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The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Jehovah's Witnesses

 

    

    It is not surprising that virtually every non-Christian cult and world religion rejects and denies the doctrine of the Trinity. Mainly due to a misapprehension along with a strain of misunderstandings of the doctrine itself. Hence, the objections asserted by the JWs are based not on sound biblical grounds but rather on their prior theological commitment- that Jesus is not God. Whereas Christians believe, Jesus is fully God and that God is Tri-Personal, solely on the basis of Scripture.

    In discussing the Trinity with the JWs, the major problem that precludes most Christians from gaining biblical ground, is commonly  known as the: language barrier. In other words, distinct Christian terms that are used so freely by Christians are also used by JWs but in a completely difference sense.

    Therefore, you must define your terms first. If terms are not defined in their proper context, then equivocation will preclude your gospel presentation. You will be speaking the same words but applying different meanings.

    So, when addressing the doctrine of the Trinity, remember: DEFINE YOUR TERMS FIRST. In other words, before you even get to the passages in Scripture your first question to the JWs should be: "How do you understand the doctrine of the Trinity?" Then, depending on how they answer, proceed to explain biblically the correct definition.

 

Note: As with all religious groups that are “unitarian” in their theology (i.e., maintaining that God exists as one Person), JWs reject the Trinity chiefly on the basis of their false notion as to what the doctrine actually teaches. As with Oneness Pentecostals and Muslims, JWs see the Trinity as teaching three separate Gods. Thus, because of their misrepresentation of the doctrine (i.e., Jehovah existing as one Person), JWs naturally reject the deity of Jesus Christ falsely concluding if Jesus were God, then, there would be more than one God.

 


THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY PLAINLY STATED


There are three premises that demonstrate the biblical data for the Trinity: 

                    Premise one: There is one true eternal God.

                    Premise two: There are three Persons that are called God/Yahweh and presented ontologically (by nature) as God/Yahweh.

                    Premise three: The three Persons are presented as personally distinct from each other.

                    Conclusion: The three distinct, self-aware Persons--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit--share the nature or essence of the one God: Trinity.

The three *distinct* Persons are coequal, coeternal, and coexistent.

 

PREMISE ONE:  

There exists one eternal God (ontologically: i.e., in nature cf. Gal. 4:8).


Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one (Deut. 6:4)

Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of host; "I am the first, I am the last; and beside me there is no God. . . ." "Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know of not any (Isa. 44:6, 8; emphasis added)

Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb,
         "I, the LORD, am the maker of all things,
         Stretching out the heavens by Myself
         And spreading out the earth all alone (Isa. 44:24; emphasis added)

 


PREMISE TWO:
 

Scripture presents  three DISTINCT Persons or Selves (not "people"1), the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that are God ontologically (by nature) and are called "God" or Yahweh.

 


The Father is God

    See the salutations to the Epistles of Paul: "Grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (e.g., Rom. 1:7; Gal. 1:1). The Jehovah's Witnesses do not argue this point. Although they will make a distinction: God the Father is "Almighty" and Jesus is only "mighty" or "a god." However, by asserting, that Jesus is "a god" or "mighty" but not "Almighty" completely ignores the fact that the Jew's were strict monotheist: The belief in one true God. They did not accept the idea of two true Gods: a big Almighty and a little "g" god. This was a pagan concept, not Christian.2

    That the term "mighty God" (Heb. El gibbor) as in Isaiah 9:6, was a reoccurring title for Jehovah in Old Testament is not considered by the JWs (e.g., Deut. 10:17; Ps. 24:8; Jer. 32:18; cf. Heb. text). In fact, even their own Bible (i.e., The New World Translation) Jehovah is called "mighty God" (Isa. 10:21; Jer. 32:18).

    When citing Isaiah 9:6: "His [Messiah]  will be called mighty God. . . ."  the JWs cry out: "Jesus is mighty but not the Almighty." However and completely missed by the JWs, is that the term, "mighty" (as in mighty God) is an adjective, as with El "shaddai" that can only denote the true "God" ( El). Hence, the Hebrew term El (in contrast with Elohim; being in the plural) was a term reserved for Jehovah ALONE.  Neither mighty men or angels were called El in the the Old Testament. Again, the Jews were monotheist they would not have put-up with such an utterly pagan concept as two true Gods: a big God and a little god, as the JWs teach, that belief is polytheism not monotheism.

