THE DOCTRINE OF TRINITY (2)
“There are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.”
Shorter Catechism Answer 6
This definition perfectly captures the Biblical teaching on the nature of the Godhead expounding both the oneness and the diversity of God.
God is revealed in the Scriptures as one God:
“Hear O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)
“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19)
God is the only deity in existence. There are no other gods. He stands alone as the one and only God who created all things and and who sustains the vastness of the universe. Therefore the first two commandments call us to worship Him alone and not be following representations of deity, as in graven images. The singularity of God calls us to worship and adore Him because all things come from Him.
“I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” (Isaiah 42:8)
As God is one, He is exists in the one united substance. This substance is Spirit. Even the substance of God calls mankind in his duty to worship and adore him as Jesus Christ taught:
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)
It is this spiritual “substance” which has given humanity his unique place as the crown of creation. Being made in the image of God does not mean that deity is flesh and bone but rather, that mankind is essentially a spiritual creature:
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7)
Therefore if man is to worship his creator, he must do so “in spirit”. The Fall and the subsequent depravity of human nature has rendered man incapable of worship. It is only the infusion of spiritual life with the new birth that enables man to worship God.
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3)
ONE GOD IN THREE PERSONS – OLD TESTAMENT
Is the Trinity revealed in the Old Testament? It is true that the Jews did not appreciate God existing in three persons, focusing rather upon the nature of Jehovah. The fullness of God’s revelation of Himself had to wait until the arrival of Christ and the subsequent teachings of the Apostles. A close examination of the Old Testament, however, reveals that there was indeed a plurality within the substance of deity. This plurality corroborates the New Testament revelation of God as a Trinity.
The “us” passages in Genesis:
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)
“Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 11:7)
It seems, that from the beginning, there was an indication that God existed in a plurality. This is supported by the first name ascribed to God in the Hebrew language (Elohim), which is the plural of the singular, El, meaning Gods. While God was regarded as one, there was a strong pointer in favour of distinct persons within the one substance.
The Angel of the Covenant
When Hagar met the Angel of the Lord she received promises that came from God himself and she identified the angel as Jehovah:
“And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” (Genesis 16:13)
When Abraham was met in the desert by three angels, two departed into Sodom while he remained before one and prayed, teaching this angel was in fact God:
“And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.” (Genesis 18:22)
When Jacob encountered the same heavenly personage at the Brook Jabbok he had no doubts as to the identity of the one he encountered:
“And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” (Genesis 32:30)
In these representative passages, there is a clear thread showing us that there is a separate person within deity who can be revealed to men; who acts and talks with the power of God. This is not the Father who dwells in the light of glory, but the Son of God, revealed in the fullness of New Testament revelation.
THE ISAIAH PASSAGES
In Isaiah 6 the prophet receives his tremendous awe inspiring vision of God which both humbles and commissions him for service. The song of the angelic creatures in praise to God is three fold:
“And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)
Why not four cries or two cries? Why three – “Holy, Holy, Holy”. There is one inescapable conclusion. That God dwells in in Trinity of three persons who share the one glory.
From Isaiah 42 the prophet reveals the one who is the servant of Jehovah. This beautiful sequence of chapters brings us to the 53rd Chapter, where we view the suffering servant, which New Testament teaching reveals as the Christ. In Isaiah 48, The Servant speaks describing Himself as the first and the last (v12), as the one who created the universe (v13) until finally he reveals the presence of distinct persons within the once substance which is God:
“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.” Isaiah 48:16
These are just a few of the passages in the Old Testament, that are indicative of three persons within the the Godhead.
Our next study will progress to New Testament revelation.