The second point of the AMC's doctrinal statement declares belief in a Tri-unity or Trinity, a triune God, which seems to fly in the face of the Sh'ma, the universal credo of Judaism, in which God declares Himself to be one. Let us therefore take a careful look at Scripture.
D'varim 6:4. Sh'ma Yisrael, YHVH eloheinu YHVH echad.
Deuteronomy 6:4. Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.
In previous studies, we examined how there were three in Scripture who each possess the attributes of divinity and personhood and whom Scripture identifies as God the Father, Yeshua the Son, and Ruach Hakodesh, the Holy Spirit. The heavy lifting in demonstrating the Tri-unity of God has thus been accomplished; yet there are matters that still need to be considered, not the least of which is the Sh'ma itself, which actually holds the key to understanding the Tri-unity of God.
We believe that God is one but has manifested Himself in three separate and distinct Persons. Hence, we believe that God is a Tri-unity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is the creator of all things. He is infinite and perfect, eternally existing in three equal persons, each possessing the nature of deity, as well as the characteristics of personality. He is Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient. (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 48:16; Matthew 28:19; John 6:27; Acts 5:3,4; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Hebrews 1:8)
That there are three divine Persons has already been established, but that they are clearly distinct from one another can be see in Isaiah 48:12-16:
12. Listen to me, O Jacob and Israel, My called; I am He; I am the first, I also am the last.... 16. Come near to Me, hear this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning. From the time that it was, I was there; and now the Lord Jehovah, and His Spirit, has sent Me.
Verse 12 identifies the Me of verse 16 as the first and the last, a title of divinity declaring the attribute of eternity (from eternity past to eternity future), a title applied to Messiah Yeshua in Revelation 1:4-8. With this in mind, let's take a closer looks at verse 16: ...and now the Lord Jehovah (God the Father), and His Spirit (the Holy Spirit), has sent Me (Messiah Yeshua).
Three distinct divine Persons in one scripture.
Also in Luke 3:22: And the Holy Spirit came down in a bodily shape, like a dove on Him. And a voice came from Heaven, which said, "You are My Son, the Beloved; I am delighted in You."
One Person: The Holy Spirit. Another Person: Him, My Son. And yet another: the Speaker from Heaven, the Father. Three distinct divine Persons.
There are only three in all of Scripture who possess any of the attributes unique to divinity, such as, eternity, omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence.
Let's take a look at how echad is used elsewhere in the Tanach (Hebrew Scriptures) and then determine how it is used in the Sh'ma.
There are a great many places in which echad indicates an absolute oneness. Genesis 10:25 is an example: And two sons were born to Eber. The name of ha'echad, the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided. And his brother's name was Joktan.
However, echad is elsewhere used to indicate a compound unit. A strikingly clear example is Genesis 2:24: Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they shall be 'basar echad', one flesh.
1 Corinthians 6:16, which refers back to Genesis 2:24, clarifies the concept of basar echad: Or do you not know that he being joined to a harlot is one body? For He says, "The two shall be one flesh."
It is clear from this passage that sexual union between a man and a woman, even apart from marriage or the bearing of a child, renders them basar echad in God's eyes. (For He says, "The two shall be one flesh." Also Matthew 19:4, immediately below.) The harlot and her lover become echad, a compound unit, by virtue of engaging in sexual union; because sexual union, the most intimate of physical relationships, is viewed by God as the very seal of marriage, which people must not "separate" (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9).
4. And He answered and said to them, Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning "made them male and female", 5. and said, For this cause a man shall leave father and mother and shall cling to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh? 6. Therefore they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.
~ Matthew 19:4-6 ~
This unity in marriage, intended by God to last in practice, is expressed wonderfully in the traditional marriage vow, "as long as ye both shall live," which pictures the eternal marriage that Messiah enters into with all who are His by faith (Revelation 21:9).
The essential thing to note is that within the compound unit of a man and a woman in marriage, each never ceases to retain his or her individual body and soul. Husband and wife are echad even though their individual physical and spiritual makeups are wholly retained. Echad, then, can clearly be used to denote a compound unit of a plurality of individuals who simultaneously retain their individuality.
The question, now, is this:
More specifically, does echad in the Sh'ma declare YHVH to be an absolute unit or a compound unit?
Here again is the Sh'ma:
D'varim 6:4. Sh'ma Yisrael, YHVH eloheinu YHVH echad.
Deuteronomy 6:4. Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.
