God is NOT a TRINITYStudy No. 161
Is God a Trinity, or a family? Was Jesus Christ God, or merely a man? Was Jesus the born son of God, or only an adopted son? Is the Holy Spirit a person or the creative power and mind of God? We need to understand the nature of God.
Persons or Hypostases?
The doctrine of the Trinity is not well understood. Trinitarians do NOT believe that God is a family of three Persons, that is, they do not believe that there are three Beings, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each a part of God. Trinitarian theologians explain that God is one Being, not three, and that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are "personal distinctions," or hypostases, within that one Being. These distinctions are not "parts" of God, since He is infinite and cannot be divided into parts.
Trinitarian Robert M. Bowman, Jr., writes, "Another aspect of God’s oneness is the fact that there are no separations or divisions or partitions in God. The trinitarian doctrine holds that God is a single infinite being, transcending the bounds of space and time, having no body either material or spiritual (except the body that the Son assumed in becoming a man). Thus, the trinitarian God has no parts. You cannot divide the infinite being into components. The Athanasian Creed affirms that God is not divided by the three persons when it states that the trinitarian faith does not allow for ‘dividing the substance’ (using ‘substance’ to mean the essence or being of God). The three persons, consequently, are not three parts of God, but three personal distinctions within God, each of whom is fully God" (Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, pp. 12-13).
Trinitarians do teach that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct "persons," only in the sense of "personal distinctions." Bowman says, "If ‘person’ is used to mean a separate individual being, then in that sense trinitarians frankly would confess to believe that God is one ‘person’."
"However, there is another sense of the word person that focuses not on separate existence but on relationship; trinitarians believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three ‘persons’ in the sense that each is aware of the others, speaks to the others, and loves and honors the others. Thus, God may be described as ‘one person’ or as ‘three persons,’ depending on the meaning of ‘persons’," (Ibid., pp. 13-14).
The Greek word hypostasis, or the plural hypostases, is used in Hebrews 1:3, referring to the Son of God, "Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person [hupostasis, or hypostasis, Strong’s #5287], and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." This Greek word is used several other places in the New Testament, to signify confidence, or substance, II Corinthians 9:4, 11:17; Hebrews 3:14, 11:1. According to Green’s Interlinear, hypostasis in Hebrews 1:3 is better translated "essence" rather than "person." There is NO Biblical usage of hypstasis referring to "distinctions," or "persons" of a trinity.
Does all this theological discussion seem too weighty for the average person? Can we, finite humanity, comprehend the infinite God? To this, the Eternal answers, "But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD . . .," Jeremiah 9:24.
Trinity Not Biblical
The belief that God is one substance, yet three persons, is one of the central doctrines of orthodox Christians. The concept of the Trinity is held by most professing believers, whether Catholic or Protestant. Those who deny the Trinity are often labeled as a "cult."
The following statements show the confusing aspect of this subject: "The mind of man cannot fully understand the mystery of the Trinity. He who would try to understand the mystery fully will lose his mind. But he who would deny the Trinity will lose his soul," (Harold Lindsell and Charles J. Woodbridge, A Handbook of Christian Truth, pp. 51-52).
Peter admonished Christians: " . . . Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you . . . ." I Peter 3:15. We need to know the Truth of the matter of the nature of the Deity. Therefore, a Christian should prove whether or not God is a Trinity.
Difficult to Clearly Explain
If you confine yourself to reading articles on the Trinity in popular religious literature, you might conclude that the Trinity is everywhere and clearly taught in the Bible. However, if you were to read the more technical Bible encyclopedias, dictionaries, and books, you would come to an entirely different conclusion. The more you study this subject, the more you find that the Trinity doctrine is built on a very shaky foundation. It seems that nobody can clearly explain it.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia says: "It is difficult, in the second half of the 20th century, to offer a clear, objective, and straightforward account of the revelation, doctrinal evolution, and the theological elaboration of the mystery of the Trinity. Trinitarian discussion, Roman Catholic as well as other, presents a somewhat unsteady silhouette," (Vol. XIV, p. 295).
Why should the central doctrine of the Christian faith be so difficult to understand? Isn’t there a clear biblical revelation of the doctrine of the Trinity? Didn’t Christ and the apostles plainly teach it?
"The term ‘Trinity’ is not a Biblical term, and we are not using Biblical language when we define what is expressed by it as the doctrine," (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, article "Trinity," p. 3012).
Not only is the word "Trinity" never found in the Bible, there is no proof such a doctrine is even indicated.
Catholic theologian Karl Rahner recognizes that theologians in the past have been " . . . embarrassed by the simple fact that in reality the Scriptures do not explicitly present a doctrine of the ‘imminent’ Trinity (even John’s prologue is no such doctrine)," (The Trinity, p. 22). (Author’s emphasis.)
