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“三一神论”合乎圣经吗?

作者:道格·巴契勒 & 基姆·克亚尔日期:2018-08-25 11:12:29浏览数:920
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奇妙真相:科学证明,光是由三道原射线或波长组成。三道射线虽然泾渭分明,却又缺一不可。每一道射线都有独特的功能:第一道是发源;第二道是照亮;第三道是完善。第一道射线通常被称为不可见光,既看不见也感觉不到;第二道是可见光,既看得见也感觉得到;第三道则是看不见却有热感。

同样,我们“独一的上帝” 是以圣父、圣子和圣灵三个不同的位格显现。“在天上作见证的有三位:就是圣父、道和圣灵,这三者为一。”(约壹5:8 KJV直译)

至高的题旨

鲜有其它教义性主题比“三位一体(trinity)”更能引发基督徒的唇枪舌剑。关于神格本质的不同看法,甚至已经引发了教会的分裂与争斗。

对于上帝本性的困惑并不是新鲜事。自创世以来,人类就想竭力测透神,解释神。在约伯记中,琐法的那番话恰恰是每一个人心中的呐喊:“你考察就能测透上帝吗?你岂能尽情测透全能者吗?祂的智慧高于天,你还能作什么?深于阴间,你还能知道什么?”(伯11:7, 8)

约翰·卫斯理补充道:“你若能找到一条可以理解人的虫子,我就能找到一个能测透三一真神的人!”

对上帝的研究超越一切,它是每个人可以尝试接近或思考的至高主题。上帝将自己定义为自有永有、拥有至高权柄、无所不在、无所不知的一位,因此,对这一领域的研究,远比其它任何主题更加长阔高深。

“天怎样高过地,照样,我的道路高过你们的道路;我的意念高过你们的意念。”(赛55:9)人类有限的智慧,岂能完全理解永恒上帝的一切呢?这比徒步登天还难。为了揭开祂的神秘面纱,我们要卑以自牧,如当年的摩西一样,谦卑赤足地来到上帝面前,“因为你所站之地是圣地。”(出3:5)

只有抛开我们先入为主的成见、观点和宗派教导,才能直接进入到上帝的圣言中,学习祂关于自己的启示。但要记得,唯有上帝能完全理解上帝,我们即便是夜以继日地勤奋研究,仍然无法解答某些问题。哪怕是在永恒的岁月中,这也依然是我们研究的课题之一。

一个大问题

有人会问,“如果圣经教导我们只有一位上帝,那么上帝怎么会由三位组成呢?”圣经明确宣称只有一位上帝。三千多年来,犹太人一直在重申下面的经文:“以色列啊!你要听,耶和华我们上帝是独一的主。”(申6:4)这段神圣的经文被称为“施玛”(“shema”意思是“听”,以希伯来语的首字为名,是犹太教晨祷和晚祷中的祷文, 申述对上帝的笃信),多个世纪以来,虔诚的犹太人一直尊崇并熟记着这段经文。

以赛亚书记载了有关上帝的证言。“耶和华以色列的君,以色列的救赎主万军之耶和华如此说:我是首先的,我是末后的;除我以外再没有真神。……除我以外,岂有真神吗?诚然没有磐石,我不知道一个。”(赛44:6, 8)耶稣也教导“独一的真神,”(约17:3)保罗写道“因为只有一位上帝。”(提前2:5)

虽然大多数信徒都赞同这一核心真理,但对其深层含义的激烈争论,却始终贯穿于整个教会历史。这是否意味着其实只有一位,而这一位却有三个不同的头衔?还是有三位独立的个体,神奇地变成了一个?难道只有天父上帝是神,而耶稣只是一个好人,一个拯救人类的被造物吗?还有人认为,圣父与圣子确实是上帝,但圣灵只不过是惟命是从的一股非人的力量。以上的每一种歧见,都有其忠实的追随者。让我们以圣经来一一检验这些观点。

惟有耶稣?

第三世纪,一位住在罗马的利比亚神父——撒伯流(Sabellius),他宣称上帝是一位有着不同头衔的独一个体,被称为“形态论”(modalism)。他认为圣父、圣子和圣灵代表上帝的不同角色或形态,取决于祂当时想与人交流的方式。就像水一样,能以固态(冰)、液态(水)或气态(蒸汽)的形式呈现。

然而,三一真神并不是由一位来扮演三位的角色。教会认为撒伯流的学说违背了圣经教导,因此他很快被逐出教会。然而,如今依然有他的追随者,称为“独一神论”或“唯独耶稣”论——宣称耶稣基督不仅是圣子,也是圣父和圣灵。他们用以赛亚书9章6节中,弥赛亚(那应许之子)被称为“永在的父”,作为这一信仰的依据。

然而,“一神论”忽略了圣子降世,是为了向盲目的世人彰显父上帝的品格。耶稣在客西马尼园向天父祷告说:“父啊,现在求祢使我同祢享荣耀,就是未有世界以先,我同祢所有的荣耀。”(约17:5, 6)耶稣是唯一能显明天父的那位,因为祂是天父“本体的真像”。(路10:22;来1:3)

因此,当门徒问基督天父是什么样子时,祂说“人看见了我,就是看见了父。”(约14:9)耶稣反照了天父的品格,完美再现了天父的形像,所以被称为“永在的父”。此外,世界和其上的一切都是藉着基督造的。从这个层面来讲,耶稣的确是我们的父。(来1:2;约1:3)

以赛亚书9章6节是圣经中唯一一处将耶稣称为父的。要知道,耶稣称自己为人子,人类的长兄,好牧人,朋友和大祭司。单单以一节经文得出一套教义,就如同是在一根篱笆柱上建房子一样愚蠢。多处经文表明圣父和圣子是独立区分的个体。基督在世时,祂提到“我天上的父。”(太10:32)祂总是朝着天向父祷告,并声明天父有自己的独立意志,“父啊!祢若愿意,就把这杯撤去;然而,不要成就我的意思,只要成就祢的意思。”(路22:42)“父啊!我将我的灵魂交在祢手里”(路23:46)复活之后,基督升到“上帝的右边。”(罗8:34)这表明圣父是独立存在的。

事实上,耶稣有80多次提到祂并不是天父。尽管祂和父有着同一的意愿,同是自有永有,但祂们显然是独立的个体。圣父不止一次从天上对耶稣说:“这是我的爱子,我所喜悦的。”(太3:17)这样看来,耶稣要么和天父是两个独立的个体,要么是个口技专家,一人分饰三角。

耶稣是完全的神吗?

