"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Questions on the Godhead - Part 6

What does it mean to say that God is One? The most well known verse in the Old Testament was the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." (ESV) For those who reject Trinitarianism, either in favor of denying the deity of the Son, Jesus the Messiah, (the classical heresy known as Arianism, believed today by groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses) or in favor of denying the distinction of persons within the Godhead (the classical heresy known as modalism, believed today by Oneness groups like the United Pentecostal Church International - UPCI), this is a cornerstone verse. Trinitarians, they claim, are polytheists, believing in more than one God, not monotheists as this verse, and others, require.

In "60 Questions on the Godhead" from the UPCI, we have a number of statements that attempt to defend the "Oneness" position by showing that God is identified as "One" and that Jesus is identified as "One." Among these questions are the following:

Question 30. Does the Bible say that there is but one Lord? Yes. Isaiah 45:18; Ephesians 4:5.

Isaiah 45:18 - For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): "“I am the Lord, and there is no other." (ESV)
Ephesians 4:5 - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, (ESV)

Question 31. Does the Bible say that Christ is the Lord? Yes. Luke 2:11.

Luke 2:11 - For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (ESV)

Question 32. Does the Bible say that the Lord is God? Yes. I kings 18:39; Zechariah 14:5; Acts 2:39; Revelation 19:1.

1 Kings 18:39 - And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, "“The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God."” (ESV)
Zechariah 14:5 - And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. (ESV)
Acts 2:39 - For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (ESV)
Revelation 19:1 - After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, "“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God," (ESV) (KJV has "unto the Lord our God")

Question 39. How many names has the Lord? One. Zechariah 14:9.

Zechariah 14:9 - And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one. (ESV)

Question 43. Is God the only one who can forgive sin? Yes. Isaiah 43:25; Mark 2:7.

Isaiah 43:25 - "I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins." (ESV)
Mark 2:7 - "“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"” (ESV)

Question 44. Why, then, could Jesus forgive sin in Mark 2:5-11? Because He is God the Savior.

Mark 2:5-11 - And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven."” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "“Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, '‘Your sins are forgiven,'’ or to say, '‘Rise, take up your bed and walk'’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,"” he said to the paralytic," “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home." (ESV)

Question 54. Does the Bible say that there is only one wise God? Yes. Jude 25.

Jude 25 - to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (ESV)

None of these verses or questions are problematic for the Trinitarian. We profess that God is One, One God in Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If asked how can this be, we can only point to the fact that this is the testimony of the Scriptures, and that God is above our ability to comprehend. I discussed this in more detail when I responded to Question 7, but Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." (ESV)

There are some things we can only apprehend in the faintest of ways. Just as I cannot explain Jesus being fully God and fully man in only one person, so I cannot explain God being One but existing as Three Persons. But this is what the Bible affirms. Interestingly, in quoting the verses above that cite that God is the Lord, and Jesus is the Lord, the UPCI has laid the groundwork for one of the proofs of the Trinity. In Mark 12:35-37 we read the following:

And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, "“How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, '‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.'’ David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?"” And the great throng heard him gladly. (ESV)

There is a lot in the passage about who Jesus is. But the key to this discussion is the statement, "The Lord said to my Lord." I have been affirming that a key truth of Trinitarianism is relationship. Oneness adherents typically state that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are different manifestations of the One God. But Trinitarians affirm that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct persons and the evidence for this is that they relate to each other as persons. Here, David records that the Lord (God the Father) speaks to David's Lord (the Messiah, Jesus).

So yes, we Trinitarians affirm with Deuteronomy 6:4 that God is One. But we also affirm that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are different persons within the Godhead, not merely different manifestations of God. This has been the historic confession of the Christian faith. In this regard, the Athanasian Creed, likely not written by Athanasius but named for him. This creed can be found at many places, including the following link: Athanasian Creed.


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