A Scriptural Study of God
What I learned in my study of the nature God the Father and His relationship with Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit
Years ago, when I first moved to the city in which I now live, I determined to make a comprehensive study on the nature of God as well as the relationship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These weighty matters had greatly concerned me for a long while and I kept coming upon aspects of this Scriptural “problem” in my reading, my study, and my discussions with others.
Very soon I began my research. At the time I had located a position that required working twelve hours, two nights of the week. I was permitted to use the time as I chose. These 24 hours each week were devoted to the study of God the Father and His relationship with the Son and the Holy Spirit. In addition to these work shifts, I studied at other times. Beginning in Genesis, I carefully read through the Bible to Revelation, taking detailed notes and placing the results of my study in three large binders. I read many dozens of theological books, pamphlets, and articles from publications and theological journals. I had the unique blessing of living near the largest theological school in the world and freely used its massive library materials.
The Scriptures are carefully balanced and truth lies
in being able to see all aspects of truth, accepting all
aspects of truth, and believing all
aspects of truth.
My research included studies into the history of doctrine and the ancient discussions of the person and nature of God and of Jesus Christ. Many terms became familiar: Adoptionism, Cerinthianism, Ebionitism, Docetism, Dynamic Monarchianism, Modalistic Monarchianism, Arianism, Binitarianism, Trini-tarianism, Gnosticism, Sabellianism, Patripassianism, Apolli-narianism, Nestorianism, Eutychianism, Monophysitism, Monotheletism, and other theological, doctrinal, and historical terms. I proceeded to examine the Councils of Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, as they related to the nature of Christ Jesus. I further studied modern varieties of theological views on the nature of God and of Christ Jesus. There was trinitarianismwith the view that God eternally exists in three “persons” (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) who share the same deity, substance, or essence. There was also binitarianismthe view that God exists as two divine “persons” (the Father and the Son). There was tritheism (the view that there are three distinct “Gods”) and ditheism (there are two distinct “Gods”). Then there were various forms of unitarianismthe view that God the Father alone is divine. Modern arianism would say that the Father is the one and only God, while Jesus Christ is a lesser “god” or divine person. A form of modern modalism would assert that only one “personality” exists, with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit simply being different modes of His manifestation. The Watchtower Witness view, the Mormon view, the “Oneness” (or “Jesus Only”) view, the Christadelphian view, the Dawn Bible Students view, the Way International view, the Unitarian view, the Local Church view, the original Armstrong view, the Sacred Name view, the Liberal view, and the evangelical and orthodox trinitarian view were all examined.
As you might suspect, after many months of this research I was left with numerous unanswered questions. It seemed that the various theological persuasions would emphasize several legitimate verses but overlook others. Nearly all of them clearly “distorted” or “twisted” Scripture “to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16-17). The more I studied into the various views, the more I became convinced that the only way to deal with this entire question was to take the Scriptures as a whole and allow them to speak to me. It occurred to me that aberrations from Biblical truth occur when a student, teacher or preacher only looks at one aspect of the truth and refuses to accept other aspects of the truth. Someone has observed that “truth out of balance becomes heresy,” and I found this to be accurate. I further became convinced that many of the theological deviations that I had studied were related to faulty presuppositions and unscriptural terminology. In addition, as in every other Biblical subject, many views simply perpetuate what individuals are familiar with and what they have been taught by their religious instructors.
With these insights in mind, I began to arrange passages of Scripture in various categories which would reveal the truth about God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit in its various dimensions. I studied and listed those places where the Greek theos (God) is applied to Christ Jesus. I also listed those places where Scripture affirms that there is only one God. Additionally, I noticed that some passages affirming the oneness of God identify God, in context, as the Father (sometimes in contrast to Christ Jesus). Yet there were passages which speak of Christ as the image of God, existing in the form of God, or revealing God. I noticed the many passages which speak of Christs “humiliation,” self-emptying, or enfleshment and the consequent limitations this brought during His earthly life. As for the Holy Spirit, some places simply refer to Him as the Spirit, some as the Holy Spirit, and others as the Spirit of Christ or the Spirit of Jesus. Some passages link, in closest of terms, the Father and the Son, while other passages reveal a distinction between the Father and the Son. Some passages clearly identify Yahweh God of the Old Testament as the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, while several New Testament passages apply Old Testament “Yahweh” passages to Christ Jesus Himself.
On and on I studied and made categories and lists of the relevant Scriptural truths, then analyzed how one truth harmonized with other equally-valid truths. I also came to realize that since God is vastly superior to us, as mere creatures, He must have aspects of mystery to His nature, His person, and the relationship that exists between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. While there are no contradictions, surely there will remain mysteries beyond our comprehension. Often, in our effort to “work all things out” in our understanding and teaching, we attempt to explain the unexplainableand thereby enter the realm of error, even heretical error!