The first chapter of John shows the pre-existence and divinity of Christ, and the duality of God, but does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. After discussing John’s prologue, Dr. William Newton Clarke writes: "There is no Trinity in this; but there is a distinction in the Godhead, a duality in God. This distinction or duality is used as the basis for the idea of an only-begotten Son, and as key to the possibility of an incarnation," (Outline of Christian Theology, p. 167).
Biblical "Proof" for the Trinity?
Probably the most notorious scripture used as a Trinity proof text is I John 5:7-8, "For there are three that bear record
in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one." Many theologians recognize that the portion of this scripture lined through in the above quotation was added to the New Testament manuscripts probably as late as the eighth century A.D.
Notice what Jamieson, Fausset and Brown wrote in their commentary: "The only Greek MSS. [manuscripts], in any form which support the words, ‘in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth . . .’ are the Montfortianus of Dublin, copied evidently from the modern Latin Vulgate; the Ravianus copied from the Complutensian Polyglot; a MS. [manuscript] at Naples, with the words added in the margin by a recent hand; Ottobonianus, 298, of the fifteenth century, the Greek of which is a mere translation of the accompanying Latin. All old versions omit the words."
The New Bible Commentary (Revised) agrees with Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, " . . . The words are clearly a gloss and are rightly excluded by RSV [Revised Standard Version] even from its margin," (p. 1269).
Peake’s Commentary on the Bible says, "The famous interpolation after ‘three witnesses’ is not printed even in RSV, and rightly. It cites the heavenly testimony of the Father, the Logos, and the Holy Spirit, but is never used in the early trinitarian controversies. No respectable Greek MS contains it. Appearing first in a late 4th century Latin text, it entered the Vulgate and finally the NT [New Testament] of Erasmus," (p. 1038).
Many scholars recognize that I John 5:7 and part of verse 8 are not part of the New Testament text. Yet it is still included by some fundamentalists as biblical proof for the Trinity doctrine.
The majority of recent New Testament translations do not contain the above words. They are not found in the New International Version and the Revised Standard Version.
These words are not part of the inspired canon, but were added later. The two verses in I John should read: "For there are three that bear record, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one."
Three things bear record. But to what do they bear record? A Trinity? No!
Three Bear Record to What?
The Spirit, the water, and the blood bear record of the fact that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is living His life over again in us. John explains in verses 11-12: "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."
But how do the Spirit, the water, and the blood specifically bear witness to this basic biblical truth?
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God," Romans 8:16.
Water is symbolic of baptism, which bears witness of the burial of the old self and the beginning of a new life (Romans 6:1-6).
Blood represents Christ’s death by crucifixion, which pays the penalty for our sins, reconciling us to God (Romans 5:9, 10).
Now let’s understand why Christ commanded the apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). It was not to substantiante a Trinity doctrine.
They were to baptize into the name of the Father because it is the goodness of God that brings us to repentance (Romans 2:4), and because the Father is the One "of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named," Ephesians 3:15 — in the name of the Son because He is the one who died for our sins, — in the name of the Spirit because God sends His Spirit, making us His begotten Sons (Romans 8:16). The "baptismal formula" of Matthew 28:19 means "into [Greek eis] the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit," i.e., into the family of God.
Use of "Person" in New Testament
The New Testament usage of the word, "person" includes the Father and the Son, but not the Holy Spirit. We have seen the usage of "person" (hypostasis) to refer to the Son, who is the express image of the person of the Father, Hebrews 1:3. The major word for "person," however, is Strong’s #4383, prosopon, which means "face, appearance, person, countenance." The Lord and the Father have a "face," or "person," or "presence," (prosopon), Matthew 18:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 1:76, 10:1; Acts 3:19; II Corinthians 2:10, 4:6; II Thessalonians 1:9; Hebrews 9:24; I Peter 3:12; Revelation 6:16, 10:1, 20:11, 22:4. However, there is no scriptural reference to the Holy Spirit having this characteristic.
Trinity Doctrine History
The ancient idea of monotheism was shattered by the sudden appearance of Jesus Christ on the earth. Here was someone who claimed He was the Son of God. But how could He be? The Jewish people believed for centuries that there was only one God. The shema is the central tenet of the Jewish faith, "Hear, O Israel, The LORD our God is one LORD," Deuteronomy 6:4 (also Isaiah 45:5-7). If the claims of Yahshua were accepted, then in their minds their belief would be no different from that of the polytheistic pagans around them. If He was the Son of God, their whole system of monotheism would disintegrate.
When Jesus plainly told certain Jews of His day that He was the Son of God, some were ready to stone Him for blasphemy (John 10:33). The Jewish community rejected Jesus.
But the "new" Christian religion was still faced with the problem. How would proponents explain that there was only one God, not two?
"The determining impulse to the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity in the church was the church’s profound conviction of the absolute Deity of Christ, on which as on a pivot the whole Christian concept of God from the first origin of Christianity turned," (International Standard Biblical Encyclopedia, article "Trinity," p. 3021).
