More on the Trinity, Part 3
by Karl Kemp 10/24/2011 / Bible Studies
First we will finish the discussion of Deut. 6:4 that we started at the end of Part 2.
I'll quote several sentences from page 2 of the 14 page article titled, "The Historic Case for the Trinity" by K. Dayton Hartman (www.answering-islam.org). He is discussing Deut. 6:4 and making the point that the Jews left a lot of room to see some plurality in their one God before the arrival of Christianity. "The possibility of plurality existing in a monotheistic Godhead was an active topic in pre-Christian Jewish theology. (He had a footnote here: "See especially, Larry Hurtado, 'One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism' [Fortress Press, 1988].") A text that inspired much of this debate is found within Daniel's book of prophecy. In Daniel 7:9, a plurality of thrones exists in heaven, all of which, the text proposes, belong to Yahweh. The text reads, 'I kept looking until the thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat....' In the passage there are multiple seats of power (thrones), yet a single being of power (the king). [For the record, Dan. 7:18, 22, and 27 show that the saints will be reigning too; the thrones are for the saints (also see Rev. 20:4-6).] N. T. Wright, commenting on pre-Christian Judaism, points out that, 'Within the most fiercely monotheistic of Jewish circles...there is no suggestion that "monotheism" or praying the Shema, had anything to do with the numerical analysis of the inner being of Israel's God Himself.' (He had a footnote: " 'The New Testament and the People of God' [Fortress Press, 1996], page 259.") ... After reviewing the evidence N. T. Wright concludes that: 'The oneness of Israel's God, the creator, was never an analysis of God's inner existence, but always a polemical doctrine over against paganism and dualism. It was only with the rise of Christianity...that Jews in the second and third centuries reinterpreted "monotheism" and the numerical oneness of the divine being' (He had a footnote, which was the same as the last footnote.)."
A BETTER WAY TO INTERPRET DEUTERONOMY 6:4. After further study and prayerfully considering this verse, I have come to the opinion that the proper way to understand this verse (the way intended by the ultimate Author of the Bible) is to see that the name Yahweh refers to God the Father here, as it typically does throughout the Old Testament, not to the Trinity. This applies to Deut. 4:35, 39 (verses quoted above), and to many similar verses in the Old Testament (including Isa. 43:10, 11; 44:6, 8; 45:6, 21, 22; and 46:9). In most of the verses dealt with in my paper titled, "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son: The Name Yahweh and a Listing of Some of the Large Number of Passages from the Hebrew Old Testament Where We Can See God the Son Along with God the Father," for example, the name Yahweh typically refers the God the Father. The Old Testament was written in the years before God wanted to fully reveal the Person of His Son and the Trinity.
When Jesus first came to Israel, having been born of the virgin, none of the people of Israel understood that the Messiah would be deity. (We will never understand the Trinity until we see that God the Son was to become the God-man and the promised Messiah, and that the Messiah would, therefore, be deity. The deity of the Messiah took the promised new-covenant salvation to a whole new level. To be united with the Messiah is to be united with God the Son, the One who brings us to the Father.) The apostles didn't understand His deity until after His resurrection. They didn't even believe in His resurrection until after He was resurrected, even though He had told them that He would be resurrected on the third day.
God's revelation, which includes His opening the eyes of His people to understand the Scriptures, is progressive (see, for example, Luke 24:25-27, 44-49). The name Yahweh typically refers to God the Father in the Old Testament, even as the word God typically refers to God the Father in the New Testament. And the New Testament has quite a few passages like John 17:3 ("This is eternal life, that they may know You, THE ONLY TRUE GOD [my emphasis], and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."); Rom. 16:26, 27 (I'll read verse 27, "to THE ONLY WISE GOD [God the Father], through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen!"); 1 Cor. 8:4-6 ("Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that THERE IS NO GOD BUT ONE [referring to God the Father]. (5) For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, (6) yet FOR US THERE IS BUT ONE GOD, THE FATHER, from whom are all things and we exist for Him, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things [These words would be better translated "through whom are all things." God the Father created all things through God the Son.], and we exist through Him."); 1 Cor. 15:27, 28 (I won't quote these verses here, but these verses strongly emphasize the preeminent role of God the Father.); Eph. 4:4-6 ("There is one body and one Spirit [the Holy Spirit], just as you were called in one hope of your calling; (5) one Lord [the Lord Jesus], one faith, one baptism, (6) ONE GOD AND FATHER OF ALL WHO IS OVER ALL AND THROUGH ALL AND IN ALL."); 1 Tim. 1:17 ("Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, THE ONLY GOD [referring to God the Father], be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."); 1 Tim. 2:5 ("For THERE IS ONE GOD, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus...."); 1 Tim. 6:13-16 ("I charge you in the presence of God [God the Father], who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, (14) that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, (15) which He [God the Father] will bring about at the proper time - HE WHO IS THE BLESSED AND ONLY SOVEREIGN, the King of kings and Lord of lords, (16) who alone possesses immortality and dwells in inapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen."); and Jude 1:24, 25 ("Now to Him [God the Father] who is able to keep you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, (25) TO THE ONLY GOD OUR SAVIOR [referring to God the Father], through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.")
