False as we know the religious doctrine of the Trinity to be, and directly contradictory to the Scripture statement, "Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God is One," yet it still remains a great difficulty with many sincere believers to apprehend HOW it is that God is One. It seems only natural, on the surface, that many should regard the Father and the Son as two distinct and separate individuals. This is where our choice of words has to be made with some care, for while Scripture certainly shows that Father and Son are Two, for us to declare them two PERSONS creates insuperable difficulties and would certainly invalidate the truth of the unity of Deity.
We have only to examine the Hebrew Scriptures to see even there a certain two-ness in God. He is shown as so glorious that no one could look on Him and live, as was made clear at Sinai by the excessive precautions taken to avoid any Israelite approaching the Mount too closely. He could not be looked upon any more than Paul could look upon the glory of the One Who met him on the Damascus road. But in the same Hebrew Scriptures we are shown His appearing in ordinary human form, talking and eating with men, who were in no way adversely affected. Right at the beginning He appeared to Adam and Eve who heard the sound of Him walking about in the Garden, and hid themselves, not from the voice they heard but "from the presence of Jehovah Elohim." He would have been visible, not merely a voice from the sky; the same being to whom, we are told, Abraham and Moses talked "face to face."
Yet Stephen declared that "the God of the glory was seen by our father Abraham" (Acts 7:2). So He Who customarily dwelt in unapproachable glory must have condescended to appear to Abraham in lowly human form. But it is extremely doubtful if from these admitted facts anyone would be foolish enough to reason that the Hebrew Scriptures revealed two "Persons," One visible and One invisible. The obvious truth is that visibility and invisibility were two aspects of God, and that He assumed either characteristic at such times as one or the other was the most suited to His immediate purpose. This, of course, is what all true Hebrews believed; they did not argue about the existence of God, for from Genesis onwards their Scriptures had taken God for granted, and in addition their tradition taught that God had spoken to Adam and Eve, face to face. It is understandable that none of the great Hebrew writers of Scripture made any attempt to discriminate between two Gods, one visible and the other invisible, nor is there in all of their writings the slightest hint that these aspects of God indicated "Two Persons."
Possibly the best illustration of the same duality of the divine aspect can be seen in the Greek Scriptures following our Lord's resurrection (Luke 24:31) where we are told that when the disciples recognised Him, He disappeared from them. Literally, it says that He became unapparent to them; in other words, became invisible. This He was able to do because He no longer suffered the restrictions of a human body and possessed all authority in heaven and on earth. This would seem to be a very similar situation to that of God visible and invisible as portrayed in the Hebrew Scriptures. And if those ancient Hebrews could readily understand that God was both transcendent and unapproachable, yet also immanent and visible, why cannot we accept that relationship ourselves, as shown in the fact of God being Father and Son?
One of our inescapable beliefs is that God is One,
hence our rejection of the pantheistic doctrine of the Trinity, so
completely unscriptural, but this belief does no violence to the
suggestion we have made regarding the two-sided aspect of our God shown
to us in His Word. The late Alexander Thomson once drew attention to
that certain strange verse in Genesis 19:24
where we read:—
Though we insist on taking our Lord's words here at their face value—"I and My Father are one"—we realise there are those who object. They point to our Lord's agonising prayer in Gethsemane: "If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt." This, they say, indicates differences of intention between two "different personalities." It does not. The Greek "thelO" as used there signifies wish or desire; not the act of INTENTION which would have required the Greek verb boulamai. As a true and real Man our Lord most certainly would not have WISHED or DESIRED to undergo His then approaching ordeal (and He was indeed most certainly human.)
Our suggestion that there is a degree of duality in God should enable our readers even better to understand the crisis in Gethsemane and the intense conflict which must have been raging within the heart of God. We must always remember that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, and He must have suffered incredibly more than any human ever would or could. He must have been torn by an agony of mind entirely beyond our comprehension. And even at our much lower mortal level most of us have known what it is to be agonised in a mental struggle which seems to pull us both ways at once.
We make a great mistake in imagining God as operating in an emotionless vacuum, and as a consequence of our mistaken belief we can easily forget the immense COST of the Cross to God. The values involved at Calvary are humanly incalculable; spiritually, emotionally and in every other imaginable way. It is impossible to think that the all-time mightiest event in universal history, the Atonement, could have been accomplished by the invisible spirit Who is God only with the aid of one specially selected human being. The human being had to be One Who was derived directly from Holy Spirit; in short, only GOD Himself could have settled the question of Sin; and no one could possibly have helped Him; certainly no outsider. Christ was no outsider in any sense; He is and was the exact embodiment of God's reality.
