Are there 3 gods in the Trinity?


Draft: Dec 11/2011

 

My Dear Glenn,

 

Thank you very much for you authentic work on my question.

 

I have listened it so many times and have read it again and again. And every time when I do this I feel pleasure increasing in me. Thank you, you made it possible on my request.

 

Thanks now I know that there are a lot of things to prove that Christ is the son of God. I have never been taught like this before. Really it is a deep study of this topic for a Muslim specially. Friend I am impressed and At least I am convinced that the Jesus Christ is son of God. But it generated some more questions in my mind (please don’t mind I just want some more help about how I trust Jesus is son of God and How remains there oneness. I have heard this word trinity…what is all in this trinity?

 

I hope you will be helping me same in the matter of father, son and spirit.

 

I am desperately waiting for your teachings on three Gods in one. 

 

…………………

In this article, I will try to treat the topic of God’s oneness as reverently and humbly as I can.

 

I will say at the outset, though, that the trinity is not about three Gods in one (God), but about three Persons in One God. Just like God has knowledge, power, and speech in His being—but these three things are not three separate GODS, but they are aspects or parts (not ‘physical parts’ of course!) or attributes of the One God. So too, the trinity is like that: there are three persons or agents within the ONE being of God. Just as God’s knowledge cannot be separated from His power or His speech, so too the Father, the Son, and the Spirit cannot be separated from one another inside the being of God. It is this that I will try to explain to you, friend. Even with three persons (Father, Son, Spirit) inside God, there is still only ONE God. Just as there are multiple attributes (for example knowledge, power, speech, hearing, will, mercy) inside God, there is still only ONE God. There is none but Him—and only He can be trusted and only He should be obeyed.

 

Here is the basic outline of my (attempt at) explanation:

 

 

Apart from the teaching of the New Testament on the relationship between Messiah Jesus and God the Father, possibly what is known as the doctrine of the “trinity” comes closest to being what a traditional Muslim theologian would call ‘shirk’—ascribing partners to God and denying divine unity (tawhid). Standing outside the world of the teachings of the New Testament—teachings by Jesus and His companions and apostles—the doctrine can look like grotesque polytheism. And often, in some statements of the concept of the Trinity, it probably borders on it.

 

The bible never actually used the term ‘trinity’ (like the Quran never uses the word ‘tawhid’). It is a word invented by theologians to try to set a framework around the teachings of the Bible on the complex nature and existence of our amazing God. Trinity comes from an almost desperate linguistic attempt to say tri-unity (“three-but-only-one”). It is an honest attempt to assert both the absolute uniqueness of God (there are no other gods but He) and at the same time the beyond-creaturely robustness within that single entity known as ‘God’.

 

Only God can tell us what He is ‘like’. We know He is ‘more than us’ in both unity and in robustness. I am an integrated unit (a unity of body, soul, spirit) but God is more integrated than I—He is a unit of no ‘parts’. I am also a bundle of various attributes, capabilities, aspects, perspectives, elements (a plurality of internal states) but God is more robust that--He has many more attributes, perspectives, internal states than do I. I am a simple being--but God is 'more simple'. I am a complex being--but God is 'more complex'.

 

He is beyond comparison with humans, so we should not think of Him as bound to our limitations of number, logic, or psychology. As humans, we cannot be “three full persons sharing one body” or “three full persons inside of each other”, but God could be, in His greatness, robustness, and otherness.

 

Introduction to the problem: Diversity and Unity in the history of Muslim theology

 

The Quran does not discuss the actual ‘insides’ of God. It describes God’s actions (past, present, and future), God’s will or law for His creatures (for example, to believe in His Scriptures and to do good to the poor), God’s character (for examples, Merciful and Just), and God’s attributes (for examples, All-knowing, all-powerful, and eternal).

 

The earliest Muslims had no problem talking about the multiple perfections within the one God. They simply accepted what their Scripture said, and those sayings were not twisted into meaning something other than what they appeared to say. When the Islamic scriptures said that God was One, they were understood to mean that there was only one God—only one being that could correctly be called God. It meant that there were not two gods, or three gods, or ten gods, or hundreds of gods. It meant that God had no partner gods, wife goddesses, or offspring gods -- sons or daughters. There were no other gods in existence to even be partners, wives, or children gods.

 

To say that God was One was to say that God was alone, that God was different from everything else, and that God had no equals or rivals.

 

For the first generation of Muslims, it did not mean that God had nothing inside His being. It did not mean that God did not have some kind of multiplicity or diversity or differentiations within His infinite being. They accepted – on the basis of their understanding of their scripture—that God had both knowledge and power within His being, that God had both mercy and justice within His character, and that God was both Creator and Sustainer of an external creation. But they did not think that these everyday expressions in prayers or praise somehow made them into polytheists! They used these expressions because God had used those expressions in the former scriptures (the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament) and they read these in their Quran, in describing His actions in history, His attitudes toward us, and His wonderful character.

Debate raged within Muslim scholarship over the centuries since its beginning, over the relationship between these obviously diverse elements and the assumed uniformity (absolute unity, with nothing in the essence to actually unite, per se) of God’s essence. The very strong pro-Uniformity proponents were branded as heretics, and the mainstream position of the Asharites (‘we believe it and we do not ask how’ position) left the question open. The brilliant Muslim philosophers all were heavily influenced by secular philosophy, and they often took a Uniformity position as well—and were branded as heretics as well. The strong assertions that God’s tawhid is some kind of unknowable, featureless, homogeneous substance—without any real attributes except perhaps Will—is a more modern phenomenon, and is considered to be below the standards of Medieval Muslim scholarship:

 

“TAWHID. An Arabic term meaning literally "making one" or "unifying," is considered by many twentieth-century Islamic activists to be the axial or defining doctrine of Islam. Although tawhid has traditionally been recognized as a fundamental doctrine of Islam, its popularity as Islam's defining characteristic is a modern development. Indeed, the term is not mentioned in the Qur'an. Early theologians used it in their interpretations of the relationship between divine essence and divine attributes, as well as in their defense of divine unity against dualists and Trinitarians… [WR:OEMIW, s.v. “Tawhid”, 4:190ff]

 

“The most outspoken critics of Christianity are not always the best ambassadors for Islam. Not all Muslims appreciate Akhtar's abrasive style (which has been directed against the Islamic as well as the Christian tradition, notwithstanding a strongly avowed orthodoxy), or his rather militaristic interpretations of Islamic teachings. Al-Faruqi's treatment of some of the traditional areas of tension in Islam, such as the relationship between God's grace and human deeds, between God's justice and His mercy, or between God's determining of history and human free will, is superficial and somewhat dismissive of the rich legacy of Islamic thought in these areas. …The study of Christianity by modern Muslims does not, on the whole, compare favourably with that of the medieval Muslim scholars. The intellectual tools derived from Aristotelian philosophy have been exchanged for those of modern Western critical scholarship, which, whatever their intrinsic merits, are applied in a far less sustained and rigorous way. These Muslims show less awareness than did the medieval scholars that some of the philosophical problems arising in Christian theology, concerning, for example, the Incarnation and the Trinity, have their counterparts in Islam in the areas of the attributes of God, the eternality and Uncreatedness of the Qur'an, and the need to reconcile the fact of God's absolute transcendence with His commmunication with humankind." [WR:MACF2F, 172f]

 

 

 

Later, We will look a little more at how the Muslim theologians of the past tried to resolve this issue in Muslim theology, but let me first note that some Muslim authorities have recognized that the Christian teaching on Trinity is not polytheism. Properly understood, the doctrine of the Trinity is fully monotheistic.

 

“Recall the crisply formulated conclusion that Nicholas of Cusa [an ancient Christian teacher and church leader of the 15th century] reached after examining Muslim and Jewish critiques of the doc­trine of the Trinity: "In the manner in which Arabs [Muslims] and Jews deny the Trinity, assuredly it ought to be denied by all.” The Christian creeds and the great Christian teachers reject dividing the divine essence no less adamantly than do Muslims and Jews. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a preeminent contemporary Muslim scholar, agrees: "The doctrine of the Trinity certainly does not negate Divine Unity in mainstream Christian theology." [Seyyed Hossein Nasr, “We and You: Let Us Meet in God’s Love,” a lecture delivered at the ‘Common Word’ meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, November 6, 2008. P2; cited in WR:AACR,135f]

 

“Certain earlier authors, such as Ghazali and especially modern Muslim theologians in dialogue with Christian theologians, can go as far as to recognise that, if one considers the precise statement of Christian doctrine, Christianity is an authentic monotheism. But they would certainly add that it is in form different from the Islamic monotheism…” [WR:HIIT, 80,81]

 

“From the Muslim perspective, the relatively crude perception of the Christian Trinity as three gods has gradually been replaced by a deeper appreciation of the complexities of the Christian understanding of three distinct persons in one essence. [WR:HTRQ, 28-31]

 

The early Muslim theologians faced exactly the same issues we face in trying to understand the teaching of God in Scripture. We saw this in our article on the Son (howson.html).

 

 

 

 

First point—what the Trinity is NOT.

