DOCTRINE OF THE GODHEAD
Article by Bill Petri
The word "Trinity" is not found in the Bible. It is actually a theological word coined in the fourth century A.D. at the Council of Nicene to describe a spiritual concept. Because of this, it has become a doctrine that many individuals will attack as non-scriptural. "In the early centuries of its existence, the Catholic Church, in order to codify and crystallize all of the biblical data on the Holy Trinity, and to counter various heresies, produced Creeds. The most famous of these are the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, recited in church by most Catholics regularly. But the Athanasian Creed is the classic statement of trinitarian theology. It was not written by St. Athanasius, but was later named after this individual who fought (almost singlehandedly at times) against the Arian heretics of the fourth century, who denied the Trinity. Its authorship and precise dating are, strangely enough, shrouded in mystery, but scholars believe it probably originated in the middle of the fifth century in southern France (by literary deduction, it can almost certainly be dated no earlier than 415, nor later than 542)."
The doctrine of the trinity avows God as being one in essence but three seperate and distinct persons who possess equal, perfect, eternal and infinite identical essence which jointly constitutes God. Trinity is used to describe three distinct persons in one Godhead. Godhead is the Scriptural term for this doctrine, and is the term which will be used for the remainder of this article. Hence, the critics are correct "Trinity" does not appear in Scripture, but they are wrong as the doctrine taught by the theological name Trinity does have a Scriptural name, it is called Godhead!
We must state clearly and concisely that there is only one God nature or being. "This divine being is tri-personal, involving differences between the Father, Son, and Spirit." These three individuals are joined together as partakers of precisely the identical character and splendor of God. Consequently, there is only one true God, but in the union of the Godhead there are three equal, eternal persons. These three are therefore equal in essence and substance, but unique in sustenance. The following chart will give a brief glance as to how alike the three persons are!
Searches the heart
Isa. 64:8; 44:24
2 Cor. 6:16
1 Kings 8:27
1 John 3:20
1 Thess. 5:23
1 John 1:3
Matt. 3:17; Luke 9:25
1 Cor. 1:9
Eph. 5: 25
2 Cor. 3:6,8
1 Cor. 12:11
1 Cor. 2:10
Each person of the Godhead has the same essence, hence, God is described as one (like in 1 John 5:7); however they are distinct as individuals. "There is unity within the Godhead. But there is also plurality: threeness. This does not mean that God is one and three in the same sense; that would be contradictory. God is one in one sense: essence, and three in another sense: persons. This is unique to Christianity. Both Judaism and Islam are monotheistic, but neither is Trinitarian. In the Christian doctrine, the unity and plurality of God are both essential."
Separations are made between the individuals of the Godhead, as described in the following verse:
2Co 13:14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (God the Son), and the love of God (God the Father), and the communion of the Holy Ghost (God the Spirit), be with you all. Amen.
This verse proves that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are all individuals. The verse has a three-part combination that demands grace, love, and fellowship be equally ascribed to three corresponding persons.
When divine essence is the subject, God is said to be one. When divine persons are the subject, distinction is made between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (Spirit).
For this reason we have different Hebrew names for God. The plural noun Elohim implies more than one person in the Godhead. The singular noun JHWH (Adonai, Jahweh, or Jehovah) is used to distinguish between the persons. Elohim emphasizes the one essence of God.
The plural pronoun for God, Elohim, is used in such passages as Gen 1:26, 3:22.
Gen 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Gen 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
Isa 6:8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
Gen 11:5 And the LORD (yeh-ho-vaw' the self Existent or eternal; Jehovah, Jewish national name of God: - Jehovah, the Lord.) came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
Gen 11:6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
Gen 11:7 Go to, let us (Elohim is therefore also Jehovah - He is more than one; He is plural, yet one. This passage can not state the doctrine of the Godhead any clearer) go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
Joh 17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
We also have passages like Psa 110:1 "The Lord [God the Father] said to my [David's] Lord [God the Son]." This distinction is also depicted in Psa 2:7 I will declare the decree: the LORD (God the Father) hath said unto me (God the Son), Thou art my Son; this day (Day of incarnation) have I begotten thee.
