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Question #1:

Hello again Dr,

A couple of questions below,

1.Does the Holy spirit as an individual in dwell believers or he imparts his power into them? I have a concern on how can one in dwell many.

2. Father, Son and the Holy Spirit; is Trinity the family of three individuals whose nature is called God? As compared to the families of e.g. man, animal, bird, snake etc. I'm just trying to understand and clear the confusion which rises concerning some people who argue the deity of Jesus.

3.Will other creatures apart from man also inherit eternal state / kingdom?

Response #1:

Good to hear from you. As to your questions:

1) The Holy Spirit is God and God is omnipresent within His creation; He can also choose to have an operative local presence (for want of a better way to express it) wherever He may wish; all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, meaning that He has taken up local residence within us in to empower us in a way in which is definitely not true of unbelievers (even though He is, technically speaking, everywhere).

2) The Trinity is composed of three distinct persons who share one unique essence; Father, Son and Holy Spirit are thus "three in person, one in essence". That is much different from human beings, so that none of the analogies suggested will work. There are a number of analogies which have been proposed for the Trinity, but since God is not of the universe – He made time and space for us – He cannot really be properly defined or precisely understood merely by reference to created, material, natural things. One such analogy (as I say, an imperfect one of necessity), is that of light. God "is light" (1Jn.1:5), spiritually speaking, so that physical light does offer a helpful comparison (although it is only a comparison): light is "one" but it can also be viewed from the standpoint of its component parts: radio waves are audible (as the Father is) but not seen; infrared can be felt (as the Spirit is), but not seen; the visible spectrum of light is, well, visible, as the Son is visible. There are numerous problems, however, in trying to take this analogy too far (for the reasons suggested above). Suffice it to say that the unity of the Trinity is perfect and complete (something that is not even conceivable when it comes to a group of human beings) and yet the three Persons of the Trinity are distinct and absolutely unique (which boggles human thinking in light of the unity of their essence). Both these things are true and without both elements any definition or understanding of the Trinity is incorrect. So far above our understanding is the merciful, loving God who made us, who saved us, and with whom we will spend all eternity, if we but persevere in Him. On that day, we shall "know even as we are known" (1Cor.13:12). This is a very short precis of what I have written up elsewhere, and since this is so important I would ask you to have a look at these links:

The Persons of God:  The Trinity (in BB 1)

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ I

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ II

3) I would not use the word "inherit" – since that suggests the basic reward given to all human beings who come to Christ in faith (along the lines of all who entered the land of Israel receiving a physical inheritance which is symbolic of things to come). However, I have opined before, based on the limited information we have in scripture (e.g., Eccl.3:21), that once created by God, all spirits are eternal. Since only those who have moral responsibility and use it to reject Christ are blotted out of the book of life, it would seem that animals are not culpable. Here is a link to what I have written about this previously: "The Fate of Animals after Death".

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hi there Pastor

Please explain to me, what does the word trinity mean and where does it appear in the Bible.

Thank you , God bless you.

Response #2:

The word "Trinity" is an anglicization of the Latin word Trinitas, which means "tri-unity". This is a theological word coined during the Trinitarian controversies of the early church and is best defined by the classic definition of the Trinity: "God being one in essence, three in person". The word itself does not occur in the Bible, but the Trinity itself certainly does, e.g., "baptizing them into the Person of the Father, and into [the Person] of the Son, and into [the Person] of the Holy Spirit" (Matt.28:19).

I would recommend that you read Bible Basics part 1 which deals with this issue in detail, especially "section II. The Persons of God: The Trinity"

Here are some other links which may prove helpful for you:

The Trinity in Scripture

Questioning the Trinity

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ II

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ

The One True God and the Trinity in the Old Testament.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #3:

To 'ichthys'

I understand God as the 'Father', I believe that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are projections of The Fathers power- so in a sense, extensions of God. Am I right in thinking this?

Thank you,

Response #3:

Good to make your acquaintance. As to your question:

The Father is God.

Jesus is God.

The Holy Spirit is God.

All three are separate persons; all three share the same divine essence. All three members of the Trinity are God / YHVH. But the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father and the Father is not the Spirit and the Son is not the Spirit and the Spirit is neither the Father or the Son. God is three in person, one in essence. That is the Trinity. All other theories or expressions are incorrect, and spiritually dangerous. For example, to die for our sins, Jesus had to be a perfect human being, but He also had to be God – because God cannot die and because no human being, even a perfect one, could die for every sin without also being God.

You can find out more about all these matters at Ichthys. Here are some links to help you get started:

The Persons of God: The Trinity (in BB 1)

Jesus is God

Jesus is God and man

The Deity of the Holy Spirit

The Spiritual Death of Christ

Yours in the Name of the only One through whom we can be saved, Jesus Christ, "My Lord and My God!" (John 20:28).

Bob Luginbill

Question #4:

Dear Bob,

I was thinking about John 1:1-5 and trying to come to an understanding of the three aspects of God when it occurred to me that a good analogy is water. Water exists in three states, gas, liquid and solid and the sum total of all water exists in all three states at once. It would seem that the gaseous state of water would correspond to the Holy Spirit, the liquid state to God the Father and the solid state to the Son.

In thinking about all the various uses of water in scripture, from Genesis 1, "...on the face of the waters..." to Revelation, "the water of life," I wonder if that isn't intended to make His nature clear. Everyone who ever lived would understand.

I know you've written about this and I confess, I haven't read it all; eyes just can't handle that much reading on the screen. If you've addressed this, please point me to the link. If not, is my thinking sound? This was an "Ah, Ha!" moment for me. If I'm wrong, I want to know because, otherwise, I think this will be my working understanding.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #4:

Yes, this is one of those "Trinity illustrations" that is sometimes used. I collect them at the following link: "Illustrating the Trinity"; the one thing all these have in common is that, although helpful, there are inexact and therefore can be troublesome if that is not explained pointedly – the Trinity is absolutely unique.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Bro. Bob:

These are questions propounded by Eli Soriano of Tuwid Na Daan (The Straight Path) a religion in the Philippines. One of his followers posted these questions in my timeline in the Facebook where I have so many readers. I answered by pasting the definition of the trinity from your website but it seems that it fell on deaf ears. They do not believe in the trinity. Please give a clear cut answer to these questions and I will post it in the Facebook for the public to read.

1. What is trinity?
2. Do you believe in the word trinity?
3. Is trinity biblical?
4. Are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit equal in power?

To God Be the Glory for this opportunity to enlighten unbelievers to know the truth.

Response #5:

Good to hear from you, and kudos to you for your good work in spreading the truth of our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

As to the Trinity, first, I was unable to access your FB page from either link (blocked for some reason). Second, I am happy to answer these questions, although the materials I have at Ichthys on this are what I would really want people to read if they are interested in the matter, so I will give you links too. As I often have occasion to say, I'm not gifted in the area of apologetics (i.e., the defense of the faith per se against and in response to unbelievers and skeptics); that is a noble calling and one where there is a great need for truly Bible-grounded believers to employ their gifts. My area of gifting is in teaching the Bible – to those who are interested in learning the Bible. Finally, I'm answering these questions in a simple straight-forward way; obviously there is always more to say (hence the links):

1. What is Trinity?

God is three in Person, one in Essence. The Trinity is the Godhead, God, in His three unique, distinct Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three Persons share the eternal essence of God, a situation which is largely indescribable and unknowable to mortal human beings, inasmuch as the essence of God, God, exists outside of puny time and space, which are His creations. Although the Trinity shares one essence, they are three Persons. The Father is not the Son; the Son is not the Spirit; the Spirit is not the Father. The unity of the Trinity is perfect and yet their individuality is complete.

