It is my opinion that the subject of the unity of the Godhead is the area where most men fade into false doctrine, as was the case with the Jesus Only movement. They plainly saw three persons in the Godhead, but desperately wanted to hold to the Judaic concept of there being only one person (hypostasis). Instead of interpreting the Old Testament by the greater light of the New Testament, as it is meant to be, they invented a new doctrine to support their two-thirds atheistic ideology. It is a foolish thing to interpret the Bible through the lens of any particular system of Theology. Our system of Theology should be viewed through the lens of the Bible. If the Word of God contradicts your beliefs, you need to change what you believe! We must rightly divide the Word of Truth even when it stings our selfish pride.
In general, most attempts at explaining the unity of the Trinity fall into two categories. First of all, there are those that emphasize the oneness of God and try to explain the three-ness of God in light of that oneness. Secondly, there are those that emphasize the three-ness of God and try to explain the oneness of God in relation to that. The first group lean toward Modalism; the second group lean toward Tri-theism. I have noticed that many unknowingly alternate between these two groups (which may be unavoidable at times considering the nature of the subject at hand). We must be very careful though, as there is danger in leaning too far either way!
The unity of the Trinity is a subject we desperately need to study. But I want to warn you: an UNHEALTHY preoccupation with the “hows” and “whys” of the Trinity (how and why those three Persons are one God) can cause you a lot of trouble. Any five year old can comprehend the “what” of the Trinity (that there are three distinct Persons in the Godhead); but the “hows” and “whys” of the Trinity have a tendency of throwing people for a loop.
When it works in their favor, the Oneness people actually use this as an argument against us Trinitarians! They say the fact that we cannot adequately explain everything about the unity of the Trinity disproves the Trinity. This demonstrates a total breakdown in logic. Dear listeners, there are a host of things much less complicated than God’s nature that man cannot comprehend!
Let us consider the mysterious paradox of the wave-particle duality of light. Scientists have learned through experimentation that light behaves like a particle at times and like a wave at other times–this is supposed to be impossible. They jokingly say light should be treated as wave on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but particle on every other day of the week. Are we to pretend that light does not exist simply because we cannot explain everything about it?
If the Oneness people want to appeal to logic, let us apply the same principle to everything else in this world. Do insects not exist simply because a flower does not understand their composition? Do birds not exist simply because an insect cannot explain their composition? Do mammals not exist simply because a bird cannot explain their composition? Do humans not exists because a dog cannot explain our anatomical composition?
Let us consider the Word of God: who knows everything there is to know about the incarnation? Who can explain every detail concerning the new birth? Who has all the answers to every eschatological (end-time) question that arises? Well ... I don’t! And I don’t know anyone that does! Should we discard these precious truths simply because we don’t understand everything there is to know about them? Of course not!
When a Oneness adherent says their doctrine is easy to understand they are merely exposing it as a false doctrine. The Word of God not only offers us many mysterious and unanswerable elements, it demands a certain amount of them (1Ti 3:16). A Theology that is void of any mysterious element is sub- or anti-biblical. The bottom line is the “average Joe” can’t explain his wife, much more the God of heaven! I think it would do the world a great service if men would quit trying to explain the unexplainable. We can only know what can be known, so let us strive to know what we can and not allow that which we cannot destroy us!
The Composite Unity of the Economical Trinity
In lesson two we discussed the inseparable ontological oneness of the three persons of the Trinity. In this lesson, I want to discuss the composite unity that exists between them as distinct persons. Although they are ontologically inseparable, in respect to their personage, their unity is a composite unity of will, purpose, and kingdom.
Deuteronomy 6:4 (The Shema) and Echad
Let us now look at Deuteronomy 6:4, a favorite of the Oneness people:
De 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
The Jews would pray this prayer (the Shema) twice a day. They would say, “The Lord our God is one, one, one, one, one...”, sometimes repeating the word one up to two minutes straight. Here, the word for one is the Hebrew word echad (ekh-awd') which means “united; a compound unity of two or more”. It is found 739 times in the Bible. A few examples of its use are Genesis 1:5 where morning and night are said to be one (echad); Genesis 2:24 where two people are said to be one (echad) flesh; Ezra 6:4 where an assembly of 42,360 people are said to be one (echad); and Ezekiel 37:1 where two sticks are said to be one (echad) stick. Likewise, Moses, in Deuteronomy 6:4 is saying God is united, not one solitary person! So the Jews were literally praying, “The Lord our God is united, united, united, united, united . . . .”
