauranteurs create ambience—from the music to the décor to the lighting to the attire of the waitresses—to produce the kind of spirit that puts diners into a mood to spend their money on often overpriced food and enjoy the experience. This is how the Bible often uses the word "spirit."

I Corinthians 2 explains that the human mind has a spiritual dimension that imparts or empowers individuals with the understanding of the physical and material, which is woefully insufficient in dealing with the things of the spirit realm. This happens largely because humanity has been deceived. Revelation 12:9 says, "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world." We most often think Satan deceives the world through "misinformation." He does, but there is also a spiritual dimension to it that makes it nearly impossible for people to resist.

Humans are intelligent enough to sort out fact from fiction. But what if they are given truth but do not have the mind that inclines, compels, or motivates them to accept it? They will not accept it. Does not God have to lead those He calls to repentance before they will accept His Word (Romans 2:4)? Does this not suggest that He works in a way to make their minds willing to accept truth? Absolutely.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part Two)

Deuteronomy 10:17

This concept is shown throughout the Bible. There is a plurality within Elohim, and Elohim is consistently described as "the Lord of hosts." Hosts means "armies." A little bit broader and clearer definition is, "He is Lord of many things."

We also find cautions throughout the Bible not to let any of these lesser gods take the place of Elohim, who is revealed to us in the very first chapter of His book. The reason our culture has such a narrow view of this is because a false Christianity has dominated its religious thinking. For the past 1600 years, it has taught a false god, the non-biblical and inexplicable "three-in-one" Trinity. The Trinity is inexplicable because theologians try to fit their explanation into a biblical context, and it does not and will not fit. Their final "out" is that the Trinity is a mystery that one must accept on faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim

Related Topics: Elohim | False Christianity | God's Nature | Trinity


Psalm 69:32

Seeking God makes the heart live. How many times have we seen heart, spirit, mind, and thoughts in the same context? Is that not what we want in this relationship with God? We want our heart to live. What is it that makes it live? It is the Spirit of God energizing it because of the close communion.

A biblical example of this is when Moses went up on the mount to be with God for forty days and forty nights. While he was gone, the Israelites made the Golden Calf. When Moses came down from that close association with God, he came down with his face glowing, shining, reflecting the glory of God through close communion with Him all those days. This situation is a form of what the psalmist means about the close communion with God. Seeking Him, dressing and keeping the relationship, and submitting to Him are what make the heart live because His Spirit is flowing into it. When that happens, we are living the life He lives, what the Bible calls "eternal life." Eternal life is to live as God lives.

We are seeking to have a relationship with One who is not far from us. He is close to us—in us by His Spirit—and He delights to pour Himself into our hearts and minds. We seek Him through desire. Do we really want this One to be our Husband? Do we really want to be like this One we are to marry? If we do not desire Him, He will not reciprocate with any zeal, and the relationship will just sputter. We seek Him by turning our thoughts to Him by communion in prayer and in Bible study.

The desire to be like Him in every way drives our submission to Him in obedience. We are in the midst of a courtship. Can there be any passing of spirit when one is so far from the other that desire is completely absent? Desire rises when we know Him so well that we are constantly thinking about all His wonderful attributes.

This is not a "cure-all" for every spiritual problem. As Christ's letters to the Ephesian and Laodicean churches show, it was so important to Him that He threatened both groups with destruction. One had lost their first love, and the other was complacent. Neither was close to Him.

Are we attracted enough to Him to be affectionate toward Him?

Spending time in fervent communion with God in prayer, Bible study, meditation, and occasional fasting all lead to a pure submission to Him. It enhances the closeness. It is essentially the same process that brings human beings together—talking and experiencing things together as we go through life.

A fervent attitude of sincerely wanting to be like God will bring a positive response. The principles are simple and are as old as the hills. They work because that is how spirit is transferred to create oneness. That is why people marry one another. The same principle and process work in our courtship with Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part Seven)

Matthew 28:19

Trinitarians suggest that the baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19 sets a precedent for believing in the Trinity, since, within it, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are juxtaposed. If we consider this verse more closely, we see the prepositions "in" (or "into") and "of." Taken together in this idiom, they suggest that the last item in the series would be the means by which the act can take place. Thus, people are baptized into the name of the Father and Son by means of the Holy Spirit.

