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Friday, November 25, 2011

The Trinity - By: Dave Hunt - thebereancall.org

             Many Christians can't understand, much less defend, the “Trinity.”  Yet that is exactly how the Bible presents God.  Genesis  1:1 states, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” The word used for “God” in this statement is the Hebrew word elohim, which literally means “gods.”  It occurs 2,500 times in the Old Testament. Though a single noun is available, the plural form is nearly always used for God. And, in violation of grammatical rules, with few exceptions singular verbs and pronouns are used with this plural noun. Why? The Shema declares, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord”  (Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29). In Hebrew it reads, “Jehovah our elohim [gods] is echad [one] Jehovah.” Echad signifies a unity of more than one. It is used in Genesis 2:24, where man and woman become one flesh; in Exodus 36:13, when the various parts “became one tabernacle”; in 2 Samuel 2:25, when many soldiers “became one troop,” and elsewhere.
                All through the Old Testament, both God's plurality and unity are consistently expressed:  “Remember now thy Creator [lit. ‘creators’]”  (Ecclesiastes 12:1);  “For thy Maker is thine husband [lit. ‘makers, husbands’]” (Isaiah 54:5).  Unitarianism, the belief that God is a single entity, has no explanation for this unfailing presentation of God’s plurality. If, as in pantheism, everything is God, then to be God loses all meaning and so nothing is God. With polytheism, the many gods fight wars and steal one another’s wives. There is no basis for morals, truth, or peace in heaven or on earth.  Polytheism’s basic problem is diversity without unity.
                Muslims and Jews agree on one thing: the belief that God is a single Being. They insist that Allah and Jehovah are each single Beings, a belief also held by cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, among others. Some Pentecostals claim that God is a single Being and that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God’s three “titles” or “offices.” Here we have the opposite problem: unity without diversity. That God must manifest both unity and diversity is clear.
                All through the Old Testament, both God’s plurality and unity are repeatedly expressed. The God of Judaism, like the Allah of Islam, would be incomplete in himself, unable to experience love, fellowship, and communion before creating beings with whom he could have these experiences. But the Bible says that “God is love.” How could the God of Islam and Judaism be love? Whom could he love when he was alone before creation?
The God of the Bible
                The Bible presents God as complete in Himself, being three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, separate and distinct, yet at the same time eternally one God. The three Persons of the Godhead loved, communed, fellowshipped with each other, and took counsel together before creation. Isaiah “heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”(Isaiah 6:8). Moses revealed the same counseling together of the Godhead: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26); and again, “Let us go down, and there confound their language” (11:7). Who is this “us,” if God is a single entity? Why does God say, “the man is become as one of us” (Genesis 3:22)?
The Witness of Creation
                Although the word “trinity” does not occur in the Bible, the concept is clearly there, providing both the unity and diversity that makes possible the love, fellowship, and communion within the Godhead. Yes, Godhead. In Romans 1:20, Paul argues that God’s “eternal power and Godhead” are seen in the creation He made. God’s eternal power, certainly—but His Godhead?
                Yes, as Dr. Nathan R. Wood pointed out years ago in The Secret of the Universe, the triune nature of God is stamped on His creation. The cosmos is divided into three: space, matter, and time. Each of these is divided into three. Space is composed of length, breadth, and height, each separate and distinct in itself—yet the three are one. Length, breadth, and height are not three spaces but three dimensions comprising one space. Run enough lines lengthwise and you take in the whole. But so it is with the width and height. Each is separate and distinct, yet each is all of space—just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons, yet each is fully God. Time also is a trinity: past, present, and future—two invisible and one visible. Each is separate and distinct, yet each is the whole. Man himself is a tri-unity of spirit, soul, and body, two of which are invisible and one visible. Many more details could be given of the Godhead’s tri-unity reflected in the universe. It can hardly be coincidence.
The Witness of Scripture
