One God ... Or Three?
Contributed by Pierre Naude on May 6, 2011 (message contributor)
Summary: Christians are often confused by the concept of the trinity. Do we serve one God ... or three? Try this lesson in Christian Maths!
The Holy Trinity
Deut 6.1-9 Jn 14:6-27
Have you ever struggled with the idea of the Trinity - one God in three beings? Our Christian faith has such strong roots in the Old Testament that we “know” that “The Lord is One” – after all, isn’t that what is said in the OT?
So, how can Christians say that One God exists in THREE separate beings – Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Of course the Jehovah’s Witnesses tell us that the NT doesn’t say this. Well, let’s have a look at some references:
Mt 3.16+17. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.
Mt 28.18+19. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
2 Cor 13.14. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
1 Pet 1.1+2. To God’s elect, strangers in the world, … who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:
Jude 20+21. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21 Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
That’s pretty clear isn’t it? In each pss there is ref to ALL THREE persons of the Godhead. So how do we understand it then? Judaism says ONE! This is reinforced by Islam, which has the same early roots as Judaism, which tells us: “There is only one God”. But Christianity says one in three!
Let me try to answer this in some different ways:
1. For some people, the problem lies with the idea of ONE thing consisting of THREE separate things. Yet there are many examples of that in our world – one egg consists of three parts … shell, albumen and yolk.
The “Triple Point of Water”, as any High School science student will remember, can be reached by putting a lump of ice into a sealed test tube and applying heat. Before long that container of H2O will contain a smaller lump of ice and some water and some steam … three separate and distinct forms of one substance (H2O) all together at one time, in one place.
So that’s not really where the problem lies – one thing can very easily consist of three (or more) things.
2. Other people struggle more with the sense that the clear “One” of Jewish and Islamic thinking becomes “Three” in Christian thinking. “How can we change ‘the truth’?” they ask.
But there are many ways in which Christianity differs from these other Great World Faiths. If we think only of Judaism (which is our own root):
• we believe that the Messiah has come, they wait for him to come;
• we believe that we are under grace, they believe they are under Law;
• we no longer hold to the Kosher laws that they hold to … because the New Testament has repealed or changed them;
• the Christian Sabbath has moved from Saturday to Sunday, which is the day of the Lord’s rising, no longer the last day of the week.
These are just a few. There are a whole lot of other examples of ways in which Christianity and Judaism differ. Another one is that Judaism believes that God is one, Christianity that God is three in one.
Just think about this - If we did not differ in our beliefs we would all be of exactly the same faith. We are not! We do hold to different beliefs about certain things.
3. Could it be that there is another way to read the Old Testament Scriptures? … And here comes a fascinating question: Is it possible that even the Old Testament teaches that God is plural?
Well, look at the very first page of the Bible – in Genesis 1: 26 we read “God said ‘Let us make humans in our own image’.” According to this verse, is God singular or plural? Let me read it again – with emphasis! “God said, ‘Let us make humans in our own image’.” It’s quite clear! Right from the very beginning of the Bible, God speaks of himself in the PLURAL! And there are many verses like that.