David F. Maas
Misconceptions and Malarkey About the Holy Spirit (Part One)

John 14:17

In other words, "the Spirit of truth" will take up residence. Do we have God the Son and God the Father running around inside of us? No. The mind of God, the Spirit of God, is in us, residing in us. It has taken up residence, and therefore the Father is there, as well as the Son.

The apostles were literally seeing the Holy Spirit of God, the essence of God's mind, in the action, in the life, of a fellow human being—Jesus Christ. He was the literal Word of God. He was with them, teaching, leading, guiding them into truth. He was truth personified. His word is truth (John 17:17). His word is spirit (John 6:63). They could literally, directly, see Him and hear Him, the Son of God, which is why He said the Holy Spirit was with them. It, the essence of God's mind, was in Him. What they witnessed with their eyes and ears was being fed directly into their minds, becoming part of their experience.

The Spirit, the essence of God's mind, was on the verge of residing in them, but it was not yet firmly lodged in them where it would consistently manifest the characteristics of the God Family. This is why Luke 24:49 says, "Tarry in Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high." Power to do what? To submit to the will of God. He gave them the power to keep God's law in the spirit, not just its letter. Any human being with enough willpower can keep the law of God in the letter, but God must empower us to keep it in the spirit. We need more power than what we humanly have to keep God's law in the spirit. God is looking for people who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), and He has empowered us to do that by His Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part Five)

John 14:23

The meaning is so clear: The Father and the Son live in us, not a Third Person of a Trinity. This is in context just after Jesus says, "I will send another Comforter, . . . even the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16-18).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part One)

John 14:28

To further confound the Trinity doctrine, this verse says that the Father and the Son are not even co-equal! They are equal in terms of what they are—They are God (even as we humans are equal in terms of what we are—we are human beings). But the Father is greater; He is superior in terms of authority and responsibility. There is government even within the Godhead, and the Son takes orders from the Father. They are not equal in every area.

And if the Holy Spirit exists at all as a personality, then it is not co-equal either. Again, if it exists as a personality, it may be equal in terms of being God, but it is not equal in terms of authority and responsibility.

In I Corinthians 11:3, Paul gives a clear order of authority and responsibility. The Father is the Head over all creation. As he puts it so simply, the head even of Christ is the Father.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit

Acts 2:2

When the Holy Spirit was given, it came as a mighty rushing wind. It had no shape at all and no life, but it appeared as the power the Father and the Son used to carry out Their purposes in this creation. It is interesting to notice that this power not only filled the people but it also filled the house. In this way, it was directed indiscriminately.

There is no personality in the so-called "third part of the Godhead." This man-made doctrine has no home in the Scriptures. It was devised in the third and fourth centuries and imposed on the church by the force of the Roman government. It is anti-biblical and totally and completely erroneous. No scripture supports it—not even one.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit

Acts 5:3

Trinitarians presumptuously use Peter's question as "proof" that the Holy Spirit is a divine being. They say, "One cannot sin against an attribute. One cannot lie to something that is not sentient. Thus, the Holy Spirit must be a personality within the Godhead." But in their attempt to find "proof" for their theory, they ignore the plain meaning of Peter's words and the overwhelming evidence of other scriptures.

When writing about the Holy Spirit, the apostles had no reservations about interchangeably using verbs associated with things rather than people. For example, Paul tells Timothy "to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear . . ." (II Timothy 1:6-7). We usually stir liquids and mixtures, not people. Several writers use the verb "pour" to describe God's use of the Spirit (see Proverbs 1:23; Isaiah 32:15; 44:3; Ezekiel 39:29; Joel 2:28-29; Zechariah 12:10; Acts 2:17-18, 33). A person cannot be poured.

