Transcript of "Ranko Stefanovic - The trinity of the godhead"
in the Bible
The priests “shall not girdthemselves with anythingwhich makes them sweat”(Ezek. 44:18).
Any talk about God brings us to theholy ground.In dealing with any subject related toGod, we must show great reverenceand shun from any speculation.
The being and nature of God is a greatmystery.One aspect of that mystery is that theGodhead consists of three divineBeings united in purpose andactivity, yet distinct in personality.This concept is not easy to grasp orexplain.
The word “trinity” does not occur inthe Bible; neither the concept isexplicitly defined in there.
On one hand, various biblicalreferences point clearly to theplurality of persons within theGodhead making the evidence forthe Trinity compelling.On the other, one must admit thatthere are some ambiguous texts inthe Bible.
However, the ambiguous texts andstatements of the Bible must beclarified by the clear ones.Our focus here is on the clear texts.
Is the idea of the three persons ofthe Godhead biblical?The answer is: Yes!
The Old TestamentA strong emphasis on monotheism isthe main reason that the pluralitywithin the Godhead is not explicitlyspecified in the OT – Deut.6:4; 4:35.However, the plurality of the personsof the Godhead in the OT may beinferred from scattered references.
The plural form of the Hebrew wordfor God: Elohim.“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God[Elohim] is one” (Deut. 6:4).
Self-identification of God in theplural form: • Genesis 1:26-27 – “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” Elohim (plural) created (singular)
• Genesis 3:22 – “the man has become as one of Us knowing good and evil”; Genesis 3:5 – “For God knows that in the day you eat from it . . . You will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
• Genesis 11:7 – “Let Us go down and there confuse their language. So the Lord scattered them abroad from there . . . ”
• Isaiah 6:8 – “Who shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said: “Here am I. Send (singular) me!”
Isaiah 6:3 – the threefold “holy”formula in addressing God:“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord ofhosts.”The same in Revelation 4:7
Numbers 6:22-27 – the threefoldblessing:“The LORD bless you, and keep you;the LORD make His face shine onyou, and be gracious to you; the LORDlift up His countenance on you, andgive you peace. So they shall invokeMy name on the sons of Israel, and Ithen will bless them.”
An attempt that explain these self-identification text as the plurality ofmajesty is not supported by the OldTestament.
The unity of the Godhead in theOld Testament in purpose andaction stands in sharp contrast tothe Canaanite gods engaged infighting and competing with eachother.
The New TestamentThe plurality of the persons of theGodhead is more clearly stated inthe New Testament:
Matthew 28:19-20 – “. . . baptizingthem in the name of the Father andthe Son and the Holy Spirit.”Note: “in the name” is in singular.
The apostolic benediction –2Corinthians 13:14“The grace of the Lord JesusChrist, and the love of God, and thefellowship of the Holy Spirit, be withyou all.”
The distribution of the gifts to thechurch involves all the threemembers of the Godhead1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 11:
“Now there are varieties of gifts, butthe same Spirit. And there arevarieties of ministries, and the sameLord. There are varieties ofeffects, but the same God who worksall things in all persons. . . . But oneand the same Spirit works all thesethings, distributing to each oneindividually just as He wills.”
Ephesians 4:4-6“There is one body and oneSpirit, just as also you were called inone hope of your calling; oneLord, one faith, one baptism, oneGod and Father of all who is over alland through all and in all.”
Jude 20-21“But you, beloved, buildingyourselves up on your most holyfaith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keepyourselves in the love ofGod, waiting anxiously for the mercyof our Lord Jesus Christ to eternallife.”
The three persons of the Godhead inRevelation 1:4-6:“Grace to you and peace, from Himwho is and who was and who is tocome, and from the seven Spiritswho are before His throne, and fromJesus Christ, . . . .”The same three persons of the God-head are referred to in chaps. 4-5.