The Hebrew word used for the number one is yachid (yaw-kheed). Yachid is used differently in the Scriptures than echad (Ge 22:2, 22:12, Jg 11:34). It is only used twelve times in the entire Old Testament and never denotes the unity of God! If Deuteronomy 6:4 were teaching that God was one in number, Moses would have used the word yachid, but he didn’t. The word echad is always used in reference to God because God is not one solitary person, He is one in essence (homoousion), but three distinct persons or hypostasis!
I also find it interesting that the name of the Lord is used three times in this one verse. I believe it offers us a shadow of the Trinity in the Old Testament. Granted, this does not prove God is a Trinity, nor did the Jewish Rabbis fully understand these Trinitarian shadows, but the Old Testament was written for our sakes (1Co 9:10, 10:11, 2Ti 3:15-16), so we cannot ignore them.
The Zohar is one of the most sacred books in Jewish literature. It was written by Rabbi Simon ben Jochai and his son Rabbi Eliezer in the years following the Roman army’s destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in A. D. 70. Concerning Deuteronomy 6:4 they ask: “Why is there need of mentioning the name of God three times in this verse?” The answer is as follows: “The first Jehovah is the Father above. The second is the stem of Jesse, the messiah who is to come from the family of Jesse through David. And the third is the way which is below (meaning the Holy Spirit who is to show us the way), and these three are one.” (Cohn, Leopald, The Trinity In the Old Testament, pg 3-4).
One of the most beautiful examples of the three fold repetition of the name of the Lord is found in Numbers 6:24-26 which states the following:
Nu 6:24 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
On a similar note, in Matthew 27:46, Jesus, in His limited and restricted state, prayed to both the Father and Holy Spirit saying, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” What other reason could there be for Him having cried, “My God” twice except it was once for both the Father and Holy Spirit? Perhaps that sheds a little light on why the angels cry, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY” day and night--God is a trinity of distinct persons!
Brothers and Sisters, as you can plainly see, even the Oneness people’s “champion” verses, ultimately, support a plurality in the Godhead! What irony!
I want to show you something very interesting that will confirm the meaning of the word echad in Deuteronomy 6:4.
Ge 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Here, the word God is translated from the Hebrew name Elohim. When “m” or “im” is attached to the end of a word in the Hebrew language it is plural like an “s” in the English language (Wyatt, W. H., Jaw Breakers for Jesus Onlys, pgs. 1-2). Therefore, Elohim means “gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the PLURAL) of the supreme God”. Moses did not call God “El”, which is God in the singular; He did not call Him “Eloah”, which is God is the dual form; He called Him “Elohim”, God of three or more! Genesis 1:1 can be literally translated, “In the beginning God, of three or more, created the heaven and the earth.” This definition is indisputable!
Since the Bible tells us plainly in Deuteronomy 6:4 that there is but one God, and we know from verses like 1 John 5:7 that there are three persons in that one God, “Elohim” can mean nothing other than one God existing in three persons--a holy Trinity!
A Plurality of Majesty
Oneness adherents will try and twist what the plurality of Elohim represents. They say this speaks of a plurality of majesty. There are several reasons why this is not the case, but three in particular. First, a plurality of majesty would be found in the noun itself, not in the pronouns (us, our, we). Secondly, God was speaking in the first person. Instead of being a majestic BEING, He would be reduced to nothing more than an attribute.
Lastly, they use as an example, the Anglo-Saxon kings of the 13th century. When they stood to make a declaration they would say, “We say thus and thus”. Oneness people say that is all God is doing here. The problems with this idea are manifold. First, there is no record of anyone speaking in that manner until the 13th century. As a matter of fact, it is said that the Anglo-Saxon kings spoke in that manner because they were reigning over Christianized provinces and the kings were actually imitating God in Genesis 1:26. Considering Moses wrote the book of Genesis some 2,600 years before the Anglo-Saxon kings were around, it would make sense that they would emulate God and not the other way around.
Rabbi Tzvi Nassi, a lecturer in Hebrew at Oxford University, said a plurality of majesty was unknown to Moses and the prophets (Nassi, Tzvi, The Great Mystery, pg. 6). Evidently, the principle of a plurality of majesty was a great hoax invented by a famous Jewish scholar named Gesenius. It appears he simply used it as a ruse against Christianity (Morey, Robert, The Trinity: Evidence and Issues, pg. 95).