另有人质疑耶稣拥有永生上帝的所有特性。这一派别源于阿里乌斯——公元四世纪亚历山大的一位牧师,他对上帝有不同的看法。阿里乌斯教导说:上帝创造万有之前先造了圣子,因此圣子既不与圣父同等,也不能与圣父永远共存。这就是阿里乌斯派。他们认为耶稣基督只不过是一个超自然的受造物,祂既不是完全的人也不是完全的神。还有人接受了这一教派更不成熟的说法:他们认为在太初,圣父上帝与圣灵有着某种亲密的关系,而耶稣则是祂们的产物。他们的理由是,“不然,上帝怎么称耶稣为儿子呢?”

然而这些概念完全违背了新约圣经的教导。根据新约圣经的启示,耶稣乃是永恒的创造主,绝非受造物。(约1:1–4)通过将圣经对上帝的定义与有关耶稣的记载对比,就会发现耶稣具备耶和华的各个特征。来看下面有力的例证:

·耶稣是自有的(约1:1–4; 14:6);只有上帝是自有的(诗90:2)。“上帝的儿子是与父同坐宝座的,所以自有永有,亘古常在者的荣耀乃是父子所共有的。”(《先祖与先知》 第一章)

· 耶稣是自有永有的。“我是阿拉法,我是俄梅戛(阿拉法,俄梅戛:乃希腊字母首末二字),是昔在、今在、以后永在的全能者。”(启1:8)

·祂是,并拥有,永恒的生命。(约一5:11, 12, 20)

·祂是全能的。(启1:8)

·祂创造万物。(约1:3)“起初上帝创造天地。”(创1:1)“因为万有都是靠祂造的,无论是天上的,地上的;能看见的,不能看见的;或是坐宝座的,统治的,执政的,掌权的;万物都是靠祂造的,又是为祂造的。”(西1:16 KJV直译)

·天父甚至称耶稣为上帝。“论到子却说:‘上帝啊,祢的宝座是永永远远的;祢的国权是正直的。”(来1:8)

·耶稣有赦罪的能力(路5:20, 21);经上说只有上帝能赦罪。(赛43:25)

·耶稣接受人的敬拜,而按照十诫只有全能者才配得敬拜。(太14:33)“当她们去告诉门徒的时候,看啊,耶稣遇见她们,说:‘愿你们平安!’她们就上前抱住祂的脚敬拜祂。”(太28:9)看到复活的主之后,悔改多疑的多马承认:“我的主!我的上帝!”(约20:26–29)

·甚至众天使都敬拜耶稣。“再者,上帝使长子到世上来的时候,就说:‘上帝的使者都要拜祂。’”(来1:6)

经上也教导说,唯有上帝知道人心所想。(王上8:39)耶稣“知道人心里所存的。”(约2:25)“拿但业对耶稣说:‘祢从哪里知道我呢?’耶稣回答说:‘腓力还没有招呼你,你在无花果树底下,我就看见你了。’”(约1:48)

·藉着圣灵,耶稣无所不在。“看啊,我总与你们同在,直到世界的尽头。”(太28:20 KJV直译)“我与你同在,必没有人下手害你,因为在这城里我有许多的百姓。”(徒18:10)

·耶稣有能力赐下生命,甚至使自己复活。“没有人夺我的命去,是我自己放下的。我有权力把它放下了,也有权力把它取回来。”(约10:18 KJV直译)“我是复活和生命。信我的人虽然死了,也必复活。”(约11:25 KJV直译)

鉴于上述对上帝的主要定义,我们可以看到耶稣符合其中的每一条。显然,耶稣必定是永恒的上帝。

仇敌也知道

连耶稣的仇敌也明白并承认,“与父原为一”就是与上帝同等的意思。所以,当耶稣大胆地宣讲“我与父原为一”时,犹太领袖们便十分恼怒,并图谋杀害祂。因为他们清楚知道,当耶稣说“我与父原为一”时,祂是在宣称自己是上帝。“犹太人回答说:‘我们不是为善事拿石头打祢,是为祢说僭妄的话;又为祢是个人,反将自己当作上帝。’”(约10:30, 33)

犹太人甚至想用石头打死祂,因为耶稣以自有永有的头衔自居,就是耶和华在燃烧的荆棘中所用的名。耶稣说,“我实实在在的告诉你们,还没有亚伯拉罕就有了自有永有的我。于是他们拿石头要打祂;但耶稣自己躲藏了,穿过他们,从殿里出去了。”(约8:58 NKJV直译)

犹太人知道,耶稣自称与祂上帝同等,因为祂曾说:“我父做事直到如今,我也作事。所以犹太人越发想要杀祂;……并且称上帝为祂的父,将自己和上帝当作平等。”(约5:17, 18)

因此,我们可以得出三个结论:耶稣之所以敢于作出如此肆无忌惮的声明,要么祂是个疯子;要么是个骗子。但这两种结论都不可取。而第三种可能就是,祂道出了事实和真相。对于接受耶稣之牺牲的基督徒而言,只有第三种结论站得住脚。毕竟,骗子或疯子决不能作为我们无瑕疵的救主。

中世纪的错误?

大多数基督徒都认可“三一神论”——上帝是由三个截然不同的个体组成,分别是圣父、圣子(耶稣基督)和圣灵。祂们从太初就已共存至今,而且每一位都是自有永有的。祂们同是上帝,并且在性情、品格和目标上合而为一。祂们不是三个“神”,而是三合一的上帝。

有人称“三一神论”是异端,他们宣称背道的中世纪教会乃是引进这一理论的始作俑者。事实上,自19世纪以来,为了与天主教的“三位一体论”进行区分,许多改正教领袖在提到三一真神时,更倾向于圣经的术语 “神格”("Godhead")。

然而,不能因为一个背道的教会相信“三一神论”或其它教义,就一概而论地说这教义是错误或毫无圣经根据的。反之亦然,不能因为某些早期教会的领袖拥护某一理论,我们就盲从,这样的立场也不可靠。因为连使徒也曾误解了耶稣第一次降临的本质。教义的正确与否,必须以圣经的权威作为基础,而非以倡导或否定这一教义的人为标准。

早在基督教(不论背道与否)出现之前,旧约圣经就已写成,并且它已经明确的指出了上帝的位格有三。以赛亚书提到的那位救赎主——新约圣经中的耶稣基督(加4:4,5),宣称是“耶和华和祂的灵”差遣祂来完成救赎的使命。(赛48:16, 17 KJV直译)

