In the previous discussion, I cleared ambiguities in the use of ‘God,’ established the nature of God, and the key characteristics of God.
It has been against the backdrop that, the propriety (or otherwise) of everything we do in our worship life (and the passion/conviction with which we do them) depends on what we know about this God, and so it is very important to find the truth about who this God really is; what this God is like, what this God requires us to do and/or not to do, etc. Otherwise a lot of the things we may be doing in worship, and a lot of the things we may be doing and/or refusing to do in life, may be in vain; inadvertently.
Well, as Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” What does it mean to say that the Lord is one? Also, is it safe to say that God the father works by Himself, and also through the Son, and the Holy Spirit; or they work together at the same time at all times? We will explore these and more in this discussion.
God is One
Throughout history, several gods have existed, but none can compare to God (Yhovah; the Father) in power and might. He is one of a kind! (Deuteronomy 4:35, Isaiah 45:5, Mark 12:29) And it was significant for God (Jehovah) to reiterate His ‘uniqueness’ to His people; remember, Moses was speaking to the Israelites, and had hitherto cautioned them not to make idols or use anything physical (not even the sun, moon and stars) to represent God (Yhovah; not ‘Elohiym), since they had only heard His voice and not seen Him physically (Deuteronomy 4:15-19); of course, God is spirit.
The Israelites were about to go to the promised land, and the people they were going to live among were pagans and thus worshipped several gods, some made of human hands. There was therefore the need for this strong caution for them not to stray and arouse the anger of God (Yhovah).
Interestingly, we also live in a country where other gods (made of human hands) exist, but we must be resolute that there is only one true God (Yhovah; the Father), and He alone deserves our worship.
The Crux of the Matter
In the previous discussion, we established that in many instances, ‘God’ refers to the Team: (a) The Father, (b) The Word (Also the Son: Immanuel/Jesus Christ) and (c) The Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19, John 15:26, 1 John 5:7) And thus, when referring to God in our discussions/dealings, we have to be clear as to whether we are referring to ‘Elohiym (the ‘God Team’) or Yhovah/’Adonay (the Father) and therefore use the appropriate personal pronouns; either ‘They/Them/Their’ or ‘He/Him/His’ respectively, because in Genesis 1:26 (and also Isaiah 6:8) the plural personal pronoun ‘us‘ is used; a good example for us. Let us explore this some more…
It is very tempting to construe the use of the singular term ‘name’ in Matthew 28:19 to mean that the three divine beings are also one single deity or one single being; but this is woefully insufficient. The nuances of the English language are as wide and interesting as the limitations of the language.
Once upon a time at the university, there were six (6) halls of residence, each with a Hall Christian Fellowship and a president yet collectively they formed the IHCF: Inter-Hall Christian Fellowship (not Inter-Halls; plural) likewise we have PTA: Parent-Teacher Association (not Parents-Teachers; plural). In any case, “…in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (KJV) is just a shorter way of saying: ‘…in the name of the Father, and in the name of the Son, and the name of the Holy Ghost.’ The significance of this specific instruction of Jesus can be appreciated from the events recorded in Acts 19:1-6.
The point is, The Word (Jesus) is not the Father, and is also not the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is not the Word, and is also not the Father; the Father is not the Word (Jesus), and is also not the Holy Spirit. When Jesus (the Word) was on earth (right up to the cross), the Father was in heaven, likewise the Holy Spirit; Jesus had to go back to God for the Holy Spirit (the Comforter) to be sent down; (John 16:7). Jesus constantly referred to the Father in heaven; In teaching how to pray, Jesus’s admonishing was: “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9). It is instructive to note that Jesus did not say: “Our Father who is in me.” At another point Jesus cautioned them, saying: “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9). In Acts 7:55-56, it is noted that Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked through open heavens and saw the Jesus (Son of Man) standing at the right hand of God.
It is important to note that, the three divine beings (The Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit) are distinct/separate, and do not come together to form one divine being/deity, but rather that, they are essentially united in purpose and action; they work together harmoniously (in agreement) and interdependently. They can also act concurrently (at the same time) as seen in the creation of man (Genesis 1:26) and other instances. In terms of leadership structure, we can safely say that the Father works through the Word (the Son), and the Holy Spirit; for instance, it is the Father (Supreme God) who sent the others to come down on earth to dwell among us and in us, and we see the leadership role of the Father consistently at play in the scriptures; according to Apostle Paul, God is the head of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:3; see also 15:27-28). Jesus himself declared that: “My Father is greater than I;” (John 14:28). There is however the argument that Jesus only said so because He was Human at that point, and to demonstrate His humility, and that He is equal in status to God the Father, as implied in the declaration by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:5-7. What is interesting here is that, the word translated as ‘equal’ is the Greek word isos (ee’-sos) which also means ‘similar,’ ‘as much,’ or ‘like.’ If you consider the ending of verse 4 and the opening of verse 5: “Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God…” suggests ‘similar,’ and thus, the use of ‘like‘ would be a perfect rendition of the Greek word isos; in this case. In any case, shouldn’t we rather defer to Jesus who was fully divine and fully man, than deferring to Paul who was only fully man? Even then, the problem is not with what Paul originally said, but rather those who translated that into English. If you like to appreciate the difficulties with the translations better, carefully compare what the NIV says in Luke 10:1 with the same verse in the KJV/NKJV; or see the article: ‘The Second Crucifixion;’ you may click here.
