One of the most difficult issues in understanding the nature of God is understanding the number of God. Is God one or three?
In the previous lesson, it was concluded that there is one God. Tri-theism seems contrary to scripture.
Let us continue our study –
Distinction: Father and Son
There is a distinction made between the Father and the Son. Jesus said, “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true… And the Father Himself, who sent me has testified of Me” (John 5:31-32, 37a). Jesus point is: there would be inadequate evidence to believe in Me, if all you had were My testimony; but you have more than this. You have another (allos = another of the same kind) witness. The Father bears witness of Me. He does so by miraculous works (John 5:36 cf. 9:3 cf. 3:1-2). He does so through the scriptures (John 5:37-39).
Jesus, in the garden, prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Are we to believe that He prayed this to Himself?
Jesus, on the cross, prayed, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit'” (Luke 23:46). Surely, He was not speaking of Himself.
Distinction: Son and Spirit
There is a distinction made between the Son and the Holy Spirit. “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38). There must be a distinction.
Distinction: Spirit and Father
There is a distinction made between the Holy Spirit and the Father. Jesus said, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26; Guy N. Woods comments, “The comforter (Helper – B.H.) would proceed from the Father; thus, he differed from the Father in person; he was sent by the Son and so was distinct from him; therefore, any theology which denies the separate and distinct personalities of the godhead is false” (Woods, A Commentary on The Gospel According to John, p. 335).
“When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:26-17 cf. Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34).
Compare this passage with the teaching of Sabellius. Roy Lanier Sr. writes, “In the third century after Christ a man named Sabellius taught that the one divine substance simply assumes three different forms, or manifestations, in its three-fold relation to the world. But this divine substance never manifests itself in its three forms simultaneously, and as each new manifestation appears the former manifestation ceases. Sabellius thought the first manifestation, the Father, served from creation to the birth of Christ; the second manifestation the Son, began with the incarnation and worked to accomplish our redemption; and the third manifestation, the Holy Spirit, does the work of revelation and sanctification” (Lanier, The Timeless Trinity, p. 46). This doctrine, which is known as Sabellianism or Modalism seems at odds with this passage.
Several passages have been considered in this writing. The unitarian, oneness position, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one person seems at odds with this passages.
We will continue to study this issue next time. Continue reading.