有些人则认为,既然“三一真神”(trinity一词源于拉丁文trinitas,意思是“三重性”)从未在圣经中出现,那么这个概念必定是错误的。然而,“千禧年”(一千年)一词虽然并未出现在启示录20章,但我们仍用它来描述耶稣复临后大地安息的一千年。不能因为引用了圣经之外的词来定义圣经中明确的教训,就说这样的教训是异端。类似的宗教术语还有很多,例如:“耶稣复临”、“查案审判”等。

独一上帝,三个位格

上帝的名字揭示了祂的本性。祂习惯用不同的名字来描述人的特征与品格。例如雅各,他欺骗父亲,夺取了本属于哥哥以扫的祝福,从而得了“骗子”之名。(创27:35,36)但在祂悔改后,因与天使角力,并坚持要得上帝的赐福,从而其名字被改为“以色列”,意思是“王子”。(创32:26-28)

同样,创世记和其它经卷中所提到的上帝之名,从不同角度描述了我们的创造主。“上帝说:‘我们要照着我们的形像,按着我们的样式造人’”(创1:26)希伯来文在此用“Elohm”来表示“上帝”。这是一个复数名词,旧约圣经中共出现过2700多次。这意味着圣经作者更倾向于使用“Elohim”(复数)来描述上帝,该词出现的次数是其单数形式(“El”)的10倍之多。在但以理书,我们可以看到圣父和圣子是两个不同的个体。“我在夜间的异象中观看,见有一位像人子的,驾着天云而来,被领到亘古常在者面前。”(但7:13)人子耶稣来到亘古常在者面前。毫无疑问,这位亘古常在者就是父上帝。

新约圣经也不乏“一位上帝,三个位格”的概念。使徒保罗写到有三个神格:“身体只有一个,圣灵只有一个,正如你们蒙召同有一个指望。一主,一信,一洗,一上帝,就是众人的父,超乎众人之上,贯乎众人之中,也住在众人之内。”(弗4:4–6)

保罗多次提到上帝的位格有三。“愿主耶稣基督的恩惠、上帝的慈爱、圣灵的感动,常与你们众人同在!”(林后13:14)“何况基督藉着永远的灵,将自己无瑕无疵献给上帝,祂的血岂不更能洗净你们的心(原文作良心),除去你们的死行,使你们事奉那永生上帝吗?”(来9:14)

还有启示录一开篇,就介绍了上帝的三个位格。“从祂宝座前的七灵,并那诚实作见证的、从死里首生的、为世上君王元首的耶稣基督……祂爱我们,在祂自己的血里洗去我们的罪,又使我们成为众王,作祂父上帝的祭司。但愿荣耀、权柄归给祂,直到永永远远。”(启1:4–6 KJV直译)

另外,在耶稣受洗时,我们清楚看到三个截然不同的个体。“耶稣受了洗,随即从水里上来。天忽然为祂开了,”如果耶稣是上帝位格中唯一的一位,那声音——“这是我的爱子”又是从何而来?难道耶稣将自己分成三等分,一部分是空中的声音,一部分是从天而降的鸽子,而另一部分则是站在河岸的肉身?不。这绝不是障眼法,而是揭示了三一真神的事实。最重要的是,我们要奉这三位共同的权威施洗。“所以,你们要去使万民作我的门徒,奉父、子、圣灵的名,给他们施洗(或作:给他们施洗,归于父、子、圣灵的名)。”(太28:19)

一位还是三位?

大多数的人都对上帝位格的数量心存疑惑,这源于对“一”字的误解。圣经中的“一”不单是指数量,也可以表示某个“联合体”。

这一原则从起初就建立了。“因此,人要离开父母,与妻子连合,二人成为一体。”(创2:24)这里的“一体”并不是指婚后夫妻融合成一个人,而是二人要联合成为一个家庭。耶稣曾祈求天父使门徒们合而为一,“祢所赐给我的荣耀,我已赐给他们,使他们合而为一,像我们合而为一;我在他们里面,祢在我里面,使他们完完全全的合而为一。”(约17:22, 23)

要知道,当摩西说“独一的主”(申6:4)之时,以色列正被信奉多神教的国家所包围,他们所信奉的众神不停地争斗。然而,三一的创造主却在救赎与维系所造之物的使命上全然合一。圣灵执行圣父和圣子的旨意,而这旨意也与圣灵的意愿一致。

“在天上作见证的有三位:就是圣父、道和圣灵,这三者为一。”(约一5:7 NKJV直译)要理解独一上帝(单数的“祂”)等同于三位(复数的“祂们”)的确令人费解。其实,这就像一根由三股拧成的绳子,虽有圣父、圣子和圣灵,祂们却又是“一上帝”。

大自然彰显上帝

固然没有任何受造之物能充分地彰显上帝,然而,“藉着所造之物”有助于我们理解“祂的永能和神性。”(罗1:20)“三一上帝”(圣父与圣灵二位看不见,圣子耶稣看得见)的道理早在创世之初就已显明。

宇宙的构成有三:空间、物质和时间。三者只有物质是可见的。空间是由长、宽、高组成的。每个维度都是相互独立的,却又缺一不可的。如果移除了高度,就不会有空间。时间也是一样,是过去、现在和将来的三合一。其中过去和将来是看不见的,只有现在是可见的。每一个都是独特的,却又是必不可少的。人也是“三合一”的个体,由身、心和灵组成。同样,其中两个是不可见的(心与灵),可见的是身体。细胞是构成所有生物体的基本单位。一切有机生命都是由细胞组成,而细胞有三个主要部分:细胞壁、细胞质和细胞核(如鸡蛋的蛋壳、蛋白和蛋黄)。少了任何一个部分,细胞都会死亡。

在上述的例子中,缺少任何一个元素都会导致整体的消亡。同样,上帝也包含三个位格:圣父、圣子和圣灵。每一位都是上帝(弗4:6;多2:13;徒5:3,4),却又只有“一上帝”。缺少其中任何一位都会破坏整体的合一性。

就连福音本身也说明了三的相关性。圣所有三个部分:外院、圣所和至圣所。救赎有三个阶段:称义、成圣和得荣耀。围绕上帝宝座的撒拉弗高呼“圣哉、圣哉、圣哉,”(赛6:3)这三个圣哉分别归于圣父、圣子和圣灵。

误解之源

几乎所有拒绝“三一真神”论的人,都认为耶稣是“次等的上帝”,其根本原因是他们无法理解道成肉身。耶稣,上帝的圣子,降世时完全放下或遮盖了祂的神性。否则,圣洁无暇的神,岂能生活在污秽的世人当中?

