Chapter IVTHE TRIUNE NATURE OF THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE
IN CHAPTER I we saw that the evidence for the existence of a Supreme Being is overwhelming. A person must close his eyes, stop his ears, and refuse to receive evidence in order to deny the existence of a supreme and intelligent Being who is the source of all things. Our conviction that he exists and that He is controlling all things, and directing them toward a great consummation stimulates in us a desire to know more of Him and of His will and plans.
As true scientists therefore let us look into the Scriptures to see what they teach relative to this God in who we live, move, and have our continual being. We shall take the scriptural statements at their face value, since they are the authoritative word of the living God. When all the evidence proving the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures is marshaled before the honest truth seeker, he comes to the conviction that these writings are absolutely and inerrantly inspired and that they express the will of God for mankind. With this attitude toward the Scriptures, let us examine them carefully to see what they say relative to God and His nature. We shall attempt to discover the facts and then, if possible, to understand them. Though we may not be able to harmonize and comprehend the full significance of any given statement, we shall accept everything that the Word of God says and await further light on any seeming contradiction or difficult passages. We want facts and facts alone. Then we shall later seek the interpretation.
I. STATEMENT OF CERTAIN BIBLICAL FACTS REGARDING GOD
The Scriptures contain sixty-six books and are known as the Old Testament and the New Testament . Sometimes these books are called the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures. It will be first in order for us to investigate the teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures and follow that by an investigation of the New Testament.
A. Testimony Of The Hebrew Scripture
As has been suggested before, everything in the universe points to a unified command of all things. Nevertheless there is evidence in the Scriptures that there is: 1. A Plurality of Divine Personalities
The word "plurality" simply means more than one. The term "personalities" does not exactly convey the idea which one receives from an investigation of the Scriptures. There is in the English language no word which gives the precise idea of the biblical teaching on this point. Since, however, personality approximates the scriptural usage, I shall employ it in this connection. In order to show that the Bible teaches the plurality of divine personalities in the Godhead, I wish to call attention to seven groups of facts. a. Plural Nouns, Pronouns, and Verbs
The English word which is translated "God" in the Hebrew Scriptures in the majority of cases is אֱלֹהִים Elohim. This term is in the plural number, as everyone who knows Hebrew admits. Moses and the prophets in referring to idols--in the plural--invariably used this same form. Since it connoted a plurality of idols, it certainly indicates a plurality of the divine personalities subsisting in the one divine essence when applied to the true God. This word Elohim occurs thirty-two times in Genesis, chapter 1. b. The Appearance of Two Divine Personalities
Frequently, however, Moses and the prophets used אֵל El, in referring to the Divine Being, which is in the singular number and means only one. Occasionally they used אֱלוֹהַּ Eloah. Beyond controversy this also is the singular number. If the Divine Being were simply a single personality, the sacred writers could have used either of these words in the singular to convey that idea. In Joshua 22:22 however appear both the singular and plural forms, which combination amounts to an affirmation regarding the unity of the divine personalities constituting the one God: אֵל אֱלֹהִים יְהוָה אֵל אֱלֹהִים יְהוָה "God, Gods, Jehovah, God, Gods, Jehovah ..." (literal translation).
The Hebrew, like the Greek, anciently had a dual number which signified two. In the early stages of the language this form figured more prominently than in later Hebrew. Usually this form of the noun was employed when a pair of objects was mentioned. When, for instance, a Hebrew wished to speak of a person's hands, he put the noun in the dual number. The same thing was true with reference to eyes and feet. By the use of this form the writer indicated that there were but two. If there had been only two personalities in the Divine Being and the prophets had wished to emphasize that fact, they could have put the word for God in the dual number. But not one time did they resort to any such method. On the contrary, as we have already seen, they used a word for God in the singular and another in the plural number, which facts show that there were at least three personalities constituting the Divine Being. The noun in the singular number doubtless stressed the unity of God, whereas the one in the plural laid emphasis upon the plurality of the Almighty. In the original the plural word for God is used with a verb in the plural number in Genesis 20:13 and 35:7. Evidently since the Scriptures are infallibly inspired, there was a very definite reason why the noun for God, Elohim, is used here with a plural verb. These are some facts that we must consider in our attempt to find the scriptural truth with reference to the nature of the Eternal God.