2. Do you believe in the word Trinity?

The word Trinity does not occur in the Bible; it is, however, acceptable to coin technical words to describe what is actually in the Bible – indeed, good Bible teaching requires some of this in order to clarify and organize the vast amount of truth the Bible contains. There are many examples of this (e.g., kenosis, on which see below). As long as terminology does not become "doctrine unto itself", this is a valuable approach. In the case of the word "Trinity", the practice of using this word to describe what the Bible tells us about what God says about Himself goes back to the early church; that is not a recommendation in and of itself, but since God clearly exists in the three Persons in scripture, the use of a technical word to describe that tripartite Godhead is helpful and in no way confusing, if properly explained in an orthodox way (as in the response to point one above).

3. Is Trinity biblical?

Then Jesus came over and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, so go and make all nations my followers by baptizing them [with the Spirit] into the Person (i.e., "name") of the Father and [into the Person] of the Son and [into the Person] of the Holy Spirit, and by teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you".
Matthew 28:18-20a

And I (i.e., Jesus) will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
John 14:16-17 ESV

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord (i.e., Jesus Christ), one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV

Anyone who has read the Bible knows that it speaks of the Father, of the Spirit, and of the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. That is undeniable. So the real question for "anti-Trinitarians" is how they would/could fail to believe in a Trinity? The answer, generally speaking, is that they usually fail to believe in the deity of Christ, or in the deity of the Spirit, or in the Spirit's individuality, or in any true separation in Persons among the members of the Godhead. There are many heresies and false teachings where this blessed doctrine is concerned, so that a good apologist has to immediately figure out which aspect of the truth of "three distinct Persons, one unique essence" the anti-Trinity person is attacking. And, as with all servants of Satan, this person or persons may try to cloak their true position(s) as long as possible, often feigning genuine interest in what the true child of God is teaching/saying (cf. the Pharisees' and Sadducees' attempts to trip up our Lord: Matt.22:15-33). Here are a few links on these topics (with further links for those interested):

Where does the Bible teach that Jesus is God?

The Divinity of the Spirit

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ I

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ II

4. Are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit equal in power?

The Trinity share a common essence. This means that they are co-equal in all regards, con-substantial, and co-eternal. The "differences" in the roles of the Trinity are operative only within "time and space", that is, in the conduct of the Plan of God -- which is angelic and human history. Within this very limited "box" of the present universe progressing temporally since its initial creation (by the Lord Jesus in accordance with the Father's plan in the power of the Spirit), the Father directs the plan, the Lord Jesus carries out the plan, and the Spirit empowers the plan. This differentiation in roles, chosen freely by the Trinity individually, explains all of the "issues" and "problems" that any real believer in Christ might have (as in our Lord's taking on of true humanity and the self-imposed limitations thereof in order to carry out the plan of salvation in dying for our sins; see the link: "Kenosis"); those who are argumentative are not saved and not really interested in answers, merely in causing trouble for and creating doubts in those who do believe. There is more about all these things at the following links:

The Roles of the Trinity in the Plan of God (in BB 1)

The One True God and the Trinity in the Old Testament

The Seven-fold Spirit of God

The Essence of God and Deity of Christ

Questioning the Trinity

The Trinity and the Spirit (who dwells in you)

The Trinity, the Date of the Tribulation and Calvinism

Christ's co-equality and co-eternity with the Father and the Spirit

Do feel free to write me back about any of the above – and best wishes for your continuing efforts on behalf of our Jesus Christ and His truth!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Regarding the plural used for Trinity you wrote:

What I mean is, there is one Trinity, yet the name for God in Hebrew is pluralized. I believe the distinction to be important because it is not as if there are three "gods"; there is only One God. So while the plural of 'elohiym does reflect that plurality of the Persons of God (and would not be appropriate if God were not multiple in terms of person), it is to the majesty of the Trinity – of which there is only one – that the plural most properly refers. This is why we translate (and why the Greek NT translates) "God" (sing.; Gr. theos).

I wanted to ask if this procedure is used in Hebrew for other nouns also? In vocabulary for lesson #32 Lambdin says that adon (lord, master) is "often used in the plural with singular meaning" - is it the same procedure from grammatical perspective?

Response #6:

That's a great parallel. In Israel today, for example, 'adoniy means simply "sir", but 'adonay is the vocalization of YHVH. I can't think of any other noun where this takes place, but that doesn't mean there aren't any others.

Question #7:

Maybe your response on the Trinity in Isaiah 63:10-15 could also be included in this link (http://ichthys.com/mail-Isaiah 63.htm)? This is another doctrine which has been hard for my friend to understand.

Response #7:

I think that if a person accepts the divinity and humanity of Christ, getting to the point of understanding and accepting the Trinity is an easier lift. For one thing, I'm not sure that anyone who is not actually a believer is going to "get" the Trinity (even if they could pass a multiple choice quiz on the topic). These are heavenly things which can only be truly understood by spiritual people. Also, in practical terms, speaking as a pedagogue, it is usually best to keep to one difficult thing at a time. I have a hard enough time explaining, say indirect statement, without throwing in genitive absolutes and conditions on the same day. At some point, your students' eyes begin to glaze over, and they "get" less and less, even if they are trying.  Here is a verse that confirm the Spirit's divinity in regard to the context described in the Isaiah passage:

You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst.
Nehemiah 9:20 NIV (cf. Neh.9:30)

Question #8:

Dear Professor,

My sister wrote to me asking about the doctrine of Trinity. This is a doctrine which has been at the back of my mind for a long time and I have to say, it still isn't quite clear. I understand that it is not a concept that can be fully comprehended, but I don't feel I comprehend it enough to be at peace with it.

I believe in the divinity of our Lord and in the divinity of the Spirit. The main difficulty for me is the personhood of the members of the Trinity. It would seem somewhat easier to take the Son and the Spirit as "expressions" of God, but the distinctiveness of persons presents a difficulty. Particularly in the case of the Holy Spirit, who seems less like a person or independent being than the Father and the Son.

I read your postings on this, but any further clarification would be much appreciated, as always.

In our Lord,

Response #8:

We all have things in scripture that are more difficult to accept than other things; and it is different person to person. So we all face that test of faith as well. What I have trouble accepting you may not even see as a problem and vice versa. I have always been amazed, for example, that some people who have no difficulty accepting that God created the universe in an instant do have trouble accepting that Jonah was swallowed by a whale (or actually "large fish", as the Hebrew says).

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all Persons in their own right, Persons who share a single divine essence. One of the reasons that this is hard for us to understand is that while we human beings are made in the image of God – so that we all have our own free will which is directly parallel to divine WILL – we are "only" made according to the likeness of God, meaning that we do not share one essence in the way the Trinity do. Human agreement, therefore, even between the two most like-minded individuals who have ever lived, can never even approach the absolute agreement between the members of the Trinity. I rather suspect that this is at the root of the problem when it comes to seeing them as individuals since our human individualism is of a different sort: we are all here on earth to determine our own individual eternal fate according to the ground rules that God has set up for us (whereas it is impossible for the Trinity to disagree). The difference – between Trinity oneness of essence and what human beings experience – is decidedly a good thing: without that oneness, God would not be God (and without our individuation, we could not decide in faith to choose for Christ so as to be saved).

