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|T he AMC was founded
to promote sound doctrine and practice in Messianic circles and in the
greater body of Messiah. We therefore consider the study of Scripture and
the faithfulness of our doctrinal statement to Scripture to be of
exceeding importance. This study is the fifth in a series that examines
why we believe as we do. It is our hope that you will seriously consider
these studies and allow the Lord to show you if, in fact, they are
faithful to His Word, as did the Berean Jews of Acts 17:11.|
The second point of our doctrinal statement declares our belief in a Tri-unity, a triune God, which seems to fly in the face of the Sh'ma, the universal credo of Judaism, in which God declares Himself to be one:
In previous studies, we examined how there were three in Scripture who each possess the attributes of divinity and personhood and whom Scripture identifies as God the Father, Yeshua the Son and Ruach Hakodesh, the Holy Spirit. In preparation for your consideration of this study, it might prove helpful for you to review our relevant previous studies in Shofar 2, Shofar 3 and Shofar 4.
In having established the divinity of the three mentioned Persons,
the heavy lifting in demonstrating the Tri-unity of God has been done; yet
there are matters that need to be considered, not the least of which is
the Sh'ma, which actually holds the key to understanding God's
AMC STATEMENT ON THE TRI-UNITY
That there are three divine Persons has already been established, but that they are clearly distinct from one another can be see in Isaiah 48:12-16:
Verse 12 identifies the Me of verse 16 as the first and the last, a title of divinity declaring the attribute of eternity (from eternity past to eternity future), a title applied to Messiah Yeshua in Revelation 1:4-8. With this in mind, let's take a closer looks at verse 16:
Three distinct divine Persons in one scripture.
Also in Luke 3:22:
One Person: The Holy Spirit. Another Person: Him, My Son. And yet
another: the Speaker from Heaven, the Father. Three distinct divine
ARE THERE ONLY THREE?
There are only three in all of Scripture who possess any of the
attributes unique to divinity, such as, eternity, omnipresence,
omniscience and omnipotence.
are three distinct divine Persons,
Let's take a look at how echad is used elsewhere in the Tanach (Hebrew Scriptures) and then determine how it is used in the Sh'ma.
How is Echad Used Elsewhere in the Tanach?
There are a great many places in which echad indicates an absolute oneness. Genesis 10:25 is an example:
But echad is elsewhere used to indicate a compound unit. A strikingly clear example is Genesis 2:24:
1 Corinthians 6:16, which refers back to Genesis 2:24, clarifies the concept of basar echad.
It is clear from this passage that sexual union between a man and a woman, even apart from marriage or the bearing of a child, renders them basar echad in God's eyes. ("For He says, The two shall be one flesh." Also Matthew 19:4, immediately below.) The harlot and her lover become echad, a compound unit, by virtue of engaging in sexual union because sexual union, the most intimate of physical relationships, is viewed by God as the very seal of marriage, which people must not "separate." (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9).
This unity in marriage, intended by God to last in practice, is expressed wonderfully in the traditional marriage vow, "as long as ye both shall live," a picture of an eternal relationship.
The essential thing to note is that within the compound unit of a man and a woman in marriage, each never ceases to retain his or her individual body and soul. Husband and wife are echad even though their individual physical and spiritual makeups are wholely retained. Echad, then, can clearly be used to denote a compound unit of a plurality of individuals who simultaneously retain their individuality.
The question, now, is this:
How, then, is Echad Used in the Sh'ma?
More specifically, does echad in the Sh'ma declare YHVH to be an absolute unit or a compound unit?
Here again is the Sh'ma:
We'll consider four lines of reasoning, though there are more.
1. Dr. Fruchtenbaum writes,
2. There are two examples in the Tanach in which YHVH refers to not just one person, but two. They are Genesis 19:24 and Zechariah 2:8-9. The clearest of the two is the latter:
Both the sender and the one sent are called Jehovah - two in number, not one. Yachid could not be used to describe the compound oneness of the two Persons named Jehovah, but echad could.
3. There are three divine Persons in the Tri-unity. Our previous studies have demonstrated this beyond the threshold of proof.
4. Matthew 28:19.
Three Persons, one name. Jesus commissioned His disciples to baptize
with a view to the unity of the three divine Persons.
In view of these things, it would have been misleading to
describe YHVH in the Sh'ma as yachid as it is clear,
even in the Tanach, that there are a plurality of Persons in the Godhead.
There remains only one reasonable conclusion: Echad in the
Sh'ma ascribes compound unity to YHVH. And since there are
three divine Persons who constitute that compound unit, we call them a
WHY "TRI-UNITY" AND NOT "TRINITY"?
Trinity is a perfectly valid term to express the
composition of the Godhead; only some have observed that Trinity
openly declares the threeness of the Godhead in the prefix Tri,
but only vaguely declares the unity of the Three in nit. The term
Tri-unity (or Triunity), however, plainly declares both,
presenting a good balance in the expression of the two truths. Hence, the
AMC has chosen Tri-unity to plainly declare the threeness and the
oneness of the Godhead.
ONE ESSENCE: THE FOUNDATION OF COMPOUND UNITY
The compound unity of the three divine Persons consists in their being of one essence. As to the meaning of essence, Dr. Ryrie says,
To further clarify, I offer a statement by Dr. Chafer:
Father and Son: One Essence
In John 10:30, Jesus said, "I and the Father are one."
In reference to this, Dr. Fruchtenbaum says,
Some commentaries on "I am in the Father and the Father in Me:"
Father and Son are of one essence. That is why Jesus was so reflective of the Father and was able to say, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).
Son and Holy Spirit: One Essence
2 Corinthians 3:14-17
When Israel turns to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Verse 14 identifies the Lord as Christ. Verse 17 declares "the Lord is that Spirit... the Spirit of the Lord...." In view of this, Dr. Charles Ryrie declares verse 17 to be "a strong statement that Christ and the Holy Spirit are one in essence" (Ryrie, Dr. Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago: Moody, 1978.)