Verses like the ones I just quoted from the New Testament that greatly exalt God the Father and His preeminent role (calling Him "the only God" and such expressions) do not diminish the fact that the Bible (and especially the New Testament) clearly teaches the full deity of God the Son (and the Holy Spirit). For one thing (as I have pointed out in the three companion articles to this article), the name Yahweh is used on occasion for God the Son in the Old Testament and the word God is used for Him several times in the New Testament, which strongly teaches His full deity. We desperately need the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches. I am convinced, by the way, that God the Son (and God the Holy Spirit) loves the verses that greatly exalt God the Father.
After we receive the full revelation regarding the Lord Jesus Christ (and the Holy Spirit) through the New Testament, we can clearly see the full deity of the Lord Jesus in the Old Testament, but I don't believe we have to try to see Him typically included when the name Yahweh is used in the Old Testament. I'm quite sure that wasn't God's intention, and it confuses the issue. For one thing, if we overstate the oneness of God based (to some significant extent) on a misinterpretation of Deut. 6:4, we certainly confuse the issue. It's proper to speak of one God, three Persons, but we don't want to overstate that oneness. We desperately need the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches. We also confuse the issue if we don't take seriously what the Bible, very much including the New Testament, says about the subordinate role of God the Son (and the Holy Spirit). Full deity, Yes! Subordinate to God the Father in His role, Yes!
Isaiah 9:6. "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us [It is important to see that this "child/son," referring to the Messiah, was "given" to us. He was given by God the Father. We see the two Persons of God the Father and God the Son here, as we so often do throughout the Bible, even though the Person of God the Son wasn't clearly and fully revealed until the days of the New Testament.]; and the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God [[The words "Mighty God" were quite shocking in that old covenant setting, but we Christians can understand and appreciate these words as one more passage that shows the full deity of the Son of God. As I mentioned, this super-important fact wasn't even understood by the apostles until after His resurrection. They didn't really believe that He would be raised from the dead on the third day (even though He told them that He would on several occasions) until after He had been resurrected and proved it to them.]], Eternal Father [These words were equally shocking as were the words, "Mighty God." I'll comment on these words after I finish quoting this verse.], Prince of Peace."
I have an eight page discussion of Isaiah 9:1-7 in my paper titled "Verse-by-Verse Studies of Selected Eschatological Prophecies from the Book of Isaiah," published in August, 2000. (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching.) I recommend that you read that entire discussion, but I'll quote part of what I said regarding the meaning of the words, "Eternal Father" here (I am taking the liberty to modify what I said in that paper to some extent for this paper.): This name also strongly indicates the deity of the Messiah. He is Father of His people in the eternal dimension. Taken in the fullest sense, this includes His work at creation (John 1:1-3, for example) and the fatherly care of His people (saving, guiding, protecting, and providing everything that is needed).
I'll quote part of what J. Alec Motyer said here. (I had a footnote: "Isaiah" (Inter-Varsity Press, 1999), pages 89, 90.) "used of the Lord, 'father' speaks of his concern (Ps. 65:5), care and discipline (Ps. 103:13; Pr. 3:12; Is. 63:16; 64:8); cf. Ps. 72:4, 12-14; Is. 11:4."
And I'll quote part of what F. Delitzsch said here. (I had a footnote: "Commentary on the Old Testament," Vol. 7, page 253.) This name, "Eternal Father," springs out of the last name, "Mighty God" "for what is divine must be eternal. The title Eternal Father designates Him, however, not only as the possessor of eternity...but as the tender, faithful, and wise trainer, guardian, and provider for His people even in eternity (Isa. 22:21). He is eternal Father, as the eternal, loving King, according to the description in Ps. 72."
Further Discussion Regarding God as Father:
In the Old Testament the word father/Father was used more than five hundred times. Reading through the Old Testament verses listed under father/Father in my concordance (NASB), I found eleven verses (not counting Isa. 9:6) where God was pictured as Father to His people (Deut. 32:6; Psalm 68:5; 103:13; Prov. 3:12; Isa. 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:4, 19; 31:9; and Mal. 1:6; 2:10; also compare 2 Sam. 7:14; 1 Chron. 17:13; 22:10; and Psalm 89:26). In the New Testament we find the word Father used of God much more often than in the Old Testament, 264 times. It is used exclusively of God the Father in the New Testament; it is never used of God the Son, the Messiah.