Other references: • Matt. 3:16-17 (where all three Persons of the Trinity are manifested in a special way). • John 14:16-17, 14:26; 15:26.
The historic Christianity defined Godas “one substance, three persons,”pointing to the oneness of God whileemphasizing distinctiveness in thePersons of the Godhead.
“The Father, the Son, and the HolySpirit are one in their essentialdivinity. But as persons, the threeare distinct.“They are one in purpose, in mind, incharacter, but not in person” (EllenWhite, The Min. of Healing, 422).
The word Trinity must not be confusedwith three-theism (three Gods).Christians are not polytheists believingin three separate gods but in one Godwho manifests himself in threepersons, all involved in the plan ofsalvation.
To keep in mind: • The word “persons” with reference to the Godhead does not refer to human personality (except Christ in flesh) but must be understood in a theological sense.
• The term “persons” points to the distinction within the inner being of God himself. However, how the three persons of the Godhead are distinguished personally and yet be completely one is not revealed to us and is beyond our comprehension.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are thebiblical designation of the membersof the Godhead describing theirthreefold manifestation in thehistory of the plan of salvation -1Corinthians 15:24-28.
“The Father is all the fullness of theGodhead bodily, and is invisible tomortal sight. The Son is all thefullness of the Godhead manifested.. . . The Comforter . . . is the Spirit inall the fullness of theGodhead, making manifest the powerof divine grace to all receive andbelieve in Christ as a personal Savior.”(Ellen White, Evangelism, 614).
Deity of the Holy SpiritPeople normally do not have aproblem with the concept of theFather as God (as a person).Also, the concept of Jesus as Godwho manifested in human form isgenerally accepted.
However, the concept of the HolySpirit as God is something peoplefind difficult to grasp and accept.They regard the Holy Spirit as somesort of impersonal force, somedivine power issuing from God theFather.
The Bible clearly points to the HolySpirit as a divine person in the samesense as the Father and the Son.His work is identified with that of theFather and the Son:
John 14:16-17Jesus calls the Holy Spirit: ἄλλοςπαράκλητος [allos parakletos](“anotherComforter/Helper/Advocate”).
παράκλητος meaning literally “onecalled to one‟s side”.The word is used for a person whoprovides a help to another person.
In 1 John 2:1, Jesus is called theπαράκλητος [parakletos] .The Holy Spirit is designated by Jesusas another παράκλητος [parakletos]because he fills Christ‟s place in theworld while Christ is not in the worldin bodily form any longer.
Jesus further refers to the Holy Spiritas another Paraklētos.Greek ἄλλος [allos] means “another ofthe same kind” in contrast to ἕτερος[heteros] meaning “another of adifferent kind”.
It is important to keep in mind thatthe Holy Spirit is not Jesus himself,but a distinctive person: he is“another.”“The Holy Spirit whom the Father willsend in my name, He will teach youall the things, and bring to yourremembrance all that I said to you”(John14:25).
Ellen White –“The Comforter thatChrist promised to send after Heascended to heaven, is the Spirit inall the fullness of theGodhead, making manifest thepower of divine grace to all whoreceive and believe in Christ as apersonal Savior. There are threeliving persons of the heavenly trio; inthe name of these three greatpowers-the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Spirit-thosewho receive Christ by faith arebaptized, and these three powerswill co-operate with the obedientsubjects of heaven in their efforts tolive the new life in Christ.”(Evangelism, 615).
The role of the Holy Spirit in theGodhead, the role of the Holy Spiritseems to be of executor.
His attributes are those of God: • he is omnipresent (Ps. 139:7-10) • he is omniscient (1Cor. 2:10-11)
The references to the Spirit and Godare sometimes found interchangeably:Parallelism in 2 Sam. 23:2-3“The Spirit of the LORD spoke byme, and His word was on my tongue;The God of Israel said, The Rock ofIsrael spoke to me.”