In order to avoid the theological trap that many have fallen into over the past two thousand years, I determined to hold as closely as possible to the Scripturesand all the Scriptures. I concluded that the only safe course to follow is to affirm everything that Scripture affirms about the person and nature of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In addition, the only safe position is to deny everything that Scripture denies about the person and nature of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
How do we apply this? If Scripture, in the Greek, uses terms that reveal Jesus as theos (e.g., John 1:1,18 (NASB); 20:28; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1), then we must acknowledge Jesus as God in some way. If many more passages affirm that Jesus is the Son of God (e.g., John 3:16; 20:31; Matthew 16:16), then we must also acknowledge this fact. However, if Scripture says that there is one God and that God is not Christ but the Father of Christ (e.g., John 17:3; 1 Tim. 2:5; Jude 25), we must accept this just as much as we accept other passages. If certain passages affirm that the Father and the Son are “one” (John 10:30) and equally bestow salvation blessings (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:3), we must confess this. If other passages clearly distinguish between the Father and the Son (2 John 3), we must accept this truth as well. If Scripture distinguishes between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (e.g., Matthew 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; Ephesians 4:4-6), then we must accept this fact in our belief.
The study of God, of Christ Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit is the deepest and most profound in all of reality. We, as mere humans, are seeking to understand Deitythe Lord God, Maker of heaven and earth. While some of our understanding comes from the observable natural world (Romans 1:20-21; Psalm 19:1), much more comes from Gods special revelation found in the Bible. Gods word is truth (John 17:17) and this truth is saving truth. While we may not be able to understand all of the mysteries of God, we may be confident that God, through “his divine power, has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Paul makes this clear: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Through the Scriptures, we are adequate and equipped for every good deed that God requires of us. God has graciously revealed all we need to believe in Him, obey Him, and be saved by Him (Deut. 29:29).
When we encounter a certain teaching about the nature of God, let us go to the Scriptures and seek the mind of God on the subject. Pray for wisdom (James 1:5) and then “examine the Scriptures daily” for light and truth (cf. Acts 17:11; Psalm 119:105). Leave no Scriptural “stone” unturned. Look at all aspects of the subject. For example, if we only read passages that speak of the oneness of God and the fact that God is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ (e.g. 1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 4:4-6), we will come to one conclusion. Conversely, if we only emphasize those passages in which Jesus is called God (e.g., John 1:1; 20:28) and reveals God the Father (John 14:8-11), we will come to a different conclusion. If we only emphasize passages that refer to the physical, human limi-tations of Christ (e.g., John 4:6-7; 19:28; Matt. 4:2; Mark 4:38), we will arrive at yet another conclusion. Look at all aspects of the subject of God and be willing to accept all that Scripture affirms on the subject. In this case, all extreme views are unbalanced since each one overlooks or avoids valid truths that appear, on the surface, to contradict other equally-valid truths. The Scriptures are carefully balanced and truth lies in being able to see all aspects of truth, accepting all aspects of truth, and believing all aspects of truth.
The Scriptures are carefully balanced and truth lies
in being able to see all aspects of truth,accepting all
aspects of truth, and believing
all aspects of truth.
In short, be willing to affirm the following truths and every other truth pertaining to God:
- God is one (James 2:19)
- There is one God (1 Timothy 1:17)
- The Father is God (1 Cor. 8:6)
- The Word is God (John 1:1,14)
- The Father and the Son are one (John 10:30)
- The Father, Son, and Spirit are united (2 Cor. 13:14)
- The Lord is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17)
- Jesus is a Helper and the Spirit is another Helper (John 14:16)
- Jesus was in the Father and the Father was in Him (Jn. 14:11)
- The Father and the Son are distinguished (2 John 3)
- Christ Jesus pre-existed His earthly coming (John 16:28; 17:5)
- The Word became flesh (John 1:14)
- Christ was and is submissive to God the Father (1 Cor. 11:3; 15:24-28)
- Christ died for our sins and rose again (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
- Christ is the image of God (Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4-6)
- Christ is the radiance of Gods glory (Heb. 1:3)
Many other Scriptural truths could be listed and I encourage you to make this your own prayerful, diligent, and enriching study. Let the Bible itself be your only source of truth. (Some study with the use of linguistic tools is also helpful and a limited amount of historical study is justified.) As God reveals more of His glorious nature to you, believe it with all of your heart and be willing to share it with others. Let us have a holy obsession with the glory and wonder of our blessed God and Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in the Holy Spirit!