In Genesis, chapters 18 and 19, we read the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah together with the cities of the plain. Suddenly three men appeared to Abraham as he was sitting in his tent during the heat of the day. He received them with oriental hospitality, considering the visitors as mere men. It turned out however that they were celestial personalities, two being angels and the third the Angel of Jehovah, who conversed with him and before whom he stood. This one is called in several places the Angel of Jehovah, but in Genesis 19:27 He is called Jehovah himself. These facts show that this one was a divine personality. In Genesis 19:23-28 we read of this Jehovah, before whom Abraham stood, and His raining "upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of Heaven" (Gen. 19:24). I ask the reader to note the fact that there was one Jehovah who was upon earth and another Jehovah who was in heaven and from whom the Jehovah upon earth caused fire and brimstone to rain down upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. When the record is allowed to give its message untrammeled, we see that there are two divine personalities who are called Jehovah in this instance. c. The Angel of Jehovah
There is a unique revelation found in Psalm 45. In it are four portraits of King Messiah. The first is presented in verse 2. Here we see Him as a messenger proclaiming grace and truth to the people, He is "fairer than the children of men." The psalmist speaks to Him as if He were visibly standing before him--in His very presence. In verses 3-5 He appears as a warrior. The psalmist addresses Him and pleads for Him to go into battle and champion the cause of the downtrodden, righteous ones who are meek and are holding to the truth. In verses 6-8 however he appears sitting upon His throne and wielding a scepter of righteousness over the earth. Continuing his mode of speech, the psalmist addresses Him in the following manner: "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever ... Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity: Therefore, O God, thy God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows" (literal translation). The translation which I herewith offer is demanded by the facts of the context and is in perfect keeping with the syntax of the Hebrew. The psalmist therefore addressing King Messiah speaks to Him as God and refers to His God, the God of Messiah, who has anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows. In this passage there are two separate, distinct personalities called God. From this conclusion there can be no escape.
Again, we see two divine personalities called "Jehovah of hosts." For instance, we hear Zechariah shout, "Ho Zion, escape, thou that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon. For thus saith Jehovah of hosts: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. For, behold, I will shake my hand over them, and they shall be a spoil to those that served them; and ye shall know that Jehovah of hosts hath sent me" (Zech. 2:7-9). I ask the reader to note that the speaker in these verses is Jehovah of hosts. According to verses 8 and 9 this Jehovah has been sent unto those nations that plundered Israel. According to verse 9 He (this same Jehovah) declares that the Hebrew people shall know that Jehovah of hosts hath "sent me." Obviously there are two divine personalities who are called Jehovah of hosts. One of these sends the other. The latter, according to verse 10, will reign in the midst of Zion. This vision will be fulfilled in the glorious Kingdom Age in the future. From these and other passages which might be brought forth, it is clear that there are two divine personalities who are designated as Jehovah of hosts.
We read the account of Abraham's taking Hagar, his Egyptian handmaid, to wife (Gen., chap. 16). Jealousy arose on the part of Sarah against Hagar. Abraham, instructed by Jehovah, therefore at Sarah's suggestion sent her away. She wandered in the wilderness and finally sat by a fountain on the road to Shur, Egypt. The Angel of Jehovah found her and conversed with her. This heavenly visitor is called the Angel of Jehovah in verses 7,9,10 and 11. In verse 13 the sacred writer calls this Angel of Jehovah "the name of Jehovah that spake unto her." Hagar, recognizing who He was, spoke of Him as "Thou art a God that seeth ..." There is therefore a divine being who is called the Angel of Jehovah. d. The Word of Jehovah
This same person we see in Genesis, chapter 22. In this chapter Abraham, in obedience to the divine command, went to Mount Moriah to offer his son Isaac on the altar as a sacrifice to God. Having bound him upon the wood of the altar, Abraham, with his hand raised, was ready to slay his son as an offering to God. In that crucial moment the Angel of Jehovah stopped him (vss. 11,12). After that Abraham called this place "Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of Jehovah it shall be provided." This Angel of Jehovah called Abraham the second time and made the statement, "By myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah because thou has done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens ..." (Gen. 22:14-17). As we have already seen in the discussion regarding the passage in Genesis, chapter 19, the Angel of Jehovah is none other than Jehovah himself. This Angel who spoke to Abraham at the time of his sacrificing Isaac is therefore none other than Jehovah, who appeared to Abraham.
In Genesis, chapter 31, we read an account of Jacob's leaving his father-in-law, Laban. To his wives Jacob explained how their father had deceived him and had endeavored to cheat him and how God, notwithstanding Laban's evil, had blessed him. In speaking of this condition he declared, "And the angel of God said unto me in the dream, Jacob ... I am the God of Beth-el, where thou anointedst a pillar, ... now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy nativity" (Gen. 31:11-13). This passage informs us that the Angel of God claimed that He was the God of Bethel who had appeared to Jacob twenty years prior to that time. This statement is an evident reference to the events recorded in Genesis 28:10-17. A glance at the passage shows that the one thus appearing to Jacob was none other than Jehovah. Nevertheless Jacob called Him, in his conversation with his wives, "the angel of God" who was "the God of Beth-el." From these chapters we see that there was a divine being who actually did appear to Jacob and who is called the Angel of God.
