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STUDY SIX

The Christian Trinity

A Study in Scriptural Integrity:

In Light of Biblical Usage

The Bible is a historical document of ancient use, so to understand the language we consider usage in Biblical context, figures of speech, the historical context and the linguistic usage. We also use the few in light of the many.


To come to a greater understanding of the intended meaning of Scripture, it is important to begin gaining an understanding of the Biblical connotations and usage of words. In other words, what was their intended meaning when they were first used in the Bible?

In these studies on scriptural integrity, we are seeking keys on how the scriptures convey their meaning.

We will use several techniques of Bible study in this study on the idea of the Trinity in Scripture.

We begin by looking at a historical perspective. But as always, we will go to the context of the Scriptures for definition and clarity of doctrine.

And we will also consider how words and phrases were used in the first century, for those were the times the Christian Scriptures were written.

Also we will briefly explore figurative language used in Scripture.

We will apply these techniques to a study of the common Christian creed that God is one God in three Persons.

The Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, is as follows:

Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another. Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God."

This has been the relatively unchallenged doctrine of Christianity for nearly seventeen centuries.

However, for the first two centuries of Christianity, this was not the case. Sections of scripture that today are heralded as Trinitarian were either rendered differently than they have more recently been, as was Matthew 28:19 and I John 5:7&8, or were seemingly understood differently.

Indeed, the first man recorded by remaining historic documentation to actually record the statement "Jesus is God" was rejected by the early second century Church for his views. This individual, Hippolytus, was entirely ostracized by the Church. But within a century he was accepted and reinstated, and his idea of Jesus as God foisted (at sword-point) upon the Church. Today he is canonized as a saint.

(Ignatious was known to refer to Jesus as "our God" after his apparent split from his mentor John late in the 1rst Century A.D. This will be briefly referred to later in this class.)

Even the Liturgy of the Trinity formula was different prior to the Nicean and Trentian Councils. According to Catholic Encyclopedia, it was as follows:

"Glory to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit."

Grammatically, this is vastly different from "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." Rather than equal segments of a phrase you have three active participants.

Rather than a triune entity you have the classic Biblical representation of God as a Father, honored by the works of His son, through the active use of a gift bestowed upon the Church known as "holy spirit."

The implications of this liturgy are astounding.

It implies that the phraseology of Acts regarding the identities of Jesus and God remained unchanged until the third Century. It implies that vestiges of the first century tradition, whereby the faithful were to receive and manifest a gift known as "holy spirit," or "pnuema hagion" in the Greek, remained until well after the First Century.

We will study that gift in detail in later segments of Scripture Integrity.

We get to this paramount question: "What do the Scriptures reveal about the Trinity?"

Perhaps the most telling statement that Scripture makes regarding the Trinity is its silence. A word for "trinity" or "triune God" is never used.

To again quote the Catholic Encyclopedia,

"In Scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together. The word trias (of which the Latin trinitas is a translation) is first found in Theophilus of Antioch about A. D. 180. He speaks of "the Trinity of God [the Father], His Word and His Wisdom.""

This is the earliest mention of a Trinity, an entire century after the last Scripture was written, and in no way comes close to "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."

The doctrine of the Trinity seems based on suppositions and revisionist interpretation. Our job as readers of Scripture will be to get as close to the original intent as possible.

To begin with, we will break down the Trinity into three parts: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost. We will see whether God actually consists of these three parts, using Biblical usage of words, and if so, and only if so, how they relate to one another as God.

God the Father

"All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal."

Matt.10:27

"Father" is "pater," meaning sire or ancestor, and usually but not always connotes origin in more than a figurative way. Son though is "huio," "child" or "descendent," and definitely connotes origin. As we can see, Jesus knows who the Father, his ancestor, is. And the Father knows His son, His descendent.

We will thus continue by comparing the testimony of the one toward the other. Remember however that we already have the testimony of the words "Father" and "Son," each used numerous times regarding the Father and Jesus.

Who is the Father according to Jesus?

"Not everyone one that sayeth unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."

Matt. 7:21

Jesus' Father is the one Whose will must be done to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

If Jesus is a permanent part of God, why would this be? Remember the garden of Gethsemine, wherein Jesus cries,

"And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt."

Mark 14:36

"What thou wilt." "Will" is "thelema" in the text, a wish or an inclination. The Father has at times different inclinations than Jesus, a different wish.

God is never spoken of as having different wills. It is always, "the" will of God, as in II Thes. 5:18:

"In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

The will of the Father is the will of God which is done in Christ Jesus, but only because the Son chose of his own will to subject himself to it. That is according to the record in Luke, which is also recorded in Matthew.

"Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven"

Matt. 6:10

God when referred to as God and God referred to as Father has but one will. Jesus has a will, too, which has not always coincided with the Father's. Is the will of God synonymous with the will of the Father?