 

 

 

Jesus IS and is called “The God” (o qeoj, ho theos):

 

John 1:1: Jesus is the Eternal God distinct from the God Father:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God (theos en ho logos, "God was the Word").

 

John 20:28 Thomas said to Jesus (direct address): ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou, lit. “the Lord of me and the God of me” (see the WT’s own Greek interlinear called: The Kingdom Interlinear Translation)3.

 

Philippians 2:6:

Who, although He [always] existed [huparchōn] in the form ["nature" cf. NIV] [morphē] of God,4 did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form [morphē] of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in the appearance of a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. . . . so at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW. . .  and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father " (emphasis added).

 

Colossians 2:9: 

For in Him all the fullness of Deity [theotētos] dwells in human flesh." 

 

Titus 2:13: “The great God and Savior”: tou megalou theou kai sōtēros hēmōn Christou Iēsou, lit. “the great God and Savior of us Christ Jesus.” Note: in 2 Peter 1:1 is the same grammatical construction (i.e., article-noun-kai-noun): tou theou hēmōn kai sōtēros Iēsou Christou, lit. “the God of us and Savior Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Thess. 1:12; 2 Pet. 1:11; 2:20; 3:2, 18; see Gk.).

 

Hebrews 1:8: “But of the Son He [the Father] says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD IS FOREVER AND EVER. . . .” (ho thronos sou ho theos, lit. “the throne of thee the God. . . .”). Go here for an exegetical look at Hebrews 1:8. 

 

 

 

Jesus Christ: The Eternal Egw Eimi, egō eimi ("I AM")

  John 8:24; 8:28; 8:58; 13:19 (cf. Isa. 43:10; LXX); 18:5; 18:6; and 18:8.

 

In the NT (primarily in John’s gospel), Jesus made seven (possibly eight, cf. Mark 6:50) “absolute” (i.e., no supplied predicate) egō eimi (“I AM”) declarations: John 8:24; 8:28; 8:58; 13:19; 18:5; 18:6; and 18:8. When Jesus claimed to be the egō eimi, He was essentially claiming that He was Yahweh. Hence, the Jews wanted to stone Him for blasphemy (cf. John 8:58-59).

 

The Hebrew phrase ani hu, which was translated egō eimi in the Septuagint (i.e., the Gk. version of the OT, hereafter LXX), was an exclusive and recurring title for Yahweh (e.g., Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4). Thus, salvation is conditioned [“unless”] on believing that the Person of Jesus Christ the Son (cf. John 8:16-18) is the eternal God.

 

 *Why is it important to know and teach that Jesus IS God?: Besides that of John 4:24; 17:3 and 1 John 2:23, Jesus declares in John 8:24:

 

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM He [egō eimi], you will die in your sins” (note: “He” is not in the Gk. for more details see: Jesus Christ- The Eternal, ego eimi, "I AM").

 

The full force of Jesus’ assertion is striking: ean gar mē pisteusēte hoti egō eimi apothaneisthe en tais hamartiais humōn (lit. “For if you should not believe that I AM [egō eimi] you will perish in your sins”). He did not say, “If you do not believe that “I am He” or “I am the one I claimed to be” as most translations read (i.e., there is no supplied predicate). Jesus clearly asserts here that salvation rests on believing that He (as the Person of the Son; cf. vv. 16-18, 27) is the eternal God.

 

*See also: John 1:18; Rom. 9:5; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 2:9 (theotētos); Heb. 1:3; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 5:13-14. [The Trinity: One God revealed in three distinct coequal and coeternal Persons].

 



The Holy Spirit is a Person and is called "God"


   
The JWs teach that the Holy Spirit is Jehovah's "active force" and hence not a person. They liken the Holy Spirit to "electricity." However, the Holy Spirit cannot be anything other than a cognizant, self-aware person. The Holy Spirit has a personal relationship with the Father and Jesus, as well as all believers.