                The New Testament presents three distinct Persons, each recognized as God. Yet we repeatedly find the clear statement that there is only one true God. Christ prays to the Father. Is He praying to Himself? “The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world”  (1 John 4:14). Did He send Himself? Worse yet, did one “office” pray to and send a “title”? Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have distinct functions, yet each works only in conjunction with the others. Christ said, “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10). “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter,...Even the Spirit of truth...” (John 14:16-17). Throughout Scripture, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are individually honored and act as God, yet only in concert with one another.
                The Old Testament clearly presents three Persons in the Godhead interacting. For example: “Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens....From the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me” (Isaiah 48:13-16). The One speaking refers to Himself as the Creator of all, so He must be God. But He speaks of two others who must also be God: “the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me.” Jesus presented a similar passage to the Pharisees (Matthew 22:41-46) when He asked them who the Messiah was, and they said, “The Son of David.” He then quoted Psalm 110:1: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”  Then Jesus asked them, “If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?” (Matthew 22:45). The Pharisees were speechless. Unitarianism cannot explain these two “Lords.”
In Prophecy
                Most Jews worldwide await the Messiah’s first coming, unaware that He already came, was rejected, and crucified. Jesus warned, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name [i.e., Antichrist], him ye will receive” (John 5:43). Sadly, it will take Armageddon for Israel to repent, turn to God, and embrace the One who came 2,000 years ago in His Father’s name. When they see the Messiah come to rescue them, and discover to their shame who He is, “...they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him...a great mourning in Jerusalem...” (Zechariah 12:10-14).
                Why such extreme sorrow? The God of Israel declares: “they shall look upon me whom they have pierced” (12:10)! At Armageddon, God comes to the rescue as the One whom Israel has pierced! Pierced?! When and how could Israel pierce the One who told Moses, “there shall no man see me, and live” (Exodus 33:20)? God, “a Spirit” (John 4:24), cannot be pierced—but the Messiah coming as a man could be, and was. Jesus, who fulfilled every Messianic prophecy, was pierced on the cross. Why was He crucified? For claiming to be God (John 10:30-33)!
                In Zechariah, God is speaking in the first person, yet two persons seem to be involved: “...they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him...” (12:10). “Me” and “him” seem to be two persons, yet one—and both must be God! Is God two persons? In fact, He declares Himself to be three in one! Remember, in Isaiah 48:16 we encounter God, the Lord God, and the Spirit of God, each distinct, yet each is God. Could this be what the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle John to write, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”? Surely this One called the “Word,” who existed from the beginning and is God, must be the God Isaiah says speaks from the beginning:“I have not spoken in secret from the beginning...” (Isaiah 48:16).
                But the similarities in these two verses don’t end there. Both raise almost identical questions. In Isaiah, how can God be sent by God; and in John, how can God be with God? There is only one solution: the Messiah must be God! When Jesus said, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30), the Jews accused Him of blasphemy, saying, “for...thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (vv. 31-33). For the Messiah to declare His deity was the ultimate heresy, worthy of death? No! According to the Hebrew prophets, the Messiah had to be God and, at the same time, the Son of God. If God has a Son, who Himself is God and one with His Father, that would dissolve the rabbis’ objections. We encounter God’s Son a number of times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Speaking prophetically, the Psalmist presents God as declaring of One who is to come, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee” (Psalm 2:7). Jehovah’s Witnesses, who deny Christ’s deity, take this as referring to Christ’s birth on earth as the beginning of His existence. That cannot be the case, because God speaks of His Son as already existing and warns a God-defying world, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry....Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (v. 12).
                It is clear from a number of other statements by the Hebrew prophets that the Son of God already existed as God before His incarnation. Solomon quotes the prophet Agur: “Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists?” The obvious answer is “God.” Then he asks, “what is his son’s name...?” (Proverbs 30:4), proving that the Son of God already existed at that time.
                While promising salvation through the coming Messiah, God repeatedly declared that He himself was the only Savior: “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour” (Isaiah 43:11); “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22). And yet this salvation goes to “the ends of the earth” by another who must Himself be God and the Messiah: “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). The “I” who speaks and the “thee” who is “salvation” must surely each be God.
