THE TRIUNE NATURE OF THE GOD OF ISRAEL
HAVING seen that the books of the New Testament are of the same kind as those of the Old, hence the Word of God, the reader is now invited to study the subject of the God of Israel as presented therein. In the preceding chapter the statement was made that the New Testament conception of God is the same as that of the Old. It is now proper to furnish the proof of that assertion.
A. God the Father
I. THE PLURALITY OF THE GOD OF ISRAEL
As there are statements in the Old Testament which refer to different Divine Persons, so there are in the New. There are constant references to the Father Who possesses all of the attributes and characteristics of an Omnipotent, Eternal Being; hence He is God. On one occasion Jesus of Nazareth prayed: "I thank thee, 0 Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding, and didst reveal them unto babes: yea, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in thy sight" (Matt. 11:25,26). Here God is addressed and is spoken of as the Creator of the entire universe.
In the speech at Lystra the Apostle Paul, in remonstrating with the inhabitants for attempting to render divine honors to Barnabas and himself, said, "Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and bring you good tidings, that ye should turn from these vain things unto a Living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them is: who in the generations gone by suffered all the nations to walk in their own ways" (Acts 14:15,16). Throughout the New Testament are constant references to that Divine Personality Who is called God the Father, but these references are sufficient.
B. God the Son
Jesus of Nazareth is likewise spoken of as God and worshipped as God. In John 1:1-3 appears the following statement: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made." In verse 14 occurs the statement, "And the Word ("Word" is the same as in verse 1) became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth." There can be no doubt concerning the fact that the passage refers to Jesus Christ. Hence He was one of the Divine Personalities Who assumed human form in order to redeem men. In Phil. 2:5-8 the Apostle Paul stated, "Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross." From this quotation it is clear that Christ was God because He existed in the form of God. His being in the form of God is the fact which proves that He was God. Any article, for example, is thus named because it is in the form of said article. To be more specific, a watch is a watch because it is in the form of a watch. The same material could have been used to manufacture some other article. Had such been the case it would have been the other article and not a watch; hence to affirm that a thing is in the form of a certain article is to affirm that it is that article. Therefore when Paul affirms that Christ was in the form of God, he affirmed with no uncertain sound that He was God. Though He was God, He laid aside His glory (not His essential Divine nature) and entered the human sphere by Virgin Birth.
In praying to the Father (Matt. 11:27) Jesus said, "All things "have been delivered unto me of my Father: and no one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him." In this passage shines forth Jesus own consciousness. He recognized that God was infinite and yet He affirmed that He was able to comprehend God and that no being except God could understand Him; therefore He was a Divine Being.
C. God the Holy Spirit
In Acts 5:1-11 occurs the narrative concerning Ananias and Sapphira who had sold a piece of property for a certain price and, desiring to appear more generous than they were, claimed that they had given all whereas they had given only a portion. When Ananias brought the money, Peter by the aid of the Holy Spirit said, "Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? ... Thou hast not lied unto men but unto God." In one breath Peter charged Ananias with lying to the Holy Spirit and with the next he affirmed that he had lied to God; therefore he called the Holy Spirit God; hence the Spirit is one of the Divine Personalities. In other passages the Holy Spirit is recognized as one of the Divine Persons. Therefore from the facts mentioned in this section it is clear that the New Testament recognizes a plurality of Divine Beings.
II. THE UNITY OF THE GOD OF ISRAEL
Since in the Old Testament the doctrine of the Unity of the Divine Personalities had been emphasized, there was little necessity for further emphasis upon this teaching. When, however, on one occasion Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, or, God manifest in the flesh, there arose a discussion which necessitated a statement from him affirming the oneness between Himself and God the Father. One of these occasions was when he went to Jerusalem at the Feast of Dedication, which feast was about three months before the Passover at which He was condemned to death. His opponents approached Him as He was walking in Solomon's Porch and asked Him plainly and directly: "ἕως πότε τὴν ψυχὴν ἡμῶν αἴρεις εἰ σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστός εἰπὲ ἡμῖν παρρησίᾳ.
