In attempting to write on this lofty and sacred subject we are well aware of the danger of “fools rushing in where angels fear to tread.” Some one has truly said, “In mysteries men soon lose their way.” Men become confounded when they seek to fathom the being of God.
By the help of God we will “let the lid stay on the Ark,” - (1 Sam’l 6:19), not seeking personally to pry into things unlawful. In fact the major part of our task will consist of quoting what others far more able have had to say upon this subject. We trust the reader may derive as much profit from this study as the writer has. If so he will feel justified in having written.
If there are any people on earth who ought to welcome such information it is the Pentecostal people, for whom we more especially write. We are free from party spirit. The fact is many of us are becoming Higher Critics, and downright Modernists, on this subject. We are in grave danger of lining up with the Antichrist in the Apostasy. Anything that opposes or rejects a full Scriptural revelation of Jesus Christ must be antichrist. Because some have gone “beyond the things which are written,” (I Cor. 4 :6, II John 9, R. V.), is no excuse for us to be frightened back and deny our Lord. Let our sympathies be placed on the side of right always. God will hold us accountable for this failure. Many have denied today truths once held through fear of being numbered “among the transgressors.” “Art thou also of Galilee?” This is ever the devil’s master stroke. He will push a people over the precipice, frightening the others back too far, one extreme always producing another. Jesus is thus again “crucified between two thieves.” Let us come up to the help of the Lord. Both are robbing Him of the glory due Him. The one by unscriptural extremes, the other through cowardly denial of their Lord. Though one extreme may hold the other in subjection for the time.
Men are naturally creatures of extremes, on all subjects. And the truth is most generally found about the middle, in between. It is also hard to be shown anything in the heat of battle. There is the smoke of conflict in our eyes. It is hard for a sectarian to believe that anyone can really be free from selfish, party spirit. But we want the balanced truth, free from preference or prejudice. Extremes divide. They can only hope to meet in the middle, in Christ. The Sun sometimes appears oblong at the time of rising, through refraction of its rays. But it is the Sun nevertheless. So truth regarding a subject does not always appear clearly in the beginning.
We have this treasure “in earthen vessels.” Crude ore is not gold bullion. It is easier to burn a man at the stake than to answer his arguments. Ignorance and prejudice are the greatest enemies of truth.
We need far more than a Sunday School or Kindergarten revelation of Jesus today to enable us to triumph over the Antichrist, the Beast and the False Prophet. “Unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” - Eph. 4:13 “A spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” - Eph. 1:17. Any true Christian must rejoice in the discovery of all revelation that tends to bring their Lord more powerfully and fully before their vision. We only know God by revelation.
It has been often said, and truly, that men are willing to make Christ “a little more than man, but a little less than God.” But this can never be. He is either creature or Creator. If creature, we may not worship him. All great truths of the Bible run through the whole Book. They are never dependent or founded on some isolated Scripture.
Our first study will be that of the subject of the Godhead. This we will consider both from the standpoint of theology and Scripture. Tradition is so binding upon the consciences of most believers that the matter needs to be clarified for simple minds as far as possible.
As Christians we are called, according to the tenets of our faith, to walk a path between two extremes of unorthodox opinion. That is, between the idea of God as a mere. Monad, or a oneness as a single human individual is one, and the pagan idea of “gods many,” or that of three separate Gods. This latter is known as Tritheism. The fact is, as generally accepted by all orthodox believers, God is neither one as man is One, nor three, as men are three. The truth lies between these two conceptions. God is a trinity of being, a three-one God, a tri-part Being. The Germans call it’ the “dreieinigkeit” (threeoneness).
We might as well admit a most patent fact to begin with, that the Godhead has no human analogy. To this all scholars agree. The human mind can never “by searching find out God.” Men are seeking on all sides to understand and explain the being of God through human reasoning and analogy. This cannot be done. God is not “such an one as we.” - (Psa. 50:21.) “God is Spirit.”