“上帝就差遣自己的儿子,成为罪身的形状,作了赎罪祭,在肉体中定了罪案。”(罗8:3)

“你们知道我们主耶稣基督的恩典:祂本来富足,却为你们成了贫穷,叫你们因祂的贫穷,可以成为富足。”(林后8:9)

“你们当以基督耶稣的心为心:祂本有上帝的形像,不以自己与上帝同等为强夺的;反倒虚己,取了奴仆的形像,成为人的样式。”(腓2:5-7)

在耶稣道成肉身的前后,我们清楚地看到祂再次绽放了神圣的荣耀。“父啊,现在求祢使我同祢享荣耀,就是未有世界以先,我同祢所有的荣耀。”(约17:5)“我为他们祈求,不为世人祈求,却为祢所赐给我的人祈求,因他们本是祢的。”(来2:9)

若非圣子上帝在地上遮盖了祂的荣光,人类无法忍受祂耀眼的临格,更不必说要效学祂的样式。

谁居首位?

我们再进一步探究这一神圣的领域。在思考三一真神的奥秘时,我们发现祂们的权力似乎遵循着某个排序。虽然三位有着相同的特性,并享有同等的权力和荣耀,但圣父上帝似乎是公认的终极权威。“并且你们是属基督的,基督又是属上帝的。”(林前3:23)“我愿意你们知道……上帝是基督的头。”(林前11:3)圣子常从圣父那里领受荣耀、权柄、宝座和审判的特权。(约3:35; 5:22)的确,是圣父上帝“赐下”了圣子耶稣。我们受教奉圣子的名向天父祷告,并不是向耶稣或圣灵祷告(当然,向耶稣和圣灵祷告或许也不为过)。尽管父上帝似乎拥有至高的权威,但这丝毫不会削减耶稣和圣灵的神性。就好比说与中士相比,下士是次等的士兵一样。

三一真神从不为各自的显赫而争吵,也不会为赞誉而彼此相争,或醉心于权力。事实恰恰相反。圣父、圣子和圣灵总是相互给予,彼此荣耀。圣父想要荣耀圣子。圣子为荣耀圣父而活,而圣灵则为荣耀圣父与圣子而活。(约13:31,32;16:14;17:1,5)

圣灵的角色

下面来看另外一个对于“三一神论”的误解。有些诚挚的基督徒认为圣父和圣子是独立的个体,而圣灵则是宇宙中的一股力量或要素,是执行圣父和圣子之命令的、非人力的通道或载体。

圣灵似乎是最难想象并定义为上帝位格中的一位。有时候祂被称为“圣魂”(同“圣灵”),让人有一种“幽灵般”的感觉。圣经将祂比作风、火、鸽子、水、甚至是保惠师。

在我们思考圣灵不同的特征时,我们会迅速发现祂拥有作为一个独特智慧体的所有特征。

圣灵引导人。“只等真理的圣灵来了,祂要引导你们明白(原文作进入)一切的真理。”(约16:13)地图或GPS(全球定位系统)可以引路,却没有人称地图为“他”。耶稣为什么不称圣灵为“它”,却用“祂”呢(这样的用法有15次之多)?为何上帝要竭力说明圣灵拥有独立的情绪、思想和言语,并不受祂的支配?

圣灵也安慰人。“我要求父,父就另外赐给你们一位保惠师(或作:训慰师;下同),叫祂永远与你们同在”。(约14:16)我从未见过一个孤独的孩子会跑到吸尘器前求拥抱——只有智慧的生灵才能提供安慰。在升天之前,耶稣应许派遣另一位帮助者;“paraclete”(辩护者)是希腊语,表示圣灵的多个角色,如“策士”、“训慰师”、“中保”、“帮助者”、“保惠师”、“同盟者”和“支持者”。(约14:16, 17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15)。这些通常都是某个人或挚友的特质。若圣灵仅仅是上帝活跃的能力,那么下面的经文就没有意义了。“然而,我将真情告诉你们,我去是与你们有益的;我若不去,保惠师就不到你们这里来;我若去,就差祂来。祂既来了,就要叫世人为罪、为义、为审判,自己责备自己。”(约16:7,8)由此可知,耶稣升天后圣灵要亲自与人同在。倘若圣灵只是一股力量,为何必须要等耶稣离开之后祂才来呢?这样的道理是讲不通的。

圣灵会担忧。(弗4:30)汽车同样具有不同的性能和特点。有时候,汽车甚至会有自己的“个性”。但交通工具绝不会伤心,更不会像圣灵一样会讲话。“圣灵对腓利说:‘你去!贴近那车走。’”(徒8:29)电脑程序能再现语言,但不能创造灵感思维。而圣经乃是人受圣灵感动所写成的。(彼后1:21)

启示录1章4-5节记载了从圣父、圣灵和耶稣基督而来恩惠、平安的祷告。如果约翰没有将圣灵视为与圣父、圣子同等的神圣智慧体,他怎么会将圣灵列在两者之间呢?

若圣灵仅仅是某种神圣的力量,那为什么亵渎圣灵比干犯圣子来得更致命呢?“所以我告诉你们:人一切的罪和亵渎的话,都可得赦免;惟独亵渎圣灵,总不得赦免。凡说话干犯人子的,还可得赦免;惟独说话干犯圣灵的,今世来世总不得赦免’。”(太12:31, 32)亵渎的定义是“对上帝蔑视或不敬的言行、举止或文字。”可见,圣灵就是上帝!所以彼得说:“欺哄圣灵就是欺哄上帝。”(徒5:3, 4)

圣灵也是见证者。(来10:15)在世上的法庭,只有活人才可称为证人。最后,圣经还记载圣灵拥有祂自己的思想。(罗8:27)

我们可以清楚看到,圣灵不单单是一股力量,而是上帝位格中第三位神圣的个体。虽然是个灵,但祂拥有以下所有特点:会说话、教训、引导、选择、作见证、安慰,也会忧伤。“愿主耶稣基督的恩惠、上帝的慈爱、圣灵的感动,常与你们众人同在!”(林后13:14)

髑髅地的爱

福音书本身也包含着三一神论。想一想约翰福音,我们读到圣父上帝爱世人,甚至不惜赐下圣子上帝,让我们从圣灵上帝获得新生。(约3:8, 13, 16, 17)

尤其在各各他,“三一神论”发挥到了极致,超越了教派之争。在创世之先,三一神商讨了人类背叛堕落的可能性。祂预见了罪恶蹂躏世界的恶果。因此,在人类被造之先,神就决定让耶稣撇下天庭的宝座,降世为人,作人类的替罪羊。耶稣就是“从创世以来……被杀之羔羊。”(启13:8;彼前1:19, 20)

