Teaching: Do You Have to Believe in the Trinity to be Saved? Part Two

Every Sunday I provide videos and valuable links to the Truth or Tradition teachings. We’ve been following the Truth or Tradition teachings for many years now and they have truly blessed our family. We have found peace and happiness through our beliefs and we walk confidently for God. My hope, by passing on this information to you, is that what you find here, or on the Truth or Tradition website, will guide you to a better, more blessed and abundant life.

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Read part one here.

The Book of Acts

What follows are summations of teachings in the book of Acts when believers preached the Word of God in order to get people saved. Almost every record listed below includes something that a speaker actually said to convince the audience about Jesus. If a record in Acts simply notes that someone such as Paul taught, but it does not record what he said, or if the purpose of the conversation was not about getting someone saved, the record is not included in the list below. Each will show that there was no presentation of the Trinity, or that believing it was necessary for salvation.

Acts 2:14-36. Peter spoke to the crowd of unsaved Jews in the Temple on the Day of Pentecost, just 50 days after Jesus was crucified. These Jews did not live in Israel, but had come to Jerusalem from the far reaches of the Roman Empire, including Parthia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Libya, Rome, Crete, Arabia, and parts of what today is the nation of Turkey (Acts 2:9-11). They had not heard Jesus or the Apostles teach. All they knew about the Messiah was from the Old Testament and traditions about him, none of which included the doctrine of the Trinity or Jesus being God. Thus it is fair to conclude that if they needed to believe in the Trinity to be saved, someone would have to teach them about it. On Pentecost, however, Peter presented Jesus as a “man approved of God” who was crucified and whom God raised from the dead, much of which he backed up by quoting the Old Testament. Peter never mentioned the Trinity or Jesus being God, yet about three thousand people got saved that day. This is conclusive evidence that on the Day of Pentecost, the start of the Christian Church, a person did not have to believe in the Trinity to be saved.

Acts 3:12-26. Peter spoke to a crowd that had gathered in the Temple because a lame man had been miraculously healed. This crowd gathered inside the Temple, so they would have been Jews or interested Gentiles who were not saved. That means that they had either not heard, or had rejected, earlier presentations about Jesus being the Messiah, including the one taught close to the very spot where they were standing on the Day of Pentecost. [7] Peter taught these unsaved men and women that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob glorified “His servant Jesus.” He further taught that Jesus had died and God had raised him from the dead. He also quoted Deuteronomy 18:15, that Christ was to be “a prophet like me [Moses].” There was nothing in Peter’s teaching about the Trinity or Jesus being God, and yet so many people were saved that the number of Christians in Jerusalem grew to 5,000 men, not counting the women and children (Acts 4:4).

Acts 4:8-12. Peter spoke to the Jewish rulers and elders, and taught that although they had crucified Jesus of Nazareth, God raised Him from the dead. He did not make any presentation of the Trinity or Jesus being God. These were mostly the same men who were at Jesus’ trials, and there is no record in Scripture that any of them believed what Peter said and got saved.

Acts 5:29-32. Peter and the Apostles were again brought before the Jewish rulers, and Peter again presented to them that although the Jews had killed Jesus, God had raised Him from the dead and set him at his right hand as “Prince and Savior” (Acts 5:31). Nothing Peter said referred to a Trinity of co-equal, co-eternal beings in a Godhead. The vocabulary of “God” raising up Jesus and setting him at His right hand fit exactly with what these leaders already believed about the Messiah from the Old Testament, because Peter spoke of two separate beings, a ruler (God) and His “right hand man” (Jesus), not one Being in three persons. This is confirmed by the fact that Jesus is then referred to as the “Prince,” not “God.” As when Peter was before the rulers earlier, there is no record that any of them got saved, but if they had believed Peter, they would have been saved without knowing anything of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Acts 7:2-53. Stephen made a presentation to the Jewish rulers, and gave a history of Israel. Like Peter had done (Acts 3:22), he quoted Deuteronomy 18:15 that the Messiah would be a prophet from among the people. He asserted that they had killed the “Righteous One,” and then spoke about the vision he had that Jesus was at the right hand of God, something the Jews would have clearly understood to mean that Jesus was now God’s second in command. Stephen was trying to win the Jews to the Christian faith, and he did so without mentioning the Trinity or that Jesus was God. Furthermore, no one in his audience would have ever thought that Jesus was “co-equal” to the Father when Stephen spoke of him being raised by God and now at God’s right hand.