The declaration of the doctrine of the Swiss and German Protestants (Zwingle and Luther), reads as follows: - “We believe that this same God, one in essence and in nature, is threefold in person, that is to say, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as was declared in the Nicene Council, and as all the Christian church professes.” While the word for God in Genesis is plural, yet this certainly cannot denote three Go1ds, for the very genius of the Christian faith lies in the fact of there being but one true God, one Supreme Being, one “first cause.” “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord.” - Deut. 6:4. There have been none added since. God has no beginning. Eternity knows neither beginning nor end. Only time and finite nature begins and ends. This one true God is tripartite in nature and manifestation. He ever existed as Father, Son (Logos, the Word, more properly expressed), and Holy Ghost. There are three eternal distinctions in the Substance of God. But, “these three are one.” - l John 5:7. The Logos and the Son are one.
Wm. Smith, L.L.D., in his Bible Dict., a book all scholars are familiar with as a text-book, states on this subject: - “The plural form of Jehovah (Gen. 1:26), has given rise to much discussion. The fanciful idea that it referred to the Trinity of Persons in the Godhead hardly finds now a supporter among scholars. It is either what grammarians call the plural of majesty (‘pluralis excellentiae’), or it denotes the fulness of divine strength, the sum of the powers displayed by God.” The old Swedish monarchs titled themselves in the plural as individuals, after this idea. The late Kaiser of Germany signed himself “Wir, Wilhelm, von Gottes Gnaden,” - (We, William, by the grace of God). However, this does not in any sense affect the truth of the Godhead.
Dr. Scofield writes: - ”The Supreme Being is One but, in some sense not fully revealed in the O. T., is a unity in plurality. This is shown by the plural name, Elohim, by the use of the plural pronoun in the interrelation of Deity as evidenced in Gen. 1:26, etc. That this plurality is really a Trinity is intimated in the three primary names of Deity. God, in His own triune Person, no human being in the flesh has seen. But God, veiled in angelic form, and especially as incarnate in Jesus Christ, has been seen by men.”
No orthodox Christian or scholar has ever believed in three Gods, or in three separate Supreme Beings. That there can be but one Supreme Being, one first cause, is a fact attested to by all Christian scholarship in all the world, in all ages. God is one, and the Word of God is one. That the Jehovah of the O. T., is the’ Jesus of the N. T., is also attested to by all orthodox scholars, such as Dr. Scofleld, Dr. Torrey, Adam Clarke, etc. And this really goes without saying, for the Logos (Word), is God’s “thought and expression,” in the very meaning of the term. The thought and expression in the O. T. and the N. T. are one and the same, the revelation cumulative. It is all the Word of God, the thought and expression of the one God. “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and God was the Word” (Greek). - John 1:1. German and Spanish translations read the same. God was never a non-entity, a mere blank, without thought or expression. His “thought and expression” (Logos) are a part of His very self, of His Being, begotten of Him. Just as my thought and expression are inseparable from myself.
Dr. Adam Clarke, the “Prince of Commentators,” has the following to say: - “In all transactions between God and man, mentioned in the sacred writings, we see one uniform agency.
The Great Mediator in all, and through all, God ever coming to man by him, and man having access to God through him. This was, is, and ever will be the economy of grace.” “There is one mediator between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus.” (I Tim. 2:5) “The lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Rev. 13:8. Provision has been made for every possible contingency before it could arrive.
Clarke comments on the following Scriptures: - Gen. 12:7 “The Lord appeared unto Abraham.” This was probably by the great Angel of the Covenant, Jesus the Christ.
Gen. 12:8, - “And called upon the name of the Lord.” Abram was taught even in those early times to approach God through a Mediator; and ‘that’ Mediator, since manifested in the flesh, was known by the name of Jehovah.
Gen 16:7-10 – “The angel of the Lord.” This was Jesus Christ who in a body suited to the dignity of his nature frequently appeared to the patriarchs. Also Gen 18:22. Of God the father, no man hath at any time seen His shape (Deut. 4:12-16), nor has He ever limited Himself to any definite personal appearance.
Gen. 22:11 – “The angel of the Lord.” The Lord Jesus, who called himself Jehovah (Vs. 15, 16). “Swore by Himself,” Jehovah (Jesus). - Heb. 6:13-18.