Once again we see this same Angel of Jehovah appearing on earth, this time to Moses, at the burning bush (Ex. chap. 3). When the great lawgiver saw that unusual sight--the bush burning but not being consumed--he turned aside to discover the real cause of this strange phenomenon. According to verse 4, "… when Jehovah saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush ..." From this account we see that the Angel of Jehovah appeared in the burning bush. By Moses He is called Jehovah, and also God. From this passage we see that the Angel of Jehovah is a divine being.
Another theophany is described in Judges, chapter 6. To Gideon, who was threshing his wheat, this Angel appeared and declared that Jehovah was with him. From the reading of the context we see that the Angel of Jehovah appeared in the form of a man. This position is evident from the fact that He spoke to Gideon in his own language and had a staff in His hand (Judges 6:11-24). It was hard for Gideon to see that Jehovah was with Israel, in view of the fact that she was suffering under the servitude of the Midianites. This heavenly visitor is called the Angel of Jehovah in verses 11 and 12. To His statement Gideon replied, "Oh, my Lord, if Jehovah is with us why then is all this befallen us?" The sacred writer tells us in verse 14 that "Jehovah looked upon him, and said, Go ..." It is evident that this angel is called Jehovah himself. Gideon made an offering to Him. After the Angel of Jehovah accepted his sacrifice, He departed out of his sight. Then Gideon prayed to the Lord Jehovah and said, "Alas, O Lord Jehovah! forasmuch as I have seen the angel of Jehovah face to face" (vs. 22). It is quite evident that there are two divine personalities appearing in this story--the one called the Angel of Jehovah and also designated Jehovah and the Jehovah to whom Gideon addressed his prayer after the departure of the Angel of Jehovah.
I wish to call attention to one other theophany, which is found in Judges, chapter 13. To the wife of Manoah "the angel of Jehovah appeared" and foretold that she would be the glad mother of a son who was to be a Nazarite and should be brought up as such. The woman reported to her husband, saying, "A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of the angel of God, very terrible; and I asked him not whence he was neither told he me his name ..." (Judges 13:6). Then Manoah prayed to Jehovah, asking that He send "the man of God" again who would give them further instructions regarding the care of the future child. In answer to this petition God hearkened, and "the angel of God came again unto the woman as she sat in the field ... And the woman ... ran, and told her husband ... And Manoah arose, and went ... and said unto him, Art thou the man that spakest unto the woman? And he said, I am. And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass: what shall be the ordering of the child, and how shall we do unto him? (vss. 9-12). Manoah, still thinking that his visitor was simply a man of God (a prophet), wished to extend to him the hospitality current in the East--to honor his guest with a banquet. The angel declined but declared, "... if thou wilt make ready a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto Jehovah. For Manoah knew not that he was the angel of Jehovah" (vs. 16). It is clear that Manoah was instructed by this "angel of Jehovah" to make the offering to Jehovah in heaven. Manoah continued his conversation by asking the visitor his name in order that he might extend some honor to him when the prediction which he had made came to pass. From these facts it is clear that Manoah wished to show his appreciation by making some material gift to the supposed man of God. In reply the angel asked Manoah why he inquired concerning His name, "seeing it is wonderful [marvelous]." When Manoah made the offering to Jehovah, the angel "did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on. For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar that the angel of Jehovah ascended in the flame of the altar ... and they fell on their faces to the ground" (vss. 19,20). Then "Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God."
From the description we see that this angelic Being who is called the Angel of Jehovah appeared to Manoah's wife and made a certain revelation to her concerning her future son. She thought that He was simply a prophet, a man of God. When He appeared to her the second time, He is called "the angel of God," but Manoah and his wife still thought that he was an ordinary man and wished to do honor to Him as they would do to any other persons of like character. The stranger insisted that they should make an offering to Jehovah in heaven instead of giving him some material substance. This thing they did but expressed their desire to show their appreciation to Him when their son should be born. When the offering was made to Jehovah, this Angel acted in an extra-ordinary manner and then disappeared in the flame of the altar, returning to heaven. Manoah and his wife recognized then that this one was not an ordinary man but that He was the Angel of Jehovah, the Angel of God--God Himself. The facts in this case show that there are two divine personalities recognized as God.
