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- To encounter God, be prepared for someone who exceeds all expectations!
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- The logic necessary to comprehend the creator of the universe transcends human intelligence.
- If the most brilliant scientists in the history of the human race were placed in a laboratory with adequate supplies of the 109 basic chemical elements of material existence, they could not even begin to speculate on how to create as much as a mouse, or having more room, just a second moon to orbit the earth.
- And, scientific investigation cannot be used to form any theory, even an explanation not subject to laboratory testing, on how basic material elements came to be. The most scholarly studies on the origins of existence occasioned by many decades of research only set forth the conclusion that most likely the universe began with a big bang — known academically as The Big Bang Theory.
- Just as human intelligence is too limited to fully comprehend the universe, human logic will be found inadequate to completely understand the creator. However, no inherent human right exists to deny anything about the nature of God, simply because he is difficult to understand, any more than the reality of the laboratory experiences of a mouse may be denied, because science does not fall within the logic of mice.
- However, the infinite God reaches out to the finite human to reveal himself in a manner sufficient to form a loving relationship. Scripture asserts its words are the record of God’s actions in history to make known in progressive stages his plan for human life, which is authenticated by the reality of its world view and the realization of its predictive prophecies. (For example, Isaiah 66:8, written around 720 B.C., predicts the fallen nation of Israel would be formed again in a single day, which occurred May 14, 1948).
- While Christians easily accept that the nature of God’s existence does not have to depend on the conditions of material reality, at times they are not as willing to admit that neither must it depend on human logic and experience.
- All things are possible with God, Mark 10:27. If someone definitely is in New York, then natural logic applied to human reality determines that person cannot be also in Los Angeles. However, those who believe in God assert he always is in New York and Los Angeles at the same time, for God is present everywhere in the universe, Jeremiah 23:23,24.
- It is not difficult for believers to accept that a difference in the form of existence arises from the spiritual realm, that is subject only to a supernatural logic, and that is no more mysterious than how time cannot have a beginning, even though all human experience must have a beginning.
- Human reason demands by definition that one is one, and three is three, but just as one is never three, three can never be one. However, it is possible for God to transcend human experience and logic even in regard to the most basic observations on material reality.
- Although no one even can imagine how one can be three, the limits of the human mind should not be a basis for denying what is possible. And, God does not want to be known by imagination, or by a guess at what three in one can mean, but only by the way Scripture presents his being as a Trinity.
- How does the Word of God represent the Trinity?
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- The concept of the Trinity begins in the Old Testament!
- As Scripture was first written in 1,500 B.C., great stress was laid on the unique oneness of God, as a contrast to the polytheism of all early civilizations. Deuteronomy 6:4: Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord, cf. 4:35; I Kings 8:60; II Kings 19:15; Zechariah 14:9. (Citations KJV unless indicated)
- However, the word for God in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament is actually plural — Elohim/Gods. (See item two of Bibliography below)
- And, Scripture does not support the suggestion that Elohim is a plural of majesty, as historically a monarch made self-reference by the pronoun we, to merely embellish the image of being the king.
- Rather, Scripture sets forth an intricate essence for the existence of God. Genesis 1:26,27: And God said, Let us make man in our image…So God created man in his own image…. Genesis 3:22: And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us…, (wherein us cannot refer to angels, in whose image human beings were not made).
- Further, Scripture states God is one, using the word echad, indicating a complex oneness.
- For example, the word echad serves to denote that one day has evening and morning, at Genesis 1:5; that Adam and Eve were one flesh, at Genesis 2:24; and that one congregation can have more than 42,000 people, at Ezra 2:64.
- An indivisible oneness is expressed in Hebrew by the word yachid, in the way that Genesis 22:2; Psalm 25:16; and Zechariah 12:10, indicate one individual.
- The Old Testament emphasizes God the law giver but clearly previews the threefold essence of his being, which only came to be manifested completely in New Testament times, (when God incarnate, Jesus Christ, came to fulfill the requirements of the Law, so that the Holy Spirit of God could confer on humanity the benefits of salvation).
- Zechariah 12:10: And I will pour upon the House of David…the Spirit of grace and supplications: And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him….
- Isaiah 42:1: Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him…. Isaiah 9:6: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God….