Acts 8:30-39. Philip the Evangelist was told by an angel to meet, and speak with, a eunuch from Ethiopia, which he did. The Ethiopian was reading from the book of Isaiah, and Philip began there and told him the Good News about Jesus. The eunuch believed and was baptized with no hint that Philip tried to teach him about the Trinity or that Jesus was God. Actually, if you think about it, how could Philip have presented the Trinity? All the Ethiopian had were scriptures from the Old Testament. How would he have reacted if Philip had said, “Well, we know the Hebrew Scriptures present Jesus as a Messiah from the line of David, but actually he was God incarnate, 100% man and 100% God, and you have to believe that to be saved”? Because the Old Testament never said the Messiah would be a God-man, the eunuch would have dismissed Philip as being very misguided in contradicting the Scriptures. What we learn from the record of Philip and the eunuch is that the eunuch got saved without ever knowing about the Trinity.

Acts 9:3-6, 17 and 20. The Apostle Paul became a Christian when the Lord Jesus himself appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Paul was a trained Rabbi and was expecting the Messiah, but he had resisted the Christian teaching that Jesus was that Messiah. Meeting Jesus proved that Jesus was the Messiah he had been expecting, but there is nothing Jesus, or Ananias who prayed for Saul, said about the Trinity or Jesus being God, so there is no reason to believe Saul had to believe it to be saved. Furthermore, immediately after being saved, Paul went into the Synagogue and taught. Like all new converts, Saul would have been very enthusiastic about his new beliefs, but there is no mention that he mentioned the Trinity. Instead, he taught what he himself had just come to know, that Jesus was “the Son of God.”

Acts 10:34-43. At the house of Cornelius in Caesarea, Peter taught the Gentiles gathered there that Jesus died, but God raised him from the dead. He taught how God had anointed Jesus with holy spirit (there is no article “the” in the Greek text), made him Lord, and appointed him as Judge. He did not mention the Trinity or say that Jesus was God, but the Gentiles who listened to Peter were saved and filled with the power of holy spirit right in the middle of his teaching.

Acts 13:16-41. Paul spoke in a synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, a Roman province in what today is the country of Turkey. He addressed the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles who were gathered there, and taught a very effective salvation message. He gave a short history of the Jews, showing that Jesus, a descendant of David, was the Savior, crucified by the Jews, raised from the dead by God, and that he showed himself alive to many of his disciples who testify about him. He further taught that God now offers forgiveness of sins through him. Many people were saved. There is no mention that Paul taught any of the concepts of the modern Trinity, such as that Jesus was God, or incarnated, or co-equal with the Father, or that there was a “Person” referred to as “The Holy Spirit.”

Acts 15:1-29. In this record, a dispute arose between Paul and members of the Pharisees who claimed circumcision and observance of the Law was necessary for salvation. A council at Jerusalem was convened specifically for the purpose of discussing what was necessary for the Gentiles to be saved—Gentiles whose belief system had no conception of a Trinity. The decision of the council was to “…not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God” (15:19) and “…not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements” (15:28), which were to abstain from food offered to idols, blood, strangled animals, and sexual immorality. Neither the doctrine of the Trinity nor the divinity of Christ was mentioned as necessary for salvation.

