|Volume 21 Number 9 September 2019||
Over the years there have been many distortions of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, which is the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as three distinct spiritual Persons in one Godhead. The word “Godhead” or the “Divine Nature” appears in the New Testament three times in Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20 and Colossians 2:9. It simply means “that which is divine.” There are various Bible references that indicate that there are three divine Personalities Who are eternal and are identified as God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. The English word “God” is the translation of the Hebrew word “Elohim,” which is a plural of the Majesty. The plural form “Elohim” carrying with it the actual meaning of the Godhead appears more than three thousand times in the Old Testament. This means that in most cases when the English reader reads the word ”God” in the Bible in the singular sense, the Scriptures are actually referring to the Godhead, in the plural sense. For instance, when in Genesis 1:1 we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” translated literally from Hebrew, in the language Moses wrote, it would read, “In the beginning Gods created…” This is how the plural word “Elohim” would read.
There was a plurality of divine beings in the beginning when this creation was perfected. This is evidently clear as we read in Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…’”—a plurality of persons being used. The Godhead was present “in the beginning.” God was behind the whole creation, planning it (Hebrews 1:1); Christ, the Son, was present (John 1:1-3, 14; Colossians 1:16-17) and the Holy Spirit was present (Genesis 1:1-2). Throughout the Old Testament, the idea of a plural God is present in the word Elohim, used for God in its pages, but in the New Testament it is made clear that the Elohim, the plural God or the Godhead is composed of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:18; John 5:17; 8:16; 13:3; 16:7, 27-28; Acts 2:33; 10:38; etc.). The apostle Paul, in Romans 15:30, asked the brethren at Rome to pray for him and mentioned the Godhead. The Godhead is also mentioned in the apostle’s benediction to the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 13:14).
There are some, however, who teach the false doctrine that there is only one Person in the Godhead, revealing Himself in three different ways as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Hence, they deny the biblical doctrine of the Trinity and teach that Jesus is the only God, that He alone is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They believe these are only three different titles of the same Person. They go so far as to teach that all those who have been baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, as Christ commanded in Matthew 28:19, must be baptized again in the name of Jesus only to be saved!
Surely, the Bible definitely teaches that there is but one God (Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Corinthians 8:4), but the Bible also teaches, as already observed, that the one true God exists in three distinct Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is not playing three separate roles one after the other, but He exists independently, eternally and simultaneously in the three-fold relationship. This is not to say that there are three Gods in one, but there is only one God or Godhead in which there are three distinct spiritual Persons—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They all are of the same substance—literally character (Hebrews 1:1-3). They are infinite in being, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.
The unity of the Godhead consists not in the unity of purpose only but in the common nature, in the sameness of Divine Nature. We witness all of these three relating to one another at the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:16-17, where we observe, first, “Jesus came up immediately from the water,” second, “the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him,” third, “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” Here we clearly observe the three divine Persons of the Trinity together. Yet, someone objects by saying, “The Bible never uses the word Trinity; therefore, we shouldn’t.” The truth is, the Bible never uses the word “Bible” either. However, in both cases the idea is in the Scripture, so the words can’t be wrong. The term “Trinity” is not a biblical term, that is, it does not appear in the New Testament, but it is a biblical concept. When Christ gave, what we rightly call, the “Great Commission” (again, not a biblical phrase but biblical concept) to His disciples, He sent them to make disciples of all nations by “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). The command was given by the authority of each of these three Divine Persons in the Godhead.
Also, some verses of the Scriptures make no sense unless God is triune. According to John 14:16-17, to His disciples Christ said, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” The question is, how could the Father send another Helper, other than Jesus, if the other Helper is also Jesus? Again, in Mark 13:32 Christ said that neither the angels in Heaven nor the Son knows the day of His coming, but only the Father knows. What a gross lie that would be if He and the Father were the same Person! Would it not be mockery for Jesus to cry, as we read in Matthew 27:46, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” if He Himself were the Father?