On the other hand, many verses show that the Holy Spirit "speaks," "tells," "declares," "convicts," "guides," "hears," and others. By themselves, these verbs can give us no conclusive proof that the Holy Spirit is or is not a divine being.

To understand what Peter meant by "to lie to the Holy Spirit," we must see if the context explains what he meant. At the end of Acts 5:4, Peter makes a parallel accusation: "You have not lied to men but to God." "God" is translated from theos, the general Greek word for deity. In the broadest sense, Peter accuses Ananias of sinning against God (see Genesis 20:6; 39:9; Leviticus 6:2; Psalm 51:4).

When he speaks to Sapphira later on in the scene, Peter repeats the accusation in a slightly different way: "How is it that you have agreed together to test [tempt, KJV] the Spirit of the Lord?" (Acts 5:9). Here, Peter uses "Lord" from the Greek kurios, meaning "master" or "lord." In this verse the Holy Spirit is shown to be the possession of God.

Thus in these three parallel verses, Peter clarifies what he meant: Ananias and Sapphira had tried to deceive God, who was present in them and in the apostles by the power of His Spirit. Did they not realize, Peter asks, that through His Spirit God knew not only what they were doing, but also their hearts?

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Lying to the Holy Spirit

Acts 5:3

But why did Peter make it seem as if the Spirit had personality? Because as the means, the power, the vehicle, the agency, by which the Father and the Son accomplish their will (for example, creating—Genesis 1:2), the Spirit takes on properties that they have. We do this in our own speech and writing: Money talks. Power corrupts. Words bite. To describe actions of things, we often use verbs that more accurately describe human actions. Wind moans or shrieks. Fire licks wood. Rain dances. Water runs. These words do not make the things human.

In Romans 5-7, Paul personifies death, law, and sin. "Death reigned from Adam to Moses" (Romans 5:14). "The law has dominion" (7:1). "Sin . . . deceived me, and by it killed me" (7:11). We know that none of these things has personality, and we think nothing more of it. The same applies to the Spirit of God. Just because we use verbs that normally describe the actions of a person does not mean that the subject is a person. It is a non-argument; it means nothing.

More important is how the entirety of the Bible treats the concept of God's Spirit. Using one verse like Acts 5:3 to "prove" a doctrine is called "proof texting." This method violates two of the paramount points of biblical understanding: 1) Always use clear verses to explain unclear verses, and 2) gather all of the pertinent verses from the whole Bible and study them completely before reaching a conclusion on a doctrine.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Lying to the Holy Spirit

Acts 5:3

This verse is unclear on the nature of the Holy Spirit, and it must stand in the light of verses from other parts of the Bible before it is correctly understood. For instance, nowhere in the Bible is the Holy Spirit shown to have manlike shape. The Father and the Son are revealed to have body parts like us—they even sit on thrones—but the Spirit is described to be like wind, oil, fire, and water.

The only shape it is ever given is that of a dove (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32), and some dispute that the Spirit looked like a dove but rather in a visible form descended like a dove. Nevertheless, the Spirit is never described to have a humanlike shape. Man was created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27), so man looks like God. If the Spirit were also a person in a "trinity," it too would look like a man just as the Father and Son do (John 14:9). Yet, at best, the Spirit had a dove's shape in one instance, and a man and a dove have never been mistaken for each other.

Other verses show the apostles giving praise, glory, and honor to the Father and Son without mentioning the Spirit (Romans 1:7; I Corinthians 1:1-4; Galatians 1:1-5; and so on through the epistles). If it were part of the Godhead, this would be a grave omission.

Many of the Spirit's attributes can be shown to originate in the Father or the Son. For example, the Spirit is named "Comforter" in John 14:26 (KJV), yet the Father is called "the God of all comfort" in II Corinthians 1:3-4. Other examples include making intercession: Romans 8:26; I Timothy 2:5; and Hebrews 7:25; and enabling spiritual understanding: I Corinthians 2:10-16 and I John 5:20.

