THE HOLY TRINITY
"He stretcheth out the north over empty space, And hangeth the earth upon nothing" (Job 26:7).
That God's throne is in the north seems to be suggested by Isaiah 14:12-15. "How art thou fallen from heaven, 0 day-star, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, that didst lay low the nations! And thou saidst in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit upon the mount of congregation, in the uttermost parts of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." (Compare Ezekiel 28:11-19.)
Job 37:22 seems to point to the same conclusion. "Out of the north cometh golden splendor: God hath upon him terrible majesty." The psalmist implies that God's throne is located in the north by his stating that deliverance does not come from the east, west, or south, but God is judge. The inference is that He who brings the salvation is in the only other direction--the north. "For neither from the east, nor from the west, Nor yet from the south, cometh lifting up. But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and lifteth up another" (Ps. 75:6,7).
He who is there is clothed in the garments of light. "Bless Jehovah, 0 my soul. 0 Jehovah my God, thou art very great; Thou art clothed with honor and majesty: Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment; Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain" (Ps. 104:1,2).
GENESIS 1:1 declares that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Our English translation renders 'elohim, the Hebrew word for God, which is in the plural number, as if it were a singular noun. This translation is indeed an unfortunate one. The Spirit of God uses the correct word to convey the proper idea at all times. This plural form, however, occurs with a singular verb. These unusual phenomena should clear away any misunderstanding with reference to the Divine Being. The plural number indicates that there is a plurality of Personalities constituting the Deity, but the use of this noun with a singular verb refutes polytheism and is an assertion of the essential unity of those constituting the God-head. This noun shows simply that there is a plurality of Personalities in the Divine Being but does not tell how many there are. That information is left to other passages, which show unmistakably that there are three: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The plurality of the Divine Personalities is reflected in Genesis 1:26: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." The reader should note the language: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." From this passage we see that there was a conversation in the Godhead regarding the creation of man. It was mutually agreed that they should make man in their image and after their likeness. These three Personalities had the same image and likeness. Though distinct in personality, they are one in substance, in essence, and in being, cooperating with each other and supplementing the labors of the others as the ages roll on.
ONE of the most fundamental passages of all Scripture is Deuteronomy 6:4, which reads, in the Revised Version: "Hear, 0 Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah." When translated literally, it is rendered: "Hear, 0 Israel: Jehovah our Gods is Jehovah, a unity." Moses wished to emphasize to the children of Israel the fact that the Divine Personalities constituting the Godhead are a unity in the genuine sense of the term. The primary meaning of the Hebrew word 'echad, one, in our usual translation, is unity. Its significance may be seen in Genesis 2:24, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one ['echad] flesh." These two personalities were one in a real and definite sense; for God said, "They shall be a unity flesh," or one flesh. The persons referred to in this verse are Adam and Eve. In one sense they were two distinct personalities; in another sense they were one. Let us remember therefore that the same word, 'echad, is used with reference to God in Deuteronomy 6:4. If I may be permitted to speak in human terms, I would say that this great confession of Israel tells us that the surname of the Holy Trinity is Jehovah, which means, "The one who causes all things to come into existence." Expressed in philosophical terms, we would say that this word means "the uncaused Cause of all things." The word, Jehovah, therefore, applies to each of these three Personalities constituting the Godhead. They are Jehovah the Father, Jehovah the Son, and Jehovah the Holy Spirit. In view of this truth let us remember that wherever the word, Jehovah, appears in the Scriptures, we must look at the facts of the context to determine which person of the Godhead is meant. In many instances, this word indicates the Godhead--the Holy Trinity. In some cases, it refers to the Father, whereas on many occasions it can mean none other than the Son. It is of the utmost importance that we know this fact; for, if we do not, we cannot fully understand many passages in the Scriptures. (For fuller discussion of this subject see my booklet "The God of Israel.")
Let me say that all the prophets were Trinitarians. The Jews, likewise, were Trinitarians until the end of the first century of the Christian Era or the beginning of the second. They received the doctrine of the Trinity from Moses and the prophets.
In a number of passages of the Book of Isaiah, we see the Trinity reflected. For instance, see chapter 48:12-16. If a person will study this passage, he will observe that the speaker on this occasion is the one who laid the foundations of the earth and spread out the heavens (verse 13). "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." Hear what He says in verse 16: "Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; from the beginning I have not spoken in secret; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord Jehovah hath sent me, and his Spirit." Thus we see that the Creator of the universe claims that the Lord Jehovah had sent Him and had also sent His Spirit--the Holy Spirit. Beyond question then, the one referred to by the expression, "The Lord Jehovah," is God the Father. The one who is the Creator of the universe is sent by Him as He declares. Furthermore, the Lord Jehovah, the Father, has likewise sent Jehovah the Spirit. Thus the Holy Trinity appears most clearly in this passage.