 

In trying to describe the Trinity, let me first remind you of what I had only mentioned in the article about the Son of God—that the concept or example of the Trinity rightly condemned in the Quran is different from what the major Christian groups believe.

 

The Quranic passages that are sometimes represented as denying the doctrine of the Christian Trinity are these (translations here are by AY Ali, MH Shakir, MM Pickthall in that order):

 

4:171

O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His apostles. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.

 

O followers of the Book! do not exceed the limits in your religion, and do not speak (lies) against Allah, but (speak) the truth; the Messiah, Isa son of Marium is only a messenger of Allah and His Word which He communicated to Marium and a spirit from Him; believe therefore in Allah and His messengers, and say not, Three. Desist, it is better for you; Allah is only one Allah; far be It from His glory that He should have a son, whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His, and Allah is sufficient for a Protector.

 

O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not "Three" - Cease! (it is) better for you! - Allah is only One Allah. Far is it removed from His Transcendent Majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender.

 

5:73

They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah.

 

Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely Allah is the third (person) of the three; and there is no god but the one Allah

 

They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three; when there is no Allah save the One Allah.

 

5:116

And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah?” He will say: “Glory to Thee! Never could I say what I had no right (to say).

 

And when Allah will say: O Isa son of Marium! did you say to men, Take me and my mother for two gods besides Allah he will say: Glory be to Thee, it did not befit me that I should say what I had no right to (say).

 

And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? he saith: Be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right.

 

But these denials of a type of polytheism are ones that most Christians could agree with. Anyone who says that Jesus and His earthly mother Mary are a separate god and goddess (understood as Allah’s wife) distinct from God the Father would be considered heretics today.

 

The trinity condemned by the Quran is one that would be condemned by modern Christians everywhere. The trinity portrayed in the Quran was a perversion of the real Christian understanding of God. The trinity is neither 3 gods, nor does it contain Mary in any sense of the word.

 

Many orthodox Muslim commentators (but not all) commented on this specific version of the Trinity, and they show that this Quranic Trinity is NOT the Christian trinity as it is understood and believed by the followers of Christ today or even back then.

 

So, for example, ‘Abdullan Yusuf Ali’s footnote at 5:116 says:

 

“The worship of Mary, though repudiated by the Protestants, was widely spread in the earlier Churches, both in the East and in the West.”

 

Or the ancient commentators:

 

“According to the evidence of the Quran, the Christians maintain that God, Christ, and Mary are three gods…” [WR:QIE, 126; Zamakhshari, on 4:171]

 

“(Surely, they have disbelieved who say: "Allah is the third of three.") Mujahid and several others said that this Ayah was revealed about the Christians in particular. As-Suddi and others said that this Ayah was revealed about taking `Isa and his mother as gods besides Allah, thus making Allah the third in a trinity. As-Suddi said, "This is similar to Allah's statement towards the end of the Surah,(And (remember) when Allah will say: "O `Isa, son of Maryam! Did you say unto men: `Worship me and my mother as two gods besides Allah' He will say, "Glory be to You!").  ... This Ayah also shows the crime of the Christians who invented a lie against Allah and His Messenger, thus making a rival, wife and son for Allah. Allah is glorified in that He is far above what they attribute to Him [Ibn Kathir, on 5:73]

 

“Allah then revealed about the Nestorian Christians of Najran who claimed that Jesus was the son of Allah and that Jesus and the Lord are partners, saying: (O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate) do not be extreme (in your religion) for this is not the right course (nor utter aught concerning Allah save the Truth. … (and say not “Three”) a son, father and wife. (Cease!) from making such a claim and repent ((it is) better for you!) than such a claim. (Allah is only One God) without a son or partner. [Ibn Abbas, at 4:171; note that this commentary can refer to the later, more orthodox view of the Trinity – but it still represents it as tri-theism, at 5:73]

 

“They are indeed disbelievers those who say, ‘God is the third of three’, gods, that is, He is one of them, the other two being Jesus and his mother, and they [who claim this] are a Christian sect; when there is no god but the One God. If they do not desist from what they say, when they declare a trinity, and profess His Oneness, those of them who disbelieve, that is, [those] who are fixed upon unbelief, shall suffer a painful chastisement, namely, the Fire. [al-Jalalyn, at 5:73]

 

 

This is in keeping with secular and Christian understandings of those ayat (verses):

 

God is the third of three: this is not an attack on the standard Christian doctrine of the Trinity, but on a perversion of it which amounted to the worship of three gods.” [WR:CTTQ, 77; William Montgomery Watt]

 

“This particular passage [5:116f] is certainly a powerful one against the heretic Miriamites, who had made Mary a goddess, Jesus her son, and God Almighty her husband. This definitely is blasphemy and certainly is not accepted by true Christians who believe in the Holy Bible.” [WR:IR, 114f; Anis Shorrosh]

 

“The Christian doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation as represented in the Koran do not agree with these doctrines as formulated by the Church councils. With regard to the Christian Trinity as represented in the Koran, it consisted of God, Jesus, and Mary. According to the conciliar formulation of the doctrine, the Trinity consisted of God, the Word, that is, the pre-existent Christ, and the Holy Spirit. [WR:POK, 304]

 

“Recall the crisply formulated conclusion that [Christian author] Nicholas of Cusa reached after examining Muslim and Jewish critiques of the doc­trine of the Trinity: "In the manner in which Arabs [Muslims] and Jews deny the Trinity, assuredly it ought to be denied by all.” The Christian creeds and the great Christian teachers reject dividing the divine essence no less adamantly than do Muslims and Jews. Now, there is a difference—sometimes even a great difference— between tenets of normative religion and the actual beliefs of ordinary people. All religions are beset by such discrepancies, and Christianity is no exception. The beliefs of some Christians can be contrary to what Christian creeds and the great Christian teachers advocate. As with all religions, some Christian believers are religiously illiterate or simply mistaken; they know as much about their faith as the average nonscientist knows about astrophysics or neuroscience. In statements that address the doctrine of the Trinity, the Qur'an may well be targeting the beliefs of such Christians, for what the Qur'an rejects in this regard, Christians ought to reject as well.” [WR:AACR,135f]

 

 

 

Basic elements in the Christian doctrine/confession of the trinity

 

As I mentioned above: the trinity is not about three Gods in one (God), but about three Persons in One God. Just like God has knowledge, power, and speech in His being—but these three things are not three separate GODS, but they are aspects or parts (not ‘physical parts’ of course!) or attributes of the One God, so too, the trinity is like that: there are three persons or agents within the ONE being of God. Just as God’s knowledge cannot be separated from His power or His speech, so too the Father, the Son, and the Spirit cannot be separated from one another inside the being of God. It is this that I will try to explain to you, friend. Even with three persons (Father, Son, Spirit) inside God, there is still only ONE God. Just as there are multiple attributes (for example knowledge, power, speech, hearing, will, mercy) inside God, there is still only ONE God. There is none but Him—and only He can be trusted and only He should be obeyed. This uniqueness of God is the common confession of the three major Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

 

A quick list of the biblical teachings which are summarized, combined, and harmonized in the doctrine of the trinity would include these:

 

1.      There is one and only one divine being (God), with a unique divine nature or essence (the Godhead), and possessing the attributes unique to such a being—eternal, un-caused, all-powerful.

2.      It is morally wrong, practically destructive, and factually incorrect to call an agent or a thing by the name ‘God’ if this agent or this thing is separable from the divine nature.

3.      There are three agents in the biblical scriptures which clearly are inseparable from the divine nature and which are described in the same manner as human persons are—having intellect, will, and emotions.

4.      These three agents are distinct from each other, interact with each other, and yet are often portrayed as identical or as working together as one  in each of their actions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The data of Scripture which teach those elements

 

Now let’s go through each of the above statements, and see how God teaches that in His scriptures.

 

We should note at the outset that – just like in the case of the relationship with Jesus and God the Father—we will be bound by the language of revelation. We will be required to accept these biblical teachings, whether we understand them fully or not. We will not be allowed to select only the teachings which fit with our beliefs. We will have to submit to God’s choice of words and expressions as the foundation for our thinking and building our doctrines.

 

Ok, let’s look at the statements above now.


 

Element one: There is one and only one divine being (God), with a unique and incomparable divine nature or essence (the Godhead), and possessing the attributes unique to such a being—eternal, un-caused, all-powerful.

 

This is the easy one to show. We already saw (in the article on Jesus as Son of God) that the New Testament clearly taught that there is only one God – Jesus, Paul, James and others were very clear about this.

 

And our God is without equal or rival:

 

Here are two beautiful passages from the prophet Isaiah (40 and 46) in the Hebrew Bible:

 

Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD, or what man shows him his counsel?

Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?

Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust. Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains. He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move.

Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning?       Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me,  that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”?  Have you not known? Have you not heard?   The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

 

And

 

To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike?... remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country.  I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass I have purposed, and I will do it.

 

One can easily see that the Uniqueness of God—as held to by Muslims everywhere—is clearly affirmed in the Hebrew Bible.

