Knowledge of the Holy One Part 5: The Trinity

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Prov 9:10

 

Who is the Holy One?

Having laid down the foundation, we can now answer the question, who is the Holy One? Answering the questions will of course also allow us to answer who the Holy One is not.

In the previous articles the ground work was laid for stating explicitly what scripture presents implicitly. We see God revealed in a number of ways in scripture. The revelations we are given are of a holy, transcendent God who exists as: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Yet there is one God. Not three Gods, one God. Three persons sharing one divine essence with all its qualities: omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, etc. Not one God switching between three roles (modalist Unitarianism), rather we see God revealed as one God eternally existing as three distinct persons. This is the Holy One presented in scripture. From the time he first refers to himself, God does so using plural pronouns:

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,”
Gen 1.26

Yet scripture makes clear there is only one God. The central creed of Judaism, used as a call to worship to this day in both Jewish and Messianic Jewish (Jews who believe Jesus is the messiah) congregations is the Shema, which states:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
Deut 6.4

So from early on, every time they gathered for worship, God’s people were reminded that there is only one God.[1]

The Trinity – Found Throughout Scripture

And interestingly, even before Jesus was made incarnate in the little baby in Bethlehem, scripture spoke of the almighty God and his Son, who of course would be the Son of God, which of course means that scripture also has in view the Father:

Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know!
Prov 30:4

So even before Jesus was “veiled in flesh” (as the hymn states), he existed as the Son of God. And those given to a close reading of even the Old Testament scriptures recognized there was more to God than just the Father. Once we understand the concept of the Trinity, it’s easy to see the Trinity throughout scripture. We understand why in Isaiah’s vision, he sees the Lord , and seraphs were flying and crying out. They cried not “holy”, but “holy, holy, holy” – one Lord, three times holy. (Is 6.3)

It also makes sense of the messianic predictions: God the sovereign Father, has sent the Son, with His Spirit. (Is 48.16). It makes sense of the baptism of Jesus – where God the Father cries out concerning God the Son, and “said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased'” (Matt 3.17) while God the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove on the Son (Matt 3.16). It makes sense of visions of God – like that of Stephen – where he sees Jesus, the Son of Man, standing at the right hand of God the Father – a vision that’s enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit within him. (Acts 7.55).

Each person of the Trinity is called God. The Father is God (John 17.1-3). Jesus, who is both the Son of God, and the Word of God, is God (John 1.1., Tit 2.13), and the Holy Spirit is God (Gen 1.2, Acts 5.3-4) And like Jesus the Word of God (John 1.1), the Spirit of God existed before any living creature was created. (Gen 1.2) The only living thing before the first creature was of course God. Thus clearly both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are God since they existed in the beginning – before any created creature. So unlike the various cults and religions that claim Jesus or the Holy Spirit is an angel, scripture clearly presents them as existing before even angels were created. So before any creature was created, there was the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Yet there is only one God. This is the mystery of the Holy One – one God eternally existing as three persons.

The Trinity – often, but not always in view

Once you recognize the Trinity it’s tempting to assume references to three beings refer to it even when the Trinity is not in view. Case in point: Gen 18 where three men appear to Abraham, and we’re told it’s the LORD who appeared (Gen 18.1). But later we learn two leave while leaving the LORD behind (Gen 18.22). Later still we learn the two who left were angels (Gen 19.1). So clearly the LORD arrived with two angels. This appears to be a Christophany – an appearance of Jesus before his incarnation.  This is why context is important – it helps to remove ambiguities – in this case who appeared with the LORD. (In passing, if this is an appearance of the Son of God, we see scripture identifying him with God’s covenant name YHWH throughout this passage. (Gen 18.1, 13, 14, 17 et. al.))

Also, since there are so many texts which demonstrate the truth of the Trinity (of which the above is merely a sample) there is no need to add  words to a text to help prove a point. Such was the case with the addition of words to the Greek text of 1 John 5.7 apparently to either support the doctrine of the Trinity or perhaps innocently in the margin to clarify the text. The correct text reads:

 For there are three that testify:
(1 John 5:7 NIV)

That’s it – the entire verse. The next verse goes on to describe, “the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.” Recall that in the days before the printing press (Gutenberg invented it around 1440) scripture was copied by hand by scribes. They are the “scribes” of the “scribes and Pharisees” Jesus often spoke of (and rebuked – Matt 23.13,14,15 et. al.). It was not an uncommon practice for them to write comments and notes in the margins of the text, and sometimes make clarifying remarks.  One such remark is found in John 8.8. Speaking of what Jesus did concerning the woman caught in adultery (John 7.53-8.11 – itself a section known to be a late addition) the text tells us after Jesus said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8.7), the next verse says:

“Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.”
John 8.8

In the verse that follows, (John 8.9) we read people started leaving. In an apparent answer to the question “why are they leaving?”, a handful of Greek texts add words after “…wrote on the ground,” so the verse ends with  “…wrote on the ground one of the sins of each of them.”  That certainly explains why they left without stoning the woman. How can you cast stones at a sinner after your own sin has been exposed? But were those words in the original text? Likely not. So virtually every modern edition omits it. Even the 400 year old King James Version omits it, showing even then translators were confident that particular explanation was added and not part of the original text.