But the Deity of Christ does not mean that a doctrine of the Trinity is necessary.
Rooted in Pagan Greek Philosophy
Many of the early church fathers were thoroughly educated in Greek philosophy, from which they borrowed such non-Biblical concepts as dualism and the immortality of the soul. Most theologians, but not all, are careful to point out that they did not borrow the idea of the Trinity from the Triads of Greek philosophy or those of the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians.
"Although the notion of a Triad or Trinity is characteristic of the Christian religion, it is by no means peculiar to it. In Indian religion, e.g., we meet with the trinitarian group of Brahma, Siva, and Visnu; and the Egyptian religion with the trinitarian group of Osiris, Isis, and Horus, constituting a divine family, like the Father, Mother, and Son in medieval Christian pictures. Nor is it only in historical religions that we find God viewed as a Trinity. One recalls in particular the Neo-Platonic view of the Supreme or Ultimate Reality, which was suggested by Plato . . . ," (Hasting’s Bible Dictionary, Vol. 12, p. 458).
McClintock and Strong state:
"Toward the end of the 1st century, and during the 2nd, many learned men came over both from Judaism and paganism to Christianity. These brought with them into the Christian schools of theology their Platonic ideas and phraseology," (article "Trinity," Vol. 10, p. 553).
In his book, A History of Christian Thought, Arthur McGiffert points out that the main argument against modalist monarchians, who believed God was manifested in three successive modes and Christ was not a distinct person of the Trinity, was that their idea did not agree with Platonic philosophy. Such teachings were "offensive to theologians, particularly to those who felt the influence of the Platonic philosophy," (ibid., p. 240).
In the latter half of the third century, Paul of Samosata tried to revive the adoptionist idea that Jesus was a mere man until the Spirit of God came upon Him at baptism making Him the Anointed One, or Christ. In his beliefs about the person of Jesus Christ, he "rejected the Platonic realism which underlay most of the Christological speculation of the day," (ibid., p. 243).
McGiffert concludes: ". . . It has been the boast of orthodox theologians that in the doctrine of the Trinity both religion and philosophy come to highest expression," (Vol. I, p. 247).
Platonic philosophy influenced the Trinity doctrine. However, trinitarian ideas go much farther back than Plato. "Though it is usual to speak of the Semitic tribes as monotheistic; yet it is an undoubted fact that more or less all over the world the deities are in triads. This rule applies to eastern and western hemispheres, to north and south. Further, it is observed that, in some mystical way, the triad of three persons is one . . . . The definition of Athanasius [a fourth-century Christian] who lived in Egypt, applied to the trinities of all heathen religions," (Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought, by James Bonwick, F.R.G.S. p. 396).
Athanasius’ formulation for the Trinity was adopted by the Catholic Church at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. Athanasius was from Alexandria, Egypt, and his philosophy was deeply rooted in Platonism.
"The Alexandrian catechetical school, which revered Clement of Alexandria and Origen, the greatest theologians of the Greek Church, as its heads, applied the allegorical method to the explanation of Scripture. Its thought was influenced by Plato: its strong point was theological speculation. Athanasius and the three Cappadocians had been included among its members . . ." (Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church, by Hubert Jedin, p. 29).
In order to explain the relationship of Christ to God, the Father, the church fathers felt that it was necessary to use the philosophy of the day. They thought that their religion would be more palatable if they made it sound like the pagan philosophy that was extant at the time. These men were versed in philosophy, and that philosophy colored their understanding of the Bible.
Theologians recognize that the Trinity is a creation of the fourth century, not the first!
"There is recognition on the part of exegetist and Biblical theologians, including a constantly growing number of Roman Catholics, that one should not speak of Trinitarianism in the New Testament without serious qualification. There is also the closely parallel recognition — that when one does speak of unqualified Trinitarianism, one has moved from the period of Christian origins to say, the last quadrant of the 4th Century. It was only then that what might be called the definitive Trinitarian dogma ‘one God in three persons’ became thoroughly assimilated into Christian life and thought," (New Catholic Encyclopedia, article "Trinity," Vol. 14, p. 295).
The Infamous Council of Nicaea
At the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, two members of the Alexandrian congregation presented their cases. Arius, a priest, believed that Christ was not a God, but a created being. Athanasius, a deacon, believed that the Father, Son, and Spirit are the same being living in a threefold form (or in three relationships, as a man may be at the same time a father, a son, and a brother).
The Council of Nicaea was called for political, rather than religious, reasons. "In 325 the Emperor Constantine called an ecclesiastical council to meet at Nicaea in Bithynia. In the hope of securing for his throne the support of the growing body of Christians he had shown them considerable favor and it was to his interest to have the church vigorous and united. The Arian controversy was threatening its unity and menacing its strength. He therefore undertook to put an end to the trouble. It was suggested to him, perhaps by the Spanish bishop Hosius who was influential at court, that if a synod were to meet representing the whole church both east and west, it might be possible to restore harmony. Constantine himself of course neither knew or cared anything about the matter in dispute but he was eager to bring the controversy to a close, and Hosius’ advice appealed to him as sound," (A History of Christian Thought, Vol. I, p. 258).
