I was visiting an online forum where they were discussing the Trinity. One of the Christians presented some Scripture from the Old Testament to show that God was plural or more than one. He was promptly told that if he presented those scriptures to Moses in an attempt to use them to prove God was plural he would have been put to death. That’s probably correct. The Jews were the only people in the ancient world who worshipped one God. All the other nations at that time had deviated into polytheism, and had become believers in more than one God. To use the Holy Scriptures to try and prove that God was more than one would be a great blasphemy that warranted the death penalty in those days.
That forum board conversation stuck with me. Should we associate the word “plural” with the one true God? Are we alienating the Jews and Muslims from coming to Jesus by using inappropriate terminology?
An acquaintance of mine who is a Christian, related to me his experience at a meeting designed to familiarize people with Islamic beliefs. After the Imam was finished speaking there was a question and answer session. My acquaintance stood up and ask the Imam, “Do you believe in the Trinity?”
My acquaintance told me with quite a bit of amusement that the Imam was so upset he almost shook the podium. I replied, “I don’t blame him. In his mind he thinks you are a polytheist.” The expression on the man’s face suddenly changed to shock. It never occurred to him that is how Muslims and Jews think of Christians. In their minds we are polytheists for believing in the Trinity and idolaters for worshipping Jesus. I believe that much of the brutal persecution many Christians face around the world today stems from misunderstandings about what Christians believe regarding the Trinity and Jesus.
Christians need to understand that when we use the word “God,” to the Jewish and Muslim minds we are referring to just God the Father. And in their minds we are saying that the Father is more than one or plural.
Years ago I received an email from a Muslim who was trying to convert me to Islam. His first objection to my Christian faith was concerning the Trinity. He began by quoting from the Koran. - “Say: He, Allah is one!” (Surah AL-IKHIAS 112:1). Christians by saying: ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ are submitting to a polytheist belief. Is this not a clear deviation?” He also repeated the standard Muslim objections to Jesus’ status as the “only begotten Son of God.”
Jews also adhere to these same objections. One Jew who I encountered online assembled a barrage of questions, “Is there a Trinity? Is Jesus really the “Son of God” or just the messiah? Is Jesus the Father or not? Is Jesus 100% God and 100% human or 50-50?... Practically every Christian I’ve spoken to has given a different answer…they just can’t get their story straight.”
That’s a sad indictment on the body of Christ. The majority of Christians are not properly trained to answer those questions and they should be. However if he asked the question “Is there any plurality in God the Father?” Any pastor, theologian or Bible scholar would give him the same answer, “No, there is no plurality in God the Father.” The Apostle Paul who was also referring to the Father, affirmed that “God is one” in Galatians 3:20. Christians can quote Paul in this area in order to gain some common ground without abandoning belief in the Three as they are revealed in the scriptures.
Muslims believe that Christians worship a false god, many Christians believe the same about Muslims. Jews reject both of us. Do we all worship the same God? To answer this question, picture a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim all admiring a majestic mountain. The Christian says, “I worship the God who made that mountain.” Both the Jew and the Muslim would also have to agree that they also worship the God that made that mountain.
There is one thing all Christians, Jews and Muslims have in common; they all profess belief in the One True God of Israel, the God of Abraham. Each one of these groups believe different things about the God who made that mountain. I believe that it is the will of God for Christians to eliminate the theological barriers among these ones who profess to love God, the God who wants us to love one another.
Is There a Trinity?
First of all we need to understand what the word “trinity” actually means. It comes from the Latin word trinitas which means a “union of three.” Therefore the word Trinity simply means that God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus are unified.
Both the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the Koran recognize that there are three; God, the Holy Spirit and the Messiah.
In the Tanakh we see the Three in one verse. –
Behold My servant, whom I uphold; My elect, in whom My soul delights; I have put My Spirit upon Him: He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:1).
The parallel to this verse in the Koran is as follows. –
And most certainly We gave Musa (Moses) the Book (Torah) and We sent apostles after him one after another; and We gave Isa, (Jesus) the son of Marium, (Mary) clear arguments and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit, (2.87).