In addition, the Spirit has no familial relationship to Christians. God is our Father and Christ is our Elder Brother. Paul says "Jerusalem above . . . is the mother of us all" (Galatians 4:26). The Spirit, though, is not a person but a gift of God, the mind and power of God working in and through us (II Timothy 1:7).

Finally, the history of the trinity doctrine is open knowledge. The true church never accepted the idea, and even the false church did not embrace it until three centuries after Christ! Even then, it was only accepted as a political concession to the Roman emperor, Constantine. Add these facts to its absence in the Scripture, and it is no wonder the Catholics and Protestants call it a mystery!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Lying to the Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 2:9-16

The verb Paul uses in verse 10, translated "revealed" (Greek apokalupto), is a strong term, usually used in the New Testament to indicate divine revelation of certain supernatural secrets or with the resurrection and judgment of certain people and events. These verses in I Corinthians 2 stress the work of the Holy Spirit in revealing the wisdom of God.

In verse 14, the verb anakrino, translated "discerned," is the same verb translated "judges" and "judged" in verse 15. The idea in each case is to make intelligent, spiritual decisions. Anakrino, though meaning "examine," includes the decision following the examination.

Members of God's church are to examine all things ,including our own lives, with the help of God's Spirit, and then we are to make an evaluation as to what our strengths and weaknesses are. Then we decide what we are going to do about them. No one in the world has a right to examine and evaluate us on spiritual matters because, without the Holy Spirit, they canno rightly and justly understand or evaluate. There is no need to feel slighted or put down by anyone in the world who disagrees with God's truth or with your obedience to God's truth. The same holds true in all judgments and criticisms from the world - that is, those without God's Holy Spirit - who try to tell us our doctrines are wrong.

This is a major reason the Worldwide Church of God went into apostasy, because the leaders believed and accepted the criticisms of the worldly churches. They accepted judgment from people without God's Holy Spirit and from organizations without a spiritual foundation of truth.

The mainstream Christian churches are worldly, are not led by people with the Holy Spirit, and they do not base their doctrines on truth. Two cases in point: neither the Sunday Sabbath nor the being that is called the Holy Spirit of the Trinity can be proven honestly and truthfully with God's written Word. Do not be fooled by mainstream Christianity's false piety! They are not God's people. They are not baptized members of God's church. They do not have God's Holy Spirit. This is not to say that there are not wonderful people in some of these churches in the world. In addition, when they do follow some of God's laws, blessings will automatically accrue to them.

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent

1 Corinthians 3:23

The Holy Spirit is again left out. We do not belong to "him." We belong to the Two who are mentioned, Christ and God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 11:3

The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in the chain of command as a personality. It is not the head over anything.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 13:13

Paul penned these immortal words, which one commentator called "the eternal trinity": faith, hope, and love. We continuously need these three factors, which is what "abide" implies. Our need for them never ends; we need them throughout life, every day without end. We live by faith, and the other two are directly connected to faith. They are, in fact, the three building blocks of a successful, abundant life. They are inextricably bound, tied to our relationship with God, and they are the qualities that make us run or work correctly.

Think of it this way. We are God's invention. He built us, and as our manufacturer, He designed us to function and produce. Automobiles run on gasoline. They do what they do because of the way they were designed and built, and they move only when fueled by gasoline. Movement is a key here: We run—move—on faith, hope, and love. These qualities nourish us, giving us strength to function as God intends. Every living human being, or who has ever lived, was intended to function by these qualities, but only the faith, hope, and love that comes from God will work to produce true success.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Perseverance and Hope

2 Corinthians 2:14-17

Here, the Godhead is mentioned together—the Father and the Son. There is, again, no mention of the Holy Spirit. The apostles spoke for the Father and for the Son, but, evidently, not for the Holy Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit

2 Corinthians 3:17

Acts 2 records the event of God's pouring out of His Spirit on the church, as well as the accompanying manifestations that testified dramatically that something extraordinary was taking place. Subsequently, the Holy Spirit is a significant theme throughout the rest of Acts, as the gospel was preached and more people were called into the church. The epistles of Paul, Peter, and John likewise feature the Holy Spirit frequently. Yet, for all that is written about it, the Holy Spirit is still commonly misunderstood. Many theologians claim to know what the Holy Spirit is, yet they simultaneously profess it to be an incomprehensible mystery!

