By Cecil Willis
Last week we announced our intention of studying whether God, Christ and the Holy Spirit are all one person. There are a number of denominations who maintain that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are but different manifestations of the same person. It is childish of us to ignore our differences. We should really come to grips with our differences and honestly measure them in the light of the Scriptures. Last week we tried to cite the arguments made in attempting to prove that God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are one person. This week we want you to weigh the evidence in the Scriptures showing that the Godhead consists of three personalities, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We may speak of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all as being divine. I am attempting to prove the deity which we worship consists of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In The Beginning
The first passage I suggest for your candid observation is Gen. 1:26. Of course in the first chapter of Genesis, we have the inspired account of creation. After God had created the heavens and the earth, the fish, fowls, animals and creeping things, as a crowning act of His creation, He created man. As God prepared to make man, the Scriptures say, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26). Notice God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” He used “us” and “our” instead of “my” and “mine.” He spoke in the plural. This verse, therefore shows that there is a plurality in the Godhead. If God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are all one person, the passage then would have read, “Let me make man in my image, after my likeness.” Someone should explain why God referred to Himself in the plural.
Our friends who believe this doctrine are sometimes willing to admit that deity was manifested in three different personalities during the time Christ was incarnate in human flesh, on the earth. But Gen. 1:26 shows there were three persons prior to Christ’s taking upon Himself the likeness and fashion of a man. The Scriptures teach that there were three divine persons active in the creation o# man. But the Scriptures also teach that the three divine personalities were also active in the creation.
God the Father had a part in the original creation. In Rev, 14:7, we read, “Fear God, and give him glory; for the house of his judgment is come; and worship him that made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.” Jesus Christ was also active in the original creation: “who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love; in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him were all things created (KJV says “by him were all things created”), in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; and he is before all things, and in him all things consist” (Col. 1:13-17). Paul also declared that the worlds were made through Christ in Hebrews 1. “God . . . hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds” (vs. 1-3). The apostle John further emphasized the creative power of Jesus as he said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made” (Jno. 1:1-3). So Jesus had a part in creation. But the Holy Spirit was also active in creation. Gen. 1:2 says, “And the earth was without void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” So there were three persons active in creation: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, or the divine Father, the divine Son, and the divine Holy Spirit. These passages should sound the death-knell to the “one person” theory, but if not, there are many other Scriptures equally as plain.
Let us now look at another passage that declares that Jesus, or the Word existed as a separate personality prior to His coming to earth. In John 1 we have a statement of the relationship existing between Jesus and God. In this passage, Jesus is referred to as the Word. Proof of this statement is found in John 1:14. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.” Jesus, the Word, became flesh. Well what about the Word? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Notice the first expression: “In the beginning was the Word.” This carries us back to the earliest moment of time, or to the time when the heavens and earth were created. In the beginning, the Word “was,” or was already in existence. This shows that God and Christ are co-eternal.
Next the apostle John said, “And the Word was with God.” Does this sound like a statement made regarding one person? The Word was “with” God. Was John simply saying that Jesus was with Himself? Or was John saying Jesus, one person, was with God, another person? It must be the latter, for the former expression would be grammatically incorrect.
The third expression in John 1:1 is “And the Word was God.” This statement is often mis-construed to mean that God and Christ were one person, but such is not the meaning at all. John was saying that the Word was deity, or that Jesus was also divine. In Phil. 2:5-8, Paul in describing the state of Jesus, prior to his incarnation, said that he “counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped,” or a thing to be held on to. He gave up His equality with God, and took upon Himself the form of a man, with certain limitations of the human body. Yet he was God manifest in human flesh. But Jesus existed before He became human flesh, and this irreconcilable with the “one person,” or “Jesus only” doctrine.
There are also three persons active in providence. We are promised the accompaniment of all three persons in the Godhead. In Heb. 13:5, the apostle Paul quoted the words of God as found in Deut. 31:6: “I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee.” God said, “I will be with you.” In the Great Commission, Jesus promised also to accompany the disciples: Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:19,20). The Holy Spirit is promised in John 14:16,17: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you forever, even the spirit of truth.”
So we see that three persons, God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were all present and active in creation, and all three are likewise active in divine providence.
In the Jordan Wilderness
As an irrefutable proof that there are three persons in the Godhead, open your Bible and turn to the account of Jesus’ baptism, found in Matthew 3. “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway from the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him; and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16,17). Now, how many divine persons were present at the baptism of Jesus? There were three! Jesus was the one being baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River; the Holy Spirit was descending as a dove; and God spoke from the heavens saying, “This is my beloved Son.” From the passage we see that Jesus was on earth, God was in heaven; and the Holy Spirit was descending from heaven to earth. There were three persons present.
There are many who are willing to admit there were three personalities present, but deny that there are three persons, which is contradiction to the meaning of good English words. No personality can exist without a person existing. Was God a person? Yes. Was Jesus a person? Yes. Was the Holy Spirit a person? Yes. If so, there were three persons present. If each of these, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, are not persons, then they are impersonal, which simply means they are not persons. Yet these same persons, who contend the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not each a person, have misrepresented some groups by declaring that they believed the Holy Spirit was not a person, but some sort of cosmic spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit is personal or is a person. But if these people believe that Jesus is the only person in the Godhead, then they believe God and the Holy Spirit are impersonal. If they believe that God is a person, Christ is a person, and the Holy Spirit is a person, they believe that there are three persons in the Godhead, which is what I have been trying to prove.
If the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all one person, then when Jesus was being baptized, the account of His baptism should read quite differently. The account should declare, if the doctrine under-investigation is true, that Jesus was being baptized, and that Jesus was descending like a dove and lighting upon Jesus, and Jesus said to Himself from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” How could Jesus be baptized and at the same time, Jesus descend like a dove on Jesus, and at the same time Jesus say to Jesus, “Jesus, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The doctrine which we are studying makes sheer nonsense of the Scriptures as one so plainly can see by our application of it to this particular passage of Scripture. This is why we are so plainly interested in seeing the truth clearly set forth. Clearly, at the baptism of Jesus we have all three persons in the Godhead present on one occasion. Jesus was being baptized, the Holy Spirit descended, and God spoke. Nothing could be made clearer than the Scriptures make this point.
There were three divine persons present and active in the creation of man. There are three persons active in divine providence. And there were three persons present and active in Christ’s baptism. These passages should be adequate to establish the truth that there are three persons in the Godhead. (Next: objections considered in “The Holy Three.”)
Truth Magazine, XX:19, p. 3-5
May 6, 1976