Purpose of this Session
God is revealed in Scripture as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This Trinitarian view of the Godhead has also been the cause of great controversy, but as with so many other doctrines that men have sought to wrestle with, the Bible is clear in what it teaches. At times we may not be able to fully comprehend what is taught and revealed. Such truth must simply be received humbly in the heart in order to be understood.
A term used in the New Testament relative to the being of God is “the Godhead”.
“we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven out of man’s device.” Acts 17:29
“For in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Colossians 2:9
“Even His eternal power and Godhead.” Romans 1:19-20
The Bible reveals that in the eternal Godhead there are three Persons,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The eternal Godhead has revealed Himself as one God existing in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; distinguishable, but indivisible in essence, all fully divine, co-eternal and co-existent in attributes, power, nature and glory.”
Foundations of Christian Doctrine
Within the Godhead there are distinctive roles, and Scripture reveals that they submit to one another in love. The relationships within the Godhead reveal and model for us Love in action. The Son submits to the Father, the Father honours and gives authority to the Son, the Son honours the Spirit, and the Spirit yields to the Son. All are equal in power and glory, yet they each take their place within themselves, being one in mind and purpose, to fulfil their own perfect will. Consider these Scriptures:
History of the Doctrine of the Trinity.
Tertullian, one of the early church fathers in the second century to define the teaching concerning the Godhead, introduced the word “trinity” from the Latin “trinitas”. It simply means “threefold” or “three-in-one”.
The word “trinity” is not found in the Scriptures, but the concept is clearly presented throughout the Bible. The necessity to formulate the doctrine was rather thrust upon the church because of the heresies at the time regarding the Person of Jesus Christ; whether He was fully God or was merely a created and therefore subordinate being.
Early church heresies concerning the Godhead fell into two extremes, Unitarianism and Tritheism.
Unitarianism accepts the existence of one God but either denies, ignores or misconstrues His threeness.
Arius, an early church heretic, taught that the Godhead consisted of one Eternal Person, who, in the beginning, created in His own image, a super-angelic being, the Son, by whom He made the worlds, and that the Son created the Holy Spirit. The main point of this heresy was that God is a numerically one God, only God the Father is eternal and the Son and Holy Spirit are created beings.
Bishop Sabellius, another heretic, taught that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were simply three manifestations of the absolute number one God. God existed in different modes; He played different roles at different times. As a person may be a son, husband and then a father, yet the person is one individual, so it is with God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
This is contrary to the Bible, which makes clear the distinction between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We also clearly see in Scriptures the three Persons of the Godhead at times acting simultaneously and distinctly.
Tritheism accepts the threeness of God but rejects His unity. It teaches that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three separated beings, making three Gods. The balance is to recognise that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three distinct persons in the one God.
In 325 A.D. the Council of Nicea was called to debate whether Christ was of the same essence as God the Father, or a similar essence as the Father. Athanasius, another early church father, stood up for the truths of the trinity and the divinity of Christ against the heresies of Arius. The council declared that Christ was “of one substance with the Father, very God of very God.” He was co-eternal with the Father, begotten, not created. The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit was undeveloped until the Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D. when the issue was raised of whether the Holy Spirit was truly God. The council asserted the deity of the Holy Spirit, stating, “the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, and is worshiped and glorified together with the Father and the Son.”
So the God of the Bible is revealed as triune in nature and being. The Godhead is always revealed as One in Three and Three in One.
The Oneness of the Godhead
The God of the Bible is revealed as one God. Both Old and New Testaments declare that there is but one God.
The Oneness of the Godhead as revealed in Scripture
Old Testament Scriptures Regarding the Trinity
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” Deut 6:4
“To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD Himself is God; there is none other besides Him.” Deut. 4:35
“There is none besides You.” 1 Samuel 2:2
“You alone are God.” Psalm 86:10
“Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me.” Isaiah43:10
“I am the LORD, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:18
New Testament Scriptures Regarding the Trinity
“There is one God, and there is no other but He.” Mark 12:32
“There is no other God but one.” 1 Corinthians. 8:4
“God is one,” Galatians 3:20
“One God and Father of all,” Ephesians 4:6
“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe, and tremble!” James 2:19
“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,” 1Tim 2:5
Each of these verses shows clearly that there is one God, or that God is the one true God. The Jewish people were monotheistic. The New Testament declares the unity of God. Christianity continues the true faith of Israel in the fact that it is monotheistic, and worships one true God.
The Threeness of the Godhead
The Scriptures also clearly teach that God is manifested in three Persons.
YACHEAD speaks of absolute unity, a mathematical or numerical one. It is used about twelve times in the Old Testament, but never to describe the unity of God. For example, Abraham offered up “his only (yachead) son, Isaac” Genesis 22:2
ECHAD speaks of a compound or collective unity which comprises more than one person i.e. one crowd, one people, one nation.