But if you search the scriptures (as opposed to theological treatises), you will see that the Father is not the Son, that the Son is not the Father, that neither is the Spirit, and that the Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. Yet each is God, and together they are God. They are "one" in essence, and yet absolutely distinct as persons in their own right. This may seem an impossibility to human logic, but then even imagining persons existing outside of time and space – outside of this universe which God created for us – is not really possible for us to do.

What I would wish to stress about this point is that being one in essence, three in Person does not make them less but more in every way. I know that anyone would get that point right on a multiple choice quiz, but it has to be accepted in faith. We human beings have a tendency to react negatively with fear and doubt towards things that we don't quite understand. But with God it is a faith relationship, after all, from beginning to end. We have to trust Him that what He says is true, though the world says it is not; we have to trust Him that Jesus is God and Man in one Person forever, and that He died for our sins; we have to trust Him that there is so much more to all this than the eye can see; and we have to trust Him at all points and in all ways that He is for us, that He is working things out for our good, that He will not abandon us, and that all that He is and promises is good in every way. What lies on the other side of this temporary world is wonderful in every possible way, and that includes (perhaps preeminently) the knowledge and understanding of all He truly is.

At present we are looking at a mirror's dim reflection, but on that great day, we will see Him face to face. At present I have only partial knowledge, but on that great day I shall know just as I have always been known.
1st Corinthians 13:12

There are mysteries at which scripture only hints. In faith we know that God is good in every way that He is going to fill in all the gaps in the right and perfect way at just the right time, not withholding from us anything we need; also not giving us things which will only cause trouble. And in the process of fighting this fight we have been given oh so much, much more than we can really ever digest in the short span of our lives. When it comes to the Trinity, we do know the affirmatives we need to know, even if what we are given to know is less than we would prefer; but we trust the Lord that there is a reason for this as with all things. I rather suspect that to fully answer your question we would have to see Him "face to face" – but if He granted that to the world of mankind, where would faith be any longer? And this is all about faith.

On the Personhood of the Spirit, the newly posted BB 5 has something to say (you probably already know this but I link it here in an abundance of caution). As your email suggests, this is probably the best test case, because if we can see the Personhood of the One whose deliberate role it is to remain behind the scenes as much as possible, then that will be persuasive of the whole.

While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them."
Acts 10:19-20 NIV

Sounds like the act of a Person to me. And I have to say that the Spirit's influence in my own life is one which is both tangible and blessed, even if invisible and indescribable.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Dear Professor,

Thank you for your reply. As always, it helped. The personhood of the Spirit also is clearer to me. I too have experienced Spirit's influence - it changed my life, even if the nature of God remained hard to comprehend.

It is as you say - with God it's a faith relationship. This is where clearly I have been failing and it is evident how much I have yet to learn spiritually. Not knowing the meaning of parts of the scripture has been affecting me more than it should and it's the faith that precedes understanding. So it has to come first.

The issue of the Trinity is so important, however, that being at peace without understanding it, at least to the degree that one is capable, is very hard. I cannot help but wonder how believers of all ages, particularly those of New Testament time, who knew of our Lord and were aware of His divinity, saw this issue. How can someone be saved who doesn't have the capacity to understand it? How do people believe in God without knowing who God is? It's something that has bothered me for years, especially in the dark, pre-salvation period (although some questions remained afterwards), as I wasn't sure if I should pray to God the Father or to Jesus Christ and what Trinity really was. Things are becoming clearer now, but these are difficult questions.

[personal details omitted]

Your prayer in all this will be much appreciated.

In our Lord,

Response #9:

I'm happy to hear that this helped some. As you say, faith is the key. With God, all things are possible. He is able to make use of very weak links – as long as some willingness is present. That is what this life and our brief tenure here is all about. The Spirit can take the smallest element of truth and combine it with even a mustard seed of faith and produce salvation for the individual in question (that was certainly true in my case at a very young age) -- and then turn that mustard seed into a very large tree (I'm striving for that to be so in my case). God's grace and truth are unlimited; human beings limit the power inherent therein by their own free will choices. This was certainly true of even the disciples who spent so much time with our Lord; and it is true of us today. The more we come to trust Him in little things, the better able we become to trust Him in all things, no matter how large. I don't think there has ever been a believer who didn't have one or more areas of truth that were challenges to their faith; there is no point in feeling bad about that inasmuch as the answer is to persevere in faith even so until we break through on those difficult points as well – exactly as you have done and are doing.

I am very happy that the Lord provided for you and delivered you from catastrophe. We need to be grateful for everything He provides; I know that He honors and has honored all of your good decisions for Him. I also think that we are responsible to "be responsible" in the decisions we make – but that does not mean that we should refrain from being courageous in our choices for Him. As long as we are not doing anything wrong or irresponsible and are in fact using the resources He provides as best we can, then we have nothing to be ashamed of or sorry for, regardless of what we choose or what happens as a result. We are only even here "for Jesus Christ", so as in all things the question of what He really wants us to be doing is the key one. Time and resource procurement are always at odds. Focusing too much on gaining the former may leave us without means to do anything at all for the Lord (i.e., if we become homeless and have nothing to eat we aren't going to be very effective ministers); focusing too much on the gaining the latter may leave us with no time to do what we've been called to do (i.e., if we get a job that supplies our material needs abundantly but takes 120 hours a week out of our schedules, we aren't going to be very effective ministers). Getting the balance "just right" usually involves being somewhere in the middle; the choices we make in these regards says a lot about what is really important to us and whether or not on the one hand we are going to be willing to sacrifice comfort for the sake of the Lord's Church, and on the other hand whether or not we are going to be willing to get our hands dirty in the struggle to get by for the sake of not burdening His people in the ministries to which we have been called. Paul worked; he also devoted his all to the Church more than anyone else in history (as far as I can tell from scripture).

From where I sit, you are doing wonderfully well with all this, my friend. Of course that does not mean that it is easy or that every path is crystal clear (probably just the opposite).

I'll be keeping you in prayer on this.

Keep on fighting the fight in good times and in bad.

Your friend in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Dear Professor,

I hope you're well. I also hope that your brother's operation has been successful and your mother's situation is manageable. They are in my prayers, as you are daily also.

I have been spending a lot of time studying the doctrine of the Trinity and I have to say it's not been easy. I want to believe the truth and the inability to explain God's nature bothers me. I have got a good enough understanding of kenosis to be able to respond to the refutation of our Lord's divinity based on verses which describe His human nature, something I was not able to do some time ago.

Many questions still remain, however, and although I will keep searching, it is at this moment in time hard for me to see where the answer could come from. I read the same passages interpreted by different scholars in ways which stand in direct opposition against one another and I am able to point out mistakes in some conclusions made, but in many cases it I am not able to do so.

One question I wanted to ask you is about John 1:1. This is because I think that proving eternity of the Son is an argument proving His divinity also. I've read different interpretations of the expression en archei and wanted to find out if there is a definite way to prove that it's a reference to the time before all creation? Is it also a proof that our Lord was with the Father from eternity past rather than coming into existence before all other creation? This is one objection to our Lord's divine nature which I'm not sure how to address - how can we show that Son was not created before the world began?

With constant prayer for you and your ministry,

Response #10:

Good to hear from you, my friend. My family in Michigan are doing well at present. Thank you so much for your prayers – for them and for me.