So, The Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit are distinct/separate, and do not come together to form one divine being/deity, but rather that, they are united in purpose and action. It is that same kind of unity that is expected of us as Christians/Believers. As recorded in John 17:6-26 (particularly verses 11,21-23), Jesus prayed for His disciples, and for all ‘would-be’ believers. And the crux of the prayer was that, the disciples and the believers may be one, just as He (Jesus) and the Father are one. He said: “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:21-23) If we believe that Jesus’s prayer was answered (John 11:40-44) then we can safely agree that, that level of unity was what was seen in the life of the Apostles as captured in Acts 4:32-35. Remember how they were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. This attitude existed among the divine beings too; Jesus once said: “All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He (the Holy Spirit) will take of Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:15)
Consider Jesus’s prayer for the disciples again; I don’t think anybody will suggest, even for a moment, that Jesus was asking that the disciples and the believers should merge into one/single physical being or become intertwined into one/single physical being; obviously not! Remember, Jesus used similes, metaphors, and other literally/linguistic tools extensively; He was talking about ‘oneness;’ social/relational agreement/unity; for that is the kind of ‘relationship’ that exist between Jesus and the Father; they are not one/single deity as some may want to suggest. This ‘unity/oneness’ idea is easy to appreciate when you consider the instance of married couple becoming one; Genesis 2:24 says: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Jesus once quoted this scripture and went further to state thus: “so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.” (Mark 10:7-8) The question is, do the two really become one flesh physically? Certainly not; but rather one only in purpose and action, or otherwise spiritually, or simply in concept! So, for instance, when Jesus says that “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30) or when the Bible says that “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one,” (1 John 5:7) we should not misconstrue it to mean that they are merged or intertwined as one being; that will be defeating the virtue of ‘unity’ or ‘being one’ as espoused in the Bible. Thankfully 1 John 5:7-8 (especially Verse 8) draws that parallel/point by saying: “7 For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.”
Jesus is currently seated at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19, Ephesians 1:20, Romans 8:34, Etc.) Is this figurative, or is it literal? If it is figurative (as in just denoting a place/position of authority), then by the same reason/extension we can readily affirm that ‘I and my Father are one’ is also figurative (denoting unity/oneness; as earlier espoused). If it is literal, then the clear distinction is even made more apparent and thus consistent.
And just between us, I (Kweku Egyir) and my father (Kobina Egyir) are one! Truly, we agree so much and share common traits; our complexion, looks, the way we think, write, walk, talk, etc. In fact, if you see me you’ve seen my father Kobina Egyir. Selah!
It is not difficult to understand the nature of God; as you can clearly see from this and the previous discussions. It only gets to appear complicated (and almost impossible to comprehend; as some suggest in the concept of the Trinity) when you only employ the ‘English Bible’ without considering the original meanings and characteristics of the original scripts, and also when you isolate verses and look at them out of context. Indeed, the thought/argument that: ‘we have one divine being (God) who manifests Himself in three different forms as either the Father, the Word (Son), or Holy Spirit and thus works in three different ways at the same time,’ is grossly defeated by so many passages of scripture, and essentially supported by none. So it is safe to say that we have one Supreme God (the Father, who is not the Son nor the Holy Spirit) then we have the Word (who is the Son, and not the father nor the Holy Spirit), and then we have the Holy Spirit (who is not the Son nor the Father) Aha! ‘So why does the Bible (John 1:1) say that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” for instance?’ You may ask! I will deal with that, and other matters, in the next discussion; you may click here to see.
Like the Israelites were faced with (or rather going to be faced with), there is always the temptation to look at how others serve/worship their gods and try to apply same to our God (Yhovah). For them, their god is visible and located at a particular place, and that place alone. To worship him, they have to physically go to that particular location and perform rituals. Our God is not at a particular location we have to go to; He is spirit, and does not dwell in temples made by human hands, and does not need hand-outs either; (Acts 7:44-49, 17:22-25). When we gather together, we principally do so to share fellowship with one another, and with the Holy Spirit, and not necessarily to worship God per se, as the pagans do; because we worship God in everything we do, and at wherever we find ourselves.
Now that we know God very well, let us endeavour to worship Him in spirit and truth. And what does it mean to worship Him in spirit and truth? That will be a discussion for another time.