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Who Is God? God Is a Trinity
by Dr. Linda Smallwood, BBS, M.Min., D.Min.


In This Lesson
Discussion | Their Personalities | Their Divine Attributes
The Names "Adonai" and "Elohim" Are Plural Nouns | God Refers to Himself in the Plural


It is impossible to discuss who God is without looking into His triune nature as revealed in Scripture. The doctrine of the Trinity states that in the one God is the Person of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are not the same Person as each other, nor do they function exactly the same, but the three Persons comprise one God.

This is similar in analogy to the nature of time. Time is past, present, and future. The past is not the same as the present, which is not the same as the future. But, there are not three times. There is only one thing called "time".1 Another analogy that is similar to the Trinity is the nature of water [chemical composition H2O]. H2O can be liquid [water], or ice, or steam. The water is not the same as the ice, which is not the same as the steam. But, there are not three H2O's [waters]. There is only one thing called "water".

Pastor David Thompson suggests:

    Without the Spirit — or not being born again — the concept [of the Trinity] is really hard to grasp for anyone. Besides what Scripture says, it's something that is really hard to explain in words. When talking to someone about it, I can see it and understand it, but stumble over the words to explain it... because it's all about faith. And to be frank, faith is the only way to explain it, because of the complexity of the relationship. I believe on the day when we all come into His presence, we will be awestruck when we truly see Him face-to-face and we see clearly without the smokey mirror/glass (flesh) that hinders our understanding now.

Their Personalities
We use the word "person" when describing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because they each display characteristics of identity — not in a body of flesh-and-bones, but in personality. They each have a will, they love and communicate with others, etc. just as human beings do.

  • Each one fellowships with us.
    "that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3 emphasis added)

    1 Corinthians 1:9—

    "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." (2 Corinthians 13:14 emphasis added)

    Philippians 2:1—

  • Each one has a will.
    "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." (Luke 22:42 emphasis added)

    1 Corinthians 12:11—

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  • Each one speaks.
    "...and behold, a voice from heaven said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'" (Matthew 3:17 emphasis added)

    Luke 5:20—

    "And the Spirit said to Philip, 'Go over and join this chariot.'" (Acts 8:29 emphasis added)

    "And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction." (Acts 11:12a emphasis added)

    "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'" (Acts 13:2 emphasis added)

  • Each one loves.
    John 3:16—

    "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." (Ephesians 5:25 emphasis added)

    "I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf." (Romans 15:30 emphasis added)

What separates our triune God from the triad divinities of polytheistic religions is that these three distinct Persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — are one in purpose, one in power, and one in nature. They have always co-existed and have always worked together in perfect union and harmony. They did in creation; they did while Jesus was here on earth; and they always will.

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Their Divine Attributes
In addition to the "personhood" attributes listed above, they each share qualities uniquely identified with God.

Attribute Father Son Holy Spirit
Called "God" Philippians 1:2 John 1:1,14;
Colossians 2:9
Acts 5:3,4
Creator Isaiah 64:8 John 1:3;
Colossians 1:15-17
Job 33:4; 26:13
Gives Life/
John 5:21;
1 Thessalonians 1:10
John 1:3;
2:19; 10:17
Romans 8:11;
2 Corinthians 3:6,8
2 Corinthians 6:16
Colossians 1:27
John 14:17

Eternal Psalm 90:2 Micah 5:1,2 Romans 8:11;
Hebrews 9:14
Sanctifies 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Hebrews 2:11 1 Peter 1:2

Omnipresent 1 Kings 8:27 Matthew 28:20 Psalm 139:7-10

Omniscient Jeremiah 17:10;
1 John 3:20
John 16:30; 21:17;
Revelation 2:23
1 Corinthians 2:10,11

See the lesson "Trinity/Godhead" for a more comprehensive list of the divine attributes of our triune God.

The Names "Elohim" and "Adonai" Are Plural Nouns
The Bible's first use of the name "Elohim" for our creative God is in Genesis 1:1 where the original text reads: "In the beginning, Elohim created..."

Apart from the name "YHWH", the two most-common names/titles for God in the Biblia Hebraica [Hebrew Bible] are "Adonai" — which expresses authority or the exalted position of God — and "Elohim" — which expresses concepts of creative divinity. Apart from the name "YHWH", it may be argued that the titles "Adonai" and "Elohim" say more about God than any other name. "Adonai" is the plural form of "Adon", meaning "my lord"; and the name "Elohim" is the masculine plural form of "Eloah".2

Since "Adonai" and "Elohim" are plural nouns, many Christians have used this as a foundation on which to build the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. While these names are written in the plural form, they regularly employ singular verbs in Hebrew grammar and are singular in usage. Therefore, acting in usage as singular nouns with singular verbs, many Bible scholars believe these names represent, not only a plural nature, but a plural of majesty, perhaps pointing out that this one God embodies all the attributes of the many pagan gods worshipped by other peoples.3

Some Bible scholars reject the idea of the Trinity in the words "Adonai" and "Elohim". They suggest that the plural "Adonai" and "Elohim" are plurals of majesty, such as used by rulers and kings. However, there is no record of any earthly king speaking of himself as "we" or "us" 4000-6000 years ago. God is the only One who intentionally referred to Himself as more than One.

Thus, it is highly improbable that the original Hebrew texts would employ such usage in the names "Adonai" and "Elohim" unless God deliberately intended to convey the concept of plural identities in the one God.4

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God Refers to Himself in the Plural
"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.'" (Genesis 1:26a)

"Then the LORD God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.'" (Genesis 3:22a)

"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?'" (Isaiah 6:8a)

See "The Trinity" for a more in-depth discussion of our triune God.

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Dr. Linda SmallwoodQuestions/Comments?
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1 "Who Is God?", CARM — Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. np. Web. 1 August 2011.

2 "Adonai (Adonay) & Elohim / El / Eloah", My Redeemer Lives Christian Ministry, np. Web. 15 August 2012.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

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