A Study of the Nature of God
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all." 2 Corinthians 13:14
How Does One Explain the Complexity of God?
Explaining God accurately has been a difficult task for centuries, even millennia. When one considers that God is the creator of all that exists, it is not surprising to imagine that He must necessarily be the most complex Being in all of existence in the universe. What kind of person could create a universe so vast that scientists calculate that its diameter is 27.6 billion light years? On the other extreme, what kind of person could at the same time create life so microscopic and detailed that the total length of DNA present in one adult human would measure the equivalent of nearly 70 trips from the earth to the sun and back?
The answer is that only God could be that person. Should it surprise us, then that God is the most complex being in the entire universe? I have some questions to ask the reader.
How do you account for the fact that the very name God, Elohim (430) in the Old Testament (Gen. 1:1) is a plural noun? Many commentators attempt to explain the plural noun away by saying that it is a "plural of majesty." But that is merely a sneaky way of saying that a plural is not a plural. I think a plural is a plural.
On the other hand, a very basic statement in Israeli Scripture is this: "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!" (Deut. 6:4; 1 Tim. 2:1-5). How do we reconcile that plurality with the unity?
Furthermore, how does one account for the fact that, in the very creation of the earth, mention is made of "the Spirit of God ... moving over the surface of the waters" (Gen. 1:2)? Are we to differentiate between "God" (Gen. 1:1) and the "Spirit of God" (Gen. 1:2)?
Matters grow even murkier when we discover that a particular messenger 1 of the LORD (3068) actually claimed to be God! For example we read that Elohim tested Abraham, asking him to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac (Gen. 22:1-2). When Abraham was about to sacrifice his son (Gen. 22:9-10), the messenger of Yahweh called to Abraham out of heaven (Gen. 22:11). The messenger told Abraham not to kill the lad, "for now I know you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me (Gen. 22:12). So who is this messenger of Yahweh who identifies Himself as Elohim?
The Word (Logos) of God
When we arrive in the New Testament matters grow even more interesting. John the Apostle wrote about someone whom he described as the Word (Logos) (3056). We read these profound words:
(1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was in the beginning with God. (3) All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:1-3)
So we learn some fascinating truths:
(1) The Word existed in the very beginning. So the Word must be Eternal.
(2) The Word was with God, so therefore He cannot possibly be the same person as God. If two persons are with one another, they can be differentiated. They may share certain characteristics, but they are not the identical person.
(3) The Word was being (literal translation) God. So we conclude that the Word was of the same essence as God always in the past, but He was not the same person as God. Two separate persons, both sharing the same essence. (That is complicated, but not surprising, because God Himself is complex!)
(4) The Word existed in the very beginning with God. So once again, there are two different persons who are with each other, even though they share the same essence. And both persons are eternal!
(5) We learn, furthermore, that the Word created everything! In fact everything that has come into existence was created by the Word. There are no exceptions!
But John has not finished. He stated, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
(6) So there was a time in history when the Eternal Word of God, who was being God, and yet who was differentiated from God because He was with God, became a human being.
(7) He was filled with the glory of the Father (i.e. God). John and his fellow apostles had actually witnessed this glory.
(8) John called him the "only begotten" (3439) of the Father. I prefer the term "only born." We don't really know what the word "begotten" means, but we do know what the term "born" means. So this Word of God who at a point of time was "born" as a human being, in His previous (pre-human) existence, was of the same essence as God the Father, yet was distinct from God the Father, and had actually been eternal -- this Being had created everything that existed.
(9) Now don't conclude that when the Word became flesh (John 1:14) He lost His Godness. He retained it. He merely added humanity. Now He was the world's only God/Human hybrid -- the God-Man.
John said something else. "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten (only-born) God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (John 1:18). We learn a little more:
(10) No one has seen God ever. That is because God is spirit, and you can't see spirit (John 4:24).
(11) But the Logos who became flesh is uniquely qualified. He is the "only-born" God closely associated with God the Father, and He has accurately explained God to us humans. To me that is why John called Jesus the Word of God. He is God-come-in-the-flesh, and He is the only one equipped to explain God to man because He is both God and man. Jesus best explains who God is to us humans. That is why He is the Word of God.
Three Distinct, Co-Equal Persons
There are several occasions where we find three distinct persons carrying equal weight in the Godhead.
(1) Three distinct persons were identified immediately after Jesus' baptism: The Spirit of God descended upon Jesus. A voice from the heavens declared, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." That was the voice of God the Father (Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 3:21-22). This is not when Jesus became God. He was always and will always be God. Rather, it is when God anointed the God/Man Jesus with the Holy Spirit to be God's ultimate Prophet, ultimate Priest, ultimate King, and ultimate Judge. In short, it is when the God/Man Jesus became the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One.
(2) Jesus commanded His followers to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19).
(3) In the final verse of 2 Corinthians, Paul penned a blessing, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all" (2 Cor. 13:14).
(4) Peter wrote to certain people whom he described as having been "chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood ..." (1 Pet. 1:1-2).
We conclude therefore that though there is one God, there are three distinct persons, each of which are of the same essence, who comprise that one God. The word Tri-Unity accurately describes the complex being called "God."
1 messenger: Translators of both the OT and the NT routinely translate the Hebrew malak (4397) and the Greek aggelos (32) as "angel." That is an unfortunate non-translation of the Greek original. Both words mean "messenger." Why not consistently translate them that way? Let the context determine what kind of messenger it is.
(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB.)
Updated January 28, 2022