Questions concerning the Trinity have been discussed and debated for centuries. Stewarton Bible School does not publish hard-copy literature on this subject, simply because it is too deep to be dogmatic about. Besides, it is non critical. By non critical I mean, that failure to understand does not necessarily endanger a believer's salvation. Whereas with critical subjects, such as faith in Jesus Christ, obedience, baptism, Sabbath-keeping, adultery, stewardship etc. failure to understand these could influence a believer's spiritual standing with God. In other words, ignorance of critical matters could result in sin.
Nevertheless, on the subject of the Almighty's structure
the Bible does give some information; but I am not convinced
that anyone (including myself) has really fathomed the depth
of it all. We are told in Scripture that God is a Spirit.
(John 4:24) This indicates that He is not composed of "flesh
and blood" but a substance called "spirit."
We are also told that God manifested Himself in the likeness
of "human flesh" in the person of His
Son Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). That is, God, a
spirit Being, took upon Himself the likeness of man and dwelt
amongst us as a man! This fact is widely known.
The question now arises - when God became flesh
in the form of His Son Yeshua, did the Father or His Spirit
in heaven cease to exist?
From the evidence presented in the Scriptures it does appear that whilst Jesus was on earth in human form, there was a separate Being - a Spirit Being in heaven whom Jesus called 'my Father.'
These references appear to mean that the Father
and the Son are two separate Beings;
one a Spirit Being in heaven and the other a flesh and blood
Being who came to earth some 2000 years ago and returned to heaven
after his resurrection.
The next question is, how does one reconcile this view, that there are two separate beings, a Father and a Son - with texts such as:
The Hebrew word Elohim (El-o-heem) provides a clue. It is rendered 'God' in the Bible. Elohim is a uniplural word like man, sheep, fish, you etc: which could mean one or many depending on the context. For example there is only one Loughran in the telephone directory for this small town of Stewarton: but Loughran is the family name, a uniplural term, and if you examine further you will find that there exists in fact a father and a son, both called 'Loughran.' Two individuals with the same name. In the same way the uniplural word Elohim (like the word 'you') could represent one or more persons. And though the Father and Son are 'one' they are in reality two separate Beings. We are told that the Son is the express image of his Father. If you've seen One, you have seen the other; because they are identical in character and purpose.
Jesus said: "If you have seen me - you have seen the Father."
This figurative way of speaking is often used when two people are alike in many ways; i.e. in appearance, character or purpose. We humans also use this form of speech when we say of a child: "I can see his father in him", or "If you have seen her, you have seen her mother." What we mean is that they are identical either in appearance or behaviour etc. No one would suggest on hearing this that the two individuals are the same person or even that the child is the parent in another body. Rather, what is meant is that if you have seen the child you have seen the parent, because they are so much alike. In the same way, if you have seen Jesus you have seen the Father, because both are identical in character.
In like manner the words,
"I and my Father are one", could mean 'we are one in outlook, one in character, one in purpose and plan." In other words: God and His son both have the same aims, the same goals, the same love for humanity and - if I may use the phrase - the same spiritual genes. They are of one mind! In a similar way a husband and wife can be 'one flesh,' (Matt.19:5-6) though they are obviously separate individuals in two separate bodies. Other references which indicate that the father and Son are two separate Beings are:
We see from these and other verses that the Father is indeed a separate Being from His Son, a Being who for all eternity will be above the Son in spiritual maturity and dignity. (1 Cor.15:28) Yet at the same time God and His son are ONE in character and purpose. In other words, they are both in absolute unison, in complete accord - of one mind! The Son is also the express image of His Father though a separate Being. What's more, it is to this high and holy privilege of unity and 'one-ness' that we believers are called. We, who are separate individuals, but who comprise 'one body,' 'one church,' 'one bride:' yes, we too are called to reflect the glory of the invisible God and be one with Him. Isn't that a marvellous calling?
This concept and reality of being separate individuals but 'one with God and His Son' is described in these verses:
|John 17:11:||And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
|John 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.|
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
As regards the text which says: "I am
in the Father and the Father is in me." we can say that genetically
speaking this is true of all fathers and their sons. For example,
long before his birth my son Kurt was "in me,"
just as the patriarch Levi was in the loins of Abraham
who lived many years before. (Heb.7:10)
It is also true to say that "I am in my son:" because the genes he carries in his body came from mine. So, on a purely physical basis it's also true to say that I am in him, and he is in me. On a mental or emotional level we could also both be in each others thoughts and plans etc.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
Whether or not the Holy Spirit is a separate person is even more difficult to understand, let alone explain. I often feel like a foetus in the womb of its mother, totally incapable of understanding the structure of its parent. We write about the work, the fruit, the gifts and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But I never (except in letters like this one to individuals who press for an answer) write about the Trinity because I know very little about the subject: and as I said at the beginning , this subject is non critical.
As mentioned above, the Father is a Spirit Being composed of a substance called 'spirit.' The Son is a separate Being who is now composed of glorified flesh and bone. (Luke 24: 39). Both are exceedingly holy. Though Yeshua (Jesus) is the very Son of God, the only begotten Son of God, he often refers to himself as the Son of Man! When Yahweh gives us His Holy Spirit He is giving of Himself. But whether or not the Holy Spirit is a separate Being, apart from the Father, is a matter for believers to decide for themselves.
The Scripture speak of the "spirit of man which is in him" which is capable of 'knowing,' 'speaking' or 'lusting,' apparently quite independently of our normal selves. Could this be the case with the Holy Spirit of God. In other words, is He being spoken of as though He were a separate Person; but is in fact, One with the Father? Consider these verses:
|1Cor. 2:11:||For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.|
|1Cor. 14:14:||For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.|
|James 4:5:||Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?|
|Matthew 26:41:|| Watch and pray, that ye enter not
into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the
flesh is weak. |
We see from these texts that our own spirits
can know, pray, lust or be willing, quite apart from ourselves.
Could it be that when Scripture
speaks of the Spirit of God a similar (albeit on a higher)
level of interaction and independence is being expressed?
In other words, One God manifesting Himself in three Persons?
Or as the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it on page 27:
As you can see, there are several ways to answer questions on the Trinity. But to be honest I really do not know enough about my own spirit to be dogmatic about the structure and Spirit of the Almighty God. So please forgive me if this answer is short. I also believe that nothing can be gained by endless debate about the structure of God and that is why I do not publish literature on the matter.
I trust that this short letter explains my position regarding the subject of the Trinity.
In Messiah's Name
Elder: David B Loughran
Stewarton Bible School, Stewarton, Scotland