By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
Setting out to write an article-especially a brief one-about the Trinity is no simple task. When we are discussing the Bible doctrine of the Trinity (or the Godhead, to use the Scriptural term), it is into deep waters that we venture.
Yet I am absolutely convinced that this is a teaching of the Scripture which we must study. A study of the Trinity is a study into the Nature of God Himself; it is one which thrills our souls and stimulates the mind.
It is within the very Nature of the Godhead that we will find fullness of joy (cf. Psalm 16:11).
The next four articles will be arranged according to the following topics.
Article One will be a study of the Old Testament regarding this subject.
What does the Old Testament teach us regarding the Nature of the Godhead?
Are there clues within its’ Pages that point to a compound unity within the Nature of God?
Article Two will be a study of the New Testament regarding the Nature of the Godhead.
We will investigate the teaching of Jesus and His Apostles regarding the “oneness” of God.
Key to our study will be an investigation of the teaching and textual authenticity of I John 5:7.
Article Three will investigate some of the claims made by anti-Trinitarians (such as those of the Jehovah’s Witness and Pentecostal persuasions).
Is it true that the Trinity is a pagan doctrine borrowed from the heathen by the early Christians?
We will see.
Article Four will conclude this series by researching why this study is so important.
The Nature of the Trinity is not merely an exercise of the intellect in trying to understand what is beyond our ability to fully comprehend; instead, it is an integral part of the teaching of Scripture, a Source of strength and comfort in time of affliction, a joy which flows from the Divine Communion, and a testimony to the entire purpose of Creation itself.
The Old Testament And The Godhead
It is appropriate that our study of the Trinity begins with the Old Testament. These 39 Books are the special revelation that God gave to the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 5:1-3).
They were chosen by God to be His “holy nation” and “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6). The Lord singled them out and chose them because their father, Abraham, was faithful before Him (Nehemiah 9:7-9).
Included within their responsibilities as “priests” was the obligation of Israel to teach the Gentiles (non-Jews) about the one true Creator and God. This is evidenced from many passages in the Old Testament, especially the Psalms (see Psalm 67 for a powerful indicator of this). God had blessed the people of Abraham in order that His way “may be known on earth,” and His “salvation among all the nations” (Psalm 67:2).
God would bless the Hebrews so that “all of the earth shall fear Him” (Psalm 67:7). The Psalmist said that the Hebrews were to sing praises to God and proclaim His salvation and Word day after day; they were to “declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples” (Psalm 96:3).
The Hebrews were commissioned to tell the other nations about The Lord and His Messiah Who was to come.
Speaking of this evangelistic role of the Hebrews, Michael Brown has written:
“You see, one of the key reasons The Lord put the Jewish people on this earth was so that we could be a nation of priests (kohanim), spreading the light of the knowledge of God to the rest of the world. In other words, instead of keeping the truth to ourselves, we were called to declare the glory of The Lord to the Gentiles and educate them in his truth. The Scriptures speak of this clearly…Yes, the people of Israel were to be a light to the world. This is part of our destiny and calling as Jews, and it is only through the Jewish Messiah that we can fulfill this God-ordained task.” (Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus: Volume One-General And Historical Objections, 322-329 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
Speaking and teaching the Law of God was part of the responsibility of priests in the Old Testament (see Leviticus 10:10-11; Deuteronomy 33:10; II Chronicles 5:3; 17:7-9; Ezekiel 44:23; Malachi 2:6-9). As an entire nation and kingdom of priests, therefore, one of the tasks God assigned to the Hebrews was the commission to teach other nations bout Him.