倘若耶稣只是一个被造的超人,那么祂的牺牲与某个天使代人舍命无异。如果基督本身没有神性,那么任何一位天使或无罪的受造者都可以完成救赎的使命。倘若如此行,便是无形中支持了撒但对上帝的指控:“上帝是自私的,只愿牺牲被造物,而不愿牺牲祂自己。”

分离的锥心之痛

另一点要考虑的是,罪导致了人与创造主的分离。(赛59:2)人类的罪归在了圣子上帝身上。(赛53:6)当耶稣为我们的罪挂在十架上时,祂经历了人难以想象的分离之痛,因为祂与圣父和圣灵之间永恒的关系被撕裂了。主耶稣在痛苦中呼喊道“我的上帝(圣父)!我的上帝(圣灵)!为什么离弃我?”(太 27:46)如果神格只有一位,就不会有这种分离之苦,耶稣也不会心脏破裂而死。

救赎计划真正的风险不仅是人类永远的灭亡,更是三一真神的分离。耶稣哪怕犯一次罪,祂将与圣父和圣灵背道而驰。到那时,将会形成两大势力,一个是无所不能的善,一个是无所不能的恶,二者是不共戴天的。这样的话,其余的受造物将如何?宇宙中未堕落的生灵该视谁为正确的一方?只要耶稣犯一次罪,三一真神乃至整个宇宙就会陷入混乱,这将是全宇宙的灾难。然而,即便如此上帝仍愿冒险拯救罪人。上帝长阔高深的爱在此就显明了!

总 结

有一次,奥古斯丁——敬畏上帝的思想家,漫步在海边苦思冥想“三一真神”的教义,却百思不得其解。这时,他发现一个小男孩拿着一扇贝壳,在海里舀水,再将水灌入沙滩上的一个蟹洞里,就这样一次次往返奔跑。“小家伙,你在做什么?”奥古斯丁问。

男孩回答说,“我想把所有的海水都倒进这个洞里。”奥古斯丁恍然大悟。

“我就像那个小男孩一样,站在时间的长滩上,试图将无限的事物装进渺小而有限的大脑。”我们不得不承认,有些事情唯有上帝知道,人类迄今也无法理解。

如果假装明白有关上帝的一切,实属狂妄自大,荒谬至极。“深哉,上帝丰富的智慧和知识!祂的判断何其难测!祂的踪迹何其难寻!”(罗11:33)人若能像破解基因密码般完全破译上帝,祂就不再是上帝了。

尽管如此,为了我们的益处,上帝透露了许多关于神的信息。“隐秘的事是属耶和华我们上帝的;惟有明显的事是永远属我们和我们子孙的。”(申29:29)通过圣经的启示,我们得知“三一真神”的信息对上帝一定十分重要。耶稣传道的始末都强调了三一真神。在耶稣受洗与升天时,圣父、圣子和圣灵都曾出现。主也吩咐门徒要奉父、子、圣灵的名给人施洗。

圣经说明真神既不能被分成三位上帝,也不能融合为一个身体。这三一真神不仅创造了我们,爱我们,还设立了完美的救赎计划,要将堕落的世界从罪恶中拯救出来,使人恢复起初的形像,与上帝面对面。

“愿主耶稣基督的恩惠、上帝的慈爱、圣灵的感动,常与你们众人同在!”(林后13:14)

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英文:

THE TRINITY: IS IT BIBLICAL?

By Pastor Doug Batchelor and Kim Kjaer

An Amazing Fact: Science tells us that light is constituted of three primary rays, or groups of wavelengths. Clearly distinct from each other, none of them without the others could be light. Each ray has its own separate function. The first originates, the second illuminates, and the third consummates. The first ray, often called invisible light, is neither seen nor felt. The second is both seen and felt. The third is not seen but is felt as heat.

Like light, our “One God” is revealed in the three distinct persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one” (1 John 5:7 NKJV).

The Highest Subject

Few doctrinal subjects have generated more passionate debate among Christians than the theme of the trinity. Churches have split and wars have even been fought over the issues that surround the nature of the Godhead.

Perplexity over God s nature is not new. Since creation, man has diligently sought to understand and explain Him. In the book of Job, Zophar uttered the cry of each human heart when he declared, "Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?" (Job 11:7, 8).

John Wesley adds, “Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the triune God!”

The study of God is without rival—the highest subject any mortal can ever even attempt to approach or contemplate. Because God defines Himself as everlasting and the ultimate power, presence, and knowledge, this field of study is deeper, wider, and broader than any other.

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). Finite human minds will never be able to fully understand everything about the eternal God, anymore than we can jump to the stars with our feeble legs. Therefore, we need to approach this mystery shrouding His person with a large measure of barefoot reverence and deep humility. Like Moses, when he came into God s presence, we must take off our shoes, "for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground" (Exodus 3:5). By laying aside our preconceived ideas, opinions and sectarian training, we can go directly to God s Word and learn what He has chosen to reveal about Himself. But remember, only God can fully understand God, so even after the most diligent research, we may still have some unanswered questions that will prove to be a fruitful field of study even throughout the eons of eternity.

One Big Problem

"But wait," someone says. "If the Bible teaches that there is only one God, then how can God be composed of three persons?" Scripture unequivocally declares that there is only one God. For more than 3,000 years, Jews have repeated Deuteronomy 6:4. "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord." This sacred passage is called the shema (named after the Hebrew for its first word) and has been held in high esteem and memorized by devout Jews for centuries.

Isaiah records the testimony of God concerning Himself. "Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. … Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any" (Isaiah 44:6, 8). Jesus also taught about "the only true God" (John 17:3) and Paul wrote, "There is one God" (1 Timothy 2:5).

While most believers agree with this core truth, a heated debate over its deeper implication has raged throughout church history. Does this mean that there is one person who has three different titles? Or are there three separate persons who mysteriously morph into one being? Is Jesus merely a good man, a creation to redeem us, and only the Father is God? Still others hold that the Father and Son are indeed God but the Holy Spirit is only the impersonal force that does their bidding. Each of these conflicting ideas has attracted its loyal followers. Let s examine the basis for these views and compare them with the Bible.

Only Jesus?

In the third century, Sabellius, a Libyan priest living in Rome, taught that God is a single person with different titles—known as modalism. Thus, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit represent different hats or titles that God wears, depending on how He wishes to communicate with man at the time. It’s akin to water, which can take on the form of a solid, liquid, or gas.

