I have received, in the past few weeks, several emails and phone messages asking exactly what we believe at Christian Holiness Daily. So we have decided to spend the next two weeks examining exactly what we believe. Yesterday I gave an overview of eight significant doctrines that, put together, constitute our holiness doctrine. Today we take a closer look at the first of those – we believe in one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In Old Testament Judaism there is no commandment more important than these: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” and “Thou shall have no other gods before me.” There is but one true God, Yahweh. He is one. Which begs the question, if He is one, what do Christians mean when they speak of the Trinity.
Person of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
First, the word Trinity is not found anywhere in the Bible, but the concept of the Trinity is found throughout Scripture. In Genesis 1, we see the Spirit of God move upon the waters. Later, David pleas with God not to take His Holy Spirit from him (Psalms 51:11-13). Isaiah writes in 63:10 that the Nation of Israel grieved the Holy Spirit and made God their enemy. In 48:16, Isaiah announces that he is endowed with the Holy Spirit.
The Person of Jesus in the Old Testament
We see God appear as a man to Abraham. This, according to many theologians, is a a theophany, pre-incarnation visit of Jesus on earth. Psalms 33:4-7 (ESV) personifies the Word of God:
For the word of the Lord is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
he puts the deeps in storehouses.
The Apostle John makes it clear that the Word is Jesus.
Indeed, when three men who appear to Abraham, one of them is Jesus. The visit is considered by many as a foreshadowing of the entire Trinity.
Some believe that passages where the name of the Lord is repeated three times, like Numbers 6:24-26, is an indication of the Trinity.
The Trinity in Second Temple Judaism?
With so much evidence of the Trinity to be found in the Old Testament, why was there no theology of a Trinity to be found in Judaism? In fact, according to Dr. Michael Heiser, by the Second Temple Period, many Jews believed that Yahweh was actually Two in One, Yahweh Above and Yahweh Below, or God in Heaven and God who appears in the form of man. There was, apparently, no thought given to the Spirit of God as a distinct person.
The Trinity in the New Testament
In the New Testament, we see the Trinity manifested at the baptism of Jesus. Jesus, fully God and fully man, is in the Jordan River. The Holy Spirit descends on Him like a dove. The Father’s voice is heard to say, “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.”
At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, we read the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Not only does Jesus name all three members of the Trinity here, but He implies the coming of the Holy Spirit. In Revelation 1:18, Christ calls Himself the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End.
Again, John, who earlier named Jesus as the Word of God, teaches (in 1 John 5:6-10) about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Here are His words:
This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony.
John, however, was not the only apostle to develop the idea of the Trinity. Paul takes it for granted as he closes 2 Corinthians (13:14).
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
How May Three be One?
It is difficult to understand how three may be one. A pastor I met recently believes that there are not 3 persons in one, rather he believes that the one God shows Himself in three distinct ways. This pastor – and the denomination to which he belongs – is in the minority of Christians. Most Christians believe that God is both three distinct people in one, all at the same time.
Yet, if that be true, how are we, mere humans, supposed to understand it? I don’t know that we are. Maybe the Trinity is a faith thing. As a child, I fully accepted the various illustrations of the Trinity, as three sides of a triangle, if the lobes of a leaf of clover, as – to paraphrase C.S. Lewis – faces on a cube, yet none of them are adequate to explain the profound beauty and complexity of our God and the way in which He had chosen to reveal Himself to His creation.
As an adult and a prolific reader, I can better relate to the Trinity as I can to the imaginative alien creations of science fiction novelists, but that too leaves me with inadequate understanding. That, though, may be a little sacrilegious.
So it is by faith that we – or I – accept that God is three in one, knowing that it is through faith in Jesus Christ, Who proclaimed that He and the Father are One, that we find salvation. Through the mercy of God we are saved and one day, when we see Him gave to face, we may understand who God is.
Holiness is, perhaps, the most misunderstood concept in Christianity. Anyone who has striven to follow the life of Christ can likely tell you that it is impossible to do. No one can match His love, His grace, or His compassion. For no one but Jesus is perfect. Once the believer is filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit, though, he or she is filled to the brim with the love of Christ, and desires nothing more than to please God and follow in Christ’s steps. The love of sin is gone. In its place is a love and passion for others. That is Christian Holiness. This is Christian Holiness Daily.