Key To The Understanding Of The Scriptures
by H.P. MANSFIELD
(16) God Is One Not Three
The Trinity Not Taught In The Bible.
The importance of this subject was stressed by the Lord Jesus when he prayed: "This is life eternal to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3). He thus stated that a true knowledge of God is essential to salvation (see also Hebrews 11:6).
We claim that Christendom is astray on this matter. Most systems of religion propound belief in what is termed the Trinity. They accept the principle of a "one God," but a God who is, at the same time, a "triune Being" made up of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. But, though this doctrine is commonly taught, the word "Trinity" is not found in the Bible. Not until the 4th century after Christ, at a time of great apostasy from the Apostolic faith, was the doctrine of the Trinity introduced, and superimposed upon the original faith. This is acknowledged by many theologians. The Encyclopaedia Britannica declares:
"The propositions constitutive of the dogma of the Trinity were not drawn directly from the New Testament, and could not be expressed in New Testament terms. They were the products of reason speculating on a revelation to faith . . . They were only formed through centuries of effort, only elaborated by the aid of the conceptions and formulated in the terms of Greek and Roman metaphysics" (i.e., borrowed from pagan mythology - Editor).
In contradistinction to this, however, the declaration of God through Moses was: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One Lord," (Deut. 6:4). To that belief the Jews have ever kept. The monotheism of the Hebrews was a distinguishing feature in a polytheistic world.
This same teaching was proclaimed by the prophets (Isa. 45:5; 46:9), the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:3; Mark 12:29), and the Apostles (Acts 7:32). The early ecclesias were founded upon the doctrine of the unity of God and Jesus as the Son of God, not God the Son. Thus:
"To us there is but ONE GOD, the Father, of whom are all things . . . and one Lord Jesus Christ . . . howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge" (1 Cor. 8:6-7).
"There is ONE GOD, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5).
"One Lord (Jesus Christ) . . . and ONE GOD and Father of all" (Eph. 4:5-6).
"Jesus of Nazareth, A MAN approved of God among you by miracles and wonders which GOD DID BY HIM" (Acts 2:22).
"GOD IS ONE" (Gal. 3: 20).
"Him (Jesus) hath God EXALTED with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour (Acts 5:31).
All these references exhibit God as the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as His only begotten Son. They are opposed to the dogma of the Trinity, and the theory of a supposed preexistent Christ.
We do not go to the extreme of the Unitarians, and teach that Jesus was no more than mere man however. There was a divinity in Jesus that we must not overlook.
He was the manifestation of God. In character, word and deed there was seen in him the impress and influence of the Father, so that he could say "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," and "I and the Father are one." Trinitarians feel that this language supports their theory, but they overlook the fact that what Jesus claimed for himself, he also prayed for his disciples: "That they all may be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (John 17:21). Not God as a Trinity, but God in multiplicity, is the doctrine of the Bible. When the fulness of His purpose is revealed in the earth, He will be found manifested in a multitude of redeemed ones, of whom the Lord Jesus is chief (see Hebrews 2:10-11).
That Jesus is not the equal of his Father is shown by his prayers and teaching. Jesus prayed, "Not my will but Thine be done" (Mat. 26:39). He taught: "my doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me(John 7:16). If Jesus were God would he pray or teach like that? If he were God he would claim the will and doctrine of the Father as his own. On the contrary, he declared: "I can of mine own self do nothing" (John 5:30) and "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28).
Jesus the Man.
The Bible reveals Jesus to us not as God the Son, the second person of a Trinity, but as "the MAN Christ Jesus" (Acts 2:22; 1 Tim. 2:5; Rom. 5:15), as the "prophet like unto Moses" (Deut. 18:15; Acts. 3:22), who was made of a woman (Gal. 4:4), "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," "in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15), who "learned obedience by the things that he suffered" (Heb.5:8), who "offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him from death, and was beard in that he feared" (Heb. 5:7). These are not terms relating to God!
The Bible reveals Jesus as a man limited in knowledge (Mark. 13:32), even after his glorification (Acts 1:7), even when in heaven (Rev. 1:1). It shows us a man who was at times found weary (John 4:6), weeping (John 1:35), praying for strength. We see one possessing a nature common to all mankind (Heb. 2:14), a nature subject to death (Rom. 5:12), and in need of redemption (Heb. 9:12; 13:20). We see him "striving against sin" (Heb. 12:4), triumphing over the flesh. We learn that "God was in Christ" (2 Cor. 5:19), "strengthening him" (Luke 22:43; Ps. 80:17; Isa. 11:1-3), "reconciling the world unto Himself." From this we understand that he was the expression of the Father's love to those who trust Him, so that he became for them the Author of eternal salvation.