However, they are not three roles played by one person. The church recognized Sabellius ideas as contrary to Bible teaching, and he was quickly excommunicated. Yet he still has adherents today in what is commonly known as the "Oneness" or "Jesus Only" doctrine. The Jesus Only teaching claims that Jesus Christ is not only the Son, but also the Father and the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 9:6, in which the Messiah (or the promised Son) is called "The everlasting Father," is used to provide biblical support for this belief.

Oneness doctrine, however, overlooks the fact that the Son came to earth to reveal the true character of God the Father to a world groping in spiritual blindness. Jesus prayed to His Father in Gethsemane, "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world" (John 17:5, 6). Jesus is the only one who could reveal the Father, because He is the express image of the Father (Luke 10:22; Hebrews 1:3).

Thus when the disciples asked Christ what the Father was like, He could say, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9). Jesus so mirrored the character of the Father that He perfectly reflected Him, hence the title "The everlasting Father." Another reason Jesus is called the Everlasting Father is because this world and everything in it was created through Christ. So in a very real sense, Jesus is our father (Hebrews 1:2; John 1:3).

Isaiah 9:6 is the only place in the Bible where Jesus is called the Father. Keep in mind that Jesus also calls Himself the Son of man, our brother, our shepherd, our friend, and our priest. To build a doctrine on one Scripture is as foolish as building a house on top of a single fence post. The Bible physically separates the Father and the Son repeatedly. While Christ was on earth, He referred to His Father in heaven. "My Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32). He always directed His prayers heavenward to the Father and stated that the Father had His own individual will; "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46). Then after He died and rose again, He ascended to "the right hand of God" (Romans 8:34). This indicates the Father has a separate presence.

In fact, Jesus said that He wasn t the Father more than 80 times. While always remaining one in purpose and origin, Jesus and the Father are clearly separate and distinct persons. And on more than one occasion, the Father spoke to Jesus from heaven. “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17 NKJV). Either Jesus and the Father are two separate individual persons, or Jesus was an expert ventriloquist.

Is Jesus Fully God?

Another group questions whether Jesus actually possesses all the characteristics of the Eternal God. They stem from Arius, a fourth century Alexandrian priest, who had a different take on God. He taught that prior to making anything else, God created a son who was neither equal to, nor coeternal with, the Father. According to this idea, called Arianism, Jesus Christ is a supernatural creature, but He is neither fully human nor fully divine. Still others embrace a more immature version of this doctrine, holding that back in the dawn of time, God the Father had some form of cosmic intimate relations with the Holy Spirit and Jesus was the product. They reason, “How else can you call Him the Son?”

However, these concepts are totally contrary to the teaching of the New Testament in which Jesus is revealed as the Eternal Creator and not a created being (John 1:1–4). As we compare Scripture definitions for God with the Bible record of Jesus, we see the characteristics of Jehovah are also ascribed to Jesus. Note these powerful examples:

· He is self-existent (John 1:1–4; 14:6); only God is self-existent (Psalm 90:2).

· Jesus defines Himself as eternal. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).

· He is, and has, eternal life (1 John 5:11, 12, 20).

· He is all-powerful (Revelation 1:8).

· He created all things (John 1:3). "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16 NKJV).

· The Father even calls Jesus God. "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom" (Hebrews 1:8).

· Jesus is able to forgive sin (Luke 5:20, 21); The Bible says only God can forgive sin (Isaiah 43:25).

· Jesus accepted worship that according to the Ten Commandments is reserved only for the Almighty (Matthew 14:33). "And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him" (Matthew 28:9). Upon seeing the risen Savior, the converted skeptic, Thomas, confessed, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:26–29).

· Even the angels worship Jesus. "And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him" (Hebrews 1:6).

· The Scriptures also teach that only God knows the thoughts of a man s heart (1 Kings 8:39). Yet Jesus consistently knew what people were thinking, “for he knew what was in man” (John 2:25). “Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you’ " (John 1:48 NKJV).

· Through the Spirit, Jesus is omnipresent. "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20 NKJV). "For I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city" (Acts 18:10 NKJV).

· He has power to give life, and even resurrected Himself. "No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:18). "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

Therefore, by considering the primary definitions of God, and seeing that Jesus fits every one of those definitions, obviously, Jesus must be eternal God.

His Enemies Knew

Even Jesus’ enemies understood and recognized His claim of equality with the Father God. When He boldly proclaimed, "I and my Father are one," Jewish leaders were outraged and sought to execute Him. They understood unequivocally that Jesus was claiming to be God Himself. "The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God" (John 10:30, 33).

The Jews even attempted to stone Christ when He assumed the self-existent title of Jehovah used at the burning bush. Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM. Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by" (John 8:58 NKJV).

The Jews understood that Jesus claimed equality with God, when He said "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, ... but said also that God was his Father, making Himself equal with God" (John 5:17, 18).

There are only three conclusions one can derive from reading these passages. First, Jesus was insane when He made these outrageous claims. Second, He was a liar. These are unacceptable options. The third possibility is that He uttered a sublime truth. For a Christian who accepts the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross, the third option is the only tenable one. Otherwise, a liar or delusional man could not be righteous enough to be our Savior.

Medieval Error?

Probably the most widely held Christian view of God is known as the "trinity." This popular belief teaches that the Godhead consists of three distinct persons who have existed together from eternity past and are named the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. Each one possesses original, underived, and unborrowed life. They are all equally God and are one in nature, character, and purpose. They are not three “gods,“ but one God in a combination of the three distinct persons.

Some have implicated trinitarianism as heresy because they claim the wayward medieval church was the culprit to first introduce it. In fact, to distance themselves from the Catholic version of the trinity, many Protestant leaders from the 19th century preferred the more biblical term "Godhead" when referring to the triune God.

However, just because an apostate church believes in the trinity, or any other doctrine for that matter, does not automatically make it unbiblical. The converse is also true. A position is not accurate just because some of the early church leaders advocated it. Even the Apostles misunderstood the nature of Jesus’ first coming. Doctrinal validity must be based on biblical authority and not upon whom advocates it or rejects it.

The Old Testament was written long before the existence of the Christian church, apostate or true, and it teaches there are three persons in the Godhead. In Isaiah, the Redeemer, which is Jesus Christ in the New Testament (Galatians 4:4, 5), declares the "Lord God and His Spirit" are responsible for sending Him on His mission of redemption (Isaiah 48:16, 17 NKJV).

