God: One or Three? (Part 5)

In this last segment of this study, we will consider some questions which are commonly asked.

1.   Is the idea of multiple persons in the Godhead found in the Old Testament?

While it is not as clearly found in the Old Testament, as it is in the New Testament, some believe that such can be found in the Old Testament.  (a) “The Angel of the LORD” or “The Angel of God” is mentioned throughout the Old Testament.  He seems to be called “God” and “LORD” or “Jehovah” (Exodus 3:2 cf. 3:4; Judges 6:12 cf. 6:14, 16, 20).  He seems to call Himself “God” (Genesis 31:11 cf. 31:13; Exodus 3:2 cf. 3:5).  Angel means messenger.   This messenger of God is called “God.” (b) “The Spirit of the LORD” or “The Spirit of God” is mentioned throughout the Old Testament.  The Spirit seems to possess qualities of deity (Isaiah 40:13-14).  The Spirit, at times, is distinct from the LORD of host (Zechariah 7:12).  However, on other occasions, there is no clear distinction (Psalm 139:7-8).  The LORD can be grieved (Genesis 6:6).  This is not said specifically of the Spirit in the Old Testament.  However, the New Testament reveals that the Holy Spirit likewise can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). Therefore, the Spirit is not just some impersonal force.

2.  1 Corinthians 8:6 reads: “There is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.”  Does this passage teach that Jesus is not God?

No.  If this passage denies that Jesus is God, then it also denies that God is Lord (cf. Luke 1:32).

This passage makes two distinctions.   (a) God, the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ are distinguished from idols (1 Corinthians 8:4-6).  (b) God, the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ are distinguished from creation (1 Corinthians 8:6). Notice that the Father and Jesus are both so distinguished.

This is actually a reference to the Shema  – “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4 cf. 1 Corinthians 8:6).  Jesus is being included as being of the Godhead.

3.  Ephesians 4:4-6 reads: “There is… one Spirit… one Lord… one God and Father of all…”  Does this passage teach that the Spirit and the Lord (Jesus) are not God?

No.  If this passage denies that the Spirit is God, then it also denies that God is spirit (cf. John 4:24).  If this passage denies that the Lord is God, then it also denies that God is Lord (cf. Luke 1:32).

The one Spirit, in context, refers to the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit revealed the message of salvation to man (Ephesians 2:18, 20 cf. 3:3-5).

The one Lord, in context, refers to Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:2; 1:3; 1:15; 1:17; 3:11; 3:14; 5:19-20).  He is worthy of worship (Ephesians 5:19-20).  He is over all flesh (cf. John 17:2; Romans 10:12).

The one God, in context, refers to the Father (cf. Ephesians 1:2; 1:3; 1:17; 4:;;6; 5:20; 6:23).  The word “God and Father” appear twice in this book (Ephesians 1:3; 4:6).  The word “and” (Kai) could be rendered “even.”

The fact the Father is referred to as the one God in no way denies the deity of the Spirit or the Lord (Jesus).  Albert Barnes comments, “Christians worship one God, and but one (God).  But they suppose that this one God subsists as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, united in a mysterious manner, and constituting the one God, and that there is no other” (studylight.org).  Remember the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4 cf. 1 Corinthians 8:6).

4.  1 Timothy 2:5 reads: “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”  Does this deny the deity of Jesus?

No.  The fact that Jesus is called the “Mediator between God and men” no more denies His deity, than it does His humanity.  He is said to be “the Man Christ Jesus” in this passage (1 Timothy 2:5 cf. Acts 17:31).  Other passages speak of His deity (e.g. John 1:1 cf. 1:14; Philippians 2:5-7).

He is the perfect mediator.  Wayne Jackson comments, “There is one God, i.e., one divine nature… There is one mediator also.  “Meditator” (mesites)  literally is a ‘go between’ (from meses, ‘middle,’ and eimi, ‘to go).  A mediator is one who seeks to restore peace between estranged parties.  Those parties are the holy God, and man, the transgressor.  To be a balanced mediator, the mediating person must be equally related to both parties.  Christ, possessing both divine and human natures, as exactly that… It is very important that one notice the mediator is ‘man’ (without the article, hence, man, as to his nature), in contrast to the later Gnostic error (docetism), that Christ only appeared to be human” (Jackson, Before I Die, p. 56).

5.  John 10:30 reads, “I and My Father are one.”  Does this passage teach that Jesus and the Father are one and the same person, identical, without distinction?

No.  This would contradict other passages (e.g. John 5:31-32, 36-37).

Let’s look closer at this passage.  The literal language is, “I and the Father one we are” (The Zondervan Parallel New Testament).  The word “one” in neuter gender.  Marion Fox comments, “The word ‘one’ (en) is in the neuter gender in the Greek, not masculine as one would expect if He was saying ‘one person.'” (Fox, The Work of the Holy Spirit, Vol. 1, p. 37).  The point being made, in context, concerns purpose.  Guy Woods comments, “One in the sense indicated in verses 28 and 29, i.e., in protecting his followers, and in keeping them safe all harm.  He and his Father are one in purpose, in interest and in plan, and thus the action of the son is inseparable from the will of, and the desire of, the Father” (Woods, A Commentary on The Gospel According to John, pp. 220-221).

6.  John 14:9 reads, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father…”  Does this not prove that Jesus and the Father are one person?

No.  Consider the words of Marion Fox, “God is spirit (John 4:24); and no man can behold God (Exodus 33:20; John 1:18, and 1 John 4:12).  Therefore, the seeing of which Jesus is referring is not a literal seeing.  What they saw was either the Father’s flesh or His attributes (perfect love, etc.).  It cannot be His flesh they saw because God is spirit (John 4:24), and a spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39).  Therefore they saw His attributes as they were revealed through Jesus (Matthew 11:27)” (Fox, The Work of The Holy Spirit, Vol. 1, p. 37). Remember that Jesus physical appearance was of no special beauty (Isiah 53:2).

7.  Did the Trinity develop from paganism?

Some think that they have found similarities between the trinity of Christianity and triads in other religions.  However, some of these “similarities” are not so similar upon closer examination.  In some cases various gods are over looked to emphasize three persons.  In many cases, these are not three persons in one God, but polytheism.

If similarities do exist how do we explain this?  “Some… believe that various pagan triads and threefold deities may have originated a primitive revelation of – or memory of – …the one True God.” (Is The Trinity Pagan? http://www.ukapologetics.net).  In the case of Hinduism, it may be that they borrowed from Christianity.  Robin Brace writes, “Scholars tell us that this ‘trimurti’ (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva or Siva – B.H.) only appears in Hinduism during the 4th – 7th centuries A.D…. If the Holy Trinity concept predates the Hindu trimurti (which certainly appears to be the case), the former could not have been copied from the latter.  In fact, given Hinduism tendency to absorb concept from other religions, and the fact that Christianity reached India in the first century, it is very likely that the Hindu teachers developed the trimurti along the lines of the Trinity – concept professed by Indian Christians.  Yet, the former is not an exact copy of the latter… Brahma, Vishnu and Siva each have a goddess consort  – Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Sakti respectively.  That would make not three but six.  Add Ishvara and his consort, Maheshvari, and you now have eight… Yet, these are only eight among millions of divinities in the Hindu tradition… (ibid).

The subject is difficult.  Our faith should be derived from the Scriptures (Romans 10:17).

About Bryan Hodge

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