The decision as to which of the two men the Church was to follow, was a more or less arbitrary one. Constantine really didn’t care which choice was made — all he wanted was a united church. (Arius was banished, but later recalled by Constantine, examined and found to be without heresy.)
The majority at the council was not ready to take either side in the controversy. "A clearly defined standpoint with regard to this problem — the relationship of Christ to God — was held only by the attenuated group of Arians and a far from numerous section of delegates, who adhered with unshaken conviction to the Alexandrian [Athanasius] view. The bulk of the members occupied a position between these two extremes. They rejected the formulae of Arius, and declined to accept those of his opponents . . . the voting was no criterion of the inward conviction of the council," (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed., article "Nicaea, Council of," p. 641).
The council rejected Arius’ views, but they had nothing with which to replace it. Thus the ideas of Athanasius — also a minority view — prevailed.
After the council, Trinitarian doctrine became official dogma in the Church, but the controversy did not end. In the next few years, more Christians were killed by other Christians over the Trinity doctrine, than were killed by all the pagan emperors of Rome.
Do we believe in the Bible only, or do we accept the authority of Church Councils? Bowman writes, " . . . to be a responsible Christian — not merely in the sense of obtaining personal salvation, but in the sense of being a full partner with the rest of Christ’s church in the fellowship and servie of Christ — one must accept the doctrine of the Trinity. Not to accept the Trinity, after the church carefully and cautiously devloped it in response to attacks on its faith, is to deny that Christ preserved His church through the ravages of heresy and apostasy, and thereby implicitly to insult Christ," (Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, p. 132). If one believes in the Trinity, he is dishonest being a Protestant, and should henceforth rejoin his "mother," the Roman Catholic Church. The same Catholic Church which developed the doctrine of the Trinity, fabricated concepts regarding the Virgin Mary, the Eucharist, relics of the saints, apostolic succession, sacraments, etc.
A Family, Not a Trinity
The fact that God the Father and Jesus Christ are called "the Father," and "the Son," respectively, indicates a family relationship. Angels, though they do not marry, are part of a family. The word "family" means "any class or group of like or related things," (Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary). Angels are called "sons of God" in Job 1:6, 38:7. Human relationships, as God intended them to be, are patterns of heavenly realities. Psalm 97:7 states, "worship Him, all ye gods [Hebrew: elohim]." Hebrews 1:6 shows that these elohim are angels. Paul wrote, " . . . I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named," Ephesians 3:14, 15.
Are the Father and Son distinct "Beings"? Trinitarians say no, they are hypostases, or "personal distinctions," within one Being.
During His last moments on the stake, the Messiah cried, "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken Me?" Matthew 27:46. The Father did temporarily forsake His Son, which means they were separated for a time. Thus, they are separate Beings, with separate consciousnesses.
Yes, John 10:30 says, "I [Jesus] and My Father are one." But, it does not say they are one indistinguishable Being. On the night of His betrayal, Jesus prayed that His disciples "may be one, even as we [Christ and the Father] are one," John 17:22. The "oneness" He had in mind was a perfect unity of mind, purpose, and fellowship, verse 23. This is explained in John 10:37-38, "If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not. But if I do, though ye believe not Me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in Me, and I in Him." Just as the disciples are to be one, so are they to be one with the Father and the Son, who are one.
Scripture shows, "there is none other God but one," I Corinthians 8:4. "But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him," verse 6. Thus, the Father is the one God, and the Son is the one Lord. They are distinct beings.
The vast majority of New Testament references to "God" are references to God the Father alone. God raised up Jesus from the dead, Acts 3:26, 4:10, 2:24, 32, 36, 13:23, 30. See also Romans 1:7; I Corinthians 1:3; II Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:3; I Thessalonians 1:1; II Thessalonians 1:2.
In a few passages, Christ is called "God" (John 1:1; Titus 2:12; Hebrews 1:8) in the sense that He is the same kind, or class of Being. But when "God" is used in the sense of Supreme Sovereign Head of all, the term applies exclusively to the Father.
Jesus prayed, "And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent," John 17:3. Obviously, for God the Father to have sent Christ, the Father is distinct from the Son, and God is not "the Father, Son, and Spirit" in a trinity.
"The head of Christ is God," I Corinthians 11:3, shows there is one supreme sovereign, the Father. The trinitarian definition of God does not work with these verses.
Who Was Jesus?
The Bible does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. But who was Jesus Christ? Was He a man that lived such a perfect life that God decided to call Him His Son at baptism? Or was He God who became a man and died for all men?
A rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity is NOT a rejection of the divinity of Christ.