    

Holy Spirit is God:

 

Acts 5:3, 4: Ananias and Sapphira:

Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received from the land?.. You have not lied to men but to God (emphasis added).

Lying to the Holy Spirit is equated with lying to God because He is God. You cannot lie to electricity or to a force. Only a person or self (egō) can be lied to. Also compare Acts 28:25-26 with Isaiah 6:ff. In Isaiah 6:1ff. Yahweh is said to be on the throne speaking through Isaiah (vv. 9-10), but Paul (in Acts 28:25-26) attributes the words of Yahweh to the Holy Spirit.

 

Holy Spirit Communicates  

 

            NOTE: this is a great witnessing point for JWs (a force?)

 

                  Acts 8:29

                  Hebrews 3:7-11, 18; cf. Psalms 95:7-11

 

                  Hebrews 10:15-17; cf. Jeremiah 31:33, 34. 

 

 

Holy Spirit thinks Himself as “I” (egō): 

 

Acts 13:2: 

The Holy Spirit does not think of Himself as a merely “God’s activity,” rather the Holy Spirit identifies Himself as an “I,” that is, a Self-aware Ego:

While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, the three men are looking for you. But get up, go down stars and accompany them without misgivings, for I [egō] have sent them Myself” (Acts 10:19-20; emphasis added).

  

 As they were publicly ministering to Jehovah and fasting, the holy spirit said: "Of all persons set Bar'na-bas and Saul apart for me for the work to which I have called [proskeklēmai] them. . . ." Accordingly these men, sent out by the holy spirit, went to down to Se-leu'cia, and from there they sailed away to Cy'prus (Acts 13:2, 4; NWT; emphasis added).

 

In this passage above (from their own Bible translation: NWT) we find that the Holy Spirit: Communicates. Can electricity do that?

    Sometimes the JWs will argue that the "Holy Spirit" (hagion pneuma) is in the neuter gender. And this is true, but in Greek nouns do not necessarily indicate natural gender (e.g., "love" is feminine; "Infants," "children" and "girls" are neuter).

 

 

 

Personal Pronouns are applied to the Holy Spirit. 

 

In John chapters 14 through 16 Jesus uses personal pronouns to refer the Holy Spirit:

 

“But when He [ekeinos], the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you” (John 16:13-14; emphasis added).

 

The Holy Spirit has Personal Attributes

 

Will: 1 Corinthians 12:9-11.

Emotions: Ephesians 4:30.

Mind: 1 Corinthians 2:10, 11; Romans 8:27.

Intercedes (prays): Romans 8:26.

Can be lied to: Acts 5:3.

Can be blasphemed: Mark 3:29, 30.

Issues commands: Acts 13:4; Acts 16:6.

 

 

 

THE HOLY SPIRIT LOVES: ROMANS 15:30:

 

Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me (Rom. 15:30; emphasis added).

 




The Holy Spirit is Equal with the Father and the Son



Mathew 28:19:

"Therefore go and make disciple of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…" (see also Acts 28:25-27; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 2:18)

 

 

PREMISE THREE:  

The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are DISTINCT.

 

Grammatical Considerations

 

John 1:1: "and the Word was with God. . . . "

In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with [pros] God, and the Word was God. (en archē ēn ho logos, kai ho logos ēn pros ton theon, kai theos ēn ho logos). 

In the New Testament the word "with" ( pros), when referring to persons, indicates a relationship between distinct persons. Moreover, the Word was, pros ton theon,  "with the God," which expresses the intimate, loving, relationship that the Word had with God the Father.

 

 

First and third person personal pronouns: 

Throughout chapter 14, Jesus clearly differentiates Himself from the Father by using first person personal pronouns (“I,” “Me,” “Mine”) to refer to Himself and third person personal pronouns (“He,” “Him,” “His”) to refer to His Father (e.g., John 14:7, 10, 16). This case of marked distinction is also evident when Jesus differentiates Himself from God the Holy Spirit:

 

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another [allon; see n. 42 below] Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:16; also see 14:7, 10, 26; emphasis added).