 

And the New Testament praises this Unique God in highest terms also:

 

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1.17)

 

to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 25)

 

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Roman 11.36)

 

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. (Rom 1.19f)

 

There is nothing controversial in this statement, even though some later Muslim theologians said that God was not an essence at all (al-Nasafi, [WR:ICAS, 80f]).

 

 

Element Two: It is morally wrong, practically destructive, and factually incorrect to call an agent or a thing by the name ‘God’ if this agent or this thing is separable from the divine nature.

 

This also is not disputed. This is sometimes known by the term idolatry, although this term includes worship and not simply belief. For example, pagan nations in the Old Testament history might have believed that the Lord God was a real god and was the true god of the ancient Israelites, but they would typically have only worshipped their own national deities, such as the god Nebo in Babylon or the god Asshur in Assyria.

 

But idolatry is a good enough word for our purpose here, and worship certainly includes belief.

 

We have already seen in Element One that ascribing deity to anyone but the Biblical God was factually incorrect. There is only one God—the Creator—and anything else is a creature, and therefore not God.

 

Idolatry is not just mistaken, but is also morally wrong--God has judged idolatry in the past and will do so yet again.

 

The Apostle Paul describes the moral descent of pagans in the first chapter of Romans, connecting the judicial wrath of God with idolatry:

 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. ... and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Rom 1:18-32)

 

And it is the reality of judgment that makes idolatry more than simply inaccurate and more than simply morally wrong—it is destructive of human life. It is to be avoided and to be rebuked.

 

There are several examples in the Bible where men and angels refused worship for this reason:

 

·         Acts 10.25,25: As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself."

 

·         Acts 14.11f: When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in human form!" 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 "Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. [Notice that Paul and Barnabas were VERY concerned about avoiding idolatry--"tore their clothes", "rushed out", "shouted".]

 

·         Rev 19.9f: Then the angel said to me, "Write: `Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God." 10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! [Notice: it is improper to worship an angel--so a rebuke was given.]

 

·         Rev 22.8: I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. 9 But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!" [Notice: it is improper to worship an angel--so a rebuke was given.]

 

·         Acts 12.21: On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." 23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down... [Notice: Here is a case of a leader who ACCEPTED worship WITHOUT explaining the real truth.]

 

 

One important aspect of this point is that the agent must be separable from the divine nature. There are cases in the biblical story where the Spirit of God (otherwise known as The Holy Spirit or The Spirit of the Lord) comes into a person’s body or human spirit. The Spirit of God elevates that human to do special acts (for example to see visions or to utter prophecy) or to experience new aspects of life (for example to experience new heights of joy, new depths of peace, or new ranges of love), but the Holy Spirit does not fuse with that body or that human spirit to make a hybrid thing. The body remains human, but with the Spirit of the Living God present somehow inside and acting from inside upon that body. Or the human spirit remains human, but with the Spirit of the Living God present somehow inside that human spirit and acting from within that human spirit. The Holy Spirit gives new powers and new characteristics to the human from the power and life of its own divine nature, but the human and the Spirit of God are still separable.

 

It is something like the old Jerusalem temple in the Hebrew Bible. God sent his Spirit to dwell in the Temple, but the Temple was still separate from the Spirit of God.

 

Here are a couple of passages about the Spirit of God—whom we will discuss in a moment-- indwelling humans. This indwelling of the divine nature of the Holy Spirit does not make the humans into gods. Even with the Holy Spirit inside their bodies or spirits, they are not worthy of being worshipped like the Holy Spirit would be.

 

In the Hebrew bible, we can note that Joshua was said to have the Spirit within him:

 

Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, 16 “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation 17 who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” 18 So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him. (Nu 27:15–18).

 

And the prophet Ezekiel describes the Spirit entering him to stand him up before God:

 

And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” 2 And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’(Eze 2:1–4).

 

But in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is said to indwell all believers and to give them the experience of spiritual life from within:

 

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Paul's Letter to the Romans, 8:11)

 

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, 6:19-20)

 

This is a beautiful promise to believers in Jesus—that the Living God would come into their spirits and grow love, joy, peace, and goodness from within their lives.

 

But, again, these humans are still just human. Even though the divine nature of the Holy Spirit is somehow located within each of them—a wonderful mystery in itself—they are not divine, and they cannot be called gods. But they benefit wonderfully from the life of God’s beautiful Spirit living inside their hearts and lives—and this is a wonderful promise for us, too!

 

We should also note that angels (who are good spirits) are never said to enter a human or to be placed upon a human. The only cases in the bible where a spirit other than the Holy Spirit enters into a human are cases of evil spirits, such as Satan or demons. In the bible, the Holy Spirit is not an ordinary angel or even a ruling angel like Gabriel. In the announcement of the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus to Mary, the angel Gabriel talks about the Holy Spirit in exalted terms:

 

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.  [Gospel of Luke 1.26-35]


 



Element Three: There are three agents in the biblical scriptures which clearly are inseparable from the divine nature and which are described in the same manner as human persons are—having intellect, will, and emotions.

 

 

In the bible there are three agents who fit this description (God the Father, the Spirit of the Godhead, The Word of God—or the self-expression of the Godhead, the Son).

 

Since this article is supposed to be more of an explanation than a defense of these points, I will only cite some of the biblical data that God uses to teach us these truths.

 

In the part of scripture which concerns the history of Israel prior to the coming of Messiah Jesus—known as the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament—God teaches the descendants of Abraham the truth of Monotheism, that there is only One God, and that all other so-called gods are either imaginary or are created spirits. God says to Israel over and over and over again that He is the only God, and that there are no other gods and nothing can compare to Him.

 

Yet even in the pages of this bible, God reveals—over and over—that He is more complex than humans and that He is not just a human spirit with more perfections and superhuman qualities. God reveals that He has diversity and complexity and robustness within His divine nature.

 

Agent One (God the Father): It is clear that God the Father is inseparable from the divine nature and that He is described as an Ultimate Person. He is constantly described in terms of intellect, will, and emotions. He is constantly portrayed as performing acts which only persons do (e.g., speaking, teaching, rebuking, consoling, grieving). So, in this section I will focus on the other two agents sharing the Godhead with the Father: God the Holy Spirit and God the Eternal Son.

 

Agent Two (God the Holy Spirit): When we take a look at the Spirit of God in the Hebrew Bible we can see clearly that He is divine and is inseparable from the divine nature.

 

He is the very presence of the Godhead, yet He is somehow distinct from the Divine Person or Agent who sends Him to accomplish His will. As the Spirit of God, he is obviously inseparable from God—as your spirit is inseparable from you. He is the Spirit of God, not just a Spirit from God. He is God’s own internal Spirit and not just a spirit owned or created by God (as would be the case with an angel).

 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1)

 

But Moses replied, "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD's people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!" (Numbers 11.29)

 

When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth. (Psalm 104:30)

 

"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42.1)

 

Then his people recalled the days of old, the days of Moses and his people -- where is he who brought them through the sea, with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them, (Isaiah 63:11)

 

And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:27)

 

'This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.' (Haggai 2:5)

 

You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. (Neh. 9:20)

 

for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses' lips. (Ps. 106:33)

 

He is called God/Lord many times, in passages like this:

 

2 Sam 23.1ff  in the Old Testament (These are the last words of David: "The oracle of David son of Jesse, the oracle of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, Israel's singer of songs: 2 "The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue. 3 The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: `When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God,) [Notice how the Spirit of the Lord is the same as the God of Israel.]

 

 

This Holy Spirit is God’s presence, but not just in heaven but rather wherever the Godhead sends Him. As such, the Spirit is distinct, but not separable from the presence of God—since He IS the presence of God.

 

 

The Old Testament data on the Spirit of God, overall, seems to teach both identification of the Spirit with God and some type of distinction internal to the Godhead. In other words, if the Holy Spirit is an 'internal part' of God, then we would EXPECT the Spirit to be called God/Lord; we would expect God to refer to it by 'My Spirit' (just as I could refer to "my heart is heavy'').  But we might NOT expect God to refer to it as "THE Spirit"--a seemingly independent title or reference. But this is JUST what we find in a couple of passages (Ex 31.3; 35.31; and Micah 2.7 cited earlier) and this title becomes a standard way of referring to God's Spirit throughout OT history. The Spirit can somehow be referred to as distinct from the God who sends the Spirit.

 

And these facts about the Spirit (identity with God, distinction within the Godhead, and the personal character of the Spirit—He is not just a force or attribute) are even more obvious in the teachings of Jesus and His apostles.

 

There is too much data to actually go through here, friend, so I will have to select a few verses in each category.

 

First, on the fact that the Holy Spirit is God—and not just a powerful angel like Michael or Gabriel – there are several lines of evidence.

 

He is explicitly called God.

 

 

 

 

 

His extremely intimate link with the inner life of God the Father CAN ONLY be explained by His being a member of or internal to the Godhead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Holy Spirit is identified as the Lord God (Yahweh) of the Old Testament.

 

 

 
The Spirit is a Person, having personal characteristics and performing acts which require personality or consciousness. He is not a mindless force or feeling.

 

He speaks—

Mark 13.11:  Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

Acts 13.2: While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."

Acts 10.19: While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you.