Now, before you jump into the ring with a Oneness adherent on this subject, you need to know that they won’t go down without a fight. They will try every trick in the book to get you to think a plurality of majesty was used in the Bible. They will try everything from King Artaxerxes (Ezra 4:11-18) to the Apostle Paul (2Co 10:8). They even have the gumption to imply Christ was using a plurality of majesty in verses like:
Joh 3:11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
Jesus is not speaking in a plurality of majesty here. He was referring to Himself and the twelve preachers that traveled with Him everywhere He went. He was referring to the preaching Nicodemus had previously heard; the preaching that pricked his heart and motivated him to request an audience with Christ. This is nothing more than a feeble attempt to explain away an obvious contradiction in their Theology.
Trinitarians know exactly what “Elohim” means, and why it is used over 2,500 times in the Old Testament (31 times in the first chapter of Genesis alone). We also know why it is used about ten to one over the name “El” (the singular name for God)–there is a plurality of persons in the Godhead. God is not a single uni-personal being; He is a trinity of eternal, divine persons!
I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the Jesus Only adherents will accept a compound unity in every other area of life, but so adamantly refuse to accept a composite unity when it comes to the Godhead! Every time they pick their Bible up they acknowledge a compound unity. The Bible is comprised of sixty-six books, 1,189 chapters, 31,102 verses, and 788,258 words, yet if you ask a Jesus Only adherent how many Bibles they have in their hand they will say one. I would also be surprised if they denied the fact that the Bible’s sixty-six distinct books comprise only one book! Every time a Jesus Only adherent picks up a newspaper they acknowledge a composite unity because the paper is comprised of several different sections. Every time they put a shirt on, they acknowledge composite unity. Although the shirt has thousands of threads and several buttons they will readily admit that it is one shirt, not shirts. Although the car they drive is made up of thousands of different parts they will readily admit that it is only one car, not cars. Composite unity is found everywhere! Man is a tripartite being; he is comprised of spirit, soul, and body (He 4:12, 1Th 5:23). The mind is comprised of intellect, memory, and will. The universe is comprised of time, space, and matter. Time manifests itself in the past, present, and future. Space consists of length, breadth, and height. Matter consists of energy, motion, and phenomenon. The sun subsists as light, heat, and energy. Water consists of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. And these are just a few of the multiplied thousands of places that show a composite unity. In fact, when you think of it, there are very few tangible things in this world that do not have some type of composite unity in their construction. Why is it so hard for these people to accept the fact that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost also share a compound unity?
Biblical Examples of Composite Unity
I want to show you several places in the Bible that teach the principle of composite unity; passages that reveal two or more persons, or things, being referred to as one. I am in no wise implying that you can perfectly understand every dynamic of the unity of the three Persons of God by looking at the following analogies. I merely want to show you that composite unity is not a foreign concept to the Bible.
In Genesis 11:6, many people are referred to as one people. When Genesis 41:1, 41:5, and 41:25 are cross-referenced, you will find that two dreams are called one dream. In 1 Kings 22:13, the mouths of many prophets are called one mouth. In 2 Chronicles 30:12, many people are said to have been given one heart. When Luke 15:3, 15:4, 15:8, and 15:11 are cross-referenced you will find that three parables are called one parable. In Acts 4:32, many people are said to have one heart and one soul. In Acts 17:26, all nations are said to be of one blood. In 1 Corinthians 3:8, two men are called one. In Ephesians 2:14, Jews and Gentiles are said to be one. In 1 Corinthians 6:17, they that are joined unto the Lord are said to be one spirit. In 1 John 5:7, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost are called one!
The story is told, in Mark 5:1-9, of how Jesus came to the shores of Gadara. When He got off the ship a crazy demoniac came out of the tombs, ran down to him, and fell at His feet worshiping Him. At that point, Jesus asked him what his name was. The demoniac replied, “My name is Legion: for we are many” (Mr 5:9).
The first thing that I want to mention is, the demoniac said there were “many” demons within him. The Bible does not say exactly how many, but his name indicates there could have been up to six-thousand. A legion was a division of Roman soldiers numbering anywhere from three-thousand to six-thousand men. From verse 13 we can deduce that there were at least two-thousand because when Jesus cast the devils out of him, they were able to occupy approximately two-thousand swine! That means this man was harboring anywhere between two-thousand to six-thousand demons within his person!
The next thing I want you to notice is that they said, “My name (in the singular) is Legion.” Now, I don’t claim to be a scholar in the field of demonology, but I have studied it enough to know that the vast majority, if not all, of those devils had individual names. That means there could have been as many as six-thousand individually named devils in that one man, yet when unified within one body, they went by only ONE name! Remarkable, isn’t it?
When we consider the fact that two-thousand wicked, disloyal, murderous, lying, snaggled-toothed devils were unified enough to address themselves by the same name, it shouldn’t be a far stretch to believe that three divine persons can share an even greater unity, as well as share the very same name–JEHOVAH! This really threw a stick in the spokes of a Pakistani Oneness pastor that wrote me saying two or more persons could not share the same name! I’m still waiting on his response!