Part of the difficulty in understanding God's Spirit comes from the common challenges that arise whenever a text is translated from one language, with all of its nuances, into another. In this case, the Greek word translated as “spirit” is pneuma. E.W. Bullinger, in The Companion Bible, catalogs fourteen different meanings or usages of that one Greek word. It should not be surprising, then, that when Greek texts are concisely translated into English, some of what is intended by pneuma can become clouded.

Further confusion has been introduced by the so-called “early church fathers,” whose writings are often looked to for guidance in understanding early Christian doctrine. They may have been early on the scene, yet they were also influenced by Greek philosophy, Plato in particular. Plato's worldview—one not based on the Bible—promoted a triune godhead or a single god that mysteriously expresses itself in three different persons or personalities. Plato himself developed this view from much older trinities found in the Babylonian mystery religions, as well as Egyptian beliefs.

One of the rarer usages of the word pneuma is “a spirit being,” thus it was not a great leap for early scholars—looking through a lens of pagan concepts—to regard the Holy Spirit as a third God-Being. Because those involved were already inclined to think in terms of a god consisting of three persons, they were able to find “evidence” of such an idea in the Scriptures.

It has been said that heresy crawls in its first generation, it walks in the second, and then it runs. Once the notion of the Holy Spirit being a third person got its start, it walked and then soon sprinted throughout the Western world with such force that now the overwhelming majority of professing Christians take the idea as a given.

It is worth remembering that there is indeed a spirit being striving for equality with the Father and the Son, but that spirit—Satan the Devil—is anything but holy (Isaiah 14:13-14). He has, though, created a place for himself in the minds of millions by guiding Catholic and Protestant doctrine to include a mysterious third spirit being within a three-part godhead, just as the ancient pagan religions held. Yet, that construct is nowhere found in the Hebrew Scriptures, nor is it unambiguously seen in the Greek Scriptures. It is a doctrine that must be read into the Greek text, but doing so only creates contradiction and confusion—neither of which are from God (John 10:35; I Corinthians 14:33).

David C. Grabbe
What Is the Holy Spirit?

2 Corinthians 12:19

The apostles had the responsibility of speaking before God the Father with the authority of Christ, but again, the Holy Spirit as a personality is ignored as having no divine authority. Did they not speak before the Holy Spirit, as a personality?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit

Ephesians 3:14-15

The Family of God is located both in heaven and on earth. In heaven there are two Beings of spirit who are part of the God Family. This flies right in the face of the concept of strict monotheism! But even more startling is that God considers true Christians to be part of the God Family already!

Currently two members of the Godhead are spirit. But God—Elohim—said, "Let Us create man in Our image" (Genesis 1:26), and what is evident from the beginning of the Bible all the way to the end is that Elohim is expanding! God is increasing what Elohim is. God is increasing the number of those who are in the God Family. This is not hard to understand. Now we are already children of God. We are in His Family.

To us, monotheism indicates that one is worshipping one distinct and unique almighty personality, and if anyone claims anything more than that, that person is considered to be a polytheist—worshipping many gods. This is hard to accept here in this Western world, and this resistance to accepting what the Bible clearly reveals about the God Family has in large measure led to the introduction of the "Trinity." People just cannot accept the simple truth of the Bible, that God is expanding. He is increasing His number. We will be part of that God Family.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim

Ephesians 5:5

Once again, the Holy Spirit is left out. It is God's Kingdom and Christ's Kingdom, but it is not the Holy Spirit's Kingdom because the Holy Spirit is not a personality. If the Holy Spirit were a personality, why does Paul leave him out whenever the Godhead is mentioned? The reason is clear: because the Holy Spirit is not a personal being.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit

1 Thessalonians 5:23

This verse does not define man as a trinity. It is a Hebraism, a common saying among the people, which simply means "the whole" or "every part." A.T. Robertson, in his authoritative Word Pictures in the New Testament, defines it as "every part of each of you." It corresponds to loving God "with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind," but it is somewhat paraphrased and placed in a specific context.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Five)

Related Topics: Heart | Heart, Mind, and Soul | Hebraism | Mind | Soul | Trinity


James 1:1

Adherents of the Trinity doctrine assert that the Holy Spirit is a personality alongside the Father and the Son. Yet, when the apostles—especially Paul—referred to the God Family in their epistles, why is mention of the Holy Spirit almost totally absent (James 1:1; II Peter 1:2; I John 1:3; Romans 1:7; I Corinthians 1:3; II Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; I Thessalonians 1:1; II Thessalonians 1:2; I Timothy 1:1-2; II Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 1:3)?

Where is the Holy Spirit? Is James not a servant of the Holy Spirit (James 1:1)? Is he a servant only of God and of Jesus Christ? What about "knowledge of the Holy Spirit" in II Peter 1:2? Is there no "fellowship with the Holy Spirit" in I John 1:3? Why do the apostles ignore it?

They include a greeting from the Father and the Son in each of these letters, but there is no greeting from the Holy Spirit. This was inspired by God! Is it possible that this is evidence that there is no other personality? Little by little, it keeps adding up. We need to see this with our own eyes—the Holy Spirit is ignored every time the God Family is mentioned. Father and Son—yes. Holy Spirit—no.

With a few variations in words, every apostle ignores the Holy Spirit. Would it not be gross insubordination for them to recognize two in the highest offices in the universe and totally ignore the third? They did this because they did not know the Holy Spirit as a personality within the God Family because Jesus taught them no such thing. The Holy Spirit is the power God uses to direct and carry out His purposes within His creation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit

Related Topics: God Family | Holy Spirit | Nature of God | Trinity


1 John 5:1-8

A recurring theme throughout the apostle John's writings is the authenticity of Jesus Christ's testimony that He:

1. is the Creator God—the Son of God the Father (John 1:1);

2. is the promised Messiah (John 1:41);

3. is tasked with announcing the coming Kingdom of God, to provide expiation for mankind's sins, and to provide a perfect, living example of “the Way,” before being crucified and resurrected (John 1:29; 18:36-37; 14:6; 19:16-37; 20:1-31).

To that end, I John 5:1-5 presents a foundational description of Christ's followers—those who believe in His authenticity—and how they would display their love for both the Father and the Son and their inspired capacity to overcome the world through their faith.

In verses 6-8, John continues building on this foundation by revealing three of the most significant “witnesses”—all in agreement—to the authenticity of the testimony of Jesus Christ: “the Spirit, the water, and the blood.”

The trouble begins in between, with deceptive language added to verses 7 and 8, again, only in a few translations.

Martin G. Collins
Does I John 5:7-8 Support the Trinity Doctrine?

1 John 5:7-8

The Holy Bible teaches that the God Family currently consists of two fully divine Beings, God the Father and God the Son. However, most nominal Christians believe we should add a third distinct Being, the Holy Spirit, to what is called the “Godhead,” forming a “Trinity,” a term that does not appear anywhere in Scripture. By “rightly dividing the truth” (II Timothy 2:15), one can relatively easily dismiss virtually all the verses used to support this false belief. However, one passage, I John 5:7-8, in four popular translations—the King James, the New King James, the New Living Bible, and the Amplified Bible Classic—appears to support the Trinity doctrine by using additional verbiage missing from most other translations.

In the New King James Version, the following italicized words were added, apart from the majority of ancient manuscripts: “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one."

According to Anthony and Richard Hanson, professors of theology, in their book, Reasonable Belief, the troubling language

was added by some enterprising person or persons in the ancient Church who felt that the New Testament was sadly deficient in direct witness to the kind of doctrine of the Trinity which he favoured and who determined to remedy that defect. (1980, p. 171).