Rev 14:13:  Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them."

 

He warns--Acts 20.23:  I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.

 

He reveals/predicts-- Luke 2.26:  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

 

He teaches/reminds--

Luke 12.12:  for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say."

John 14.26: But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

 

He witnesses/testifies--

Acts 5.32: We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."

Heb 10.15: The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this.

John 15.26:  "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.

Romans 8.16: The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.

 

He encourages--Acts 9.31: Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.

 

He knows--I Cor 2.11: In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

 

He prays for us--Rom 8.26,27:  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

 

He has a mind(!)--Rom 8.27:  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit

 

He is ALIVE--

·         John 14.17: the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

·         Romans 8.9:You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

·         Romans 8.11:And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

·         I Cor 3.16: Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?

 

He evaluations/makes decisions-- Acts 15.28:  It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…

 

Our actions toward Him and His responses to us indicate a personal agent.

 

He can be lied to--Acts 5:3:  Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit

 

He can be resisted--Acts 7.51: "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!

 

He can be tested--Acts 5.9:  Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord?

 

He can be grieved--Ephesians 4.30: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

 

He can be blasphemed—Gospel of Mark 3.29:  But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven;

 

He can be insulted or outraged—Letter to the Hebrews 10.29: How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

 

 

Notice that all of these images and terms apply only to personal agents and there are too many of these descriptions for them all to be cases of figures of speech. Sometimes we might talk about ‘giving somebody a smile’ or ‘My fist will teach you not to do that’, without that meaning that a smile is ‘separate from’ our self, or that our fists are persons who can teach. But the bible has too many descriptions of the Spirit as personal for us to be able to avoid the conclusion that the Spirit is a person. The Holy Spirit is a personal Agent, a person within the Godhead. He is someone who can be loved, obeyed, honored, and depended on. He can be called “God the Holy Spirit” (as parallel to “God the Father”) without committing the sin of idolatry.

 

So, the Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit is a divine person in the Godhead.

 

 

Agent Three (God the Son):

 

When we discussed the issue of “How could Jesus be the Son of God and there still only be one God?”, we spoke about the intimacy and mystical connection between Jesus of Nazareth and God the Father. We could not explain how that relationship could be possible, of course, because the relationship was beyond anything we know about in this world—but it was still a revealed truth from God.

 

But the relationship between the historical Jesus of Nazareth and God the Father is part of a longer and larger relationship between God the Eternal Son and God the Eternal Father.

 

The Eternal Son of God existed long before the baby Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary. And just as God the Father sent God the Holy Spirit to the earth to be His presence and to perform divine acts at various times in history, so also God the Father sent God the Son to earth to inhabit a human body and to perform divine acts. Just as the Holy Spirit was God’s presence in the earthly Jewish temple, so too God the Son was fully present in the earthly body of Jesus (and still is, up in heaven).

 

Jesus was called Messiah in the Hebrew language of Israel (as well as in Muslim tradition) and Christ in the Greek language of the New Testament (and in Muslim tradition too). He typically referred to Himself as the “Son of Man”, emphasizing His connection with our humanity and identifying Himself with the prophets such as Ezekiel.

 

But the person who spoke from the body of that Jesus was somehow both human and divine—what theologians call a result of the Incarnation. Just as Muslim theologians speak about the eternal almost-divine Quran being incarnated in the scrolls of the Quran today, so too God teaches in the Scriptures about the sending of the Son to earth in a body.

 

Here are a few verses that describe the ministry of this God the Son/Son of God before He came to earth in the life of Jesus of Nazareth:

 

Jesus Himself claimed often to have been pre-existent in heaven with glory before His incarnation, and to have been sent by the Father to earth (Jn 3.13; Jn 6.33; Jn 6.38; Jn 6.62; Jn 8.23; Jn 8.42; Jn 10.30-39; Jn 16.28; Jn 17.5). For examples,

 

No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. (Gospel of John 3:13).

 

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (Gospel of John 6:32–35).

 

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. (Gospel of John 6:37–38).

 

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (Gospel of John 6:60–63).

 

So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.  (Gospel of John 8:21–23).

 

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. (Gospel of John 8:39–42).

 

I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.  (Gospel of John 16:25–28).

 

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.  (Gospel of John 17:1–5).

 

These are very strong and very clear statements by Jesus, who was not an idolater, not an unbeliever, not a polytheist, nor a deceiver. If we believe Scripture, then we must accept these truths—that the Person who spoke from within Jesus existed in heaven before Jesus was born, and had been with the Father in glory. There are no ways to deny that God said this in the Holy Scriptures.

 

And Jesus’ apostles and earliest disciples had learned this from Jesus and knew this to be the case also.

 

He is described by them as pre-existent in glory with the father and as being the Creator and Sustainer of everything (including the angels).

 

For examples:

 

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (Second Letter to Timothy 1:8–10).

 

He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (Gospel of John 3:31–36, in which John the Baptist is speaking).

 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Letter to the Colossians 1:15–20).

 

Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Letter to the Philippians2:4–12).

 

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (First Letter of John 3:8).

 

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.  (First Letter of John 4:9–10).

 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (Gospel of John 3:16–17).

 

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb 1:1–3).

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Gospel of John  1:1–3, 14).

 

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh (Letter to the Romans 8:3).

 

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (First Letter to Timothy 1:15–17).

 

 

Again, these are very strong and very clear statements in Scripture: The third Agent within the Godhead is known as the Son, the Word, the Image of God, the Expression of God’s nature. This Agent was sent from heaven to earth, in the form of a human, to show us what God was like, to reveal to us the love of the Father, and to solve the problem of our separation from God due to our moral failures.

 

These are not just a couple of verses which could have been invented and added deceptively to the New Testament by the later church—they are woven deep into the New Testament and form the very backbone of the power of Jesus’ ministry.

 

Just as the old Jewish temple of stone and wood could have God fully present inside somehow, so too could the human nature of Jesus have God fully present inside it. This does not mean that God the Father was not in heaven after the Incarnation, nor does it mean that the Son of God was not still present in heaven in the Godhead. Limitations of time and space do not apply to God! The Godhead is never divided and the three Agents or Persons are never detached from one another. They are all eternal parts or centers within the one and only God.

 

In fact, this inseparable union of Father-in-heaven and Son-on-earth can be seen in a couple of sayings of Jesus during His time on earth:

 

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.  (Gospel of John 5:19–20).

 

I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.  (Gospel of John 5:30).

 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. (Gospel of John 14:6–10).

 

 

So, the scriptures compel us to believe that God the Son/Son of God has always been a divine person in the Godhead--even when He was sent by the Father to earth, in the life of Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

Element 4: These three Agents are distinct from each other, interact with each other, and yet are often portrayed as identical or as working together as one in each of their actions.

 

Here we will let the Scriptures demonstrate that these three Agents are distinct from one another in the Godhead, that they interact with one another as separate persons, but they are still one God and are often portrayed as identical.

 

Some of this we have already seen earlier, so I will mostly give a summary here.

 

The Father is distinct from the Son and the two Persons interact.

·         This is obvious from the passages we have seen which talk about the Father sending the Son, the Son obeying the Father, and the Son revealing the Father.

·         We can also note that the Son prays to the Father (many times in the gospels) and that the Father honors the son, for example in Matthew 17.5: He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

 

The Father is distinct from the Spirit and the two Persons interact.

·         This can also be seen from the times the Father sends the Spirit, and from the Spirit knowing the mind of the Lord in depth.

·         We can also note that the Spirit prays to the Father, as in Romans 8:26  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

 

The Spirit is distinct from the Son and the two Persons interact.

·         The Son sends the Spirit from the Father (once the Son ascended to heaven) and the Spirit bears witness to the Son: But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. (Jn 15:26).

·         The Spirit glorifies the Son: He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (Jn 16:14–15).

·         Speaking against the Son is different from speaking against the Spirit: And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.  (Mt 12:32).

·         They are co-workers in making us right with God: But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  (1 Co 6:11) and God planned long ago to choose you by making you his holy people, which is the Spirit’s work. God wanted you to obey him and to be made clean by the blood of the death of Jesus Christ. (1 Pe 1:2)

·         The Son gave His life as a sacrifice to God through the Spirit: Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.  (Heb 9:14).

 

Now, if all we had were these verses about distinction and interaction, we might be tempted to say that there were 3 Gods—but we cannot. The bible clearly teaches that there is only One God, but the three divine Agents within this God are joined together, inseparable, and are even inside one another (eg, the Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son). And since they are part of the one God, everything God does involves all three persons working together.

 

 

But this unity is still so complete that the Bible even uses some of their names interchangeably within the same passage.

 

Consider these examples:

 

The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of the Father (this should be obvious)

 

Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Mt 10:17–20).

 

Compared with:

 

And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”   (Lk 12:11–12).

 

But the Holy Spirit or Spirit of God is also called the Spirit of the Son, Spirit of Jesus, and Spirit of Christ, even in reference to the time before the birth of Jesus Christ:

 

Romans 8.9:  You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

 

Gal 4.6: Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."

