The concept of the "trinity" is that God consists of three persons who are one in being and nature. The concept of the "trinity" is not something that one just reads a verse or two and says "so there it is!" The word itself is not a translation of any word or phrase found in the Bible. The concept is derived and "falls out" of the evidence. Without Jesus' revelation when He was on earth I would say that the idea of the trinity would be difficult to determine from the Hebrew Scriptures, for after all, Deuteronomy 6:4 states "the LORD [YHWH] is one." But, because of Jesus, we are forced to re-examine our first impression understanding of this statement. Here are the pieces:
1) Jesus speaks to the Father in the second person. Jesus refers to the Father and the Holy Spirit in the third person. Jesus refers to His will being distinct from His Father's "not my will but yours be done."
2) The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all referred to as God. Each is described as deserving of worship by us - something only God Himself is worthy of.
3) The Scriptures clearly teach that "the LORD is one" and that there are "none besides Him." [Scriptures will be provided later in this article that demonstrate these items].
From these pieces the idea of God's nature being more complex than we would have imagined emerges. The question then needs to be addressed as to exactly what "one" means in Deuteronomy 6:4. Consider what Jesus said about His relationship to the Father. Jesus said that He and the Father were one (see John 17:22). Jesus wants us to be one as He is one with the Father. Further, when God created man and woman He desired that they be united as "one flesh" (Gen 2:24). This could not simply be a reference to the bearing of children, which are in a sense, a one flesh result of their union. It must refer to the marriage itself, for certainly they were "one flesh" before they bore any children. This concept of "one" then does not then refer to a uniform or homogenous state of being; men and women are very different (despite what some feminists would have you believe) and the members of the body of Christ are also very different. Individuals who are united in marriage do not lose their individual traits, such as their own thoughts, emotions, etc. And a married couple does not have the same blood type after they were married if their blood types were different before they were married. If the members of the body of Christ were to become a "uniform and homogenous" being then we each would lose our identity as "self" and what would emerge would be something akin to an eastern religious "cosmic consciousness." The "oneness" must refer not to a homogenous singularity. The oneness of the marriage and the body of Christ are reflective of the nature of God Himself.
What exactly does "oneness" then mean? The Hebrew word used for God as one is echad. Echad can mean one as in "one goat," "one day," "one stone," etc. However, it can also refer to a plural unity such as in a composite whole. For example, in Num 13:23 echad refers to a cluster of grapes. And in Gen 11:6 those who built the tower of Babel are referred to as "one people." When we refer to a person we know that the "one" person consists of several distinct components (emotions, thoughts, hands, heart, liver, etc.). Yet we all understand all of these parts constitute "one person." Echad was the word to describe the "one flesh" of marriage (Gen 2:24). Since God is referred to as echad in the same way as man and woman are referred to as echad this heavily implies that the oneness of marriage reflects the oneness of God. We also see echad used very intensely in Ezekiel 37:15-28 in the prophecy of the "two sticks" of Israel and Judah becoming one. In that prophecy we have a representative picture and the actuality. Examine the passage carefully and you will see that the intent of the two sticks is to be a picture that Ezekiel first shows to the captive Jews in Babylon. The idea is that they would remember this message as they go about their daily activities and would pick up sticks (for building cooking fires, for example) and be reminded of this promise of God and have hope. In Ezek 37:17 the sticks don't fuse together into a single stick. It appears that this was representative of the reality of what happens in God's hand in Ezek 37:19. Even then, Judah and Israel contain distinct tribes (after all, one must know who the Levites are for priests and who the tribe of Judah is from which the Messiah will come). So the oneness of the two sticks in Ezekiel's hand obviously is a representative oneness and echad in Ezek 37:17 could be easily translated as "united." But, nevertheless, the oneness of Israel and Judah still consists of many individuals from twelve distinct tribes. The individuals do not become a homogenous consciousness or a physical singularity of any sort. We are dealing on a spiritual level of oneness, which is reflective of God's nature. The "oneness" we obseve in marriage and the other examples are shadows of the reality of the oneness within God.
Now the true nature of God's oneness we can only describe by how it appears to us from what Jesus said and did. The best words we have to describe the members of the trinity seem to be as "persons."
Let's look at some Scriptures pertaining to the trinity.