Gen. 32:24 – “There wrestled a man with him” This was the doubtless the Lord Jesus Christ, who among the patriarchs, assumed that human form, which in the fullness of time he really took of a woman. (This was only a form at this time, possibly vaporous or gaseous, compact to visibility which could be dissipated in an instant. I have given the sense of the comment on this point, to save space.) He could produce the effect on Jacob’s body to appear a real man wrestling with him. Jacob’s wrestling was also spiritual. V. 30, “I have seen God face to face,” - the Lord-Jesus Christ. (Of course we know the human nature and body of Jesus did not exist until formed and produced in the womb of Mary. Otherwise his conception, incarnation and birth would necessarily have been a farce.)
Gen. 35:13 – “God went up from him,” visibly. This was no doubt the future Savior, the Angel of the Covenant.
Gen 48:16 – “The angel which redeemed me from all evil.” The Messenger, the Redeemer. We have full proof that this was no created angel, but the Messenger of the Divine Counsel, the Lord Jesus Christ. (The word angel means ‘messenger’ also. Not necessarily of the order of created angels Rev. 2:1.)
Ex. 4:2 - ”The angel of the Lord.” Not a created angel certainly, for he is called Jehovah (V. 4,etc.), and has the most expressive attributes of the Godhead applied to him (V. 14, etc) Yet he is an angel, a messenger, in whom was the name of God (Chap. 23:21), and in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9), and who, in all these primitive times, was the messenger of the covenant - Mal. 3:1. And who was this but Jesus the Leader, Redeemer and Savior of Mankind?” - Dr Adam Clarke. The Jehovah of the O. T. is proven to be the Jesus of the N. T. He is the Word or Memra, later made flesh, and dwelt among us.
The Chaldee Paraphrasts, the most ancient Jewish writers extant, use the word Memra, which signifies the Word, in those places where Moses puts the name Jehovah. These writers ascribe to Memra (the Word), all the attributes of Deity. They say it was Memra, or the Word, which created the world, appeared to Moses on Mt. Sinai and gave him the Law, speaking to him face to face. Which brought Israel out of Egypt, marching before the people, and wrought all the miracles recorded in the Book of Exodus. The same Memra at Bethel, appeared unto Abraham in the plain of Mamre, and was seen of Jacob to whom Jacob made his vow, and acknowledged him as God. - Gen 28 20.” - Alexander Cruden.
It is said of Augustine that one day walking by the seaside deeply engrossed in thought and meditation over the mystery of the Godhead, he observed a little child dipping the water out of the sea into a shallow hole he had just formed in the sand. Upon being asked why he did this he replied that he intended to put the sea into that hole. The conviction came powerfully upon Augustine that he was attempting precisely as impossible a thing in seeking to comprehend and explain mystery of the Three in One.
Some one has truthfully said “The infinite truth of the Godhead lies far beyond the boundaries of logic, which deals only with finite truths and categories.” But the revelation of it is ‘in the face of Jesus Christ,” according to the Word. - 2 Cor. 4:6.
The Logos (Word), the pre-existent Christ, is one with God. “In the beginning was the Word.” - John 1:1. It was already there. God exists from eternity, throughout all eternity. “From everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” - Ps. 90:2. No orthodox scholar ever taught that the Logos or Word had a beginning in eternity. In fact eternity knows no beginning. “In the beginning” predicates a starting point to reason from. Or it simply states the fact that “in the beginning” the Word was already there. The Logos is without beginning or end. In fact He is “the Alpha and the Omega the beginning and the end.” – Rev. 18:17. A beginning without beginning “And God was the Word.” - John 1:1.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is in His Deity of necessity as uncreated as God Himself. Were it otherwise He could not be Deity. Deity is uncreated, without beginning or ending. Deity is one inseparable of necessity in life and attributes. Hence all scholars declare that God the Son has the same attributes as God the Father, differing in office only, as Son, neither existing before the other.