This is quoted three times in the New Testament, in Acts 13:33, Heb 1:5, and Heb 5:5.
Isa 48:16 Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I (God the Father): and now the Lord GOD (God the Son), and his Spirit (God the Holy Ghost), hath sent me
Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name (authority) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
In John 10:30, Jesus said to the crowd, "I and my Father are one." He was referring to divine essence.
The Father and the Son are two distinct persons in the Godhead, but they have identical essence.
John 14:16 And I (God the Son) will pray the Father (God the Father), and he shall give you another Comforter (God the Holy Ghost), that he may abide with you for ever;
The next verse explains that the Comforter is said to be "Even the Spirit of truth... for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."
Thomas called Jesus both Lord and God when he saw Him in His resurrection body.
John 20:28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
Another passage which proves the Godhead is 1Co 12:4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit (God the Holy Ghost).
1Co 12:5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord (God the Son).
1Co 12:6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God (God the Father) which worketh all in all.
1Pe 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
1Jo 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
Act 5:3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
Act 5:4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. (Holy Ghost called God, hence He is not just a force, power, or energy, He is God)
God is three persons
In the doctrine of the unity of God, there is only one essence or substance. In the doctrine of the persons of the Godhead, the individuality of the Father, Son, and Spirit is preserved against the notion that there are only modes of God. The idea of modes of God is a false doctrine dating back to the fourth century. It implies that one God has various modes for various purposes in dealing with man, whether in creation or at salvation.
God is one, yet in Himself He is three separate and distinct persons: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. From all eternity past, God has always been one in essence, but three individual persons.
Support for the Godhead begins in Genesis with the use of plural pronouns for God. The plurality of God and the divine status of each member is taught in both the Old and New Testaments. The Hebrew word "Elohim" ("God") itself, a plural noun which is found over 2,500 times in the Old Testament, suggests some form of plurality within the Godhead, albeit it does not always specify three persons. Divine plurality is further supported in Genesis 1:26; 3:22; and 11:7, where the plural pronoun "Us" is used of the one true God. Too, the Old Testament ascribes creation and providence (both of which are divine actions) to the Father (Genesis 1:1; Job 34:12-15), the Word (Genesis 1:3; Psalm 33:6, 9), and the Spirit (Genesis 1:2; Psalm 33:6; 104:30). The "threeness" of Jehovah (God's covenant name; compare Exodus 3:10-15) is at least strongly implied in the Aaronic benediction of Numbers 6:24-26. "The LORD (Jehovah) bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD (Jehovah) make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD (Jehovah) lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."
The Trinitarian nature of the Godhead is also taught in Isaiah 48:16; 61:1; and 63:9, 10. (The Angel of the Lordthe pre-incarnate Second Person of the Godheadis given divine status in Genesis 16:7-13; 18:1-21; and 19:1-22.)
