The Lord is high above all nations, His glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth? Psalm 113:4-6
We are introduced to God in Genesis, the Book of Beginnings where the roots of all our doctrines are found and where patterns were established for events to unfold throughout human history. God’s dealing and plans with man follow distinct patterns, also called types, shadows and symbols by the apostle Paul. These types, shadows and symbols point to the future where they found fulfillment in Christ and the work He did to bring us back to the heart of God.
Good Bible study investigates the vocabulary used in the Scriptures, as well as shadows and types. These lay the foundation for our understanding of God’s person, His interactions and purpose with man through the ages, up to and until the fulfillment of all things. A true gem in Bible interpretation was coined by Augustine, a Latin church father, considered one of the most significant Christian thinkers after Paul. He found, “The New Testament is in the Old concealed; the Old is by the New revealed.” This is a beautiful truth that binds the two testaments of the Bible together into one message from God to us.
Scholars also discovered a template for Bible interpretation on which many truths were established throughout Scripture, namely the law of first mention. This principle determines that the first use of a word or phrase in the Old Testament carries significance prophetic understanding of a similar word or phrase in the New Testament.
The importance of Genesis, as the point of departure for effective Bible study, cannot be over emphasized. Diligent students of the Bible know this to be true. On the strength of the above we become, concerning God, acquainted with Him through the Scriptures. The Lord’s message in the Bible spans both testaments, and must be received as such. The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New; He is the everlasting, unchanging God. (Habakkuk 1:12; Malachi 3:6)
The Bible opens with a statement that introduces God to us as the Creator of all things, confirmed by the author of Hebrews in chapter 11:3.
In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1
By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. Hebrews 11:3
These opening words reveal an interesting detail (marked in bold in the quotation below) about God, obscured in modern translations, but revealed in the original Hebrew language. Strong’s Concordance explains the first mention of God in the Bible this way:
ʼĕlôhîym, el-o-heem’; plural of H433; gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative:—angels, × exceeding, God (gods) (-dess, -ly), × (very) great, judges, × mighty.
Note that Hebrew words ending with him are in the plural form. Elohim created the heavens by speaking it into being, and the Spirit of God was present and hovering over the face of the waters. We also know from John 1:1-3 that Jesus — here called the Word made flesh — was present too as the creating agent. He was not only with God, but God Himself. Elohim is indeed plural — one God, yet revealed in Scripture as three persons. We see a confirmation of this concept in Genesis 1:26-27 quoted below:
Then God said, “Let Us (plural) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His (singular) own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:26,27
God is three, yet one. This is hard to understand mentally, but we must bear in mind that God is Spirit (John 4:24) — He doesn’t have a physical body like we do. He is a spiritual Being, and because we are created in His image, we are essentially spirit beings too. (Adam and Eve received bodies after they were created, in Genesis chapter 2) Because God is Spirit, we cannot grasp Him mentally, with our minds. Although we cannot see Him, we acknowledge Him by faith, just as we worship Him in and by faith.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6
How do we understand this Three-yet-One God, since the word Trinity does not appear in Scripture? By faith — simply by believing what the Bible shows us about Him.
There is more than enough evidence of this Triune God in the Bible. The New Testament opens with John the Baptist preaching a message of repentance toward God, faith in the coming Messiah, and a baptism in the Holy Spirit — the three Persons of the Godhead.
Mary received a visit from the angel Gabriel who told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, that she would conceive a son who would be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord would give Him the throne of David. (Matthew 3:1-12; Luke 1:26-35) Three distinct personalities are mentioned here:
- The Holy Spirit will come upon Mary
- she will conceive a son
- who will be called the Son of the Highest
Jesus once told a scribe that God is one (Mark 12:29), yet in the verses below we can clearly see the Triune God in action, together, in three Persons in one place, at one time:
When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:15-17
- Jesus — the Son of God — is in the water
- God — the Father — speaks from heaven
- The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove
In His last prayer on earth Jesus confessed His oneness with the Father:
Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. John 17:11
Note that Jesus prayed to the Father — it was not a conversation with or within Himself!