As to your questions, "Is [Jn.1:1-3] also a proof that our Lord was with the Father from eternity past rather than coming into existence before all other creation?", I would say emphatically yes! First, consider that in verse three it says "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being" (NASB). How is this possible if Jesus were only a human being? Human beings of necessity and by definition exist within this creation; we are creatures. How could a mere creature create creation? How could a mere creature exist before creation? How could Jesus create creation if He were only created a few thousand years ago, eons after creation was created? I know that some want to throw out the gospel of John because, fairly considered, these questions are unanswerable by non-believers – unless a person engages in specious interpretation. For example, some will disingenuously say that the "He" in verse three is the Father (!). However, reading even in English, this is essentially impossible; reading in Greek, it is entirely impossible inasmuch as Jesus is the houtos ("this") of verse two and the autoi "in whom" is life in verse four. And in verse three in between here is no change of subject given.

As to en archei, I have written this up elsewhere (see the link: "Trinity Defense" – go to Q/A #3). In a nutshell, this Greek phrase is anarthrous – has no definite article. As such, it directly parallels the every first phrase in the Bible, bereshith. "in (the) beginning". Now clearly the first verse of Genesis is describing ex nihilo creation, and that is why "beginning" is not made definite in the Hebrew, namely, to give us the meaning "first" or "first off" or "the first thing God did was . . . create the heavens and the earth". By using the same phrase – and we know that is what John intended not only from the context of the gospel's opening but also from the fact that the Septuagint uses the identical phrase in Greek for rendering bereshith – John is telling us who it was that did the creating "in [the] beginning", namely, the Word, Jesus Christ our Lord. The fact that He existed before creation (since He created it and was with the Father before He created it) means ipso facto that He is not a creature; rather, He is God (only God can exist outside of creation; only God could create creation).

In the link given above there is also a list of scripture references wherein the Bible declares the deity of Christ. So, irrespective of logic, theo-logically there is no other honest conclusion but that Jesus is God (and also a genuine human being since the incarnation).

I think it is no accident that you are being tested on this point. This will be a major avenue of attack in the days to come when antichrist – who will clearly not be "God" – leads the world astray by claiming to be Christ (something no one who understands that Christ is God as well as man would be likely to be accept). No doubt this another experience of inoculation for you, my friend: this is such an important issue and one that has not only to be learned to the point of being defensible, but also thoroughly and deeply believed.

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ II

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ

Jesus is God

Where does the Bible teach that Jesus is God?

The Trinity in Scripture

Questioning the Trinity

The Trinity in Isaiah 63

The One True God and the Trinity in the Old Testament

The Trinity (in part 1 of Bible Basics)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Dear Professor,

As always, your clarifications are deeply appreciated. My understanding of the Trinity has been improving, but some questions still remain. To be more specific regarding what I wrote in previous email:

1. I understand that our Lord is not merely a human being, even if He also became a human being. The argument to which I'm seeking a rebuttal at the moment states that Jesus came to existence before all other creation, at some point between eternity past and the ex nihilo creation. So that He did create the world, having Himself come into existence at some point before that. This would make the meaning of His Sonship more literal.

2. This is a question that has bothered me - God didn't need the creation, He could have existed outside of time and space, which is something we cannot really comprehend, and yet He created the world. Now was our Lord with Him in this eternity past, or did our Lord come to existence specifically because the creation necessitated it?

3. And there another question appears - why did our Lord take on humanity if angels are created beings with free will also, and as such sins committed by them could also need redemption? Is it the case that angels either follow Satan and are condemned without a possibility for reconciliation or they remain faithful to God and don't sin at all?

4. Regarding the creation - could you explain why the fact that there is no article in either Hebrew or Greek should be taken to mean that the absolute beginning is meant, so that the theory to which I referred above - that our Lord came into being at some point between eternity past and the creation of the world - can be refuted?

I will keep praying for you and I will pray for your family also, in Michigan and in Louisville.

In our Lord,

Response #11:

Hello my Friend!

I appreciate your prayers (and will let you know how things transpire with our situation).

On your further questions:

1) I do understand this dangerously false position – it is adopted by those who do not want to call Jesus a mere man, but are not really willing to "grant" Him full deity. However, of all the positions on this score, it is also the least logical. If Jesus were a demi-god instead of God, well, that is a fine pagan notion, but there is nothing in scripture to recommend it: the whole idea is absolutely foreign to both testaments (the Mormons like it though).

I don't follow on the point about sonship. While it is true that there is an authority relationship between a son and a father – and we are right to consider the analogy since God gave us both the human family as a means of understanding our relationship to Him and also this relationship we are discussing – human sons and fathers are on the same level in terms of everything else: whatever the father is (e.g., German, white, stocky, middle-class, human) so will the son be (especially in terms of the last, emphasized attribute). So if God the Father is God, how is His Son not God?

More to the point, creation either is or is not; creatures can exist inside creation but not outside of creation. If Jesus existed before creation – as it plainly the states in the gospel of John – then He has to be God for that reason. If Jesus were not God, then He could not have been "with the Father" from "the beginning" . . . and could not have gone on from there to create the world. By definition, creating the universe of time and space has to be done from outside before it existed – otherwise it would just be a case of a powerful creature rearranging what had already been created. So this only works for those whose "god" is merely a super-creature likewise dependent upon time and space.

2) God does not need us. We need God. God is love. That is His motive. He created us "for His glory" out of love. We receive all the benefit. He is pleased by our responsiveness to the grace He gives us. The best I can do with this, since these things must of necessity impute to the Lord quasi-human characteristics (and He is so much more than we will ever understand this side of heaven), is that He shared Himself with us out of an abundant and super-abounding love:

For God loved the world so much that He gave [up] His one and only Son, [with the purpose] that everyone who believes in Him should not be lost [forever], but have eternal life [instead].
John 3:16

As to this love necessitating the "creation" of Christ, rather, this love necessitated the incarnation and spiritual death of our divine Lord for the sake of all mankind – because by creating mankind with free will, sin would inevitably follow, so that salvation and eternity with Him would have to be paid for for those willing to receive it – by the blood of Christ.

3) I have written about this issue quite a bit and will give you some links. Bottom line: angels are loyal or disloyal, and they had eons of time, lots more information than we do (they have seen God face to face throughout their existence, e.g.), and no interference from a corrupt physical body or the limitations thereof to interfere with them making a once-for-all solid and sure decision which reflected precisely who they were (which was who they wanted to be – just as in the case of human beings; see the link). After all, human beings do the same thing angels do (i.e., decide their eternal fate), and with far less time, far more limitations, and on far less information. And yet, the choice is solid and sure, and God in His perfect plan has worked it out so that all end up where they choose – just like the angels. The difference is that human beings all must be rescued from a place of helplessness in order to be saved, whereas angels either kept or abandoned their "first estate" (Jude 1:6), the place of safety and salvation. In the hypothetical, if any fallen angel could or would repent, there would (and could) have been a means for deliverance – but in the event that is a null-set (given the nature and experience of the angels which is far different from ours):

Satan's Fall from Grace

The Nature of Angels

Angelic Pre-History (in SR 1)

Is the devil "mad" to oppose God?

Didn't the devil know he couldn't defeat God?