Our dictionaries tell us that a Deist is one who believes in a personal God revealed in nature, but denies any possibility of a personal revelation. On the other hand, the God of the Scriptures insists on a personal revelation of Himself, and our Lord is that revelation. Do we, often enough, stop to realise that, apart from Christ, we cannot see God anywhere, nor can we have the slightest comprehension of Him?
Those who try to see God ANYWHERE other than in Christ lose God altogether: and in fact they lower their esteem of His Son to the same degree by which they seek to see God elsewhere. We speak of the believer's Contemplation of Christ, something which we should always endeavor to fix our minds upon, for only by contemplating Him shall we come into any personal discovery of God. It has been well said that "You will never find God by looking behind the shoulders of His Son, or trying to climb around the Son so as to approach the Father."
The well known Scripture tells us that "God is Spirit," and as such He is not a "Person" in the way humans understand that word; despite the trinitarian follies of the creeds. If we go, as we should, to Scripture for a definition or explanation of what is meant by Spirit we shall find that the word is used to express "invisible power." The invisible, intangible power of all life, action and intelligence, as A. E. Knoch defined it long ago. It is well known that the Hebrew word RUACH is used both for "spirit" and for "wind," so that when they thought of spirit they also thought of a mighty wind. Our Lord also said "the wind bloweth where it listeth. . .so is everyone that is born of the Spirit."
It is not necessary to ask the readers of this magazine whether they wish to find the "Person" of God, or His personality, for the very fact they are readers is the evidence of that express desire, but there is a need for the warning that, in this search, none of us has any right at all to look for Another behind or above the Son of God. He, Himself, is the Object of our search, and we shall not find God anywhere else other than by looking into the face of His Son. This truth has been described as a very simple theology. Indeed it is, and it could not be simpler, but it is in accord with Scripture and not only satisfies and delights the believer; it honors the Son.
Jehovah means "God in manifestation," so God becomes personal to us only in His Son. Without such manifestation He remains Invisible Spirit, though not "a Spirit" as the A. V. incorrectly has it. The presence of the indefinite article, not found there in the Greek, would localise God. He is not A Spirit; He is Spirit, literally "God Spirit is."
It is extremely difficult for the human mind to comprehend God as Spirit; invisible, intangible, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent; and all other superlatives which are His alone; we have difficulty in avoiding the error of thinking of Him as Another "Person," behind Christ, and somehow senior to Him. But He is not Another.
No doubt the general impression in Christendom is that the right description for the Apostle Paul would be that of The Great Missionary, and to some degree that is true, for so his position as Gentiles' Apostle demanded; but we know that Paul's efficacy extended to far greater heights than his unequalled evangelism, and this writer always thinks of Paul as The Great Explainer. So much Scripture would be unintelligible to us were it not for his elucidation, and so this matter of the Father and the Son is made perfectly clear by him in I Corinthians 8:6 where he writes:
Now, if you care to read again the earlier part of I Corinthians 8 it will be seen that before making his great Explanation which we have quoted, Paul had been speaking about idols; he said that an idol is nothing in the world; it is a human representation of a god which is unreal. It will be appreciated that no idol was regarded as a separate person from the god it represented, they were one, and the god was worshipped in the idol, and SEEN in the idol, which makes one wonder why they were and are usually so ugly! Paul's parallel is intended to show that God being One, the Father and the Son are complementary One to the Other, and we cannot have one without the other. It has been well expressed thus:—"Christ is the visible of the invisible, while the Father is the invisible of the visible Christ. Christ is the perfect Image of God." This is undoubtedly the truth of the matter, and it by no means makes Christ another "Person."
Paul, writing of Christ to the Colossians (2:9) also says, according to the A. V.: "In Him dwelleth the entire fulness of the Godhead bodily," which the C.V. translates as "in Him the entire complement of the Deity is dwelling bodily." The word "complement" is important, meaning THAT WHICH COMPLETES, so if we desire to have a complete appreciation of Deity we must regard, as One, the Father Who is Spirit and Christ His Complement Who is visible in bodily form to man.
