Summary: The Bible’s teaching about the trinity for people investigating the Christian faith.
Shortly after I committed my life to Jesus Christ I had some people knock on my door selling a magazine called the Watchtower. They said they were Christians, so I invited them into my apartment. We talked for a while, and they showed me the latest issue of their magazine. The cover story was called "Should You Believe in the Trinity?" They asked me if I believed in the trinity, and I said, "I think so." They told me the trinity was a pagan doctrine that was not taught in the Bible. They pointed out that the word "trinity" never occurs in the Bible. They said that people who believe in the trinity worship three gods, not one God. Well I was understandably confused, because I knew I didn’t worship three gods.
A few months later there was another knock on my door. These were clean cut looking college age guys riding ten speed bikes and dressed in crisp white shirts and ties. They said they were going door to door telling people about Jesus Christ, and again I invited them inside. Because of my earlier visitor, I immediately asked these two young Mormon missionaries if they believed in the trinity. They said, "Oh yes, we believe in the trinity." But as we started talking, it became clear that they believed in three separate gods, just like my earlier visitor had claimed.
I remember thinking, "Maybe the trinity is a pagan doctrine."
I was really confused by now. I went to one of our pastors and he gave me some books and tapes to help me understand the Bible’s teaching about the trinity. But since then I’ve noticed that lots of Christians don’t understand how God can be both three and one.
We’re in the midst of a series through God’s attributes called SIMPLY GOD. Today we’re going to talk about the God Who Is 3-in-1. In other words we’re going to talk about the trinity, specifically looking at the logic of the doctrine of the trinity.
1. Only One True God.
We start with the Old Testament because this is where the Bible itself starts. The Old Testament consistently presents us with the idea that there is only one true God. Since there is only one true God, we worship Him alone.
Let’s look at a few verses that demonstrate this.
Deuteronomy 32:17-- They sacrificed to demons, which are not God-- gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your fathers did not fear (NIV).
Deuteronomy 32:39-- "See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand."
Now you can find statements like these about there being only one true God on almost every page of the Old Testament, but I chose these two verses because they go back to Moses himself. This passage is predicting a time when Israel would forsake the true God and worship false gods. Here Moses says that these false gods are indeed supernatural beings—-he calls them "demons"—-but that they are not true Gods.
But the God of Israel here claims to be the only true God, the only author of life and death, the God who can bring both calamity and healing. This claim that there’s only one true God lays at the heart of the first commandment. God commanded the Israelites to have no other gods before him because He was the only true God. Only the true God created the heavens and the earth, only the true God liberated Israel from their slavery in Egypt. Throughout the Old Testament the people of Israel faced the temptation to break this first commandment by worshipping false gods.
Now because of this conviction that there’s only one God, CHRISTIANS ARE MONOTHEISTS. Along with Judaism and Islam, the Christian faith is one of three monotheistic faiths in the world. All three of these faiths believe that there’s only one true God.
This is where my Mormon friends falter, because although they say they believe in the trinity, they stumble on this fundamental point. Look at what Bruce R. McConkie, a mormon apostle says about the trinity:
"There are three Gods--the Father, Son and Holy Spirit--who, though separate in personality, are united in one purpose, in plan, and in all the attributes of perfection" (McConkie 317).
By definition, the Latter Day Saint church is not monotheistic because they believe in more than one god. If believing in the trinity meant believing in three separate gods who have joined together in some sort of divine committee, then the doctrine of the trinity would contradict the Old Testament. But what I mean by the term "trinity" is very different than what the Latter Day Saints mean by the term.