The Cross, Sin, and the Devil in God's Plan

4) Even if we translate "the" in either case, it is clear from both passages that the original creation is meant. I wouldn't rely on the anarthrous nature of either phrase as a "smoking gun" upon which all interpretation pivots. For those of us who do understand the truth, however, the fact that there is no "the" in either verse makes good sense: God has no beginning, so that using the definite article ("the") would make is seem as if "all things" do have a beginning, including God. All things in this world do have a beginning, but this world did not exist when God initiated creation. Outside of this world, God has always "been".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Jn.20:28),

Bob L.

Question #12:

Dear Professor,

First of all, thank you for your never faltering patience. Your replies are always helpful, but on this occasion even more so - these are issues of critical importance which I have been researching and considering for a while now and even though I know that God lets us find Him if we truly seek Him and even though I pray that God may give me an open heart to the truth so that I may come to it and understand it, it is difficult to be at peace when such fundamental questions are without an answer. I thought to myself - am I even saved without knowing these things? I know that our Lord paid for all the sins, but if I don't understand His nature, how will I be saved?

And there are so many teachings out there, often directly conflicting with one another. Many of them I now have the understanding to reject as false, but this is not always the case. So this reply does bring me some peace and what you wrote I had deep inside, but these things have to be tested and understanding of them has to be complete - I want to clarify any doubt regarding these central issues before I minister.

In the meantime, I keep working on both Hebrew and Greek. I am now 60% through Gesenius and almost at the end of Reading Greek. Whenever I check a verse in either of the original language, I understand it at least most of what I'm reading, often everything. My progress with Pneumatology has been slowed down by constant searching for answers on the Trinity, but I am resuming now with this also. Hopefully you won't mind if I send a new set to you and, as always - please answer at your convenience.

I keep you and your family in my prayers and again - thank you for all this continuous help.

In our Lord,

Response #12:

You are most welcome, my dear friend. And I for one have absolutely no doubts about your spiritual status.

You are absolutely right about getting these things settled before you enter ministry. My dad, a Presbyterian minister for many years, once made the point that the worst thing a pastor can do is to "preach his doubts". In my opinion, those with serious doubts have need of allowing the Lord to work out all these "kinks of soul" before putting themselves forward to minister in the first place. As always, man of integrity that you are, you are doing things the right way. In the past, the last several hundred years in particular leading up and into the era of Laodicea, "minister" has been a job-track, and many have gotten on that track for the wrong reasons, or, even when the reasons were right, have done so before they were personally prepared and/or never got the proper preparation through the "formal course" their denomination offered. This trend has accelerated in our day as "results" are now worshiped more than content of teaching. That is to say, those emulated tend to be the ones who can fill a huge super-church with their theatrics, or write drivel and pablum which sells millions of copies, or raise tons of money to build monstrous edifices to their own egos (or, preferably for Laodicea, all of the above). Meanwhile truth shivers in the cold (to paraphrase Juvenal).

But for those who are intent on doing things the right way as you are, building their foundation of faith on the Rock carefully and meticulously, there is great challenge and great opportunity ahead – and great reward when they Lord evaluates your life on that great day of days.

Thank you so much for your prayers!

Keep up the good work, and do feel free to send me your other questions any time.

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Dear Professor,

I have spent recent weeks reading about the Trinity. There are no accidents in God's plan - my sister's request to explain this doctrine came at the right time when I should come to the understanding of it myself and finally be at peace with it. The question about the Trinity has been at the back of my mind for a while.

The study has been fruitful and I am much clearer about it now. Before sending my reply, however, I wanted to present to you a sketch of my argument, so that you can verify its scriptural validity. My points (I elaborate on each in the actual reply) go as follows:

1. Truth needs to be sought with open heart. I know this has not been the case with my sister. Her life is built on falsehood and maybe deep inside there is some unrest about it, but if this unrest is indeed there, it is kept in check by the fear that discovering the truth would make all this edifice fall miserably. And it would fall if she received the truth - and she would be saved, but the latter she cannot see. She is unwilling to recognise the fact that the outward rituals of Islam have not set her free of all her burdens. So I thought I should start by saying that the truth needs to be put first.

2. My explanation of the Trinity relies on the scripture. Muslims state that the Bible is corrupted and this argument rests on the lack of the harmony between God's word and Koran - all that is not in line with the teaching of Koran (and nothing is in line, if understood correctly) must be false. I thought it important to say that the Bible is God's inspired word (references - 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21).

3. We need to remember that we are trying to understand God's nature. God is infinite, we are finite, He is the Creator, we are limited creatures. We cannot fully comprehend God (1 Kings 8:27). Trinity is not an easy doctrine and it is one of these that Muslims often describe using the word "confusion", stating that such difficult teaching is confusing and God doesn't want us to be confused - hence it is false. This is a faulty logic which justifies hardness of heart - all that is difficult must be false. So I do away with it also before going to the explanation of the Trinity itself. Difficulty is what sifts between those who seek for the truth and those who don't, as we know from our Lord's parables (Matthew 13:13-15).

a) The fact that the word "trinity" doesn't appear in the scripture doesn't mean that the doctrine is false. It is an argument often used, not just by Muslims, and it is another logical fallacy - the fact that theologians came up with the name, doesn't mean that theologians came up with the Trinity. God does present Himself in three divine Persons and what we call this is up to us, but the name is essentially meaningless. What does matter is that this is how God exists - in three Persons.

b) I explain the Old Testament plural name Elohim for God and show how God uses plural towards Himself in the act of creation (Genesis 1:26).

c) From your study of Theology I provide the references to show that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 44:6, Isaiah 45:5) and the references for the divinity of each Person of the Trinity - the Father (Daniel 7:13, Matthew 6:9, Revelation 1:8), the Son (John 1:1-2, John 1:18, Matthew 1:23, Titus 2:13, 1 John 5:20, Colossians 2:9) and the Spirit (Acts 5:3-4, 2 Corinthians 3:17). God is one in essence, three in Person.

d) I found the text by J.Scott Horrel - "In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Constructing a Trinitarian Worldview" (https://bible.org/article/name-father-son-and-holy-spirit-constructing-trinitarian-worldview) useful in explaining the Trinity from the perspective of natural revelation. I would be curious about your opinion on it. Some points made there perhaps are quite derivative, but overall it is one of few resources outside of ichthys that helped my understanding.

From this text come some of the points I make and the next one is regarding the origin of creation. Here are two excerpts - first one regarding love being directed outwardly (1 Corinthians 13:5) and second one regarding this love as origin of creation:

A significant characteristic of the Christian God along with moral perfection (holiness) is love. Divine love not only defines the intra-Trinitarian relations but also serves to unite the Creator with his creation, and even creation with other creation. In that God is love, each person of the Trinity loves not so much himself but especially the other two persons. As defined in 1 Corinthians 13, love by nature is not directed inwardly but outwardly - as Richard of St. Victor observed - in the sharing and giving of oneself to the other. In contrast to Islam, Judaism and other religions which defend God as exclusively one person, the Triune God of the Bible cannot be accused of selfishness or egocentrism. Nor is this God lonely, needing someone to love, or with whom to communicate or to actualize himself reciprocally as Person.

The question of why God created is not easily answered, apart from the classical Christian response, "to the praise of his glory" (Eph 1:12-13). Some deduce that the divine motivation for creation is best found in the overflow of loving self-givingness between the three persons of the Godhead. The deep love, goodness and joy of each member of the Trinity toward the other spills forth in the creation of that which is external to God, the realms of angels and mankind. As such, all creation exists and is sustained, not by necessity nor by divine selfishness, but by the abundance of Trinitarian grace.