Acts 16:30 and 31. Paul and Silas were put in jail in Philippi and were miraculously released when an earthquake hit the area. The jailor asked, “…Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” This is a very important question for this study, because if someone must believe in the Trinity to be saved, Paul should have said something about it. Instead, Paul responded, “…Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

Acts 17:1-4. In this record, Paul arrived in Thessalonica, went into the synagogue, and “…reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ…’” (Acts 17:2-4). Paul taught from the Scriptures, which in a synagogue at that time were only the Old Testament. Thus, Paul could not have mentioned anything about the Trinity, which, as we have seen, was not in the Old Testament. Instead, Paul showed that the Messiah had to suffer, die, and rise from the dead, all easily shown from the Old Testament, and then he made the case that Jesus was the Messiah. The result was that some of the Jews were won to the faith, along with a “large number” of Gentiles, including a number of the prominent women of the city. There was no mention of the Trinity, yet many were saved.

Acts 17:10-13. Paul and Silas traveled from Thessalonica to Berea, went into the Synagogue, and spoke to the Jews. This is a very important record for our study because it specifically states that the Jews of Berea were more noble than the Jews of Thessalonica because they searched their Scriptures, the Old Testament, to see if what Paul and Silas were saying was true. However, we have already seen that the Trinity is not in the Old Testament, so what the people of Berea would have seen was that Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecies and then believed he was the Messiah and gotten saved. They would not have seen in their Old Testament that Jesus was one Person in a Triune God.

Acts 17:22-31. Paul went to Athens and spoke to the Greeks. He taught the resurrection and lordship of Christ and said: “For he [God] has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed….” Paul said God proved His point by raising Christ from the dead. Paul’s short message was effective, because there were a few men who believed. They got saved without ever hearing anything about the Trinity.

Acts 18:1-5. Paul went to Corinth, and as in many other cities, went into the synagogue to speak about the Lord Jesus. Scripture is clear that Paul was “…testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18:5), and there is no mention that he taught the Trinity.

Acts 18:24-28. Apollos was an eloquent man who knew the Scriptures. He also had been given instruction by Aquila and Priscilla, who themselves had been personally taught by Paul. He helped the believers by publicly showing from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ, something he would have shown from the Old Testament. There is no mention of any aspect of the Trinity.

Acts 22:3-21. Paul spoke to a crowd at the Temple in Jerusalem. His testimony was cut short, but nothing he said even hinted at the doctrine of the Trinity. He spoke of “God” (not “the Father”) and the Righteous One (the Messiah), which would have agreed with what the Jews believed from the Old Testament, that there was one God, and His Messiah, not that the Messiah was somehow also God.

Acts 25:13-21. Governor Festus was speaking with King Agrippa. This is a very important record for our study, because neither of the two men was saved. Festus was relating to Agrippa what Paul had said to him, and why the Jews were angry at Paul. Festus says that Paul is disputing with the Jews about “…a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.” Festus did not believe what Paul said, but he understood that Paul was saying Jesus had been raised from the dead. This record conforms completely to the other places in Acts that record what Paul taught about Jesus, which was that he died on the Cross, but God raised him from the dead. The evidence from this record is that Paul was not teaching the Trinity, which would have been so different from what Festus had ever heard that he surely would have mentioned it to King Agrippa.

Acts 26:2-23. Paul told King Agrippa that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead and proclaimed as a light to “…his own people and to the Gentiles.” Paul was trying to get King Agrippa saved, and pressed him to believe, saying, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do” (Acts 26:27). Agrippa realized Paul was trying to get him to be a Christian, and responded, “…Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28). Agrippa could have become a Christian that very day had he believed Paul’s message, yet Paul never mentioned the Trinity, a pre-existent Christ, or that Jesus was God. Anything foreign to the Old Testament such as that would only have confused King Agrippa. Paul’s message of salvation came from “the prophets,” who did not mention the Trinity.

Acts 28:23. In this short but powerful record that closes the book of Acts, Paul is trying to convince the Jews of Rome “about Jesus” from the Law and the Prophets, which we know do not present the Trinity. Had Paul tried to convince those Jews that Jesus was both man and God using the Old Testament, they would have considered him out of his mind. What we need to pay close attention to is that a person could be saved by believing only that Jesus of Nazareth was the one who fulfilled those things that the Old Testament clearly taught about the Messiah: that he would suffer and die, be raised from the dead and be exalted to second in command under God Himself.