 

 

 

Different prepositions: 

 

    Also spread though the NT, particularly in John chapters 14-16, Jesus distinguishes Himself from His Father by using different prepositions. This use of different prepositions “shows a relationship between them,” and clearly denotes essential distinction, e.g., “no one comes to [pros] the Father but through [dia] Me” (John 14:6); “he who believes in [eis] Me . . . I am going to [pros] the Father” (v. 12; cf. also John 15:26; 16:28). Paul too regularly uses different prepositions to clearly differentiate the Father from the Son. In Ephesians 2:18, Paul teaches that by the agency of the Son, Christians have access to the Father by means of the Spirit:  

For through Him [di’ autou; the Son] we both have our access in [en] one Spirit to the Father [pros ton patera] (Eph. 2:18).

The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are clearly differentiated in Matthew 28:19; and 2 Corinthians 13:14 as well.5


            

Subject--Object distinctions: 

 

Simply, if Jesus and the Father were not distinct cognizant Persons, we would not expect to find a clear subject-object relationship between them:

 

After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water . . . behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My [subject] beloved Son, [object] in whom I [subject] am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:16-17; emphasis added; see also, Matt. 17:5).

 

“I [subject] glorify You [object] on earth, having accomplished the work which You [object] have given Me [subject] to do” (John 17:4; see also Luke 23:34, 46).

 

            The Father and the Son stand in an “I”–“You” relationship of each other; the Son refers to the Father as “You” and Himself as “I.” The Father likewise refers to Jesus as “You” and Himself as “I.” The Son personally relates to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the reverse is altogether true of the Father and the Holy Spirit relating to each other.

 

The Repetition of the Article:  

 

In Matthew 28:19, the phrase: eis to onoma tou patros kai tou huiou kai tou hagiou pneumatos, “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” grammatically speaks for itself. Specifically, note the repetition of the article tou, “the” before each noun: tou patros, “the Father,” tou huiou, “the Son,” and tou hagiou pneumatos, “the Holy Spirit.” And each noun is connected by the connective conjunction kai, “and.” Thus, this type of construction (viz. Sharp #6) clearly denotes distinction between all three Persons named.

In Revelation 5:13 the Lamb and the Father are presented as two distinct objects of divine worship as they are clearly differentiated by the repetition of the article :

 To Him [] who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb [kai tō arniō], be blessing and honor and glory and dominion for ever and ever (emphasis added).

 

            Accordingly, Paul clearly presents the three Persons not as unipersonal, but as three distinct Persons:

  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [tou kuriou Iēsou Christou], and [kai] the love of [the] God [tou theou], and [kai] the fellowship of the Holy Spirit [tou hagiou pneumatos] be with you all (2 Cor. 13:14).

            There are many other passages where Sharp’s rule #6 applies, clearly denoting distinction between the three Persons in the Trinity (e.g., Matt. 28:19; 1 Thess. 3:1; 2 Thess. 2:16-17; 1 John 2:22-23). Further, turning to 1 John 1:3 again, not only does John show that believers have fellowship with BOTH the Father and the Son. But the Father and Son are clearly distinguished as two Persons by the repeated article tou, “the” and the repeated preposition meta, “with”

 

we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with [meta] us; and indeed our fellowship is with [meta] the Father [tou patros] and with [meta] His Son [tou huiou] Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3; emphasis added).

     Additionally, there are numerous passages where different prepositions are used to differentiate the Persons of the Trinity (e.g., John 14:6, 12; 15:26; 16:28; Eph. 2:18).

 

John 17:5

 “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (emphasis added).

 

In Pauline salutations grammatically bespeaks the distinction of the Father and the Son. In Paul’s consciousness, the “grace” and “peace” flows equally from ( apo) both the Father and Son.

 

 

*NOTE: For more discussion on the ontological distinctions between the Persons of the Trinity see our section on Oneness theology. 

 

CONCLUSION: Therefore, all three Persons SHARE the nature of the ONE BEING: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is not three Gods (i.e., tritheism) nor is Jesus his own Father (i.e., Modalism) they are DISTINCT ("the Word was WITH God" John 1:1). 

 



RE-CAP


PREMISE ONE: There exists ONE true GOD by nature.

