Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (God the Holy Spirit: Deity and Triunity)



The deity and triunity of the Holy Spirit have occasionally been called into question but not frequently. When this has occurred, it is because the content of Scripture has been disregarded, either due to human logic wrongly supplanting God’s impeccable revelation in the Bible or due to plain, unvarnished unbelief. What follows unfolds significant evidence supporting the Holy Spirit’s deity and the triunity of the Godhead.



In Acts 5, Peter confronts Ananias, saying, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” (5:3). He then indicts Ananias: “You have not lied to man but to God” (5:4). In so doing, the apostle equates a lie to the Holy Spirit with a lie to God. Thus, he identifies the Holy Spirit as God.

The words of Yahweh in the Old Testament are at times attributed to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. Thus, the Holy Spirit, like Yahweh, is God. Compare Psalm 95:8–11 with Hebrews 3:7–11; Isaiah 6:8–10 with Acts 28:25–27; and Jeremiah 31:33–34 with Hebrews 10:15–17.

Christians are said to serve as the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19) because the Holy Spirit is God and dwells in them individually (Rom. 8:9, 11; 2 Tim. 1:14). Just as God’s glory dwelt within the Most Holy Place during Old Testament times, so God’s Spirit now dwells in true believers.

God’s work in forming the church, the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:18, 24, 28), is also attributed to the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11). Because this is described as God’s work, the deity of the Holy Spirit is thus confirmed again.

In one of the most unforgettable moments of Christ’s ministry on earth, he said, “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29; see Matt. 12:31–32; Luke 12:10). This passage again demonstrates the deity of the Holy Spirit, since only God can be blasphemed.


See “The Holy Spirit and the Father” and “The Holy Spirit and the Son” under “Names and Titles” (p. 335). For our purposes here, the Holy Spirit’s names are related to both God the Father and God the Son since the Holy Spirit possesses the same divine essence as the Father and the Son.


The Holy Spirit possesses the perfections of God, that is, the incommunicable attributes of deity. These qualities are unique to God in kind and extent. Such divine characteristics certify that the Holy Spirit is indeed God:

       1.    Eternality (Heb. 9:14)

       2.    Glory (1 Pet. 4:14; cf. Isa. 42:8; 48:11)

       3.    Holiness (Ps. 51:11; Isa. 63:10–11; Matt. 1:18; Rom. 1:4)

       4.    Omnipotence (Gen. 1:1–2; Luke 1:35; Rom. 1:4)

       5.    Omnipresence (Ps. 139:7–10; cf. Jer. 23:24)

       6.    Omniscience (Isa. 40:13; 1 Cor. 2:10–11)

       7.    Truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13)


Only God can be engaged in the following divine activities. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is God and works in perfect harmony and unity with God the Father and God the Son:

       1.    Creation (Gen. 1:2; Job 26:13; 33:4)

       2.    Help/comfort (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7)

       3.    Inspiration (2 Pet. 1:20–21)

       4.    Intercession (Rom. 8:26–27; cf. Eph. 6:18; Jude 20) 5. Miracles (Matt. 12:28; 1 Cor. 12:9, 11)

       6.    Regeneration (John 3:5–8; Titus 3:5)

       7.    Resurrection (Rom. 8:11)

       8.    Sanctification (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2)


Several passages in Scripture clearly associate the Holy Spirit with deity:

       1.    Matthew 28:19: Jesus’s baptismal instructions here unite Father, Son, and Spirit together as equal participants in the salvation of a believer, which baptism by immersion represents.

       2.    John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7: In these passages, Jesus refers to the Spirit of truth, whom he will ask the Father to send as “another Helper.” The Greek term for “another,” allos, means “another of the same kind,” that is, another member of the triune Godhead. Jesus does this so that the disciples will not be orphaned when Christ ascends to heaven (Acts 1:9). Four times in the Gospel of John (14:16, 26; 15:26 [2×]) Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are associated together as equals.

       3.    1 Corinthians 2:10–13: This passage shows that the Father and Holy Spirit complement one another equally in the revelation, illumination, and interpretation of God’s Word.

       4.    2 Corinthians 13:14: All three members of the Godhead are mentioned and set on equal footing in this Pauline Trinitarian benediction.

       5.    Revelation 1:4–5: This Johannine Trinitarian invocation links the Father, the Spirit, and the Son together as coequals.


The most serious historical heresies regarding the Holy Spirit fall into two categories: (1) the denial that the Holy Spirit was a person, and (2) the denial that the Holy Spirit was eternal God, which was consequently a denial of God’s triunity.

Sabellianism. This blasphemous heresy dating to the late second or early third century proposed that there was one God in three manifestations, modes, names, or roles. It affirmed the one person of God but denied the personhood of Christ and the Holy Spirit, thus denying the triunity of God.