How long dost Thou hold us in suspense? If Thou art the Christ Χριστός tell us plainly." This question developed into a discussion, during which Jesus made the statement, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). By this statement He affirmed, not that they were one so far as personality was concerned, but one so far as essence, nature, character, and purpose are concerned as man and wife are one. A thorough understanding of this statement shows that the teaching of the Tenach concerning the plurality of God was assumed by Jesus.
Again, at the season of the Passover, at which He was condemned, in a quiet talk with His disciples which occurred just a few hours before His arrest, Philip, one of the disciples, asked Him: "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us," to which request Jesus replied, "Have I been so long with you, and dost thou not know me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; how sayest thou, Show us the Father?" (John 14:9). Likewise, from this same quotation one sees the same assumption and teaching of the passage which has just been studied. The statement that the one who saw Him had seen the Father means, fundamentally, that He was of the same Divine essence or substance as the Father, and that the nature of the Father manifested itself in His own life. This language may be illustrated, imperfectly, however, by two girls whom the author knew when he was in college. These young ladies were twins and were so very much alike, in size, appearance, disposition, and voice that friends continually mistook one for the other. One could correctly, according to the usage of the language of all nations, say that when he saw one of these girls he saw the other. It was in this sense that Jesus made the statement that "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." On another occasion Jesus affirmed that He and the Father were one (John 10:30).¹
III. THE TRINITY OF THE GOD OF ISRAEL
Having seen the plurality and the unity of the God of Israel as set forth in the New Covenant, it is now proper to advance to the study of the Trinity. The first occurrence of this subject in the New Testament is found in the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.²
When John יוֹחָנָן, who was regarded by the Jewish people as a man of God, retired from the wilderness of Judaea to the region beyond the Jordan, great multitudes went to him, confessed their sins, and submitted to baptism in the Jordan River. Then Jesus, likewise, went and asked John to baptize Him; to which request John responded by stating that he needed to be baptized by Jesus. To this protest Jesus replied: "Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." When He was baptized He went up out of the water, and the heavens were opened unto Him and He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and lo, there was a voice out of the heavens, saying: "THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED" (Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11).
Here appears the Trinity at the beginning of the personal ministry of Jesus: The Father in heaven speaking; Jesus, the Son of God, having been baptized, coming up out of the water; and the Spirit of God in the form of a dove descending upon Him.
After Jesus, Who was crucified by the Romans at the instigation, not of the Jewish nation, but of certain of their leaders, arose from the dead He appeared to the disciples alive during a period of forty days, which facts are well attested by historical testimony. As was recorded by Matthew מַתִּתְיָהוּ (Matt. 28:18-20) Jesus said: "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." In this passage the three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are the same ones mentioned in Isa. 48:16: "The Lord God (Father) hath sent me (Son), and His Spirit (the Holy Spirit)." Again, the Trinity appears in Eph. 4:4-6. "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all." Here, the Apostle Paul inspired by the Spirit of God urged Christians to live godly, consecrated, clean lives, endeavoring to keep and maintain at all times the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The basis upon which he grounds his plea is that there is one Spirit (verse 4), one Lord (Jesus) (verse 5), and one God and Father (verse 6). Again, the Trinity appears in the doxology of II Cor. 13: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all."
Numerous passages could be cited in which appear clear statements in regard to the three Divine Personalities Who constitute a unity, but the references given above are sufficient. It is well to note in this connection, however, that all the attributes of Divine Personality are predicated, in various passages, of each of these three persons; hence they are "three in one," Israel's אֱלֹהִים 'elohim a trinity in unity. Such was the conception of the inspired Apostle Paul who at Athens spoke of "the Godhead," which expression refers to the "three in one."
Again, in Col. 2:9 Paul referred to the Godhead in the expression: "For in Him (Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Dr. Leander S. Keyser states clearly the doctrine of the Trinity: "God is a Trinity--that is, He is both one and three. But remember, He is not both one and three in the same respect. There are many things right around us that are one in one respect and three in another respect. So God is one as to His essence or being, but three as to hypostases, persons, and modes of life and functioning."