We were not prepared to understand the New Testament name/title of "God the Father" (or "the Father") before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, which (for one thing) made a gigantic difference in the relationship believers have with God. The New Testament clearly reveals the Person of God the Son, the Son of God the Father (the old-covenant believers did not comprehend the Person of God the Son), and it reveals the glorious fact that new-covenant believers actually become born-again children of God the Father through new-covenant salvation in union with God the Son. God the Father actually becomes "the Father" of His born-again children in a very real, very special, very personal sense.
It causes substantial confusion if Christians use the term "Father" for Jesus Christ (the Son of God) now that we have been given the much fuller, New Testament revelation regarding the triune God. It was reasonable in Old Testament days for Messiah to be called Eternal Father in this very important prophetic passage. For one thing, it was an effective way to shockingly declare the deity of the Messiah, along with the words "Mighty God." (It must be understood that God didn't choose to clearly reveal God the Son in the Old Testament, or the fact that He would become the God-man and the Messiah. These facts that are so clear to us now were concealed for the most part until it was God's time to clearly reveal them.) In the same way that it was reasonable to call the Angel of the LORD Yahweh or God on occasion, it was reasonable to call the Messiah "Eternal Father," and especially in the middle of a glorious prophecy in the Old Testament that dealt with His saving work and where He was just called "Mighty God."
Christians who deny the Trinity typically use Isa. 9:6 as one of their primary proof texts, but quite improperly. There are multiplied hundreds of verses in the Bible, especially in the New Testament, which demonstrate that God the Father and God the Son are distinct Persons in the Trinity. Very often the Father and the Son are mentioned together in the same passage as separate Persons: God the Father created through the Son; they talk to one another; they talk about one another; the Father sends the Son; the Son goes back to the Father; the Son is at the right hand of the Father; and the Son reigns with the Father and is worshipped with the Father, etc. The oneness doctrine is widespread in our day, and I believe that many of those holding that doctrine are true Christians. I must also say, however, that I consider this teaching to be a substantial error. It is one of the most divisive issues in the body of Christ.
The oneness doctrine may seem to make God easier for the human mind to understand, and it sounds reasonable if we are willing to limit ourselves to a few proof texts that seem to teach oneness, but it cannot stand when we take into account all that the Scriptures teach on the topic. (Based on what I have heard and read from them, most of the people who have ascribed to the oneness viewpoint did so on the basis of the oneness interpretation of just a very few verses that seemed so clear to them. I have included at least most of those verses in this section of this paper. And then, as it so often happens with Christians [but not just Christians], once we have determined what we are sure is the correct, biblical viewpoint, we tend to close our minds. That issue is settled! Every other verse in the Bible must fit that viewpoint, one way, or another.) By the way, it's not surprising that we cannot fully understand God. We are required to believe all that the Scriptures teach about Him, whether we can fully understand or not. There certainly is no basis to say that the triune view of God presented in the Bible is unreasonable. We will understand God a whole lot better after we are glorified, but even then I'm quite sure that we won't fully understand Him.
The verse we are studying (Isa. 9:6) even guards against the oneness doctrine in that this "son [Son] will be given to us." The Bible makes it clear who does the giving: God the Father, who sends His Son to save us. I mentioned that the Angel of the Lord [Yahweh] of the Old Testament helps us understand the Son of God and His deity. It is equally true that the Old Testament clearly distinguishes between this Angel [or Messenger] of Yahweh and Yahweh [God the Father].