For any human to fully "understand" God is manifestly impossible; the ability to do so would demand a knowledge greater than that of God Himself, but to a large extent we have been enabled to comprehend His Complement, Christ, for in all His words and actions He is proclaiming to us, This is what God is like. And His reactions to people and events portray precisely what is the Divine attitude. His Own statements underline this, such as His statement to Thomas: "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself; but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works." Or again, "Believe the works; that ye may know and believe, that the Father is in Me, and I in Him," or again, to the Jews, "Ye neither know Me, nor My Father; if ye had known Me, ye should have known my Father also." And to make the matter beyond doubt, "I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things."
From among men we all know people who are difficult to understand, since they have many different aspects, sometimes seemingly paradoxical, and such apparent (but not real) contradictions we ought to expect to find in God to a much greater degree. The Jews found such puzzles in the Lord (Luke 5:26) when they exclaimed "We have perceived paradoxes today." And would it not seem paradoxical to us, too, were we to meet, in a Jewish street, a perfectly ordinary individual of no particular pretensions who was able, immediately and in public, not only to forgive sins but also to heal total paralysis?
This duality which we have shown to exist in accord with the Greek Scriptures is explanatory also of similar passages in the Hebrew Scriptures. Thus in Exodus 19:9, 18-20, for example, we read how Jehovah came down in flaming fire and smoke; whereas we know that God the Father, Who is invisible spirit, would never localise Himself or make Himself visible in such a way. This passage in Exodus reminds us immediately of II Thess. 1:8 where we read of the Lord Jesus being revealed from heaven "in flaming fire dealing out vengeance."
Thus in our attempt to understand our God, the only logical conclusion must be that the Jehovah Who descended upon Mount Sinai was He Who also descended to earth as the Lord Jesus, having emptied Himself and exchanged the form of God for that of a slave! So, despite those who would argue that the God of the Hebrew Scriptures was different from the Christ of the Greek Scriptures, the answer to them must be that the Jesus they respect, and the great and terrible God of Sinai, are one and the same! Who brought the Flood on the Earth, or Who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah? Is this a blood-thirsty and vindictive Deity, or One Who must always maintain righteousness? He would not, naturally, fit in with the sentiment of today, with the do-gooders whose sympathies are all with the criminal, nor with their permissive attitudes, but with God there is always a clear distinction between right and wrong, and the great and terrible God of Sinai, so the record shows, was most intimate and friendly with such as Abraham and Moses; indeed, exactly as He still is in the person of Christ Jesus with those who honour and fear Him.
At Sinai Moses was terrified and trembling. The glory and the majesty of perfect holiness, perfect righteousness and perfect truth was too much for any human eyes. Yet men must learn that these things are true of God, before He can reveal His heart to them. But at the Cross He hid His heart no longer, as He descended to the lowest place in His universe. Was the face seen on the Cross any different from the one seen at Sinai? Certainly Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration recognised the One he had seen long, before. Yet over the centuries Christendom has been puzzled over the paradox of that terrible God of Sinai appearing as a Lamb dumb before its shearers. This is probably the greatest wonder in all the universe—but our God works wonders!
In His emptying, and within the self-imposed limitations of flesh, He had to "grow in wisdom" and He came to know "what was in man," as Luke and John tell us; in short, He acquired human wisdom, but with that extraordinary perception which came only of deep humility and close acquaintance with the Holy Spirit. Until His resurrection He acted with deliberately limited knowledge. Now He has all authority in heaven and earth. He must have obtained much knowledge regarding His Father and Himself from the Hebrew Scriptures, and in the Psalms He must have gradually discovered that they spoke of Himself. Here again we see the duality of Father and Son, yet at the same time Their oneness. The Child of Bethlehem was not simultaneously operating the universe, and in His adult years He would not have admitted that His knowledge of coming events was limited, as He did (Matt. 24:36 and Mark 13:32), had He realised and was conscious of the fact that He was God. He had emptied Himself, and was related to God as Son to Father, and this emptying and deliberate limitation concealed from Him, for the time being, the complete consciousness that He was what we, with heart and soul and mind believe He was, and what Scripture declares He was—God manifest in flesh.
Cecil J. Blay (Treasures of Truth, Instalment Sixteen February-March 1975)