Acts 5:3-4 – To lie to the Holy Spiritmeans to lie to God:“But Peter said, „Ananias, why hasSatan filled your heart to lie to theHoly Spirit and to keep back some ofthe price of the land? . . . You havenot lied to men but to God.‟”
1 Corinthians 12:11 and 28.“But one and the same Spirit worksall these things, distributing to eachone individually just as He wills. . . .And God has appointed in thechurch, first apostles, secondprophets, third teachers, . . . .”
Acts 28:25-27 referring to Isaiah6:8-10“The Holy Spirit rightly spokethrough Isaiah the prophet to yourfathers, . . .” (Acts 28:25).In Isaiah, this is what the Lord(Yahweh) spoke.
Hebrews 10:15-17 referring toJeremiah 31:32-33“And the Holy Spirit also testifies tous . . . .” (Heb. 10:15).In Jeremiah, this is what the Lord(Yahweh) spoke.
2 Peter 1:2 parallels with2 Timothy 3:16“For no prophecy was ever made byan act of human will, but men movedby the Holy Spirit spoke from God”(Heb. 10:15).“All Scripture is inspired by God”(Tim. 3:15).
1 Corinthians 6:19 parallels with2 Corinthians 6:16“Your body is a temple of the HolySpirit” (1 Cor. 6:19).“We are the temple of the living God”(2 Cor. 6:16).
When we refer to the Holy Spirit as aperson, we refer to a divine, not human“person.” In manifesting himself tohuman beings, he does not assume avisible physical form like the Fatherand the Son. He is rather presented indifferent emblems: • fire (Acts 2:3; Matt 2:11) • wind (John 3:8; Acts 2:2) • dove (Matt 3:16).
The Holy Spirit in the Old TestamentThe Old Testament indicates clearlythat the Holy Spirit had been at workon behalf of humanity throughoutthe Old Testament times:
Genesis 1:2 – “The earth wasformless and void, and darkness wasover the surface of the deep, and theSpirit of God was moving over thesurface of the waters.”
Genesis 6:3 – Then the LORDsaid, "My Spirit shall not strive withman forever, because he also isflesh; nevertheless his days shall beone hundred and twenty years."
The Holy Spirit equips certainindividuals to perform special tasks(Exodus 31:3; Numbers 24:2; Judges3:10; 6:34; 1 Samuel 10:6; 2Chronicles 24:20).
The Holy Spirit in the New TestamentThe person and activities of the HolySpirit are more clearly stated in theNew Testament.The death of Jesus on the cross marksa new stage in the activities of theHoly Spirit:
John 7:39 - “But this He spoke of theSpirit, whom those who believed inHim were to receive; for the Spirit wasnot yet given, because Jesus was notyet glorified.”
Even though the Holy Spirit hadworked with the human beings sincethe entrance of sin, his work was notmanifested in its fullness. Thathappened after the death of Jesus onthe cross and his post-resurrectionglorification.
John 7:39 refers to the Day ofPentecost - Acts 2 (cf. Acts 1:8).It was after the exaltation of Jesus tothe heavenly throne, the Spirit camedown in full glory and power.
Acts 2:33 – "This Jesus God raised upagain, to which we are all witnesses.Therefore having been exalted to theright hand of God, and havingreceived from the Father the promiseof the Holy Spirit, He has poured forththis which you both see and hear.”
Ellen White – “Christ‟s ascension toheaven was the signal that Hisfollowers were to receive thepromised blessing. For this they wereto wait before they entered upon theirwork. When Christ passed within theheavenly gates, He was enthronedamidst the adoration of the angels.As soon as this ceremony wascompleted, the Holy Spirit descended
upon the disciples in richcurrents, and Christ was indeedglorified, even with the glory whichHe had with the Father from alleternity. The Pentecostal outpouringwas Heavens communication thatthe Redeemers inauguration wasaccomplished. According to Hispromise He had sent the Holy Spiritfrom heaven to His
followers as a token that He had, aspriest and king, received all authorityin heaven and earth, and was theAnointed One over his people (Acts ofthe Apostles, 38-39).