Catholic theologian Karl Rahner wrote: " . . . We must be willing to admit that should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged . . . the Christian idea of the incarnation would not have to change at all if there were no Trinity.
"It is not surprising then, that Christian piety practically remembers from the doctrine of the incarnation only that ‘God’ has become man, without deriving from this truth any clear message about the Trinity," (The Trinity, pp. 10-12). Thus, the doctrine of the Trinity is not necessary to the rest of Christian doctrine.
Many Christians are still confused about who and what Jesus Christ really was. The majority believe in a mysterious Trinity, while a vociferous minority believe that Christ was a created being. Neither is correct. Christ is not the second person in a Trinity, and He was not created by God — He IS the Creator God!
In the Beginning Was the Logos
John began his Gospel by describing who and what Jesus, was before He came to this earth as the Saviour of mankind. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made . . . 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," John 1:1-3, 14.
Jesus Christ was God, the One who created man in Genesis 2:7. "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink of the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ," I Corinthians 10:1-4.
Paul tells us that Jesus Christ was the God of the Old Testament — the One who spoke to Moses and led the Israelites out of Egypt. The One who became the Son was the God of the Old Testament.
Duality of God Throughout the Bible
The duality of God is not merely a "plural of majesty" as some would have us believe.
Daniel wrote, "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days . . . ," Daniel 7:13. The "Son of man" is the One who later became Jesus Christ. Daniel then saw Him given rulership and a Kingdom that will never be destroyed (verse 14), indicating the Son of Man was no mere physical human being.
The Ancient of Days, in this instance, is the divine Being who is called the Father in the New Testament.
Jesus Christ referred to this same event in His parable of the nobleman (Himself) who went to a far country (Heaven) to receive a kingdom, and to return (Luke 19:12).
The duality of the God family is shown in Psalm 110, "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool," (verse 1). Jesus confounded the Pharisees when He referred to this passage in Matthew 22:41-46.
Two different Lords are mentioned here. One is God the Father and the other is the One who became Jesus Christ. Paul quoted this passage to the Jewish Christians — applying it directly to Jesus Christ: "But to which of the angels said He at any time, Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool?" Hebrews 1:13.
Was the Son also God? Verse 8 answers, "But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever . . . ." There can be no doubt that God the Father and Jesus the Son are mentioned as two separate beings in the Old Testament.
Who Was Melchizedek?
Notice Hebrews 5:6-7:
"So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made high priest; but He [glorified Him] that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee. As He saith also in another place, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." Christ holds the office of Melchizedek. Who was Melchizedek?
In Genesis 14:18, He is called the king of Salem, the priest of the Most High God. He could not have been a human being. So we see that even in the first book of the Bible, the duality of God is shown. Paul described Him further in Hebrews 7:2-3:
"To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is King of peace; without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually."
Paul is describing a Being that eternally existed, as only God has eternally existed.
Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High God — The Father. Jesus Christ said: "My Father is greater than I," John 14:28. And also, Melchizedek still lives, Hebrews 7:8, and is still that High Priest. But Christ also is High Priest (see Hebrews 7:26, 8:1). There cannot be two High Priests both holding the same office, so Melchizedek and Jesus Christ must be one and the same.
Jesus Came to Reveal the Father
A clear distinction is made in the New Testament between Christ and the Father. The God that Moses saw and heard was not God the Father, again proving that Christ was the God of the Old Testament. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him," John 1:18. Christ came to earth to, among other things, reveal the Father and to show a family relationship that exists in the Godhead.
Jesus said, ". . . No man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him," Luke 10:22.
Unless Jesus had revealed the Father to us, there is no way for us to know Him. "All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him," Matthew 11:27.
The Meaning of the Word YHVH
There are two different names commonly used to refer to God. The first word for "God" in Genesis is Elohim.
The second word is YHVH (commonly, though erroneously, pronounced "Jehovah"). This word YHVH is generally translated "LORD" (in capital letters) in the King James Version of the Bible. The first place it is used is in Genesis 2:7. It was the LORD God — YHVH — who formed man out of the dust of the ground. It was the LORD God that dealt directly with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. And as we saw in John, chapter 1, it was the Word — Jesus Christ — who created all things.
Therefore, it was the LORD God of the Old Testament who became the Jesus Christ of the New. This fact is illustrated interestingly enough by the grammatical derivation of the word YHVH.
The word YHVH is explained by Rabbinic sources as encompassing three Hebrew words: HYH meaning was, HVH meaning is (literally "the present tense" — the word "is" is not used in Hebrew) and YHYH meaning will continue to be.
Putting them all together, YHVH actually means the "Was-Is-Will Continue to Be" Being. Even Hebrew linguistic scholars agree that YHVH must be derived from some form of the verb "to be" (was, is, will be).
By His very name, then, God quite literally encompasses all aspects of time — past, present, and future. This is in complete accord with Malachi 3:6, "For I am the Lord [YHVH], I change not," Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday [was], and today [is], and forever [will continue to be];" and Revelation 1:8, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty."
