Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
In a day when the foundations of our most holy faith are being attacked on all sides, and errors destructive of the very fundamentals of Christianity are boldly proclaimed, it becomes all who love the Lord and reverence His Word to be diligently "building themselves up," and so assuring themselves of the "things which they have learned" so as to "continue in them" (2 Tim. 3:14), and be able to lend a helping hand to others in danger of being led astray with "the error of the wicked" (2 Pet. 3:17). Secondhand knowledge is of little value in a day of stress. The enemy can easily wrest from us any truth held on mere traditional authority. Only that which we have learned from God, and hold in faith and love, in the communion of the Holy Ghost (2 Tim. 1:13-14) strengthens the inner man, and becomes shield and sword (Eph. 6:16-17) to the warrior in the day of battle.
"The fool hath said in his heart there is no God" (Ps. 14:1). Atheism denies His existence. Deism admits an original Cause, but denies His Sovereignty. Agnosticism says He is unknown and unknowable. Pantheism makes God part of existing things, as in Brahminism and other idolatrous systems. Revelation makes known a Living and True God, His character, His works, and His ways, and "the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple" (Ps. 19:7). To the word of God, our only safe guide in things Divine and Eternal, let us reverently turn.
ONE TRUE GOD
"There is one God" (1 Tim. 2:4), and "there is none other but He" (Mk. 12:32). His glory He "will not give unto another" (Isa. 42:8). The Creator and the Cause of all existence, material and spiritual, formed for Himself and His pleasure (Rev. 4:11); He requires and claims its allegiance. Eternal, Infinite, Omnipotent, Omniscient; God of Light and Love; in Him "we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Yet He is unknown and unknowable, alike in His mode of existence, His character, and His ways, save as He is pleased to reveal Himself to man. Concerning Him, the question may be asked as of old, "Canst thou by searching find out God?" (Job 11:7). "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork" (Ps. 19:1); but it is in His Son (Jn. 1:18), and through His Word, that God has been pleased to reveal Himself. "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent" (Jn. 17:3).
ONE GOD IN THREE PERSONS
God is revealed in the Scriptures as one God in three Persons, each Divine, equally God, eternally one in Being: not three Gods, but three Persons-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Triune God whose nature and whose name is Love. This great truth was well expressed by Athanasius, a noble witness for God and the faith in the early Church, at a time when Arian and Sabellian errors were turning many away from the truth. He says, "There is one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance; for there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal."
The English word "Trinity," which means "threefoldness," is not found in Scripture, yet it expresses more accurately than any other single English word this great Scriptural truth of three Persons yet one God, a truth which is announced and in part revealed in the Old Testament, but fully developed and demonstrated in the New, by the Incarnation, Death, and Glorification of the Son, and the advent and work of the Spirit. Far beyond man’s finite reason to grasp, it belongs to the Infinite and Eternal, a stumbling-stone to the worldly-wise, while faith receives and enjoys its truth. "No man knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son" (Mt. 11:27), and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him. What "flesh and blood" could never make known of the Son, the Father reveals (Mt. 16:17). Such knowledge is now imparted by the Spirit (1 Co. 2:10-13) through the Word (2 Co. 3:17-18). Scripture reveals all that God has seen good for us to know in our present state, concerning this truth, and beyond that we are wise not to pry.
Illustrations of this great truth may be seen in the sun’s light, which is white, but which, when passed through a prism, divides itself into the three primary colors-blue, red, and yellow; in man formed in the image of God, composed of spirit, soul, and body; and in other things, all of which, while bearing witness to the Triune God, their Maker, need to be used with reverent care.
When Patrick went to preach to the unlettered pagans in Ireland, he found great difficulty in making clear to them the truth of the Trinity. "Are there three Gods or one?" they asked. Perplexed, he looked on the ground, picked up a shamrock growing at his feet, and holding it up, said: "As there are three in one and one in three in this little plant, so is God." A very few steps in the quest of such knowledge brings us to the verge of the Infinite and Unknowable, where, not in irreverent speculation or unholy skepticism of which the baffled man of reason at this point becomes the victim, but in adoring worship of the All-wise and All-good God, who thus reveals yet hides Himself, the devout and longing soul exclaims: "Lo, these are part of His ways; but how little a portion is heard of Him" (Job 26:14).
