When Three Equals One
Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz

B. Childress
Jun 13 2011

Now we're going to look at the subject of God from a little different viewpoint.  And in the process we're going to address
a question people have been asking for millennia:

    Is it possible that there is more than one God?

Here's a preview of the answer:

    Absolutely not!  But...

Okay, it sounds like a trick question followed by a smoke-and-mirrors move.  Actually, it isn't.  Like we promised in the
previous chapter, this chapter is going to stretch you a bit.  

God is the One and Only

A lot of people today wonder how any religion (in this case, Christianity) could set itself up as the only religion.  And how
any God (in this case, the God of the Bible) could have the arrogance to say He is the only God.

This is where the Bible can get a little inconvenient - and might even seem intolerant to those people of other faiths.  
You see, on the question of "one and only," the Bible isn't open-minded at all.

    I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God (Isaiah 45:5).

In the Old Testament, the people of Israel (also known as the Jews or Israelites) had a tendency to worship other gods.  
The Jews probably saw this as a kind of religious insurance policy: If Jehovah didn't deliver for them, maybe another
god would.  No wonder that number one on God's list of Ten Commandments was:

    You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3).

In fact, you might as well add another personality trait to what you're learning about God: jealousy.  In a divine,
righteous sort of way, God is a jealous God.  He says so straight out in the second commandment:

    You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the
    waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God
    (Exodus 20:4-5).

Practically every nation living around Israel in Old Testament times had multiple gods.  Throughout history men have
tried to get away from a just and holy God by inventing gods of their own.  Sometimes these other gods are literal
images.  They are given names in an organized system.  The religion of Hinduism, for example, has thousands of gods.

Let's sort out these views about God and gods with three words:

    •   Monotheism is the belief that there is but one God.

    •   Atheism is the belief that there is no god.

    •   Polytheism is the belief that there are many gods.

Of the major religions of the world, only three are monotheistic: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  Most primitive
religions, including those practiced during Old Testament days, believe in one supreme god, who is the source of all
things.  But the god of these religions is usually considered unapproachable, so more gods with different purposes are

No Other Gods - Whatsoever!  The first and second commandments can be violated even if you don't bow or curtsy
before a bronze statue.  God is interested in our hearts, our devotion, our affection and attention.  Whenever we put
something else - anything else - before Him, we are "worshiping" another god.  Career, house, money, success - even a
relationship - can become a god.  It boils down to whether  God comes first, or our own selfish desires and ambitions.  
Who or what do we really worship?

The Three-in-Oneness of God

Now let's try to answer a question you may have been wanting to ask since the beginning of the book:

    What about Jesus and the Holy Spirit?  Aren't they God, too?

We've arrived at one of the most important truths in the Bible, and it involves a word which doesn't even appear in the
Bible.  This word,
trinity, and the meaning it conveys, is vital to the Person of God, and it will influence everything else
we write from this point forward.

What is the Trinity?  Perhaps a line from a great hymn - "Holy, Holy, Holy..." - best defines this awesome word:

God in three Persons, blessed Trinity"

Essentially the Trinity describes the three distinct Persons which make up the one true God:

    •   God, the Father

    •   God, the Son

    •   God, the Holy Spirit

When it comes to the Trinity, we can correctly talk about the "tri-personality" of God.  In other words, God has many
distinct personality traits, but He also is three unique Persons, each one with individual personality traits.

Trinity does not mean three gods exist who together make up God.  That would be tritheism.  God is one.  Deuteronomy
6:4 makes no bones about it: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One."

Theologians use the concepts of Trinity in order to help describe the "fullness of the Godhead," including both God's
unity and diversity.  This essentially defines the tri-unity of God.  There is only one God, but within that unity are three
eternal and co-equal Persons - all sharing the same essence and substance, but each having a distinct existence.

There's no question that the Trinity is one of the great mysteries of God and the Bible.  Yet that should not keep us
from trying to understand it and what it means for us.

What the Bible Teaches About the Trinity

Although the Bible never mentions the word trinity, the concept is definitely there.  In fact, there are several passages
which picture three distinct Persons in the Godhead present at the same time.

The most striking passage on the Trinity can be found in the Gospel of Matthew.  Jesus has just been baptized by
John.  Here's what Matthew writes:

    As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.  At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw
    the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son,
    whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:16-17).

Isn't that incredible?  All three persons of the Trinity present in one place at one time, distinct yet united:  The Father's
voice is heard, the Son is being baptized, and the Holy Spirit appears in the form of a dove.