Paul and the Jews in Acts

There is another way that Acts reveals Paul was not teaching the Trinity: The Jews and even some Jewish Christians who still followed the Mosaic Law constantly harassed the Apostle Paul. In some cases they even followed him from city to city and stirred up the people against him (Acts 17:13). When Paul was in Jerusalem, James told him about all the Jewish Christians who were still zealous for the Law (Acts 21:20), and when Paul was in the Temple, Jews who knew him shouted, “…Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place…” (Acts 21:28). The Jews accosted Paul about all kinds of issues, including differences about the Law, circumcision, and Jesus being the Messiah, but they never once accused him of going against their monotheistic teaching and speaking about a Triune God.

Anyone who has studied the history of the Jewish nation under Greek and Roman domination knows that the Jews were so fiercely monotheistic that there had been riots and rebellions over the issue of idols, and even the Roman eagle, in Israel. Had Paul been teaching that their God was not one God, but a part of a Trinity, that surely would have aroused their anger and come up as an issue in the book of Acts. After all, it would have been at least as important as circumcision, which comes up in both Acts and the Epistles. The fact that at no time in Acts or the Epistles is there any Jewish opposition to the Trinity is very good evidence that it was not being taught by early Christians and was not essential to salvation.

Conclusion from Acts

After reading and studying the entire book of Acts and looking for evidence about how a person gets saved, we must conclude that no one had to believe in the Trinity. Furthermore, Acts is the record of the rise and expansion of the Christian Church, so what holds true in Acts should be true for the entire Church Age.

Romans through Revelation: The Rest of the New Testament

We have now seen that a person did not have to believe in the Trinity to be saved during the Old Testament times, and we have also seen from the Four Gospels and Acts that people got saved without believing in the Trinity or even that Jesus was both God and man. In studying the Epistles we see more of the same; that there is no clear expression of the doctrine of the Trinity from Romans through Revelation, and no evidence anyone had to believe it to be saved. God’s plan of salvation through faith in Christ is presented many times without a single verse saying a person has to believe in the Trinity to be saved.

Scholars freely admit that the Trinity is never presented as a complete doctrine in the New Testament, but rather is built from scattered verses. The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology states, “In the NT there is no explicit statement of the doctrine….” [8] The New Bible Dictionary says: “…it is not a Biblical doctrine in the sense that any formulation of it can be found in the Bible….” [9] The Holman Bible Dictionary is very clear: “The New Testament does not present a systematic presentation of the Trinity. The scattered segments from various writers that appear throughout the New Testament reflect a seemingly accepted understanding that exists without a full-length discussion.” [10] Theologians admit that the New Testament does not state what the Trinity is, i.e., that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three co-equal, co-eternal “Persons,” together making one God, and that Jesus is both 100% God and 100% man. Furthermore, there is no clear teaching that a person must believe in the Trinity to be saved.

If a person had to believe in the Trinity to be saved, we would expect to find that clearly stated in the book of Romans. Theologians commonly teach that the theme of Romans is God’s plan of salvation. Some assert that the theme is justification by faith, and that certainly is a major aspect of the Epistle, but the NIV Study Bible well states what is generally thought of as the major theme of Romans: “…Paul’s primary theme in Romans is the basic gospel, God’s plan of salvation, and righteousness for all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike (1:16 and 17).” [11]

We agree with orthodox theologians that the plan of salvation and righteousness for all mankind is the theme of Romans, but it never presents the doctrine of the Trinity or states that a person has to believe Jesus is God to be saved. Could it be that the one book in the New Testament whose theme is salvation never clearly teaches how to get saved? The answer to that question is an obvious “No.”

