A friend recently asked me to address some things that were erroneously taught, in a Youtube video, about Christ and the Holy Spirit, in which the speaker denied any Biblical support for the Trinity and for the Incarnation.
This is the short study that I wrote for him
1. 1. The Divinity of Christ
Scripture is actually quite explicit on this.
One thing we must remember when reading the New Testament, especially the Pauline Epistles, is that it was written for a Greek speaking audience, and it appropriates the vocabulary of the Septuagint (LXX), the first translation of the Hebrew Scriptures in to Greek, made in the Second Century BC. In fact, the relationship of the LXX with the New Testament (NT) is so close that most scriptural passages cited in the NT are taken directly from the LXX.
Now, the Divine Name, YHWH, was never pronounced among the Jews; in fact, we don’t even know, to this day, exactly how it is to be pronounced (Jehovah and Yahweh are common versions, but not authentic). The Jews substituted “Adonai”, “my Lord” As a result, when the translators of the LXX were searching for a translation of YHWH, they chose the Greek word, Kyrios.
Remembering that, we go to Luke 1:43. The Virgin Mary had gone to her kinswoman Elizabeth immediately after the Archangel Gabriel informed her that she would bear Jesus. Upon seeing this young lady, who doubtless was not yet visibly pregnant, Elizabeth exclaimed, “And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” - The mother of my Lord – the mother of YHWH, God.
In Philippians 2:11, the Apostle Paul declares, “And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”. EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus is YHWH, the God who appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (God is first called YHWH, or Kyrios, in Gen 12:1).
Indeed, in verse 6 of the chapter, Paul writes of Jesus that he was in the form of God. Let’s look at that word, form, the Greek word μορφή, form. Now, the people of Philippi would have been familiar with the thought of Aristotle, just as we Americas are aware of the thought of, say, Abraham Lincoln. In Aristotelian metaphysics, the active, determining principle of a thing as distinguished from matter, the potential principle. In layman’s terms, the form is that which determines what something is. A ball may be orange or red, it may be a tennis ball, it maybe a baseball ball, etc. But those factors are not what makes it a ball. What makes it a ball is the “ballness”, if you will – the μορφή, the form.
Christ was in the form of God. Whatever it is that makes God GOD was found in Christ, according to Paul.
In Matthew 1:21, the angel tells Joseph that Jesus would save His people from their sins. But, the name Jesus (Aramaic Yeshua, Hebrew Yoshua/Joshua) means “God (YHWH) is savior”.
Now, there are two types of sons in scripture, begotten and adopted.
A begotten son (or daughter) is one who comes from the parents’ flesh, or better, their being. An adopted son (or daughter) is lovingly welcomed into the family, but do not share the flesh, or being, of the parents.
A begotten son shares with the parent, by the nature of being begotten, the same nature. I have one daughter, and through me and my wife, she received human nature – our nature.
Jesus is the only begotten Son of God (although there are many adopted sons). This would mean that he shares the divine nature, and is therefore God. In contrast, we are told by Peter to become partakers of the Divine Nature; we can share in it, but it is not, by our nature, a part of us.
2. The Holy Spirit as a person.
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” – John 14:26
“For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;”- Acts 14:28
The first verse shows that the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son – the Father sends the Spirit in the name of Jesus.
The second verse shows that the Holy Spirit is a person.
Throughout Scripture, we are reminded again and again that there is but one God. But scripture reveals that, besides the Father, both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are God. Yet, it also shows that they are not the same.
There is one attribute of God that logically requires that there be a plurality of some sort within God. 1 John says explicitly that God is love. John doesn’t say that God loves, but that God is love. His nature is love. From eternity past, when God was all there was, God is love. Love is a communion, a relationship. Love must have an object; love turned in upon itself is not love, but narcissism. So, at a point when all that there is is God, and God is Love, it follows logically that within God, there is communion and relationship.
How can this be understood?
That there are 3 equal gods? Impossible, since there is one god.
That there are 3 different forms, or manifestations, of the one God, but that God remains absolutely unitary? Impossible, again, since the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit can be distinguished in speech.
The only possibility is the Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity – one God in Three Persons.
Does that mean I understand it? Of course not. I don’t understand gamma radiation, but I accept that it exists.
Now, some may ask, Why does Scripture refer to God as he, and not they? “They” implies polytheism, which is not the case. And, there is no pronoun in any human language which can adequately express the reality of three persons in one being.
Some may ask, Why is the word Trinity not included in the Bible? The Bible does not claim to contain all truth, neither does it claim to even contain all the words of Jesus. Indeed, the last sentence of the Gospel of John says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written”. 2 Tim 3:16 says that all that Scripture contains is true, but never makes the claim that all that is true is in scripture. And 2 Thess 2:15 affirms that part of what was taught to the early Church was not in scripture, but given by word of mouth: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle”.
So, why did it take the Church 3 centuries to define the Trinity? There are a couple of reasons.
The first reason is that, prior to the Edict of Milan in 315, Christianity was illegal in the Empire. A large number of bishops gathering together was not an easy thing to do, certainly when one talks about the number of bishops required to speak for the whole church.
Of course, there were theologians who taught it before that point. An early Trinitarian formula appears towards the end of the first century, where Clement of Rome rhetorically asks in his epistle as to why corruption exists among some in the Christian community; "Do we not have one God, and one Christ, and one gracious Spirit that has been poured out upon us, and one calling in Christ?" (1 Clement 46:6). Around the turn of the first century, the Didache directs Christians to "baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Ignatius of Antioch provides early support for the Trinity around 110, exhorting obedience to "Christ, and to the Father, and to the Spirit".
The second reason why the Church didn’t define the Incarnation of Christ and the Trinity is that these things were not seriously questioned until that time. That pattern of not defining doctrine unless necessary has existed up until today.
The record is quite clear that the early Church taught the use of religious images, icons. They exist in the catacombs, and Church Fathers wrote in their defense. But it wasn’t defined until the 8th century Iconoclastic Controversy forced the Church to define the dogma at the 7th Ecumenical Council, in 787.
The Assumption of Mary was long believed among Christians, with some asserting that there is documentation of it in the sub-Apostolic age. Certainly, by the late 5th century the feast was celebrated in both East and West. Yet, it wasn’t until 1954 that it was deemed necessary to define it.
Papal infallibility was implied in the writings of many popes, the earliest being Clement of Rome who was martyred in 94. Yet it wasn’t defined until the 19th century.
Jesus did not command the Apostles to write Gospels. Rather, Matthew’s Gospel records Him commanding, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. In other words, His command is to preach a Trinitarian Faith.