This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.
All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.
1. John 1:1–5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Read More
In the beginning was the Word echoes the opening phrase of the book of Genesis, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” John will soon identify this Word as Jesus (John 1:14), but here he locates Jesus’ existence in eternity past with God. The term “the Word” (Gk. Logos) conveys the notion of divine self-expression or speech and has a rich OT background. God’s Word is effective: God speaks, and things come into being (Gen. 1:3, 9; Ps. 33:6; 107:20; Isa. 55:10–11), and by speech he relates personally to his people (e.g., Gen. 15:1). John also shows how this concept of “the Word” is superior to a Greek philosophical concept of “Word” (logos) as an impersonal principle of Reason that gave order to the universe. And the Word was with God indicates interpersonal relationship “with” God, but then and the Word was God affirms that this Word was also the same God who created the universe “in the beginning.” Here are the building blocks that go into the doctrine of the Trinity: the one true God consists of more than one person, they relate to each other, and they have always existed. From the Patristic period (Arius, c. A.D. 256–336) until the present day (Jehovah’s Witnesses), some have claimed that “the Word was God” merely identifies Jesus as a god rather than identifying Jesus as God, because the Greek word for God, Theos, is not preceded by a definite article. However, in Greek grammar, Colwell’s Rule indicates that the translation “a god” is not required, for lack of an article does not necessarily indicate indefiniteness (“a god”) but rather specifies that a given term (“God”) is the predicate nominative of a definite subject (“the Word”). This means that the context must determine the meaning of Theos here, and the context clearly indicates that this “God” that John is talking about (“the Word”) is the one true God who created all things (see also John 1:6, John 1:12, John 1:13, John 1:18 for other examples of Theos without a definite article but clearly meaning “God”).
All things includes the whole universe, indicating that (except for God) everything that exists was created and that (except for God) nothing has existed eternally. Made through him follows the consistent pattern of Scripture in saying that God the Father carried out his creative works through the activity of the Son (cf. 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). This verse disproves any suggestion that the Word (or the Son, John 1:14) was created, for the Father would have had to do this by himself, and John says that nothing was created that way, for without him was not any thing made that was made.
2. John 10:30
“I and the Father are one.” Read More
Jesus’ claim that I and the Father are one (i.e., one entity—the Gk. is neuter; cf. John 5:17–18; John 10:33–38) echoes the Shema, the basic confession of Judaism, whose first word in Deut. 6:4 is shema‘ (Hb. “hear”). Jesus’ words thus amount to a claim to deity. Hence, the Jews pick up stones to put him to death. Jesus’ unity with the Father is later said to constitute the basis on which Jesus’ followers are to be unified (John 17:22). As in 1:1, here again the basic building blocks of the doctrine of the Trinity emerge: “I and the Father” implies more than one person in the Godhead, but “are one” implies that God is one being.
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3. Genesis 1:26
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.” Read More
Let us make man in our image. The text does not specify the identity of the “us” mentioned here. Some have suggested that God may be addressing the members of his court, whom the OT elsewhere calls “sons of God” (e.g., Job 1:6) and the NT calls “angels,” but a significant objection is that man is not made in the image of angels, nor is there any indication that angels participated in the creation of human beings. Many Christians and some Jews have taken “us” to be God speaking to himself, since God alone does the making in Gen. 1:27 (cf. Gen. 5:1); this would be the first hint of the Trinity in the Bible (cf. Gen. 1:2).
4. Matthew 28:18–20
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Read More
The imperative (make disciples, that is, call individuals to commit to Jesus as Master and Lord) explains the central focus of the Great Commission, while the Greek participles (translated go, baptizing, and “teaching” [Matt. 28:20]) describe aspects of the process. all nations. Jesus’ ministry in Israel was to be the beginning point of what would later be a proclamation of the gospel to all the peoples of the earth, including not only Jews but also Gentiles. The name (singular, not plural) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is an early indication of the Trinitarian Godhead and an overt proclamation of Jesus’ deity.