Carefully examining several key Old Testament texts relating to the missionary calling of Israel to other nations, Kaiser has well said:
“The whole purpose of God was to bless one people so that they might be the channel through which all the nations of the earth might receive a blessing. Israel was to be God’s missionary to the world-and thereby so were all who believed in this same gospel…There can be little mistaking that the word know here (speaking of Exodus 9:14, 16, M.T.) connotes more than a mere intellectual or cognitive awareness of who God is. It expresses a desire that the Egyptians might themselves come to a personal, experimental knowledge and appreciation of who Yahweh is…Election was not a call to privilege but a choosing for service to God. As such, the priestly character of the nation of Israel came into view almost from the beginning of its existence as a nation. The people were to be God’s ministers, his preachers, and his prophets to their own nation as well as to the other nations. In Moses’ famous ‘eagles’ wings speech,’ beginning in Exodus 19:3, God reviews how he had led Israel to that point in time. He had borne them like an eagle would work with her young while the young eagles were learning to fly by having the mother eagle fly under them to support them until they caught on to the art of flying. As a consequence of so miraculous a deliverance and such evidence of the grace of God, the text pointedly enjoined, ‘Now (therefore)…’ (Exod 19:5). In light of the grace of God, the text goes on to say, ‘if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ (Exod. 19:5-6)…A second role that Israel was to embrace was that of being a ‘kingdom of priests’ to God…Here is where Israel’s role and function on behalf of the kingdom of God are made explicit if they were ambiguous previously. Her task as a nation was in a mediatorial role as she related to the nations and people groups around her.” (Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Mission In The Old Testament: Israel As A Light To The Nations, 368-417 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic)
Thus the people of Israel were in a special position, specifically chosen by Jehovah God, to teach the other nations about Him. As such, they were specifically given His Word to teach to the other nations.
As the Psalmist said:
Psalm 147:19-20-19 He gave his commands to Jacob. He gave his laws and rules to Israel.20 He did not do this for any other nation. He did not teach his laws to other people. Praise the LORD!
As we begin our study of the Godhead in the Old Testament, it is therefore very important that we remember the teachings found therein are true and eternal.
Yet we must also keep in mind that the knowledge of the Old Testament saints was far from complete; there was much that they did not know and did not understand.
Commenting on alleged Bible contradictions, Dehoff points out:
“The matter of the inspiration of Job’s various statements is discussed elsewhere. The Old Testament ideas of immortality were very vague and obscure. Christ brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. As far as the saints of the Old Testament attained in their knowledge, they were right. It is error alone which inspiration excludes, not the defect or imperfection of knowledge.” (George W. DeHoff, Alleged Bible Contradictions Explained, 134; Murfreesboro, TN; Dehoff Publications)
So, while we see many powerful statements and indicators of the Godhead in the Old Testament, we will not find this particular Bible doctrine fully elaborated.
Warfield has stated it very well:
“The upshot of it all is that it is very generally felt that, somehow, in the Old Testament development of the idea of God there is a suggestion that the Deity is not a simple monad, and that thus a preparation is made for the revelation of the Trinity yet to come. It would seem clear that we must recognize in the Old Testament doctrine of the relation of God to His revelation by the creative Word and the Spirit, at least the germ of the distinctions in the Godhead afterward fully made known in the Christian revelation…The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted; the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what is in it but was only dimly or even not at all perceived before. The mystery of the Trinity is not revealed in the Old Testament; but the mystery of the Trinity underlies the Old Testament revelation, and here and there almost comes into view. Thus the Old Testament revelation of God is not corrected by the fuller revelation which follows it, but only perfected, extended and enlarged. It is an old saying that what becomes patent in the New Testament was latent in the Old Testament. And it is important that the continuity of the revelation of God contained in the two Testaments should not be overlooked or obscured.” (Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield, The Biblical Doctrine Of The Trinity, 156-157 (Kindle Edition).
With these thoughts firmly in place, let’s turn to the first indicator of the Godhead in the Old Testament.
Our study begins (rightfully so) with the first Book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis.
The Bible tells us:
Genesis 1:1-In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Throughout the Bible, there are several Names given for “God.”
The one that is used here is Elohim, and is found several times in the Old Testament. In fact, it is used at least 2, 605 times to refer to “God.”
Several times it is translated as “gods,” “goddess,” “judges,” “angels,” etc.
The truly incredible thing about this Name is that it is plural in nature. This was no endorsement of polytheism (the worship of many gods).
Instead, it refers (at least partially) to a plurality within the Godhead.