Holy Spirit and Father: One Essence
Father and Spirit are so "one" that the Spirit always prays according to the will of God, never wavering in the slightest. The Spirit would be unable to do this unless the two were perfectly of one mind. They are of one essence.
The Son: One Essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit
Colossians 2:9 says of Jesus,
The fullness of the Godhead dwells in the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the two are of one essence. The fullness of the Godhead also dwells in Jesus. As fullness means totality, He must necessarily be of one essence with the Father and the Spirit.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit: One Essence
Father and Son are one in essence, Son and Holy Spirit are one in essence, Holy Spirit and Father are one in essence, and Jesus is one in essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one in essence.
Dr. Geisler and Ronald Brooks declare,
They are not one Person though they are one in essence. They are
three distinct Persons that are one in essence.
THE three divine PERSONS
We've seen that the Godhead consists of three distinct Persons, but we've also seen that they are one in essence. The answer, then, is: No. Because they are of one essence the three divine Persons are not three separate or distinct Gods, but are one God. They are, in their fundamental essence, inseparable.
Dr. Chafer says:
They are three divine Persons, but inasmuch as they are one in
divine essence, we cannot say that they are three Gods. They are three in
Person, but because they are one in essence, they are one
WHAT IS THE NATURE
Let's approach this by seeking to identify the "essence" of each of the members of the Tri-unity.
The Essence of God the Father
Jesus said, "God is a Spirit" (John 4:24). The essence of God the Father is divine Spirit.
The Essence of God the Holy Spirit
As in English, in the Hebrew, Spirit is the noun and Holy is the modifying adjective. The essence of the Holy Spirit is obviously divine Spirit.
The Essence of God the Son
No scripture states directly that the Son is divine Spirit, but at least two passages clarify the issue:
One is 2 Corinthians 3:14-17, which contains the statement, “The Lord is that Spirit.” As has been shown, Dr. Ryrie says that this is "a strong statement that Christ and the Holy Spirit are one in essence" (Ryrie Study Bible). If the essence of the Holy Spirit is divine Spirit, then the essence of the Son is divine Spirit.
The other is Colossians 2:9:
If the Father is Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is Spirit, and all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in the Son, then the Son is Spirit, also. The essence of the Son is divine Spirit.
The Nature of the Essence of the Tri-unity: Divine Spirit
We've shown that the three Persons of the Tri-unity are of one essence, and that the essence of each member of the Tri-unity is divine Spirit. The nature of the unifying essence of the Tri-unity, then, is divine Spirit.
We are now ready for some...
DEFINITIONS OF THE TRI-UNITY
Geisler and Brooks continue:
Dr. Chafer writes,
Dr. Ryrie states (Basic Theology, 385),
Consistent with this, Dr. Ryrie declares (Basic Theology, 53), "One of the best [definitions] is Warfield's:"
Dr. Fruchtenbaum suggests,
Inasmuch as the nature of the essence of the Tri-unity is divine Spirit, I suggest this definition:
"The Father came in the form of Jesus."
Have you ever heard statements like those? Well, they are simply not true. You will never find a scripture that says that one of the divine Persons comes in the form of another. They mutually consist of the same essence, but they are always and forever distinct Persons. They do not swap or transfer or transform their identities. Never. The closest statement in Scripture that might suggest that they may is Luke 3:22a:
The Holy Spirit assumed the shape of a dove, but He never ceased being the Holy Spirit. In fact, the full passage demonstrates the three Persons working in harmony with one another with each retaining His individual identity:
The Spirit descended upon Jesus, and God the Father declared His delight in His Son. Three Persons working together beautifully to launch Jesus into public ministry, each retaining His own individual identity.
One Person never takes the form of another.
THE INCARNATE SON: A SPECIAL CONSIDERATION
Upon His incarnation, the Son added to His divine essence and personhood a fully human spirit and a fully human body; yet, He did not for an instant cease being fully divine (Colossians 2:9). Therefore, even when Jesus walked the earth in a localized body, He was still one in Tri-unity with Father and Holy Spirit. He never ceased being fully eternal, omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent.
Jesus now resides in the heavenlies, eternally part of the Tri-unity, still with a human spirit (Luke 23:46), and now with a glorified body. Although the Tri-unity is omnipresent, Jesus' body is not. This can be seen by the fact that He ascended into heaven in a localized body (Acts 1:9), that He will meet the saints at the rapture in a localized body in a localized place ("the air," 1 Thessalonians 4:17), and that He will return to earth on a localized "horse" followed by the saints whose spirits had received their localized bodies at the resurrection/ rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; Revelation 19:11, 15, 21). In addition, Scripture never says that the glorified bodies of the saints, which will dwell in heaven for seven years after the rapture, will be anything other than localized. This is powerful evidence that glorified bodies can dwell in Heaven in localized form. As to Jesus' human spirit, Scripture never ascribed omnipresence to a human spirit, not even to His. It therefore remains for us to conclude that His human spirit is localized with His body just as our spirits are localized with ours and will be in Heaven. Our human spirits are not omnipresent, and neither is His.
How are we to fathom the fact that the divine Spirit of Jesus shares omnipresence with the Father and the Holy Spirit while His human spirit and body, though He be ascended, do not? Friends, I think we've hit the limits of revelation here, and we'd better not try to venture further!
Many of the scriptures contained in this study are more than sufficient to declare at least the following:
WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THEIR
Jesus is Servant to the Father
The Spirit is Servant to the Father
The Spirit is Servant to Jesus
The Father Seeks to Bless the Son
In a flawless, effulgent, blissful Spirit of love.