The New Testament witness is clearer still. The Godhead is revealed at both the birth (Luke 1:35) and baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:16, 17). Creation and providence are ascribed to the Father (Matthew 7:11; Acts 17:28), the Son (John 1:3; Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:3), and the holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18; 4:1; Romans 1:4). 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; 2 Corinthians 13:14; and 1 Peter 1:2 also speak of the three persons of the Godhead. Matthew 28:19 is especially strong, in that it teaches both the unity and plurality of God. In this verse the three persons of the Godhead are emphatically distinguished by the use of the definite article "the" in each case; yet there is one singular "name." That the New Testament teaches the deity of the Father is beyond objection. The passages speaking to his divine nature are numerous, John 6:27 and 1 Peter 1:2 being just two examples. Regarding the Son, in John 1:1-3, 14, we read that He is the eternal Logos: the Word of God. In John 8:58 and 13:19 Jesus claims that he is the eternal "I AM" (the Old Testament Jehovah). And there are at least eight places in the New Testament in which Jesus Christ is called God (Theos): John 1:1; 1:18; 20:28; Romans 9:5; 1 Timothy 3:16; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; Hebrews 1:8; and 1 John 5:20. In Acts 5:3-4 the holy Spirit is called God (Theos), and in Hebrews 9:14 he is said to be eternal. The fact that blasphemy of the Spirit is an unforgivable sin also speaks to his divine nature (Matthew 12:32). And in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 we read that the holy Spirit is able to search the mind of God. (Some modern day liberals have averred that the holy Spirit is merely "the power of God," not a divine person. But in Luke 1:35, Acts 10:38, and 1Corinthians 2:4, the Spirit is distinguished from his power.) Passages such as these, from both the Old and New Testaments, which teach the unity and plurality of the three divine members of the Godhead, could be multiplied many times.
When a distinction is made between the persons of the Godhead, it refers to a specific activity of specific persons within the Godhead.
The Distinctive Function of the Godhead
While the Bible distinguishes between the members of the Godhead, it refers to the activity of specific persons in the Godhead thus showing that each person of the Godhead has a different function within the Godhead.
The history of the church has witnessed two major heresies regarding the Biblical doctrine of the Godhead: modalism (or Sabellianism) and subordinationism. Modalism teaches that God is one in essence and one in person; there are not three persons, there are merely three ways of referring to the one person. Sometimes the Bible calls this person Father (e.g., when it speaks of creation), sometimes He is called Son (e.g., when it speaks of redemption), and sometimes He is called holy Spirit/Ghost (e.g., when it speaks of regeneration and sanctification). The Son and the Spirit are called "modes" of God; hence the name modalism. In modalism the unity of God is secured, but at the expense of the divine triunity of the persons.
Subordinationism teaches that there is one God: the Father. The Son and the Spirit are lesser deities, if divine at all. The Son and the Spirit, say the subordinationists, are not eternal beings; thus, they are subordinated to the Father. Modern Unitarianism, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and related theologies have developed from the subordinationism taught in the early years of Christianity. This is not to say the Biblical doctrine of the Godhead does not recognize an order of economy, or administration, within the Godhead. Here there is a form of subordination. There are Biblical passages which state that the Father sent the Son into the world to accomplish his redemptive work (Mark 9:37; John 17:3). And there are passages which teach that the Father and the Son sent the Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7). Likewise, Jesus said: "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). But these verses do not teach a subordination within the Godhead, i.e., they say nothing with regard to the divine nature of the members of the Godhead. Rather, these verses teach that within the Godhead, each member has functions to perform in redemptive history. Simply stated, it has to do with the works of the Triune Godhead outside of Himself. In the work of redemption, for example, the Father is the one who plans (Ephesians 1:3, 4), the Son is the one who becomes incarnate and accomplishes redemption for the believer (Ephesians 1:7), and the Spirit is the one who regenerates the believer (Titus 3:5,6), and progressively sanctifies them (2 Corinthians 3:17, 18; 2 Thessalonians 2:13), i.e., he applies redemption. In this sense, and in this sense only, God the Father is greater than the Son, and the Father and the Son are greater than the Spirit; not in their essence, but in their administrative order, or economy.
God is One in Essence
There is one God, yet three persons who possess every attribute of deity equally, perfectly, and eternally. This means that there is a unity of essence and a plurality of persons belonging to the same divine being. The persons of the Godhead are not separate and independent beings, such as Peter, James, and John; but three persons with identical essence eternally and inseparably united as one in essence. They are three individuals, Father, Son and Spirit, yet one God. None of these is God without the other, and each with the other is God.
God is one in essence, yet three distinct persons, and these persons have identical substance.
1Jo 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
The illustration used in the Bible teaches God is light.