Henry Morris, bringing out the details of this Name, has written:
“The first occurrence of the divine name is the Hebrew Elohim, the name of God which stresses His majesty and omnipotence. This is the name used throughout the first chapter of Genesis. The im ending is the Hebrew plural ending, so that Elohim can actually mean ‘gods,’ and is so translated in various passages referring to the gods of the heathen (e.g., Psalm 96:5). However, it is clearly used here in the singular, as the mighty name of God the Creator, the first of over two thousand times where it is used in this way. Thus Elohim is a plural name with a singular meaning, a ‘uni-plural’ noun, thereby suggesting the uni-plurality of the Godhead. God is one, yet more than one.” (Henry Morris, The Genesis Record: A Scientific And Devotional Commentary On The Book Of Beginnings, 23 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Book House)
Just as the name Elohim is a fascinating suggestion of the Godhead, so also is the combination with the Hebrew word echad.
Several times in the Old Testament, we are told that God is “one.”
The Hebrew word often used for “one” is echad, and hints at the idea of a “compound” unity.
For example, Adam and Eve were “two,” but they were “one” flesh (Genesis 2:24).
The people of Israel had millions of people at one time, yet they were “one” nation (II Samuel 7:23).
The tabernacle was composed of over fifty components, yet when they were brought together it was “one tabernacle” (Exodus 26:6, 13, 17, 26; 26:13, etc.).
The word therefore was often used to signify a “compound” unity.
Famous linguist William Mounce, speaking of the occurrence of this word in the Old Testament, has written:
“It is important to recognize that the notion of ehd does not signify isolation or aloneness (this is the emphasis of the Heb. word bad, GK 963). Note, for example, that when Adam and Eve come together in sexual union, they become ‘one flesh,’ yet they do not lose their individuality. This concept is important when we look at the Shema, Israel’s confession of faith: ”Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, The Lord is one’ (Deut. 6:4). While this verse stresses monotheism (that there is only one God) and the uniqueness of Israel’s God, it does not suggest that The Lord God is a solitary, isolated, alone individual. That is, consistent with ehd, is the notion that God appears in relationship to himself (‘let us make man in our image,’ Gen. 1:26) or in relationship to ‘the council of the holy ones’ (Ps. 89:7). While this observation does not prove the Trinity in the OT, it is certainly consistent with the notion of God’s being more than one person-a doctrine that receives more complete treatment in the NT.” (William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old & New Testament Words, 19465-19473 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)
So, the very Name of God suggests that there is a “compound” unity within the Being of the Godhead.
Lanier tells us of a former Hebrew Rabbi who became a disciple of Christ. Elaborating on his words, he writes:
“Boettner gives a long quotation from Ex-Rabbi Leopold Cohn in which he informs us that there are two Hebrew words for one, ‘Yachid which means an only one, or an absolute one, and achid (or echad, M.T.), which means a united one.’ Achid is the word, according to Cohn, which is used in Genesis 2:24 where a man and a woman are said to become one flesh. It is the word used in Exodus 26:6, 11, where many pieces are put together so the tabernacle may be one. This is the word which is used in Deuteronomy 6:4, 5, where it is said, ‘Jehovah, our God is one Jehovah.’ This is the united one. So Jehovah our God is a united one: three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one Jehovah God…We need to develop one other thought with reference to the single essence of God and the plural personality. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, the writers, moved by the Holy Spirit, used the plural form of the word for God, and usually with a singular verb. In the first verse in the Bible we are told that God (Elohim, plural) created the heavens and the earth. And God said, ‘let us (plural) make man in our (plural) image.’ Again, the word for God in this verse is plural. It is the very same word used in Deuteronomy 6:4, 5 where it is said, ‘Jehovah our God (Elohim-plural) is one Jehovah.’ (Roy H. Lanier, Sr., The Timeless Trinity For The Ceaseless Centuries, 48-49; Denver, Colorado)
Another well-respected scholar, Michael Brown, wrote a series of books regarding Jewish arguments against Christianity.