"For I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.

"And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I shall lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

"And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and beleiveth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day."

John 6:37-39

Who was Jesus sent by? The Father.

Who?

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

"For God sent not his Son into the world to contemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. "

John 3:16-17

God sent His son. The Father who sent Jesus is the God who sent Jesus, and He sent His son, begotten, into this world.

The Father is God, thus we've established that the first statement of the Trinity is correct, "God the Father."

God is the Father.

God the Son

What about "God the Son?"

First, like "Trinity," the phrase "God the Son" is never used in the Bible. If as a phrase it agrees with the facts presented in Scripture, we can use it.

If not, we should not use it.

Nor is any direct declarative statement such as "Jesus is God" in the Scripture. Who does God the Father say Jesus is in relationship to Himself?

Does God the Father ever say Jesus is a part of Himself in any way, shape or form?

"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

Matt. 3:17

This is the testimony of God.

God did not say, "This is part of my beloved Self, in Whom I am well pleased." He said "son." Progeny, offspring, male child. A derived life. "Son" is genitive and connotes an origin.

The phrase "Son of God" is used over four score times in the Scriptures, each time connoting the derivative origin of Jesus. Mark 1:1:

"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God. Again, "son" connotes a derived nature, as does "beginning."

Such as in Matthew 1:1:

"The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."

"Generation" means "origin" or "creation," not "generations" as it is commonly understood to mean "earthly family ties."

The text reads, "Biblos gennesis Iesou huio Dabid huio Iakob," Book origin Jesus son David son Jacob."

The very first record of Jesus in the canonized Bible is a record of the origin, the start, the beginning, the creation of Jesus Christ.

And Matthew by revelation also recorded it as important that people know Jesus had a beginning.

What about all those who say that when God calls His son "a son" He means Jesus is a deity as well? Would it then mean we were deities if Scripture referred to us as sons? Of course not.

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God..."

I John 3:1a

"He (Jesus) is not ashamed to call them brethren..."

Heb. 2:11

"For as many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

"The spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose:"

"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren."

Rom. 8:14-16, 28-29

You see that we also are the sons of God. Not begotten, conceived in the womb by the power of God as was Jesus, but sons nonetheless, by the spirit God gives us. We are made in the likeness of Christ.

Indeed, the phrase "spirit of adoption" that makes us sound like foster children in Romans 8:15 is the word "huiothesia," which means "sonship," straight and simple.

We are not foster children, we are children by the spirit God gave us, the huiothesia, sons of God and the brethren of Jesus Christ.

Imagine that. Brothers of Jesus, because we share the same Father. And being a son does not necessitate having the identity, the characteristics en Toto, or the office of your father.

Now, if the Son of God is God the Son, and we are his brothers, we are brothers of God because we share the same Father!

How ridiculous that is. We are children of God, Who is our Father, and we are brothers of Jesus Christ, who was and remains first among us.

What about Thomas? John 20:28:

"But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

"The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and. put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

"And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas being with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

"Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither they finger, and behold my hands; and reach thither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

"And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God."

John 20:24-28

Here is one place where Jesus is referred to by the word "theos" or a form thereof.

And people want to say, "See? He's God."

Yet for the first two centuries of the Church this section was not interpreted to mean Thomas was calling Jesus God, meaning a coequal of the Father Himself or a portion thereof.

We have already seen clearly that Jesus and God have separate wills, and that Jesus has a specific origin, and that we are his brothers. We need to understand this hard verse in the light of many clear ones.

What then is Thomas referring to?

In Scripture, as in so much of language, there is an amount of usages of words and phrases in what are called "figures of speech."

A figure of speech is a phrase or expression that in degree or in essence disagrees with reality not with intent to deceive, but to emphasize in some way a true characteristic of what is being discussed.

For instance, if I say, "Larry has a green thumb," you will probably not scream and say, "Agh! Gangrene, chop it off, chop it off!"

Although you might, I don't know. One would hope not.

Does Larry literally have a green thumb? No. I have used a "figure of speech," in this case an "analogy" which is when you compare one thing (in this case, gardening skills,) with things of another class. (The color of skin.)

You understand me to say, "Wow, Larry is a really great gardener and all of his plants do real well," only I condensed it into merely a few words for impact.

I did not need to explain all of this for you to understand what I was saying about Larry. You understood what I meant. We share the same language, and it is a mutually understood expression.

Whenever figures of speech were used in Scripture, the original readers also understood their usages. However, most of us do not use as a language any Hebraic or Syrian dialect of Aramaic, the language used in Scripture from approximately 2600 to 400 BC. Nor do we speak Greek circa 30-60 A.D. as a first language.

We therefore might just be vaguely unfamiliar with many Biblical figures of speech.