The doctrine of the Trinity declares that the Son was coequal with the Father, but surely this is contradicted by the lonely cry that came from his lips during the agony of Calvary: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34).
The doctrine is shown to be completely wrong by the teaching of Paul who declared that at the epoch of Christ's greatest triumph in the future, when every enemy shall have been subdued before him, " then shall the Son himself be subject unto Him (God) that put all things under him, that God may be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).
How could this possibly be true if Jesus is co-equal with God. The doctrine of the Trinity is false; God is one, not three; and Jesus Christ is His only begotten son.
Concerning The Title: God.
But some may draw attention to the fact that the title of God is sometimes applied to Jesus Christ. For example, when Thomas saw the risen Christ, he exclaimed: "My Lord and my God!"
Does the use of such titles in relation to Jesus prove that he is the second person of a Trinity.
We answer, No, on the grounds that if it did, it would present a contradiction to many passages which show that he is not co- equal with the Father. In addition the same titles are used for angels and men who stood in a special relationship to the Creator.
This may sound confusing at first sight, but it is not really so. Consider. An agent goes forth in the name of the one who employs him; the representative of a firm merges his individuality in the name of the company he represents. On the same basis, angels and men used God's name when they went forth as His accredited agents.
The Lord himself reminded the Jews of this when they accused him of using the name of God blasphemously. He replied:
"Is it not written in your Law, 'I said, Ye are gods?' If He (God) called them 'gods' unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken (i.e. -- you cannot refute this fact), why say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, 'Thou blasphemest,' because I said, I am the son of God?" (John 10:34-35).
The Lord was quoting from Psalm 82, where the divinely appointed priests and elders of Israel are given the title of "Gods" because they acted and spake in the name of God. The fact that they used the title and applied it to themselves, did not make them part of the Godhead, anymore than it did Jesus when it was applied to him. That is the point of his reasoning with the Jews. He made it perfectly clear that lie was not claiming equality with the Father.
Those "to whom the word of God came," such as the priests in Israel, derived their authority from God, judged on His behalf, and were His accredited representatives among the people. They were "Gods" by deputy (2 Chron. 19:6). To stand before the priests was to stand "before the Lord" (Deut. 19:17), so that Paul taught: "Though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, to us there is but one God, the Father . . . and one Lord, Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 8:6). The "gods" in heaven and on earth besides the Father are His angels and rulers, who, in consequence assumed the title. In Exodus 7:1; 4:16, Moses is called "God," and in Joshua 22:22, the Father is described as a "God of gods and Lord of lords."
Any humble believer can attain unto that high and lofty title in a more complete sense than did the mortal rulers of Israel in ages past who though called Gods, nevertheless "died like men" (Ps. 82:6-7). Believers are described as "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17), rejoicing in hope "of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2). Peter taught that they can become "partakers of divine nature," (2 Pet. 1:4), and Christ promised that he would "write" upon those who overcome "the name of my God" (Rev. 3:12). If mortal man can attain unto the glory, nature and name of God, surely the Lord Jesus can claim the privilege of the title "God" without teaching that he is part of the Trinity.
The angels also spake and acted in the name of God, without claiming co-equality with Him. There was one placed over the affairs of Israel, concerning whom, God told Moses:
"Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not, for he will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in him" (Exod. 23:20-21).
That angel spake and acted as God, but it would be folly to claim that he was part of the Trinity. In the Age to come, the faithful will be "equal unto the angels" (Luke 20:36), and will go forth in the name of God.
The Holy Spirit.
This is frequently translated Holy Ghost in the Bible, but should always be rendered Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the energy or power of God by which all creation came into being and is sustained. Whilst God dwells personally and corporeally in the heavens, His spirit is diffused throughout the universe (Ps. 139:7-12), and is the substratum of all creation (Acts 17:25).
When God's Holy Spirit was poured out upon men so that they could use it, it enabled them to perform miracles, or to speak with Divine wisdom. Micah declared: "I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord" (Ch. 3:8), and so he proclaimed his prophecies of the future. Of Peter it is written that he was "filled with the Holy Ghost" (Spirit) and thus spake boldly unto the people (Acts 4:8). It is surely obvious that he was not filled with the third person of a Trinity! Cornelius was told that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost" (Spirit -- Acts 10:38). Surely the first Person of the Trinity did not anoint the second Person with the third Person!!
No! The Holy Spirit relates to God's power, which was then (but not now) poured out upon men, enabling them to speak foreign languages without having learned them, or to perform miracles.