Here I also add 1 John 4:7-14 to support the point that God is love.

e) From the origin of creation I move on to the nature of it. The doctrine of the Trinity explains the relationship between unity and diversity (this also links directly with your understanding of "likeness"). From the same source:

Outside of biblical Christianity there is no structure that satisfies the tension between the one and the many. Different from other forms of theism, the Holy Trinity as three persons in one God incorporates unity and diversity within itself. This divine reality is reflected in virtually all creation, be it in the estimated 50 billion galaxies spanning 500 million light years across the known universe, or in sub-atomic particles with their mysterious compositions of quarks, leptons and gauge bosons (where a single top quark can emit 30 billion volts of energy). Whether vastly enormous or incredibly small, the universe manifests unity in its diversity and diversity in its unity. There is order between individual components and the total scheme of creation. In contrast to all other religions and philosophies, the concept of the Holy Trinity presents meaningful relationship between the one and the many in the universe.

f) From there I proceed to the nature of human being and discuss image and likeness, providing this fragment of your BB 3A Anthropology:

"Image" represents mankind's common spiritual essence, and is analogous to the divine essence common to all three members of the Trinity. "Likeness" represents the distinct personalities of individual human beings, and is analogous to the different persons of the three members of the Trinity. Man's spiritual nature is thus more closely parallel to God's image than to God's likeness, because all human beings do share a common spiritual essence (analogous to the "image" of God wherein the Trinity possess the exact same essence), but is less closely parallel to God's likeness, because the Trinity, while composed of three separate Persons, is nevertheless "One" and always work together in every way, while human beings are constantly making individual choices independent of each other.

Likeness is also linked to our need for social relationships. From Horrel's text:

Christian faith implies that apart from the tri-personal God of the Bible, human society lacks an adequate ontological foundation. Many in the twentieth century argue that personal relationships have become increasingly "without reason," that language is meaningless, that loving intimacy is simply the rustle of biological hormones, that mankind's societal and "friendship" associations merely float "within the context of no context." In the midst of these anti-humanitarian affirmations, the Christian faith proclaims that family, friendship and social order assume profound meaning when we understand people as created in the communitarian image of the Triune God.

Because human ontology derives from God's own relational reality, intrinsic to every person is the need and yearning for social relationships. We are in fact dependent upon interpersonal activity for even the most rudimentary elements of human development - for example, thought itself is dependent upon language, which is acquired within a social milieu. The Bible indicates that innate to mankind is the capacity not only to think, will and feel but also to commune at the most intimate and transparent levels with both the Creator and one another.

g) I summarise the above points with the doctrine of general revelation, which I took from Curtis Omo's lesson on it:

General revelation is a doctrine stating that God discloses Himself to all people at all times in all places throughout the history of mankind. God reveals that He exist, and in doing so He reveals some of His attributes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gywuZkFMvYo&list=UUkp-J7VPT7NcwmuiNfD2fkg).

And provide the quotation of Psalm 19:1-6. I conclude the section by saying that not only does the creation proclaim God's nature, but that God is present in the creation Himself and has bound Himself with it through His Son (from Horrel):

Not only does the Holy Trinity operate dynamically in history, more remarkable still, God enters his creation. The Son has entered creation in the incarnation and further sealed his bond with creation through bodily resurrection and corporal glorification. In Jesus Christ, spiritual and physical realities were forever yoked together as the Logos assumed human nature and then a glorified body.

As with the Son, so the Holy Spirit continually works in history and particularly indwells the lives of believers, yet he too exists both inside and outside the created order. Thus, the Holy Trinity's presence embraces creation and non-creation, preserving God's transcendent reality while recognizing also God's profoundly personal engagement within creation.

I focus on the person of our Lord here, saying that He is both God and man and that He paid for the sins of all the humanity. At the end I provide what I believe to be a useful comparison to the Trinity – that the Father is like the sun, whom we cannot see face to face, as we would die immediately (God's righteousness and our sinfulness would result in immediate death), the Son is like the ray – rays show us what sun is, but in a way that doesn't cause death – quite the opposite. And the Spirit is like the warmth – we cannot see it, but we know it's there.

h) And the final point is the one to which all these arguments lead – the Trinity is critical in the context of our salvation. There I explain that there is no salvation through deeds and no deed solves the problem of our sinfulness. I show how only in the person of our Lord God's perfect righteousness which requires judgment and His mercy coincide, but how this is not possible in Islam or any other religion, where the relationship between the two remains unresolved. From Horrel:

In a similar way, the nature of forgiveness is a serious dilemma for non-Trinitarian theists. How does a holy God forgive? No human being is morally perfect as God is perfect. Yet if God, as Moral Absolute of the universe, shows mercy and forgives the sinner then he has violated his righteous justice. And if God exercises justice against the sinner, then he has denied his mercy. For a mono-personal God, compassion contradicts holiness, forgiveness is finally contrary to justice. God's judgment and mercy are arbitrary, if not capricious. In Islam, Allah is believed to stand above the bridge of death that connects earthly life with paradise. Underneath this narrow bridge is the flaming chasm of hell. A man who lived a life of 90% good and 10% evil may be granted permission to cross the bridge of death into paradise. But a man with less virtue (85%) would be pushed off the bridge by Allah into the abyss below. The truth is that neither man nor woman can have any peace that Allah will forgive. Ultimately Allah must compromise his justice to grant mercy. Conversely, the Bible declares that God of Christian faith is both just and the justifier of those who believe (Ro 3:23-26). As tri-personal, the Christian God is the Holy Judge, the Sacrificial Lamb (who pays the price that divine justice demands), and the sanctifying Spirit who works in the fallen world convicting and leading sinners to salvation. With God's absolute holiness satisfied at the cross, true forgiveness can be freely offered to all who believe.

I explain how if we believe in Christ's payment, we "subscribe" to it and in Him our sins are redeemed. Christ's payment is also another proof of His divinity – no ordinary human being would be capable of such a payment. But Christ is God, which leads to the conclusion that in this way judgment and mercy are reconciled – God punishes the sins, but also God Himself, in the divine person of Christ, redeems them. So God punishes and God redeems.

As always, professor, your insights, corrections and additions will be most appreciated.

With constant prayer for you and in our Lord,

Response #13:

Always good to hear from you, my friend. I continue to pray for your sister and for all of your efforts to lead her to the truth. It is absolutely correct that we all have to make this decision on our own and that no one can coerce us if we refuse to accept the truth; however, God knows all things and all things have been perfectly incorporated into His plan. He knew before He set creation in motion of your love for your sister and your desire to see her saved. We can have hope and confidence in His love, His mercy and His wisdom even as we fight the fight day by day.

As to your piece, I like it very much – at least I like everything you have written (and also of course I have no objections to the quotations from my material or the reference to Curt Omo's site). Horrel is a different matter, however. It's not that what he has to say is terrible, and he certainly makes some good apologetic points (especially in criticizing Islam), but his words remind me of many Christian hymns I have heard (especially contemporary ones): they sound pretty good overall, but there is usually something that gnaws at the biblical conscience (of those who are well-trained in scripture), and when the words are carefully examined, some small doctrinal infelicity (if not error) is usually found to be present. Rather than waste our time with a line-by-line critique, I will deal with just a couple of points:

1) God IS love; your addition of the critical passage from 1st John is right on the money, but I get the impression from Horrel that God is merely a "very big person" who loves like we do, only "just better and stronger". Being love, however, is of a fundamentally different order altogether; and while Mssr. Horrel may on some level understand that distinction intellectually, his actual words seem to me risk the basic mistake people commonly make when describing God, that is, failing to understand that He is GOD, not just some really nice, powerful super-human "big guy in the sky". That is a catastrophic mistake to make when discussing the Trinity, for one reason because leaving that impression can result in the further mistake of assuming that the Trinity are "three gods" – and nothing could be further from the truth.