However, this was not the firstappearance of the Holy Spirit onearth. As we could see, he waspresent on earth since the creation ofearth. However, it was after the crossand the exaltation of Jesus on theheavenly throne at the right, that thefullness of the activities of the HolySpirit was manifested on earth.
The Personality of the Holy SpiritSince Jesus on earth manifestedhimself in the human form, it is nothard to think of him as a person. Incontrast, the Holy Spirit never assumesa visible physical form. This is areason why some people find difficultto grasp and accept him as a person.
They regard him rather as some sortof impersonal divine force or poweror influence.
Another reason why some find hardto accept the Holy Spirit as a person isbecause the Spirit in Greek is a neuternoun. Yet, the New Testament writersrefer to Him as “He.”The Holy Spirit refers to himself as “I”(Acts 13:2) – “Set apart for MeBarnabas and Saul for the work towhich I have called them.”
In John 2:24, God is Spirit (neuter);yet He is “He”, not “It” in the text:“God is Spirit, and those who worshipHim must worship in spirit and truth.”
The New Testament presents the HolySpirit as a divine person:The texts that identify the Holy Spiritas the member of the Godhead alsoidentify Him as a person – Matthew28:20; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Jude 20-21; 1 Corinthians 12: 4-6.
Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as aperson (“He”) who acts as a person(John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-14).“That He may be with you always”(14:16).“The world does not see Him” and“does not know at Him” (14:16).
“He will abide with you and He will bewith you (14:17).“He will teach you all the things”(14:26).“He will remind you all that I said toyou” (14:26)“He will testify about me” (15:26)
“If I do not go away, the Parakletoswill not come to you” (16:7)“He will guide you into all the truth”(16:13)“He will not speak on His own, butwhatever He hears, and He will discloseto you what is to come” (16:13)“He will glorify me” (16:14)
The early church viewed him as aperson:“It seemed to the Holy Spirit and tous” – Acts 15:28.
Jesus stated that any word againstJesus will be forgiven, but “blasphemyagainst the Holy Spirit shall not beforgiven” (Matt. 12:31- 32). a) In the Bible, only God may beblasphemed. This could be true onlyif the Holy Spirit is God. b) If blasphemy is against Christas a person, that it is also against theHoly Spirit as a person.
As the Father sent the Son (Gal.4:4), so He also sent the Holy Spirit(John 14:26; 15:26).The Holy Spirit “speaks explicitly”[about what will happen in the future]– 1 Timothy 4:1He speaks – Acts 8:29;10:19-20;11:12; 13:2
He expresses emotions – Romans8:26He intercedes– Romans 8:26Together with the church, He makes acall to everyone to come to Christ –Revelation 22:17He can grieve – Isaiah 64:10;Ephesians 4:30
He can be insulted – Hebrews 10:29He distributes the spiritual gifts – 1Corinthians 12 4-11, 28He forbids (Acts 16:6) and does notpermit (Acts 16:7) a person‟s actions.He send people to the mission field –Acts 13:4
He makes people elders in the church– Acts 20:28He speaks to the seven churches(Revelation 2-3)Etc., etc., etc.
“We need to realize that the HolySpirit, who is much a person as God isa person, is walking through thesegrounds” (EllenWhite, Evangelism, 616).
The Role of the Holy Spirit in theChurch • He brings the presence of Christ (John 14:17-18). • He guides the government and activities of the church (cf. Acts 13:2; 20:28; 1 Cor. 12:4-11, 28).
• He brings conviction of sin and a desire for forgiveness and a life in righteousness (John 16:8).
• The Holy Spirit working in the individual - the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).• The Holy Spirit working through the individual – spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12).
In conclusion:Is the concept of the three personsof the Godhead biblical?Does it make any difference whetherthe Holy Spirit is a divine person ornot?
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