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Trinitarian Questions Answered | The Gospel Truth

Trinitarian Questions Answered

11/10/2010

Background

I was contacted a few months ago by a lady who I had met at a friends wedding. We had got chatting about religion and had an interesting discussion about the Bible. I believe God is one single entity and do not believe in the “Trinity” (that God is three people in one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit) – this became a small subject of debate between us.

The Trinitarian Questions

The lady wrote in to this website with the following:

“Hi Matt, I enjoyed reading your blog and debating these issues with my husband.

However given that what you argue about Christ’s deity is based on selected verses from scripture, what do you think about these verses? To me, they say that Jesus is also God:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… 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,” (John 1:1,14).
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am,”(John 8:58). With, “And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you,” (Exodus 3:14).
“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,” (Col. 2:9).

Also, if he was not also God, why did the devil, when he was tempting him in the wilderness, basically say to him- “i know you have the power to do anything you wanted, to make this rock into bread, to get an army of angels to rescue you, to rule over all the land”. This to me says that the devil knew he was in some way godly in nature.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this. If you accept all scripture as truth how do you account for these verses? Look forward to your thoughts! “

The reply

I replied with the following and haven’t had an answer back yet but have posted here to see if other people might be able to answer the challenging questions for Trinitarians at the end. I hope this is useful to you in your studies:

First of all – yes I (as well as you it seems) accept the Bible as the authority on this subject (2 Tim 3:16)- and if we start from that basis it would not be presumptuous of me to say we need to look at the whole of the Bible to establish our understanding of its teaching. So – what I will hope to do in this reply is firstly answer your questions about the verses you have presented but also present you with some verses for consideration.

This subject is of upmost importance for us to get to the bottom of. As we read in John 17:3: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Therefore a true appreciation of who Jesus is, is a matter of life or death. Only one position can be correct – either Jesus is part God in the Trinity or he is not.

A reply

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… 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,” (John 1:1,14)

1. If you read this verse carefully you will note that the word was with God from the beginning. Jesus was not the word. He was “the word made flesh” in v14. The greek word for “word” is “logos” and is used in the Bible to express the divine intention or purpose (you can see this by looking at all its instances in a concordance).

2. I’m no Greek expert but I’m reliably told that the word “logos” does not denote a personality – e.g. when it says “all things were made by him” it could equally translated as “through it everything was done” (as the Diaglott does). Even if the word did denote a personality and therefore we could translate it as “him” then we should not rule out personification (e.g. God’s purpose -logos – is “him” not Jesus – like wisdom is described as a person in Proverbs 8:22-23). This is in complete harmony with scripture Psalm 33:6+9 – the word of God created the heavens – see also 2 Peter 3:5-7 where the same greek word is used.

With the above 2 points in mind then I can’t see this proves that Jesus is God or existed before he was born. The word and intentions of God were there from creation. That intention became a reality when Jesus was born.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am,”(John 8:58). With, “And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you,” (Exodus 3:14).

1. Again if we read this carefully we will see that it is a reference to the fact that Jesus was in the Divine plan before Abraham existed. The context of this verse is that the Jews had claimed Abraham was their Father (v39). Jesus responds by saying that that accounts for nothing because in effect he was in the Divine mind before Abraham. See 1 Peter 1:20.

2. The words “I am” are not an allusion to the Divine name as you have hinted at. God did not in fact call himself “I am” in Exodus 3:14. The Hebrew word “I am” in Exodus 3:14 is “EHYEH” which, I am informed, literally translated means “I will be” (see RSV margin). It has a future tense and has been translated wrongly. So Jesus then by saying “I am” could not be quoting Exodus – otherwise he would of said “I will be”. Even if this was a quote (which it isn’t) this would not be proof that Jesus was God.

3. The same Greek phrase is used by Christ in v24 and is used of the blind man of 9:9 – these are clearly not references to Exodus but the same case could be argued as you are arguing here.

So I’m not sure these verses prove that Jesus was in fact God either when examined closely.

“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,” (Col. 2:9).