Sabellianism, also known as Modalism, taught that the Father is also the Son and also the Holy Spirit depending on what mode or role God is assuming at any one moment in time. It has also at times been called Monarchianism because it attempted to “protect the one God,” albeit at the unacceptable expense of God’s triunity. One version was even called Patripassianism (“the Father suffered”) because, allegedly, when the Father assumed the mode/role of the Son, he was crucified. Some taught that this one God took on successive roles: first as the Father in creation, then as the Son in redemption, and ultimately as the Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification.

These false teachers sought to protect the doctrine of one God from the false accusation that they were teaching three gods, or polytheism. Unwittingly, this attempt to protect monotheism resulted in an equally egregious error of denying the persons of Christ and the Holy Spirit. In so doing, it rejected God’s triunity. The true biblical doctrine of the triune Godhead affirms that there is one God (not three) in three persons (not one) who are coexistent, coeternal, and coequal. The erroneous view of Sabellianism continues in a modified form in the modern Unitarian movement.

Arianism. This early to mid-fourth-century heresy taught that the one God created Christ in eternity past, who in turn created the Holy Spirit. While this false teaching affirmed the personhood of both Christ and the Holy Spirit (unlike Sabellianism), it denied their deity and consequently God’s triunity. Like Sabellianism, Arianism taught that the Godhead consisted of one person with the essence of deity. This false doctrine was confronted at the Council of Nicaea (AD 325) and the Council of Constantinople (AD 381).

Socinianism. This sixteenth-century aberration affirmed the personhood of Christ while denying his deity. It also denied the Holy Spirit’s personhood and thus the Holy Spirit’s deity and resultantly God’s triunity. Various modern Unitarian movements affirm much of Socinianism.

Table 5.2 summarizes key elements of these three major historical attacks on the deity of the Holy Spirit and the triunity of God. Analyzing the chart results in the following summary statements:

       1.    All three views affirmed the personhood of God the Father.

       2.    Only Sabellianism denied the personhood of Christ.

       3.    Only Arianism affirmed the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

       4.    All three views affirmed the deity of God the Father.

       5.    All three views denied the triunity of God.


God’s triunity (Trinitarianism) stands unarguably as a sine qua non, or an indispensable fact, of Christianity. It has been, is, and forever will be an indisputable bedrock belief of the Christian faith.

Table 5.2 Historical Attacks on the Trinity and the Holy Spirit

      Sabellianism  Arianism  Socinianism  
Person  Father  Affirmed  Affirmed  Affirmed  
Son  Denied  Affirmed  Affirmed  
Holy Spirit  Denied  Affirmed  Denied  
Deity  Father  Affirmed  Affirmed  Affirmed  
Son  Affirmed  Denied  Denied  
Holy Spirit  Affirmed  Denied  Denied  
Triunity  Denied  Denied  Denied  

The Master’s Seminary doctrinal statement succinctly summarizes this precious truth thus: “We teach that there is but one living and true God (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 45:5–7; 1 Cor. 8:4), an infinite, all-knowing Spirit (John 4:24), perfect in all His attributes, one in essence, eternally existing in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14)—each equally deserving worship and obedience.” So there is one God in three persons, who are distinct from one another yet inseparably one in essence and who are coexistent, coeternal, and coequal.

While God’s triunity appears implicitly and explicitly throughout the Bible, no one text declares or explains the fullness associated with the incomprehensible triune God (Isa. 40:28). However, the plethora of evidence in both the Old and New Testaments, plus the writings of the early church, make this an overwhelmingly undeniable tenet of biblical orthodoxy.

Starting in the Old Testament, one immediately encounters Genesis 1:26 and 3:22 (cf. Gen. 11:5–7), where God uses the plural pronoun “us” in reference to himself:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Gen. 1:26)

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand, and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. (Gen. 3:22–23)

The same use of “us” also appears in Isaiah 6:8: “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me.’ ”

But how can one be three? Deuteronomy 6:4 hints at the answer: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” The Hebrew word translated “one” here (’ehad), frequently communicates the idea of unity in diversity. For instance, see Genesis 1:5 (one day in two parts—evening and morning); Genesis 2:24 (one couple in two partners—male and female); Exodus 24:3 (one voice in many people); Exodus 26:6 (one tabernacle in multiple parts); and Numbers 13:23 (one cluster in many grapes). So it is no surprise to see God revealing an allusion to one God in three persons in the last book of the Pentateuch.

With even greater specificity, Isaiah writes of three persons when referring to the one God of Israel: “the Lord God,” “me” (i.e., Christ), and “his Spirit” (Isa. 48:16). Isaiah 61:1 similarly says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,” that is, Christ, and in fact, Christ interpreted this text in just such a manner in Luke 4:18–19.

