After lunch a few Sabbaths ago our group fell into discussing the Godhead, which is a hot topic in our church today. I understand that the motivation behind this controversy is to magnify the Father, and while I agree with the motivation, I also believe that nothing magnifies the Father like the truth of the word. My purpose in highlighting this issue is not to offend, either my brothers and sisters--with whom I might not be in total agreement at this moment--, or my gracious and wonderful heavenly Father who has often been hurt by our failure to tell the world the truth. I fully believe that the truth of the word is sufficient for both my brethren and my heavenly Father.
I will divide this document into two basic sections: 1) What the Bible says about God, and 2) The plural one. [Emphasis provided throughout.]
First, how many Persons make up the Godhead? Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning Gods created the heaven and the earth."1 The word Elohim means multiple or plural Gods. On that all agree. Where we use an "s" or "es" to render nouns plural, the Hebrew language uses "im" to do the same. Although the traditional practice of seeing God as singular has made us think of Elohim as singular and translate it as such, there is no disputing that it is plural. What if when we see the word Elohim in Scripture it conjures up in our minds multiple Persons? Would we be wrong?
Genesis 1:26 supports this fact. "And God said, 'Let us make man in our image.'" Again, the name Elohim is translated "God," singular, yet in reality it should be plural. Notice the plural form of the pronouns used, us and our. Supposing we could go through the entire Bible and where we find the word Elohim, change the translation to plural. How would that look? What would that say to us?
I am not attacking that our God is monotheistic. He is. And that contrasts sharply with the pagan gods proliferating in the ancient world. But in what way is He monotheistic? How are we justified in referring to Him in the singular?
John 1:1 supports the idea that there are at least two persons in the Godhead. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Again, we see multiple Persons together at the creation of the world. We cannot ignore this or any text relating to this subject as we are seeking the golden weight of evidence for our conclusion.
1 John 5:7 says, "For there are three that bear record [testify] in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." This text, which speaks in the most emphatic voice, has an interesting history. Some say it does not belong in Scripture because it is not found in most early manuscripts. However, between 476 A.D. when Rome fell and 538 A.D., when popes began to reign, a struggle took place between the Catholic church and three kingdoms for dominion over the West. These three kingdoms were Arian who believed in the "One God" theory. Listen to what the reformers John Wesley and John Calvin have to say about this text:
"JOHN WESLEY commented on 1 John 5:7 saying: 'I would insist only on the direct words, unexplained, just as they lie in the text: 'There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: And these three are one.'
"'As they lie in the text :' --but here arises a question: Is that text genuine? Was it originally written by the Apostle, or inserted in later ages? Many have doubted of this; and, in particular, the great light of the Christian church, lately removed to the Church above, Bengelius, --the most pious, the most judicious, and the most laborious, of all the modern Commentators on the New Testament. For some time he stood in doubt of its authenticity, because it is wanting in many of the ancient copies. But his doubts were removed by three considerations: (1.) That though it is wanting in many copies, yet it is found in more; and those copies of the greatest authority: -- ( 2.) That it is cited by a whole gain of ancient writers, from the time of St. John to that of Constantine. This argument is conclusive: For they could not have cited it, had it not been in the sacred canon: -- (3.) That we can easily account for its being, after that time, wanting in many copies, when we remember that Constantine's successor was a zealous Arian, who used every means to promote his bad cause, to spread Arianism throughout the empire; in particular the erasing this text out of as many copies as fell into his hands. And he so far prevailed, that the age in which he lived is commonly styled, Seculum Aranium, -- 'the Arian age;' there being then only one eminent man who opposed him at the peril of his life. So that it was a proverb, Athanasius contra mundum: 'Athanasius against the world.'
"To read their entire quotes in context, see this site: http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2007_04_22_archive.html
"JOHN CALVIN -- 'However, the passage flows better when this clause is added, and as I see that IT IS FOUND IN THE BEST AND MOST APPROVED COPIES [capitalization in the original], I am inclined to receive it as the true reading.'"2
[The history of this text cautions us to be careful. When we read a text that doesn't agree with our ideas, we should let the text inform us-- not excise it from its Scriptural base. Our ideas and opinions are to be shaped by the word, not the word shaped by our ideas and opinions.]
Many other texts could be cited here to support that there is more than a single Being in the Godhead, but we won't cite them, since this is not a book but a blog. I will move on to the plural one.
The plural one solves the mystery of how multiple Beings can be, collectively, one and thus maintain the truth that the Godhead is one. How can multiple Beings be one? Both the Old Testament and New contain evidence of multiple Beings in one. Here are some examples:
And God wants that same unity to exist among us His children. Tracing this theme through the Scriptures gives us:
Three times in one chapter Jesus prays to His Father that His children might be united just as He is united with the Father. Do you think He intends that they morph into a bizarre numerically single entity? Or does He intend that they shall be united? Whatever conclusion you reach, please know that Father and Son are united in exactly that same way.
Is this concept Scriptural? Yes. Is it reasonable and objective? Of course. Does it magnify the Father, Son and Holy Ghost? Yes, certainly.
Hierarchy or Equality?
Scripture says that the Gods (or Beings in the Godhead) are equal. (Philippians 2:6). It's a beautiful thing to see how they each give glory to the other. The Father says, "[L]et all the angels of God worship him [Jesus]" (Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 19:10). Jesus says, "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). The Holy Spirit "shall not speak of himself" (John 16:13) but happily represents Jesus in the life of the Christian. While each has His own role to play, none of the Deity seeks glory for Himself. None of them is better than the other.
To recap, we have looked at the manner in which the Bible presents the heavenly Trio. There are three equal Beings in the Godhead, not just one. Their "oneness" is in their unity, not in their number, a condition we are called to replicate. We must never forget that while we lift up the Father above all else, we cannot avoid pushing Jesus down. Thus we put Jesus in a secondary, nonequal role, falling into Satan's trap. Perhaps he brought this concept up as a vehicle to push our Savior down. He constantly desires to do this.
Notice I have not used the word "trinity," because some object to its close association with Catholicism. There is no need to use this word, because the Bible supplies one better--"Godhead." (See Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20, Colossians 2:9).
Finally, we are made in God's image. Just as we cannot contract ourselves into one bizarre and indescribable entity, neither can God. Why should He want to? But if you believe my assessment of the situation is not correct, you are welcome to place your correction below this post.
1Elohim. Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Elohim.