 

Phil 1.19:  for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

 

1 Peter 1.10: Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. (1 Pe 1:10–11).

 

 

The Holy Spirit, the Son Christ Jesus, and God the Father are mentioned together in the same passages as equals or co-workers:

 

And they (the Apostle Paul and companions) went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.  (Ac 16:6–10).

 

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  (Mt 28:18–20; notice how the Risen Jesus refers to the three Persons as having one singular name).

 

For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.  (Heb 9:14).

 

For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Letter to the Ephesians 2.18)

 

 

Jesus said that God the Father was living inside Him, and that His works upon the earth were actually the works of the Father —and His apostles learned this truth from Him:

 

The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. (Gospel of John 14:10).

 

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, 20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself… For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body (Letter to the Colossians 1:19–20 and 2:9).

God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself (Second Letter to the Corinthians 5.19)

 

 

To see Jesus in the Scriptures and to learn of His heart from how He works in our lives, is to see the Father:

 

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. 11 Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. (Jn 14:8–11).

 

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.  (Jn 12:44–45).

If you had known me, you would have known my Father also (Jn 14:7).

 

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Co 4:6).

 

In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…  (Heb 1:2–3).

 

 

To glorify Christ is to glorify God the Father, and the Father—who will not share His glory with another (Isaiah 48.11) seeks to glorify the divine Son. They are in union and inseparable—The Glory of God is the Glory of Christ, and the Glory of Christ is the Glory of God:

 

My glory I will not give to another…my glory I give to no other (Isaiah 48.11; 42.8)

 

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ (Jn 8:54).

 

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it. (Jn 11:1–4).

 

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. (Jn 13:31–32).

 

And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (Jn 17:5).

 

 

The Son of God –as a Person within the One Godhead—is said to do every action in creation that the whole Godhead is also said to do. Compare these statements about the Creator and the creation:

 

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.  (Ro 11:33–36). Notice that to God is attributed the FROM, the THROUGH, and the TO of creation)

 

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.  (1 Co 8:4–6; Notice that to God the Father is attributed the FROM and FOR, and to Christ is attributed the THROUGH of creation)

 

For by him (Christ) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Col 1:16; Notice that to Christ is attributed the THROUGH and FOR of creation).

 

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  (Heb 1:1–2; Notice that God created the world THROUGH Christ).

 

One writer expressed this unity in this way:

 

“Instead, to affirm that that there is one God means that there is only one, unique, and incomparable divine being, on a different plane of ex­istence from everything that is not God. … Consider, now, the "three" in God. To say that there are three "Persons" in the Trinity excludes, for instance, the option that there are twelve, the number of Olympians in the Greek pantheon. It ex­cludes also the option that there is only one. But it does not say that, instead of there being either twelve or one distinct and separate individual essences in God, there are exactly three such individual essences, for, in fact, there are no individual essences in God. In­stead, to say that there are three "Persons" in God means only that there are three eternal, inseparable, and interpenetrating agencies; in each, the other two are present, and in each, the single divine essence is present. Numbers don't work the same way with regard to God that they do with regard to created realities. And if we try to make them work in the same way, we gravely distort our conception of God. That's as true of "one" and it is of "three." And it's as true for Mus­lims as it is for Christians.” [WR:AACR, 142]

 

And other in this way:

 

The second way to think how the divine "Persons" are tied together is their mutual indwelling or, in technical terminology, perichoresis. Again, as Augustine put it, "they are always in each other" and never "alone." One divine "Person" is what it is, not simply in virtue of being distinct from others, but in virtue of the presence of the other two "Persons" in it. The Father and the Spirit are always "in" the Son; to be the "Son" is to be indwelled by the Father and the Spirit.” [WR:AACR, 137]

 

 

This means that:

·         When we ask the Father to meet some need of ours, the entire Godhead hears and will answer.

·         When we ask the Risen Son of God to help us with some human weakness, the entire Godhead hears and will support us, and the Father is glorified when the Son answers the prayer (Gospel of John 14.13-14: Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it).

·         When we ask the Holy Spirit to teach us more about the treasures of Christ’s character—as the image and revealer of the Father—the entire Godhead hears and will guide us.

·         When we speak the name of God in worship or thanksgiving or witness, we are speaking of the three wonderful divine Persons within the one and only God.

·         When we speak of God as a “He” we are referring to the 3 Persons united into 1 Person—God is not a ‘They’ but a ‘He’. There may be three “He” persons in God, but the combination of the three is still one ‘He’—because each ‘He’ dwells within each other ‘He’ inside the Trinity.

 

There are distinctions between the Persons of the Godhead, but the closest we can come to a precise theological statement might be one by the theologian Heppe:

 

"Accordingly the three persons are equal to each other (1) so far as each of them has the same nature of God as each of the other two; (2) so far as each of them possesses the same divine majesty as each of the other two, so that the Father holds no advantage over the other two persons; and (3) so far as each of the three persons exists in the nature of each of the other two. On the other hand the three persons are distinct in name; in the order of their being, in the mode of their action, in their external effects; which indeed proceed from the entire Trinity, in which nevertheless the separate persons are active in a different way; and finally in the special attributes which belong to each person."

 

But there is so much in even this statement that is unclear…

 

This is a God boundless in depth, infinite in robustness, filled with love and purity, and eager to reach into our lives with forgiveness, intimacy, new life, joy, and help for the present and the future.

 

This is a God who revealed Himself as this complex being. He is a composite unity, filled with richness and abundance and love between the individuals within the divine nature. He is a relative unity, and not an absolute unity. He did not reveal to us HOW He could contain three persons and still be only One God, and we probably would not understand Him if He tried to explain it. But He did reveal it to us in His scriptures, and it is clear enough in those words to know that it is true.

 

We know that it is true, but not how it can be true. But this is not just a problem with the Trinity—it applies to many, many truths about God.

 

·         We know that God exists, but we do not know how He can exist

·         We know that God can have relationships with creatures in time, but we do not know how an eternal God can have such.

·         We know that God can feel anger or delight or pride or compassion, but we do not know how He could experience the change that seems to accompany emotions.

·         We know that God can know His own future actions in time, but we do not know how He could know these and still be free.

·         We know that God has no cause for His existence, but we do not know how this could even be possible.

 

God does not explain everything to us—but He expects us to listen, accept, and live by what He has revealed:

 

There are some things the LORD our God has kept secret, but there are some things he has let us know. These things belong to us and our children forever…  (Dt 29:29).

 

 

God gives us true knowledge of Himself in Scripture

 

God created human language so His revelation to us in human language is trustworthy. Even if we do not understand how a statement could be true, we can know enough about what the words mean for God to impart knowledge about Himself, His character, and His will to us adequately.

 

Christian theologians have admitted this since Christ came to earth, and so theological explanations of the Trinity all admit that our knowledge is completely true but not truly complete! Consider some of their statements:

 

“Much of the confusion about the Trinity is terminological; it con­cerns the words we use to describe God, who is in many ways beyond words and beyond thought. The problems with the terms "begetting" and "Son"—which suggest that God might have a carnal offspring—to which I referred earlier, are two examples. "Person" is another.

Christians use the term "Person" to describe the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. This is a very different use of "person" than in our ordinary language. By "persons" we ordinarily mean individuals who are separate, but related to other individuals; in al-Razi's ter­minology, human persons are "self-subsisting essences." No such separation is conceivable in the one God! Divine "Persons" are not like human persons, only magnified to superhuman proportions. To avoid confusion over precisely that issue, many theologians counsel against the use of the word "Person" to refer to one of the three in God. We might be able to put it this way. Christian tradi­tion uses the word "Person" not because it expresses exactly what Christians believe, but because there is no word more adequate to speak of the three in God. So we use the word, knowing we must mentally adjust its meaning when it refers to God.

A Muslim critic might respond: "Those are just the kinds of difficulties you get yourself into when you affirm the Trinity; then you have to use words like 'begetting,' 'Son,' and 'Person,' but can't use them properly like everybody else does." But now it may be my turn to suggest that this would be a false victory, for our difficul­ties in speaking of God would not go away if God were not the Holy Trinity. All words we use of God—such as "sustainer" and "master" or "gracious" and "merciful" (Al Fatihah, 1:1—4)—are inadequate. Why? Augustine explains: "Because the total transcendence of the godhead quite surpasses the capacity of ordinary speech.” The words paint a picture or tell a story, so to speak, but the picture or the story is always more dissimilar than it is similar to who God truly is. God is uncreated and infinite. Therefore God is inexpressible, beyond our concepts, beyond our language. The talk of "Persons" captures something important about God, but is inadequate to express the full reality, because God transcends the notion of "person," as we have seen. The same is true of "es­sence," "goodness," "love"—all to varying degrees correct and true when referring to God, but all also deeply inadequate. The very reality of God is such that God always remains inconceivable, a mystery that can never be properly named or puzzled out. And yet we speak of God—guided by God's self-revelation. We have true knowledge of God, but we are capable of understanding much better what the divine Mystery is not than what that Mystery is.  Important strands in all three Abrahamic faiths agree on this.” [WR:AACR,139f]

 

 

As in all theology, we are on a knife edge, or, we might say, a narrow path with precipices on each side. On one side, we deny the unity of God, and make it appear that there are three gods; on the other, we cause the distinctions of the three to disappear into some underlying undifferentiated deity. On the whole, our Western tradition has tended to the latter, so to stress the unity of God’s action that it becomes difficult to do justice to its diversity.” [Gunton, C. E. (2003). Father, Son, and Holy Spirit : Essays toward a fully trinitarian theology (79). London; New York: T & T Clark.]

