On the being of God - The Holy Trinity
E W Rogers, Oxford
Please read 1 Tim. 6. 15, 16; 1 Tim. 1. 17; 1 Cor. 8. 6.
IN VIEW OF THESE TREMENDOUS STATEMENTS, that anyone of His creatures should dare to write of the being of God calls for the utmost humility and dependence on the Holy Spirit.
Presumably the reader does not need to be convinced of the being of God. Prayer presupposes it, Heb. 11. 6. Only 'fools' deny it, Ps. 14. 1. Creation around us should dispel all doubts, Ps. 19. 1. It proclaims in all its parts the being of an almighty all-wise Creator.
The surest subjective evidence of the being of God is the human conscience. It disturbs its owner not because of fear of human authority but because of an awareness of God 'with whom we have to do', Heb. 4. 13. The gnawings of conscience caused David a sleepless night and troubled day (vide Ps. 51 and 32).
God does not prove His being: in Scripture it is assumed, Gen 1.1. His eternal power and divinity are made known by creation, so that all are without excuse, Rom 1.
To us 'there is one God, even the Father'. But pursuant to His desires for the eternal good of man, He has made Himself known in the fulness of His being as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Read John 1. 18; 1 Tim. 3. 16; Col. 1. 16. God sent forth His Son made of a woman, made under law, Gal. 4. 4, but that Son was put to death by the very creatures whom He had come to save. This did not, however, frustrate the designs of God's grace, for both the Father and the Son sent forth the Holy Spirit (see John 14-16 and Gal. 4. 6).
Thus die Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three distinct persons, but each and all are God, so that there is one God. This is a great mystery which faith accepts if reason is unable to explain. No Inferiority
We speak of the first, second and third persons of the Godhead, but the phrase itself is objectionable in that it is apt to convey the notion that the second is inferior to the first and the third inferior to both first and second. But such is not intended. All that is meant is that the Son came forth from the Father, and the Spirit came forth from the Father and the Son. God sent out His Son; afterwards the Father and Son sent out the Spirit. Thus first, second and third denote sequence of procession, not inferiority of person.
The first person is called 'Father', though it should be carefully noted that in some passages the word 'Father' is used in the sense of the Godhead in its fulness without distinction of persons. In that sense the word was used by the Lord Jesus to the woman of Samaria, John 4, and in that sense it appears in 1 Cor. 8. 6, and elsewhere.
Old Testament Anticipations
The gibe of the Jew that the Christian is tri-theistic is unfounded. The Christian believes as much as the Jew that 'the Lord our God is one God', but he believes what the Jew does not believe, that that one God has been manifested as Father, Son in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and Holy Spirit. This need cause no surprise, for the Old Testament envisaged it though it did not give a full disclosure. The very grammar of the phrase 'God created heaven and earth', Gen. 1.1, denotes a plurality in unity, for the word 'God' is plural but the word 'created' is singular. Moreover, the Spirit of God is mentioned separately in this very connection. Furthermore, the 'theo-phanies' of the Old Testament were prior anticipations of the manifestation of the Son of God. So that all three persons (yet no more) were to be found in Hebrew history. That accounts for the phrase 'Let us make man', 'Who will go for us?', and the like. Illustrations of this great mystery are bound to come short. But a cube is all height, all breadth and all length, yet height, breadth and length are in every respect equal. All time is future, past and present. All the unseen future becomes the seen present: all the seen present goes into the unseen past. But it is all time and is equal in each case. Patrick used the shamrock leaf and its three parts to illustrate this truth.
While usually we speak of the 'Father, Son, and Holy Spirit', Matt. 28.18, yet that order is not always observed in Scripture. Luke 15 depicts the interest of the whole Godhead in the sinner, but the shepherd comes first; the light second; and the father last. In 1 Peter 1. 2 the order is God the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ. This lack of uniformity in the sequence of the names denotes not only the equality of the persons, each with the other, but also further the peculiarity of the operations of each. Each person possesses the whole essence of the Godhead but is constituted a distinct person by certain incommunicable properties not common to Him with the others. Thus it is the Father who elects: but the Son redeems, and the Spirit is the seal.
Our Lord's Deity
There is abundant evidence of the deity of the Lord Jesus in addition to the categorical and clear affirmation of John 1. 1. The reader is urged to examine for himself such passages as Mark 1. 1; Heb. 1. 6; John 12. 41 and Acts 13. 33; Heb. 1. 8 and 9; Matt. 22. 43 and 44. They will leave him in no doubt.
There is abundant evidence of the deity of the Holy Spirit. He is joined with the Father and Son in Matt. 28.20 and 2 Cor. 13. 14. In the former passage the word 'name' is in the singular number showing the parity of each person. Turn also to Acts 5. 3 and 4. The Spirit is plainly regarded as God there. The various operations of the Spirit, which space forbids our setting out in detail, are such that only God could do.
Thus the doctrine of the Trinity is clearly a scriptural doctrine. The word means 'threefoldness', that is a unity in three parts. It is admitted the word itself is not to be found in Scripture, which is so with other doctrines commonly believed. But the thing denoted by the word is there. It is, therefore, but a quibble of no importance if stress is laid on the omission of the word from our Bible.
The careful reader of Scripture will take note of how divine persons are addressed. He will seek to follow the guidance thus afforded. It will save him from the mistake on the one hand, of refusing to address the Lord Jesus, and on the other hand, of addressing the Holy Spirit.