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Preeminent Role of God the Father in the Trinity: What about the Council of Nicea and the Nicene Creed? - Part 1C
by Karl Kemp
7/28/2016 / Bible Studies
Now we will consider my article "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 in the Hebrew Old Testament Where We Can See God the Son along with God the Father (published in September, 2009; expanded August, 2011, 9 pages).
At the beginning of this article (covering one and one-half pages) I discuss the meaning of the Hebrew noun "Yahweh." We get into the details of the Hebrew. I'll just quote the first paragraph here (Although the name is very important, and interesting, I don't believe the name in itself helps us understand the Trinity.): THE NAME "YAHWEH." By taking this very significant and glorious name for Himself, God (the God of creation, the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, the God of Israel) was boldly declaring, for one thing, that He, and He alone, is God. (That bold declaration didn't go over well in the ancient world where essentially all the people believed in many gods. They didn't want to hear that Yahweh, and He alone, is God any more than the people of the world today want to be told that the only way to be saved is through the Lord Jesus Christ.) By taking that name God was also declaring His eternal existence, that He always was and always will be. The name Yahweh applies first and foremost to God the Father, but like with the word "God" in the New Testament, it is used quite a few times for God the Son, as I will demonstrate in this article. The fact that the name can be used for the Son strongly confirms His deity.
Most of this article is devoted to looking at passages in the Old Testament where we - with light from the New Testament - can see God the Son along with God the Father. I'll quote a paragraph from page 2: Many more such passages could be listed than those I list in this article. It is significant that many of these passages demonstrate that God the Son existed with God the Father and that He was very active in the years before His incarnation. (I had a lengthy footnote dealing with oneness/modalism that I won't include here.) Some of them show that He is deity and always existed with God the Father, but those super-important facts weren't all that clear in Old Testament days, without the light from the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and the New Testament. We know that this other Person is God the Son (in His preincarnate state) mostly because of the New Testament. But it is clear in the Old Testament that this Person is a Person distinct from the One we typically call God the Father (who was very often called Yahweh in the Old Testament), and it is quite significant that the deity of this Person often shines through in the Old Testament, as I will demonstrate in this article. Several places He is called Yahweh, for example, but not in a way that confuses Him with the Person of God the Father. Essentially all of these passages show that the Son has a role subordinate to the Father, but the Bible (and especially the New Testament) makes it clear that He is fully deity with the Father (and the Spirit).
My fourth relevant paper on this topic is titled, "More on the Trinity: Some Key Passages from the New Testament Where We See the Full Deity and Preexistence of God the Son with God the Father and Some Key Bible Passages Used to Teach a Oneness View of God" (published in 2015, 33 pages). There are two headings in this paper. The first one is "Some Key Passages from the New Testament where We See the Full Deity and Preexistence of God the Son as a Person Distinct from God the Father." The passages quoted and discussed under this heading are: JOHN 1:1-18 (six pages); JOHN 8:58 (with 8:57, 59); JOHN 17:1-5; PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11; COLOSSIANS 1:15-17; and HEBREWS 1:1-3. The second heading in this paper is "Some Key Bible Passages Used to Teach a Oneness View of God." The passages quoted and discussed under this heading are: DEUTERONOMY 6:4 (three pages); ISAIAH 9:6; JOHN 10:30; 12:44, 45; and 14:7, 9-11; First I'll list some verses from John's Gospel that show that God the Father and God the Son are distinct Persons (I quote many of these verses and discuss some of them); I'll also list some verses from the Gospel of John that explain what Jesus meant when He said that He and the Father are one, and that He who has seen Him has seen the Father, and similar expressions (It is clear that He didn't mean that they were the same Person; I quote many of these verses and discuss some of them); ACTS 2:38 (with Acts 2:36-42; Acts 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; 1 Cor. 1:13 and Matt. 28:19); 1 CORINTHIANS 8:4 (with 8:5, 6); and COLOSSIANS 2:8-10.
I'll just quote the section on Deut. 6:4 here (We know that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not three independent Gods; they are three Persons, each one of them being deity in the full sense of this word, harmoniously united in love, with each Person perfectly fulfilling their roles, and with the Father having the preeminent role. However, based on what I have observed, it seems that many overstate the oneness of God. As we discuss in this excerpt, this verse, and similar verses, apparently just deal with the one Person of God who is clearly revealed in the Old Testament, God the Father. Assuming this is the correct viewpoint, Deut. 6:4 doesn't have anything to say about the Trinity, which isn't fully revealed until the days of the New Testament.