1. The word “fullness” (greek “pleroma”) is used in Ephesians 3:19 which states “…to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” So we see here that we can be “filled” with God. Therefore to be “full” of the Deity does not mean that one is Deity.

2. This is speaking of Christ reflecting God’s character which he did to the full. Morally he did this in his life (John 1:14 and John 14:9) and he was filled physically with God’s immortality when he was resurrected.

Also, if he was not also God, why did the devil, when he was tempting him in the wilderness, basically say to him- “i know you have the power to do anything you wanted, to make this rock into bread, to get an army of angels to rescue you, to rule over all the land”. This to me says that the devil knew he was in some way godly in nature.

Jesus is tempted in 3 ways in this account (Matthew 4). To turn stone into bread (v3), To test God and commit suicide (v6) and to take the Kingdoms of man (v 9). All of these things Jesus had the power to do as God had just given given him the Holy Spirit (God’s power) – see the previous chapter Matt 3:16+17, the Holy Spirit had led Jesus to this trial (v1) in which Jesus was tested to see how he would use this new power given to him).

The question was not in effect as to IF he could do these things but the MOTIVE behind them. Each temptation had a motive which was against God’s will and so Jesus declined to do them by answering the tempter with scripture each time.

Personally I don’t see this as proof that Jesus was in fact God – He had been given God’s power.

If you are interested in listening to a Podcast by someone’s views on this topic who used to be an evangelical but changed to become a Christadelphian – head over to: http://e2c.podbean.com/2010/06/14/is-jesus-the-god-of-the-old-testament/
The Podcast title is “Is Jesus The God Of The Old Testament?” and I think it’s excellent. I hope you might find it useful.

A few things to consider

Ok, I hope you are still with me and my answers to your verses make sense. Now, in the spirit of fairness, I’d like to switch from the defensive to the offensive and ask you to consider/answer the following:

1. Basic differences between God and Jesus
God cannot be tempted: James 1:13 – but Jesus was tempted: Hebrews 4:15
God cannot die: Psalms 90:2 but Jesus died.
God cannot be seen: John 1:18 but Jesus was seen by hundreds.

2. Jesus is a separate person to God
Jesus is a mediator God is not: 1 Timothy 2:5 – they are clearly two different beings.
Jesus was to ascend to his God: John 20:17 – how could he do this if he was God?
Jesus had an independent will from his Father: Matthew 26:39
Acts 4:24 – the disciples pray to God. verse 27 they mention Jesus who God had annointed. They were not praying to a Trinity.

3. Jesus is not co-equal with the Father
God is the head of Christ so they can’t be equal – 1 Cor 11:3
Jesus says the Father is greater than him – John 14:28
Christ is subject to the Father: 1 Corinthians 15:27-28
How can Jesus and the Father be the same person if they have a different hierarchy?!

4. The Old Testament God
To believe that God is a Trinity would suggest that God deceived the old Testiment Jews by not revealing His “Triune” nature. For example see: Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 44:8, Isaiah 45:5, Isaiah 46:9. God reveals Himself as being one – the only God. If actually God is not one but three He must have only given them a partial truth. Were the Jews told to love a God which they apparently didn’t understand? The Jews still believe that God is one. If understanding Jesus is a matter of Salvation (John 17:3) then why was it not revealed to the Jews? This just doesn’t add up to me. I hope you might be able to explain.

Interestingly the word “Trinity” never appears in the Bible – why is that?

I could go on but this should be enough for the moment. For me the idea of the Trinity doesn’t add up when we consider the whole teaching of the Bible. Jesus was a man, the son of God, who was born with the same problem as us: e.g. he had a nature which was prone to sin. He was the only one who has overcome that nature and therefore destroyed it. Because of that God rose him from the dead and gave him immortality. In His mercy God will resurrect and give immortality to all those who believe the Gospel, have associated themselves with Jesus in baptism and are found acceptable at the judgment seat and they will then live forever in God’s future kingdom upon the earth. This is why it is essential to understand who Jesus is and what he has done for us.