My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” John 10:29,30
Before He ascended into heaven Jesus gave instructions to the church, showing the unity of the Triune God in the sacrament of baptism:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:19,20
Much later, Paul referred to this baptism in the name of the Triune God when he found some disciples in Ephesus:
And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Acts 19:1-3
Why did Paul ask them, “Into what then were you baptized?” Because they should have heard of the Holy Spirit at their baptism, as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19
These disciples — already believers in Jesus — had been baptized with John’s baptism. His was a baptism of repentance, but Jesus’ baptism signifies our union with His death and resurrection into newness of life, according to Romans 6:3-10. John’s baptism was widely known, even in Turkey where Paul found these men. There was the baptism of John, and the baptism of Jesus. We know these men were already believers in Jesus, and therefore saved, because:
…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13
For this reason Paul did not preach the gospel to them; he just led them into obedience to Jesus’ command.
The human mind is not capable of understanding the everlasting God, the Creator of all things. Our intellect is limited to earthly things, which is why we can only approach God by faith. The apostle Paul mentions two kinds of understanding, namely natural and spiritual. We understand the natural, visible, tangible world with our natural minds, but spiritual things with spiritual understanding:
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God… Colossians 1:9,10
The born-again spirit of man has the capacity to grasp spiritual things:
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 1 Corinthians 2:14,15
All through Jesus’ walk on the earth we see communication between Himself and the Father — two personalities interacting with one another:
Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. John 14:10
Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19
I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. John 5:30
We even find conflicting wills between Jesus and the Father in Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane:
He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39
There even was a time when Jesus was separated from God. As He hung on the cross, He experienced for Himself what sinners know so well, and that is to be cut off from God. Our sin that was laden upon Him, caused that separation:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabach-thani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:46
How could this happen if God is only one Person? For the first time ever Jesus was on His own — the punishment for sin became a reality to Him in that moment when the Father briefly forsook Him while He paid the penalty for sin.
Our present reality is the answer to a prayer Jesus once prayed to the Father:
And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:16,17
- Jesus will pray
- the Father will give
- another Helper — the Holy Spirit
There is a perception, believed by some in the Christian faith, that there is only one person in the Godhead, namely Jesus, and that He appears in different modes, sometimes as the Son, sometimes as the Father, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit. It is a simplistic view, in my opinion, that portrays God, the Father of glory, Who is so much higher than we are, as a personality who appears in different modes at different occasions. This doctrine is in sharp contrast with the Person of God as revealed in the full context of Scripture. This flawed doctrine is based on some Bible verses that, if read outside of the complete context, might appear to be true. However, in order to see the full picture of a puzzle, all pieces must fit together.
Us humans have a threefold nature too, namely spirit, soul and body — three distinct parts, each with a different function, yet it is only one person. It might not be known by all, yet here it is:
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23
If us, as God’s handiwork, can be so complex, what shall we say about our Creator God?
Doctrines are not mere academic lines in a statement of faith, but sacred revelations imparted to us by God Himself. The purpose of Bible doctrines is to bring us, once again, in a right relationship with Him.
God reveals Himself, and does not need our reasonings to explain Him; He is who Scripture portrays Him to be. The doctrine about God is the very foundation on which all our doctrines are built, and is within reach of the lowest intellect on earth. If this doctrine is skewed, every other doctrine built on it might be distorted too.
In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Luke 10:21-22
Let us therefore continually seek Him with all our heart, desiring to know Him as He is. The Scriptures introduce Him to us, and His Spirit reveals Him to our hearts.
The apostle Paul, the man from whose pen flowed most of the New Testament, revealed his own search after God:
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection… Philippians 3:8-10
We put our faith in God as Scripture made Him known to us, even if we are not able to fully understand Him, but a day will come when we will see Him as He is!
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
Can I lose my Salvation? Read about it here