“These two shall be one (echad) flesh.” Genesis 2:24
“The people gathered together as one.” Ezra 3:1
“All the rest of Israel were of one heart to make David king.” 1Chron. 12:38
This Hebrew word is used hundreds of times in the Old Testament and is always used concerning the one God. The two Greek words which convey the same thought as the two Hebrew words are “heis” and “monos”.
The Scriptures always refer to God as the unity of more than one person.
“The LORD our God is one (echad ) LORD.” Deut. 6:4
From Genesis to Revelation, the God of the Bible is never manifested as the singular, solitary numeral, or number one. The oneness of God is a compound unity; one undivided and indivisible essence with three eternal distinctions.
The Threeness of the Godhead as revealed in Scripture
Old Testament Scriptures Regarding the Trinity
“In the beginning God…” Genesis 1:1-2 [The word for God is “Elohim” the plural form of the Hebrew word “El”.]
“Let US make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” Gen 1:26
And God (Elohim) said; ”Man is become as one of US, to know good and evil.” Genesis3:22
“Come, let US go down and confuse their language.” Genesis 11:7
The Old Testament speaks of the Father; “You, O LORD, are our Father.” Isaiah 63:16.
“Have we not all one Father.” Malachi 2:10
The Old Testament speaks of the Son; “Kiss the Son lest He be angry.” Psalm 2:7,12.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Isa 9:6
The Old Testament speaks of the Holy Spirit; “The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2.
“But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon.” Jud 6:34
New Testament Scriptures Regarding the Trinity
The revelation of God as three persons is the distinctive ministry of the Son of God. One of the persons of the Godhead had to come to reveal God to man. It was the eternal Son, the Word, who was sent to declare God in His tri-unity of Being. “No one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Matthew 11:27
“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” John 1:18
The Incarnation was prophesied in the Old Testament and then fulfilled in the Virgin Birth of the Son of God. He was God manifest in the flesh.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
The New Testament plainly declares the number of Persons in the Godhead to be three. What was veiled in the Old Testament in types and shadows, and was hidden within the divine names of God, has now been clearly displayed for us through the revelation of the Son of God.
The whole of the New Testament abounds with clear references to three distinct, divine persons, who are revealed as the Eternal Godhead.
Following is a set of Scriptures which show the distinction in the Godhead, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These verses tell of three persons, each having a distinct ministry and function, yet one in mind and will, working in harmony.
As outlined in “Foundations of Christian Doctrine”, Kevin J Conner:
The Father’s voice spoke from heaven.
The Son of God in Jordan’s waters of baptism.
The Holy Spirit descending bodily in the form of a dove.
Believers were to be baptised into the name of
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit.
The Father hears the prayer of the Son.
The Son prays to the Father.
The Holy Spirit as the Comforter will be given.
1 Corinthians 12:4-6
Diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit (Holy Spirit).
Differences of ministrations but the same Lord (The Son).
Diversities of operations but the same God (The Father).
Access unto – The Father.
Through Him- The Son.
By one Spirit-The Holy Spirit.
There is one Lord – The Son.
There is one Spirit – The Holy Spirit.
There is one God – The Father.
2 Corinthians 13:14
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ – The Son.
The love of God – The Father.
The communion of the Holy Spirit – The Spirit.
1 John 5:7-8
There are three that bear record in heaven:
The Word – The Son.
And the Holy Spirit,
And these three are one.
That is, one God, manifested and distinguished in three persons.
The Lord Jesus in John’s Gospel chapters 14-17 clearly brings to view the divine persons of the Godhead. The Son prays to the Father to send the Holy Spirit. He prays that the disciples may be “one as we are one” and that they may be “one in us” John 17:21-23. Here again is a compound unity, the unity of more than one person.
Relationship and Distinction in the Godhead.
As outlined in “Foundations of Christian Doctrine”, Kevin J Conner
The Scriptures recognize three in creation.
The Father in creation. Exodus 20:11, Psalm 102:25,Genesis 2:7
The Son in creation. Col 1:16-17, John 1:3, Hebrews 1:2,10.
The Holy Spirit in creation. Genesis 1:2, Job 26:13, Psalm 104:30.
The Scriptures show the eternity of the Godhead.
The eternity of the Father. Deuteronomy 33:27, Psalm 90:2
The eternity of the Son. John 1:1, Phil. 2:6
The eternity of the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 9:14
The Scriptures show the omnipresence of the Godhead.
The omnipresence of the Father. Jeremiah 23:23-24
The omnipresence of the Son. Ephesians 1:23, Matthew 18:20
The omnipresence of the Holy Spirit. Psalm 139:7
The Scriptures show the omniscience of the Godhead.
The omniscience of the Father. Proverbs 15:3, 1 John 3:20
The omniscience of the Son. John 21:17, Col 2:3 , Rev. 2:23
The omniscience of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:10-12
The Scriptures show the omnipotence of the Godhead.
The omnipotence of the Father. Matthew 19:26
The omnipotence of the Son. Philippians 3:21, Matthew 28:18
The omnipotence of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:19
The Scriptures show the Holiness of the Godhead.