At the baptism of Jesus we see the following: "Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased." (Luke 3:21-22). We see three mentioned:
2) Holy Spirit
3) Father (implied by "my beloved Son")
We see these three mentioned together at other times:
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all." (2 Cor 13:14).
"There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all." (Eph 4:4-6).
Jesus later tells his disciples to "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Matt 28:19).
The point of this is that we are speaking of three distinct persons. Now let's press on to examine each of these persons.
I don't think I need to go into any detail here. It is pretty clear that the references to "the Father" are to God (see, for example, John 20:17). So let me go on.
The Scriptures tell us that only God is permitted to receive worship (see Matt 4:10; Luke 4:8; Ex 20:2-5)
Yet Jesus receives worship:
"Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, 'Do you believe in the Son of Man?' He answered, 'Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?' Jesus said to him, 'You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.' And he said, 'Lord, I believe.' And he worshiped Him." (John 9:35-38).
"When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, 'You are certainly God's Son!'" (Matt 14:32-33).
"And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, 'And let all the angels of God worship Him.'" (Heb 1:6).
We see that the angels of God refuse worship:
"Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, 'Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.'" (Rev 19:10). See also Rev 22:8-9.
Jesus is declared to be God:
"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil 2:5-11).
An interesting note here is the Paul stating that "bestowed on Him the name which is above every name." YHWH is referred to as "the Name" (Hebrew, hashem). To say that Jesus is above every name can only mean one thing to a Jew like Paul. Only one name is above every name and that is hashem (YHWH). Thus, Paul has unmistakably referred to Jesus as YHWH.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.... And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-3,14). Note how John 1:1 parallels Genesis 1:1. The parallel is intentional to show that Jesus is the Creator God of Gen 1:1.
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities -- all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Col 1:15-17).
"For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Col 2:9).
"...looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus" (Titus 2:13).
Jesus is given the same titles and attributes as YHWH. Below are several parallels. For each attribute there are two sets of references. The first reference set is to Jesus and the second is to YHWH in the Hebrew Scriptures: (from The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell) <
P>Creator: John 1:3 (Jesus); Isa 40:28 (YHWH)
Savior: John 4:42 (Jesus); Isa 45:22; 43:11 (YHWH)
Raise the dead: John 5:21 (Jesus); I Sam 2:6 (YHWH)
Judge: John 5:27; Matt 25:31-46 (Jesus); Joel 3:12 (YHWH)
Light: John 8:12 (Jesus); Isa 60:19-20 (YHWH)
"I AM": John 8:58; 18:5,6 (Jesus); Ex 3:14 (YHWH)
Shepherd: John 10:11 (Jesus); Ps 23:1 (YHWH)
Glory of God: John 17:1,5 (Jesus); Isa 42:8; 48:11 (YHWH)
First and last: Rev 1:17; 2:8 (Jesus); Isa 41:4; 44:6 (YHWH)
Redeemer: Rev 5:9 (Jesus); Hosea 13:14 (YHWH)
Bridegroom: Rev 21:2; Matt 25:1ff (Jesus); Isa 62:5; Hosea 2:16 (YHWH)
Rock: I Cor 10:4 (Jesus); Ps 18:2 (YHWH)
Forgiver of sins: Mark 2:7,10; Jer 31:34 (YHWH)
Worshiped by angels: Heb 1:6 (Jesus); Ps 148:2 (YHWH)
Addressed in prayer: Acts 7:59 (Jesus); throughout Hebrew Scriptures (YHWH)
Creator of angels: Col 1:16 (Jesus); Ps 148:5 (YHWH)
Confessed as Lord: Phil 2:11 (Jesus); Isa 45:23 (YHWH)
Because of who Jesus is (i.e., YHWH) then we are to give Him the proper respect and worship He deserves.
The Holy Spirit is a person, distinct from Jesus and the Father:
"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you." (John 14:16-17).
The Spirit teaches, testifies, convicts, lives, and is grieved:
"...for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." (Luke 12:12).
"When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me" (John 15:26)
"But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:7-8). "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you." (Rom 8:9a) See also I Cor 3:16.
"Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." (Eph 4:30).
The Holy Spirit is God:
"And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him." (Luke 12:10).
"But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.'" (Acts 5:3-4).
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2 Cor 3:17).
11/09/05 by Rick Young.