- Isaiah 11:2: And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
- Isaiah 48:16: Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and his spirit, hath sent me, cf. verse 12; Revelation 1:11.
- In the Old Testament, there are various instances of a mysterious Angel of the Lord, a God-man, who appears to be no one less than the preincarnate Christ, Genesis 16:7; 22:11,12; 32:24–32; Exodus 3:2–7; Joshua 5:13–15; cf. Daniel 7:13,14.
- Nehemiah 9:20: Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldst not thy manna from their mouth…, cf. Ezekiel 36:27.
- Numbers 11:25: And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him (Moses), and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.
- The Old Testament makes many references to the Holy Spirit coming upon persons to empower them, Exodus 31:3; 35:31; Numbers 24:2; Deuteronomy 34:9; Judges 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; I Samuel 10:6; 16:13,14.
- Actually, the Trinity is found in the very first verses of the Bible. Genesis 1:1-3: In the beginning God created…And the Spirit of God moved…And God said, Let there be…. Note, the New Testament describes Christ as God’s word. John 1:1,3: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things were made by him…, cf. Job 26:13, Proverbs 30:4.
- The New Testament continues in revealing the oneness of God as having a threefold unity.
- As the Old Testament emphasizes God is one, so does the New Testament.
- James 2:19: Thou believeth that there is one God; thou doest well: The devils also believe, and tremble.
- Galatians 3:20: Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one, cf. I Corinthians 8:4; I Timothy 1:17.
- And, the New Testament also portrays a threefold conception of God, that the Old Testament previews.
- Matthew 1:20–23:…the
angel of the Lord appeared…saying, Joseph,…fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins…that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord…Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name…God with us, cf. Isaiah 7:14.
- Luke 3:21,22:…that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And The Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
- John 16:5,7: But now I go my way to him that sent me…For if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you: but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
- However, the New Testament clearly represents the threefold divinity as being one God.
- Matthew 28:19: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the of Holy Ghost. In this verse, Father-Son-Spirit is one name.
- There are three persons in one God, so completely united in essence, so identical in nature, that each possesses the same character, will, emotion, power, and presence.
- Any trait attributed to God applies equally to the unified Trinity. Thus, for instance, the Father, Son and Spirit are all eternal, Psalm 90:2; Hebrews 9:14; Revelation 1:8,17; omnipotent, Job 26:13; Psalm 102:25; Colossians 1:16; omniscient, Psalm 139:1–4; Romans 8:26,27; I Corinthians 2:10; Revelation 1:17–19; omnipresent, Psalm 139:7; Jeremiah 23:24; Matthew 18:20; holy, Matthew 12:32; Acts 3:14; Revelation 15:4.
- The distinction to be observed in the persons of the deity is in their function.
- In regard to salvation, God, the Father, is the planner, and the Holy Spirit brings to completion the work that Christ, the uniquely related Son, initiates.
- I Peter 1:2: Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through
sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ… — cf. God, the Father, as planner, Matthew 11:26; John 3:16; Romans 8:2; Ephesians 1:9: Christ as redeemer, Matthew 1:21; Romans 3:24,25; Galatians 4:4,5; I Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:7; I Timothy 2:5: Holy Spirit as regenerator, John 3:5; 14:16,26; 16:7–11; Acts 1:8; Romans 5:5; 8:14,15; 14:17; I Corinthians 2:12,13; Galatians 5:22,23; Ephesians 1:13; Titus 3:5; I John 5:6.
- In regard to creation, the first verses of Genesis again indicate that God, the Father, is the planner; Christ, as his word, initiates; and the Holy Spirit, hovering over an earth without form, brings the work to completion.
- Scripture always represents the threefold division of God as persons, never as a force.
- God as creator is Father. I Corinthians 8:6: But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things…, cf. Luke 3:38; Hebrews 12:9.
- Jesus Christ is the Son, as heir of all things. Hebrews 1:2:…whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds, cf. Ephesians 1:9–12; Colossians 1:13–18. As the son of man, Mark 6:3, and the Son of God, Matthew 17:5, Christ’s work on earth initiated a new humanity, Romans 5:18,19, who will be the citizens of his coming kingdom, Revelation chp.21.