TRINITY ACTING IN UNITY
IN CREATION - "In (the) beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). The word "God" is Elohim, the plural of "Eloah," the object of worship - "created," brought into existence, out of nothing, "the heaven and the earth." Thus, in the eternal past, "in beginning," long before the clock of time was set going, the Eternal, Triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - co-existed and acted in unity in the work of creation. Such is the first sentence of the Book of God: the truth it teaches runs through it to the end.
IN THE WORD, the original creation is attributed alike to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (see Rev. 4:11; Jn. 1:3; Ps. 104:30). It is of the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. Originated with the Father, accomplished through the Son, effected by the Spirit, each acting unitedly and harmoniously. Thus the Divine purpose and way are perfect, as are their execution. In verse 3, where reconstruction of the ruined earth as an abode for man is in view, the Spirit personally is seen moving (see Dt. 32:11 for the same word), or fluttering over the dark, chaotic mass, foreshadowing His work of awakening, conviction, and regeneration in fallen man, while light and life are produced through the word (2 Co. 4:6). Although not distinctively the subject of Old Testament revelation, the Personality and operations of the Son (see Num. 32:32; Isa. 63:9; Mal. 3:1) and the Spirit are fully recognized (Isa. 48:16; 61:1), while in the New Testament the full manifestations, interrelations, harmonious actings, and dispensational workings of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are clearly announced and distinguished.
IN THE BAPTISMAL FORMULA of Mt. 28:19, "baptizing them into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;" in the Apostolic benediction of 2 Co. 13:14; and the Apocalyptic greeting of Revelation 1:4-6, the Triune God in all diversity, equality, and Deity is fully recognized - Divine honor and Deity being here, as elsewhere, ascribed to each (Ro. 9:5; Heb. 1:8; Acts 5:3-4). The Son claims equality and unity (Jn. 10:30) with the Father (Jn. 5:20), and the Word proclaims (Jn. 1:1) His eternity, equality, and Divine Personality. Yet, in relation, the Son is filial as well as divine. Eternally the Son before all worlds, co-existent with the Father (Jn. 17:5,24; Pro. 8:22-31), His "well-beloved" (Mk. 12:6), in whom He was "well pleased" (Mt. 3:17). He who did not "become," but eternally was the only begotten in the bosom of the Father (Jn. 1:18), was "sent forth" (Gal. 4:4) to do the Father’s will (Jn. 4:34), not less Divine, yet, subordinate to Him, doing nothing of Himself (Jn. 5:19). In this respect alone is the Father said to be "greater" than the Son (Jn. 14:28), and the Son "subject" to the Father (1 Co. 15:24,28), not in essential, but in economic, filial, and dispensational relations.
IN INCARNATION - Trinity is seen again acting in unity. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (Jn. 3:16), and He, who ever was in "the form of God," of His own will took upon Him the bondservant’s form, saying, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God" (Heb. 10:9). In a body "prepared" by the Father, and by the Spirit formed (Lk. 1:35), "God sent forth His Son, made of a woman" (Gal. 4:4).
IN HIS DIVINE PERSONALITY, the Son of God, ever God and Man, two natures in one Person, always Divine, yet ever perfect Man.
IN SERVICE - At His baptism in Jordan, the Son obeys, the Father speaks from the open heavens, and the Spirit in dove-like form descends (Mt. 3:16-17); while throughout His public ministry the Son ever had the Father with Him (Jn. 8:29), and did all His mighty works by the Spirit (Mt. 12:28).
IN REDEMPTION - God the Father, is said to be the Originator of the scheme of redemption, the Giver and Sender of the Son; the Son accomplishes, as Sacrifice, Redeemer, Savior; and the Spirit bears witness to the completeness of that work (Heb. 10:17). The three Persons of the Godhead, in one sublime statement of the Sacred Word, are each mentioned as present at and sharing in the great work of Calvary, when "He (the Son), through the Eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God" (Heb. 9:14).