Clear statements of both the Old and New Testaments give overwhelming proof that the God of the Old Testament is the One who became Jesus Christ.
People Stumbled at Christ
In Isaiah chapter eight, verses 13 and 14, we find a prophecy concerning the Lord of Hosts:
"Sanctify the Lord of Hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. And He shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem."
The Apostle Peter writes: "Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe He is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed," I Peter 2:6-8.
The same prophecy is alluded to in Luke 2:34. There can be no denying that Jesus Christ was the God of the Old Testament, the Stone over which many people stumbled.
The religious leaders of the time simply could not understand how Jesus could have been God. Yet the Old Testament which they had copied for centuries is filled with prophecies about Him. They were blinded, and most remain so to this day, as Paul explained in the ninth through the eleventh chapters of his epistle to the Romans.
While Jesus Christ, the God of the Old Testament, was on earth as a human being, there was only one God Being — the Father — left in Heaven. And we find that Jesus prayed to His Father in Heaven:
"And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was," John 17:5.
Philippians 2:5-8 in The Amplified Bible says:
"Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus. Let Him be your example in humility — Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God, did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained; But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity] so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of [the] cross!" Jesus Christ was God. But He voluntarily gave up His position as God, became a physical human being and came to this earth to die for us that we might be saved.
This shows the importance of the oft-repeated scripture: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life," John 3:16.
Is the Holy Spirit a Person?
We have seen that Jesus Christ is, was, and always will be God. However, you can search the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and you will find no such Bible teaching with regard to the Holy Spirit. The Bible does not teach that the Holy Spirit is a third member of a Trinity.
Discussing the evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity in the Bible, Dr. W. N. Clarke, writes: "The New Testament begins the work, but does not finish it; for it contains no similar teaching [like John 1:1-18 concerning the divinity of Christ] with regard to the Holy Spirit. The unique nature and mission of Christ are traced to a ground in the being of God; but similar ground for the divineness of the Spirit is nowhere shown. Thought in the New Testament is never directed to that end. Thus the Scriptures take the first step toward a doctrine of essential Trinity, or threeness in the being of one God, but they do not take that second step by which alone the doctrine could be completed," (An Outline of Christian Theology, p. 168). (Author’s emphasis.)
Noted theologian Karl Barth admits that the church has gone beyond the Bible to arrive at its doctrine of the Trinity.
"The Bible lacks the express declaration that the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are of equal essence and therefore in an equal sense God Himself. And the other express declaration is also lacking that God is God thus and only thus, i.e., as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These two express declarations which go beyond the witness of the Bible are the twofold content of the church doctrine of the Trinity," (Doctrine of the Word of God, p. 437).
The New Testament ascribes attributes to the Holy Spirit that belong only to God. However, this does not establish the Holy Spirit as being a third hypostasis. In Acts 5:3-4, Ananias and his wife "lied to the Holy Spirit," which was the same as lying to God. The Holy Spirit, being the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Christ, is their mind or essence. The Spirit reveals God’s Truth to us, I Corinthians 2:10. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, which we have received from God, I Corinthians 6:19.
"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you [by the indwelling the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God and of Christ], the body is dead because of sin: but the Spirit is life because of [His] righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you," Romans 8:9-11. This tells us that the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ are the same thing, that this Spirit in the true believer is Christ living in him. These verses fit perfectly with the truth that the Spirit is the mind of God, rather than a person (hypostasis).
"For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ," I Corinthians 2:16. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus," Philippians 2:5. "Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin," I Peter 4:1.
"Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, they are created . . . ," Psalm 104:30. This shows that "thy spirit" is the mind and power of God, not a personal distinction.
" . . . Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God . . . ," Hebrews 9:14. Naturally, the Spirit is Eternal, because it is the mind and power of God.
God’s Spirit can speak, I Timothy 4:1; it can be grieved, Ephesians 4:30; it can be quenched, I Thessalonians 5:19. It is the mind and power of God. Paul said "Christ in you" is the "hope of glory," Colossians 1:27. John tells us, "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us . . . . Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He is us, because He hath given us of His Spirit," I John 4:12, 13. Christ promised, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them," Matthew 18:20. "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," John 14:23. Paul wrote, " . . . for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people," II Corinthians 6:16. "And hereby we know that He [God the Father] abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us," I John 3:24.
The Spirit of God in the Bible
The personality of Jesus Christ is thoroughly provable from the Bible, but there is no such proof for a personality of the Holy Spirit.
"The OT [Old Testament] clearly does not envisage God’s spirit as a person, neither in the strictly philosophical sense, nor in the Semitic sense. God’s spirit is simply God’s Power. If it is sometimes represented as being distinct from God, it is because the breath of Yahweh acts exteriorly (Isaiah 48:16, 63:11, 32:15)." So say the authors of the New Catholic Encyclopedia.