In both of these references we see God the Father giving the Holy Spirit to Jesus.
Jesus said, “God is Spirit,” (John 4:24). The word “Spirit” here in the Greek is in the singular. The instant we see God as more than one spirit, we have more than one God and we have jumped over the fence into polytheism. The Three are always based on One.
God is one Spirit and He is and has a “person.” This is His will, being, mind that directs the operations of His spirit which is His substance. God’s person is who He is. In the scriptures His person is referred to as “soul” for lack of a better word. We saw an example of this in Isaiah 42:1, “My elect, in whom My soul delights.” Here are a few more samples. -
The Lord tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates (Psalm 11:5).
Be instructed, O Jerusalem, lest My soul depart from you, lest I make you desolate, a land not inhabited (Jeremiah 6:8).
I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you (Leviticus 26:11).
His soul/person directs the operations of His Spirit. The prophet, David, recognized this principle. – “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created” (Psalm 104:30).
God wills, His Spirit responds.
So we can see that God is soul and spirit. He is constructed as two without being more than one, like bone and marrow which are two distinct elements that are completely one.
Jesus also said that the Holy Spirit is “The Spirit of the Father” (Matthew 10:20). The Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit, the element that is directed by God’s soul/person.
God’s omnipresent Holy Spirit operates in multiples of God’s One Spirit and is likened in the scriptures to the elements of wind, cloud, fire, and especially rain. -
Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He (God the Father) shall come to us as the rain, as the latter and former rain to the earth (Hosea 6:3).
The scripture here does not make any distinction between the LORD (the Father) and His Holy Spirit, they are the same element. Like rain, God’s Spirit has the ability to operate in multiples of the one Spirit that is God without being more than one.
Returning to the references in the Tanakh and the Koran where we saw God giving His Spirit to Jesus, we can recognize that God is never separated from His own Spirit, therefore we see in these references that God unifies Himself with the Messiah by His Holy Spirit. Thus the union of God’s person with the Messiah’s person through the Holy Spirit is the Biblical “Trinity.” All three are distinct from each other, all three are totally one through the union of the one Spirit that is God.
The scriptures recognize that Jesus’ Spirit is God’s Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9), and the element that gave Jesus’ body life. “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has given to the Son to have life in Himself” (John 5:26). This ‘life in Himself’ is what enabled Jesus to rise from the dead.
Now what about the “person” of the Holy Spirit? We have seen that the scriptures use the words soul and spirit to define God. Soul and spirit are likened to bone and marrow (Hebrews 4:12); two distinct elements that are one.
In the scriptures the Holy Spirit is rendered in the neuter in the Greek. The word “soul” that is used to define the person of anyone is never used in association with the Holy Spirit, only with God the Father and Jesus. The Holy Spirit is actually referred to as an “it” in several places (Romans 8:16,26,I Peter 1:11).
While there is not enough evidence in the Greek to support the Spirit as being a person, this does not mean that the Holy Spirit does not have a person.
God has designed the spirit of anyone to operate with the soul/person. Again, like bone and marrow, they are two distinct elements that are one. Therefore, the person of the spirit is the soul with which it is unified.
The person of the Holy Spirit is the person/persons of God the Father and the Messiah Jesus operating as one, as is evident from the scriptures, specifically John 14:16-18 and verse 23. In these verses we see Jesus telling His disciples that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, will be sent to them. In the same breath Jesus tells them that He will come to them, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (verse 18). How does the person of Jesus come into the believer? Through the union of His person with His Spirit. In verse 23 we are told that if we love Jesus and obey Him, then we will be indwelt by both the Father and the Messiah Jesus. –“We will come unto him and make our abode with him.” The persons of the Father and the Son can indwell a believer through their souls’ union with the Holy Spirit, which as we have been shown is God’s Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the conduit through which the persons of the Father and the Messiah Jesus operate.
Again, all three are distinct from each other, all three operate simultaneously, and all three are inseparably one God, a tri-unity of three – a Trinity.
Copyright 2021 by H.D. Shively
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