Nevertheless God's Word is from generation to generation, and at any time there is plenty of it in extent that gives clear understanding.

It is written dozens of times that Jesus is the Son of God. It is clearly stated and well explained that as children of God we are brothers of Christ. 

Regarding any basic tenet, such as whether Jesus is God or not, we are able to get enough clear information that we should know to filter any vague-seeming or contradictory scripture through the plain and clearly defined verses.

And when in light of many clear verses a few verses appear to contradict, we must consider either that perhaps there has been a mistranslation or that a figure of speech was used, for these are the two greatest areas of misunderstanding regarding the Bible.

(There are other reasons for confusion, most of which will be dealt with in "Scriptural Integrity." None seem to apply here, so we will consider the two greatest single causes of error for the sincere student of scripture, which is mistranslation, or use of an unknown figure or expression.)

"My Lord and my God."

It certainly seems that Thomas is calling Jesus "God." But what does he mean? Is he allowed to call Jesus God? Jesus we saw is not literally God, he is the son of God, as are we. Look at Psalm 45:6:

"Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre."

Is this a prophesy regarding the future Jesus? Yes it is, for it is repeated in Hebrews 1:8&9:

"But unto the Son he saith, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

"Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated inequity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows."

We understand that, yes, God the Father did say to His son Jesus, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever."

Yes, he is calling Jesus God.

So what? Does that mean Jesus and the Father Who is God Almighty and Creator of the heavens and the earth are One and the Same?

Remember, before this was used of Jesus, it was used of the king, David. If using it of Jesus in Heb. 1:8 makes Jesus God, then using it of David in Psalm 45:6 makes David God. But from the overwhelming body of Scriptural evidence we know David is not God just because of this. So it is with Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Let us look. Psalm 45:6 and Hebrews 1:8 is where God exalts Jesus by saying, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." He likens Jesus to a god above his fellows. Jesus' fellows? Yes. Not "God's fellows," for God is unique and distinct and we do Him grave disservice in not recognizing that truth. Keep reading and you also see God annoints him, Jesus, with "oil of gladness above" his "fellows," his "peers."

God has no "fellows," no peers, no one in the same class. But although Jesus is first in his "class, the "prototype," he does indeed have fellows. For Jesus, the son of God, was and is a man:

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ."

I Tim. 2:5

Yes, one God, the Jehovah Elohim. And there is one mediator to bring man to God, His son, the man Jesus Christ.

"Is" means right now. Right now there is one true God, and right now there is one mediator who is right now a man and not in any way shape or form our Jehovah God.

But in a figurative analogy, whereby characteristics of deity such as power and authority are eluded to, the man Jesus is referred to as god, as "elohim" and "theos," emphasizing Jesus' glory and power upon the throne that was given, yes, given him.

This figure is used elsewhere:

"...ye shall be as gods (elohim, same as "God" in dozens of verses, including Ps.45:6) knowing good and evil."

Gen. 3:5

"And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free:

"Then his master shall bring him the judges (elohim); he shall also bring him to the door or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever."

Exodus 21:5&6

"If a man shall deliver unto his neighbor money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man's house; if the thief be found, let him pay double.

"If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges (elohim,) to see whether he hath put his hand into his neighbor's goods.

"For all manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing, which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges (elohim)..."

Exodus 227-9

"I have said, Ye are gods (elohim) and children of the most high."

Repeatedly, men of Israel are called “gods” by God Himself! But are they part of a “Godhead?”

Psalm 82:6

"I and my Father are one.

"Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.

"Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of these works do ye stone me?

"The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

"Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, Ye are gods?

"If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

"Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

"If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not."

John 10:30-37

God's Word said, "ye are gods, and children." Jesus was not claiming the "ye are gods" part, though he had as he said as much right as any judge, any elohim, any "god," of Israel.

He was saying, "Yes, I am a child, the child, the son, of the most high."

Then as now, it was through unbelief and ignorance of the Scriptures that they thought Jesus was making himself to be the same as God. But Jesus was correcting them by replying, "I am the son of God."

Yet, it remains that God exalted Israel by calling them gods. Just as He exalted Jesus the same way. Not convinced?

"But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

"In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."

II Cor. 4:3&4

The addressing of someone as "god" in scripture is not exclusive to someone who is actually Jehovah Elohim, and that was what Hebrews and Psalms was doing, using an address of Jesus.

The same address was used not only of Christ, nor only of David, not only of the judges of Israel, but even of the "god" of this world, Satan himself!

Does addressing all of these people as "elohim" or "theos" make them God? Of course not, especially not Satan!

Look at Psalm 45:1:

"My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer."

Psalm 45 does prophesy of Christ but is what is referred to as a "duel" prophesy, containing a message for the future but also having an immediate, often "subdued" primary message.