Alexander Cruden in his Concordance gives to the Son of God the following titles in the Word which accredit him with the attributes of God. “Ancient of Days, Creator, Emmanuel, Eternal Life, Everlasting Father, Father of Eternity, First and Last God, Most High, Jah, Jehovah, Living God, Strong God, Mighty God, etc., etc.,” In fact if Jesus were not absolute Deity we would have no right to worship him. He must be God. “Worship God.” = Rev. 19:10. Cruden also says: “The Son of God is equal and consubstantial with the Father. He is, the express image of the Father, as our words are of our thoughts. – John 1:3; Heb. 1:3; 11:3.
Jesus Christ is not a created being, not a creature, but Creator. “All things were made by him.” - John 1:3. To declare him less than absolute Deity is to make him a creature. To say he is divine, but not Deity, means nothing. A long tailed coat and a piece of parchment, or a roll of sermons, makes a modern ‘divine.’ Divinity is Deity or it is nothing. “God the Father, God the Son, and Got the Holy Ghost,” are equally God. All this orthodox scholars have always taught.
A difficulty has been raised over the term “begotten,” as applied to the Son. But all scholars’ agree that the Son, or Logos, could not have had a beginning in eternity. He could not be “co-eternal with the Father,” and have a beginning. From standpoint of manifestation as the Son, and as to his human nature, He had a beginning, from the womb of Mary. But in His Deity he was uncreated, as all scholars teach and declare. Many do not seem to realize they have an Eternal Lord, in the person of Jesus Christ. He is more than a Sunday School or Kindergarten Christ, more than a mere human sacrifice, yes, more than a Son even. He is both the Son of God, and God, according to all orthodox theologians. He is both the pre-existent Logos, which “was God,” and the Son of God.
The Logos proceeded, or came forth, from God. – John 8:42. “The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” - John 1:18. This has reference to his coming into the world. The Son, and the Logos, the Word, are one. He was the Logos, (thought and expression of God, in the bosom of the Father, before he was manifested as the Son, of God. In His Deity He was always in heaven, omnipresent.
Tertullian wrote, A. D. 200: - “The Word (Logos) was sent from the Father into the Virgin, and was born of her, both Man and God, the Son of God, and called Jesus Christ.
Theologians have sometimes applied the term ‘begotten’ the pre-existent Christ, or the Logos, as though He were begotten from eternity, or eternally begotten, but this they have never implied as a beginning of existence. They all claim the Logos is eternal. The Word is begotten, as my thought and expression are begotten of me. They are a very part of myself. No less, and of as long duration. This is what theologians mean by the Logos, or Son, being ‘eternally begotten,’ or “from a;; eternity begotten of the ‘Father.” Some claim a continuous begetting.
In Acts 13:33, Paul refers the Scripture, “Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee,” to the resurrection of Christ. - (Ps. 2:7). “This day,” in time. There is no time in eternity. (Heb. 5:5.) Read Rev. 1:5, Rom. 1:4, Heb.1;5, 6. - Compare Luke 2:13, 14, John 1:14, in parenthesis. John 1.18; 3:16-18, I John 4:9, John 17:18, Luke 1:35, “begotten.” - Rotherham. Gal. 4:4. In. Rev. 1:5, Heb. 1:6, the word is properly ‘born,’ not begotten. The Logos was sent into the world through the incarnation, as a Son, clothed in humanity. Heb. 1:2, I John 4;14, John 3;16. “A child is born, a son is given,” - Isa. 9:6, as every child is born, and son given. Though in this case Jesus was Deity, the Logos. Only his humanity was “begotten” in the womb of Mary. “And God was the Word (Logos).” – John 1:1.
The Word (Logos) was sent into the womb of Mary and “became flesh.” (the only begotten from the Father. – John 1:14), The Incarnation took place. A Son was manifest in Bethlehem’s stable. The pre-existent Word abode forever. The Son revealed the Fatherhood. God was never known as Father until the advent of the Son into the world. The Jews never knew Him as such.