                Unquestionably, the Hebrew prophets all agree that God exists as a tri-unity: three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) but one God—and that in the Messiah, He becomes man without ceasing to be God. Christ’s claims that He was God and man, and one with His Father, agree with the prophets. Isaiah declared: “For unto us a child is born...” (Isaiah 9:6). This refers to His humanity, derived, as foretold, from His virgin mother, Mary: the “seed” of the woman (Genesis 3:15). But Isaiah adds, “unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder....Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David...” (Isaiah 9:6,7). Surely the Son given must be the already-existing Son of God—and He must be the Messiah because He will rule on David’s throne. But Isaiah declares that the Messiah is God! His name is “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God.” And He is also “The everlasting Father.” Here is the same mystery: God is both Father and Son—God who became man in the Messiah!
                The fact that God would come as a man, be pierced to the death, resurrected, and return to rescue Israel at Armageddon is exactly what the Hebrew prophets foretold. Most Jews still refuse to recognize this identity of the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” When Israel sees her God in this form coming to her rescue, it will be painfully clear that He has been to earth before, where He was rejected by Jew and Gentile and pierced to the death.
Still a Mystery
                Jesus said, “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand” (John 3:35). God’s love is not just toward mankind but first of all among the three Persons of the Godhead.  And three Persons they must be. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can’t be mere offices, titles, or modes in which God manifests Himself, for such cannot love, consult, and fellowship together. Not only is the Son presented as a person but so are the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Bible presents each member of the Godhead as having His own personality: each wills, acts, loves, cares, can be grieved or become angry. Godhead? Is that a biblical term? Yes, indeed. It occurs three times in the KJV New Testament: in Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20, and Colossians 2:9. In contrast to theos, which is used constantly throughout the New Testament for “God,” three different but related Greek words occur in these verses (theios, theiotes, theotes), which the King James translators carefully designated by the special word, Godhead. That very term indicates a plurality of being. Paul wrote, “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). Did he simply mean that in Christ dwelt all the fullness of Himself? That would be like saying that in me dwells all the fullness of me. Well, of course it does—so why say it, and what does it really mean? Nothing! Does it simply mean that in Christ dwells all the fullness of Deity, as some non-KJV translations render it?  That, too, would be redundant—or it would detract from the deity of Christ. For if Christ is intrinsically God, then what is the point of saying that “in Him dwells all the fullness of Deity”? Of course it does! But if Christ is the Son and there are two other persons in the Godhead, then it does mean something. It means that just as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God, so, when the Son became man, He brought that fullness of the Godhead with Him into flesh. It is a mystery how God can exist in three Persons yet be one God; but it is also a mystery how God could have no beginning and create everything out of nothing.  We can’t understand what a human soul or spirit is. Nor can we explain love or beauty or justice. It is beyond human capacity to comprehend the full nature of God’s being. But neither can we understand what it means for us or anything else to exist—nor can we comprehend what space or  time  or matter are.
                For every door science opens, there are ten more unopened doors beyond. The more we learn, the more rapidly the unknown expands before us like receding images in a hall of mirrors. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Unitarians argue that because the Trinity can’t be understood, it can’t be. But the fact that it is beyond human comprehension (exactly what one would expect of Deity) is no reason for rejecting what the Bible presents so consistently to us. God is telling us about Himself so that we may believe in and know Him. We dare not reject what He says or lower Him to the level of our finite minds.
—Dave Hunt   Revised 9/06
Tract #108 (PDF or for ordering)

1 comment:

  1. It is a falsehood to say that echad means or implies more than one! It means "one single" and is the numeral one, just as "one" is in English. "One" can modify any noun in the universe but it still means one and not more than one!
    Elohim has no plural meaning when applied to the One God. Elohim is used of a single pagan god too.
    So how can it be plural, except where the verb is plural and it means gods?

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