By Cecil Willis
Previously, we learned that there was a plurality of persons instrumental in the making of man. God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). There were three divine persons active in the whole of creation, and likewise three holy persons active in divine providence. Then we studied in Matt. 3, the account of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus was being baptized; the Holy Spirit was descending like a dove; and God spoke from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son.” So we have already learned there were three divine personalities. We want to continue our study of the Scriptures, showing this to be the Bible truth. But from time to time, we need to stop to consider objections that might be made.
It is sometimes objected, that if there are three distinct persons in the Godhead, we are therefore worshipping three Gods instead of one. We would have a plurality of Gods. But some seem to be unable to understand that the Deity can consist of three persons. They seem to have no trouble understanding how Deity could manifest Himself in three persons, and yet be one God. But whether these objectors can understand how it can be or not, the Scriptures declare that the three are one. In the following passage notice the mention of each separate person, and then the categorical statement that they are one: “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in the earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one” (1 Jno. 5:4-8). Regardless of what men might say, or whether they believe it or not, the apostle John says the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one. Someone asks, “How can three be one?” I reply by asking, “Is it any more difficult to believe that three can be one than it is to believe that one can be three?” Is it harder to explain how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can be one (remember it does not declare them to be one person), than it is to explain how one person, Jesus, can be the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? It is not a matter of determining which is the harder to explain, but a matter of ascertaining what the Scriptures declare to be the truth on the subject. And we have just seen from the Bible where the three are one, and I believe it. I do not worship a plurality of Gods. I worship the one Deity, which consists of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
But if the charge of those who claim we are “Tritheists” (worshippers of three Gods) were true, they would only have indicted themselves also. If because I believe the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are separate persons, I am a worshipper of three Gods, are they not worshippers of three Gods while Jesus was on earth, the Holy Spirit was descending to earth, and God was in heaven? They believe in three manifestations. They are therefore guilty of worshipping three divine manifestations. Actually these objectors worship one Diety which consists of three divine persons just as we do. But they choose to call these persons manifestations, instead of persons. But the manifestations are in the form of persons.
Then we are asked, “What about Isa. 9:6?” So let us just consider this passage. The passage reads: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This passage is cited as showing that God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are one person. I think it is apparent that it does not declare this. Nothing more is contained in this passage than the truth revealed in Heb. 1:3, and in Phil. 2 which says that Christ was made in the express image of God. Jesus partook of the nature of divinity. He had the attributes of God. This passage in the original language is a difficult one for the translators. In fact, the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) omits entirely the expressions “mighty God,” and “everlasting Father.” The Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament, reads “father of eternity,” as the footnote of the ASV indicates. It simply means that Jesus is the Father or author of the ages. The expression deals with time, and not with the nature of the Godhead. The footnote in the Greek says He is the “Father of the age to come.” So this passage is not declaring that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all one person.
Now let us resume looking at passages which tell us that Jesus and the Father are not one person. In Jno. 14:28 Jesus says: “Ye heard how I said to you, I go away, and I come unto you. If ye loved me, ye would have rejoiced, because I go unto the Father, and the Father is greater than L” Jesus says that the Father is greater than He is. Is Jesus declaring that He is greater than Himself? How can Jesus be greater than Himself? Yet this is precisely the implication if the “Jesus Only” doctrine be true. Jesus also declared that He was going to the Father. Was Jesus going to be with Himself when He said “I go to the Father.” Since the Father was greater than Jesus, as the passage declares, and since one cannot be greater than himself, therefore Jesus was not the Father.
All of us remember the pitiful last words of our Lord on the cross of Calvary. As Jesus hung on the cross in mortal agony, at the ninth hour he cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Jesus could stand the terrible agonies o# the cross, and do so in silence, but when God turned His face from that terrible scene, Jesus cried out as though in a cry of death. Immediately afterward, “Jesus uttered a loud voice, and gave up the ghost” (Mk. 15:33-37). But notice particularly the expression, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Think about the doctrine we are discussing, and then relate it to this passage we are studying. Jesus was being crucified on the cross. But since there is but one person in the Godhead, for such the doctrine declares, to whom was Jesus praying on the cross? Who was Jesus asking not to forsake Him? Really, the original language carried a beautiful thought with it. Jesus is asking “For what purpose hast thou forsaken me?” But of whom is He inquiring this? Of Himself? Is Jesus, while hanging on the cross, praying, “Jesus, Jesus, why hast Thou forsaken Thyself?” Certainly not. He is praying to the Father above, a separate being from Himself. This passage indubitably shows that Jesus and the Father are not one person.
In 1 Tim. 2:5, we find this reading: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is the mediator between God and men, the passage says, Now, where there is a mediator there must be three persons involved. There must be the two parties at variance, and the mediator. In this instance, there is God, men, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Literally, a mediator is one who stands between two. Moses stood between God and the Israelites, and presented the cause of the Israelites to God, and spoke to the Israelites for God. But Christ is our mediator. But how can Jesus be our mediator between God and man, if He is the one God of this verse? The passage shown says “there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Jesus was Deity in human flesh, thus he could represent the cause of both God and man. But if Jesus is the one God of this verse, how can he serve as a mediator between Himself and another? Paul says a mediator is not a mediator of one in Gal. 3:20. If a mediator is one who stands between two, how can Jesus be both the one God and the mediator in this verse? And if he is not the one God and the mediator also, then there are two persons mentioned in this passage, and this destroys the “one person” doctrine.
Another passage similar to the one just used is 1 Jno. 2:1: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” The meaning of the term “advocate” is similar to that of the “mediator.” The word “advocate” is translated from the Greek word paraki~-,tos, and according to Henry Thayer, this word means: “one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, advocate.”
How can one plead another’s cause before himself? If Jesus is the judge, and Jesus is the advocate, then Jesus is pleading man’s cause to Himself. But this would be contradictory to the meaning of the term “advocate.” The truth is: Jesus is our lawyer who stands before God, the offended, and the judge, and pleads for our, the offender’s cause. Thus we have God, the judge, Jesus the pleader, and man the offender, all implied in this passage. Jesus is not both the judge and pleader. God is the judge, the offended; and Jesus is pleading with Him in our behalf. Not only does it deny the doctrine under review in this lesson, but it is a wonderful thought to know that Jesus is pleading in our behalf. Many of us, by our lives, are giving the Lord little upon which to plead for us. We expect Him to do it all. But Jesus only intercedes when we have done our best, and can go no farther.
We have previously stated that the doctrine tinder review in this series of lessons, is subversive of the Sonship of Jesus Christ. Of course this is denied, by saying that these people believe Jesus to be the Son of God. This they do, if they are permitted to define what they mean by the statement “Jesus is the Son of God.” But by the time the explanation is given, Jesus is no longer the Son of God. He has suddenly become His own Son. If God is Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is Jesus and Jesus is Jesus, then if Jesus is the Son of God, He is the Son of Jesus, or His own Son, and this precisely is the sense in which I declare the doctrine subverts the Sonship of Jesus. And I think that this fact is apparent to all.
If I know my own heart, and if I have any insight into my fellow men, we are interested in truth. We have spent time in studying this doctrine in order that the one who reads might see the foundations of our faith, so that he may rationally decide for himself. I do not expect any person to believe what I believe, simply because I believe it, but if inspired reasons can be given for one’s faith, it should become the faith of all. Hence Next week “The Persons of the Godhead.”
Truth Magazine, XX:23, p. 2-5
June 3, 1976