This primary message, including an exalting by being referred to as "God," was addressed to a man, an earthly king, long before Jesus received the same exaltation!

So when Thomas addressed, yes, addressed, Jesus as "My Lord and my God," there is no reason to throw out the many many scriptures that say Jesus is the Son of God and embrace a "God the Son." He was merely giving Jesus an acceptable praise.

Lastly, a figure of speech is involved in John 20:28: "hendiadis," which was reserved for rulers and noblemen. Literally it means "one by means of two," the latter emphasizing the former. The word "god" emphasizes the word "lord" here, literally meaning, "my godly Lord," but with great emphasis.

"Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment, even unto my cause, my God and my Lord."

Psalm 35:23

Here "hendiadis" is used, same words, but the order is reversed. In reference to God Himself, the order of the words "god" and "lord" are reversed!

(Notice the use of the conjunction "and" in hendiadis.)

This of course should be read "Lordly God," even as the reference to Jesus should be read "godly lord." The same figure refers to a heart as a "fleshly heart" and God as a "godly King" in the next reference, two usages of "hendiadis" in as many verses.

"My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.

"Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God."

Psalm 84:2&3

The phrase in verse 2 is "my heart and my flesh," my fleshly heart."

And in verse 3 we find, "my King and my God," "my godly King." It is no wonder that Psalms contain so many figures of speech, emphasizing God's truths in such poetic language.

Because, figures always underscore, its what they are used for.

While God is the Father, God is not the Son.

Jesus is not God, he is God's son.

God is not a Son. He has one.

God the Holy Ghost

So we have God the Father, and we have Jesus the Son of God.

So what about the Holy Ghost?

Grabbing a bible concordance, one finds that Holy Ghost (also translated Holy Spirit) is translated from the Greek words, " pnuema " and "hagion." Pnuema is the word "spirit," and hagion means "set apart," as "sanctified" or "reserved and special."

(The Old Testament words are generally "qadosh" for holy and "ruach," "breath," for spirit.)

" Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.

"But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

"God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."

John 4:22-24

In three verses we see at least two great truths.

First, we see God referred to as "Father" and as "God" in one compressed context. Second, His nature is revealed.

God our Father is Spirit.

Referring to God's Spirit is like us referring to our bodies. As we are embodied, God is Spirit.

And God our Father who is Spirit is holy.

He is referred to as "Holy God," "Holy One of Israel," "Holy is His name," and as "The Holy Spirit."

Yes, God our Holy Father who is Spirit is The Holy Spirit, one and the same.

Not one God in two Persons, but one God, our Father, who is "embodied" in Holy Spirit just as we are embodied in flesh.

And Jesus is His Son.

Finally, there is one more thing you need to know about pnuema hagion.

God the Father, embodied as Holy Spirit, made us sons. He did this through that "sonship spirit," huiothesia, which we discussed in Romans chapter eight.

In Romans its the "spirit of adoption," huiothesia.

"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever."

I Peter 1:23

In I Peter its called "incorruptible seed," this "sonship spirit."

What is it? Well, I ask you, what made you the child of your earthly mother and father? Right, genetic material. DNA.

That is what seed is, genetic material. It makes a son or daughter a son or daughter, and this material from God is indeed incorruptible.

That's why in Corinthians, even if we do nothing right and all our works are burned on judgment day, the "man himself shall be saved, yet as by fire."

It's incorruptible DNA. And what is God made of? That's right, Holy Spirit.

Then what is this "incorruptible seed made of?

Same thing. Look at Luke 11:13.

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your Father give the Holy Spirit unto them that ask him?"

Was God planning on giving himself? Of course not.

"For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy ghost not many days hence."

Luke 11:14

See? Jesus was saying, "I'm leaving, but you'll not be without resources." John could symbolically clean with water, but soon something greater would clean them.

"Now when they heard this they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

"For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."

Acts 2:37-39

Ye shall receive the gift of holy spirit, pnuema hagion. Yes, the “sonship spirit" is that gift of life that contains the substance that quite literally makes us, the Christian, God's sons.

It is God's DNA, "holy spirit," "pnuema hagion."

It is "incorruptible seed," it is "the promise of the father."

We are not foster kids, brethren beloved, for NOW are we the sons of God, NOW we have eternal life, that though not yet evident has been given us.

For by the grace of God, our Father Who is THE Holy Spirit, Jesus was created the Son of God, and we as sons also have the gift of spiritual DNA, holy spirit. This gift of holy spirit is not God but is of Him.

And we know this through historical context, linguistic usage, Biblical context, figures of speech and the few in light of the many.

Now in coming sessions of Scripture Integrity we will find out just what we, as Christian men and women, are supposed to do with this great gift of God's grace, this spiritual gift.

Amen?

Amen!

 

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