From The Big Book of Bible Difficulties, by Norman L. Geisler and Thomas Howe, we read:

This verse has virtually no support among the early Greek manuscripts, though it is found in Latin manuscripts. Its appearance in late Greek manuscripts is based on the fact that Erasmus was placed under ecclesiastical pressure to include it in his Greek NT of 1522, having omitted it in his two earlier editions of 1516 and 1519 because he could not find any Greek manuscripts which contained it. Its inclusion in the Latin Bible probably results from a scribe incorporating a marginal comment (gloss) into the text as he copied the manuscript of I John. (2008, pp. 540-541)

The wise Christian remains alert to the constant threat of our cunning and beguiling adversary, Satan the Devil, to contaminate God's truth (II Corinthians 11:3; 2:11; Genesis 3:1; Ephesians 6:11-12). The false doctrine of the Trinity is foundational to many of the aberrant Protestant and Catholic beliefs. It is not by coincidence, then, that deceptive verbiage was added to a passage devoted, not only to proving the authenticity of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, but also to identifying key characteristics of His true disciples. In doing so, the Trinity doctrine is used to deceive professing Christians by introducing a false third Being into the God Family, as well as to overshadow a major precept of our faith.

Martin G. Collins
Does I John 5:7-8 Support the Trinity Doctrine?

Revelation 1:4-8

Verses 4-8 comprise an extended greeting to the seven churches in Asia (later specifically named in verse 11, as well as in chapters 2 and 3). As the human author of the book, John includes himself as a sender of the greeting, but the bulk of it reemphasizes the real authors: God the Father, shown as eternal and sovereign, and Jesus Christ, extolled as "the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth" (verse 5).

John ensures that we understand that Jesus is the same One who exhibited His love for us by sacrificing Himself for the forgiveness of our sins and made possible our future glorification (verses 5-6). In verse 8, he carries the identification even farther by quoting Jesus' own words: "'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,' says the Lord, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'" Lest we misunderstand, John makes certain that there is no doubt that Jesus is the Lord of the Old Testament, the first and the last (Isaiah 44:6; 41:4), the Almighty God, who "declar[es] the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure'" (Isaiah 46:10). This extensive greeting certifies, not only that the prophecy has its source in God, but also that it will come to pass.

The greeting also includes "from the seven Spirits who [or which] are before [the Father's] throne" (verse 4), a quite controversial phrase. Commentators are divided among four interpretations, which can be summarized as angelic, symbolic, mystical, and Trinitarian. Understandably, the Trinitarian view—that "the seven Spirits" identifies a so-called Third Person of the Trinity—has the support of most Catholics and Protestants. Their primary reason centers on the fact that this phrase appears between greetings from God the Father and the Son of God. They contend that this phrase refers to the sevenfold description of the Spirit of the Lord in Isaiah 11:2.

The book of Revelation itself identifies the seven Spirits as equivalent to the Lamb's "seven eyes, which are . . . sent out into all the earth" (Revelation 5:6). These "seven eyes" probably allude to Zechariah 3:9 and 4:10, where they are shown to be "upon the stone," a symbol of the Branch or Messiah, and directly described as "the eyes of the LORD which scan [or rove] to and fro throughout the whole earth." In addition, Revelation 3:1 states Christ "has [or possesses] the seven Spirits of God," and Revelation 4:5 calls them "seven lamps of fire . . . burning before the throne."

This may indeed be a description of the Holy Spirit, not as a "Person" somehow divided into seven parts, but as a seven-branched conduit of God's communication to the seven churches mentioned earlier in the verse. Thus, John includes "the seven Spirits" as a source of the prophecy to specify how it was imparted to the seven churches. The apostle Paul pens a similar greeting in II Corinthians 13:14, in which he writes of "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit," meaning that God's Spirit is the means by which Christians can have a relationship with God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The All-Important Introduction to Revelation

Find more Bible verses about Trinity:
Trinity {Nave's}

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