5. 2 Corinthians 13:14
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Read More
The only Trinitarian benediction in Paul’s letters, stressing that grace, love, and fellowship with one another come from God in Christ through the Spirit. Paul’s final reference to the Spirit recalls that he is writing and praying as a minister of the new covenant (see 2 Cor. 1:22; 2 Cor. 3:3–18; 2 Cor. 4:13–18; 2 Cor. 5:5). you all. A final stress on the unity of the reconciled church, brought about by God himself, the furthering of which was one of the main goals of Paul’s letter (2 Cor. 1:7; 2:5–11; 2 Cor. 5:18–6:2; 2 Cor. 6:11–13; 2 Cor. 7:2–4; 2 Cor. 9:13–14; 2 Cor. 12:19; 2 Cor. 13:5–10).
6. Deuteronomy 6:4
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Read More
Hear, O Israel. This verse is called the Shema from the Hebrew word for “Hear.” The LORD our God, the LORD is one. The Lord alone is Israel’s God, “the only one.” It is a statement of exclusivity, not of the internal unity of God. This point arises from the argument of ch. 4 and the first commandment. While Deuteronomy does not argue theoretically for monotheism, it requires Israel to observe a practical monotheism (Deut. 4:35). This stands in sharp contrast to the polytheistic Canaanites.
7. Hebrews 1:1–4
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. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Read More
Four points of contrast occur between Heb. 1:1 and 2: time of revelation (“long ago” vs. these last days); agent of revelation (“prophets” vs. Son); recipients of revelation (“fathers” vs. us); and, implicitly, the unity of the final revelation in the Son (cf. the “many times and in many ways” in Heb. 1:1, implying, by contrast, that this last revelation came at one time, in one way, in and through God’s Son). Since God has spoken finally and fully in the Son, and since the NT fully reports and interprets this supreme revelation once the NT is written, the canon of Scripture is complete. No new books are needed to explain what God has done through his Son. Now believers await his second coming (Heb. 9:28) and the city to come (Heb. 13:14). Jesus is heir of all things (i.e., what he “inherits” from his Father is all creation) by virtue of his dignity as Son (Heb. 1:4). The preexistence, authority, power, and full deity of the Son are evident in his role in creating the world; cf. John 1:3, 10; Col. 1:16.
8. Matthew 3:16–17
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.” Read More
The Spirit of God anoints Jesus as Israel’s King and Messiah and commissions him as God’s righteous “servant” (cf. Isa. 42:1).
The voice from heaven confirms the eternally existing relationship of divine love that the Son and Father share as well as Jesus’ identity as the messianic Son of God (Ps. 2:7). This beloved Son is the triumphant messianic King, yet he is also the humble “servant” into whose hands the Father is well pleased to place the mission to bring salvation to the nations (Isa. 42:1–4).
9. John 14:10
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Read More
I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Though there is a complete mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son, the Father and the Son remain distinct persons within the Trinity, as does the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14), and the three of them still constitute only one Being in three persons.
10. 2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Read More
the Lord is the Spirit. Different explanations have been offered for this difficult and compressed statement: Paul may be saying that Christ and the Spirit function together in the Christian’s experience—i.e., that the Lord (Christ) comes to us through the ministry of the Spirit (though they are still two distinct persons). Another view (based on the reference in v. 16 to Ex. 34:34, “Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him”) is that the “Lord” here refers to Yahweh (“the LORD”) in the OT (that is, God in his whole being without specifying Father, Son, or Spirit). In this case, Paul is saying that Yahweh in the OT is not just Father and Son, he is also Spirit. In either case, Paul’s primary point seems to be that the Christian’s experience of the ministry of the Spirit under the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:3–8) is parallel to Moses’ experience of the Lord under the old covenant—i.e., that the Spirit (under the new covenant) sets one free from the veil of hard-heartedness (vv. 12–15). Paul regularly distinguishes Christ from the Holy Spirit in his writings, and that is surely the case even here, since later in this verse he speaks of the Spirit of the Lord. Moreover, it should not be supposed that Paul is teaching that any of the members of the Trinity (the Father, the Son, or the Spirit) are the same person, which would be the heresy of modalism; instead Paul is stressing the gracious unity of purpose among the three persons of the Trinity. There is freedom, though unspecified in the context, most likely refers to the many kinds of freedom that come with salvation in Christ and with the presence of the Holy Spirit: that is, freedom from condemnation, guilt, sin, death, the old covenant, and blindness to the gospel, as well as freedom that gives access to the loving presence of God.
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