Newsletter for Feb 2011
Last month I began teaching how the Bible proves the existence of the Trinity. (If you did not receive that letter, please let me know and I will send you a copy.) To review very briefly…
FIRST: THE OLD TESTAMENT
Let’s look at the very first time the concept of the Trinity is revealed in scripture:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
The word “God” has been interpreted from the Hebrew word “Elohim.” This Hebrew word is used 2,248 times in the Bible. Though the word “God” is singular in the English, when the word Elohim is used in reference to the one, eternal God it is one of the most incredible words you will ever find in scripture. A simple definition is: a plural singularity. Yes, that is confusing: How can anything living be both plural and singular at the same time? But that is exactly what is being said: God is singular, yet plural in His existence.
Keeping in mind that all scripture has been given to us directly from God, what I find very interesting is that God said this about Himself in the very first verse of the Bible. To put it in my own words, it’s as though He is saying, “Look, before we go any further, I want you to know right here at the beginning that I exist in a way your mind simply cannot grasp: I am Elohim – One God and One God only, Who exists in a manner that you would call plural. Make no mistake about it; there are no other gods beside me, but I am a plural singularity.”
This concept of God being a plural singularity is further confirmed in Genesis 1:26:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:26)
To avoid the idea of a Trinity, some people have taught that the “us” in this verse is making reference to angels. But such a thought cannot be supported by the chapter or the Bible. The phrase ‘let us make’ indicates a specific work performed by the ones identified. Genesis 1:1-25 reveals God alone as being the Creator. Angels do not have the ability to create or give life to anything. Thus, Genesis 1:26 is not telling us that God asked the angels to help Him create man in His own image!
Centuries later, when speaking to the prophet Isaiah, God again referred to Himself in the plural:
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. (Isaiah 6:8)
Something that captured my attention is that Isaiah never questioned this plural reference. He is not seen as asking something like, “Oh great God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, art thou many? Hast thou multiplied thyself? Yea, to whom shall we cry out in time of need?” Instead, the context of the passage clearly reveals that the notion of one God as an “us” is nothing new to him.
SECOND: THE NEW TESTAMENT
In the New Testament, the Greek word “Theos” is used in place of the Hebrew word “Elohim.” While the word “Theos” in and of itself appears to be singular, it was used in the plural tense. Thus, we have the writers of the New Testament confirming the idea of God being a “plural singularity.”
The importance of this cannot be understated; it means that people in both the Old and New Testaments who believed in God referred to Him as a “plural Being” (i.e. Trinity) whether or not a corresponding word for Trinity from their own language was used.
THIRD: THE IDENTITY CHALLENGE
God is not a human, and yet scripture refers to Him in human terms. The Bible identifies Him as the Father, the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit. These terms are called anthropomorphic, or anthropomorphisms. An anthropomorphism is when a word is used to give human characteristics to God. Keep in mind that since all scripture was given by God, He is the one who first used those terms about Himself. In other words, God described Himself using human terminology to try and help us relate to Him.
Here is where those who deny the Trinity are quite possibly making their biggest mistake. By claiming that there is only one God and that He cannot be referred to as Father, Son and Holy Spirit they are actually relegating God to a human existence. I’ll explain what I mean.
God is absolute, pure Deity. He has the power and ability to create space where there was no space, and a universe to fill that space. He also knows everything:
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure (Isaiah 46:9-10)
God does not violate our will, but He already knows every decision we will ever make. If He chose, He could lay out for us every detail of our lives for the next 10 years and beyond. He not only knows the molecular structure of every substance, He knows how the very parts of the molecules were made. He existed before time, and then He created time, yet continued to live outside of time.
In the one paragraph above, I have presented more scientific modalities than will ever be explained by any physicist that has or ever will live. God is the Creator and we are the created. We do not have an Isaiah 46:9-10 existence. Likewise, we do not have an all-powerful, all-knowing Deity mind:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
God used anthropomorphisms in describing Himself to help us grasp who He is and what He wants to be in our lives. He wasn’t trying to confuse us by using three terms in reference to Himself. Ironically, it is actually an insult to God for anyone to teach that the idea of the Trinity is blasphemous. He is god, and He is more than capable of touching our lives as a Compassionate Father, a Saving Son and an infilling Holy Spirit.
Those who say that God cannot be One in “three persons” are unwittingly putting human limitations on His Devine existence.
FOURTH: JESUS REFERENCES THE TRINITY
After Jesus was raised from the dead, and just before His ascension to Heaven, He met with the Apostles and gave them the following instructions:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19)
Sadly, many people have misunderstood Jesus’ use of the phrase, “in the name of,” and teach that He meant we have to say, “In Jesus’ name,” when baptizing people. Further, it has been taught that if we say, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” that we are baptizing them in the name of three gods. However, a simple explanation of what He was saying will bring clarity to the confusion.
First, if we adhere to the teachings of those opposed to the idea of the Trinity, it would seem Jesus is implying that there are three gods by acknowledging three, distinct identities. Yet, we know that He would never do such a thing. Even so, He did not use the word “God” in His instructions; He used the terms Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus, Jesus saw no conflict at all in referring to the one, true God in those three terms.
Second, the phrase, “in the name of,” is not at all indicating the use of a proper name, as in “Jesus.” If this were true, then every time we read in scripture about converts being baptized, it would be written that they were baptized “in the name of Jesus.” But if we read the Book of Acts, it becomes very clear that such a standard was not at all the practice of the Apostles.
In part, what the phrase “in the name of” means is, “unto.” One way to paraphrase Matthew 28:19 would be this:
Go ye therefore and tell all people that I am the only way unto salvation. You are to make disciples of those who accept me as Savior. Explain to them that they can have no other gods besides Jehovah. Further more, let them know that they need to be baptized. This will, in part, publicly acknowledge that they have fully committed themselves unto the one, true God as their Father, their Savior Son and their Comforter, Guide and Teacher Holy Spirit.”
Baptism was an extremely critical step for both the Jew and Gentile. For the Jew, it meant that he would no longer trust the works of the law for anything from God; that Jesus had replaced the law in his life. For the Gentile, it meant that he would turn away from all other gods and idols, even if his family disowned him and cut him off from the family inheritance. (For a very in-depth teaching on water baptism, I strongly suggest you get my teaching series, “Water Baptism: A Foundation for Believers.”)
By speaking of baptizing converts unto the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Jesus identified the God of the Jews. But He also identified as one the three distinct “entities” of gods that pagan Gentiles worshipped: a supreme “father-god” of all, a “man-god” (a human who had ‘ascended’ to a god-like state) and a “spirit-god” who was a personal guide. Ironically, this statement to the pagans meant that there is only one God, and that He would be to them all three “types” of gods they had previously worshipped.
There are many other passages of scripture which reveal and confirm the existence of the Trinity. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians14:33) and therefore, nothing in the Bible implies there are three Gods. Instead, God, in His word, is confirming the unity of One God in the identities of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit: One God who is all three to us, His children.
I sincerely hope that between last month’s letter and this letter you can see more clearly that the concept of the Trinity is not in any way blasphemous. Likewise, you should have more than enough information to study scripture even further on this subject.
May the joy of the Lord be your strength!