The prophets were moved by the Spirit to record their teaching (Nehemiah 9:30; 2 Pet. 1:21), and by the same means God spake to men through His Son (Heb. 1:1). In consequence of this the revelation of God's truth can be described as the spirit- word (see John 6:63; Eph. 6:17; 1 John 5:7). It is this spirit only that is available to men today, but that is also capable of performing miracles, for it can cause the hard hearts of men to become softened and pliable to the Divine will, and to reflect this in a changed way of life (see Gal. 5:22-25).
On one occasion, when Paul visited Ephesus, he came upon certain disciples, and enquired as to whether they had yet "received the Holy Spirit." The disciples replied that they had not, and commented: "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost" (i.e. Spirit). Obviously they had never beard of the modern doctrine of the Trinity. The incident is recorded in Acts 19: 2-3.
Did Jesus Pre-exist?
There are verses that seem to give support to the theory that Jesus existed in heaven before he was born. For example, on one occasion he declared: "I came down from heaven" (John 6:51). What did he mean by such a statement? The context shows that he meant that he had been born from above, for a few verses later, he is reported as saying: "It is the spirit that quickeneth . . ."(v. 63).
Jesus was born by the interposition of the Holy Spirit on the virgin Mary. She was told:
"The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
In that sense Jesus came down from heaven, for God was his Father.
Though Jesus was in the mind and purpose of God from the very beginning, he had no corporeal existence prior to his birth of the virgin Mary, 1900 years ago. Previous to that event, God spake of the coming Lord in the future tense: "I will be his Father, and he shall be My Son" (2 Sam. 7:14). "I will make him My firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth" (Psalm 89:27); "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor," etc. (Isa. 9:6). If Jesus were already in existence when those words were uttered, God should have said: "He is my son, I am his Father, "He My firstborn," "His name is Wonderful" etc.
The future tense used in relation to the Son shows quite clearly that he was not in existence when the words were uttered, except, in the mind and plan of God.
Jesus Christ was the Seed of the Woman promised in Eden; the Son promised Abraham; the Prophet promised Moses; the King promised David; the Messiah promised Israel; the Chief among the sons of God, and the Captain of their salvation promised believers (Heb. 2:10). Of him it is written:
"When the fulness of the time was come. God sent forth His son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law that we might receive the status of sonship" (Gal. 4:4-5).
This is clear, easily-understood language; but to teach that he had some prior existence only confuses these words, and is contrary to Scripture. Moreover, where is there any power of example for mortal man in Jesus if he were a pre-existent angel, or the second person of a Trinity? God's purpose was to manifest His righteousness in a man of our nature, whose perfect character would ensure a resurrection to life eternal (Acts 2:24)) and by that means to point the way whereby we can conquer both sin and death. Paul declared:
"Forasmuch then as the children (i.e. sons of God -- believers unto salvation) are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14).
If Jesus were an angel, or the second person of a Trinity, he would not be a partaker of flesh and blood, he could not have died (cp. Luke 20:36), he would not be a representative man, and therefore he would not qualify as a sacrifice for sin unto salvation.
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 16
BIBLE TEACHING CONCERNING THE GODHEAD
GOD AS CREATOR: "Thou, even thou art Lord alone. Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all things that are therein; the seas, and all that is therein. Thou preservest them all and the host of heaven (the angels) worshippeth thee" (Neh. 9:6). See also Isa. 40:13-27; Ps. 124:8; 146:6, 148:5; Acts 17:24.
HIS CREATIVE POWER: "By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens" (Job 26:13; Jer. 10:12-13).
INVISIBLE TO MORTAL MAN: "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God be honor and glory for ever" (1 Tim. 1:17; 1 Tim. 6:15),
HIS UNITY: "Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the Lord." Notice it is not "We, even we are the Lord" (Isa. 43:10-11; Isa. 44:6-8; 45:5; 46:9-10; Deut. 6:4).
HIS ABSOLUTE POWER AND GLORY: "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is thine; thine is the Kingdom O Lord, and thou art exalted as head over all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might, and in thine hand it is to make great and to give strength unto all" (1 Chron. 29:11-12; Ps. 145:3; Isa. 26:4; 40:26; Ps. 92:5; 104:24; 147:4-5; Isa. 28:29).
ALL THINGS VISIBLE TO HIM: "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to shew Himself strong unto them whose heart is perfect toward him" (2 Chron. 16:9; Job 28:24; Ps. 33:13-14; 44:21; 32:19; Amos 9:2-3; Acts 17:27-28).
HIS DWELLING PLACE: "O thou that dwellest in the heavens" (Ps. 123:1; 1 Kings 8:30, 39, 43, 49; Matth. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:17; 1 Tim. 6:15-16).
EVERYWHERE PRESENT BY HIS SPIRIT: "If I make my bed in hell (the grave) behold thou art there" (Ps. 139:7-11; Prov. 15:3; Jer. 23:24).