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A followup to the various answers provided to this question:

The specific concept of 'trinity' isn't specifically spelled out in the Bible. Instead, we have deduced from various scripture verses that there are three distinct persons contained within the Godhead.

Do we know there are only three persons in the Godhead? Perhaps there are others that are not revealed specifically through scripture, or perhaps we attribute multiple "persons" to a single concept of Father or Holy Spirit?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Our biggest clue is from this scripture:

Matthew 28:19 (NIV)

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Beyond that, I know of no other verses that limit the Godhead to three persons.

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Unsubjective-Side-note: Even this verse doesn't limit it to 3 persons, it just supports a "3-person" triunity. –  Albert Renshaw Apr 17 '13 at 3:52

We are baptized into the name of 1) the Father, 2) the Son, and 3) the Holy Spirit.

God's revelation of Himself was progressive. After Genesis 1 was written, that was not the complete revelation of God to man. There was more to reveal. The "mystery" was revealed in Christ.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Hebrews 1:1-2

So, after God the Son Himself came to earth and revealed God to us, it would seem that this revelation is complete. What greater thing could God do to reveal Himself than to come to us Himself?

So, while the Bible does not explicitly say "Three in One", it does reveal God as such.

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Based off of this question:

  • We know that there is only one God.
  • We know that Jesus was the visible image of God in all of the Fathers fullness.
  • We know that the Holy Spirit is also God.
  • We know that we are all like Jesus, in that the Holy Spirit dwells within (some of) us.

Scripture makes no mention of any other part of the Godhead other than the four premises above. I cannot see how anybody would accept that we are any significant portion of that Godhead.

I would say that we do know there are only three persons in the trinity.

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Could you please add scriptural references? –  Richard Sep 9 '11 at 19:06
I wasn't meaning to imply that humans, or angels, or any other created being, might be part of the Godhead. I'm wondering if we have reason to think that if the Bible doesn't mention a 4th person in the Godhead, that it means such 4th person cannot exist. Maybe there's scripture that says this, but I can't think of it off the top of my head. –  Flimzy Sep 9 '11 at 19:08
Your bold conclusion doesn't match the title of the question. Spell it out, "no" is confusing. –  Caleb Sep 10 '11 at 5:35

Covenant Theology

Redemption, as seen through the framework of Covenant Theology, requires at least two Persons. As Paul puts it:

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.—1st Timothy 2:5-6 (ESV)

The Third Person is necessary to transmit the benefit of Christ's ransom to the world:

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
    vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
    believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

—1st Timothy 3:16 (ESV)

Jonathan Edwards' Economic Trinity

Jonathan Edwards theory of the Immanent Trinity characterizes the Spirit as the very love between the Father and the Son. He transferred this idea to the Economic Trinity. He writes:

So that in this verse [1st Corinthians 1: 30] is shown our dependence on each person in the Trinity for all our good. We are dependent on Christ the Son of God, as he is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. We are dependent on the Father, who has given us Christ, and made him to be these things to us. We are dependent on the Holy Ghost, for it is of him that we are in Christ Jesus; it is the Spirit of God that gives faith in him, whereby we receive him, and close with him.

And later:

The saints have both their spiritual excellency and blessedness by the gift of the Holy Ghost, and his dwelling in them. They are not only caused by the Holy Ghost, but are in him as their principle. The Holy Spirit becoming an inhabitant, is a vital principle in the soul. He, acting in, upon, and with the soul, becomes a fountain of true holiness and joy, as a spring is of water, by the exertion and diffusion of itself.

There are three roles1 in the act of redemption that the Trinity fills:

  1. The Father: The giver of benefit.

  2. The Son: The purchaser of benefit.

  3. The Spirit: The benefit purchased.

Edwards finds support for this construction (among other places) in Paul:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him2 are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. —Romans 11:33-36 (ESV)


We depend on there being three persons in the Trinity to have equal honor in the task of redemption:

And each person of the Trinity is equally glorified in this work: there is an absolute dependence of the creature on every one for all: all is of the Father, all through the Son, and all in the Holy Ghost. Thus God appears in the work of redemption as all in all. It is fit that he who is, and there is none else, should be the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the all and the only, in this work.—Jonathan Edwards, "God Glorified in Man's Dependence"


  1. I'm grateful to Richard M. Weber's paper "The Trinitarian Theology Of Jonathan Edwards: An Investigation Of Charges Against Its Orthodoxy" [PDF] for this way of expressing the roles.

  2. Edwards translated the preposition in him. I've asked a question on whether Edwards' translation is supportable here.

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But does any of this preclude the option of a fourth (or fifth, or Nth) "silent partner" in the godhead? –  Flimzy May 7 '13 at 21:21
@Flimzy: The idea is that functionally there are three roles, so adding another person would mean they would have nothing to do, which seems wrong. I probably need to make the points more clearly in the answer: 1) there are three roles in the process of redemption, 2) the Trinity fills those roles already, and 3) no new roles are possible. –  Jon Ericson May 7 '13 at 21:33
My question is really about your point #3. Why are no other roles possible, and why is no third person/silent partner possible? "They would have nothing to do, which seems wrong" isn't sufficient without some Biblical evidence. :) –  Flimzy May 7 '13 at 21:55
@Flimzy: Thanks for the feedback. I'll noodle on it some more. –  Jon Ericson May 7 '13 at 21:56

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