CAN THE TRINITY BE EXPLAINED?
This will be the simplest Bible study you will ever see on the Godhead. "Godhead" is a Bible term meaning "concerning the essential being or the nature of God", and so we will use the term here. It is defined similarly in the English dictionary. Concerning the main views on the Godhead, most Christians are Trinitarians (i.e. believe that God is three persons), while some are Oneness (i.e. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one person, Jesus Christ). Theologians have written thousands of very complicated books on the Godhead - of which the public probably hasn't read one hundredth of one percent of them and couldn't care less. The purpose of this study is to try to understand the Godhead in the very simplest way!
First, let's look at the expressions Christians use in teaching others about the Godhead. They are:
The last 9 (of the 13) words or phrases in green above ARE NEVER used in the entire Bible - Old or New Testiment! Not even ONE time is any of the last 9 used concerning God in the Bible. Some actually have a meaning just the opposite of what the inspired Word of God has. For example, instead of using "begotten Son", (see footnote 1) which is what we find in many places in the New Testament, we find many Christians using the expression "eternal Son". Those two expressions are in conflict.
Of the first 4 (of the 13) words or phrases in blue above, "God the Father" and "Son of God" (see footnote 2) do not appear in the Old Testament with respect to God or Jesus. But those four expressions appear in the New Testament many, many times.
If these 11 missing words or expressions in the Old Testament or 9 in the New Testament described the godhead accurately, don't you think the Holy Spirit would have inspired the New Testament writers to use them to describe God? Why is it that so many Christians use terminology that is either not used in the holy, inspired Word of God or use the opposite (i.e. "eternal Son" rather than "begotten Son")? It may be because they have a poor "model" for the concept of the Godhead in the Word of God.
What do we mean by model? In the sciences, "models" are looked for to explain unknown concepts or hypotheses. For example, in studying the origins of the universe, the Big Bang model and the Steady State model were the two principle models for how the universe supposedly came into existence.
Our concept of the atom has evolved through better and better models to the present model that may be eliminated when a better model is found that better fits all the observable data and findings.
As knowledge improved about the relationship of the Earth to the rest of space, our models went from a flat earth to a round Earth which the Sun revolved around and now to a round Earth that revolves around our Sun which is the center of our solar system which is part of the Milky Way. When we found a better model, we discarded the more incomplete and inaccurate model(s). Today not many of us are members of the "Flat Earth Society"!
We can apply this "model" concept to our understanding of the Godhead. Paul did so in his teaching. In Acts 17:29 he gave the pagan world's model of the Godhead - "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device". Then in Rom. 1:20 he told us that Creation itself reveals things about His nature and Godhead - "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead". But in Col. 2:9 Paul gives us an element in the Christian model for God that goes way beyond what various religions can do when he says, "For in him (Jesus Christ) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."
Paul's comparison between how the pagan sees God and how the Creator God can be seen in Creation is not enough. We must try to come to the best understanding of the Godhead that we can. However, we can do this only to the level that we use scriptural language and terms, and to do it the same way as the Word does in order to come up with the same revelation that Paul had and the New Testament reveals. In doing so, we can find the best model for the Godhead - Trinity, Oneness, or otherwise.
At this point, I believe we see the first indications of a problem with the Trinity model. Those who have proposed this model use unscriptural terms and language like, "persons", "three persons", "God the Son", "God the Holy Spirit", "eternal Son" (rather than "begotten Son"). Christians should have seen numerous red flags, but apparently they didn't. One flag perhaps was seen by many - and that was "one God in three persons". To many people, that means "one God is three beings". Many Christians said it didn't make sense, and they couldn't understand it. They were immediately intimidated and suppressed by accusations of heresy and blasphemy. The standard answer their accusers had for them was, "It's a blessed mystery, and you just have to accept it by faith even though it can't be understood". That was supposed to end all the objections right there, but it didn't and never has and never will. A complicated philosophical (not Biblical) system was created to try to make it sound like it made sense.
"Trinity" first appeared in thought and word by Tertullian somewhere between 200 and 220 A.D. He was a pagan philosopher, a prolific writer, who was born around 155-160 A.D. in Carthage (Tunis, Tunisia) in Africa just across the Mediterrean Sea from Italy) and died around 220-230. He was converted to Christianity around 197-198 and around 210-220 conceptualized the "Trinity", coining the Latin noun, "Trinitas", meaning "three are one". The Roman Catholic Church immediately brought in this idea into their official church and it became incorporated into the Nicean Creed in 381.