2) The failure to properly distinguish between God and mankind in terms of magnitude and in terms of essence repeats throughout his quotations; it's not so much the words themselves, perhaps, but the tone, and I think it fair to say that Mssr. Horrel's poor understanding of the magnitude and wonder of who and what God is has colored everything he has written. One place where this comes through loud and clear is in his description of God's "intervention" into human affairs. In fact, every thing that has or ever will happen in all of universal history was decreed before God initiated creation in the first place. In fact, every human decision has been perfectly taken into account by the perfect plan and perfectly integrated with every other decision – not to mention with every other material occurrence – from the moment of creation to the end of history. In fact, everything had to happen precisely as it has and is and will happen, because God is perfect so that this is the one perfect "history" and thus anything else would not be perfect and would thus be impossible as a perfect God is incapable of anything but perfection – all of which is not only marvelous in the extreme but also demonstrates the absolute necessity of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In other words, failure to understand just how "big" God is often lies at the root of questionable opining about His nature and His creation, and the relationship between the two. It is a problem that one finds throughout the history of believers on earth and unfortunately also throughout the writing of theology.

So I would advise you to figure out what you like about Mssr. Horrel's quotes and do something on your own – you clearly have a better understanding of just who God is than he does.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Dear Professor,

Thank you for your comments. Your highlighted an important issue, because what I failed to take into account is that the quotations I included will be read by someone who hasn't received the truth and doesn't know God - quite contrary. Some of the points in Horrell's article I found to be helpful, but I read it after three and half years of studying your website and by now have got at least some understanding. For this reason a few of his explanations add to a foundation that is already there, but problematic presentation of some theological arguments doesn't shake it.

Because some of Horrell's points are quite derivative, I would appreciate it if you could just briefly answer the following questions:

1. Would you agree that the love between the members of Trinity explains the origins of creation or is it something we cannot really know?

2. Regarding unity and diversity - it seems that his points here are quite close to your view on likeness, but I'm not sure if you would extend the application of this reasoning beyond the nature of humanity and look at the rest of creation through it also.

3. I can see how the point about comparing the relationship between the members of Trinity to the social aspect of human life can be somewhat misleading - would you say it's better to leave this point out?

4. And finally on God's relationship with creation - perhaps I will just write about our Lord there, I can see now how without the understanding of God's plan Horrell's explanation of God's engagement with the world can be misleading.

Also, a friend of mine asked me about the meaning of the names Caleb and Nun - do they have any?

Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.
Numbers 14:30(NASB)

In our Lord,

Response #14:

You are very welcome, my friend.

On your latest questions, I'm afraid the answers are short and sweet (as we say):

1) Since God is love, speculating about one member of the Trinity loving another is potentially confusing and dangerous since by definition we would be projecting human relationships on them and that is not appropriate; back-speculating based on that prior speculation is even more likely to lead us astray.

2) Image and likeness are explained in scripture as applied to mankind, but the diversity element is for mankind alone; i.e., we are created IN the image of God (we all have a will comparable to His WILL) but ACCORDING TO His likeness – which means that this comparison is even less exact and about the only thing the scripture has to say in using this phrase is "beware: the comparison here is inexact"; for that reason, the threefold nature of the Trinity cannot really be understood or explained by appeal to the multiplicity of human kind.

3) Indeed, especially inasmuch as scripture does not comment.

4) Yes; that was the point at which I become most disconcerted with Mssr. Horrel.

As to biblical names, when scripture does not comment upon their derivation, we should be careful about assigning any value to them which the Bible does not (as in my name and your name, for example, they don't really say anything about who we are). Joshua is significant because he is a type of Christ (and his name is the same as "Jesus" in Hebrew); a nun is a fish and a celebh is a dog – this may tell us something about those who named Joshua and Caleb, but I don't know of any biblical canon that would allow us to apply characteristics from these names to either man on this basis.

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Dear Professor,

Just the last clarification on point 2, which I'm not sure I have worded clearly. What I mean here is not that we should understand the threefold nature of the Trinity by referring to the multiplicity of mankind, but whether we can understand the diversity of creation outside of humanity by appealing to the Trinity. I'm aware that this also might be one step beyond what the scripture says - as you wrote, the diversity element refers to mankind.

I just wanted to know your take on applying the diversity of the members of the Trinity to the physical world, which exists in order despite the variety of elements of which it consists. It is not explicitly stated in the scripture, which only mentions "likeness" in the context of the creation of man, but I wondered if this comparison could also have some weight and be considered of some value from the perspective of natural revelation - it may be easier to comprehend the incredible diversity of all the creation if we understand it as a divine attribute which is reflected in it.

Maybe this is how you understood me in the first place, in which case I apologise for coming back to it, but I thought I would make sure.

Also Professor, I've been much helped by your explanations and the study to of the Holy Spirit. Similarly as it has been the case with the Trinity, gaining a better understanding of Spirit's nature and role came at the right time for me, when without realising about it I started to slide into relying on my own efforts and deeds in fighting the daily fight (and I have many more weeds to deal with now than I had a few months ago). Relying on God's help through the Spirit in recent couple of weeks has already made a big difference.

In our Lord,

Response #15:

Thanks for the clarification. I don't think we can understand anything about the persons of the Trinity per se and their relationship one to another through the physical creation beyond what scripture suggests, namely, that there is goodness, wisdom, love and an absolute plan to be seen in the way that the world is constructed. This certainly tells us much about the character of God, but that character is shared by all three persons as part of their divine essence (so in my view is not particularly illustrative of the Trinity in terms of distinguishing its members). There is, however, the element that you brought in in your own description of the threefold nature of certain otherwise unified phenomena (light, for example), but these comparisons are necessarily inexact; therefore while they perhaps demonstrate to interested parties that such a thing is possible in ways we can't really understand, these sorts of illustrations can't be pressed backwards for deeper insights into the Trinity itself – for God is spiritual while these phenomena are either entirely material (or, in the case of human beings and animals, physical with a spiritual element that is dependent upon existing within the universe of time and space).

Thanks also for you comments about the Spirit and His ministry. I find the same exact thing, that is, accessing His power is often a matter of remembering that we have His power and focusing our thinking on relying on His power rather than our own: it always comes down to knowing, believing, and relying upon the truth of the Word of God.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Dear Professor,

Just one more question on the Trinity. Would you say that in Genesis 1:26 the fact that God uses plural in "and let them rule over the fish" and in the next verse Moses wrote that "male and female He created them" is an immediate reference to the likeness, meaning that mankind was always going to exist as male and a female, so likeness can be applied to the relationship between a man and a woman - difference in roles, but no disparity in status (at least not in God's eyes)?

26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Also, even though it seems to me that this is not a point for which my sister is ready, I thought that Jesus Christ as the Angel of the Lord could provide a strong argument. The Angel of God is distinct from God, yet uses the first person when He speaks as God, as in Exodus 3 and is called God by Hagar in Genesis 16. Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 10 Paul writes that "with most of them God was not well-pleased" and that we should not "try the Lord" and yet God Himself says in Exodus 23:20-23 that He is "sending an angel" ahead of Israelites and that the angel "will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in Him". So it seems that the Angel of God is called both God and Lord and speaks as God, which is in line with John 10:30.