Deuteronomy 6:4. "Hear, O Israel! The LORD [Yahweh] is our God, the LORD [Yahweh] is one." I'll quote a sentence from what J. A. Thompson says here ("Deuteronomy" [Inter-Varsity Press, 1974], page 121). "This small section (Deut. 6:4-9) has been known to the Jews for many centuries as the 'Shema' (Hebrew, 'Hear' ["Shema" is the Hebrew word translated "Hear" at the beginning of Deut. 6:4.]) and has been recited along with 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41 as a daily prayer."
Based on what I have heard and read, Deut. 6:4 is the number one verse used (sincerely used) by Christians who deny the Trinity to argue for a oneness view of God. I am quite sure, however, that this verse was written for the sole purpose of declaring that the God of Israel (the God of creation, the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham) is the only true God. Some of the gods of the nations existed all right, but they were evil beings under Satan, and they were far from being in the class of the only true God, the One who had created every being and everything that exists. (God didn't create Satan or any of the angels evil, but Satan rebelled against God through pride, and a third of the angels followed him in his rebellion.)
For one thing, it was totally necessary for the people of Israel to understand what a serious sin it was for them to worship the gods which all of the peoples apart from Israel were worshipping in the ancient world, and had been worshipping for a long time. All too often many of the people of Israel succumbed to the temptation to worship the gods of the nations. That sin went directly against the first commandment of the Ten Commandments. See Ex. 20:1-5; Deut. 5:6-10; and 6:5.
Deuteronomy 6:4 was not written to deny the Trinity that God progressively revealed, starting in the Old Testament, including in the five books of Moses. As 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 in the Hebrew Old Testament where We Can See God the Son Along with God the Father" demonstrates, there are a large number of passages in the Old Testament where we can see the Person of God the Son. It is true, however, that we needed the light of the New Testament to adequately understand that glorious Person and the Trinity.
Verses like Deut. 4:35, 39 communicate the same message as Deut. 6:4 with the words, "To you it was shown that you might know that the LORD [Yahweh], He is God; there is no other besides Him" and "Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD [Yahweh], He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other." There is only one God! We eventually learn of the Trinity.
I'll quote a few sentences from what Earl S. Calland says here ("Expositor's Bible Commentary," Vol. 3 [Zondervan, 1992], page 65) to show that the Hebrew word ("echad") that is translated "one" in Deut. 6:4 was sometimes used of a oneness that consisted of more than one part, "To the Jews verse 4 is not only an assertion of monotheism, it is also an assertion of the numerical oneness of God contradictory to the Christian view of the Trinity of the Godhead. This kind of oneness, however, runs contrary to the use of "echad" in the sense of a unity made up of several parts. In Exod. 25:6, 11, the fifty gold clasps are used to hold the curtains together so that the tent would be a unit ("echad"). ...."
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 (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 ("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' (same as the preceding 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 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; referring to God the Father], and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."); Rom. 16:26, 27 (I'll quote 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 - the Bible doesn't. 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!
The fifth and last paper that is relevant to the topic of this present paper is my paper "Harlot of Babylon According to Irvin Baxter; Trinity and Oneness" (January, 2016, 107 pages). I'll reference the sections of the paper that are relevant to the topic of this present paper that deals with the preeminent role of God the Father in the Trinity. Pages 7 and 8 deal with verses like Deut. 6:4 that fit the preeminent role of God the Father but certainly do not deny the subsequent full revelation of the Trinity. The Nicene Creed, which is quite relevant to this topic, is quoted on page 25. I believe we can see the preeminent role of God the Father in this creed. We will discuss this creed later in this paper [referring to my "Harlot of Babylon..." paper; and we discuss the Council of Nicea and the Nicene Creed quite a bit in this present paper, "The Preeminent Role of God the Father in the Trinity"]. The section that starts with the last paragraph on page 27 and ends on page 35 is relevant. The last five pages of this section that deal with Deut. 6:4 were quoted above, under my paper "More on the Trinity." The section that starts with the last paragraph on page 87 to the top of page 92 is quite relevant. For one thing, I quote from Wayne Grudem in this section. And, finally, Rev. 4:1-5:13 is discussed on pages 92-105. I believe this interesting and important passage from the book of Revelation (two chapters) effectively demonstrates the preeminent role of God the Father and the full deity of the Lord Jesus.
This is the end of Part 1 of this paper.
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.
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