Is it true that there are New Testament passages that refute the Christian doctrine of the Trinity? Let’s find out.
Yes, there are many. An examination of the purported words of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels, clearly shows that he never said he was God or a part of God. Jesus spoke of his Father in heaven as his God (John 20:17), to whom he attributed superior authority, knowledge, and greatness (Matthew 20:23, Mark 13:32, John 14:28).
Jesus certainly was not equal to God, for he admitted freely that there were things that neither he nor the angels knew, but only God knew: “But of that day or the hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32). Furthermore, when experiencing difficulty, he displayed submission to God and prayed for help: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Are these quotations from the Gospels consistent with the trinitarian claim that Jesus is in fact one in substance and power with God?
These verses are not random samplings. They are representative of the Gospels’ teaching concerning Jesus’ relationship with God. Let us look at other Gospel verses that are purported to be the words of Jesus.
In Matthew 12:31-32 it is stated: “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age nor in that to come.” Hence, we may reasonably presume that Jesus, if he is to be equated with the “Son of Man” (John 8:28), is not of equal status with the “Holy Spirit” (supposedly the third member of the triune god of Christianity).
In Matthew 20:20-23, the mother of the sons of Zebedee requests of Jesus that her sons be given prominent positions to the right and left of him in his kingdom. Jesus explains to her that such decisions are not made by him, but by the Father: “. . . this is not mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
Does this statement illustrate equality within the Trinity?
In Matthew 24:35-36 (see also Mark 13:32) it is declared: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” Do the various parts of the Trinity keep secrets from each other? How can the Father and Son be of one essence if the Father knows things of which the Son is ignorant?
Similarly, when asked if he would “at this time” restore the kingdom of Israel (Acts 1:6) Jesus replied: “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has placed in His own jurisdiction” (Acts 1:7). Are we to conclude that the “equal” partners of the triune godhead have powers and knowledge, which they do not share with each other?
Luke 2:52 says: “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and in physical growth, and in favor with God and men.” Do the members of the Trinity have likes and dislikes about each other? Did Jesus, the perfect god-man, need to increase in favor with God, or shall we say two-thirds of God?
In the Gospel of John, Jesus acknowledges: “I can do nothing on my own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of Him who sent me” (John 5:30; see also John 6:38). Are some members of the coequal Trinity subservient, and less than equal, to other members? Even though they have different wills (“I do not seek my own will”), do they obey without Question the others’ commands (“the will of Him who sent me“)? John’s Jesus admits to subordinating his own distinct will, yet according to the trinitarian doctrine they should all have the same will. Should one of the triune partners have to forgo his own will in favor of the will of another member of the Trinity? Should not they all have the exact same will?
In John 8:28-29 Jesus says: “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, because I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” Do the members of the Trinity have varying knowledge, which they dispense to their other parts when the latter behave properly?
John 14:28 quotes Jesus as saying: “. . . I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am.” Is this coequality within the Trinity?
In John 14:31 Jesus says: “As the Father gave me command, even so I do.” Are we to presume that the Son has no authority without the consent of the Father?
In John 20:17, John’s Jesus recognizes that he is not the equal second partner of a triune god when he says to Mary Magdalene: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.”
Other New Testament passages also indicate that Jesus and God are not equal members of a triune god.
According to Hebrews 5:8, the perfect god-man “learned obedience from the things which he suffered.” Why did Jesus have to learn to be obedient if he is God? Whom does he have to obey? Do the equal members of the Trinity exercise authority, one over the other?
Even Paul states: “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:3). “You belong to Christ,” Paul claims, but he goes on to say “Christ belongs to God” (1 Corinthians 3:23). As man is subservient to Christ, and woman to man, so Christ is subservient to God. One who is subservient to another cannot be equal to that individual.
All indications are that the doctrine of the Trinity is not taught in the New Testament.