To speak of three eternal and divine Persons in the one Godhead is to recognize the relationship that exists between the three in the divine nature, God—the Father, Word (Jesus)—the Son and the Holy Spirit, Who is also called the Helper (John 14:26; 16:7). The three Persons of the Godhead are one true God, the Elohim, Who created in the beginning the heavens and the earth and together accomplished the work of salvation of man. Of course, in accomplishing the work of salvation of humanity there is implicated a certain relative subordination in the modes of operating of different Persons, by which it is the Father Who sent the Word, the Son to be the propitiation for the sins of the world. The Son, after His propitiatory death, burial and resurrection, returned to the Father for the glory that He had with the Father before the world was. The Spirit was sent to apply redemption to men (John 14:25-26; 16:5-15; Acts 1:1-8; 2:1-4). Yet, the three Persons of the Godhead are uniformly represented in the Scriptures as in their essential nature each alike God over all.
A Matter of Authority
This past week I was watching a denominational preacher on one of the various religion channels available on cable and satellite. What interested me in this particular lesson was how he addressed the use of the Old Testament. He acknowledged how he had been accused of taking Old Testament Scripture out of context to prove a point. As he tried to explain how the Old Testament fit into his New Testament theology, he explained, “We only make use of those teachings from the Old Testament that are repeated in the New Testament.” This got my attention. He seemed to be saying that if there is no authority for it expressed in the New Testament, they did not use the Old Testament for doctrine.
What I wondered, then, was why does his group appeal to the Old Testament in their use of instrumental music in worship? Yes, it was used in the Old Testament (1 Chronicles 25:1-7). However, there is no command, example or implication of its use in the church. Some would point to the book of Revelation where harps are mentioned (Revelation 5:8), but Revelation is a book of figures and symbols. As the bowls of incense mentioned in this passage are to be understood as the prayers of the saints, most likely the harps are symbolic of praise. However, what transpires before the throne of God in Heaven (Revelation 4:2) is not the same as what God has ordained for the worship of the church on earth.
In all the references to music by the Lord’s church in the New Testament, the term is to sing, and there is no mention of instrumental accompaniment. This pattern was true not just in the first century, but well beyond that time. As Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, we are to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, “making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). There is so much more that could be said, but suffice it to say, there is no authority in the pages of the New Testament for instrumental music. Obviously, while not appealing to the Old Testament to offer animal sacrifices today, to keep the dietary regulations it prescribed or to observe the feast days it commanded, many religious people use it to justify a practice that is not found in the covenant of Christ.
New Testament Scripture is clear that the death of Christ ended the covenant of the Law of Moses, establishing the Law of Jesus Christ in its place. Paul reminded the Ephesians of how Christ abolished “the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” (Ephesians 2:15). The writer of Hebrews specifically said, “He then says, ‘See, I have come to do your will.’ He takes away the first to establish the second. By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time” (Hebrews 10:9-10).
It is an issue of authority, isn’t it? Peter said, “If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words” (1 Peter 4:11) or to speak with the authority of Scripture. Paul said the same thing to the church at Colossae. “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). Everything must be done with His authority. We must be faithful to what Scripture teaches, the message of the Gospel, without adding to or taking from it (Matthew 16:19; Revelation 22:18-19). It’s one thing to say Scripture is our authority for all we say and do, but what if Scripture gets in the way of what we want to say or do? What if one doesn’t want to be immersed for the forgiveness of sin? What if one doesn’t want to give as he has prospered? What if one doesn’t want to assemble with the saints? What if one doesn’t want to be active in the work of the church? Jesus pointed out that it is not the one who claims Him to be Lord who will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of the Father who is in Heaven (Matthew 7:21). Only Scripture is able to make us complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
May we truly seek to fully understand the will of God so that our lives will be blessed by Him and be acceptable to Him. May we have the honesty to examine ourselves to make sure we truly are living in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). We can know whether we’re pleasing Him or not. The question is whether we accept His authority in our lives, whether we submit to Him as Lord and whether we honesty and humbly seek His grace as He reveals in His word. “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17).