Jesus and the Logos are one and the same. Leon Tucker has said: “The Word of God and the Son of God are eternal and inseparable.” “Therefore also that holy thing which shall be ‘begotten’ of thee shall be called the Son of God.” - Luke 1:35, - Rotherham. “Thou shalt call his name Jesus.” – Matt. 1:21, 1 John 4:15. “God sent forth his Son, born of a woman.” Gal. 4:4. “Hath in these last days spoken unto us in the Son.” - Heb. 1:1-2. The “Word of the Lord” (Logos) came to the prophets. “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” - 1 John 5:7.
Dr. Adam Clarke, the “Prince of Commentators,” co-worker with John Wesley, has written the following interesting matter on this subject: “They have taken away my Eternal Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
“I believe in the Holy Trinity; in three persons in the Godhead, of which none is before or after another. I believe Jehovah, Jesus, the holy Ghost, to be one infinite eternal Godhead, subsisting ineffably in Three Persons; I believe Jesus Christ to be, as to his divine nature, as unoriginated and eternal as Jehovah Himself; and, with the Holy Ghost, to be one infinite Godhead, neither Person being created, begotten, nor proceeding, more than another. As to its essence, but, one Trinity, in an infinite, eternal and inseparable unity; and this triune God is the Object of my faith, my adoration, and my confidence. But I believe not in an eternal sonship or generation of the Divine nature of Jesus Christ. Here, I have long stood; here I now stand; and here I trust to stand in the hour of death, in the day of judgment; and to all eternity. (One can readily judge how strong were Clarke’s convictions on this point.)
“The doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Christ is absolutely irreconciliable to reason, and contrary to itself. Eternity is that which has had no beginning, nor stands in reference to time; Son supposes time, generation, and father; and time also antecedent to such generation. Therefore the conjunction of these two terms; Son and eternity, is absolutely impossible, as they imply essentially different and opposite ideas. (Poetry and human sentiment notwithstanding.)
His human nature is derived from the blessed Virgin Mary through the creative energy of the Holy Ghost; but His Divine Nature because God, infinite and eternal, is uncreated, underived and unbegotten; which, were it otherwise, He could not be God in any proper sense of the word; but as He is God, the doctrine of the eternal Sonship must be false.” - Adam Clarke.
Clarke admits a three-fold personality, or three persons, in the being of God from eternity, but rejects the idea of Sonship before the advent of Jesus in the flesh. Before that He was the Word or Logos (John 1:1-14), the idea of sonship being transferred back to the Logos. A multitude of spiritual leaders of the church today agree with Clarke. Critics in referring to this particular view of Adam Clarke have been content to pass it over with the simple observation that “this opinion has not been generally accepted.” The Logos and the Son are one.
The Son is evidently in no sense inferior to the Father in His Deity, except in office. Deity is Deity. He was “equal with the Father.” – Phil. 2:6, but “emptied himself,” becoming inferior only in his humanity, through the Incarnation. Nothing has ever been added to or taken from God. Deity is self-existent, uncreated. Are not then the theological expressions “begotten from eternity,” or “eternally begotten,” as applied to Christ, mere technical human terms, their meaning in this connection understood only by scholars? They agree that these are not intended to postulate a beginning for God the Son, nor any increase, or inferiority in Deity. The Son of God was “begotten”, humanly speaking, in the womb of Mary. – John 3:16. Before this He existed eternally as the Logos. He is both “God the Son,” and the Son of God.
W. H. Bennett, a well-known English writer, has said: - He (Christ) became (in the Incarnation), what He before was not, but He did not cease to be what He was, - (very God).” All orthodox scholars declare the Christ to be not only the Son of God, but “very God.” “Very God and very man.’’ In fact they declare Him to be as much to God as God the Father is superior in office only. This is an accepted tenent of orthodox theology. All scholars admit there is no human analogy whererwith to express or define the matter of the Godhead. They admit that the Logos or Word is without beginning, even as the Father; and that the Word of God and the Son of God are one. The real, scriptural, mystery of the Godhead lies in the Incarnation. God manifest in the flesh.” – I Tim. 3:16.
The well known theological expression, found in the so-called Athanasian Creed, “Neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance (Essence),” we consider a safe proposition. Granted that the Substance or Essence of the Godhead cannot be divided or separated, it becomes impossible to make three separate Persons or Supreme Beings out of the proposition. Hence we are saved from Tritheism, the postulation of three Gods; to which Trinitarianism is admitted by scholars to come dangerously near. As the whole-question hinges on the use of the word “Persons,” it might prove helpful to look more carefully into the meaning of this much argued term, as used and purposed originally in this connection.