In his scholarly discussion of the word echad, we have the following:
“Actually, echad simply means ‘one,’ exactly like our English word ‘one.’ While it can refer to compound unity (just as our English word can, as in one team, one couple, etc.), it does not specifically refer to compound unity. On the other hand, echad certainly does not refer to the concept of absolute unity, an idea expressed more clearly in the twelfth century by Moses Maimonides, who asserted that the Jewish people must believe that God is yachid, an ‘only’ one…According to the common, traditional understanding-and that is what most Jews are familiar with-the text is declaring emphatically that God is echad. Therefore we should take a more in-depth look at the biblical usage of this word. According to Genesis 2:24, when a man is united to a woman, the two become ‘one’ (echad) flesh,’ clearly a compound unity. So also, in Exodus 36:13, God instructs Moses to join the many pieces of the tabernacle together so that it will be ‘one’ (echad; see also Exod. 26:6, 11; 36:18). There are many components but one, unified tabernacle. The Bible also speaks of Israel being ‘one nation’ (goy echad; see 2 Sam. 7:23; Ezek. 37:22), just as in the Pledge of Allegiance we in America speak of being ‘one nation under God.’ In fact, we state that as ‘one nation’ we are ‘indivisible.’ Yet we number 270 million people! America is one nation made up of millions of people; ancient Israel was one nation made up of hundreds of thousands of people. Each can be described as echad, just as the people who joined together to build the Tower of Babel could be called ‘one people’ (am echad; Gen. 11:6) and the uniting of the Shechemites and Israelites would have made them ‘one people’ (am echad; Gen. 34:16, 22). There can be many aspects to oneness!..For now, it is sufficient to understand this: The Hebrew Bible nowhere teaches that our Lord, who is the only true God, is an absolute unity, while it does give indications that his unity is complex or compound.” (Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus: Volume Two-Theological Objections, 4-14 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
We must not, however, confuse this with polytheism (i.e., belief in multiple gods and goddesses).
Speaking to this topic, one author has well stated:
“How could the Israelites be fiercely monotheistic and yet refer to their God using the plural Elohim? First, this cannot be explained away as a ‘royal plural’ or ‘plural of majesty.’ Biblical Hebrew knows of no other instance in which a first person plural is used to refer solely to the speaker. Furthermore, while the Bible from Genesis to Revelation reveals that God is one in nature or essence (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 43:10; Ephesians 4:6), it also reveals that this one God eternally exists in three distinct persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 1:8; Acts 5:3-4; and John 1:1-2, 18; 5:31-32; 8:16-18; 15:26; 17:1-26). Thus, the plural ending of Elohim points to a plurality of persons, not a plurality of gods. Finally, although Elohim is suggestive of the Trinity, this word alone is not sufficient to prove the Trinity. Thus, instead of relying on a singular grammatical construction, Christians must be equipped to demonstrate that the one God revealed in Scripture exists in three persons who are eternally distinct.” (Hank Hanegraaff, The Bible Answer Book Volume 2, 691-698 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Thomas Nelson, Inc.)
Thus, the very first clue we find in the Hebrew Old Testament which points to the Trinity is derived from the very Name of God Himself.
Communication Within The Godhead
In perfect harmony with this principle is the fact that there appears to be communication within the Godhead in the Old Testament.
For example, in the well-known passage in Genesis which describes the creation of humanity, we read:
Genesis 1:26-Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Notice the use of the words “Us” and “our.” There definitely seems to be communication taking place within the Godhead.
However, some might suggest that God was here speaking with the angels.
I do not believe that, for several reasons.
First, the text teaches us that mankind is made in the image of God; yet nowhere does it teach that we are made in the image of angels.
Second, the very next verse identifies who the “Us” and the “our” really are.
Genesis 1:27-So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
The Bible is clear that Elohim God created man in “His” image, and that there is within God’s Nature a plurality.
Several other passages also demonstrates this communication within the Godhead:
Genesis 3:22-Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—
Genesis 11:6-7-6 And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
Isaiah 6:8-8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
Ezekiel 44:6-6 “Now say to the rebellious, to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “O house of Israel, let Us have no more of all your abominations.
This is highly suggestive of plurality within God.
The Angel Of The Lord
Throughout the Old Testament, there is a mysterious Person known as “the Angel of The Lord.” This being is contrasted with “an” angel of The Lord.