We'll consider four lines of reasoning:
1. Yachid, which always means an absolute one, was not used in the Sh'ma.
Dr. Fruchtenbaum writes,
There is another Hebrew word that does mean an absolute one, yachid. It is used in Genesis 22:2 where it emphasizes Isaac as Abraham's only unique son. If Moses wanted to emphasize the absolute oneness of God [in the Sh'ma] he would have used the term yachid. But he did not use that term for God's oneness. So Deuteronomy 6:4 is an argument in favor of the plurality of the Godhead and also teaches the unity of this plurality of one God. (Fruchtenbaum, Dr. Arnold G. Radio Manuscript #50: The Trinity. San Antonio: Ariel Ministries Press. Pp. 10-11)
2. There are two examples in the Tanach in which YHVH refers to not just one person, but two.
They are Genesis 19:24 and Zechariah 2:8-9. The clearest of the two is the latter:
8. For so says Jehovah of Hosts: He has sent me after glory, to the nations who stripped you; for he who touches you touches the pupil of His eye. 9. For behold, I will shake My hand over them, and they shall be a prize for their servants. And you shall know that Jehovah of Hosts has sent me.
~ Zechariah 2:8-9 ~
Both the sender and the one sent are called Jehovah - two in number, not one. Yachid could not be used to describe the compound oneness of the two Persons named Jehovah, but echad could.
3. There are three divine Persons in the Tri-unity. Our previous studies have demonstrated this beyond the threshold of proof.
4. Matthew 28:19: Therefore go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Three Persons, one name. Jesus commissioned His disciples to baptize with a view to the unity of the three divine Persons.
5. SUMMING UP
1. Yachid, not echad, was the word used in Genesis 22:2 to emphasize the absolute oneness of Abraham's only unique son, Isaac.
2. A plurality of Persons is referred to in the Tanach as YHVH.
3. The Scriptures identify three Persons as divine.
4. Moses could have used yachid in the Sh'ma to indicate absolute oneness unequivocally, but he did not. He used echad.
5. Father, Son and Holy Spirit have one Name.
In view of these things, it would have been misleading to describe YHVH in the Sh'ma as yachid as it is clear, even in the Tanach, that there are a plurality of Persons in the Godhead. There remains only one reasonable conclusion: Echad in the Sh'ma ascribes compound unity to YHVH; and since there are three divine Persons who constitute that compound unit, we call them a Tri-unity.
Trinity is the most commonly accepted English term for conveying the unity of the three Persons of the Godhead. However, some have observed that the sound of the word openly conveys threeness in the prefix Tri, but does not openly convey oneness. The fact is, the etymology of the word reveals a total absence of the concept of unity! Webster presents the etymology of Trinity thusly: "from Late Latin trinitat-, trinitas state of being threefold, from Latin trinus threefold."
On the other hand, both the sound and the etymology of Tri-unity clearly convey the threeness and the oneness of the Godhead, and in perfect balance. Hence, the AMC uses the term Tri-unity.
The compound unity of the three divine Persons consists in their being of one essence. As to the meaning of essence, Dr. Ryrie says, "The word substance might be too materialistic; some would prefer to use the word essence." (Ryrie, Dr. Charles Caldwell. Basic Theology. Wheaton: Victor books, 1986. P. 53) To further clarify, I offer a statement by Dr. Chafer: No doubt, there is a distinct consciousness which identifies each Person, yet there is a united possession of attributes and of nature. (Emphasis mine.) (Chafer, Dr. Louis Sperry. Systematic Theology, Volume 1. P. 273.)
In John 10:30, Jesus said, I and the Father are one.
In reference to this, Dr. Fruchtenbaum says, "This verse teaches that the Father and the Son are one in essence, the essence of divinity itself." (Fruchtenbaum, Dr. Arnold G. Radio Manuscript #63: The Deity of the Messiah. San Antonio: Ariel Ministries Press. P. 12).
9. Jesus said to him, Have I been with you such a long time and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father. And how do you say, Show us the Father? 10. Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? The Words that I speak to you I do not speak of Myself, but the Father who dwells in Me, He does the works.
~ John 14:9-10 ~
Some commentaries on I am in the Father and the Father in Me:
· "... expressive of the sameness of nature" (John Gill's Exposition of the Bible).
· "... denotes most intimate union" (Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible).
· "We are essentially one;...." (Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible).
Father and Son are of one essence. That is why Jesus was so reflective of the Father and was able to say, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).