Again Dr. Keyser affirms: "However, no trained theologian has ever contended that God is a mathematical, material Trinity. No; God is a psychical or spiritual Trinity. The Bible itself says 'God is a Spirit.' Therefore our best illustrations of this doctrine are to be found, not in the material realm, but in the mental or psychical. Have you ever thought about it that in a very inner sense the human mind has a triune constitution? It is made up of the Intellect, the Sensibility, and the Will--that is, the cognitive, the emotional and the volitional functioning powers. Yet they do not constitute three minds, but only one mind. More than that, the mind is a unitary entity, and is not made up of parts as a lump of material substance is. Therefore, the Intellect is the whole mind, the Sensibility is the whole mind, and the Will is the whole mind; each and all are identically the same substance or quiddity. Each in substance is equal to all, and yet all together are equal to each. Thus we see again that an entity can be, in a very mysterious and profound way, one in one respect and three in another. So with the Triune God. Only God is personally Triune, not only functionally. This distinction must be made to avoid the old heresy of Modalism, advocated by Sabellius and others in the early days of the Christian Church."³
Says Dr. Haldeman: "Where the actinic is, the luminiferous and calorific are. The actinic cannot be seen nor felt. The calorific cannot be seen, but may be felt. The luminiferous is both seen and felt, and is the revelation and expression of the other two. What an absurdity it would be to reject any two of these properties and call the remaining one light! Nay, light is one and yet three; light is three and yet one. And Holy Scripture says: God is light. God is one substance--one God, and yet three persons--Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In spite of the fact that the personalities are distinct, they cannot be separated from each other. Where the One is, the others are. Where the Father is, the Son and Spirit are. Where the Spirit is, the Father and Son are. The Father can be neither seen nor felt. The Spirit cannot be seen, but may be felt. The Son can be both seen and felt, and is the revelation and expression of the other two. What an absurdity it would be to reject any two of these persons of the Godhead and call the remainder one God! Nay, God is One and yet three. God is three and yet One!" The Scripture: "No one can say Jesus is Lord (more than a common, pious Orthodox Jew) except in the Holy Spirit" (I Cor. 12:3).
¹ One may ask since God and Jesus Christ are one, i.e., both are Divine Personalities, what did Jesus mean when He made the statement: "For the Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). There is perfect harmony between the two positions. Jesus was looking at Himself not as God but as the God-Man; hence from that point of view He correctly stated that God was greater than He since by assuming human form He voluntarily imposed limitations upon Himself. A similar statement to this one is found in Mark 10:18: "And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? None is good save one, even God." Philosophically, the term "the good" was synonymous with the word "God." The question, "Why callest thou me good?" was to draw an expression from the young man concerning his idea of Jesus. Since, as the young man admitted, He was "good," and since there is but One Who is good in this sense, Jesus wished to lead him to an expression of his belief in His Deity.
It may be asked "How could He be God and thus limit Himself?" This question may never be fully and satisfactorily answered, but an analogy may enable one to realize more fully the possibility of such a limitation. A perfectly normal person in good health could submit to being anaesthetized. While he is completely under the power of the anaesthetic, consciousness ceases; therefore mental activity is arrested by self-imposed limitations. The extent to which one submits to the anaesthetic will determine the degree of the limitation. Though Jesus did limit Himself in some ways, He was always conscious of His Divine nature and of His relationship to God and the world.
² That John the Baptist is an historical character is seen in the works of the Jewish historian, Josephus. Concerning him he said: "Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God and that very justly, as a punishment for what he did against John, that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing (with water) would be acceptable to Him if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away (or the remission) of some sins only, but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness.
Now when (many) others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved (or pleased) by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it should be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod and a mark of God's displeasure to him" (Antiquities of The Jews, Book 18, Chapter 5).
Concerning Jesus, the same author wrote: "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was (the) Christ Χριστός. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day" (Josephus).
³ "Among the heathen, if at all civilized," says Archdeacon Lee, "every type and image of Deity, all that stands in immediate relation to It,--all, in short, in which the Divine completes itself, has the stamp of Three. This idea almost forces itself on the mind when man contemplates Creation: there are three dimensions of Space; Time is past, present, future; the Universe offers to the view Sky, Earth, Sea. ... It is but natural indeed that the essential character of the Triune GOD, as He has revealed Himself, should be impressed upon His works. And so, in the record of Revelation, Three is the numerical 'signature' of the Divine Being, and of all that stands in any real relation to God" (Speaker's Commentary, Introduction to Revelation, p. 474).