1John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
Joh 1:5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (This verse is a reference to Jesus Christ)
1Ti 6:16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen
"Now, light can be viewed from two divergent standpoints. Light can be regarded from the viewpoint of the colours in the spectrum which exemplify the essence of God. For example, every ray of light from the sun is pure white, and yet it contains all the colours of the spectrum in light waves or molecules of light. Molecules of light function on various waves, which is how we see colour. All colour in the world depends on light. When all light is reflected from an object, the object is white. When light is absorbed into an object, the object is black.
Every ray of light has three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. When a ray of light strikes an object so that the red and yellow are absorbed, the color reflected is blue. If the yellow and blue are absorbed, its color is red. So when a ray of light strikes any object, certain parts are absorbed and certain parts are reflected. The secondary colors are orange, green, and purple, and when certain colors are combined they produce other colors. For example, red plus yellow equals orange, and blue plus yellow equals green."The point is that every color is in every ray of light. What colours are absorbed determine the colour of an object as it reflects that light. So light from the standpoint of colour illustrates the essence of God. For just as God is one, light is one. However, light has many colours, just as God has many different attributes in His essence. And under certain conditions, you see certain attributes of God.
"Light can also be regarded from the standpoint of its composition. Light is one substance, but it is composed of three different properties: actinic, luminiferous, and calorific.
1) Actinic light is a ray of light of short wavelengths that produces photochemical effects. Photochemical effects are related to the effects of light on chemical systems. Actinic light is neither seen nor felt, a perfect illustration of God the Father.
2) Luminiferous light is light produced as a result of heat. Luminiferous light is both seen and felt, a perfect illustration of God the Son.
3) Calorific light is light converted into heat. Calorific light is not seen but felt, a perfect illustration of God the holy Spirit."
Therefore, the composition of light is analogous to the three persons in the Godhead who are one. Light is one with three properties. God is one in essence but three persons.
The Concept of the Godhead
God is one in essence or substance. God is three coequal, coeternal, and coinfinite persons in that one essence. When divine essence is the subject, God is revealed as one. When divine persons are the subject, God is revealed as three separate and distinct persons. In the unity of God, there is only one essence or one substance. In the persons of the Godhead, there is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.
Eph 4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
Eph 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
Eph 4:6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
The subject of this paragraph in Eph 4 is unity among the members of the Body of Christ. Verses 4-6 teach there is unity in the Godhead, so in principle there is unity in the Body of Christ.
Verse 4 teaches there is "one Spirit."
Verse 5 teaches there is "one Lord."
Verse 6 teaches there is "one God, the Father of all."
Trinity is not a Biblical word, but a technical, theological term to designate the three-fold manifestation of one God as Father, Son, and Spirit. God is one in essence who exists eternally in three distinct, coequal, coeternal persons, the Biblical term for this idea is Godhead.
God is one, Gal 3:20; Jam 2:19. The Son (John 1:1, 14:9; Col 2:9) and the Spirit (Acts 5:3-4; 1Co 3:16) are also fully God, yet they are distinct from the Father and from each other. The unified equality and yet distinction is seen in the triactic references to three persons, as noted in 2Co 13:14; Eph 4:4-6; 1Pe 1:2; Mat.28:19; 1John 5:7; etc.
The Old Testament reveals a plurality of persons in the divine name of Elohim, as well as in the plural pronouns of Gen 1:26 and 11:7, the plural verbs of Gen 11:7 and 35:7, the identity of the angel of the Lord as God in Exo 3:2-6 and Jud 13:21-22, and the references to the Spirit in Gen 1:2 and Isa 63:10.
These all add up to the fact that God is one in essence but three separate and distinct personalities.
Isa 6:3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy (Father), holy (Son), holy (Holy Ghost), is the LORD (Jehovah) of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
Let's take the Body of Christ as an illustration.
1Co 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
1Co 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.