What is the true relationship between God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit? Surprisingly, it may not be exactly what you think it is. To better understand the Holy Word of God by “rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15), let’s begin with a simple illustration:
God is like the sun in the sky. The sun is separate from the earth by a vast distance, just as God is separate from his creation. He is far away in heaven. Sometimes what we call the sun is not really the sun, we see the light that comes from the sun and we call that light the sun. Jesus is as the light that comes from God.
"The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." (Hebrews 1:3) And as light proceeds forth from that ball in space, so Jesus proceeds forth from the Father. "I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me." (John 8:42)
Is the light that comes from the sun part of the sun? It depends on how you define the sun. The object in space is like God the Father. The light that comes from that object may be considered part of that object. For even those who don't accept that the light that comes from the sun is part of the sun, will nonetheless look up in the sky and say, "There's the sun.", referring to the light that comes from the sun as if it were the sun. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant in John 14:9 when Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?"
You cannot get to God unless you follow the light, as Jesus says, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
And what of the Holy Spirit? For there is an apparent distinction between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Holy Spirit is like the heat that comes from the sun. You cannot always see heat, but you can see the effects of it. So even in darkness, for those who don't have the light of Christ, the Holy Spirit is yet at work. Holy Spirit is the manifestation of the power from God. And as heat also proceeds from that ball in space so the Holy Spirit also proceeds from the Father. "... the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father ..." (John 15:26)
As we have three parts - Soul, Body and Spirit - and yet we are one, so also God’s administration has three parts - the Father (Himself), His Son and the Holy Spirit - and yet all act as one forming a perfect governing body. These are each distinct from each other, and yet collectively we can speak of these as being what they are.
To complete this illustration, where would the Christian fit in? The Christian is like the moon. Dead rock having no light of its own, but reflecting the light of Christ to a world in darkness. For those who don't know Christ live in darkness. Yet even when they are in the light, those who are spiritually blind cannot see the light. For them, the Holy Spirit is the only hope to save them from sin and guide them toward righteousness.
Confusion over True Nature of the Trinity
The aforementioned illustration of the trinity is different than "Modalism", which illustrates the Trinity something like the three forms (modes) of water - steam, water and ice. The bible does not support Modalism. God the Father did not become Jesus Christ at one point in time, for whom was Jesus talking to when he prayed? To drive the point home even God Himself spoke from Heaven proclaiming loudly for all to hear “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt 3:17)
Remember, Jesus is subordinate to the Father. And Jesus didn't go on to become the Holy Spirit either. The scriptures clearly treat these three as distinct individuals and not as different forms of the same individual.
The main question is:
"Is God's threeness a matter of our falsely seeing it to be so,
or a matter of a three-in-one (trinitarian) example for
our understanding of what God's administration really is?"
Take note that the only number ascribed to God in the Holy Bible is One and that there is no inherent threeness ascribed to God explicitly in scripture. The number three is never mentioned in relation to God in scripture, which of course is the number that is central to the word "Trinity".
It is a sad fact that there is much contention and confusion regarding the Trinity among various branches of Christianity. Why is this so? Maybe they are not clearly understanding the Word of God because they are not rightly dividing the Word of truth.
Let’s take a closer look at what the scriptures have to say about who and what God really is:
On one hand it seems the following scripture declares Jesus to be God: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
Let’s not confuse what is being said here. It does not say “In the beginning Jesus was the Word, Jesus was with God and Jesus was God”. No! It says what it means and it means what is says.
Where it is written “In the beginning was the Word” God is referring to His spoken word, as in “and God said, Let there be light” (Gen 1:3). It’s the same thing for you and me. Your thoughts and words are with you from your beginning and they are continually with you always. They are as much a part of you as your physical body is a part of you.
“And the Word was with God”. You cannot logically be with someone and also be that person at the same time. To be with someone means that the person you are with is someone other than yourself. Before his birth the man Jesus Christ existed in the foreknowledge of God, not in any other physical or spiritual form. What did exist was the Word. The whole Bible is very clear on this point.
How are we to think of the statement, "the Word was God"? The standard Modalist view is that this indicates that Christ is 'fully God', the Second Person of the Trinity. The Jehovah's Witness view is that the Greek should be translated as "the Word was a god", because the definite article is absent in the Greek. But this is not decisive. In Greek, a noun like theos (God) may be used without an article when used before the verb "to be".
Another proposal is that the statement means, 'the Word was Divine'. The word used in Greek is “logos” being translated as “word” in all other instances. The problem with this proposal is that 'Divine' is descriptive, and a different (but related) Greek word, theos, is wrongly translated as 'Divine'. This word is found in the New Testament in Acts 17:29 and 2 Peter 1:3. Wouldn’t John have used the word “theos” instead of “logos” if he had meant to convey a point about the divinity of Christ? So then it must be concluded that this verse is referring to the Word and not to Jesus Christ.
Then in verse 14 “The Word was made (became) flesh and dwelt among us”. Meaning, Jesus was born. This is the point in time when a separate individual, a person known as Jesus, came into existence. God caused to come into being a human representative who could make the free will choice to live a perfect life and accomplish the great works that God had in store.
There are two very crucial points that are frequently overlooked by most Trinitarians today:
- If Jesus was really God Himself incarnate, and not a separate individual, then it is of no example to us for aspiring to live a perfect life. The fact that Jesus made the free will choice to live perfect and grow up to be what he became is a fantastic testimony to what we can also aspire to become. It is of no value to me knowing that God could be perfect if He became a man. No duh, right? He’s God! But the fact that one of the flock, another human being, can live a perfect life then this gives me an example to follow and a real hope that I too can live a perfect life.
- Jesus was to be the legal sacrifice for our sins. In order to fulfill Mosaic Law, the sacrifice must be a firstling of the flock. (Deut 15:19) God the Father is not of the flock. He is the Father. So, if Jesus was really God incarnate, then He was not of the flock. If that be so, then the law was not fulfilled and we are not saved. Yikes! Lucky for us God the Father got it right. Jesus, who is a separate individual, was born of the flock, was a firstling without blemish and fulfilled the law as our legal propitiation.
Is Jesus Christ God?
Christ has the role and function of God in respect of the new creation. He was also a manifestation of the presence of God in that his body was a temple for God: "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19).
However, calling a person 'God' does not necessarily mean he is of a divine nature. Nor does it always mean that he is of the same substance as God the Father. It all depends on how we view the ascription of the title 'God' to Christ. A person, like an angel of the Lord, could bear the Divine name of the LORD God ('Yahweh', Gen. 22:11-12; Jdg. 2:1-5; Jdg. 13:3,22; also compare Exo. 3:4 with Acts 7:35). In like manner, the judges in the Old Testament were described as “Gods” because they were appointed by God as representatives and as rulers over men.
Jesus himself clearly implies that he is not God, whom he calls Father. For when he prays, who is he praying to... himself? In fact at one point, his own will conflicted with that of his Father. "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)
The concept of the Trinity is best described like a form of government that has a distinct hierarchy of leadership. Just like our single government in the USA has one supreme leader (the President), the whole is made up of many different individuals. They all come together “of one mind and purpose” to do their work and accomplish their goals. We do not have three governments, we have one. When our government speaks of itself, sometimes it is in a singular form as in “The government passes laws” or in plural form such as “We the people…”. Both forms are accurate and correct.
Viewing the Trinity as a form of government does not in any way lessen the importance or deny the divine nature of the parties involved but rather expounds on their divinity, shining a light of truth so that we may better understand the true nature and function of the Trinity.
By: Daniel Sweet, President
God's Word First Int'l Biblical Reseach & Teaching Ministry
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