According to Weingreen’s Grammar Of Hebrew Language, a noun in the construct state never takes an article. This means that the phrase malach elohim (angel of The Lord) simply means ‘an’ angel of The Lord.
However, when the Bible talks about THE Angel of The Lord, it uses malach ha elohim.
Several passages demonstrate that this Angel of The Lord is different from created angels.
For one thing, created angels do not accept worship. When the Apostle John offered worship to the angel who was helping deliver the Lord’ message to him, he was refused (Revelation 19:10).
However, the Angel of The Lord accepts worship (Joshua 5:14-15) and even receives sacrifice on occasion (Judges 6:19; 13:19).
Clearly, the Angel of The Lord is quite different from angels!
Consider further that this Angel of The Lord is identified as being one with God.
Several passages of Scripture indicate this.
Notice, for example, the story of Hagar.
Genesis 16:7-13-7 Now the Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.8 And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”9 The Angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.”10 Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.”11 And the Angel of the LORD said to her: “Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has heard your affliction.12 He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are- the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?”
Hagar equates the the “Angel of The Lord” with “God.”
Again, consider the famous “burning bush” passage:
Exodus 3:2, 6-And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed…Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.
Notice how the “Angel of The Lord” which appeared to Moses identifies Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Again, we recount the story of Gideon:
Judges 6:11-22-11 Now the Angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites.12 And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him, and said to him, “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!”13 Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”14 Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”15 So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”16 And the LORD said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.”17 Then he said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me.18 Do not depart from here, I pray, until I come to You and bring out my offering and set it before You.” And He said, “I will wait until you come back.”19 So Gideon went in and prepared a young goat, and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot; and he brought them out to Him under the terebinth tree and presented them.20 The Angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so.21 Then the Angel of the LORD put out the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the Angel of the LORD departed out of his sight.22 Now Gideon perceived that He was the Angel of the LORD. So Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For I have seen the Angel of the LORD face to face.”
Please observe how the “Angel of The Lord” is identified with “the LORD.”
We read in Judges of the story of Manoah and his wife, who were the parents of Samson.
The Angel of The Lord is sent to tell them that they will bear a son:
Judges 3:18-22-18 And the Angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?”19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it upon the rock to the LORD. And He did a wondrous thing while Manoah and his wife looked on—20 it happened as the flame went up toward heaven from the altar—the Angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar! When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground.21 When the Angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and his wife, then Manoah knew that He was the Angel of the LORD.22 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God!”
All of these passages identify the “Angel of The Lord” with Jehovah God.
Larry Richards has written:
“On the other hand, in many of his appearances throughout sacred history this angel is presented as The Lord Himself, as the writer of Genesis apparently does in 16:3. It was the Angel of The Lord who appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3:2), yet the text almost immediately states that ‘God’ spoke to Moses (Ex. 3:4) and quotes Him as saying, ‘I am the God of your father-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (Ex. 3:16). The being who commissioned Gideon to save his people is identified as the Angel of The Lord in Judges 6:12, and as The Lord in 6:14. It is also significant that while the New Testament mentions ‘an angel of The Lord,’ the Old Testament’s ‘the Angel of the Lord’ is absent. The strong impression is that in most cases the Angel of The Lord is indeed The Lord Himself, cloaked in a way that permits human beings to experience His presence.” (Larry Richards, Every Good And Evil Angel In The Bible, 18; Nashville, Tn; Thomas Nelson Publishers)
Even more interesting is the fact that while this Angel is identified several times as “God,” there are times that He is also distinguished from “God.”
Consider the words of Edward Myers in this connection:
“Not only is there identification with God, there is differentiation from God. That would mean that the angel of The Lord is distinguished from The Lord. In Judges 6:11-16, we read of the angel of The Lord (vs. 11) coming to Gideon. But in verse fourteen, we read that ‘the Lord turned to him (Gideon).’ These verses tell us that while the angel of The Lord was deity, he was not to be considered as God, the Father; he is to be differentiated from the Father. In Exodus 14:19, we read of the ‘angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army.’ But earlier (Exod. 13:21) it says that ‘the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.’ Exodus 23:20-21 reads, ‘See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place where I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him.’ This angel is being sent by God, so it cannot be God himself. Yet, it is said that this angel ‘will not forgive your rebellion,’ implying that it is possible to do so but that he will not do so. Only God can forgive sin. God’s name is in him-the angel has the character and authority of God. The Lord is sending an angel-they are two different persons.” (Edward Myers, A Study Of Angels, 72-73 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY; Howard Books)
Now, how could the “Angel of The Lord” be identified as God, and yet be differentiated from God?