The Holiness of the Father. Revelation 15:4
The Holiness of the Son. Acts 3:14
The Holiness of the Spirit. Acts 1:8
Though the Father, Son and Holy Spirit maintain these qualities in common, they are also distinct from each other.
The Father is God, a distinct person. He is eternal, self-existent, invisible and immortal, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man can see in His fullness.
The Son is God, a distinct person, made visible by the Incarnation. The Son was pre-existent, that is, He existed before the world was. He is eternal along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Son is pre-eminent above all things except the Father. The Son is God manifest in the flesh.
The Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is God, a distinct person. He is not an influence or a force but a divine person. He is eternal along with the Father and the Son.
The Eternal Characteristics of the Godhead
The Biblical revelation shows us that each person of the Godhead has certain characteristics and operations that do not change.
The Father is eternally the Father, the Son is eternally the Son,
the Holy Spirit is eternally the Holy Spirit. The attributes of God are changeless. God is one in operation, but three in revelation and manifestation. Biblical accounts, types and symbols consistently reveal the following about the Persons of the Godhead:
As outlined in “Foundations of Christian Doctrine”, Kevin J Conner, Published by Sovereign World International, ISBN 1-85240-024-2, pp63-64
A. Characteristics of the Father.
a. First person in mode of operation. The First Cause, the Original, the Source, the Beginning, the Fountain-head of all wisdom. The Absolute, the I AM.
b. The Foundation of our redemption John 3:16
c. The Covenant Maker and Keeper, the Covenant Promiser.
d. The Architect, Designer, Controller and Sustainer.
e. Light, Life and Love.
f. Glory, Majesty, Unapproachable Light, Holiness and Fire.
g. Invisible, Spirit, Eternally the Father.
h. The Begetter John 1:10-12, John 3:16
i. Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Immutable
B. Characteristics of the Son.
a. Second person in mode of operation, for the purpose of redemption. Not inferior, but submissive and obedient in redemption’s plan to the Father’s will, The obedient Son.
b. The Eternal Word.
c. The Mediator and Umpire between God and man.
d. The Intercessor, the Advocate.
e. The God-Man, the union of the divine nature and human nature in one person. The Word made flesh. God manifest in the flesh.
f. The only Begotten Son. The fullness of the Godhead bodily.
g. Redeemer, Saviour, Grace of God personified.
h. The Sacrifice for Sin. The ratification of the Covenant by blood.
i. The visible revelation and expression of the invisible God in human form. Hebrews 1:1-3
j. Eternally the Son, one in nature, power, attributes and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
C. Characteristics of the Holy Spirit.
a. The third person in mode of operation for the purpose of redemption. Not inferior, but the servant person in the Godhead, pointing to the Father and the Son. Proceeding from the Father, through the Son. John 15:26, 16:16.
b. The Inspirer, Revealer, Illuminator of the Word, the written and living Word. The Communicator, The Teacher.
c. The Quickener, the Unction, the Anointing. 1 John 2:20,27
d. The Sanctifying Power, the Indweller, the Presence in the Church.
e. Fruit of the Spirit, Fruitfulness, Gifts of the Spirit.
f. Eternally the Spirit. Invisible, one in power, nature, attributes and glory with the Father and the Son.
The Godhead Bodily
The Scripture states that the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in the Son.
“For it pleased the Father that in Him(Jesus) all the fullness should dwell.” Colossians 1:19
“For in Him (Jesus) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Colossians 2:9
“The Lord Jesus Christ is the visible and bodily revelation of the Godhead. He is the visible manifestation of the invisible persons in God.”
Jesus said that when we see Him we see the Father. However He never said He was the Father. He was one with the Father in will and purpose. The Holy Spirit indwelt the Son, however Jesus never said He was the Holy Spirit. While Jesus, the Son, is the fullness of the Godhead bodily, it must be recognized that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father; the Son is not the Holy Spirit, nor the Holy Spirit the Son or the Father.
The Scriptures proclaim the dual truth that Jesus is the fullness of the Godhead bodily, yet the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three eternal distinctions, distinguishable but indivisible.
This same fullness of God’s Person now indwells the Body of Christ, the Church. It is of His fullness that we have now received.
“And He has put all things under His feet and has appointed Him the universal and supreme Head of the church [a headship exercised throughout the church], Which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all [for in that body lives the full measure of Him Who makes everything complete, and Who fills everything everywhere with Himself].” (Eph 1:22-23 AMP)
“And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” (Eph 1:22-23 KJV)
Greek: 4138. pleroma, repletion or completion, i.e. (subjectively) what fills (as contents, supplement, copiousness, multitude), or (objectively) what is filled (as container, performance, period): — which is put in to fill up, piece that filled up, fulfilling, full, fulness.
Greek: 4137 pleroo; to make replete, i.e. (literally) to cram (a net), level up (a hollow), or (figuratively) to furnish (or imbue, diffuse, influence), satisfy, execute (an office), finish (a period or task), verify (or coincide with a prediction), etc.: — accomplish, x after, (be) complete, end, expire, fill (up), fulfil, (be, make) full (come), fully preach, perfect, supply.