A few thoughts on the Trinity

Understanding the trinity is difficult. Human minds, I believe, are not capable of a complete understanding of the trinity, whilst on this earth. Many have used various illusions to explain who is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but these fall far short of reality. Humans deal well with three dimensions, and cope reasonably with the added dimension of time, but add any other dimension, the field become extremely technical and difficult to comprehend. Physicists may deal in seven or more dimensions, but none of these dimensions explore the spiritual realm. The physical character of God, which humans have much desire to understand, since they are very visual beings, is beyond their grasp. Indeed humans cannot even look upon the face of God for in doing so they would die, as explained to Moses; [God] said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” Exodus 33:20.

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We have a glimpse of the character of God, as portrayed in scripture, but even then, as Paul put it, it is like looking in a poor mirror (as they were in Biblical times) under dim light. In the future in heaven we will fully know (“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12). We will in heaven as Gill put it “see God, the perfections and glory of his nature, the riches of his grace and goodness, as displayed in Christ; they behold the glory of Christ, as full of grace and truth, and are filled with love to him; the desires of their souls are after him, and they are changed into the same image by his Spirit; they discern the things of the Spirit of God;” (John Gill – Notes on 1 Corinthians 13:12).

Christians (and Jews) worship one God. We do not worship three. The Jew learns this from an early age: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Deuteronomy 6:4. This verse is one of the axiomatic verses of every Jew and Christian; yet the Christian knows God as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The notion expressed that God is one is repeated in Scripture; eg King Solomon wanted his words to go out to ensure “all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other.” 1 Kings 8:60. Isaiah wrote: “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.’” (Isaiah 44:6).

We are reminded that the Hebrew word “one” in the verse “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Is 'echa^d and means “united” denoting a plurality within a unity, as Thomas Simcox and others put it[1]. This might be hard to understand at first, but scripture gives a few examples. When a man and woman marry they, according to Scriptures, become one flesh: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24 (NKJV). The verse literally means a man and woman “are united as one ['echa^d] flesh”. Also in Genesis the first day is described as “evening and morning” – the uniting of night and day, forms 24 hours, that is one day – the two become one 'echa^d. Thomas Simcox also gives the example of the cluster of grapes brought home by the spies that went to the Promised Land (Number 13:23). They returned with one ('echa^d) cluster of grapes.

This is an important concept – and deals with the issues raised by many. God is plural in his unity – that is plurality co-exists in unity. Right from the beginning of Scriptures God refers to himself in plural – Elohim e.g. Genesis 1:26, 3:22, and 11:7. God speaking of himself uses Elohim then says ‘let us’; plurality as unity. This is not always brought out in English – eg Ecclesiastes 12:1 – where the plural creators (??????) is intended: “And remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1a).

Christians worship one God – this is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was Moses who first referred to God in this way, at the burning bush, which Jesus quotes (Luke 20:37), as does Peter (Acts 3:13) and Stephen (Acts 7:32). Yet we know that that Jesus is God, for Jesus said: “And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.” John 8:16. Jesus goes on and says “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30). God told Moses His name was “I Am Who I Am” when asked (Exodus 3:14). Jesus also uses the same illustration: “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’”John 8:58.

Throughout Scriptures the triune God is assumed; three separate persons of the Godhead, yet the same Godhead. They speak to each other which is best illustrated by the Psalms where the each member of the trinity express themselves. For example take Psalm 2- God the Father speaks, the Son speaks and the Holy Spirit speaks.

Firstly the Holy Spirit speaks: He speaks of the God (Father) and his (Jehovah’s) anointed which can only be the son: “Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed” (v 1-2). The speaker talks about two people – the Jehovah and His Anointed. It is the Son who is anointed by the Jehovah.

In verse 7 it is clearly the Father speaking: “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’” since it speaks about ‘my’ son it must be the Father speaking.

The Son speaks in verses 10 and 11, with the exhortation that kings (rulers) are to serve Jehovah with fear. The Holy Spirit responds with ‘kiss the son!’ – clearly not the Father, else it would be ‘my son’ as it is in verse 7, and is not the son speaking else it would be ‘kiss me’.

Isaiah writes, acknowledging the trinity: “Listen to Me, O Jacob, And Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last. Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, And My right hand has stretched out the heavens; When I call to them, They stand up together.” (Isaiah 48:12-13). This is clearly the Father speaking. But in verse 16 the Son speaks: “Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; From the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit Have sent Me.” This verse cannot be the Father (Lord GOD) or the Holy Spirit speaking, as it speaks in the first person about them – therefore the speaker must be the Son, and the Son must be God, because the passage is about the First and Last – who is God. Hence, we view the trinity: “And now the Lord GOD [the Father] and His Spirit [the Holy Spirit], Have sent Me [the Son].” To make doubly sure that we understand it is the Son who speaks, Isaiah writes in verse 17: “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the LORD your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go.’” Isaiah 48:17. Who is this Redeemer – it is the Messiah – the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

We know that Jesus was the Son of God, because this is the purpose of John’s gospel, where he sets out an exact argument that the one who came is indeed the Son of God: “these [words] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31).

In the passage quoted from Isaiah we note the use of the terms “I am the First, I am also the Last”. These words are repeated in Revelation by Jesus Christ – the Messiah and redeemer: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” Revelation 1:8. Again we note Scripture assumes the trinity, and therefore it is logical to reference the passage to the Lord God, when the Son is intended. We know this speaks of Jesus Christ, as John sets this out in verses 1-7 (e.g. “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth” verse 5). The same words are used in Revelation 22:13: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last” which identifies the writer as the Messiah, the second person of the trinity.

Jesus first spoke of the Holy Spirit in John 14:16 when he indicated he would pray the father would send the Holy Spirit – referred to as Comforter or Advocate (παρακλητος). This we see came to fruition and reported upon in Acts chapter 2. In John 14 we see all three of the Godhead – the triune God as the Son in human nature praying to the Father, the Father is being prayed to as God, that the Holy Spirit being prayed to be sent, for the purpose of “teach(ing) you all things and bring(ing) to your remembrance all that I (the Son) have said to you” (John 14:26). The son is distinct from the Father, and not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit takes the work of Christ and reveals them to his own, that is, those who believe in the Son. One other task of the Holy Spirit, sent at Pentecost, was to: “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” John 16:8.

We read in Colossians 1:15-19 that the Messiah – Jesus Christ is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell.” Note the last sentence: The Father places all the characteristics of God (omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence etc) on the Son, and who created the universe, and in him the universe exists; this is God’s will and good pleasure. What this means is all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ bodily – whatever the divine excellence of the Father. Yet along with the Holy Spirit are one.

[1] Thomas Simcox (2014) Can three be one? Friends of Israel, November/December 2014, pg 10

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David L Simon
Posted: 14 Dec 2014