"Very rarely do the OT writers attribute to God’s spirit emotions or intellectual activity (Isa. 63:10; Wis. 1:3-7). When such expressions are used, they are mere figures of speech that are explained by the fact that the ruah was regarded also as the seat of intellectual acts and feeling (Gen. 41:8). Neither is there found in the OT or in rabbinical literature the notion that God’s spirit is an intermediary being between God and the world. This activity is proper to the angels, although to them is ascribed some of the activity that elsewhere is ascribed to the spirit of God," (New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. XIII, p. 574).
Now what about the New Testament? This Catholic source says:
"Although the NT [New Testament] concepts of the Spirit of God are largely a continuation of those of the OT, in the NT there is a gradual revelation that the Spirit of God is a person. . . .
"The majority of NT texts reveal God’s Spirit as something, not someone; this is especially seen in the parallelism between the spirit and the power of God."
Though theologians would like for the Bible to say that the Spirit is a person, they must admit that the majority of the scriptures connected with it show that it is not someone, but something. Even the personification of the Spirit is no proof of its personality.
"When a quasi-personal activity is ascribed to God’s spirit, e.g., speaking, hindering, desiring, dwelling (Acts 8:29, 16:7; Rom. 8:9), one is not justified in concluding immediately that in these passages God’s spirit is regarded as a Person; the same expressions are used in regard to rhetorically personified things or abstract ideas (see Rom. 6:6, 7:17). Thus the context of the phrase ‘blasphemy against the spirit’ (Mt. 12:31; cf. Mt. 12:28; Lk. 11:20) shows that reference is being made to the power of God," (New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. XIII, p. 575). After such admissions, it is almost inconceivable that any theologian could still teach that the Spirit is a person — yet some do.
In Luke 1:35, we read of the angel Gabriel’s prophecy to Mary, "The Holy Ghost [Spirit] shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." Thus, the Holy Spirit is equated with the power of the Highest. We can be filled with, be led by, the Holy Spirit, Luke 1:15, 41, 67, 4:1, 14. Like the Old Testament, the New Testament represents the Spirit as leading, inspiring, and empowering God’s servants. In Acts 2:4, 17-18, the Holy Spirit filled the disciples, a fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2:28. Peter obviously did not understand God’s Spirit in trinitarian terms. Notice that the Holy Spirit was poured out from God, indicating that it is His power and mind, not a distinct hypostasis.
Greek Grammar Does Not Support Holy Spirit Being a Person
John chapters 14-16 is the one place that most theologians feel describes the Spirit as a person. However, in the Greek language, like other Romance languages (Italian, Spanish, and French), every noun has gender; that is, it is considered either masculine feminine, or neuter. The gender of a word has nothing to do with whether it is really masculine or feminine — it is more of a grammatical tool.
Jesus referred to the Spirit as "the Comforter." The pronoun "he" is used in connection with the word "comforter" — parakletos — such as John 16:7-8. However, the reason for the use of the personal pronoun "he" is for grammatical, not theological, or spiritual reasons.
All pronouns in Greek must agree in gender with the word they refer to, therefore the pronoun "he" is used when referring to the Greek word parakletos. Only John refers to the Spirit as the parakletos — "Comforter." The other New Testament writers use the word pneuma which means "breath" or "spirit." This is the Greek equivalent of ruah, the Hebrew word for "spirit" used in the Old Testament. Pneuma is a grammatically neuter word and is always represented by the pronoun "it."
However, the translators of the King James Version, being swayed by the doctrine of the Trinity, generally mistranslated the pronouns referring to pneuma as masculine. For example, see John 16:13. One instance where they did not mistranslate is found in Romans 8:16, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."
John’s use of the parakletos is no proof the Spirit is a person. For if the simple gender of a noun were the basis for the personality of the Spirit, then the Spirit changed gender from the Old to the New Testament, since the Hebrew word for "spirit" in the Old Testament was in the feminine gender in a majority of cases, and in a masculine sense less often.
The Holy Spirit — God’s Begettal Power
What is the Spirit? The Spirit, or Holy Spirit, as it is called in the New Testament, was the power by which Jesus Christ was begotten. "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]," Matthew 1:18.
When Joseph was about to put Mary away because she was pregnant, "the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]," Matthew 1:20.
Jesus was begotten in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was literally born with God’s Spirit in His mind. He became the Son of God and died for us that we might have the same opportunity to become God.
The Apostle Paul plainly taught this vital Truth in Romans 8:16, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." Paul did not mean this in some sentimental sort of way, as he goes on to show in the next verse. "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ . . . ."
Paul shows that Jesus Christ is the heir of all things in Hebrews 1:2. We have the opportunity, if we have God’s Spirit in our minds, to inherit all things with Jesus Christ.
The Spirit of God unites with our minds, and we are begotten (or conceived) again — this time spiritually, not as we originally were, physically. We become a new person.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," I Peter 1:3. Verse 23 adds, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever."