The facts point undeniably to a plurality of Persons within the Godhead.
The Powerful Admission Of The Psalmist
Several passages in the Psalms speak of a plurality within the Godhead. At this juncture, we will examine only two.
The first is Psalm 33:6:
Psalm 33:6-By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
The word “word” is a personal Name for Jesus Christ (John 1:1-5, 14).
The phrase “breath” is also the Hebrew word for “spirit.”
So, what do we have?
The Lord, the Word, and the Spirit.
Simply stated, the Trinity.
Again, notice the statement of the sons of Korah:
Psalm 45:6-7-6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.
This passage is quoted in Hebrews (1:8) as an evidence of the Godhood of Christ.
Notice that this “King” is referred to as “God,” and is then said to be blessed by “Your God.”
The object of this Psalm is the expected Messianic King. The Old Testament prophecies made it clear that the Messiah would be a great Ruler, with worldwide authority (cf. Isaiah 9:6-7; Genesis 49:10).
As Brown has pointed out:
“…While it is stretching the limits of the Hebrew language to refer to any human king in such lofty terms, it is altogether fitting to speak of Yeshua in such terms, since he is the Word made flesh, the Son of God clothed in earthly, human garments. Thus, this psalm can only be rightly understood when it is interpreted in terms of the Messiah…In keeping with this, Risto Santala, a Finnish Christian scholar of Hebrew and Rabbinic literature, points out that the rabbis commonly interpret royal psalms with reference to the Messiah, noting, ‘The Jews see the Messiah in the Psalms in more or less the same contexts as do the Christians. But since they communicate in the Psalms’ own language they find there secret references which they can then apply to their own conception of the Messiah.’…The Targum renders this passage as, ‘Your throne of honor, Yahweh (abbreviated in the Targum), is forever and ever,’ reminding us that the meaning of the original text is clear and straightforward…And what is the primary difficulty? It is impossible for these commentators to conceive that the human king could be called elohim. But if that human king is the Messiah, and if the Messiah is divine, then there is no valid reason to reject the obvious, clear rendering. We can therefore repeat without hesitation what we stated at the outset: Psalm 45 proclaims the divine nature of the Messianic King, and we do best to take the Scriptures in their most obvious, basic sense, allowing the Bible to dictate our theology, rather than imposing our theology on the Word of God.” (Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus: Volume Three-Messianic Prophecy Objections, 131-133 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
These passages, again, speak to a plurality within the Godhead.
The Stunning Testimony Of Isaiah The Prophet
Finally, let’s consider the incredible (and perhaps the most penetrating) statement of the Old Testament regarding the Godhead.
It is written by Isaiah the Prophet, in the context of the “Servant of The Lord.”
Isaiah describes the Servant’s mission:
Isaiah 48:16-“Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; From the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit Have sent Me.”