In several places of the Scriptures we read of "the word of Jehovah." The accounts justify ones concluding that this Word has personality. For instance, in Psalm 107:20 we read of Jehovah's sending "his word, and healeth them"--those who are afflicted by a stroke of judgment because of sin. This language seems to imply personality and the receiving of a commission from God to do a special type of work. We see a like situation in Psalm 147:15: "He sendeth out his commandment upon the earth; His word runneth very swiftly." Once more, in Psalm 33:6 we read: "By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, And all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." Here creative activity is attributed to "the word of Jehovah." Personality seems again to be attributed to "the word of Jehovah" in such passages as Isaiah 55:10,11: "... and it [the word] shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." Thus personality and divine characteristics seem to be attributed to this one who is called "the word of Jehovah."e. The Spirit of Jehovah
In Genesis 1:1 we read of the creation of the heavens and the earth. But in verse 2 we learn of the world's being reduced to a state of desolation and waste. Following this catastrophe, the Spirit of God brooded upon the face of the waters. Personality is here attributed to the Spirit. From the context we see that this one is set over against God who does other specific work and gives such orders. Again we see the Spirit of God in Ezekiel, chapters 1 and 2. When the Lord commanded the prophet to stand upon his feet, "the Spirit entered into me when he spake unto me ..." (Ezek. 2:1,2). Again, we see the Spirit of God and His delivering the words of God to Israel through the prophets (Zech. 7:12).f. The Appearance of Three Divine Personalities
Thus far in our investigation we have noted some passages in which there appeared two divine personalities. In this section we wish to examine four passages which give clear evidence that there are three such personalities. In Psalm 33:5,6, we have this language: "He loveth righteousness and justice: The earth is full of the loving kindness of Jehovah. By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, And all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." In verse 5 the pronoun "He" has as its antecedent Jehovah in the preceding verse. In verse 6 we read of "the word of Jehovah" who made the heavens. Next, in the latter half of this verse we see that the heavens were adorned by the breath, or spirit, of His mouth. We therefore have in this passage Jehovah, the Word, and the Spirit. The early synagogue recognized this "word of Jehovah" as the Memra of Jehovah and personalized it. In this matter those taking this position were correct. g. The Repetition of the Divine Name
Another most interesting passage is found in Isaiah 48:12-16. The speaker in this section declared, "I am the first, I also am the last. Yea, my hand hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spread out the heavens: when I call unto them they stand up together." No one other than the Creator would make such statements as these. Nevertheless, in the last clause of verse 16 in this quotation, He declared, "... and now the Lord Jehovah hath sent me, and his Spirit." The message the Lord has for us in this statement is that the one who is here called "the Lord Jehovah" has sent the Creator of the universe and also the Spirit. Unmistakably then, there are three divine personalities mentioned in this passage.
Another scripture in which three divine personalities appear is Isaiah 63:8-10. In verse 8 we see Jehovah, whose people Israel is. In verse 9 we read of "the angel of his presence" who saved them. This is none other than the Angel of Jehovah (Jehovah himself) who delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage. The third divine personality is mentioned in verse 10: "But they rebelled, and grieved his holy Spirit." Without question there are three personalities of the Divine Being appearing in these verses. There are other scriptures in which we see the three personalities of the Godhead, but these are sufficient for our investigation of this point.
When Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph he said, "the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God who hath fed me all my life long unto this day, the angel who hath redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads ..." (Gen. 48:15,16). Jacob is very specific and mentions three divine personalities. Especially does one come to this conclusion when he realizes that this is a natural expression of the consciousness of Jacob and studies it in the light of other passages which we have already noted. 2. The Unity of the Divine Personalities
Not without significance is the triple blessing of the priests found in Numbers 6:24-26: "Jehovah bless thee, and keep thee: Jehovah make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: Jehovah lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."
Again we see a similar situation in Isaiah 6:3, where we read that the seraphim cry one to another, saying, "Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." Especially is this significant when we realize that the prophet was asked by the Almighty this question, "... and who will go for us?"
In the few cases which have been examined, we see echoes, of three distinct divine personalities. Those throwing out the suggestions did so in a normal, natural way. These references are to be considered simply as incidental, made by those who recognize the existence of three divine personalities. These facts argue most powerfully for the existence of the Trinity since they were the natural expression of those who knew God and who thus spoke.