Some think that because the word "trinity" (derived from the Latin word trinitas, meaning “threeness”) is not found in the Bible, the concept of a triune God cannot be right. However, even though the word "millennium," meaning one thousand years, does not appear in Revelation 20, we use it to describe earth s 1,000-year rest after Jesus return. A teaching is not any less true simply because an extra-biblical word is used to define what is clearly a biblical teaching. This goes for the trinity, second coming, investigative judgment, and a host of other concise terms for doctrines.

One God, Three Persons

The names of God reveal attributes of His nature. God has a long-established habit of using various names to describe a person s character. Jacob earned his name that means "swindler" when he practiced deception to steal his father s blessing away from his brother Esau (Genesis 27:35, 36). At his conversion, Jacob wrestled with the angel and insisted on the blessing of God. Then his name was changed to "Israel," which means "a prince with God" (Genesis 32:26-–28).

Likewise, the names for God found in Genesis and elsewhere tells us volumes about our Creator. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Genesis 1:26). The Hebrew word here for God is Elohim. It is a plural noun that is used more than 2,700 times in the Old Testament. This means that inspired authors preferred to use Elohim about 10 times more than the singular form “El” when they described God. Even in the Old Testament book of Daniel, we see a picture of the Father and the Son as two separate persons. "I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him” (Daniel 7:13). The Son of man, Jesus, is seen coming before the Ancient of Days—who is, obviously, God the Father.

The New Testament writings are sprinkled with this concept of one God with three united, fully divine persons. The apostle Paul wrote that there were three divine persons: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4–6).

Paul frequently referred to the three separate persons of the Godhead. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all" (2 Corinthians 13:14). "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:14).

Revelation opens by introducing the three persons of the Godhead. "From the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever" (Revelation 1:4–6 NKJV).

In addition, we clearly see three distinct persons at the baptism of Jesus. "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:16,17).

If Jesus is the only person in the Godhead, where did the voice come from that declared, "This is my beloved Son"? Did He trisect Himself into a voice from heaven, the dove wafting down through the sky, and His body on the bank of the river? No. This was not simply a clever act of holy smoke and mirrors, but rather a regal reunion revealing the truth of the trinity. And on top of this, it is through the shared authority of these three persons that we are commissioned to baptize. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19).

Unity or Quantity?

Most of the confusion regarding the number of beings composing the Godhead springs from a simple misunderstanding of the word “one.” Simply put, “one” in the Bible does not always mean numerical quantity. Depending on the Scripture, “one” can often mean unity.

We see this principle established very early in Scripture. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, emphasis added). “One flesh” here does not mean that a married couple melt into one human after their wedding, but rather they are to be united into one family. Jesus prayed that the apostles would be one, saying, "And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:22, 23).

We need to keep in mind that when Moses said, “The Lord is one,” Israel was surrounded with polytheistic nations that worshiped many gods that were constantly involved in petty bickering and rivalry (Deuteronomy 6:4), whereas the God who created is composed of three separate beings who are perfectly united in their mission of saving and sustaining their creatures. As the Spirit is executing the will of both the Father and Son, it is His will also.

“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 John 5:7). Granted, it is a brain exercise to grasp that one God (“He”) is also, and equally, “They.” Like one rope with three united strands, the three persons of the Father, Son, and Spirit make up the one God.

God Manifested in Nature

Though there is nothing in this world that adequately illustrate God, Paul declares the "invisible things of him from the creation of the world" can help us understand "his eternal power and Godhead" (Romans 1:20). The truth that God is a ‘tri-unity” of two invisible persons (Father and Spirit) and one visible person (Jesus) is evident even in creation.

The universe is composed of three structures: space, matter, and time. Of these three, only matter is visible. Space requires length, height, and width to constitute space. Each dimension is separate and distinct in itself, yet the three form space—if you remove height, you no longer have space. Time is also a tri-unity of past, present, and future. Two are invisible (past and future), and one visible (present). Each is separate and distinct, as well as essential for time to exist. Man is also a “tri-unity,” having physical, mental, and spiritual components. Again, two are invisible (mental and spiritual) and one visible (physical). Cells compose the fundamental structural unit of all living organisms. All organic life is made up from cells that consist of three primary parts: the outer wall, the cytoplasm, and the nucleus (like the shell, white, and yoke of an egg). If any one is removed, the cell dies.

In each of these examples, the removal of any one component results in the demise of the whole. In like manner, the Godhead contains three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each is God (Ephesians 4:6; Titus 2:13; Acts 5:3, 4), yet there is one God. The removal of one person destroys the unity of the whole.

Even the gospel story illustrates the interdependency of threes. The sanctuary had three places: the Courtyard, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. There are three stages of salvation: justification, sanctification, and glorification. In Isaiah 6:3, the angels around God s throne cry "Holy, Holy , Holy" three times—once for the Father, once for the Son, and once for the Holy Spirit.

The Source of Misunderstanding

Almost all of the Scriptures used by those who reject the trinity to portray Jesus as a "lesser god" spring from a basic failure to understand the incarnation. Jesus, God the Son, laid aside or veiled the full dimension of His divinity when He came to earth. How else could He live as God among men?

"God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Romans 8:3).

"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:5-–8).

We also clearly see that before and after His incarnation, Jesus beams again with undimmed divine glory. "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5). "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour" (Hebrews 2:9).

If God the Son had not veiled His glory when He came to earth, man could not have endured His brilliant presence, much less learned from His example.

Who Outranks Whom?

Let us now venture a little deeper onto sacred ground. As we consider the mysteries of the Godhead, we notice that there seems to be an order of authority concerning the three persons in the trinity. Keep in mind that while all three are the same in properties and attributes, and equal in power and glory, it appears that the Father is recognized as the ultimate authority. “And ye are Christ s; and Christ is God s” (1 Corinthians 3:23). “But I would have you know, that …the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). The Son constantly receives His glory, power, throne, and prerogatives as Judge from the Father. The Son constantly receives His glory, power, throne, and prerogatives as Judge from the Father (John 3:35; John 5:22). Indeed, it was God the Father that “gave” the Son. In fact, while it might not be wrong, we are never told to pray to Jesus or the Spirit—but instead to the Father in the name of the Son. Yet just because the Father seems to have supreme authority, it does not in any way diminish from the divinity of Jesus and the Spirit. That would be like saying that a corporal is less of a soldier than a sergeant.

Among the three members of the Godhead, we do not see a clamoring for preeminence, vying for recognition, or reveling in power. Instead, the exact opposite is true. In fact, the Father, Son, and Spirit always seem to be trying to out give and glorify each other. The Father wants to glorify the Son. The Son lives to glorify the Father, and the Spirit lives to glorify the Father and Son (John 17:1, 5; John 16:14; John 13:31, 32).