John 10:30; 12:44, 45; and 14:7, 9-11. Before we discuss these verses, I'll include two studies dealing with the Gospel of John that will help us interpret these verses from the Gospel of John, and they will help prevent our misinterpreting these verses. Oneness Christians use these verses to argue for a oneness view of God. First I'll list some verses from this Gospel that show that God the Father and God the Son are distinct Persons: Many of the verses I'll list demonstrate that God the Son existed with God the Father before the Father sent His Son into the world. (I had a footnote: This is very important because oneness believers, not surprisingly, deny that the Son of God existed before the God-man existed.) John 1:1, 2 (I had a footnote: See the discussion of John 1:1-18 in this paper, and see my paper that covers John 1:1-18 verse-by-verse for more details.) (The Son [the Word] was with God the Father before any creating took place, and we are told that the Son was deity too. We see two Persons.); John 1:3 (Everything that was ever created was created by God the Father through the Son. We see two Persons.); John 1:4 (In Him, in the Son, was life and He was the Light of men, which demonstrates that this Person was deity; He was a Person distinct from God the Father from the beginning; these words would be totally inappropriate if the "Word" was nothing more than a word, or thought, or idea in the mind of God the Father before the incarnation. And I'll list quite a few verses from the Gospel of John as we continue which confirm that the Son was a Person with the Father before the virgin birth.); John 1:9-13 (I'll quote 1:9 from the NIV, "The true light [the "Light of men" of John 1:4] that gives light to [that shines on] every man was coming into the world." He came into the world through the virgin birth. Having come into the world, which had been created through Him [and "for Him" Col. 1:16], most people did not receive Him. The spiritual death and bondage to sin problem is deep-seated in the heart of mankind. Those who do receive Him are born again of God and become children of God.); John 1:14 (The Son became the God-man.); John 1:18 (No one has seen God the Father, but the unique Son has revealed Him, made Him known. See the discussion of John 1:1-18 above in this paper.); John 1:30 (John the Baptist testified that Jesus existed before him, even though John the Baptist was born before Jesus was born of the virgin.); John 3:13 (Jesus, who always existed with God the Father, descended from heaven.); John 3:17 (God the Father sent His Son into the world.); John 3:19 (The Light, God the Son, has come into the world, but men, but not all men, "loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil," and they didn't repent.); John 3:31 (John the Baptist said Jesus came from above/heaven.); John 6:38 ("For I [Jesus] have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."); John 6:46 ("Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father."); John 6:62 ("What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?" referring to the time when the Son of God was with the Father before be became the God-man.); John 7:33 ("Therefore Jesus said, 'For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me.' "); John 8:12-19 (("Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, 'I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life' [see John 1:4, for example]. (13) So the Pharisees [opponents of Jesus] said to Him, 'You are testifying about Yourself; Your testimony is not true.' (14) Jesus answered and said to them, 'Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from [God the Son came down from heaven, having been sent by the Father.] and where I am going [He was going back to heaven, to God the Father, who had sent Him.]; (15) You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. (16) But even if I do judge, My judgment is true, for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me [We see two Persons here, both before He came into the world and after He came into the world.]. (17) Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men in true. (18) I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.' [We certainly see two Persons here. The Father testified about Jesus in many ways, including the prophecies about Him in the Old Testament, His speaking audibly about Him from heaven on several occasions, His giving Him the Holy Spirit without measure, His drawing the elect to Him, etc.] (19) So they were saying to Him, 'Where is Your Father?' [Jesus had been telling them, but their hearts were on a different wavelength. They thought of themselves as being prime examples of the people of God, but their rejection of His Son proved that they didn't really know God the Father. And Jesus said on occasion, including in this verse, that they didn't know God the Father.] Jesus answered, 'You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would have known My Father also.' " There was no way they could reject the Son (who spoke the words the Father gave Him, did the works that the Father gave Him to do, and who was like the Father in every way) and know or love God the Father who sent Him. So too there was no way they could really come to know the Father without coming through the Son (John 14:6, for example). I should mention that some oneness Christians use this verse, John 8:19, to demonstrates oneness, but quite improperly I think.)); John 10:15, 17, 18 (("even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep. ... (17) For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. (18) No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father." We can clearly see two Persons here.)); John 12:27, 28 (Jesus said these words shortly before His crucifixion. "Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. (28) 'Father, glorify Your name.' Then a voice came out of heaven, 'I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.' " We see two Persons here, as we so often do throughout the Bible.) John 13:3 ("Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God [God the Father] and was going back to God." We again see that the Son was with God the Father before He was sent into the world, and now He was going back to the Father. We see two Persons.); John 13:31, 32 (("Therefore when he [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, 'Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him, (32) if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately.' " Jesus spoke these words on the evening before His crucifixion. He would defeat sin, Satan, and spiritual death in His atoning death, then He would be resurrected on the third day and glorified. After forty days He would be taken up in glory to the right hand of God the Father. I'll read Acts 2:33, "Therefore, having been exalted to the right hand of God [God the Father], and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear." The new-covenant church was born through the blood of the Lamb and the outpouring of the Spirit of God, the third Person of the Trinity. We definitely see God the Father and God the Son here in John 13:31, 32.)); John 14:16 (We see the Trinity here.); John 14:23 ("Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and my Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.' " We see two Persons here.); John 14:26 ("But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you." We see the Trinity here.) John 14:28 ("You heard that I said to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.") This list continues in Part 4.
Copyright by Karl Kemp
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.