In Nelson’s Encyclopedia we read: - “It is generally conceded that the Christians of the second, and even of the third century, were far from having a clearly understood and recognized doctrine on this high subject (the Trinity). At the council of Nice, A. D. 325, they began to formulate a creed on this order. But the doctrine of a Trinity of Persons was not fully complete till the addition of the Filioque clause in the Western Church of the 6th Century, which led to the separation of the Greek church from the Latin. A declaration of the nature of the Trinity was finally draw up to meet certain heretical declarations regarding the same matter.”
Philip Schaff, D. D, L.L. D., writes: - “God is one in three persons or hypostases (subsistences - used by Greek theologians to denote each of the three subdivisions of the Godhead; Latin ‘personae,’ from whence comes our modern term persons applied to the Godhead), each expressing the whole fullness of the Godhead. - (Col. 2:9, 10.)
“The term persona is taken neither in the old sense of a mere personation or form of manifestation (face, mask), nor in the modern sense of an independent, separate being or individual, but in a sense which lies between these two conceptions, and thus avoids Sabellianism on the one hand, and Tri-theism on the other.
“In modern philosophical usage the term person means ‘separate and distinct rational individual. But the tri-personality of God is not a numerical or essential trinity of three beings (like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), for this would be tritheism; nor is it, on the other hand merely a three-fold aspect and mode of manifestation, in the Sabellian or Sweden-borgian sense, but it is a real objective and eternal, though ineffable distinction in the one Divine being, with a corresponding three-fold revelation of this being in the works of creation, redemption and sanctification.
“In the Trinity there is no priority or posteriority of time, superiority or inferiority of rank, but the three persons are coeternal and coequal.”
In the Dictionary of the. Apostolic Church, by Jas. Hastings, D. D., we read: - “The technical terms by which the christian church has expressed the faith that it derived from the Scriptures were not invented for a considerable time after the Apostolic period. Thus no one would expect to find the terms Trinity and Person in the N. T. The word “Trinity” referred to God, was first used by Theophilus of Antioch, A. D., 180. But it was not then an accepted technical term. Theophilus did not use the word “Trinity” in the technical sense in which it was even later used. The words which we render “Person” are of a still later date, and at first exhibited a remarkable fluidity of signification, being at one time used to denote what is common to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the Divine “Substance,” and at another time to distinguish between them.
“The student must necessarily be always on his guard against the supposition that “Person’ means ‘individual’, as when we say that three men are three persons. These technical expressions are but methods of denoting the teaching found in the N. T. that there are distinctions in the Godhead, and that while God is “One” yet he is not a mere Monad. These technical terms are not found in the Apostolic or sub-apostolic writings.
“It must be remembered that human language is limited and unable to express fully the divine mysteries, so that just as the technical terms, “Trinity,” “Person,” may be misused in the interest of Tritheism, so subordination (of Son and Spirit) may be misused in the interest of Arianism (a supreme God and two inferior deities).”
J. Munro Gibson, M. A.: D. D., writes: “The word ‘Trinity” does not occur in the scripture, nor is there anything to be found there corresponding to those complicated formulas by which theologians have tried to define the relations of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. If theologians had only followed, the Scriptures in this respect, how many bitter controversies might have been spared, and how many needless difficulties and perplexities would have been avoided.”
Dr. Scofield, in his Reference Bible, write as follows: “The name of God (El, Elah, Elohim) suggests certain attributes of Deity, as strength, etc., rather than His essential being. God subsists in a personality which is three-fold, indicated by relationship as Father and Son: by a mode of being as Spirit: and by the different parts taken by the Godhead in manifestation and in the work of redemption - Spirit, Father, Son.” A tri-personality.
“Calvin did not enforce the Athanasian Creed, and did not use the words Trinity and Person in the confession drawn up by himself and others at Geneva.” - Encyclopedia Britt.