Let me know your thoughts.

In our Lord,

Response #16:

On your first question, I do think that Genesis 1:26-27 demonstrates that God considers men and women equal in terms of their eternal status (even though different roles are assigned to us here in this life – after the fall outside of Eden in an imperfect world ruled by the devil where authority relationships are essential for survival); and I also think that the mention of image in both verses is a strong buttress to that argument, to wit, that both men and women have the image of God – and that is the critical thing. I'm not sure how likeness of verse 26 impacts the male-female dichotomy in verse 27, nor what that would mean for the Trinity; the "likeness" mentioned in verse 27 is less strict than the image (Hebrew ce- as opposed to be-), and means that humanity is plural but not triune, and that our plurality is only roughly parallel to the triune nature of God – for there are very many men and women. The fact that we are "male and female" is yet another indication of the difference between our "likeness" to God in terms of our plurality as compared to His triunity.

I usually also use the principle of Christophany as an argument for the divinity of Christ, but you are right that it may be a bridge too far as yet. When engaging in persuasion, it is always a bad idea to introduce arguments that are weaker than others you have at hand (or will be perceived in that way at least), because the other party will often seize on that "weak" argument to the exclusion of good proofs. Now in this case the truth is the truth, but from our point of view anything that a person will have more trouble accepting than other truths should be left til later for this reason. Here is how our Lord introduces that general subject to great effect:

As the Pharisees were gathering together, Jesus put a question to them, saying "What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?" They answered Him, "David's son." Then He said to them, "Well then, how can David, speaking in the Spirit, call Him Lord? For he says,

The Lord said to My Lord, 'Sit down at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'
[Psalm 110:1]

So if David calls Him Lord, how is He his Son?" And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare to question Him any longer from that day forward.
Matthew 22:41-46

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Should we see the Trinity in Exodus 25, with the Ark (God the Father on the Mercy Seat), the Table of Showbread (Jesus Christ) and the Lampstand (the Holy Spirit)?

Response #17:

I would certainly agree with seeing the symbolism as you relate it. I have not made any sort of comprehensive study of the symbolism in the Law, but other have, notable Christology of the Old Testament by Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg (see link for volume one online). Unger's Commentary on the Old Testament is also good on this (much work was done on this subject in the 19th cent.).

Question #18:

Could you clarify the reference to Isaiah 48:16 - do you mean here that the fact that God sends the Spirit proves His personhood?

In our Lord,

Response #18:

Hello my friend,

That's it! And the Trinity too. In the verse God has to be speaking because, as He says, "From the time it took place, I was there", something that for temporal and spatial reasons can only be true of God. And the One speaking must be the Son not the Father because He says, "The Lord God has sent Me". Further, the Lord God also sent "His Spirit". Since God sent the Son of God with Someone who is described as being sent in a comparable way, the Personhood of this someone is clear enough. If "spirit" were a general term for wisdom, He would hardly need to be sent, nor would He be sent, something we do with a Person or Agent, if "spirit" were some encompassing manifestation. God is of course omnipresent, but He also presents Himself locally within His creation, as with the indwelling presence of the Spirit within believers.

See the link: The Trinity in Isaiah 63:10-15.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Dear Professor,

This is a very interesting verse and one which I have not come across in my recent study of the Trinity. Hopefully you won't mind me asking a few more questions about it.

As I'm sure you're aware, it is interpreted in numerous ways, with many believing that Isaiah here speaks of himself - how would you counteract this argument? I know you wrote that words "From the time it took place, I was there" indicate that it is God who is speaking, but how do we know that the "time" referred to here is not to be taken as the time of Cyrus, which according to some commentators is the object in the two preceding verses?

Keil and Delitzsch, on the other hand, present a strong case that it is the Messiah by referring to chapter 49, which follows immediately and where the divine Person clearly seems to be the author of the words:

The majority of the commentators assume that the prophet comes forward here in his own person, behind Him whom he has introduced, and interrupts Him. But although it is perfectly true, that in all prophecy, from Deuteronomy onwards, words of Jehovah through the prophet and words of the prophet of Jehovah alternate in constant, and often harsh transitions, and that our prophet has this mark of divine inspiration in common with all the other prophets (cf., Isaiah 62:5-6), it must also be borne in mind, that hitherto he has not spoken once objectively of himself, except quite indirectly (vid., Isaiah 40:6; Isaiah 44:26), to say nothing of actually coming forward in his own person.

As always, your input will be much appreciated.

In our Lord,

Response #19:

For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to destroy you completely. See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.
Isaiah 48:9-11 NIV

I don't believe Isaiah is talking about his own wrath or his glory, nor do I think he believed that he was the one who had tested and refined Israel over the centuries.

My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together.
Isaiah 48:13 NIV

Can this be Isaiah?

I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called him. I will bring him, and he will succeed in his mission.
Isaiah 48:15 NIV

Surely Isaiah did not make this divine decree or call Cyrus – let alone the Messiah of whom Cyrus is a type in this section – nor grant him success in his mission.

Come near me and listen to this: "From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there."
Isaiah 48:16a NIV

This verse immediately precedes our passage in question. Can we really imagine Isaiah saying of himself in this context, "I am there" (how can he be everywhere)? In the Hebrew, sham 'aniy is all the more striking and very reminiscent of Isaiah 41:4: "I, the LORD—with the first of them and with the last—I am he." (Hebrew: 'aniy hu').

Finally, we don't get a context indication of a switch to the prophet speaking in his own voice (if that is even what it is) until the next verse. So what is the contextual indication that "And now the Lord GOD has sent Me, and His Spirit" is meant to be taken as referring to Isaiah and not to the One sent, the Messiah? I have not looked at all the references but would not be surprised to find many Jewish commentators taking this as Messianic over the years (they "only" do not understand that the Messiah is God as well as man, and that the Messiah is Jesus Christ).

For those determined not to see what is plainly here to see, there is always an escape hatch, the "plausible deniability" that the Lord seems always include to allow unbelievers to maintain their disbelief and thus make all questions of faith truly of genuine free will.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Dear Professor,

As always - thank you for your thorough reply. All the verses in the context which you brought up preclude that it should be Isaiah who speaks at the end of verse 16. Yet when I looked at the commentaries, most of them say exactly this, so I thought I would ask you about it.

Many claim that this interpretation is correct based on the wyattah which is supposed to separate what follows from what precedes and so introduces a new speaker. I understand the Hebrew of this verse and it does seem against the flow of it to say that a new subject appears here, but I would appreciate your view on this also.

In our Lord,

Response #20:

Hello my friend,

The construction here – the last clause of Isaiah 48:16 – is that of a Hebrew disjunctive clause. This is not straight narrative sequence since the waw is followed by the temporal adverb 'attah instead of a verb in conjunctive state. The effect of this is, as always, one of contrast. What is being contrasted? Since 'attah is a temporal adverb meaning "now", and since in the previous parts of the verse we have the phrases "from the beginning" and "from its inception", the contrast is clearly a temporal one: in times past God had not spoken secretly or in riddles, "but now", meaning, after the incarnation, the message is all that much more clear because the Word has become visible, because "the Lord God has sent Me and His Spirit". Compare:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
Hebrews 1:1-2 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.
 

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