IN SALVATION, the election, choice, and call of the saved is ascribed to God the Father (Eph. 1.4; 1 Pe. 1:2; Ro. 8:28); their redemption, justification, and peace to the work of the Son (Eph. 1:7; Acts 13:39; Eph. 2:13); their regeneration, sanctification, and transformation to the Holy Spirit (Jn. 3:5; 1 Pe. 1:2; 2 Co. 3:17-18). The threefold parable of Luke 15, in which the shepherd goes after the wandering sheep, the woman searches for the lost silver, and the father welcomes the repentant and returning prodigal, may surely further tell of the activities of the Triune God in the sinner’s salvation.
IN COMMUNION, access (Eph. 2:18) and worship (Heb. 10:19-21; Phil. 3:3, R.V.), the believer knows and proves the efficacy of the way opened, the ministry of the living High Priest, and the Spirit-given strength and competency to "draw near," to abide in the light, and to walk through life with God. Divine love, manifested in the gift of the Father (1 Jn. 4:9) and the death of the Son (Gal. 2:20), is "shed abroad" (Ro. 5:5) in the heart of the believer by the Holy Ghost, to be enjoyed experimentally by him.
IN THE CHURCH, as the House of God (1 Tim. 3:15) over which the Son is set (Heb. 3:6, R.V.) and in which the Spirit dwells (Eph. 2:22), all administration and operation for godly order and edification is undertaken by and wrought out under the supreme control of the Three-in-one God (1 Co. 12:3-5) through men, but not of them; and where the Divine Pattern is conformed to and room left for the Divine power to operate, now as of old, some will have to confess, "God is in you of a truth" (1 Co. 14:25).
IN GLORY - On the coming resurrection morning, the Spirit quickens (Rom. 8:11), the Son receives the raised and transformed saints (Jn. 14:3), and presents them to the Father with exceeding joy (Jude 24). In the Eternal state, God Himself shall be with His people (Rev. 21:3); they shall see the face of the Son, and serve Him (Rev. 22:3-4); while from the throne of God and the Lamb, the water of life, like a river-emblem of the Spirit’s fullness-will flow on for ever (see Jn. 7:38-39).
All the Father’s counsels claiming
Equal honor to the Son;
All the son’s effulgence beaming
Makes the Father’s glories known:
By the spirit, all-pervading,
Hosts unnumbered round the Lamb,
Ceaseless love and praise unfailing
Claiming for the Great I AM:
Father, Son, and Spirit known,
Heaven’s Eternal Three-in-One.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
In Dt. 6. 4, it is said: "The Lord our God is one Lord." How does this accord with a Three-in-One God?
There are two words in the Hebrew language translated "one." The first means absolutely and essentially one; the second, one in combination. The second is the word here used, and expresses the same great truth as the Lord Himself uttered when He said, "I and My Father are one" (Jn. 10:30).
In Gen. 1:1 we read "In the beginning God created;" and in Jn. 1:3 and Col. 1:16, creation is attributed to Christ. How are these statements reconciled?
Easily. The word "God" in Gen. 1:1 is Elohim, a plural word, the Eternal Triune God, who afterwards said, "Let us make man in our Image" (v. 26). The verb "created" is in the singular, expressing Trinity acting in Unity, which is elsewhere abundantly shown. Creation was equally the work of Father, Son, and Spirit. (See Eph. 3:9; Rev. 4:11; Job 26:13.)
It is said "No man hath seen God at any time" (Jn. 15). What does this mean, and how does it accord with Ex. 24:10, where it is said, "They saw the God of Israel?"
God, as God, in the plenitude of His character as God of Light and Love, was unknown in Old Testament times, and until He was "declared" by the Son. "At sundry times and in divers manners" (Heb. 1:1) He had manifested Himself in angelic and other forms, but it was not until the Son came forth, testifying, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" (Jn. 14:9). Only in Christ who is "the Image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15), "the brightness of His glory and the express image of His Person" (Heb. 1:3), is God fully made known.