- The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as life giver. John 3:5,6:…Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Romans 8:15–17:…ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ…, cf. John 16:8–13; Romans 8:11; II Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 5:25; Ephesians 1:13,14; I Thessalonians 1:5.
- Scripture does not fully explain the complex existence of God, but it reveals his diversity to the extent that the Christian doctrine of his tri-unity may be defined formally. (Note item one of the Bibliography to reference the below cited page numbers)
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- The persons of God are distinct, not separate.
- They do not exist alongside each other, “but in, through, and unto each other,” (p.296). “Neither space nor time nor anything else separates them,” (p.298).
- The essence of deity is fully possessed by each person and by the tri-fold unity. Each person “is identical with the entire being, and equal to the other two persons taken together, or to all the three,” (p.302).
- However, the persons of God “are not the three parts of one whole nor three names for one and the same object. The Father alone is Father, the Son alone is Son, the Spirit alone is Spirit,” (p.282).
- We do not worship the Son and the Holy Spirit besides the Father, but in God we worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit is the name of the third person of the Trinity, although he is also the personal Spirit of the Father and the Son, Romans 8:9,27; just as all three persons have the same mind, will, energy, nature, and essence. The Word of God does not manifest the exact manner that three persons can have the same spirit.
- However, Scripture never contradicts itself, stating in one passage that there is one God, and in other verses that there are three gods, but it consistently represents God as three in one.
- The Trinity derives from the being of God, not the person of the Father.
- In the respective functions of each person regarding our salvation, the Holy Spirit glorifies Christ, John 16:8,9,14, who glorifies God, the Father, John 4:34; 6:38. However, there is no inherent personal subordination, and all persons of the Trinity are completely equal.
- God is not the Father because he existed before the Son, but because of the existence of the Son, just as the Holy Spirit is eternal, John 1:1,2; 17:5,24.
- When Scripture refers to the Son begotten this day, Psalm 2:7, it prophesies the coming of Christ as both God and a human being, in order to fulfill an earthly mission. When Christ refers to the Father as greater, John 14:28, the comparison is to Jesus' human role on earth to take on the sins of humankind, Philippians 2:7,8.
- The Trinity is a concept derived solely from the Bible.
- The God of Scripture has absolutely no similarities to pagan polytheism, which portrays individual gods with different temperaments and dominions, with capricious motives, and even with changing personalities.
- No elements of a tri-fold deity are found in human philosophy.
- Scripture clearly reveals a tri-fold essence to God, although the theological term Trinity is never used. However, this term does not introduce new dogma to Scripture but permits human reason to explain and defend a biblical world view, just as Christ and the apostles used logic and inference to interpret the Old Testament, and as extra-biblical terms are necessary for all theology.
- The concept of the Trinity is difficult to understand, as Scripture is not a revelation on everything there is to know of God, but only as much as he chooses to make known for our age.
- However, the actual experience of human salvation comes through God’s threefold essence. Many things in life are fully experienced, although they are never fully explained — love, electricity, the creation of a human life, the movement of history, atom bombs, economic cycles of prosperity and depression, the human personality, time, light, etc.
- A threefold distinction to God does seem remarkably consistent with nature and many other aspects of Scripture.
- For instance, space has height, width, and depth; matter exists as solid, liquid, or gas; time is understood as present, past, or future; a family consists of husband, wife, children; a human being comprises body, mind, soul; the basic colors are red, yellow, blue.
- And for instance, according to Scripture the universe is composed of heaven, earth, and hell; Noah’s three sons divided humankind into three races; the tabernacle was set in three divisions; the Old Testament consists of the Law, Writings, and Prophesy; Christ’s ministry lasted three years, and he was in the grave three days, being crucified among three crosses, his superscription written in three languages; I John 5:8 notes there are three witnesses to Christ; the book of Revelation presents three woes, 8:13.
- In response to spiritual leaders attempting to create essentially new religious systems during the fourth century by altering basic Christian teachings, the church vigorously debated the meaning of the Trinity, for the most part deciding that God is three persons within one substance. Yet, Scripture states that God is Spirit, John 4:24, and the Bible does not reveal if spirit even has substance. However, representing the Trinity in this manner was important during that time, in order to satisfy influential ideas from ancient Greek schools of thought on the categories of nature.