As revealing as this analogy is, I, knowing how the enemy and his cohorts operate, hesitated to use it. So, just for the record, I want you to know that I am by no means comparing the holy Trinity to a legion of devils. Nor am I saying that the unity of the Legion is exactly the same as the unity of the Trinity because it is not! My only purpose for using this, and all of these other analogies is to demonstrate the overwhelming evidence of composite unity that is found throughout the world and the Word of God.
The Marriage Union
In Ephesians 5:31-33 Paul tells us that when a man and woman get married, although they are not the same person, they become one flesh. If you think that is hard to understand, you are not alone. In verse 32 Paul tells us that this is a mystery. In verse 33 he tells us that even though it is a mystery, husbands should love their wives and their wives should reverence them! The mystery of a husband and wife’s oneness does not lessen the reality of it anymore than the mystery of the Trinity lessens the unity of the Godhead!
Paul was only teaching the principle that God laid down in the book of Genesis. Eph 5:31 is nearly an exact quote of:
Ge 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
The word one in this verse is also the Hebrew word echad (united)!
I am by no means saying this is a perfect analogy of the unity of the three persons of the Godhead because it is not. But the obvious implication is, it is not un-Biblical, nor far fetched, to say two or more persons can be called one.
The Unity of the Father, Son, and the Church
I think the most profound explanation of compound unity comes from Christ Himself. Let us read a passage of Scripture in the Gospel of John:
Joh 17:11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
Here, Christ is praying to the Father, and reveals His desire for the church. He prays that the church would be one as He and His Father are one. If Jesus Only Theology is correct, that is an impossible feat! They teach that the Father and Jesus are the very same person! How then, can you and I become the very same person seeing we are obviously many persons? Let us read a few more verses concerning this subject:
Joh 17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Though these three verses are packed with truth, I want to especially focus on verse 22:
Joh 17:22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, EVEN AS WE ARE ONE: (emphasis added)
This is a remarkable passage of Scripture. Jesus said that there is a sense in which you and I can be one even as He and the Father are one! Obviously, He was not referring to their ontological make-up, so He must have been referring to their perfect composite unity. In light of John 17:22, I believe it is safe to assume that if we get a better understanding of the church’s unity we will have a better understanding of the Trinity’s composite unity!
Let us start with what Paul told the Romans in:
Ro 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Next, Paul told the Ephesians in:
Eph 5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 Paul tells us many profound things concerning the church (the body of Christ), but five very important things. First, there is but one body. Secondly, there are many members in that one body. Thirdly, they are to be unified in will, purpose, and kingdom. Fourthly, each individual has personality and certain personal attributes differing from the other, yet they are still one body functioning for the same express purpose! Finally, different members hold different offices and positions, yet each member is equal and of the very same body.
I want to stress once more that Jesus taught that there was a sense in which the church’s unity is the same as His and His Father’s composite unity. I am not sure, but I do not think any Jesus Only adherent would argue with me if I were to say that every person in the body of Christ is not the very same person. Any logical human being can tell you we are not the same exact member; we are many individual members! So, if there is a sense in which the body of Christ’s unity is the same as Christ and His Father’s unity, the Father and Christ cannot be the very same person.
To “prove” that the Father and Son are the very same person, Oneness people love to twist John 10:30, which states:
Joh 10:30 I and my Father are one.
I want you to notice that Jesus said, “I and my Father are one” not, “I and my Father are the SAME one.”
In summary, when we compare the unity of the church to the Godhead, even as Jesus said we should, we discover: (1) God is one God even as the body of Christ is one body; (2) There are three persons in that one God even as there are many members in the one body of Christ; (3) The three members of the Trinity are perfectly unified in will, purpose, and kingdom even as the body of Christ is perfectly unified in will, purpose, and kingdom; (4) Each individual member of the Trinity has a mental faculty differing from the other, yet they are still one God, eternally co-existing in perfect concordant harmony. Likewise, each individual member of the church has a mental faculty differing from the other, yet they too are to be one body, co-existing in perfect concordant harmony; and (5) The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost hold different offices and positions in the Godhead, yet each member is equal. Likewise, the members of the body of Christ hold different offices and positions in the church, yet each member is equal.
As you can see, there are many places in the Bible that we are taught the principle of composite unity! Why do the Oneness people have such a difficult time accepting this when it comes to God? The pride of their hearts will not allow them to admit they are wrong.
Copyright 2009 by David Lamb