In the progress of God’s written revelation, the New Testament evidence becomes more direct and frequent in showing that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of the same divine essence and are coequal, one God in three persons expressing unity in diversity. All three appear together in numerous New Testament texts:

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:16–17)

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:19)

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. (John 15:26; cf. 14:16, 26; 16:7–10, 14–15)

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom. 8:11)

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. (Rom. 15:30)

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

For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb. 9:13–14)

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. (1 John 4:2)

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (Jude 20–21)

The additional like-minded New Testament texts listed below eliminate any doubt as to the triunity of God, with the Holy Spirit being the third member:

Acts 2:33

Romans 5:5–6

Romans 8:3–4

Romans 8:8–9

Romans 8:15–17

Romans 8:26–29

Romans 15:16

1 Corinthians 2:2–5

1 Corinthians 6:11

2 Corinthians 1:21–22

Galatians 3:1–5

Ephesians 2:19–22

Ephesians 3:16–19

Ephesians 4:4–6

Ephesians 5:18–20

Philippians 3:3

1 Thessalonians 1:3–5

2 Thessalonians 2:13–14

Titus 3:4–6

Hebrews 10:29–31

1 Peter 1:2

1 Peter 4:14

The magnum opus of Trinitarian passages comes in Ephesians 1:3–14, which speaks of each person’s involvement in the salvation of believers:

•     God the Father: 1:3–6

•     God the Son: 1:7–12

•     God the Holy Spirit: 1:13–14

Actually, and not unexpectedly, the three members of the single Godhead appear by allusion or direct mention at the beginning and end of both the Old and New Testaments, from Genesis to Malachi and Matthew to Revelation, as illustrated in table 5.3.

As time passed beyond the completed canon of Scripture and the apostles, the early church fathers began to write about the Trinity in more detail. Note these three examples:

Irenaeus (ca. AD 120–202):

And this is the drawing-up of our faith, the foundation of the building, and the consolidation of a way of life. God, the Father, uncreated, beyond grasp, invisible, one God the maker of all; this is the first and foremost article of our faith. But the second article is the Word of God, the Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, who was shown forth by the prophets according to the design of their prophecy and according to the manner in which the Father disposed; and through Him were made all things whatsoever. He also, in the end of times, for the recapitulation of all things, is become a man among men, visible and tangible, in order to abolish death and bring to light life, and bring about the communion of God and man. And the third article is the Holy Spirit, through whom the prophets prophesied and the patriarchs were taught about God and the just were led in the path of justice, and who in the end of times has been poured forth in a new manner upon humanity over all the earth renewing man to God.

Table 5.3 Trinitarian References at Testament Bookends

Book  Passage  Allusion/Mention  
Genesis  1:26  “us”  
Malachi  2:15  Holy Spirit  
2:16  Father  
3:1–2  Christ  
Matthew  1:18  Christ  
1:18  Holy Spirit  
1:22  Father  
Revelation  22:17  Holy Spirit  
22:18–19  Father  
22:20–21  Christ  

Gregory of Nazianzus (ca. AD 330–ca. 389):

The Son is not Father; … yet he is whatever the Father is. The Spirit is not Son.… Yet whatever the Son is, he is. The three are a single whole in their Godhead and the single whole is three in personalities.

Augustine (AD 354–430):

Whatever … is spoken of God in respect to himself, is both spoken singly of each person, that is, of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and together of the Trinity itself, not plurally but in the singular.

Not only were men writing as individuals, but also groups began to compose creedal statements. Several of the more important early ones include the following:

The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed (ca. AD 381):

We believe in one God the Father Almighty.… And in one Lord Jesus Christ, … very God of very God.… And in the Holy Ghost, … who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified.

The (Pseudo) Athanasian Creed (ca. AD 375–525):

And the Catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

Neither confounding the Persons: nor dividing the Substance [Essence].

For there is one Person of the Father: another of the Son: and another of the Holy Ghost.

But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one: the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.

Since the time of the Athanasian Creed, theologians have observed that at least seven lines of thought can be developed from the entire section (paragraphs 3–28):

       1.    The Father is God.

       2.    The Son is God.

       3.    The Holy Spirit is God.

       4.    The Father is not the Son.

       5.    The Father is not the Holy Spirit.

       6.    The Son is not the Holy Spirit.

       7.    There is exactly one God.

These seven truths, when summarized, teach that there is one living and true God, one in essence and eternally existing in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There can be no other conclusion reached, biblically or logically.[1]

[1] MacArthur, J., & Mayhue, R., eds. (2017). Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (pp. 341–349). Crossway.