God: One or Three? (Part 1)

The New Testament speaks of the “Godhead,” or “Divine Nature,” or “divinity,” or “Deity” (Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9).  The reference is to the true nature of God.  Note: The English word “Godhead” is “a simple doublet of the less frequently occurring ‘Godhood'” (I.S.B.E., Vol. 2, p. 1268).

One of the most difficult issues in understanding the number of God.  Is God one or three?

There  are three basic positions held by Bible students.  (1) Some are unitarians.  They believe that there is only one person in the Godhead.  (a) Some unitarians deny the deity of Jesus and the personality of the Holy Spirit.  (b) Other unitarians believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the same person.  Unitarianism is a form of mono-theism, the belief in one God. (2) Some are tri-theists.  They believe in three Gods.  They believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three co-eternal Gods, united by one common will and purpose.  Tri-theism is a form of poly-theism.  (3) Some are trinitarians.  They believe that there are three persons in the Godhead; three persons, but one God.  Trinitarians are mono-theists.  They believe that there is only one God.

One God

The Bible speaks of there being one God.  Consider the following passages: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).  Roy Lanier Sr. comments, “literally ‘before My face,’ is a Hebrew idiom, and equivalent to ‘beside Me,’ ‘in addition to Me'” (Lanier, 20 Years of the Problem Page, Vol. 1, p. 218).  “To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD Himself is God; there is none other besides Him” (Deuteronomy 4:35).  “Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the LORD Himself is God in heaven above and on earth beneath; there is no other (Deuteronomy 4:39).  “I am He, before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me” (Isaiah 43:10).  “Thus says the LORD… I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6).  “I am the LORD, and there is no other; There is no God beside Me” (Isaiah 45:5).  “I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me” (Isaiah 46:9).  “Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, there is no other God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4).  “You believe that there is one God.  You do well…” (James 2:19).  [Marion Fox comments, “The oneness advocate often appeals to the passages that speak of there being one God as evidence there is only one person in the Godhead. Such passages as Isaiah 43:10; 44:6-8; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; James 2:19, and Deuteronomy 6:4 are merely a contrast between the true God (Deity) and false god…  In fact the passages in question, particularly Isaiah 43-44, deal with a contrast between the one true God and idols” (Fox, The Word of the Holy Spirit, Vol. 1, p. 39)].

Tri-theism seems very much at odds with these passages.  The Bible teaches that there is one true God.

Plural Language

The Bible uses plural language, at times, in connection with God.  Consider the following passages: “In the beginning God [Elohim, plural] created…” (Genesis 1:1).  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD [singular] our God [Elohim, plural], the LORD [singular] is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4).  “Remember your Creator [plural] in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).  Some see in such passages hints at more than one person in the Godhead.  However, the plural may be majestic plural.  The Hebrews sometimes used the plural to express excellence, majesty, pre-eminence, or intensity.  The use of the plural does not always indicate more than one.

In other passages God uses plural pronouns (us, our) when speaking (Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8).  Those who believe that there are more than one person in the Godhead think that these passages hint at such.  Others explain “us” and “our” to refer to God and His angels (though, the Bible no where says that angels are in the image of God), or God and the pre-incarnate Word (without accepting the deity of the Word).  Others appeal to these plural pronouns as God’s own use of the majestic plural.

I do not believe that the plural usage settles the matter.  We will continue to study this issue next time.

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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