In the preceding discussion of this chapter we have noticed expressions and data which lead to the irresistible conclusion that there are three divine personalities constituting the Supreme Being. Let us not hastily jump at the conclusion that there are three separate and distinct Gods, for such is untrue. The biblical writers laid emphasis upon the unity of the Divine Being. To their testimony let us now turn. a. The Use of the Singular Verb
As has been noted, the word rendered "God" in Genesis, chapter 1, is אֱלֹהִים Elohim and literally means "Gods." Though this is a plural noun and is to be understood at its face value, we are to remember that it is, contrary to grammatical rules of the Hebrew grammar, used with a verb in the singular number. This unusual phenomenon is not accidental; for as we have already seen, there are two instances where the facts of the context require that it be used with a plural verb. What is the reason for the use of this plural noun referring to the Divine Being with the verb in the singular number? There can be but one true explanation which is that, while emphasizing the distinct personalities of the Godhead, the ancient writers were anxious to refute polytheism and to assert the unity and the oneness of these divine personalities. Thus this peculiar grammatical usage is an affirmation of both the unity and plurality of the Divine Being. b. Israel's Great Confession
The one passage which might properly be called Israel's "Great Confession" is Deuteronomy 6:4: :שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד The literal translation of this sentence is: "Hear, O Israel, Jehovah [the Eternal One] our Gods is Jehovah a unity." The sacred name which I have rendered Jehovah or "the Eternal One" does not, etymologically, mean "the Eternal One," according to some experts. There are those scholars who trace this sacred name of God--the Tetragrammaton--back to the root word which means "to become" or "to be." It is supposed to be in the third person, singular number, Hiphil conjugation, masculine gender and means literally, "He causes to become or to come into existence." If this explanation is correct, the fundamental idea lying behind it is that the God of Israel whom Moses presented to the Hebrews was and is the one who called all creation into existence. If this is the meaning of the word Jehovah, it is evident that the Lord is thought of fundamentally as the self existing Eternal One--the "Uncaused Cause of all things." c. Declaration of Isaiah Regarding the One God
Others believe that the word was derived from the third person masculine gender, singular number of the same word but in the Qal conjugation. If this is its derivation, it may mean "the Existing One, the Eternal One, or the Self-Existing One." A third explanation has been given, deriving it from three forms of the verb "to be": namely, the perfect, the imperfect and the participle. Those accepting this position say that the first letter of יְהוָה is the first letter of the imperfect, third person, masculine gender of the root form; the second letter of this name is the first letter of the participle, and its third and fourth letters are the last two of the perfect form of this verb. From these supposed facts those taking this position claim that this sacred name means "the one who was, and who is, and who will be." They see therefore in this combination a declaration of God's eternal existence.
We cannot be dogmatic in regard to the derivation of this word, but we may be certain that it connotes the idea of God's eternal existence and His creative, directing power of the universe.
Moses declared to Israel that this Self-Existing Creator, who is Israel's God, constitutes a unity. The word rendered in the ordinary translation "our God" is in the plural number (in the construct state of the plural number with the proper suffix) and literally means "our Gods." Thus Moses is very careful to use the proper form which indicates a plurality of divine personalities, but at the same time he insists that they are a unity. The word rendered "one" in the Common Version literally means "unity." In Genesis 2:24 God says that a man should leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife, and that they shall become "one flesh." Here are two separate, distinct individuals. Yet at the same time they are one אֶחָד in another sense. Or, speaking in such a way as to combine the two ideas, one would say that they became a unity--אֶחָד. (For a full discussion of this point see my volume: (The Eternal God Revealing Himself to suffering Israel and to Lost Humanity.)
According to Ezekiel 20:7 the Hebrews were idolaters, at least part of the time, when they were in the land of Egypt. At the Exodus Moses pleaded with his brethren to forsake these false gods and turn with their whole hearts to the one true and living God. Nominally, they did so. When, however, Moses was in the Mount with the Lord, the people insisted on Aaron's making them gods like those of Egypt, which thing he did (Ex. 32:23). During the wilderness wanderings they lapsed into idolatry as we see in the statement of Amos (Amos 5:25-27). During the stormy period of the Judges the history of Israel moved in cycles. "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). They forsook Jehovah and served the gods of the nations. At times, God brought judgments upon them in the form of foreign aggressors who overran the country and reduced them to a state of servitude. When life became intolerable, they cried to the Lord who raised up judges, or deliverers, to restore them to their own independent way of life. For an epitome of the history of those turbulent times, see Judges 2:11-23. During the period of the monarchy, at various times idolatry crept into the nation. During this period of approximately five hundred years there were four great revivals led by outstanding, pious kings of the Davidic line. They fought idolatry and the evils of their time. Thus these great reforms were introduced which lasted for a time--until another king mounted the throne who was indifferent to Jehovah and His worship. Under such influences the nation reverted to idolatry from time to time.
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