R. McCormack in his book "The Heptadic Structure of Scripture" quotes from Dr T.A.G. Balfour's book "The Typical Character of Nature" as follows: "The whole world from its foundation, seems to have been designed to proclaim a Tripersonal God, but only in the three-fold constitution of man was the whole realized in one nature. Body, soul, and spirit are the three constituents of man, as he comes perfect from the hands of his Creator, and each was, in my opinion, designed to symbolize or represent a distinct person in the Godhead.
"Again, every one conversant with human embryology knows that the whole structures of the human body are developed from three laminae, or layers viz., the serous or animal, the vascular, and the mucous or vegetative layer ... If we take the vertebra, whose importance is seen in classification and also in the fact that it is the first formed portion of the osseous system, we shall discover three essential portions, and only three, which have been styled the body, the neurapophysis, and the haemapophysis and these three, when modified in various ways, contain the whole internal organs.
"The doctrine of the Trinity, therefore," proceeds Dr. Balfour, "is not one which is peculiar to Scripture, but which is inwoven in the very constitution of man, and to which all Nature bears its willing testimony.
"I have said it is inwoven in man's very constitution,--how otherwise can we account for the circumstance that the doctrine of a Trinity should appear in the religious tenets of so many nations,--how otherwise can the fact be explained that the greatest thinkers of antiquity admitted a trinity of persons as the highest of their gods,--and, as reason and speech λόγoς ένδιάθετoς and λόγoς πρoθoρικός are the distinctive peculiarities of man, how can we, on other principles, account for the fact, that in his speech he is limited to a three-fold mode of expressing his thoughts, and that three persons in grammar express all the relationships among mankind, and that there are but three degrees of comparison of qualities? Again, we find that three things, viz., a subject, a predicate, and a copula, are indispensably necessary for even the simplest proposition, and also that three propositions are necessary to constitute a syllogism, which, in the process of reasoning, we so constantly employ; these are the major and minor premises, and the conclusion, which again, contain only three terms, viz., major, minor, and middle.
"I said, also, that all Nature bears her willing testimony to the same glorious truth, as appears in the three great kingdoms, viz., mineral, vegetable, and animal, which matter, as unorganized and organized, presents to our view; and in the three only forms which that matter can assume viz., solid, liquid, and aeriform. Hath not God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, also thereby shined into our hearts to give a knowledge of His Tripersonality? for in the one ray we have the three colours, red, yellow, and blue; or viewing them in another relation, we are still limited to the three, calorific, luminous, and actinic."
So Archdeacon Basil Wilberforce wrote: 'Prof. Tyndall discovered, by experiments with the spectrum, that an intensely heated body emits at the same time three rays, producing entirely different results, whilst this trinity of rays form such a unity as to be inseparable. There is, first, the 'heat ray,' which is felt but not seen; secondly, the 'light-ray,' which is seen but not felt; thirdly, the 'actinic ray,' which is neither felt nor seen but is only known by its effects, such as its chemical action in the operations of photography. These are all one, all in an inseparable unity, and yet one is not the other, and not one can exist except in conjunction with the others. So in the Holy Trinity we have The Father, felt but not seen, 'No man hath seen God at any time,' The Son, the light ray, 'I am the light of the world,' seen but not felt, not touched except by the touch of faith--'though the multitudes thronged Him.' The Holy Ghost, neither felt nor seen, but known by His effects in conversion, renewal and sanctification; sensitizing the heart of man to receive the photograph of its God when the Light of the World is poured into it. Thus even a superficial study of the analogies of nature forbids me to allow that 'threeness in unity' is either absurd or unphilosophical.
To the casual reader there seems to be a contradiction between the statements of Dr. Haldeman and those of Archdeacon Wilberforce. The discrepancy disappears when we remember that Wilberforce was quoting the scientific view as held in the day of Professor Tyndal, whereas Dr. Haldeman states the present-day scientific theory.
Contradictory views in the scientific world are constantly appearing. Many theories held today will be thrown into the discard tomorrow. Hence we need not become alarmed at the contradictions found in the works of men. It is indeed a source of great comfort and satisfaction for the believer to know that modern archaeological discoveries have in every instance confirmed the Scripture narrative where disbelief had cast doubt upon the accuracy of the sacred record.
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