Romans 10:9 is perhaps the clearest presentation of how to get saved in the Epistles:

Romans 10:9
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

This instruction does not require one to even know about, much less believe, the Trinity in order to get saved. However, according to orthodox Trinitarian doctrine, simply obeying the above verse will not get a person saved, because to be saved he must believe that Jesus is not just “Lord,” but “God,” 100% man and 100% God, and co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.

It is safe to say that Paul penned the book of Romans to the people in Rome in the confidence that if they believed and acted on what they read, especially Romans 10:9, they would be saved. It is also safe to say that Paul knew that Rome was filled with Jews who had only the Old Testament and traditions about the Messiah to rely on, and Gentiles who knew nothing about the Jewish Messiah at all. It is also important for us to remember that the first century Jews and Gentiles would have thought about Jesus being “Lord” in terms of their culture. Although modern Trinitarians assert that in the context of Romans, “Lord,” means “God,” no Roman Jew or Gentile in the first century would have believed that. “Lord” was a term for boss, owner, husband, or ruler. The Romans had many “lords,” and they were not “God.” Without clearer instruction on the matter, no Roman would have read “Lord” and thought it meant “God, the creator,” especially since Romans 10:9 also says “God” raised this “Lord” from the dead. A simple and straightforward reading of the verse presents two beings: God and the Lord Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. There is no Trinity, and no mention that the God and the Lord in the verse are both parts of the same Triune God, and that a third “Person” in the Trinity is missing from the verse.

Could it truly be that a non-Christian could read the book of Romans, believe its message, and not be saved? We say, “No.” The book of Romans clearly shows that Jesus was the Messiah, that he died for the sins of mankind, and that God raised him from the dead, and anyone who believes it is saved. There is just no logical way to read Romans, knowing that it was addressed to the first century people in Rome to get them saved, and say that they would have to believe in the Trinity to be saved.

Perhaps the next best book after Romans to study to see if a person must believe in the Trinity to be saved is Hebrews. The content of Hebrews tells us that it was addressed to Jews (or Jewish Christians) who were intimately familiar with the Old Testament. Every chapter is packed with Old Testament references, and there is much discussion about the Law. Hebrews teaches that obeying the Law will not get people saved, but what will is faith in Jesus, the one who died for our sins and is now our living High Priest, elevated even higher than angels.

The Jews fiercely held to the Law, which was given by Moses. To persuade them to let it go and move on to something else, God would have to offer something “better,” and that is a major theme in Hebrews. [12] Hebrews teaches that God has done something in Jesus that is “better” than what He had done in the Law. [13] Jesus is specifically said to be better than angels (1:4); he brings a better hope (7:19); guarantees and mediates a better covenant that is founded on better promises (7:22, 8:6); is a better sacrifice than those offered under the Law (9:23); reminds people of better possessions in the future, including a better future country (10:34, 11:16); offers a better resurrection (11:35), brings something better for us than the Old Testament believers had (11:40); and his blood speaks better than the blood of Abel’s sacrifice (12:24). Hebrews also shows (without specifically using the word “better”) that Jesus was a greater High Priest than Aaron (4:14-5:10) and ministers in a better sanctuary (9:11-14).

Clearly, the book of Hebrews is trying to get people saved or to understand their salvation, and change their attitude toward the Law. It follows the pattern for salvation that we see in Acts and Romans in that it shows that Jesus died for the sins of the people, was raised by God, and is Lord. It never says that believing the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah is not enough to get someone saved, never says the prophecies about the Messiah were telling only a part-truth about God and the Messiah, never presents the doctrine of the Trinity, and certainly never states that a person has to believe in the Trinity to be saved. [14]

In conclusion, without addressing each epistle in the New Testament, it is enough to say that they set forth the same plan of salvation as Acts, and never teach that a person must believe in the Trinity to be saved. If the book of Acts and the New Testament Epistles, the very foundation of the Christian Church, do not say that a person must believe in the Trinity to be saved, then Christians should take that as the true doctrine of the Church and not insist that a person has to believe in the Trinity to be saved.

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