In this connection I wish to call attention to one other passage in the old Testament dealing with the Trinity. Read carefully Zechariah 2:6-9. The speaker in verses 6 and 7 is none other than Jehovah, because the prophet declared such to be the case. The prophet in quoting Jehovah, the speaker of verses 6-8, declared that this Jehovah is sent by Jehovah of hosts. Hear what this Jehovah says: "After glory hath He sent me unto the nations which plundered you; for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye." Jehovah of hosts, whom the prophet is representing, claims that Jehovah of hosts has sent him to vindicate and to demonstrate the glory of God in the world. This Jehovah of hosts is sent by Jehovah of hosts and will dwell in Zion in the midst of His ancient people. Thus in this message there is a clear distinction between the two Personalities who are called Jehovah. They are without doubt Jehovah the Father and Jehovah the Son.
As stated above, the Jews were Trinitarians in the first century. They received their ideas from Moses and the prophets and never became Unitarians until the Christians pressed upon them the teaching regarding Jesus and His being one of the Godhead. Instead of retaining their ancient faith and accepting Jesus as their Kinsman-Redeemer, the God-man, they turned and became Unitarians.
Prior to the days of Rabbi Moses Maimonides, the unity of God was expressed by 'echad which, as has been proved beyond a doubt, has as its primary meaning that of a compound unity. Maimonides, who drafted the thirteen articles of faith--accepted by Jews generally--in the second one sets forth the unity of God, using the word yachid which in the Tenach (Old Testament) is never used to express God's unity. This word occurs in twelve passages which the reader may examine for himself, which investigation will prove conclusively that it carries the idea of absolute oneness (Gen. 22:2,12,16; Amos 8:10; Jer. 6:26; Zech. 12:10; Prov. 4:3; Judg. 11:34; Psa. 22:20 (21), 35:17; 25:16; and 68:6 (7)). From these facts it is evident that a new idea was injected into this confession by substituting yachid, which in every passage carries the primary idea of oneness in the absolute sense, for 'echad, which fundamentally means a compound unity. Hence from the days of Maimonides on, an interpretation different from the ancient one was placed upon this most important passage. Therefore let Israel now return to the original meaning of her Great Confession: "Hear, 0 Israel, Jehovah our Gods is Jehovah a unity."
IN the picture we see the three Personalities constituting the Godhead. That the reader might understand it, I will quote Matthew's record of the baptism of Jesus: "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John would have hindered him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? But Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffereth him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway from the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him; and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:13-17). In this passage we see Jehovah the Father in heaven, Jehovah the Son upon earth, and Jehovah the Spirit in the form of a dove descending upon Jehovah the Son. Everyone who has eyes to see can readily perceive here the three distinct Personalities constituting the Godhead.
Jesus constantly prayed to the Father in heaven. Read carefully our Lord's intercessory prayer in John 17. Jesus speaks of His having been with the Father before the foundation of the world and of His having laid aside the glory which He had had with the Father in order that He might come to redeem man. In laying aside this glory He did not divest himself of His essential deity. Being God He could not do that. He simply laid aside the outward manifestation of the divine glory and took upon himself the form of man in order that He might suffer as the God-man for the redemption of the human family. Read John 1:1-14.
Throughout the epistles we see references to the different members of the Holy Trinity. Often the three are mentioned together. They are equal. In the great commission as recorded by Matthew, we see the Holy Trinity. "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" (Matt. 28:19,20).
THE reasonableness of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ may be illustrated as follows. Suppose I were a god who had created a universe and peopled it with tiny creatures--for instance, the ant. Naturally, I would be interested in them. They would be endowed with certain limited intellectual comprehension and understanding. I would also give them the freedom of choice.
For some reason, I later wish to communicate with them. Should I choose to appear in my unveiled glory, I would strike them with consternation and awe--yes, my presence would consume them. What would be the most effective way of approaching them while respecting their individuality and personality? There would be but one way: to assume their form and to approach them as one of their kind, speaking their language. At the same time I would have to convince them by miraculous power that I was not one of them in the ordinary sense of the term, but their creator in whom they lived and moved and had their being.
That is exactly what the Lord Jesus Christ did. He created man. We live and move and have our being in Him. He respected man's personality and freedom of choice. He came, entering the world by miraculous conception and virgin birth, lived and moved among men. At the same time He, by superhuman knowledge, miracles, and holy life convinced the truth-seekers with whom He associated that He was God (one of the God-head) who thus entered the world for man's good and redemption.
This doctrine should and does appeal to the unprejudiced and unbiased mind. The God who can create the universe is also able, if He chooses to do so, to enter the world and to communicate with His creatures in the manner which is described in the record of the gospel. Unimpeachable witnesses have testified to the fact that such is exactly what occurred historically nineteen hundred years ago.
Those--Jew or Gentile--who are unable to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ have been blinded by Satan, the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4).
Let Christians be clear on the doctrine of the Trinity and recognize each of these Divine Personalities according to the truth that is set forth in the Word of God. Let us pray to the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the heart of all true, genuine believers. The Holy Spirit strengthens the believer for the duties of life. Jesus, the Son, is our great advocate with the Father (I John 2:1). We must always approach the Father through the Son. Whatever we ask in His name, according to His will, shall be granted to us. May the blessing of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit abide with all who know and love the Lord Jesus Christ.