PREMISE TWO: Scripture presents the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as God.

PREMISE THREE: The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct Persons or Selves,  cognizant of each other. As well as existing in a loving fellowship with each other--even before time (cf. John 17:5). 


CONCLUSION: The biblical data is clear: the three distinct Persons or Selves all share the nature of the ONE ETERNAL GOD. 

    By rejecting the God of the Bible, the JWs believe in a God that does not exist. Only the true God of Scripture exists. The Watchtower god cannot save anyone, it does not exist. They hold to a unitarian God (one Person) whereby rejecting the Triune God biblical revelation. 

We need to pray that God will open their hearts and minds so they can understand who God is and the real Jesus Christ. Only He can provide salvation.

    The doctrine of the Trinity did not originate at a fourth century council nor did it emerge from the Catholic Church. God reveals His nature (that He is a tri-personal Being) in the clear teaching of Scripture. We use the word "Trinity" to communicate the biblical data that is revealed in Scripture. If we allow the text to simply read for itself, then, we will not hold to prior theological commitments and unbiblical conclusions. We have God's Word, we our responsible for ascertaining the truth of the true God; there is no excuse:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth (Isa. 40:28).

    

Jesus was clear: 

"Unless you believe that I AM [egō eimi] you will die in your sins" (John 8:24).

 

See my article: Objection to the Doctrine of the Trinity, wherein JWs desperately try to refute the doctrine. However as you will see along with Oneness Pentecostals, the JWs use the worst possible method of interpretation whereby torturing the text, coupled with philosophical assertions and logical fallacies. And like most all anti-Trinitarians they misrepresent and flat-out misquote church Fathers and Christian theologians.           

 

 

Personal Loving Fellowship between the Persons of the Trinity

 

“If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another [allos] who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true” (John 5:31-32; cf. 3:35; 10:17; 14:31).

 

Notes

1, Frequently, the objection that is most forwarded, mainly from those who reject the Trinity, is pertaining to the word "Person." In defining the Trinity, the church Fathers would use "Persons" (not "people") in a less individualistic way, as we would use the term today. The churches in the West utilized persona (Latin) and the churches in the East- hupostasis (Greek). Reformation leader John Calvin put it this way: "By Person then, I mean a subsistence in the Divine essence...."

However, the usual analogy employed by the early church to illustrate the Trinity was the "psychological model- within the one body there exists an intellect, a heart and a will (e.g., St. Augustine). The word "Person" is used because the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit possess personal attributes. Furthermore, personal pronouns are applied to them throughout Scripture. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are intellectual, emotional, self-aware subjects that have a loving, intimate, eternal relationship with (Gk. pros; as in John 1:1) each other.

2, Scripture is clear: there is only ONE TRUE GOD thus all other things called "God" are false Gods or by nature are not God (Gal. 4:8) as with angels (cf. Ps. 8:5 with Heb. 2:7). Jesus is called "a god" (in the NWT, John 1:1) and He is called "the God" in John 20:28; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1 (see the Watchtowers own Greek text: KIT). In light of this fact, the question to ask the JWs is: "Is Jesus a true God or a false God?" Either answer will be disastrous to their teachings.

3, A point that is often missed by the JWs is that Thomas addressed Jesus as, "the God" ( ho theos). Most JWs misguidedly say that only Jehovah is called "the God." But as seen above, along with John 20:28, "ho theos" is also applied to Jesus at Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:12 and Heb. 1:8 see the JWs own Greek text: Kingdom Interlinear Translation where they correctly translated these passages.

4, In Philippians 2:6 (NASB) the word translated "existed" (huparchōn) is a present tense participle that carries the meaning of continued existence. Jesus was always existing in the "form" (morphē) of God or as the NIV translates: "Who, being in very nature God." Jesus Christ is said to be the CREATOR of ALL THINGS and not just a part of creation as the JWs confidently assert (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:2, 10).

5, However the JWs do believe that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct they reject though, that they are of the same substance: GOD (see Heb. 1:3, where Jesus is said to be the "exact representation" of God's substance or nature: charaktēr tes hypostaseōs).

 

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