Then came the Oneness people at the start of the 20th century to further confuse the issue. The only reason they came into existence was that they were not content with the confusion of the Trinitarian philosophy. They sought to solve the problem by starting with the premise that because there is only one God, there can be only one person, and therefore, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are that one Person, and His name is Jesus. Well, it sounded logical, but that model didn't fit right either because it also conflicted with scripture and they also could not stick to Bible language and terms. Thus, there has been eternal confusion concerning the Godhead ever since between both sides. Well, enough of history. Now back to the Bible, the foundation of our revealed faith!
It is a shame for true blood-washed, born again Christians to be fighting with each other about two concepts that do not accurately reveal the nature of God. We all have the same Bible and ought to be able to come to some basic agreements about God so that we can have the fellowship with each other that Jesus prayed for in John 17.21..."That they might all be one"! It might happen if we could stick to the same language and terms the inspired writers of the New Testament used. Sooner or later we would have to come to the same revelation and understanding of God that they did!
Here is the very simple and scriptural model for the Godhead that does not conflict with Bible language and terms: There is one God. "God" is a descriptive title for the Supreme Being. In the Old Testament, God's personal name was Yahweh or Jehovah, which was translated "Lord". In the New Testament, when a person becomes a Christian, God becomes their Father. (To the world at large, He is just "God". Until they are born again and become a son of God, they have no right to call Him Father). God is also the "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (repeated many times in the New Testament).
Jesus is the Word of God incarnated into humanity as the Son of God - and as a human, He was "begotten" - an old English word meaning "born". He did not stop being what He was, which was the Word of God, but started being what He was not before, which was a human being (John 1:1-3,14)! Paul said He was "God was manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16) and "in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9). He is the "Son of God", the "begotten Son", but never "God the Son" or "the eternal Son"! It is the Word that is eternal; the Word became flesh, the only begotten Son of God! The Son was the incarnated flesh, the man, Christ Jesus! The Word was God and after the incarnation, "in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9)
God did not become a Father until He had a Son. That did not happen until John 1:18 - "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [him]".
The Trinity is a complicated and contradictory philosophy. For example, it makes the Son of God to be "the second person of the Trinity, co-equal and co-eternal" with the other two "persons", the Son must be God also and "God, the Son" and "the eternal son". Thus two non-scriptural phrases had to be created to reason this way. Trinitarian theologians proclaim "the begotton Son is being eternally generated" in order to try to fit the "eternal Son" with the Biblical "begotten Son". What does that even mean? It doesn't even make sense. He can't be the eternal Son and the begotten Son both. It's an oxy-moron. It's contradictory. It just doesn't make any sense. "Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light unto my path" (Ps 119:105). The Word of God is to illuminate us, not confuse us.
So Trinitarians become become so confused that they teach things that make no sense. For example, Finis Jennings Dake, whom Dake's Bible is written by, says in his 52-lesson "God's Plan for Man", (14th. printing in 1987), "both the Son of God and the Holy Spirit have personal bodies...and we must conclude that if one person of the three in the Godhead has a personal body, soul, and spirit, all three persons must also have separate bodies, souls, and spirits".
A well known healing evangelist taught that the Trinity is actually nine persons because each member of the Trinity - Father, Son, Holy Spirit - is also a Trinity of body, soul, spirit. Did he get it from Dake or just use the same reasoning? Following this silly line of thinking, you could talk about the spirit of the Holy Spirit! What does that even mean? Please explain that!
Wrong ideas led to wrong and conflicting theology. This is why the Trinity is confusing. It's the same type of reasoning that causes some to call Mary "the Mother of God". They reason this way, "Mary is the mother of Jesus; Jesus is God; therefore Mary is the Mother of God"! It's logical, but it's not correct. A woman can not birth God! If you start out with the wrong supposition, you can only come to a wrong conclusion! Jesus is the Son of God. So therefore, Mary is the mother of the Son of God!
God can not become a man! The Bible says God is a Spirit (Jn. 4:24) and dwells in heaven ("Our Father which art in heaven?" - Mt. 6:9). That's part of the reason why His Word had to be incarnated into a man. God could not come into our world any other way! Note that John did not say that God became flesh... a man. He said that "the Word was God" (Jn. 1:1), and the "WORD became flesh" (Jn. 1:14). He was saying that THE WORD THAT WAS GOD, BECAME FLESH!
The Holy Spirit could have inspired John to write, "God became flesh", but that isn't what happened. The Holy Spirit had John write, "the Word was God" and "the Word became flesh"! We need to be careful that we see the difference if we want to have the same model of the Godhead that the Holy Spirit and John had! You see, God can't become flesh without ceasing to be God (which is an impossibility), but the Word can...and did!