14. (But their thoughts were blinded; for until the present the same veil remains on the reading of the old covenant, not taken away.) But this veil has been done away in Christ. 15. But until this day, when Moses is read, the veil is on their heart. 16. But whenever it turns to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. 17. And the Lord is that Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
~ 2 Corinthians 3:14-17 ~
When Israel turns to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Verse 14 identifies the Lord as Christ. Verse 17 declares the Lord is that Spirit... the Spirit of the Lord... In view of this, Dr. Charles Ryrie declares verse 17 to be "a strong statement that Christ and the Holy Spirit are one in essence" (Ryrie, Dr. Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago: Moody, 1978.)
Romans 8:27: And He [the Father] Who searches the hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because He [the Spirit] makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God [the Father].
Father and Spirit are so "one" that the Spirit always prays according to the will of God, never wavering in the slightest. The Spirit would be unable to do this unless the two were perfectly of one mind. They are of one essence.
Colossians 2:9 says of Jesus, For in Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
The fullness of the Godhead dwells in the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the two are of one essence. The fullness of the Godhead also dwells in Jesus. As fullness means totality, He must necessarily be of one essence with the Father and the Spirit.
Father and Son are one in essence, Son and Holy Spirit are one in essence, Holy Spirit and Father are one in essence, and Jesus is one in essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Clearly, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one in essence.
Dr. Geisler and Ronald Brooks declare, "The doctrine of the Trinity, if understood as saying that God is three persons yet only one person, would be self-contradictory." (Geisler, Dr. Norman L. and Brooks, Ronald Come, Let Us Reason. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. Pp. 19-20.)
They are not one Person though they are one in essence. They are three distinct Persons that are one in essence.
We've seen that the Godhead consists of three distinct Persons, but we've also seen that they are one in essence. The answer, then, is: No. Because they are of one essence the three divine Persons are not three separate or distinct Gods, but are one God. They are, in their fundamental essence, inseparable.
Dr. Chafer says:
No doubt, there is a distinct consciousness which identifies each Person, yet there is a united possession of attributes and of nature.... [The Trinity] affirms no more than that a being may be singular in one sense and plural in another. Various illustrations of such realities in nature might be introduced. In the constitution of a human being there is conjunction of unity and plurality. The immaterial and material elements combine to form one individual.... In the case of the human being, there is one consciousness with a twofold subsistence; in the case of Deity, there are but three consciousnesses and but one nature.... The Trinity is composed of three united Persons without separate existence - so completely united as to form One God. (Chafer, 273 - 276.)
They are three divine Persons, but inasmuch as they are one in divine essence, we cannot say that they are three Gods. They are three in Person, but because they are one in essence, they are one God.
Let's approach this by seeking to identify the "essence" of each of the members of the Tri-unity.
Jesus said, God is a Spirit (John 4:24). The essence of God the Father is divine Spirit.
As in English, in the Hebrew, Spirit is the noun and Holy is the modifying adjective. The essence of the Holy Spirit is obviously divine Spirit.
No scripture states directly that the Son is divine Spirit, but at least two passages clarify the issue:
One is 2 Corinthians 3:14-17, which contains the statement, The Lord is that Spirit. As has been shown, Dr. Ryrie says that this is "a strong statement that Christ and the Holy Spirit are one in essence" (Ryrie Study Bible). If the essence of the Holy Spirit is divine Spirit, then the essence of the Son is divine Spirit. The other is Colossians 2:9: For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
If the Father is Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is Spirit, and all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in the Son, then the Son is Spirit, also. The essence of the Son is divine Spirit.
We've shown that the three Persons of the Tri-unity are of one essence, and that the essence of each member of the Tri-unity is divine Spirit. The nature of the unifying essence of the Tri-unity, then, is divine Spirit.
We are now ready for some...
Geisler and Brooks continue: "However, the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity says that there are three persons in one being." (Geisler and Brooks, 19-20.)
Dr. Chafer writes, "In the case of Deity, there are but three consciousnesses and but one nature..." (Chafer, 275). "The Trinity is composed of three united Persons without separate existence - so completely united as to form One God." (Chafer, 276)
Dr. Ryrie states (Basic Theology, 385), "De Trinitate. The concept of the Trinity in the Western church reached a final formulation in this work by Augustine [354-430].... In this treatise he stated that each of the three Persons of the Trinity possess the entire essence and that all are interdependent on the others."