- As Scripture presents the Trinity, so it must be accepted. To rationalize the concept into conformity with human ideas and experience leads only to error.
- Throughout the history of the church, teachers have come and gone to challenge the meaning of Christianity, by attacking the orthodox view of the Trinity. The many variations of these teachings rest on two basic positions.
- Modalism — affirms that there is one God who expresses himself in three forms.
- Monarchism — holds that Jesus Christ was created at a point in time and represents a subordinate form of deity. Then, the Holy Spirit is explained as just another name for God, or as yet another lesser form of deity.
- However, to distort the concept of the Trinity changes the truth of who is Jesus Christ and of how a person finds salvation through God.
- If God exists as three modes, then by our own efforts we come to truly know him by passing through three stages of spirituality. Salvation becomes an entirely subjective, mystical experience.
- If Christ is a lesser deity, having existed as a human being with an inner divine spark brought
to maturity through obedience, then he became the Son of God by his own actions. And then, our salvation is accomplished by imitating him in our efforts to be God-like.
- If Christ is a lesser deity, an intermediary path to God, but not fully human, he is not a true sacrifice for human sin.
- Salvation occurs only by accepting the blood of Christ as a sacrificial substitute for our own sin.
- Scripture clearly indicates that all humankind deserves damnation by choosing to reject God, just as Adam and Eve did, Romans 3:23; 5:12.
- As everyone of us willfully denies God because our hearts are focused on sin, so he has turned over all humankind to the bondage of their wrongful ways, and no one even has the capacity to see spiritual truth, Romans 1:28–32, cf. Deuteronomy 29:2–5.
- However, through the power of the Holy Spirit and as a free gift from God, I Corinthians 2:12–14, we can come to understand that Christ paid the penalty for our wrongdoing. By accepting Christ’s blood sacrifice, we receive a legal declaration of pardon in the courts of heaven and come into a relationship with God, Romans 6:6: [see What Is Holiness?]. Then, the Holy Spirit begins a process to reshape us into a new humanity, to be like Christ and to inherit eternal life as the children of God, Romans 8:1,2,26–29.
- However, the only means of salvation is the blood of Christ, that of both a sinless man and God. We do not know exactly how Christ was completely human and fully God in one person, but only the sacrifice of his blood overcomes the evil of humankind. [See Who Is Jesus Christ?].
- Thus, in understanding the Trinity, we come to realize that our salvation is entirely dependent on God. Only by the plan of the Father, the sacrifice of the Son, and the work of the Holy Spirit do we receive life. When we find the Trinity, we see the heart of Christianity, and we are overwhelmed by the beauty of God’s grace.
1. Regarding II. A. 2.,3. (page 43), see Gary Hedrick, Do Christians Worship Three Gods? — San Antonio: The Christian Jew Foundation, ?, pp. 16–19.
2. Regarding III. (pages 47–49), see Herman Bavnick, The Doctrine Of God — Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1951, pp. 255–334.
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This outline constitutes a chapter from Only The Essentials: Clear and Simple Outlines on Complex Theology. Copyright 2001 by Montgomery Paul Webb. All rights reserved. However, permission is granted solely to private individuals to make ten copies of any disc containing this book, to include whatever other publications are available therein from the Church of the Love of Christ, for distribution to friends and acquaintances, on the conditions — 1. that the entirety of the contents of the disc is copied;— 2. and that absolutely no change, addition, or omission is made.
From printed material, photocopies only of any chapter can be made privately by individuals for distribution to friends and acquaintances, on the conditions — 1. that the entirety of the chapter is copied and distributed, including the pages of the chapter rendering the name The Church of the Love of Christ, the author’s name, and the copyright notice; — 2. and that absolutely no change, addition, or omission is made.
Chapter outlines include — What Is the Bible? | Can God Be Known? | Who Is Jesus Christ? | Who Is the Holy Spirit? | What Is the Trinity? | What Is the Kingdom Of God? | What Is Faith? | What Is Holiness? and What Is the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus? | What Is the Church? | New Testament Giving and Prosperity. | What Is Spiritual Warfare? | Can Anyone Understand Predestination?
Additional chapters include — A Second Call to Reform and the Philosophy of the Church of the Love of Christ. | The Constitution of the Church of the Love of Christ.
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