The Holy Spirit impregnates us with God’s nature. That spiritual begettal gives us the nature and mind of God. Throughout our Christian lives we continue to grow and develop in the understanding and mind of God, until we are finally born into the God family and made immortal at the return of Jesus Christ to this earth (I Corinthians 15:49-52).
How can we obtain the Spirit of God? "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]," Acts 2:38.
Here again we can see why the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are mentioned in the "baptismal formula" in Matthew 28:19. God the Father is the One who brings us to repentance (Romans 2:4); Jesus Christ — God the SON — is the One who died that we can have our past sins forgiven; and the Holy Spirit is the power by which God the Father begets us.
The Holy Spirit is the power of God, not a person. It is the power by which we are begotten that we might become sons of God.
God Is a Divine Family
What is the relationship in the Godhead? Is God one, or are there two separate Gods, and is Christianity, therefore, polytheistic?
We have seen that the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the God of the Old Testament, and that He became flesh and came to this earth to die for mankind. He is called the Son of God, and He calls God His Father. By now the relationship should be coming clear — God is a divine family.
We found that we also can become begotten sons of God by the impregnation of God’s Spirit — again a family relationship.
When we understand that God is a family — that God is reproducing after His kind — we are no longer confronted with the problems inherent in the Trinity doctrine, nor are we faced with the problem of worshiping many gods.
There is only one God family, yet there are presently two members, and in the future there will be many more. Jesus was called "the firstborn of many brethren," Romans 8:29.
God’s Name Is Plural
The Hebrew word for "God" used in Genesis 1:1 and 26 is Elohim, the plural form of Eloh. Though this word taken by itself does not prove that there are two beings in the Godhead, it does allow for the duality that is clearly indicated in other parts of the Bible.
This word Elohim is like our English words, "family," "group," "church," or "crowd."
Paul explains this in I Corinthians 12:20. Speaking of the Church he says: "But now are they many members, yet but one body."
God is a family. There presently are two members in that God family, God the Father — the Head of the family, the Lawgiver — and Jesus Christ the Son — the Spokesman, the Creator.
Belief in a Trinity clouds the real purpose that God has in store for mankind. If we are taught that God is a closed Trinity of three persons, we lose sight of the fact that God’s real purpose is to create many more members of the God family.
In the creation account of Genesis 1, God created fish after the fish kind, birds after the bird kind, and animals after the animal kind. But in verse 26 God made man — not after any of the animal kinds, but after the God kind — in God’s image and God’s likeness. "And God [Hebrew, Elohim] said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."
God created man in His own image. Man is greater than the rest of the creation, because God gave him mind power. He has dominion over all the creatures. Man is not an animal. He was created in the image of God — after the God kind.
Taught in the New Testament
The Apostle John understood God’s plans for mankind. Notice what he wrote in I John 3:1-2:
"Behold, what manner of love the Father [here is the family relationship — not a closed trinity] hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. Beloved, now are we the [already begotten] sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is."
Jesus Christ, the One who was the God of the Old Testament, the Creator God, became flesh, died, and was resurrected as a part of God’s plan to make mankind God’s Sons. He is the only born Son now, but as John wrote, "when He shall appear; we shall be like Him." We are begotten sons now, and will be born sons of God at the resurrection.
"For it became Him [God the Father], for whom are all things, and by whom are all
things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation [Jesus Christ] perfect through sufferings," Hebrews 2:10.
God is not a closed Trinity, He is a family — a family in which you can become a member.
Why the Deception?
Why has Satan palmed off the doctrine of the Trinity on the world? Because he doesn’t want you to rule in his place! Satan was originally created to carry out God’s rule on earth. But, he refused to serve the Creator and even fomented a rebellion to dislodge God from His position as Ruler over the whole universe (Ezekiel 28:16; Isaiah 14:12-14). A third of the angels united with Lucifer in that rebellion and were cast back down to this earth with him (Revelation 12:3-4) — having forever disqualified themselves and Satan from ruling in the government of God. However, Satan and his demonic cohorts remain in office until Christ actually returns.
In spite of being disqualified, they do not want anyone else ever to take their place. For that reason, during nearly 6000 years of human history, they have tried to hide the Truth of God from all the world. If they can make you believe in the Trinity, you will be deceived into thinking that the Godhead consists of only three persons. You would then never in your wildest dreams ever imagine that you were created to be born into the God family — to actually have a part in ruling this earth!
Satan wants you to think that God is a limited Trinity — not a growing family or Kingdom into which we may, through the grace of God, enter.
We can be made in the exact likeness of God at Christ’s return. This understanding gives meaning to life, and presents a blessed hope more glorious than we can imagine. W
— compiled by Richard C. Nickels from these sources: "Is God a Trinity?" by George L. Johnson, "God is Not a Trinity!" by Vance A. Stinson, and "God Is . . . " by the Worldwide Church of God, 1993.