 

“While the term trinity is not a biblical expression, the doctrine of the Trinity is biblical. It is totally a product of revelation that man’s reason could never discover. The doctrine is to be believed because the inspired Scriptures teach it. It is one of the most profound and difficult mysteries in the Word of God. Although the truth of the Trinity lies outside the capacity of our minds to fully comprehend and explain, the doctrine is clearly taught in the Bible. God is unique in this respect. There is nothing in nature that perfectly illustrates this aspect of God’s being.” [Benson, C. H. (2004). The one true God : Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Biblical essentials series (12–13). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.

 

 

“TRINITY: Theological term used to define God as an undivided unity expressed in the threefold nature of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As a distinctive Christian doctrine, the Trinity is considered as a divine mystery beyond human comprehension to be reflected upon only through scriptural revelation. The Trinity is a biblical concept that expresses the dynamic character of God, not a Greek idea pressed into Scripture from philosophical or religious speculation. While the term “trinity” does not appear in Scripture, the trinitarian structure appears throughout the NT to affirm that God Himself is manifested through Jesus Christ by means of the Spirit.

A proper biblical view of the Trinity balances the concepts of unity and distinctiveness. Two errors that appear in the history of the consideration of the doctrine are tritheism and unitarianism. In tritheism error is made in emphasizing the distinctiveness of the Godhead to the point that the Trinity is seen as three separate Gods, or a Christian polytheism. On the other hand, unitarianism excludes the concept of distinctiveness while focusing solely on the aspect of God the Father. In this way Christ and the Holy Spirit are placed in lower categories and made less than divine. Both errors compromise the effectiveness and contribution of the activity of God in redemptive history. [Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., Butler, T. C., & Latta, B. (2003). Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (1625–1627). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

 

“The doctrine of the Trinity is the distinctive doctrine of Christianity which distinguishes it from all other views of God. Christians are monotheists like Jews and Muslims. We believe that there is only one true God. Yet unlike Judaism and Islam, Christians believe that there is a differentiation within the Godhead. The one true God consists of three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These are not three gods. Christians are not polytheists who believe in many gods. This is, admittedly, difficult to understand. Yet Christians have not come to believe in the Trinity because of abstract philosophical reasoning about the nature of God; it was because of the truth about God as he is revealed in the New Testament that the truth of the Trinity was accepted by the church. ” [“God the Son”, John H. Fish III, Emmaus Journal Volume 12. 2003. Dubuque, IA: Emmaus Bible College.]

 

 

The scriptures teach us that God can be truly known through His revelation:

 

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”  (Je 9:23–24).

 

 

The God of the Bible spoke into history to tell us of our purpose, our natures, our problems, and of His desire and ability to bring virtue and healing to our lives. He offered us immortality and true life – not just existence.

 

In hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began (Letter to Titus 1.2)

 

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News.  (2 Ti 1:9–10).

 

 

But this immortal and robust eternal life comes by knowing God:

 

After Jesus said these things, he looked toward heaven and prayed, “Father, the time has come. Give glory to your Son so that the Son can give glory to you. 2 You gave the Son power over all people so that the Son could give eternal life to all those you gave him. 3 And this is eternal life: that people know you, the only true God, and that they know Jesus Christ, the One you sent.  (Jn 17:1–3).

 

God the Father can be known, and He can be known through knowing Christ—His own self-expression and image in history.

 

Indeed, the promises of God in the Old Testament specifically point to knowing God. Two of these promises focus on the coming of Messiah Jesus.

 

In Isaiah 11, the Messiah is prophesized to make the knowledge of God universal:

 

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.  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 the fear of the LORD.  And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.  He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth…  They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

 

One commentator said this:

 

“In these verses the character and work of the “Branch” are described. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, that is, the Holy Spirit would empower Him (at Jesus’ baptism, Matt. 3:16-17) for His work which would be characterized by wisdom... understanding... counsel... power... knowledge, and the fear of the LORD. The attributes of the Holy Spirit would characterize the Messiah. Because of His wisdom, understanding, counsel, and knowledge He is the Wonderful Counselor (Isa. 9:6)… He is characterized by the fear of the LORD and has delight in it (11:3) just as His people should have. To fear God is to respond to Him in awe, trust, obedience, and worship. (Interestingly all three persons of the Trinity are suggested in vv. 1-2.) The Messiah constantly seeks to do what God the Father wants Him to do. This contrasted with the religious leaders in Isaiah’s day who were unconcerned about following God’s Word…. The reason such tranquility is possible is that all the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD (Isa. 11:9; cf. Jer. 31:34; Hab. 2:14). This means more than people knowing intellectually about the Lord. The idea is that people everywhere will live according to God’s principles and Word. … The Messiah, the Root of Jesse, will be a means of rallying for the nations (cf. v. 12; Zech. 14:9, 16). Jesus Himself made the same point that many people from outside Israel will have a part in God’s kingdom (Luke 13:29). God had promised Abraham that through his line all peoples on the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:3). [Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Is 11:1–10). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.]

 

And in Jeremiah 31, God promises a New Covenant with Israel—which Jesus inaugurated by His death on the Cross and which also has benefits for all nations:

 

But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

 

And commentators point out that this is accomplished by the giving of the Holy Spirit by the Father and by the Risen Christ:

 

“The result of the new covenant is to be the universal knowledge of God. The Mosaic law required the people to teach the law to their children (e.g., Deut 6:4–9; 11:19). … Having the law written on one’s heart is not so much a matter of immediate knowledge as transformed attitudes and behavior (22:16). The result is said to be not just the knowledge of the law but the knowledge of the Lord, i.e., a relationship with the Lord of the covenant by faith, the goal of all the earlier covenants. ” [Huey, F. (2001). Vol. 16: Jeremiah, Lamentations (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (285–286). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.]

 

“The new covenant (cf. Jer 31:31–34) carried with it assurance of forgiveness through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross and the inner work of the Holy Spirit in motivating us and enabling us to fulfill our covenantal responsibility.” [Leifeld, W. L. (1984). Luke. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.) (1027). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.]

 

What God has told us in Scripture about His nature and His life, is to be accepted and trusted as honest and accurate statements from Him. He never tells us about how His nature could be such, and it is presumptuous, foolish, and dangerous for us to speculate on this.

 

There is not a whisper in the Bible, the Quran, or the Hadith about God being some kind of featureless, homogenous, unknowable and undifferentiated substance—without attributes or characteristics or internal relations. It is only the philosophers and theologians that say such about our glorious and grand God.

 

The traditional Muslim position (of the Ashari Sunni tradition) is that God does have attributes—in some sense—and therefore—in some sense—is a relative unity, and not the absolute unity that some modern Muslim teachers assert.

 

“The orthodox Christian defense of the reality of the second and third persons of the Trinity consisted in rejecting the Philonic conception of the absolute unity of God and by maintaining that the unity of God is only a relative kind of unity, a conception of unity which does not exclude from God, who is one, the composition of three elements which from eternity existed together and were never separated. So also the orthodox Muslim defense of the reality of attributes, as it was ultimately given expression by Ghazali, reduces itself to an insistence upon a relative conception of the unity of God, which does not exclude its being internally composed of real attributes which existed together from eternity and were never separated. …And so, the views of the orthodox Muslims and the Mu'tazilites on the problem of attributes, as well as the arguments employed by them, correspond exactly to the views of orthodox Christians and the heretical Sabellians on the question of the persons of the Word and the Holy Spirit in the Trinity. The issue between the Attributists and the Antiattributists was thus clearly defined. It was an issue whether the unity of God was absolute or only relative. To the Attributists the unity of God was a relative unity, and hence they assumed in God the existence from eternity of real attributes. To the Antiattributists the unity of God was an absolute unity, and hence the terms attributed to God were mere names.” [WR:POK, 137-140]

 

“Now, as we have seen, when the Attributists were confronted by the Mu'tazilites with this argument, they downrightly denied that the unity of God includes internal unity in the sense of absolute simplicity, maintaining that the unity of God, according to their own conception of it, does not exclude from Him a plurality of parts which from eternity have been united with each other and with the essence of God. [WR:POK, 171-173]

 

“In his criticism of Abu Hashim, Ash'ari repeats the argument already raised by the Mu'tazilites against the theory of modes, namely, that it is contrary to the Law of Excluded Middle. His argument, as reported by Shahrastani, reads as follows: "The assumption of an attribute which can be described neither by existence nor by nonexistence is the assumption of something which is in the middle between existence and nonexistence, between affirmation and negation, but this is something absurd." … With the elimination of these two alternative possibilities, Ash'ari is left with the third possibility, namely, the old orthodox conception of attributes as being real things subsisting in God from eternity.” [WR:POK, 204f]

 

“Moreover, it was the same kind of arguments that were used in Christianity both for and against the reality or eternity of the second and third persons of the Trinity that were used also in Islam both for and against the reality of attributes and the uncreatedness of the Koran. [WR:POK, 312f]

 

 

And the early Muslim theologians faced the same problems as their Christian counterparts in trying to understand the relationship of God’s nature to aspects of His nature (for example, His attributes and His internal Agents).