Yet another example, often called "The Great Commission," is contained in Christ's instructions to the disciples:

    Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
    the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

Equal and the Same, but...Different?

Before we conclude this chapter on the unity and trinity of God, we want to present evidence from the Bible that each
Person in the Trinity is equal to God.

The logical conclusion from such evidence is that each person in the Godhead is both equal and the same.

1.  God the Father is God.  This is kind of an easy one.  God is called "the Father" numerous times, including this
salutation from the apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Rome:

    Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:7).

2.  Jesus the Son Is God.  Unlike other founders of major world religions - Buddha, Confucius, and Mohammed came
to mind - who are known primarily for what they
said, Jesus is known primarily for who He was.  Jesus is central to
Christianity, which consequently must stand or fall based on whether or not He was God.  

Jesus understood who He was, and said so plainly.  The Gospel of John records an incident in which some Jews in
Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and asked Him, "How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us
plainly."  Here's what Jesus said:

    I and the Father are one (John 10:30).

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is described as having qualities only God can possess:

    •   Jesus is eternal (John 17:5).

    •   Jesus is omniscient (John 16:30).

    •   Jesus is omnipotent (John 5:19).

    •   Jesus is immutable (Hebrews 13:8).

    •   Jesus is the Creator (Colossians 1:16).

    •   Jesus has the power to forgive sins.

Of all the things we hope you'll learn in this chapter, this is the one we hope you'll remember longest: Jesus, the Son of
God, equal to God, came to earth to forgive sins
.  Our sins and your sins.  That's why He came, why He died, why He
rose from the dead.

3.  The Holy Spirit Is God.  The Holy Spirit is God.  Because the third Person in the Trinity is commonly called the Holy
Spirit or the Holy Ghost, there's a tendency to believe that the Holy Spirit isn't a person that He doesn't have a

Nothing could be further from the truth.

We've already established that God is a spirit.  Yet God has a personality.  So why should it be different with the Holy
Spirit?  Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as "He" many times, including this incredible passage in the Gospel of John,
where Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to His disciples:

    And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth.  The
    world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  But you know him, for he lives with you and
    will be in you (John 14:16-17).

Like Jesus, the Holy spirit has several characteristics only God can possess:

    •   The Holy spirit is eternal (Hebrews 9:14).

    •   The Holy Spirit is omnipotent (Luke 1:35).

    •   The Holy Spirit is omnipresent (Psalm 139.7).

    •   The Holy Spirit is the Creator (Psalm 104:30).

Why the Trinity Matters

We find great comfort (and astonishment) in knowing that all the Persons of God are focused on restoring our
relationship with Him.  It's not like Jesus is the nice one, the Father is the stern one, and the Spirit is the mysterious
one.  Not at all.  All three Persons of the Trinity are engaged in the process of bringing man back to God.

Think about it this way:

    •   God the Father had it in His heart to provide a way for man to be forgiven of sin.  God the Father authored the
    plan of salvation.

    •   Jesus the Son, while fully God, submitted to the Father's plan.  As the sacrifice for man's sin, Jesus Christ
    accomplished the plan of salvation.

    •   The Holy Spirit, just as much God has the other two Persons, is at work in the lives of those who've chosen to
    follow God.  The Holy Spirit applies the plan of salvation in the lives of believers.

Maybe now you can see how this mysterious, amazing God - who is One, three-in-One, and the only One - can impact
your life today.  Because God chooses to express His fullness completely in those who believe in Him, it's possible for
you to become who you were really meant to be!

Remember that the word trinity is not used in the Bible, but "God in three Persons" is a recurring theme.  

Verses for study:

    Matthew 3:16-17 - A clear picture of the three Persons of the Godhead.

    Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:4-5; John 14-16 - Jesus affirms the reality of the Trinity.

    Romans 5:5-8 - Each member of the Trinity has a role in salvation.

    II Corinthians 13:14 - The apostle Paul gives a benediction which acknowledges the Trinity.

For the mystery-riddled and brain-weary, maybe now would be a good time to quote that famous agnostic, Mark Twain:
"Most people are bothered by those passages in Scripture which they cannot understand.  The Scripture which troubles
me most is the Scripture I do understand."

Those who choose God's truth can take comfort in exactly what troubled Twain.  You see, God holds us accountable for
the truths we know.  But He's never going to sit you down for an essay test on the Trinity.

Not that we're quite ready to give your mind much rest.  For starters, did you realize that invisible supernatural
intergalactic warfare is going on all around you?


GUIDE TO GOD, by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz, Copyright 1997, HARVEST HOUSE PUBLISHERS.