A Friend or Force?

It would be a mistake to leave this sublime subject without addressing an additional distortion to the teaching of the trinity. Another class of sincere Christians believes that while the Father and Son are truly distinct persons, they only see the Holy Spirit as a cosmic force or essence—an impersonal power conduit or vehicle to do the bidding of the Father and Son.

We can appreciate why the Holy Spirit seems to be the hardest member of the Godhead to visualize and define. Sometimes He is called the Holy Ghost, which leaves people with a “spooky” image. The Scriptures compare Him to everything from wind and fire to a dove, water, and even a defense attorney!

But as we consider the various features of the Holy Spirit, we can quickly see He has all the credentials of a separate and distinct, intelligent, individual being.

The Holy Spirit leads and guides. "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13 NKJV). It’s true that a map or GPS can lead you, but no one calls a map “he.” It would have been very easy for Jesus to simply say, “When it comes,” but Jesus called the Holy Spirit “He” more than 15 times. Why would God go to so much trouble to personify His own inherent power to the extent that it possessed emotions, thoughts, and speech independent of Himself?

The Holy Spirit also comforts. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). I have never seen a lonely child run to a vacuum cleaner for an embrace—only intelligent beings can offer comfort. Jesus promised before His ascension that He was sending another helper; paraclete is the Greek word that signifies a multi-sided personal ministry as counselor, consoler, advocate, helper, comforter, ally, and supporter (John 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:7-–15). These are all traits that usually belong to a person or friend. If the Holy Spirit is merely God’s active force, then John 16:7, 8 is nonsense: "It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has comes, He will convict the world." It is obvious from this text that the Holy Spirit would be more personally present after Jesus ascended. If the Holy Spirit is mere energy, there is simply no explanation or logic to why He would not come unless Jesus left.

The Holy Spirit can even be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). Cars have many unique characteristics and idiosyncrasies. At times, they might even seem to have a “personality.” But motor vehicles cannot be grieved. Nor can they speak, as the Holy Spirit does. “Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go near and overtake this chariot’ ” (Acts 8:29). Computer programs exist that can reproduce speech, but they cannot create inspired thought. The Holy Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

We also read in Revelation 1:4, 5, a prayer for grace and peace from the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ. We must ask, would John have put the Spirit between the Father and the Son if he had not regarded the Spirit as a divine intelligence in the same sense as they are?

If the Holy Spirit is simply some divine force, then why is it even more offensive to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, and even more fatal, than speaking against the Son? "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31, 32 NKJV). By definition, blasphemy is: “a contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing against God.” By this simple deduction, the Holy Spirit must be God! This is also why Peter said to lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God (Acts 5:3, 4).

The Holy Spirit can be a witness (Hebrews 10:15). In any court of the world, only living beings can be called witnesses. Finally, the Holy Spirit is said to have His own mind (Romans 8:27).

We can clearly see the Holy Spirit is not simply a force, but the third divine person of the Godhead. Though a spirit, He has all the characteristics of a person and individual. The Spirit is plainly portrayed as a being who speaks, teaches, guides, makes choices, witnesses, comforts, and can be grieved. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14 NKJV).

Love at Calvary

The truth of the triune God can also be found in the gospel itself. In essence, when we consider John, we read that God the Father so loved the world that He sent God the Son that we might be born of God the Spirit (John 3:8, 13, 16, 17).

But it is especially on Golgotha’s hill that the doctrine of the trinity explodes with meaning and becomes more than denominational jousting. Before earth s creation, the triune God discussed the potential of man s rebellion and fall. Through the lens of divine foreknowledge, He saw the terror that sin s rape of the world would cause. And there, before man was formed, it was decided that Jesus would leave the throne of heaven and become humanity’s substitute. Jesus was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8; 1 Peter 1:19, 20).

If Jesus was merely a created super-being, then His death for man s redemption is no better than an angel dying for us. If Christ is not deity itself, then any angel or sinless created being could have served the purpose. This would have virtually sustained Satan s charge that God is selfish by demonstrating that He is only willing to sacrifice His creation and not Himself.

A Tearing in the Trinity

Another point to consider is that sin causes separation from the Creator (Isaiah 59:2). The iniquities of the human race were placed upon the Son of God (Isaiah 53:6). When Jesus hung on the cross, suffering for our sins, every fiber of His being was torn as the eternal relationship with His Father and Spirit was ripped apart. In agony He cried out, "My God [for the Father], my God [for the Spirit], why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). If there had been only one person in the Godhead, there would not have been this excruciating pain of separation to wring the life out of the heart of Jesus.

The real risk in the redemption plan, besides the loss of man, was the breakup of the Godhead. Had Jesus sinned, He would have been working at cross-purposes with the Spirit and His Father. Omnipotent good would have been pitted against omnipotent evil. What would have happened to the rest of creation? Whom would the unfallen universe see as right? One sin could have sent the Godhead and the universe spinning into cosmic chaos; the proportions of this disaster are staggering. Yet the Godhead was still willing to take this fragmenting risk for the salvation of man. This reveals the depth of God s amazing love.

Conclusion

Augustine, that great man of God, was once walking on the shore of the ocean, while greatly perplexed about the doctrine of the trinity. As he meditated, he observed a little boy with a seashell running back and forth from the waters edge, filling his shell, and then pouring it into a crab hole in the sand. “What are you doing, my little man?” asked Augustine.

“Oh,” replied the boy, “I am trying to put all the ocean out there in this hole.” Augustine had learned his lesson.

As he passed on, Augustine said, “That is what I am trying to do; I see it now. Standing on the shores of time, I am trying to get into this little finite mind things which are infinite.” Likewise, let us be content to let God know some things that we cannot yet know.

It would be pompous and preposterous to pretend that we understand everything about God. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33). If we could completely unpack Him like cracking some genetic code, He would cease to be God.

Nevertheless, there is much about God that is revealed for our blessing. "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever" (Deuteronomy 29:29). What is revealed is that this teaching of the trinity must be important to God. The ministry of Jesus both begins and ends with an emphasis on the three persons in the Godhead. The Father, Son, and Spirit are present at Jesus’ baptism and when He ascends to heaven. Jesus commanded His followers to baptize in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The testimony of Scripture indicates that the Godhead can neither be separated into three Gods nor merged into one person. This three-in-one not only created us, but they love us and devised an amazing plan to save a lost world from sin to restore us to His presence in paradise.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (2 Corinthians 13:14).