 

“In the past, as in the present, it was the more rationally minded Muslims who undertook systematic refutations of Christian doctrine, the same Muslims whose rationalism sometimes caused them to fall foul of Islamic orthodoxy, as in the case of the Mu'tazila. The Greek philosophical tools which were employed against Christianity could be a two-edged sword, and gave cause for concern when applied to Islamic thought. An example of this is the use of Greek philosophical categories to refute the Trinity, which had implications for the question of God's attributes in Islam; it was not always easy to uphold the distinction between the latter and the Christian hypostases. ” [WR:MACF2F, 138f]

“This conflict is connected with the refusal of some theologians and the Muslim philosophers who were strongly influenced by Greek philosophy to give positive attributes to God. Al-Kindi, for example, the first Muslim philosopher, was not willing to confirm certain qualities in God for fear of violating His unity, since attributes mean adding to God different qualities, which would show Him in different and changing states, from being known to creating, hearing, seeing, punishing and so on. However, Muslim theolo­gians including the Mu'tazilites follow the Qur'an, in considering that God has positive attributes and can be described. Although the Qur'an predicates to God many human attributes such as those mentioned above, it declares that "nothing is like unto Him." This divine transcendence made many theo­logians question and reflect on the manner in which the divine essential attribute can be related to God's essence while retaining His transcendence. Again, the difficulty here is how it is possible for God to know or to be able without possessing knowledge or ability? For if He has knowledge and ability then they must be eternal like Him. Muslim theologians discussed all the possibilities: are these qualities eternal notions which have always existed with God? This would mean that God is not the first eternal. Or are they part of His essence? This would mean that since God is (a unitary) One, then all His attributes must be dissolved into one quality. Or are these qualities neither in God nor independent of His essence? But this is in a way absurd. [WR:GAHIIT, 43]

 

“However, this kind of rigid monotheism is not entirely consistent with some of Islam's own distinctions. As we will see in more detail later, Muslim scholars, following through consistently on certain teachings in the Qur'an, have made distinctions that would allow for some kind of distinctions within God's unity. For example, they believe the Qur'an is the eternal speech of God, existing in the Mind of God from all eternity… [WR:AI,135]

 

 

The criticisms which early Muslim theologians raised against the Christians applied equally to them:

 

The arguments used against the doctrine [of the Trinity] by these and other Muslims reflect a sense of incomprehensibility. … Abu 'Isa demonstrates at great length whatever way the doctrine is expressed, the attempt to identify three entities with one leads to confusion and incoherence. The fundamental problem which each polemicist differently raises is that since in any description of the doctrine more than one divine entity is listed, some form of plurality is entailed and the simple unity is obliterated. So the insistent claim made by the Christians that God is one becomes meaningless.

Yet this problem of unity and multiplicity was not peculiar to Christianity in the period we are discussing. Within Islamic thinking itself, the problem of how systematically to set down the teachings of the Qur'an about God produced difficulties that, to many minds, itself affected the strict oneness of God's being in a way that parallels the issues concerned with the Trinity.

The matter of the divine attributes is very old in Islam. Some scholars think that it may, in fact, have been raised through discussions with Christians. It arises from the problem of how to categorise the descriptions of God given by revelation and reason, whether these refer accurately to God's actual being or are human approximations of an unknowable divinity. At the beginning of the ninth century the debate was conducted mainly among thinkers associated with the Mu'tazill principles of divine unity and justice for whom the strict oneness of God and the complete distinction between him and other beings were crucial matters of belief. And they were reluctant to refer to God in any way that appeared to suggest otherwise.

But this was the nub of the problem. According to the generally agreed perception at this time, the descriptions that could pertinently be made of a being were understood to refer to attributes that qualified the being itself. For example, if a being could be called living it was qualified by the attribute of life, and if it could be called seeing it was qualified by the attribute of sight. The attribute itself qualified the being as a whole, and in that respect was said to be of or in the being. This relationship between description and attribute was expressed according to the grammatical logic which was generally accepted at this time by paraphrasing a statement such as "he is living” as he has life," the two statements being regarded as equivalent. Thus, within the structure of this thinking to describe a being in any way was the same as saying that the being possessed attributes which were real and in some way additional to the being in its own actuality.

In applying these ideas to God, obvious problems arose. For if he possessed attributes which were both real and distinct from his being, he could not be the dense unity upon which the Mu'tazills insisted…. The other side of the debate was equally problematic, since those who maintained the reality of the attributes were confronted with the difficulty of explaining how God was one in any meaningful sense. … But the resulting problem is that since the attributes are not identical with God's essence but rather of it  Ibn Kullab cannot easily explain how the being of God is a simple unity.

The repercussions of this debate continued within Islam for many centuries and increased in complexity and sophistication. As we can see, however, even at this early stage it was accepted by leading theologians that any meaningful description of God logically involved the existence of attributes that were intrinsic to God, whether these were defined in negative terms, as by Abu al-Hudhayl, or positively, as by Ibn Kullab.” [WR:IIOC, 86-88]

 

 

And apart from terminology, they end up very similar!

 

In the problem of attributes, as we have noted, while Islam had taken over from Christianity the conception of the existence of real persons or hypostases in God, which it transformed into attributes, it constantly insisted, in opposition to Christianity, that they are not God. This was the fundamental distinction between the Christian Trinity and the Muslim attributes. In the course of time, however, among certain Muslims, who were regarded as orthodox, this difference be­tween the Christian Trinity and the Muslim attributes was somewhat blurred. We gather this from the following state­ment in Ibn Hazm: "To one of the Ash'arites I said: Since you say that coexistent with God are fifteen attributes, all of them other than He and all of them eternal, why do you find fault with the Christians when they say that God is 'the third of three'? He said to me: We find fault with the Christians only because they assume that there coexist with God only two things and do not assume that there coexist with Him a greater number of things. Indeed, one of the Ash'arites has already told me that the name 'God,' that is, our use of the term 'God,' is a word which applies to the essence of the Creator and the totality of His attributes, and not to His essence without His attributes.”

From these answers of the followers of the Ash'arite teachings, we may gather that somehow within this orthodox group there were some who forgot that the original opposition to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity was on the ground of the application of the term "God" to the second and third persons. Quite oblivious of this fundamental opposition, they were willing to apply the term "God" as a common appella­tion of God and His attributes, which is only an adoption of the Christian view that the term "God" is to be used as a common appellation of the Father and the two other persons, though, I imagine, these Ash'arites would still balk at calling each individual attribute "God." The emphasis that the term "God" is not to be applied to the essence alone without the attributes and the statement that the difference between their belief and that of the Christians consists only in the fact that the Muslim attributes are more numerous than the Christian persons indicate that in all other respects their attributes assume the character of the Christian persons.” [WR:POK, 312-315]

 

 

Muslim theologians and philosophers worked very hard to avoid admitting that there were some kinds of distinctions within God, putting forth theoretical terms like “modes” and “states”, internal and external attributes, attributes of essence and attributes of description, and so on. But no real solution ever appeared. The God who is all-knowing and compassionate and creative simply cannot be some kind of featureless, homogenous, unknowable and undifferentiated substance—without attributes or characteristics or internal relations. We must submit to God’s revelation, not our philosophical or theological commitments. Let God be God! Let God speak His word and let us listen!

 

 

Why would God reveal such a complex truth to us?

 

We have already seen that God describes Himself as incomparable, yet knowable.

 

We have seen that we are compelled by Scripture to affirm that:

 

1.      There is only One God.

2.      There are three Persons or Agents or Individuals within this One God.

3.      This three-in-one divine Being is beyond comparison—nothing in our experience is like His being.

 

We use the word “Person” or “Agent” or “Individual” or “Agency” or “Operation” to label these internal centers of consciousness (who called themselves as Father, Son, and Spirit in the Scriptures), because we do not have any better words. Because these Persons are described in revelation using terms like love, anger, speaking, knowing, deciding and so on, words like ‘attributes’ or ‘states’ seem too flat or limited. We are constrained by our understanding and by our language, but the doctrine is still one which God wishes us to know in its basic meaning.

 

A definition of the Trinity is not easy to construct. Some are done by stating several propositions. Others err on the side either of oneness or threeness. One of the best is Warfield’s: “There is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence.” The word “Persons” might be misleading as if there were three individuals in the Godhead, but what other word would suffice? The word “substance” might be too materialistic; some would prefer to use the word “essence.” Many will not know the meaning of subsistence, but a dictionary can remedy that (“necessary existence”). … Positively, the definition clearly asserts both oneness and threeness and is careful to maintain the equality and eternality of the Three. Even if the word “person” is not the best, it does guard against modalism, and, of course, the phrase “the same in substance” (or perhaps better, essence) protects against tritheism. The whole undivided essence of God belongs equally to each of the three persons. [Ryrie, C. C. (1999). Basic theology : A popular systemic guide to understanding biblical truth (61). Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press.]