A similar thing appears to have happened with what’s called the  Comma Johanneum[2], which is another explanatory comment – this one on the Trinity. It too appears to have been comments in the margin of some copies of the scripture  (three of them) that were incorporated into the main body of the text. It too is omitted from all modern versions of the Bible. However for reasons beyond the scope of this article it made its way into the 1611 KJV.[3] As indicated above, there is plenty of evidence for the Trinity without it, so it is not needed to support the doctrine of the Trinity.

Applying your knowledge of the Holy One

A warning from the book of James is in order here:

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror
and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
James 3.23-24

As the apostle warns us, we don’t want to immediately forget this truth, or act like we don’t know it. So how does one apply the knowledge of the Holy One existing as the Trinity? Let me suggest some applications:

Prayer:
Prayer is to the Father in the name of the Son, in the power of the Spirit. The prayer Jesus taught us to prayer begins with, “Our Father…” (Matt 6.9) While I think God is pleased whenever you pray to him, Jesus’ question comes to mind if you chose to address your prayer differently: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6.46) The disciples had asked Jesus how to pray. (Luke 11.1) Jesus answered clearly. If you are a Christian,  the instruction, which Jesus gave multiple times, (see also John 15.16, 16.26) is clear.

Doctrine:
In many cults, the first thing that is denied is the deity of Jesus – which is of course also a denial of the Trinity. Also denials that the Holy Spirit is fully God and fully a person is likewise a denial of the Trinity and thus an indication that you do not have knowledge of the Holy One. Jesus is God, and has always been God. (John 1.1) The Holy Spirit is God, not a mere “force” (as Jehovah’s Witnesses would say). So “may the force be with you” is merely Star Wars speak, not a Christian sentiment or truth.

Additionally, once you understand the Trinity, you understand why the god of Islam and of Muhammad is not the Christian God. Allah is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Islam denies the Trinity, and in fact proclaims those who believe in it are subject to judgment:

“For indeed they disbelieve, they who say, ‘God is three of three’ [i.e. in a trinity], when the truth is there is no god but One God. And if they do not restrain from saying these things, there will fall on those of them who disbelieve a terrible punishment.” (sura al-ma’idah 5:73)[4]

Followers of Islam recognize Jesus – they call him ‘Isa, but deny he is the Son of God. “For Muslims, ‘Isa is simply a prophet (though a great one), and explicitly and emphatically not the Son of God.”[5] (emphasis his) And as far as the Holy Spirit goes for Islam, they see the angel Gabriel as the Holy Spirit. [6]

Conclusion 

I could go on, but it should be readily apparent now that the Trinitarian view of the Holy One is both clear in scripture as well as it being a uniquely Christian view of God. In fact you cannot be an orthodox Christian believer if you do not believe in the reality of the Trinity. I’ve been told some don’t like the word “Trinity.” You need not “like” or use the word, though I don’t know why you wouldn’t. It encapsulates a complex idea in  a single word. You need not use the word-but you must affirm the concept behind the word: There is one God eternally existing as three persons. God the Father, who is fully God. Jesus, the Son of God, who is fully God. And the Holy Spirit, who is fully God. Yet there is only one God. This is the Trinity. And the Holy One exists as described by the Trinity. This is what you must affirm if you want to express an orthodox view of God and be considered an orthodox Christian (as opposed to a believer in a Christian cult or a heretic). It’s particularly important if you want to be a teacher to many. This is the revelation of scripture about God, the Holy One.

The third commandment (Ex 20.4) commands us not to fashion images of God after our own imaginings.  The Trinity may not be intuitive but it is clearly depicted. Don’t fall for the lies of cults or religions that deny God’s clear revelation.

 As Jesus told his disciples:

Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
John 13.17

Related Articles
Knowledge of the Holy One Part 1: Jesus – the Holy One Revealed
Knowledge of the Holy One Part 2: Jesus – The Holy One Denied
Knowledge of the Holy One Part 3: God the Father
Knowledge of the Holy One Part 4: The Holy Spirit
Knowledge of the Holy One Part 5: The Trinity


Duane Caldwell | July 9, 2020 | Printer friendly version


Notes

1. Some translations render the verse (Deut 6.4) “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone”, substituting “alone” for “one”. Interestingly, there is a word in Hebrew for “alone”, and it is not used in this verse. For example when we read in Gen 2.18, “It is not good for the man to be alone” or when Moses says, “I cannot bear all these people alone” (Num 11.14 KJV), a different word is used for both: (בד) bad – “alone”), The word used in Deut 6.4 is the word for one (אחד echad – “one”) So while “alone” certainly fits the context, it appears the word for “one” was intentionally used to convey both ideas: that God is one God; there is only one God, and thus this God – Adonai – is alone Israel’s God.
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2. The Comma Johanneum adds the following to 1 John 5.7:
“in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”
This addition is found in only 6 late Greek manuscripts, none early than the tenth century.
Thus all modern Bible translation see it as a late edition and omit it.
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3.For further details on how it made it into the KJV – and why it shouldn’t be there, see:
D.A. Carson, The King James Version DebateA Plea for Realism, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979, pp. 34-35; 59-61
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4. George Dardess, Meeting Islam – A Guide for Christians, Brewster, MA:Paraclete Press, 1989, pp. 177-178
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5. Dardess, Meeting Islam, p. 156
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6.Christianity, Cults & Religions, Rose Publishing, 1996, 2000
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Rick Baggarley
3 months ago

Hi, Duane,

I’m grateful for the succinct but nonetheless thorough content of each article in this series. Not many writers can walk such a tightrope successfully.

Thank you.