Consistent with this, Dr. Ryrie declares (Basic Theology, 53), "One of the best [definitions] is Warfield's: 'There is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence.'" (B. B. Warfield, "Trinity," The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, ed. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1930], 5:3012).
Dr. Fruchtenbaum suggests, "Perhaps the best and simplest definition of the Trinity is that there is only one God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three eternal and co-equal Persons; the same in substance or essence, but distinct in subsistence or existence" (Fruchtenbaum, Dr. Arnold G. Radio Manuscript #50: The Trinity. San Antonio: Ariel Ministries Press. P. 4).
· Three consciousnesses and but one nature...
· Three persons in one being...
· Three united Persons without separate existence...
· Three Persons of the Trinity possess the entire essence and... all are interdependent on the others...
· Three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence...
· The same in substance or essence, but distinct in subsistence or existence.
Inasmuch as the nature of the essence of the Tri-unity is divine Spirit, I suggest this definition:
The Tri-unity consists
of Three divine
mutually consisting of
one divine Spirit.
"The Father came in the form of Jesus.""The Father came in the form of the Spirit.""Jesus came in the form of the Spirit."
Have you heard statements like these? Well, they are simply not true. You will never find a scripture that says that one of the divine Persons comes in the form of another. They mutually consist of the same essence, but they are always and forever distinct Persons. They do not swap or transfer or transform their identities. Never. Perhaps the closest statement in Scripture that suggests that they may is Luke 3:22a: And the Holy Spirit came down in a bodily shape, like a dove on Him.
The Holy Spirit assumed the shape of a dove, but He never ceased being the Holy Spirit. In fact, the full passage demonstrates the three Persons working in harmony with one another with each retaining His individual identity: 22. And the Holy Spirit came down in a bodily shape, like a dove on Him. And a voice came from Heaven, which said, You are My Son, the Beloved; I am delighted in You.
The Spirit descended upon Jesus, and God the Father declared His delight in His Son. Three Persons working together beautifully to launch Jesus into public ministry, each retaining His own individual identity.
One Person never takes the form of another.
Upon His incarnation, the Son added to His divine essence and personhood a fully human spirit and a fully human body; yet, He did not for an instant cease being fully divine (Colossians 2:9). Therefore, even when Jesus walked the earth in a localized body, He was still one in Tri-unity with Father and Holy Spirit. He never ceased being fully eternal, omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent.
Jesus now resides in the heavenlies, eternally part of the Tri-unity, still with a human spirit (Luke 23:46), and now with a glorified body. Although the Tri-unity is omnipresent, Jesus' body is not. This can be seen by the fact that He ascended into heaven in a localized body (Acts 1:9), that He will meet the saints at the rapture in a localized body in a localized place ("the air," 1 Thessalonians 4:17), and that He will return to earth on a localized "horse" followed by the saints whose spirits had received their localized bodies at the resurrection/ rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; Revelation 19:11, 15, 21). In addition, Scripture never says that the glorified bodies of the saints, which will dwell in heaven for seven years after the rapture, will be anything other than localized. This is powerful evidence that glorified bodies can dwell in Heaven in localized form. As to Jesus' human spirit, Scripture never ascribed omnipresence to a human spirit, not even to His. It therefore remains for us to conclude that His human spirit is localized with His body just as our spirits are localized with ours and will be in Heaven. Our human spirits are not omnipresent, and neither is His.
How are we to fathom the fact that the divine Spirit of Jesus shares omnipresence with the Father and the Holy Spirit while His human spirit and body, though He be ascended, do not? Friends, I think we've hit the limits of revelation here, and we'd better not try to venture further.
Deuteronomy 29:29: The secret things belong to Jehovah our God, but the revealed things belong to us and to our sons forever.
Many of the scriptures contained in this study are more than sufficient to declare at least the following:
John 6:38: For I came down from Heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.
John 14:26: But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.
However, when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth. For He shall not speak of Himself, but whatever He hears, He shall speak. And He will announce to you things to come. 14. He will glorify Me, for He will receive of Mine and will announce it to you.
~ John 16:13 ~
Matthew 3:17: And lo, a voice from Heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Psalm 2:7. I will declare the decree of Jehovah. He has said to Me, You are My Son; today I have begotten You. 8. Ask of Me, and I shall give the nations for Your inheritance; and the uttermost parts of the earth for Your possession.
In a flawless, effulgent, blissful Spirit of love.
John 4:7. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God. 8. The one who does not love has not known God. For God is love.