Unpacking this verse, the renowned scholar Archer Gleason informs us:
“Isaiah 48:16 sets forth all three Persons in the work of redemptive revelation and action…Here we have the God-man Redeemer speaking (the one who has just described Himself in v. 12 as ‘the First and the Last,’ and in v. 13 as the one who ‘founded the earth and spread out the heavens.’ He now says here in v. 16 that He has been sent by The Lord Yahweh (which in this case must refer to God the Father) and also by His Spirit (the Third Person of the Trinity). Conceivably ‘and His Spirit’ could be linked up with ‘Me’ as the object of ‘has sent,’ but in the context of the Hebrew original here it gives the impression that His ruCah (‘Spirit’) is linked up with ‘adonay YHWH (‘Lord Yahweh’) as an added subject rather than an added object. At any rate, the Third Person is distinguished from either First or the Second, so far as these verses are concerned.” (Gleason L. Archer, New International Encyclopedia Of Bible Difficulties: Informed Answers To Your Most Troublesome Questions, 9462-9472 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)
Respected Bible scholar Homer Hailey concurs:
“The following affirmation is an abrupt intrusion which raises the question of the speaker’s identity. Of the many suggestions offered by commentators, only two are in keeping with the context: the speaker is either the prophet Isaiah or the ideal Servant who will come. Although recognizing the difficulties involved, I accept the latter, for The Lord Jehovah sent me, and his Spirit, is one of the new truths now to be made known. The Servant was introduced earlier in this section (42:1-13), is prominent in the next section (49:1-13; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12), and appears in the final section (61:1-3). Old Testament prophecy looked to His coming when He would carry out the purpose and work of Jehovah. The Spirit would accompany Him and then complete the work after His return to the Father. If there is objection that this savors too much of New Testament teaching, let it be remembered that Jehovah is declaring new things to come, even beyond Cyrus and the return of the exiles. The coming of Jesus is the chief theme of prophecy; He is the one for whom the Jews were taught to look.” (Homer Hailey, A Commentary On Isaiah: With Emphasis On The Messianic Hope, 401; Religious Supply, Inc.)
Here in Isaiah’s statement we have an account of each Person in the Godhead; the Father (Jehovah), the Son (the “Servant”), and the Spirit.
How Nature Shows Us The Existence Of The Trinity
One of the powerful lessons we learn from The Shack is the way that nature reveals to us the need for relationship within God’s Nature.
Speaking of this, one author has noted:
“The way Sarayu, Jesus, and Papa relate to one another in The Shack-in love, openness, mutual deference, and simple enjoyment of each other-is all either a gross and ungodly misrepresentation, or a hint at the astounding truth. It intrigued Mackenzie (106ff., 202f.), to say the least. He had never seen anything like it. He was drawn to their relationship, and their way of being. But the whole Trinity thing just didn’t make any sense to him. And what different does the Trinity make anyway? (103). According to Young’s Papa, ‘It makes all the different in the world!’ (103) and nowhere more than when we think of the possibility of love:…In a variation of the argument of the medieval theologian Richard of St. Victor, Papa is saying that there can be no love (or charity, as the older writers called it) without relationship. For Young’s Papa, if God were alone and solitary from eternity, then being other-centered would be out of the question, for there would be no other to be centered upon. Relationship itself and fellowship, even being open, personal, and approachable, would be quite foreign to the very nature of such a solitary God. ‘Love,” C.S. Lewis says, ‘is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love.’ According to Saint Victor, ‘No one is properly said to have charity on the basis of his own private love for himself. And so it is necessary for love to be directed toward another for it to be charity. Therefore, where a plurality of persons is lacking, charity cannot exist.’ Young, Lewis, and Saint Victor raise a great issue. If there is no relationship within God’s eternal being, then there is no real basis in God’s nature for caring about something other than himself, no basis for altruistic devotion to others or for loving a thing for its own sake. The love of a single-personed God would be inherently self-centered, narcissistic, and ultimately about God, not others. A solitary God could love others for their benefit only by shutting off, as it were, the fountain of his deeper and true nature…This, it seems to me, is a huge point. Are we loved for what we can potentially bring to God’s table, or are we loved for our own sake? Does the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit come with strings attached? Is our existence about relationship, or is it about performance? Is the universe the product of divine self-interest, or need, or perhaps boredom? Are we here to do something for God, for God’s benefit?…If God is alone and solitary, then in one way or another we were created for God’s benefit, not ours. But given that God is Father, Son, and Spirit, and given that relationship and love form the core of the trinitarian being, then we were ‘created to be loved’ (99), and to live loved, and to love others without agenda (181f.). As Lewis says, ‘God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them.'” (C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going On Here Than You Ever Dared To Dream, 116-119 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Faith Words)
While the Old Testament does not have a fully developed description of the Trinity, it does present a powerful case of a plurality within the Godhead which clearly points to the doctrine of the Trinity as laid out in the New Testament Scriptures.
The grace of The Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.