 

 

 

This God is absolutely unique. All other concepts of God are either polytheist or singular units.

 

Ancient Christian writers, such as Abū Rū’iṭah al-Takrītī (c. 775-835 AD), can point this out in dialogue with Muslim theologians of the time:

 

“When a religion finds that it describes God by the attribute "nothing is like Him", then it [truly] worships of Him and knows Him. And if a religion discovers it describes God with anthropomorphism and comparison with creatures, then ignorance of Him is its perpetual goal. Each of those professing the unity of God, with the exception of the Christians, do not hesitate to describe Him as one, single, and numberable. … What do you say about one human being, and one king? Is not each one of them a single [individual] ? Which comparison is more important than what you describe? As for the Christians, they reject any comparison [of creatures] and likeness with [God] when they describe Him as three hypostaseis (persons/minds) and one ousia (being/entity). .. . But when it is found that He is three hypostaseis and one ousia, then His description is above every comparison and likeness [with creatures], because it is not possible that a single ousia [having] three hypostaseis, which is identical in all of its essences, exists in creation. [WR:DTPT,197ff]

 

A more modern Christian theologian could express this uniqueness this way:

 

“The unity of God is unique. It is the only unity of the kind. An individual man is one; and any individual creature or thing is one. But there are others like it, each of which is likewise numerically one. God is not merely one, but the only one; not merely unus (one), but unicus (unique). He is not one of a species or one in contrast with another of the same kind. God is one God and the only God. The notion of the unique must be associated with that of unity in the instance of the Supreme Being.

God is not a unit, but a unity. A unit, like a stone or a stick, is marked by mere singleness. It admits no interior distinctions and is incapable of that inherent trinality which is necessary to self-knowledge and self-consciousness. Mere singleness is incompatible with society, and therefore incompatible with divine communion and blessedness. God is blessed only as he is self-knowing and self-communing. A subject without an object could not experience either love or joy. Love and joy are social. They imply more than a single person.

The scriptural doctrine of divine plenitude favors distinctions in divine essence. Fullness of being implies variety of existence. A finite unit has no plurality or manifoldness. It is destitute of modes of subsistence. Meagerness and barrenness mark a unit; opulence and fruitfulness mark a unity. This plērōma or plenitude of divine essence is spoken of in the following: “filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19) and “the fullness of the Godhead” (Col. 1:19; 2:9). Owen (in his work Doctrine of the Trinity Vindicated) remarks that “it may be true that in one essence there can be but one person, when the essence is finite and limited, but not when the essence is infinite.” [Shedd, W. G. T., & Gomes, A. W. (2003). Dogmatic theology (3rd ed.) (222). Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub.]

 

 

 

God revealed this to us for our good—it has practical value to our lives, beyond simply knowing truth. It shows us how great our God is, how complete He is in Himself, how sufficient His work of redemption is for us, and how sure we can be of His love for us!

 

One writer listed some of the practical benefits of this:

 

1.      It allows for eternal love. Love was before creation, yet love needs an object. Love is always flowing among the persons of the trinity.

2.      Only God can reveal God. By God the Father sending God the Son, God could be made manifest.

3.      Only God can atone for sin. This is accomplished through the incarnation of God the Son.

4.      It is hard to conceive of personality existing without society. The persons of the Godhead relate one to another in perfect harmony, a perfect society.  

 

[Thiessen, H. C., & Doerksen, V. D. (1979). Lectures in systematic theology (98–99). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.]

 

 

One illustration that is commonly used of the Trinity expresses an intense beauty in the relationships within the Godhead:

 

God is Love” (1 John 4:16), and love involves three elements: A lover, a beloved, and a spirit of love. These three are one. One advantage of this example is that it has a personal dimension, in that love is something only a person does. [Geisler, N. L. (2003). Systematic theology, volume two: God, creation (294). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.]

 

For me personally—and I would hope you would find this too, friend—the major reason might be to encourage us to trust Him, because He is constantly praying for me.

 

I know from scripture that I can go to God with my needs, my fears, my pains, my thanks—and that I have access to Him because Jesus solved my sin problem by His sacrificial death.

 

But I also know from the verses above that:

 

·         God the Holy Spirit prays to the Father for me, about things I do NOT know to pray for: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26)

 

·         God the Son intercedes for me constantly, about things necessary to my salvation (whether I know what those needs are or not!): Now there have been many of those [Old Testament] priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Heb 7:23–25).

 

I appreciate it when people intercede with God on my behalf—I frequently ask others to pray for me—but to know that God Himself, within Himself, prays for me—including for the unseen and unknown needs of my life and my spirit—I am encouraged to trust Him. I am encouraged to thank Him. I am encouraged to honor Him in my little human life. I am overwhelmed by the completeness of His care.

 

Secondly, I am encouraged to trust Him because the work required to ensure my salvation and eternal life with Him was all done by Him!

 

If you look at this simple list of Scripture truths, you can see what I mean:

 

·         The Son chose to come to earth as a human

 

·         The Father who loved Him from eternity to eternity sent Him, because of love for us humans

 

·         The Holy Spirit miraculously created this unique Jesus inside the womb of Mary.

 

·         The Son –now in human form and yet still also having His divine nature—depended upon the Holy Spirit to live his human life in perfect obedience and submission to the Father.

 

·         During his life on earth, the Son promised that every person who believed His claims and trusted in His work as savior would be exempt from the Final Judgment and be given eternal life by the Father.

 

·         Before His sacrifice on the Cross for us, Jesus promised that He and the Father would send a down-payment of eternal life to believers, in the person of the Holy Spirit.

 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. (Eph 1:13–14)

 

For while we are in this tent [the human body], we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Co 5:1–5).

 

·         He also promised that this Holy Spirit would reveal more about God the Son and God the Father as part of the Spirit’s ministry.

 

·         Jesus then offered himself up through the Holy Spirit on the Cross as a substitute sacrifice for us law-breakers. He took the punishment that we deserve from the Father upon Himself, and suffered in our place.

 

·         The Father accepted the Son’s sacrifice, raised Him from the dead, and exalted Him to heaven.

 

·         The Holy Spirit was then sent by the Father and the Son to live inside believers, and to begin growing, from within, the experience of Eternal Life—including internal joy, love, peace, and intimacy with God. At the Resurrection, this indwelling Holy Spirit will completely renew our human bodies into immortal bodies.

 

·         This same Holy Spirit enables humans to share the message of God’s offer of eternal life with other people—like you and I.

 

·         His offer of eternal life is based upon His own works—not ours. Righteousness and Peace with God are a gift from him—not something we work for. The triune God did all the work—out of His love—and we can enjoy His gift freely and be forever confident in His love:

 

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. 27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. 29 After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. 30 There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. (Romans 3:21–30).

 

 

Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. (Letter to Titus 3:3–7).

 

I mean that you have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God. 9 It was not the result of your own efforts, so you cannot brag about it.  (Eph 2:8–9).

 

I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. (Php 3:9).

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

There are so many questions that could be asked here, and so many arguments that can be raised, and so much more data that could be examined, but none of these would change the basic reality: that God has revealed Himself in the scriptures from the time of the Creation through the time of Christ’s apostles and companions as being a composite unity.

 

There are distinctions between the persons, but even these distinctions are for our good—otherwise, the Holy Spirit could not pray for us and the Son could not offer a perfect substitute for us to the Father.

 

But debates about the internal workings of our great God have sabotaged many beautiful lives and created significant discord in both Christian and Muslim theology.

 

In Christian theology, the debates about this in the early centuries of the church were often impure—they were tainted by political ambitions and by social pressures. Sometimes they stopped arguing and admitted the reality of mystery, but sometimes they did not.

 

And the same is true for the internal Muslim debates. One writer (Nader El-Bizri), discussing the internal Muslim arguments over essence and attributes, said this:

 

“Although the question concerning God's essence and attributes has primarily remained a classical madrasa problem that has been peripheral to modern reformist deliberations, it nevertheless confronts us with exacting metaphysical riddles. Attempts to advance a definite thesis in this regard are likely to be part of a call for a conversion to one doctrine or another. The atmosphere is one of ideological indoctrination pre­occupied with historicity rather than a commitment to the uncanny realities of this question. This should, as a minimum, be replaced with a restraint in taking conclusive positions, and by resisting intellective haste, given that the doctrinal unfolding of this question did not always maintain, with purity, the indeterminacy, indecision, openness and submission that befit a genuine experience of the holy.” [WR:CCCIT, 137f, Nader El-Bizri, “God: essence and attributes”]

 

 

I would hope, friend, that you would let God be God, and let His unchangeable Word speak wisdom, comfort, forgiveness, and wonder into your open heart. May you find this free gift of eternal life from the glorious God, and may you experience the blessings, ministries, and companionship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

 

In the words of the Apostle Paul (Romans 16.27)

All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.

 

 

Warmly,

Glenn Miller, Dec 2011

 


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