Something is lost when the Greek word "logos" is translated "word" in English because "logos" has a far richer meaning than its English counterpart, "word". That is tragic, because if we understood more fully what it means in Greek, we could understand the Godhead better. "Logos" means the "self expression of, the idea, the fullness". Quite simply the Word was all of God that could cross over from eternity to time, from the spiritual realm to the natural realm, from the infinite to the finite by being incarnated or embodied into the Man, Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus could say, "he that has seen me has seen the Father; and how do you say then, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak to you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwells in me, he does the works" (Jn. 14:9,19) and, "I and my Father are one" (Jn. 10:30).
Twice Jesus said He "came out from the Father" (Jn. 16:27, 17:8). This is why Jesus described the special relationship between He and the Father this way, "I am in the Father and the Father is in Me" in Jn. 10:38, 14:10,11, 17:21. Reader, you will note that in much of what is above and beneath this paragraph are scriptures written by "John, the Beloved". In his writings (John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Revelation), you will get the most revelation on the Godhead even though the rest of the writers had it also. So will you and I if we just simply read the Word of God as it is and not add or subtract from it!
So the Son came "into the world" because the Father couldn't. The Father had to stay in heaven. But His Word came, became flesh, and dwelled among us as the Son. But when the Son went to heaven, God did not want to leave us "comfortless", but would send the Comforter or the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:16,18) to be with us and in us on Earth.
Finally, the Holy Spirit is simply, to use scriptural terms, the "Spirit of God", the "Spirit of the Father", the "Spirit of the Son", the "Spirit of Jesus", and many other expressions, but never "God the Holy Spirit"! After Jesus, the Son of God, ascended to heaven, He sent the Spirit of God to continue to help us.
The Holy Spirit is the Presence of God on Earth when the Presence of God in His Son can no longer be on Earth...because the Son is no longer on Earth! The Holy Spirit is how the Father and the Son dwell in us - "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever - even the Spirit of truth - whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him, but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you...If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (Jn. 14:16,17,23).
This is a much simpler model of the Godhead which uses the same language that Jesus used, and that the Holy Spirit gave to John and Paul, and not the unscriptural terms like "Trinity, Triune, God in three Persons, Persons, three Persons, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, eternal Son, Oneness" which mislead believers into an inaccurate model for the Godhead. There are a lot of things we can't understand about God (because He is infinite), but nothing is added by trying to introduce concepts that use language, terms, and expressions foreign to the inspired writers of the New Testament and neglect the revelation that is given us by the Holy Spirit. Staying with scriptural language and revelation in humility might even help us all to come closer to the goals Paul speaks of in Eph. 4:1-3,13 - "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beg you that you walk worthy of the vocation wherein you are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace...until we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ".
Footnote 1: "Begotten Son" (monogenhv uiov, 3439 & 5207 respectively in Strong's) appears 8 times with respect to Jesus in the Greek New Testament (Jn. 1:14,18, 3:16,18, Acts 13:33, Heb. 1:5, 5:5, 1 Jn. 4:9) even though many of the newer translations choose not to retain "BEGOTTEN" in the inspired text pertaining to Jesus and one time to Isaac in Heb. 11:17. Isaac was Abraham's "only begotten son" and foreshadowed Jesus as being God's "only begotten Son" through the Incarnation....that is, the Word (of God) becoming flesh as in Joh 1:14, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth", "for in him [Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col 2:9). "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God" (1 Joh. 4:2,3).
Footnote 2: While some translations of the Bible have "Son of God" in Dan. 3:25 say, "....I see four men loose, walking in the middle of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God" [AKJV, KJV], the majority of translations read:
[Amplified] "the fourth is like a son of the gods"
[Aramaic] "like a son of the gods"
[Youngs Literal Translation of the Bible] "fourth is like to a son of the gods]
[ASV] "the aspect of the fourth is like a son of the gods"
[Taylor] "the fourth looks like a god"
[NIV] "the fourth looks like a son of the gods"
[TNIV] "the fourth looks like a son of the gods"
[NLT] "the fourth looks like a god"
[AAT] "the appearance of the fourth resembles one of the gods"
[RSV] "the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods"
[NASB] "the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods"
The context of Dan. 3:25 was that Belteshazzar was expecting worship of one of his gods or the golden image of himself. "Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?" (Dan. 3:14). Anything that "looked like a god" was sufficient to surprise him and cause him to release Daniel and the other 3 Jewish men. If this "god" were the Son of God of the New Testament, Daniel would have been at a loss to explain who and what that "Son of God" was.
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